Member of the Month

Member Spotlight: Abby Richter

This month, we spotlight new member Abby Richter.

Employer: Rising Above with John O’Leary

Title: Marketing & Media Manager

Social Media: Linked In -

Abby Richter PhotoWhat do you like most about your job?

Working for an entrepreneurial company – growing from inspirational speaking into a lifestyle organization offering multi-day events, online coaching programs, books and more – is thrilling! The opportunities are endless, the energy is high and the hats I wear are many! But what I love MOST is our mission – which we live and breathe and share with every client, partner and community member we encounter: “take back your life, ignite your possibility and change your world.”

For a girl who has been described her whole life as an “eternal optimist” – helping others find the silver lining and then thriving into their best life is absolutely where I am meant to be for the long haul.

What piece of advice would you give to someone studying communication? 

I have two tips.

First, get as much diverse internship experience as you can! If you start internships early on in college, you will get to see what aspects of communication you like and which you don’t - which will really help you focus on the right opportunities when you begin your job search. You’ll also have made lots of professional connections, which are critical when looking for your first job. Finally – never underestimate the power of the informational interview! Know a company you’d like to work for? A person whose career you admire? Ask for an informational interview to learn more about the company / industry / his career path and come armed with questions. This is a great way to learn from experienced professionals, network and get comfortable with interviewing in a low pressure setting. Also, when you land interviews, informational or otherwise: practice, practice, practice and create a portfolio of all the work from your internships.

Second, if you can: move away from your regional comfort zone for your first job. I moved to California for my first job out of college and I would not change my two years on the coast working for Girls Inc. of Alameda County for anything! The experience, independence and memories you make will make you a better person and professional candidate no matter where you land after.

What does life’s next chapter hold for you?

I just got married to my best friend in November, so this chapter is pretty unbeatable! My job at Rising Above is deeply rewarding, I love my team members and I feel professionally challenged. My family has their health. I’d say I’m hoping I can just extend this chapter for a while!

How has IABC St. Louis helped your career?

As a one-person marketing “department” I joined IABC in January to keep up on industry trends and build community / network with other small marketing departments. I actually organized a small sub-group that is going to meet monthly so we can share best practices, troubleshoot, brainstorm etc. if you are interested in joining – shoot me an

Member Spotlight: Becky Lorentz

Becky1 002

Becky Lorentz is the Marketing Manager in Towers Watson’s St. Louis office.  Her responsibilities include creating marketing opportunities that introduce and reinforce awareness of Towers Watson’s services and capabilities, generating sales lead opportunities, enhancing and fostering relationships with existing clients, and creating internal awareness of key marketing initiatives. In addition to her current role, Becky has held positions in marketing, sales, product and project management. She holds a B.S. in Business Administration from the University of Missouri-Columbia and an M.B.A. from St. Louis University. She is an avid fundraiser for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Employer: Towers Watson

Title: Marketing Manager

Social Media: Linked In –

What do you like most about your job?  The people! I work with a lot of amazingly smart and insightful people. Every day I get to come to work and help deliver Towers Watson’s expertise to our clients by connecting my colleagues with the right tools, the right content, and the right communication at the right time.

Favorite quote:  “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”  Dr. Seuss

When not working, you could find me: With 3 kids, I spend a lot of time going to soccer games, t-ball games, Cub Scout meetings, or wearing a tiara at princess tea parties. I also spend time perfecting my skills in Lego and fort building.

The most significant experience that shaped your career?  For a few years, I worked in Pharmaceutical Sales.  It was fun and challenging with a lot of successes, but sales is also very humbling.  The fantastic thing about sales is that both success and rejection are blatant.  I quickly learned that everyone communicates differently and in order to be successful, you need to tailor your approach and delivery on every call for that specific client – just because you want to talk about something, doesn’t mean that’s what the client is interested in hearing about.  I learned while some sales come easily, others require patience.  The amazing thing about building your sales and communication skills is that no matter what you do with your career, you will ALWAYS be selling someone on an idea, a viewpoint, an initiative, etc.  

Significant professional lesson learned:  I have found that the world is a small place.  St. Louis is smaller.  Never close a door. Never burn a bridge. The people you encounter – managers, clients, coworkers, perhaps fellow IABC members – you cross paths with again. Be smart. Be kind. Be the kind of person they want to remember.


