PRSA Tampa Bay Member Spotlight: Melissa Reel

We like to put a spotlight on a PRSA Tampa Bay member to learn more about their public relations background, advice on best practices and why they love working in the field.

Next up in our #PRSATB Spotlight is Melissa Reel, marketing coordinator at Design Styles Architecture, who recently made a career switch and now works in public relations.

Name: Melissa Reel
Title: Marketing Coordinator
Company/Organization: Design Styles Architecture
PRSA Involvement (past and present): Active chapter member and Digital Communication Committee participant
Connect with Melissa: LinkedIn & Website.

Tell us a little bit about your career, educational/professional background and how you got to where you are today.
I began my career in the wine and spirits industry where I worked in the State Chain Division for a local distributor for 12+ years as a Key Account Specialist. Soon after I began my position where I worked with high volume accounts and corporate offices, I realized my passion for Marketing and Communication. I decided to return to school where I recently graduated my Bachelors in Advertising and Public Relations with a concentration in Communication from The University of Tampa.

I recently left my job in the wine and spirits industry to persue a position more focused on public relations and marketing, I begin my new position on February 16th as a Marketing Coordinator for Design Styles Architecture, a local architecture firm established in 1998 and is located in Ybor City. Thier client base ranges from private residential to  commerical, as well as The University of Tampa. I am very excited and ready to jump in and embark on this new and exciting chapter in my life.

What do you suggest students do to stand out among applicants in the competitive job market?
My advise to students is to get as many internships and take on independent projects as posssible, this will enable you to obtain experience and diversity in your skillset which will make you more marketable.

What are some of your personal hobbies outside of work/PR? 
Outside of work I enjoy practicing yoga and running, they help enhance my focus as well as keep me energized.

What do you love most about working as a PR professional? 
In my short time so far it has been the diversity of tasks that each day brings. I love to be challenged and, as well using strategy to apply the best tactics necessary to accomplish the goal.

If you're interested in being highlighted in our PRSA Tampa Bay Member Spotlight, please fill out the webform here.

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Welcome New Members, February 2015

Welcome PRSA Tampa Bay new chapter members!

  • Lisa Greene, Tampa General Hospital
  • Ellen Fiss, Tampa General Hospital 
  • Jennifer Wagner, Seminole Electric Cooperative

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What’s Old with New Business

By Joseph Priest, Corporate Writer, Syniverse

It may be the most important document in public relations: the new-business proposal. Whether you work for an agency, a corporation or a nonprofit, a focus on winning new business is a standard part of doing business.

But putting together new-business proposals can sometimes be anything but standard. Oftentimes it involves team efforts that require integrating a range of information about capabilities and experience, recruiting the right colleagues to provide insights to address certain business challenges, and rushing to compile all this information in snazzy booklets under tight deadlines.

Not surprisingly, many grammar-and-style matters can fall through the cracks when this many people touch this much information under this timeline.

In my role as an editor over the past 15 years, I’ve developed my own list of errors that are prone to arise in these situations, and below are six of the most common to be on guard against.

Mistakes in new-business materials are embarrassing, unacceptable and, of course, detrimental to business. Regardless of how much time you have to pull together a proposal, it’s important to always sweat the details and not settle for anything less than perfection.

1. Would you or will you?
When you describe a proposed course of action, you can use the conditional verb tense (would) or the future tense (will): Our team will start by developing an influencer program to identify the leading players in this space who can best spread the word about Company ABC’s message. The conditional tense is less assuming while the future tense expresses stronger intent, but either is OK. However, it’s easy to inadvertently jump back and forth between these two tenses and create a sloppy-reading section. Remember to keep this verb-tense choice consistent throughout a proposal.

2. Mr., Ms., Last Name or First Name?
When you describe the talents of your team in the bio section of proposals, it’s easy to alternate from a formal style (Mr. Joseph Gillis) to a casual one (Joseph) to one in between (Gillis), depending on how a bio was originally written or what style seems most appropriate for a prospect. Although the use of the first name tends to be a more common style nowadays, be sure to choose one style and stick with it in all the bios.

3. A Company Is Only One
When including case studies in a proposal, a common pitfall in describing past work is to refer to a corporation with a plural pronoun: When Company XYZ launched the product, they needed a way to raise awareness. This reflects the informal conversational style of referring to a person or company in a plural form. In writing, however, remember that a corporation is a singular entity and should always be referred to with the singular pronoun “it.”

