In PRSA, I Found a Community That Inspires

By: Alexis Novales, Co-Chair of New Professionals Committee

As graduation was quickly approaching, I wanted to prepare myself as much as possible before eagerly jumping into the world of public relations. Informational interviews seemed like the best way to connect with industry leaders - absorbing all of the knowledge and expertise they were willing to share.

A common thread from almost every interview was the benefits of joining the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). While it sounded very convincing, I was still hesitant about officially joining.

It wasn’t until I participated in a PRSA Tampa Bay webinar that I was sold. Seeing the webinar hosted by a vibrant and successful woman of color immediately caught my attention. However, what truly convinced me was witnessing this supportive community of PR professionals be so open to hearing a new perspective and re-learning how they thought about the webinar topic. I left the webinar truly inspired.

After doing more research on PRSA and the Tampa Bay chapter specifically, I was delighted to see the countless insightful programs they offered. It was then that I realized this isn’t just an organization where people occasionally meet up and possibly promote their business. Rather, it is an inclusive group of public relations professionals who strive to inform and educate each other. This type of programming benefits PRSA not only because it helps its current members - but it also brings in a new audience.

In the ever-changing world of public relations, having a curious and open mind is key. Therefore, we must actively find what inspires us and consciously make the effort to learn from one another.

As the new co-chair of the PRSA Tampa Bay “New Professionals” committee, I hope to bring a fresh perspective. My eagerness to learn and build upon my academic foundation will allow me to collaborate with current members on the types of programs new professionals like myself want to see. My goal is to encourage the next generation of PR professionals to realize they have a place in this organization. I’m proud to be joining a field of forward-thinkers and perceptive leaders.

If you'd like to learn more about getting involved in the Tampa Bay Chapter of PRSA, just contact [email protected]. Don't forget to keep checking for information on future events. And go to to learn about the benefits of membership.

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Looking at Diversity through a Communications Lens

by Camila Rodriguez, PRSA Tampa Bay member and co-chair of the Diversity & Inclusion Committee

Diversity is defined as many things to different people. It encompasses everything from visual diversity (what you see) to age diversity to diversity of experience and diversity of thought. One of the best definitions I found comes from Queensborough Community College, a part of the City University of New York: “[Diversity] means understanding that each individual is unique, and recognizing our individual differences.” As public relations professionals, we should take this definition and apply our everyday lives so that we can be smarter resources to those that surround us – client or not.

One way to look at diversity, both as a communications professional and as a consumer, is through media examples. There are so many examples of good and bad use of diversity in the media but here are some examples to discuss:

Bad: Super Bowl 2020 State Farm commercial

Why is it bad? Although the representation of Black people is always important and valued, this refresh of an iconic State Farm spot fell flat. As a viewer, I was expecting the original commercial and instead viewed a remake that did not value the new talent involved. This really made “Jake” into a token and represents a missed opportunity to really appeal to the Black community. State Farm listened to the negative feedback and used that to change its approach when introducing Isa, a new Spanish-speaking spokesperson for State Farm.  

Good: Facebook COVID-19 Ad & Oreos ad w/ Becky G

Why is it good? The Facebook COVID-19 ad used a spoken word poem, which is more common in communities of color, and user-generated content to drive home (pun intended) its message that staying home keeps your loved ones safe, and the now more than ever it’s important to stay connected. This ad featured all races, ages, genders, experiences, and a variety of other diversity factors. It was executed in a way that made me, as a viewer, feel like the parts of the world were being represented fairly.

The Oreos ad was very effective in targeting Hispanic/Latinx consumers because of its family-oriented message. Becky G is a Latinx singer and actress that travels often for appearances and filming, but with a secret Oreo package in her suitcase from her brother, she can still share in family moments. This ad also depicted a busy, multi-generational home, which are both very common occurrences in Hispanic/Latinx households.

There are many, many other examples but now you are probably asking, Well, what can I do?

I am not an expert on diversity but as a person of color, I’ve learned there is no right way that applies to every single person. Similarly, the people of color in your circle are not the spokespersons for their entire community – they can only speak for themselves and their experience. This is where research comes in. Likewise, any conversation with someone who is different from you is an opportunity to create a longstanding relationship of honesty and trust, which can also extend to clients and their respective brands.

Ultimately, diverse thinking starts with you, the individual.