Member Spotlight: Jim Phelan

Phelan head shot

Jim Phelan is the Director of Global Public Relations for the product lifecycle management (PLM) software business of Siemens, a global engineering conglomerate. In addition to his current role, Jim has held positions in media relations, marketing, sales and engineering during his 34-year career. He was born and raised in St. Louis where he has spent most of his life. Jim has three grown children, ages 24, 22 and 20, all living in St. Louis.

What made you choose communications as a career?

I sort of backed into it. I actually consider communications to be my third attempt at a career. My first career was as a mechanical engineer for McDonnell Douglas where I got some experience using computer-aided design (CAD) software. My second career was selling CAD software for IBM and my current company. Then, a little over 15 year ago I decided to get out of sales because I wanted to stop traveling so much. So I started talking to several executives inside my company trying to find a place where I might fit. The head of Marketing at the time was looking to replace his outside PR agency with someone internally. He asked me to write a sample press release as a test, which I apparently passed and got the job. I think I’ve written or edited about a million press releases since then.

Are there any common threads that tie your diverse jobs together?

The common threads are engineering software technology and communications. I learned engineering in college and gained experience with CAD software in my first job. I always had somewhat of a knack for verbal communication, which prompted me to take a job selling the type of software I was using to other engineers. My transition into PR at an engineering software company was a natural fit because I used my technical background, sales experience and written communication skills to develop press releases and “sell” story ideas to editors.

What piece of advice would you give to someone considering a career in communication?

Know your audience! If you can understand and empathize with the various challenges that your audience faces, as well as the objectives they are trying to achieve, you can communicate to them on their terms and in their language. This will make your communication much more effective. Too many forms of business communication are developed from the point of view of the source, rather than that of the audience. After you write something, read it as if you were the target audience and ask yourself if you would take the action that the communication is trying to get you to take.

Has IABC played a significant role in your career?

Yes. In fact, just last year I won an IABC Gold Quill Award of Excellence for a global communications campaign I worked on with NASA, describing how they used our software to design, simulate and manufacture the Curiosity Rover that landed on Mars in 2012. It was very gratifying to receive that recognition and it helps validate all the hard work that went into the campaign.

How have you benefited from being an IABC St. Louis member?

Networking and knowledge. Even though I am a lifelong St. Louis resident, none of my jobs have connected me to other St. Louis companies and professionals. Other than the people I have worked with at my various employers, most of my connections have been outside the St. Louis area. IABC St. Louis gives me the opportunity to network with other St. Louis-based professional communicators and to learn from them.


Member Spotlight: Mary C. Foshage

Mary C. Foshage works in communications for SSM Health Care, a Catholic, non-profit health system that spans four states: Missouri, Illinois, Oklahoma and Wisconsin, with its headquarters here in St. Louis. For more than three years she worked in public relations and marketing at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center and for SSM Maternity Care. Outside of work Mary enjoys time with her family, playing sports, learning the violin and volunteering which she does for a few different organizations, including IABC St. Louis.

What do you like most about your job?

New challenges. SSM has never shied away from challenging people to accomplish new and better things. And in communications there are always new strategies to explore, new media to test out, new relationships to cultivate and new obstacles to think through and overcome.

What is the most significant experience that shaped your career?

A few years ago my boss and mentor left for a position at another organization. This was a good move for him, but it came at a hard time. We weren’t aware of his changing jobs and were in the middle of an international media craze. It was sad, exciting but even nerve-racking all at the same time. In the end my colleague and I pulled together (with help from other co-workers) and got through the month-long media hurricane.

It was a few more months before another team member was hired so the craziness didn’t cease right away. Still, that time was a great learning and growing experience. I learned a lot about working under stress and that at the end of the media crazy day there is still work on your desk that has to get done. I also learned that a bit of coffee and a lot of laughter can get you through those 12- to 14-hour days on minimal sleep.

How has IABC St. Louis helped your career?

In working on the IABC St. Louis Quill Awards and attending different lunch/lecture series I’ve had the opportunity to meet and work with so many great people. Everyone comes from such different backgrounds and brings such unique opinions that it’s really connected me not just to people, but the pulse of “what’s going on.” Building good relationships is key, but staying on top of the latest trends and tools is vital to an organization’s, and a person’s, success.

Why did you volunteer for the 2013 St. Louis Quill awards committee?

