SDI’s Top Moments of 2016!

As 2016 came to a close, we’ve reflected on some of our favorite moments and on just a few of the tremendous achievements our clients have accomplished. SDI is honored to be on their team.

Army Historical Foundation

On September 14, as part of our ongoing public relations work for the Army Historical Foundation, SDI produced the official groundbreaking of the National Museum of the United States Army at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia. Scheduled for completion in 2019, the Museum will showcase the U.S. Army’s never-before-seen artifacts, documents, and images. “This Museum is going to offer everyone—all Americans, free of charge—an experience that you cannot find in the pages of a history book or on Google,” said General Mark Milley, Army Chief of Staff at the ceremonial groundbreaking.

Sergeant Major of the Army Daniel Dailey, GEN Mark A. Milley, AHF’s General Gordon Sullivan, Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning, Assistant Secretary of the Army (IE&E) Katherine Hammack, and AHF’s General William Hartzog break ground for the Nation Museum of the United States Army. Photo Credit: Army Historical Foundation

In 2016, the Army Historical Foundation’s Facebook audience increased by over 150% and AHF almost doubled its number of Twitter followers (@NatlArmyMuseum).

Dublin Airport Authority

SDI worked with our Irish client Cork Airport and the Dublin Airport Authority, to gain U.S. approval for a license permitting Norwegian Air to fly a Cork-Boston route.  The license was finally granted after an unprecedented three year delay by US Department of Transportation. The first ever transatlantic flights from Cork to the U.S. will launch in July at 65 euros one way, benefiting tourists and business travelers on both sides of the Atlantic.

Elizabeth Dole Foundation

On September 27, we were pleased to work with Senator Elizabeth Dole and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation to launch the Hidden Heroes Campaign with Campaign Chair Tom Hanks and special guest Tom Brokaw in Washington, D.C. The campaign will create national awareness and support for the 5.5 million loved ones providing care to a wounded, ill or injured service member or veteran.

Campaign Chair Tom Hanks joined Senator Elizabeth Dole for the official launch of the Hidden Heroes Campaign. Photo Credit: Lisa Nipp

In July, we helped launch the Hidden Heroes Cities campaign, inviting every U.S. city to join the Foundation and its national partners to create a support network for their local military and veteran caregivers. Mirroring the national resolution adopted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the Foundation urged every city to adopt their own resolution as the first step in their efforts to become a Hidden Heroes City. SDI continues to work with mayors’ offices across the nation and by years end, 65 cities have pledged their support.

Mayor Carolyn Goodman and Dole Fellow Heidi Woodring make it official. Las Vegas is a Hidden Heroes City!

Family and Employer Programs and Policy (FEPP)

SDI was delighted to return to a favorite client from the past, again providing media and public affairs support for the outstanding and much needed National Guard and Reserve programs under FEPP – Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program (YRRP), Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), and Service Member and Family Readiness (SMFR). We are also proud to once again be assisting with the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award event recognizing the nation’s employers most supportive of their Guard and Reserve employees.

Giant Food

Giant stepped up to sponsor the National Capital Barbecue Battle, one of the largest and most unique food and music festivals in the nation. We didn’t join the contest, but we did join world champion competitive eater, Joey Chestnut, before he broke the world record at the event, eating 73 hot dogs in 10 minutes at DC’s first ever Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest!

Giant National Capital Barbeque Battle celebrates the art of cooking and the joy of eating. Photo Credit: Giant Food

We also helped Giant launch its trailblazing partnership with the Capital Area Food Bank to increase the amount of high quality, nutritious food for those in need through greater corporate donations of produce and protein.

Gordon Reid, President of Giant Food of Landover, Md. presents check to Nancy Roman, President and CEO of the Capital Area Food Bank. Photo Credit: Giant Food

Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)

This year marked First Lady Michelle Obama’s final presentation of the National Medal for Museum and Library Service, recognizing 15 museums and libraries making a significant difference in their communities. We’ve been privileged to publicize this event for the last five years as the First Lady powerfully encouraged museums and libraries to keep up their important work.

