Who’s Next

Who’s Next: 19 up-and-coming communications pros working to change Philly

From major ad agencies to small business to the Zoo, these under-40 stars are helping the city find its voice.

Billy Penn

Philadelphia has over the years become a hotbed for the communications industry, playing host to dozens of major agencies, small firms and everything in between. And in many ways, it’s young people who are the workhorses.

Welcome to the July 2017 edition of Who’s Next. Every month, Billy Penn publishes an installment of this up-and-comer series, presented by the Knight Foundation, focusing on a different industry or field. Over the last two and a half years, we’ve featured more than 400 of the city’s leaders under the age of 40, from teachers to artists to musicians to chefs.

This time around, we’re highlighting some of the city’s most dynamic advertising, public relations and marketing professionals based on nominations provided by their coworkers and peers. So now, meet the 19 young people who are the next great communicators in Philadelphia (presented in alphabetical order).

Honorees’ hair and makeup by House of Clarity.

Kriston Jae Bethel

Ben Bowens

Communications Associate at ACLU of Pennsylvania
38 years old

Since 2013, Ben Bowens has been the digital voice of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. He manages the organization's website, social media accounts, graphic design and event photography and video. One of the people who nominated Bowens wrote: "In his time at ACLU of PA, Ben has dramatically improved ACLU of PA's communications, including the introduction and expansion of various social media tools. It is especially critical these tools are in place today because of the importance of communicating to constituents the critically needed work ACLU of PA is doing and the issues they are addressing." Before joining the ACLU of Pennsylvania, he worked as a digital media producer for KYW-TV/ CBSPhilly.com. He's also the staff liaison for an ACLU-affiliated group of young professionals called the Young Leadership Outreach Team, which is working to introduce younger people to the work and mission of the ACLU, an organization with an average membership age of 55 to 60. In his spare time, he manages a photography business specializing in portraits and events, and in 2015 Bowens was named a "Hero Among Us" by the Philadelphia 76ers for his volunteer work with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

Kriston Jae Bethel

Alethia Calbeck

Director of Communications at PHLCVB
43 years old

As the director of communications at the PHLCVB (Philadelphia's Convention and Visitors Bureau), Alethia Calbeck is charged with guiding strategies for content development, public relations and social media, and it's her job to encourage and inspire travel to Philadelphia by showcasing the city's assets. Though she's only just completed her first year with PHLCVB -- she started just a month before the DNC -- she's already made a major impact, leading the local communications and social media strategy for the NFL Draft, an event that drew a quarter million attendees. Prior to the PHLCVB, Calbeck was the vice president at Profile Public Relations, where she worked some of Philadelphia's most talented chefs and restaurateurs, including Ellen Yin, John Patterson, Eli Kulp, Tod Wentz and Jeremy Nolen. Before Profile, she was the director of special projects at Visit Philadelphia and led cross departmental teams on projects like Philly Homegrown and Philadelphia Neighborhoods.

Kriston Jae Bethel

Aalyah Duncan

CEO/Publicist at Alist Events Marketing, LLC
40 years old

A Philadelphia native, Aalyah Duncan founded Alist Events Marketing in 2013, a public relations boutique agency that provides public relations and marketing services for clients in the arts and entertainment industry. Previous and current clients include Grammy-nominated saxophonist and flautist Najee, award-winning trumpeter and producer Joey Sommerville, Grammy award-winning saxophonist Kebbi Williams and Grammy award-winning songwriter and producer Carvin Haggins. Her company has developed relationships with various media outlets including CNN, CBS radio, Essence, Rolling Out, Ebony, Fox Good Day, iHeart Radio and plenty of others. She recently expanded her network into the political sector, serving as PR/Communications Director and Deputy Campaign Manager for now-Councilman Derek Green. Duncan has two degrees in music and also works as a violin instructor. She served as a mentor with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and continues to provide mentorship and guidance to inner-city youth. In 2016, Duncan received the inaugural award for Media Professional of The Year from the National Association of Black Journalists – Philadelphia Chapter (PABJ).

Kriston Jae Bethel

Kevin Hanley

Vice President, Digital Marketing
40 years old

Kevin Hanley's the vice president of digital marketing at Delphic Digital, a Philadelphia-based agency providing web design, web development, SEO and online marketing services. He assists with digital strategy as it relates to clients' customer experience work, which includes media, analytics, testing, personalization and optimization. Since starting at Delphic Digital in 2015, Hanley has grown his team and the agency’s marketing revenue by 100 percent and expanded its offerings to include media, marketing automation and best-in-class analytics. Prior to Delphic, Hanley was the vice president of marketing at Ascentive Software, as well as the vice president of marketing at WeBuyAnyCar, a $50 million used car purchaser headquartered in the U.K. Hanley is a member of both the Philadelphia Interactive Marketing Association and the Philly Ad Club.

