Winter Professional Development Event

February 01, 2017

11:30 AM to 4:00 PM
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Washington University
Bauer Hall 210
St. Louis, MO 63130
Venue Website

Join us for lunch and opt to stay for a half-day, interactive program focused on crisis communication! The event will begin with a networking catered luncheon while a panel of local St. Louis professionals share their personal experiences and how they dealt with communicating to their various constituencies during and after their respective crisis.

You can choose to stay after the luncheon panel to test your skills in a hands-on workshop with a real crisis situation (a Harvard Business Review case on social media and alcohol), led by Cathy Dunkin, APR, Fellow PRSA. We’ll wrap up the afternoon with recommendations on how to get ahead of a crisis at your organization from Mihaela Grad, Vice President of Standing Partnership.

11:30 am


12:00-1:00 pm



Lunch and Expert Panel
Wendy Vlieks, Nestle Purina
- Julie Hail Flory, Washington University
- Bethany Pope, Mercy
- Curt McAllister, Toyota North America
- Cathy Dunkin, APR, Fellow PRSA (moderator)

1:00-1:15 pm


1:15-3:30 pm

Strategic & Crisis Communications Workshop
Cathy Dunkin, APR, Fellow PRSA, Washington University Lecturer 

3:30-4:00 pm

Getting Ahead of a Crisis
- Mihaela Grad, Standing Partnership


Wendy Vlieks has nearly 20 years of experience in corporate and agency public relations representing Fortune-25 companies, blue-chip brands, and premium consumer products.  Her crisis experience includes recalls, class action lawsuits, social media attacks, hostage situations and bomb threats. In her current role as the director of corporate public relations for Nestle Purina PetCare, she leads corporate media relations and oversees social media issues management and crisis communications preparedness. As a crisis director, she works with the department VP and a cross-functional team to anticipate, assess, manage and evaluate the handling of issues, incidents and crises. Prior to working for Purina, Vlieks led worldwide public relations for SanDisk, oversaw public relations for eBay Marketplaces in North America, worked as a corporate reputation manager for Walmart, and as a managing supervisor in marketing communications at FleishmanHillard. She is a St. Louis-native and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in public relations/communications management from Missouri State University. On Twitter, she is @WendyinPR.
Crisis Synopsis: Nestle Purina PetCare Company faced baseless social media rumors involving one of its brands that led to a class action lawsuit, something that can be filed without proof and take years to resolve. After hearing arguments from both sides, a judge dismissed all claims in November 2016, but not before it impacted the business.


Julie Hail Flory is assistant vice chancellor for campus communications in the Office of Public Affairs at Washington University in St. Louis. She came to St. Louis in 2014 from the University of Notre Dame, where she had worked for 13 years, most recently as director of public relations. In her current role, she oversees media relations and internal communications for Washington University, and supports university leadership in managing crisis and executive communications. Before beginning her career in public relations, Flory worked as a television reporter in Colorado, Idaho and Indiana. She is a native of the San Francisco Bay Area and studied journalism at San José State University. Connect with her on Twitter at @Julie_Flory .
Crisis Synopsis: Three times in spring of 2016, Washington University had to issue warnings of a person with a weapon on or near campus. In one of those incidents, a food services worker was shot and injured while driving near the Danforth Campus, which was placed on emergency alert for nearly two hours.


Bethany Pope is media relations manager at Mercy, a 42-hospitals system that spans four states and includes four hospitals in the St. Louis metro area. Over her 13 years there, she’s been involved with traditional media relations, crisis communications and now also handles social media.  She can be found on Twitter at @STLFrog.
Crisis Synopsis: In June of 2016, a bomb scare closed down Mercy Hospital’s Creve Coeur campus, along with all lanes, in both directions, of I-270, which runs past the hospital.


Curt McAllister is the Midwest Public Relations Manager, Toyota Motor North America, responsible for the day-to-day management of the Midwestern Corporate Communications office in Detroit. The office oversees public relations and media relations efforts for Toyota and Lexus in a 14-state region, comprising the Great Lakes and Heartland states. He joined Toyota in 2007 as the Midwest Product News Manager. Prior to joining Toyota, McAllister was a divisional Vice President at John Bailey & Associates (JB&A), Inc. Public Relations, in Troy, Mich., where he helped manage the agency’s automotive clientele.  He was involved in more than 50 automotive accounts, among them Volkswagen of America and Hyundai Motor America. McAllister served as Hyundai’s Midwest PR representative for approximately nine years. At the time of McAllister’s departure from the agency, JB&A was the largest automotive practice in the country, with 21 clients active in the automotive space. McAllister is a frequent lecturer, both to professional organizations and colleges with public relations programs, and is affiliated with a number of professional and civic organizations including the Public Relations Society of America, Automotive Press Association, Society of Automotive Analysts, Society of Automotive Engineers, Midwest Automotive Media Association and St. Andrew’s Society of Detroit. He also serves on the boards of the Automotive Press Association, CATCH, Ferris State Alumni Association and Lake Orion Youth Baseball League. You can find him on Twitter at @mcprpro.
Crisis Synopsis: In 2010, Toyota recalled more than 9 million cars worldwide, in two separate recalls, due to unintended acceleration in vehicles caused by sticky gas pedals and the interference of gas pedal operation by floor mats. In addition to the financial and regulatory toll, the Toyota brand, once synonymous with top quality, took a huge hit. 


Cathy Dunkin, APR, Fellow PRSA. For more than 30 years, she has developed crisis communication plans and managed crisis situations for leading organizations (financial, environmental, marketing, etc.) Dunkin is Lecturer of Management for Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis, and teaches an MBA course "Strategic and Crisis Communication". This intense simulation helps business students understand the complexities of managing a crisis and communicating effectively to all stakeholders. She is also the founder and former CEO of Standing Partnership. Follow her on Twitter at @cathydunkin.
Crisis Workshop Scenario: Dunkin will be using a Harvard Business Review case that involves alcohol and social media for the interactive workshop portion of the afternoon.


In an increasingly global business world, clients trust Mihaela Grad, Standing Partnership Vice President, to help them achieve their goals regardless of their location. Fluent in five languages, Mihaela’s communications extends across many industries. She works with clients to engage their most important stakeholders to influence regulatory outcomes, build public acceptance and manage their reputations. She has deep experience counseling senior leaders in many different industries, including life sciences, agriculture, chemical, healthcare, higher education and pharmaceuticals. She says her Eastern European roots explain more than her talent for languages, it also explains why she is the only person in the office who loves herring.
Getting Ahead of a Crisis: Grad will wrap-up the afternoon with actionable tips for getting ahead of a crisis situation.

NOTE: If you're staying for the afternoon workshop, be sure to add the workshop ticket after your lunch ticket when registering. Thank you!


$25.00 Students

$30.00 PRSA Chapter Member

$45.00 Non-Member

$10.00 + ADD Post-Lunch Workshop