Alumnus John Forrest Ales, B.A.’02, senior director of global brand public relations for Hilton Hotels & Resorts, will return to the University of Arkansas campus on Feb. 23-24 as the Arkansas Alumni Association’s 2012 Johnson Fellow. Ales holds a Master of Arts in strategic public relations from the University of Southern California and a Bachelor of Arts in journalism/public relations, minor in political science, from the University of Arkansas.
Endowed by Dr. Jeff Johnson, B.A.’70, and his wife, Marcia, the Johnson Fellows program was created for the specific purpose of bringing esteemed alumni back to the University of Arkansas campus to engage and inspire students. Ales, who resides in McLean, Va., will share his expertise while addressing students in business, political science and journalism classes. The Northwest Arkansas Chapter Young Alumni Committee will host a “Young Hog, Big Dreams” reception on Thursday evening at the Janelle Y. Hembree Alumni House. He will also interact with members of the Student Alumni Association, the Student Alumni Board and Associated Student Government. His visit will end with a reception at the Johnsons’ Fayetteville home.
Ales, who also received the Alumni Association’s Young Alumni Award in 2011, leads communication strategies for Hilton Hotels & Resorts and its portfolio of more than 540 hotels in 76 countries across six continents. Ales is responsible for managing the brand’s global reputation; executing media and community relations; supporting brand marketing objectives and creating resources for hotels to excel in local markets. His experience includes strengthening the reputations of the world’s largest retailer and a governor recovering from the greatest natural disaster in U.S. history. In 2010, Ales was named to PR Week’s “40 Under 40” list, which recognizes top talent in the public relations industry.
His work for Walmart Stores Inc. included developing public relations strategies and managing community relations and brand reputation in Southern California — one of the most challenging U.S. markets for the company’s growth. Ales achieved favorable coverage, countered adversaries and gained supporters for Walmart to support the company’s real estate and public affairs priorities.
Ales shaped strategies for a range of top consumer brands including Taco Bell, Hilton, Epson, Activision and Chevron at Cohn & Wolfe in Los Angeles. While at the agency, he also managed multiple aspects of Hilton’s sponsorship of the U.S. Olympic Team, including a campaign recognized with a Bronze Adrian Award and projects with Michael Phelps and other athletes.
In 2005, Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco called Ales home to Louisiana in advance of the first anniversaries of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. He focused on branding her legislative and public policy agendas and managing domestic and international media interest in the state’s recovery. Ales executed public relations strategies for the re-opening of the Louisiana Superdome, overseas economic missions, the state’s cultural economy and other areas. He developed Louisiana’s first web site streamlining emergency preparedness and recovery information, advanced the state’s historic use of text alerts for emergency communication and launched the first social media campaign of any U.S. governor.