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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Member Spotlight: Stephanie Navarro

1. First news publication you read in the morning?

I read the Daily Skimm, a newsletter-type email by theSkimm that provides a recap of the last 24 hours of news, from entertainment to politics to even international news. This is a great way for me to stay on top of current events every day without having to dig through several sources. 

2. First public relations job?

I was promoted from an intern position to an account coordinator role at BAM Communications in San Diego (where I’m originally from). BAM is a lifestyle and hospitality PR agency, which I think is branching out to include tech now, and it gave me great exposure to a variety of clients that helped me develop my core skills.

3. Most important career mentor, and why?

I have been so fortunate to have many great mentors so far that it's impossible to pick just one! I try to surround myself with people that I can learn from, will challenge me to be better and hold me accountable when I set goals.

4. Top grammar, style or writing pet peeve?

The Oxford comma! AP style was so drilled into me during college that I get very uncomfortable when I read content that uses it. 

5. Most rewarding accomplishment in public relations?

My most rewarding accomplishment to date, and I still feel I have much to accomplish because I’m just a few years into my career, was coordinating a press conference with Gov. Rick Scott. The facility had to be ready to receive him within about 15 hours of notice, which felt like a whirlwind, but it was rewarding because I was able to spring into action, work closely with his team and succeed in delivering the platform they needed to communicate his message.

6. Advice to new public relations professionals?

It's more important to have the drive and willingness to solve problems than to have all of the answers when you start. Much of what we do as PR professionals requires creativity, innovation and consulting, so as long as you have a solid foundation of principles, you shouldn’t be afraid to do your homework and tackle those big projects – because you may surprise yourself!

7. Job you would pursue if you weren’t in public relations?

I would've gone into genetics research. I took a few courses in school that really sparked my interest in hereditary traits, how genes are passed down and how each person has so many unique variations in their makeup, and I think I would have enjoyed uncovering genetic profiles and consulting with people on how to use this information to achieve better health.

8. Favorite movie?

Hocus Pocus – so much so that my older sister banned it from the house for a year because I would watch it on repeat, all year long! Bette Midler is absolutely iconic in her role as Winifred Sanderson, and not only do I still love watching it, I know every line.

9. Favorite vacation?

This is a tough one because I love to travel, but I'll go with the most recent, which was to Malaga, Spain, for my cousin's wedding. During the rehearsal dinner, which was hosted at a small farm-to-table restaurant in the historic center of the city, Casco Antiguo, we were surprised by a live flamenco dance performance that was absolutely surreal.

10. Any three dinner guests?

Oprah Winfrey, a media mogul, philanthropist and entrepreneur who got her start in journalism; Frida Kahlo, a Mexican painter most well-known in pop culture today for her bold style and flower crowns, and someone I admire because she blazed a trail for women in art and society, and challenged what it meant to live with a disability; and Howard Schultz, Starbucks’ executive chairman, who built a brand based on values, people and quality – and a brand that’s now global.

With Gov. Scott.

My team at Tomlin St Cyr Real Estate Services, Emily Knudson and Ali St. Cyr, and me.

Visiting an exhibit on Frida Kahlo at the Dali Museum.

Flamenco dancers in Malaga!

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2018 Career Panel Recap

By: Michael Mezich, USF PRSSA President

On January 23, PRSA Tampa Bay met at BRIO Tuscan Grille for a panel on career-building in PR and Communications. The panelists were Crystal Lauderdale, director of Content Strategy at Alvarez & Marsal; Katy Parsons, APR, senior account executive at ChappellRoberts; and Paula MacDonald, APR, owner at Image Suite PR/HEROIC Integrated Communications, along with moderator Kirk Hazlett.

Hazlett began by pointing out that there are a myriad of paths for our careers to follow and asked the panelists to share where their careers had taken them and what they had learned.

Lauderdale went from journalism to communications jobs at a variety of places, including start-ups, Florida Polytechnic University, and Alvarez & Marsal, where she currently works.

“I realized that my love of storytelling could be expanded beyond the field of journalism,” said Lauderdale. “By keeping an open mind about how I could work in jobs that involved my interests, I have been fortunate to have enjoyed working for a variety of employers.”

Parsons has spent her entire career at the same agency, ChappellRoberts. During that time, she has watched the agency grow and evolve into something completely different from the agency that which she first started. At ChappellRoberts, Parsons experiences a different work day every day, and works in a culture that accepts failure. This is important because, for Parsons, the biggest learning moments come from failure.

MacDonald is currently working as a sole practitioner, an opportunity that came available after being laid off. She has learned that working for your own business can come with benefits such as schedule flexibility, but skills like self-motivation and self-discipline are key. Most importantly, Paula has learned that as a sole practitioner, it is important to play to your strengths and be able to reach out to others who can help cover your weaknesses.

