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.

Schedule overview

Wednesday, April 4

  • All Day — Arrivals, Check-In at Sheraton Atlanta

Thursday, April 5

Friday, April 6

Saturday, April 7

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

Welcome and Greetings

Russell PierceGreetings

The Rev. Russell (Russ) Pierce is the executive director of Mission Engagement at the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church, Atlanta, Georgia. His unit encompasses marketing, fundraising, and communications; the Center for Mission Innovation; and The Advance, which is the designated mission giving channel of the church. Mission Engagement seeks to deepen the engagement of individuals, congregations, and annual conferences with the work of Global Ministries and the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). He joined the staff in 2017 after three years with Church World Service, the ecumenical relief and development agency.

Opening Plenary

Realizing the Dream of Peace and Justice through Communication

Byron ThomasThe Rev. Dr. Byron E. Thomas has served as senior pastor of Ben Hill United Methodist Church in Atlanta since June 2013. He has emphasized mission by the members to the community and beyond.

The congregation supports the needs of the less fortunate in metro Atlanta through its Commission on Missions, Health and Wellness Ministry, Urban Responsibility Ministry (financial assistance to those in need), Food Bank, and Trinity Table feeding program. The congregation supports the United Negro College Fund, Gammon Theological Seminary, Atlanta's Interdenominational Theological Center, Clark-Atlanta University, Paine College, and the N.A.A.C.P.

Before Ben Hill, Thomas served two other Atlanta congregations: Central United Methodist Church and Fort Street United Methodist Church. He has directed advocacy by United Methodist congregations across North Georgia as associate director of connectional ministries for the North Georgia Conference.

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 of 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 faith-based organizations can create evidence-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 has 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.

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 Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (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.

Friday, April 6, 2018


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

The Rev. Dr. Deanna 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. Kerr is a recovering journalist who 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 | Communication techniques track

Enhancing Your Story With Digital Media

Award-winning CNN journalist John Blake and two of his CNN digital media colleagues – Matt Gannon and Nick Scott, photographers and videographers – will provide insights learned from their work producing long-form online content enhanced with photos and video. Blake will use his work 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 who 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 | Interfaith issues track

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

This workshop, involving a student panel from Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, 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 about 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.

Student panel members include:

Tala AlRahebTala AlRaheb is a second-year student at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology and will graduate in May 2018 from Candler’s Master of Theological Studies (MTS) program, with a concentration in Global Religions. She is from Bethlehem, Palestine, and is interested in Middle Eastern feminist theology.

Cale Robert HallCale Hall is a first-year MTS student focusing on Global Religions and a recent participant in Candler’s travel seminar to India. Hall is originally from Savannah, Georgia, has a doctorate in Business Administration, and is President of Creative Approach, a local print shop with locations in Atlanta and Savannah.

Brittani Magee is a third-year Master of Divinity student at Candler and an administrative staff person at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health. Magee is committed to addressing the needs of marginalized communities and has recently published a call to millennials on the Atlanta Interfaith Manifesto blog.

Kemal BudakKemal Budak is a PhD student in Sociology of Religion at Emory University. Budak is originally from Turkey, earned masters degrees in Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations (Hartford Seminary) and Sociology (University of Houston) before coming to Emory. He is studying gender representation in English-language Muslim children’s books.

Plenary Panel Discussion

Perceptions of Civil Rights Today: The role of faith groups in shaping public opinion

Rashad Abdul-RahmaanImam Rashad Abdul-Rahmaan, assistant Imam at Atlanta Masjid of Al-Islam, was a participant in a three-year interfaith dialogue with leaders of the Presbyterian Church USA and conducted a weekly program, "AL-Islam in View," on the American Muslim (online) Radio Network 360 (AM 360). From 2009 to 2015, he was assistant Imam and assistant director of education at Clara Muhammad School at Masjid Sultan Mohammed in Milwaukee.

Ken BedellThe Rev. Dr. Kenneth Bedell, author of Realizing the Civil Rights Dream: Diagnosing and Treating American Racism (2017), is a former member of the RCC Board of Governors. An ordained United Methodist pastor, he served local congregations for 18 years. He was a senior staff executive at the United Methodist General Board of Higher Education and Ministry and a senior adviser in the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships in the Department of Education during the Obama administration. He taught in the Master of Arts in Religious Communication program at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. He edited the Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches for the National Council of Churches for five years.

