A Conversation with EY: Women Unlock the Full Potential of the Working World

PRSA Tampa Bay’s Diversity & Inclusion Chair, Kecia Carroll, spoke with Jen Hemmerdinger, Ernst & Young LLP (EY) US Tax Public Relations Manager, about celebrating women during Women’s History Month and every day of the year. Jennifer explains how their professionals are encouraged to take action to drive change and get to a point of parity and equity, and the role that communications plays in that process.

  1. We recently celebrated International Women’s Day (IWD). What did your company do to celebrate?

As many women have been disproportionately impacted by the global health crisis, it was more important than ever to celebrate their achievementsand also come together to raise awareness against bias, take action to support women at work and continue to strive for equity.

At EY, we believe the disruption of 2020 provides a unique opportunity to reimagine a more inclusive workplace, where women are part of every conversation, equation, solution and answer. We believe gender equity is not an aspiration, it’s fundamental to unlocking the full potential of the working world.

Our team activated a paid social media and earned media campaign around IWD. Our call to action was: make sure #SheBelongs. The team shared polls, videos, and other posts, and EY leaders published blogs to offer distinctive EY insights and to drive the conversation. 

The US team sponsored the Forbes Equal Pay Day & Equity At Work virtual event, which featured EY U.S. Chair and Managing Partner and Americas Managing Partner Kelly Grier. On March 23, Kelly and Moira Forbes co-hosted the virtual event to spotlight a powerful range of women voices at the forefront of today’s most dynamic businesses.

Our leaders encouraged our professionals to take action to drive change and get to a point of parity and equity. These actions include:

  • Sponsor and mentor women on your team to help them to succeed and to gain new opportunities; make sure you have diverse mentees as well.
  • Question everything by challenging gender stereotypes and biases, and contribute to an environment where women are heard.
  • Promote the achievements of women — both on your team and in your communities.

  1. How does the fact that you are a global company play into your celebration or communications?

Our Global PR team leads IWD and the various regions have an opportunity to leverage those messages in addition to what a local office has planned. Being a global company allows us to amplify our messages on multiple, larger platforms. For example, we had the opportunity to write a byline for Bloomberg Tax about why it’s crucial companies should continue to invest in D&I initiatives throughout the pandemic. The article included the voices from all of our Tax practices around the world, which are led by women.

We also made an impact on a grassroots level too. Our local EY offices celebrated in a variety of ways. For example, the EY Tampa office hosted an informal virtual gathering to honor IWD and celebrate all the women in the office. Throughout the month of March, the Tampa chapter of our Professional Women’s Network (PWN), one of our nine Employee Resource Groups, shared resources, thought leadership and encouraging materials.

  1. How does this celebration tie into celebrating Women’s History Month?

Each Wednesday throughout the month of March, our team spotlighted a different EY woman on our social media channels to showcase how she is building a better working world. The team also amplified EY leader blogs on social media throughout the entire month.

  1. So, what comes next?

With our ongoing Women.Fast forward and #SheBelongs efforts at EY, our firm champions parity and challenges the business community to match its words with real action on equity. We are focused on three distinct areas: women in leadership, women in technology, and women entrepreneurs.

Today, women hold more than 30 percent of our top executive positions at EY US and represented 40 percent of our 2020 class of promoted partners/principals. Women also account for half of our full-time campus hires and more than 40 percent of our experienced hires.

We have been on our diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) journey for more than 20 years. Much has changed during that time, but our commitment has remained constant. Recently we published a DEI transparency report that has not only encouraged our leaders to talk more openly about our DEI journey but also to keep EY accountable as we continue to strive for further progress.


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USF PRSSA Students Host Professional Civility Panel

By Michelle Brooks, Bulls United and PRSSA Member

Bulls United, a group of student leaders from the University of South Florida, hosted a panel as a pilot program for its PRSSA 2021 Bateman Competition campaign submission. The Bateman Competition is an annual case study competition for public relations students across the nation to create a comprehensive communications campaign for a client. The ultimate goal of this specific campaign was to lead a larger national conversation about the need to reverse the corrosion of civility in American life.