Kriston Jae Bethel

Timothy A. Lehman

Marketing and Business Development Manager at Montgomery McCracken
33 years old

Timothy A. Lehman is the Marketing and Business Development Manager at Montgomery McCracken, a lawfirm where he works with practice group leaders and attorneys across the company's six offices to guide the firm’s marketing and business development initiatives. He manages a department that's responsible for the firm’s internal and external communications, media relations, social media and website, events, business development, community sponsorships and marketing technology. The person who nominated Lehman wrote: "Tim has guided our firm through a period of extensive growth in Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, and New Jersey. He has spearheaded initiatives such as a new website, firm involvement on social media, as well as increased communications locally and nationally." Prior to joining Montgomery McCracken in 2013, Lehman worked at Fox Rothschild as a Business Development Coordinator, and when he was a student at Drexel University, he had full-time co-op positions with the Phillies and Zagster. Lehman also volunteers on the Marketing Committee of the Philadelphia Bar Foundation, a nonprofit that is dedicated to promoting access to justice for people in the Philadelphia community, particularly those struggling with poverty, abuse and discrimination.

Danya Henninger

Randy LoBasso

Communications Manager at Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia
39 years old

Randy LoBasso is the communications manager at the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia where manages all communications at Philadelphia's bicycling advocacy and education nonprofit, including social media, emails, blog posts, press statements and a podcast. He also works on strategies in the group's dealings with government, community partners and neighborhood associations. Prior to the Bike Coalition, LoBasso was a staff writer at Philadelphia Weekly, an English and Media instructor at the Community College of Philadelphia and an English Instructor at Moore College of Art and Design. He continues to work as a freelance writer and is a columnist at Metro Philadelphia. The person who nominated LoBasso wrote: "Although he is a writer by trade, Randy has not hesitated to adapt to the new media environment or learn new skills, including podcasting, broadcasting and graphic design. Don't take my word for it; ask around. Randy deserves this award."

Kriston Jae Bethel

Sarah Maiellano

Assistant Director of Communications at The Philly POPS
36 years old

A native of Philadelphia, Sarah Maiellano's primary day job is serving as the assistant director of communications at The Philly POPS, the largest standalone pops orchestra in the United States. Maiellano manages media relations, maintains the online press room and writes, edits and shoots various types of content. She's also oversees social media strategy implementation, which has resulted in a 250 percent increase in Facebook followers and a 430 percent increase in Instagram followers. But that's only one of her jobs. Maiellano is also a freelance writer covering Philadelphia restaurants, museums, events, shops, activities and attractions, and she handles communications for a small business she owns with her husband and two friends. The company, the Homemade Gin Kit, allows users to make gin at home safely and legally. She serves as a Director at large on the Philadelphia Public Relations Association Board of Governors, and is a new volunteer at Morris Animal Refuge.

Kriston Jae Bethel

Kate Marlys

Owner, Philly PR Girl
42 years old

After Kate Marlys launched a successful special events blog dedicated to Philadelphia, in 2012 she founded Philly PR Girl LLC, a public relations firm dedicated to marketing, social media and event planning. Her clients range from auto body shops to LGBTQ non-profits to local rappers, and almost all the events Philly PR Girl promotes are non-profit. Marlys has planned and facilitated networking events in the Philly area, and has been asked to speak about and educate the public on public relations, social media and networking. She's spoken at the Pennsylvania Conference for Women, the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, several colleges and universities, and on panels at networking events in Philadelphia. The person who nominated Marlys said she's a "force to be reckoned with," adding: "No matter who you are, if you have a story to tell, she wants to help you tell it. What started as a side project, an events and lifestyle blog, rapidly grew into a well-respected and recognized public relations firm in Philadelphia."

Kriston Jae Bethel

Alexandra Mazza

Director of Public Relations at Hersha Hospitality
34 years old

Alexandra Mazza is the Director of Public Relations at Hersha Hospitality, a Philly-based hospitality investment firm providing project management to hotel brands. She manages public relations for both the company's properties as well as the ownership and management branches of the company itself. This includes overseeing media relations, developing PR strategies for each hotel, working directly with property teams to create promotions as well as managing external agencies. when applicable. The person who nominated Mazza described her as "an all-star communicator" who is "easily the most connected hospitality PR professional I've ever worked with in Philadelphia." Mazza also serves on Hersha's giving committee, helping to determine where the company allocates charitable donations. She volunteers in the city at organizations like Broad Street Ministry and the Ronald McDonald House, and is a member of the Young Professionals Council of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia.

