PRSA Tampa Bay Recognizes Future Practitioners’ Academic Excellence at USF Awards Ceremony

(From Lto R) Sara Sturgess, Ashleigh White, Emilee Wyatt (John Cassato Scholarship), Kirk Hazlett, Tyler McConnell (Walter E. Griscti Scholarship), Alexandra Purcell, Katie Cafiero.

Edward L. Bernays, arguably the “Father of Public Relations,” had this to say about public relations education in his 1961 book “Your Future in Public Relations”…“If an individual is to give advice to others, he should have knowledge and understanding.”

Honoring its long-standing tradition of recognizing up-and-coming public relations professionals for their stellar pursuit of “knowledge and understanding,” PRSA Tampa Bay presented two scholarships to two outstanding University of South Florida students, Emmilee Wyatt and Tyler McConnell, at the USF Zimmerman School of Advertising and Mass Communications “Honors and Awards Banquet” on April 19.

The “John Cassato Scholarship” is awarded in memory of John Cassato, a former public affairs officer of the Jim Walter Corporation, and the “Walter E. Griscti Scholarship” is awarded in memory of USF professor emeritus Walter E. Griscti, APR.” Each requires residency in the 15-county West Coast area served by PRSA Tampa Bay, a 3.0 overall GPA, enrollment in 12 or more hours at USF, and enrollment in or completion of at least one public relations course.

Kirk Hazlett, APR, Fellow PRSA, a recently-retired public relations professor himself, represented PRSA Tampa Bay at the ceremony.

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Are You ‘Social’ Enough?

By: Kirk Hazlett

It seems like I’m hearing this more and more every day about the “importance of social media,” usually prefaced by “You really need to be active on …”

If you’re the target of this “helpful observation,” the first piece of unsolicited advice I offer is to ask (politely), “Why? Why do I have to be on …?”

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let’s talk about you and your particular needs as a communicator.

The “bright, shiny object” syndrome seems to still be alive and well today when it comes to social media. Clients and bosses alike are running around yelping, “It’s new. I have to have it.” But slow down a minute and ask yourself, “Who are our target audiences, and how do they get their information?”

In my most recent transformation as a PR professional-turned-PR professor, I learned the importance of this initial research step early on in classroom communications. I reasoned that I had a school-assigned email account and my students had school-assigned email accounts so email was the way we should communicate outside the classroom.

However, when I actually implemented this system, I got crickets!

Nothing most of the time. Not a peep.

Then, one day, I was on Facebook posting my usual annoying weather updates and other mostly-useless stuff. I just happened to glance at the contacts listing on the right and noticed that a particular student, who I had tried unsuccessfully to contact via email (and with whom I was connected on Facebook), was online.

All it took was a click and a quick “Hi! ?” to get a meek “Yes, Professor?” from the culprit.

The moral of this story is, “If you want to reach and communicate with your target audiences, you need to know their information-gathering habits.” And, speaking as a Baby Boomer myself, that might still include traditional print and broadcast media.

But back to your social status …

Being “social” is a commitment. It’s not an “Oh well, it’s May; I should change my ‘Merry Christmas’ posting” kind of thing. You need to establish a schedule of regular postings on whichever platforms (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, a blog, etc.) you select as your avenues for communicating.

And, it’s not about lurking in the shadows spying on others’ activity. Being “social” is about communicating with others, making relevant comments on their posts, posting your own observations,  engaging as an intelligent human being that others can and will want to relate to. They expect you to be visible, viable and valuable.

So, homework time.

  • Who is your target audience? What are their demographics?
  • How/where does your target audience get information? Traditional media? Social media? A combination of the two?
  • What are your objectives? Building awareness? Driving foot traffic? Generating leads?
  • What is your product or service? Which platforms best support your objectives for it?
  • What is your message relating to your product or service? Which platforms (traditional or social) allow you to effectively convey that message?
  • Who will have responsibility for generating your social media content and then monitoring the conversations that will arise as a result of or in response to your messaging?


Once you’ve done your homework, you’re ready to implement your social activities.

Social media can be a blessing, a curse or, in some cases, both! You need to give serious thought to your ability to effectively and efficiently incorporate those platforms that best support your goals and objectives and then commit to developing and maintaining a visible presence.

And finally, sit back, take a deep breath and monitor traffic (responses or reactions to your message). As the Boy Scout motto says so well, “Be prepared.”

Dose of reality here: Not everyone is going to fall all googly-eyed in love with you. You will have detractors. You will have people posting snarky remarks about you, about your product or service, about virtually anything.

