Balsera Communications is a leading national public affair and strategic communications firm delivering impactful media relations, digital strategy and issue advocacy campaigns to top-tier organizations and companies.
We specialize in an engaging general market and multicultural audiences at the local, state and national level on public policy and community issues that affect their everyday lives.
Areas of expertise include crisis management, infrastructure project communications, climate and environmental issues, community grassroots engagement, and the US Hispanic market.
What sets us apart is our team of bilingual and multicultural professionals, and an ability to deliver high-quality communications and community engagement campaigns to diverse audiences in the U.S. and Latin America.
Founder + Managing Partner
David A. Duckenfield is the President and a partner at Balsera Communications where he provides leadership and counsel across the agency’s diverse practice areas. He has over 20 years experience in public diplomacy, corporate and marketing communications, brand building, crisis communications and public policy. As president, Duckenfield focuses on new business development, strategic management of client accounts and day-to-day management of the firm.
Between 2014 and 2016, Duckenfield was a senior official in the Obama Administration, where he served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Public Affairs. In this role he oversaw the Offices of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, which engaged the American public and state and local elected officials on the foreign policy policies and priorities of the administration.
During his tenure at the State Department, Duckenfield launched the “Cities@State” Department-wide initiative that focused on the nexus of foreign policy and urbanization and sought to develop diplomatic options and opportunities in that space. In that capacity, he led the 2015 U.S. Delegation to APEC Senior Officials’ Meeting on city development and urbanization in Cebu, Philippines, and was the department liaison with U.S. mayors and governors at the 2015 U.S. China Leaders Climate Summit in Los Angeles and at the 2015 COP21 Global Climate Summit in Paris, France.
While at State, Duckenfield also led the Department’s efforts to engage with Americans and global audiences on the administration’s policy changes towards Cuba announced on December 17, 2014 by President Obama. He also launched the first initiative at the State Department to engage directly and consistently with Hollywood studios.
Duckenfield became a partner at Balsera Communications in 2007, launching a federal government practice that designed and executed campaigns for the Department of the Interior (National Museum of the American Latino Commission), the FCC and GSA. During 2008 Duckenfield was a member of the Obama Campaign’s Florida Finance Committee and was part of the firm’s team that scripted and produced the national Spanish-language ads for the Obama for America campaign. In 2012 he became an Obama Victory Trustee with the campaign’s national finance team.
Duckenfield started his professional career as a U.S. Foreign Service Officer with the United States Information Agency (USIA), serving in Mexico City and Bogota, Colombia as press and cultural affairs attaché. He later moved on to become the senior communications manager and then director of marketing for NBA Latin America, at the league’s regional headquarters for Latin America and the U.S. Hispanic market in Miami.
David is a member of the New York based Council on Foreign Relations and a member of the Andover Alumni Council. He is a former vestry member of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Coral Gables, FL and board member of St. Philip's Episcopal School. He is a past board member on the Abbot Academy Association and a past president of the Board of Foster Care Review, a not-for-profit children’s advocacy group in Miami, Florida. He was also a founding Board of Directors member of the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital’s Miami Angels and Stars Gala and a former adjunct professor for Central Texas College. He received the State Department Meritorious Honor Award for his work during the 1995 civilian U.S. airliner crash in then rebel-controlled territory of Colombia.
Duckenfield received a MA in Latin American Studies and International Economics from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C.; earned a BA in History from Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire; and graduated from Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts.
He is fluent in Spanish and proficient in Portuguese.
President + Partner
Sonia Diaz is the Director of Public Relations and Digital Strategies at Balsera Communications. In her role, she leads local and national media relations, digital strategies, public affairs initiatives, issues advocacy efforts and U.S. Hispanic outreach for Fortune 500 companies, and grassroots organizations. Her extensive experience in both the global and boutique agency setting has earned her four national awards, including 2014 PR Week Multicultural Campaign of the Year.
Her past and current client roster includes UnitedHealthcare, National Hispanic Landscape Alliance, Hispanicize, Miami Beach FOP, United Teachers of Dade, Environmental Defense Fund, Miami Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation 100 Resilient Cities, The Jose Milton Foundation, IMPAC Fund, 3M, BBC Worldwide, Vme TV, SAG-AFTRA, United Health Foundation, Catholic Relief Services, NCLR, Our Kids of Miami Dade & Monroe, the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida, eMerge Americas, and many others.
Prior to joining Balsera Communications, Sonia worked at Burson-Marsteller where she supported communications efforts for corporate, multicultural, tourism and technology clients in the US and Latin America. There, she led campaigns for the Costa Rica Tourism Board (ICT) to raise awareness of the country's worldwide leadership in sustainable tourism practices.
Sonia started her career at Edelman Public Relations in her home state of Texas where she received her B.A. from Texas State University in Modern Languages and Mass Communications.
In addition to her work, Sonia served as president for HPRA Miami from 2014-2016 and as a director for HPRA USA from 2016-2017. She is currently serving on the inaugural board for ColorComm Miami.
For her work and achievements, the Texas State University College of Liberal Arts awarded her with the Distinguished Alumni Rising Star Award in 2017 and in 2018 she was named one of South Florida's Most Influential Women in Business by the South Florida Business Journal.
