2018 Convention: April 5-7 in Atlanta, Georgia

RCC 2018 Schedule and Speakers

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Workshops and Plenaries

A very full conference is planned. Workshop and plenary sessions and speakers are added here as they are confirmed.

Workshop Tracks

Management / APR track

These workshops cover topics related to public relations as a management function. Individual sessions address knowledge, skills, and abilities tested on the Examination for Accreditation in Public Relations.


Communication techniques track

These workshops are designed to help religion communicators improve their storytelling skills and better engage key publics through various media.

Interfaith issues track

These workshops consider varying roles communicators play in promoting religious literacy, fostering understand of various faith traditions, and cultivating relations between people of different faiths.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Workshop | Management/APR track

APRReputation Management in Our Modern Age

This session offers religion communicators a look into the unique challenges and opportunities of reputation management today. We’ll talk about trends, the current state of public opinion, and, of course, best practices as we review a couple high-profile case studies.

Katherine MoralesKatherine Morales, APR (@ktmason) is founder of InFlection Point Communications in Atlanta and a member of the Universal Accreditation Board. She specializes in brand building, reputation management, and strategic communications planning and has provided public relations counsel to Chick-fil-A, Hewlett-Packard, and Bayer CropScience. She now partners with many entrepreneurial companies to help manage their reputations, discover their inflection point, and create positive change for future growth.

Workshop | Communication techniques track

Visualizing Your 15 Minutes of Fame

Your mission is to make your faith community the talk of the town by putting it into the public spotlight. Your roadblock is that you have either a limited budget or no funding at all to achieve this goal. Find out how to use the 24-hour broadcast news cycle and online services such as YouTube to earn public attention. This workshop will share resources, tips, and tricks of the trade to help you succeed in the world of video story pitching.

Jacqueline FullerJacqueline Fuller (@IFCTVShow, @LadyJamerican) is the executive producer and host of the Interfaith Connections TV show in Fairfax County, Virginia, and 2017-18 vice president of the RCC Board of Governors. Her program focuses on religion, spiritual and secular issues involved in the interfaith movement in metropolitan Washington, D.C. She has worked for various small businesses and nonprofit organizations including the American Heart Association and 9/11 Unity Walk.

Workshop | Interfaith issues track

Intersectional Justice: Gender, Race, and Religion in Media

Who makes the news? Why? In an age of heightened rhetoric and divisive uses of media, now is the time to examine how media is a tool to reinforce hate and distrust, and how it is an instrument of change.

This workshop will explore how media monitoring can highlight gaps, erasures, and biases in media coverage on issues of gender, race, and religion. Utilizing the World Association for Christian Communications' media monitoring model as a guide, it will show how how faith-based organizations can create evidenced-based strategies to address their own shortcomings and highlight their successes in promoting racial and gender justice. Particular attention is given to assessing implicit biases and promoting gender and racial equity on local and global platforms through media.

Glory DharmarajDr. Glory Dharmaraj is U.S. coordinator for the Global Media Monitoring Project (@whomakesthenews) of the World Association for Christian Communication (@waccglobal). Since the project’s inception in 1995, she had led media monitoring on the role and image of women in the United States. She also participated in WACC’s peace journalism project, coordinating peace monitoring for the United States.

Dr. Dharmaraj has spoken and written widely on the themes of Christian mission, interfaith relations and media literacy.

June O. NicholsonDr. June Nicholson is professor of journalism and director of graduate studies in the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. She has been a leader in the Society of Professional Journalists, the nation’s largest organization for print and broadcast journalists, for two decades.

In 2008, Nicholson was named recipient of the Robert P. Knight Multicultural Award, given by AEJMC for her contributions to promoting diversity in America’s newsrooms. In 2007, Nicholson was selected as recipient of the College of Humanities and Sciences Distinguished Service Award, for outstanding service to the profession of journalism and to VCU.

Karri WhippleKarri Whipple (@karriwhipple) is a media specialist, writer, and activist promoting intimate justice and building transformative communities. Her work focuses on the intersection of trauma, identity politics, and religion. She is particularly interested in the ways in which gender and race shape responses to violence and trauma.

Karri is adjunct faculty at Rutgers University and Drew University and the communications specialist for membership and new media at Religion Communicators Council (RCC). She is a board member of the RCC and World Association of Christian Communicators - North American region. Karri also serves as the chair of the Domestic Violence Awareness Task Force for the Metro-New York Synod of the ELCA.

Friday, April 6, 2018


Interreligious Communication: How Does It Look, How Should It Look? — Models From the 19th, 20th, and 21st Centuries

Dr. Womack will introduce her research on the history of interreligious dialogue and, specifically, Christian-Muslim and Christian-Muslim-Jewish engagement. She will revisit historical models of religious communication in interfaith settings so that we can better discern what interreligious communication should look like today, in the 21st century. As an example, her research includes an examination of the ways Arab Christian, Muslim, and Jewish women in the 19th century communicated with each other and with men in their patriarchal societies through published exchanges in Arabic newspapers and magazines. In the 20th century, the focus shifts to interreligious/ecumenical exchanges at large conferences (formal and named practices of interfaith dialogue), and in the 21st century we are shifting away from such models to something else, in part because of the ways we receive information about religious “others.”