As the final implementation of their #PRacticewhatyouPReach social media campaign, Bateman United members invited public relations professionals from the PRSA Tampa Bay chapter to attend a professional civility panel discussing the intersections of civility, diversity, and inclusion. PRSA Tampa Bay’s Diversity and Inclusion committee chair Kecia Carroll moderated the panel which included Shayla O’Keeffe, global communications program manager at Jabil; and Kevin Bakewell, principal at Bakewell Public Relations LLC and PR4Nonprofits.

In this discussion, civility was defined as ‘formal politeness and courtesy in behavior and speech and recognized as a vital aspect that coexists with a value for inclusiveness and diversity.

“Civility is about forming an environment that is respectful and equal, and it’s also about standing up against an environment that is disrespectful and unequal,” O’Keeffe said.  “This is how civility in communications is closely tied with current diversity, equity and inclusion work. It’s about actively listening, being an advocate for others, and leading with empathy.”

Civility is often emphasized in professional spaces; but it should be implemented in every aspect of society, speakers said.

“It’s virtually impossible to disconnect the practice of civility from your professional life and personal life,” Bakewell said. “Especially with social media, you have to make it part of everything you do.”

As seen in current events such as protests over racial injustice, the election process, and mask requirements, incivility can be rooted in a lack of understanding differing views. The panelists' solutions included recognizing our biases, being held accountable by people that are different from us, expanding our social groups and social media, and remaining open-minded.

Attendees were given the opportunity to ask the panelists questions and provide their thoughts after the panel discussion. They were also able to sign a pledge against incivility. This pledge promoted the increase of civility through education, workshops, and real-life applications. Visit to learn more about the campaign and take the pledge against incivility.

Bulls United (and PRSSA) members from the University of South Florida include Jose Arroyo, Gabriella Alfonso, Michelle Brooks, Jailyn Hall, Alanna McCary and Brenda Santos.



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Support Our Fundraiser for Ronald McDonald House Charities

The coronavirus continues to afflict Tampa Bay, and our community still needs everyone’s help. Your donation to PRSA Tampa Bay’s latest COVID-19 relief effort can lend a hand.

Ronald McDonald House Charities Tampa Bay provides a home away from home for families that need to stay close to hospitals where their children receive medical treatment. Among its services, the charity provides families with daily meals so they can stay comfortable and cared for during their stay. However, Ronald McDonald House has had to discontinue many in-person services as part of its COVID-19 restrictions, and it now needs financial assistance to keep providing daily meals to families who are no longer able to stay on Ronald McDonald House campuses.   

The Public Relations Society of America Tampa Bay chapter is working with this charity to help raise funds so it can continue to provide these meals. Please make a donation to our effort through our GoFundMe site. Thanks for considering!

Click here to donate to Ronald McDonald House Charities Tampa Bay.

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Member Spotlight: Rachel Kerstetter, APR

This Member Spotlight profiles Rachel Kerstetter, APR, marketing operations director for Integrated Supply Network. She joined PRSA in 2011, through the Greater Cleveland chapter, joined PRSA Tampa Bay in 2020, and currently serves as the chapter’s content and website chair for the Digital Communications Committee.

  1. First news publication you read in the morning?

I usually skim news digest emails from PRSA and the Association of National Advertisers first thing. I also shift between a number of local, business and auto care news outlets.

  1. First public relations job?

My first full-time public relations job was as a public relations coordinator at a small B2B marketing agency in Cleveland working with industrial manufacturers. However, I trace my public relations roots back to a virtual internship (before there even was such a thing!) with an animal welfare nonprofit and a customer service job for a car dealership, which was my main job during college.

Celebrating a successful showing for my team in Cleveland in 2017 with three Rocks Awards, the annual awards program of the PRSA Greater Cleveland chapter.

