Team Helps Job Seekers at Metropolitan Ministries Workshop

By Joseph Priest, APR

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

Article contributed 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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Donate to Our Virtual Food Drive for COVID-19 Relief

By Joseph Priest

The coronavirus has hit Tampa Bay, and our residents need our help. Your donation to PRSA Tampa Bay’s virtual food drive with Feeding Tampa Bay - at - can play a part.

Feeding Tampa Bay is part of the national Feeding America network and provides food to hundreds of thousands of needy families across West Central Florida.

PRSA Tampa Bay chapter is proud to partner with Feeding Tampa Bay to help our community at a time when our chapter members can’t easily provide in-person assistance. Feeding Tampa Bay’s virtual food drive program allows individuals and organizations to set up a food drive for a cause through a dedicated web page, provide a donation process that is easy and secure, and allow donations that enable the direct delivery of food to residents in need.

Please help support our drive by donating at the link below. In addition, if you’re looking for other ways to help contribute to COVID-19 relief efforts or stay up to date with the latest COVID-19 updates in our community, please check out the resources further below. 

Click here to donate to the PRSA Tampa Bay virtual food drive

Thank you for considering a donation, and please stay safe and healthy as we all help each other during this time of COVID-19.

Local COVID-19 Relief Funds and Opportunities

Local COVID-19 Information Resources

PRSA COVID-19 Resources


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Celebrating Earth Day with PRSATB Stories of Sustainability

By Kecia Carroll 

On April 22, 2020, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Earth Day organizers describe this as “a historic moment when citizens of the world must rise up in a united call for the creativity, innovation, ambition, and bravery that we need to meet our climate crisis and seize the enormous opportunities of a zero-carbon future.”

Today we celebrate three PRSA member organizations in our community doing just that. With creative and bold sustainability strategies, these organizations have already responded to that call to action.

Sustainability often refers to climate change and the role companies play in reducing the depletion of non-renewable resources. For many companies, sustainability also includes a dedication to positive economic, social and environmental impact, known as the 3Ps: profit, people and planet. Together these principles form the foundation for corporate social responsibility strategies and practices that promote prosperity while protecting the planet.

The stories of sustainability showcased here not only demonstrate great environmental stewardship in the Tampa Bay area, they serve as examples of how values are expressed through actions. That too is something to be celebrated.

Hillsborough Community College

Paul Rabaut, Hillsborough Community College (HCC) biology professor and sustainability coordinator, has turned his passion for sustainability into a lifelong project to expand scientific literacy in his community. “If you want to see a change in your community, then teach at a community college,” says Rabaut. As the sustainability coordinator at HCC, Paul has increased recycling and composting, cut down on energy consumption, overseen a butterfly garden and followed through with many other projects that are moving to make the College greener. But surrounding all those initiatives has been another venture in the works. Before the start of the 2019 fall semester, Rabaut successfully housed five beehives on the roof of the Student Services building of the HCC Ybor City Campus. He entrusted his honors foundation of biology students with the care of the hives and tasked them with creating honey as part of their class lab section. By the end of the semester, his students were able to collectively harvest about 100 pounds of honey. The honey was then distributed amongst the students as well as HCC staff, faculty, the campus president and the Board of Trustees.

Beehives on the Student Services buidling roof at HCC's Ybor City Campus

The reasoning behind the project was simply, “They’re super fun and a great tool to raise awareness. Five hives on the roof of a building is not going to be the thing that saves humanity. But what it’s going to do is it’s going to get people engaged. Everyone loves honeybees and they are samplers of the environment. So, if your environment is bad, then your honey is going to be bad. How do you get people to care about the environment? You find something they already care about. Which can be food like honey and then you link it backward. So, it’s like, ‘Oh, you really like honey, right? Yeah, I love honey! Well, if you drive your car a lot then you increase CO2 emissions, then you change the climate, and that changes the plants which change the honey.” In the future, Paul hopes to open up the beehive tours for free to the public. “For sustainability practice, I use them [honey bees] as the bridge to get them [people] to care. They might really like honey but not at all have any idea the process behind it all.” The bees will continue to bridge the gap between the lack of awareness and innocent curiosity that gets people engaged and asking questions about the environment around them. If we want to change the state of our climate, then we need people to continue to ask themselves, “How can I be doing more to make a difference?” 