Deanna WomackThe Rev. Dr. Deanna Womack is assistant professor of history of religions and multifaith relations at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, Atlanta, Georgia. Her research combines commitments to interreligious understanding, Christian-Muslim dialogue, and American-Arab relations. Her current book project explores the encounters between American missionaries and Arab residents of Ottoman Syria in the pre-World War I period, particularly Syrian women writers and preachers who navigated cultural and religious boundaries in their experiences with missionaries.

Workshop | Management/APR track

APRCrisis Communications: Not "If," but "When"

Every organization experiences crises. How serious they are, how much attention they get outside your organization and how your agency's leaders respond can determine the future well-being of your organization. Faith-based agencies are held to a higher standard than secular organizations, and the spotlight is especially bright when a crisis happens in the religious realm. This presentation will provide the outline of a plan for your organization, prompt you to think about how to protect the future of your organization's reputation and operations, and include an interactive exercise to get you thinking about how to respond when, not if, a crisis happens.

Katherine KerrKatherine Kerr, APR (@katherinekerr01), is co-founder of Polaris Non-Profit Solutions, LLC, and 2017-18 RCC treasurer. Her company in Georgetown, Texas, offers communication, marketing and fundraising consulting services to nonprofits. Katherine is a recovering journalist who has covered numerous crises and disasters as a daily newspaper reporter for 11 years. In the nonprofit sector, she has dealt with client, volunteer and staff deaths and inappropriate behavior; layoffs, sales and shutdowns of services; and hurricanes, tornadoes and fires. Having worked on both sides of the reporter's pad, she knows what works and doesn't work.

Workshop | Interfaith issues track

From Theory to Practice: Teaching, Learning, and Communicating in Interfaith Studies

This workshop, involving a panel with students, draws upon Womack’s teaching practices and experiences in interfaith engagement. It will offer approaches to learning about religious traditions and reflect on the challenges and opportunities for moving beyond classroom-based learning into practices of interreligious engagement and communication. Her students will speak to what they have learned in classes and in the Leadership and Multifaith Program (LAMP) in Atlanta.

Deanna WomackThe Rev. Dr. Deanna Womack is assistant professor of history of religions and multifaith relations at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, Atlanta, Georgia. Her research combines commitments to interreligious understanding, Christian-Muslim dialogue, and American-Arab relations. Her current book project explores the encounters between American missionaries and Arab residents of Ottoman Syria in the pre-World War I period, particularly Syrian women writers and preachers who navigated cultural and religious boundaries in their experiences with missionaries.

Workshop | Communication techniques track

Enhancing Your Story With Digital Media

Award winning CNN journalist John Blake joins a couple of his CNN digital media colleagues to provide insights learned from their work producing long-form online content enhanced with photos and video. Blake will use his work that has appeared on CNN and CNN.com to share tips and behind-the-scenes details about covering religion and race in America.

John BlakeJohn Blake (@JohnBlakeCNN)is a CNN Enterprise writer/producer and writes about race, religion, politics, and other topics. He has been honored by the Society of Professional Journalists, the Associated Press, and The American Academy of Religion and is the author of Children of the Movement. He won Wilbur Awards in 2013 and 2016.

Workshop | Management/APR track

APRLeadership Communication in Changing Times

Managing change is a constant challenge for an organization. Whether it’s a revised organizational structure, the introduction of new technology, entry into a new marketplace or a new company direction, change requires an organization to communicate with all stakeholders to maintain credibility and confidence through the transition.

Leadership communication in changing times can be successfully, but it depends on the ability to inform, involve and inspire internal and external stakeholders through a proper understanding of what drives them and how they will react when faced with new challenges. Participants in this workshop will (1) learn new trends in leader communication and public relations strategies, (2) deepen their understanding of the change communication strategic planning process, (3) discover potential gaps in their organizational leadership communication planning, (4) get tips for personal and professional leadership success, and (5) walk away with a personal action plan – “one thing” they can take back to the office.

Lanette HartLanette Hart, APR, CPRC (@hartlanette) is the founder and principal consultant of Hart & Associates LLC, in Jacksonville, Florida. She represents the Florida Public Relations Association on the Universal Accreditation Board and was the state organization’s president from 2008 to 2009. She has more than 25 years of experience in public relations and is a former vice president of global marketing and corporate affairs for Bank of America Corporation.

Workshop | Management/APR track

APRThat Law Doesn't Apply to Me, Does It?

A review of copyright, trademark and privacy laws that affect religion communication.

M. Cayce MyersM. Cayce Myers, Ph.D., J.D., APR (@CayceMyers) is legal research editor for the Institute for Public Relations, member of the Georgia Bar Association, and assistant professor of communication at Virginia Tech.