  1. Most important career mentor, and why?

I’ve had a lot of great mentors in my career; but two of the most important have been my former bosses Matt Sonnhalter, president at Sonnhalter, a manufacturing marketing agency in Cleveland, and Allen Pfenninger, a former vice president at Fahlgren Mortine, an integrated marketing agency in Columbus, Ohio. They helped propel my career by endorsing my skills and abilities to both clients and potential new employers, establishing my credibility to people who would have otherwise underestimated me, and showing confidence in me by giving me stretch assignments that helped me challenge myself and gain experience.

  1. Most rewarding accomplishment in public relations?

Earning my APR last August was incredibly rewarding. I had been thinking about it and planning for it for a long time, and it felt like an even bigger victory earning it during the pandemic, when I had to navigate a new virtual readiness review and exam process. 

Finally meeting my online friend and APR mentor Kristin Ewing, APR, past president of the PRSA Oklahoma City chapter, in person at the PRSA International Conference in Boston in 2017. We originally connected online over a shared medical condition, and then we found out we were both active PRSA chapter leaders! 

  1. Biggest challenge of adapting to the COVID-19 lockdown?

Moving to Tampa, because I had  to adapt to a new city, state, and climate while not being able to go out, explore the area, and make new friends. Professionally, I made a big career jump and transitioned to my new job completely remotely, so forging connections with my new colleagues required more effort than if we had been able to work together in the office.

  1. Advice to new public relations professionals?

Never stop learning. Take advantage of opportunities to do training, ask questions from people in the field and read whatever you can.

With my husband, Brad, in Cleveland in 2016, getting ready to watch the Cleveland Cavaliers win the NBA Finals at a watch party.

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

Pretty much any job that would pay me to read. Narrating audiobooks of novels tops that list right now.

  1. Favorite movie?

It’s tough to choose. I love a variety of movies, but some of my favorites are The Time Traveler’s Wife, My Best Friend’s Wedding and Gattaca.

  1. Favorite vacation?

A trip to London where my husband and I celebrated our eighth anniversary. It was really cool to be able to see so much history, dive into art and literature experiences, and, of course, sample different foods and drinks and experience new things.

Touring HMS Belfast, a World War II warship, on the Thames River in London, with the Tower of London (left) and Tower Bridge (right) in the background.

  1. Any three dinner guests?

My father, Donald Engelhardt, who passed away when I was 22, just when I was getting started, and who there is so much I would love to talk about with now. The other two are tougher choices, but I’d love to sit down with U.S. Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor and former U.K. prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

My husband and me in Maui in 2018, on my second favorite vacation.

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What you need to know about HBCUs: Empowering PR professionals in Tampa Bay

By Gina Spinosa, University of Tampa Chapter of PRSSA

PRSA recently hosted a webinar titled “What You Need to Know about HBCUs: A Reservoir of Public Relations Talent and Desire” as part of its Diverse Dialogues series. The webinar shared different viewpoints about the experiences of students of color at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and how the public relations profession can encourage them. HBCUs are focused on providing a rich education to all students, especially those of color, in a nurturing environment. Many of these schools have programs dedicated to public relations and related majors.

This webinar was moderated by Shanita Akintonde, a professor in The School of Media Arts at Columbia College Chicago. The panelists, representing three HBCUs, included: Dr. Tia C. M. Tyree, Professor and Interim Associate Dean of the Cathy Hughes School of Communications at Howard University; B. DàVida Plummer, Assistant VP for Marketing and Media at Hampton University and Dean at Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications; and Ranata Hughes, Visiting Professor and Internship Coordinator at the School of Journalism & Graphic Communication at Florida A&M University, one of four HBCUs in Florida.

