Keynote Speakers

Catherine Hernandez-BladesSenior Vice President; Chief Brand and Communications Officer, Aflac9:15 AM Aug. 20, 2018 Keynote: Teaching A Duck New Tricks: Aflac Finds A Return on Reputation

Catherine Hernandez-Blades is senior vice president and chief brand and communications officer for Aflac. She is responsible for Advertising, Brand Strategy, Cause Marketing, Sponsorships and Social Media. She also leads the Corporate Communications department, including the company’s award-winning corporate social responsibility program, Internal Communications, Field Force Communications, Integrated Communications and Media Relations. She joined Aflac in January 2014 as senior vice president of Corporate Communications and was appointed to her newly created role in October 2017.

With 25 years of professional success in optimizing operations, driving revenues, decreasing expenses and building high-performing diverse teams, Hernandez-Blades is a metrics-focused strategist, marketer, tactician and leader who understands the business side of the business. An acknowledged change agent, she spent the last 15 years building organizations from the ground up and orchestrating and implementing large-scale turnarounds in highly regulated industries for international public companies in the Fortune 500.

Hernandez-Blades was recognized as a 2018 Outstanding In-House Professional by PRWeek U.S. Awards. In 2017, she was inducted to the PRWeek Hall of Femme and PR News’ Hall of Fame and was an honoree of the World Communications Forum Davos “Relations of the Future.” An awardee of the 2017 PR News 50 Game-Changers of PR, she is a recipient of the 2017 Outstanding Alumni Award from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. For two consecutive years, she has received PR News’ Top Women in PR award and for three consecutive years has earned the Gold Bulldog Stars of PR in the Corporate Communications Professional of the Year category. In 2016, she was a recipient of the Bulldog CSR Award in the Outstanding CSR/Sustainability Executive category and was named one of the Top 10 Corporate Executives of the Year by LATINA Style magazine. In 2015 and 2016, she also received PR News’ awards for Diversity in PR and received the PR People Awards forPR Team Leader of the Year in 2015.

Hernandez-Blades received the 2016 Silver Stevie award for the Maverick of the Year category and the 2015 Bronze Stevie award for Woman of the Year in Advertising, Marketing and Public Relations from the American Business Association. She has also been recognized by the National Diversity Council with their Most Powerful and Influential Women Award.

Under Hernandez-Blades’ leadership, Aflac has been named PR News’ Top Places to Work in PR for three consecutive years and PRWeek’s Best Places to Work U.S. for 2016. Her team has also earned significant honors, including the Gold Bulldog Stars of PR Awards in the Best PR or Communications Team category for two consecutive years; the 2016 PR News’ Platinum PR Awards for PR Team of the Year; and the 2017American Business Awards’ Gold Stevie in the Communications Team of the Year category.

Prior to Aflac, she most recently served as chief communications and marketing officer at Flextronics, where she was responsible for several areas, including Corporate Communications and Public Affairs. Previously, Hernandez-Blades also served as vice president of Communications and Public Affairs at Raytheon Company’s Space and Airborne Systems business and held various other international communications-related leadership positions at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics.

Hernandez-Blades is the immediate past chair of the board of directors for Operation Homefront. She is an officer with The Seminar and a member of the Arthur W. Page Society – two highly respected, invitation-only communications industry organizations, as well as an Institute of Public Relations Trustee. A past member of the Marketing 50/M50, she is currently a member of the Communications 50/C50 and serves on the Communications Advisory Board for the Ethisphere Institute. She has been recognized by ExecRank as a Top 30 CMO and is an Accredited Business Communicator. She has co-authored three books: “The World's Foremost Authorities on Marketing - Top CMOs Share What They Know Best,” “Superbrands” and PR News' Corporate Social Responsibility Guidebook. Most recently, her articles on corporate social responsibility have been featured in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Ethisphere magazine, PR News and Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global.

Hernandez-Blades earned a Bachelor of Arts in mass communication from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and is a Loyola University Environmental Communications Fellow.

Leah ChandlerCMO, Discover Puerto Rico11:00 AM Aug. 20, 2018 Case Study: How to Break Through a Sea of Sameness

Leah is the Chief Marketing Officer for the Puerto Rico Destination Marketing Organization, Discover Puerto Rico. As CMO, Leah is charged with providing strategic marketing leadership for the organization; responsible for the oversight of the DMO’s paid media, creative, public relations, brand development and management, and digital strategy.

Prior to her move to San Juan, Leah was the Chief Marketing Officer for Explore Branson, where she led the growth of the community’s tourism industry for five straight years, repositioning the destination’s brand and posting back-to-back years of record ROI for the organization’s marketing program. In previous years, Leah led the Missouri Tourism account at H&L Partners, the agency of record for the Missouri Division of Tourism. In this role, Leah developed and guided the strategic direction of the Division’s marketing, managing paid and earned media, creative and interactive development, and campaign implementation. Leah led Missouri Tourism’s brand repositioning effort in 2013, introducing a new brand identity and corresponding campaign featuring “Enjoy the Show.”

Leah is a veteran of the travel and tourism industry, having directed the Indiana Tourism account for five years prior to joining H&L Partners. Leah’s advertising and marketing experience in the tourism and travel sector also includes The Indianapolis Zoo, Caesar’s Casino, St. Elmo Steakhouse and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

Michael RidgewellVP of CRM & Digital Marketing, Fandango9:00 AM Aug. 21, 2018 Keynote: Return On Relationships: Optimizing For Engagement Through CRM

Brett PodolskyCo-Founder, The Farmer's Dog11:15 AM Aug. 21, 2018 Case Study: End to End Personalization

Brett Podolsky is a co-founder of The Farmer’s Dog, a pet health brand revolutionizing the pet food industry. Their primary service reimagines dog food by delivering fresh and healthy meals in convenient, personalized meal plans.

A former stand-up comedian, Brett launched The Farmer’s Dog after his battle to cure his dog’s stomach issues first illustrated the power of fresh food. Once he realized how poor the state of commercial pet food was, he teamed up with Jonathan to develop a fresh alternative and change the way people think about feeding their pets. Brett lives in Brooklyn with his wife Michaela and their dog, Jada.

Brett was named one of Forbes’ “30 Under 30” brightest young entrepreneurs of 2017 and has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Vogue, Business Insider, and more.

John StromSVP Marketing, Georgia-Pacific8:45 AM Aug. 22, 2018 Keynote: Embracing Less Is More in the Amazon Age