Founder and CEO
Founder and CEO
Recognized as one of “50 Game Changers of PR” by PRNews and a “Champion of PR” by PRWeek, Vanessa Wakeman is the founder and CEO of The Wakeman Agency.
Vanessa’s work through her agency focuses on the ecosystem of social change and advancing the efforts of mission-driven causes. Growing up in New York, her activism and commitment to social justice were instilled early on. She organized the workers at her first job, a catering company, to demand and win better labor conditions —when she was only 15. After working her way through college at some of New York City’s top law firms, she landed a position at Morgan Stanley. There, she created a record number of career opportunities for women and people of color in the firm’s technology department.
Vanessa is a trusted advisor to nonprofit organizations and socially responsible companies in the U.S. and internationally. She has successfully led initiatives to support values-driven transformation and communications for boards of directors, leadership, employees and other stakeholder groups.
She is highly knowledgeable in developing communication strategies, assessing organizational culture, creating safe spaces for difficult conversations, and helping to build frameworks for organizations to cultivate healthy and equitable environments.
During the COVID- 19 pandemic and in the wake of the recent racially motivated murders, Vanessa has been called upon by a number of organizations to help them re-imagine their values, culture and operations, through the lens of racial justice.
As a communications strategist, she has masterminded highly successful engagements for a global roster of clients that include The Alliance for Financial Inclusion, UCLA’s Civil Rights Project, Emmett Till Legacy Foundation, New York Urban League, The New York Women’s Foundation, Hispanics in Philanthropy, and many others.
Vanessa is an outspoken voice on the need for more inclusion and equity in the public relations and nonprofit sectors, while also working to amplify the voices of underrepresented groups in the media. She created She Roars, the first thought- leadership training program designed for women. The Narrative Justice Project soon followed, which is a free media training program developed specifically for people of color. In 2020, she launched Louder Than Words, the first national directory and census for BIPOC-led nonprofits.
Earlier this year, Vanessa was inducted into the PRWeek Hall of Femme, an honor bestowed on women in public relations. In 2020, she was recognized as one of the 100 Most Influential Black Leaders in New York in City & State magazine’s Black Power List.
Senior Campaign Manager
Theme Music: “One Way or Another” by Blondie
Senior Campaign Manager
Anita Bell is a public relations professional with two decades of experience, specializing in crafting press materials that generate positive media coverage. She develops and executes strategic public relations plans for clients in the nonprofit, higher education, government, corporate and entrepreneurial sectors—with an emphasis on campaigns that support institutional and marketing goals.
With a proven track record of outstanding media placement, she has generated significant coverage in the New York Times, Daily News, New York Post, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Boston Globe, USA Today, Crain’s, Forbes, and Chronicle of Higher Education, as well as trade and consumer publications across the spectrum. Her clients have been seen on top-tier news and morning shows on ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, and CNN and heard on radio programs nationwide.
In addition to her PR career, Ms. Bell is the co-author of nine nonfiction books from major publishers, including From Cinderella to CEO (Wiley) and Get Your Body Back (St. Martin’s). Her books have been translated into seven languages and published throughout Europe, Asia, and South America, as well as the U. S. Anita’s work as a collaborative author is an extension of her expertise in finding creative ways to bring her clients’ message to the media and the public.
Theme Music: 7/11 (by Beyonce)
Passionate About: My Naturally Curly Hair, TV Production and Scouting Out Good Restaurants
If Daricel Calcano were a playing card, she’d be an ace. Because she gets things done. Daricel is an all-hands-on-deck logistics maestro behind the scenes of The Wakeman Agency’s events and daily operations. She neatly bundles and ties up any loose ends, booking locations, conducting prospect research, performing outreach and identifying new opportunities. She joined the Agency in 2012 as an intern and, in true keeping with our mission to cultivate – and keep – high-potential talent, came on board officially soon after.
Daricel’s work with The Wakeman Agency isn’t her first rodeo in change agency. Her earliest professional experience was as a summer camp counselor, working with middle school students. With an eye for aesthetics and a natural sense of style, Daricel was also a visual merchandiser for a clothing retailer in a previous life, not so long ago. Executing praiseworthy events for some of the biggest names in the nonprofit, social change and tech startup space doesn’t happen overnight or by accident, but delayed gratification is what motivates and inspires Daricel in her work every day. She loves not only the finale but also the process, viewing each new project as an opportunity for a fresh encore.
Tubthumping by Chumbawamba
Passionate About: My family, spreading kindness and positivity, mathematics.
Paula is a seasoned project manager with over 15 years’ experience managing multi-million-dollar, global projects for Fortune 500 companies such as MetLife, JP Morgan Chase and Roche Group. She has an extensive background in planning and managing business operations and technology projects in many different industries, ranging from financial services and insurance, to education and non-profits.
