Breakout Session Spotlight: McDonald’s Works for the Communities             

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sign up now to volunteer for the PRSA Sunshine District Conference

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some of the volunteer positions include:

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

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

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

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

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PRSA Tampa Bay Helps Job Seekers at Met. Min.

By Joseph Priest, APR

Sometimes, PR professionals can demonstrate the best of PR when they’re not directly doing PR. Our chapter’s recent participation in a résumé review session at the Metropolitan Ministries main office was one of these times.

On May 21, the Public Service Committee organized our participation in a résumé-review and job-search counseling session for disadvantaged job seekers as part of Metropolitan Ministries’ life skills program. The 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 lives and prepare for a new future.  

Our team took part in one of these workshops to help about 20 economically disadvantaged job seekers who were looking to rebuild their business writing and personal communication skills in order to restart their careers.

Three of our members participated:

  • Leslie Allen
  • Karen McAllister
  • Joseph Priest

Our team: (from left) Karen McAllister; Noel Ramos, Director of Employment Services, Metropolitan Ministries, and coordinator of the session; Leslie Allen; and Joseph Priest.

Our afternoon consisted of the three of us presenting our top writing and job-search tips to the attendees; dividing into three groups where each of us evaluated a different group of the attendees’ résumés on areas such as neatness, organization, and effectiveness; and then meeting with each attendee to share our feedback and provide general advice on their job-search strategies.


Leslie Allen shares her job-search communication tips.

Although we just had a few hours to contribute, our team had an amazingly rewarding experience. We were able to offer high-level communication advice to job seekers who don’t normally have access to this kind of counsel.


In particular, many of the typical job seekers in the Metropolitan Ministries program are different than many of the typical PR candidates that we more commonly work with in that they are older, have already had several jobs in a diversity of areas, and may face special challenges with their ability to work or with their job histories. These challenges can include having regular access to transportation, having special family needs, or having health problems.


Karen McAllister offers feedback on a job seeker’s résumé.

The way our team came together to apply our skills to address these different challenges and give personal counsel to the candidates truly exemplified both the professional value and community benefit of what our profession offers. It was rewarding to be a part of this event, and rewarding to be a part of PRSA Tampa Bay.

The Public Service Committee is planning to build on this session with similar events later this year. Stay tuned for more details on

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2019 AP Stylebook Updates to Know

By Joseph Priest, APR

“Asian-American” is now “Asian American”; “10 percent” is “10%”; and “Beyonce” is “Beyoncé.” So says the leading journalistic authority whose stylebook most PR pros follow.

In recent years, introducing Associated Press style changes at the annual conference of the Society for Editing (formerly the American Copy Editors Society but still referred to as “ACES”) has become a tradition. The AP Stylebook editors announce the newest changes in a session that has become one of the biggest events of the conference and always draws a jam-packed room.

In the last several years, some of those changes have been earth-shattering, like taking the hyphen out of “e-mail,” allowing “over” to indicate quantitative relationships as well as spatial, and permitting “they” to refer to a singular subject. This year was a little less dramatic, but still brought some big changes.

For the last three conferences, at St. Pete, Chicago, and, this year, Providence, I’ve had the fortune to be able to attend and, as a member of the organization, offer some representation from PR writers. Below is a rundown of some of the biggest changes that I took away from this year’s conference along with perspectives that I think are important for PR pros to know. The stylebook entries for these changes will be included in the new paperback version of the AP Stylebook and have already been added to the online version.

I hope they’re a help with your writing. If you have any questions or thoughts on them, I would love to know. Please write me at [email protected].   

The AP Stylebook session begins.

This year, many of the changes centered on racial, ethnic, and gender entries. This is a delicate but expanding area of style that always requires care. To provide greater assistance in this area, the stylebook has consolidated many of its entries under a new section titled “race-related coverage.”

Paula Froke (left), executive director of Associated Press Media Editors and editor of the AP Stylebook, and Colleen Newvine, Associated Press product manager, prepare to announce the latest updates. 

