Who We Are

GRASSLANDS IS THE FIRST PR FIRM TO EVER CALL ITSELF A

AGENCY

But what does a qualifier like journalism-minded mean for a full-service agency? 

It means showing your work: Choosing direct communication and accountable activation instead of over-promising and under-delivering. It means more active listening and note-taking, creating content and social media calendars, conducting in-depth client interviews, managing relationships with media and target audiences, understanding a brand’s North Star, ideating compatible mission / vision / values, respecting and honoring deadlines, weaving together compelling narratives and managing unforeseen crises, should they arise. 

Grasslands’ seasoned team—well-versed and legit experienced in all sides of the public relations / communications / media paradigm—employs the ethical standards we learned in Pulitzer-winning newsrooms and the expertise we picked up representing Fortune 500 clients as we elevate our clients’ profiles through informed public relations, thoughtful content marketing, contextual social media, savvy thought leadership work, high-level book development, impactful newsletter campaigns and experiential event execution.

GRASSLANDS IS THE FIRST PR FIRM TO EVER CALL ITSELF A

AGENCY

But what does a qualifier like journalism-minded mean for a full-service agency? 

It means showing your work: Choosing direct communication and accountable activation instead of over-promising and under-delivering. It means more active listening and note-taking, creating content and social media calendars, conducting in-depth client interviews, managing relationships with media and target audiences, understanding a brand’s North Star, ideating compatible mission / vision / values, respecting and honoring deadlines, weaving together compelling narratives and managing unforeseen crises, should they arise. 

Grasslands’ seasoned team—well-versed and legit experienced in all sides of the public relations / communications / media paradigm—employs the ethical standards we learned in Pulitzer-winning newsrooms and the expertise we picked up representing Fortune 500 clients as we elevate our clients’ profiles through informed public relations, thoughtful content marketing, contextual social media, savvy thought leadership work, high-level book development, impactful newsletter campaigns and experiential event execution.

Grasslands grew out of a simple idea.

THE FIELD OF PUBLIC RELATIONS HAS A PR PROBLEM

—but what if a team of experienced journalists and passionate communications professionals came together to create a different kind of PR agency? One that brings journalism-level standards together with meticulously crafted content, decades-in-the-making journalist relationships and deadline-oriented strategy that ensures our clients are seen, heard and experienced where it matters most.
Grasslands grew out of a simple idea.

THE FIELD OF PUBLIC RELATIONS HAS A PR PROBLEM

—but what if a team of experienced journalists and passionate communications professionals came together to create a different kind of PR agency? One that brings journalism-level standards together with meticulously crafted content, decades-in-the-making journalist relationships and deadline-oriented strategy that ensures our clients are seen, heard and experienced where it matters most.

Client Criteria

Grasslands is proud to work exclusively with businesses and organizations that:

Align with our agency values of inclusivity, compassion and dignity.

Engage openly with their communities and customers.

Practice transparency in their business relationships.

Respect the important contributions of journalists and the news media.

RICARDO BACA / FOUNDER & CEO

Ricardo Baca is a 20-year veteran journalist, keynote speaker, TEDx veteran and thought leader in modern media and drug-policy circles. He served as The Denver Post’s first-ever marijuana editor and founded news vertical The Cannabist, where he extensively covered the advent of adult-use cannabis and related issues across the country and around the world, as seen in the feature documentary Rolling Papers (Netflix).

In 2016, Ricardo launched Grasslands: A Journalism-Minded Agency to work directly with business leaders in highly regulated industries, including cannabis, energy and traditional healthcare. Named Marketer of the Year by AdCann in 2019, Ricardo has received numerous accolades for his trailblazing work covering drug policy, cannabis business and culture, and continues to columnize and host podcasts for a number of top publications.

Three media outlets I read every single day: The Denver Post, Vox and The New York Times

Super inspired by: Ruth Bader Ginsburg

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: The Marshall Project

When I’m off the clock (in five words): Travel. Design. Writing. Feminist. ENFP.

 

DEBBIE McHUGH / CHIEF OF STAFF

Debbie McHugh is a 20-year media publishing veteran and joins Grasslands from Rodale, Inc. (since acquired by Hearst), where she served as Director of People Operations & Strategy across all Rodale brands including Men’s Health, Women’s Health and Runner’s World. Her career overseeing large-scale media operations includes the roles of senior managing editor at Men’s Health and managing editor at Condé Nast Publications, Seventeen and Aspen Magazine.

