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Industry Leaders Discuss the Future of our Field

We're eLevated, Now What? :

Take advantage of the rare opportunity to hear from some of the top professionals in the field of communications. With hopes for a personal, casual conversation, this panel will give attendees a sneak peek into what it is like being a CEO/CCO, as well as key insights to use in future endeavors.

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Vanessa Abron, the founder of Agency Abron, is a public relations professional with expertise in developing successful brand visibility campaigns and securing positive media coverage in national and local media outlets. Past media coverage includes placements in notable media outlets such as, but not limited to, NBC's TODAY, Now This, Chicago Tribune, The Source, the Associated Press, and ABC News.


Throughout her career, Vanessa led multicultural and global communications initiatives, public relations strategy development, event management, account management, content development, promotional visibility, and media outreach for clients in varying industry verticals.


Before Agency Abron, Vanessa served as the director of communications for the Community Alliance and Consumer Engagement group at Nielsen, the media and communications manager for Johnson Publishing Company (Ebony magazine, Jet magazine and Fashion Fair Cosmetics) and account management positions at agencies such as Hill + Knowlton Strategies (H+K) and Ch'rewd Marketing and Promotions.


Some of Vanessa's past client work include Jazz Institute of Chicago, the Walgreen's Expressions campaign, Classic Hip-Hop Lives, Praize Productions Inc., ComEd, FX Network, Aflac, Illinois Lottery, Pringles, Adidas, Mercedes-Benz, Nike, Virgin Records, and the Indie Soul Journeys TV series to name a few.


Vanessa credits her success on her intuition, combined with her passion for building meaningful relationships. She has a steadfast commitment to ensuring that the media, community, and the client all receive mutually beneficial rewards from any project.

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Lauded as a trailblazer, Rodrigo A. Sierra is chief communications officer and senior vice president of the American Medical Association (AMA) where he has led a transformation of the 175-year-old organization to reclaim a leadership position in shaping an evolving healthcare system for all. The brand repositioning, media and public affairs expert is responsible at the AMA for public relations, enterprise communications, executive leadership positioning and enterprise social responsibility. He serves as executive sponsor of the Latinx employee resource group (UNIDOS@AMA) and liaison to the AMA Foundation.


At the American Medical Association (AMA), Rodrigo serves on the executive management team and as advisor to the CEO to markedly enhance AMA leadership in shaping the evolving healthcare system. Sierra skillfully guided the AMA throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in confronting an attack on science and positioning the AMA as the trusted source for evidence-based information and to succeed virtually as an essential national force. This leadership resulted in his appointment to serve on the advisory board of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins and the University of Georgia Crisis Communication Think Tank, a crisis research and practice thought leadership group.


Rodrigo’s four-decade career at high-profile organizations provide him unique leadership abilities that make him adept at transforming challenges into opportunities that enable reputational, financial and strategic success. Across his career, Rodrigo has confronted a range of disparate issues that require deft management and a cool head in a crisis making him a trusted C-suite strategic leader and advisor.


Sierra’s concern for Latino issues resulted in his position as a founder and steering committee member of Nuestro Futuro, a partnership with the Chicago Community Trust. He serves on the board of Leadership Greater Chicago and has served on the board of the Puerto Rican Arts Alliance and on the executive committee of the Goodman Theater board. He is a member of the Page Society, Economic Club of Chicago, Executives’ Club of Chicago, Publicity Club of Chicago and City Club of Chicago.


Sierra earned an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management through the Executive Master of Business Administration program in June 2008. He holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Northwestern University School of Professional Studies.

The Executive Panel is scheduled for Friday (3/3) at 5PM.

Hosted at DePaul University:
1 E Jackson Blvd.

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David Grossman, ABC, APR, Fellow PRSA, CSP, helps leaders drive productivity and get results through authentic and courageous leadership communication. He’s a sought-after speaker and advisor to Fortune 500 leaders, and member of the Forbes Communication Council. A four-time author, David is CEO of The Grossman Group, an award-winning Chicago-based strategic leadership development and internal communication consultancy. David’s leadercommunicator™ blog has been ranked the number one blog on communication by Feedspot seven years in a row.

