PRSA ICON: Ready. Set. Grow!

By Mary B. Haban, APR

After three action-packed days of professional development, networking and sharing ideas, the 2017 PRSA International Conference is a wrap. From data measurement to storytelling, strategic planning to social media, this year’s lineup of programming did not disappoint. In fact, there were so many amazing sessions to choose from, deciding which one to attend became my biggest challenge.

Digital Marketing Strategist and New York Times best-selling author Jay Baer provided the final keynote address, which included the top ways we can create exceptional customer experiences. His presentation on what he calls Talk Triggers showcased prime examples of how some of the biggest brands in the world are succeeding by engaging with customers in unique ways.


Some key takeaways from Jay’s presentation can be found on PRSA Tampa Bay’s Twitter page. And Jay’s latest book Hug Your Haters provides ever more ways to deliver exceptional customer experiences.


Another noteworthy session was “The New Creative Process and What it Means for PR.” Top tips from this presentation included:

  •        For PR, creativity is the real currency.
  •        Ground your campaigns in authenticity.
  •        Creativity is about storm mining; discovering what makes a brand besides the logo.
  •        More organizations are open to the big idea coming from PR.
  •        We need to open to the creative process happening in different ways.
  •        The most overlooked members on your team are the researchers.
  •        Culture is so important to creativity.

Though my time in Boston may be winding down, I’m not ready to slow down. In fact, I’m already gearing up to apply what I’ve learned at this year’s conference to become even better at what I do. And when the 2018 PRSA Conference heads to Austin, you can be sure thousands of other public relations practitioners from across the country, will do the same.

 You can find Mary's recap of Day One here, and Day Two here

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PRSA ICON: Innovation, inspiration and insight

By Mary B. Haban, APR

Six seconds. It’s the prime amount of time they learned they needed to engage with and keep the attention of their social media audience.

Nine months. That’s how long he had to endure endless rejection after cold calling hundreds of investors about his big idea only to be told, “no thanks.”

One year. It’s what they did during that historical moment in time that would win the hearts and devotion of millions of people around the world.


These were just some of the key takeaways from the first day of the 2017 PRSA International Conference in Boston, where thousands came to learn about the latest topics and trends influencing the public relations profession.


Award-winning filmmaker and TV host Morgan Spurlock kicked off the conference with a captivating keynote about never giving up on your big idea, he encouraged attendees to find people who believe in them. “You need people who believe in you and your vision,” he told the packed-room.  Sage advice from someone who after being told “no” countless times, believed in his own ability so much that it resulted in two award-winning films, Supersize Me and The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.


Spurlock also parlayed his passion for filmmaking into 20 short documentary-style films in a series called We the Economy. In success, he said, “You have to own your derivative space. Don’t be afraid to take risks. Now is the best time in history to be a storyteller.”


Other notable sessions included the duo of Jason Maderer and Steven Norris, who drive the social and media relations’ efforts for Georgia Institute of Technology. Their presentation showcased the immense impact video can have on building and keeping your online audiences. These former TV reporters demonstrated the incredible results videos and live streaming can have on building your following. They encouraged us to “Think like a newsroom,” and to “Use video in a way that helps the media in your follow-up pitch.” They showed the power that six seconds of video can have on your social media audience and explained the success they had when they did it.


Making the space program cool again is what the team of rock star communicators did when they launched their historic A Year in Space campaign starring Astronaut Scott Kelly. They explained how they rushed to create an Instagram account for Kelly after President Obama mentioned he would be following his journey but the team learned Kelly didn’t have an account – yet.


This action-packed day ended with a reception to celebrate PRSA’s 70th Anniversary, where attendees dined on delicious food, connected with their peers and talked about all they had learned throughout their first day.

PRSA Tampa Bay will be bringing you updates from the 2017 PRSA International Conference in Boston, so stay tuned to Twitter, Facebook and our blog.

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Investing in Ourselves: #2017PDD Recap

In our constantly buzzing, hard-to-get-away-from industry, it’s not often that we can find the time to take half a day to sit down with the intent to invest in ourselves. That is perhaps what makes Professional Development Day so unique – the ability for all of us to come together, set the distractions aside and have meaningful discussions about trends impacting our industry and what our next steps should be as professionals. Better yet, we didn’t just sit there talking about these issues on a “high level” with nothing tangible to take back to our organizations, but rather really got a chance to dig in and reflect.