The good thing is there are plenty of resources available to learn more about an intentional application of diversity. There are plenty of resources provided by the Black Lives Matter movement. LinkedIn Learning has diversity courses such as Unconscious Bias Training and Become an Inclusive Leader. PRSA at a national level has a starter guide, Diversity & Inclusion ToolKit, on how to implement Diversity & Inclusion in your local chapters.

Diversity is a topic we can never stop learning about so be intentional and curious in all facets of your life.

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Member Spotlight: Colin Trethewey, APR

This Member Spotlight profiles Colin Trethewey, APR, co-founder and principal of the public relations firm PRmediaNow. He joined PRSA Tampa Bay in 2010, currently serves as co-chair of the Awards Committee, and has served as a member of this committee for several years.

  1. First news publication you read in the morning?

Using my mobile apps, CNN and CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). I was born in Ottawa and worked as a TV news reporter for 12 years before moving to Tampa in 2007.

  1. First public relations job?

Leading media relations for a “virtual world” website for a Montreal tech startup, in 2006. The site was similar to Second Life, which was big at the time.

  1. Most important career mentor, and why?

Michael Smart, who runs his own firm, Michael Smart PR, and a coaching and training program, Smart PR Inner Circle, and taught me some valuable media relations tips early in my career in his seminars and coaching sessions. Michael is a proponent of always being aware how you can adapt and expand your offerings to better serve clients as technologies and media platforms evolve.

  1. Most rewarding accomplishment in public relations?

Helping clients succeed with product launches and winning several PRSA Tampa Bay PRestige Awards and PRSA Sunshine District Radiance Awards for those campaigns. Last year we received a few chuckles for our Radiance Award in the category of media relations tactics that we won for Peejamas, a successful crowdfunding campaign with the slogan “look good peeing the bed.”

At our chapter’s 2017 PRestige Awards ceremony, where my firm was honored to take home awards in the categories of media relations and media kits.

  1. Biggest challenge of adapting to the COVID-19 lockdown this year?

Helping clients that are in the mindset of launching products at in-person events to shift their thinking to take advantage of video conferencing forums and Facebook Live interviews. In addition to being essential to use during a period of lockdown, these new platforms offer a wealth of new capabilities and benefits for companies to share their news with their customers and stakeholders in new and compelling ways.

  1. Advice to new public relations professionals?

Join PRSA and immerse yourself in professional development and share your training accomplishments on LinkedIn. Nothing impresses a prospective employer more than someone who makes an effort to master the craft.

With my wife, Cyndi, having fun beside a cutout of the prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, at Amalie Arena during the annual Tampa Bay Canada Day celebration, on July 1, 2019.

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

Working on a wildlife reserve to protect endangered species. I love all animals, but I would focus on cheetahs, because they are critically endangered and having a particularly difficult time with the loss of habitat and territory they need to hunt and breed.

  1. Favorite movie?

Lawrence of Arabia, with Gandhi a close second. Both movies are as profoundly relevant today as the original historical events they depict and should be mandatory viewing for all aspiring politicians before they take office. 

  1. Favorite vacation?

A safari in South Africa last year at Zulu Nyala Game Lodge, where we experienced lions walking within a few feet of our vehicle after being chased away by rhinos. Here’s the video I shot of the exhilarating moment.

On safari in South Africa with my wife, Cyndi, and our ranger, James.

One of my favorite safari pics, with three zebras and three giraffes sharing a water hole.

  1. Any three dinner guests?

Jane Goodall, Bill Gates and my dad, John Trethewey, who always kept things fun and lively at dinner parties.


I’ve played hockey since age 4 and continue to play in the Brandon Ice Sports Forum league. Once a year we get a chance to play an exhibition game at Amalie Arena. This is us in the dressing room.

And here we are at center ice at Amalie.

One more hockey photo, showing my team at the Brandon Ice Sports Forum after winning the 2019 Keg Cup in the over-35 league!

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PRSA Announces Diversity & Inclusion Strategy, Committing to Diversifying the Profession

PRSA recently released its 2020-2022 diversity and inclusion strategic plan, which is designed to guide and build on the group’s commitment to be a more diverse and inclusive organization.  

The plan was released in early May before members of the Minneapolis Police Department were arrested in the killing of George Floyd. This killing and others have sparked a nationwide outcry and conversation about matters of police tactics and institutional racism.

At PRSA Tampa Bay, we believe there has never been a more important time to refocus our own efforts on diversity and inclusion. So we encourage you to review the PRSA 2020-2022 D&I Strategic Plan.

