Go PRSA Tampa Bay! Toy Drive Brightens Holiday for Local Kids

Joseph Priest (right) hands off our donations to a Metropolitan Ministries representative at its Holiday Tent.

By Olivia Keegan and Joseph Priest, PRSA Tampa Bay Committee Chairs

Although 2020 was a dark time for many of us, a lot of Tampa Bay kids finished it on a brighter note thanks to the generosity of our chapter. On Dec. 12, continuing a tradition, we wrapped up our annual toy drive by dropping off 27 gifts at the
Metropolitan Ministries Holiday Tent, just in time to help disadvantaged families looking for gifts for the holiday season.

In 2020, Metropolitan Ministries expected to serve more than 30,000 families in need for Thanksgiving and Christmas, an annual need that our chapter has eagerly helped serve the past few years. This past December, however, rather than collect donations at our annual holiday mixer, which was held virtually, we collected them by mail.

As part of this effort, we held a prize drawing to randomly award a few donors with gifts. To be eligible, members had to donate a new, unwrapped gift. Each gift donated earned the donor one ticket that was entered in a drawing for prizes, which included two $10 Starbucks gift cards, one $25 PDQ card, and, for the grand prize, one $50 Cheesecake Factory gift card.

This time, the drawing contributed to our mail-in drive bringing in 27 gifts, including a variety of toys, dolls, books and games, to brighten the holidays for local children.  

The Public Service Committee thanks everyone who participated in the toy drive and who helped our chapter give back to the community throughout last year. This included a career skills session at Metropolitan Ministries (just before the COVID-19 lockdown), a virtual food drive to collect donations for Feeding Tampa Bay that brought in $400, and a fund-raiser to gather funds for the Mask Project Tampa Bay that collected $300.  

Stay tuned to the PRSA Tampa Bay website for ways you can help us serve in 2021.

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How to Give the Gift of Inclusivity

by: Quinn LeMelle, PRSA Tampa Bay Chapter member

Diversity is being invited to the party, and inclusion is being asked to dance.

This analogy has become more and more common, and recently came up in PRSA Tampa Bay’s Courageous Conversations series. These intimate discussions, moderated by the National Diversity Council’s Elana Powell, ranged from social equity in Tampa Bay to inclusive communications.

With each discussion, the faces in the Zoom boxes changed, but many same points, topics and questions arose in each session.

As public relations professionals in the Tampa Bay area, how do we ask someone to dance?

Below are just a handful of ideas to spread inclusivity this holiday season.

Getting More Perspectives

As communicators, we know how powerful words can be. With this, we have a responsibility to be mindful of what and how we’re communicating.

In fast-paced worlds, such as the world of public relations, there’s hardly a moment to spare. But taking a moment to step back and asking for other opinions may reveal problems that you or your team didn’t see before. Take for example Dove or Bud Light.

I’ve heard someone say “we’ll just post it and take it down if someone gets offended” in response to someone pointing out a word or phrase that could be taken the wrong way. Not only is this dangerous for the brand,  it deters a collaborative environment.

How to: Encourage collaboration among your team by setting up brainstorm meetings to talk about projects from both the idea stage to reviewing specific verbiage. Try doing this separately from a regular team meeting to make it a little less structured. Further this collaboration by getting different perspectives on projects and communications from those outside your immediate team. By sharing projects with other departments or teams, we allow our work to be seen by those with different experiences, backgrounds and perspectives. This input allows you to take a step back and get a better picture.

Question the “Good Fit” Mentality when Hiring

What comes to mind when you think of someone being a good fit? Are they a similar age? From the same school? As mentioned before, it’s good to get more perspectives. This brings up the importance of having diverse teams because if each department/team has the same background or culture, then this collaborative thinking will only go so far.

How to: If you find yourself preferring a job candidate because you think they’d be a good fit, ask yourself why. Is it because they look like you? Or is it because their answers align with company values and motivations? Then ask yourself why the other candidates are not. Asking ourselves these questions will help address our own biases.