Another tip shared to build your career was the importance of having your APR.

“Since receiving my APR, I have never looked at projects the same way again,” said Parsons.

In addition, the importance of having a mentor and using social media were noted for being very beneficial for growing your career and networking.  

 “Even if you don’t like social media, use it,”  said Lauderdale. “I have received two jobs from using LinkedIn.”

Lauderdale advised others to treat personal social media accounts like business accounts. Use them regularly and think about your own brand that you’re creating.

Join us for our next event, Building Trust Inside-Out: How Internal Communications Can Build Morale, Productivity and Brand Advocacy, on February 13 at Brio Tuscan Grille.

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4 Ways to Improve Your Writing and Speech

By Joseph Priest, APR

“Mary tweeted her status,” or “Mary Tweeted her status”? “Bart wrote a blog about the movie,” or “Bart wrote a blog entry about the movie”? And “Paula developed FAQs,” or “Paula developed FAQ’s”? In a new article in Strategies & Tactics, Joseph Priest a corporate writer at Syniverse and member of the PRSA Tampa Bay Digital Communications team, sheds light on four problem areas in PR writing that can keep communications from being correct, clear and consistent. Check them out.


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President’s Message

January brings on thoughts of new beginnings and we are pleased to announce the newly elected 2018 PRSA Tampa Bay leaders outlined below. This new leadership team joins a seasoned group of PR pros making up the chapter’s Board of Directors.

  • President-Elect (2019 President): Jenna Stock
  • Treasurer: Justin Herndon
  • Secretary: Kelsy Van Camp
  • Assembly Delegate: Betty Carlin, APR
  • Board Member: Sarah Kettenburg (overseeing digital communications)
  • Board Member: Denise Wilson (overseeing awards and public service)

If you're looking to build new PR skills or expand your existing talents, this year provides many opportunities to maximize your membership through volunteering. Specifically, we are looking for: vice chair of programs, assistant treasurer, website vice chair, programs communications chair, networking coordinator and committee members for Awards, Bylaws, Membership, Professional Development Day and Programs. If you’ve found value in your membership, I want to embolden you to get involved with the chapter. Learn more about volunteer opportunities on our website, and please reach out to our Volunteer and Recruitment Chair Bart Graham.

I want to extend a special THANK YOU to my predecessor, Bobby Eagle, APR, for his leadership and dedication to our chapter. He has raised the bar in offering excellent professional development opportunities through our monthly programs. He also implemented a strong financial foundation for the chapter’s treasury. With this strong foundation, we have a fiscally-responsible format to track and report our expenses and revenue. Bobby worked tirelessly this year in activities supporting the success of this chapter.

In 2018, my and the Board’s priorities will be to (1) ensure that we keep delivering amazing value to you through our many best-in-class programs and events, (2) help you professionally from doing better at your job to advancing your career in public relations, and (3) continue to provide you avenues for service within the community and with our PRSSA chapters at the University of South Florida and the University of Tampa. 

It’s my honor and privilege to serve as your chapter president this year, and I look forward to helping you make the most of your PRSA membership and experience. If you have any questions, comments or ideas, I’d love to hear from you! Please feel free to contact me anytime.

Looking forward to seeing you at an upcoming meeting or program this year!

Mary Margaret Hull, APR

President, PRSA Tampa Bay

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Calling all sole practitioners and small agency owners

Are you looking for a place to network, problem solve and share best practices with other independent public relations professionals?

The Independent Practitioners Group at PRSA Tampa Bay can help!

We invite all interested members to our first meeting of 2018 at 10 a.m., Friday, February 16 at Datz Restaurant at 2616 S. MacDill Avenue in Tampa.

At the meeting, we will be asking attendees to help identify topics, activities and meetings for the year ahead that will be of value to our group—and to the wider PRSA Tampa Bay chapter.

No payment is necessary for this first meeting—food and beverages are pay as you go.

Please join us and RSVP via our Facebook page (PRSA Independent Practitioners Group – Tampa Bay Chapter) or via email to Paula Macdonald at

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PRSA Finishes 2017 with Donation of 30 Toys

Go, PRSA Tampa Bay! Metropolitan Ministries happily received the gifts we dropped off at its tent.

By Joseph Priest, APR

PRSA Tampa Bay wrapped up the year by helping make the holidays a little brighter for a lot of local kids. On Dec. 18, our chapter met at Fleming’s restaurant to host its annual holiday mixer, and for the third year in a row the Public Service Committee held a toy drive to raise donations for Metropolitan Ministries.

Thanks to the generosity of our members, we succeeded in collecting 30 gifts and dropping them off at the Metropolitan Ministries Holiday Tent shortly afterward, in plenty of time to serve needy families looking for holiday toy gifts. 

