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About

Merritt Group is a nationally-recognized, integrated strategic communications agency that combines public relations, content marketing, performance marketing and creative services expertise together with deep technology and industry knowledge to reach, engage and convert your buyers faster.

Fearless People With Endless Curiosity

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OUR CULTURE

At Merritt Group, we are family. We are go-getters, authentic, and love a balanced and fulfilling work life. We’ve been recognized as one of the Best Places to Work by both Washingtonian magazine and Washington Business Journal.

GIVE BACK

The heart of Merritt is the heart of our community. We give back through volunteer time off, our holiday Merry Week of Giving and our pro bono support.

Our Creds

OUR LEADERSHIP

Alisa Valudes Whyte

Senior Partner & CEO   |   

Alisa joined Merritt Group in 1997 and helped to build and shape the agency since its founding. She has led award-winning campaigns for clients in technology, healthcare and government that leverage the right mix of modern marketing, communications and PR strategies to move their businesses forward. In addition to launching dozens of technology and healthcare start-ups over the years, she also helped to reshape a number of established brands. 

In 2019, Alisa was honored with a Silver Award for Female Executive of the Year in the annual Stevie Awards for Women in Business.  In 2015 and 2016, she was named a finalist for DC Inno's "50 on Fire" and, in 2016, a finalist in Women In Technology's (WIT) Annual Leadership Awards.  Alisa is a champion of Merritt Group's culture, recognized as a "Great Place to Work" by both Washingtonian and Washington Business Journal.   She currently serves on the Board of Directors of several organizations, including the Northern Virginia Technology Council, Neighborhood Health and the Democratic Business Council of Northern Virginia.

Prior to joining Merritt Group, Alisa worked at Ruder Finn in Washington, D.C. and the international architectural firm of Leo A Daly as part of the marketing team. She graduated with a BA from Dickinson College and also studied Economic Policy at American University.

While not at work, Alisa spends time with her family and husband John, loves exploring life through the eyes of her two little boys, does pilates and tries to make a difference in her community.

Tom Rice

Executive Vice President, Partner   |   

Tom has over 20 years of experience driving strategic marketing communications campaigns for his technology and government-focused clients –  garnering widespread attention and achieving high-impact results. Tom oversees Merritt Group’s Security Practice and also leads the company’s business development and marketing efforts.

Tom has a proven track record of building and managing high-performing teams. He has deep experience in everything under the marketing communications umbrella – public relations, analyst relations, internal communications, executive communications, crisis communications, thought leadership, content/social marketing, etc. Before joining Merritt, Tom was a vice president at Ein Communications and graduated from George Mason University.

Tom’s interests outside of work are his family, travel and passionately following his sports teams. Tom is married with three children.

John Conrad

Executive Vice President, Partner   |   

John joined Merritt Group in 2001, bringing his writing and storytelling experience to the team. Today he provides oversight of the Emerging Technology Group, Human Resources and Client Service. Over the past years, John has supported the strategic communications efforts on numerous client accounts – including Battelle, Booz Allen Hamilton, CalAmp, Medallia and Verizon to name a few – applying his skills in media relations, analyst relations, social media, writing, messaging and digital.

Prior to joining Merritt Group, John wrote for technology publications covering everything from regulatory issues at the FCC to 3G wireless technology (long before it was a reality) and both personal and business computing. John graduated with a BA in English from The College of William & Mary.

John lives in Alexandria, VA with his wife, Amy, and twin boys. In his free time, you will find him grilling some sort of meat on his Big Green Egg.

Jayson Schkloven

Executive Vice President, Partner   |   

During his time at Merritt Group, Jayson has taken on many unique strategic roles in support of our clients while helping to drive the agency’s growth. He started his career at Merritt as a senior public relations account executive in the firm’s Government and Enterprise Technology practice. Jayson rose up through the agency to become a partner and a key member of the firm’s senior leadership team. Along the way, Jayson led the agency’s Enterprise Technology Group, servicing major B2B public relations clients including Teradata, Microsoft, Software AG and Unisys. More than a decade ago, Jayson took Merritt in a new direction by founding the agency’s award-winning Marketing and Digital Services practice.

