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.
Lisa Brusio Coster is an award-winning public relations consultant with three decades experience working with non-profit, government and small- business clients in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. area. Her expertise falls into the areas of strategic communications planning, media relations, writing, and event coordination.
In her capacity as a communications expert, Ms. Brusio Coster has led campaigns for non-profits and orchestrated annual fundraising galas and awareness events. She has developed deliverables that move targeted audiences to action, including program brochures, contributed articles, conference materials, public service announcements, and e-newsletters. She has produced a cable television business talk show, scripted and voiced training videos, and placed clients on major media venues. Her tenacity, combined with her communications skills and knowledge, lend themselves well to clients in need of creating awareness of their organizations.
Ms. Brusio Coster earned her M.A. in Public Communication from The American University and her B.S. in Broadcast Journalism from the University of Maryland. She is a current PRSA Maryland board member, a past president of the Independent Public Relations Collaborative, and the 2017 PRSA Maryland “Best in Maryland” annual awards committee chair.
She started her own company, Coster Communications, in 1997, and was recognized for its 20th anniversary by the State of Maryland Department of Commerce on April 20, 2017, in MD Biz News, “Celebrating Company Milestones in Maryland.”
Ms. Brusio Coster resides in western Howard County, MD, with her husband, Bryan, and their son, when he is home on college breaks.
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.
Christine Barnhart is an award-winning, enterprising leader with 20 years of experience in supplying creative marketing and communications solutions to optimize companies’ performance. She thrives in strategic planning and implementation, digital media and website development, branding, writing and editing.
Christine has a long history in health care, most recently as director of marketing at Magellan Health, and is a marketing and communications consultant for non-profit and publicly traded companies in various industries. She has also served as public relations associate at the Greater Baltimore Committee.
A PRSA Maryland member since 2000, Christine was elected chapter president in 2007 and performed in other board roles from 2003-2008, including Assembly delegate. She was awarded the PRSA Maryland Volunteer of the Year Award in 2003 and previously chaired the PRSA Maryland Chesapeake Conference Committee (now the PRSA Maryland Annual Conference).
As an Accredited member of PRSA, Christine holds a master’s degree in communications management from Towson University and a bachelor’s degree in communications from La Salle University with a concentration in public relations. She resides in Frederick County.
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.
Courtney Benhoff is the Regional Communication Manager for Erickson Living, supporting Charlestown, Greenspring, Tallgrass Creek, Fox Run, and Wind Crest communities. Prior to joining Erickson Living in June of 2018, Courtney served as an account manager at Abel Communications in Baltimore where she provided 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 is a Clemson University graduate (English major). In addition to her service on the Board, she also served as the co-chair of PRSA Maryland’s 2015 and 2016 annual conferences.
eff Davis is managing partner for Van Eperen and heads the Baltimore office, providing strategic PR and social media counsel for Van Eperen clients.
Jeff 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 returns to the chapter’s leadership team after serving for two years as president (1998 and 1999).
He holds a degree in journalism from Ohio Wesleyan University and 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 is a senior 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 have also won many awards for their rebranding, workplace safety & health and public relations campaigns.
Dianna has a B.S. in Journalism and a Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) from the University of Maryland, College Park; and an M.A. in Publication Design from the University of Baltimore. She also has a web design certificate and recently received the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR).
In her free time, Dianna does freelance writing, editing and graphic design. She is also a certified yoga, Pilates and Zumba instructor in Eldersburg and Ellicott City. An avid artist, she is also a member of the Sykesville Painting Club.
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 Se cond 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.
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.
Phill Yerby is a group manager on Weber Shandwick’s Client Experience team. Since joining Weber Shandwick in 2011, he has managed public relations, advertising and digital campaigns for local and national clients.
Phill is a graduate of Hood College with a bachelor’s degree in public relations and a minor in political science.
Cathy Nyce is Senior Director of Marketing and Communications at Maryland Auto Insurance where she recently led the complete rebrand of the 40 year-old organization. The rebrand campaign has been recognized with several Addy awards and PRSA Best in Maryland awards, and was named AMA Campaign of the Year. Most recently, Cathy’s team at Maryland Auto was named PR Team of the Year by PRSA.
Previously Cathy enjoyed a 25-year career at State Farm Insurance where she served as Marketing Manager for the Eastern Market Area, Communications Strategist, and Federal Affairs Liaison in Washington, DC. Cathy is passionate about leadership and holds an Executive Certificate in Transformational Leadership from Georgetown University. She serves of the Advisory Board of Running Start, an organization dedicated to bringing young women to politics. She helped launch the Baltimore AMA Chapter’s mentoring program and served on the planning committee for 2017 PRSA Conference. Cathy loves her two rescue pups, George and Jack, paddle boarding, barre classes and her Peloton bike.