Updated 1:22 p.m.
Three years after our first Who’s Next class highlighted young, influential Pittsburghers shaping the city’s advertising, marketing and public relations scenes, we’re back to highlight the next wave of changemakers in this field.
Our 2019 Who’s Next: Communicators class, the latest in our Who’s Next series, presented by S&T Bank, is full of the people behind the scenes, behind the brands and behind your favorite social media accounts. They’re wordsmiths, innovators, creatives, brand builders and mass communicators. They work in digital mediums and in-person. They work for nonprofits, for-profits, in the public sector or for themselves. They’re communicators in the golden age of communications — and they’re having a moment.
Who’s Next is our chance to recognize up-and-coming dynamos in Pittsburgh and to introduce you today to tomorrow’s leaders and influencers.
And this class, whether by running their own firms, freelancing or working for some of the best known names in the Pittsburgh area, are just that. Meet them here, then get your ticket to join us at a happy hour in their honor on April 24.
Join us at a happy hour in honor of The Incline's Who's Next: Communicators class. This event is for you if you are interested in advertising, marketing, or public relations — or if you want to learn more about the people telling Pittsburgh's story. At this celebration:
- Meet honorees who were nominated by their peers and selected by The Incline's newsroom.
- Enjoy local food and beverages courtesy of Moxie.
Where: Moxie at 611 William Penn Place — 9th Floor of the Alcoa Building (Downtown)
When: April 24, 2019 from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
How much: $25 for public | Free for Who's Next: Communicators honorees
Calynn Abdullah has transformed the external communications at Dress for Success Pittsburgh, elevating the reach and impact of the nonprofit with the mission of empowering women to achieve economic independence. Abdullah has been instrumental in creating a comprehensive communications plan that includes a new social media campaign, newsletter, annual report and print communications. Abdullah’s work is credited with propelling the success of the organization’s 2018 Women Rock Pittsburgh fundraising event. “Calynn is dedicated to the mission of the organization and goes above and beyond to spread the word about ways to utilize and support its services,” Abdullah’s nominator said. Abdullah attended Penn State Greater Allegheny and lives in West Mifflin.
Daniel Alexander is a dual Brazilian/American citizen, having been raised in a small city called Santarem in the middle of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. It was in Brazil where he first launched his advertising career, one he ultimately brought to Pittsburgh, where he now works as a marketing and communications coordinator at Amizade. Alexander first started as a volunteer with Amizade, which bills itself as a “fair trade learning organization,” in the summer of 2014. Alexander is also a photographer and says his career in advertising has informed his visual arts work, and vice versa. “From events to photojournalism, when I'm holding my camera I am fully-immersed to an art that helps me and other people express their views about life around the world,” Alexander told The Incline. He attended Universidade da Amazônia and lives in Penn Hills.
Rodney Burrell’s CV is as impressive as it is eclectic. He was named writer of the year in 2004 by M&M Magazine, a national luxury automotive publication. He’s worked with a variety of athletes, entertainers and organizations for strategic partnerships, including Justin Timberlake, TapouT, Taylor Swift, Michael Jordan Motorsports and Ferrari World Abu Dhabi. And he’s considered a trusted public relations and strategic advisor for divisions of the Army, Navy and Marines. In his current role as VP Communications for Flying Cork, Burrell provides content, public relations, marketing and strategic planning for a roster of notable clients, including the Emmy Nominated TV show, “Tomorrow's World Today” on The Science Channel. Burrell is also founder and editor-in-chief of The Pittsburgh Collective, an arts+ human interest content platform; co-founder of Coffee Passport Pittsburgh; and co-founder of Ignite Studios, photo studio and theater space. Burrell attended Le Centre de formation des journalistes in Paris and lives in Holiday Park.
Who’s behind the Carnegie Science Center’s prolific marketing, PR and social media campaigns? Nicole Chynoweth. A marketing, public relations and social media manager, Chynoweth continues to grow the center’s social media audience across all channels and strives to grow its social media following by 25 percent in a year. A former reporter, Chynoweth relies on her media savvy to make it happen, leveraging an innate understanding of the kinds of social media posts people respond to most. Chynoweth attended Point Park University and lives in Moon Township.