Metropolitan Ministries predicted that it would serve more than 18,000 families in need for Thanksgiving and Christmas in 2017, a yearly need that our chapter has eagerly helped serve for the past few years. To spur even more donations for this effort, we’ve begun adding a prize drawing to randomly award a few contributors with prizes.

In order to be eligible, members have to bring a new, unwrapped gift, which is collected with other gifts for drop-off at Metropolitan Ministries. Each gift donated earns the contributor one ticket that is entered in a drawing for prizes, which this time included one special prize of a $20 gift card to Publix and one grand prize of a $50 gift card to Roy’s Restaurant.

For last month’s mixer, this incentive helped bring in 30 gifts, including a variety of toys, dolls, books, and games, and gift cards.


Our gift donations pile up at the mixer. Thank you, contributors!

The Public Service Committee thanks everyone who participated in the toy drive and everyone who helped our chapter give back to the community earlier in the year at our résumé review sessions with  USF’s PRSSA chapter and the United Way’s Sulphur Springs Resource Center.

Stay tuned to the PRSA Tampa Bay website for more ways you can help us serve in 2018.

Members and guests enjoy the mixer at Fleming’s.

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Member Spotlight: Bobby Eagle, APR

This Member Spotlight profiles Bobby Eagle, APR, Global Public Relations Director of Syniverse and 2017 president of PRSA Tampa Bay. He joined the chapter in 2007 and has served in a number of leadership positions before becoming president, including secretary in 2012 and board member from 2013 to 2015, and he has also served as a judge for the national PRSA Silver Anvil awards since 2014.

1. First news publication you read in the morning?

The Washington Post. I’ve long been a huge fan of the film All the President’s Men, and this got me hooked on reading the Post at a young age.

2. First public relations job?

Working for a minor league hockey and arena football team in Greensboro, North Carolina. It was a blast that sparked my passion for the profession. 

3. Most important career mentor, and why?

One of my first bossesturned out to be my most important mentor precisely because she was always much more than a boss. In my time working for her, she was a leader in every sense of the word, she always cared about the success of the members of the team, she always took a keen interest in supporting and guiding my development, and she helped me build the confidence I needed to begin and continue my professional growth, and still does to this day.

4. Top grammar, style or writing pet peeve?

There are so many options to choose from, but I suppose the biggest would be the use of the ampersand, which I once got a fact error for in college (50 percent off my grade!), for writing “Ben and Jerry’s” instead of “Ben & Jerry’s.” This opened my eyes to the lunacy that is this antiquated punctuation mark, and it still drives me crazy when I see it used inconsistently and haphazardly.

5. Most rewarding accomplishment in public relations?

Earlier this year, I was both surprised and honored to win a PRSA Silver Anvil. I’m exceedingly proud of this honor because of the terrific teamwork that went into the winning campaign, and I consider myself incredibly fortunate to work with an amazing team of professionals of which this award is a direct reflection.

6. Advice to new public relations professionals?

One, always remember attitude is everything, and, two, JFDI. There’s a fairly well-known quote by Chuck Swindoll that “Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you react to it,” and I’m a firm believer in taking control of the 90 percent and JFDI – “Just freaking doing it”!

7. Job you would pursue if you weren’t in public relations?

This is a tough question to answer, so I guess I’m lucky to be in public relations. But in an alternate universe, I may have gone to law school or been a reporter.

8. Favorite movie?

Jaws has been my favorite movie for as long as I can remember. Despite knowing nearly every line, I could still happily watch it on a loop at any time.

9. Favorite vacation?

I’m fortunate to have been on some amazing vacations, but my favorite is easily the trip my wife and I took to Australia in 2015. We studied Down Under back in our college days, and it was incredible to get to go back to relive our time there and explore Sydney, Brisbane, and Moreton Island – and we’re already planning to go back again!

10. Any three dinner guests?

The first two would be Tim Tebow and Bob Woodward. And the most important would be my late grandfather, who was an incredible role model and inspiration to me and showed me that with hard work and perseverance, nearly anything is possible.

My wife, Kaity, and me in Sydney Harbour, Australia, with the stunning Opera House behind us.


Winning a Silver Anvil this year for Syniverse’s “Exposing the Privacy Predicament” campaign, in the reputation/brand management for business category, was a professional high, and represents the work of an amazing team that I’m fortunate to be able to work with.  

One of the many things that make my company awesome is being able to play on our own intramural hockey team!


One of my favorite ways to spend a Saturday: Watching my alma mater, the University of Florida, take on our latest foe. Go Gators! 

With our baby, Charlotte, a feisty Boston terrier with a penchant for mischief!  


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