(JACKSON, Miss.) — Alonda Thomas is the new associate vice president for University Communications and chief communications officer at Jackson State University, effective July 6. Recently named one of PRWeek’s Women to Watch and PRNews’ Top Women in PR, Thomas will be responsible for brand and reputation management, marketing, media relations and strategic communications.
“I’m excited to have Miss Alonda Thomas join my leadership team to serve as our associate vice president for University Communications,” said Jackson State University President Thomas K. Hudson. “Her 20 years of award-winning experience in higher education, entertainment and executive communications will be an asset as we continue to elevate Jackson State’s compelling story of academic excellence and student success.”
Recently, Thomas served as director of public relations at Howard University, where she was responsible for developing and managing the communications and media relation’s strategies designed to enhance the university’s reputation and visibility locally, nationally and internationally.
“It is an honor to join President Hudson and the Jackson State University community to serve as AVP and chief communications officer. I have a passion for celebrating the work of our historically black colleges and universities because they are intricately woven into the African-American experience of success, resilience and pride,” said Thomas. “I look forward to uplifting Jackson State’s story as a premier research institution where student scholars come to learn and leave to serve.”
In 2020, Thomas served as Howard’s interim vice president of communications and led the Office of University Communications during several critical milestones, including the announcement of two of the university’s largest donations in school history and spearheading the campus communications strategy during the coronavirus pandemic.
As the university made the decision to close the campus, Thomas led efforts to keep messages consistent and visible with internal and external campus stakeholders. Her PR team created the “Bison In The Know” campaign to profile campus experts on COVID-19 issues.
During her tenure, the Office of University Communications received several awards, including the Public Relations Society of America 2021 Bronze Anvil Award for Executive Communications and the 2020 Bronze Anvil Award for Twitter Engagement (Howard Homecoming 2019), and the PRWeek 2020 Best in a Crisis Award (#HowardMedicineMatters campaign).
Previously, Thomas served as senior public relations manager at TV One. She was responsible for developing the publicity strategy for unscripted and scripted programming, including “Rickey Smiley For Real,” the award-winning docu-series “Unsung” and original movies such as “Downsized” and “When Love Kills: The Falicia Blakely Story,” which became the network’s No. 1 premiere of all time.
Her efforts resulted in an increased level of visibility and earned media for TV One in key outlets such as Entertainment Tonight, E! News, Extra, Billboard, New York Times, TV Guide, CNN, Essence and Ebony.
In 2016, Thomas served as a publicity consultant for Liquid Soul, an entertainment and sports marketing company in Atlanta. She led the PR strategy for a variety of clients, including ABC Network, CNN, Walt Disney Studios and Fox Searchlight. She executed national urban press outreach for the highly acclaimed Spike Lee film “Chi-Raq,” and CNN’s award-winning docu-series “The United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell.” She also developed the PR campaign strategy and crisis management for season 2 of ABC’s hit sitcom, “black-ish,” which increased the show’s viewership among its target demographic and led to multiple award nominations.
In 2013, Thomas served as director of media relations and interim chief communications officer at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University where she was responsible for the overall direction of the university’s media relations program, including managing the return of the Marching “100.”
From 2007 to 2013, Thomas worked in various roles in the Los Angeles entertainment industry, beginning with a position at Creative Artists Agency where she coordinated speaking engagements for Hollywood A-listers such as Sidney Poitier, Geena Davis, John Lithgow and John Leguizamo. She also collaborated with the FrontPage Firm to spearhead television, film and celebrity executive campaigns, including Roland S. Martin, Kevin Frazier, Bishop T.D. Jakes, Jumping the Broom, Sparkle, OWN’s “Welcome To Sweetie Pie’s,” and TV One’s “LisaRaye: The Real McCoy.”
Hailing from Miami, Florida, Thomas attended the prestigious New World School of the Arts, where she studied musical theater. She received her bachelor’s degree in public relations from FAMU and a master’s degree in integrated marketing communications from Florida State University, where she was a university fellow and taught public speaking.