Susan Davis International Wins Prestigious Stevie Awards!

SDI Executive Vice President Judy Whittlesey accepts Gold Stevie Award. Photo credit: Stevie Awards.

During the annual Stevie Awards for Women in Business ceremony in New York City, SDI received the Gold Stevie Award for Communications or PR Campaign of the Year for the Elizabeth Dole Foundation Hidden Heroes Campaign and a Silver Stevie Award for Women-Run Workplace of the Year – More Than 10 Employees – Advertising, Marketing, Public Relations and Business Services.

The Gold Stevie Award, celebrating businesses, organizations, and individual achievements in more than 60 nations, recognizes SDI’s role in the 2016 launch of the Hidden Heroes campaign for the Elizabeth Dole Foundation (EDF). EDF, founded by Senator Elizabeth Dole in 2012, is a non-profit organization strengthening and empowering America’s military caregivers and their families by raising public awareness, driving research, championing policy, and leading collaborations that make a significant impact on their lives.

SDI’s Judy Whittlesey and Dan Gregory joined the Army Historical Foundation, National Museum of the United States Army and Clark Construction to sign the Museum’s final steel beam. Photo credit: Frank Ruggles.

The Silver Stevie Award for a Women-Run Workplace of the Year – More Than 10 Employees – Advertising, Marketing, Public Relations and Business Services was awarded to SDI for the firm’s work with diverse clients ranging from nonprofits to corporations and government agencies. Competition for both Stevie awards was global.

The Stevie® Awards are the world’s premier business awards.  They were created in 2002 to honor and generate public recognition of the achievements and positive contributions of organizations and working professionals worldwide.

Susan Davis; Donald Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington; Roma Downey and Mark Burnett celebrating the dedication of the Museum of the Bible.

Winning the Stevie Awards capped a banner month for SDI. During November SDI spearheaded the grand opening of Museum of the Bible; the topping out ceremony for the National Museum of the United States Army, and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ 2nd National Convening: The Military Caregiver Journey.  SDI also supported the 20th anniversary of the Women’s Memorial and the groundbreaking of the WWI Memorial.

SDI salutes the team members whose outstanding work contributed to such an extraordinary month.

Senator Elizabeth Dole, Former First Lady Laura Bush, and U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin meet with caregivers at the Elizabeth Dole Foundation and VA’s 2nd Annual National Convening, managed by SDI. Photo credit: Lisa Nipp.

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

Contact: Sara McGovern, 202-640-1089                            FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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

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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



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.

How I…Respond to a Hack Attack

Transparency and constant communication are key to a company’s response plan, says Tom Davis, vice president and crisis management expert at Susan Davis International.

By Naomi Eide, BizSmarts

Published in the Washington Business Journal

Sep 18, 2015

Tom WBJ article image

With security breaches popping into the news almost weekly, Susan Davis International works to find the best way to respond to the potential fallout. Vice president and crisis management expert Tom Davis, a member of the firm’s recently created cyber risk communications team, discusses how a targeted company can still at least protect its reputation.

What’s the first piece of advice you have for companies? You’re entering a relationship with a client somewhere along the continuum, from the planning and preparation side to the response side. I think anyone in the business will tell you that, ideally, you’re coming in on the preparation side. You’re really talking about doing the planning, evaluation and doing some sort of exercise to understand what the true capabilities are. Then, if and when there is an actual incident that occurs, then supporting the plan. Now that isn’t the way it always works, that’s the ideal way. Because when you get to the response side, a lot of what’s going to be done will be heavily dependent on what is done on the planning and preparation side.

Planning and preparation early on is key to how well a company responds later to a hack… more

When there is a compromise, what do you advise companies to do? There are essentially two parts that have to work in harmony here. One of them is the distinct technical response internally, which is not what we do. But the company, either using its assets or a vendor will be dealing with the breach to patch that. On our end of it, on the response side, basically the company needs to do the calculus about what the damage is and what its stakeholder universe is. Then look across that stakeholder universe to understand what the key concerns are of all those who have an interest in the company’s response.

What’s key in thinking about that? Effectively, what’s at stake here is the company’s reputation. How people perceive the company’s response will have a lot to do with the ultimate penalty that any given victim of a breach will have to pay. What you’re looking to do there as quickly as possible is understand what the key concerns are and start addressing those concerns on the communication side. This is really a critical component: You have to make sure what you’re saying is consistent with what you’re doing.