These four women of color discussed the importance of preparing for the next generation of students of color in the public relations field and why diversity and inclusion needs to be prioritized in the industry. Some key takeaways include:

  1. Forget what you know about HBCUs: Tyree said most people think HBCUs are just schools for inner city African Americans, but this is far from the truth. These students hail from all around the world and are on the same level of education and success as those from predominantly white institutions (PWIs). She said HBCUs are institutions where everyone is welcomed and blackness is celebrated in a safe way while challenging their students to be the best in what they do.
  2. Dealing with the pandemic: African American and other students of colors are being affected by COVID-19 in disproportionate ways. Professors and mentors should show grace and understanding while training and reminding their students of the resilience they hold as HBCU members.
  3. Evolving PR courses and tools: As the public relations world continues to evolve, HBCUs will need to use different tools and courses to advance the education of their students. Panelists explained how they train their students in courses from data analytics to journalism in order to give them a wider understanding of the industry.
  4. Getting students involved early: Students must dive into the PR industry even before they graduate. The panelists explained how they teach their students that they must be prepared and how they must be excellence driven to break down barriers. They encourage their students to get internships, join clubs, and do research outside of the classroom about their future profession.
  5. How the industry is changing: In the past few years, we’ve seen greater engagement between industry and HBCU students. This is an important trend which needs to continue in the future, so students can reach their potential and continue to make an impact on the PR profession.

So, what do you do if you are not one of the four HBCUs in Florida, which is the case for the colleges in the Tampa Bay area? As a student at the University of Tampa, which is considered a PWI, I believe our local universities can apply some of these same lessons for supporting students of color. This webinar opened my eyes to the different ways we as a community can provide a different kind of support. We can:

  • Reach out to students while actively empowering them through school and forward into their careers
  • Provide more education about people of color who have made a major impact in the PR industry to motivate them and pave the way for years to come
  • Mentor and advise students just like they do at HBCUs and support them as future public relations professionals. PRSA offers a Mentor Connect program. Mentors and students can learn more here.

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Employee-Led Black History Month Celebration Demonstrates Inclusivity at Lutheran Services Florida

Public relations professionals are used to taking the lead when their organizations communicate important messages internally. But when it came time to celebrate Black History Month this year, the communications team at Lutheran Services Florida took a different approach.

“Typically our communications team and executive leadership plan the content, lead the storytelling and develop and share videos for our virtual events,” said PRSA member Kate Smith and LSF communications manager. “For our Black History Month celebration, employees did all of the planning and hosting, and I was in a supporting role.”

This time employees weren’t just included, they were in charge. LSF honored Black History Month with a virtual celebration that was 100 percent employee-led, with 1,300 employees invited to attend.

The new approach was a hit. The most popular part of the program was a video compilation that played during the celebration. Employees from across the state recorded selfie-style videos answering the question: what do you think people should know about Black history? Employees of different genders, races and nationalities recorded video clips. The resulting video emphasized that Lutheran Services Florida is committed to diversity and inclusion and to promoting a culture where differences are celebrated, and everyone feels included in the organization’s mission.

“This was a powerful example of how helping our employees share their stories had an even greater impact,” added Kate.

So PRSA Tampa Bay members, what do you think people should know about Black history? Feel free to comment here or record your own short selfie-style video and send it to [email protected].

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Member Spotlight: Danielle Bayard Jackson

This Member Spotlight profiles Danielle Bayard Jackson, founder and lead publicist of TELL Public Relations. She joined PRSA Tampa Bay in 2017 and previously served as chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

  1. First news publication you read in the morning?

I like to begin in my email with newsletters like The Daily Skimm and Marketing Brew. Then I check out The Wall Street Journal.

  1. First public relations job?

I transitioned to public relations after being a high school teacher for six years. I parlayed my education experience to move to a position as the public relations representative for Eckerd Connects, a national nonprofit, for my first job.

With my colleagues at TELL Public Relations in early 2020.

  1. Most important career mentor, and why?

I’ve been blessed to have several mentors along the way, and each one has poured into me encouragement, initiative and a little tough love. Paula MacDonald, APR, co-chair of PRSA Tampa Bay’s Accreditation Committee, was kind enough to sit with me before I began my own agency and give me a few pointers, and I really admire her experience and insights.

  1. Most rewarding accomplishment in public relations?

I witnessed a client’s reputation change from negative to relatively positive as a result of a series of positive news pieces that were published. Before we began working with the client, the client had negative press about its policies and was being accused of neglecting vulnerable groups under its care, but with a bit of strategic planning (including highlighting first-person accounts and feel-good stories from the people it serves), the press became more willing to cover the good things as well. This really spoke to the power of what we do in public relations.

