USF PRSSA Résumé Review/Mixer - Oct. 11

Help wanted! We need your expertise for a résumé review session with USF’s PRSSA chapter so we can help future PR professionals put their best foot forward after graduation.

PRSA judges will receive student résumés in advance and evaluate them on areas such as organization, strategy and effectiveness. Then, on October 11, the judges will meet at USF to discuss their impressions with the students in person as well as offer general advice about public relations careers.

We’ll conclude the evening with a mixer with dinner, where everyone can get to know each other better. 

Please lend your expertise and join us for the review session and a light dinner.

When: Thursday, October 11, 5:45 –7:15 p.m.

Location: USF Marshall Center, 4103 Cedar Circle, Rm. 3700, Tampa FL 33620

To volunteer as a reviewer, email Kirk Hazlett at [email protected]

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Start with the Story

By: Laura Neff-Henderson, APR

As a society, we are well on our way to automating everything.

Autonomous vehicles may soon replace truck drivers and taxi drivers on our highways. In time, cars will become better at self-repair and through artificial intelligence, chatbots could “learn” to have verbal conversations with humans, self-service postal machines may replace human transactions, and parking meters will “write” tickets.

The Bureau of Labor statistics projects that by 2024 the U.S. economy will need 50 percent less car mechanics, 42 percent less telephone operators, 26 percent less postal clerks, and 20 percent less parking enforcement officers.

That technology has left many professionals across the world wondering whether computers will replace us. Fortunately, the answer for those of us who work in creative industries, is an unequivocal “no” according to Microsoft Storyteller Miri Rodriguez.

“The ‘why’ is the heart of the story, and it’s the one thing robots don’t have,” said Rodriguez, who was the closing speaker at the Sunshine District Conference in Jupiter, Florida, in July 2018. Rodriguez is an award-winning creative journalist and one of 4,000 storytellers who work with Microsoft worldwide. She is one of three Information Technology Showcase storytellers who work in the company’s Redmond, Washington office.

At Microsoft, she explained, their creative teams are focusing on helping the tech giant humanize its brand - making human connections between their company and their customers.

“Our focus has shifted from the product to the person,” explained Rodriguez.

The company’s mission during Bill Gate’s leadership was “a computer in every household.”

Under current CEO Satya Nadella, their mission is "to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more." 

“At Microsoft we’re really talking about how we’re using our technologies to [improve people’s lives]. By telling stories about how their customers are using Microsoft products, the company is building a following, and earning trust.  In other words, Microsoft is taking a back seat and writing stories that position their customers as heroes, and their products as the trusty sidekick.

We should all “start with the story,” said Rodriguez who believes storytelling is one of the most effective ways to connect with an audience and move it to action.

“Story is not just a story, it’s a strategy to connect with your business and your customers,” said Rodriguez.

Check out a few examples of the stories Microsoft is telling about how their products are improving their customer’s lives.

  • A video that features a location scout who travels the world looking for the perfect places to shoot films and uses her Surface Pro to edit her drone footage, retouch her photos and create presentations, from anywhere.
  • In a commercial, blogger Courtney Quinn tells the story of how she creates mood boards, edits content, and takes it everywhere with her thanks to her Microsoft Surface Laptop.
  • On their Story Lab website, the story of Matthew Bennett, an audio creative director who tested more than 400 sounds before landing on “the” sound users here an email arrives, or your battery runs low, makes company employees relatable.
  • Another feature story on the Story Lab website reveals to readers how the company new office building in Silicon Valley is having a positive impact on the local community through green technology.



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Member Spotlight: Alexandra Booth

This Member Spotlight profiles Alexandra Booth, who is Public Relations Coordinator at DJ Public Relations. Alexandra joined the chapter this year and is a member of the Social Media Team on the Digital Communications Committee.

1. First news publication you read in the morning?

Besides checking several sources on Twitter, I read the Daily Skimm, a newsletter-type email by theSkimm that provides a recap of the latest news. I enjoy the writing style and conciseness of the news summaries each day.

2. First public relations job?

Public Relations Coordinator at DJ Public Relations, where I started this year after graduating from the University of Florida last year. After having had an internship working for an association, I now enjoy working in a different side of PR, with clients and different campaigns.

3. Most important career mentor, and why?

Betty Carlin, APR, who is Assembly Delegate on the 2018 PRSA Tampa Bay Board of Directors and Co-chair of 2019 PRSA Sunshine District Conference, and a mentor who has given me great advice about the industry as well as access to her network of public relations colleagues, which led me to my first internship and my current position. Also, she brought me as a guest to my first PRSA event, which inspired me to join the chapter a week later.