4. Parallel Structure
Proposals are usually chock full of bulleted lists, so remember the most common error with bulleted lists is a lack of parallel construction. This error not only presents a grammatical issue, but the abruptness of it can read as sloppy thinking, as this example shows:

We offer a range of services to help clients gain media coverage in these ways:

  • Develop a full-scale media strategy with measurable objectives
  • Relationships with reporters of top-tier media
  • Write content, including news releases, fact sheets and byline articles
  • Media monitoring and coverage analysis
  • Provide media training for a number of interview situations.

As you can see, the second and fourth bullet points read inconsistently by not starting with a verb. Remember, if the first bulleted item is a noun, the rest of the items should be nouns. If the first item is a complete sentence, the rest of the items should be as well. Each item should be a continuation of the first bullet point.

5. Watch Your English
If you’re working on a proposal team that includes both British-English and American-English speakers, be sure to choose one kind of English as the standard and designate a native speaker who can act as a final authority in proofing the use of that English, be it British or American. Although these two kinds of English are generally interchangeable, enough differences exist to cause misunderstandings. Here are just a few issues:

  • In American English, periods and commas are always enclosed in closing quotation marks. In British English, however, only those punctuation marks that appear in the original material are enclosed in quotation marks. American English: “I won’t go,” Norma said. British English: “I won’t go”, Norma said.
  • Americans write the abbreviations Mr., Mrs., St. and Dr. with a period. Britons usually, but not always, write such abbreviations as Mr, Mrs, St and Dr, without a period.
  • In British English, collective nouns that represent groups of people generally take a plural verb, unlike American English. British English: The government are on the right course. American English: The government is on the right course.
  • There are a number of words with different spellings or meanings in each language. Here are just some frequently used words related to public relations to keep in mind, with the American-English word given first and the British-English word second: program, programme; center, centre; color, colour; period (the punctuation mark), full stop; anchor (a television news anchor), presenter; ad, advert.

6. One or two?
Finally, this may seem nitpicking, but inconsistent spacing following the end of a sentence does make a difference. For the record, correct spacing after a punctuation mark ending a sentence is one space – not two. With the large number of people who contribute to proposals, it’s likely that this inconsistency will crop up. Try to enforce the one-space rule. To be sure, this is a minor style issue, but it’s the same as if black text were used in part of a proposal and gray text in another part. It’s small but noticeable. Any inconsistency you can eliminate will make the final product better.

Got a PR grammar or style question? Bring it on. Reach me at


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The GoDaddy Doggy, Crisis Communication 101

By Melissa Reel, Key Account Specialist at Premier Beverage Company

Understanding how to effectively manage a crisis in the realm of public relations is imperative to maintain the integrity of any company, as well as its future reputation. On any given day, any company can be subject to an immediate crisis and having a solid contingency plan in place can make the difference on how the company image can recover unscathed.

GoDaddy is no stranger to controversy; their edgy and sometimes zany commercials are evidence. However, their ads do deliver the publicity they are looking for. This years Super Bowl XLIX ad is an example of their reach for publicity gone awry. The commercial is spoof on the current Budweiser ad that features a lost puppy, who was safely delivered back to his home. The GoDaddy version titled “ Journey Home” features the puppy safely making it home, however only to be sold on the family’s GoDaddy website.

While fans love the commercial, GoDaddy has fallen short according to many animal lovers and activist alike. More than 35,000 people signed in an online petition and took to social media outlets like Twitter and Face book on Tuesday and demanded the commercial be removed citing concerns over animal cruelty. In response to the ad and the out pour of support for Buddy, GoDaddy quickly responded by pulling the commercial.

GoDaddy's reaction to pulling the commercial was a swift and expedient move in crisis communication tactics. GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving immediately issued and an online apology statement titled “We’re Listening, Message Received”, he expressed the intention of a play on the current Budweiser “Lost Puppy” commercial.

In crisis management providing accurate and timely information to your stakeholders is imperative; however the information must be disseminated on the platforms which reach your current audience.

Below are some tips to consider when planning a Crisis Communication Strategy

  • Prepare a contingency plan which can customize according to your industry.
  • Develop a “Dark” Website, this website will help communicate pertinent information to your publics, as well as tell your side of the story and be launched within minutes of the crisis taking place.
  • Create a stakeholder list, this information provide a list of key persons which are affected by the crisis
  • Create a list of key media, bloggers, and social media to quickly communicate information to your audience.
  • Train a company appointed spokesperson on how to face media and online scrutiny
  • Develop team roles
  • Integrate the crisis plan with company plan


For more information on Crisis Communication, the PRSA Website offers free On-Demand Crisis Communication webinars

You can also visit the website to register for the upcoming Strategic Collaboration Conference on March 19th, which features Key Note Speaker Melissa Agnes

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Game Day. Every Day.