Kriston Jae Bethel

Alex McKechnie

PR Manager at Museum of the American Revolution
37 years old

As PR Manager for the brand new, state-of-the-art $150 million Museum of the American Revolution in Old City, Alex McKechnie handles all aspects of media relations for the major new museum. Yes, that includes the launch and grand opening with Vice President Joe Biden just this past April. The Museum has been covered nationally and internationally by media outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, NPR, FOX News and CBS This Morning. McKechnie's primary responsibilities include developing and executing communications plans; managing press conferences and events, interviews, press tours and other publicity opportunities; developing speaking points, press releases, press kits and other materials; and proactively pitching and placing stories in a wide range of outlets. She previously spent five years as a news officer in Drexel University's Office of University Communications, securing national and international press coverage of the University's social science and humanities endeavors. Prior to that, she worked in public relations at the National Constitution Center and the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. The person who nominated McKechnie wrote that she's "the consummate professional who is having the 'Best Year Ever.'"

Kriston Jae Bethel

Michelle M. Montalvo

Digital Media and Communications Coordinator at City Commissioner Al Schmidt
30 years old

As the Digital media and Communications Coordinator for City Commissioner Al Schmidt, Michelle Montalvo is responsible for managing social media accounts, producing and designing digital content and assisting in the creation of various voter education guides and post-election reports. She's played a critical role in releasing election-related information to the masses in a way that's informative and easily digestible. She also serves as the department’s Language Access Coordinator, meaning she works with the City’s Office of Immigrant Affairs to improve outreach and voter education to communities of limited English proficiency. As a bilingual Spanish speaker, she's appeared on Telemundo 62 and Univision 65 discussing election-related information in Spanish. Prior to joining Commissioner Schmidt’s team, Montalvo spent time as a spring program associate at the Foundation for Economic Education in Atlanta, Georgia, assisting in the design and execution of educational seminars for high school and college age students.

Kriston Jae Bethel

Jeff Paolini

Digital Strategist at Philadelphia Zoo
38 years old

Jeff Paolini is a digital communications strategist at the Philadelphia Zoo where he works to ensure the Zoo's website, web presence and use of social media tools effectively engages the Zoo’s audience and supports the organization’s programs, services and mission. This means Paolini does everything from serving as the primary website point of contact to developing an online marketing strategy to shooting videos and handling social media. Paolini is a board member and webmaster of the American Marketing Association's New Jersey outpost, and is a member of both the Young Professionals Council of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia and the Philly Ad Club. One of the people who nominated Paolini wrote: "Jeff has truly helped to increase the Philadelphia Zoo’s digital footprint, making the beloved animals of the zoo even more accessible to every resident through the connection of engaging, online content."

Kriston Jae Bethel

Elyse Poinsett

Director of Marketing and Brand Management at WHYY
37 years old

Elyse Poinsett oversees marketing, promotions and research at WHYY, the region's public media organization. WHYY reaches more than a million people in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey through FM, TV, a variety of digital offerings and events. Poinsett's team works across all channels, but right now, her focus includes promoting podcasts, plus a WHYY listening app and new website coming soon. Poinsett led marketing efforts around hit WHYY podcasts, such as "The Radio Adventures of Eleanor Amplified" -- which had more than 500,000 downloads and counting -- and "Cosby Unraveled." She also performs research, making sure the company has a clear understanding of its audiences and how they interact with their programs and services. Prior to WHYY, Poinsett worked in fundraising at the Winterthur Museum & Country Estate and in external affairs at the Rosenbach Museum & Library, where she led the communication strategy around The Rosenbach's appearance on "The Colbert Report." Poinsett has also volunteered as a Spark Mentor, a program that helps Philadelphia middle school students understand the connections between what they learn in the classroom and working in the real world, as well as with the Philadelphia Ship Preservation Guild.

Kriston Jae Bethel

Jenea Robinson

Senior Media Relations Manager at Visit Philadelphia
37 years old

As the senior media relations manager at Visit Philadelphia, Jenea Robinson oversees the agency's communications strategy for African-American, Latino and LGBT audiences. She works with a team of professionals to secure media coverage and ensure Visit Philadelphia is supporting a diverse group of events through sponsorships, social media and web properties. Over the last five years, she's hosted dozens of national journalists, bloggers and influencers in order to show them that Philadelphia is more than the Liberty Bell and cheesesteaks. Currently, Robinson is leading the team that has developed a new African-American marketing campaign for Visit Philadelphia. Before working at Visit Philadelphia, she managed client accounts at Skai Blue Media. In addition, she's on the board for PHL Diversity, a member of The Philadelphia Public Relations Society, a member of the Black Philadelphia PR Society and a member of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists.

