#PRSASunCon Day Two: Heave Ho, Landlubbers and Old Salts

#PRSASunCon Day Two: Heave Ho, Landlubbers and Old Salts

Whether an old salt (seasoned PR pro) or landlubber (emerging practitioner), day two of #PRSASunCon left us all feeling empowered to weigh our anchors and set sail.

My top takeaways from this second and final day of #PRSASunCon were:

We need to not only tell our stories, but shape and define them.

Dr. Kanika Tomalin, deputy mayor and city administrator for the City of St. Petersburg, shared how she earned her stripes in the PR industry, culminating with her current role as second in command for Florida’s fifth-largest city. The common thread through all stages of her career? Storytelling.

As deputy mayor, Dr. Tomalin described how she was sought out for her PR expertise and charged with something that had never been done before in St. Petersburg’s history: rewriting municipal marketing by telling the ‘Burg’s story. She created a marketing team for the city and worked to rebrand the area, in the process building a national reputation as one of America’s most attractive places to live, work, and play.

The rebrand is real:

  • Created the new
  • Launched engaging, audience-charged social media platforms: @StPeteFL (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter)
  • Developed compelling digital content and redefined public access TV via SPTV

Dr. Kanika Tomalin, giving her keynote speech at PRSA SunCon

Partnership opportunities can exist – even in the most unlikely of places.

Partnerships are an essential component of many PR efforts. Rob Vernon, Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and Nicole Paquette, Humane Society of the United States, shared how their partnership has led to many successful efforts to reform policy in support of animal welfare – despite the fact that there are many times they also agree to disagree on issues.

Lessons learned:

  • Address, up front, when partnership goals aren’t being met on both sides or there is disagreement; also know when to walk away
  • Compromise is king
  • Partnerships, even with unlikely allies, are powerful
  • Ensure clear and open communication at all times; transparency is imperative

Ambitious introverts walk among us in PR – and I am most certainly one of them.

Morra Aarons-Mele, founder of Women Online/The Mission List and author of “Hiding in the Bathroom: A Roadmap to Getting Out There (When You’d Rather Stay Home),” helped crystalize who I am in the PR-verse: an ambitious introvert.

What’s that, you say? According to Morra, ambitious introverts are those of us who may feel exhausted, disenfranchised, and discouraged by the 24/7 grind of always being “on”; those who are adept at managing their energy and setting limits. Ambitious introverts commonly experience FOMO and were cautioned to embrace “onlyness” – the concept of owning who you are and harnessing why your unique characteristics make you special. One of her most striking lines was that ambitious introverts are those who have learned to game the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator – professional “E” seekers who, deep down, are profoundly “I.”

Because PR can seem most well-suited for extroverts, what is an ambitious introvert to do when faced with another (dreaded!) networking event? Exude a façade of normalcy – despite your racing heartbeat and sweaty palms? Well, sometimes, but here are some other tips Morra shared for navigating networking:

  • Be strategic about what networking events you attend, focusing on those that will help fulfill a desired outcome for you
  • Build a network of super connectors – those who you can continuously turn to and rely on, outside of networking opportunities, to help you move forward
  • Do something you love. This will allow your passion to shine through, and other people will naturally seek you out.

Morra Aarons-Mele, giving her keynote speech at PRSA SunCon

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#PRSASunCon Day One: Yo Ho, Yo Ho—A PRrrr Life for Me

Having been in the PR industry for more than a decade, I’ve experienced my fair share of conferences and events. This year’s #PRSASunCon rivaled some of the best.

Day one, a mix of dynamic keynotes, breakout sessions and networking, spanned topics from issues management to digital PR trends to a 40-minute film school. Here are some of the top takeaways I experienced during my time with this crew:

We’re living in the “wild west” of social media and digital comms.

Digital strategist and global brand correspondent Sarah Evans, founder of Sevans Strategy, took us for a deep dive into the state of PR and how digital is impacting our industry.

  • Digital PR in 2019 is: human relations, longevity and social care
  • Think human first: We are trailblazers when it comes to determining the implications of our digital legacies. Because our social footprint follows us, what do we want others to think about us/our brands in the future?
  • We need to [re]frame the way we think about our digital efforts. Think:
    • Long-term vs. clicks/views
    • Storytelling vs. message-managing
    • Relationships vs. perception-management
  • People experience 150 micromoments per day—change what these “moments” look like by creating value and meaning
  • Data points evolve and change; sometimes you can’t put a hard number on loyalty, awareness, and the “good feeling” a brand creates with a consumer
  • One of Sarah’s favorite PR tools = Instagram Captions (a total Insta hack!)


