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Speaker Spotlight: Anthony Sullivan

This Speaker Spotlight profiles Anthony “Sully” Sullivan, who will be the keynote speaker at PRSA Tampa Bay’s third annual PRestige Awards ceremony, on Oct. 20. Best-known as the spokesman for OxiClean, Anthony is the pitchman of choice for dozens of innovative consumer products, including the X5 5-in-1 Steamer, the Sticky Buddy and Smart Mop. He has written his first book, You Get What You Pitch For, which is being published in September. 

1. First news outlet you access in the morning?

The Wall Street Journal and the Howard Stern Show on Sirius XM.

2. First job?

Sweeping floors!

3. Most important career mentor, and why?

Early in my life, it would absolutely have been my father. As I grew into an adult and began establishing my career, it would have been the godfather of TV, A.J. Khubani.

4. Most rewarding career accomplishment?

I have two. The first would be ringing the bell at the Stock Exchange for OxiClean, and second would be appearing as a guest on the Tonight Show.

5. Pitching advice to new public relations professionals?

It’s all in my book, You Get What You Pitch For. It will be out in Sept. 12 and is available for pre-sale on Amazon until then.

6. Favorite movie?

True Romance and Goodfellas.

7. Favorite vacation?

New Zealand.

8. Any three dinner guests?

This is a tough one! The most entertaining mix at the table would be Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and Bill O’Reilly. If Donald and Hillary were no-shows, then Lindsey Vonn and Stacy Peralta.

 

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Investing in Ourselves: #2017PDD Recap

In our constantly buzzing, hard-to-get-away-from industry, it’s not often that we can find the time to take half a day to sit down with the intent to invest in ourselves. That is perhaps what makes Professional Development Day so unique – the ability for all of us to come together, set the distractions aside and have meaningful discussions about trends impacting our industry and what our next steps should be as professionals. Better yet, we didn’t just sit there talking about these issues on a “high level” with nothing tangible to take back to our organizations, but rather really got a chance to dig in and reflect.

We kicked off the day hearing from Kelli Frazier of Nielsen about measurement, which is vital to public relations but quite frankly isn’t talked about enough. More specifically, we looked at research that showed us where the future of different media is headed, and where there is opportunity for our industry to reach our target audiences with our messaging. Our clients and organization are always wanting to see results, and love to talk about metrics, so this session really taught us to think more critically about what that means and if it is really telling us what we need to know.

We then heard from Kena Lewis, APR, from Orlando Regional Medical Center (ORMC) on a deep dive into the hours and days immediately following the tragic shooting at the PULSE nightclub last year. Perhaps one of her most important takeaways was how crucial it is to have a tried and true plan in place for times of crisis. Preparation is key, and that’s why in addition to a crisis comms plan, you ought to have a crisis-specific team in place, along with a list of their names, responsibilities and cell phone numbers. You never know when you might have to give them a ring and drag them out of bed at 3 a.m. Think you don’t need a photo/video production team or your webmaster during a crisis? In reality, they are vital to communications success and should be included in your plan.

The session that followed was led by Michele Reeves of Raymond James Financial, and focused in on diversity and inclusion in the workplace, as well as their roles in our everyday lives. Michele noted that diversity is often a struggle because our industries do not look the way our world does, and our world certainly does not look how our industries do. She also clarified that “diversity is not for the few, it’s for the many,” but that it is not the same thing as inclusion. Diversity is who we are, and inclusion is how we work. Over a brief breakout discussion with our tables, we got the opportunity to reflect honestly to see how inclusive we are in the different areas of our lives. As one of her key takeaways, Michele emphasized that if we are not intentionally inclusive, we are being unintentionally exclusive, and to fix that we need to make the most of teachable moments, strive to give the quietest person in the room a voice and always be thinking about what we can do to proactively change the situation.

Changing pace, a panel of Tampa-based business owners convened to discuss their public relations efforts, challenges and successes. We heard from Jamie Lanza of CAMP Tampa, Suzanne Perry of Datz and Leigh Harting of 3 Daughters Brewing, and something that resonated amongst the three was the importance of authenticity. Now more than ever, they agreed that social media is more about relationship-building than it is about selling your product and pushing forced content on an unwilling audience. However, they encouraged us all to consider that we are taking up someone’s time with our content – so, we need to consider what it is that we are taking their time up with, and why they ought to care.