The overarching goal of PRSA’s plan supports four objectives:

  1. Increase awareness and understanding of PRSA as a diverse and inclusive organization among its members and staff by 15% by 2023.
  2. Increase diverse representation among leadership throughout all levels of PRSA by 25% by 2023.
  1. Increase awareness of PRSA as a diverse and inclusive organization among external stakeholders by 15% by 2023.
  2. Increase and retain the number of multicultural students in PRSSA and new multicultural professionals into PRSA by 15% by 2023.

This three-year plan will guide PRSA in the achievement of targeted milestones and position PRSA as a model for the communications profession, reflecting exemplary leadership in diversity and inclusion.

The result of a robust 11-month research initiative with input from myriad audiences across the entire organization, the plan is based on three phases of qualitative and quantitative data collection including interviews, focus groups and a survey, which had an 18% response rate representing the opinions of 3,700 PRSA members.

In businesses and organizations large and small, the importance, relevance and impact of strategic diversity and inclusion (D&I) efforts, including the critical “business case” for D&I, is becoming better understood. At PRSA Tampa Bay, we support members of all backgrounds and are committed to building a community that reflects these principles.

This new strategic plan represents a “shared model” for action. Together, we are embarking on a journey that is transparent, intentional and consistent, pushing thoughtful efforts and actions as we accept the call to bring PRSA’s vision to reality in Tampa Bay. Now it’s time to work!  As we do, we acknowledge that it is a process, and it will take time. We may not have all the answers, but we are absolutely on our way. In fact, be on the lookout for information on our upcoming Courageous Conversations events and our Diversity & Inclusion program in October.

If you’re interested in getting involved with our diversity and inclusion initiatives, please contact PRSA Tampa Bay Co-Chair, Kecia Carroll.


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PR Pros, Get Your 2020 AP Stylebook Updates!

By Joseph Priest, APR

It’s that time of year again, when copy editors, journalists, language professors, English teachers, and, yes, public relations professionals find out the latest updates to an indispensable resource that guides the way we write – the Associated Press Stylebook.

In recent years, the editors of the AP Stylebook have announced these changes at the annual conference of 
ACES: The Society for Editing (formerly known as the American Copy Editors Society), which is usually held in March or April. The announcement has become something of a tradition at the conference that is regularly one of the biggest sessions and always draws a jam-packed room.

This year, though, there was no room full of people or audible group groans as the updates were announced. Instead, as if with so many other events this year, the in-person ACES conference that was planned for Salt Lake City was replaced by a day of online sessions.

An image promoting some of the sessions and sponsors for this year’s virtual ACES: The Society for Editing national conference.

These sessions, of course, included the AP Stylebook changes, and on May 1 a group of about 1,000 editors gathered virtually to get the lowdown on some of the latest changes happening in our language.


The AP Stylebook session at last year’s ACES: The Society for Editing annual conference, in Providence.

The session at this year’s condensed annual conference, held virtually and led by Paula Froke (top right), executive director of Associated Press Media Editors and editor of the AP Stylebook, and Colleen Newvine (bottom right), Associated Press product manager, AP Stylebook, and introduced by Neil Holdway (middle right), secretary of ACES, and assistant managing editor, copy desk, of the Daily Herald (Chicago).   

With all that has been happening this year with COVID-19 and other crises, this year’s AP Stylebook session, thankfully, lacked some of the controversial updates that have marked past AP Stylebook sessions. Some of those previous changes have been earth-shattering, like taking the hyphen out of “e-mail,” allowing “over” to indicate quantitative relationships as well as spatial ones, and permitting “they” to refer to a singular subject.

Here’s a rundown of some this year’s updates that may be helpful for PR pros to know:

  • Capitalization of “Black” - This just in! On the occasion of Juneteenth, on June 19, the AP Stylebook made the momentous announcement that its style is now to capitalize “Black” in a racial, ethnic, or cultural sense, conveying an essential and shared sense of history, identity, and community among people who identify as Black, including those in the African diaspora and within Africa. The announcement followed a long discussion that the stylebook’s editors had been having among other editors, news leaders, and various external organizations, and the change also followed one that had recently been made by such news outlets as NBC News, The Los Angeles Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Boston Globe, The Seattle Times, and the Gannett newspaper chain, including USA Today. The editors are continuing to discuss within the U.S. and internationally whether to capitalize the term “white.” In addition, the AP Stylebook now capitalizes “Indigenous” in reference to original inhabitants of a place. The changes, which are consolidated in the stylebook’s race-related coverage section, align with the long-standing capitalization of other racial and ethnic identifiers, such as Latino, Asian American and Native American. More specifically, the use of the capitalized “Black” recognizes that language has evolved, along with the common understanding that, especially in the U.S., the term reflects a shared identity and culture rather than a skin color alone. Important to note, neither “Black” nor “white” should be used as a singular noun, except when clearly relevant and needed for reasons of space or sentence construction: “The authors of the book wrote separate sections to address the special challenges that Blacks, whites, Latinos and Asian Americans faced during the 1900s.”
  • No more print versions - One of the biggest changes announced is that the AP will no longer print a new version of the stylebook every year. Not surprisingly, sales of the print book have fallen off as more people have migrated to the AP Stylebook Online, and many people do not buy a new hard copy every year.
  • Gender-neutral language entry - Another big change is a new entry on gender-neutral language, which is intended to use descriptions rather than labels. The gender-neutral language entry “aims to treat people equally and is inclusive of people whose gender identity is not strictly male or female.” The entry says further that writers and editors should “balance common sense, respect for the language, and an understanding that gender-neutral or gender-inclusive language is evolving and in some cases is challenging to achieve.” The entry cites examples like using “search” instead of “manhunt” or “door attendant” instead of “doorman,” but it also cautions against using contrived-sounding constructions like “snowperson” or “freshperson.”
  • “Older people” - A particular case in point that was cited is referring to someone as “senior” or “elderly,” which is “identity-first language” because it says nothing about the specific person, and one person’s idea of what constitutes “elderly” might not be another’s. Mentioning someone’s age, when relevant, can replace the label. So the stylebook now prefers “older adults” or “older person,” acknowledging that those terms are also imprecise. The new “older adult(s), older person/people” entry started with discussions between the stylebook team and the American Geriatrics Society. The society had worked on research that found many people associate the terms “elderly” or “senior citizen” with negative stereotypes.
  • “Homeless” - A similar point is how is how “homeless” is best used as an adjective: “’Homeless’ is generally acceptable as an adjective to describe people without a fixed residence. Avoid the dehumanizing collective noun ‘the homeless,’ instead using constructions like ‘homeless people,’ ‘people without housing’ or ‘people without homes.’”
  • “Climate change” - Another change is that “climate change” is now defined as a more accurate term to describe rising global temperatures: “The terms ‘global warming’ and ‘climate change’ are often used interchangeably, but climate change is the more accurate scientific term to describe the various effects of increasing levels of greenhouse gases on the world because it includes extreme weather; storms; and changes in rainfall patterns, ocean acidification and sea level. Global warming, the increase of average temperature around the world, is one aspect of climate change. The terms ‘climate crisis’ and ‘climate emergency’ are used by some scientists, policymakers and others, and are acceptable.”
  • “Mistress” - Stay away from “mistress”: “Do not use this archaic and sexist term for a woman who is in a long-term sexual relationship with, and is financially supported by, a man who is married to someone else. Instead, use an alternative like ‘companion,’ ‘friend’ or ‘lover’ on first reference, and provide additional details later.”
  • Plus symbol - “Disney+” is now acceptable: The symbol is OK to use when it is pronounced as part of a company, brand or event name: “Disney+,” “Apple TV+,” “ESPN+” or “CompTia Network+.”
  • “Preheat” - It’s also now OK to “preheat”: “Acceptable to refer to heating an oven to a specific temperature before cooking.”


Any questions, suggestions or criticisms for this year’s AP Stylebook updates? Any from years past? Would love to know anything on your mind. Please send them to [email protected].  


Merriam-Webster Inc. Editor-at-Large Peter Sokolowski kicked off this year’s virtual ACES: The Society for Editing online national conference with the session "The Invention of the Modern American Dictionary."


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LGBTQ+ Ally Company Honorees Pave the Way for Workforce Equality

By Kecia Carroll, PRSA Tampa Bay member and co-chair of the Diversity & Inclusion Committee

June is Pride Month, and many businesses are taking the opportunity to celebrate the achievements of the LGBTQ+ community, including this month’s landmark Supreme Court ruling protecting gay and transgender workers from workplace discrimination. 

Several Tampa Bay businesses are doing their part to drive change. In a virtual event on June 18, the Tampa Bay Business Journal’s 2020 ally company honorees* shared their own commitment to advance workplace diversity and inclusion. 

“It is hard to start, but worth it,” said Rick Bennett, Strategic Programs & Local Partnership Manager at Florida Blue.  “Where you are today is not as important as where you are tomorrow.”  