Sarah Evans, giving her opening keynote speech at PRSA SunCon

Sarah Evans and Jennifer Dunn

Skillfully navigating difficult conversations is an art.

As communicators, communicating should be easy—right? Sometimes, even for the most seasoned pro, difficult conversations can be hard to navigate. Kerri Garbis of Ovation Communication walked us through a process to help more confidently approach these situations:

  • Start with an opener: “I need a few minutes of your time. I’ve got some difficult news to share.”
  • Get it out: “Your contract is not being renewed.”
  • And & And: “This is a result of X and Y.”
  • Invitation to engage: “How would you like to announce this to the team?”

Other tips include avoiding use of the word “you,” and practicing what you’re going to say in advance of the conversation (repeat it out loud, at least three times).

Be Adept: Adapt and Adopt.

2019 PRSA National Chair Debra Peterson, APR, provided insight into what we, as PR professionals, can do to ensure success in a rapidly changing industry landscape.

  • The top PR skills required today include:
    • Multimedia
    • Strategic thinking
    • Adaptability
    • Problem-solving
    • Team player
    • Attention-to-detail
    • Writing skills
    • Honesty and integrity
  • The future is bright for PR professionals; brighter for data-centric PR pros; and brightest for lifelong learners

Debra Peterson, giving her keynote speech at PRSA SunCon

Earning a seat at the table is daunting—but worth it.

In this day and age, many of us continue to wonder why we aren’t at the proverbial table. Matt Kucharski, president of Padilla, uncovered ways we can not only earn a seat—but stay there.

  • Earning a seat at the table means understanding the needs of others at the table
  • We need to put what we do in terms of the value it brings to our internal and external clients
  • Once we’re at the table, we need to show we belong—with every single interaction

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President Spotlight: Jenna Stock

1. Please list your job title and company, the number of years you’ve been a member of the chapter, any offices you hold or have held in the chapter, and any professional accreditations you would like to include.

This special Member Spotlight profiles the 2019 PRSA Tampa Bay president, Jenna Stock, who works on the corporate communications team at Raymond James Financial. She joined PRSA Tampa Bay in 2011, was appointed a board member in 2017, and served as the programs chair for several years. She also currently serves as the co-chair of the 2019 Sunshine District Conference planning committee.

2. Reasons you wanted to become PRSA Tampa Bay president?

My exposure to PRSA dates back to my undergraduate years. I served in several leadership positions at the University of Minnesota’s PRSSA chapter. The idea of becoming president was always a lofty goal of mine but I would have never had the confidence or grit to go for it if it wasn’t for the support and encouragement of my mentor, friend and past chapter president Mary Margaret Hull, APR. You can accomplish great things with the support of your network.

3. Major goals for the chapter this year?

Over the past seven months, our strong and mighty team of 20 volunteers have been knee-deep in planning the 2019 Sunshine District Conference, which if you haven’t heard, is an annual conference that attracts hundreds of leading public relations and communications professionals, arming attendees with insights needed to energize their craft and propel their careers forward. This year, we have four exceptional keynotes, 30+ breakout speakers + 22 professional development sessions at an extremely affordable rate. For more information, visit the conference website

In 2019, we’ve also committed to hosting more informal, no or low-cost networking meetups to engage long-time chapter members, new joins, new professionals, students & guests, too! This golden nugget of feedback continues to pop up in our surveys – members want to meet and network with other like-minded professionals in an informal setting. See below for the fun we’ve had so far this year with get-togethers on both sides of the Bay.

Networked into the New Year @ Irish 31 Hyde Park in January

Indulged in Tapas Tuesday @ Ceviche St. Pete in February

Experienced wine tasting and chocolate making @ Pinellas Chocolate Factory in March

Enjoyed live jazz music and good company @ the new L Bar in Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino

4. Biggest chapter events on the horizon that everyone should keep on their radar?

Our three biggest events of 2019 will take place during the second half of the year:

5. Most rewarding moment as an officer for PRSA Tampa Bay so far?

This year has been by far the most rewarding – albeit a significant investment of my time and energy, I wouldn’t change it for anything. I have a deeper understanding of the chapter and the many moving parts, forged deeper relationships with our leadership team and members, and have a deeper love for PRSA and the incredible impact it has had on my life.

