Are You ‘Social’ Enough?

By: Kirk Hazlett

It seems like I’m hearing this more and more every day about the “importance of social media,” usually prefaced by “You really need to be active on …”

If you’re the target of this “helpful observation,” the first piece of unsolicited advice I offer is to ask (politely), “Why? Why do I have to be on …?”

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let’s talk about you and your particular needs as a communicator.

The “bright, shiny object” syndrome seems to still be alive and well today when it comes to social media. Clients and bosses alike are running around yelping, “It’s new. I have to have it.” But slow down a minute and ask yourself, “Who are our target audiences, and how do they get their information?”

In my most recent transformation as a PR professional-turned-PR professor, I learned the importance of this initial research step early on in classroom communications. I reasoned that I had a school-assigned email account and my students had school-assigned email accounts so email was the way we should communicate outside the classroom.

However, when I actually implemented this system, I got crickets!

Nothing most of the time. Not a peep.

Then, one day, I was on Facebook posting my usual annoying weather updates and other mostly-useless stuff. I just happened to glance at the contacts listing on the right and noticed that a particular student, who I had tried unsuccessfully to contact via email (and with whom I was connected on Facebook), was online.

All it took was a click and a quick “Hi! ?” to get a meek “Yes, Professor?” from the culprit.

The moral of this story is, “If you want to reach and communicate with your target audiences, you need to know their information-gathering habits.” And, speaking as a Baby Boomer myself, that might still include traditional print and broadcast media.

But back to your social status …

Being “social” is a commitment. It’s not an “Oh well, it’s May; I should change my ‘Merry Christmas’ posting” kind of thing. You need to establish a schedule of regular postings on whichever platforms (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, a blog, etc.) you select as your avenues for communicating.

And, it’s not about lurking in the shadows spying on others’ activity. Being “social” is about communicating with others, making relevant comments on their posts, posting your own observations,  engaging as an intelligent human being that others can and will want to relate to. They expect you to be visible, viable and valuable.

So, homework time.

  • Who is your target audience? What are their demographics?
  • How/where does your target audience get information? Traditional media? Social media? A combination of the two?
  • What are your objectives? Building awareness? Driving foot traffic? Generating leads?
  • What is your product or service? Which platforms best support your objectives for it?
  • What is your message relating to your product or service? Which platforms (traditional or social) allow you to effectively convey that message?
  • Who will have responsibility for generating your social media content and then monitoring the conversations that will arise as a result of or in response to your messaging?


Once you’ve done your homework, you’re ready to implement your social activities.

Social media can be a blessing, a curse or, in some cases, both! You need to give serious thought to your ability to effectively and efficiently incorporate those platforms that best support your goals and objectives and then commit to developing and maintaining a visible presence.

And finally, sit back, take a deep breath and monitor traffic (responses or reactions to your message). As the Boy Scout motto says so well, “Be prepared.”

Dose of reality here: Not everyone is going to fall all googly-eyed in love with you. You will have detractors. You will have people posting snarky remarks about you, about your product or service, about virtually anything.

You will have to make a determination as to how you will (or if you should) respond. Be prudent, and remember: what you say and how you say it will be interpreted differently by any- and everyone who visits your site. First impressions are lasting impressions, so think carefully before you respond if you choose to do so.

So there you have it. It’s the 21st Century. Communicating with your target audiences is morphing at Star-Trekian “warp speed.” Take a moment to focus on your methods of getting your message to your markets and answer this one simple question: Are you ‘social’ enough?

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PRSA Sunshine District Conference Member-Only Scholarship

As a benefit to our valued chapter members, PRSA Tampa Bay is offering two $575 scholarships for chapter members to attend the 2018 Sunshine District Conference. This year’s conference is July 12 -14 at the Wyndham Grand Harbourside in Jupiter, Fla. Learn more about the conference here.

To apply, complete the online scholarship application found here.