The corporate leaders offered this advice they learned from their own journeys to improve their businesses through diversity and inclusion:  

Lead. It was unanimous. The allies agreed that the road to workforce equality starts at the top. It has to be a business strategy and not a human resources program. Leadership cannot be neutral. Instead, they must demonstrate a deep commitment including modeling behavior themselves. They must be a part of the conversation, even if it gets uncomfortable.

Listen. Learn. Teach. Start in a state of self-examination. Teach leaders at all levels of the organization how to recognize unconscious bias. Assess where you’re starting and where you want to go.

Listen to your employees. Learn from their stories. Hear what is hard, and what they would like you to take away as a company. Make diversity and inclusion affinity groups and task forces open for staff to participate so everyone feels welcome to join the conversation and contribute to change. For several of the organizations, diversity and inclusion came to life through company groups like these.

But don’t stop there. Listen to your partners and customers. Work with minority-owned organizations to create opportunities to grow through partnerships.

Communicate. Communicate broadly and often, reminding employees of what you do and why you do it. Tell stories of diversity and inclusion that will inspire them. Celebrate successes. Keep the conversation going.

Create. Continue to create and foster a culture of inclusivity. “You can bring in diverse talent, but if you don’t have an inclusive environment, they won’t stay,” said Lynn Heckler, EVP, Chief Talent Officer at PSCU. Don’t expect it to happen overnight. Creating an inclusive culture requires education, nurturing and constant reinforcement.

Evolve. Diversity and inclusion is a journey so there is always more that can be done. It is a daily effort, one that requires organizations to continue to step up and ask what they can do to help people. In doing so, you’ll adapt your D&I strategies just as you adapt your business strategies.

In this particular time of rapid change, Renee Agler, Human Resource Director at Baker McKenzie reminded companies to balance existing diversity and inclusion goals without losing sight of employees’ basic needs. “For example, we are now thinking about how we need to adjust for the needs of our employees working remotely. We’re facing a different form of isolation and are responding with flexibility and patience.”

The common theme from the presentation was that it’s good for business to create businesses where employees can be their authentic selves. Diverse group thinking led to innovation. Brand awareness and customer service improved. Companies became employers of choice. “Whether you have 10 employees or 10,000, they are not the same. Diversity and inclusion is a way to innovation and growth,” said Stuart Brown, Lead Microsoft Business Grp., NA and Office Managing Director at Accenture.

*The Tampa Bay Business Journal’s 2020 Ally Company Honorees included:

  • Stuart Brown, Lead Microsoft Business Grp., NA and Office Managing Dir. - Accenture
  • Renee Agler, Human Resource Director - Baker McKenzie
  • Rick Bennett, Strategic Programs & Local Partnership Manager - Florida Blue
  • Mike Sutton, President & CEO - Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas & West Pasco Counties
  • Lynn Heckler, EVP, Chief Talent Officer - PSCU
  • Jen Sobieski - PwC
  • Karla Hartley, Producing Artistic Director - Stageworks Theatre 
  • Skyler Hunt, Community Outreach - Trulieve
  • Lauren Brusa, Sr. HR Business Partner, Manager - Wipro


Kecia Carroll is a communications strategist and corporate social responsibility champion. She is the Diversity & Inclusion committee co-chair at PRSA Tampa Bay.

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Tampa Bay Chapter Launches “Back to Work” Group

By Linda Hughes-Kirchubel, PRSA Tampa Bay member 

With national unemployment claims topping 40 million, job seeking members of PRSA Tampa Bay gather weekly to exchange resources and job tips, expand their connections, and strengthen their professional networks through the “Back to Work” group

The group’s Zoom gatherings began in early May, with the full thrust of the coronavirus upon Florida, the nation and the world. As the pandemic’s grip tightened locally, employers large and small initiated new work routines, activated remote work practices when possible, and instituted recommended public health guidelines. Ultimately, the virus toppled the labor market, workers were furloughed, and errors in April and May jobs reports likely means that May’s unemployment rate is 16.3 percent.

Amid this unprecedented crisis, PRSA Tampa Bay's Membership Committee, chaired by Bart Graham, reached out to as many of the 237 chapter members as possible. The committee wanted to engage with members, especially any who had been furloughed or laid off. They found there were many who were impacted.

“Before COVID-19, I was working as a communications consultant for a small business,” said Beth Chernes, a PRSA Tampa Bay member whose contract with a small business ended when Florida shut down. “I saw friends and former colleagues in public relations and marketing lose their jobs and opportunities dry up. Through the Back to Work Group, I've made connections in PRSA Tampa Bay that will last beyond my time in this group and into the next chapter of my career.”

