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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PRSA Tampa Bay Salutes 2020 “Emerging Professional” Alexis Novales

After careful review of applications, the PRSA Tampa Bay Chapter 2020 “Emerging Professional” award for an outstanding public relations student at the University of Tampa has been presented to AD/PR major and graduating senior Alexis Novales.

"I’m deeply honored and forever grateful to the Tampa Bay chapter of PRSA for selecting me as this year’s ‘Emerging Professional.’ My four years at the University of Tampa have been pivotal in my academic, professional, and personal growth. I am eager to begin my career in public relations after graduating this May!"

In saluting Alexis’ accomplishments, Chapter President Kelsy Long commented, “On behalf of our Board of Directors and more than 200 Chapter members, we are pleased to recognize Alexis for her accomplishments. PRSA is dedicated to advancing the field of public relations and helping to launch successful careers. We wish her the best of luck and look forward to welcoming her to this wonderful field of practitioners.”

Alexis is currently engaged in a very successful internship with B2 Communications. University of Tampa alumna Missy Hurley, APR, co-founder and principal of this amazing PR firm, had this to say: “It has been a pleasure working with Alexis during her Spring 2020 internship - so much so that we’ve asked her to extend her internship through the summer! She has been a sponge, soaking up opportunities to learn how a PR agency functions and how we can best serve our clients. She’s curious and driven, and she has embraced the opportunities for mentoring that B2 Communications provides. Her desire to learn, along with an open mind, will serve her well in our profession. She has an incredibly bright future in public relations, and we look forward to seeing her grow!”

The future of the public relations profession lies in the hands of today’s public relations students, young men and women who have discovered through their studies as well as internships their passion. The Tampa Bay Chapter, Public Relations Society of America, is proud to recognize these rising superstars and to annually identify a student whose accomplishments are a clear indication of an “Emerging Professional” in the field of public relations.


Special thanks to these PRSA Tampa Bay members for serving as judges for this professionally rewarding initiative:

  • Kelsy Long, Director of Media Relations, Clearwater Marine Aquarium
  • Col. Mark Baucom, Branch Chief, USCENTCOM, Strategy, Plans and Policy Directorate, Central/South Asian Assessments
  • Vanessa Castrogiovanni, Communications Coordinator, Pinellas Clerk of the Circuit Court
  • UT alumna Makenna Imholte, Public Relations Specialist III, Syniverse
  • Kirk Hazlett, APR, Fellow PRSA, UT Adjunct Professor of Communication

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