February Event Highlights

Crisis Communication in the Digital Age

PRSA members learned how digital technology and social media have transformed the nature and source of crisis management.

PRSA Tampa Bay Networking Mixer

PRSA Tampa Bay members enjoyed Tapas Tuesday at Ceviche in St. Petersburg

Mock Interview Session with USF PRSSA

Seven PRSA Tampa Bay members joined USF PRSSA for our inaugural mock interview session. Can’t wait to watch them excel in their careers! 



Read More

March 6 Webinar: Get your APR accreditation this year

Becoming Accredited in Public Relations is a career goal for many PR professionals, because it recognizes those who have demonstrated a high level of expertise within our profession. Our PRSA Tampa Bay chapter has an exceptional APR study program — it allows members to learn from  local experts and to meet others who are preparing their presentations and studying for the exam.

Would you like to get your APR in 2019? A great first step is to sign up here ( for a 30-minute webinar at noon Wednesday March 6 with PRSA Tampa Bay Accreditation co-chairs, Paula MacDonald, APR and Katy Parsons, APR.

Sign up even if you can’t participate at that time, because the webinar will be recorded and provided to you later.

This could be your path to the APR this year!

Read More

Five tips for getting coverage from leading Tampa Bay business journalists

By Liz Taylor

When you get three leading Tampa Bay business journalists together to talk about today’s big stories and trends, you don’t expect the main topic to be food.

But when the trendy grocery chain Sprouts opened a store in Clearwater last month, the news got more clicks than almost all other news headlines locally, the journalists said at PRSA Tampa Bay’s recent “Media Crystal Ball” program.

“The Sprouts story attracted the most interest in our readership. It was off the charts – not even close compared to other stories,” said Mark Gordon, managing editor of the Business Observer.

It was the same  at the Tampa Bay Times. “Yes, Sprouts is the No. 1 story” compared to all the other news stories of the day, said Times business writer Susan Taylor Martin.

“So it doesn’t matter what it is, just put Sprouts in the subject line,” quipped Alexis Muellner, editor-in-chief of the Tampa Bay Business Journal.

This isn’t exactly the kind of advice nearly 50 PR and communications professionals expected to hear.But the foodie talk drove home an important point about getting media attention today.

Even when publications have print editions – as all three of those represented do – their digital presence is what’s driving many media decisions when it comes to story coverage. For example, Martin described how a giant screen ranking headlines and their views is prominently displayed in the Times newsroom, and reporters all get a daily report telling them how their articles are playing based on the numbers.

While “being clicky” isn’t the only factor, stressed Gordon and his colleagues, the fact that media can instantly measure what’s attracting readers creates interesting opportunities for savvy PR pros and companies.

Here are five tips on getting coverage – some related directly to today’s digital reality and others based on solid journalistic and media relations principles:

  1. Get up early: With journalists looking to publish online much earlier in the day than the old afternoon print deadlines, early morning releases can capture their attention. “I get in at 7 and try to get stories up on the web by 10. We’re pushing all day to have fresh content,” said Martin. “If you have good stories, get them to us early.”
  2. Expand on published stories: With digital speed, you can get more mileage and keep stories alive by supplying updates in the hours and days following the first publish. Readers are especially hungry to know more about big stories like the recent announcement of a 50-story condominium and hotel development in St. Petersburg. You can also get ideas from reader comments on the story. If you can supply more images and key details, get them to the reporter.
  3. Get leaders to take a stand: Muellner said Tampa Bay Business Journal is looking for guest columns from leading executives, but they don’t get enough submissions. “We want business people to take a stand and be brave” on issues like education and transportation,” he said. Gordon added that The Business Observer also finds it challenging to get business leaders to speak out on issues.
  4. Be clear about what a company does: Martin said press releases often fail to explain what a company, product or service actually does in terms an average reader can understand. “This is particularly true in the technology field,” said Martin. “If we can’t figure it out, it’s not going to get covered.”
  5. Hook readers with brilliant stories: The internet and social media may have turned traditional media upside down, but the value of good storytelling is not changing. Look for ways to surprise and entertain readers. Even though a story is about development, it can still have a funky angle that will get a reporter’s attention, as well as their readers.   

“Remember, businesses don’t make business news, people do,” said Muellner.