First Lady Michelle Obama presents National Medal to Brooklyn Public Library. Photo Credit: Institute of Museum and Library Services

LUNGevity Foundation

Sadly, LUNGevity lost its dynamic Board Vice Chairman Jerry Sorkin on October 26 after a nine year valiant battle with lung cancer. We were honored to join with and support almost 2,000 of Jerry’s friends on the National Mall November 6 for the annual Breathe Deep DC 5k walk which Jerry founded. More than $350,000 was raised for critical research into the early detection and treatment of lung cancer.

Photo Credit: Peter Jacobstein

LUNGevity, the nation’s leading nonprofit focused on lung cancer, ended the year with the release of exciting new research that dispels assumptions about patients’ willingness to undergo additional biopsies and launched the LUNGevity Lung Cancer Navigator mobile app. The app was created for lung cancer patients, family caregivers, and support team members to manage life following a lung cancer diagnosis.

The Marine Corps Heritage Foundation (MCHF)

2016 marked the 10th anniversary of the National Museum of the Marine Corp as it enters its Final Phase to create new galleries telling stories from Vietnam to today and a state-of-the-art big screen theater, all scheduled to open in Spring 2017. SDI continues to engage the media and public to inform them of the Museum’s award-winning architecture, galleries, and exhibits, celebrating the history and traditions of the U.S. Marine Corps.

Photo Credit: Marine Corps Heritage Foundation

Mary Furlong and Associates

From the “What’s Next  Boomer Summit” in Washington DC to the  “Silicon Valley Boomer Venture Summit”, SDI worked with Mary Furlong and Associates to co-produce two cutting edge conferences, offering nuanced insight into smart aging technology, products and services targeted to the over 50 audience.  We also co hosted a wonderful holiday party at the National Press Club for influencers on aging issues in Washington DC.  On the spur of the moment, Bob Blancato,Chairman of the Commonwealth Council on Aging in Virginia and an AARP Board member, and Susan Davis, Vice Chair of the Irish Smart Ageing Exchange launched their new Democratic-Republican prognostications on how the incoming Trump Administration will view and respond to the many issues surrounding the aging population from Medicare to Social Security to the faster adoption of devices and technologies to improve the length and quality of our lives!

Photo Credit: Mary Furlong and Association

Joint Women’s Leadership Symposium

For the sixth year, SDI worked with the Sea Service Leadership Association  to produce and publicize the 29th annual Joint Women’s Leadership (JWLS) Symposium in June.  And in December, JWLS, the largest gathering of military women in uniform, won “Event of the Year” at the Stevie Awards for Women in Business in New York City!

SSLA President, LCDR Rosie Goscinski, USN and Rear Admiral June Ryan recognize the Republic of Korea Navy at JWLS awards luncheon. Photo credit: Mike B. Photography

WWI Centennial Commission

As we head into 2017, we are hard at work putting plans in place for the upcoming U.S. commemoration in Kansas City, Mo, marking the U.S. entry into World War.

Chairman Susan Davis with WWI Centennial Commission’s Executive Director Dan Dayton.

Congratulations to our exceptional clients! We are proud to stand by your side and look forward to a great 2017 for all!

Austin Courtney, Associate Account Executive
January 3, 2017

Internet of Things – Risk and Opportunity

It’s difficult to work in business today without coming across the terms “Big data” and “Internet of Things.” Five years ago McKinsey & Company called big data the next frontier for innovation. The next year, the New York Times upped the ante by declaring this the Age of Big Data. Indeed, we interact today in a system of commerce that is increasingly shaped by big data, and while the rise in this data can be attributed to many sources, perhaps the most profound of these is what has become known as the Internet of Things.

For the uninitiated, big data describes large, complex data sets that are collected from the multitude of technologies we use every day. Typically, the rise in big data is traced to the overall increase in internet usage through computers or smart phones. Every time we visit a website, make an online order, or send an email, that activity is recorded and organized into these large data sets. In recent years the number of internet-connected devices has diversified. Now, everything from household appliances to televisions to our vehicles is network connected through what has broadly been called, an Internet of Things, or IOT.