During each Back to Work Group meeting, job seekers share resources with each other, celebrate victories and offer support for current challenges. They share tips such as resume building, preparing for job interviews, and using the latest job finding tools. Using a private Slack channel, members post information designed to build skills and increase knowledge, including podcasts and videos about navigating career transitions.

“PRSA Tampa Bay members have always been an incredibly supportive group of professionals,” said Kelsy Long, president of PRSA Tampa Bay. “This Back to Work group is just another example of how our chapter can come together to form a mental and professional safety net during troubling times."

Some members have buddied up, which adds accountability and motivation to the process.

“The weekly meetings with my accountability buddy are encouraging and motivating,” said Linda Hughes-Kirchubel, who recently relocated to Florida. “We share ‘to do’ lists on Monday and then check in on Fridays to report our progress. I’ve really benefited from her knowledge, and since I’m new to Florida, she’s helping me better understand the PR environment here.”

“The collaboration and support of the Back to Work group has been so helpful with a great exchange of ideas and suggestions,” said Beth Hardy, APR and former member of PRSA Tampa Bay’s board. “It’s very helpful and good to know that we have each other’s backs.” 

“I truly look forward to the weekly meetings with everyone,” said Muffy Lavens. “Having a group of professionals going through the same thing reminds me that I’m not alone in this. We’re all talented people supporting each other as we navigate this tough time.”

PRSA Tampa Bay's Back to Work Group meets every Monday at 10 a.m. It is open to all Florida chapters.

“We see it as another benefit of PRSA membership,” said Graham. “We don’t want people to suffer in silence. These are tough times, and PRSA professionals understand the value of communication and connection. This is just another way we can offer that to our outstanding members and continue to support their career journeys.”

For more information, or to join PRSA Tampa Bay's Back to Work Group, contact Shannon Burch, Beth Hardy, or Muffy Lavens.

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Team Helps Job Seekers at Metropolitan Ministries Workshop

By Joseph Priest, APR and PRSA Tampa Bay member

Third time is the charm” goes the old saying. But even though PRSA Tampa Bay recently had two successful visits to Metropolitan Ministries to hold job-search-skills counseling sessions, in many ways our third visit, in February, was our best visit of all.

Our team, with Olivia Keegan (fourth from right), Karen McAllister (far right), and Joseph Priest (behind Karen), along with members and administrators of the Metropolitan Ministries life skills program.

On Feb. 21, the Public Service Committee returned to the nonprofit to participate in a half-day workshop that featured a variety of volunteer speakers from different organizations that came to help disadvantaged job seekers in the nonprofit’s life skills program. The life skills program provides a range of life-management and career-building services to help people in critical economic need. These services include one that takes in people for a period of six to nine months during which they live at residence halls on Metropolitan Ministries’ main office and attend a series of workshops and activities to help them reset their life and prepare for a new future. 

Our team’s visit followed two sessions at Metropolitan Ministries that we led in August and May last year, but while those sessions mostly focused on résumé reviews, our latest workshop went beyond those by providing more high-level guidance on common-sense communication and decision-making skills in the business world. Specifically, our team drew on its public-relations strategic-planning and critical-analysis skills to bring together more of the full range of public relations disciplines into the insights we presented.   

Karen discusses the importance of knowing your manager’s preferred method of communication.

Our session included a 30-minute presentation of personal insights and best practices followed by a short group exercise and question-and-answer period. Three chapter members participated: Olivia Keegan, Karen McAllister and Joseph Priest.

Bringing together different public relations skills from our own experience and job roles, each of us shared different pieces of advice and best practices on communication and decision-making. Here is a sampling:

Olivia Keegan

  • Remember that your body language can be as important as your speech, and to be aware of what your facial expression, posture, walk and other actions can convey about you.
  • Never underestimate the power of a smile and a firm handshake when meeting someone and making a first impression.
  • As a truth test of how prepared you are to explain to someone why you’re right for a job, how well could you make an elevator pitch and describe your best qualifications in 30 seconds or less? (This test was later used for one of the class exercises.) 

Olivia explains that what you say with your body language can be as important what you say with your words.

Karen McAllister

  • Take advantage of being new when you start a job! Ask lots of questions, get to know names, and remember that new co-workers appreciate when you ask, “How can I help?”
  • Ensure that you know your manager’s preferred method of communication. Email, phone, text, other?