6. First news publication you read in the morning?

Does Instagram count? (Just kidding.) Hopefully others can relate. I have five dependable dailies that I read every morning. Strategically delivered to my inbox in the wee hours of the morning, they are quick and informative reads to help prepare me for the day. In case you’re interested, I’ve listed them below in no particular order:

  1. Harvard Business Review Daily Alert and Management Tip of the Day
  2. Morning Brew
  3. Investopedia Term of the Day
  4. theSkimm
  5. HuffPost Morning Email

7. First public relations job?

Following graduation, I moved from Minnesota to St. Petersburg and landed a gig at Busch Gardens in the PR department. Nothing like doing PR and media relations for new attraction openings and events like Howl-O-Scream. Technically it was a year and a half internship, but I was ½ of the 2 ½ person PR team.

8. Most important career mentor?

Nancy Vaughn – she was my go-to for life advice, coaching and support during a transformational point in my early career. I admire her passion, tenacity and heart, not to mention she's the energizer bunny in human form (how does she do it all?!). While we haven’t kept in touch recently as much as I’d like, after writing this, I’m going to shoot her an email to meet for coffee. Building and maintaining relationships is key in this profession.

9. Top grammar, style or writing pet peeve?

Typos, period. I proofread restaurant menus, billboards, social media posts, you name it. I find joy in discovering errors. Anyone else?

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

Like many J-school graduates, I wanted to pursue broadcast journalism. I’ve also always wanted to work as an editor at a powerhouse magazine publisher. There’s still time…

11. Favorite movie?

Elf – I can watch it all year round. I’m a sucker for holiday movies…and Will Ferrell.

12. Favorite vacation?

Most recently my sister and I went on a two-week European vacation. I’ll sum up the fun in five bullets:

  • Attended a Beating Retreat ceremony in London where Kate Middleton was the guest of honor
  • Spiced up our lives at the Spice Girls concert in Edinburgh
  • Watched my beautiful friends (the bride is a PRSA member) make their love official in Viterbo, Italy
  • Enjoyed three very different cultures, cuisines and climates
  • Indulged in wine, carbonara, bruschetta, pasta making...and more wine. 

Probably my favorite thing of all was navigating these cities with my sister, challenging myself (hello, language barrier), getting out of my comfort zone, soaking up the culture/history and being present as much as possible.



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Recognizing Outstanding Volunteerism for January-July 2019!

Every month, PRSA Tampa Bay recognizes an outstanding volunteer whose hard work has significantly served our members and helped to make our chapter even stronger. In the first half of 2019, we celebrated the following contributors:

January – Heather Parsons

Why she was recognized: Heather serves as the judging chair for PRSA Tampa Bay’s Awards Committee. She is being recognized for her exceptional support in providing a high-quality judging experience for our chapter’s PRestige Awards. Heather’s leadership and support has been invaluable and directly contributes to our chapter’s overall success with awards. Way to go, Heather!

About Heather: Heather Parsons is a Public Information Coordinator for the city of Clearwater and has worked in the same department since 2003. She supports the communication and public relations needs of the city’s public works departments. At the city, Parsons serves as editor of MyClearwater magazine, a 68-page full-color publication that is produced three times a year, and she coordinates the city’s Citizens Academy program. In PRSA, she has served on the chapter’s Awards Committee for three years and is currently serving as the Judging Chair this year. She will manage the chapter’s PRestige Awards entries and also the scoring process of award entries of another PRSA chapter. She is looking forward to another successful year as an Awards Committee volunteer!

February – Paula MacDonald, APR

Why she was recognized: Paula is central to our chapter’s success with the accreditation program. She spends months preparing and teaching classes each year for the chapter’s APR candidates, in addition to all the work she does to support the independent practitioners program. Paula’s exceptional leadership, among other reasons, is why Paula was recognized as February’s Volunteer of the Month!

About Paula: Paula MacDonald, APR is owner/principal of Image Suite PR | Marketing | Media, a full-service creative consultancy based in St. Petersburg, Florida, serving clients nationwide in professional services, hospitality, sports and agricultural industries. A graduate of the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, Paula’s experience in visual communications brings a storytelling perspective to her agency’s clientele.

