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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Member Spotlight: Nancy Gay

This Member Spotlight profiles Nancy Gay, APR, who is Strategic Communications Coordinator at Moffitt Cancer Center. Nancy joined the chapter in 2014, is a member of the Digital Communications Committee and is currently serving as 2018 chair of the Social Media Team.  

1. First news publication you read in the morning?

A variety of news sources through Facebook, including Fox News and CNN, and local affiliates such as WFLA and WTVT.

2. First public relations job?

Communications director at the American Heart Association. This was a career change for me after working as a television reporter for a number of years.

3. Most important career mentor, and why?

An old boss who taught me that there is life after television news, and that the most effective way to bring broadcast journalism skills to public relations is through brand journalism. This is journalism that organizations use to tell their own stories about what makes them unique, and also use to take advantage of new communication channels, like social media, to spread the word about their organization instead of relying on traditional media outlets.

4. Top grammar, style or writing pet peeve?

Starting a sentence with the word “so.”

5. Most rewarding accomplishment in public relations?

I had an opportunity to help a teenager who was a quadriplegic fulfill his dream of attending the Coke Zero 400 at the Daytona International Speedway and meeting his idol, Tony Stewart. Once we were able to secure this opportunity with the racing organization, our biggest challenge was getting the tools and equipment necessary to care for the teen while at the race, but thanks to a 24-hour nurse we were able to arrange to be there, and it all worked out.

6. Advice to new public relations professionals?

Follow your dreams and pursue a public relations job that falls in line with your passion.

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

If I weren’t working in public relations, I’d pursue my passion for broadcast journalism working as a television reporter with a concentration on health and fitness.

8. Favorite movie?

Gone with the Wind.

9. Favorite vacation?

A two-week trip traveling up the Pacific Coast Highway from Los Angeles to San Francisco and stopping at San Luis Obispo, Carmel and Sonoma.

10. Any three dinner guests?

Teresa Caputo, Jerry Seinfeld and Kenny Chesney.

Covering Gov. Scott for Moffitt Cancer Center.

In Lutz for a session of goat yoga, one of the newest fitness trends that lends a unique twist to this exercise.

Making a new friend at the Sunflower Festival at Sweetfield Farms in Masaryktown, Florida, where each spring giant sunflowers are grown that can reach heights of more than 10 ft.

Me and my baby, Dolce, a Maltese.

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4 Tips for the APR Panel Presentation Questionnaire

By Joseph Priest, APR

I had a good idea of what was ahead. When I decided to take the APR plunge last year, I was a longtime PRSA member and not young PR pro. So I knew the three basic parts would be, in my view, a series of essays about a campaign you participated in and your career in general; a presentation of your campaign to a panel of peers; and a standardized exam. 

Surprisingly, the most difficult of these was one I thought I would be a natural for: the essays for the 14 questions in the Panel Presentation questionnaire. As a PR writer, I write any number of articles, blog posts, white papers and social media updates daily, so I expected to be well-prepared for this part.

Instead, I had a grueling time for two reasons. First, the open-ended nature of the questions and lack of a word limit made it challenging to include the best details and still keep the response focused. Second, the sheer number of questions and the detail needed for the campaign responses required a more long-range approach than I anticipated.

Based on this, I distilled four lessons that may help other candidates tackle this part more efficiently. The Panel Presentation responses form the first and foundational part of the APR process, and completing them proficiently is crucial for not just being well-prepared for the presentation and exam, but for saving yourself a lot of time and work. I hope these tips help.

  1. Focus on the campaign questions first. It’s tempting to want to start with the nine questions about your career, but don’t. They’re listed first, they’re easier and they’re useful for getting warmed up. But the five campaign questions are far more important and form the basis for your Panel Presentation later. Importantly, these questions require hard work in the form of reviewing and synthesizing details from your campaign whereas the other questions mainly involve expressing viewpoints on your career.
  1. Try to impose some word limit. This is difficult, but without some baseline, it’s easy to lose sight of a clear answer and also add hours of unnecessary work. The APR guide says the average candidate spends about eight to 10 hours on the responses, but that can encompass a range of word lengths. For what it’s worth, the average length for my career-question responses was 546 words; the average for my campaign responses was 852. Try to set at least some length to work toward.
  1. Try to apply the RPIE framework. Not only will using the research-planning-implementation-evaluation model provide a solid format for addressing a question, it will give you excellent practice for inculcating this mindset for your presentation and exam, in which RPIE is crucial. Another tip that can give you fodder for your responses is to zero in on all the things in your career that especially frustrated you and you wish could have been handled differently, and critique those things through the lens of RPIE to describe how you would have made improvements.
  1. Find a mentor to review your responses. Finally, bringing in the cold eye of a seasoned APR is perhaps the best way to ensure the quality of your responses. Work with your chapter to get placed with a mentor, and be sure to build in time for this review so finishing the writing won’t take precedence. In addition to offering a critical evaluation of the strategy of your content, your mentor will serve as an expert check against grammar and style blemishes.