Paula joined The Wakeman Agency in 2016 to setup the organizations first Project Management Office. She is an analytical thinking who knows that being a successful project manager is more than just managing tasks and processes. She leads and inspires the team to deliver exceptional value to our clients.
Paula earned her master’s degree in mathematics from New York University and continues to spread her love of math by teaching at her local community college.
Theme Music: Wonder Woman
Passionate About: My Family
A veteran of The Wakeman Agency who came on board in 2008, Jessica Epperly spends her days fashioning and deploying winning public relations and media relations programs. As the consummate relationship manager, Jessica exudes United Nations-like diplomacy as she navigates the complications and contingencies endemic to the dynamic life of a multitasking juggling act who somehow manages not to drop the ball.
Perhaps Jessica learned to mix it all up, yet make it all work during her pre-career days at the local pizzeria. That her signature professional pliability and dexterity had been baked in was evident years later, after working in artist management before seguing into the PR industry. Since then, Jessica has served in various account executive and PR leadership roles with several media and communications agencies based in New York City and the United Kingdom.
These days, Jessica crafts media pitches that get notice and attention. She cultivates inroads with reporters and leverages her bridge-building skills for the betterment of the many social-change causes she champions on behalf of her clients.
Jessica is inspired to make a difference for Agency clients – and in her personal life. In her limited spare time, she volunteers with Clare House, serving the homeless and underserved women and children. As much as Jessica has a heart for service, she admits that meeting lots of new, cool people doesn’t hurt either when it comes to enjoying her job.
Special Events Director
Special Events Director
With more than 15 years of experience, Sharon Frank specializes in nonprofit special event management. Imbued with a high-level understanding of the needs of the nonprofit community, she is a skilled manager with expertise in planning, strategy and execution of fundraising and cultivation events. She is adept at liaising with trustees, staff, donors, committees, sponsors, guests and vendors.
Sharon has planned and managed events for nonprofit organizations in a wide array of sectors. These events have ranged from intimate gatherings to large productions with 700 guests and fundraising targets of up to $2M. She also has past experience as an internal development manager, cultivating a membership of individual donors reached via direct mail, providing personalized communication, special membership experiences and private tours.
A talented multi-tasker, Sharon is known for managing competing priorities with authority, attention to detail and a prevailing equanimity. She is adept at all the skills required to plan and execute stellar events that reflect the vision of a diverse client base. A problem solver at heart, she is a proactive firefighter, often tackling issues before clients even know they exist.
Sharon applies her deep roots in technology and project management to staying detail-oriented, while consistently keeping in sync with big picture requirements and goals. She guides her internal team in building and executing events in a collaborative fashion, to provide seamless and valuable support to clients.
Understanding that annual events feed the majority of nonprofits’ program budgets, as well as serve as a public awareness tool, she enjoys seeing her work through from early stages of design and leadership to successful completion.
Public Relations Manager
Theme Music: Good Day Sunshine (The Beatles)
Passionate About: My Family, My Pets, My Job and Helping Others
Public Relations Manager
Whether rain or rainbows, the sun shines on Wakeman Agency public relations manager Brian Franklin every day. After all, the truism, “When you love what you do, you’ll never have to work a day in your life” aptly applies to Brian, who brings energy, enthusiasm and passion to all he touches.
Brian joined the Agency in January 2014 after more than a decade as public relations prodigy, having worked his way up the ranks to the VP level with Edelman public relations firm. During his upward climb with the world’s largest PR organization, Brian was awarded a coveted paid sabbatical. He selflessly capitalized on the opportunity and spent it traveling to South Africa to learn more about the HIV /AIDS pandemic. This was a fitting move for someone who had spent several years after college serving with the National Association of People with AIDS.
It’s clear that Brian believes in making a difference. And he imparts a keen sense of ethics and an amplified sense of “doing the right thing” on behalf of clients and projects. On any given day, Brian reconnects with reporters, makes pitches to producers and explores unique ways to tell clients’ stories. When he connects the dots between organizational strategy and successful media coverage that, by extension, improve the lives of real people and the well-being of our planet, it’s like striking gold.
He says, “I still get excited every time I get a media hit for my clients, no matter the size of the outlet! For me, the most important thing is to always deliver value to my clients, and always act in an ethical and transparent manner.”
Senior Campaign Manager
Theme Music: American Authors “Best Day of My Life”
Senior Campaign Manager
Judy is an insightful and innovative public relations professional with more than 18 years of experience in the field. She’s been instrumental in launching many successful campaigns over the years, including Warren Buffett’s “Secret Millionaires Club and Sikorsky Helicopter’s 2050 Challenge. At Wakeman, she manages dynamic and wide-reaching public relations campaigns for client programs. Media placements initiated by Judy have resulted in billions of public impressions, including cover articles in trade media; national placements in USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times; coverage on local networks and in local print media; and appearances on CNN, CNBC, and the BBC.