About the scholarship: The scholarship recipients will be required to perform a volunteer role during the conference. Be sure to indicate in your application which role(s) you are willing to perform, if you are awarded a scholarship. The Tampa Bay Chapter scholarship will cover the registration fee and reimburse up to $300 for lodging and travel. Recipients will need to submit receipts to the PRSA Tampa Bay chapter treasurer for reimbursement after the conference.

Deadline to apply: 5 p.m., Friday, April 27.

Judging: A selection committee from another PRSA chapter will review and choose the scholarship recipients based on merit and need.

Winners will be notified by May 11.

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Public Relations Students Gain Firsthand Experience in Motorsports

By Katie Cafiero and Jessica Martinez, USF PRSSA

The Firestone Grand Prix, which served as the IndyCar season opener, transformed the streets of downtown St. Petersburg into a racetrack. The weekend-long event kicked off on March 9, and the city was buzzing with excitement. Thousands gathered to watch the races and check out the events. 

Unlike most of the volunteers, we had never even been to a race before. If you would have asked us what an IndyCar was, we would have stood dumbfounded. But our interest dramatically shifted when Bart Graham, Firestone Grand Prix Media Center Leader, invited us to volunteer at the event. Needless to say, we did not hesitate to accept! As aspiring public relations professionals, we were eager to gain firsthand experience working for a major sporting event.

The Mahaffey Theater turned into a working media center, housing journalists and photographers for the duration of race weekend. We had the opportunity to watch live press conferences, distribute race results to the media and transport drivers to their interviews. Not only did we gain experience in the career path of our interest, we were also able to meet some of the people behind it all like the Senior Manager for National Media Outreach of IndyCar. The experience opened our eyes to the busy, yet exciting world of sports public relations. More importantly, we were able to apply our knowledge outside of the classroom.

Our favorite part of the weekend, though, was getting to experience the racetrack firsthand. On Sunday, we were quickly ushered to the track when we arrived at the Mahaffey at 7:30 am. There, we suited up in a HANS device and were escorted into a car to take one (very quick) lap around the track for a test run. As soon as the car doors shut, we were off! We blinked our eyes and crossed the finish line. It’s difficult to describe the experience. It’s a mixture of the kind of adrenaline rush you get on a roller coaster and the surge of anxiety you get when you’re a passenger in your 16-year-old brother’s car. Nevertheless, it was an exciting experience we will certainly never forget.

We would like to thank Bart, our PRSA Tampa Bay “mentor for the weekend,” for giving us insight into the world of IndyCar and all that it has to offer. His love and knowledge of the sport was able to give us the most valuable experience possible. We are both looking forward to applying our newfound knowledge of this industry to our future endeavors.



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The Path to Accreditation

By Paula MacDonald

April is APR month, and I’ve had the honor of serving as PRSA Tampa Bay’s Accreditation co-chair with Katy Parsons, APR for the past three years. We’ve helped to guide seven candidates on their Accreditation journey and look forward to working with six more chapter members this year in our 2018 study group cohort.

The decision to work toward Accreditation is a personal one that can take on many different forms. Our chapter has a comprehensive seven-week program that offers an opportunity for candidates to work alongside one another and support each other in their APR journey. Other opportunities to learn include the online APR course, a rigorous three-day APR boot camp offered periodically by PRSA National and, of course, self-study.

Regardless of the chosen path, the end result of this preparation is the completion of an extensive questionnaire and portfolio presentation in front of a peer-reviewed panel, followed by a comprehensive 132-question computer-based examination. Passing both of these hurdles earns candidates the privilege of adding “APR” to their signature and profoundly changes the way that they look at public relations planning and execution.

The APR is a testament of one’s professional expertise, ethics and personal commitment to the public relations industry. Any practitioner with a minimum of five years of professional experience in public relations who is a member of PRSA or one of eight other public relations organizations recognized by the Universal Accreditation Board (UAB) is qualified to apply for Accreditation.