Best of luck to all candidates with the Panel Presentation questionnaire!

This post originally appeared as a post on PRsay, the blog of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).

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2018 AP Stylebook Updates to Know

By Joseph Priest, APR

PR pros are now free to collide, use bulleted lists with more complete guidelines, and “cowork.” So says the leading authority whose stylebook most PR pros follow.

In recent years, introducing Associated Press style changes at the annual conference of ACES (American Copy Editors Society, which recently renamed itself The Society for Editing) has become something of 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 includes a jam-packed room.

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

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 far less dramatic, with changes about “collide,” bulleted lists, and “coworking,” which I’ll get to in a moment.

For the last two conferences, at St. Pete and, this year, at Chicago, I’ve had the fortune to be able to attend and, as an ACES member, offer some representation from PR writers at this growing event. Below is a rundown of some of the biggest changes that I think are important for PR pros to know, along with my perspectives. 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. And if you have any questions or thoughts on the changes, I would love to know them. Please write me at [email protected].   

  • collide, collision – Perhaps the biggest change announced was that the AP has removed the “collide/collision” entry from the stylebook. For decades, the AP has distinguished the use of these words by insisting that, as its previous entry said, “Two objects must be in motion before they can collide. A moving train cannot collide with a stopped train.” However, dictionary definitions of “collide” have long had no requirement for the number of objects that must be in motion. The objects merely must come together with force. Regardless of how this AP rule originated, the idea that a moving object can crash into but not collide with a stationary object has been little more than a journalistic tradition, and has been regularly condemned by the language community. And now the AP has accepted that the tradition no longer needs to be observed, and that we are now free to collide with buildings, trees, guardrails, etc.
  • bulleted lists – One update that will be a great help to PR pros is a new entry on lists and bulleted lists. Previously, guidelines for these were spread across separate entries. Among the guidelines, the AP uses dashes instead of bullets to introduce individual sections of a list, but others may choose to use bullets. Also, a space should be put between the dash or bullet and the first word of each item in the list. And the first word following the dash or bullet should be capitalized, and periods should be used, not semicolons, at the end of each section, whether it is a full sentence or a phrase.
  • survivor, victim – The AP updated its entry for these words to advise more caution and discrimination in their use. The terms can be imprecise and freighted with shades of meaning, whereas the condition that affected them should be the determining factor in their use. See the full stylebook entry for further guidance and examples.
  • sexual harassment, sexual misconduct - Responding to increased coverage of #MeToo, the AP revised its guidelines for terminology surrounding the movement, preferring “sexual misconduct” to “sexual harassment.” Specifically, “harassment” has legal but broad definitions, and sometimes “harassment” may be too mild for the behavior being alleged. For this reason, the reporting of an incident should specify the behavior under discussion, and use “sexual misconduct” in more broad-based instances.
  • co-workers, coworking - People who work together for the same task or company are “co-workers,” the AP says. But if those people individually rent shared space in a building, they are “coworking,” without the hyphen. The reason for this distinction? Because the newer usage is “coworking,” and keeping the hyphen in “co-worker” draws the divide between those two types of definitions.
  • homepage – While it’s not surprising that “homepage” has followed the path of “webpage,” whose one-word spelling was sanctioned by the AP a few years ago, it’s not a change I agree with. Other compound words with “page” mostly retain their two-word spellings, like “front-page,” “back-page” and “book page,” because in a one-word spelling, the “page” part is not considered clear when it’s combined with other words. I don’t see the rationale for making an exception to this practice for either “homepage” or “webpage,” but “homepage” is now official.
  • health care - One change the AP did not make that copy editors, PR pros, journalists and writers in general have long wished would be changed is making “health care” into one word. The editors of the AP Stylebook told the ACES conference in Chicago that while industry documents often write it as “healthcare,” most government documents still use two words, and the AP’s Washington editors advised keeping it that way for now. But there is a ray of hope. An editor for Webster’s New World College Dictionary, the official dictionary of the AP, explained at the session, “We follow what people do,” he said. “If everyone decided tomorrow to make ‘healthcare’ a compound . . .” OK, everyone, start using “healthcare” as much as you can so we can finally get this change made!


