Seven Common and Confounding Errors All PR Pros Should Know

By Joseph Priest, Corporate Writer, Syniverse

Do you have any pet peeves that cause you to groan when it comes to grammar and style in PR writing? Are there any words you see misspelled over and over? Any punctuation marks you see misused that make you cringe? Or any written-in-stone AP style rules you see broken that raise your hackles?

In my role as writer and editor over the past 15 years, I’ve developed my own list of some of the most common – and apparently confusing – errors that I come across again and again. To help PR pros be on guard against these, I selected seven and shared them in an article published in this month’s PR Tactics, “Seven Common and Confounding Errors All PR Pros Should Know.”

In the article, I’ve created a quiz in which I’ve included an example of each error in the form of a sentence. I urge you to try the quiz, spot the mistake, and check your answers against the explanations. All answers are based on the 2015 issue of the Associated Press Stylebook, although in one explanation I include commentary to provide guidance on a rule that is particularly confusing. (It’s actually the single most confusing style rule in PR, I’ve come to believe.)

Good luck on the quiz! Email me at to let me know how you do.

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Do You Want to Join the PRSA Tampa Bay Board?

Annual elections for officers and board members for the PRSA Tampa Bay Chapter to serve during 2016 will occur electronically in mid-November. Getting involved in the chapter’s leadership helps members build valuable business relationships, hone special skill sets and position themselves as leaders in the industry and community. Remember, we are a volunteer-led organization and your service to our chapter is important.

Here are the elected positions available in 2016:

The President-Elect shall, in the absence of or disability of the President, exercise the powers and perform the duties of the President. Election as President-Elect requires that the person must have served at least one year in another position on the Board of Directors. He/She shall also serve as the Chapter's Parliamentarian, assist the President and perform such other duties as assigned by the Board of Directors.

The Secretary shall keep records of all meetings of the Board of Directors, send copies of such minutes to Society Headquarters, handle assigned Board correspondence and maintain Board correspondence files, and perform all other duties customarily pertaining to the office.

Treasurer: (Two-year term)

The Treasurer shall receive and deposit all Chapter funds in the name of the Chapter in a federally insured financial institution. He/She shall issue receipts and make authorized disbursements after proper Board approval in accordance with Chapter fiscal policies, prepare the Chapter's budget, make regular financial reports to the Board, render an annual financial statement to Chapter members through the Chapter website or another medium, handle new Member billings as directed by the Membership Committee chairperson, and perform all other duties pertaining to the office.

Assembly Delegate: (1 position available)

The Assembly Delegate shall be Accredited and serve as the Chapter's representativeat the meeting of the PRSA Assembly, and shall be elected by the Chapter membership for a three year term in accordance with the provisions of the Society's Bylaws. To be eligible for service as an Assembly Delegate, a Member must have served a minimum of one year as a Chapter Officer or Board Member. No Chapter delegate having served a full three year term may be elected to a succeeding full term.

Director: (2 positions available)

Directors shall be elected each year by the Chapter membership at the Chapter's annual meeting to fill vacancies. Elected Directors shall serve a three year term beginning January 1 following their election and until his/her successor is elected and takes office.

The Nominating Committee, according to the Chapter’s Bylaws, will prepare a slate of candidates (minimum of one, maximum of three) for all available offices. To do this, we strongly encourage everyone in the chapter to complete our Willingness to Serve form, noting in which capacities you would be willing to serve the chapter next year. Your service is not limited to elected positions. We are asking you to select what committees you may be interested in chairing or becoming a member.

We also encourage members to nominate other members from the chapter. To nominate a member for an elected position, please enter his or her name under the appropriate position. You can nominate more than one person for each position, but please check with prospective nominees before you submit their names.

We are asking that everyone complete the Willingness to Serve form by Thursday, Sept. 10. If you have any questions, please

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SCHOLARSHIP OPPORTUNITY: QuickStart Your Leadership Skills

Are you looking to volunteer for a leadership role in the PRSA Tampa Bay Chapter, but have no clue where to begin? QuickStart is the answer. The PRSA Sunshine District hosts an annual leadership training and professional development conference for current and incoming chapter board members. The conference includes sessions on PRSA governance, treasury, accreditation, leadership and networking.

This year’s QuickStart will be held September 25-26 near Orlando. And PRSA Tampa Bay is offering five scholarships for chapter members to attend the workshop for promising future leaders.