Special Events Coordinator
Theme Music: Good Feeling (by Flo Rida) and Walking on Sunshine (by Katrina and the Waves)
Passionate About: Fitness and Wellness, Running Amazing Events, Completing My “To-Do” Lists
Special Events Coordinator
When we say that Sarah Lieb is a taskmaster, we mean it in the very best sense of the word. She pursues event management and coordination with precision and perfection, corralling and tackling multiple moving pieces with the relentless passion of a devotee who knows she’s making a difference.
Since October 2014, Sarah has been serving a dynamic roster of Wakeman Agency clients, partnering with them on every detail of their events to ensure they all go off without a hitch. Her marketing and fundraising savvy also positions the nonprofit organizations, socially responsible companies and tech start-ups we serve for sustained success.
Multi-tasking, juggling many balls and wearing multiple hats is, well, old hat for Sarah, whose early gigs ranged from waking up at the crack of dawn to man a bagel shop and making cookies at a French bakery to tending to fur babies as a veterinary assistant. After graduating from college with regular appearances on the Dean’s List, Sarah’s occupational CV has evolved to include development, program and educational roles with Planned Parenthood, the National Kidney Foundation, IntraMed Medical Group and Weill Medical College of Cornell University.
She was a bit of a late bloomer when it comes to getting into the special events and marketing field. Originally heading for a career in medicine, Sarah took heed as a light bulb moment recalibrated her steps, right when she was working in pharmaceuticals.
“I then headed into nonprofit work to make a difference in event planning for a cause,” Sarah says. “I love running a successful event and making money for a nonprofit client that deserves it!”
Chief of Staff, Office of the CEO
Theme Music: Bob Marley “One Love”
Passionate About: What’s next level; Leaving a positive imprint; Motherhood
Strategic Initiatives Lead, Office of the CEO
Jennifer Lynn brings an impressive track record of elevating The Wakeman Agency to achieve its vision as a social change agency to her role as Chief of Staff.
With 25+ years of experience in brand development and project management, Jennifer has a vibrant history of challenging the status quo, helping to bring new initiatives to fruition and inspiring others to excel. Prior to Wakeman, she climbed the ranks of Sony Music International, creating and implementing groundbreaking marketing plans for developing artists from around the globe. She also worked for some taste-maker boutique agenices in the creative and entertainment spaces. Her career has featured a succession of “firsts” characterized by unorthodox approaches to achieving specific goals, trend spotting, maximized exposures, upticks in sales and visionary approaches to business growth.
As a think-partner to The Wakeman Agency’s CEO, Jenn strives to actualize Wakeman’s big-picture vision by helping to structure and manage all moving parts, in order to energetically drive projects forward. She focuses on identifying trends and angles to leverage in the nonprofit sector and corporate world, as well as strategic planning around existing and new initiatives. Jennifer upholds the core values of a Chief of Staff, including empowering others, overcoming barriers, building bridges and facilitating the success of the organization, extending into the agency’s client engagements. She complements the strengths and vision of the CEO, while presenting her own valuable, creative and practical point of view.
Jennifer achieved a BA in Sociology from Boston University.
Senior PR Campaign Manager
Senior PR Campaign Manager
Scott McDowell has 15 years of experience in public relations and 5 years in broadcast journalism. After working in multiple disciplines in the higher education sector, during the last decade he has focused on social justice and civil rights, reflecting his passion for these issues.
A strategic thinker, Scott highlights the excellence of his clients and promotes them as thought leaders in their communities and nationally. He works with clients to nurture and shape their initial ideas and develop them into noteworthy communications strategies and pitches that journalists find compelling. Scott consistently leverages his network of contacts to garner media coverage locally, nationally and internationally that resonates with clients’ target audiences.
Scott has a proven track record of success in media placements, nurturing relationships with journalists interested in social justice, equality, civil rights, government policy and legislation, civic engagement, crime, housing discrimination, and tenant abuse. Media coverage of note includes two front-page stories in the New York Times; multiple stories by the Associated Press; CNN in-studio appearances; a 60 Minutes segment; coverage by CBS Evening News; a six-page spread in People Magazine; numerous articles in The Guardian and dozens of expert quotes placed domestically and abroad.
Social Media Marketing Associat
Social Media Marketing Associate
Born and raised in the East Bay of the San Francisco Bay Area, Richard Nuñez grew up appreciating and absorbing the creativity, diversity, and activism that the soul of the Bay Area bestows. He grew up with a passion for music and storytelling and has sought to share these passions through marketing and event production. In high school, Richard participated in the college readiness program Upward Bound which allowed him to experience firsthand the benefits of nonprofits in lower income communities.
The first in his family to earn a university degree, he graduated from San Diego State University with a Bachelors of Arts in Sociology with a minor in English. Richard has since worked in social work, sales and advertising and is currently in the process of starting a media company called La Segunda, which creates digital portraits of individuals found in traditionally underrepresented communities. Richard manages the different aspects of the social media promotion at The Wakeman Agency and provides Operations support to the team.