Sakura Komiyama Amend Joins SKDK as Managing Director

NEW YORK, NY – Today, SKDK announced Sakura Komiyama Amend joined the firm’s New York City office as a Managing Director. A veteran with more than 25 years of experience in broadcast journalism, corporate marketing, and agency communications, Amend will support the firm’s corporate and advocacy portfolio. Amend has led and managed communications campaigns for some of the largest brands and foundations in the world including Bloomberg Philanthropies, Silver Spring Networks, The Japan Prize Foundation, The Victor Pinchuk Foundation, and the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, among others.

“Sakura brings deep and varied communications experience to SKDK’s senior leadership team,” said Josh Isay, CEO of SKDK. “Her expertise in energy, environment and philanthropy communications will bolster our capabilities in key areas for the firm and we are thrilled to have her on board.”

Prior to joining SKDK, Amend served as the first U.S.-based communications executive for En+ Group, the world’s largest producer of low-carbon aluminum. Before En+ Group, Amend served as a partner at Finn Partners, where she advised several of the world’s leading philanthropies and foundations. She has also supported some of the most innovative start-ups and corporations in the energy sector. Amend started her career at CBS News, where she worked simultaneously at several broadcasts, including The CBS Evening News, 48 Hours and 60 Minutes.

“There’s never been a more exciting time to join SKDK. I’m delighted to be coming on board to help expand our philanthropy and corporate portfolio, build new and diverse areas of focus for our business and support the senior leadership team,” said Ms. Amend.

About SKDKnickerbocker

SKDKnickerbocker (SKDK) is a top national communications and political consulting firm bringing unparalleled strategic communications experience to Fortune 500 companies, nonprofits, philanthropic organizations and labor unions, as well as political committees and candidates. With offices in Washington, New York, Los Angeles and Albany, SKDK offers strategic support to managing a crisis, protecting a brand, advocating an issue or winning an election.

In 2020, SKDK was a key advisor to the Biden for President campaign and helped to make history by electing Joe Biden as President of The United States and Kamala Harris, the nation’s first Black, Asian-American and first woman, as Vice President. The influential Holmes Report once again named SKDK as the North America Public Affairs Agency of the Year in 2019, following wins in 2015, 2016, and 2018. To learn more about SKDK, visit our website at www.skdknick.com.SKDK is a proud member of The Stagwell Group, a collaborative group of agencies who are out to “reinvent the holding company,” according to the Wall Street Journal. The Stagwell Group portfolio includes more than a dozen best-in-class, digital-first agencies who are focused on what modern CMOs need. Learn more about Stagwell at www.stagwellgroup.com.

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SKDK work for Biden for America and the NAACP honored with six Pollies

Washington, DC – SKDK won six awards at the Association of Political Consultants’ (AAPC) 2021 Pollie Awards & Conference for our direct mail and digital advertisements in the 2020 election cycle. We are proud to have received the recognition but even prouder to have done this important work to elect and promote our candidates and causes. No other Democratic firm in the country played a bigger role in taking back the White House in 2020.

SKDK also wants to congratulate Pia Carusone, the newest member of our team, for her work last cycle leading the advertising team for Senator Mark Kelly. Her digital and television ads were recognized with seven Pollies.

“We want to congratulate all of our clients and causes on their achievements last cycle,” said Doug Thornell, Partner at SKDK. “We are honored to have played a role in the historic victory of President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris and to have led the NAACP’s paid advertising campaign to engage and mobilize Black voters all across the country, including during the special election in Georgia.”

The Pollie Awards recognize top achievements in the political communications and public affairs industries. A full list of winners can be found here. SKDK was recognized for our work in the following divisions:

Overall Candidate Division: Best in Show – Democrat

Winning the 9 Key States that Decided the Presidential Election

Overall Ballot Initiative Division: Best Digital Campaign

NAACP “Distracted”

Overall Public Affairs/Issue Advocacy Division: Best Digital Campaign

NAACP Civic Engagement

NAACP “Say Their Names”

Digital – Public Affairs/Issue Advocacy Division: Web Video

NAACP “Common – Georgia”

Direct Mail – Candidate Division: For President

Biden “Touchdown”

Direct Mail – Candidate Division: Independent Expenditure Campaign – U.S. House of Representatives

EDF “Spooky”

About SKDK

SKDK is a top national communications and political consulting firm bringing unparalleled strategic communications experience to Fortune 500 companies, nonprofits, philanthropic organizations and labor unions, as well as political committees and candidates. With offices in Washington, New York, Los Angeles and Albany, SKDK offers strategic support to managing a crisis, protecting a brand, advocating an issue or winning an election.