4. Top grammar, style or writing pet peeve?

Definitely use of the Oxford comma. My degree is in journalism, so it was drilled into me a long time ago that the Oxford comma is against AP style, and it’s stuck with me ever since.

5. Most rewarding accomplishment in public relations?

Too early to say really, since it’s so early in my career. But now that I’m situated as a new PR professional in Tampa and a new member of PRSA Tampa Bay, I’m really excited about what’s ahead.

6. Advice to new public relations professionals?

Network, network, network. It’s so important to connect with professionals in your field to not only learn from them, but to earn their trust and have them become your advocate to other professionals.

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

A zoologist. I loved going to ZooTampa at Lowry Park as a child and still love learning animal facts.

8. Favorite movie?

As of late, my favorite movie is The Post.

9. Favorite vacation?

An RV trip with my family to Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park when I was 12.

10. Any three dinner guests?

J.K. Rowling, John Mulaney, and Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist for women’s education and recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize.

Graduation day at the University of Florida in 2017!

Betty Carlin and me at PRSA Tampa Bay’s 2018 Professional Development Day, held at The Vault.

At the American Museum of Natural History on a family vacation to New York.

In front of the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles on a road trip from Gainesville.

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Ready to take the next step in your public relations career?

The PRSA Sunshine District is hosting its first-ever APR Boot Camp Nov. 7-10 at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.!

Why register for the APR Boot Camp?
The APR Boot Camp is a four-day intensive course for candidates to prepare and advance through the Panel Presentation and take the computer-based Examination for Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) or Accreditation in Public Relations + Military Communication (APR+M).

This course is designed to provide a setting that will meet the needs of busy professionals whose schedules do not permit extensive preparation time.

What will the APR Boot Camp cover?

  • Day One: Panel presentation preparation in the morning, followed by a panel presentation in the afternoon
  • Day Two: Full-day preparation for computer-based examination
  • Day Three: Morning preparation session for computer-based examination, afternoon peer study time
  • Day Four: Computer-based exam at the Prometric Testing Center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Please note: There is an additional fee to take the APR exam; however, those fees are at least partially reimbursed by PRSA National, pending successful completion of the exam. PRSA Sunshine also offers a $100 rebate program for local PRSA members.

Additional details are available at and Spots are limited!

Have questions? Email PRSA Sunshine District Chair Christina Morton, APR at [email protected] or the PRSA National Accreditation Senior Manager Kathy Mulvihill at [email protected].

Register for the APR Boot Camp. Learn about accreditation.

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Ethical PR – Are You a Leader or a Follower?

By Kirk Hazlett, APR, Fellow PRSA

September is traditionally “Ethics Month” for the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). We focus a great deal of attention throughout the month on educating our members, raising awareness and informing the public of our commitment to ethical practice and counsel.

In truth, these initiatives are ongoing and include year-round outreach and guidance, but September’s special focus allows us to emphasize ethical consciousness. This year, we have focused our efforts on ethical leadership, giving proactive advice and counsel to our clients or employers.

It’s one thing to mutter, “Yeah, I know about PRSA’s Code of Ethics.” It’s an entirely different thing to state confidently, “Yes, I refer to PRSA’s Code of Ethics regularly in my counsel to senior management on their own words and actions.” Having a high level of familiarity with this important code enables PR professionals to immediately weigh words or actions in against possible public perception and reaction.

Proactive public relations professionals don’t sit around “waiting to see” what the boss or the client says or does so that they can formulate supportive - or defensive - statements. Rather, they take the lead, anticipate actions, evaluate possible outcomes and act.

Edward L. Bernays, arguably the “Father of Public Relations,” had this to say in “Your Future in Public Relations” (Richards Rosen Press; 1961) about the personal qualifications of a public relations professional: “In every organization it is the tendency of the individual to bow to the will of the person above him … It is vital that a consultant or advisor be guided only by objective reason, facts, his honest, unbiased judgment, and his ideal of truth, rather than by a desire to agree with a client or to tell him what he wishes to hear. The extent to which one is able to follow this rule will be a test of strength of character.”

It's clear that Mr. Bernays wasn’t talking about sitting back and twiddling your thumbs when faced with a potential ethical challenge. Rather, he strongly suggests that an effective PR counsel takes action and takes the lead in formulating strategies and supporting words. This may often require that the counsel be willing and able to stand up to leaders at higher levels and challenge  prevailing bad practices if any exist.

A precursor to this, of course, is that you will have established relationships with upper-level management that will have made them aware of your qualifications to provide this type of guidance. When flames are erupting out the windows is not the time to start building a fire escape!

