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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AP Stylebook Says ‘They’ Is Okay

By Joseph Priest

If someone thinks it’s important for stylebooks to keep up with the times, they will be happy about updates by two major style manuals.

The Associated Press Stylebook and Chicago Manual of Style are now allowing the singular use of “they” in certain circumstances, and the announcements were the highlights of the annual conference of the American Copy Editors Society, which was recently held in St. Petersburg, and which I had the fortune to attend.

Colleen Newvine (seated at podium, left) and Paula Froke (right), editors of the AP Stylebook, announce the entry for “they” at the American Copy Editors Society annual conference in March.

The bottom line is that public relations professionals can now more freely use the forms of “they,” and we can ditch resorting to the stilted “his or her” usage and the changing-the-subject-to-a-plural solution in these kinds of sentences:

  •          Everyone has their own reason for choosing what candidate to vote for.
  •          The person feared for their own safety and spoke on condition of anonymity.
  •          Any consultant can set themself up with their own firm.


The new entry for “they” will be included in the new paperback version of the AP Stylebook and has already been added to the online version.

To get more perspective on this style change, read on. If you think you’ve got all you need, feel free to stop here, and have at it with using the singular “they” when needed in your writing. And if anyone has a question on this, they can email me at [email protected] to get more information.

A Bit of Background
To explain more on the “they” change, let’s take a few steps back. In English, there is no gender-neutral pronoun for a single person. “It” is our singular pronoun, and “one” is another pronoun option. The problems with these are that “it” is so devoid of gender that calling a person this can come off as insulting, and “one” is so impersonal that it can sound awkward or aloof.

We have a need for a singular personal pronoun in mainly two situations. The most common is when speaking generically: “If someone leaves a cookie in the classroom during recess, ______ may find it gone when class resumes.” Because we don’t know whether the person is male or female, we can’t include the correct pronoun. In spoken language, we typically resort to “they” in this situation without thinking twice. In the same way, when using a singular noun that refers to a group of people, we have no inclusive pronoun: “Everyone should be more careful about leaving ______ desserts in the classroom during recess.”

This conundrum led us to default to “he” in formal writing, but advancement in women’s rights and greater egalitarian awareness then led us to adopt the clumsy “he or she.” This tortuous usage was perpetuated because what’s known as “the epicene they” continued to be considered incorrect. Yet nearly everyone continued to use it in speech, and it’s been used this way for hundreds of years.

In fact, many of the criticisms of the singular “they” are without merit, as Anne Curzan, professor of English and associate dean for humanities at the University of Michigan, and keynote speaker at the American Copy Editors annual conference, has explained. First, she notes, as far as its history, the singular “they” has been in regular use in spoken English and informal prose for centuries. Second, to say it’s ambiguous is nonsensical, too, because she says ambiguity is often the point of its use, and all pronouns have some potential ambiguity. Finally, to say “they” is too informal for formal writing is a circular argument she contends, because many editors have spent much of their time to taking it out of formal, published writing.

The only real question concerning singular “they,” she concludes, is “whether we should and will let ‘they’ be used in its singular form in formal, edited prose without comment. That decision is within our control.”

New Rules for a New Usage
This decision is increasingly being made. The singular “they” was named Word of the Year for 2015 by over 200 language experts at the American Dialect Society’s annual meeting in January 2016, “they” was sanctified in the Washington Post style guide in late 2015, “they” has been used by such publications as the Baltimore Sun for years, and “they” is even mildly sanctioned by major dictionaries like The American Heritage Dictionary. What’s more, the singular “they” has long been common and accepted in British English. 

Among other factors, a driving reason for the AP’s style update is to reflect changes in the ways that people refer to their sexual orientation.