Paula currently serves on the board of directors for PRSA Tampa Bay, overseeing the Accreditation and Agency Leaders’ sections, along with serving as chair elect for PRSA national’s Independent Practitioners Alliance section. She is also a student mentor in the Pinellas County Take Stock in Children program and board member for the Early Learning Coalition of Pinellas County. To learn more, visit

Why are you a PRSA Tampa Bay member? PRSA Tampa Bay is an incredible group of creative and passionate communicators. The membership and leadership of the organization are genuinely driven to help others in our profession succeed. I am a member because of the sense of community and continued learning this chapter provides to members.

What value does PRSA Tampa Bay membership bring to you personally or professionally? Personally and professionally, PRSA Tampa Bay inspires continuous learning which has helped advance my own career and allowed me the opportunity to give back to others seeking the same growth.

March – Katy Parsons, APR

Why she was recognized: Katy has co-chaired the Accreditation study group for the last three years, and her support in handling all of the details for the panel presentations has been invaluable. The chapter's APR study group is consistently recognized as one of the benefits of being a member of PRSA Tampa Bay, and if not for Katy and her willingness and wisdom, we would not be successful in delivering a great opportunity for our APR candidates.

About Katy: Katy Parsons, APR, and Senior Account Executive at ChappellRoberts. She joined PRSA Tampa Bay in 2006, currently serves as co-chair of the APR Committee, and previously served as a member of the PRSSA Committee and professional liaison to USF’s student-run public relations agency, KnoBull.

Why are you a PRSA Tampa Bay member? PRSA Tampa Bay is an incredible group of creative and passionate communicators. The membership and leadership of the organization are genuinely driven to help others in our profession succeed. I am a member because of the sense of community and continued learning this chapter provides to members.

What value does PRSA Tampa Bay membership bring to you personally or professionally? Personally and professionally, PRSA Tampa Bay inspires continuous learning which has helped advance my own career and allowed me the opportunity to give back to others seeking the same growth.

April – Kaley Infield

Why she was recognized: Kaley has been a key player on the Sunshine District Conference committee, devoting significant time and energy to the team’s planning efforts. From volunteering to stand up the conference’s first-ever WordPress site to her diligent work managing the chapter’s website and email communications, Kaley is a go-getter that is always willing to offer up her support with a positive, service 1st attitude.

About Kaley: Kaley Infield serves as marketing manager at The Bank of Tampa. In her role, she is responsible for developing and curating content to enhance The Bank of Tampa’s brand and build relationships with clients and prospects. She is responsible for The Bank of Tampa’s content marketing, digital marketing and public relations functions. Kaley is an active member of PRSA Tampa Bay, serving as website and newsletter chair on the chapter’s Digital Communications Committee. Additionally, she is a member of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Young Professionals Committee. Kaley holds a Bachelor of Science in public relations and a Master of Arts in mass communication (MAMC) from the University of Florida.

Why are you a PRSA Tampa Bay member? I am a member of PRSA Tampa Bay because the organization allows me to collaborate with professionals at all different levels and exposes me to leadership and growth experiences. The chapter has helped me to expand my network and build connections with individuals who have helped to make a positive impact on my career, as well as allowed me to develop lasting connections and friendships.

What value does PRSA Tampa Bay membership bring to you personally or professionally? Not only does my membership with PRSA Tampa Bay help me to keep my public relations skills and knowledge current, but it has allowed me an outlet to volunteer my time to advance the profession as a whole, while also advancing my own career and knowledge. 

May – Alexandra Stewart

Why she was recognized: Alexandra Stewart is an integral part of the Digital Communications Committee, serving as event communications coordinator. Alex brings a refreshing, can-do attitude, diving in to help wherever there is a need, whether that’s coordinating digital communications for upcoming programming events, stepping up as a key member of the Sunshine District Conference committee to assist with the overall SunCon communications plan or even assisting with content and design for the SunCon website.

About Alexandra: Alexandra Stewart serves as the media relations manager at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Downtown Tampa. She is responsible for promoting the Straz Center and its productions, including Broadway, theater, music, dance, art, comedy and community events. Alex is an experienced communications and marketing professional with a passion and dedication to the arts, believing they play a vital role in any community. Alex serves as the event communications coordinator on the Digital Communications Committee for PRSA Tampa Bay. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in public relations and a Master of Fine Arts in arts and non-profit management from Wayne State University in Detroit.