And when all else fails, just mention the magic word: Sprouts.

Liz Taylor is a freelance content writer based in Tampa. She can be reached at LizWritesBiz.

Read More

PRSA Tampa Bay Interviewers Needed!

PRSA Tampa Bay will hold its first-ever “Mock Interview” session with aspiring interviewees from USF PRSSA. The event will take place on Thursday, February 28, from 6 to 8 p.m. at USF, exact location to be announced soon. A light dinner will be provided following the event.

Interviewees will come prepared as though they are actually meeting with you (the “hiring manager”) to discuss their qualifications for an entry-level public relations position in your organization. They will have resumes and portfolios, and they will be “dressed for success!”

You will evaluate them based on their preparedness, their professionalism, and their experience gained through internships and/or work. Honest and thoughtful feedback will help these young men and women better prepare themselves for their approaching venture into “our world!”

If you would like to be a part of this exciting new initiative designed to assist our future professional colleagues in getting their start, please email Kirk Hazlett, APR, Fellow PRSA, at

Read More

Personal View: Ethical behavior is your responsibility

By Kirk Hazlett, APR, Fellow PRSA

We’ve somehow managed to make our way into a new year having more-or less survived a fascinating 12 months of, at best, questionable words and actions by local, state and national leaders at all levels in all industries.

Whether it be blatantly incorrect or uninformed statements or shockingly improper actions by seemingly intelligent individuals, we have been treated to a non-stop array of revelations that have caused at least this observer to question their ethical awareness.

The laundry list includes automobile manufacturers who choose to ignore safety concerns expressed by their own employees, healthcare providers who seem to have forgotten the “do no harm” oath by which they are expected to abide, and government officials who have chosen to disregard the wishes of their own constituents.

No. Ethical action is not a legal requirement. But, if history teaches us anything, it is that acting and speaking in the best interest of those who look to us for guidance - or as role models - is crucial.

I’ll be among the first to say the world isn’t perfect. We all stumble once in a while. But being aware that you made a misstep or misstatement and acting quickly to correct or clarify goes a long way toward reassuring those who look to you for guidance and inspiration that all is well.

Unfortunately, as we have seen and continue to see time after time, our government and corporate leaders seem to operate on the “baffle ‘em with b.s.” theory instead of giving clear, from-the-heart responses.

Fortunately for us, as members of the Public Relations Society of America, as well as for our colleagues in the International Public Relations Association, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, International Association of Business Communicators, and numerous other professional associations around the world, we have clearly-stated, comprehensive ethical guidelines to assist us in responding to ethical challenges.

Today’s hyper-connected universe leaves little wiggle room for specious pronouncements that appear to be a response but, upon closer examination, are revealed as blatant attempts to dodge the bullet. With our communication capabilities today, though, this action is doomed from the start. As I love to tell my students, “You can run, but you can’t hide. I will find you, and I will  find out.”

With that as a backdrop, we turn our attention to the seemingly never-ending charade of “he said, she said” playing out day after day in local, national and international news. PRSA’s National Chair for 2018, Anthony D’Angelo, APR, Fellow PRSA, provided some insightful observations for PR News in February 2018 about the PR professional’s role in organizational communication.

D’Angelo makes an excellent case for ethical conduct, but he also offers a realistic look at those situations where the substance of one’s response is shaped by other factors: “Certainly, there are times when professional communicators need to protect the privacy rights of those we counsel by safeguarding confidential information, but that doesn’t require white lies, however immaterial, as a remedy. If we can’t answer a question, it’s a professionally acceptable response to say, 'I can’t answer that, and here’s the reason why.'”

Or, to use another time-honored adage attributed to Benjamin Franklin, “Honesty is the best policy.”

Finally, Ivy Ledbetter Lee laid out our responsibilities as representatives of those clients or employers clearly and concisely in his “Declaration of Principles” (1906): “In brief, our plan is frankly, and openly, on behalf of business concerns and public institutions, to supply the press and public of the United States prompt and accurate information concerning subjects of which it is of value and interest to know about.”

Yes, my friends, ethical challenges are not a new thing. But the ability of others to check and challenge our communications on behalf of clients or employers and to share their perceptions and opinions with countless thousands of others is creating a whole new realm of hurdles that we must address and overcome.