Chances are you’ve heard of 1Hood Media, the local force in Pittsburgh music, politics and activism. And chances are that owes to the work of Tyeasha "Tye" Clarke, who is the force behind the force — and 1Hood’s highly active communications branch. As director of PR and creative enrichment for the collective, Clarke has spread the word about the work being done by a roster of socially conscious artists and activists who “utilize art as a means of raising awareness about social justice matters affecting people around the world.” Clarke’s emails on related causes and events are fixtures in any Pittsburgh reporter’s inbox and her work continues to raise awareness around 1Hood’s work and mission. Clarke is also co-founder of CoCoHaus, a social innovation consultancy aimed at arming creatives, organizers and small arts organizations with the tools needed to become "not just the source of creativity, but the architects of their vision." Clarke attended Kent State and the Parsons School of Design. She lives in West Mifflin.
Amanda Cowan started out as a music journalist, went into public relations and then started her own boutique PR firm. That firm, the Pittsburgh-based A.FAYE PR, allows Cowan to focus on local clients, mostly entrepreneurs, artists and creatives in the entertainment, lifestyle and fashion industries. Cowan is also the founder GrlPwrPgh, which has become a place for women to make friends, support each other, and interact socially. Cowan describes herself as “A dedicated PR manager, social media manager and editor with a strong passion for philanthropy and traveling.” Cowan attended John Carroll University and Regent's College in London and now lives in Carnegie.
Aleya Crable Jennings is the first African-American woman to serve as the Associate Vice President, Group Account Director at Gatesman Agency, building client relationships, advising on marketing strategy, and keeping the Downtown firm’s clients coming back. In 2015, Aleya founded Gatesman’s Diversity and Inclusion Council, comprised of 15 agency employees of various backgrounds. And she continues to focus the agency’s work to build potent marketing campaigns, whether through targeted email and digital display or high-volume TV and radio spots. Jennings attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania and lives in Jefferson Hills.
Award-winning marketer Liz Fetchin has more than 14 years of experience building the profiles of non-profits and startups through creative marketing strategies. This means using copywriting, research, strategic planning and story pitching to produce content that engages an audience while accurately representing the priorities and values of a client. Clients like 412 Food Rescue, Tree Pittsburgh, Nazareth Prep, Chatham University Eden Hall Campus, Pittsburgh Opera, Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh, Westmoreland Museum of American Art and LumberjAxes Axe Throwinghave entrusted Fetchin to tell their stories to the world. Fetchin attended Ohio University’s Scripps School of Journalism and lives in the North Hills.
Allegheny County’s Sheriff’s Office is one of the largest in the state, and sometimes it needs to get information out quickly. In his role as communications director for the agency, Tony Griffith is the conduit between sheriff’s office investigators, the public and the media. He performs that role daily with an emphasis on digital means of communication. This in the era of viral law enforcement social media posts and more departments recognizing the power of social networks have in connecting with the public and conveying information en masse. Griffith attended Westminster College and lives in Brookline, where he serves as Beautification Chairman of the Brookline CDC, Brookline Together.
Information is great. Accessible information is even better. And in her role as media relations manager with the Pittsburgh-based data/research website Niche, Jessica Hair works to make sure the information shared with the public is as great and consumable as it can be. Most of the time, this means making numbers-driven research that assesses and analyzes school rankings, neighborhood quality of life, and workplace prospects, understandable and accessible to a wider audience. She guides the press coverage of all data set roll-outs and plays an integral role in advising and planning media campaigns. “With Pittsburgh's tech-based and Internet-oriented sector often failing at the essential task of communicating who it is and what it does, it's equal parts remarkable and wholly refreshing that Jessica's able to humanize a data analytics company to such a degree ...” Hair’s nominator said. Hair attended the University of Pittsburgh and lives in Lawrenceville.
For the past six years, Zachary Marsh has been Variety’s storyteller, compiling the testimony of clients of the children’s charity into stories meant to inspire and engage. Marsh’s media savvy has also translated into coverage of the organization’s work and the besting of fundraising goals. He’s also helped develop and implement grassroots campaigns to engage the community and rebrand the organization from top to bottom. Marsh writes, “With nearly a decade of management experience in the nonprofit sector, I've been able to hone in on my passion for communication and the ability to tell stories that create impact and change.” Marsh went to Westminster College and lives in Dormont.