Reasons for seeking this voluntary certification vary among candidates. For many, public relations might not be the curriculum that they studied in college, and these individuals find the depth of the APR program valuable in affirming and reinforcing what they may have learned on the job. For others, becoming Accredited offers new opportunities in career advancement and credibility among other industry professionals.

In an era where the reputation of the public relations practitioner is often on the line due to near daily misdeeds of highly visible “spinmasters,” the significance of differentiating oneself as an Accredited professional is more prudent than ever. By abiding by and adhering to a certain set of defined ethical standards, APRs tell the world that they care about doing the right thing and are committed to excellence and advancing the industry as a whole.

In the Tampa Bay Chapter of PRSA, we are proud to have nearly one-third of our chapter certified as Accredited public relations practitioners; the highest percentage of APRs in the state. This group of professionals is committed to their craft and to supporting other chapter members in beginning their APR journey when the time is right.

If you are interested in learning more about Accreditation, or would like to join our 2018 study group, there is still time. Please contact APR co-chairs Paula MacDonald, APR or Katy Parsons, APR, and visit our web page for more information. Candidates are beginning to work with APR mentors to prepare their portfolios and will be starting classes on Tuesday, June 19, following Panel Presentations.

Six Steps to Accreditation: 

  1. Apply to begin the process with PRSA.

  2. Prepare your questionnaire and portfolio with mentor guidance.

  3. Present your portfolio at peer-guided Panel Presentation.

  4. Study for exam independently or with a group.

  5. Take exam at testing center.

  6. Pass exam and celebrate your new status as an APR!


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PRSA Tampa Bay Mentors Future PR Pros at Resume Review

By Kirk Hazlett, APR, Fellow PRSA, and Joseph Priest, APR

Whether you’re a new grad, young professional or seasoned veteran, for many of us, one thing that never ceases to amaze is how working with the next generation of PR pros can re-energize our passion for our profession.

This was our experience on April 3, when, for the second year in a row, our Public Service Committee and Students Committee held a résumé review session and mixer with USF’s PRSSA chapter at the main Tampa campus.

Our effort consisted of reviewing assigned student résumés about a week in advance and then meeting with the students at the USF Marshall Student Center to discuss our impressions. We talked about everything from résumé content  selection to writing quality to organization to formatting. More broadly, though, we were able to spark some deep conversations about PR and offer real-world advice and personal anecdotes about the best ways to start and succeed in a PR career. Then, to reward everyone for their hard work, we hosted a mixer with light snacks and drinks so we could get to know each other even more.

Our team included 11 volunteers who dedicated almost an hour of their time beforehand as well as several hours of a Tuesday evening to help prepare eight students begin their first chapter in their careers. Team members included both seasoned professionals who were able to share lessons from the breadth of their careers, as well as younger professionals who were able to offer some insights from their recent experience on what to expect in the early part of a PR career.


We offer a special thank-you to these members for lending their expertise to this event:

  •          Betty Carlin, APR
  •          Bart Graham
  •          Mary Haban, APR
  •          Kirk Hazlett, APR, Fellow PRSA
  •          Mary Margaret Hull, APR
  •          Curtis Krueger
  •          Paula MacDonald, APR
  •          Joseph Priest, APR
  •          Jenna Stock
  •          Liz Taylor
  •          Kelsy Van Camp

Ultimately, the event involved 19 PRSA and PRSSA members and lasted a few hours, but the contribution it makes to the future of our local PR community is almost incalculable. We were able to provide up-and-coming PR practitioners with firsthand insight from a diverse mix of pros, tap into a pipeline of the latest talent to consider for our organizations’ hiring needs, and strengthen our relationship with our area’s largest PRSSA chapter. It was a rewarding experience in every way.


The event builds on last year’s résumé review and mixer that we held with USF PRSSA, and it lays a foundation for a similar effort that we hope to plan soon with the University of Tampa’s newly formed PRSSA chapter.