 

Ending the program on a strong note, our keynote speakers were Josh Greenberg and Brad Simon from Edelman Orlando about earning trust in an era of “fake news.” Josh surprised us all by reminding us that fake news isn’t even news – but that it has been around for a long time (ala “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast). They emphasized how the shift in the media landscape has taken the authority from the bigger media conglomerates and put it in the hands of the people, who are becoming their own publishers. With that in mind, it is becoming much more common for organizations to make their own news and publish it themselves on their investor relations websites. Additionally, the discussion highlighted the fact that the way we have traditionally done media relations in the past isn’t going to cut it anymore. Ultimately, you need a multi-channel approach built around the idea that if you have a great story to tell, you need to determine where the conversation is taking place and who is driving it. Josh and Simon wrote a great blog post here that builds on many of the topics they discussed, and you can see the full content from Edelman’s 2017 Trust Barometer here.  

It goes without saying that it was a full morning jam-packed with cutting edge ideas and insightful discussions, fueled by tons of coffee. If you weren’t able to join us in person, do not fret - we live-tweeted each of the sessions on the PRSA Tampa Bay Twitter and you can read through (or relive the experience) using #2017PDD. We are already not-so-patiently counting down until Professional Development Day 2018, and can’t wait to see what it has in store! 

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Anchors Away with PRSA

By Sarah Kettenburg, Senior Account Executive at Hill+Knowlton Strategies and PRSATB Digital Comms Chair

The PRSA Sunshine District Conference presented the opportunity to brush up on some key skills that PR pros use daily. Crisis management, media relations, reputation management, storytelling and even game theory were a few of the topics covered at this year’s conference. 

While day one of the conference kept it light with some PRVille Family Feud, day two started strong with a session by Heather Fagan, deputy chief of staff for Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. Fellow PRSA Tampa Bay attendee Kelsey Van Camp provided a great recap of the session here

My key takeaways include:

  1. Prioritize. Ask yourself, “do I have to make this decision today?” if the answer is no, move on to something else.
  2. Take care of the local media. They are the ones that will still be around months later.
  3. Establish a great relationship with IT. In times of a crisis, the IT department is crucial to your success in communicating with the public (in other words, ensuring your website/social media/phone lines, etc. doesn’t crash)
  4. Document everything. Write down everything you do at the end of each day so that you can look back on each day’s activities, even months later.
  5.  Assume the camera/microphone/cell phone etc. is always on.

 Achievement Unlocked! Using Game Theory to Level Up Your PR

Did you know that you are likely participating in a form of game theory every day? That’s right, everyone’s beloved social network, Facebook, is a prime example. So, what exactly is Game Theory? 

Gamification is defined as using game-like elements in a non-game environment. But real gamification is about building a behavior, not just a game.

There are four steps to gamification, condensed into a model known (particularly by folks who work in Silicon Valley) as the Hook Method:

  1. Trigger: Think of this as the subconscious itch. As it is said, it starts as a vitamin, and ends up as a painkiller.
  2. Action: Behavior = Motivation X Ability X Trigger. If you have the ability, but not the motivation, you won’t follow through.
  3. Variable Reward: Keep it fresh and meaningful. We get pleasure in anticipation of the reward, but not necessarily from the actual award. Ultimately, it must have an emotional connection.
  4. Investment: Create a sense of shared value.

Key takeaway? There needs to be constant evolution and a sense of surprise so people don’t get bored.

How The World Met My (Dead) Mother

One thing is for sure, few of us were certain where this session was going to go, but the room was packed full of participants who were eager to find out – naturally, I was one of them. Bonnie Upright, APR, shared how her mother, Emily Phillips, had the unique opportunity to write her own obituary after learning she had terminal cancer. The witty and moving obituary spread like wildfire after being published in her local newspaper. The Today Show, Time, Huffington Post and Buzzfeed are just a few of the many publications that picked up the obituary, and retold the story of Bonnie’s mother and her life. Upright and her family were surprised at all the attention, but loved that their mother’s words were being shared with millions. Fast forward a few months and they realized that someone had copied the obituary not once, but twice!

This session provided an excellent case study for how vital fact checking is – with ALL things – even if the owner of the words has passed away. In fact, Upright has been told by a number of newspapers that they have begun to fact check obituaries after coming to terms with the fact that her mother’s had been plagiarized. Most importantly, this unconventional set of circumstances served as a great reminder of the vital importance of protecting your intellectual property and personal brand.

