Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019


Welcome Reception Keynote: “Seeing Detroit as Detroiters See It”

Aaron Foley, Chief Storyteller, City of Detroit

The role of government communications is rapidly changing. In an era of media sensationalism, we must take back the narrative of our city’s brand through creative storytelling. We must get out of the traditional boxes and silos and start exploring the stories that make our communities more vibrant places to live, work and play. Aaron Foley chronicles how to engage diverse voices to bring a community to life and lessons learned along the way. Part inspirational, part instructional, Foley promises to challenge the status quo of government communications and journalism, and show that you can, in fact, pursue passion projects while simultaneously bringing vital information to a hungry audience.


Monday, Sept. 23, 2019


Monday Breakfast Keynote: “Consumers in Control: The New Reality for Marketing and Communications”

Brad Heureux, Founder and CEO, Zing Media Group

Never before has technology been adopted at a faster pace by the consumer…and it’s fueling a demand for ever-more-personalized communication from the organizations where they work, play and shop. Consumers want what they want, when and how they want it, and companies are racing to catch up. In this session, Brad Heureux addresses innovative strategies for embracing this new reality by leveraging technology and storytelling in a world that requires it.


M1: “What’s Good for Interns is Good for Leaders”

Jennifer Fry, Provider Web Services Team Lead II, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan
Michelle Utykanski, Risk Management & Patient Relations Specialist, Metro Heath, University of Michigan Health

Internships are an important part of any communications training. As staffs shrink and budgets tighten, it’s more important than ever for interns to be productive members of the team. How can a manager accomplish this while still allowing interns to expand their knowledge, skills and abilities? What difference can a “good” internship experience make in the life of a future communicator? Hear interview tips and project suggestions from a leader and a case study from a recent intern. This session also offers a chance for participants to share their own experiences as both interns and managers.


M2: “How a Communications Team in India Went from Order-Takers to Trusted Advisors”

James Irwin, ABC, Communications Lead, Global Clients & Industries Marketing, Deloitte

Business is increasingly global and successful business communication increasingly depends on effective virtual teams. But how well do we integrate these teams into our operations? James Irwin shares a case study from Deloitte’s Global Clients & Industries organization, which established a new marketing and communications team in Hyderabad, India. While the India team was comprised of experienced professionals, their initial role was anonymous and transactional. This session follows the journey of the India team as they became fully engaged in the new organization and grew into trusted advisors, leading with innovation and cross-team integration.


M3: “PR on Steroids: How Contributorships are Changing Media Relations”

Tony DeFazio, President & CEO, DeFazio Communications, LLC
David Evanson, Principal, David R. Evanson LLC

Contributorships, a non-traditional media relations tactic, establishes clients as regular content contributors at major media outlets. In this manner, clients effectively become the media—the authority of their voices aligned with the credibility of the publishing outlet. In this session, Tony DeFazio explores the benefits and challenges of contributorship programs. He’ll demonstrate how communicators can use five key marketing principles to develop effective contributorship programs: targeting, content strategy development, content creation, media distribution and digital optimization. He’ll also explain how clients, as content owners, can leverage published messaging to deliver high-impact content strategies across owned digital channels.


M4: “How Toyota Transitioned from Recalls to Recovery: A Case Study”

Curt McAllister, 2018 IABC Detroit Communicator of the Year; Midwest Public Relations Manager, Toyota North America

During the first half of 2010, the crisis facing Toyota dominated headlines around the world.  With more than 8 million vehicles recalled globally, the world’s largest automaker saw its sterling reputation diminish in a matter of weeks. A company known for quality and reliability was now relegated to punch-line status. Curt McAllister discusses how communications played a pivotal role in reaching out to vital internal and external audiences. He’ll share how public relations helped assure the industry’s most loyal customer base, and forge an even tighter bond between the automaker and its national dealer body.