By Lynn Hobeck Bates, APRCommunications Manager for Visit Sarasota County

With the slogan, Game day. Every day, Rob Higgins, Director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission, understands just how competitive it is to attract major sporting events to the destination. It takes perseverance, dedication and the willingness to put in a lot of sweat-equity. It also takes business-acumen and creativity. Take for instance a fun, homemade video used in a bid to host a major basketball competition. The video showcases just how close a new hotel is to the game day location. It’s so close one can make a long shot from its balcony. Clever.

The Sports Commission’s mission is to provide economic and social impact to the region. Economically-speaking the commission is responsible for bringing millions of dollars in tourist tax collection to the region. Events such as the upcoming NCAA Women's Final Four basketball tournament, NCAA Men's Final Four hockey tournament -- the Frozen Four will not only bring athletes who will stay in hotels for several nights but it attracts thousands of fans who will travel for several days to cheer on their teams. Sporting events are not limited to major collegiate and professional sports. Youth and amateur sports bring a considerable amount of economic revenue and benefit to the area as well.

Socially-speaking the Sports Commission helps generate scholarship exposure for local athletes. To this end, they own and operate 14 local youth events and hold recruiting fairs for athletes to attend Division III schools. “Often times these kids may not even go to college if it weren’t for the athletic scholarship,” says Higgins. They also run the Event Development Institute where new sporting events are created and supported.

So what does success look like on their scorecard? “[We] don’t deem it a success unless [the sporting event] comes back a second time to Tampa Bay,” said Higgins.

Keeping athletes, sports event organizers and spectators happy ensures this success. Sometimes this even means climbing into the rafter’s to stop a rain leak during a live, nationally televised Final Four basketball game.

Higgins imparted words to live by in any business, game or, just life in general,

  • Be a part of the solution, not of the problem.
  • Never burn a bridge you may have to walk back over.
  • If you aren’t at the table, you are on the menu.
  • Be a chess player, not a chess piece.
  • Always be a student.

To learn more about the Tampa Bay Sports Commission, visit the website:

To see more upcoming PRSA Tampa Bay chapter events, click here.

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Become an APR in 2015!

By Melissa Reel, Key Account Specialist, Premier Beverage Company

As we enter the New Year, PRSA celebrates its 50th Golden Anniversary of its Accreditation in Public Relations Program (APR). There is no time like the present to hit ground running and sign up for the Spring/Summer 2015 prep sessions to help you prepare for the APR test before August 3rd.

Launched in 1964, the APR and APR+M certification program embodies the dedication and experience of more than 5,000 PR professionals. The accreditation process last roughly over 4 months and consist of mentoring, a review questionnaire, readiness review, and 7 pre-exam prep sessions. The process begins when a candidate submits an eligibility application, which is due by March 15, 2015.

Once approved those candidates are assigned a mentor to assist them along the way. The mentor helps by reviewing the candidate’s portfolios, offer suggestions, and providing one-on-one expert guidance for the Readiness Review Presentation. The APR and APR+M prep sessions consist of 7 in-depth classes beginning June 6th lasting through July 14th. Topics discussed in the classes cover a range of sections on the exam, as well as enhance their existing PR knowledge.

Items such as, the PRSA Code of Ethics, Crisis Communications and Business Literacy are only a few of the various topics which are covered during the duration of the prep sessions. These intensive sessions help with preparation, plus reinforce the existing foundation of PR knowledge. Enhance your career and join the ranks of the 5,000+ who have already earned this highly regarded APR and APR+M accreditation.

See the materials below for more information on the upcoming classes:
Chapter Accreditation Process | Spring, 2015
Chapter Accreditation Schedule | Spring, 2015

Visit for more information about the Accreditation process, contact:

Michelle Griffith, APR
Clearview Communications+PR
Tampa, FL 33606
(813) 374-3735

Suzanne Grant, APR
Duke Energy
St. Petersburg, FL 33701

In 1964, "leaders established the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credential as a way to recognize practitioners who have mastered the knowledge, skills and abilities needed to develop and deliver strategic communications. Decades later, as public relations evolved, the APR remains the recognized gold standard for the profession." The APR is celebrating its 50th anniversary as a professional accreditation for PR professionals.

Learn more on PRSA's national website here.

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Do you know that PRSA Tampa Bay has its own YouTube channel?

By Paula MacDonald, owner of Image Suite PR

Many experts are predicting that 2015 will be the “Year of Video” and PRSA Tampa Bay is ready. Do you know we have nearly 30 videos posted on our YouTube channel and have had a channel for three years now?

You can find it at, and I encourage you to check it regularly. The channel includes a variety of on-the-scene meeting highlights as well as informative sound bites and interviews with fellow PRSA Tampa Bay members.