Me at the ACES (American Copy Editors Society) national conference in Chicago, where I was joined by over 700 editors from a wide variety of digital media, print media, corporate communications, book publishing, academia and government.


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Avoid the Risks and Costs of an Outdated Crisis Communications Plan

By Mike Hatcliffe, President, The Hatcliffe Group LLC

When was the last time you updated your crisis plan?

Next week you can get a glimpse into a Fortune 100 company that got its crisis preparedness right – the insurer Allstate in the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

On Wednesday, May 16, PRSA Tampa Bay is hosting a luncheon program on Disaster Communications, a timely and mission-critical topic for area PR and communications professionals as hurricane season approaches. Sponsored by In Case of Crisis, an award-winning crisis management platform, the program will share firsthand experience on what it takes to access and activate a plan amid a rapidly unfolding crisis.

So how good is your crisis preparedness plan?

Go and take a look at it right now.

If the last revisions were dated more than two years ago, you are in trouble.

There is a high probability that your plan will not serve you well should you face a real crisis, in a world where digital media drives threats at lightning speed – and in which online and social media is the source of so many reputation and business crises.

And where was the plan when you went looking for it?

Buried deep in the files on your computer? In a dusty 3-ring binder on a shelf? On a flash-drive in a forgotten pocket of your bag?

Or maybe you didn’t know whether you had the latest version.

Now take a look at the content of the plan.

Do the plan’s procedures, processes and resources reflect the digital world?

Does the plan recognize old and new sources of risk, including online and social media?

Does it place digital tools and resources in the hands of your crisis team so it can respond with the effectiveness and speed to match the threat’s scope and velocity?

And what about the specific crisis scenarios covered by the plan – as well as traditional threats such as extreme weather, cyber security, and product and service problems? Does it identify and deal with newer sources of risk from cultural, social and political issues?

There are huge costs and risks with an old, outdated crisis plan.

You really don’t want to find out that your plan is useless at that moment when a very real crisis is upon your organization, threatening your customers, employees and reputation.

While we all hope for the best, you want to make sure that you’ve planned for the worst. Please join us next week for some real-world lessons on what that looks like from our colleagues at Allstate. 

“Disaster Communications: A Look Inside A Fortune 100 Company’s Playbook,” hosted by PRSA Tampa Bay and sponsored by In Case of Crisis, takes place Wednesday, May 16, at Brio Tuscan Grille, Bay Street at International Plaza. Check-in and networking begin at 11:30 a.m. Click here to register now.


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Member Spotlight: Justin Herndon

This Member Spotlight profiles Justin Herndon, manager on the National Media Relations and Issues Management team for Allstate and a licensed insurance agent in the state of Florida, and 2018 treasurer of PRSA Tampa Bay. Justin joined the chapter in 2013, has served as a member of the Sponsorship Committee and the Digital Communications Committee, and is currently serving as 2018 co-chair of the Sponsorship Committee.  

1. First news publication you read in the morning?

I open the Google News app on my phone before I even get out of bed. I like the variety of sources and content I get access to each morning, from international to national to even local news outlets.

2. First public relations job?

I was the first employee hired by Selig Multimedia – a boutique PR firm started by former longtime Fox 13 reporter Glenn Selig – and helped build the business from the ground up in the areas of sales development, news release writing, and search engine optimization, as well as local and national publicity, all the way up to co-directing the national media blitz of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich. I also helped hire and onboard three new employees – one of whom is now an ESPN SportsCenter anchor, Randy Scott; another who is living in China and freelancing for NPR, Patrick Flanary; and another who is still in PR and a Tampa Bay chapter board member, Kim Polacek.