Beehives on the Student Services buidling roof at HCC's Ybor City Campus

Port Tampa Bay

Port Tampa Bay recently created the Maritime Sustainability Team (MAST), which is composed of staff members who are committed to reducing waste and conserving resources. The MAST group implemented recycling within Port offices and participates in several community cleanups throughout the year. The team spearheaded the installation of water bottle filling stations, reducing over 15,000 plastic water bottles. And members also advocate for energy-efficient changes, like installing LED light bulbs. The Port conducted a detailed Energy Study resulting in significant efficiency updates to smart and efficient lighting, HVAC system upgrades, and more, saving the port over $260,000 per year in energy costs.

Birds on Spoil Island 

Port Tampa Bay has partnered with several local organizations, committed to protecting our environment. The Port joined the “Hillsborough Trash Free Waters Partnership,” a which is committed   to keeping waters clean and beautiful for future generations. Additionally, Port staff participates in coastal clean-ups through a partnership with Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful. Port Tampa Bay has also committed to being a “Business for the Bay” through the Reduce Your Use Campaign established by Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful and the City of Tampa. Within the last year, Port Tampa Bay adopted a “water goat” in McKay Bay, preventing thousands of pounds of floatable trash from entering Tampa Bay’s watershed. The water goat is a series of nets and buoys that traps litter and debris so that it can be properly removed. This Earth Day, the Port will announce that it is adopting McKay Bay Nature Park. The port will also partner with Cardno and Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful to remove invasive species from the park.

Team recycling trip 

City of Largo

The City of Largo is committed to sustainability and has incorporated it as one of three primary initiatives of the city-wide Strategic Plan. The Strategic Plan includes sustainability initiatives to renew our natural environment, build a resilient organization and ensure sustainability for future generations. In addition, the Largo Environmental Action Plan was commissioned to enable Largo to serve as a role model for green government by integrating sustainability standards, resilience and environmental goals

The City of Largo has integrated a philosophy of sustainability into its daily operations and long-term goals. In alignment with the City’s pledge to achieve 100-percent renewable, zero-emission energy by 2035, the Largo City Commission focused the annual Commission Retreat on the theme of sustainability and resiliency. The City believes in its ability to utilize key leverage areas for increasing institutional knowledge and organizational commitment to sustainability and resilience. The City of Largo’s dedication to sustainability has opened the door to opportunities for city employees and residents to make a positive change throughout the community.

The City of Largo’s dedication to sustainability has opened the door to opportunities
for city employees and residents to make a positive change throughout the community.

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A Salute to Women in History, Women in PR

By Kecia Carroll 

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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President Spotlight: Kelsy Long

This special President Spotlight profiles Kelsy Long, the 2020 president of PRSA Tampa Bay and also the director of media relations at Clearwater Marine Aquarium. She joined the chapter in 2011 and previously served as vice president of the chapter, secretary of the chapter, and chair of the Media Roundtable Committee, for three years.

1. Reason you wanted to become PRSA Tampa Bay president?

I highly respect all the past presidents of PRSA Tampa Bay and the legacy each of them left, and I similarly want to be able to give back to an organization that has given so much to me and driven me to be the best professional I can be. This year seemed like the right time to step up and serve as president and leave my legacy.

2. Major goals for the chapter this year?

We have five:

  • Monthly programs-These serve as key learning and networking opportunities for our members and non-members alike. Jenna Rogers is our committee chair and would welcome your support, if you’re interested in helping organize them.

  • Professional Development Day-This annual half-day seminar has provided PR professionals with powerful and practical information to help us improve and advance as practitioners and strategists. Robin Bizjack is our committee chair and is open to all volunteers

  • Goodwill fund-PRSA Tampa Bay members are a tight-knit group of professionals and friends who all have experienced hardships, and we understand an important part of getting through a tough time can be the support of those around us. For these reasons, this year, PRSA Tampa Bay is committed to creating a goodwill fund, similar to the hardship plan offered nationally by PRSA.