While the conference sessions were all excellent, one of the best parts of the conference was being able to network and mingle with fellow PR professionals. From shared dinner conversations, to learning from one another’s confidential PR anecdotes (mum’s the word!) and enjoying karaoke every night (looking at you, Karaoke Brian!), a great time was had by all.

 

I’m already looking forward to next year’s conference, hosted by the Palm Beach chapter.

For your viewing pleasure, enjoy a few photos of our PRSA members in all their karaoke glory!

 

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The Camera is Always on & Invest in The Basics

By Kelsy Van Camp, Director of Marketing and Communications for Tampa Downtown Partnership

This June, I was lucky enough to attend the PRSA Sunshine District Conference and not only did I leave with a notebook full of best practices and tips, but I also left with a suntan. It’s hard for me to decide which session was my favorite because they were all engaging, informative, and included tips I could turn around and apply to a current project. So, I’m going to share with you my key takeaways from two of the sessions.

If there is one thing I can say about the Sunshine District, it’s that they kick things off with a bang. Saturday was a full morning of sessions that started with Heather Fagan. Fagan, who is deputy chief of staff for Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, was one of the first people on the scene for the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. She recounted chilling memories and facts clearly and professionally. Fagan explained to the group the timeline of events and why the city had decided to take to twitter to share up-to-the-minute details instead of dealing with multiple outlets and attempting to answer the non-stop phone calls and emails. She spoke about the Mayor’s main message of building “civic resilience” and how that message helped the community and families to handle the tragedy. Some tips she shared on press conferences include: order matters, establish next time, share new information only, and to coordinate with partners. Fagan also advised us to assume the camera is always on, record interviews so you can confirm statements, and to only worry about fixing inaccuracies that impact your message. Lastly, she reminded us that tragedies like the Pulse shooting have long-term effects and to schedule your staff appropriately to account for your organizations day-to-day activities, because the show must go on.

During the break-out sessions, I chose to attend the session on how to create videos on a shoestring budget, led by Kate Norton from Nemours Children’s Specialty Care Hospital. The title caught my eye because I too work on a shoestring budget for a nonprofit, and I recently was tasked with creating a video that was presented to a group of over 500 people that was shot on my iPhone 7. Norton started out her presentation with a helpful list of four secrets in video shooting. First, she told us to invest in the basics. This meant getting a nice camera, external mic, tripod, a computer with an editing program (she suggested Adobe Final Cut Pro), and an external drive since videos take up a lot of memory. Second, she suggested we take the time to learn the skills. Wistia.com and the book “How to Shoot Video That Doesn’t Suck” were a few of her suggestions. Third, don’t be afraid to get help. That meant knowing when to call the professionals and when to try it yourself. Finally, find the story. Norton said this should be easiest for PR professionals but can sometimes be the hardest to capture with video.

Looking back, the main theme I keep going back to is how PR professionals are doers. We step up to the plate when situations get tough and roll with the punches. My head is still spinning from all the information that was packed into the conference, and I look forward to next year!

#ShipHappens #WearSunscreen

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We Want You to Volunteer!

Your PRSA Tampa Bay Chapter needs you!  We are looking for volunteers to finish out the year strong!

We have openings on the Awards, Membership, Program, and Sponsorship Committees. We also have opportunities available on the Accreditation Committee if you are an APR.

Why should you volunteer?  Volunteering allows you to:

  • Learn new skills
  • Help your chapter grow
  • Network
  • Make new friends

And it looks great on your resume! Contact your Volunteer Committee for more information at volunteer@prsatampabay.org 

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Four Fundraiser Must-Do’s for Your Checklist

By Erica Everett

As public relations professionals, especially those in the non-profit sector, we’ve often been a part of a fundraiser at one point or another. While we usually work in a team or committee to bounce around ideas, sometimes we’re challenged with few resources and little time to accomplish big fundraising goals.

In August, I’ll be traveling to 11 countries in 11 months to do humanitarian work with local communities through a program called the World Race. When I first realized I would have to raise $18,000 in just a few months (by myself!), you could say I quickly jumped into “PR mode.” 

Utilizing my PR experience, I surpassed my $5,000 benchmark in just 40 days.  Here are a few key lessons I’ve learned in the process of spearheading a fundraiser that feels nearly impossible to tackle.