About the scholarship: The scholarship recipient will be required to fulfill a role, such as blogging or social media posting, during QuickStart. Be sure to indicate in this application the role(s) you will commit to perform if you are selected. There is no fee to attend QuickStart; therefore, this Tampa Bay Chapter scholarship will cover travel expenses (hotel, mileage reimbursement) up to a combined total of $200. The recipient will need to pay travel expenses up front and submit receipts for reimbursement following QuickStart. Any transportation and hotel costs beyond the $200 combined total are the responsibility of the attendee. If for some reason the recipient is not able to attend QuickStart, the scholarship will be awarded to someone else.

To be considered, please complete the application by 12 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015. A selection committee from another PRSA chapter will choose the scholarship recipients; winners will be notified by Sept. 2, 2015.



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SCHOLARSHIP OPPORTUNITY: 2015 PRSA International Conference

The PRSA International Conference is the perfect place to hone your PR skills and learn tools on the latest trends impacting the industry.

“Right now, communicators have more tools and opportunities than ever before. How do we ensure that we’re making the most strategic decisions that will lead to greater results? We come together, exchange insights and build powerful relationships. At the PRSA 2015 International Conference, we’ll connect on the best practices that will become the future of PR,” said Kathy Balfour, APR, PRSA 2015 Chair and Vice President of Communications at Acosta Sales and Marketing.

PRSA Tampa Bay is offering one scholarship for a member to attend the conference Nov. 8-10 in Atlanta.

About the scholarship: The scholarship recipient will be required to fulfill a role during the conference, such as blogging or providing social media posts. Be sure to indicate in this application the role(s) you will commit to perform if you are selected. The Tampa Bay Chapter scholarship will cover the conference’s registration fee ($1,195) and partial travel expenses (hotel, flight, mileage reimbursement, etc.) up to a combined total of $200. The chapter will register and pay the registration fee for the selected recipient. The recipient will need to pay travel expenses up front and submit receipts for reimbursement following the conference. Any travel expenses beyond the $200 allotment are the responsibility of the attendee. If for some reason the recipient is not able to attend the conference, the scholarship will be awarded to someone else.

To be considered, please complete the application by 12 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015. A selection committee from another PRSA chapter will choose the scholarship recipient; the winner will be notified by Sept. 2, 2015.

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August Program Explores Measurement in the Digital Age

Pictured: PRSA President, Marissa Segundo, APR; Shonali Burke, IABC; and President-Elect, Jennifer Dunn

Before developing a strategy for a public relations campaign, you must first ask yourself two questions: What are you are trying to do? Why is it important?

Shonali Burke, president & CEO of Shonali Burke Consulting, Inc., shared this insight and many others with PRSA Tampa Bay members and guests at the Le Meridien Hotel for her presentation on “Smart PR Measurement in the Digital Age.”

Shonali stressed that there is no set formula for PR measurement. You must listen, analyze and then implement and improve. She explained that while there is no exact method, there are ‘Seven Deadly Sins of Bad Measurement’ to avoid. Those include:

  • When impressions are the be-all & end-all
  • “AVE” & “ROI” – gasp, shudder and barf
  • Anyone remember “research?
  • Not quantifiable or time bound
  • Not focusing on what we’re trying to achieve
  • Not using measurement to inform decisions
  • Not tying it to business outcomes


She also shared the tip to make sure your objectives are measurable and time bound, and remember that ‘Buzz’ is not a measurable objective.

Save the date:
The next PRSA Tampa Bay luncheon will focus on the Port Tampa Bay Rebranding Campaign at Brio Tuscan Grille on Sept 22. 

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Free PRSA Tampa Bay Membership When You Join PRSA National

PRSA is offering new members who join in August-September 30 a FREE one-year Tampa Bay chapter membership. That’s a savings of $50. Whether you’re a new professional or a seasoned public relations professional, joining PRSA and PRSA Tampa Bay is a great way to enhance your career through networking and professional developing opportunities. As industry professionals, having a resource such as PRSA is priceless.

How to become a member:
1. Go to and sign up as a National member with initiation fee
2. Select "Tampa Bay Chapter" under "Subscriptions" in the check out area.
3. Use the code CHAPT15 to take advantage of your FREE chapter membership.
4. Enjoy the benefits of being a chapter member!
You can also call 212-460-1400 or email with any questions.

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PRSA Tampa Bay Members Save $50 On Social Fresh Registration

Looking to learn how to up your social media game? You’re invited to attend the Social Fresh 2015 Conference, a nationally recognized event consistently cited by industry leaders as the best social marketing conference each year. And as an added bonus, PRSA Tampa Bay members will receive an extra $50 off registration (discount code PRSATAMPA).

