Stephen Perry, president and CEO of New Orleans & Company announced today that Kelly Schulz, a 20-year public relations and communications veteran, will RETURN as the senior vice president of communications and public relations for New Orleans & Company, effective Monday, September 21.
Schulz replaces Kristian Sonnier, a 25-year public relations professional - expert in communications, marketing, media relations, media management and crisis communications, who held the position for more than five years. Sonnier led the overall rebranding efforts in 2018, turning New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau into New Orleans & Company, one of the top DMOs in the country and ultimately, the DMO of the future. His award-winning leadership and natural ability to build relationships with partners, members, journalists and colleagues is one of the main reasons why New Orleans is the nation’s premier business and leisure destination. Sonnier will join Ryan Gootee General Contractors as head marketing and business development officer.
Kelly Schulz held the position for eight years before joining American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities (ALSAC), the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, as vice president of communications in April 2014. She will rejoin the organization’s Marketing and Communications department led by Mark Romig, and will lead the four-person public relations team, half of whom were on Schulz’s team in 2014.
“Kelly is one of the national industry’s most respected public relations professionals, returning to New Orleans with a proven track record of putting New Orleans’ tourism back on America’s radar following Hurricane Katrina. We are thrilled to have her rejoin our team,” said Stephen Perry, president and CEO of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau. “She has a great passion for our city, knows our culture, understands our business and has such strong partnerships not only with national media, but also with the hotel and restaurant community, which will be integral as we rebuild New Orleans’ tourism industry during the COVID-19 pandemic era,” Perry stated.
In her role as senior vice president of communications and public relations for New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) from 2006 until 2014, Kelly served as a member of the executive team responsible for taking the destination from an all-time low of three million visitors in 2006, the year after Hurricane Katrina, to one of National Geographic Traveler’s Must See Places to Visit in the World for 2014, with nine million visitors and record-breaking visitor spending. Under her leadership, the New Orleans CVB won 16 international awards of excellence for crisis management and public relations between 2006 and 2014.
“We’re really proud to have Kelly back home, as a senior leader in our promotion of New Orleans as a premier destination for leisure travel, meetings, conventions, special events, domestic and international visitation. She brings her vast knowledge of global branding to the planning and execution of our award-winning communications programs, and because she was born and raised in New Orleans, she has an intuitive knowledge of our region” said Mark Romig, SVP and CMO of New Orleans & Company. “Kelly worked with our company for eight years as a spokesperson for the industry in the years following Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill and knows how to transform a city’s image and restore a billion-dollar tourism industry that employs thousands of people.”
Schulz’s experience in public relations began at Edelman, the world’s largest independent PR firm, continuing at Meeting Professionals International as the Director of Communications and eventually spending eight years with New Orleans and Company. Most recently, she has been a member of the Marketing leadership team of ALSAC, where she worked with the media, entertainment industry influencers and patient families, and eventually transitioned into a new role in ALSAC’s Executive Office, where she served as number two to the Chief of Staff on CEO operations.
“The city of New Orleans is an international treasure and my beloved hometown,” said Kelly Schulz, new Senior Vice President of Communications and Public Relations for New Orleans & Company. “I am grateful to Stephen Perry and Mark Romig for the opportunity to serve during the difficult times of COVID-19 and am excited and ready to work hard for my city with the amazing people at New Orleans & Company.”
Kelly received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communications/Public Relations and a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Louisiana State University in 1997. Kelly will return to New Orleans in September, along with her dogs Beignet and Lizzie Beale.
New Orleans & Company is a nationally accredited, member-based destination marketing organization and the largest and most successful private economic development corporation in Louisiana. New Orleans & Company and its members and partners influence thousands of decision-makers and millions of visitors to choose New Orleans through direct sales, marketing, public relations, branding, visitor services and local advocacy initiatives at our New Orleans headquarters. Consistently recognized as one of the top five destination marketing organizations in the country, New Orleans & Company celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2020. For more information, please visit NewOrleans.com/about.