Workshop | Communication techniques track

Tools for Working Smarter on Social Media

You have an editorial calendar, a media plan and good content to share but not enough time to post to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Google Plus. A variety of social media tools can help with the workflow of planning and posting. This workshop will focus on Buffer and provide reviews of similar products. Buffer may cut your social media workload in half in a few weeks.

Kurt GwartneyKurt Gwartney (@kgwartney), senior director of seminary relations at Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is a member of the RCC Board of Governors. He has served as the owner of a video training company, minister of communications at a large United Methodist congregation, public radio news director, and regional communications director for the American Red Cross.

Workshop | Interfaith issues track

Breaking Through the Noise: Effectively Communicating Your Values in a Polarized Political Environment

We live in an extremely polarized political environment. "We Are Sikhs," an initiative to improve awareness of Sikhism, was able to break through the noise. The campaign delivered a message about Sikh values of gender equality, racial equality, and religious tolerance that resonated with audiences as diverse as soccer moms, veterans, Millennials, and Trump voters. This workshop will share how techniques of the "We Are Sikhs" campaign can help your organization effectively communicate your values, reach diverse audiences, and bring people together.

Gurwin S. AhujaGurwin Singh Ahuja is co-founder and executive director of the National Sikh Campaign and We Are Sikhs. Gurwin is also the founder of the Know Your Neighbor Coalition, an alliance backed by the Obama White House, comprised of leading civil rights organization and focused on fostering a national dialogue on the country's growing religious diversity.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Workshop | Management/APR track

APRReframe Diversity and Inclusion: It’s More Than Race

For decades, diversity and inclusion have been associated with the human resources function in business. For many public relations professionals today, including those serving faith-based organizations, diversity represents an area to explore, expand and embrace. But how can you address diversity and inclusion in today’s world without being criticized or attacked? How do you manage implicit bias to help your community of faith feel inclusive? Get inspired and motivated to take new steps into diversity and inclusion, and start reframing your thinking with this interactive presentation and workshop.

Ana ToroAna Toro, APR, Fellow PRSA (@anatoro), is the 2017 chair of the Public Relations Society of America Diversity and Inclusion Committee and project director for ICF in Atlanta. A former president of the Puerto Rico Public Relations Association (1999-2000), she has spent the last 12 years supporting Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institutes of Health programs. Her former clients include Anheuser-Busch, AT&T, BMW, Chrysler, Coors, Royal Caribbean, Shell and Volvo Car Corporation.

Workshop | Communication techniques track

In a Fractured World, Branding and Design Are More Important Than Ever

How can brands create connections? How does beauty or love – or provocation – get communicated visually? As communicators, we are tasked with bridging the distance between human and digital interactions. In this workshop, we will discuss not only how branding and design can deepen our relationships and create meaningful experiences, but also how, by doing so, we are able to more effectively reach our goals. Participants will learn how organizations and communities of faith can re-examine branding strategy and design to deliver more effective, impactful communication.

Katherine BranchKatherine Branch (@GreenGateMktg) is the founder and CEO of Green Gate Marketing in Decatur, Georgia. Her background is in advertising and marketing. She is an RCC associate member.

Plenary panel

Connecting With People, Sharing Our Message: How Faith Communities Use Public Relations

Religious movements throughout history have used public relations practices. The Apostle Paul's New Testament letters to early Christians have been likened to a modern public relations campaign. Arab public relations scholars have described the Prophet Mohammed as the first public relations practitioner in their culture. He used divine pronouncements to shape social action. In 1622 Pope Gregory XV established the Congregation for Propagating the Faith to counter the Protestant Reformation. The congregation generated writings (“propaganda”) to persuade people to accept the Christian faith and Roman Catholic doctrines.

Since the late 19th century, Christian churches in the United States have used advertising and public relations to reach key populations, deliver organizational messages and promote causes. In fact, public relations practices have become more integrated into faith sharing than many people recognize.

Three public relations scholars will discuss specifically how evangelical Christians, Roman Catholics and Scientologists have intentionally used public relations methods to accomplish ministry objectives. Panel participants are:

Margot LammeMargot Lamme, Ph.D., APR (@molamme), is a professor of public relations at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa.

She is the author of Public Relations and Religion in American History: Evangelism, Temperance, and Business (Routledge, 2014).

Cylor SpauldingCylor Spaulding, Ph.D. (@CylorS), is the faculty director and an assistant professor of the practice for the Public Relations and Corporate Communication program at Georgetown University.

He is author of “Building a religious brand: Exploring the foundations of the Church of Scientology through public relations” in the Journal of Public Relations Research (Vol. 29, Issue 1, 2017).

Donn TilsonDonn Tilson, Ph.D., APR, Fellow PRSA is an Associate Professor at University of Miami School of Communication (and former RCC board member).

He is the author of The Promotion of Devotion: Saints, Celebrities, and Shrines (Common Ground Publishing, 2011).

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