About Us

Our Story

Direct Communications, founded in 1991, is a fully integrated strategic communications firm specializing in public relations, grassroots coalition building, issue management and crisis communications.

 

On political issues, our Direct Communications team provides media relations, grassroots communications strategies, coalition building and overall campaign management.  The firm has managed hot-button issues as well as campaigns for corporations, associations and other organizations on local, state and national issues.  We work hand in glove with top lobbying firms, providing media and grassroots support to help pass or kill proposed legislation, regulations or other actions important to our clients’ bottom line.

 

When media and communications issues arise, Direct Communications provides message development, public opinion research, communications support, media placement and ongoing communications counsel.  Our firm has in-depth knowledge and expertise in major media markets along with longstanding relationships with key reporters and opinion-shapers in the region.  While we tap into our deep relationships with traditional newspaper, television and radio media, we also aggressively work to integrate cost-effective and innovative social media strategies into our efforts.

 

Direct Communications’ ability to provide unique insight makes us a go-to firm for companies, organizations and elected officials throughout the state.

Providing reputation management is a vital part of the long-term strategy our firm provides to our clients.  Many of the crisis issues managed by the firm include collaborative work with leading lobbying and law firms.  Our objective is to review and understand the issue from a public and legal standpoint, to put into place a comprehensive plan to begin repairing any damage to our client, and over time to rebuild their brand, reputation or public trust.

 

With offices in Birmingham, Ala. and Mobile, Ala., our Direct Communications staff combines more than a century of experience in the communications field.  Our client sectors include healthcare, energy, environment, conservation, general business, government agencies and organizational entities.

 

Direct Communications’ focus is on our clients’ goals and achieving results. Our clients include some of the most respected names in their industries.  Some of the sectors that we represent include:

 

  • Education/Workforce
  • Healthcare
  • Energy/Environment
  • Corporate Communications
  • Tourism/Outdoor Recreation
  • Legal

OUR TEAM

COLLIER CRAFT

President

Collier Craft has both grassroots and public affairs experience. He brings to Direct Communications a unique talent and the ability to work with both corporate and public sectors, demonstrating knowledge of the goals and needs of each through his extensive media campaigns.

 

Collier has led successful statewide public education campaigns and has experience in grassroots campaigns, coalition building, strategic counseling, media management and public relations.

 

A graduate of Auburn University, Collier spent a number of years in Washington, D.C., before returning home to Alabama. Since joining Direct Communications in 2007, he has focused a majority of his career working in public affairs and communications, while also taking on the role of managing numerous grassroots campaigns.

ROBIN DEMONIA

Executive Vice President

Before joining Direct Communications in 2012, Robin DeMonia worked for 25 years as a journalist, including seven years as a state government reporter and 10 years as a member of the editorial board of The Birmingham News. During her newspaper career, she covered numerous political campaigns and wrote extensively about public policy issues at the local, state and national levels.

 

She was a member of the 2005 class of Leadership Birmingham and is an active civic volunteer. She currently serves on the local leadership board of the American Lung Association, on the board of directors of NAMI Alabama, and on the Women’s Health Steering Committee for the Alabama Department of Public Health. She graduated from the University of Alabama.

EDDIE LARD

Senior Account Executive

Eddie Lard joined Direct Communications in 2013. He previously worked 32 years in newspapers as a reporter, assistant metro editor and editorial writer. Thirty of those years were spent at The Birmingham News, where he was a member of the editorial board for 17 years. During his career at The News, he directed reporters, supervised interns and wrote on a variety of public policy issues, including poverty, transportation, the environment and education. He wrote from the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver.

 

The University of Alabama graduate is a founding member and former president of the Birmingham Association of Black Journalists. He is a 2002 graduate of Leadership Birmingham and has served on the board of directors of the Birmingham Urban League.

SUZANNE ANDERSON, APR

Senior Account Executive

Suzanne Anderson brings a diverse background to Direct Communications, as she has worked in the public affairs/communications field for the manufacturing, healthcare, political, association and charitable sectors. With her extensive 20+ years of experience, Suzanne has developed the crucial skill of building relationships with people from all walks of life, with varying business priorities, to help them achieve their goals.

