Member of the Month

Member Spotlight: Rhonda Sciarra

SciarraRhonda Sciarra, Communications Manager at Mallinckrodt and a past IABC St. Louis president, now serves as 2014-2015 Director of IABC’s Pacific Plains Region (PPR). The organization supports the leaders and members of the region’s IABC chapters with resources and professional development opportunities. Here, she talks more about her role heading PPR and why she stepped up to volunteer.

1. Why did you become involved with IABC at the regional level after your leadership experience at the local level?

Since I joined IABC 10 years ago, I have found incredible value in part through investing in volunteering. IABC has provided me with great access to best communications practices, an expanding network of peers and friends in the profession, and a way to grow my skills as a leader and communicator. I became involved at the IABC Pacific Plains regional level because I was enthused by the region’s purpose: to connect and support chapter leaders and members at large across the U.S. West and Midwest. It was a great next step in my IABC involvement.

2. The release says: “The Pacific Plains Region of IABC supports the leaders and members of the region’s IABC chapters with resources and professional development opportunities.” Which examples of resources/professional development opportunities that IABC members can use would you want to highlight?

In addition to a focus on chapter leader development, the region offers IABC members professional development opportunities in the form of webinars, in-person events and our annual awards program.
The Silver Quill Awards give professional communicators in our region an opportunity to showcase their best work. And the 2014 Silver Quill Awards program is easier than ever. This year, we have better aligned the 2014 Silver Quill Awards with the international IABC awards process by offering an easy online submission process with our partner AwardSentry. Entrants submit a work plan and work sample that trained business communicators evaluate using an approved standard for communications excellence.
You can find more on the webinars, Silver Quill and about the region at


Member Spotlight: Alice Telios-Dunlap

aliceEmployer: BJC HealthCare

Title: Communications Specialist

Years in the profession: 2 years

Favorite quote:

Your time is precious, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”– Steve Jobs

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

Meeting communications professionals from across the St. Louis area has been an amazing networking opportunity for me, especially as a younger member of our industry. IABC has also given me the chance to volunteer for different programs and events. This will be a great addition to my resume, and I have fun doing it.

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

One piece of advice I always give to others interested in a communications profession , especially students I have worked with, is learn what you are good at, whether it is writing, research, event planning, etc., and learn even more skills that will make you a well-rounded asset to your work team. You are never going to know when having certain knowledge, like how to edit photos or direct a video production team, is going to come in handy. Having a full tool belt will make you stand out and can bring value to any team.

What do you like most about your job?
I thrive on being connected to a mission that serves the St. Louis community. My daily routines may not include providing direct care to patients and families, but I try to stay connected to how my organization influences people every day. This helps motivate me, and I believe it positively influences my ability to communicate to my organization’s diverse employee population.

One of my mentors once told me that our work “brings the party.” I feel like you have to be excited about your role in serving your overall mission so that others see you live what you help preach. Hopefully they can catch your enthusiasm too!

When not working, you could find me…

in the kitchen testing out a new concoction with my husband or enjoying the city while walking my doxie-pin, Artemis.

Member Spotlight: Mandy Manley

Mandy_ManlyOur July Member of the Month is Mandy Manley.

Employer: Reliv International

Title: Marketing Communications Specialist

Years in the profession: 10 years

Favorite quote: You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him. – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

What made you choose a career in communications? Inquisitive by nature, I have always loved to ask questions and hear the stories of others. There are so many wonderful stories that have yet to be told! From the day I started on my middle school newspaper, I knew I wanted to write and share stories.

How have you benefited from being an IABC St. Louis member?
I’m not from St. Louis and this can be a tough town for outsiders. Through IABC, I’ve met some really great folks and carved out a little niche for myself in this town. I look forward to the monthly meetings because I love to meet new people and enjoy walking away with new contacts. You never know when you’ll be able to help someone in the future!

What advice would you give to someone considering a career in communication?
Hone your craft by learning to be a fantastic listener (with your two ears and one mouth). Be curious and ask questions. Don’t assume you know the reasons for something even if it seems obvious. Seek out people who have made careers in communications and ask them to share their mistakes and triumphs, and then learn from both. Carry a journal and jot down these lessons and ideas everywhere you go.

What do you like most about your job?
I’m a highly creative person and creativity and fresh ideas are highly encouraged at Reliv. Thinking big and trying new things are not only allowed, but also encouraged! Working with a group of people who are also imaginative and full of great ideas keeps me energized!