1. Establish a list of names    

This may seem simple and straightforward, but surprisingly enough, many people jump straight into a campaign without keeping a target audience in mind. Categorize your list into different groups of people:  individuals, organizations, friends with connections to businesses, and any other group that seems relevant. Once you have a list of contacts, you can begin to create a campaign that is geared to resonate with each of those categories.

2. Don’t just ask for money

Many times, people consider it a waste of time talking with those who likely cannot contribute financially to your cause. But overlooking this group can be detrimental to your fundraiser. Set up meetings, even if you are sure the individual or group won’t donate. Chances are they are willing to spread the word to close connections or may even offer another resource that you haven’t considered before. Don’t make money the end goal of every meeting, but rather be open-minded to where it could lead instead.

3. Create a kick-ass sponsorship package

It’s important to put time and effort into creating a solid sponsorship packet before you go setting up meetings without anything concrete to present. Too many sponsorships have been set up to have donors give money without a follow up on how their money made a difference. Be mindful to create sponsorships that give them timely updates on how their money is being used.

4. Give them a deadline

You could leave a meeting super confident that you just turned a potential donor into a sponsor, but busy work schedules often leave fundraiser sponsorships floating in someone's to-do box. Creating a sense of urgency and giving a final deadline will likely put your fundraiser on someone’s calendar and keep it at the forefront of their mind.

 To learn more about Erica’s World Race and to follow along on her journey, visit ericaeverett.theworldrace.org.

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PRestige Awards Entry Challenge

Introducing the PRSA Tampa Bay Membership PRestige Entry Challenge! 
The top two PRSA Tampa Bay members (excluding elected leaders) who submit the most entries will win two free admissions each to the PRestige Awards Ceremony.  In the event of a tie, the top submitters’ names will be randomly selected in a blind drawing. The remaining deadlines for PRestige Awards entry are:

  • Regular Deadline: Friday, June 30, 2017
    PRSA Tampa Bay Member: $55
    Non-Member: $75
    Student: Free (must be submitted using a .edu email address)

  • Late Deadline: Friday, July 14, 2017
    PRSA Tampa Bay Member: $65
    Non-Member: $85
    Student: Free (must be submitted using a .edu email address)


Entry forms can be found here.

The awards ceremony will take place on Friday, October 20, at the Tampa Marriott Westshore, and will feature our celebrity keynote speaker and emcee Anthony “Sully” Sullivan.

This is a great (and easy) opportunity to secure recognition of your respective organizations while ensuring you and a colleague will be there to celebrate in person without incurring any additional cost. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to our PRestige Awards co-chairs, Mary Margaret Hull, APR, and Lori Hudson, APR.

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Speaker Spotlight: Jim Shimberg

Join PRSA Tampa Bay for our May 23 program that will give you an inside look at the Tampa Bay Lightning francise. Our speaker for this event is Jim Shimberg

Former Tampa City Attorney Jim Shimberg was named Executive Vice President and General Counsel in April 2013 of Tampa Bay Sports and Entertainment, parent company of the Lightning, Storm and Amalie Arena. He provides counsel to the executive team while assuming direct oversight for all legal matters for the organization, along with owner Jeff Vinik’s outside real estate interests. Shimberg and his family have been very active in Tampa Bay for decades, accepting leadership roles with several community and civic organizations dedicated to development of local business and philanthropic organizations. He has served as General Counsel for the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, Chairman of the Tampa Downtown Partnership and Chairman of the Tampa/Hillsborough County Youth Council. He served in leadership roles for the Tampa Jewish Federation, Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services and Congregation Schaarai Zedek. He is a Trustee of the Shimberg Family Foundation, formed by his parents James and Amy Shimberg.

What is the best part about working in the sports industry?
The excitement that comes to the whole community when the Lightning do well

First news publication you read in the morning?
Tampa Bay Times

Most important career mentor, and why?
In law:  Chesterfield Smith and Bill McBride
In sports:  Tod Leiweke

Favorite thing about your job?
All of the great people I get to work with at Tampa Bay Sports & Entertainment!

Top grammar, style or writing pet peeve?
I do not like sloppy or cryptic email communication  

Advice to new professionals?
Find a mentor and learn as much as you can from that person

Favorite social media channel, and why?
I am old but I do love Twitter!

If you could have any three dinner guests, who would they be?
Michelle Obama, Steve Spurrier and Tony Dungy                       

Proudest moment of your career?
When I was hired by the Lightning (Tampa Bay Sports & Entertainment)

Favorite part of living in Tampa?
Not sure, I have never lived anywhere else!