Here are some of the top changes:

  • No more hyphens in national-heritage expressions - The stylebook decided to drop hyphens in expressions denoting dual heritage, like “Asian-American,” “African-American” and others. The decision was made after consultation with members of journalism organizations and affinity groups. Dropping a hyphen does not appear to be a big deal, but it reflects a growing acknowledgment among news organizations that racial and ethnic identities are individual, that the individuals have differing views on how to portray themselves, and that news organizations should be aware of those desires.
  • Using “Latino” - The stylebook also now says that “Latino is often the preferred noun or adjective” for people of Spanish heritage. “Latina” is the feminine form. As for the gender-neutral “Latinx,” the stylebook says its use “should be confined to quotations, names of organizations or descriptions of individuals who request it and should be accompanied by a short explanation.”
  • “Indians” and “American Indians” - The entry on “Native Americans” was also revised. Where the previous entry allowed the use of “Indian” to refer to “Native Americans” or “American Indians” (the terms themselves are a matter of preference), the new entry says it should not be used as shorthand for “American Indians” and should be reserved for people from South Asia or the nation of India.

Other announcements also marked some big changes:

  • The “%” symbol is legal – The AP is now allowing the use of “%” with figures instead of requiring “percent.” Instead of “the stock rose 3 percent,” copy that follows AP style can now read “the stock rose 3%.” One reason for not making this change earlier relates to the AP’s client base. Because news organizations have different computer systems to receive AP copy, the material transmitted by the AP must be digestible by them all. In the past, AP warned against sending “nontransmitting symbols” like “*,” “@,” “~,” and the like. Though some systems still can’t digest those, “%” can generally get through now.

“%” is sanctioned.

  • Yes way, José - The AP also advised against transmitting any accent marks for the same reason. This, too, has changed: a revised entry allows “accent marks or other diacritical marks with names of people who request them or are widely known to use them, or if quoting directly in a language that uses them.” There is still the caveat that some systems won’t accept them, and it is not blanket permission to use accents on words in English that have them or need them for pronunciation. The AP clarified this usage by explaining that accents are for “people, not places, things, foods, weather systems or anything else.” So, the name of the star from the movie Bridget Jones’s Diary can now be written “Renée Zellweger,” with the accent mark in the first name, but no accent mark would be used for words like “entree,” “cafe,” “décor” or “jalapeno.”
  • Debunking a myth further - Split infinitives are now even more OK. The previous entry said this: “In general, avoid awkward constructions that split infinitive forms of a verb (to leaveto help, etc.) or compound forms (had leftare found out, etc.).” It continued: “Occasionally, however, a split is not awkward and is necessary to convey the meaning.” The new entry takes a stronger position that splitting infinitives is OK: “In many cases, splitting the infinitive or compound forms of a verb is necessary to convey meaning and make a sentence easy to read. Such constructions are acceptable.” Here’s an example of how avoiding the splitting of an infinitive can make a sentence awkward: “She went to the store personally to thank the employees.” In this case, avoiding a split infinitive – by keeping “personally” out of the middle of “to thank” – results in an awkward construction. The most natural interpretation of “personally” in that place in the sentence is that the woman in question went to the store personally, as if there’s a way to go to a store without going there personally. Of course, the much more natural and common way to write the sentence above is with the infinitive split: “She went to the store to personally thank the employees.” As the AP Stylebook’s slowness in taking a stronger position on split infinitives shows, the myth that splitting an infinitiveis somehow wrong is one of the hardest to kill.
  • “Data” is right - Finally, formalizing the practice that has become widespread for this word, the AP now says “data” typically takes singular verbs and pronouns when used for general audiences and in journalism contexts. For example: “The data was collected over two years.” This follows a long-growing practice. Although the singular form of this word – “datum” – technically still exists, it’s almost never used outside scientific writing, and most language authorities have come to agree that “data” has become a collective noun, like “information.” Good riddance, “datum”!

Me at the annual conference for the Society for Editing (also known as “ACES,” for its former name, the American Copy Editors Society) in Providence, where I was joined by over 800 editors from a wide variety of digital media, print media, corporate communications, book publishing, academia and government.

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PRSA Tampa Bay recognizes outstanding PR students

The end of the academic semester was a busy and professionally rewarding period for PRSA Tampa Bay as we awarded scholarships to four amazing PR students -- three at the University of South Florida and one at The University of Tampa -- and had the pleasure of congratulating the founding president of the UT PRSSA Chapter for her recognition as Outstanding Public Relations Student.

Kirk Hazlett, APR, Fellow PRSA, represented PRSA Tampa Bay on April 18 at the USF 2019 Honors and Awards Banquet and had the opportunity to congratulate Kayley Alsina and Jessica Schmidtetter for having been awarded the John Cassato Scholarship as well as Jaiya Williams, recipient of the Walter E. Griscti Scholarship.