3. Most important career mentor, and why?

Before PR, I was a TV news reporter, and my news director in Fort Myers, John Emmert, was a constant source of knowledge and calm who taught through his leadership and not just about news. He mentored countless journalists who now work across the country and who still talk about his impact on their lives; and I’m fortunate enough to still be in contact with him and see him once a year in Las Vegas, where he retired several years ago.

4. Top grammar, style or writing pet peeve?

“More than” versus “over.” I know AP Style finally gave in and says either one is fine, but “more than” my dead body, I say. :)

5. Most rewarding accomplishment in public relations?

Last year, Allstate received an email from a customer who said her dad, who had died more than 20 years ago, had been in a TV commercial for Allstate in the ‘70s, and she was trying to find the video to surprise her brother at his wedding. I pushed and prodded my way through a lot of channels and not only got the video but found some behind-the-scenes footage with their dad, and I was able to surprise the family in person in an event that become an award-winning story picked up by multiple national news outlets.

6. Advice to new public relations professionals?

Build and maintain as many relationships as you can, and nurture them by checking in even when you don’t need a thing. I got started late in my PR career, but I carried over strong contacts from my time in news, and it’s amazing how many opportunities I have to call on old contacts that still take my call because I took the time to cultivate the relationship.

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

Aside from continuing my news career, I would pursue politics (against the wishes of my wife). I love building relationships and trying to make a difference for the greater good, and I’m also not good enough at golf to make that a career.

8. Favorite movie?

The Shawshank Redemption.

9. Favorite vacation?

My wife and I went to Norway before we had kids, where we went dogsledding in the Arctic Circle and saw the northern lights. Yes, it was brutally cold, but absolutely worth it.

10. Any three dinner guests?

Morgan Freeman, my favorite actor; Jack Nicklaus, the greatest golfer of all time; and my great-grandmother on my dad’s side, a full-blooded Choctaw Indian who could teach me more about the Native American culture of my family.

My family.

Making new friends in Norway.

My wife and I get ready to hit the trail on our Norway trip.

The northern lights were an unforgettable sight and one-of-a-kind memento to take away from the Arctic Circle.

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Public Relations Students Gain Firsthand Experience in Motorsports

By Katie Cafiero and Jessica Martinez, USF PRSSA

The Firestone Grand Prix, which served as the IndyCar season opener, transformed the streets of downtown St. Petersburg into a racetrack. The weekend-long event kicked off on March 9, and the city was buzzing with excitement. Thousands gathered to watch the races and check out the events. 

Unlike most of the volunteers, we had never even been to a race before. If you would have asked us what an IndyCar was, we would have stood dumbfounded. But our interest dramatically shifted when Bart Graham, Firestone Grand Prix Media Center Leader, invited us to volunteer at the event. Needless to say, we did not hesitate to accept! As aspiring public relations professionals, we were eager to gain firsthand experience working for a major sporting event.

The Mahaffey Theater turned into a working media center, housing journalists and photographers for the duration of race weekend. We had the opportunity to watch live press conferences, distribute race results to the media and transport drivers to their interviews. Not only did we gain experience in the career path of our interest, we were also able to meet some of the people behind it all like the Senior Manager for National Media Outreach of IndyCar. The experience opened our eyes to the busy, yet exciting world of sports public relations. More importantly, we were able to apply our knowledge outside of the classroom.

Our favorite part of the weekend, though, was getting to experience the racetrack firsthand. On Sunday, we were quickly ushered to the track when we arrived at the Mahaffey at 7:30 am. There, we suited up in a HANS device and were escorted into a car to take one (very quick) lap around the track for a test run. As soon as the car doors shut, we were off! We blinked our eyes and crossed the finish line. It’s difficult to describe the experience. It’s a mixture of the kind of adrenaline rush you get on a roller coaster and the surge of anxiety you get when you’re a passenger in your 16-year-old brother’s car. Nevertheless, it was an exciting experience we will certainly never forget.

We would like to thank Bart, our PRSA Tampa Bay “mentor for the weekend,” for giving us insight into the world of IndyCar and all that it has to offer. His love and knowledge of the sport was able to give us the most valuable experience possible. We are both looking forward to applying our newfound knowledge of this industry to our future endeavors.



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