Under his leadership, the emerging practice helped clients including Booz Allen Hamilton, Battelle, Deloitte, General Dynamics and others communicate their messages effectively through the right mix of earned, owned and paid media channels. Today, Jayson serves as a senior marketing strategist to Merritt Group industry-leading global technology clients including Samsung Electronics America and others.

For the last two decades, Jayson has built a career providing a unique blend of marketing strategy, business development, digital and social media, and public relations counsel to companies ranging from venture-funded start-ups to global organizations. He graduated from Salisbury University with a BA in Mass Communications and Business Administration.

When he is not busy working with clients, Jayson enjoys spending his free time cycling, sailing, and relaxing with his family.

Shahed Ahmed

Executive Vice President, Partner   |   

Shahed has been with Merritt Group for more than a decade, and is responsible for oversight of the agency's Marketing Services. Shahed’s career began in the dot.com era as a reporter for CNET and evolved into more PR and marketing roles timed to the rise of mega-trends like mobile, social, cloud and big data. In roles spanning both B2C and B2B technology – in corporate and agency settings – Shahed has developed deep knowledge of the technology market over the past dozen years.

He can talk bits and bytes, but clients value his remarkable ability to turn “in the weeds” technologies into compelling storylines and messages for business audiences and C-level executives. Shahed has experience in managing corporate and financial communications, global product launches, IPOs and acquisitions, as well as developing strategic and integrated creative, digital and content marketing campaigns. Shahed has a BA in Economics from the University of Maryland.

When not wearing his marketing cap, he enjoys watching and playing basketball, reading about physics, cars and philosophy and spending as much time as possible with his wife and daughter.

Michelle Schafer

Senior Vice President, Security   |   

As Senior Vice President, Michelle heads up Merritt Group’s dedicated Cybersecurity Practice where she applies nearly two decades of hands-on marketing and PR-related security experience spanning every discipline. She is known for creating and implementing strategic communications campaigns that drive strong media results for clients such as Strategic Cyber Ventures, CrowdStrike, Black Hat, Venafi and MACH37. Michelle’s security team has represented more than 80 security clients over the past 20 years.

Michelle has presented at NVTC, Security B-Sides, RVASec and ISSA events and has been recognized as a top influencer in the security community. Prior to Merritt, Michelle led a team of wireless researchers at Current Analysis and held corporate communications positions at Advanced Switching Communications and 2nd Century Communications. She holds a BA in Communications with a specialization in PR and Advertising from George Mason University.

When not working in security, she can be found supporting Starbucks, cheering on her son or relaxing on an island in the Caribbean.

Matt Donovan

Senior Vice President, Government and Health Care   |   

Matt has been with the Merritt Group for over a decade and leads the agency’s Government and Healthcare practices. In this role, he’s responsible for creating strategic content marketing and communications campaigns that influence enterprise technology decision-makers in these key vertical markets. Matt’s clients range from public sector divisions of global technology companies to emerging health IT startups, including Microsoft, Deloitte, Monster, LexisNexis Risk Solutions, ServiceNow, Riverbed, Avizia, MedGenome and HealthTap.

Prior to joining Merritt Group, Matt worked for National Public Radio, supporting member station relations and show promotion. He holds BAs in English and Psychology from Syracuse University and an MA in Public Communication from American University.

Outside of work, Matt enjoys playing golf and tennis and obsessively rooting for the Syracuse Orange.

Melissa Chadwick

Vice President, Content   |   

Melissa helps Merritt Group’s clients become great storytellers. As head of content services, she oversees integrated content strategy, content development and copywriting, as well as messaging and content performance monitoring and analytics.

Melissa is responsible for driving results for Merritt Group clients spanning the spectrum from large multinational corporations like Samsung and Verizon, to innovative, fast-growth startups in emerging markets and technology areas such as mobile, networking, cloud, big data, artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) and more.

Prior to joining the agency, Melissa worked internally as a member of the Marketing PR team at Nextel Communications (now Sprint), where she supported campaign work across a portfolio of product PR, vertical industry PR, celebrity promotions, analyst relations and a high-profile NASCAR sponsorship. She double-majored in English and German at the University of Virginia and is working toward her MA in Communications from Johns Hopkins University.