The John Cassato Scholarship “is designated for an undergraduate public relations student and is awarded each fall semester…in memory of John Cassato, a former public relations officer of the Jim Walter Corporation. This scholarship requires residency in the 15-county area served by the Tampa Bay PRSA chapter, an overall GPA of 3.0, enrollment in 12 or more hours at USF, and enrollment in or completion of at least one PR course.”

The Walter E. Griscti Scholarship “is designated for undergraduate public relations students. The scholarship is awarded each spring semester…in memory of USF professor emeritus Walter E. Griscti, AAPR. The scholarship requires residency in the 15-county area served by the Tampa Bay PRSA chapter, a 3.0 overall GPA, enrollment in 12 or more hours at USF, and enrollment in or completion of at least one PR course.”

On April 29, Kirk and PRSA Tampa Bay President Jenna Stock attended UT’s College of Arts and Letters’ Awards Ceremony, with Jenna presenting the first-ever “Emerging Professional” scholarship to sophomore/budding PR star Olivia Cowden. Although Olivia was unable to attend the ceremony as she is studying abroad in Florence, Italy, Jenna’s remarks underscored the importance of this recognition by the leading public relations organization in the Tampa Bay area. And when Olivia is back on campus in the fall, a formal in-person presentation of the scholarship will take place.

The “PRSA Tampa Bay Emerging Professional” scholarship is awarded to a UT student who has demonstrated an active interest in public relations as his or her career path. He or she also will have declared public relations as his or her specific area of study (minor or concentration) and will have an exemplary grade point average. Additional qualifying distinctions will include active involvement, preferably with a public relations focus, in on-campus organizations and activities and, ideally, completion of one or more public relations internships. 2019 is the first year that this recognition has been offered, and we look forward to many more!

Finally, Jenna and Kirk congratulated Emilie Sears, graduating senior and founding president of UT PRSSA, for her recognition by the university’s Communication Department as Outstanding Public Relations Student. Emilie has embraced public relations as her chosen career path and has been an untiring champion for the benefits of professional organization involvement as a way for aspiring public relations practitioners to begin establishing their own identities. Emilie is now embarking on her search for an entry-level position that will allow her to put her studies and her hands-on experience gained through multiple PR internships to good use.

If these recent experiences are any indication, public relations profession of the future will be in very, very good hands!

Kirk Hazlett, APR, Fellow PRSA, congratulates USF scholarship recipients (left to right) Jessica Schmidtetter, Jaiya Williams, and Kayley Alsina


Two presidents at once! PRSA Tampa Bay President Jenna Stock congratulates UT PRSSA Founding President Emilie Sears


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Join PRSA Tampa Bay for one (or all) of our May events!

If you attend three great PRSA Tampa Bay events scheduled this month, it's likely you’ll accomplish some of your New Year’s resolutions. 

Did you resolve to get out more and network with PR professionals?
Then come to the PRSA Tampa Bay Networking Mixer on Thursday, May 16 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. It’s free for PRSA Tampa Bay members and only $10 for others. You’ve still got time to register for the mixer by going to the PRSA Tampa Bay events page.

Did you decide to spend more time helping others?
Your assistance will be welcomed at a resume review session for disadvantaged job seekers on Tuesday, May 21 at the Metropolitan Ministries Outreach Center in Tampa. To sign up for the resume review session, or to get more information about it, please see this article or contact Joseph Priest at  [email protected]

Did you vow to learn more about data and analytics this year?
If so, sign up for “Analyzing Earned and Owned Media to Create Your Super Strategy” with Brandon Andersen of Ceralytics. It’s a lunch session on Wednesday, May 22 at Besito Mexican restaurant in Westshore Plaza.

All this means May is a big month for Tampa Bay professionals, but don’t forget – so is July.  Now is the time to sign up for the July 25-27 PRSA Suncon Conference, which will be held right in our own backyard at the Hilton Tampa Downtown. Early bird pricing ends tomorrow, May 15. Find a speaker’s list here and register here.

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Volunteer for May 21 Résumé Review at Metropolitan Ministries

Join PRSA Tampa Bay on Tuesday, May 21, in giving back to our community at a résumé review session at Metropolitan Ministries!

As part of our chapter’s public service initiative, we’re recruiting volunteers to donate a couple of hours to participate in a workshop that is part of Metropolitan Ministries’ life skills program. We’ll be hosting a session with 10 to 20 economically disadvantaged job seekers who are looking to rebuild their business writing and personal communication skills in order to restart their careers. The session will include individual résumé reviews as well as a presentation with best practices for writing and interviewing.  

Please lend your expertise to help us help our community. Email Joseph Priest at [email protected] to register or find out more information.