Why are you a PRSA Tampa Bay member? PRSA Tampa Bay is a great group of people who truly care about the chapter and bringing value to its members. It allows me to connect with other professionals of all skill levels and talents and gives me access to great programming that encourages my professional growth.

What value does PRSA Tampa Bay membership bring to you personally or professionally? Being a member has given me the opportunity to connect with people and form friendships, professionally and personally, I otherwise might not have had. The chapter has given me the opportunity to volunteer on the Digital Communications Committee, allowing me to sharpen and maintain my skills and knowledge in the profession by doing tasks that differ from the daily duties of my job.

June – Alexandra Booth

Why she was recognized: Alexandra Booth is an essential member of the Digital Communications Committee, serving as co-chair of the social media committee. Always eager to lend a helping hand, she is quick to offer advice and help whenever it is needed. Aside from overseeing the social media committee and scheduling and updating posts, she also stepped up as a key member of the Sunshine District Conference committee.

About Alexandra: Alexandra Booth is a public relations coordinator at DJ Public Relations, where she works with clients on social media strategy, media relations and public outreach. She holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism with a minor in business administration from the University of Florida. Alexandra is currently serving as social media on the Digital Communications Committee, as well as on the Sunshine District Conference Planning Committee. 

Why are you a PRSA Tampa Bay member? I am a PRSA Tampa Bay member because of how much I have learned and continue to learn about the PR industry. This organization has allowed me to connect with all kinds of PR professionals, some of who I would not have met otherwise had it not been for PRSATB.

What value does PRSA Tampa Bay membership bring to you personally or professionally? PRSA Tampa Bay provides me with a network of professionals that I get to learn with and learn from. It’s great to volunteer with an organization that allows me to contribute while I continue to grow in my career and apply the skills I’ve learned. Also, it’s allowed me to build both personal and professional connections that I wouldn’t have otherwise. 

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PRSA SunCon Attendees Enjoy Discounted Ticket to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay!

Need one more reason to attend SunCon 2019? Attendees enjoy a discounted ticket to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay for only $65. Spend your Saturday or Sunday after the conference enjoying Summer Nights and the new coaster, Tigris! Register for SunCon today:

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Member Column: Why I’m attending this month’s PRSA SunCon

By: Shayla O'Keeffe, Communications Generalist, Jabil

It’s a fast-paced world that we live in and the best way to prepare is to be well-rounded in both our professional skills and personal development. In this industry, it’s important to stay up to date with the latest trends and skills, as well as feeling mentally fit to handle whatever comes your way.

Perhaps it’s needing to learn how to handle crisis communications or properly deal with stress. Maybe it’s about building your company’s reputation or yours through networking.

Each of these is a great reason to attend the PRSA Sunshine Conference 2019 in Tampa, given the diverse sessions available, but personally, I’m most looking forward to meeting people from across the region with all levels of expertise in the field. I’m fairly new to the communications industry, just shy of three years in the profession, so it’s a great time for me to connect with others. Someone once told me to be like a sponge in the beginning of my career and soak up all the information I can from others. Following that advice, I plan to take advantage of all the diverse people at PRSA SunCon and hopefully meet someone who can be a mentor.

Being a newer kid on the block, having less experience than some of my peers, this conference also will give me a chance to be introduced to a variety of learning opportunities, as well as get exposure to skills outside my specific work sphere. It’s easy to get stuck doing the same thing each day, marking things off my to do list, but going to this event will give me a chance to turn my focus toward being proactive and taking a mental break from work to learn new strategies.

I wanted to write this column because I believe that, regardless of your focus areas, there’s something for everyone at PRSA SunCon, no matter your status in the industry, your background or your goals.

A conference is a great opportunity to reignite your passion and meet other like-minded individuals who can help you stay accountable afterward. I’ve left other conferences feeling ready to take on my projects with new eyes and more strategic thinking, and I look forward to having that same feeling after PRSA SunCon 2019.

Don’t let this be a single event; instead, use this as a chance to check the treasure map and set your course to finding the gold – a successful career.  Make this conference a personal experience that helps you grow professionally.

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Four reasons to register for PRSA SunCon 2019: The Keynote Speakers

Which inspiring speaker would you rather hear later this month—the digital strategist, the author, the government leader or the president of PRSA?

