Anna is the communications director for the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs, where she is responsible for all statewide public relations, marketing and advertising efforts. Prior to joining MDVA, Anna led media relations efforts at Mall of America. She also currently serves as a public affairs officer in the Minnesota Air National Guard and has conducted missions in Croatia, Bosnia, Central America, Norway and Germany. After 9/11, she spent six months as chief of media relations for First Air Force under NORAD. Over the course of her career, Anna has received more than a dozen awards, including a Midwest Regional Emmy, a Silver Anvil, Minnesota Classics Best in Show, the Air Force award for photojournalism, Bronze Quill and Northern Lights awards. Anna’s background is in journalism. She holds a master’s degree in strategic communication management and is a graduate of the Department of Defense’s Public Affairs Officer Training program. Anna helped launch the Alphabet Bash on behalf of PRSA and has worked with the programming, membership and classics committees. She has served on the Minnesota PRSA board since 2009.
Joel Swanson, APR, Risdall Public Relations
As President of Risdall Public Relations, Joel leads the sixth-largest public relations agency in Minnesota, as well as the health care practice for the parent organization Risdall Marketing Group — the 23rd largest independent integrated marketing agency in the country. For 20 years Joel has helped executives and organizations in complex industries, such as health care and education, leverage public relations and marketing communications tools to tell their stories and build their reputations. Recent clients include Affinity Plus Credit Union, Allina Health, Baxter Health, CR Bard, Healthways, Metropolitan State University, and the University of Minnesota College of Science & Engineering. Joel has earned numerous awards, including a 2010 Healthcare Clio and a 2010 Sabre Award for turning a feminine medical device into a hot consumer brand, as well as numerous IABC, PRSA, and Web Marketing awards. Prior to joining Risdall PR, Joel led public relations efforts for several areas of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. He’s been a member of PRSA since 1991 as a student leader and served on the board for two prior terms, as well as working on virtually every committee-including long-time advocacy for Accreditation. When he’s not coaching sports or chasing his four boys, he teaches mass communications classes as an adjunct professor at St. Cloud State University and serves on the boards and committees of Ronald McDonald House Charities, Upper Midwest; Clearway Minnesota; Irondale Baseball League and more.
Jason Sprenger, APR, Game Changer Communications
Jason is the president of Game Changer Communications. He founded the company in September 2012, and it offers full-service PR/communications services with particular strength in the tech sector. In his current and former agencies, and as a leader of corporate PR departments at FICO and Xiotech, he has achieved a variety of game-changing and award-winning successes in media relations, executive counsel, brand and reputation development and maintenance, digital and social media and more. In addition to Minnesota PRSA, Jason also serves on the board of directors of The LEAD Project, a nonprofit that develops and enables the next generation of Minnesota civic leaders. In the broader community, he judges awards competitions, mentors college students and young pros, often speaks or guest lectures at classes and other local events, volunteers in the community on various church committees and actively participates and fundraises for Relay for Life (American Cancer Society) events. He also writes/edits “The Game Changer” and “The Sports Ace” blogs. Jason holds a degree in journalism with honors from the University of Minnesota.
Heather Cmiel, APR, Bellmont Partners
Heather is a director at Bellmont Partners. She specializes in brand-centric public relations and strategic consumer marketing. She has experience handling coordination and implementation of strategic communications programs, product launches, media relations/corporate visibility programs, marketing/brand management initiatives, social media engagement programs and consumer education platforms. She currently spends her days championing dairy farmers throughout the Midwest through her work on the Midwest Dairy Association. Additionally, she drives thought leadership work for the higher education fundraising technology platform, Reeher. Prior to joining Bellmont Partners, Heather held roles at both Weber Shandwick and Maccabee Group. Heather has received a number of awards for her work, including the RACie “Innovative Marketing Campaign of the Year” and the Halo Silver Award for Special Event of the Year. She is an accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and has previously chaired both the professional development and business community outreach committees. Heather is a founder of Alphabet Bash, Minnesota’s marketing, communications, public relations and advertising communities’ premier networking event. She also serves as a board member for the Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra.
