UK Happenings

PR Leaders to Address Changing Media Landscape


LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 17, 2017) – The media landscape continues to change in the digital and social world, impacting not only journalism, but also public and media relations. What do shrinking newsrooms, instant access and direct connection to audiences mean for public relations (PR)? Do these changes present a challenge or an opportunity?

These and other questions will be addressed in a panel titled, "What a Changing Media Landscape Means for PR," at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 19, at the University of Kentucky.

The panel will include public relations leaders from the office of Gov. Matt Bevin, office of Mayor Jim Gray, Fayette County Public Schools, Lexmark and UK.

The event, hosted by the UK College of Communication and Information, will take place in the Gatton College of Business and Economics' Kincaid Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.

Panelists include:

Amanda Stamper, communications director for Gov. Matt Bevin. Prior to accepting her role in the governor’s office, she worked in corporate communications for Lexmark from 2014 to 2016. Stamper also served as manager of digital and social marketing for DecoArt from 2012 to 2014 and director of communications for Asbury Theological Seminary from 2008 to 2012. Outside of her communications role, she is also a small business owner. Stamper is a Lexington native and graduate of the UK's Integrated Strategic Communications program. She is married to David Stamper and has two children, Zach and Gracie.  

Susan Straub, communications director for Mayor Jim Gray of Lexington. Straub also held this post in the administrations of Mayor Jim Newberry and Mayor Pam Miller. Previously, she worked for newspapers in Kentucky and Ohio. Straub holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from UK. She lives in Lexington and has two sons and two grandchildren.

Lisa Deffendall, district spokeswoman for Fayette County Public Schools. Deffendall taught science and math in New Orleans and rural Louisiana for four years as a Teach for America corps member. She was hired to cover public schools in 1996. She spent the next nine years covering K-12 education for newspapers in Houma, Louisiana; Tuscaloosa, Alabama; and Lexington, and garnering awards for hard-hitting investigative coverage. In 2004, she joined the Fayette County Public Schools with a directive to bring transparency to school district communications. Since then the district has received state and national accolades for its communication efforts. Deffendall majored in journalism, education and African-American studies at Northwestern University. The mother of nine- and 14-year-old girls, she is married to Matthew Deffendall, director of first generation initiatives for UK.

Jerry Grasso, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Lexmark International. Grasso has also served as vice president of corporate communications. In that position, he was responsible for public relations, internal communications and corporate creative services since joining Lexmark in 2008. Before Lexmark, Grasso was vice president of corporate communications at EarthLink Inc., one of the country’s largest internet service providers. Prior to EarthLink, he was director of corporate communications for Epoch Internet. Additionally, he has worked at the ARIS Corporation and with Sprint’s business division. Grasso holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Kansas State University and a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Texas at Arlington. 

Jay Blanton, executive director for public relations and marketing for the University of Kentucky. Blanton held this position from 2004-2008 and again from 2010 until now. Previously, he has worked in communications roles for former Gov. Steve Beshear, former Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson and former Kentucky Treasurer Jonathan Miller. He also has worked for the Keeneland Association and the public relations firms Preston-Osborne and Guthrie/Mayes. Blanton received his bachelor’s degree in journalism from UK as well as his master’s in higher education. He and his wife, Carla, a communications consultant, live in Lexington.


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