Shonali Burke CMO, Arena Stage

Shonali Burke

Burke is an award-winning public relations strategist and digital marketing pioneer who has been building innovative communication strategies and telling impactful stories through her work for decades. As Chief Marketing Officer of the D.C.-based organization, Burke will oversee all earned income activities and communications, and support all communications-related departments, as well as manage the strategic planning activities of the organization.

According to a release, Burke has worked with some of the most forward thinking and innovative organizations in the world. She was the first Indian American woman to be named to PRWeek’s “Top 40 Under 40” and received the prestigious 2015 Matrix Award for excellence in communication.

“As a brown woman and naturalized American, I remember feeling completely at home when I first visited Arena Stage ten years ago,” explains Burke. “I felt acknowledged, accepted and represented by the diversity on stage. Now, as part of the team, I have literally come home. I am beyond excited and grateful to join Arena in the incredibly important, thought-provoking — and enjoyable! — work it does.”

Over the years, continues the release, Burke’s creative strategies “have resulted in packed houses for Cirque du Soleil’s Varekai, Singalong Sound of Music, and the world premiere of Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam. Her expertise in building communities of influence to amplify brand storytelling has benefited among others, Oxfam America, the United Nations Foundation, and USA for UNHCR, for whom she designed its now-textbook digital “Blue Key” campaign. Shonali also led media and communications for the ASPCA at an extraordinary time in animal welfare: during the 2007 pet food recall and Michael Vick case.”

“Her efforts, which included launching its pet insurance product and ASPCA® Mission: Orange™, a series of local-national coalitions aimed at creating a country of humane communities, one community at a time, were key to growing the ASPCA’s visibility, trust and revenue.

“An early adopter of social media, Shonali’s numerous awards and accolades include being the first Indian American woman to be named to PRWeek’s “Top 40 Under 40.” She teaches multiple courses for The Johns Hopkins University’s M.A. in Communication program and is a 2021 graduate of the Harvard Business Analytics Program.”

Burke’s first book, The Non-Obvious Guide to Public Relations & Communication, will be available in 2022.


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