In 2020, SKDK was a key member of the Biden for President campaign with Anita Dunn serving as Senior Advisor and the firm leading the campaign’s direct mail and vote by mail operations. The influential Holmes Report once again named SKDK as the North America Public Affairs Agency of the Year in 2019, following wins in 2015, 2016, and 2018. To learn more about SKDK, visit our website at www.skdknick.com. 

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SKDK Statement on the launch of NinetyToZero

SKDK is proud to be an inaugural partner of NinetyToZero, an action-driven initiative working to close the racial wealth gap. We join leading national organizations from across business, nonprofit, philanthropy, and academia to transform the economic landscape that has led to a 90% racial wealth gap between Black and white Americans.

“The racial wealth gap is the most pernicious distillation of systemic racism in our society. For centuries, Black Americans have been persistently denied access to the economy they helped build,” said Josh Isay, CEO of SKDK. “It will take collective action to dismantle the deep-rooted oppression that Black Americans have endured for generations. We are proud to be an inaugural member of the NinetyToZero coalition and deepen our work to make our country more equitable and just.”

SKDK is partnering with Robin Hood, Starbucks, the ACLU, Goldman Sachs, and other industry leaders to implement a set of seven expert-driven, needle-moving actions to advance racial equity by growing Black talent and investing in Black businesses. This work is guided by Dean Erika James of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, who will continue to study the initiative’s success and inform the partner’s future actions to promote equity.

Learn more about the initiative by visiting NinetyToZero.org and stay up to date by following NinetyToZero on Instagram and Twitter.

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SKDK Announces Promotions Across Departments

WASHINGTON – Today, SKDK announced more than 20 promotions at levels, in all divisions and across service lines.  In 2020, SKDK had the best year in its history, expanding its operations both organically and through acquisitions. 

“I could not be happier to announce these promotions at this moment,” said SKDK CEO Josh Isay. “Despite the difficulties of the last year, SKDK has risen to new heights because of the incredible and diverse talent of the firm.  Our entire staff is dedicated to some of the most important work at this moment in history and we are excited to have such tremendous colleagues who have excelled by showing true leadership and achieving results for our clients.”

SKDK is proud to announce the promotions of the following employees:

Rae Robinson, Managing Director and Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer

Daniel Barash, Senior Vice President

Greta Feldman, Senior Vice President

Cameron French, Senior Vice President

Jason Kaplan, Senior Vice President

Javier Lacayo, Senior Vice President

Andrew Shipley, Senior Vice President and Head of Advertising

Todd Williamson, Senior Vice President

William Brunelle, Vice President

Liza Dee, Vice President

James Hong, Vice President and Chief of Staff, Digital

Jason Novak, Vice President

Tania Mercado, Vice President

Julia Schechter, Vice President

Kyle Schnoebelen, Vice President

Alex Wolff, Vice President

Madeline Groves, Director

Jennifer Lee, Director

Grace Qayoumi, Director

Rachael Shackelford, Director

Ethan Stackpole, Director

Charmae Astillero, Senior Associate

Stephanie Djordjevic, Senior Associate

John Kim, Senior Associate

Olivia Solow-Niederman, Senior Associate

Jillian Susi, Senior Associate

About SKDK

SKDK is a top national communications and political consulting firm bringing unparalleled strategic communications experience to Fortune 500 companies, nonprofits, philanthropic organizations and labor unions, as well as political committees and candidates. With offices in Washington, New York, Los Angeles and Albany, SKDK offers strategic support to managing a crisis, protecting a brand, advocating an issue or winning an election.

In 2020, SKDK was a key member of the Biden for President campaign with Anita Dunn serving as Senior Advisor and the firm leading the campaign’s direct mail and vote by mail operations. The influential Holmes Report once again named SKDK as the North America Public Affairs Agency of the Year in 2019, following wins in 2015, 2016, and 2018. To learn more about SKDK, visit our website at www.skdknick.com. SKDK is a proud member of The Stagwell Group, a collaborative group of agencies who are out to “reinvent the holding company,” according to the Wall Street Journal. The Stagwell Group portfolio includes more than a dozen best-in-class, digital-first agencies who are focused on what modern CMOs need. Learn more about Stagwell at www.stagwellgroup.com.