Happy 2019!

Read More

Member Spotlight: Josh Carrasco, APR

This Member Spotlight profiles Josh Carrasco, APR, who is Public Relations Program Consultant for AAA – The Auto Club Group. He joined PRSA Tampa Bay in 2014, has served as Chair of the Sponsorship Committee, and currently serves as the 2019 Treasurer for the chapter.

  1. First news publication you read in the morning?

The Tampa Bay Times.

  1. First public relations job?

My position at AAA – The Auto Club Group in Tampa is my first and so far only job in public relations. I had the good fortune of being introduced to PRSA during my first year on the job and have grown so much as a professional, but before I entered the public relations field I spent seven years as a photojournalist.

  1. Most important career mentor, and why?

My current supervisor, Angie LaPlant, Director of Public Relations, has been pivotal to my public relations career. She took a chance on me even though I had no experience in public relations.

  1. Top grammar, style or writing pet peeve?

Burying the lead! So often I have to read through paragraphs of information to get to the meat of a story.

  1. Most rewarding accomplishment in public relations?

Earning my APR. Coming from a journalism background, I felt I needed something that attested to my proficiency in public relations.

  1. Most important skill gained through the APR process?

Gaining a better understanding of public relations from a “big picture” view. Through the APR process, I was better able to articulate my role as an adviser to senior leadership at my company and educate them on how effective public relations benefits the company.

  1. Advice to new public relations professionals?

Don’t stop learning, and network with other professionals, attend conferences, participate in webinars, read, and earn your APR. The field of public relations is constantly evolving, and PR pros must continue to educate themselves to stay competitive and competent in the field.

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

Travel blogger.

  1. Favorite vacation?

Paris is by far one of my favorite city destinations. I am planning another trip to France this year and hope to explore more of the countryside around Paris.

  1. Any three dinner guests?

Barack Obama, Jennifer Lawrence and Neil deGrasse Tyson.

With my girlfriend, Danielle Salmon, visiting St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans.

Danielle and I on a trip to Glendalough Monastic City in County Wicklow, Ireland.

At the famous Cliffs of Moher, on the west coast of Ireland.

Read More

Calling All Presenters for the 2019 Sunshine District Conference!

Deadline: March 1, 2019 at 11:59 p.m. EST.

Interested in sharing your communications knowledge, skills and abilities? Have a great case study to share or some proven best practices to help others sharpen their skills? Join us as a presenter!

Please complete the online form or share with someone who might be interested. Questions? Email:

We look forward to seeing you in Tampa’s Downtown!

Conference Overview

The Tampa Bay Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America is seeking speakers for the upcoming 2019 Sunshine District Conference, taking place at the Hilton Tampa Downtown in Tampa, Fla., July 25-27, 2019.
The full conference schedule will be available soon. The general agenda is as follows: 

• July 25: Sunshine District Board Meeting 1-5 PM I Evening welcome reception
• July 26: Full Day Conference
• July 27: Half Day Conference

PRSA Tampa Bay is seeking speakers who can cover a wide range of public relations and communications topics, including but not limited to:

• Communications Planning
• Branding
• Crisis Communication
• PR Research Methods
• PR Trends/State of the Industry
• Content Strategy
• Social Media
• PR Career Advice/Personal Branding
• Best Practices/Case Studies
• PR at a Leading Local Company
• Media Relations
• Integrated Marketing Communications
• Leadership and Management
• Data and Measurement
• Internal Communications
• Diversity and Inclusion

All presentation times are 50 minutes each.

You must have enough content to fill this time.

Sales pitches will not be accepted.

**Please note that your submission must include a headshot, speaker bio, and session topic overview for use on the conference website (see Speaker Information below for details).
Your full presentation, including any slides or accompanying materials, must be submitted to PRSA Tampa Bay no later than Friday, May 31, 2019.

To submit a speaker form, please click here.

Read More

PRSA Rings In Holidays with Toy Donation

Chapter members Makenna Imholte (left), Jessica Summers, APR, and Joseph Priest, APR, drop off this year’s donated gifts at the Metropolitan Ministries holiday tent.

