Samantha Villegas, APR is an accredited strategic communications professional with nearly 25 years of experience helping corporations, nonprofits, and government agencies develop and sustain mutually beneficial relationships with their stakeholders.
She began her career working in a small agency, on behalf of local municipalities, to promote recycling as a means for deferring the need for more landfills. Samantha had the chance to work directly with James Earl Jones to promote telephone directory recycling in New Jersey and she successfully thwarted a local campaign to put a milk carton producer out of business, by initiating a milk carton recycling programs in some central Virginia schools. From there, she worked on a federal contract for EPA, where she helped successfully launch the Energy Star Small Business program, to encourage small businesses to make investments in energy efficiency. Its website was the first Samantha worked on and received a “Webbie” Award. Samantha also convinced American Express to offer small businesses low interest loans on their investments, and she played a key role in the development of a series of PSAs featuring actors Greg Germann and Peter MacNichol of Ally McBeal (which was a very hot show at the time.)
Following her work in recycling and energy efficiency, Samantha turned to water communications where she became the first public relations professional at a mid-sized water utility outside of Washington, DC, where over 10 years, she developed an understanding and value for the public relations function among its staff and leadership. Through strategic relationships, a focus on community relations and award-winning grassroots marketing, Samantha successfully positioned the utility as a progressive industry leader, community partner and caring company. She also led the utility through a successful rebranding, the commissioning of a large water reclamation facility and the opening of a one-of-a-kind education center and interpretive trail, so that customers could learn and develop an appreciation for the role drinking water and waste water plays in their lives. Because of her work, the local paper wrote an editorial in favor of a large rate increase the utility was seeking, and 30% of the community speakers at the hearing spoke in favor of the increase, something that had never happened in the utility’s 50-year history.
Samantha opened her own consultancy in 2012, and operates it as SaVi PR, LLC. In the last five years, she has never actively marketed it, winning business (and return business) from more than a dozen clients in the federal, local, corporate and nonprofit worlds, all through referrals. As the 2013 president of the nation’s largest public relations membership organization, the National Capital Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, Samantha is recognized as a regional leader in public relations. She has led and chaired various regional government committees of the Northern Virginia Regional Commission and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments in the formation and implementation of education and outreach campaigns. She has served on the Public Affairs Council of the American Water Works Association and was a charter member of the steering committee for the Water Leadership Institute. In 2016, Samantha was voted by the PRSA Leadership Assembly to the PRSA National Board, and began her first term as a director in 2017.
Samantha has been published several times in PR and trade publications, including PRSA’s Tactics, Ragan’s The PR Daily, and AWWA’s Journal and Op Flow publications.She has earned news stories for clients in local and regional newspapers and in broadcast media. She has spoken at nearly a dozen conferences and seminars, and she has hosted a handful of webinars on the many facets of public relations. Sam holds a Master’s degree in environmental policy from Johns Hopkins University, a Bachelor’s degree in environmental science from Penn State, and she was accredited in public relations by the Universal Accreditation Board in 2001.
In her free time, Samantha provides pro-bono public relations counsel and service to causes close to her heart, such as fulfilling the needs of social services in Loudoun County, VA where she serves on the local United Way Council, was a 2004 graduate of Leadership Loudoun (and served two terms on their Board), and she also advocates for common sense gun laws as a volunteer for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. All other free time Sam has is devoted to her husband Roger, and sons Max and Leo.