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Breakout Session: DEI – From Talking To Taking Action and Creating Sustainable Change

September 21, 2021 @ 10:45 am - 11:45 am

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion | DEI: From Talking To Taking Action and Creating Sustainable Change

This interactive panel discussion will feature three DEI communications leaders addressing specific steps agency leaders should be considering in 2021 to move beyond merely talking about DEI to taking action and creating change for their agencies, clients and communities.

Speakers: LaTricia Harper Woods, APR, founder, Mahogany Xan Communications LLC; Alexis Davis Smith, president & CEO, PRecise Communications; and Ben Finzel, president, RENEWPR

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LaTricia Harper Woods

LaTricia Harper Woods is an award-winning, accredited public relations professional with more than 24 years of industry experience. After 17 years of working in state and local government, LaTricia created Mahogany Xan Communications, LLC, a boutique public relations agency in Arizona. Her past and current client base includes educational institutions, government agencies, professional services providers, authors, entertainers, small businesses and nonprofits throughout the country.

LaTricia achieved a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication, with an emphasis in public relations, and a Master of Arts degree in organizational communication both from Wichita State University in Wichita, Kansas. She is a member of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), where she serves on the Counselors Academy Executive Committee. She also served as the president of the Kansas Chapter, a board member for the Phoenix chapter and as a member of the national Diversity and Inclusion Committee. LaTricia is a frequent presenter on a variety of topics including multicultural communications, diversity in public relations, personal branding and best practices in communication strategies.

LaTricia serves as an adjunct faculty member at South Mountain Community College and is the co-author of “A Girlfriend’s Guide to Social Media.” She is currently the national Public Relations Chair for the Top Ladies of Distinction, Inc., a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and a sustaining member of the Junior League of Phoenix.

Alexis Davis Smith, president & CEO, PRecise Communications

Alexis founded PRecise in 2000, after spending seven years with one of the world’s top 10 PR firms. She was an integral part of its consumer brand marketing team and founding member of the firm’s ethnic marketing practice – the first ever created by an international agency. She left the agency to practice the profession she loved, on her terms. She wanted to work with clients she believed in, offering big agency services without big agency bureaucracy.

Alexis signed Coca-Cola as her first client. Since then, she has lead nearly 100 projects for the brand. She has also provided PR counsel for some of the country’s top brands and organizations, including Toyota, MassMutual, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Spelman College and the Atlanta Falcons, among others.

Alexis lives and breathes strategy. Over the years, she has delivered exceptional strategic communications programs that helped PRecise clients reach their bottom line. With more than 20 years total in the industry, Alexis is a leader in Atlanta’s public relations community, and a national voice for multicultural marketing. She has been featured in several popular industry trades, from PR Week to O’Dwyers.

Alexis is a native of Philadelphia, PA, a proud Eagles fan and graduate of Florida A&M University.

Ben Finzel, president, RENEWPR

Ben Finzel is President of RENEWPR, a communications consulting firm that provides senior-level advice, counsel and outreach on strategy, messaging, media and partnerships to alliance, association, coalition, corporation, foundation and non-governmental clients tackling energy, environmental and LGBTQ issues and opportunities.

An experienced Washington public affairs communicator and DC native, Ben has served as a congressional staffer, presidential appointee and public relations agency executive. His career has focused on energy and environment communications and policy, and he has been involved in many of the most significant related issues of the past three decades.

In senior positions at five communications firms (global, national and boutique), Ben counseled Fortune 500 companies and major businesses, U.S. government agencies, industry trade associations and non-governmental organizations on public affairs and consumer education campaigns, media outreach and partnership development programs and stakeholder relations strategy and outreach. In 2004, Ben helped launch FH Out Front, the first global LGBTQ communications practice at an international public relations firm.

As a presidential appointee at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in the Clinton Administration, Ben managed the communications operation for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and supported communications activities conducted by Secretary Bill Richardson and Assistant Secretary Dan Reicher.

In legislative and communications staff positions for two Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives (North Carolina’s Tim Valentine and New Mexico’s Bill Richardson), Ben provided advice and counsel on legislative issues ranging from clean air policy and Superfund clean-up to energy, environmental and science policy and operation of the DOE’s national laboratories.

Ben is a member of the Counselors Academy of the Public Relations Society of America, the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and the Capital Area Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. He previously served on the Board of Directors of OutServe-SLDN and was a member of the Victory Campaign Board of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund from 2007-2017.

Ben has guest-lectured on public relations and communications for undergraduate and graduate courses at the American University School of Communication, George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs and the Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies.

Ben is a cum laude graduate of Texas Tech University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in history. He is a former college radio news director, and is conversant in German. He is married and lives in the Washington, D.C. area.


September 21, 2021
10:45 am - 11:45 am


Westin: SoBro I
807 Clark Pl
Nashville, TN 37203 United States
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