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SKDK Statement on Atlanta Shooting & Ongoing Violence Against the AAPI Community

The murders in Atlanta and the rise of AAPI hate crimes and bigotry is a true scourge on our nation. SKDK stands collectively and individually with the AAPI community against these despicable and evil acts.  

This rise in hatred is upsetting and deeply painful but it is not a new concept. We hope that Tuesday’s events in Atlanta serve as a wake-up call to anyone unfamiliar with this rise in violence against Asians and provoke us to take action. 

Our diversity makes this country great. As a company that celebrates multiculturalism and inclusivity, we stand with our Asian American employees and the AAPI community in allyship, support, and protection. We can help by educating ourselves on the many contributions of Asians in America. Because Asian Americans are Americans and Asian American history is American history. We can help by supporting Asian-owned businesses that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. And we can all help by using our voices and influence to bring greater awareness to the Asian community.

We know that we have leaders who are taking these tragic moments seriously and will take action to address the deeply rooted divisions in our country. We are extremely encouraged to see that President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are scheduled to meet with Asian American leaders in Atlanta today in the wake of this devastating moment in our history.  SKDK continues to stand with the AAPI community to #StopAsianHate.

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SKDK Statement on Recent Violence Against the AAPI Community

The rising harassment and violence against Asian elders and the Asian community is sickening. SKDK joins the AAPI community in condemning these horrific acts of hate and calls for their end.

Racism against the AAPI community is not new, and enough is enough. We can help by committing ourselves to learning the long history of racism and xenophobia against Asians and Asian Americans. We can help by supporting Asian-owned businesses that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. And we can all help by using our voices and influence to bring greater awareness to the Asian community. SKDK stands with the AAPI community to #StopAsianHate.

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PR Week: SKDK Appoints Rae Robinson as first chief equity and inclusion officer

WASHINGTON: SKDK has appointed Rae Robinson as managing director and the agency’s first chief equity and inclusion officer.

Reporting to CEO Josh Isay, Robinson will be responsible for developing programs, practices and policies that advance diversity, equity and inclusion across the firm. 

The creation of the role is part of SKDK’s ongoing dedication to a diverse and inclusive workforce, Isay explained.

“This is about taking the steps necessary to not only have a diverse workforce, but to make sure folks in the company believe that they can bring their full self to work and be recognized, promoted, nurtured and retained,” Isay said. “That’s a job that needs a leader.” 

Despite looking externally for a great candidate, Isay knew Robinson would be the perfect fit when she expressed interest in taking up the mantle.  

“[Robinson] knows the firm inside and out having been here for five years, and she knows DE&I,” Isay said. “It was a no brainer for us.”  

Robinson takes on the new role in addition to her work already leading the firm’s multicultural communications and engagement practice — one of the agency’s fastest growing practice areas. 

Robinson said she is dedicated to bringing the same level of commitment to her new role supporting diversity initiatives internally as she does supporting clients. 

“My goals around this work include making sure my colleagues and my friends within the office understand that this is a commitment that’s coming from the top, and diversity is not solely an HR function,” Robinson said. “We want an environment where inclusion is expected and welcomed, so everybody feels a true sense of equity and belonging in the firm.” 

Robinson expects her role to go beyond being a Black woman who lays down a few suggestions for a better work environment. Diversity and equity doesn’t stop at having a racially diverse workforce, but being inclusive of women, members of the LGBTQ and disabled communities and those from different socioeconomic backgrounds, she said.

“This is an ongoing conversation about how we do things differently,” Robinson added. “What is our commitment to supplier diversity? What has our contribution been to systemic racism and how do we show up into the societies where our people are coming from and do things differently?”  Robinson joined SKDK in 2015 from Lucas PR+Media, where she was a consultant. Before that, she worked for the Caraway Group, where she worked her way up to being vice president.

