New ownership team, promotions lead agency into next chapter

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Thompson & Co. Public Relations, one of the most trusted names in Alaska public relations, welcomes new partner Heather Handyside as president and COO. Handyside joins current T&C owner and CEO Jennifer Thompson and Blueprint Alaska President Sarah Erkmann Ward. The three partners have launched a new corporate entity that will formally combine Blueprint’s strategic advocacy agency and T&C’s public relations and digital services.

“We’re grateful to the growing list of clients who trust T&C and Blueprint Alaska to share their stories and increase their influence in Alaska and beyond,” said CEO Jennifer Thompson. “I’m excited to combine our sister agency and T&C into one firm, creating more professional growth opportunities for our senior staff. Adding Heather, a seasoned and highly regarded PR expert, to our team ensures our growing list of clients has access to the best talent in Alaska."

T&C will now be even better equipped to seamlessly blend public relations, strategic advocacy, and digital services to its diverse range of clients that include businesses, nonprofits, trade organizations, and government agencies.

“I launched Blueprint Alaska, in partnership with Jennifer, six years ago confident we could provide a unique approach to advocacy and strategic communications to Alaska,” said Erkmann Ward. “I’ve never looked back. Our Blueprint Alaska clients will benefit from the deep bench of T&C’s communications strategists as we continue to grow.”

Handyside, most recently chief communications officer at GCI, Alaska’s largest telecommunications provider, expects the transition to be a smooth one.

“I’ve worked with the T&C team for years and I’ve come to rely upon their team to develop effective communications strategies and remarkable events,” said Handyside. “I’ve always been impressed with T&C’s work ethic and commitment to clients and I’m thrilled to join the agency to help lead this fun, fearless, innovative team.”

In addition to changes in structure and executive leadership, the company is entering the new year with a round of promotions for well-deserving, seasoned staff members:

Liz Baker, senior vice president. A T&C veteran with nearly 12 years at the agency, Baker is a large contributor to its steady growth and reputation for providing strategic solutions, offering unmatched client service and having an outstanding company culture. In her new role, she will elevate the agency’s new business efforts while providing senior counsel and leadership to the agency’s clients and staff. With a total of 16 years of agency experience, Baker is a graduate of the University of South Carolina. She spent five years in T&C’s Anchorage office and now works remotely from South Carolina.

Kailee Stickler, senior vice president. Stickler joined the T&C team immediately after graduating from the University of Alaska Anchorage and spent the last seven years developing the agency’s digital services, now T&C’s fastest-growing division. Having charted the path for digital services offered at the agency, she will oversee all aspects of the digital department in her new role, in addition to providing strategy oversight for the agency and its staff. 

Ariel Walsh Amand, chief administrative officer. With the new agency structure Walsh Amand will focus on the day-to-day operations of the agency from accounting, managing employee benefits and client and employee onboarding. With 14 years of agency experience, Walsh Amand is integral to overseeing and managing the finances for the agency and client budgets.

Emily McLaughlin, vice president. McLaughlin joined the agency as an intern 10 years ago, after graduating from University of Alaska Anchorage with a degree in journalism and public communications. Today, she leads accounts across industries like education, economic development, health care and more. Her clients benefit from her thoughtful strategy, community driven mindset, and media relations acumen. As vice president, she will oversee and execute client strategy, drive agency growth and champion company culture. 

Kelsey Baker, vice president. In her seven years at the agency, Baker has supported clients through strategizing and creating compelling content, conceptualizing and executing unique events and managing accounts across multiple industries important to Alaska. In her new role, she will continue helping clients reach their goals while contributing to agency development.  

Ashleigh Carson, vice president. Carson joined the agency in 2017 after 10 years spent in newsrooms. In her new role, Carson will continue building media relationships on the national and local level for clients in tourism, banking and more. Her analytical mindset and unwavering commitment to client success will only be strengthened with her promotion.

About Thompson & Co. Public Relations

T&C is a woman-owned, Alaska-based agency with an executive management team made up entirely of women. While headquartered in Anchorage, Alaska, its team expands across the country with employees in Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Oregon and South Carolina. The agency serves clients in a wide range of industries from travel and tourism to technology, health care, education, and more, with services ranging from earned media, public affairs, advocacy, special events and crisis communications to digital marketing, content creation and influencer collaboration. Recognized for its creativity and drive, the agency has won several national awards for its innovative public relations campaigns. It was named one of PR News’ top 20 places to work in 2020 and recognized as one of America’s Best PR Firms by Forbes. Learn more at  

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