If big data once primarily originated through our interactions with intangible websites, it’s now increasingly coming from our interactions with tangible objects. For consumers, this data can be packaged and presented in a multitude of ways that profess to add value. For example, pacemakers  that wirelessly connect to online monitoring systems can reduce doctor’s visits and provide faster feedback when problems arise. Egg trays that send a text when you’re running low on eggs add efficiencies to grocery shopping. The span of industries that make up these “smart devices” is truly limitless.

For businesses, the IOT is game-changing. Just as big data helps consumers make more educated decisions, it can also give producers a better understanding of trends in usage. The days of focus groups telling producers what they want is passé. Now, companies can uncover that on their own through this 24/7 system of feedback. Industries aren’t just working more efficiently with the IOT, they are completely transforming.

Take the car insurance industry, which has long used indirect measurements such as general trends within the population to create a risk profile and corresponding policy price for customers. The system is inherently inefficient as these are, at best, educated guesses as to how a person drives. The advent of insurance telematics, which allows insurers to personalize a rate based on the direct measurement of big data that is taken from a customer’s car, promises to change that. Not only would this benefit good drivers who have been paying too much, but it would make the whole industry more efficient.

Just as the IOT has presented businesses with the opportunity to understand consumers in new ways, it also gives communications firms the opportunity to more precisely tailor their messages to consumers.

This big data revolution in communications is occurring in several ways. One is the increase in sophistication of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems. When these systems are coupled with programs trained to mine through the mounds of big data that companies are able to compile, companies can approximate individualized messages. Just as insurers no longer have to guess about how to price their rates, communications professionals working with big data no longer have to guess about which message will resonate the most with a general audience because they are capable of giving each consumer their own message.

The technology behind the IOT continues to develop at breakneck speeds, and it’s crucial that communications professionals understand this growing trend. IOT-connected products are already a big industry, with the world’s largest businesses investing heavily in developing them, and consumers increasingly expecting the added features of these smart devices. It’s crucial that clients know and understand this opportunity. As their products and services develop around this trend, communications professionals must also tailor messages that will resonate with the hungry investors and expectant consumers alike.

Of course, along with new opportunities come new concerns. In this case, those concerns center around privacy. Big data gives companies and communications professionals unparalleled access to consumers’ lives. Naturally, consumers will be leery of such access, and legislation and industry standards will continue to evolve to address their privacy issues. Businesses would do well to develop and consistently revise privacy policies cognizant of these standards. Savvy communications professionals will prioritize privacy concerns in their messages to consumers. The fallout from high-profile cyber attacks against Target, Linkedin, and Yahoo, among others, proves that consumers take internet privacy extremely seriously. Any developments in IOT will by necessity be taken with an abundance of caution.

These concerns aside, the development of the IOT most certainly signals a wealth of opportunities for the communications industry. If harnessed correctly and responsibly, it can be used as a powerful tool to connect businesses and consumers in ways never before imagined.

By Jake Thornburgh, SDI Intern 
December 20, 2016

Judith Whittlesey Named Chair of Food Research & Action Center’s Board of Directors

Food Research
& Action Center

1200 18th Street, NW | Suite 400
Washington, DC 20036
202-986-2200
frac.org

Contact: Sara McGovern, 202-640-1089                            FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
smcgovern@frac.org

Judith Whittlesey Named Chair of Food Research & Action Center’s
Board of Directors

WASHINGTON, March 22, 2016–The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) announced Judith H. Whittlesey, executive vice president of Susan Davis International (SDI), has been named the new Chair of its Board of Directors. She succeeds former Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, who served three years in the role for the national anti-hunger organization.

“Judy has been an incredibly active and passionate Vice Chair of our Board, and we look forward to her ongoing dedication and leadership in her new role as Chair,” said Jim Weill, president of FRAC.  “Her experience and deep knowledge have been – and will continue to be – incredible assets to the Board, to FRAC, and to our network of anti-hunger advocates across the country.”

In her position at SDI, a public relations and public affairs firm, Whittlesey provides expertise in strategic planning, media relations, institutional positioning, public education and major event design to the firm’s diverse clientele.