When Melissa is not writing, she can be found traveling the world, spoiling her adopted mutt, posting on her personal music blog or sampling some sushi.

Suzanne Block

Director   |   

Suzanne Block is a Director of the Emerging Technology Group and Head of West Coast Operations at Merritt Group. With a specialty in public relations and communications focused on artificial intelligence and data and analytics, Suzanne works closely with her clients to develop meaningful and timely campaigns that elevate visibility among key audiences and align with business objectives for the most external impact. Suzanne is also one of Merritt Group’s in-house media trainers, coaching executives how to craft and up-level technical messages for a variety of audiences – including media, analysts, prospects and employees.

Suzanne lives in Berkeley, California. In her free time, she can be found tugging her Basset Hound around her neighborhood or cooking up a storm for her health and wellness blog.

Laura Klebanow

Director of Marketing   |   

Laura leverages her 11+ years of experience to help clients grow their businesses through comprehensive marketing campaigns. She oversees cross-channel marketing programs comprised of content strategy; digital, social and programmatic media campaigns; corporate events; CRM support and sales enablement development; and customer engagement and retention planning.

Prior to joining Merritt Group, Laura served in various content development and strategic marketing roles for some of the world’s most beloved cultural and philanthropic organizations: Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Mastercard Foundation and others. In prior agency roles, Laura served major digital and telecommunications brands including CenturyLink and GoCanvas.

She received a double major in Writing and Art History from Loyola University Maryland (go Hounds!), and is proud to represent the city of Baltimore.

In free time, Laura can be found running, writing and planning her next big adventure. Or spending quality time with her cat, Posie.

Colleen Hill

Director of Human Resources   |   

Colleen manages and oversees all aspects of the Human Resources function for Merritt Group, including organizational development, strategic planning, compensation and benefits, compliance, training, company culture and office management. As a result, Merritt Group has built a strong culture of smart, hard-working, fun-loving and team-oriented individuals.

After graduating from Marshall University with a degree in Health Science, she found herself working in the HR field and never looked back. Colleen spent almost 10 years working in the government contracting industry before joining Merritt Group in 2015. She also holds a Society of Human Resources Management - Certified Professional certification.

Colleen is a busy mom of two young boys who spends most of her weekends playing superheroes and frequenting playgrounds. When she does have some time to herself, she enjoys golfing with her husband, trying out new restaurants and baking.

Paul Miller

Senior Vice President of Finance   |   

Paul is an experienced finance executive skilled in systems implementation, strategic planning, accounting and thought leadership. Paul graduated with a BS focused in finance from Old Dominion University.He oversees the finance department and its work to maintain the financial health of the organization – including oversight and governance of the annual planning and budgeting process, developing accurate monthly forecasts, directing audit and tax activities and promotion of strong internal controls and management safeguards.

Paul leads and directs all day-to-day contracts administration activities – including negotiations, review of commercial and government contract awards; issuance of various contractual documents to customers, partners and vendors; and organizational compliance with commercial and government contract requirements.

During his down time, Paul regularly enjoys spending time with his family, fishing, golf, basketball, softball, water skiing and just about anything outdoors.

Pasha Irshad

Senior Director, Digital Marketing   |   

Pasha is a Senior Director at Merritt Group, with over a decade of experience understanding client needs, identifying market opportunities and leading teams to transform ideas into integrated digital marketing solutions for Fortune 500 clients — including Verizon Wireless, Microsoft, Booz Allen Hamilton, Samsung and Deloitte.

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Our Partners

"As a Merritt Group 'long-timer,' I believe our success is due to our commitment to our core values in everything we do - client service, recruitment, staff management, training, etc. As a management team, we live by treating our staff the way we'd like to be treated.” – Tom Rice

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"Merritt Group's commitment to give back is one of my favorite parts of working here. As a company, we support local organizations and have planted trees in local parks, spent time with retired veterans  and organized charitable drives. Our unique volunteer-time-off policy allows us to take leave to support causes we are passionate about." – Katherine Nanney

"When I came to Merritt Group, I wanted to make it my agency home. Our culture emphasizes work-life balance and prioritizes what happens outside the office as much as what happens behind our desks. Talk about a staff retention strategy!" – Laura Klebanow

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