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Pia Carusone Joins SKDK as Managing Director & Co-head of the Political Department

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, SKDK announced Pia Carusone will join the firm as managing director and co-head of the Political Department with Doug Thornell and Oren Shur. A veteran of campaigns and Washington politics, Carusone will be responsible for providing strategic counsel to the firm’s candidate clientele and producing content that shapes the political narrative. 

“Pia has an impeccable record of delivering winning results,” said SKDK Partner Doug Thornell. “She is one of the brightest minds in politics. Pia has walked the halls of Congress and spent years winning tough campaigns. Her experience and proven record make her a sought after media consultant and we are excited to have her join our top flight political team.”

Carusone was most recently the lead strategist and ad maker for Senator Mark Kelly, who won the special election to fill Senator John McCain’s seat. Previously she served as the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at the Department of Homeland Security under the Obama Administration. Prior to that role, she was the youngest female chief of staff in Congress where she worked in Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ office. Following the 2011 shooting that injured Congresswoman Giffords and 12 others and left six dead, Carusone helped to start GIFFORDS, a non-profit to prevent gun violence. 

Carusone’s campaign work also includes guiding Ritchie Torres to victory in NY-15, defeating a powerful anti-choice, anti-equality opponent. And in New Hampshire, where her roots in politics began with Howard Dean’s presidential campaign, Carusone helped Congressman Chris Pappas secure his first re-election in New England’s most competitive district. 

In 2006, Carusone managed the first campaign of now Congressman John Sarbanes and then joined him on Capitol Hill as his Communications Director. Two years later, Carusone managed the toughest house incumbent re-election in the country that resulted in an unlikely victory in New Hampshire’s first Congressional District.  

“I’m thrilled to be joining SKDK and gettin the chance to work alongside such a talented – and winning – team,” said Carusone. 

About SKDKnickerbocker

SKDKnickerbocker (SKDK) is a top national communications and political consulting firm bringing unparalleled strategic communications experience to Fortune 500 companies, nonprofits, philanthropic organizations and labor unions, as well as political committees and candidates. With offices in Washington, New York, Los Angeles and Albany, SKDK offers strategic support to managing a crisis, protecting a brand, advocating an issue or winning an election. 

In 2020, SKDK was a key advisor to the Biden for President campaign and helped to make history by electing Joe Biden as President of The United States and Kamala Harris, the nation’s first Black, Asian-American and first woman, as Vice President. The influential Holmes Report once again named SKDK as the North America Public Affairs Agency of the Year in 2019, following wins in 2015, 2016, and 2018. To learn more about SKDK, visit our website at www.skdknick.com.SKDK is a proud member of The Stagwell Group, a collaborative group of agencies who are out to “reinvent the holding company,” according to the Wall Street Journal. The Stagwell Group portfolio includes more than a dozen best-in-class, digital-first agencies who are focused on what modern CMOs need. Learn more about Stagwell at www.stagwellgroup.com.

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PR News: Tips for Communicating Internally and Externally in a Divided Country

Nicole Shuman & Seth Arenstein, 1/14/21 – There’s no question that the country is divided. That was so before the Nov. 2020 elections. Perhaps more so now. Last weekend (Jan. 9-10) pollster Frank Luntz surveyed 800 people who voted for the president in November. His findings confirmed continued support for the president.

Most, if not all, (91 percent) said they’d vote again for the president were an election held today. This was despite the president’s conduct during the Jan. 6 violence on Capitol Hill. Luntz also found that 50 percent believe the president should continue to contest the election. Perhaps the result of most concern for communicators was that 73 percent of those surveyed said the election system was rigged. Before asking that question, Luntz reminded participants that the president’s legal team lost more than 60 court cases challenging election results. Still, 61 percent said they would never trust election results going forward.

The questions for communicators: Do you craft messages differently, internally and externally, when you know the country is divided politically, and in other ways? In addition, do you change communication to adapt to the fact that a significant portion of the electorate believes the election was rigged, and, by extension, the true winner is not scheduled to be inaugurated next week?

For Amy Brundage, managing director at SKDK and a former Obama deputy communication director, unity is part of the communicator’s remit for external messaging. “The responsibility of communicators,” she said, “is to ensure that messages rise above… division[s] and speak to a broad coalition of Americans.”