We kicked off the day hearing from Kelli Frazier of Nielsen about measurement, which is vital to public relations but quite frankly isn’t talked about enough. More specifically, we looked at research that showed us where the future of different media is headed, and where there is opportunity for our industry to reach our target audiences with our messaging. Our clients and organization are always wanting to see results, and love to talk about metrics, so this session really taught us to think more critically about what that means and if it is really telling us what we need to know.

We then heard from Kena Lewis, APR, from Orlando Regional Medical Center (ORMC) on a deep dive into the hours and days immediately following the tragic shooting at the PULSE nightclub last year. Perhaps one of her most important takeaways was how crucial it is to have a tried and true plan in place for times of crisis. Preparation is key, and that’s why in addition to a crisis comms plan, you ought to have a crisis-specific team in place, along with a list of their names, responsibilities and cell phone numbers. You never know when you might have to give them a ring and drag them out of bed at 3 a.m. Think you don’t need a photo/video production team or your webmaster during a crisis? In reality, they are vital to communications success and should be included in your plan.

The session that followed was led by Michele Reeves of Raymond James Financial, and focused in on diversity and inclusion in the workplace, as well as their roles in our everyday lives. Michele noted that diversity is often a struggle because our industries do not look the way our world does, and our world certainly does not look how our industries do. She also clarified that “diversity is not for the few, it’s for the many,” but that it is not the same thing as inclusion. Diversity is who we are, and inclusion is how we work. Over a brief breakout discussion with our tables, we got the opportunity to reflect honestly to see how inclusive we are in the different areas of our lives. As one of her key takeaways, Michele emphasized that if we are not intentionally inclusive, we are being unintentionally exclusive, and to fix that we need to make the most of teachable moments, strive to give the quietest person in the room a voice and always be thinking about what we can do to proactively change the situation.

Changing pace, a panel of Tampa-based business owners convened to discuss their public relations efforts, challenges and successes. We heard from Jamie Lanza of CAMP Tampa, Suzanne Perry of Datz and Leigh Harting of 3 Daughters Brewing, and something that resonated amongst the three was the importance of authenticity. Now more than ever, they agreed that social media is more about relationship-building than it is about selling your product and pushing forced content on an unwilling audience. However, they encouraged us all to consider that we are taking up someone’s time with our content – so, we need to consider what it is that we are taking their time up with, and why they ought to care.


Ending the program on a strong note, our keynote speakers were Josh Greenberg and Brad Simon from Edelman Orlando about earning trust in an era of “fake news.” Josh surprised us all by reminding us that fake news isn’t even news – but that it has been around for a long time (ala “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast). They emphasized how the shift in the media landscape has taken the authority from the bigger media conglomerates and put it in the hands of the people, who are becoming their own publishers. With that in mind, it is becoming much more common for organizations to make their own news and publish it themselves on their investor relations websites. Additionally, the discussion highlighted the fact that the way we have traditionally done media relations in the past isn’t going to cut it anymore. Ultimately, you need a multi-channel approach built around the idea that if you have a great story to tell, you need to determine where the conversation is taking place and who is driving it. Josh and Simon wrote a great blog post here that builds on many of the topics they discussed, and you can see the full content from Edelman’s 2017 Trust Barometer here.  

It goes without saying that it was a full morning jam-packed with cutting edge ideas and insightful discussions, fueled by tons of coffee. If you weren’t able to join us in person, do not fret - we live-tweeted each of the sessions on the PRSA Tampa Bay Twitter and you can read through (or relive the experience) using #2017PDD. We are already not-so-patiently counting down until Professional Development Day 2018, and can’t wait to see what it has in store! 

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Anchors Away with PRSA

By Sarah Kettenburg, Senior Account Executive at Hill+Knowlton Strategies and PRSATB Digital Comms Chair

The PRSA Sunshine District Conference presented the opportunity to brush up on some key skills that PR pros use daily. Crisis management, media relations, reputation management, storytelling and even game theory were a few of the topics covered at this year’s conference. 

While day one of the conference kept it light with some PRVille Family Feud, day two started strong with a session by Heather Fagan, deputy chief of staff for Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. Fellow PRSA Tampa Bay attendee Kelsey Van Camp provided a great recap of the session here

My key takeaways include:

  1. Prioritize. Ask yourself, “do I have to make this decision today?” if the answer is no, move on to something else.
  2. Take care of the local media. They are the ones that will still be around months later.
  3. Establish a great relationship with IT. In times of a crisis, the IT department is crucial to your success in communicating with the public (in other words, ensuring your website/social media/phone lines, etc. doesn’t crash)
  4. Document everything. Write down everything you do at the end of each day so that you can look back on each day’s activities, even months later.
  5.  Assume the camera/microphone/cell phone etc. is always on.