Public relations leadership, then, is defined by the action -  and the confidence in that action - of the public relations professional. Your willingness to provide, as Mr. Bernays says, “honest, unbiased judgment” will set you apart from others and will establish your position as counsel to senior management rather than “yes-man or -woman” to the boss.

Take advantage of the opportunities available through PRSA for education and training. Increase your ethical awareness. Take the lead in promoting ethical thought and action by setting an example for others. Be a leader, not a follower!

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Call for Judges for the PRSA Central Iowa PRIME Awards

PRestige Awards Presented by Business Wire

You are invited to serve as a peer judge for the PRSA Central Iowa PRIME Awards. No problem if you haven’t judged in the past, we’ll pair you with an experienced judge. It’s also not necessary to be accredited with your APR. We ask you to consider donating a day to be a judge this year.  

When: Friday, Aug. 31, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Where: Port Tampa Bay, 1101 Channelside Drive, Tampa, FL 33602

Bring: Your laptop and power cord

Why: Share your experience with other public relations professionals, learn some good PR strategies from the entries, and take part in post-judging happy hour!

Parking is free and complimentary lunches and snacks will be provided for judges. 

Please email Lori Letzring, APR, and Heather Parsons by Aug. 30 with any questions and to relay your availability. The judging date will be finalized on the date with the most judges available.

We hope you can join us a PRestige Awards Judge!

Business Wire is the global leader in press release and multimedia distribution as well as regulatory disclosure. We distribute corporate content to news organizations, journalists, bloggers, consumers, analysts and more. Business Wire’s distribution services include enhanced interactive multimedia integration, exclusive content marketing platforms and social media engagement tools. Business Wire launches news and conversations that jumpstart action and measurable results. Call us at 888.381.9473 or email [email protected] to learn more.

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The Art of Conversation

By Bart Graham

Can you imagine an ambivert providing conversation advice?

In my current occupation, I frequently meet with my customers for an average of 20 minutes. Silence during these meetings can be awkward, so I have made it a point to become comfortable around my customers. Fortunately, I have sales experience, which often comes in handy during these interactions.

I have learned over the course of my career what “buzzwords” to say, and I have spent time with my PRSA mentor, Sam, receiving additional guidance and advice on the art of conversation. Sam would say, “I would talk to a statue if it would answer me.” I have witnessed Sam walk up to strangers and talk to them as if he’s known them for years. It is amazing to see him “at work.” And I believe his influence has also rubbed off on me.

As professionals and members of PRSA, we are required to network and have everyday conversations with people we have never met. I would like to share a few of my tips with you.

 1) I mentioned that silence can be awkward. Not always though. Sometimes people just don’t want to talk (including me at times). Don’t force the issue. A “hi,” “bye,” and “how are you doing” may just suffice.

2) Conversations can be started with a question. Ask open ended questions. Good conversation starters for me involve discussing education, where they were born and where they live, and their occupation or hobbies. You can also never go wrong talking about the Florida weather and traffic.

3) I try to avoid politics and religion unless the subject is brought up by my customer. However, I never judge or commit as heated discussions can lead to arguments.

4) Keep asking questions. One question will bring on another question depending on the answer given. Remember, people like talking about themselves.

5) I like to say or do something showing that I am listening. I say “really” a lot.

6) Humor can be your best friend. Silly comments and harmless kidding goes a long way.

7) I talk to my customers as if they were my friends. I want them to feel comfortable talking with me.

8) I try to stay updated on current affairs as these frequently lead to conversation starters.

9) Be a “jack of all trades, master of none.” I know or have heard a little bit about a lot of different things which helps during the conversation.

10) Have a good life story or stories. These can come in handy during the conversation.

Now, I actually look forward to work knowing that I will meet new people.

PRSA Tampa Bay’s Professional Development Day is coming up on Aug. 16. Make it your goal to meet at least one new person at the event using one or more of these conversation tips.

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And the winner is… YOU!

Preparing public relations awards entries can be daunting. I remember feeling lost drafting my first two-page summary in 2015. But that year, my public affairs campaign went on to win multiple awards at the local and state levels. After that, I became a judge for local and state awards, as well as the PRSA Bronze Anvils. When I sat down to think about what advice I could give to those of you thinking of entering the PRSA Tampa Bay PRestige Awards, I thought of these five tips:

  • Know RPIE

If you studied public relations in college or have achieved your Accreditation in Public Relations (APR), you are well versed in RPIE, which stands for Research, Planning, Implementation and Evaluating. Almost every PR awards program is based on RPIE. Let’s face it; we don’t always have time to sit down and draft a detailed plan for every campaign or tactic we work on. It is why I would suggest taking a look at the APR study guide for a littler refresher in this area. It will give perspective on exactly what the judges are looking for when they score your entry.