  • Sponsorship-This year, we’re focusing on leveraging relationships in our community with those who find value in our programs and our members by establishing a more cohesive sponsorship opportunities package. If you have an idea, reach out to the committee chair, Josh Carrasco (who also happens to be our 2021 president-elect!).

  • Financial accountability-Our treasury is the strongest it has ever been, and with the strategic use of these funds, we’re able to offer quality programs as well as networking and learning opportunities for our members. In the next month, our board will finalize and approve our 2020 budget.

3. Biggest chapter events this year that everyone should keep on their radar?

As past chair of our Media Roundtable, I highly recommend keeping this April event on your radar. We are also bringing back Professional Development Day after a one-year hiatus because of hosting of the 2019 Sunshine District Conference, and our annual Prestige Awards program is always a wonderful celebration of the great work produced by our members and features a notable keynote speaker addressing some of the latest trends and best practices in our field.

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

Being able to represent this incredible group and hear how well we are perceived in the public relations community. We should all be proud to be a part of this chapter and continue to strive for excellence

In December, I joined a number of my colleagues at a half-day retreat to plan
our chapter’s goals and activities for 2020. Go PRSA Tampa Bay!

5. First news publication you read in the morning?

My commute to work is about 45 minutes, so I take that time to catch up on my news by first listening to Up First by NPR, then catching the news update by 970 WFLA, and then finishing my commute with news updates from WUSF.

6. First public relations job?

You could say my first PR job was at a restaurant called Pusser’s, in Annapolis, Maryland, where I was a waitress – a demanding PR job for sure! My first real PR job, though, was as director of communications and marketing for Franklin Street, a local commercial real estate firm.

At an event for my current job, at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium,
with a mascot for one of our two dolphins, Winter.

7. Most important career mentor, and why?

I’d have to say Andrew Wright, CEO and managing partner of Franklin Street, was an incredible mentor because he pushed me to have confidence in my decision making and rely on the resources available to me. Most of the time those resources are people who are more than happy to help.

8. Top grammar, style or writing pet peeve?

The improper use of an apostrophe has bugged me since middle school. “They’re,” “there,” and “their”; “we’re,” “where,” and “were”; and so on.

My wedding, with my husband, Kole, from last year.

9. Most rewarding accomplishment in public relations?

The most rewarding part of my job is seeing stories being told that may have otherwise been ignored. Being able to shed light on a topic, situation or moment is an incredible accomplishment.

10. Advice to new public relations professionals?

My advice to any new professional is to ask questions and be prudent about keeping your contact list organized. You never know where life may lead you and when you just might need that person to help guide you with something.

A photo from a trip to southern England to see the Seven Sisters cliffs, in East Sussex, in 2018.

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

If I weren’t in public relations, I’d probably be working at a beach resort.

12. Favorite movie?

I could watch Ace Ventura: Pet Detective on a repeating loop. I feel bad when I watch it with other people because I say every line.

Me at Kjeragbolten (Suspended Rock) in southern Norway,
during our honeymoon there last year. It was a long way down!

13. Favorite vacation?

I loved traveling to Norway and the U.K., but my favorite vacation was to Anna Maria Island last September. It’s such a cute little beach town, it has amazing biking and kayaking, and it’s just a short drive from home.

14. Any three dinner guests?

My mom, Mary, my dad, Mike, and my sister, Shanon. They all live in Maryland, so it’s a rare treat for me to be able to visit there and share a meal with them at the same time.

At home with our baby, Dusty, a rescue dog from the Humane Society.

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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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PRSA Panel Spotlights Value of Having a ‘Seat at the Table’

By Joseph Priest, APR

Since the birth of public relations, just a little over 100 years ago, a holy grail of our profession has been to be fully respected by having a “seat at the table” with senior management. It’s been a long and complex journey to achieve this, but today many organizations have by and large integrated public relations as a management function and contributed to the maturation of the profession to help it be seen as a crucial part of business.