 Achievement Unlocked! Using Game Theory to Level Up Your PR

Did you know that you are likely participating in a form of game theory every day? That’s right, everyone’s beloved social network, Facebook, is a prime example. So, what exactly is Game Theory? 

Gamification is defined as using game-like elements in a non-game environment. But real gamification is about building a behavior, not just a game.

There are four steps to gamification, condensed into a model known (particularly by folks who work in Silicon Valley) as the Hook Method:

  1. Trigger: Think of this as the subconscious itch. As it is said, it starts as a vitamin, and ends up as a painkiller.
  2. Action: Behavior = Motivation X Ability X Trigger. If you have the ability, but not the motivation, you won’t follow through.
  3. Variable Reward: Keep it fresh and meaningful. We get pleasure in anticipation of the reward, but not necessarily from the actual award. Ultimately, it must have an emotional connection.
  4. Investment: Create a sense of shared value.

Key takeaway? There needs to be constant evolution and a sense of surprise so people don’t get bored.

How The World Met My (Dead) Mother

One thing is for sure, few of us were certain where this session was going to go, but the room was packed full of participants who were eager to find out – naturally, I was one of them. Bonnie Upright, APR, shared how her mother, Emily Phillips, had the unique opportunity to write her own obituary after learning she had terminal cancer. The witty and moving obituary spread like wildfire after being published in her local newspaper. The Today Show, Time, Huffington Post and Buzzfeed are just a few of the many publications that picked up the obituary, and retold the story of Bonnie’s mother and her life. Upright and her family were surprised at all the attention, but loved that their mother’s words were being shared with millions. Fast forward a few months and they realized that someone had copied the obituary not once, but twice!

This session provided an excellent case study for how vital fact checking is – with ALL things – even if the owner of the words has passed away. In fact, Upright has been told by a number of newspapers that they have begun to fact check obituaries after coming to terms with the fact that her mother’s had been plagiarized. Most importantly, this unconventional set of circumstances served as a great reminder of the vital importance of protecting your intellectual property and personal brand.

While the conference sessions were all excellent, one of the best parts of the conference was being able to network and mingle with fellow PR professionals. From shared dinner conversations, to learning from one another’s confidential PR anecdotes (mum’s the word!) and enjoying karaoke every night (looking at you, Karaoke Brian!), a great time was had by all.


I’m already looking forward to next year’s conference, hosted by the Palm Beach chapter.

For your viewing pleasure, enjoy a few photos of our PRSA members in all their karaoke glory!


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The Camera is Always on & Invest in The Basics

By Kelsy Van Camp, Director of Marketing and Communications for Tampa Downtown Partnership

This June, I was lucky enough to attend the PRSA Sunshine District Conference and not only did I leave with a notebook full of best practices and tips, but I also left with a suntan. It’s hard for me to decide which session was my favorite because they were all engaging, informative, and included tips I could turn around and apply to a current project. So, I’m going to share with you my key takeaways from two of the sessions.

If there is one thing I can say about the Sunshine District, it’s that they kick things off with a bang. Saturday was a full morning of sessions that started with Heather Fagan. Fagan, who is deputy chief of staff for Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, was one of the first people on the scene for the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. She recounted chilling memories and facts clearly and professionally. Fagan explained to the group the timeline of events and why the city had decided to take to twitter to share up-to-the-minute details instead of dealing with multiple outlets and attempting to answer the non-stop phone calls and emails. She spoke about the Mayor’s main message of building “civic resilience” and how that message helped the community and families to handle the tragedy. Some tips she shared on press conferences include: order matters, establish next time, share new information only, and to coordinate with partners. Fagan also advised us to assume the camera is always on, record interviews so you can confirm statements, and to only worry about fixing inaccuracies that impact your message. Lastly, she reminded us that tragedies like the Pulse shooting have long-term effects and to schedule your staff appropriately to account for your organizations day-to-day activities, because the show must go on.