Find Common Ground

FINN Partners’ senior partner Helen Shelton agreed. “Our job is to underscore the things we have in common, which believe it or not is our diversity! At the end of the day everyone is interested in having access to education, healthcare, shelter, sustenance—they are not looking to brands to tell them how to live their lives but rather to demonstrate a commitment to serving their needs and interests as consumers. This is universal.”

Brundage argued Americans want “solutions, security, and a clear path for how we will return to normal.” She expects the incoming administration to focus on the pandemic, rebuilding the economy and ending racial injustice. “It’s incumbent upon companies and other leaders to spend less time reacting to the kind of division we have seen over the past four years and instead make clear that they will be a part of the solution,” she said.

Turning to internal communication, Hannah Peters, WE Communications’ new EVP, corporate reputation and brand purpose, says this dynamic moment means leaders have an “opportunity, and the responsibility,” to speak up. She urges leaders to engage employees in new ways and to be conscious of three things: authenticity, respect and agility.

“Lean into your values and purpose as a roadmap for when and where you comment and bring employees along for that journey,” Peters said. In addition, she counsels leaders to “separate politics from values. It’s less about taking a side and more about being true to who you are as an organization and responding to the expectations of your most important stakeholders.

Listening is Key

At this divided moment, Peters also notes that remembering to respect a range of perspectives and emotions and listening “is the first step.” It’s fine that not everyone is in the same place on issues. “Your job is to authentically communicate the values of your organization, and, when possible, to give employees space and grace to process, and ideally discuss, how they are experiencing a specific moment or issue,” she said.

While agility is crucial, Peters advises optimizing for thoughtfulness and care over speed. “Be mindful of any evolution to the external environment or stakeholder expectations and be open to revisiting or recalibrating your position if needed.”

Shelton provided guidance for communicators who may be seeking a central focus: “The nation may indeed be divided, but the role of communicators is to offer consistency in our messaging—which ultimately must be about a respect for humanity and an appeal to decency.”

Nicole Schuman is senior editor at PRNEWS. Seth Arenstein is editor at PRNEWS and Crisis Insider

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Erin Weinstein Joins SKDK As Senior Vice President and Healthcare Communications Practice Lead

January 4, 2021 (Washington, DC) – Today, SKDK announced Erin Weinstein, an expert in healthcare communications and health policy has joined the firm as senior vice president in the public affairs practice. She will also serve as co-lead of the healthcare communications practice and will work closely with clients to help them navigate and thrive in today’s fast-changing health landscape.

“We are thrilled to have Erin joining the firm at this unprecedented and historic time for health care,” said Jill Zuckman, Managing Director and Partner at SKDK. “She is an accomplished leader who knows the issues, politics, and players who are shaping the system in both the U.S. and globally, which will be an invaluable asset to our team and strengthens the insights we provide to clients across sectors.”

Combining her depth of experience and strategic insight, Weinstein will work on communications strategies that are defining the health sector, including defending and expanding the Affordable Care Act, vaccine safety and efficacy, increased access to care and medical innovations, and reducing disparities in care, among others.

Weinstein brings nearly two decades of experience as an agency and in-house communications expert for health systems, government agencies, pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical technology companies. Her experience covers a wide variety of healthcare issue areas, including women’s health, oncology, diabetes, access, value, and care delivery. She has worked closely with clients to distill complex issues into compelling stories that accelerate policy change, spotlight new innovations, educate consumers and influence stakeholder action.

Prior to joining SKDK, Weinstein held leadership positions in both the public and private sector. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Marketing and Communications for the Greater Washington Partnership. Before her time at the Partnership, she held senior communications roles at Stanford Health Care | Stanford Medicine, and served as Director of Public Affairs and Senior Advisor to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. Weinstein also worked as Communications Director for Congresswoman Nita Lowey (NY-17) and served as a spokesperson for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

About SKDKnickerbocker:

SKDKnickerbocker (SKDK) is a top national communications and political consulting firm bringing unparalleled strategic communications experience to Fortune 500 companies, nonprofits, philanthropic organizations and labor unions, as well as political committees and candidates. With offices in Washington, New York, Los Angeles and Albany, SKDK offers strategic support to managing a crisis, protecting a brand, advocating an issue or winning an election. The influential Holmes Report once again named SKDK as the North American Public Affairs Agency of the Year in 2019, following wins in 2015, 2016, and 2018.

To learn more about SKDK, visit our website at www.skdknick.com.

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