Joseph Priest

  • When angered or upset by a situation and facing a difficult in-person meeting or digital exchange with a co-worker to resolve the situation, wait as long as possible before to allow any excess emotion to drain and for you to be your normal self.
  • When using email, double-check “To” and “CC” fields to ensure that no one is left out, and consider the best order to list team members’ names (most senior, most junior, most relevant, etc.).

Joseph introduces PRSA Tampa Bay at the beginning of the session.

Although we only had a little more than an hour, our team had a productive visit. We were able to offer high-level communication advice to job seekers that don’t normally have access to this kind of counsel.

Here are our team members’ impressions on what they found to be the most rewarding part of their experience:

“The most rewarding part for me was watching the job seekers’ faces light up as we went through our introduction and elevator pitch exercises. When they wrote down their goals and skills and articulated them to one another, you could see their confidence grow.” – Olivia Keegan 

"I appreciated seeing how engaged the attendees were. They are ready to go out and make a difference, and I am hoping for the best for all of them." – Karen McAllister

“Equally as rewarding as having individual meetings with the job seekers was witnessing my team members share their individual expertise and demonstrate their passion to serve our profession. I’m fortunate to be able to have them as my colleagues.”– Joseph Priest

The Public Service Committee is planning to build on this session with similar events later this year. Stay tuned for more details on these here on the PRSA Tampa Bay website.


The class goes through some exercises to practice new skills at the end of the session.

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Member Spotlight: Alexandra Stewart

This Member Spotlight profiles Alexandra Stewart, media relations manager at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts. She joined PRSA Tampa Bay in 2019, currently serves as website and content chair for the Digital Communications Committee, and previously served as event communications coordinator for the Digital Communication Committee.

  1. First news publication you read in the morning?

I read a newsletter called The Daily Skimm.

  1. First public relations job?

In 2009, my last year as an undergrad, I started a job in the theater department at Wayne State University as a public relations and marketing assistant. This led me into grad school, where I eventually became the marketing and communications manager for the Hilberry Theater at the university.

  1. Most important career mentor, and why?

My current boss and colleague, Paul Bilyeu. He’s been doing public relations in the arts for 25-plus years, so he has a lot of insight and advice in the niche field we work in.

Me (left) and my friend and colleague Emma attending a Ballet Nacional de Cuba performance at the Straz Center.

  1. Top grammar, style or writing pet peeve?

Hmm, probably the misuse of “then” for “than.”

  1. Most rewarding accomplishment in public relations?

My goal was to have a career in public relations that would bring joy to others. Doing PR in the arts allows me to promote art in various forms, and that is extremely gratifying.

Kayaking the Emerald’s Cut in Apopka, Florida, earlier this year.

  1. Advice to new public relations professionals?

Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat Pray Love, was on a recent episode of one of my favorite podcasts, TED Radio Hour on NPR, and she said something that really moved me – that we shouldn’t follow our passion, we should follow our curiosity. I feel like this is great advice for anyone in any career, but especially a career in PR, as it’s applicable to choosing an industry to practice public relations in.

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

Travel writer, videographer or photographer, roles I’ve been trying to learn in my free time. If money weren’t an object, I’d pursue singing.

My husband, Mark, and me on the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City last year.

  1. Favorite movie?

Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge – I love musical films with love stories.

  1. Favorite vacation?

I moved to Ireland for a year at the end of 2013 and did a three-week train trip that took me to Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Krakow, and Budapest, for a musical festival, and, finally, to Hvar, Croatia. It was the adventure of a lifetime.

My first trip to Ireland, in 2013.

  1. Any three dinner guests?

This is such a tough question, as there’s so many people I’d like to choose for different reasons. But for the sake of fun, let’s go with Dolly Parton, Ellen DeGeneres and Bette Midler.   

My husband and me at a Detroit Tigers spring training game on St. Patrick’s Day last year.


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Finding Your Brand Story

By Travis Claytor, president and owner of TC Strategic Communications, PRSA Tampa Bay member

People are naturally driven by emotion, not numbers, especially during a crisis like COVID-19. We look for meaningful connections and inspirational moments. We want to get lost in stories that we can relate to on a deeper level.

That means as communicators our storytelling needs to hit on multiple levels and multiple platforms for each of our audiences. We can’t just rely on social media, news stories or even advertising.

We’ve all heard the saying that people won’t remember what you said, but how you made them feel.

