Depending on each client’s needs, SCP develops and manages high-quality, dynamic teams from across the country to deliver first class products and services. Our people reflect the rich variety of skills and abilities—from strong research and analysis to dynamic creativity to rock-solid and reliable project management—that enable SCP to meet and exceed our clients’ expectations.
Alone we can do so little.
Together we can do so much.
– Helen Keller
John Beilenson founded Strategic Communications & Planning (SCP) in New York City in 1987. He has led the company since then, providing consulting, editorial, and training services to a wide range of nonprofit organizations and public institutions. As the founder and president of SCP, John works closely with his team to develop communications, branding, and messaging strategies that increase nonprofits’ exposure in the public arena and promote positive social change. John provides oversight of all SCP’s projects, and as a veteran writer, takes a hand in some of the editorial projects as well.
Between 1997 and 1999, he also served as Senior Associate at Millennium Communications Group in Washington, DC, where he consulted to educational and other nonprofit organizations and associations around the country.
In addition to his consulting, John has been an instructor in Communications Studies at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, where he taught “Public Speaking” and the “Rhetoric of Social Movements.”
He founded and directed the Youth Voice Project, a federally-funded initiative to promote young people’s leadership of national and community service organizations.
John also developed and co-directed the North Carolina Media Institute, which trained grass-roots environmental activists in advocacy and communications skills.
John began his career working in New York City government, where he served as Director of Public Affairs for the Department of Juvenile Justice and Public Affairs Manager for the City Volunteer Corps. John is the author of “Balancing Custody and Care”, a resource book on juvenile detention services, and “A Good Place for Children,” a guide to court-based children’s centers.
He has written 18 books for Peter Pauper Press, including his latest, The Future Me: Authoring the Second Half of Your Life, an interactive journal for people considering retirement and other transitions in later life. He has also contributed to several national magazines and journals, including Social Policy and Sports Illustrated.
John has an AB in history and literature from Harvard University and an MA in communications studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is currently a member (and former chair) of the board of directors of Surrey Services, a board member of City Year Greater Philadelphia, and a board advisor to Generations Online.
When he is not implementing and managing communications solutions, John is out playing something somewhere – basketball, squash, skiing, you name it. His passion for sports is surpassed only by his love for his wife, son, and the musical stylings of Prince. John is also an energetic proponent of the farm-to-table movement and can often be found in his garden trying to practice what he preaches.
Christine Gherst is experienced in formulating, implementing, and managing strategic communications plans. At Strategic Communications & Planning (SCP), Christine provides support to clients including project management, Web site management, e-newsletter development, stakeholder research and analysis, dissemination planning, messaging, and event planning. She has helped develop dissemination plans for new models of care for older adults, and worked with foundations, nonprofits, and government agencies, such as the Hartford Foundation and the Philadelphia Department of Human Services, to develop both internal and external communications strategies and tactics.
Before joining SCP in January 2004, Christine served a variety of nonprofit organizations for 15 years. Most recently, Christine served as director of organizational advancement at PathWaysPA, a social service agency in the Philadelphia area, where she was involved in public relations and communications activities, resource development, and staff training. Christine was also responsible for the agency’s quality assurance initiatives, outcomes measurement, and maintenance of accreditation by the Council on Accreditation for Children and Family Services.
Before receiving her degree in social work, Christine was communications coordinator for Soroptimist International, a nonprofit association of business and professional women.
Christine received a BA in English from Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, PA, and an MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She enjoys being outdoors with her husband and two daughters, exploring Virginia’s wine country, and seeing how many canvas bags of local food she can carry at one time from the farmer’s market to her car (without breaking the eggs).
Bill Harris joined SCP in 2005. He has more than six years of experience providing both concepts and copy for a diverse roster of technology and healthcare clients including AstraZeneca, HP Analytical (now Agilent), Unisys, Sun Microsystems, SAP, V-SPAN, Iridian Technologies, Intracorp, MedQuist, Prophet 21, and LabVantage Solutions.
Prior to joining SCP, Harris worked in the communications department at AstraZeneca, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies. Before beginning his career as a writer and communicator, Harris was a public school teacher for seven years.
In addition, Harris is a published author in both fiction and nonfiction publications, with special interest and expertise in writing for the educational market. He has written articles for Smart Business Now, Step-By-Step Graphics, and several online publications. He has also written two published science textbooks, From Water to Hydropower and Coral Reefs. Harris holds a BS in biology from Virginia Tech-Blacksburg, and an MS in science education from Florida State University.
Senior Editorial Consultant
Elliott Walker joined the Strategic Communications & Planning (SCP) team in 2009 after 24 years as a broadcast journalist. Elliott’s extensive experience in the media enables her to approach the job with the eye of a journalist. She understands how to engage and mobilize the public, influence policy makers, and position an organization at the forefront of the conversation.
Elliott provides writing and media relations services, policy research, and broadcast production expertise to SCP clients. She is involved with the firm’s earned media strategies and the writing of op-eds, blog posts, press releases, Web site copy, and promotional materials.
As a producer for NBC News’ TODAY show from 1990 to 2009, Elliott covered national politics, policy and cultural debates, with special emphasis on making complex news events and issues compelling for a national audience.
