Ashley Bendas (left), Olivia Stafford and McKenna Ryan.

San Diego public relations and marketing agency J. Walcher Communications has announced the promotion of two staff members and a new hire.

Ashley Bendas has been promoted from senior account executive to account supervisor. Bendas first joined the agency in 2013 as an intern and returned in 2015 as an account coordinator. She will continue to manage a number of real estate, hospitality, nonprofit and professional service clients. Bendas graduated from San Diego State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism.

Olivia Stafford has been promoted from account executive to senior account executive. Stafford joined JWC in 2015 after working at Focuscom, a San Diego PR and public affairs firm. She graduated from Point Loma Nazarene University with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and minors in writing and public relations.

McKenna Ryan has joined JWC as an account coordinator after previously serving as an intern at Havas Formula, a San Diego PR agency. JWC said she will assist on hospitality, nonprofit, retail and professional service clients. Ryan graduated from California State University Chico with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and an emphasis in PR and a minor in marketing.

“Ashley and Olivia have proven themselves as excellent managers of client campaigns and continue to demonstrate great results for our clients. They both express and maintain a wealth of experience across multiple industries,” said JWC President Jean Walcher. “And McKenna has already demonstrated a willingness to jump in on a wide range of clients and projects.” 

Celebrating 20 years in business this year, JWC was recognized in November 2020 by Forbes magazine as one of America’s Best PR Agencies for 2021. Forbes’ inaugural list featured 200 agencies throughout the county. The list was developed in partnership with market research firm Statista, which surveyed more than 12,700 experts and 20,500 customers who nominated more than 5,000 firms. Self-nominations were not considered.

Sarah Beavins to Head Sales at American Council on Exercise

The American Council on Exercise, based in San Diego, has named Sarah Beavins as vice president of sales and marketing. She has more than two decades of marketing experience in higher education, nonprofit and advertising agencies.

Sarah Beavins

ACE said Beavins will oversee and drive ACE’s marketing of certification and education products and sales teams. She also will be responsible for the global oversight of marketing strategy development, planning and management of marketing activities, including market research, competitive analysis and sales support.

“ACE is thrilled to have Sarah on the ACE team,” said Scott Goudeseune, CEO of ACE.  “With proven success in team leadership, brand management and marketing communications, Sarah plays a key role in the development and execution of ACE’s marketing strategies to further position ACE as an industry leader in educating, certifying and engaging exercise professionals and health coaches.”

“Every day, more than 90,000 ACE Certified exercise professionals and health coaches help people live happier, healthier lives,” said Beavins. “I am honored to guide the efforts that will grow the ACE family of certified professionals and provide the resources needed so they have an even greater impact.”

Prior to joining ACE, Beavins led marketing and business efforts for multiple organizations. She most recently spent the past two years leading the digital marketing strategy at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas. She also previously spent seven years as director of digital product marketing at the Graduate Management Admission Council, as well as five years at TMP Worldwide and two years at Performance Communications Group.

Beavins completed her undergraduate studies at Miami University and earned her master’s degree in marketing from Johns Hopkins University.

Health Care Communicators Award Scholarship to UCLA Student

The Health Care Communicators of Southern California, a regional networking group, has presented a $2,000 scholarship to San Diegan Bryan Cheng, who is enrolled at the University of California Los Angeles and studying molecular, cell and developmental biology. Cheng graduated from Canyon Crest Academy in Carmel Valley.

AMN Healthcare of San Diego sponsored the scholarship. High school seniors and college students planning a career in healthcare and enrolled in a San Diego, Orange County and Los Angeles school district were eligible for the scholarship.

“Bryan epitomizes the exact reason we offer this scholarship,” said Christina Campo, president, HCCSC. “His goal is to aid communities where access to medical resources is limited or nonexistent. Throughout high school, he volunteered on medical mission trips throughout San Diego, including a pop-up clinic in Tijuana, Mexico, and at Tenwek Hospital in Bomet, Kenya. We couldn’t be more pleased to award him this scholarship and help him reach his goals for a healthier world.”

HCCSC’s members include communications professionals who work in the health care, wellness, biotech, medical device, health information technology and pharmaceutical industries in San Diego, Los Angeles and Orange counties, as well as the Inland Empire. Information is available at

IABC to Discuss Crisis Communications

The International Association of Business Communicators San Diego chapter will host “Crisis Communication: How to Manage the Message,” an in-person networking mixer and program starting at 6 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 30, at AleSmith Brewing, 9990 AleSmith Court. Networking begins at 5 p.m. 

Cost to attend is $20 for members, $30 for nonmembers and $5 for students. Attendees will receive two drink tickets. For more event information, visit

The speaker will be San Diego PR veteran David Oates, principal of PR Security, who will discuss his recent work with Plum Healthcare, operators of more than 50 skilled nursing facilities during COVID-19. Oates has more than 25 years of strategic public relations experience across military, government, corporate, charitable and start-up environments. He has worked as a U.S. Navy public affairs officer, corporate chief marketing officer and president of a nonprofit.

Rick Griffin is a San Diego-based public relations and marketing consultant. His MarketInk column appears weekly on Mondays in Times of San Diego.

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