Debbie additionally helped guide the nationwide launch of Jane magazine, where she also served as managing editor. In addition to her extensive network of national journalists, Debbie also has substantial contacts and experience in the book publishing world, where she was part of the team behind several New York Times bestselling franchises such as, Eat This, Not That!, The Abs Diet, and The Men’s Health and Women’s Health Big Book of Exercises. She has demonstrated exceptional acumen in the media-publicity space throughout her career, spearheading numerous high-profile partnerships and wide-reaching programs.

Three newsletters I read every single day: Marijuana Moment, Entrepreneur and Morning Brew 

Super inspired by: Brené Brown 

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: Alzheimer’s Association 

When I’m off the clock (in five words): Traveling to ski, hike and kayak with @dollythedachshund.

CHLOE STEERMAN / ACCOUNT DIRECTOR

Chloe Steerman began her career as a PR and Social Media Coordinator with Philadelphia-based agency Brownstein Group. In 2016, Chloe relocated to Colorado to join The Rosen Group as an account executive, where she focused primarily on cannabis industry clients.

She has assisted clients both large and small in a variety of industries including technology, food and beverage and manufacturing. Chloe’s creative energy and passion for PR have contributed to her success in developing and executing publicity programs that have reached the upper tiers of American media. She has secured top-level media placements in national and international media outlets including Forbes, Bloomberg, FoxCanadian Broadcasting Corporation and Entrepreneur.

Three media outlets I read every single day: AdAge, Fast Company and The New York Times

Super inspired by: Don Draper

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: National Parks Conservation Association

When I’m off the clock (in five words): I’m on the road again.  

john

JOHN SVOBODA / BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT MANAGER

John Svoboda is a sales and marketing professional with over 15 years of experience leading business development organizations. His expertise centers around the highly regulated cannabis industry, with a specialization in technology, operational efficiency and compliance.

Prior to joining Grasslands, John served as the head of sales and marketing for top cannabis software platforms Trellis, Green Bits and Flowhub. John has spent time living in Colorado, Oregon and California, experiencing the distinct nuances of each market. He draws from this experience to help license holders, investors and ancillary brands build successful businesses.

Three media outlets I read every single day: The Athletic, Marijuana Business Daily, The Oregonian

Super inspired by: My mother

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: Sound Equine Options

When I’m off the clock (in five words): Music. Animals. Nature. Grilling. Soccer.

alex

ALEX GNIBUS / PUBLICIST

Alex Gnibus is a public relations professional with versatile experience across a range of industries including tech, beauty, wellness and retail. She has supported Fortune 500 companies and scrappy startups alike to drive impactful B2B and B2C media strategies. She lives for telling the stories of game-changing brands, and approaches communications strategy from a journalistic and research-centric perspective.

Prior to joining Grasslands, Alex worked with InkHouse Media + Marketing and Ketchum, where her client experience included Ulta Beauty, Whirlpool, Eaze, Strava, Nutanix, Confluent and more. She built her foundation in journalism at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, and sharpened her research skills with her Master of Arts in Journalism.

Three media outlets I read every single day: Harvard Business Review, Digiday (and the Glossy and Modern Retail sections), Refinery29

Super inspired by: It’s a tie between Olivia Pope and Carrie Bradshaw. 

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: Lighthouse Writers Workshop

When I’m off the clock (in five words): Happy hour! Skiing. Dance. Concerts.

sean

SEAN BILLISITZ / ACCOUNT COORDINATOR

Sean Billisitz is an advertising and public relations professional who excels in media relations, strategic campaign development and social media messaging. Prior to joining Grasslands, he served as an associate account executive with Michigan-based communications firm Truscott Rossman, assisting clients in a range of industries including healthcare, insurance, energy and biomedical research. Sean earned his Bachelor of Science in advertising and public relations from Grand Valley State University (GVSU) in 2018. His work in the Advertising and Public Relations program for the GVSU Department of History and the American Cancer Society garnered multiple awards. In May 2019, the West Michigan Public Relations Society of America named Sean the “Newcomer of the Year.”

Three media outlets I read every single day: Denver 9News, Leafly, Rolling Stone

Super inspired by: My father

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: Little Kids Rock

When I’m off the clock (in five words): Bud. Beer. Boarding. Bass music. 🤘🏼

amanda

AMANDA LOWELL /
DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC RELATIONS

Amanda Lowell is a public relations professional with over 10 years of agency experience. She has assisted clients of all sizes in industries including talent, fashion, food & beverage and health & wellness, and has been a large part of the tactical planning and strategizing for the accounts she has overseen.