This year’s event will feature one of the best groups of front-line social media thought leaders from the top brands, agencies and technology providers in the US.

Speakers includes experts from Twitter, HP, Priceline, Dannon, Patron, Buffer, The Today Show, Fifth Third Bank and American Eagle.

Additional presenters include internationally-recognized new media thought leaders like Jay Baer, Sarah Evans, Chris Brogan, Scott Monty, Jim Tobin, and Jason Keath. See the full speaker list here.

Social Fresh 2015 will host 15 high caliber speakers who will share industry best practices, case studies, and working strategies in highly focused less-than-30-minute sessions.

And unlike many learning forums that run simultaneous workshops, the Social Fresh agenda is a single track; you never have to wonder what you missed by choosing one speaker over another. You get to learn from each one and enjoy all of their highly engaging presentations. Social Fresh curates so you don’t have to.

Similar to how a TED event features very short sessions with high impact presentations in a single presentation room, Social Fresh Conferences host a very intimate conference experience. The speakers own the stage while they present and skip all the fluff.

Networking opportunities are also an integral part of Social Fresh – you’ll be able to connect one-to-one with speakers and attendees throughout three days of networking opportunities, beginning the night before the first day of the conference.

So make your plans now to attend this year’s Social Fresh Conference 2015 on Wednesday, September 23rd through Friday, September 25th, 2015. Act quickly though as tickets will sell out.

For full information and registration, visit And be sure to use the discount code PRSATAMPA to receive your $50 off.

Conference Pricing Schedule

  • July 20 – Sept 6 — $1047
  • Sept 7 – Sept 23 — $1147

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Congratulations to our Newest APRs

The PRSA Tampa Bay Chapter would like to congratulate our newest APRs.

Betty S. Carlin, APR
Mary Margaret Hull, APR
Nancy Gay, APR
Heather Grzelka, APR
Lesley Valentin, APR


Mary Margaret and Betty both attended the PRSA Sunshine District Conference where they were recognized for their new accreditation. 

To learn how you can earn your APR, visit:

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PRSA Tampa Bay Announces New Sponsorship Program

We’re excited to announce the launch of a revamped Sponsorship Program for PRSA Tampa Bay!

Designed to drive more awareness, interest and leads for our sponsors, our program now includes 6- and 12-month packages that utilize the chapter’s many popular communications channels. We now offer three main package options for a sustained, multifaceted approach for businesses to reach and develop relationships with PR professionals throughout Tampa Bay:

  1.       Annual Sponsorships:

Gold and Silver Level Annual Sponsorships include complimentary registrations to chapter events, onsite promotional activities and exclusive recognition at a chapter event, and online advertising via the chapter’s website, e-newsletter, program e-mails and social media throughout the calendar year. (Note: Fees for Annual Sponsorships for 2015 are pro-rated.) 

  1.       Signature Event Presenting Sponsorships:

Our “Signature Events” are high-profile special events that tend to draw large crowds year after year. Presenting Sponsor status of a Signature Event includes complimentary event registrations, promotional activities leading up to and at the event, and online advertising throughout the calendar year. We still have Signature Event Presenting Sponsorships available for 2015! 

  1.       Advertising Packages:

Available for 6 or 12 months, this package includes having your clickable company logo on our chapter website, program e-mails and e-newsletter; and quarterly promotion on the chapter’s social media. 

See all the details in our Sponsorship Packet

If you’re interested in becoming a chapter sponsor, please contact Noelle Fox at And please share these opportunities with anyone you think may be interested!

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On Message: Keep it Simple

By Kevin Sullivan, PRSA Tampa Bay Member and author

In the 1970s, PepsiCo had a mission statement that was simple, direct, and powerful: Beat Coke.

The three most important factors in message development are simplicity, simplicity, and simplicity. And it doesn’t get much simpler than, “Beat Coke.”

Packed into those two words are aspiration and inspiration, clarity of purpose, and a sense of “us against them” team unity. Not bad for eight letters.

By contrast, the mission statement for one of America’s most prominent universities consumes 523 words. Over dinner one night in Washington, the president of that institution confirmed what I already suspected: It had been written by committee.

When developing messaging for a political campaign, a product rollout, or a crisis response, don’t take chances – keep it simple. And always remember, “If you’re explaining, you’re losing.”