You will have to make a determination as to how you will (or if you should) respond. Be prudent, and remember: what you say and how you say it will be interpreted differently by any- and everyone who visits your site. First impressions are lasting impressions, so think carefully before you respond if you choose to do so.

So there you have it. It’s the 21st Century. Communicating with your target audiences is morphing at Star-Trekian “warp speed.” Take a moment to focus on your methods of getting your message to your markets and answer this one simple question: Are you ‘social’ enough?

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Deadline Extended: PRSA Sunshine District Conference Member-Only Scholarship

As a benefit to our valued chapter members, PRSA Tampa Bay is offering two $575 scholarships for chapter members to attend the 2018 Sunshine District Conference. This year’s conference is July 12 -14 at the Wyndham Grand Harbourside in Jupiter, Fla. Learn more about the conference here.

To apply, complete the online scholarship application found here.

About the scholarship: The scholarship recipients 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 registration fee and reimburse up to $300 for lodging and travel. Recipients will need to submit receipts to the PRSA Tampa Bay chapter treasurer for reimbursement after the conference.

Deadline to apply: 5 p.m., Wednesday, May 2.

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

Winners will be notified by May 11.

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The Puck Stops Here: What I Learned From Sports PR

By Daniela Espinosa

Last Tuesday, March 27, I was fortunate to attend PRSA Tampa Bay’s event “The Puck Stops Here,” featuring marketing and communications leaders from the Tampa Bay Lightning and Amalie Arena. The luncheon included a panel with Bill Wickett, executive vice president of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Brian Breseman, director of public relations, and Angela Lanza, sr. manager of event marketing. They opened the room for a discussion about their day-to-day duties, including sharing stories about overseeing public relations and marketing for one of the top sports franchises in the nation, as well one of Tampa Bay’s busiest event venues.

Daily jobs for the Tampa Bay Lightning PR and marketing teams include handling media interviews and press conferences, along with creating content for their own broadcasting, social media and websites. The teams are also heavily involved in community outreach programs focusing a lot on volunteer work with the community prior to playoff season. The Community Hero program, for example, is well known for acknowledging and rewarding people who have served the Tampa Bay area.

If the Lightning makes it to the playoffs and into the Stanley Cup final, the National Hockey League takes over most of the public relations efforts. The team here at Amalie Arena then retreats to the locker room—meaning they are in charge of interviews and making sure there is enough content for broadcasting and other forms of media.

For non-hockey activities in Amalie Arena, public relations specialists must help with planning events several months ahead of time, coordinating media engagement and making sure customer satisfaction continues to be great.

Now, while I am a fan of sports, I felt a little out of place walking into the event. I was not 100-percent sure that sports PR would be the right fit for me. I wondered if the panel would be useful for my own future in public relations.

In the end, I was thrilled to have heard Lanza, Breseman and Wickett speak about their experiences. Perhaps the most important piece of advice I got was when I spoke with Bill Wickett privately. It was simple, but nonetheless incredibly true. He said that you must be fearless and aggressive in your chosen career. Wickett shared that, in order to get experience in the field, you must reach out to people, put yourself out there, accept criticism, deal with difficult situations and learn from them. PR is an incredibly competitive field, so you cannot hang back and expect things will just work out.

The rest of the panel provided a lot of useful information, even for those who may not be entirely interested in sports PR.

Wickett and Breseman spoke proudly about how running a top sports franchise across all U.S. leagues means that everything starts from the top down. In order to have great customer service and a beneficial relationship with the public, you need to start by building strong internal relationships. A team that cannot work well together cannot connect well with its audience.

This means there needs to be consistent change and continuous improvement. You have to ask yourself, “What skills are you personally lacking? What do you believe your team can do better? What is one way you and your team can be better prepared for a possible issue?”

That last question brings up a huge point that the Lightning PR team touched on: Crisis communication plans are a necessity. Uncertainty is always an issue, especially in sports PR. Challenges like not knowing whether to alert the media about a possible injury on the team before a game, or having a concert act cancel at the last minute must be dealt with immediately and responsibly. The crisis communications plan needs to be adaptable, and it needs to include provisions for owning up to whatever mistakes the organization might have made.

Besides communications plans for emergencies, an individual in public relations has to work side by side with the media. Wickett said that working with the media involves a mix of giving them what they want while also trying to achieve your own objectives. In other words, you must be able to compromise with the specific goal in mind. As Wickett stated, “The main thing is listening.”

I feel fortunate to have gained insight on how the Tampa Bay Lightning public relations and marketing teams work together. The chance to speak and learn from the panel has encouraged me to be more proactive and get my foot in the door. After all, experience leads to wisdom.






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