Prior to joining Grasslands, Amanda spent three years in Los Angeles as a senior account executive at coded{pr} working on accounts including TechStyle, Watters and Naturalizer. Before that, Amanda spent nearly seven years in New York at Identity Talent + PR where she learned the industry through high-level contracts with Victoria’s Secret and Sports Illustrated. She has secured top-level media placements in national outlets including CNN Travel, E! News, Forbes and People Magazine.

Three media outlets I read every single day: The Skimm, Refinery29, People Magazine

Super inspired by: My family

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: Green Chimneys 

When I’m off the clock (in five words): Family. Fitness. Food. My dog.

EMILY GRAY BROSIOUS / CONTENT DIRECTOR

Emily Gray Brosious is a multimedia communications professional with a background in journalism, digital media and public affairs. Her expertise centers around the highly regulated cannabis industry, and she specializes in communicating key messaging through innovative editorial strategy, resonant storytelling and compelling content development.

Prior to joining Grasslands, Emily served as founding digital editor and chief reporter for Extract, a national cannabis news vertical operated under the Sun Times Network, where she produced in-depth coverage of national cannabis business news, politics and legislative issues. She cut her teeth in the Chicago news market, covering politics, activism and crime as a multimedia reporter for Homicide Watch Chicago, the Chicago Sun-Times and other local news publications.

Three media outlets I read every single day: The New York Times, The Atlantic, WBEZ 91.5FM (what up, radio!)

Super inspired by: My bad@ss mom

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: ProPublica

When I’m off the clock (in five words): Family. Art. Music. Civics. Tinkering.

ALETA LABAK / COPY CHIEF

Aleta joined Grasslands after a 19-year career with The Denver Post, the largest news organization in Colorado. During her time at the Post, Aleta worked as a copy editor, page designer and digital producer in several departments, including local and national news, business, features and sports. In 2014, she joined Grasslands founder Ricardo Baca as he launched The Cannabist, the Post’s award-winning online vertical covering the historic legalization and implementation of adult-use cannabis in Colorado. Together they helped establish The Cannabist as a go-to national resource for serious cannabis journalism, a platform that ultimately overtook High Times and Marijuana.com in digital traffic.

Three media outlets I read every single day: The New York Times, The Denver Post, Montrose Press (support local journalism!)

Super inspired by: The plant kingdom—amazingly adaptable and resilient. 

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: Charity Navigator

When I’m off the clock (in five words): Outdoors. Horticulture. Craft. Cook. Explore.

TM_circle headshot

TREVOR MANISCALO / PUBLICIST

Trevor Maniscalo is a Denver-based public relations professional focused on utilizing story-driven strategies to secure all levels of client media coverage. Since joining the Grasslands team in January 2019—first as an intern, then accepting a full-time position upon receiving his bachelor’s degree in journalism—Trevor  has worked to support the communications efforts of nonprofit organizations, as well as companies in the cannabis and restaurant industries.

Three media outlets I read every single day: Marijuana Business Daily, Wall Street Journal and Westword

Super inspired by: Snoop Dogg

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: Human Rights Watch

When I’m off the clock (in five words): Mountains. Music. Family. TV. Weed.

MADDY-NEW

MADISON WARE / ACCOUNT COORDINATOR

Madison Ware is a Denver-based public relations professional focused on creating brand stories and sharing them on the world stage. She is passionate about collaborative storytelling and building strong client and media relationships. Madison previously served as an account coordinator at MAPRagency, where she assisted clients in the tech and healthcare sectors with B2B communications efforts. She is a graduate of the University of Colorado-Boulder, where she earned a bachelor’s in public relations with a minor in business.

Three media outlets I read every single day: Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Los Angeles Times

Super inspired by: Ellen DeGeneres 

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: Best Friends Animal Society / No-Kill Los Angeles 

When I’m off the clock (in five words): Food. Concerts. Netflix. IPAs only.

RICARDO BACA / FOUNDER & CEO

Ricardo Baca is a 20-year veteran journalist, keynote speaker, TEDx veteran and thought leader in modern media and drug-policy circles. He served as The Denver Post’s first-ever marijuana editor and founded news vertical The Cannabist, where he extensively covered the advent of adult-use cannabis and related issues across the country and around the world, as seen in the feature documentary Rolling Papers (Netflix).

In 2016, Ricardo launched Grasslands: A Journalism-Minded Agency to work directly with business leaders in highly regulated industries, including cannabis, energy and traditional healthcare. Named Marketer of the Year by AdCann in 2019, Ricardo has received numerous accolades for his trailblazing work covering drug policy, cannabis business and culture, and continues to columnize and host podcasts for a number of top publications.