When not working, you could find me:

Cycling in Madison County IL, Grants Trail or Katy Trail. My husband and I love to pedal around this beautiful city and enjoy all the wonderful food, festivals and scenery.

Member Spotlight: Gwen Lanzer

Gwen LanzerGwen Lanzer is an internal communications consultant for SunEdison, Inc., a global leader in solar technology and energy distribution. In addition to her current role, Gwen’s career spans work in news media, public relations, corporate communications, and association management. She presently serves on the IABC St. Louis Chapter Board of Directors as VP of Membership. Gwen also is affiliated with the Washington University Skandalarius Center for Entrepreneurial Studies where she mentors student teams developing strategic marketing programs.


What made you choose a career in communications?

In high school, I wanted to be a journalist. I was smitten by the excitement and frenzy of breaking news coverage, of meeting new people, and staying abreast of local, national, and international affairs. I’m a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and still love of the mix of hard news reporting and feature writing. In short, I’m a news junky. I worked for a time as a newspaper reporter, where I found that feature writing is my forte. I later transitioned my communication talents into business and corporate marketing.

The most significant experience that shaped your career?

I’m a very resilient person today, which I attribute to rejection early on in my career. The job market was abysmal when I graduated with my B.J. degree. It took me three months to find a job and less than two months to lose it. Management said I had no writing talent – something I could not, and would not, accept. I made it my mission to study compelling and varied writing styles, and to take on diverse assignments where I could continually learn something new. Today, I have a vast range of writing and creative abilities, which have opened numerous doors. I’m a master storyteller who can craft and produce virtually anything – from documentaries to executive speeches to comprehensive corporate marketing plans.

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

Three things – camaraderie, contacts, and communication resources. I’ve found that IABC members are genuine; they share your interests and confront similar professional issues. By volunteering, you can build life-long relationships – contacts that can truly help advance your career. Last year through IABC networking, I helped land my son his first professional job. The inside information and knowledge you gain is indispensable. Plus, the international resources are simply outstanding. IABC’s global network lets you connect with a vast array of experts on virtually any communication issue.

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

Follow your passion, but be open to taking a different path if presented the opportunity. Do everything you can to secure an internship with a reputable company. It’s the only way to learn whether your chosen field is a good fit. And, find a mentor. The insight, knowledge, and connections you’ll gain will help lay the foundation for future success.

Member Spotlight: Mackenzie McNamara

MM Employer: BJC HealthCare

 Title: Coordinator for BJC School Outreach and Youth Development

 Years in the profession: 2

 Favorite quote: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten” – Anthony      Robbins

 What I (want to) get out of IABC: Although I have only worked in the professional world for about two years, I have learned so much by simply networking and listening to others. I have met some very influential people over the past couple of years and have gained valuable knowledge that I may not have ever received if I didn’t put myself out there and ask questions. Through IABC, I am hoping to network and learn from others, and also to develop professional skills in order to become more valuable for my department and for my organization.

What do you like most about your job? I love working for School Outreach and Youth Development because we teach K-12 youth how to live healthy lifestyles and how to prevent high-risk behaviors by educating them at a young age. We have come up with fun, interactive ways to educate students about their health, so they are learning, while also having fun. The testimonies that we receive from the students prove that our department really makes a difference in their lives.

What does life’s next chapter hold for you? My fiancé and I got engaged in March, so the next step is a wedding! We are looking into a destination wedding, which means a vacation with family and friends, too! I will also be starting the MBA program through Webster University in June, so I am looking forward to being challenged professionally and also learning more about the business world, more specifically marketing, which will build upon and also enhance the knowledge gained in undergrad (Healthcare Management with an emphasis in Communication).

When not working, you could find me: At the gym — my fiancé and I are into fitness and healthy lifestyles. At school, I will always strive to be a life-long learner. At church and with family and friends, it’s very important to make time for loved ones.

Significant professional lesson learned: Sometimes you have to do things that you don’t necessarily want to do in order to get where you want to be. My first full-time job out of college was a Phlebotomist. I had never had experience working with patients before and never dealt with bodily specimens, but I took the job in order to get my foot in the door with BJC HealthCare. I learned a great deal about health care, I met some amazing people and also became really good at drawing blood! I eventually applied internally through our organization to find the job I have now, which I am very happy with for the time being.

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.