How should companies deal with the communications if they don’t want to share there was an attack? You really do need to make sure that you’re getting out in front of it. This is sort of a classic crisis management consideration. The underlying reality here is that, at some point, it is going to be apparent. Generally speaking, when a company is breached, the data suggests that it takes, on average now, nearly seven months for the company to discover the breach. Most of the time, it doesn’t discover it itself. The breach is brought to its attention by somebody from the outside, could be law enforcement. Ultimately, the accompanying reality here is that people are going to know about the breach, and it is going to get disclosed in some fashion.

So what should they do? The appropriate thing for a company to do is take control of the situation. You want to be in control and driving the messaging, rather than responding to it. Understand your responsibility to all your stakeholders is to do just that.

How should companies do this? Identify internally how responses are going to be handled, and set some policies. Typically, you’re going to identify the characteristics of an incident here, which is unlike others. If you’ve got information of value, you’re going to be the subject of recurring kinds of attacks. What you’re saying is, for us to respond, it has to cross this threshold. Part of the process on the front end of planning and preparation is to say, “Here is our threshold.” When an incident occurs and it has these characteristics and crosses that threshold, that’s going to mean our crisis management team is going to be brought to bear on this. All the internal procedures we have been practicing regularly, hopefully, will now kick in.

Is a cyber attack any different than any other crisis a company might face and need to respond to? There are two things that make it a little unusual. One is the usually distinctly technical aspect of it. You’ve got the wonkiness part of IT people where the language is not that which is generally available to other people in the organization. There’s sort of a chasm here that has to be crossed, that has to be bridged in some fashion so that the internal communication flow makes it really obvious exactly what’s going on. Because that, in turn, has to be part of the messaging that takes place on the other end of it.

And the other thing that differentiates it? There is a certain unknowability about the breach. If you have a classic crisis that’s driven by a natural disaster, for example, or you have an oil spill — any of the things you think about that constitute crisis for different kinds of organizations — there’s all this information you have going out in the early stages. But there’s more of a certainty to what it is and how it’s going to play out than when the crisis is driven by a data breach. The breach aspect of this, there is a certain mystery that accompanies that. When a data breach is discovered, the clock is ticking immediately but it is really unlikely that the companies will really, truly understand the scale and scope. There’s going to be the issue of attribution — and you’ve seen this play out multiple times — where attribution is difficult.

What could the Office of Personnel Management have done differently in responding to its hack? Frankly, the first thing that comes to mind with regard to OPM is the dripping of information in the aftermath of the attack. It’s a very slippery slope that you start on when you don’t reveal information at the beginning, which comes out in drips and drabs over a protracted period of time. That’s a little bit like Chinese water torture, and you end up seeing that the spotlight doesn’t go away. It continues, it actually grows ever hotter. In the end, the head of OPM loses her job over this and the job loss was driven, in my mind, less by the actual breach than by how the aftermath of their breach was handled.

What’s a better way to handle the communications then? Customers will be one of a whole range of audiences that you have to deal with. This is kind of driven by an understanding of what business you’re in and which of your stakeholders are most likely to have been affected. But, it’s basically a process in which you have to say: What are your critical interests and how is this incident affecting those critical interests? Then what do we need to say to them that essentially gives them solid information about exactly what’s transpiring here — together with the implications for them about what’s transpiring? If they are injured by this, what it is that we can do that will ameliorate the injury?

How about when you don’t know those implications? There’s probably not a situation in which it is perfectly knowable. But the dimensions of the implications are generally available relatively early on. It won’t be a complete picture, it’s a little bit like weather forecasting — if you look out over 30 days, it’s a little murkier. But near term, it’s a little more clear what we know right now. That has to be part of the message. You have to lay the groundwork for the possibility that you’re going to be coming out a second time around and saying that we have updated information, and this is what we have. And that’s not unusual. But it’s important that whoever is speaking on behalf of the organization is doing so in a way that inspires confidence in people. You know, that there’s a sense that this individual in the organization is being candid about it.

What are common mistakes that companies make when they’ve been hacked? The mistakes on the response side tend to be either being close-mouthed and reticent about response or being in denial about the implications about the response. Those are sort of classic kinds of mistakes. The other thing that happens with some regularity is you see organizations being very defensive about it. The other thing is the inclination to really portray themselves as victims. The whole victimology part of this is an interesting conversation.