Michael Porter, APR, University of St. Thomas
Prior to becoming the director of the UST MBC Program in 2008, Mike spent more than 25 years working in business, consulting, marketing and communications. Mike has participated in creation and implementation of a broad spectrum of successful strategies and tactics both domestically and internationally. In addition to a doctorate in leadership, policy and administration from the University of St. Thomas Graduate School of Education, Mike holds a master’s degree in marketing from the University of St. Thomas and a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Bemidji State University. He is also an accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). Mike has served as an adjunct instructor in the Graduate School of Business at the University of St. Thomas since 2006 and as an adjunct in the mass communications department at St. Cloud State University.
Immediate Past President
Tracy Carlson, APR, PadillaCRT
Tracy is a Director at PadillaCRT. Her successful media relations efforts have contributed to several campaign awards, including a National PRSA Silver Anvil, a National PRWeek Award, Minnesota PRSA Classics Best of Shows and several Minnesota PRSA Classics. Tracy received a bachelor’s degree in mass communications, summa cum laude, from St. Cloud State University. Previously, Tracy worked in the communications divisions of the Little Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Boys & Girls Club of Central Minnesota. Tracy has served on the Minnesota PRSA board the past six years, serving as president in 2013, and also served as treasurer, and liaison to the advisory council, PRSA Midwest District, communications committee and classics committee. She also served as co-chair of the student relations committee. In addition, Tracy serves on the Helping Paws board of directors.
Angela is the Director of Communications for the American Academy of Neurology, the world’s largest association of neurologists with 25,000 members. She is responsible for leading all strategic marketing communications, public relations and electronic communications for the organization and its foundation, the American Brain Foundation. Under Babb’s leadership, the organization now receives more than 4,000 inquiries from the national and international media each year and is featured daily by major media outlets around the world. Prior to joining the Academy, Babb spent nearly a decade in broadcast journalism, most recently at WCCO Radio, where she received numerous awards from the Associated Press, Minnesota Broadcasters Association and Northwest Broadcast News Association. She has been active in PRSA, serving on the APR Committee, as a judge for Silver Anvil Awards, as well as a Career Mentor.
Lisa Hiebert, APR, Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota
As the Director of Strategic Marketing for the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota, Lisa coordinates marketing efforts throughout Minnesota and North Dakota to build brand awareness and consumer engagement with the BBB. She works closely with the business community to develop unique co-branding, sponsorship and marketing opportunities, showcasing the area’s 6,500 Accredited Businesses. In 2012, Lisa co-chaired the BBB’s year-long Centennial Celebration, earning several local and national awards, including a PRSA Classics Award. Lisa sits on the national Council of Better Business Bureaus’ Sales and Marketing Committee and Website Redesign Task Force, further promoting the organization’s brand and vision to create a marketplace where buyers and sellers can trust each other. Prior to joining the BBB in 2010, Lisa served in a variety of strategic marketing and communications positions in both the private and public sectors. Most recently, as the Director of Marketing and Communications for the Girl Scouts of Minnesota and Wisconsin River Valleys, Lisa was responsible for leading the integrated communications efforts for the local Girl Scouts council merger in 2007, as well as coordinating with the national organization to support a rebranding campaign. She earned her Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) in 2009, and has served as the APR Committee co-chair since 2010. Lisa has her BA degrees in journalism and sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and MBA from the University of St. Thomas.
Eva Keiser, APR, the plural i
Eva is the Principal for the plural i, an independent consultancy focused on public relations and marketing communication programs. Eva’s expertise is working with emerging and midsize B2B and B2C companies. An accredited member of PRSA since 2001, Eva shares her expertise as an adjunct professor in the Journalism School at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. Prior to forming the plural i in 2011, Eva was a Senior Vice President at Risdall McKinney Public Relations (now Risdall Public Relations) for four years. She developed her public relations experience during more than a decade of service at Padilla Speer Beardsley where she maintained a wide spectrum of clients and held positions of increasing responsibility ending her career at the agency as an Account Supervisor. Earlier in her career, Eva gained a wealth of experience through working on state and local political campaigns, with grassroots organizations, and at various print and broadcast media outlets. Active in the Minnesota PRSA since 1996, she has chaired the Membership, Member Communications and Public Relations committees and served as editor for the chapter’s monthly print newsletter for five years. As chair of the Member Communications committee, she refined the chapter’s integrated communication strategy and introduced the PRSA Link e-newsletter. Eva holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Southern Illinois University and a master’s degree in mass communication from the University of North Dakota.