Me, Myself, and I Meets He, She, Ze

Identifying and respecting someone’s preferred pronouns is not just a way to be inclusive, but also shows  respect.

To clarify, using the correct pronouns is about gender identity, which is different from sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is enduring emotional, romantic or sexual attraction to other people. Gender identity, according to Human Rights Campaign, refers to one's innermost concept of self as male, female, a blend of both or neither – how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves. One's gender identity can be the same or different from their sex assigned at birth.

Here are some other helpful terms and definitions.

How to: Add pronouns to your email signature and social media channels. It’s a small way to support a bigger initiative and community. Doing so brings awareness, shows respect and empowers others to be themselves.

Encourage Others to Join a Resource Group (or Start Their Own)

Employee resource groups increase cultural awareness within a company. These opportunities give employees an additional support network, exposure to leadership and embolden a company’s culture.

How to: Join a group yourself and encourage others to do the same. Demonstrating allyship as a peer or leader helps ingrain the value of diversity and inclusion in your team and company. If you don’t have ERGs established, consider reaching out to your Diversity and Inclusion team, HR team, or executive leadership team to see how you can spearhead this initiative within your organization.

Knowing Which Holidays Are Important to Your Team

In most industries, you won’t see deadlines set for Christmas Eve. Being mindful of other holidays or commitments among your team will help foster an inclusive environment in two ways. First, it will create an atmosphere where people feel comfortable pointing out that a deadline or meeting falls on a conflicting date. Second, it will let employees feel like it is OK for them to take that time off.

How to: Use a shared calendar and ask your team to put holidays and possible vacation days they could be taking that year. Then you can use that knowledge when planning for the year. For example, if you know that a member of your team celebrates Diwali, avoid having a big project due at that time. (Diwali (pronounced Dee-VAH-Lee) is the five-day Festival of Lights, celebrated by millions of Hindus, Sikhs and Jains across the world.)

These were just a handful of ways to help cultivate an inclusive environment in the workplace. Share additional ideas in the comments of how you’re asking others to dance.


Quinn LeMelle (she/her) is an associate communication manager at Raymond James. She sits on PRSA Tampa Bay’s diversity council and is the education co-chair of the Florida Diversity Council Tampa Bay chapter.

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It’s Time for Our Annual Toy Drive! This Year, It’s by Mail

Metropolitan Ministries will serve thousands of families in need for Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, and as usual our chapter is lending a hand! As is our tradition, PRSA Tampa Bay is hosting a toy drive to collect items to be dropped off at the Metropolitan Ministries Holiday Tent. This year, however, we’re collecting them by mail, and each toy donated by mail will earn the donor one opportunity to win one of several special prizes at our holiday mixer.

Here’s how it works. Either mail a new, unwrapped toy or arrange for a company like Amazon to have a toy mailed to the address of Public Service Committee Chair Joseph Priest at the address below, and arrange for the toy to be delivered by Dec. 11. After that date, the committee will take all the mailed-in toys and drop them off at the Metropolitan Ministries Holiday Tent. 

Please note, when you send your toy, email Joseph at [email protected] to let the Public Service Committee know about your donation. The committee will respond to you with a unique ticket number that you should save and be ready to claim at the mixer if it’s selected. Each ticket number earns a donor a chance to win one of several special prizes at the mixer, where all the tickets will be entered in a drawing, and several tickets will be randomly selected and winners presented prizes.

Remember, please arrange to have your toy delivered by Dec. 11 to the address below, and be sure to send an email to [email protected] to let the Public Service Committee know so they can give you a ticket number for each toy you donate. Thank you for anything you can give!

Joseph Priest
PRSA Tampa Bay Public Service Committee
3315 Korina Lane
Tampa, FL 33618

Photo caption: Metropolitan Ministries receives PRSA Tampa Bay’s gift donations at its tent last year.

