Direct Communications, founded in 1991, is a fully integrated strategic communications firm specializing in public relations, grassroots coalition building, issue management and crisis communications.Connect
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 we represent include:
Energy & Environment
Tourism & Outdoor Recreation
Education & Workforce
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, AL, Atlanta, GA, and the Gulf Coast, 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.
We know media. With more than a century of combined media experience as editors and reporters, our firm has longstanding relationships with key reporters and opinion leaders throughout the state. We’ve got you covered no matter your communications needs.
We plan. We execute. We win. Direct Communications prioritizes the needs of each client. Our ability to provide unique insight and strategies makes us a go-to firm for companies, organizations and elected officials.
Political and public policy issues. Our team provides grassroots communications strategies, coalition building and overall campaign management. DC has led hundreds of successful statewide campaigns – both issues-based and for political candidates.
When media or communications issues arise, we work with our clients to define and set clear goals to help them succeed no matter their needs. DC provides a range of services to clients from media relations support to development of communications plans, research and much more.
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.
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.
Jeff Emerson has worked as a communicator, political adviser and creative strategist in a career that has spanned more than 25 years from the Alabama Governor’s office to the U.S. Capitol and the Executive Office of the President of the United States.
Prior to joining Direct Communications, Jeff served as the Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Public and Media Affairs where he developed and executed communications strategies to advance the nation’s international trade priorities.
In earlier roles, he served as Communications Director for Governor Bob Riley of Alabama and as the top communications staffer on the House Financial Services Committee in Washington, DC. Jeff also previously worked as a Chief of Staff and Press Secretary on Capitol Hill.
Jeff received his bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Political Science from the University of Alabama. He received the Bert Bank Distinguished Service and Achievement Award from the University in 2019.
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.
Stephen Worley brings wide-ranging public affairs experience to Direct Communications. He has led successful political and advocacy campaigns at the federal, state, and local levels and advised the White House, Congressional leadership, state and local elected officials, and majorcorporations on messaging and strategy.
Prior to joining Direct Communications, Stephen was Mobile, Alabama Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s Campaign Manager, where he led the incumbent’s successful reelection campaign. He has also served as the Senior Director of Public Affairs for the International Franchise Association in Washington, DC, a 1400-member trade association representing some of the world’s most well-known brands.
Stephen held several senior roles on Capitol Hill, including as the Deputy Communications Director for the Senate Appropriations Committee under then-Chair Sen. Thad Cochran. In that role, he was responsible for developing and enacting a national communications strategy for the Senate’s largest committee, as well asits Defense Subcommittee, which Cochran concurrently chaired. Stephen started on Capitol Hill with Rep. John Culberson, where he was Communications Director.
Stephen is an honors graduate of the University of Mississippi, where he majored in International Studies and Spanish and was inducted into the university’s Hallof Fame. He and his wife Morgan live in midtown Mobile.
Josh Bean joined Direct Communications after nearly 25 years as a newspaper reporter columnist and editor. He spent 14 years with Alabama Media Group, which publishes AL.com, The Birmingham News, The Huntsville Times and Press-Register in Mobile.
A Birmingham native, he graduated from Walker College in Jasper and the University of Alabama. In an award-winning newspaper career that included stints at The Daily Mountain Eagle in Jasper and the TimesDaily in Florence, he covered everything from state championship football games to murder trials to the BP oil spill.
Josh and his wife, Kerry, live in Gardendale and have two sons who keep them at area soccer fields on a consistent basis.
Natalie Fleming joined Direct Communications after more than two decades in journalism and the healthcare industry.
She spent almost ten years working in print media, followed by another decade in marketing, communications and public relations in the healthcare arena, specifically with hospitals and health systems across the state.
A Texas native raised in rural Etowah County, Natalie holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in communications from the University of Alabama and a certification in healthcare quality and safety from UAB.
Natalie and her two dogs - Lucy and Dixie - reside on top of Shades Mountain in the quaint community of Bluff Park, where she participates in the Bluff Park Women’s Wiffle Ball League, and spends her extra time traveling and crafting.
William Heartsill has experience at both the federal, state and local levels where he has worked with elected officials, industry leaders, government agencies and media in developing and executing communications strategies and campaigns.
Heartsill cut his teeth in Washington D.C. where he served as press secretary for U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee ad the Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee. Heartsill worked closely with national media to craft meaningful messaging to support Alexander's legislative priorities as well as communicated Alexander's work in Washington to his constituents in Tennessee.
After Alexander's retirement in 2020, Heartsill moved back home to Alabama where he served as communications director for Alabama Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Reed. In the Alabama State House Heartsill maintained steady, positive news coverage of the Senate's work, built support for key legislative priorities, worked closely with Senate members to generate positive stories in their districts, and provided strategic advice to the Pro Tem in areas of legislative and political significance.
Following his tenure in the state legislature, Heartsill gained experience in statewide campaigning through his service as communications director for Alabama Governor Kay Ivey's reelection campaign - which resulted in an overwhelming victory in the Republican Primary before he departed to join Direct Communications.
Before joining Direct Communications in 2022, Jeff Sanders worked for 25 years as a television journalist and anchor. During his career, he covered numerous stories that impacted the lives of Alabamians. Jeff has extensive experience covering Alabama politics including numerous campaigns for office on the local and state level. He also has extensive knowledge of the state legislature and government agencies.
Jeff is also very active in his local community. He’s volunteered for the Salvation Army, Children’s Miracle Network and raised money for the America Cancer Society. Jeff attended Troy University where he majored in Broadcast Journalism and History. He is also a graduate of the Torchbearer’s Leadership Program in Montgomery.
Away from his career, Jeff enjoys going to the movies, all things trivia and especially spending quality time with his family.
Amanda Orr is a summa cum laude graduate of the University of Alabama, where she double-majored in Creative Media and Spanish. During her time in college, Amanda worked as a social media intern and video producer for several student organizations and a variety of businesses. At Direct Communications, she helps our clients build their audience via social media and a variety of other platforms, excelling at content creation.
Outside the office, Amanda loves watching movies, drinking coffee and solving puzzles. She also enjoys traveling home to see her family in South Carolina.
Whitney joins Direct Communications as the Office Manager, where she handles the Accounting, Administrative, and day-to-day operations of the office. She brings more than 15 years of administrative experience from a diverse background, ranging all the way from manufacturing and finance to healthcare and non-profit work. She graduated cum laude from the University of Alabama with a degree in Communication and Information Sciences.
Whitney spends most of her free time juggling the activities of three school-age children alongside her husband, Ben.
Rick Heartsill is the founder and senior strategist of Direct Communications.
Rick has served as a counselor to numerous corporate and education executives as well as leading Republican, Democrat, and Independent elected officials for more than 35 years. His work at the state level has extended from Virginia to Texas.
Prior to founding the company in 1991, 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, the Associated Press, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlanta Journal Constitution and many others. In this capacity, he traveled internationally with an emphasis on issues related to national defense. Rick also served as chief of staff to Congressman Sonny Callahan. He managed all political, communications, and legislative aspects of the office as well as work on the House Energy and Commerce Committee while in this position.
Before moving to Washington, D. C., Rick worked for six years in radio and television news. He and his wife, Kelli, are the proud parents of three grown boys. When not working, Rick enjoys time at his farm and the mountains of Highlands, North Carolina.