Video is a compelling format for grabbing attention in a world that has become overrun by messages. It enables storytelling in a concise, personal manner that viewers enjoy. The medium is so popular that there are currently over 4 BILLION downloads on YouTube every day! (I wonder how many of those are cat videos?)

Since it’s becoming clear that the use of video in storytelling is increasingly becoming a necessity for communications professionals, this year, PRSA Tampa Bay is focused on developing more effective video communications tools to engage our members and attract new members. The digital communications committee, which web, social media, newsletter and video communications, is working hard to develop a plan to support all of our committees in developing the storytelling tools necessary to keep members up-to-date on news and events.

If you would like to volunteer your time and talent to supporting development of our YouTube channel or other digital communications, we would welcome your help! Please email digital communications chair Kimberly Polacek, APR, at for more information.

Additionally, if you are interested in appearing on the other side of the camera in one of our PRSA Tampa Bay Member Spotlights, please visit to complete the questionnaire, and we will be in touch to schedule your video shoot.

We hope to have you on or behind the camera soon!

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President's Message

Happy New Year! 2015 has much in store for PRSA Tampa Bay members. This year we celebrate our chapter's 50th year, kick off our PRestige Awards, rejuvenate our relationship with PRSSA and offer more opportunities for public service and member scholarships.

Have you thought about volunteering for PRSA Tampa Bay and didn't know where to start? The coming year provides many unique opportunities to maximize your membership through volunteering. If you have been thinking about getting involved in the chapter there has never been a better time. 

Ways to get involved:

  • Membership: Communicate with current and prospective members
  • Programs: Show your event planning, creativity and strategic-thinking skills by helping to plan and implement our monthly programs

  • Professional Development Day and Media Roundtable are two of our most popular events: Help contact quality presenters, secure venues, plan content and operations

  • PRestige Awards: Set the foundation for our inaugural awards ceremony by planning, operations and judging of communications campaign awards

  • Digital communications: create blog content, manage the website (no coding required), communicate through social media and eNews

  • Accreditation: APRs can help candidates through the process and receive hours for their accreditation maintenance

  • Agency Leaders: Network with other independent practitioners and agencies and plan and provide opportunities to grow your business

  • Diversity: Provide professional development opportunities to learn about diversity and provide assistance to diverse chapter members. 

  • Sponsorship: Work with other volunteers and businesses to secure sponsors for events and year-long opportunities

We've made it simple to match your interest areas with available volunteer opportunities. Check them out:

Fill out a volunteer application:

If you have volunteering questions contact Volunteer Coordinators Mary O'Hara or Carrie Johnson at

We look forward to your participation in the chapter! Please feel free to reach out to me if you have comments, suggestions or questions

Looking forward to meeting you this year!
Marissa Segundo, APR 
President, PRSA Tampa Bay

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2014, what an amazing year to celebrate!

It’s been an honor to serve as your president during this milestone year for PRSA Tampa Bay. We recognized not just one, but two 50-year anniversaries: The founding of our chapter in 1964 and the start of the national APR accreditation program a half-century ago.

In addition, our chapter membership has continued to grow as we’ve added more public relations professionals to our fold. Today, we stand at 224 members – an increase of more than 10 percent over the last years.

Our programs have flourished too. We kicked off the year with almost sold-out programs on writing skills and strategic communications planning, and ended just as strongly with excellent programs on media training and diversity outreach.

It’s taken many years of dedicated leadership and enthusiastic volunteers to reach these goals. It truly is a combined team effort to bring you the high-quality programs, networking opportunities and industry news that make up the backbone of your chapter membership.

Thank you to our board members, committee chairs and other volunteers for all your hard work this year. I have no doubt that PRSA Tampa Bay will continue to grow and reach even greater heights as we enter 2015.

Happy holidays!

Lisa Braswell, APR
2014 President
PRSA Tampa Bay

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Congratulations to PRSA Tampa Bay's APRs, Spring Class Approaching

Congratulations to PRSA Tampa Bay's newest APRs:
Mary Margaret Hall Cripe, APR
Lesley Campos Valentin, APR
Betty Carlin, APR

The next Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) class will be in the spring beginning with the application for eligibility and preparation due March 15.

See the materials below for more information on the upcoming classes:
Chapter Accreditation Process | Spring, 2015
Chapter Accreditation Schedule | Spring, 2015

In 1964, "leaders established the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credential as a way to recognize practitioners who have mastered the knowledge, skills and abilities needed to develop and deliver strategic communications. Decades later, as public relations evolved, the APR remains the recognized gold standard for the profession." The APR is celebrating its 50th anniversary as a professional accreditation for PR professionals.

Learn more on PRSA's national website here or contact Michelle Griffith, APR at

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