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Moffitt Cancer Center Shares Tips on Becoming an Inclusive Brand

By Tanasia A. Reed, Florida A&M University Chapter of PRSSA, B2 Communications PR Intern

(pictured: Senior director of Moffitt Diversity, Cathy Grant, discussing the success of Moffitt’s Courage campaign via Zoom)

PRSA Tampa Bay recently hosted two senior leaders from Moffitt Cancer Center who shared “Moffitt’s Journey of Courage,” a successful campaign that has focused on diversity, inclusion, and fairness.

Here are some key takeaways from the presentation by Cathy Grant, senior director of the Moffitt Diversity Team, and Josh Adkins, senior director of brand strategy and marketing.

  1. Value Diversity: Redefining the core values of your brand to include diversity through strategic and long-term plans can improve your messaging. Through creative media, you are able to express these diverse values and customize them for targeted audiences.
  2. Diverse Perspectives: It is important to have a diverse group of people making decisions with access to more opportunities and a fair-minded work environment. In Moffitt’s case, almost 100 percent of the organization’s leaders completed diversity and inclusion training and 49 percent of executive positions are filled by women and 24 percent by minorities.
  3. Diversity Training: This is a major step in educating all representatives of the brand to identify and eliminate unconscious bias in company communications.
  4. In-depth Research: Being able to find and address inequalities, differences, and biases between your communication strategies and your audience will help you achieve accurate representation in mass media content. Moffitt understands the disparities that exist between different races and ethnicities when it comes to cancer health, which helps them accurately tailor their media content to specific audiences.
  5. Supportive Leadership: Support from leadership helps communication teams effectively represent an organization as an inclusive brand. Innovative leaders understand that change and providing a sense of belonging are necessary at all levels of an organization.
  6. Commit to Diversity: Every organization has to start somewhere in order to become an inclusive brand. Meeting recurring and long-term goals through increased efforts to master diversity, inclusion, and equity takes time.

Moffitt’s journey of courage not only describes Moffitt's tireless efforts to be a diverse and inclusive brand, but it inspires anyone who hears their story to be brave enough to make a difference in their own spaces. As an aspiring communications professional who is a queer Black woman, I found myself hoping to work for a company like Moffitt or becoming one of the trailblazers to lead another company or organization in this diversity-driven direction.

While upholding their mission of providing preventative and healing resources through cancer care, Moffitt’s award-winning Courage Campaign was designed to translate the brand’s story. This advertising campaign is centered around “Community of Courage,” which are shared stories from a group of diverse patients, caregivers, and researchers. Click this link to view dozens of diverse and heart-tugging stories!

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Cultivate Year-Round Support for Service Members, Veterans and their Families

By:  Linda Hughes-Kirchubel, PhD and Tracy Freedman, APR+M

Note: If you are serving or are military-connected, please accept our gratitude for your sacrifices, and connect with us to offer information and feedback.


November is National Veterans & Military Families Month, a time when many communications professionals wonder: How will I help my organization honor military and veterans this year? The answer: Employ the power of communication to educate and advocate for service members and veterans in your organization and beyond—not just this month, but year-round.

Know the Numbers

Places like the Department of Defense, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Pew Research Center and Military Family Research Institute can provide reliable facts to share with your audiences and help determine how your organization can work on behalf of military-connected families. Begin with the basics:

  • 3 million people currently serve on active duty. Of those, and 31 percent are minorities.
  • Also serving: than 1.6 million family members—spouses, children and over-18 dependents—and even more partners and children who are not officially registered with military officials. [1]

Then, drill down to a local level.

  • Florida is home to more than 92,000 active and reserve military members.
  • About 1.4 million of the nation’s 18 million veterans live in Florida.
  • The University of South Florida ranked first in Florida and fourth among all four-year U.S institutions in the 2020 Military Times Best: Colleges. USF also has strong partnerships with local military installations, and support of military members and veterans.

Check your professional resources for industry-specific data, and make sure your numbers are recent—these populations have changed significantly since 9/11.