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Michelle Mekky is a veteran, award-winning broadcast journalist and public relations executive who has led high-profile marketing and PR campaigns for some of the nation’s most innovative brands, businesses, entrepreneurs and nonprofits. She is founder and president of Mekky Media Relations, Inc., a boutique PR agency that strategically partners with many leaders in their industries, helping them tell their stories to new audiences to fuel their growth. Mekky Media has been widely recognized for its tremendous expansion and success in its first six years.


Michelle got her start in television news, spending over a decade as a senior producer and news writer for Fox-TV in Chicago. She transitioned from journalism to PR and marketing, working at top agencies and using her insider media knowledge and widespread connections to achieve top-tier coverage for clients ranging from startups to global powerhouses. She launched Mekky Media in 2016, to bring her own brand of PR to the market and deliver powerful publicity, with an emphasis on personal attention and creative storytelling. Mekky Media provides PR strategy, media relations, media training, event promotion, social media strategy and influencer outreach. To meet demand brought on by the pandemic, the agency has added services that include integrated digital and PR programs, personal branding and internal communications.


Mekky Media clients range from startups to leaders in their industries and represent a broad range of verticals, including nonprofits, technology, healthcare, restaurants and culinary, retail, fitness and nutrition, financial and legal, and B2B. In 2021, Michelle doubled the size of her team and led the agency to record growth, with a 62-percent revenue gain over the previous year. The agency doubled its client roster in 2021 as well, adding businesses and nonprofits in Chicago and coast to coast, such as iconic restaurant group Scott Harris Hospitality, Chicago Gold Coast hotspot Adalina, leading cannabis company Pharmacann, author and influencer Chelsea Austin, international retailer Primark, and aesthetic and reconstructive surgery practice Warner Institute, to name a few. In 2022, the agency partnered with major brands like Red Bull Great Lakes Region, Westfield Old Orchard Shopping Center, FAN EXPO Chicago and Knot My Boat Charters. Mekky Media also continues to work with valued industry-leading partners, such as Wealth Management Group and Abt Electronics, and is a leader in nonprofit PR, elevating many leading organizations in Chicago and beyond. Michelle, who is a cancer survivor, supports the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition and Triage Cancer.


Michelle and Mekky Media have been widely recognized in the industry for elevating clients through millions of media impressions. In 2022, the agency received Publicity Club of Chicago Golden Trumpet Awards for client work for Adalina and Abt, as well as a Bronze Stevie’s in the American Business Awards, for Media Relations PR Campaign of the Year for Abt. Honors in 2021 included Gold and Silver Stevie Awards for PR Agency of the Year and PR Campaign of the Year, as well as Ragan’s Workplace Wellness Award. In addition, the agency was named to Expertise PR’s list of Best PR Firms in Chicago, and Michelle received a 2021 Ragan and PR Daily Communicator of the Year Award, which recognizes the industry’s best practitioners from the past year. The agency also has won a 2020 PR News Top 100 Agency Elite Award, a 2020 Bronze Stevie Award for PR Agency of the Year, a 2020 Expertise PR Best Firms in Chicago ranking, a National Bulldog PR Award and several Publicity Club of Chicago Gold and Silver Trumpet Awards. Michelle was named a 2020 PR News Top Women in PR Honoree and a 2019 Crain’s Chicago Business Notable Entrepreneur, and she won a 2018 Bronze Stevie Award for Women in Business, in the Entrepreneur of the Year category.


Michelle has grown the Mekky Media team to nearly 20 PR professionals who come from top firms and leading media outlets. She is committed to promoting a healthy culture, planning innovative wellness events inspired by the agency’s core values, such as trust, authenticity and teamwork. She also has developed a successful hybrid staffing model, with full timers and contractors who alternate in-office days.


Michelle is part of the prestigious International Public Relations Network (IPRN), Forbes Agency Council and Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). She blogs for Forbes and is a motivational speaker, sharing about her journey, entrepreneurship, media training and more. She is a graduate of Northwestern University, achieving her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees from the renowned Medill School of Journalism.

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