Mark Ragan

Mark Ragan is the CEO of Lawrence Ragan Communications and publisher of four daily news sites, including PR Daily and Ragan.com.

Mark began his career as a newspaper reporter and writer long before the term "content producer" had been invented.

During his 15-year career he covered business and politics for The San Diego Tribune, Copley News Service and New York Newsday.

In addition to his CEO responsibilities at Ragan, Mark is the co-founder of Ragan Consulting Group, along with long time business partner Jim Ylisela.

Together, Ylisela and Ragan have helped companies build their own news and brand journalism sites, beginning wih the premise that businesses should "stop begging the media and become the media instead."

What keeps Mark up at night:

Maintaining Ragan's 50-year reputation as the #1 source for corporate communications training, counsel and news.

Jim Ylisela

Jim Ylisela loves to wrestle with words.

He’s been at it for years: as a longtime reporter and editor, for newspapers and magazines; as a teacher at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism; and as a trainer and consultant for communicators around the world.

With Mark Ragan, Jim is co-founder and managing partner of Ragan Consulting Group. He works with communicators to create brand journalism news sites, organize and train writers and editors, and restore reporting (and creative storytelling) to internal and external communications.

Shameless plug alert: Jim is relentless. He spent 17 years reporting and writing “Who Killed the Candy Lady?” an investigation of Chicago’s greatest unsolved mystery, the disappearance and presumed murder of candy heiress Helen Vorhees Brach.

He brings that same tenacity to RCG clients.

What keeps Jim up at night:

  1. False deadlines. Organizations are always setting deadlines based on some directive from above, leaving communicators little time to do a story justice.
  2. Self-censorship. Writers hold back on creative storytelling because they don’t think their approach will pass approvals—or make the false deadline.
  3. Lack of editing. Jim reads a lot of stories—and we mean a lot—that needed guidance from the start, or fall one good edit short of the finish line.

Steve Crescenzo

Through his work as a consultant, writer, speaker and seminar leader, Steve Crescenzo has helped thousands of communicators improve their communication content, vehicles and strategies.

Steve has been voted the #1-rated speaker at the International Association of Business Communicators World Conference seven times, including three years in a row. He has also received top ratings at numerous IABC chapter and regional events throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.

Steve has worked with numerous communicators around the world, including those at Nokia, Boeing, Target, Mayo Clinic, The European Investment Bank, General Motors, Wells Fargo, Lockheed Martin, McDonalds, Intel, American Express, Standard Chartered Bank, Abbott, Hewlett Packard, the IRS, FBI, Social Security Administration, Blackrock, and HP.

He and his wife and business partner, Cindy Crescenzo, founded Crescenzo Communications more 20 years ago and they are proud partners of Ragan Consulting Group.

What keeps Steve up at night:

One of the 1,345 things I think are wrong with me. It’s no fun being a hypochondriac.

Cindy Crescenzo

Cindy Crescenzo brings more than 15 years of research, measurement and planning expertise to the corporate communications world.

Her passion for numbers and audience research have helped thousands of communicators all over the world transform the way they communicate, by teaching them the power of surveys, metrics, focus groups and executive interviews.

She and her husband and business partner, Steve Crescenzo, founded Crescenzo Communications more than 20 years ago and they are proud partners of Ragan Consulting Group.

Together they have energized the communication industry with their proven tactics and strategies to combine research and strategy with creativity and best-practice communications.

What keeps Cindy up at night:

I’m a die-hard Cubs fan…will we defend our World Series title in 2017?

Shel Holtz

Shel Holtz helps organizations communicate better – with employees and other publics – by using digital and social tools well in conjunction with more traditional methods.

Shel’s career began in newspaper newsrooms but he pivoted to corporate communications early and never looked back. His first job was in ARCO’s  internal communications department. He directed the communication efforts for Mattel and Allergan; he also did two stints as senior communication consultant at global Human Resources consulting firms.

He started his own consultancy in 1996 when he found his employer adopting online communication fast enough. He has worked with hundreds of clients – many with names you’d recognize – and has been in demand on the international speaking circuit. Shel has written six books on communication. He is a prolific blogger and a pioneer podcaster. He has achieved Fellow status in three organizations, including IABC.