M5: EXTENDED SESSION: “Think Like Ink: Using Visual Notetaking to Engage Your Audience”

Dusty Folwarczny, Co-founder of Ink Factory
Lindsay Wilson, Co-founder of Ink Factory

Did you know that 65% of people learn better visually…and that our brains process visuals 60,000 times faster than text? Drawing while listening helps you to stay engaged and remember more information, improves your listening skills, and enhances your ability to organize and connect ideas. In this fast-paced, hands-on workshop, you’ll learn the fundamentals of visual note-taking to better engage with the world around you. The Ink Factory team has helped clients such as Amazon, Fast Company, the United Nations, Deloitte, Target and others bring their ideas to life with the help of visuals.


M6: “Beyond Thought Leadership: A Case Study in Driving Awareness, Credibility and Lead Generation”

Peggy Fenwick, Founder & Principal, MarkitStrategies & PR
Julie Rogier, Director of Marketing, Ultra Consultants

Getting your message out to target audiences is a challenge in the business-to-business sector. Thought leadership programs are powerful ways to inform, educate, persuade and communicate the impact the company delivers. Peggy Fenwick and Julie Rogier provide a real-world case study of how a relevant thought leadership program can drive awareness, credibility, lead generation and communicate something meaningful that connects with the audience. This presentation offers two unique perspectives—the client side, as well as the agency supporting these efforts. Attendees will leave the session with actionable tips and ideas to put in place at their organizations.


M7: “Becoming a Super Solopreneur: Growing Your Business When You’re All You’ve Got”

Moderator: Guy Westermeyer, Founder and President, Westcomm


  • Camille Downing, President, Downing Communications
  • Robert Herta, President, Herta LLC
  • Eric Longs, Founder and President, Comet Interactive

This panel discussion is designed for current independent practitioners who are looking for practical advice on how to maintain and grow their communication business. Moderated by a one-time solopreneur who now employs a team of seven, this session offers sound advice on topics such as business development strategies, using and developing your network, scaling up (or why staying small may be better), staying ahead of trends and technology, and more. Individuals interested in going solo are also encouraged to attend.


M8: “Attorneys as Allies: Balancing Stakeholder Needs with Legal Concerns in a Crisis”

Deb Hileman, SCMP, IABC Executive Board Member; President & CEO, Institute for Crisis Management

Public relations professionals and attorneys often seem to have opposing goals in crisis communications. While PR pros are focused on humanizing a crisis with transparency and protecting the organization’s reputation in the court of public opinion, attorneys are concentrating on the court of law and minimizing the risk of adverse legal action. In this session, Deb Hileman explains how attendees can use preventive crisis management strategies and shared goals to help attorneys get comfortable with strategy and the initial statements that need to be made quickly when a crisis erupts.

M9: “Vulnerability in Today’s Digital World: A Case Study”

Tina Kozak, President, Franco

The 24-hour news cycle and the growth of social media has enormous potential to spread inaccuracies about an organization’s ideas and its leaders. Tina Kozak shares a case study from the 2018 mid-term election in which the Michigan Chamber of Commerce filed a lawsuit opposing a ballot initiative. While the lawsuit sparked some attention, the negative print and social media campaign by a national advocacy group ignited opinions. This presentation looks at the Chamber’s response in the face of inaccuracies and unethical practices by the advocacy group and how they worked with the media and law enforcement during the crisis.


Monday Lunch Keynote: “Becoming a Superstar Communicator”

David Pitre, President, Davis & Company

So many terrific communicators struggle to get the respect they deserve. In today’s tough business environment, it’s more crucial than ever to demonstrate the value we bring to the table as communicators.  David shares the secrets of taking your work—and your career—to the next level by using strategic advising and design thinking to develop winning plans, provide dazzling insights and demonstrate measurable results. This session will provide actionable insights to help communicators across all levels of their careers become superstars and get the respect they deserve.


M10: “Culture 911: Does Yours Need Resuscitation?”

Mark Schumann, ABC, IABC Fellow; Vice President of Culture, Sabre Corp.

In any organization, leaders can assume a culture is healthy. But what do they actually know about what happens beneath how employees respond to engagement surveys? A culture’s true health is more tied to how employees work than what message an organization shares. In this provocative session, Mark Schumann, a 17-time Gold Quill winner and IABC Fellow, provides practical suggestions on how to diagnose a culture’s health, dissect what may hold a culture back, and develop solutions to what ails a culture, so the organization can become a better place for employees to do their best work.