  • Research is important

Don’t forget about research. This is often skipped or barely addressed in the situational analysis portion of entries. However, it is very important. Judges need to know how you determined your audiences, what background information did you collect to develop your key messages, how did you test to see if those key messages worked, etc. While you don’t know have to go into detail (we do only have two pages to outline our entire entry, it is important to show you know how to do the appropriate research for your campaign. A good place to look to review research methodologies is page 30 of the APR study guide.  

  • Make your objectives SMART

One of the biggest pitfalls an entrant can make is not having SMART objectives. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound. Avoid objectives like “raise awareness of an issue” or “increase followers to our social media channels.” Instead drill down to specifics, an example is “increase our Facebook followers by 20% by the end of December 2018.” Having SMART objectives will give you a way to measure if you are successful. Another tip is to number each of your objectives in your two-page summary. I will explain why that is helpful in the next section.

  • Evaluate your objectives

Now that you have SMART objectives, you have a measurable way to let the judges know you met those goals and the campaign was a success. Remember how I suggested numbering your objectives? I suggest you do the same for your results in the evaluation section. Not only is this a great way to make sure you don’t miss something; it also allows the judges to easily go back and read the objective that correlates with each outcome.

  • Support should serve as a spotlight

Supporting material is important, but don’t use it as a dumping ground to show every image, brochure and item related to your campaign. Your supporting material should spotlight how you successfully achieved your objectives. If you talk about engagement on social media, show the posts and analytics to support that. Also, if you are entering in a tactics category, make sure your supporting material includes the appropriate supporting materials. For example, if you enter the calendar category, be sure you share the calendar with the judges.

I hope this advice helps you if you are considering entering this year’s PRestige Awards program. Often PR is often seen as a cost center by many companies, and though we know we provide important services integral to the success of our company or clients, sometimes it is helpful to have a reminder of a job well done. Good luck! Early entry deadline is June 29.

Author: Kim Polacek

Winner of the 2017 PRestige Awards Best of Show - Special Events: Two or More Days 
Moffitt Cancer Center’s “Moffitt 30th Anniversary”
Moffitt Cancer Center, Kim Polacek, APR, CPRC, Ann Baker and Jeremy Peplow

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PRSA Tampa Bay's 2018 Media Roundtable

By: Ashley Kathryn

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Well this held true at the 2018 PRSA Media Roundtable as PRSA Tampa Bay enjoyed a breakfast full of fresh tips and tricks from a diverse panel of media locals. Missy Hurley, APR, co-founder of B2 Communications, kicked off the program by moderating representatives from veteran outlets such as WFTS ABC Action News and the Business Observer to digital startups like The Identity Tampa Bay and St. Pete Catalyst. This two-part program first featured the panel addressing key insights into the evolving media sphere.

“So in case you guys didn’t realize this, the newspaper business has kind of changed a little bit in the last decade or so,” Caitlin Johnston, a reporter at the Tampa Bay Times, jokingly said.

“It’s very dependent on trying to balance the news that know we need to get our readers. Those long, in-depth stories, trying to budget those with the breaking news that is essential to updating people with what’s going.”

This demand has encouraged outlets to produce more content and differentiate their target audiences. Margie Manning, Finance Editor at the Tampa Bay Business Journal explained that her reporters have more on their plate with the addition of digital news distribution. Manning shared that reporters have 15 stories to produce weekly for their subscription services, as well as stories for their print publication.

Digital outlets such as The Identity Tampa Bay and St. Pete Catalyst keep up with the evolving media by targeting niche audiences that may get lost in broad coverage.

Joe Hamilton, a publisher of the St. Pete Catalyst, shared, “I can say that we are detached from trying to keep up with breaking news. I don’t think we’re in position to add value in that regard, so we have different sections at the Catalyst.”  

The Identity Tampa Bay shares the same sentiment by covering local stories that define Tampa as a region. This may not produce the same quantity of content as a larger outlet, but gives public relations professionals access to untapped potential.

Even though each professional differed in approach, one theme remained consistent. Public relations professionals must KNOW the platform they are pitching to have a story produced.

Paul Abercrombie, a freelance journalist for outlets like National Geographic and the Traveler, mentioned that his biggest pet peeve is when he explains to a professional that he doesn’t cover specific topics and they respond with, “When can we expect coverage?”