Actually, it was suggested that I volunteer before before becoming a full IABC member. The awards committee needed people and I’ve always loved volunteering and event planning so it seemed like a good fit.

Since being with the planning committee, I have become a full member and have even moved into the role as event Chair. The 2014 awards program is going to be a lot of fun. We have some really great changes (and new challenges) that I think will really get people excited about entering their work and coming to the event. Keep an eye for details!

What significant professional challenges have you overcome in the last year?

I’ve had to learn to say “no.” It’s such a small word, but for a person who loves pleasing people and doing a good job, it’s a challenging little word. But no matter a person’s work style, one person, or even one team, cannot do everything, at least not effectively. Saying “no,” or at least “not right now” or “not in that way,” frees up a lot of time and energy for the few things that really need to be done and done well.

Member of the Month: George Grimm-Howell

George Grimm HowellIABC garners its strength from the diversity, talents, and wisdom of its members. This October, we shine the spotlight on George Grimm-Howell, a 16-year member of our St. Louis chapter. George became involved with IABC as a student at Butler University. He’s since married his communications skills and passion for working with people to become Director, Talent & HR Solutions for Buck Consultants, a global HR benefits consulting services firm.

Why communications?
As a kid I was always interested in advertising and public relations. I loved the idea of fusing communication with creative concepts. As a student I was blessed to have solid writing skills. At Butler University in Indianapolis, I worked on the school newspaper and eventually changed my major from Public and Corporate Communications to Journalism.

The most significant experience that shaped your career?
My incredible ah-ha moment came several years ago with the accelerating pace of interactive communication. The ‘ah-ha’ was when I realized the ratio of print vs. online communication was going to completely flip in just a few years: 80%print/20% online quickly moved to 80% online/20% print.

The major issues facing today’s communications professionals.
Reduction in the quality of work is the most significant issue. The reduction in communication budgets means fewer professionals to do the work, and the advent of cheap and fast methods of communication often lead us to issue communications before they’re really had the proper scrutiny. A close second is the fact that our audiences increasingly don’t read, causing us to pare down content to the point where it’s almost devoid of true educational value.

Words of wisdom for young communications professionals today.
Expose yourself to examples of high quality work and surround yourself with people who are committed to the pursuit of communication excellence. (In other words, be active in IABC!)

If there was one thing you could change about your career choice, what would it be?
Since hindsight is 20/20, I now can see that I might have had even more value to my clients if I had studied more strategic organizational forms of communication rather than journalism. So much of our HR communication is essentially change management. Communication doesn’t happen in a vacuum, it happens in the context of what’s going on in the organizational environment. And the audience doesn’t read your piece only for the information it contains; rather, they view it their own lens as part of a process of validating their own world view. This is something I have learned over the years, but if do-overs were possible, I probably would study organizational communication.

How IABC St. Louis helped your career.
IABC has always been an important part of my professional life. It has helped my career by exposing me to what other excellent communication is going on in the St. Louis region and has provided a network of friends and acquaintances who help each other in many ways-from helping out when we have overflow work, to providing a specialty service that fills a unique need, to networking for employment opportunities.

Life’s next chapter.
The next chapter in life for me is navigating the experience of raising two college-bound teenagers, rediscovering the relationship with my wife after many years of busy child-rearing, and spending more time meeting interesting new people and wrestling with important ideas. Despite life’s experience, I find I’m never too old to change, to discover new experiences and to have my old assumptions challenged. I’m happy that I still don’t have all the answers, and I truly look forward to exploring the questions; the questions are usually much more interesting.

Member of the Month: Lauren Scheidemantel

Lauren Scheidemantel

Each month, IABC shines the spotlight on a different member. This month, meet Lauren Scheidemantel, and be sure to say hello at the next IABC event!

Employer: Enterprise Holdings

Title: Senior Writer, Employee Communications

Years in the profession: Three

Belong:  What I (want to) get out of IABC: All the knowledge and skills I can to be a better and more effective communicator.

Be more:  Something I would like to learn: My company is launching a new intranet, so in addition to figuring out all of its bells and whistles, I also want to learn more best practices — especially those related to content delivery and engagement.

Favorite book or website: As a self-proclaimed news and pop culture junkie, there are many websites I visit daily to keep “in the know.” However, for real-time news, nothing quite beats Twitter.