Jill Lewis, APR, Weber Shandwick
Jill Lewis is an account group manager in the financial services group in Weber Shandwick’s Minneapolis office, where she has provided communications counsel and media strategy to large private-sector and federal government clients since 2010. She currently spearheads institutional retirement public relations for a major financial services firm, develops Web content and digital strategy for one of the largest professional services firm in the world, and provides media relations and thought leadership development for a national payroll, benefits and human capital management company. Jill began her career in Washington, D.C., where she worked at a boutique public relations firm and an international nonprofit, and joined Maccabee Group upon moving to Minneapolis in 2006. Jill earned a bachelor of arts degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and also studied at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She achieved Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) in April 2012. Jill also is a food writer and blogger at Heavy Table and Cheese+Champagne and wrote a chapter for the book “Minnesota Lunch: From Pasties to Banh Mi,” published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press in March 2011.
Theresa Skillrud, APR, Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota
As a marketing consultant for Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, Theresa focuses on clinical and physician/health provider marketing. She’s played a key role with other marketing and communication initiatives at Children’s, including planning, messaging, external publications, website development, PSAs, videos, events and internal communications. Theresa’s work experience includes a bit of everything from promotions at a TV/radio station to working with a religious community celebrating its 150th anniversary. No project is too big: coordinating the Andersen Corporation 100th anniversary employee picnic for 12,600; announcing a $20 million gift from the Sisters of St. Joseph to St. Catherine University; marketing the international JCC Maccabi Artfest; while at Padilla Speer Beardsley, coordinating 5K runs and celebrations for both MAC and H.B. Fuller; helping the SME Education Foundation expand its math and science summer camps from 10 to 50 within a year; and working with Rockwell Automation on media relations for the world’s largest private trade show. Theresa was an active member of the St. Cloud State University Chapter of PRSSA serving as the chapter’s public relations director, and has been an accredited member of PRSA for more than 10 years, including two years as committee chair for monthly meetings. She received her bachelor’s degree in mass communications from St. Cloud State University.
Sarah is group manager in the health care practice at Weber Shandwick, where she provides marketing and communications support for association, hospital, health plan and health IT clients. Her work has contributed to winning top industry awards including Minnesota PRSA Best of Show, PRSA Silver Anvil, and SABRE. Previously, she worked in the health care and media relations practices of Padilla Speer Beardsley. She received her bachelor’s degree in public relations and her MBA from the University of Minnesota, and earned her Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) in 2007. She has been an active member of Minnesota PRSA for more than 10 years, serving as co-chair of the Classics Awards committee and Membership committee, and a member of the APR committee.
Gregory J. Zimprich, APR, Kohnstamm Communications
Greg is currently Senior Vice President of Agency Operations and Strategic Insights at Kohnstamm Communications in St. Paul. Prior to joining Kohnstamm in 2012, Zimprich spent nearly 20 years at General Mills, including seven years as Director of Brand Public Relations and Social Media. At Kohnstamm, he is responsible for driving agency operations, overseeing strategy for the firm’s nearly 20 clients, and leading a team of 15 PR professionals. Zimprich also leads the agency’s continuous improvement efforts, to enhance the firm’s competitive edge as a nationally recognized boutique PR agency. At General Mills, he led a nationally recognized team that managed PR and social media efforts for the company’s 100-plus brands, applying brand-building PR expertise for leading consumer products like Wheaties, Cheerios, Betty Crocker, Yoplait yogurt and dozens of other household names. Zimprich and his team pioneered proprietary marketing platforms that transformed the way General Mills brings new products to market. His efforts have been recognized with more than 100 PR industry awards, including PRSA’s Silver Anvil and Bronze Anvil. His work has been profiled in leading trade publications and in both The Wall Street Journal and USA Today. A native of Faribault, Minnesota, Zimprich received his undergraduate degree in psychology and public relations from Saint Mary’s University and holds a master’s degree in mass communications from Marquette University. Married with three sons, he’s coached youth sports for nearly 20 years and served as both chairman of the school advisory board and athletic director at Saint Hubert’s School in Chanhassen for 12 years. A frequent guest lecturer at local universities, he’s been a member of PRSA since 1988. A former board member, he’s also judged the Silver Anvils, the John D. Graham Scholarship competition, and was a guest speaker during the 2012 Bateman Case Study Competition. Zimprich earned his APR accreditation in 2003.