By Joseph Priest, APR

Sometimes a little can mean a lot, and a lot of Tampa Bay kids will be having a little brighter holiday this year thanks to our chapter. On Dec. 10, we met at Jackson’s restaurant on Harbour Island to host our annual holiday mixer, and, continuing a tradition, the Public Service Committee held a toy drive to bring in donations for Metropolitan Ministries.

Thanks to the generosity of our members and guests, we succeeded in collecting over 20 gifts this year. We dropped them off at the Metropolitan Ministries Holiday Tent shortly after the mixer, just in time to help needy families looking for gifts this holiday season.

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

In order to be eligible, members have to bring a new, unwrapped gift, which is collected with other gifts for drop-off later at Metropolitan Ministries. Each gift donated earns the contributor one ticket that is entered in a drawing for prizes, which this time included three $10 Starbucks gift cards, two $25 Amazon gift cards, and one grand prize of a $75 gift card to Jackson’s restaurant.

For this year’s mixer, this incentive helped bring in 20-plus gifts, including a variety of toys, dolls, books, and games, and gift cards.

Our gift donations begin to accumulate at the mixer. Thanks to all who contributed!

The Public Service Committee thanks everyone who participated in the toy drive and everyone who helped our chapter give back to the community earlier in the year. This included résumé review sessions with USF’s PRSSA chapter and UT’s PRSSA chapter, and a half-day of toy sorting at the Metropolitan Ministries warehouse.  

Stay tuned to the PRSA Tampa Bay website for more ways you can help us serve in 2019.

Members and guests enjoy the mixer at Jackson’s.

Chapter President Mary Margaret Hull, APR, recognizes some of the chapter’s biggest accomplishments in 2018 in another successful year for PRSA Tampa Bay.

Read More

PRSA Tampa Bay 2019 Board Election Member Ballot

For more than 50 years, PRSA Tampa Bay has been a successful volunteer-led organization; advancing the public relations profession and its professionals. This outstanding organization would not be possible without dedicated chapter leaders. We rely on our membership to elect leaders who will contribute their professional talents to benefit PRSA Tampa Bay's membership and community.

Learn about the candidates (PDF download)

2019 Board Election Member Ballot (click here to access)

The ballot must be completed by no later than noon on Friday, Nov. 30.

Read More

USF and UT PRSSA Chapters Link to Learn

An eager and interested audience of members from both Tampa Bay PRSSA chapters had a first-of-its-kind chance on October 25 to both meet and interact with their “crosstown” peers and benefit from real-time, real-life advice from guest speaker Haley Hinds, Fox 13 anchor/reporter.

Hosted on the University of Tampa campus with pizza and sodas generously provided by PRSA Tampa Bay, this event marked the first time that both student PR chapters have come together for a program specifically organized for them by their professional colleagues.

“Both student chapters have been doing some excellent individual programming,” said Kirk Hazlett, APR, Fellow PRSA, PRSA Tampa Bay’s “Students Committee” co-chair. “But I know from previous experiences in other locations where I’ve lived that these opportunities to ‘meet, mingle and learn’ are value-added benefits of the student’s PRSSA membership and can play a big part in his or her decision to convert from PRSSA to PRSA membership after graduation.”

Emilie Sears, founder and immediate past president of UT PRSSA, had this to say about the event: “We were so fortunate to hear from Haley Hinds Thursday night. She shared valuable insights that she has learned along her career journey and provided examples of how to separate yourself from other interns in the workplace, as well as what it takes to stand out to future employers. Haley is a real-life example of someone who has worked extremely hard to follow and reach her dreams. I believe the lessons she shared will help current students in their pursuits of professional communication careers. We are so thankful and honored to have had Haley as a guest speaker for our first joint-chapter PRSSA meeting. We look forward to future collaboration with USF PRSSA and similar successful key events.”

USF Vice President Matt Corrado offered his thoughts: “Haley Hinds was extremely nice and down to earth, and all of the students who attended had a chance to speak with her one on one at some point. We all listened to her wonderful stories, which were very relatable and educational for all, about her own experience as a broadcast reporter. She then opened up the floor for questions and took her time to respond to each one until the student who asked it was satisfied with the answer. Overall, the lecture and the experience were extremely helpful, and I am sure that many students, myself included, will be utilizing a lot of what she shared with us for the rest of our careers.”

Hazlett noted that plans are already in the works for other joint programming. Stay tuned for details!

Read More