Director of Public Relations
Executive Admin. Assistant
Julio brings extensive international experience having worked in Europe, Central America, and South America.
As Director of Special Projects, Mr. Ligorría manages a project roster that includes a variety of sectors from technology to government. He is also working with individual clients whose needs specifically align with his experience in crisis communications.
Prior to joining Balsera, Julio was a Senior Consultant for Burson-Marsteller in Panama where his work focused primarily on crisis management and corporate communications strategy. He was the lead consultant of the team that managed the “Panama Papers” crisis for Mossack-Fonseca.
Mr. Ligorría worked extensively on the design and execution of a comprehensive image overhaul campaign for Panama’s Ministry of Economy and Finance. He also assisted the team working with Construtora Norberto Odebrecht at the height of the international bribery scandal aiding on specific issues regarding messaging and media relations. His past client portfolio included companies in banking, financial services, renewable energy, non-profit, technology, construction, fast food, and entertainment.
Mr. Ligorría began his career in Virginia where he worked at Snow Companies, a full-service agency specializing in patient storytelling through direct-to-patient initiatives. There he worked on recruiting and training international patients to be part of campaigns to build awareness of a wide variety of rare diseases around the world. He worked directly with top companies such as Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Bristol Meyers Squibb, Biogen, Baxter, Shire, and others.
Julio received his B.A. from George Mason University in International Crisis Analysis and Resolution. He is fluent in English, Spanish, and has a professional understanding of Portuguese.
Director of Special Projects
Cory McKnight is a senior account executive at Balsera Communications where he specializes in community outreach and public involvement. Since 2007 Mr. McKnight has worked in South Florida providing public affairs and public relations services specializing in transportation and infrastructure. Prior to joining Balsera Communications in 2014, Cory worked at Communikatz for 7 years. From 2007 to 2014 he served as an intergovernmental affairs liaison for the Florida Department of Transportation District Six. In this capacity, he worked with many municipalities and county governments in Miami-Dade and Monroe facilitating concurrence of the 5-Year Work Program. He has facilitated meetings with elected officials, community and business organizations, members of the media, the general public, planning bodies and transportation agencies. He has produced special events, created collateral materials for marketing and public and governmental presentations. He is skilled at conveying highly technical information to lay audiences. Cory has worked on major South Florida transportation projects such as the Miami Intermodal Center (MIC), Port of Miami Tunnel, the 95 Express/I-95 Managed Lanes Project, Tri-Rail Coastal Link Study and the NE 203 and NE 215 PD&E Study. Cory has served as the Public Relations Manager for a municipal water and sewer improvement project in Miami-Dade County.
Prior to his career in public affairs, Cory worked in education for a seven years at Central Piedmont Community College, the largest educational institution in the Carolinas. While there, he worked as Assistant to the Director of the federally funded TRIO Programs. He carried out a wide range of duties to support non-traditional students in their pursuits of higher education. He developed curricula, revised department policies, taught classes and facilitated workshops.
Before entering education, Cory had a nine-year career as an engineer. For five years, he worked at AMT DataSouth Computer Corporation, a multinational printer manufacturer. He began as a manufacturing engineer where he enhanced product reliability and accountability by implementing calibration and audit programs and rewriting training documents and making them available via an intranet archival site. His assistance on a major plant refitting significantly reduced labor costs. His success in developing and maintaining lines of communication between the manufacturing and design departments earned him a promotion to administering the Configuration Control program across all product lines.
Cory’s professional experience extends to two Fortune 500 companies—Xerox and IBM. He worked with two product development teams at Xerox’s research and design headquarters in Rochester, New York. The first was an international team consisting of Fuji Xerox of Japan and the former Rank Xerox of England, for which he assisted in tracking product development issues. Later, he wrote software and conducted tests to establish performance parameters for new imaging technologies. At IBM, he focused on the manufacturing of circuit boards for several product lines.
Cory received his Bachelor of Science in Mathematics/Physics, Cum Laude from Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Senior Account Executive
Isabella Perales joined Balsera Communications in March 2018 and serves as Account Executive to the public relations practice. In her role, she supports the firm’s senior executives in the launch and management of public relations, public affairs and community grassroots campaigns at the local and national level for various clients including EDF+ Business, Greater Miami and the Beaches (GM+B), Ride On Miami, the National Hispanic Landscape Alliance, and others.
Prior to joining Balsera Communications, Isabella graduated with a B.A. in Political Science from Johns Hopkins University. During her time here, she interned at the International Republican Institute, where she worked with the Latin American and Caribbean Division and assisted in the design and implementation of programs to increase transparency and improve democratic practices across the region. After graduating, she worked as the Director of the Special Projects Units for the State Government of Miranda, where she developed and implemented programs of socio-economic impact in the State of Miranda and coordinated interdepartmental efforts.
Isabella recently obtained a Masters in Public Administration from Columbia University in the City of New York. Prior to joining Balsera Communications, she worked as a consultant for Digisalud, a health-tech NGO addressing health challenges and needs in Latin America. In this role, she conducted research on health-related topics in the region and identified possible alliances with NGOs, civil society groups, government, and the private sector working towards a better health care system in Latin America. She also led several meetings with potential clients and partners in the region.
She is fluent in Spanish and English.