A little more than a decade into her public relations career, College of Urban Affairs Alumna of the Year Sarah Thornton made a bold life decision — some might even call it a gamble: She stopped working for others and began working for herself. A dozen years later, it’s clear that her bet paid off.
After graduating UNLV with a bachelor's in communication studies in 1996 and opening her own boutique PR firm in 2007, Thornton and her team have delivered millions of dollars of earned news placements for an ever-growing list of local and national clients. Skilled in media relations across many industries, Thornton’s firm currently specializes in professional services, health care, and real estate. It’s in the latter industry where Sarah has truly made her mark, having represented Southern Nevada’s largest construction equipment dealership (Cashman Equipment Co.) and largest master-planned developer (Del Webb Corp). Thanks to her media-relations savvy, Thornton helped Del Webb garner more news coverage in her first quarter than the company had ever received to that point, eventually earning an average of 20 million news impressions per month.
Connected Communications represents clients not only in Southern Nevada, but also in such major markets as Southern California, Phoenix, and Denver. Those clients include Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Properties (for Arizona, California, and Nevada), Lake Las Vegas, Home365, FEA Consulting Engineers, Naqvi Injury Law, and studio g ARCHITECTURE/luxus DESIGN BUILD.
While running her own firm is more than a full-time job, Thornton has always found time to give back, to both her community and her alma mater. For instance, she consulted on the UNLVIP membership program and website rewrite project in 2012; she frequently returns to campus to talk PR with current students; she assists the campus chapter of the Public Relations Society of America; and from 2016 to 2018, she was the regional network coordinator for the Denver chapter of the UNLV Alumni Association.
Beyond UNLV, Thornton supports Family to Family Connection, Hearts Alive Village Las Vegas, Cure 4 The Kids Foundation and the High Rollers Wheelchair Rugby organization. She also recently concluded a two-year stint on the board of directors for Kenzi’s Causes, a children’s-based charity in Denver. Among her many honors and awards, Sarah was named 2018 Volunteer of the Year by the Clark County Bar Association and Public Relations Principal of the year at the 2011 Electronic Media Awards.
What one experience or relationship at UNLV had the most profound effect on your life and career?
There certainly were many, but if I had to pinpoint just one, it would be my ethics in media class, taught by the wonderful Mary Hausch. Thankfully, Mary’s passion for ethics extends beyond journalism and into every area of communications. Early in my career, I quickly came to realize just how vital Mary’s teachings were, as my profession is one in which ethical lines are sometimes blurred. I was also lucky enough to get to know Mary on a personal level, which allowed me to see that she’s as zealous an advocate for her students as she is for journalism. I hope I’m a better communicator and student advocate because of her.
How would you define “Rebel Pride”?
To me, Rebel Pride extends far beyond UNLV’s campus — something I didn’t realize until I moved to Denver in 2012. While there, I met other UNLV alums and came to understand just how much passion people have for this tremendous university. Of course, that pride was always there for me, but it wasn’t something that I thought existed much outside of my hometown. Eventually, I became the representative for the UNLV alumni chapter in Denver, and through that group we attended games, got together to socialize, and even visited the School of Engineering’s entry in the global Solar Decathlon competition. More than anything, I was able to experience Rebel Pride in a way I had never experienced before.