Kriston Jae Bethel

Gabriella Sacidor

Marketing & Outreach Coordinator at Old City District
35 years old

Gabriella Sacidor is the marketing and outreach coordinator with Old City District where she oversees and shapes the neighborhood business development organization's marketing and outreach activities. This includes writing and editing the District’s marketing content and correspondence, managing the District’s website and social media accounts, assisting with the planning and promotion of special events and maintaining person-to-person communication with business owners. Sacidor has overseen growth across all social media platforms -- most notably an increase of 1500 percent in Old City District's Instagram following -- and has been instrumental in coordinating and generating interest in events including Old City Fest, Old City Eats and Historic Holiday Nights. Before joining Old City District, she worked for CBS in Philadelphia as an assignment editor for CBS 3 Eyewitness News and as a digital media producer for CBSPhilly.com. She began her career as a sports reporter for The Northeast Times.

Kriston Jae Bethel

Laiza Santos

Social Media Marketing Storyteller & Content Creator
30 years old

Laiza Santos is the social media and marketing manager for Mural Arts Philadelphia, where she serves as the narrative brain of the agency's communications team. She works with the director and fellow team members on the packaging, dissemination and timing of content by thinking strategically about how to create and deliver communications to various audiences and stakeholder groups on various platforms. On the side, Santos is the social media and marketing coordinator for the Philadelphia Latino Film Festival, and she collaborates in content creation and strategy for events, nonprofits and other groups throughout Philadelphia. In addition, Santos managed to get her video series for the 2016 DNC Host Committee -- create in four different languages! -- archived in the National Library of Congress. The person who nominated Santos wrote: "Her energy, work ethic and strategic vision have positively impacted the projects she works and/ or volunteers on, including the Philadelphia Latino Film Festival, DNC and Fearless Conference, among many."

Kriston Jae Bethel

Nina Scimenes

Communications & Marketing Manager at Brûlée Catering by Chef Jean-Marie Lacroix
38 years old

For the last three years, Nina Scimenes has been an instrumental member of the team at Brûlée Catering by Jean-Marie Lacroix and has overseen its marketing through a period of growth. In her role as communications and marketing manager, she oversees public relations campaigns for the company and has collaborated on marketing plans for more than a dozen exclusive event venues in the Philadelphia region. She manages social media channels and content schedules to promote Brûlée and events, including this year's beer garden pop-up series at the Free Library on the Parkway, "Brews & Views." Scimenes secured media placement for Brûlée's involvement in some of the most historic events Philadelphia has hosted, including the Democratic National Convention and Pope Francis' visit. She's also the president-elect of Philadelphia Public Relations Association (PPRA).


Kriston Jae Bethel

Lauren Tilghman

Principal at PhilanthroPRy
32 years old

Lauren Tilghman is the Principal at PhilanthroPRy, a Philadelphia-based public relations firm that specializes in the non-profit sector. She oversees brand development, public relations and communications efforts for several local and national non-profit organizations and tech start-ups, and creates and manages social media engagement, public speaking appearances, community outreach, copy writing, blogs, crisis communications and media relations. The person who nominated her wrote: "Ms. Tilghman understands how to build an organization’s brand, while making sure the client remains true to the mission. No project is too difficult or outlandish for her to handle. She takes whatever she is dealt, and turns it into success." Prior to founding her own firm, Tilghman served as the communications and marketing director for Bethesda Project, communications specialist for the Pathway School and was a coordinator for the community relations department at the Philadelphia Eagles. Tilghman is a member of the New Leaders Council, the Philadelphia Public Relations Association and the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists.

Jennifer Tran_BillyPenn_WhosNextCommunication_July2017
Kriston Jae Bethel

Jennifer Tran

Director, Navy Yard Marketing & Communications
39 years old

Jennifer Tran has worked in marketing and communications with the Navy Yard since 2012, and she's responsible for developing and managing the Navy Yard's marketing and communications. That includes maintaining social media channels, print and electronic marketing collateral, proposals, the website, monthly and bi-monthly electronic newsletters and the Yard BLOG. She also handles media relations, corporate communications, advertising and sponsorships. The person who nominated Tran wrote: "Jen headed up a complete rebrand of The Navy Yard, helping transform it from a boring business park to a thriving epicenter of events, parks, restaurants and campus for Philly businesses." In her free time, Tran is a volunteer at PAWS and an advisory board member for the Asian American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia.