Michelle Begnoche @mbegnoche
Michigan Economic Development Corporation
Senior Communications Specialist

After graduating from the University of Michigan, Michelle Begnoche went to work in Governor Jennifer M. Granholm’s communications office – working her way up from press assistant to a spokesperson for the governor.  After three years in the governor’s office, Begnoche moved to Washington, DC earning her master’s degree in Media and Public Affairs from George Washington University and serving as Press Secretary for U.S. Congressman Bart Stupak.  She returned to Michigan in 2010 and is now a Senior Communications Specialist at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation where she manages media and communications for the Michigan Film Office and Travel Michigan.

Roberta King @RobertaFKing
Grand Rapids Community Foundation
Vice President PR & Marketing

For half of her life (so far) Roberta F. King, APR has worked in nonprofit public relations. She’s a loyal fan of a good cause and has put her PR creative energy behind the work of the American Red Cross, the Grand Rapids Art Museum, Mercy Health Partners hospital and Grand Rapids Community Foundation. She also wrote the grant that created The Rapidian, Grand Rapids’ hyperlocal citizen news site. When she’s not dreaming up PR strategies she’s running (she’s a fan of the half marathon), writing (a memoir is in the works), reading (creative non-fiction, please), driving her Mini (2004 chili red, black top) and seeing the world by bicycle (most recently Provence). She has a BA from Valparaiso University and a MS from Grand Valley State University.

Abigayle Sloan @AbigayleSloan
Grand Valley State University
Assistant Director of Alumni Relations

Abigayle came to Grand Valley State University for her undergraduate degree from Grand Haven High School in 2003. She graduated with a B.A. in Broadcast News in and a minor in Public Relations in 2007, and started her career as a full-time news reporter in Sioux City, IA. After a brief stint in news, she transitioned into the non-profit world as the Marketing/Communications Director with the YMCA in Nebraska. She was most recently brought back to her roots here in West Michigan where she worked as a television reporter for FOX 17 News in Grand Rapids before taking on her duties as Assistant Director of Alumni Relations in February of 2011. Abigayle helps coordinate volunteer programs, special events, social media, web, GV magazine, commencement, alumni awards, and other communications as they pertain to GVSU alumni. Abigayle lives in Grand Rapids, and enjoys running outdoors, golfing, volunteering, traveling, meeting new people, and spending time with her family. When she’s not cheering for the Lakers, she’s cheering for the Detroit Red Wings.

Brian J. Bowe @prof_bjb
Grand Valley State University

Brian J. Bowe is a visiting assistant professor of journalism in Grand Valley State University’s School of Communications. He is also a Ph.D. student in Michigan State University’s Media and Information Studies program. He is a veteran journalist, the author of several books, an award-winning web content editor, documentary filmmaker, and a seasoned public relations practitioner. His research interests include social media, media framing, the media’s agenda setting function, and media coverage of Muslims. In 2010, he co-produced the award-winning short documentary The Death of an Imam. Bowe has written extensively about music and has published books about Judas Priest, The Ramones, and The Clash; he also co-edited the anthology CREEM: America’s Only Rock ’n’ Roll Magazine (Harper/Collins), and has written liner notes for releases by Iggy & the Stooges, the MC5 and Was (Not Was).

Robin Luymes, APR @SuperDU

Davenport University
Executive Director of Communications

A former journalist and corporate communications leader, Robin Luymes serves as Executive Director of Communications for Davenport University, one of Michigan’s largest private, non-profit institutions of higher education with nearly 13,000 students across the state. In his role at Davenport, Luymes oversees communications to all key stakeholder audiences, including students, faculty and staff, alumni, donors, legislators and community leaders.

Before joining Davenport, Luymes served a variety of clients as founder and principal of Luymes Public Relations LLC. From 1991 to 2009, Luymes served in a variety of roles at Amway Corporation. From 2008-09, he led all public relations, advertising, sponsorship support and digital marketing efforts in the U.S., leading an integrated marketing campaign that generated a 22-point increase in consumer favorability for the Amway brand.  While at Amway, Luymes also led national media relations outreach, crisis communications management, marketing communications development, employee communications and community relations.

Tom Hanely, @Hanleythomas
Helen Devos Children’s Hospital
Community Relations Director

Tom Hanley is the director of System Community Relations for Spectrum Health, a not-for-profit health system in West Michigan. It offers a full continuum of care through nine hospitals, 190 care sites, physician groups and a health plan. Spectrum Health has 18,000 employees, the largest employer in the region.

During his more than 25 years experience in health care Tom has directed communications and public relations in support of the opening of two new children’s hospitals: in 1996 at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, and in 2011 at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, a member of Spectrum Health.

He came to Grand Rapids at the beginning of 2007, following a national recruitment.

Tom is the 2005 recipient of the “National PR Spokesperson of the Year” Award for crisis communications.

He is accredited by the Public Relations Society of America and serves as a member of the Executive Committee of the PRSA Health Academy.  Tom also serves on the board of directors of The First Tee, West Michigan. He is a graduate of Leadership Grand Rapids, a program of the Center for Community Leadership.

Tom and his wife, Kathy, have two grown children, a daughter in Portland, Oregon and a son, in Brooklyn, New York.

Randy Cleves
Grand Rapids Griffins
Senior Director of Public Relations

Randy Cleves, a 21-year veteran of public relations in professional hockey, is the senior director of public relations for the Grand Rapids Griffins, the top affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings and member of the American Hockey League. Since joining the Griffins in 1999, he has been recognized with the AHL’s 2007 Ken McKenzie Award as the outstanding executive in PR and marketing, and the International Hockey League’s 2001 Eastern Conference public relations staff of the year honor.

In his current role, Cleves directs all aspects of public and media relations, publications and web site management for the Griffins, while assisting in community relations, marketing and social media. He founded the Griffins’ award-winning “Put A Lid On It” bike helmet program for kids in 2004, has served as co-chair for the team’s annual Great Skate Winterfest since 2008, and oversees a variety of reading programs and initiatives through West Michigan libraries and schools.

Cleves has helped stage numerous high-profile events during his time in Grand Rapids, including the 2004 AHL All-Star Classic, four Red Wings Red & White Games (2011, 2003, 2002 and 2000), two NHL preseason games (2001, 1999), ArenaBowl XV (2001), and the 2000 IHL Turner Cup Finals. He will also play a key role in planning of the Griffins’ first-ever outdoor game this December at Comerica Park in Detroit.

A 1992 graduate of the University of Dayton with a degree in sport management, Cleves spent six years (1991-97) in public relations and season tickets for the ECHL’s Dayton Bombers and two seasons (1997-99) as the assistant director of communications for the IHL’s Kansas City Blades. He also was director of public relations for the Arena Football League’s Grand Rapids Rampage for three seasons (1999-01), concluding his tenure with a championship won at Van Andel Arena.

John Truscott, @JohnTruscott
President and Principal

John Truscott is one of the foremost experts in public relations and politics in Michigan. When you need to develop a message, assemble a strategy, generate publicity or make a new connection, nobody does it better. Having served the governor of Michigan and worked on the Senate and House staff, he possesses a depth of knowledge and breadth of experience few can match.

John has consistently been recognized for his expertise, knowledge and, more importantly, for his ability to get the job done. You’ll find him involved in some of the most important issues of the day. From health care reform legislation, tort reform measures to new technologies for wind energy, John Truscott plays a leadership role.

For over a decade, John served as Director of Communications and Press Secretary to Michigan Gov. John Engler. When Engler took office, Truscott was the youngest press secretary in the country and became the longest serving press secretary for any governor. He was the primary contact from the governor’s office to the media in Michigan and throughout the country. He was responsible for developing communication strategies for the Engler Administration, wrote speeches, press releases and developed collateral material. He was considered the Dean of Communications Directors among the nation’s Governors.

John chaired the Emergency Public Information Committee by appointment of the Secretary of Health and Human Services. The committee was mandated by Congress and analyzed the country’s preparedness in communicating during a crisis, especially bio-terrorism and major public health incidents.

He is a Michigan State University alumnus, earning a bachelor’s degree in Communication and a major in Political Science.

Active in volunteer and philanthropic activities, John is also a community leader. He serves as member of the Sparrow Hospital Foundation Board of Directors, and Ele’s Place Board of Directors. Governor Snyder appointed John to the Michigan Community Service Commission in October 2011. He is also a member of the Regional Air Alliance of West Michigan, which helped recruit AirTran to the Gerald R. Ford International Airport as part of its efforts to improve air service to the West Michigan region.

John is Past Chairman of the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce and has served as a speaker and panelist for many media and government related conferences, including the National Governor’s Association and the State Bar of Michigan.

Alex Beaton, @alexbeaton
The Awesome Mitten

Alex Beaton is the founder of The Awesome Mitten, a website which launched the campaign “365 Days of Awesome” on June 6th, 2011. She oversees a full staff of writers, editors, and interns, as well as spreading the word about everything “awesome” there is to do, see, and experience in Michigan.

Alex graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in political science, before moving to Nashville, TN to work for a project management firm. It was during a summer visit back to her hometown of Traverse City, that she realized how much she missed the Mitten; she moved back a month later and has worked in the digital marketing field ever since. She has worked for both state and national brands including Family Video and Williams Kitchen & Bath. Find her on the interwebs:TwitterFacebookLinkedInTumblr, & Pinterest.

Andrew Hetzel, @andrewhetzel
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan
Vice President, Corporate Communications

Andy Hetzel has served as vice president for corporate communications at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan since 2005. He leads a 67-person department responsible for public relations, advertising, marketing communications, corporate publications and social media. BCBSM provides health insurance coverage to more than 4.4 million Michiganders. The company reported more than $20 billion in revenue in 2011. Andy serves as chief communications strategist, brand manager and corporate spokesperson. He is accredited by the Public Relations Society of America (APR) and is also a member of the International Association of Business Communicators. Andy came to BCBSM from John Bailey & Associates Public Relations, where he served as vice president. Prior to JB&A, Andy worked in various capacities for state legislatures in Michigan and New York. He is married, the father of two daughters, and loves to laugh.

Andrea Billups, @princessmouse
Grand Valley State University
Visiting Professor

Andrea Billups is a veteran journalist and author whose work has been seen in newspapers and magazines across the nation including Reader’s Digest, Women’s Health, Hispanic and many others. For several years she worked as a staff correspondent for PEOPLE magazine, covering human interest and celebrity stories from Washington, D.C. and Miami. She currently works as a Midwest-based national correspondent for The Washington Times where she focuses on stories about public policy and politics. She has reported from Congress, the White House, the U.S. Supreme Court as well as covered three presidential elections. She has made many national television appearances including CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. Billups is also the author of the hit crime-thriller, “A Slaying in the Suburbs,” from Penguin/Berkley. She received her master’s degree in mass communication from the University of Florida and her undergraduate degree from Marshall University.

Janet Korn, @Janet_VisitGR
Vice President of Marketing
Janet has 16 years of experience working with Experience Grand Rapids.
During that time she has performed a variety of duties ranging from membership
development, publication specialist, and community relations and currently is VP
of Marketing.

Janet’s current role involves brand management, communications, advertising
and market positioning. During 2010 she guided the transition of the
organization’s name to Experience Grand Rapids, a new logo and a new website
(ExperienceGR.com) with a focus on social media integration. In addition she
guides the marketing campaigns for Grand Rapids and its partnership with the
Pure Michigan campaign.

Prior to this Janet worked as an adjunct instructor in Hospitality Education
at GRCC and as a restaurant manager. Janet is a Michigan State University


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