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The real value in attending PRSA Sunshine District Conference 2019

By: Curtis Krueger, APR

The 2019 PRSA Sunshine District Conference may be the least expensive three-day professional conference you can find this year — but that is definitely not the reason for you to attend.

The more important reason is that PRSA SunCon is almost surely the best value of any public relations conference.

The difference is not the low price tag, the difference is that the low price tag gets you so much. With the conference in Tampa on July 25-27, you won’t need a plane ticket and might not need a hotel. The cost is just $375 for members or $450 for non-members through July 19. It’s $150 for students.

For that you get:

  • Four keynote speakers, including the national PRSA president
  • Social media know-how, with sessions on the age of “sensory journalism” and how to supercharge your social strategy.
  • A session to learn networking, and the opportunity to actually do networking with PR professionals from all over Florida.
  • The opportunity to add basic new skills, with sessions such as “40-Minute Film School,”  and “A Speechwriter’s Secrets to Inspiring Audiences.”
  • The chance to focus on big-picture issues such as diversity, stress and technological change.
  • And besides all that, you don’t want to skip a conference that includes a session on “Lizards, Mind Control and James Brown” do you?

 If you’re still mulling it over, look over the conference schedule. If you look around the country, you’ll find many other excellent PR conferences this year. But it’s hard to believe you’ll find a better deal.

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Program Recap: The Power of Corporate Social Responsibility—What Every PR Pro Should Know

By: Jenni Williams

Public relations can involve more than just writing press releases, counting media hits and working with clients. Creating and launching a corporate social responsibility strategy can greatly add PR to your organization, while positively impacting employee engagement and the bottom line.

The PRSA Tampa Bay recently learned about the PR side of corporate social responsibility (CSR) at the chapter’s June meeting.

Kecia Carroll, CSR strategist with KC Roberg, kicked off the program with a presentation about corporate social responsibility. She highlighted companies that have a strong CSR presence, such as Ben & Jerry’s, TOMS and Patagonia, to name a few. Then, she went over the business approach and cited that companies with a strong CSR foundation can have a huge economic benefit over other companies.

Then she introduced Media and Community Relations Manager Brian West of Publix and External Communications Director Bobby Eagle of Tech Data to talk about CSR strategy at their companies.

West touched on Publix’s strong CSR foundation, one that has been around for decades. The company’s corporate focus lies in three areas—food insecurity, poverty and wellness. He’s had to try different ways of pitching CSR-focused events and programs. How you package it is key to success, West said. One strategy that has worked is to have the nonprofit partner lead the media pitch and tie in the corporate support. He found they get more media coverage this way.

For Tech Data, one of the world’s largest technology distributors, CSR is an evolving program. Eagle talked about how Tech Data’s CSR strategy is done through the lens of their core value focus—children, education and wellness. He touched on the concept of ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance), something is new to the CSR umbrella. Tech Data is working towards a solid ESG and developing metrics to measure it. Social media is huge tool to communicate what they are doing.

West and Eagle both said creating a CSR strategy is not easy and takes time. They recommend starting with the company’s mission, surveying what matters to the employees and how to make a difference.

The three B’s for CSR success:

  • Be genuine
  • Be creative
  • Be innovative


Most importantly, don’t give up. Over time, the speakers said, your CSR strategy will grow organically and make a lasting, sustainable impact. 

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Breakout Session Spotlight: McDonald’s Works for the Communities             

With an internationally recognized brand and 14,000 U.S. retail locations, how does a global company like McDonald’s, best known for the Big Mac® and World Famous Fries®, tell its story to local communities?

Join Jesse Lewin and Denise Wilson at the PRSA 2019 Sunshine District Conference as they highlight franchisee engagement and company initiatives across the local communities.

Community outreach is integral to any business, small or large, and Wilson, southeast brand reputation manager, shares how that relates to her job, saying, “At McDonald’s, it’s intrinsic to our brand and part of the company culture to give back. Franchisees and restaurant employees often volunteer their time to help local Ronald McDonald Houses.”

This team effort to help the greater community is one of the most important aspects of brand reputation, regardless of the industry, something Wilson has seen proven time and time again throughout her career while working for corporations like Darden Restaurants, the Home Shopping Network (HSN) and Triad Retail Media. 

“While we are greatly known for our fries and convenience, the opportunity to amplify what our franchises do for local communities is truly an honor,” shares Lewin, senior director of U.S. field communications, who has worked in grassroots communications over the course of his career for the White House and global public relations company, Burson Cohn & Wolfe. Building brands through storytelling is his passion, and Lewin will share with you how to use that skill in your position today with a fun emphasis on leveraging the local environment.

Together, Lewin and Wilson will highlight case studies on how they garner positive news coverage to drive the McDonald’s brand.

How do they do this? Join the conference to find out -- register today!

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Sign up now to volunteer for the PRSA Sunshine District Conference

You’ve probably heard about the fantastic lineup of speakers for the upcoming PRSA 2019 Sunshine District Conference next month in Tampa, and we hope you’ve already registered to attend.

Now, your fellow Tampa Bay PRSA members would like to ask a favor—please sign up to volunteer!

It might sound surprising that we need 50 volunteers to make this conference a success, but there’s actually some good news in that number. Many hands make light work.

You can sign up for a volunteer job—such as escorting a speaker or monitoring the progress of a breakout session—without missing all the good things that you’re paying for at PRSA SunCon.

So plan to spend a couple hours during the three-day conference as a volunteer. We are asking all PRSA Tampa Bay members to volunteer. This will let the entire state know that PRSA Tampa Bay runs a first-class conference!

Please send an email with the subject line “I’ll volunteer” to [email protected] and [email protected]. You can send this email at any time, even if you haven’t officially registered just yet.

Some of the volunteer positions include:

  • Working the registration table
  • Escorting speakers to the correct rooms for their sessions
  • Supervising a breakout session or two
  • Stuffing gift bags


But it’s fine for you to simply say, “I’ll help however I can.”

Thanks in advance for spending couple hours or more to make this conference a success.

And don’t forget to register for PRSA 2019 SunCon, if you haven’t already. Considering that we have world class speakers within driving distance, this conference will undoubtably be your best value in professional development this year.

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