Whittlesey has a long track record of overseeing successful campaigns for corporations, federal government agencies, and national non-profit organizations. She previously served on the staff of Vice President Walter Mondale, and subsequently on the campaign and transition staffs of several Democratic Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates. She has been inducted into the National Capital Public Relations Society of America Hall of Fame, selected as a PR News’ Top Women in PR and to Leadership Greater Washington. Whittlesey is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma and is an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

Glickman has a long history in food and nutrition policy. Prior to serving as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, he served 18 years in the U.S. House of Representatives. He also was the Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America. Currently, Glickman serves as a Senior Fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a bipartisan think tank where he focuses on public health, national security, and economic policy issues, and as Executive Director of the Congressional Program at The Aspen Institute. He will continue to sit on FRAC’s Board, of which he has been a member since 2001.

“We truly appreciate all that has been accomplished under Dan’s leadership and look forward to his continued contributions now that he has passed the gavel to Judy,” said Weill.

To learn more about FRAC’s efforts to end hunger in America, visit www.FRAC.org.

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Women’s History Month: Celebrating the Achievements of Women in Military

Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi kicked off Women’s History Month with her annual reception at Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol, honoring women veterans for their service, and SDI’s long time friend and client Brigadier General Wilma L. Vaught, U.S. Air Force, Retired, one of the most decorated military women in American history. SDI has been proud to work with General Vaught over the last 20 years to build, dedicate and support the Women’s Memorial. Built at the entrance to Arlington Cemetery, the Women’s Memorial is dedicated to the service of women in the military since the Revolutionary War through today. SDI Chairman Susan Davis and Executive Vice President Judy Whittlesey had the privilege of attending the exceptional Women’s History event, with special guests First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden. General Vaught’s remarks were a stunning reminder of the challenges and the barriers that women have faced in their quest to serve their country.

Throughout the month on our Facebook and Twitter pages we’re paying tribute to women veterans and those currently serving who have played and continue to play an influential role in military history. These women broke barriers, made a difference, and by their words and examples became a source of inspiration, making it possible for other women to succeed.

Susan Davis International is proud of its decades of experience working with the Defense Department and entire military community, nonprofit organizations that focus on military outreach, and corporations that offer support to the military market segment, and most especially proud of our work supporting the women who are and have served in defense of our freedom.

Behind the Headlines With Dan Gregory

 

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In this interview with Maria Materise, Cision, SDI VP Dan Gregory shares PR insights and advice molded by pivotal experiences in the industry.

Storytelling, while central to PR strategies, is a delicate process. If you don’t understand the individual or group whose story you are telling, your story will sound false.

Dan Gregory, vice president of Susan Davis International, knows the importance of representing your client well and telling their story accurately. In this interview, he shares the difficulties of military communication, the need for successful communication in all industries and how to use movies as a guide for PR.

How did you get your start in PR?
Coming out of college, I was more focused on public speaking and speechwriting than general public relations. Public speaking was more exposed, intimate and immediate in how it connected the communicator and the audience in real time, allowing them to play off each other.

It is also an almost primitive way of communicating compared to most of today’s PR strategies. Yet, it can still be extremely powerful.

I only thought to make the leap to PR when a friend showed me how the strategies and skills of public speaking translated into media interviews. That realization led me to accept a position as a media trainer.

From there, I continued making connections between what originally attracted me to public speaking and the many other elements of public relations that I use today.

What’s the biggest lesson you learned from your first position?
My first position was at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a foreign policy and international security think tank. I was surrounded by extraordinarily intelligent people who earnestly wished to generate ideas that would change the world for the better. It was a side of Washington, DC that I do not think many Americans get to see.

As a communication professional surrounded by policy experts, I wasn’t immediately sure how I could contribute. However, over time, I realized that even the best ideas lived and died by how well they could be communicated.

Every idea needs to be understood, supported, and in most cases, funded. All those ingredients can be met through communications. That’s when I realized that there was a rewarding career opportunity in telling the story of good ideas.

What do you think are the key components of a successful PR strategy?
A successful PR strategy has all the elements of a great movie. It has to be based on a good story – a story that is emotional, memorable and does not run longer than necessary. The story should also be clear and easily understood, so that when people watch it (or hear it or read it), they can accurately repeat it to others.