“We offer new advice for two reasons,” Paula Froke, chief editor of the stylebook, told the American Copy Editors Society conference. “Recognition that the spoken language uses ‘they’ as singular and that we also recognize the need for a pronoun for people who don’t identify as a ‘he’ or a ‘she.’” Specifically, the new rule states this:

In stories about people who identify as neither male nor female or ask not to be referred to as he/she/him/her: Use the person’s name in place of a pronoun, or otherwise reword the sentence, whenever possible. If they/them/their use is essential, explain in the text that the person prefers a gender-neutral pronoun.

Moreover, from other updates that the AP Stylebook editors also announced at the American Copy Editors Society conference, it’s clear that the AP’s review of singular “they” was prompted in large part by expanding journalistic coverage of transgender issues. The entry for “LGBT” has now been updated to also accept “LGBTQ”; there’s a new entry for “homophobia, homophobic”; and a new entry for gender notes, “Not synonymous with sex.”

Testing the Waters
While the updates by the AP Stylebook and Chicago Manual of Style mark a major progression for the singular “they,” not surprisingly for such a significant rule change, the new rules have been designed to test the waters rather than allow full immersion. The new AP Stylebook entry for “they, them, their” reminds readers several times that rewording a sentence is preferable to using the singular “they”:

They/them/their is acceptable in limited cases as a singular and/or gender-neutral pronoun, when alternative wording is overly awkward or clumsy. However, rewording usually is possible and always is preferable. Clarity is a top priority; gender-neutral use of a singular they is unfamiliar to many readers.

It’s natural, though, that a new rule like this is structured conservatively, and public relations professionals and others who rely on AP style should not feel as constrained to adhere to this strict limitation as the rule states. 

Ultimately, style guides, like dictionaries, follow the language, not lead it, and they often accept usage years after it has become embraced by users. The “acceptable” uses of “they” are being accelerated more by issues of gender identity than by common usage, but the impact is the same, and the changes are long overdue.

In sum, I urge you to begin “theying” away when you come across a need for it in your writing. It has official precedent now and has to be better than continuing to use a sexist “his,” a patronizing “her,” a stilted “his or her,” or a let’s-bypass-this-problem-by-making-the-subject-plural cop-out.

What do you think? If anyone has a thought on this, I hope they let me know.

Both stylebooks emphasize that “they” should not be used without any limitations. Even so, this major style-rule change nearly marks the end for the insistence that “they” can only be a plural pronoun. In particular, the new recognition that singular “they” may sometimes be the best option marks a more widespread recognition of the need for a gender-neutral singular pronoun, and that singular “they” can fill this need.

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Interested in becoming an APR?

Interested in learning more about becoming an APR? Join our chapter Accreditation chairs for an informational lunch hour webinar on Monday, April 10 at 12 p.m. Learn more about the PRSA Tampa Bay Accreditation study group and what steps you’ll need to take to achieve your goal of becoming an APR in 2017. Email Paula MacDonald for webinar details at [email protected].

You can find more details about the APR process here

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2017 PRSA Sunshine District Conference Scholarship

As a benefit to our valued chapter members, PRSA Tampa Bay is offering two $745.50 scholarships for chapter members to attend the 2017 Sunshine District Conference. This year’s conference is June 23-26 on the Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas. Learn more about the conference here.

To apply, complete the online scholarship application found here

About the scholarship: The scholarship recipients will be required to perform a volunteer role during the conference. Be sure to indicate in your application which role(s) you are willing to perform, if you are awarded a scholarship. The Tampa Bay Chapter scholarship will cover $745.50 of the conference cruise fee. Recipients will need to register and pay for their registration/cabin room up front and submit the receipt to the PRSA Tampa Bay chapter treasurer for reimbursement after the conference. This scholarship covers one (1) attendee/passenger in an interior cabin. Any costs beyond the $745.50 mark, including additional passengers or room upgrade, are the responsibility of the attendee.

Deadline to apply: 5 p.m., Friday, March 24, 2016.

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

 Winners will be notified the week of April 3. 

