ABOUT PRSA MARYLAND CHAPTER
The Maryland Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America helps public relations and communications professionals stay connected professionally and personally. As part of the nation’s largest and foremost organization of communication professionals, PRSA Maryland offers networking, training, resources and support that help our members practice public relations at the speed of communication.
Being part of a national organization of more than 21,000 professional and student members from all practice areas enhances your local connection. Members include individual practitioners and communication professionals from private businesses, nonprofits, PR/ad agencies and government.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
An award-winning communicator, Claudia Ciolfi possesses 20+ years of experience in public relations, marketing communications and corporate communications. She has worked with regional, national and international insurance and financial services companies to build brand awareness, launch products and services, and boost revenue.
Claudia joined the Communications department at Chesapeake Employers’ Insurance Company in 1999. She is responsible for internal communications, marketing communications, public relations, media relations and social media. Claudia and her co-workers have won numerous professional association awards from regional and national industry organizations for writing, marketing, brand management and public relations.
Claudia has served on PRSA Maryland’s board of directors in various capacities in the past as well as chairperson for the chapter’s annual conference and communications committees. Claudia possesses a bachelor’s degree in mass communications from Notre Dame University in Maryland. She has been a PRSA member since 1999.
Kelly Stoll has worked in public relations for more than 20 years. She is an innovative communications professional with a proven record of success in challenging and diverse roles. During the course of her career, Kelly has worked in just about every facet of the communications and marketing fields, including community involvement, public relations, marketing, strategic planning, facilitation, training, media relations, special events planning and multiple-project coordination.
She has worked with clients such as Starbucks Coffee Company, the Maryland Lottery, the USO, Progressive Insurance, FEMA, the U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force. Through her work, she develops informational materials, such as media kits, newsletters, brochures, fact sheets and other promotional materials. She also provides guidance on and develops social media strategies to engage stakeholders at all levels, develops stakeholder engagement tactics, and conducts program analysis and research-based communication planning. Kelly served as the co-chair of PRSA Maryland’s 2015 and 2016 annual conferences.
Kelly holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from West Virginia University and is active in her local Toys for Tots campaign each year as well as bulldog rescue.
Dan Dunne, APR, is the director of communications for Baltimore-based Erickson Living, a national developer and manager of senior living communities. He has over 30 years of public relations experience, including having served many years as a national spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Justice. His career history reflects extensive management and leadership experience as well as expertise in brand communication, social media applications, crisis communications, and public and media relations training.
Courtney Benhoff is an account manager at Abel Communications in Baltimore. A graduate of Clemson University, she provides strategic communications planning, media relations, social media and content marketing services to clients in various industries with a focus on the professional services sector. Courtney served as the co-chair of PRSA Maryland’s 2015 and 2016 annual conferences.
Jeffrey A. Davis, APR, has more than 25 years of news media and national public relations experience and is managing director of the Baltimore office of Van Eperen, an integrated PR and communications firm based in North Bethesda.
As an early adopter, Jeff started using Facebook, Twitter (and MySpace!) for clients in 2007 and the next year the Washington Business Journal wrote about Jeff’s innovative use of Twitter for public relations. He is now a nationally recognized expert in social media, particularly how organizations can successfully integrate social media platforms into traditional communications and crisis management programs. Jeff served for two years as PRSA Maryland Chapter president in 1998 and 1999 and as co-president in 2015.
Jeff holds a degree in journalism from Ohio Wesleyan University. He was a reporter for daily newspapers in Ohio, New Jersey and Maryland before he entered public relations. He also serves as Baltimore editor for the Capitol Communicator and is co-host of two podcasts: Launch Podcast, focusing on startups and their stories, and Practically Social, a podcast about the use of social media in PR campaigns.
Dianna Fornaro, APR, is a communications specialist with Towson-based Chesapeake Employers Insurance. She has worked in corporate communications for many years, primarily in the insurance and financial services industry. She also has experience in public affairs, working with nonprofits and government agencies.
Over the years, Dianna has won numerous national and regional communications awards for her writing, graphic design and publications management expertise. She and her colleagues at Chesapeake Employers have also won many awards for their rebranding, workplace safety and health, and public relations campaigns.
Dianna has a master’s degree in communications from the University of Baltimore, and holds bachelors’ degrees in Journalism and Fine Art from the University of Maryland, College Park. She also holds a web design certificate.
David Harrison is a seasoned public relations and marketing professional with more than 20 years’ experience developing and executing integrated communications campaigns.