A PR strategy should also have great characters. These characters must be ones that people can connect with, care about and hope for their success.

Lastly, the strategy needs to leave people feeling good. People naturally desire for things to reach a positive conclusion. In PR, if we are not telling a story with a feel-good ending, we have to tell audiences what they can do to help reach that positive conclusion.

How does your background in military communication help you in your position at Susan Davis International?
Susan Davis International has a long history of award-winning work in the military space, including serving Department of Defense agencies, Veteran Service Organizations and corporations looking to support and market to the military.

My experience in military communication was essential to being able to contribute effectively to these campaigns. The military community has its own language, preferred methods of receiving information and key issues of concern that are largely unknown or misunderstood by most Americans. If a PR campaign does not align with the way that the military speaks, it can quickly lose credibility and trust.

Therefore, our firm ensures our team has the highest levels of experience, understanding and appreciation for the military culture. And while my experience in the Pentagon was enormously instructive, I know I owe those who serve and their families to continue to learn as much as I can about their service.

How do you approach PR for sensitive topics such as those related to the military and veterans?
When I worked for the Army, one of my civilian colleagues in public affairs made a misstep about how she portrayed an issue very sensitive to those serving in uniform. I later overheard an officer angrily venting about the incident, and he kept repeating, “You don’t know what it is like for us. Don’t act like you know what it is like to be one of us. Don’t pretend you’ve been where we have been.”

That moment was completely sobering. His words drove home the tremendous responsibility I had as someone who never served in uniform, speaking and writing on behalf of those who did.

While it is ultimately my job to put myself in the shoes of the person I am representing, the truth that I would never truly know what it was like to be them has since pushed me to be as thorough as possible in understanding the people and the issues about which I communicate.  And it has encouraged me to approach much of my work with a great amount of humility.

How has PR changed in recent years?
The PR industry has been challenged by the fact that the rise in the number of communications channels has coincided with a severe case of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Even the most disciplined communication professionals can’t help but see a new website, social media platform or app and think, “Why aren’t we on that?” Even if the outlet is not the right fit for a client, it’s easy to feel jealous over all those potential media impressions.

This spread of FOMO has only been made worse by the distortion of what is newsworthy. Smaller newsroom budgets have resulted in more website space being devoted to clickbait, and TV news broadcasts relying on syndicated stories and viral videos.

For PR professionals, this emerging reality means that we can’t only sell the significance of our pitch. We also have to sell the popularity of the potential story, and make it as easy and inexpensive as possible for the media to cover it.

What advice do you have for those looking to begin a career in PR?
For every book you read about public relations, read three more about completely unrelated topics. An expansive knowledge about the world will increase your creativity, allow you to build networks and opportunities for your clients and develop your ability to identify communication opportunities in a greater number of areas.

Rapid Fire Round
1. I always thought I’d be…more involved in politics (don’t read this as a regret).
2. My guiltiest pleasure is…listening to movie scores while writing. “Shawshank Redemption’s” score is responsible for some of my best work.
3. The most interesting thing about me is…If I ever took a sabbatical from PR, I’d like to try my hand at flipping furniture.
4. My daily newspaper of choice is…The Washington Post.
5. My biggest pet peeve is…live tweeting speeches. As soon as you begin tweeting, you stop listening.
6. The thing that gets me up in the morning is…my cat sniffing my face. Oh, and wanting to make the world a better place.

SDI Chairman Hosts Guatemalan AG

attorney general guatemala susan davis intl dc

Hosting the impressive Thelma Aldana, Attorney General of Guatemala capped a terrific week at SDI! As AG she has proven her critics wrong again and again.

SDI Expands Cyber Risk Practice Into Latin America

Susan Davis

Tom Davis, Ambassador Julio Liggoria and Susan Davis pictured above.

SDI celebrates the expansion of their cyber risk practice into Latin America through alliance with Delta Consulting Group, headquartered in Panama, and Interimage LatinoAmerica, headquartered in Guatemala and Panama. Firms will leverage their combined strengths to offer high value cybersecurity services in the growing Latin American market.