They remember the feeling they had when you provided an amazing experience, that personal touch, or reached them on some emotional level that they weren’t expecting.

A small but pleasant surprise can be the most impactful way to connect with someone.

We are, after all, only human. And we want to be communicated with, marketed to, and engaged with on a personal, intimate level.

The best brands in the world succeed in connecting with their audiences, not just reaching millions of people.

They succeed in creating brand ambassadors, not customers.

The best brands give customers and audiences a feeling that they have a need to come back and support that brand, their products and their employees.

So, what’s YOUR story? And most importantly, who knows your story?

Not sure? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

Storytelling evolves minute-by-minute, especially in a crisis situation like we’re in now. It’s fluid and everchanging. What works now for one brand won’t work later for another brand, or even the same brand.

Even the biggest brands in the world are constantly looking for new ways to tell their stories.

Fear not, you don’t need millions of dollars or national TV advertising to tell your story. You just need a few simple (ok, maybe not so simple) things to get your started:

1. What do you stand for?

What’s your purpose as a company? How are you making the world, or part of it, better? How can you make your customers’ lives better in some way?

This should be a big idea – something that is aspirational that positively impacts your world or your industry. No matter what, it has to be inspirational and authentic. It has to have a genuine meaning for your company and your employees so your customers can feel it.

This is your chance to dream big and bring others along for the journey.

But it should be tied to what your brand can contribute to in a meaningful way. Take a look at my previous blog on “A Meaningful Message, or Pandering Without Purpose.

2. Who are your audiences? 

Your brand story, and how you communicate it should be specific for each of your audiences. There’s a reason companies actually have Generational Consultants now (like, for real). Different audiences consume stories and content in different ways. Before you can craft your message, you need to know who your audiences are.

And don’t forget that all audiences, internal AND external, can be great resources to help you figure out what your story is and where it needs to be told. Here’s a simple exercise: ask each of your employees, separately, what they think the company mission is and what it stands for. Or, ask them what they think the company “does”.

If you’re anything like so many businesses out there, you’ll get a lot of different answers. But perhaps the truth is in the middle somewhere, or maybe it’s not. Either way, you will know exactly where you stand and where you need to go in order to control your narrative.

3. Where to communicate? 

Your audiences are everywhere, and they communicate on different channels, not just one!

So, how do you know where to put your message? You get strategic and integrated using Spin Sucks’ PESO Model as your foundation.

This is where the genius of the Spin Sucks PESO model really shines. You need to look at your audiences, and then consider all four major communications buckets – Paid, Earned, Shared, and Owned channels – to determine the best place to reach them.

Each area has its place in a strategic communications plan, and they are all important.

Figure out where you key audiences are consuming information and content, and make sure that you’re an active part of their conversation.

Most importantly, use ALL of your tools to do it strategically so you get the biggest impact for your efforts.

And it’s not enough to tell your story once. Depending on the topic, it can take people being exposed to a message 7-10 times before it resonates at all. So, tell your story often, and bring your audiences along for the journey.

4. Back it up!

It’s not enough to just tell your story anymore. You have to prove that you are delivering on your promise.

The only thing worse than a company without purpose is a company that lies about its purpose. Lose the trust of your consumers and key audiences, and you’re likely never to get it back.

I just wrote about the Truth Default Theory, it’s implication for public relations pros, and how your audiences will give you the benefit of the doubt. So use that and don’t abuse that trust.

Find a story and purpose that you can live and deliver to your audiences in a meaningful way. Show your audiences that you are giving back to that purpose and that your audiences are the reason that you are able to make that positive difference.

Remember, it’s your story, but they want to be a part of it and feel connected to your efforts of making the world a better place. If you can’t deliver that journey, your audiences won’t deliver the support.

And here are some additional blogs to help with your strategic communications planning:

– 7 Tips for Successful Media Interviews

– Don’t Let Perfect Be The Enemy Of Effective

– Wake Up. Kick Ass. Repeat. 

– How to Create Content That Engages Audiences and Builds Brand Trust Quickly

Here are some links to resources for managing the craziness of the coronavirus crisis:

– Get RADD And Plan For Success Following Coronavirus Crisis

– There’s Still Time To Communicate During the Coronavirus Crisis

– Isolation Is Actually Connecting Us In Meaningful Ways

– Is Pitching Media A Good Idea During COVID-19?

– Internal Communications During A Crisis

– A Meaningful Message, Or Pandering Without Purpose

Don’t forget to follow us @TCStrategic on TwitterFacebookInstagram and LinkedIn

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