M11: “Advancing Inclusion and Diversity in Today’s Workplace”

Rebecca Duff-Campbell, Senior Director of Talent & Rewards, Willis Towers Watson
Karolyn Karl, Director of Talent & Rewards, Willis Towers Watson

Inclusion is the key to attracting, retaining and engaging the best employees in the industry. It has become a priority for the majority of organizations, no matter the industry, age or makeup of employees. Organizations have to move away from compliance-oriented diversity quotas and embed inclusion and diversity in their business strategy and talent value proposition. In this session, we will discuss the inclusion and diversity journey, how successful companies are achieving their goals and why it matters to the bottom line, leveraging our Willis Towers Watson research and data for a basis of the discussion.


M12: “How ‘Commsplaining’ May Be Hurting Your Career”

Chuck Gose, Strategic Advisor, SocialChorus; Founder, Icology
Kristin Hancock, Owner, Kristin Hancock

You’ve probably done it without realizing it. You may have even done it at work, or in front of your boss. It’s called “commsplaining” and it’s an epidemic plaguing communicators. In this humorous session, two seasoned communication pros will provide brutally honest examples of “commsplains” like survey fatigue, budget cuts, short attention spans and leaders who just aren’t on board. If you’re up for an uncomfortable conversation about the real problems communicators are facing, join Chuck Gose and Kristin Hancock to learn how to take ownership and overcome the denial we all have about explaining away our challenges.


M13: EXTENDED SESSION: “Communications Under Pressure: Are You Ready for the Next Crisis?”

Andrew Gilman, President & CEO, CommCore Consulting Group

Will your crisis plans hold up in a real-life catastrophe? Find out in this fast-paced, dynamic simulation exercise. Andrew Gilman turns up the heat with CommCore’s PressureTest™ Crisis Simulation, which uses role playing and real-life scenarios to put crisis planning to the test. In this session, you’ll learn how to take a strategic approach to crisis, as well as the tactics necessary for optimal crisis planning, preparation and response. PressureTest is applicable to all types of organizations—corporate, non-profit, agency and associations. You’ll find gaps in your existing plans and learn how to build teamwork to save time when a real crisis occurs.


M14: “How to be Human…in a World of Bots”

Trisha Thompson, Senior Manager of Corporate Relations, Allstate

Don’t write another boring business email! With an average attention span of eight seconds, adults are craving concise yet meaningful communications at work. With limited time and resources, it’s easy to fall back on common phrases and jargon in your business communications. It takes time to first understand what business partners are trying to say and then it takes even more time to massage the “corporate speak” into communication that can be understood. Learn how to make the complex, simple. Learn how to make the technical, understood. Most importantly, learn how to be human when communicating with others.


M15: “Applying a Military Mindset to Today’s Toughest Communication Challenges”

Donna Edwards, Corporate Communications, Media and Community Relations, U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command
Bill Grotz, Director of Communications, General Motors Defense LLC

Join two former military officers as they share strategies and insights for addressing some of today’s most vexing communication challenges. From harnessing the innovation of a start-up inside an established corporation to working with limited resources to building a community relations division from the ground up, Donna Edwards and Bill Grotz share how they’re applying lessons learned to be successful in their communication roles. They’ll show that it doesn’t take an army—just a military mindset—to get the results you want.


M16: “Using Personalized Video to Enhance Student Recruiting”

Bill Haley, President, Allied Pixel
Cathy Toner, Assistant Dean of Communication and Marketing, Villanova School of Business

The Villanova School of Business (VSB) is one of the country’s top business schools. But like many universities today, it faces strong competition for students. VSB is using personalized video to enhance its recruiting efforts. In this session, Bill Haley and Cathy Toner deconstruct VSB’s early action candidate marketing campaign, focusing on the personalized video campaign to show how it was conceived, constructed and executed. They’ll also cover the end result of using personalization and talk about performance metrics, ROI as well as challenges, opportunities and next steps for using this exciting new technology.