A pitch must be a story with a character that relates to the outlet’s audience. Univision News Tampa Bay recognizes this as well when deciding what content gets produced. Filippo Ferretti, Univision News Tampa Bay reporter shared that they plan content and decide that “...this is the most important story for our community.”

Also, a pitch does not have to be traditional press release you wrote 10 years ago. Tell a narrative and supplement it with video, pictures and key information. With the amount of pitches outlets receive, this could be the difference between getting coverage or not.

“We’re not looking at a PR pitch as much because everyone is going to have that story,” Vicky Benchimol, Planning Editor at WFTS ABC Action News, said.

Be strategic and personalize each pitch per outlet. Going the extra mile will do wonders.

View more insights from this panel at, brought to you by B2 Communications.

The second part of program, a “speed networking” session, allowed for members to continue these conversations more in-depth and connect with each representative. Developing relationships with the media is just one of the many benefits of becoming a PRSA member.

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So you got your degree—What's next?

By: Alison (Spiegel) Vicent

First and foremost, if you are a recent college graduate, congratulations on a tremendous accomplishment. Whether you know it or not, you are a member of a rather elite club – in fact, less than 7 percent of the world’s population has a college degree!

Now that you’ve walked that stage and have your diploma in hand, you might be taking a backpacking trip through Europe, moving out of your old apartment and/or plotting your foray into “the real world.” When it comes to a career in public relations, there are so many paths one can potentially take, and even more lessons to be learned along the way. With that in mind, it is often helpful to identify the resources you have at your disposal, and build and work your network to start your journey on the right foot.

In addition to joining your local PRSA chapter and taking full advantage of our chapter’s job board and other resources, we invite you to enjoy the benefits of our members’ collective hindsight as you take these next exciting steps into jumpstarting your career in PR:

Elizabeth Watts, Director of Media & Community Relations, Bloomin’ Brands, Inc.

It is essential that you demonstrate the relevance of your skill set, especially when they may not be immediately apparent to a potential employer.  What can you highlight from the experience you have (whether it’s a summer job, internship or even a class) that will apply to the specific job for which you are applying?  For example, if you worked in customer service be sure to point out how certain skills you’ve acquired such as verbal communication, deescalating situations and problem-solving make you a qualified candidate.  Give specific examples when possible.

John Dunn, APR, Director of Public Relations, Tampa General Hospital

Every PR job I’m aware of includes a writing test. There’s no point looking for one if you can’t write. So, my 3 tips as you search for a job: Practice writing… practice writing… practice writing – doesn’t matter what you write as long as you use complete sentences.

Wendy Bourland, Content Manager & Marketing Strategist, AmeriLife Group, LLC.

Set up a page in WordPress or other online platform to introduce yourself as a PR professional and display examples of your work. It's a lot easier to send a link to a contact or prospective hiring manager than weighing down an email with photos, PDFs and Word docs.

Andrea Sauvageot, Communications & Research Coordinator, Tindale Oliver

Spend the time to be sure your resume is free of errors, formatting issues, and typos. While you may have an excellent resume with the experience, education, and skills needed for the job, if you have not paid attention to detail, it can show in your resume. Besides a solid cover letter, your resume is your potential employer’s first glance at you. Be sure to have a second set of eyes review your resume too!

Davina Y. Gould, APR, Director of Development Communications, USF Health

Always send a well-edited cover letter tailored for each position you pursue. A good cover letter should relate your professional experience to the role and provide context for why you’re interested in this particular job and company. Do your best to address the letter to a specific person. Think of your cover letter as your first writing sample in the screening process, so give it the attention it deserves.

Crystal L. Lauderdale, Director of Content Strategy, Alvarez & Marsal

Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date with a headline that describes your skill sets, a professional-looking head shot, a comprehensive summary and detailed experience entries that highlight your accomplishments. Consider investing in a Premium account that will allow you to indicate your job interests to recruiters and message hiring managers directly through InMail.

Alison Spiegel, Associate, Hill+Knowlton Strategies

Don’t balk at the internship. Sometimes, after college and after possibly having completed more than one internship, we feel entitled to a paid position in our field once the diploma is in our hands. Even if it isn’t paid, there is no reason not to do another internship post-grad – while skills are transferrable, each agency or organization is different, uses different tools, strategies and/or tactics. Also, that internship is often a pathway to a full-time gig at that organization.

Bart Graham Sr., Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

Take advantage of any opportunity to network, such as PRSA mixers/programs, volunteering and making new connections on LinkedIn. In these cases, so-called “small talk” can be your best friend! Whatever you do, do it well and in doing so, be sure you are selling yourself to those who might consider you for new opportunities.

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