Tap into Transitions

You already know that 2020 has been a year of enormous job-related, pandemic-induced transition. More than 200,000 servicemembers transition to civilian life each year, most of whom need new employment opportunities. This year they face an uphill battle during a historic pandemic. September’s veteran unemployment rate hit 6.8 percent, up from 6.6 percent in August, yet lower than the 7.8 percent non-veteran rate. [2] This year, employees are managing transitions from traditional to remote work, from full-time to temporary to permanent job loss, and from career to career, with lasting impact on families.

As a communications professional, you can make a difference now by reaching out to this segment of the workforce that may be underrecognized in your organization. Studies show that 28 percent of veterans report their coworkers are unaware of their veteran status.[3] Ask your human resources department for up-to-date numbers on your military-connected employees, and use those numbers in employee communications expressing gratitude and pride. Social support coupled with information can help ease stressors and relieve feelings of isolation.

Some suggestions:

  • Remind your organization of upcoming deadlines, when appropriate. For example, the federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit is authorized through December 2020. The program incentivizes organizations that hire veterans and other eligible individuals.
  • Remind your leadership about the benefits of hiring and recognizing military-families.
  • Develop an internal survey to learn more about your organization’s military family members, including spouses, children, parents, siblings, and partners.
  • Interview a military-connected colleague about his or her experiences, and how serving helps them manage 2020’s unique challenges. Post on your company’s LinkedIn page or website. Such stories can offer inspiration and support to all your military-connected audiences.
  • Create a “thank you” video delivered by your CEO or civilian employees. Make sure it includes information to help others inform and advocate for military-connected families.
  • Evaluate, then adjust, your communication plan to include creative resources, recognition, and information about the value service members, veterans and their families bring to the workplace and the community.
  • Deliver year-round meaningful, creative and resource-laden communications and benefits that educate about military and veteran issues. Use an online calendar to help spur ideas and reminders.

Finally, we are here to help. For more information, or to share your story or get involved, contact PRSA Tampa Bay’s Diversity and Inclusion committee chair Kecia Carroll ([email protected]) or members Linda Hughes-Kirchubel ([email protected]) or Tracy Freedman ([email protected]).

Linda Hughes-Kirchubel owns LHK Solutions, a Tampa-based communication consulting firm serving local and national clients. The wife of a retired Army officer and mother of an Air Force sergeant, she previously directed external relations at the Military Family Research Institute at Purdue University, where she earned her doctorate in communication.

Tracy Freedman, APR+M, is the deputy lead for Military and Veteran Affairs at Booz Allen Hamilton and the chair of the Tampa Military Spouse Economic Empowerment Zone. She lives in Tampa with her spouse, an active-duty Marine, and two children.

[1] Military Demographics, (2018), Department of Defense.

[2] U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (March 19, 2020). Employment situation of veterans summary. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieve from

[3] Parker, K., Igielnik, R., Barroso, A., Cilluffo, A. (September 9, 2019). The transition to post-military employment. Pew Research Center. Retrieve from

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2020 Call for Chapter Award Nominations

PRSA Tampa Bay Chapter – 2020 Call for Chapter Award Nominations

PRSA Tampa Bay is seeking your input on members that have made remarkable achievements in public relations and management practices, advancing the profession, meeting the needs of the community and strengthening our chapter. Please review the details below on each category and provide your comments on the most qualified candidates using the nomination form. Deadline for nominations is Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, at 5 p.m. Self nominations are encouraged. Please direct any questions to A[email protected].

Deanne D. Roberts Excellence in Community Relations Award: This category recognizes a chapter member or local agency who has given pro-bono public relations support to one or more community organization throughout his or her professional career.

Excellence in Chapter Service Award: This award is presented to a chapter member who has been with the chapter for more than one year and has made outstanding contributions to chapter management and member programming.

Michael B. Manning Leadership Award: This award is presented to a chapter member who has demonstrated exceptional leadership within the chapter.

Sue Ellen Richardson “Rookie of the Year” Award: This award recognizes a chapter member who has been with the chapter for two years or less and has demonstrated the commitment to be involved and to make a difference in member programming.