More recently, though, the challenge with this has shifted to keeping this seat at the table and continually proving our value in today’s tumultuous political environment, fiercely competitive business playing field and rapidly evolving technology landscape. While these forces have made the practice of public relations more challenging, they’ve also shown the value of public relations professionals having a seat at the table in managing mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and its publics.

I recently had an opportunity to gain more insights on this when I attended a Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Tampa Bay chapter event titled “C-suite and Pro Panel” on Oct. 8. The discussion featured an innovative format that included two C-suite executives along with their public relations counterparts, as well as a communications adviser who is a member of the C-suite herself and also works closely with the C-suite of her clients.

The panelists included these six leaders:

  • Gary L. Sasso , president and CEO, Carlton Fields 
  • Kate Barth, senior public relations manager, Carlton Fields 
  • Sam Sipes, LCSW, BCD, president and CEO, Lutheran Services Florida
  • Terri Durdaller, MPA, vice president, Communications, Lutheran Services Florida
  • Jesica D’Avanza, founder and chief strategy officer, Round Square
  • Kecia Carroll (moderator), marketing and communications director, and corporate social responsibility strategist, KC Roberg

The attendees consisted of over 20 public relations professionals representing a mix of different companies and levels of experience from around the Tampa Bay area.

Over the course of an hour, the executives and their public relations counterparts walked us through the dynamics of their working relationships, the major areas of public relations they focus on, and the crucial factors to the success of their power partnerships. The discussion offered a number of insights into how to have a seat at the table and establish an effective relationship with the C-suite, what the most common challenges and opportunities are that executives and public relations professionals regularly face, and why managing and protecting a brand have become increasingly challenging with the competitiveness of today’s economy and the rapid evolution of today’s technology.   

Here are some of the major areas that were explored and the takeaways from them.

The two CEOs on the panel, Gary Sasso and Sam Sipes, both testified to the importance of having their public relations leaders involved in the senior levels of management with a seat at the table. This includes having regular personal meetings through which a genuine relationship of familiarity and trust can be built. In parallel, the public relations professionals, Kate Barth, Terri Durdaller, and Jesica D’Avanza, explained that in their roles it was imperative to listen well, be frank and attempt to add value in every interaction.  

Media Relations and Coaching
Both Sasso and Sipes said they had received media training and praised its value as vital in being able to handle the complexity and unpredictability of live media interviews and conferences. A poll of the attendees in the room revealed that many of their executives had been trained as well. Sasso and Sipes also shared some of their experiences with working with the media and how media training helped prepare them. In particular, the training exposed them to mock situations that provided effective insights and best practices on how to best address these situations.

Crisis Management
With a 24-hour news cycle and ever-expanding range of mobile and social media channels that empower people to share news instantly, having a thorough and carefully planned crisis communication program in place is more vital than ever, the panelists said. At the same time, it’s equally as important to have a public relations leader who can detect and divert a crisis or manage and mitigate one as best as possible. How a crisis is prepared for and how it is managed have critical consequences for a company’s reputation and brand, as well as its internal and external stakeholders.

Internal Communication
The panelists also shared some insights in the area of internal communication, and they discussed some of the best practices they’ve learned for engaging employees as well as building trust and credibility. These included making strategic use of today’s multitude of employee digital communication applications, such as intranet, instant messaging, video chat, social networking, and employee recognition tools, to communicate instantly and in diverse ways to reach the right audiences at the right times.

One of the final topics that the panel addressed was the best way to integrate the expertise of a public relations agency in an organization’s communication program. In particular, Sasso and Sipes examined the business case for having someone like Kate Barth or Terri Durdaller in house versus having no in-house public relations counsel and only an agency or consultant. The CEOs said it was invaluable to be able to have an in-house public relations executive fully committed to the company’s interests and expert in the company’s business. On this topic, Jesica D’Avanza, head of her own communication and consulting agency, offered that an agency should above all strive to be a seamless extension of the clients it serves.  

In over a little more than 100 years, public relations has come a long way in gaining a seat at the table. This discussion was compelling in demonstrating how the profession has met this challenge while at the same time illuminating the challenges today in keeping that seat.

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