Metropolitan Ministries résumé review session

Tuesday, May 21, 1:30-3 p.m.

Metropolitan Ministries Outreach Center
2301 N. Tampa St.
Tampa, FL 33602

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PRSA SunCon: Early Bird Deadline Extended to May 15

There’s still time to register at a discounted rate for the PRSA 2019 Sunshine District Conference being held in Tampa, July 25-27, 2019.  The Early Bird deadline has been extended to May 15.

With nationally known speakers, an array of breakout sessions and great networking opportunities, the PRSA 2019 Sunshine District Conference offers the best professional development opportunities for public relations and communications professionals across Florida.

"This conference provides professional communicators with programming from local and national experts along with terrific networking opportunities at an affordable price," said Betty Carlin, APR, conference co-chair. "For Tampa Bay PRSA members, it’s also a great opportunity to come to this conference while it's in our own back yard."

Visit for a speaker’s list and registration information for the July 25-27 conference in Tampa.

The conference in the Hilton Tampa Downtown will feature four keynote speakers:

  • Sara Evans, digital strategist and global brand correspondent
  • Debra Peterson, national PRSA chair
  • Kanika Tomalin, deputy mayor and city administrator, St. Petersburg, Florida
  • Morra Aarons Mele, author of Hiding in the Bathroom: How to Get Out There When You’d Rather Stay Home

And there’s a robust offering of 18 different breakout sessions allowing participants to pick and choose as they wish, or to follow along specific tracks such as: marketing communications; digital communications; leadership and management; big data and measurement; reputation and crisis management; and tools and techniques.

Conference co-chair Jenna Stock adds “This year’s theme “Knowledge Is Treasure” aims to equip attendees with an opportunity to personalize programming to meet their professional development needs while offering unique opportunities to explore the hidden treasures of Downtown Tampa.”

A Thursday night reception hosted by PRSA Sunshine District and sponsored by Business Wire and a Friday night reception sponsored by Visit Tampa Bay also will offer fun activities, refreshments and a chance to meet public relations and communications colleagues from across Florida.

The Sunshine District includes PRSA members from all over Florida including: the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chapter; the Gulf Coast Chapter; the Miami Chapter; the North Florida Chapter; the Orlando Regional Chapter; the Palm Beach Chapter; and the Tampa Bay Chapter.

By the way, volunteers are needed! Learn more about the opportunities by contacting:

Mark your calendar and set your compass for Tampa Bay, July 25-27, 2019.

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Share Your Knowledge: Write for the PRSA Tampa Bay Blog

As a PRSA member, you know how many talented communicators come to our meetings, trainings and mixers. You’ve learned some great PR tips from our speakers, as well as from the people you happened to sit next to at lunch.

So here’s a way to continue the conversation — write for this blog.

The PRSA Tampa Bay blog may be the best way to reach the region’s leading communicators. As PR practitioners, we’re all looking for ways to master our craft and learn about new techniques and tools.

That’s why we’d like to hear from you. The PRSA Digital Communications team would love to see your posts on:

  • New pitches and campaigns that have worked especially well in Tampa Bay
  • What’s next in social media platforms
  • Profiles of speakers who will be presenting at the PRSA Sunshine District Conference
  • And more


Keep the posts to 500 words or less. Generally speaking, we’re looking for posts written by PRSA members that help educate people about PR techniques or ethical issues. Posts should not promote one particular company or product.

If you are a PRSA member and have an idea for a blog post, feel free to contact Curtis Krueger at [email protected] or simply send your proposed post to [email protected]. Our team will get back to you with edits or questions.

We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

— Curtis Krueger, APR, digital content committee chair; and the PRSA Tampa Bay Digital Communications Committee


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PRSA Sunshine District Conference Member-Only Scholarship

As a benefit to our valued chapter members, PRSA Tampa Bay is offering two scholarships for chapter members to attend the 2019 Sunshine District Conference. This year’s conference is July 25-27 at the Hilton Tampa Downtown in Tampa, Fla. Learn more about the conference here.

About the scholarship: The scholarship recipients will be required to perform a volunteer role during the conference. Be sure to indicate in your application which role(s) you are willing to perform, if you are awarded a scholarship. The Tampa Bay Chapter scholarship will cover the conference registration fee.

Deadline to apply: 5 p.m., Wednesday, May 8.

Judging: A selection committee from another PRSA chapter will review and choose the scholarship recipients based on merit and need.

Winners will be notified by May 17.

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