Robert FranklinThe Rev. Dr. Robert M. Franklin Jr. is the James T. and Berta R. Laney professor of moral leadership at Emory University in Atlanta. He was president of the Interdenominational Theological Center at Atlanta University Center Consortium (1997-2002) and president of Morehouse College (2007-2012). He directed the Religion Department at the Chautauqua Institution in New York from January 2012 to August 2017. In 2016, Franklin served as an adviser to Oprah Winfrey's "Belief" series. He is ordained in the American Baptist Churches USA and the Church of God in Christ. Franklin is the author of three books: Crisis in the Village: Restoring Hope in African American Communities (2007); Another Day's Journey: Black Churches Confronting the American Crisis (1997); and Liberating Visions: Human Fulfillment and Social Justice in African American Thought (1990).

Yvette MooreYvette Moore is Director of Communications for United Methodist Women, a nearly 800,000-member organization committed to addressing the needs of women, children and youth. She has served as editor of its magazine, response, and in overseeing United Methodist Women’s print, web/social media and public relations operations. Moore is the author of Freedom Songs, a moving coming of age story for young adults set in Brooklyn, New York, and North Carolina in 1963. The Civil Rights Movement classic was published in the United States by Orchard Books/Franklin Watts, Inc., in 1991. She is also the author of the newly released Just Sketching, a sequel to Freedom Songs.

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 done 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 | Communication techniques track

Telling Your Story, One Year at a Time

One of the challenges with an annual report, particularly in a large or complex organization or with a diverse audience, is to provide adequate information in a clear and concise manner without succumbing to “information overload.” We’ll explore some best practices for annual reports.

Philip PoolePhilip Poole, APR, former RCC president (2006-2008), is executive director of university communication at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. He has won multiple DeRose-Hinkhouse Memorial Awards for annual reports. Poole has more than 35 years of experience in public relations and has been an RCC member since 1979. He has worked at Samford since 2003. He represented RCC on the Universal Accreditation Board, the public relations credentialing agency, from 2013 to 2015 and was president of the Baptist Communicators Association in 1995.

Workshop | Interfaith issues track

Integrated Communication for Advocacy

Learn about the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) efforts in fighting hate and seeking justice and how the organization communicates and engages with targeted audiences including donors and supporters, web and social media audiences, and reporters. This workshop will include an overview of tactics the SPLC uses to communicate (web and social media content, emails to a list, press outreach, etc.), and will end with an interactive discussion about challenges and opportunities when it comes to engaging with your target audiences.

Kirsten BokenkampKirsten Bokenkamp is communications director at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama. She formulates and implements media and public education strategies to advance the center's work. Before joining the SPLC, Bokenkamp was communications and policy director at Equality Virginia.

Seth LeviSeth Levi is the director of marketing at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama. His work includes paid media campaigns and voting rights. Before joining the SPLC, Levi was the director of strategic initiatives for a Philadelphia city councilman and worked for Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell.

Erin FitzgeraldErin Fitzgerald is digital director at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama. The organization's social media accounts have a collected reach of more than 1.5 million people per day. Before joining the SPLC, Fitzgerald worked in federal policy communications in Washington, D.C., for 10 years.

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 how religion communicators have intentionally used public relations methods to accomplish ministry objectives. Panel participants are:

Doug CannonDouglas Cannon, Ph.D., APR+M, Fellow PRSA (@dcannon) is director of undergraduate programs and professor of practice in the Department of Communication at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech).

He is the author of several articles about how religion communicators practice public relations. Those articles include “Not just doers of the word: An updated look at the roles religion communicators play” in Public Relations Journal (Vol. 11, Issue 1, 2017), “Who do you say that I am? A history of how religion communicators have avoided ‘public relations’” in Journal of Public Relations Research (Vol. 27, Issue 3, 2015), and “Not conformed to this world: How U.S. religion communicators describe public relations” in Public Relations Journal (Volume 5, Issue 3, 2011).

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).

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