What do you like most about your job? Interviewing and writing about employees in our field operations is one of the most rewarding parts of my job. Their stories often inspire me and I always learn something new. But most of all, I love the challenge of making others in the organization feel that way, too.

Significant professional lesson learned: Always embrace opportunities to learn new things (even those that may fall outside your job description). Doing so not only will make you more marketable, but likely more valuable to your organization and your team.

I am especially good at: (personal) Music trivia. I can identify most songs from just a couple of notes.

When not working, you could find me: At a concert. I love live music of all kinds and St. Louis usually attracts some pretty good acts.

Social Media links:


Member of the Month: Brian Ames

Each month, IABC St. Louis shines the spotlight on a member you should probably get to know better.
Meeting other communicators builds our network, keeps us motivated, and well, sane. This month, meet Brian Ames — and be sure to say hello at our next IABC event.

Employer: Boeing Defense, Space & Security

Title: Director of Internal & CEO Communications

Years in the profession: 26

Be heard: Communicators are positioned uniquely in the organization to be integrators.  No other staff function knows where everyone and everything is; we do.  Communicators acting as connectors bring value in innumerable ways.  When we view our jobs as integrators and businesspeople first, it changes our view of the strategic value we can provide.

Belong: What I get out of IABC:  Organizations we support rely on us to bring superb, contemporary functional skills to the table.  When leadership has an organizational challenge, they don’t want to be guessing whether we know how to contribute to a solution.  IABC and all of the perspective it offers has always provided me with a great foundation in the basics as well as an eagerness to explore new ways of doing things.

Be more: I have so much yet to learn about the utility of social media.  Sometimes I’ll think, “I’m getting close.”  I get a flash of insight into how to use social media approaches to help solve organizational challenges.  The potential to apply these new forms to employee inclusion and engagement seems like the area where we’d put them to best use.  It’s just getting from Point A to Point B that often puzzles me.

Favorite book or website: (personal or professional) “Einstein’s Dreams,” by Alan Lightman.  I love the study of time and metaphysics.

Favorite IABC memory: It would be hard to beat the months of group study that preceded my IABC accreditation in Seattle in 1993.  We had such an excellent group of practitioners from diverse organizations – the process really added dimension to my game.  Studying with communicators from other walks of life really expanded my view of how to meet my organization’s needs.  I’m a big experimenter, and that whole process not only confirmed my commitment to a lifetime in this profession, but gave me the confidence to try new things as a daily approach.

Favorite communications project/memory: Another great aspect of communications is that we’re in a position to have so many rare opportunities to contribute!  I have too many great memories to pick one.  I’ve had the honor of leading communications teams and efforts where our work helps condition the procurement environment so our men and women in the military can get the equipment they need and so that our employees are aligned, engaged, and willing and able to offer their discretionary effort to the business.  To me, that’s the kind of work worth doing.

Significant professional lesson learned: It’s about the people.  When we realize that the character of the organization is first and foremost about its people and their interrelationships, then we suddenly realize that we must conduct communications as if the whole organization depends on it.  Because it does.

When not working, you could find me: Playing electric bass guitar, writing, reading, running, hanging out with my family.

Social Media links: I’m on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and I have a blog at

Member of the Month: Nichole Burgdorf

Member Spotlight:  Nichole Burgdorf, ABC

Each month, IABC St. Louis shines the spotlight on a member you should probably get to know better.  Meeting other communicators builds our network, keeps us motivated, and well, sane. This month, meet Niki Burgdorf — and be sure to say hello at our next IABC event.

Employer: Mercy Marketing and Communications

Title: Communications Supervisor, Creative Services

Years in the profession: 8

Be heard: Something I would like to tell management: While communicators enjoy writing brochures and creating other tactical materials, we are strategic thinkers first and foremost. If you give us the opportunity, time and resources to proactively plan communications, the entire company will benefit.

Favorite book or website: (personal) Interred with Their Bones by Jennifer Lee Carrell. She has found the perfect balance between dialog, narration, description and action. Studying her writing will benefit any writer, whether they write for work or pleasure.

Favorite IABC memory: Earning my ABC designation in 2010. It was a lot of hard work, but I am a much stronger, more strategic communicator for having gone through the process. It’s a challenge, but I would recommend it to anyone.

Favorite communications project/memory: Attending the IABC World Conference in New York in 2008. I learned more in those few days than I could have in a year of classes and built professional relationships that continue to this day.