Participating in the panel “The Do’s and Don’ts of Your Digital Brand” at an event called Startup Week Tampa Bay in 2019.  

  1. Biggest challenge of adapting to the COVID-19 lockdown?

I used to be able to separate work life from home life, but now that I’m mostly operating from my living room, I find myself sometimes having client meetings with my 2-year-old in my lap! It was initially uncomfortable, but everyone’s been so understanding.

  1. Advice to new public relations professionals?

The best public relations people are in the know. You must constantly be aware of the latest news, consumer behaviors, industry trends and social movements if you want to remain relevant and effective.

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

I’d probably sell vintage clothes or go all in on my side gig as a certified friendship coach (yes, it’s a thing!). I started my coaching business, Friend Forward, in 2019, and the work I do as a friendship coach has even been covered by NBC News!

  1. Favorite movie?

I can’t choose a favorite, but I really like dramas and stories that center around female friendship and platonic love. Now and Then, Girl Interrupted and Waiting to Exhale are a few examples.

With my son, Elijah, and my husband, Ryan, during Thanksgiving last year.

  1. Favorite vacation?

I love New Orleans! But once the pandemic diminishes, I’d like to visit South Africa or Paris.

   10 . Any three dinner guests?

James Baldwin, Michelle Obama and Aziz Ansari.

Celebratory pizza at Oak & Stone in St. Petersburg after landing a new client.



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Between the Lines: Books as Powerful Launchpads for Critical Conversations

By: Linda Hughes-Kirchubel, committee member of PRSA Tampa Bay's Diversity & Inclusion Committee

For millions of us, change was the hallmark of 2020. As we managed through these challenges, we reimagined and reconstituted definitions of “normal,” moved our offices to our kitchen tables, and enjoyed happy hour meetups online. Technology kept us together, but communication built resilience during disruptive times.

In late December, weary of my incessant obligations to online platforms, I began to reprioritize reading for pleasure. I banned my cell phone from my living room, opened a book, and discovered not just escape, but enrichment. Always a two-fisted reader, I chose one “light” book, and one that tackled a serious, timely topic. My best friend, hearing my plan, offered to “buddy read” with me. I was grateful for the opportunity to discuss books that have been had been identified as powerful, important, and socially significant.

Throughout the past year, PRSA and PRSA Tampa Bay, have both taken important action to prioritize creating a more diverse and inclusive community of PR professionals. Books can be powerful launching pads for conversations on these important issues. Our first choice: Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize winner, The Underground Railroad. This novel starkly and heartbreakingly illustrates societal and structural cruelty, apathy, and indifference, and what happens when hope and courage collide with institutions that have woven torture and enslavement into their fabric. It was an appropriate precursor to our next book, Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents. Clearly, passionately, Caste articulates the savagery of European slave traders, owners, and bystanders who collectively contributed to systemic racism that we grapple with today.

Discussing the books, my friend and I sought to interrogate our own assumptions, unconscious bias, and structural privilege, and as tools toward this end, the importance of these books cannot be overstated. We discussed the difficulty in negotiating these truths through the lens of our own skin color, which is white; how we were never the target of an ugly racial slur; how we never worried that authorities would unfairly target our teens for walking down the street. These books are painfully motivating. Neither of us can close these books and move on, unchanged for having read them.

So, what are you reading, or have read, that challenges your preconceived notions, exposes your biases, or helps you understand others just a little better? Share these works with us below, adding a short summary so we can continue the discovery as well as these important conversations.


Linda Hughes-Kirchubel, PhD, is a communication strategist and member of PRSA Tampa Bay’s Diversity and Inclusion committee. As owner of LHK Solutions, she provides marketing and communication services for national, regional and local organizations, and is also adjunct professor at the University of Tampa.