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Bill Carlson Unfolds Opportunities with Cuba

By: Ashleigh White, USF PRSSA, KnoBull Firm Director 2017  

On April 20, PRSA Tampa Bay members and guests gathered at BRIO Tuscan Grille to hear insights from Bill Carlson on how an open Cuba could impact the Tampa Bay region, and how Florida’s dynamic history with Cuba has molded Tampa into the city it is today. Bill Carlson, president of Tucker/Hall, is a Tampa native who works to forge relationships between companies and their audiences, as well as government agencies and their constituents.

 Carlson kicked the discussion off by first explaining the rich history between Florida and Cuba. He reinforced how Cuba’s War of Independence was crucial in shaping relations with Florida for years to come. Carlson also touched on how he believes Tampa should continue to foster this connection as a leading “global city or global community.”

He noted that “the Cuban government is very excited to work with the United States,” and expressed that “Tampa needs to engage in this opportunity.”

“Billions of dollars are going and will go into Cuba,” Carlson said. “...and not only into the market.”

Carlson referenced that while Tampa and Miami are equidistant to Cuba, both in terms of physical distance and transit time, much still needs to change in the political landscape of Tampa for the Bay Area to reap the potential benefits. For example, American Airlines first approached Tampa to launch a flight to Cuba when President Obama loosened travel restrictions, but ultimately inked a deal with Miami International Airport. Carlson feels that this opportunity could have had broad positive effects for both Tampa and Cuba’s economies.

When attendees questioned what the main arguments were behind the opposition to an open Cuba, Carlson explained that human rights violations are the main source of discontent for political leaders, among other factors.

Carlson shared that in his view, engagement of the Cuban people is the best solution to building US relations with Cuba, noting that “almost every large PR company has opened an agency in Cuba.”

It has been long thought that engagement with the Cuban market could open the door to new opportunities, here, in Tampa – and Carlson is encouraging area communicators to turn that opportunity into action. If you are interested in learning more about Cuba, you could visit the Jose Marti trail in Ybor City to immerse yourself in the history that Tampa has shared, and continues to share, with Cuba. Or, the opportunity is now available for U.S. citizens to plan a trip to Cuba and see it for themselves. Tampa is gradually adding cruise liners with itineraries to this destination, which might make for a perfect occasion.

“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Carlson said. “Don’t miss it.”

 

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AP Stylebook Says ‘They’ Is Okay

By Joseph Priest

If someone thinks it’s important for stylebooks to keep up with the times, they will be happy about updates by two major style manuals.

The Associated Press Stylebook and Chicago Manual of Style are now allowing the singular use of “they” in certain circumstances, and the announcements were the highlights of the annual conference of the American Copy Editors Society, which was recently held in St. Petersburg, and which I had the fortune to attend.

Colleen Newvine (seated at podium, left) and Paula Froke (right), editors of the AP Stylebook, announce the entry for “they” at the American Copy Editors Society annual conference in March.

The bottom line is that public relations professionals can now more freely use the forms of “they,” and we can ditch resorting to the stilted “his or her” usage and the changing-the-subject-to-a-plural solution in these kinds of sentences:

  •          Everyone has their own reason for choosing what candidate to vote for.
  •          The person feared for their own safety and spoke on condition of anonymity.
  •          Any consultant can set themself up with their own firm.

 

The new entry for “they” will be included in the new paperback version of the AP Stylebook and has already been added to the online version.

To get more perspective on this style change, read on. If you think you’ve got all you need, feel free to stop here, and have at it with using the singular “they” when needed in your writing. And if anyone has a question on this, they can email me at joseph.priest@syniverse.com to get more information.

A Bit of Background
To explain more on the “they” change, let’s take a few steps back. In English, there is no gender-neutral pronoun for a single person. “It” is our singular pronoun, and “one” is another pronoun option. The problems with these are that “it” is so devoid of gender that calling a person this can come off as insulting, and “one” is so impersonal that it can sound awkward or aloof.

We have a need for a singular personal pronoun in mainly two situations. The most common is when speaking generically: “If someone leaves a cookie in the classroom during recess, ______ may find it gone when class resumes.” Because we don’t know whether the person is male or female, we can’t include the correct pronoun. In spoken language, we typically resort to “they” in this situation without thinking twice. In the same way, when using a singular noun that refers to a group of people, we have no inclusive pronoun: “Everyone should be more careful about leaving ______ desserts in the classroom during recess.”