Significant professional lesson learned: Sometimes failing at something makes you a better communicator in the long run (and this is coming from a perfectionist). Try to learn everything you can from your mistakes once the pain goes away.

When not working, you could find me: Writing or researching for my novels, a four-book fiction series based on Arthurian legend. (I don’t have an agent or publisher yet.)

I am especially good at: (professional) Writing and editing, although I’m not as good at editing my own writing.

Social Media links: Nichole Burgdorf on LinkedIn, @Bellafortuna393 on Twitter (I don’t talk about communications; it’s mostly personal or about my novels).

Member Spotlight: Nancy Bunker Koester

Nancy Bunker Koester

Each month, IABC St. Louis shines the spotlight on a member you should probably get to know better.

Meeting other communicators builds our network, keeps us motivated, and well, sane. This month, meet Nancy Bunker Koester — and be sure to say hello at our next IABC event.

Employer:  Bunker Koester & Associates Communication & Research

Title:  Strategic Communication Consultant

Years in the profession: 25+

Be heard: Something I would like to tell management:

I would tell management that it is imperative that they:

a.       communicate early, often, and honestly with their employees internally and numerous groups externally to attain their own — and their company’s – success.

b.      make communication a key priority for everyone in the company, starting at the top all the way through the organization.

c.       fund their communication budget generously – and provide supplemental staffing and funding as needs arise (or before).

d.      set a good example by always communicating effectively and “walking the talk” (and never modeling “do as I say, not as I do” behavior).

Belong: What I have gotten from belonging to IABC-St. Louis:

IABC has:

a.       given me numerous opportunities through the years to serve on committees, hold IABC Board leadership roles, and contribute professionally whenever/however possible;

b.      helped me develop and refine my leadership and tactical skills and capabilities;

c.       invited me to do things beyond my then-current comfort zone;

d.      kept me informed and up-to-date in our ever-changing profession

e.       helped me continue to grow, learn, and be successful!

f.        given me a network of  wonderful, dedicated, and talented fellow IABC members to enjoy, compare notes with, and learn from things like career development, project ideas and “HOW TOs”, and timely best practice examples; and,

g.      broadened my professional thinking, communication and research skills, and consulting services.

Be more: Something I would like to learn:

Something I would like to learn is simply — how to clone myself.  This would allow me to learn, accomplish, and do all that I want to learn, accomplish, and do in this life and profession!

Favorite communications memory:

My favorite communications memory is seeing the “ah ha moments” when employees on teams, students in classrooms, and/or executives running the companies actually “get it!” – whether “it” is that effective communication can help them respectively (for example):

a.       accomplish their change initiatives’ and/or project goals easier, quicker, and more economically;

b.      arrive prepared and lead to a wide variety of career opportunities; and/or,

c.       create the type of culture, image, and business results they are working so hard to attain.

Some of my significant professional (and life) lessons learned include:

a.       Treat everyone as you would like to be treated … and remember not to burn bridges – ever!

b.      If you don’t ask, you don’t get.  (Whether you want a promotion, a client’s business, and/or the proper budget to fund the communication department or project adequately.)

c.       If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

d.      Patience IS a virtue!

e.       If I include you and your thinking as I plan my initiative, you work with me.  If I don’t include you, you may decide to work against me and make my work harder, take longer, and cost more to finish.

I am especially good professionally at: bringing new strategic ideas to clients and planning and implementing strategies and their related tactics to meet and exceed client needs and expectations.

Social Media: Linked In —

Member Spotlight: Robert Hentz

Robert Hentz

Each month, IABC St. Louis shines the spotlight on a member you should probably get to know better.

Meeting other communicators builds our network, keeps us motivated, and well, sane. This month, meet Robert Hentz — and be sure to say hello at our next IABC event.

Employer: BJC HealthCare

Title: Coordinator, BJC Web Services

Years in the profession: 14

Be heard: Something I would like to tell management/other communicators: “You know, this web guy might know a thing or two.”

Be more: Something I would like to learn: More about marketing websites and Internet marking

Favorite book or website: The Last Catholic In America by John R. Powers and Sports Illustrated (

Favorite communications project/memory: Setting up an operating manuals library for a home medical equipment website or building up the support groups section for a hospital website

When not working, you could find me: Camping with my sons or just getting out with my family

I am especially good at: Setting up a tent in the rain