What do you mean? Clearly, you’re being victimized by somebody. But if you’re holding, for example, personally identifiable information of a lot of your customers and now that’s been lost in the breach, they’re seeing themselves as victims. They’re not going to send a sympathy to you as a victim.

How you deal with losing customers as a result of a breach? I wouldn’t want to underplay the fact that you might lose customers. We know that customers have this set of expectations about what an organization is going to do. There was a study done that basically says about 90 percent of people who were victimized by a data breach felt that businesses have to notify customers immediately when their breach is discovered. Because that has not always been the case, there is reason to believe that customers will be disaffected. They may judge who they’re going to do business with based on their sense of how reliable the relationship is and how reliable this business is.

What factors might that depend on? This is all driven by what competition exists in the marketplace. If you happen to be like OPM, in which no one is competing for your services, it’s a slightly different premise. In the business world, if there is competition and your competitors are deemed to be more reliable and your response undermines confidence, then you can expect there is going to be some customer loss. That’s really why we’re so adamant that you need to establish your process and be able to get out and get in front of this unfolding event as quickly as you possibly can.

What’s an example of a company that handled its response well? Frankly, you can point out small flaws in lots of different responses, but I think, generally speaking, Morgan Stanley did a pretty good job in handling its breach. It was a significant breach, and they did a pretty good job. What you’re looking at is sort of the essence of how companies are resilient in the marketplace. Part of that is keeping your relationship, and that means communicating continually, and they do a good job ensuring there are aren’t lengthy intervals where people aren’t hearing from them and understanding what’s going on.

When is that most important? Particularly when the response is unfolding, it’s really important to communicate regularly, effectively. Anthem did a really good job in the beginning, in terms of getting out in front. Once they were breached, very quickly they were in the marketplace letting customers know about the breach. Then there wasn’t any communication, and they end up having the state’s attorney general going after them because it’s taking them too long to get back to their customers. It’s really critical that you live up to what you say you’re going to do.

How about a company that bungled its response? I’m reluctant to pile on here, but let’s take Target, for example. Target had this classic slow response where it seemed to be largely in denial about the nature of the breach and, frankly, its own responsibility. That rolled out over an extended period of time. Any number of lawsuits were filed against them. It ended up being dramatically unsuccessful in getting the suits thrown out, so it’s exposed to huge damages. The CEO loses his job — that’s sort of the classic, OK, but that’s probably not the way you want to do it.

What is most at stake for companies after a cyber breach? Really, the reputation. That’s what’s critically at stake once you’ve been breached. The fact that a company has been breached is hardly going to come as a surprise. We have this steady drumbeat of breaches going on. All you have to do is look to any news outlet on any given day and see something about somebody being breached someplace. But your reputation rides on the perception of how you’re responding to it.

What sparked your firm to start a cyber risk communications practice? It really was driven by the growing recognition that this was effectively an insoluble threat at the moment. There is no response that’s going to change the nature of the dynamic right now. So for the foreseeable future, companies are going to have to deal with this. It was apparent that companies were struggling with the whole aspect of the planning and preparation and what role is played by the board of directors. There were just so many moving pieces. Because of the work we do and the people we deal with, we decided there was a contribution we could make here that could be fairly significant.

The Internet, Hostile Territory For Your Brand’s Reputation

Concerned about how your brand might be viewed in the cybersphere? This thoughtful blog post from one of our IPREX partners, Beuerman Miller Fitzgerald, expands upon our #CyberTuesday musings from March.

Image via ModGirl Marketing

Image via ModGirl Marketing

If you’re looking for quality insights from an agency that’s been named one of the “Top 5Public Affairs Agencies” in the U.S. then SusanDavis International’s (SDI) #Cyber Tuesday blog is for you. Trust us when we say that SDI is one of the leading sources for industry experts when it comes to public affairs, especially analysis on global cyber security threats.

The Washington, D.C.-based agency simply knows their stuff. We say that with confidence because we’ve had the pleasure of interacting with SDI over the years via our partnership through IPREX, a global network of 70 plus partner agencies, 1500 staff and over 100 offices worldwide.

Written by Tom Davis, SDI’s recent post addresses a topic of growing importance, CEO Realities: State Sponsored Cyber Crime. You may ask how cybercrime relates to you and your brand. Keep reading and we’ll shed some light into what could be a rude wake-up call for your company.

In Davis’ blog post he explores a recent state sponsored cyber-attack on WellPoint, the second largest health insurer in the U.S. who was the victim of a massive data breach this past January. Admittedly, cyber security was not among one of the newly hired CEO’s chief concerns at the time of the attack, and rightly so. Obvious repercussions ensued and the attack on WellPoint was eventually linked to groups associated with the Chinese government.