That old political adage hit me hard in the fall of 2007 during my time as President Bush’s White House Communications Director.

The State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) was up for reauthorization. SCHIP is a program administered by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services that provides matching funds to States to provide health insurance for children in uninsured families whose income was modest, but exceeded the eligibility requirements for Medicaid.

President Bush was calling for a 20 percent ($4.8 billion) increase in funding, which would have been used to help enroll an additional 500,000 children in the program. This should have been a slam dunk. 

Democrats wanted to expand the program by $50 billion and add coverage for some adults. Their plan would have put 48 percent of American children on government health insurance.

President Bush said that he would veto any bill that used SCHIP to launch a major expansion of government-run health care. 

So the message battle broke down this way:

  • Democrats supported health insurance for poor, sick children.
  • President Bush was for health insurance for children from poor families, but was against the Democrats’ plan to use SCHIP to expand taxpayer-funded health care to include adults and families who could afford – or already had – private coverage.

They had a bumper sticker, and we had a three-page fact sheet. We were talking about supporting the bill, but then threatening to veto it in the same paragraph. We were definitely explaining.

Our team in the White House Communications Office issued a steady stream of fact sheets and other documents designed to defend the President’s position and clarify our message. “Five Key Myths About President Bush's Support for SCHIP Reauthorization” presented a fact-based debunking of misconceptions about the President’s proposal. It came in at 936 words – way too long for a bumper sticker.

Things got interesting when the Democratic Party response to President Bush’s weekly radio address – usually delivered by a member of Congress – was delivered by Graeme Frost, a 12-year-old from Baltimore who had recovered from a brain stem injury and whose health insurance coverage came through SCHIP.

“If it weren’t for (S)CHIP, I might not be here today,” he said. “I just hope the President will listen to my story and help other kids to be as lucky as me.” Through young Graeme, Democrats had succeeded in putting a sympathetic human face on their policy position – they made it personal.

In the end, President Bush vetoed two SCHIP bills – he may have won, but it didn’t feel like it. We had lost in the court of public opinion. They had a bumper sticker, and we had a fact sheet.

So keep a 3”x 3” Post-It Note on your desk. If your messages don’t fit on there, they’re not crisp enough, bold enough, or simple enough to break through. To summarize, the keys for sharp messaging and a few other tips for getting quoted amid the clutter:

  • Extremes are good. If your message can be honestly described in terms of first/last, biggest/smallest, oldest/youngest, or most/least expensive, that’s newsy and a good place to start.
  • Use metaphors and analogies to make your point: Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer offered a memorable description of Google during her days as a product manager there: “Google should be like a Swiss Army knife: clean, simple, the tool you want to take everywhere.”
  • Put numbers in context. “There are more mobile phones on Earth than toothbrushes,” said 3Cinteractive founder John Duffy. That’s much more effective and memorable than if he would have given the actual number of mobile phones.
  • Be colorful, paint a picture. In a Wall Street Journal article about iCloud-related upgrades to Apple products, Tulane University professor Thomas Beller scored two memorable quotes.: “I don’t go to church. I don't go to synagogue. I buy Apple products.” Then, to characterize his frustration, he said, “By forcing all these changes, Apple is driving me into the arms of Google.”
  • Build your message around what you are for, not what you’re against. The affirmative almost always works best. Talk about what you have, not what you don’t have. Define your idea or product around what it is, not what it’s not.
  • When developing your message, make it about people and their stories, not numbers or dollars. Emotions beat facts every time.

But above all, keep it simple. For years when I was asked about media bias I used to say, “Yeah, they’re biased. They’re biased in favor of conflict.” New York Times reporter Peter Baker adds an interesting twist to that theory, telling Politico, "The bigger bias is the bias toward conflict, the bias toward sensation, the bias toward the quick and easy and the simplistic.” Baker is right to add “the quick and easy and the simplistic” to the list.

Today’s reality is that the attention of the media – and consumers, too – is pulled in so many directions that if your message is complex, your audience will move on to the next email, tweet, post, or pitch. If you’re explaining, you’re losing.


PRSA Tampa Bay member Kevin Sullivan, the founder of Kevin Sullivan Communications, Inc., is the author of the new eBook, “Breaking Through: Communications Lessons from the Locker Room, the Board Room and the Oval Office.” The book, which details his experiences with the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, NBC Universal and The White House, is excerpted here.

“Breaking Through” is available at and iBooks. Sullivan can be reached at

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