Concluded: Business & Finance Boot Camp for Communicators

A one-day business crash course for communications professionals

Dec. 5, 2019: George Washington University, Washington, D.C.


Do you have what it takes to get a seat at the power table or win an invitation to join the important conversations? Financial skills and business fluency are the keys to success, as it becomes increasingly important for both internal and external communicators to demonstrate their value.

This information-packed, one-day boot camp will teach you the business skills you need to tackle the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. You'll walk away with a strong understanding of the complexities that today's leaders face, and be prepared for your leadership positions in communications and public relations.

This course is grounded in the principle that to be a strategic advisor to your organization, not only must you know your business, but you also need to know about business generally. As you prepare for 2020, don't miss out on this important boot camp.

You'll learn how to:

  • Manage and interpret financial statements, and develop and oversee organizational budgets
  • Speak the language of business and finance, and use financial tools to evaluate trends
  • Master the business planning process and differentiate between a strategic and an operational plan—and understand their relationship to communication planning and activities
  • Create strategic plans that deliver profitability and demonstrate your value to top leaders
  • Understand how the global business environment and economic issues can have an impact on business success—or failure

Bonus takeaways for all attendees:

  • Certificate of completion
  • Glossary of business and accounting terms
  • Executive summary of the boot camp
  • List of helpful tools and guides
  • Attendee benchmarking survey results

This one-day boot camp can change the course of your career and your organization.

Space is limited to ensure ample opportunity for interaction with instructors, so secure your spot now for you and your team.


For questions or additional information, contact Shallon Blackburn at or 800-878-5331


Join us on the campus of the esteemed George Washington University for a unique boot camp focused on the key concepts and techniques that elevate communications to a business imperative.

George Washington University
2121 I St NW
Washington, DC 20052


8-8:30 a.m.


8:25-8:30 a.m.

Opening remarks

Diane Schwartz, CEO, Ragan Communications
8:30-9:15 a.m.
Networking breakfast and keynote address

What modern business leaders expect and need from communicators

Daniel Faust, executive vice president, southeast region, AECOM
9:30–10:15 a.m.

Business and finance fundamentals: what public relations and communications professionals need to know and why

To prove the value of your work and become a strategic communications advisor to business leaders, it’s imperative that you know the priorities and KPIs that matter to them. During this session, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the terms, tools and tactics used by business and finance professionals in their planning and operations, and the challenges they face on a day-to-day basis.

You’ll learn:

  • The trifecta of financial reporting
  • The language of business: key terms you should understand
  • Annual reports: how to read them, why they're important
  • Business leader "superheroes"
  • How to build your business/finance IQ
Lawrence J. Parnell, associate professor and program director, masters in strategic public relations, George Washington University
Karen Vahouny, adjunct professor, George Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management
10:15–11:30 a.m.

Communication planning and budgeting

Learn the ingredients that go into a solid communications plan and take part in an interactive budgeting activity.

Lawrence J. Parnell, associate professor and program director, masters in strategic public relations, George Washington University
Karen Vahouny, adjunct professor, George Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management
11:45 a.m.–12:30 p.m.

Communications in context

To earn the trust of top leadership, you must understand the complex challenges leaders face in today’s business environment. Discover how various reputational issues can affect your organization’s bottom line—and how communicators can help leaders address potential threats.

You’ll learn:

  • Key business trends to be aware of as a communicator
  • How to keep leadership briefed on reputational threats that could harm financial performance
  • What to keep in mind when crafting messaging around sensitive business issues
Joe Farren, managing director, Porter Novelli
12:30–1:45 p.m.
Lunch and keynote speaker

Gaining a seat at the table as a communicator

Michelle Russo, chief communications officer, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
1:45–2:45 p.m.

Executive and financial communications: High influence roles for PR/communications professionals

Now that you can speak their language, you’ll learn how to tie your communications strategies to the goals of corporate leaders and understand the financial challenges affecting their decisions.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Use executive, financial and investor communications principles to land a seat at the table (C-suite and Board)
  • Understand what matters most to your CEO, and what keeps him/her up at night
  • Harness your strengths to be indispensable to the CEO, CFO, and General Counsel
  • Understand where the action (and information) is in financial communications– annual/quarterly earnings, proxy, disclosures
  • Tell the "big event" stories: IPO, mergers & acquisitions, succession and product launches
  • Unite employees and investors in a shared mission – not us vs. them
Marie Lerch, president, Executive Scribe, LCC
3–3:30 p.m.

Strategic business planning for nonprofit communicators

A strong business acumen isn’t only crucial in a corporate setting. Discover how communicators at associations and nonprofits can ensure they are part of the strategic decisions at their organizations. We'll show you how to elevate communications within your own organization so you can also tie your efforts to the bottom line.

Learn how to:

  • Keep business goals and roadblocks in mind when formulating your comms strategies
  • Use data to support the recommendations you present to leaders
  • Understand the unique challenges faced by nonprofit entities—whether you work for one, or with one
  • Gain influence with top leadership by offering solutions to their toughest challenges
Robb Lee, chief marketing and communications officer, American Society of Association Executives
3:30–4 p.m.

Key takeaways

We'll bring it all together for you at this fast-paced wrap-up of the day and discuss how to effect change right away.

4–5 p.m.

Networking reception

Pick up your class certificate and enjoy cocktails and hors d'oeuvres as we cap off a great day with peers.




The boot camp will be taught by George Washington University faculty and guest speakers who will provide a financial lens to business challenges.