During the break-out sessions, I chose to attend the session on how to create videos on a shoestring budget, led by Kate Norton from Nemours Children’s Specialty Care Hospital. The title caught my eye because I too work on a shoestring budget for a nonprofit, and I recently was tasked with creating a video that was presented to a group of over 500 people that was shot on my iPhone 7. Norton started out her presentation with a helpful list of four secrets in video shooting. First, she told us to invest in the basics. This meant getting a nice camera, external mic, tripod, a computer with an editing program (she suggested Adobe Final Cut Pro), and an external drive since videos take up a lot of memory. Second, she suggested we take the time to learn the skills. and the book “How to Shoot Video That Doesn’t Suck” were a few of her suggestions. Third, don’t be afraid to get help. That meant knowing when to call the professionals and when to try it yourself. Finally, find the story. Norton said this should be easiest for PR professionals but can sometimes be the hardest to capture with video.

Looking back, the main theme I keep going back to is how PR professionals are doers. We step up to the plate when situations get tough and roll with the punches. My head is still spinning from all the information that was packed into the conference, and I look forward to next year!

#ShipHappens #WearSunscreen

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We Want You to Volunteer!

Your PRSA Tampa Bay Chapter needs you!  We are looking for volunteers to finish out the year strong!

We have openings on the Awards, Membership, Program, and Sponsorship Committees. We also have opportunities available on the Accreditation Committee if you are an APR.

Why should you volunteer?  Volunteering allows you to:

  • Learn new skills
  • Help your chapter grow
  • Network
  • Make new friends

And it looks great on your resume! Contact your Volunteer Committee for more information at 

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Four Fundraiser Must-Do’s for Your Checklist

By Erica Everett

As public relations professionals, especially those in the non-profit sector, we’ve often been a part of a fundraiser at one point or another. While we usually work in a team or committee to bounce around ideas, sometimes we’re challenged with few resources and little time to accomplish big fundraising goals.

In August, I’ll be traveling to 11 countries in 11 months to do humanitarian work with local communities through a program called the World Race. When I first realized I would have to raise $18,000 in just a few months (by myself!), you could say I quickly jumped into “PR mode.” 

Utilizing my PR experience, I surpassed my $5,000 benchmark in just 40 days.  Here are a few key lessons I’ve learned in the process of spearheading a fundraiser that feels nearly impossible to tackle.

1. Establish a list of names    

This may seem simple and straightforward, but surprisingly enough, many people jump straight into a campaign without keeping a target audience in mind. Categorize your list into different groups of people:  individuals, organizations, friends with connections to businesses, and any other group that seems relevant. Once you have a list of contacts, you can begin to create a campaign that is geared to resonate with each of those categories.

2. Don’t just ask for money

Many times, people consider it a waste of time talking with those who likely cannot contribute financially to your cause. But overlooking this group can be detrimental to your fundraiser. Set up meetings, even if you are sure the individual or group won’t donate. Chances are they are willing to spread the word to close connections or may even offer another resource that you haven’t considered before. Don’t make money the end goal of every meeting, but rather be open-minded to where it could lead instead.

3. Create a kick-ass sponsorship package

It’s important to put time and effort into creating a solid sponsorship packet before you go setting up meetings without anything concrete to present. Too many sponsorships have been set up to have donors give money without a follow up on how their money made a difference. Be mindful to create sponsorships that give them timely updates on how their money is being used.

4. Give them a deadline

You could leave a meeting super confident that you just turned a potential donor into a sponsor, but busy work schedules often leave fundraiser sponsorships floating in someone's to-do box. Creating a sense of urgency and giving a final deadline will likely put your fundraiser on someone’s calendar and keep it at the forefront of their mind.

 To learn more about Erica’s World Race and to follow along on her journey, visit

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PRestige Awards Entry Challenge

Introducing the PRSA Tampa Bay Membership PRestige Entry Challenge! 
The top two PRSA Tampa Bay members (excluding elected leaders) who submit the most entries will win two free admissions each to the PRestige Awards Ceremony.  In the event of a tie, the top submitters’ names will be randomly selected in a blind drawing. The remaining deadlines for PRestige Awards entry are:

  • Regular Deadline: Friday, June 30, 2017
    PRSA Tampa Bay Member: $55
    Non-Member: $75
    Student: Free (must be submitted using a .edu email address)

  • Late Deadline: Friday, July 14, 2017
    PRSA Tampa Bay Member: $65
    Non-Member: $85
    Student: Free (must be submitted using a .edu email address)

Entry forms can be found here.

The awards ceremony will take place on Friday, October 20, at the Tampa Marriott Westshore, and will feature our celebrity keynote speaker and emcee Anthony “Sully” Sullivan.

