Alissa Zito Cruz serves as executive director of communications for Step Up. Based in the organization's headquarters in Los Angeles, Alissa joined the nonprofit in 2009 and leads Step Up's public relations and events efforts.
During her time in the role, Alissa has steered the organization through a brand refresh and streamlined organizational messages that articulate Step Up's programs and impact. Through partnerships with Oprah's Live the Life You Want Tour, Teen Vogue Summit and others, Alissa increased awareness of Step Up's vision of a world where all girls have the opportunity to pursue their dreams of success. She secured media coverage for the organization in respected outlets including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, InStyle, The Nonprofit Times, People, Variety, and on TODAY, Entertainment Tonight, the KTLA 5 Morning News and many other outlets.
Facing the pandemic cancellation of in-person events including Step Up's signature Inspiration Awards, Alissa led the creation of a digital summit, Step Up Together. In its inaugural year, the day of content for changemakers garnered over 3,400 registrants from 12 countries and raised more than $600,000 for Step Up's mentorship programs for girls. In addition to working on the concept for the event, Alissa managed content for the day's 44 sessions, and booked talent and executive speakers.
Her day-to-day work involves managing Step Up's brand, media relations, content, digital marketing, speaking engagements and talent relations. She also supports corporate partnerships that involve media and talent.
Alissa came to Step Up with public relations experience in both the agency and higher education arenas. She served as a publicist at MML PR, a boutique agency based in Venice, Calif. There, she led creative campaigns for clients including Chobani Greek Yogurt, Knock Knock, The TeaSpot and others. Previously, she worked as the associate director of athletics media relations at Loyola Marymount University, making her the media contact for the school's NCAA Division I teams including baseball, volleyball and LMU's 2004 NCAA March Madness women's basketball squad.
She holds an MBA and BA in communications from Loyola Marymount University, where she currently serves as adjunct faculty teaching public relations. Alissa and her husband, Frank, reside in Los Angeles.
Get to Know Alissa
What has your mentor taught you?
Growing up, I was lucky to have parents who I considered to be mentors.
My dad clipped weekly newspaper articles highlighting women leaders for me to read. This not only contributed to my leadership aspirations, but also undoubtedly (and unknowingly to him!), my interest in media and public relations.
My mom balanced this sense of ambition with her "just try your best" reassurances. I knew that I'd have her support regardless of my success or missteps, and this made me feel safe to pursue my dreams.
Once at Step Up, I've been grateful to learn from industry-leading mentors from our national board of directors including Liz Dennery, Christine Beauchamp, Linda Descano, Barri Rafferty and Bernadette Fitzpatrick. Each of these mentors has contributed to my growth in branding, communications and marketing in countless ways.
Which Step Up value resonates with you the most?
"Intentional Innovation" captures my love of creativity and desire for continuous improvement. But without our other seven values, especially "Diversity + Justice," there cannot be true innovation.
What do you enjoy most about working at Step Up?
My previous experiences in public relations taught me that people will often tell you "no" (or worse, hang up on you!). At Step Up, I've noticed that people typically look for a way to say "yes." Because of our mission and vision, and the people involved in all areas, others are willing to find a way to help and participate. This inspires me to make progress every day with my work!