Tampa Bay Chapter President’s Award: This award recognizes up to four chapter members who have gone above and beyond for the good of the chapter. Please provide full details of the project that individual completed.

Tampa Bay Chapter Life Achievement Award: This category honors a senior chapter member who has committed his or her professional career to public relations and has achieved numerous accolades in public relations management, community relations and overall PRSA service.

Nominate someone today!

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Freelance Business Week Comes to Tampa Bay, September 14-18, 2020

According to a recent report by Freelancers Union, 57 million Americans performed freelance work in 2019, representing 35% of the U.S. workforce. And what this number looks like for 2020 remains to be seen, as many people affected by layoffs due to the pandemic begin to shift their focus as independent consultants and freelancers.

To connect the local freelance community, your fellow PR pros, Kevin Bakewell, APR and Paula MacDonald, APR are bringing Freelance Business Week (FBW) to Tampa Bay, September 14-18, 2020. Offered in a safe virtual environment, FBW is joining forces with other cities (including Austin, Miami and Buffalo) to bring a variety of business topics, networking opportunities and panel discussions to freelancers in all industries nationwide. The conference is free to attend.

In addition to Paula and Kevin serving as co-hosts and moderators, the program agenda includes Tampa Bay Chapter members Danielle Bayard Jackson, APR, Founder of TELL Public Relations and Karen Frashier, APR, Fellow PRSA, CEO of Advocate Marketing PR, as well as frequent national PRSA presenter Kami Watson Huyse, APR, Founder of Zoetica Media.

Conference organizers from the other participating cities will also bring their speakers to the virtual table to ensure a full week of valuable content relevant to independent workers.

Emily Leach, the founder of The Freelance Conference and the FBW concept, is guiding each host city and providing the foundational templates, tools and technology to connect independent business owners. The conference will also include a national panel on diversity and inclusion in the freelance industry.

To register for this free event and check out the current lineup of topics, visit

*Note: This is not a PRSA event.

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Apply for the 2020 PRSA ICON Scholarship

The 2020 PRSA International Conference is a fully digital networking and educational event for professional communicators across all industries and in all stages of their professional journey.

Get ready for a vibrant online program packed with education, thought leadership, networking, business solutions, exhibits and healthy fun. ICON 2020 is designed for today’s public relations and marketing professionals, educators and students, with a special focus on industries innovating to stay ahead of the curve and ahead of the story.

PRSA Tampa Bay is offering one scholarship for a member to attend the fully digital conference held Oct. 26-29, 2020.  

About the scholarship: The scholarship recipient will be required to perform a volunteer role during the conference. Be sure to indicate in your application which role(s) you are willing to perform, if you are awarded a scholarship. The Tampa Bay Chapter scholarship will cover the full registration package ($795 value) for the conference. 

Deadline to apply: 5 p.m. on August 28.

Judging: A selection committee from another PRSA chapter will review and choose the scholarship recipient based on merit and need.

The winner will be notified by September 18.  Apply Now!

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A Salute to Women in History, Women in PR

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

To celebrate Women’s History Month, the men and women of PRSA Tampa Bay celebrated by sharing quotes from women in history who inspired them. As we wrap up our celebration, we’d like to recognize and thank all of the women who bring so much of themselves to our chapter. Now more than ever their leadership plays a critical role for our members, our organizations and our communities.

Submitted by Terri Durdaller 

Submitted by Bart Graham 

Submitted by Linda Hughes-Kirchubel, PhD 

Submitted by Quinn LeMelle 

Submitted by Joseph Priest 

Submitted by Camila Rodriguez 

Submitted by Kecia Carroll 

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Going Direct – Why Owned Media Continues To Be Vital In Your Communications Mix

By Travis Claytor, APR

Ask 10 PR professionals for the definition of public relations and you’ll probably get 10 different definitions. Public relations experts may be known as content experts, event planners or even celebrity publicists. As the public relations industry evolves, so do the perceptions about the profession, and unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions about PR professionals.