He began his career in journalism as a reporter for the Baltimore Business Journal and the American Banker. After creating and leading the professional association practice at a large, regional public relations agency, David created Harrison Communications in 2007. He served as co-president for PRSA Maryland Chapter in 2015.
Specializing in working with professional associations, commercial real estate firms and health care organizations, David has created numerous national and regional award-winning PR and branding campaigns. David believes the critical element to any communications campaign is valuable content, and he helps clients uncover and deliver messages that desired audiences want to receive.
David is a graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park with a degree in English language and literature/liberal arts in business.
Jennifer Kellar, APR, has been a public relations practitioner for more than 15 years. A graduate of the University of Maryland’s College of Journalism, Jennifer leads the strategic communications group at global architecture and engineering firm AECOM, and was previously director of corporate communications at 1st Mariner Bank. She loves the beach, yoga and the four-step process.
Jennifer is also the chairperson of the PRSA Maryland APR Committee.
Emily McDermott is a public relations practitioner with more than 10 years of experience. She joined Van Eperen in 2017. Previously she worked with Nevins & Associates, a bottom-line oriented public relations firm based in Towson, Maryland. She is experienced in both business-to-business and consumer public relations. Previously, she worked as the communications manager at The Atlanta Opera. In addition, Emily directed media relations, board of director relations, and special events for the Young Audiences Division of Atlanta’s Woodruff Arts Center. She began her career at William Mills Agency, a financial public relations firm.
She is a communications executive practiced in tactical execution and strategic planning for clients, with an emphasis on public and media relations, brand messaging, consumer marketing, business development and social media strategy. Emily has served on and led numerous organizations’ committees including the Public Relations Society of America, Georgia Chapter; The Junior League of Atlanta; and Cathedral of Christ the King Hispanic Ministry’s English and Spanish as a Second Language Programs. She has also been a guest speaker at Girl Talk’s summer camp.
Emily is a proud graduate of Appalachian State University in North Carolina with a bachelor’s degree in public relations and a minor in psychology. She is a graduate of Notre Dame Preparatory School. Emily is a member of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce and is the chairperson of the Programming Committee for the PRSA Maryland Chapter.
As the regional director of media and public relations for the largest healthcare provider in the Maryland-D.C. region, Debra Schindler oversees all external media and PR efforts for MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center, MedStar Good Samaritan, MedStar Harbor and MedStar Union Memorial Hospitals.
Drawing on an extensive media background, Debra created the MedStar Television Network, directs a series of live interactive webcasts, serves as the hospitals’ spokesperson, conducts physician media training and drives nearly $4 million in advertising equivalency through earned media.
With 30-plus years’ experience in print journalism, broadcast news and public relations, Debra is an Emmy-nominated professional who has been recognized with such honors as the National Headliner Award and a Clarion for investigative journalism, two Asters, several Telly and MarCom awards for public relations videos, and is a Best in Show and Gold Winner recipient of the National Healthcare Marketing Report awards. Among others, Debra also received the Best in Maryland PRSA award for media placement.
Her career in journalism began at the Essex Times while still a student at Towson State University. After graduating in 1985 with a double major in mass communications and sociology with concentrations in journalism and criminal justice, she became the first female sports reporter for the Press Republican, a daily newspaper in upstate New York.
Debra launched her television work as a reporter for the national Fox Television network show, America’s Most Wanted, at WTTG in D.C. and then spent eight years at WMAR, the ABC News affiliate in Baltimore.
She has been working for MedStar Health since 2005.
Lauren Eisele Walbert has over a decade of experience in culinary, lifestyle and travel public relations and has provided strategic leadership and planning as well as account management for local, regional and national clients including United Way of Central Maryland, Star-Spangled 200, Light City Baltimore, Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, and the National WWII Museum. Lauren has overseen and helped execute countless restaurant openings as well as the opening of the Baltimore Design School’s new building, for which she serves on the board of directors.
Lauren began her career in the travel and economic development division of Ruder Finn (now Finn Partners) in New York; and her work has taken her on press trips everywhere from the Dominican Republic and Jamaica to Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
Lauren is a graduate of La Salle University, where she was a member of the University Honors Program, and earned a Bachelor of Arts in communication with concentrations in public relations and mass media writing and a minor in English.
Kenneth R. Smith, APR, is manager of internal and CEO communications for Boeing Defense, Space & Security. He earned his professional accreditation in 2000 and joined the PRSA Maryland board of directors in 2004. He served as treasurer from 2005 through 2011 and remains a director through his role as one of the chapter’s delegates to the PRSA assembly.
He has served on the Maryland chapter’s accreditation committee and was the 2007 recipient of the PRSA Maryland President’s Award for his volunteer service to the profession.