Daniel Faust

Executive vice president, southeast regionAECOM

Daniel Faust leads AECOM's Design & Consulting Services (DCS) business unit for the Southeast, including the District of Columbia, Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, and Latin America. In this role he is responsible for growth, operational performance (including profit & loss) and client account management for all DCS business units including Transportation, Environmental, Water Resources, Program & Construction Management and Architectural & Building Engineering. The Southeast region has over 4000 employees and annual revenue of over $950 million.

Michelle Russo

Chief communications officerU.S. Chamber of Commerce

Michelle Russo is chief communications officer at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world’s largest advocacy organization for business. Before joining the Chamber, Russo spent four years in London as executive vice president of Global Communications for the leading media company Discovery, Inc., where she supervised cross-functional marketing and communications teams across the U.S., Europe, Latin America, and the Asia Pacific. In addition, she led the top-to-bottom communications and public affairs strategy for the company’s groundbreaking first broadcast of the Olympic Winter Games across Europe. Prior to relocating to London, she served as the company’s senior vice president of Corporate Affairs & Communications in the U.S. There she built and managed Discovery’s reputation as a global media leader, including its debut as a publicly traded company.

Karen Vahouny

Adjunct professorGeorge Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management

Karen Vahouny's career has included corporate and agency experience at the most senior level, having counseled top-level executives on a range of issues. She was a founding partner of Qorvis Communications, a startup that grew to become one of the top five independently owned U.S. PR firms. Her focuses there included investor relations, corporate communication and financial communication. In 2012, Vahouny embarked on a new career as an entrepreneur and professor, starting her own consulting firm and joining the adjunct faculty of Marymount University and George Washington University. She teaches the business/finance class in GWU's Strategic PR graduate program.

Lawrence J. Parnell
Lawrence J. Parnell

Associate professor and program director, masters in strategic public relationsGeorge Washington University

Lawrence J. Parnell, M.B.A., is an award-winning PR professional and academic. An associate professor at George Washington University, Parnell has been director of its master's degree program in strategic public relations for 10 years, having built it into one of the nation's best-known and most-admired programs within the discipline. He is also an adjunct professor of strategic communications at GWU School of Business. He operates Parnell Communications, a strategic communications and leadership training advisory firm, advising government, corporate and nonprofit organizations on executive development and strategic communications.

Diane Schwartz

CEORagan Communications

Diane Schwartz is the chief executive officer of Ragan Communications, a leading media company that serves communicators worldwide with education, networking and unparalleled event experiences. She joined Ragan in May 2019 after serving for 23 years at Access Intelligence, where she was senior vice president of the media communications division and oversaw the growth of brands including PR News, Social Shake-Up, Cynopsis, AdExchanger, Admonsters and many others. Schwartz launched more than 75 conferences, training programs, awards competitions and subscription products that put customer and premium content front and center. A former journalist, Schwartz also serves on the boards of the Institute for Public Relations and the Alliance for Women in Media, as well as volunteers in her local community in Connecticut and for Make a Wish, where she is a wish granter.

Marie Lerch

PresidentExecutive Scribe, LCC

Marie Lerch is President of Executive Scribe, LCC providing speechwriting, executive communications, and financial communications services to senior leaders in business, industry, and the nonprofit sectors. She is an Adjunct Professor at The George Washington University, teaching a graduate course on global public relations. Previously, she was vice president of marketing and communications for Booz Allen Hamilton, the leading strategy and technology consulting firm with over $5 billion in annual sales and more than 20,000 employees. She led the Marketing & Communications function and served as the chief communications officer for the firm for more than 20 years, with responsibilities spanning corporate identity and brand communications; marketing strategy and programs; press relations and executive communications; digital communications; employee communications; community relations; and investor relations communications.

Joe Farren

Managing DirectorPorter Novelli

Joe Farren has 25 years’ experience helping Fortune 500 brands, global trade associations and public institutions enhance their reputations and move their business plans forward. At Porter Novelli, Joe leads the agency’s Washington DC office and provides strategic counsel to the firm’s clients on complex communications challenges that shape public and political dialogue and impact consumer decision making.

Robb Lee

Chief marketing and communications officerAmerican Society of Association Executives

Robb Lee serves as the Chief Marketing and Communications Officer for ASAE in Washington, DC. He is responsible for leading and managing all of the activities within ASAE's Communications Group. His responsibilities include management of marketing, branding, Web site, public relations, social media and Associations Now, ASAE’s flagship publication. In addition to the communications functions, his management responsibilities also include Innovation/New Product Development and Diversity & Inclusion that are creating a foundation for product development and evolution at ASAE.



If you work in:

  • Employee communications
  • Public relations
  • Media relations
  • Corporate communications
  • Executive communications
  • Digital Communications

This boot camp is designed for communicators at corporations, nonprofit organizations and agencies.


Join us as an event sponsor and meet your target audience, showcase your products, present thought leadership, generate leads and boost your brand.

Here are a few opportunities we offer:

  • Exhibitor booths
  • Speaking sessions on the main agenda
  • 10-minute lightning talks
  • Networking cocktail receptions
  • Bonus breakfast or lunch sessions
  • Small group dine-arounds
  • Track sponsor and emcee
  • Title badge sponsorship
  • Ragan and PR Daily award sponsorship

Ragan events are educational, inspirational and fun!
Our sponsors are an important part of the success of every event.

For more information on opportunities available at this specific event, reach out to



                           The George Washington University: Washington, DC

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