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Member Spotlight: Kasey Brennan

1. First news publication you read in the morning?
Does social media count? I follow a number of publications on Facebook and Instagram and like to skim the headlines as I’m waking up in the morning.

2. First public relations job?
My first job in PR was as a copywriter for a public relations agency. My degree is in English, so it was a natural fit for my skill set and allowed me to learn the industry from down in the trenches.

3. Most important career mentor, and why?
My grandfather – who built a successful company that is now under its third generation of family leadership. While he loved business, everything he did was for his family, and that is something that I look up to as a business owner.

4. Top grammar, style or writing pet peeve?
Using two words where one would do – for example, writing “in a timely manner” when “quickly” will work. I think there’s a tendency to add more words to a sentence to sound more intelligent, but I think it has the opposite effect.

5. Most rewarding accomplishment in public relations?
Managing the media relations for Give Day Tampa Bay, in 2015. I’m passionate about working with nonprofits and loved sharing the stories of different organizations working to better our community.

6. Advice to new public relations professionals?
Get connected. There’s so much that you can learn from talking with other PR professionals who are facing the same challenges as you. 

7. Job you would pursue if you weren’t in public relations?
I would love to do graphic design or event planning, but those both tend to fall under the PR umbrella. So if I had to do something completely unrelated, I would be a florist. 

8. Favorite movie?
10 Things I Hate About You.

9. Favorite vacation?
My favorite vacation would have to be my honeymoon in Costa Rica last year. We spent three nights in La Fortuna, near Arenal Volcano, and three nights on the beach in Guanacaste.

10. Any three dinner guests?
Rory Gilmore (one of the main characters from the TV show Gilmore Girls), Jesus, and my grandmother.

My wedding last year.

On honeymoon in Costa Rica.




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Member Spotlight: Crystal Lauderdale

1. First news publication you read in the morning?
I usually crack one eye open to check my Facebook, USA Today, New York Times and weather apps before getting up (real healthy, I'm sure!). Then I listen to local news and the Today show while getting ready for work.

2. First public relations job?
For a brief time before joining Florida Poly, I worked in communications and PR at a local marketing agency. Before that, I was a journalist working for AOL, the New York Times Regional Group and Media General at various points.

3. Most important career mentor, and why?
My college photojournalism professor, Rick Meyer, a former Los Angeles Times photographer and brilliant businessman, who always told us, "There's plenty of time to rest when you're dead!" Between that advice and a lot of coffee, I stay pretty energized.

4. Top grammar, style or writing pet peeve?
Oh, my, can we all agree to stop saying and writing the word "utilize"? Unless you're trying to win at Scrabble, "use" should work just fine in most instances. 

5. Most rewarding accomplishment in public relations?
I feel really fortunate to get to introduce the world to Florida's newest state university and the only one dedicated exclusively to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). News outlets in more than 24 countries covered our grand opening, and our all-digital library was the subject of a Jeopardy! clue that year!

6. Advice to new public relations professionals?
Whether you're new to the industry or experienced, I think it's always important to connect regularly with other PR and communications professionals through organizations like PRSA. You can learn so much by comparing notes and sharing experiences.

7. Job you would pursue if you weren’t in public relations?
I loved being a photographer and video journalist, but really I thrive on the combination of strategic planning, data analysis, and creativity that PR, communications, and marketing require. This is kinda my jam.

8. Favorite movie?
I can't decide, but my husband and I are trying to watch our way through American history as depicted in film. I just watched Glory for the first time as part of our Civil War segment, and I'm taking recommendations if you have them. 

9. Favorite vacation?
In 2014, we took a trip to Hungary and Switzerland, and I loved them both. We visited the highest train station in Europe at the top of the Jungfrau, a mountain in the Swiss Alps, and the journey required a three-hour train ride and an hour of that ride inside the mountain – freaky!