Here’s the good news: You’ll hear all four after you register for the 2019 PRSA Sunshine District Conference. They’re each giving keynote addresses at the July 25-27 event in Tampa.

The impressive lineup of speakers is one of the reasons PR professionals from across Florida are coming to this year’s conference.  Check out the full list here, and don’t forget to look at the wide array of breakout sessions.

Here is a sneak peek of the keynote speakers and what you’ll learn from them in Tampa next month.

Sarah Evans, digital strategist and global brand correspondent, is the opening keynote speaker, sharing her insights into the current state of public relations and future of the profession. Evans has built a reputation across the country as a leader in social media, integrating marketing and communications in her approach to helping businesses.

With her experience working for companies like PayPal and Cox Communications, as well as Walmart and MGM, it’s no surprise Evans is a leading speaker on all things social media. She’s also credited with the novel idea of bringing an outside web show inside the traditional newsroom, hosting live #journchat shows with both CNN and NBC News.

Evans will share how she uses her passion to make big change and help you prepare for what’s to come in our industry during her session “Status Update: State of Digital PR in 2019.”

Her talk will be the Opening Keynote at 7:30 a.m. Friday

Debra Peterson, APR, president Comm365 and chair of PRSA National will discuss how to navigate the impact of rapid disruption and innovation during her keynote session “Be Adept: Adapt and Adopt.” Leveraging her experience at FORTUNE 500 technology and communications companies during times of change, acquisition and progression, Peterson realized the best way to be prepared for anything is to be a “lifelong learner.”

We all face certain challenges at work such as budget, time demands or strategy, but Peterson will share lessons learned along the way that have helped her through those times of great change. Whether you’re in the communications, public relations or the technology sector, there’s a common goal among everyone: How can we ensure success?

“Just as communications professionals need to understand financial, operational and leadership concepts, we must also understand how technology impacts our organizations. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain, virtual and augmented reality and big data are all examples of how technology and innovation are impacting us and will continue to do so even more in the future,” Peterson said in a PRSA article from January of this year.

Her talk will be the Luncheon Keynote at noon Friday.

 Dr. Kanika Tomalin, deputy mayor and city administrator of St. Petersburg, Florida, has a background that PR professionals can appreciate. She is a former marketer and journalist, and strongly believes the power of storytelling is an important aspect of her leadership in Florida’s fifth-largest city.

“My experience as a Communications executive in the private sector has helped the city usher in major organizational shifts, as well as navigate the nuances of everyday situations and challenges,” said Tomalin, who previously worked as director of communications and several other leadership roles for Bayfront Health System. “Specifically, the power of storytelling and using the universal narratives that we all share to connect us on planes of common understanding, goals and actions has served to advance us meaningfully toward many goals. Whether working as a journalist, a hospital executive or deputy mayor, I have found that the common connections that bind our humanity create a bridge to better outcomes. There is much to be applied in the running of a municipality from the private sector, and specifically, from the discipline of communications.”

Tomalin’s talk is titled, “With Savvy PR & Communications, Sunshine City’s Brand
Brighter than Ever.”

“I hope everyone in the audience walks away with a renewed respect, excitement and urgency around the power of storytelling and its integral place in every PR professional’s toolbox,” she added.

 Her talk will be at 8:30 a.m. Saturday.

Morra Aarons-Mele is the author of Hiding in the Bathroom: A Roadmap to Getting Out There (When You’d Rather Stay Home,). One of her main topics will be how to build a professional network.

“Study after study show that people advance in their career and find meaningful work through the people they know, and I’m a big believer in building networks that aren’t just transactional but are truly a community," she said.

The thought of building such a network can feel overwhelming, but Aarons-Mele plans to offer some practical and helpful tools in her talk, titled “How to Build a Great Professional Network (Even If You’d Rather Hide in the Bathroom.)”

Aarons-Mele is founder of award-winning social impact agency Women Online, and has launched online campaigns for President Obama, Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, the United Nations Foundation, Hillary Clinton for President and many other leading figures and organizations.

Her talk will be the closing keynote at 11:10 a.m. Saturday.

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The Benefits of Downtown Tampa and the SunCon 2019!