Three media outlets I read every single day: The Denver Post, Vox and The New York Times

Super inspired by: Ruth Bader Ginsburg

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: The Marshall Project

When I’m off the clock (in five words): Travel. Design. Writing. Feminist. ENFP.

DEBBIE McHUGH / CHIEF OF STAFF

Debbie McHugh is a 20-year media publishing veteran and joins Grasslands from Rodale, Inc. (since acquired by Hearst), where she served as Director of People Operations & Strategy across all Rodale brands including Men’s Health, Women’s Health and Runner’s World. Her career overseeing large-scale media operations includes the roles of senior managing editor at Men’s Health and managing editor at Condé Nast Publications, Seventeen and Aspen Magazine.

Debbie additionally helped guide the nationwide launch of Jane magazine, where she also served as managing editor. In addition to her extensive network of national journalists, Debbie also has substantial contacts and experience in the book publishing world, where she was part of the team behind several New York Times bestselling franchises such as, Eat This, Not That!, The Abs Diet, and The Men’s Health and Women’s Health Big Book of Exercises. She has demonstrated exceptional acumen in the media-publicity space throughout her career, spearheading numerous high-profile partnerships and wide-reaching programs.

Three newsletters I read every single day: Marijuana Moment, Entrepreneur and Morning Brew 

Super inspired by: Brené Brown 

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: Alzheimer’s Association 

When I’m off the clock: Traveling to ski, hike and kayak with @dollythedachshund.

amanda

AMANDA LOWELL /
DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC RELATIONS

Amanda Lowell is a public relations professional with over 10 years of agency experience. She has assisted clients of all sizes in industries including talent, fashion, food & beverage and health & wellness, and has been a large part of the tactical planning and strategizing for the accounts she has overseen.

Prior to joining Grasslands, Amanda spent three years in Los Angeles as a senior account executive at coded{pr} working on accounts including TechStyle, Watters and Naturalizer. Before that, Amanda spent nearly seven years in New York at Identity Talent + PR where she learned the industry through high-level contracts with Victoria’s Secret and Sports Illustrated. She has secured top-level media placements in national outlets including CNN Travel, E! News, Forbes and People Magazine.

Three media outlets I read every single day: The Skimm, Refinery29, People Magazine

Super inspired by: My family

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: Green Chimneys 

When I’m off the clock (in five words): Family. Fitness. Food. My dog.

CHLOE STEERMAN / ACCOUNT DIRECTOR

Chloe Steerman began her career as a PR and Social Media Coordinator with Philadelphia-based agency Brownstein Group. In 2016, Chloe relocated to Colorado to join The Rosen Group as an account executive, where she focused primarily on cannabis industry clients.

She has assisted clients both large and small in a variety of industries including technology, food and beverage and manufacturing. Chloe’s creative energy and passion for PR have contributed to her success in developing and executing publicity programs that have reached the upper tiers of American media. She has secured top-level media placements in national and international media outlets including Forbes, Bloomberg, FoxCanadian Broadcasting Corporation and Entrepreneur.

Three media outlets I read every single day: AdAge, Fast Company and The New York Times

Super inspired by: Don Draper

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: National Parks Conservation Association

When I’m off the clock (in five words): I’m on the road again.  

EMILY GRAY BROSIOUS / CONTENT DIRECTOR

Emily Gray Brosious is a multimedia communications professional with a background in journalism, digital media and public affairs. Her expertise centers around the highly regulated cannabis industry, and she specializes in communicating key messaging through innovative editorial strategy, resonant storytelling and compelling content development.

Prior to joining Grasslands, Emily served as founding digital editor and chief reporter for Extract, a national cannabis news vertical operated under the Sun Times Network, where she produced in-depth coverage of national cannabis business news, politics and legislative issues. She cut her teeth in the Chicago news market, covering politics, activism and crime as a multimedia reporter for Homicide Watch Chicago, the Chicago Sun-Times and other local news publications.

Three media outlets I read every single day: The New York Times, The Atlantic, WBEZ 91.5FM (what up, radio!)

Super inspired by: My bad@ss mom

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: ProPublica

When I’m off the clock (in five words): Family. Art. Music. Civics. Tinkering.

john

JOHN SVOBODA / BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT MANAGER

John Svoboda is a sales and marketing professional with over 15 years of experience leading business development organizations. His expertise centers around the highly regulated cannabis industry, with a specialization in technology, operational efficiency and compliance.

Prior to joining Grasslands, John served as the head of sales and marketing for top cannabis software platforms Trellis, Green Bits and Flowhub. John has spent time living in Colorado, Oregon and California, experiencing the distinct nuances of each market. He draws from this experience to help license holders, investors and ancillary brands build successful businesses.