This is a great (and easy) opportunity to secure recognition of your respective organizations while ensuring you and a colleague will be there to celebrate in person without incurring any additional cost. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to our PRestige Awards co-chairs, Mary Margaret Hull, APR, and Lori Hudson, APR.

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Speaker Spotlight: Jim Shimberg

Join PRSA Tampa Bay for our May 23 program that will give you an inside look at the Tampa Bay Lightning francise. Our speaker for this event is Jim Shimberg

Former Tampa City Attorney Jim Shimberg was named Executive Vice President and General Counsel in April 2013 of Tampa Bay Sports and Entertainment, parent company of the Lightning, Storm and Amalie Arena. He provides counsel to the executive team while assuming direct oversight for all legal matters for the organization, along with owner Jeff Vinik’s outside real estate interests. Shimberg and his family have been very active in Tampa Bay for decades, accepting leadership roles with several community and civic organizations dedicated to development of local business and philanthropic organizations. He has served as General Counsel for the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, Chairman of the Tampa Downtown Partnership and Chairman of the Tampa/Hillsborough County Youth Council. He served in leadership roles for the Tampa Jewish Federation, Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services and Congregation Schaarai Zedek. He is a Trustee of the Shimberg Family Foundation, formed by his parents James and Amy Shimberg.

What is the best part about working in the sports industry?
The excitement that comes to the whole community when the Lightning do well

First news publication you read in the morning?
Tampa Bay Times

Most important career mentor, and why?
In law:  Chesterfield Smith and Bill McBride
In sports:  Tod Leiweke

Favorite thing about your job?
All of the great people I get to work with at Tampa Bay Sports & Entertainment!

Top grammar, style or writing pet peeve?
I do not like sloppy or cryptic email communication  

Advice to new professionals?
Find a mentor and learn as much as you can from that person

Favorite social media channel, and why?
I am old but I do love Twitter!

If you could have any three dinner guests, who would they be?
Michelle Obama, Steve Spurrier and Tony Dungy                       

Proudest moment of your career?
When I was hired by the Lightning (Tampa Bay Sports & Entertainment)

Favorite part of living in Tampa?
Not sure, I have never lived anywhere else!

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Bill Carlson Unfolds Opportunities with Cuba

By: Ashleigh White, USF PRSSA, KnoBull Firm Director 2017  

On April 20, PRSA Tampa Bay members and guests gathered at BRIO Tuscan Grille to hear insights from Bill Carlson on how an open Cuba could impact the Tampa Bay region, and how Florida’s dynamic history with Cuba has molded Tampa into the city it is today. Bill Carlson, president of Tucker/Hall, is a Tampa native who works to forge relationships between companies and their audiences, as well as government agencies and their constituents.

 Carlson kicked the discussion off by first explaining the rich history between Florida and Cuba. He reinforced how Cuba’s War of Independence was crucial in shaping relations with Florida for years to come. Carlson also touched on how he believes Tampa should continue to foster this connection as a leading “global city or global community.”

He noted that “the Cuban government is very excited to work with the United States,” and expressed that “Tampa needs to engage in this opportunity.”

“Billions of dollars are going and will go into Cuba,” Carlson said. “...and not only into the market.”

Carlson referenced that while Tampa and Miami are equidistant to Cuba, both in terms of physical distance and transit time, much still needs to change in the political landscape of Tampa for the Bay Area to reap the potential benefits. For example, American Airlines first approached Tampa to launch a flight to Cuba when President Obama loosened travel restrictions, but ultimately inked a deal with Miami International Airport. Carlson feels that this opportunity could have had broad positive effects for both Tampa and Cuba’s economies.

When attendees questioned what the main arguments were behind the opposition to an open Cuba, Carlson explained that human rights violations are the main source of discontent for political leaders, among other factors.

Carlson shared that in his view, engagement of the Cuban people is the best solution to building US relations with Cuba, noting that “almost every large PR company has opened an agency in Cuba.”

It has been long thought that engagement with the Cuban market could open the door to new opportunities, here, in Tampa – and Carlson is encouraging area communicators to turn that opportunity into action. If you are interested in learning more about Cuba, you could visit the Jose Marti trail in Ybor City to immerse yourself in the history that Tampa has shared, and continues to share, with Cuba. Or, the opportunity is now available for U.S. citizens to plan a trip to Cuba and see it for themselves. Tampa is gradually adding cruise liners with itineraries to this destination, which might make for a perfect occasion.

“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Carlson said. “Don’t miss it.”


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