Kyshira Moffett is using her experience as an award-winning entrepreneur, brand strategist, and author to help ambitious female entrepreneurs “package their expertise, brand their influence, and monetize their online presence.” Moffett is an ace strategist and content creator, and she uses those skills to help entrepreneurs refine and better target their messaging. As former president of the National Black MBA Association and the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Urban League of Young Professionals, she continues to host workshops for professional organizations to share what she’s learned in the areas of branding, entrepreneurship, and the power of social media. Moffett attended Hampton University and Harvard Business School Online and lives in Forest Hills.
As manager of the city’s Office of Community Affairs, Molly Onufer does a lot of listening. She visits more than 30 neighborhood organizations on a regular basis and is responsible for communication to all 90 neighborhoods and the city’s more than 300,000 residents. But Onufer lends more than just an ear. She’s working to make sure it’s easy for those residents to communicate with city officials and has created several procedures to streamline that process. This includes how the city communicates opportunities with the community and championing new formats for public meetings that put the community in control. “I have always loved communicating, and the key is listening and hearing as much as it is spreading your message,” Onufer told The Incline. Onufer attended John Carroll University and lives in Shadyside.
An account supervisor at the Pittsburgh-based PR and social media agency WordWrite, Robin Rectenwald has led accounts for some of the biggest names in town — Caliente Pizza & Draft House, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh and PA Health & Wellness, just to name a few. “Robin has always had a passion for helping organizations share their stories with the media and the community,” Rectenwald’s nominator told The Incline. “Over the years, she’s soaked up as much information as possible in order to grow as a professional and use her skills to help others – both at her job and in her personal time.” In her spare time, Robin serves on the Board of Directors for the Pittsburgh chapter of Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). She attended Duquesne University and West Virginia University and lives in Brentwood.
Khamil Scantling is a facilitator — and an innovator. Frustrated by the lack of a central directory for black-owned businesses in Pittsburgh, she founded Cocoapreneur Pgh, LLC, which serves as a liaison between the community and small black businesses. The aim is to make black businesses better equipped to serve the communities in which they reside and to point consumers to the black businesses in their communities that contribute most to it. The result is a service that bridges a gap and fulfills a need using a polished, mobile-friendly and easily searchable format. Cocoapreneur is connecting black-owned businesses in Pittsburgh with a wider audience, and vice versa. Scantling attended the University of Pittsburgh and lives in Knoxville.
If you’re not following BikePGH on Twitter, follow them now. We’ll wait. The group, which advocates for cyclist and pedestrian safety in Pittsburgh, is active on the interwebs with a seemingly endless stream of blog and social media posts. And much of that owes to communications and marketing manager Alexandria Shewczyk. Shewczyk manages communications for the group and has led marketing efforts around its educational video series, OpenStreetsPGH and the 2018 PedalPGH Fundraiser bike ride. Shewczyk brings experience gathered working for organizations like GNC, Sweetwater Center for the Arts, Pittsburgh Magazine and Vox. Shewczyk, who spends most of her time designing, taking pictures, and training for triathlons, attended Robert Morris University. She lives in Shaler.
As the Digital Community Specialist for the City of Pittsburgh’s Department of Innovation & Performance (I&P), Todd Smith brings neighbors and neighborhoods together through digital storytelling. He is the mastermind and co-producer behind #WeInnovatePGH – the City’s annual Inclusive Innovation event. Additionally, he crafts I&P’s social media policies, develops analytics and coaches team members on effective content strategy and communications. “Todd is committed to ensuring that Pittsburgh is truly an inclusive city – both on the job and beyond,” his nominator said. “He believes in social impact for good and strives to ensure that the City’s residents are civically engaged.” Smith attended The George Washington University and lives in Lawrenceville.
Since joining The Waterfront Shopping Center’s parent company, M&J Wilkow, as marketing coordinator, Emily Wittmer has played a key role in positioning The Waterfront as a youthful, family-friendly hotspot. Now a marketing director, Wittmer has made it her mission to bring smart partnerships to the center as a way to attract new audiences. The center’s partnership with local lifestyle guru, Kate Benz, is a good example of this. Benz’s food- and fashion-centric Facebook and Instagram videos about the Waterfront were watched by users for a combined 162,069 minutes last year. “The efforts (Wittmer) has put forth to make the Waterfront a family-friendly, hip place to visit have paid off big time and will continue for years to come,” Wittmer’s Who’s Next nominator said. Wittmer attended Westminster College and lives in West Mifflin.