Elliott has produced taped profiles and in-depth interviews with five U.S. Presidents, four First Ladies, two Vice Presidents, and many members of the Executive Branch and Congress. For several years she produced TODAY’s bi-weekly segment with on political strategy with media consultants Roger Ailes, Mary Matalin, and Bob Squier.
Before joining NBC, Elliott worked in documentary film at PBS’ THE AMERICAN EXPERIENCE and ABC News’ OUR WORLD. She worked on the launch of Consumer Reports Television’s syndicated news service and an HBO/Consumer Reports joint venture on advertising aimed at children. Early in her career she worked in public broadcasting at WHYY Philadelphia and WGBH Boston.
Elliott graduated from Harvard College with a B.A. in music. When she is not working to advance social causes, Elliott can be found cheering on her two children at arts performances and golf tournaments. She also enjoys power walking and being a member of her book and garden clubs.
Senior Communications Consultant
Jack Croft joined SCP as editorial manager in 2012 after a career journey that started in newspapers before detouring into book publishing and then university communications. Jack’s responsibilities at SCP include managing the John A. Hartford Foundation’s Health AGEnda blog as well as contributing writing, editing, planning, and strategic counsel for other projects and clients.
Prior to SCP, Jack worked in university communications for a decade as Director of Editorial Services at Lehigh University, where he edited the award-winning Lehigh Alumni Bulletin magazine and managed the university’s online editorial content. During his time at Lehigh, Jack interviewed the Dalai Lama, Kurt Vonnegut, Jesse Jackson, actor Hal Holbrook, author Nicholson Baker and many others. Before Lehigh, he spent eight years as a book editor and writer, primarily in the health and fitness categories. He edited The Doctor’s Book of Home Remedies for Men and the 15-book Men’s Health Life Improvement Guides, along with numerous other books as managing editor of Men’s Health Books for Rodale Press in Emmaus, Pa. He also managed Rodale’s most successful book publishing program, Prevention Health Books, and served as writing director, overseeing a staff of more than a dozen in-house health writers.
As a journalist, Jack worked as a reporter for the Delaware State News, Philadelphia Inquirer, Omaha World-Herald, and Hartford Courant, covering everything from small town councils to state government and politics. An award-winning editorial writer in Delaware, Florida and Pennsylvania, Jack worked as an editor at the North Jersey Herald & News in Passaic, N.J., Hernando Today in Brooksville, Fla., and The Mercury in Pottstown, Pa.
Jack has always believed that if you want to write, you have to read. So in whatever free time he has, Jack is an avid reader (Norman Mailer, Pete Hamill, Jack Kerouac, Thomas McGuane and Hunter S. Thompson are among his favorites.) He remains an ardent fan of great music, although he’s noticed that, with the exception of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen shows, fellow concert-goers seem to keep getting younger. He has been married for more than 35 years to his college sweetheart Cathy, and has two grown daughters.
Mindy C. Jones
Mindy is an online marketing consultant specializing in new media and data analysis, with experience in both the nonprofit and corporate sectors. She joined the team at Strategic Communications and Planning (SCP) in 2012.
As the National Council on Aging’s first new media manager, she developed and implemented their social media strategy, led employee training, and managed several online advocacy and marketing campaigns. Prior to her work at NCOA, Mindy spent three years at the Corporate Executive Board, where she conducted research on marketing best practices, advised heads of Marketing and their teams, and analyzed customer data and web metrics to support new product development.
Mindy graduated from Furman University with a B.A. in Art History, and on the path from there to here, she has worked as a print designer, web developer, defense contractor, business researcher, marketing consultant, and social media manager. Her unique perspective and attention to detail makes her an integral member of the SCP team.
Mindy C. Jones
Social Media Associate
Caressa Sanford came to SCP from the field of higher education. Her background includes work with higher education institutions to develop effective messaging to recruit students from a variety of backgrounds. Working in the admissions department at a community college, Caressa led recruitment initiatives for non-traditional students including the Returning Adults, GED, and Low Socioeconomic populations. With a great degree of success in special populations, Caressa later joined the Diversity and Inclusion Office of Princeton University, aiding in the recruitment of prospective graduate students from underrepresented communities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
Most recently, Caressa worked as a Communications and Outreach Specialist for an e-commerce company, developing communications materials, leading partner outreach and on-boarding, as well as managing the company’s social media platforms.
Caressa possesses both a Master of Arts in Professional Communication, and a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Mass Media Studies, from Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, NJ.
Outside of work hours, Caressa enjoys freelancing for online publications, writing short stories, volunteering with a number of nonprofits that support youth in under-served communities, and spending time exploring new Mexican restaurants with family and friends.
Xavi holds the office of Chief Relaxation Officer. While periodically in residence at the SCP office in Wayne, Xavi also contributes while working remotely from his home office. He works closely with the SCP team to instill a sense of peace and calm. He is a 6 year old mixed breed and comes to us from Main Line Animal Rescue in Chester Springs, PA.
In his spare time, Xavi enjoys long walks , even longer naps, and chasing squirrels.