Perhaps the most pressing concern to us when reading the blog was this quote taken from PwC’s 2014 U.S. State of Cybercrime survey:

“The cybersecurity programs of U.S. organizations do not rival the persistence, tactical skills, and technological prowess of their potential cyber adversaries.”

This begs the question, is your brand equipped to handle your cyber adversaries?

If your brand has not yet been a victimized by cyber bullying then you are fortunate. We’re not necessarily talking about international cybercriminals and massive data breaches. It could be your competitors trolling the internet to say negative things about your brand or media correctly or incorrectly reporting a story that can greatly impact your company’s reputation.

On one hand, digital technology offers real opportunity on many personal and professional levels. For companies, it means efficiency and accessibility. Mobile, social, big data, the cloud, are all trends that are impacting how businesses engage with their customers, partners, and employees in order to better compete. Those trends are not going away anytime soon and companies will continue to put and store information online.

We must also acknowledge that these opportunities present challenges, and there is no denying that cybercrime is a real and ever-growing threat. The vast nature of the World Wide Web coupled with the push for businesses to go digital creates dangers that are omnipresent.

Alan W. Silberberg recently wrote an article for the Huffington Post on the Triangulation of Cyber Security, Social Media + You. Silberberg has a 20 year background in national politics and technology and uses this graphic to best describe the correlation between cyber security, reputation management and social media.


In his article Silberberg concludes:

“Face it. The Internet is a hostile place for your reputation and your brand; whether that is personal, corporate or government. The control and management of your cyber security, reputation management; and social media appearance start and end with you.”

His quote is not intended to be viewed as a scare tactic to deter you or your brand from taking advantage of the many blessings that come with establishing an online presence. It is, however, increasingly important to be aware of the risks and know how your brand is being perceived in order to appropriately manage your online reputation.

As communications professionals and experts in crisis communications and reputation management, it’s important not to take the dangers of cyber sphere for granted. Being susceptible is one thing but being proactive and prepared for the unexpected is critical. Our recommendation is to identify potential areas of weakness and develop a response plan for you and your company in order to avoid Greg Beuerman’s 4 Phases Of Crisis Anxiety.

Have you done an audit of your online reputation? Complacency can be your own worst enemy.

Janet Freeman-Daily Named July LUNGevity Hero

Writer, Survivor, and Advocate Recognized for Empowering Lung Cancer Patients


WASHINGTON, July 2015 – Today LUNGevity Foundation named Janet Freeman-Daily, stage IV lung cancer survivor, e-patient, speaker, and award-winning lung cancer blogger, the July LUNGevity Hero.  Freeman-Daily is being recognized for her outstanding advocacy work and her role in creating and moderating Lung Cancer Social Media (#LCSM), a revolutionary online community that helps patients become proactive participants in their diagnoses. She became her own advocate and took an active role in addressing her disease by researching treatments and clinical trials. Now, she helps others become their own advocates by introducing them to survivors, connecting them with vital support groups, and informing them of life-saving clinical trials.

Freeman-Daily’s battle with lung cancer began in 2011 with a nagging cough that resisted several rounds of antibiotics. With neither family history of the disease nor smoking history, she was shocked by her diagnosis of advanced non-small cell lung cancer. After chemotherapy, radiation, and two separate recurrences of the cancer, her chances of survival looked bleak. She then turned to online lung cancer forums to learn more about her disease and the treatments available. There she learned of a new lung cancer mutation called ROS1, one that her doctors were not yet familiar with.  She was tested at the University of Colorado Cancer Center and, when proven ROS1-positive, she researched clinical trials and contacted trial sites until she found one accepting patients for the targeted therapy crizotinib. By January 2013, Freeman-Daily’s scans were clear. It was the first of many clean scans that inspired her to help others seek out the research and innovations that could change their lives, just as that access to information had changed hers.