What keeps Shel up at night:

Not yet knowing what the next big digital or social communication trend will be.

Brian Malone

Brian Malone is the CEO of Chicago-based Malone Media, a video production and webcast service provider serving customers worldwide. Brian has always had a passion for filmmaking, storytelling and mastering modern technology.

His career has spanned all aspects of video production and live streaming. Prior to Malone Media, he served as vice president of virtual events at Ragan Communications from 2011-2017, where he launched and ran live event webcasts, webinars and the company’s video training websites, PR University and Ragan Training.

Brian has worked with companies to produce videos and live webcast events, including: Facebook, Albemarle, Dow Chemical, Southwest Airlines, Microsoft, Salesforce, GoDaddy, Chesapeake Energy, Expedia, Discovery, conEdison, Land O'Lakes, Inc., McDonalds, LinkedIn and many more.

What keeps Brian up at night?

I have always had a curious mind that leaves me restless. I ponder evolving technology and new trends that keep my brain buzzing deep into the night.

Bob Zeni

Equally accomplished as a writer and designer, Bob Zeni is an expert on the editorial process for developing high-impact, highly effective visuals.

The imprint of his design talent and editorial sensibility can be found on numerous commercial publications – The Chicago Sun-Times, Crain’s Chicago Business and Advertising Age among them. Since founding Bob Zeni & Associates in 1988, he’s produced websites, visual identity systems, employee communications programs and cultural change initiatives. Clients range from start-ups to Fortune 500 corporations, including AT&T, Baxter, Exelon, Harris/BMO, LaSalle Bank, McDonalds, Morton Salt, Northern Trust and Walgreens.

He’s an instructor in the school of journalism at DePaul University and the department of visual communications at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

What keeps Bob up at night?

Clients’ challenges – and prodigious amounts of caffeine.

Rob Friedman

Rob Friedman loves how words and ideas can touch hearts and affect change. 

He got his start in the late ’80s at Ragan Communications, editing Speechwriter’s Newsletter and teaching workshops on various forms of business writing.  While there, he worked with Larry Ragan to put together the first national speechwriters conference. 

Rob went on to become a speechwriter for Ameritech and the AMA, then spent more than 20 years at Eli Lilly and Company, his last nine as senior director of Executive Communications.  At Lilly, Rob wrote for three CEOs and other senior executives – speeches, op-eds, annual reports, video-scripts and the occasional bar mitzvah toast.

Over 30 years, Rob has instructed thousands of professional communicators from around the world in speechwriting, storytelling, TED Talks, and more.

What keeps Rob up at night?

  1. That in our era of social media and 140 characters people will overlook the power of one human being talking to others, face-to-face.
  2. That leaders and organizations will overlook the unmatched power of speeches to persuade, motivate, inspire and get results.
  3. Pillow Rapid, Upper Gauley River (I’m a whitewater kayaker).

Nick Lanyi

Nick Lanyi has spent his career telling stories -- and helping clients tell theirs.

He started as a beat reporter on a suburban newspaper, then moved to financial journalism – including several years as executive editor of Louis Rukeyser's Wall Street, one of the highest-circulation investment letters in history.

A D.C. native, Nick next combined his political savvy and journalism chops as managing director at boutique public affairs firm LMG and as head of public affairs in the D.C. office of global PR agency Porter Novelli. As a freelance speechwriter, Nick has written for CEOs, political campaigns and an Oscar-winning actress. His opinion pieces have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post and dozens of other outlets. As a coach and consultant, he’s led media training, crisis communications and writing workshops across the country.

Other than watching the Nats with his wife and two sons, Nick’s favorite thing to do is helping people tell stories more effectively. As he says, everyone’s got some good ones.

What keeps Nick up at night?

My first answer was, "Actually, I sleep like a baby." But actually, I don't. A baby frequently wakes up crying. I rarely do. Sometimes, in the wee small hours, I lie awake and think about my family, my friends, my clients and the world.


Every time Mark Ragan or Jim Ylisela gave a workshop or spoke at a Ragan conference, someone in the audience (often several someones) would ask: “Can you come to my organization and help us with that?” Uh, yeah. That’s why Mark and Jim created Ragan Consulting Group, and then invited their friends (who happen to be top consultants in their fields) to join them.