M17: “The Five Critical Components that Drive Social Media Success”

Cyrus Mavalwala, ABC, MC; Founding Partner, Advantis Communications

Having a team implement social media tactics isn’t new.  But are their actions driving ROI? Are you or the C-Suite questioning the value of your social efforts? Based on social media audit findings from associations, not-for-profits, corporations and government departments, there are five critical components at the heart of every successful social media strategy. Learn from an IABC Canada Master Communicator how to stay ahead of the curve, lead with strategy and prove your worth in today’s digital first world. Fuel up at this high-octane session and propel your digital communication career into the fast lane.


Monday Closing Keynote: “Engaging Employees and Stakeholders During Fundamental Company and Industry Transitions”

Paula Silver, Vice President of Communications, DTE Energy

Communications professionals are often at the center of organizational transitions and one of the key drivers of change today is environmental responsibility. DTE Energy’s CEO Gerry Anderson has identified climate change as the defining issue of our time. The company’s aggressive plan to reduce carbon and methane emissions 80 percent by 2040 requires a wholesale change in the way DTE generates and distributes power while keeping energy costs affordable and reliable. Paula Silver facilitates a group discussion on managing communications during wholesale change among employees, regulators, government officials, customers and communities.


Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019


Tuesday Breakfast Keynote: “Managing Your Brand Reputation in a Fragmented, Omnichannel Media World”

Andy Hetzel, Vice President of Corporate Communications, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan

The replacement of traditional media platforms by digital channels with narrowly segmented core audiences – plus the rise of well-networked advocates and activists – presents brands with greater opportunity and greater risk than ever before in managing reputations that influence brand value.  Andrew Hetzel will explain the considerations of Michigan’s best-known and most widely held health insurance brand in managing brand image, corporate reputation and day-to-day communications.


T1: “Presenting Data Effectively: Communicating Your Findings for Maximum Impact”

Dr. Stephanie Evergreen, PhD, Evergreen Data

Designing charts and graphs is about more than making things look pretty. Ultimately, we report and present information to teach our audience, to get our content firmly planted in their knowledge base, and to help them act. In this session, we’ll talk about the cognitive science behind effective information presentation and share some of the best practices and shining – yet practical – examples of stellar information visualization. We’ll focus on how to make visual sense of data and distribute it in a way that readers will discuss, remember, and love.

T2: “How Communication Professionals Can Best Leverage SEO in 2019 and Beyond”

Justin Seibert, President, Direct Online Marketing

Quality content is more important than ever to search engines and how they rank websites. By understanding and implementing certain techniques to make content more attractive to Google, practitioners can increase their value to their organizations and the value of their content. In this presentation, participants will gain an understanding of search engine optimization (SEO) techniques and how SEO can be effectively used to boost websites, press releases and earned media results. By the end of this session, participants will be able to identify SEO tactics they can put into practice immediately to boost the value of their efforts.


T3: “Selling Cultural Transformation to the C-Suite”

Richard Byrd, Vice President Cultural Transformation, Sprinklr

Many CEOs don’t fully understand the importance of culture in building a high-performing, profitable enterprise with happy customers and employees. In this session, learn how to sell the value of culture and use it as a lever for increasing ROI and improving employee and customer satisfaction. The session also includes techniques and technology to make the case to the C-Suite for a cultural transformation plan. Speaker Richard Byrd draws on his experiences and big wins at companies such as Allscripts, Qlik, McGraw-Hill Education and Nortel Networks, as well as his current company, Sprinklr.


T4: EXTENDED SESSION: “Brand YOU: Strengthening Your Personal Brand

This two-and-a-half-hour session is all about you! From developing executive presence to honing your social media image to creating a resume that will get noticed by today’s recruiters, Brand YOU packs in everything you need to build your personal brand and make your career skyrocket.