 

Suzanne is Accredited in Public Relations via the Public Relations Society of America. She is also a Senior Practitioner of the Southern Public Relations Federation. Suzanne received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Relations from Auburn University.

 

In addition, Suzanne is a graduate of Leadership Brewton, AL, and Leadership Georgetown, SC. She was a Rotarian in both cities, as well.

 

She has served on numerous non-profit boards, including the YMCA, the United Way, Delta Zeta Sorority and the Council of the Arts.

FRANCES COLEMAN

Senior Account Executive

The former editor of the Mobile Press-Register’s editorial page, Frances Coleman is a freelance columnist, editor and speaker. Her weekly column is published on al.com.

 

A native of Louisiana, Frances has lived in south Alabama for more than 35 years. She began her newspaper career in this area as a reporter for, and then editor of, The Onlooker and Islander newspapers in Foley and Gulf Shores. She joined the Press-Register in 1984, working in its Baldwin County offices for 10 years before moving “downtown” to become an editorial writer, weekly columnist and, eventually, head of the opinion section. Frances is a graduate of Leadership Alabama.

 

Frances is married to Jim Coleman, an attorney in Robertsdale. The couple has two grown children, both of whom are lawyers. Frances and Jim live in Silverhill with their three Great Danes and four cats.

MIKE PERRIN

Senior Account Executive

Mike Perrin is a native of Cordova, Ala., and a long-time Birmingham resident. He has worked for newspapers in Andalusia, Jasper, Montgomery, Decatur, Birmingham and Anniston. Perrin has experience in producing and editing web-based content and decades of experience in writing and editing news and sports articles. He also has experience in community magazine publishing, having served as a Production Manager for seven magazines distributed throughout Alabama.

 

He has written a bi-weekly blog for the Gulf South Conference spotlighting outstanding student-athletes and coaches from around the league and covered Jacksonville State University football for The Anniston Star.

 

Mike is married to Andrea Dorais and lives in Hoover. He is the father of two adult daughters and grandfather of three.

CHARLOTTE SMITH

Chief Operating Officer

Charlotte Smith joined Direct Communications in 2013 as Chief Operating Officer, where she coordinates the financial, administrative operations and human resources side of Direct Communications. She previously was an auditor with the Birmingham affiliate of Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Co., which at that time was the second-largest American accounting firm. While at PMM, her primary concentrations were in the healthcare, insurance and government sectors. Later, she joined AmSouth Bank in the Commercial Finance area, serving as Auditor and Vice-President, where in addition to auditing, she supervised the auditing staff.

 

Charlotte graduated Magna Cum Laude from Auburn University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting and later with a Masters of Arts from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. While in college, she was an active member of Alpha Xi Delta sorority, Beta Alpha Psi accounting honorary and Omicron Delta Kappa honorary. A lifelong resident of Alabama, Charlotte loves spending time with her husband and three children. She is also an avid tennis player.

RICK HEARTSILL

Senior Strategist

Rick Heartsill is the founder and CEO of Direct Communications, one of Alabama’s largest and most successful public relations and political communications firms. Rick founded Direct Communications in 1991.

 

Prior to forming Direct Communications, Rick served in Washington, D.C., as press secretary to Congressman Bill Nichols. In this role, he worked on a daily basis with key national and international publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Reuters, The Associated Press and others. In this capacity, he traveled internationally with an emphasis on issues relating to national defense. Rick also served as chief of staff to Congressman Sonny Callahan. He managed all political, communication and legislative aspects of the office while serving in this role.

 

Rick has served as a senior strategist and counselor for many of Alabama’s leading Republican, Democrat, and Independent elected officials, as well as corporate and university presidents for almost 35 years.

 

Before moving to Washington, D.C., Rick worked for six years in Alabama radio and television news. He is a graduate of Auburn University with a degree in communications.