The Public Service Committee and Students Committee are also working on other ideas to keep our chapter involved in the community and engaged with college students this year. Please stay tuned to the PRSA Tampa Bay website for more on our upcoming events and ways in which you can participate.



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The Puck Stops Here: What I Learned From Sports PR

By Daniela Espinosa

Last Tuesday, March 27, I was fortunate to attend PRSA Tampa Bay’s event “The Puck Stops Here,” featuring marketing and communications leaders from the Tampa Bay Lightning and Amalie Arena. The luncheon included a panel with Bill Wickett, executive vice president of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Brian Breseman, director of public relations, and Angela Lanza, sr. manager of event marketing. They opened the room for a discussion about their day-to-day duties, including sharing stories about overseeing public relations and marketing for one of the top sports franchises in the nation, as well one of Tampa Bay’s busiest event venues.

Daily jobs for the Tampa Bay Lightning PR and marketing teams include handling media interviews and press conferences, along with creating content for their own broadcasting, social media and websites. The teams are also heavily involved in community outreach programs focusing a lot on volunteer work with the community prior to playoff season. The Community Hero program, for example, is well known for acknowledging and rewarding people who have served the Tampa Bay area.

If the Lightning makes it to the playoffs and into the Stanley Cup final, the National Hockey League takes over most of the public relations efforts. The team here at Amalie Arena then retreats to the locker room—meaning they are in charge of interviews and making sure there is enough content for broadcasting and other forms of media.

For non-hockey activities in Amalie Arena, public relations specialists must help with planning events several months ahead of time, coordinating media engagement and making sure customer satisfaction continues to be great.

Now, while I am a fan of sports, I felt a little out of place walking into the event. I was not 100-percent sure that sports PR would be the right fit for me. I wondered if the panel would be useful for my own future in public relations.

In the end, I was thrilled to have heard Lanza, Breseman and Wickett speak about their experiences. Perhaps the most important piece of advice I got was when I spoke with Bill Wickett privately. It was simple, but nonetheless incredibly true. He said that you must be fearless and aggressive in your chosen career. Wickett shared that, in order to get experience in the field, you must reach out to people, put yourself out there, accept criticism, deal with difficult situations and learn from them. PR is an incredibly competitive field, so you cannot hang back and expect things will just work out.

The rest of the panel provided a lot of useful information, even for those who may not be entirely interested in sports PR.

Wickett and Breseman spoke proudly about how running a top sports franchise across all U.S. leagues means that everything starts from the top down. In order to have great customer service and a beneficial relationship with the public, you need to start by building strong internal relationships. A team that cannot work well together cannot connect well with its audience.

This means there needs to be consistent change and continuous improvement. You have to ask yourself, “What skills are you personally lacking? What do you believe your team can do better? What is one way you and your team can be better prepared for a possible issue?”

That last question brings up a huge point that the Lightning PR team touched on: Crisis communication plans are a necessity. Uncertainty is always an issue, especially in sports PR. Challenges like not knowing whether to alert the media about a possible injury on the team before a game, or having a concert act cancel at the last minute must be dealt with immediately and responsibly. The crisis communications plan needs to be adaptable, and it needs to include provisions for owning up to whatever mistakes the organization might have made.

Besides communications plans for emergencies, an individual in public relations has to work side by side with the media. Wickett said that working with the media involves a mix of giving them what they want while also trying to achieve your own objectives. In other words, you must be able to compromise with the specific goal in mind. As Wickett stated, “The main thing is listening.”

I feel fortunate to have gained insight on how the Tampa Bay Lightning public relations and marketing teams work together. The chance to speak and learn from the panel has encouraged me to be more proactive and get my foot in the door. After all, experience leads to wisdom.






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Member Recounts Lessons from Tampa Bay Lightning PR Panel

PRSA Tampa Bay member Kasey Brennan of KB Communications published a blog article about our chapter's recent event, "The Puck Stops Here: Insights from Tampa Bay Lightning's PR Team." In her post, Brennan highlights three lessons she picked up from the panel of experts who spoke about the challenges, opportunities and excitement of representing a national sports team as well as a world-class events venue in a growing metropolitan community. The takeaways she recaps have applications across industries. Read more in "3 Lessons from the Tampa Bay Lightning Communications Team." 