Snowzilla 2016 Strikes the Washington, DC Area (Images)

So. Much. Snow. The snow began falling fast across the Northeast, on Friday, forcing cities to shut down. Some of the SDI team were finally able to venture out and have some fun in the blanket of snow, while others enjoyed the view from indoors, opting to stay warm.

Check out the images of surreal and extremely white pictures of the storm, dubbed “Snowzilla,” courtesy of the intrepid SDI team. It’s fair to say, the photos show us adjusting perfectly fine after the storm.

January 26, 2016

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Ragan Honors Susan Davis International with 2015 Ace Awards for ‘Specialty Agency’

susan davis international

In announcing its 2015 Ace award winners, Ragan Communications and PR Daily stated their goal was to honor the individuals, agencies and teams in PR and marketing who begin and end each day at the top.

While every award is meaningful, this one has particular resonance because it exemplifies the depth of SDI’s expertise across the company, and reaffirms our commitment to excellence for each and every client.

Here’s what Ragan had to say about us:

Susan Davis International has handled the introduction of national memorials, historical institutions, and monuments to audiences around the world. You know many of them: The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the National World War II Memorial, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. SDI’s work reflects its passion for its specialties. In one case, SDI built awareness of and support for the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation by promoting the unveiling of a monument to a Marine Corps horse outside the National Museum of the Marine Corps. In another example, SDI helped the Elizabeth Dole Foundation release results of a critically important study revealing the seemingly overwhelming challenges faced by military and veteran caregivers, leading to establishment of a national coalition of leaders and organizations to address the issues. In both cases, SDI developed extensive, multi-phased strategies with results that would be the envy of any agency.

January 20, 2016

Wikipedia Exemplifies Team Building in the Workplace

wikipedia susan davis international washington dcToday we honor the incredible, and at least semi-credible source of information you can’t help but secretively take a peek at every once in a while (or more) — Wikipedia. Why the honor? It’s Wikipedia’s 15th birthday, and although it’s a resource we in the public relations field are loath to quote, let alone celebrate, it does offer some public relations bona fides. One of them is team building.

In spite of its open platform, where independent editors write and rewrite immeasurably to create a free online encyclopedia for all Internet users, Wikipedia exemplifies team building.

How does it do that?  It’s true that there’s a continuous battle between people who make a living editing Wiki articles and the unpaid true believing editors of Wiki, 250,000 strong, who zealously guard the process. But Wikipedia’s veritable army of editors (or auditors, I should say) put strong mechanisms in place to deal with people who breach guidelines and engage in what they believe is unethical and a conflict of interest editing. Overall, editors collectively decide what content can be edited and which new entries to create. On a platform of more than 5 million articles, talk about team work!

Looking at Wikipedia in this way reminds PR practitioners of the importance of working effectively as a team, especially in the increasingly complex environment of public relations, where many “editors” can either make the broth or spoil it.  Here are 4 reasons to value working as a team:

  1. Improves communication – Sharing responsibilities requires checks and balances, which encourages team members to engage openly with each other. Perceived barriers to communicating can break down in a group environment and in the best team practices, individuals are inspired by the group dynamics to share and discuss ideas and opinions. Improved communications can reinforce office relationships and in turn, the quality of work performed.
  2. Promotes creativity – Working together with other team members can ignite creativity and engender fresh ideas. Bringing people together from different backgrounds and levels of experience brings diversity of thought and can help create optimal solutions.
  3. Develops problem-solving skills – Public relations practitioners must be prepared to handle crises for their clients at any time. Tasks that require coworkers to work together to solve problems can improve their ability to think rationally and strategically.
  4. Increases efficiency ̶  Most people don’t have all the skills or all the answers to tackle complicated problems. Harnessing the rich diversity of abilities among a group of individuals can present the quickest, most efficient path to a solution.

This is your day Wikipedia. So to you we say thanks for striking a chord for us PR professionals in exemplifying the possibilities of effective collaboration.

Happy Birthday!

By Gadeer Ghannam, SDI

Gadeer is an SDI intern earning her Master’s degree in Strategic Communications and Public Relations at Trinity Washington University.

January 15, 2016

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