“Getting Results Through Authentic Leadership”

Mark Will – Will Enterprises Inc./Dale Carnegie of SE Michigan, President/Master Trainer

Do you have the confidence and composure you need to be a successful leader? Your ability to influence others in productive ways depends largely on how you connect with them. This session leverages the nine Dale Carnegie principles and shows you how to determine the image you want to project, replace hesitancy with confidence, and become more assertive and in-charge. Mark has personally trained more than 4,000 people and has conducted on-site training with organizations such as Ford, GM, Comerica, Great Lake Recycling, Hartland Schools, Barton Malow, and DECA at Selfridge Air National Guard base.


Interactive Drop-In Sessions

(These will run concurrently throughout this time period. First come, first served.)

  • Resume review. Need a professional critique of your resume? Bring it to the conference and share it with one of our seasoned communicators for feedback.
  • Strengthen your speaking skills. Bring your own two-minute speech or borrow our talk points. Our team of evaluators will identify strengths and areas for improvement to help you present with confidence.
  • Update your social media profile pix. A professional photographer will be on hand to snap photos that present the image you want for all of your SoMe channels.
  • IABC career development resources. Stop by and learn what’s available through IABC to help build your career.


Mini Skill-Builder Session – Ask the Recruiter

Learn how to put your best self forward for the job you really want. David Braun, partner, Jobplex Inc., answers the questions you’ve always wanted to ask a recruiter…and some you may not have thought to ask!


Mini Skill-Builder Session: Developing Your Social Media Brand

Advice on how to position yourself on social media for professional success.


Mini Skill-Builder Session: IABC Membership Resources to Take Your Career to the Next Level

Your IABC membership is a goldmine of resources for turbo-charging your career. Learn what’s available to members and how to leverage it. Not a member? Stop by the IABC table to sign up.


T5: “Gender & Public Relations: Communication Styles, Gender Differences and Their Influence in the Workplace”

Amelia Reigstad, Lecturer, Hubbard School of Journalism & Mass Communication, University of Minnesota

Have you ever experienced challenges in workplace communication or wondered why men and women communicate differently? Based on the findings of a 2017 study for her PhD, Amelia Reigstad will discuss how gender communication, different communication styles and the personality traits of men and women contribute to workplace communication—and how these differences influence the practice of public relations. Learn about specific findings surrounding gender vs. personality traits, age, work/life balance, how PR practitioners perform in their day-to-day roles and much more.


T6: Where Does Podcasting Fit into Your Media Mix?

Tracy Imm, ABC, APR; Founder & CEO, Tracy Imm Worldwide LLC

Podcasting has been around for years but it’s just starting to get traction  as a way to promote your organization’s products, services and thought leaders. Media outlets, entrepreneurs and large corporations are all entering the fray of the podcasting world in hopes of attracting new subscribers, clients and employees. This session will cover the podcasting landscape, what’s involved with pitching to podcasters and even how to launch a podcast. Learn where podcasting is headed and how to integrate it into your marketing mix.


T7: Ensuring that “Transformation” Isn’t a Crisis

Courtney Boone, Vice President of Global Communications, Westinghouse Electric Company

How do you communicate to employees during a $6.3 billion write-down of a global company…and continue those communications when filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy three months later? Courtney Boone shares how the world’s premier nuclear energy company sustained and improved communications with employees during a nearly two-year period of crisis. This case study provides attendees with a comprehensive view of the communications strategy employed as the company faced extensive transformation efforts. Professional communicators need to understand the importance of increasing internal communications and touchpoints during these times in order to ensure consistent, safe delivery upon commitments.


Tuesday Closing Keynote: “Detroit Homecoming: Tapping the Expat Community to Drive Investment, Revitalization”

Colleen Robar, President, Robar PR
Jim Hayes, co-director of Detroit Homecoming and former publisher, FORTUNE Magazine
Keenan Covington, Homecoming expat liaison, Crain’s Detroit Business

Detroit’s resurgence has been a boon for business and the community. A catalyst for this investment has been the highly successful annual “Detroit Homecoming,” an experiential three-day event which brings expats back to the city. Detroit Homecoming launched in 2014 and has welcomed 700 former Detroiters back to the Motor City. The result? More than $300 million in direct investment and $500 million in indirect investment. Learn how this landmark program was launched and why other urban cities are now copying this successful model as an innovative economic development tool.