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Mentoring — A way to give back in your profession

By Denise Wilson and Jaily Hernandez  

Mentor’s Perspective: 
Servant leaders have always inspired me throughout my career. A big attribute of servant leadership is giving back and mentoring others. I have been very fortunate in my life to have some amazing mentors that have influenced and molded my career. Some of these mentoring relationships were through a formal program but most were informal with people I admired in my existing network. One of the most influential mentors in my career was Jim DeSimone at Darden Restaurants. He was a coach, teacher and public relations expert, and he saw something in me when I was a young professional that I didn’t see in my self. It reminded me of Oprah Winfrey’s quote, "A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.”

After gaining several years of communications experience, I felt it was time to give back. I briefly met my mentee, Jaily Hernandez, a couple of months ago at the PRSSA “Panel with the Pros” session at the University of South Florida. We were later paired as part of the USF PRSSA Mentoring Program. Jaily is a creative-thinker, go-getter, South Florida girl and leader within her PRSSA group. I was honored to be her mentor. She quickly reached out to me, and we set up our mentoring meetings. It has been a rewarding experience for both of us.

Mentee’s Perspective:
Having just switched my major last semester from criminology to advertising, I was looking for guidance. Since I was only a beginner, I thought having a mentor would be a great learning experience. When the opportunity presented itself, I quickly leaped at the chance. My mentor, Denise Wilson, has been able to give me insight from her experiences, which I find extremely valuable. Some things you just can’t learn from a textbook. 

The portion of the mentorship that I have found most enlightening is having the opportunity to self-reflect. This has led me to discover my inclination toward the creative process. Denise helped me analyze my strengths and opportunities. We sat down, and I considered the top five strengths I possess as well as areas in which I can improve. She explained that this process will allow me to understand where I can best apply my skills. Not to mention, once these strengths are identified, they can be incorporated into a resume and LinkedIn profile. One of the most important things I learned was how to build a personal brand on social media and how to reach out to other professionals.

Establishing tasks to accomplish by our each meeting made our mentorship productive. Tasks could be something small such as Denise looking over my LinkedIn profile or providing internship ideas. My tasks would usually involve researching what agencies would best suit my skill set. By staying committed to our respective roles, we not only maintain a productive mentorship, but we also enjoy the experience as mentor and mentee.

Below are some quick tips on how to navigate a successful mentor relationship from a mentor vs. mentee perspective.


  • Set up a monthly meeting, and stick to it.
  • Help your mentee understand what their strengths are − this will help in the interview process.
  • Provide networking opportunities or internship ideas.
  • Review your mentee’s resume, LinkedIn profile and portfolio.
  • Most of all listen and provide valuable advice for your mentee. You might learn something new in the process too!


  • Reach out to your mentor and commit to all meetings.
  • Set goals you wish to accomplish, such as obtaining an internship or job.
  • Be open to constructive criticism.
  • Complete any tasks you and your mentor agree to work on.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions − mentors are there to help.

We encourage all professionals and students to be part of the USF PRSSA Mentor Program.  For mentors, it is way to give back and share your knowledge with young professionals. Students make a connection and have an opportunity to learn from someone in the industry. This is a fruitful experience for both parties.

If you are interested in becoming a mentor, please reach out to PRSA Member, Davina Gould, APR at

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Tampa Bay PR Association Appoints First Ethics Officer

New role will increase emphasis on ethical conduct for PR and media professionals

(Tampa, FL / February 26, 2018) - The Tampa Bay Chapter, Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), has appointed Kirk Hazlett, APR, Fellow PRSA, as the chapter’s first “Ethics Officer” with responsibility for assisting members in instances where a possible ethical conflict might exist in their business activities.