By: Kelsy Long, Director of Marketing and Communications, Tampa Downtown Partnership

Surrounded by the sparkly blue water of the Hillsborough River, downtown Tampa is a vibrant and bustling metropolis with a charming and unique personality. Palm trees and skyscrapers pierce the fluffy white clouds that hang over this growing Southeastern city. While you are discovering hidden treasure at the PRSA 2019 Sunshine District Conference, be sure to take advantage of all Tampa’s downtown has to offer!

Foodies Paradise

Tampa may be known for birthing the Cuban sandwich, but boy, there is so much more to experience. But don’t take it from me. Food and Wine Magazine actually titled a December 2018 article, “You Should See What’s Happening in Downtown Tampa,” where the writer explores the phenomenon that is Sparkman Wharf. The outdoor food hall made entirely out of shipping containers is not only a foodie paradise, but an Instagrammer haven. Murals cover the shipping containers which house the venues pumping out picture-worthy dishes curated by prominent local chefs at a price-point suitable for a millennial on an influencer budget. Sparkman Wharf is a short ride on the TECO Line Streetcar. Oh, did I mention the Streetcar is FREE?! This service is a 2.7-mile streetcar line that runs along downtown Tampa, through the Channel District, and Ybor City. The system features historical replica streetcars of the original Tampa Streetcar Line.

Other venues to check out in Tampa’s downtown include:

  • Hall on Franklin – Ranked as a 10Best by USA Today. Cozy food hall with great interior design and food concepts from local chefs.
  • Armature Works – Ranked as a 10Best by USA Today. Get there by hailing a free ride on the Downtowner ride service, hopping on a scooter, or renting a Coast Bike.
  • Mise En Place - An intimate, well-appointed restaurant located across from the University of Tampa.
  • Oxford Exchange – Also for architect lovers, the historic building is a restaurant, bookstore, lifestyle gift store, coworking space, design studio and event venue. Also across from the University of Tampa.
  • Harpoon Harry’s – Located next to the Convention Center, this restaurant is for seafood lovers.
  • Ulele – Situated on the banks of the Hillsborough River and Armature Works, Ulele serves native-inspired food and spirits. Tip: stay for a sunset!
  • Malio’s – A downtown staple! Get their steak and take advantage of $7 happy hour martinis. Step outside to enjoy their newest concept, Remedy, which is perched just atop the Riverwalk.
  • Hattricks Tavern – For wing lovers, this is the mecca. And it’s just a short walk from the hotel.

Looking for the most Instagrammable spots in downtown Tampa? This article has you covered. Many are located in and around the top food destinations!

Arts & Culture

Downtown Tampa’s arts and culture venues offer free or reduced admission and special programs on the fourth Friday of each month—which is July 26. Begin your cultural experience during the Friday evening reception at the Unlock Tampa Bay Visitors Center where you will be able to sample local craft beer and enjoy snacks from local restaurants. Starting at 6:16 p.m., there will be an improv comedy group performing right outside in the Poe Plaza! Their brand of fast-paced, high-energy entertainment uses audience suggestions to create family-friendly shows that will keep you laughing and smiling! Be sure to pick up your Fourth Friday wristband at the Visitors Center to enjoy free admission to the Tampa Museum of Art, the Florida Museum of Photographic Art and many more venues. Your wristband is the key to specials and discounts at local restaurants and bars, too! Check it out at

Ask a Guide

While you are downtown, you may notice friendly faces in yellow fishing shirts with GUIDE written across the back. Tampa’s Downtown Guides are here to help you find your way, make a dining recommendation, or assist you with a dead car battery or flat tire. The Guides use iPads to help provide visitors with real-time information with access to maps and events calendars.

Do Not Miss

Are you a runner or just enjoy a nice stroll? Be sure to check out the Tampa Riverwalk. Named the Greatest Place in America by the American Planning Association, the Riverwalk’s 2.4 miles is the perfect place for exercise, book reading, a long conversation, or to people watch. There is always a nice breeze coming off the river during the day and it’s especially beautiful at night when it is lit up with pink, green, orange and blue hues. Get a sneak peek with this video.

Insider tip: ask your server or bartender for a Riverwalk Sip & Stroll cup to take your drink with you as you explore!

With so much to do in Tampa’s downtown, the trouble won’t be finding something to do, but deciding where to start! We hope you enjoy the 2019 PRSA Sunshine District Conference in Tampa’s downtown, hosted by PRSA Tampa Bay—where knowledge is treasure.

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