Three media outlets I read every single day: The Athletic, Marijuana Business Daily, The Oregonian

Super inspired by: My mother

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: Sound Equine Options

When I’m off the clock (in five words): Music. Animals. Nature. Grilling. Soccer.

ALETA LABAK / COPY CHIEF

Aleta joined Grasslands after a 19-year career with The Denver Post, the largest news organization in Colorado. During her time at the Post, Aleta worked as a copy editor, page designer and digital producer in several departments, including local and national news, business, features and sports. In 2014, she joined Grasslands founder Ricardo Baca as he launched The Cannabist, the Post’s award-winning online vertical covering the historic legalization and implementation of adult-use cannabis in Colorado. Together they helped establish The Cannabist as a go-to national resource for serious cannabis journalism, a platform that ultimately overtook High Times and Marijuana.com in digital traffic.

Three media outlets I read every single day: The New York Times, The Denver Post, Montrose Press (support local journalism!)

Super inspired by: The plant kingdom—amazingly adaptable and resilient. 

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: Charity Navigator

When I’m off the clock (in five words): Outdoors. Horticulture. Craft. Cook. Explore.

alex

ALEX GNIBUS / PUBLICIST

Alex Gnibus is a public relations professional with versatile experience across a range of industries including tech, beauty, wellness and retail. She has supported Fortune 500 companies and scrappy startups alike to drive impactful B2B and B2C media strategies. She lives for telling the stories of game-changing brands, and approaches communications strategy from a journalistic and research-centric perspective.

Prior to joining Grasslands, Alex worked with InkHouse Media + Marketing and Ketchum, where her client experience included Ulta Beauty, Whirlpool, Eaze, Strava, Nutanix, Confluent and more. She built her foundation in journalism at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, and sharpened her research skills with her Master of Arts in Journalism.

Three media outlets I read every single day: Harvard Business Review, Digiday (and the Glossy and Modern Retail sections), Refinery29

Super inspired by: It’s a tie between Olivia Pope and Carrie Bradshaw. 

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: Lighthouse Writers Workshop

When I’m off the clock (in five words): Happy hour! Skiing. Dance. Concerts.

TM_circle headshot

TREVOR MANISCALO / PUBLICIST

Trevor Maniscalo is a Denver-based public relations professional focused on utilizing story-driven strategies to secure all levels of client media coverage. Since joining the Grasslands team in January 2019—first as an intern, then accepting a full-time position upon receiving his bachelor’s degree in journalism—Trevor  has worked to support the communications efforts of nonprofit organizations, as well as companies in the cannabis and restaurant industries.

Three media outlets I read every single day: Marijuana Business Daily, Wall Street Journal and Westword

Super inspired by: Snoop Dogg

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: Human Rights Watch

When I’m off the clock (in five words): Mountains. Music. Family. TV. Weed.

sean

SEAN BILLISITZ / ACCOUNT COORDINATOR

Sean Billisitz is an advertising and public relations professional who excels in media relations, strategic campaign development and social media messaging. Prior to joining Grasslands, he served as an associate account executive with Michigan-based communications firm Truscott Rossman, assisting clients in a range of industries including healthcare, insurance, energy and biomedical research. Sean earned his Bachelor of Science in advertising and public relations from Grand Valley State University (GVSU) in 2018. His work in the Advertising and Public Relations program for the GVSU Department of History and the American Cancer Society garnered multiple awards. In May 2019, the West Michigan Public Relations Society of America named Sean the “Newcomer of the Year.”

Three media outlets I read every single day: Denver 9News, Leafly, Rolling Stone

Super inspired by: My father

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: Little Kids Rock

When I’m off the clock (in five words): Bud. Beer. Boarding. Bass music. 🤘🏼

MADDY-NEW

MADISON WARE / ACCOUNT COORDINATOR

Madison Ware is a Denver-based public relations professional focused on creating brand stories and sharing them on the world stage. She is passionate about collaborative storytelling and building strong client and media relationships. Madison previously served as an account coordinator at MAPRagency, where she assisted clients in the tech and healthcare sectors with B2B communications efforts. She is a graduate of the University of Colorado-Boulder, where she earned a bachelor’s in public relations with a minor in business.

Three media outlets I read every single day: Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Los Angeles Times

Super inspired by: Ellen DeGeneres 

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: Best Friends Animal Society / No-Kill Los Angeles 

When I’m off the clock (in five words): Food. Concerts. Netflix. IPAs only.

-30-

SIGN UP FOR OUR NEWSLETTER

SIGN UP FOR OUR NEWSLETTER