A long-time PRSA member, Hazlett has served on the Society’s Board of Directors as well as on its Board of Ethics and Professional Standards. He is an accredited member of the largest association representing public relations professionals and brings more than 40 years’ experience first as a public relations practitioner and, most recently, as a public relations professor at Curry College in Milton, MA.

“We are fortunate that, when he retired as a professor, Kirk chose the Tampa area as his new home,” says MaryMargaret Hull, APR, PRSA Tampa Bay 2018 president. “Ethical guidance is a critical issue for all public relations professionals, and I am pleased that we will now have the ability to formally offer assistance when needed.”

“I appreciate the confidence that the PRSA Tampa Bay leaders have expressed in my ability to provide guidance and counsel to our members as well as members of the general business community,” says Hazlett.

The PRSA Code of Ethics is widely regarded as industry standard and is founded on core values like advocacy, honesty, loyalty, professional development and objectivity to structure ethical practice and interaction with clients and the public.

About PRSA Tampa Bay

Since it was chartered in 1964, Tampa Bay PRSA has continued to provide a forum for addressing issues affecting the profession, and the resources for promoting the highest professional standards. It offers unequaled opportunities for improvement of skills and advancement of knowledge, as well as for exchange of information and experiences with other public relations professionals.

Contact: Colin Trethewey, APR /

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What PRSA Has Done for Me

By Bart Graham 

I used to consider myself an introvert.  

Sitting at a computer and staring at a screen for eight hours a day doing sales can make you feel that way.  My only window to the outside world, where my clients were, was my phone and Microsoft Outlook. I was in my own little bubble thinking nothing would ever happen. Then the unthinkable did happen. Three years ago I was told my services were no longer needed by my company.

I thought, “What do I do now?” I had a LinkedIn profile with no picture and only 50 connections.  I also had my yearly Grand Prix auto racing vacation where I volunteered for a week doing media relations in the Media Center. This was my hobby, which I still have and love.

Outplacement services told me that I needed to network and update my LinkedIn profile. I told myself that I also needed to join a professional association. In my job-search notes I wrote “PRSA.” Why PRSA? Two words: media relations. Could I possibly turn the work I loved doing for the Grand Prix into a new career chapter?

As luck would have it, through a civic activity I was involved in, I met the PRSA Tampa Bay chapter president serving at the time and mentioned to her I was interested in joining. That was all it took. The orders were to let her know when I had completed my application so I could be placed on a committee. I worked the registration desk at one of our events. It was pretty overwhelming for an introvert, but I told myself to embrace the change and to not be a spectator.

I can’t believe where I am at today.

Do I have my dream job?  Not yet, but I am working on it. It is just a matter of time.

I never had a mentor.  Do I have one now? I sure do, through the help of PRSA. My mentor is great, and I now consider him a dear friend, somebody I can talk to if needed. I know he is there, and he has taught me the fine art of conversation among other things.

Have I met great people and made many friends and connections? Wow, I sure have! There must have been an extroverted side of me hidden somewhere. My connection count on LinkedIn is now more than 1400. I love networking.

I was fortunate enough to win a scholarship to attend our PRSA International Conference in Indianapolis. This really opened my eyes, and I felt right at home. The conference was themed around auto racing. Go figure!

I learned a new social media skill for this conference, courtesy of our Digital Communications Committee. They gently led me “kicking and screaming” into using Twitter!

Was the chapter there to support me when I went through a family tragedy last year? Yes, they were, and I am forever grateful.

And guess what else. I think I found another niche I might be good at because of my involvement on a committee: volunteer recruitment. Just another skill I have honed from being involved with PRSA Tampa Bay.

While all of this might sound like an advertisement to join PRSA, it really isn’t.  I guess I just didn’t realize the importance of being active in a professional association in the field you work (or want to work) in, of volunteering your time and of networking. I sure do now.

Am I a true extrovert now? No. I am not willing to go that far, but I do consider myself an ambivert. That works for me!



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