This conundrum led us to default to “he” in formal writing, but advancement in women’s rights and greater egalitarian awareness then led us to adopt the clumsy “he or she.” This tortuous usage was perpetuated because what’s known as “the epicene they” continued to be considered incorrect. Yet nearly everyone continued to use it in speech, and it’s been used this way for hundreds of years.

In fact, many of the criticisms of the singular “they” are without merit, as Anne Curzan, professor of English and associate dean for humanities at the University of Michigan, and keynote speaker at the American Copy Editors annual conference, has explained. First, she notes, as far as its history, the singular “they” has been in regular use in spoken English and informal prose for centuries. Second, to say it’s ambiguous is nonsensical, too, because she says ambiguity is often the point of its use, and all pronouns have some potential ambiguity. Finally, to say “they” is too informal for formal writing is a circular argument she contends, because many editors have spent much of their time to taking it out of formal, published writing.

The only real question concerning singular “they,” she concludes, is “whether we should and will let ‘they’ be used in its singular form in formal, edited prose without comment. That decision is within our control.”

New Rules for a New Usage
This decision is increasingly being made. The singular “they” was named Word of the Year for 2015 by over 200 language experts at the American Dialect Society’s annual meeting in January 2016, “they” was sanctified in the Washington Post style guide in late 2015, “they” has been used by such publications as the Baltimore Sun for years, and “they” is even mildly sanctioned by major dictionaries like The American Heritage Dictionary. What’s more, the singular “they” has long been common and accepted in British English. 

Among other factors, a driving reason for the AP’s style update is to reflect changes in the ways that people refer to their sexual orientation.

“We offer new advice for two reasons,” Paula Froke, chief editor of the stylebook, told the American Copy Editors Society conference. “Recognition that the spoken language uses ‘they’ as singular and that we also recognize the need for a pronoun for people who don’t identify as a ‘he’ or a ‘she.’” Specifically, the new rule states this:

In stories about people who identify as neither male nor female or ask not to be referred to as he/she/him/her: Use the person’s name in place of a pronoun, or otherwise reword the sentence, whenever possible. If they/them/their use is essential, explain in the text that the person prefers a gender-neutral pronoun.

Moreover, from other updates that the AP Stylebook editors also announced at the American Copy Editors Society conference, it’s clear that the AP’s review of singular “they” was prompted in large part by expanding journalistic coverage of transgender issues. The entry for “LGBT” has now been updated to also accept “LGBTQ”; there’s a new entry for “homophobia, homophobic”; and a new entry for gender notes, “Not synonymous with sex.”

Testing the Waters
While the updates by the AP Stylebook and Chicago Manual of Style mark a major progression for the singular “they,” not surprisingly for such a significant rule change, the new rules have been designed to test the waters rather than allow full immersion. The new AP Stylebook entry for “they, them, their” reminds readers several times that rewording a sentence is preferable to using the singular “they”:

They/them/their is acceptable in limited cases as a singular and/or gender-neutral pronoun, when alternative wording is overly awkward or clumsy. However, rewording usually is possible and always is preferable. Clarity is a top priority; gender-neutral use of a singular they is unfamiliar to many readers.

It’s natural, though, that a new rule like this is structured conservatively, and public relations professionals and others who rely on AP style should not feel as constrained to adhere to this strict limitation as the rule states. 

Ultimately, style guides, like dictionaries, follow the language, not lead it, and they often accept usage years after it has become embraced by users. The “acceptable” uses of “they” are being accelerated more by issues of gender identity than by common usage, but the impact is the same, and the changes are long overdue.

In sum, I urge you to begin “theying” away when you come across a need for it in your writing. It has official precedent now and has to be better than continuing to use a sexist “his,” a patronizing “her,” a stilted “his or her,” or a let’s-bypass-this-problem-by-making-the-subject-plural cop-out.

What do you think? If anyone has a thought on this, I hope they let me know.

Both stylebooks emphasize that “they” should not be used without any limitations. Even so, this major style-rule change nearly marks the end for the insistence that “they” can only be a plural pronoun. In particular, the new recognition that singular “they” may sometimes be the best option marks a more widespread recognition of the need for a gender-neutral singular pronoun, and that singular “they” can fill this need.

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