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"Back to Work" with PRSA Tampa Bay

By Linda Hughes-Kirchubel, PhD and PRSA Tampa Bay member

PRSA Tampa Bay diligently works to support and strengthen professionals throughout their career journeys, and that includes help for those impacted by 2020’s extraordinary circumstances. Months after its launch, PRSA Tampa Bay’s Back to Work (BTW) continues its impact, not just locally but across the nation.

In May, with the full thrust of the coronavirus upon Florida, the nation, and the world, the PRSA Tampa Bay group was created in the wake of massive layoffs, furloughs, and downsizing. As the pandemic’s grip tightened locally, employers large and small initiated new work routines, activated remote work practices when possible, and instituted recommended public health guidelines. Ultimately, the virus toppled the labor market.

Amid this unprecedented crisis, PRSA Tampa Bay's Membership Committee, chaired by Bart Graham, reached out to chapter members, and learned many were impacted, and the BTW group was born. Less than a year later, nearly all the group’s founding members have reentered the traditional job force. Others found ways to pivot professionally, and all are continuing to support those who are managing the job search.

In a testament to his diligence and dedication, Graham connected with other PRSA chapters across the nation, encouraging them in their efforts to launch their own BTW groups.

"I came to PRSA Tampa Bay's BTW group after Bart made a presentation at PRSA Los Angeles' Job Club meeting," said Letitia Austin, owner of TISH Public Relations. "The invitation was made for PRSA-LA and PRSA-Tampa Bay members to participate in each other's meetings. I jumped at this opportunity to be a part of both groups because of the expanded networking opportunities and my desire to eventually relocate to Tampa from the Los Angeles area. I have found both groups to be very beneficial."

During each meeting, job seekers share resources with each other, celebrate victories and offer support for current challenges. Members share tips such as resume building, preparing for job interviews, and using the latest job-finding tools. In addition, PRSA Tampa Bay’s BTW members have also helped support other chapters that, inspired by PRSA Tampa Bay, started their own employment-support groups. Meanwhile, presentations from BTW “graduates” who have found employment keep current members inspired by their success.

“This is yet another example of the value of chapter membership,” said Josh Carrasco, APR, President, PRSA Tampa Bay. “Our chapter leaders saw a need and immediately sprang into action to serve our members. The Back to Work support group and its mission illustrates why PRSA Tampa Bay is the leading organization for PR professionals in the region.” 

PRSA Tampa Bay's Back to Work Group is open to all. For more information about the meeting times or PRSA Tampa Bay, contact Membership Chair Bart Graham, [email protected].


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Visit Sarasota County Celebrates Black History Month Through Storytelling

Visit Sarasota County tells incredible stories of Black history on a regular basis, especially in February when the organization honors and celebrates Black History Month.

One story of particular interest highlights the desegregation of Sarasota beaches, the important role Sarasota’s Newtown community played in achieving civil rights and the forward thinking and actions that the community took to break down the barriers of segregation that existed in Sarasota.

“Today Lido Beach is open to everyone, but that wasn’t always the case,” notes Britney Guertin, Communications & Content Manager at Visit Sarasota County and PRSA Tampa Bay member. “In 1955, Sarasota’s Newtown community and its residents arranged caravans to cross the Ringling Bridge to conduct ‘wade-ins’, an act of civil disobedience that ultimately changed history.”

This effort led to Sarasota being added to the U.S. Civil Rights Trail in 2019, ensuring that this incredible story will continue to be told. This short video highlights this important time in Sarasota’s history.

For more stories of Sarasota’s Black history, follow @visitsarasotacounty on Instagram, @visitsarasota on Facebook, and visit:

A Century of Black History in Sarasota. For over 100 years, Black residents played a major role in the development of Sarasota

Tour Sarasota’s Oldest Black Community with Newtown Alive. The Newtown Alive trolley tour leaves no stone unturned in celebrating over a century of African-American history in Sarasota.

From Humble Beginnings to Sarasota Staple: The Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe. Since 1999, Sarasota’s Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe has blossomed into one of our most popular theatre experiences, and has big plans to keep pushing the envelope.

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