With a deep understanding of how personal research can radically improve a patient’s outlook and prognosis, Freeman-Daily has become a technical translator, utilizing her training as an aerospace engineer to explain the experience and science of lung cancer treatment and research in easily-accessible language for patients.  She spends her days tracking research and treatments, supporting survivors in online forums, and raising awareness both through her blog, “Gray Connections,” which was named one of Healthline’s top 2014 lung cancer blogs, and through Lung Cancer Social Media (#LCSM), one of the most active healthcare social media platforms. As the co-founder and co-moderator of #LCSM, she leads patients, advocates, and healthcare professionals in discussions which develop public support, educate others about the disease, and seek to end the stigma of lung cancer. The combination of Freeman-Daily’s technical skills and her experience as a patient allows her to communicate with both researchers and patients and to serve as a catalyst for discussion between the two. After joining the second #LCSM chat, she was invited to join the founding team, where she continues to lead discussions every Thursday evening.  She further advocates for patients by working closely with lung cancer organizations, providing the survivor perspective on nonprofit boards and through speeches.

Janet Freeman-Daily speaking at Stanford Medicine X Conference

Janet Freeman-Daily speaking at Stanford Medicine X Conference

“LUNGevity Foundation is proud to name survivor and advocate Janet Freeman-Daily as the July LUNGevity Hero for her tenacious nature and her role inspiring, informing, and supporting the lung cancer community. By taking a proactive role in her lung cancer battle, relentlessly pursuing information about genomic testing and clinical trials, she was able to give herself the best chance at beating lung cancer,” said Andrea Ferris, president and chairman of LUNGevity Foundation. “Now she uses her digital platform to give others their best chance at fighting the disease by tracking new innovations, translating the science into accessible information for patients, and spotlighting the disease and its survivors. Her journey serves as a reminder that the critical resources that we make available to patients and survivors can change peoples’ lives.”

In response to the recognition of July LUNGevity Hero, Freeman-Daily shared, “I’m honored that my work has meaning to patients, patient advocates and caregivers, and to be a source of encouragement to others thinking about advocacy and telling their stories.”

For more on Janet Freeman-Daily, see the LUNGevity Heroes blog at

For more information on LUNGevity Foundation, please visit

About Lung Cancer

  • 1 in 15 Americans will be diagnosed with lung cancer in their lifetime
  • More than 221,000 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year
  • About 60%-65% of all new lung cancer diagnoses are among people who have never smoked or are former smokers
  • Lung cancer takes more lives than the next three cancers (colorectal, breast, and prostate) combined
  • Only 17% of all people diagnosed with lung cancer will survive 5 years or more, BUT if it’s caught before it spreads, the chance for 5-year survival improves dramatically

About LUNGevity Foundation

LUNGevity Foundation is firmly committed to making an immediate impact on increasing quality of life and survivorship of people with lung cancer by accelerating research into early detection and more effective treatments, as well as by providing community, support, and education for all those affected by the disease. Our vision is a world where no one dies of lung cancer. For more information about LUNGevity Foundation, please visit


(202) 414-0798


SDI is PR Daily’s Choice for Best Media Relations Campaign – Elizabeth Dole Foundation

PR Daily

“The findings of the RAND Corporation’s report on the caregivers for the nation’s ill and injured active and veteran military were worse than discouraging. The 5.5 million military caregivers endure terrible mental, physical, financial, and legal challenges, and the country just didn’t seem to care. Susan Davis International, a boutique PR agency, took on the assignment on sparking change on behalf of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation. It succeeded in its mission, and also won first place for Best Media Relations in PR Daily’s 2015 Nonprofit PR Awards.

Its goals were ambitious: In addition to spurring action, the agency sought to build public opinion in support of caregivers and forge alliances with service organizations, businesses, and nonprofits. A three-phased approach set the stage for achieving these objectives, starting with a national campaign to set the stage by (in part) rebranding the Dole Foundation as a leading voice in support of military and veteran caregiving.

The second phase witnessed the launch of the media strategy, with SDI coordinating with RAND on the release of the report, hosting a press conference and luncheon, placing an op-ed under Senator Dole’s byline (co-authored by the CEO of the Wounded Warrior Project), and promoting caregiver op-eds to appear around military-themed holidays (such as Memorial Day and Veterans Day).

The final phase of the plan tapped into the awareness raised in Phase Two. And it worked, most importantly with legislation introduced in both the House and Senate while prominent legislators formed a Congressional caregiver caucus. The White House, meanwhile, announced a new caregiver program coordinated by the Department of Defense.

The media coverage that sparked these outcomes included a feature on the ABC World News, along with stories in hundreds of publications and electronic outlets, creating impressions in the hundreds of millions. Other results are too long to list here, but those recounted are more than enough to earn our award for Best Media Relations. We offer our congratulations to the Elizabeth Dole Foundation and SDI.”

PR Daily