Career advice gems from the Top Women in Communications

A roundup of career advice from the incoming class of Top Women.

The Top Women in Communications Awards highlights a tremendous group of communications leaders who consistently influence and inspire everyone around them. Honorees include community givers, crisis navigators, DE&I champions, mentors, trailblazers, visionaries, rising stars and many more.

And not to be left out, we’re welcoming a new class of Hall of Fame inductees. This year includes Susan Donlan, chief communications officer at KeyCorp, Kathy Krenger, chief communications officer at Kraft Heinz, and Marian Salzman, senior vice president of global communications at Philip Morris International.

Donlan shared what she wishes she’d known earlier in her career: “You know, at the beginning of my career, I was always in a big hurry. Always looking at what came next. And now I really try to slow down and enjoy just being in the moment and taking my time.”

In anticipation of this year’s celebration, happening Feb. 29 in New York City, we offered honorees a chance to share either their best piece of advice for rising comms professionals or something they wished they’d known earlier in their career. Below are just a handful of what this year’s class had to say.

Jennifer Hines, chief communications officer at Tyler Independent School District, is an award-winning news anchor with 20 years of media experience across Texas. She joined the academic communications industry in 2019, right before schools across the country were plunged into uncertainty from the COVID-19 pandemic. Hines oversaw the district’s two flagship high schools changing their names; crafting Return to Learn guidelines during the pandemic with messaging for parents, staff, the community and media; boosting recruitment efforts as the country grappled with teacher shortages; and launching a bus driver hiring campaign that received national and local coverage.

Yolanda Schufford, chief communications & public affairs officer at Beyond Finance, protects consumers by educating the public and influencing policymakers about debt issues. She was instrumental in helping stave off potentially restrictive legislation for North Carolina consumers in debt resolution programs and helped transform potentially harmful policies in California. In New York and New Jersey, Schufford was part of a team that introduced a model bill designed to initiate positive industry legislation.

Jill Zuckman, one of five partners at SKDK, has found herself in pivotal moments that have made global news. One of Zuckman’s standout achievements is her leadership in the media campaign to free Alan Gross, an American unjustly imprisoned in Cuba for over five years. Her efforts kept the media engaged, building public pressure that led to a historic announcement by President Obama, thawing relations between the U.S. and Cuba, which resulted in Gross’ freedom.

Dawn Buzynski, assistant vice president of communications at Hy-Vee, Inc., handles traditional communication duties, including overseeing Hy-Vee’s PR team, serving as its spokesperson, burnishing the company’s brand image, and devising its corporate messaging, but she also oversees the chain’s considerable CSR activities. Buzynski spearheaded Hy-Vee’s Homefront effort, which supports military members and their families and raised more than $475,000 to support veterans in 2022.

Rhiannon D’Angelo-Parsons, director of external communications & media engagement at Reynolds American Inc., is experienced as a media spokesperson and brand champion, directing marketing efforts and leading crisis communications and social media efforts. In her three years at Reynolds, D’Angelo-Parsons has demonstrated her original thinking and strategic prowess in navigating the complexities of the regulated and negatively perceived industry. Notably, she has communicated the company’s diversity and inclusion ambitions, achieving recognition for workplace inclusion while highlighting achievements across various platforms.

Nina Devlin, senior vice president and chief communications officer at Vertex Pharmaceuticals, guides medicines through development, trials and approvals in multiple global markets. Her mantra, “always stay hands-on,” means she’s intimately involved in building relationships with healthcare media and regulators. As a leader in a global company, she must maintain a vast network and knowledge base but also think strategically while operating in international markets.

Also, don’t forget to check out the profiles of all the Top Women in Communications, available after the event.

Do you know someone who should be honored as a Top Women in Communications? The call for entries for the 2025 class of Top Women in Communications Awards will be open soon. The deadline to enter is October 18, 2024.

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