This likely, in part, is due to the many elements of a strategic communications plan that PR practitioners are responsible for: media relations, brand managements, social media, content creation, crisis communications, issues management and the list goes on and on.

If you subscribe to the Spin Sucks PESO model (and you should), there are four main buckets within the integrated communications process:

P – Paid

E – Earned

S – Shared

O – Owned

While I could write multiple articles on each of these areas – you can read more about the elements of a Strategic Communications plan, including the PESO model, here – today we’re going to focus on owned media and why it continues to play a crucial role in managing an effective communications strategy.

Define “Owned Media”

Owned media channels are the channels we, or our clients if you’re an agency, own and operate, where we have full control. What it does NOT include are social, or Shared, channels.

Ask yourself this question – do you own the content you put on Facebook? How about the data from your fans or followers? Or the user experience on the platform? If you think the answer to any of these is yes, I’d encourage you to read the Facebook Terms & Conditions a bit closer.

So, owned media are our websites, landing pages, blogs or anything where we control the content, the cadence, the data, branding and user experience.

Benefits of Owned Media
As consumers’ attention spans decrease, and the news cycle speeds up, earned and shared outlets are oftentimes creating content that is skimmable at best.

Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned are all crucial elements of a successful strategic communications campaign. But, with the lack of control of shared channels, or inconsistency of earned channels, and the resources needed for paid channels, your owned channels are more important than ever.

In a time when PR professionals are navigating through hundreds of thousands of news outlets, blogs, news websites, digital publications and streaming content, owned media channels offer some distinct advantages.

As strategic communications professionals, we look to reduce the number of variables to the success of our campaigns – basically we all feel the need to be in control of who sees our messaging and how they consume our content.

Owned media channels offer the control we’re looking for – in cadence, messaging priority, user experience, brand representation, and data mining. It also allows you to tailor content to specific, niche audiences in the ways they want to consume it.

Messaging Priority and Brand Representation – what does your content say about your brand? Working through earned or shared content, you leave this to chance. But, by making your owned channels one of the pillars of content creation, you control the messaging each and every time new content is distributed.

Cadence and Consumption – how often does your audience demand content, and in what way are they engaging? Hopefully you’re paying attention to some of the KPIs across your channels and you know this answer already, but if not, start digging in now! By focusing on your owned channels, you have the versatility to control how often you put your messaging out for audiences, and doing it in a way that maximizes engagement and ultimately action.

Data – this is probably the biggest advantage of owned media channels. From audience behaviors to content and website engagement, data drives everything we do and gives us the knowledge to create campaigns and content that drives real results. Having access to this information allows us to create content with intention and purpose.

“The But” of Owned Media

There’s always a “but” and working with owned media is no different.

First and foremost, this is all you. Your content, on your channel, the way you want audiences to consume it. That means you need to know the best way to deliver this content and dedicate resources to do it the right way.

With great control comes great responsibility.

One of the biggest challenges of working with owned channels is the potential of not being trusted. These are, after all, your channels and there’s no obligation for you to be objective, which could lead your audiences to be suspicious of your intentions.

It should come as no surprise that, as PR practitioners, we need to build trust and credibility with our key audiences, no matter who they are. It’s even more crucial for a channel considered to be biased. In order to achieve that credibility, make sure transparency is paramount in your approach.

The Takeaway

Simply put – owned media channels are crucial to a successful communications campaign. And so are the others.

Don’t get lost looking at the shiny object as you’re creating and executing your strategic communications campaign. National media hits are great. Shared and social media channels are crucial for engagement. Paid efforts provide targeting opportunities and amplification. And owned channels provide control.

It’s easy for public relations practitioners to focus on getting that next media hit, or launching a new social media channel. But if we’re really going to create meaningful results for our businesses and clients, we need to think in an integrated and strategic way.

How do these elements fit together? How do they enhance the results of the next tactic, or better move your audiences to take action?

Strategy is the name of the game for an integrated communications campaign. Act and execute with meaning and purpose, and you’ll find success with all elements of the communications process, elevating your client and the industry.




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