10. Any three dinner guests?
Well, you want people who have something in common so the conversation flows, right? So, how about Elon Musk to discuss what might be possible in space travel, Neil Armstrong to discuss his firsthand experience, and Galileo, just to see the look on his face when he hears it all. :-)

Me and my husband, Peter Masa, on top of the Jungfrau in the Swiss Alps in October 2014.

Me, Peter and friends on top of Sentinel Dome in Yosemite National Park in September 2016.

Me learning to cook recipes from around the world. Maybe Elon, Neil and Galileo would like some baklava?

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Spotlight: Kenya Woodard

Kenya Woodard, a former journalist with the Daytona Beach News-Journal, is currently the owner of Sigma 7 Communications which helps individuals and organizations craft stories to promote their businesses, projects, and missions. Ms. Woodard’s background also includes nonprofit public relations for a statewide school voucher program as well as corporate p.r. for the national scientific research arm of the property insurance business.

Read below to find out more about Kenya.

First news publication you read in the morning?

Tampa Bay Times. I like to know what’s going on in my own backyard

First public relations job?

Public relations coordinator with Step Up for Students. I was so nervous when I first started because in undergrad, professors warned about crossing over to “the dark side”, i.e. public relations. Turns out, much of what’s revered in journalism – accuracy, strong writing and storytelling skills, and good news sense – carries the same weight in PR. After two weeks on the job, my nervousness disappeared and I really got into the job and grew to love it. 

Most important career mentor, and why?

My most important career mentor is someone who’s not in PR and who will tell you she’s never had a career, just jobs – and that’s my mom, Patricia Harris. She’s always given me great career advice. My favorite gem: “You’re always looking (for a job/work).” She’s partly responsible for my being where I am in my career. In college, I wrote for the school newspaper but never had intentions to go into journalism; I had plans to be a teacher. But I had trouble passing the math section of the teacher’s exam, and after the third and final fail, I felt doomed. I remember whining that I’d wasted so much time and money only to leave school without a career, to which she responded: “What are you talking about? Haven’t you been writing for the school paper all these years? Why don’t you do something with that?” That was the kick I needed to take journalism seriously as a viable career option

Favorite thing about your job?

I love the freedom to choose my projects. And helping clients tell their stories never gets old. 

Top grammar, style or writing pet peeve?

It’s a tie between split infinitives and the lack of use of the Oxford comma when it’s necessary. 

Most rewarding accomplishment in public relations?

My first client was 2 Wheels 1 Cause, a nonprofit organization that’s focused on diabetes awareness. I’ve had to pleasure to watch as the founder has groomed a quirky idea into a movement that’s grown leaps and bounds. 

Advice to new public relations professionals?

You can plan and prep all you want but it’s execution that matters most. So always be DOING. 

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

Attorney/and or political pundit. I can talk for hours on end about the law and politics. 

If you could have any three dinner guests, who would they be?

My maternal grandfather, Oscar Williams. He was a Tuskegee Institute-trained carpenter who built a successful contractor business with his three brothers. This was during segregation and they endured quite a few hardships but somehow thrived. Their imprint stretches from Florida to Indiana, where they built entire neighborhoods that still stand today.

Ida B. Wells. Journalist, women’s suffragist, civil rights activist, businesswoman, working mom – the list goes on.  I mean, she was a total badass. She wrote articles and editorials against lynching, putting her life in great danger. She advocated that black people arm and protect themselves against white terrorists in 1892 when Jim Crow was taking root in the south – can you imagine such a thing? She sued a railroad company after being dragged off a passenger car for refusing to give up her seat. And she won, although her case was overturned on appeal. I often wonder how she managed to pack so much living into the 68 years she was here. 

Lady Bird Johnson. She’s mostly thought of as meek and demure, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find she also was a stone-cold businesswoman who amassed millions in her own right with the acquisition of radio and TV stations. She took a meager inheritance and made a president and built a mini-media and banking empire. She’s a great example of a #GirlBoss. 

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Résumé Review w/ USF PRSSA Helps Next Gen of PR PRos

By: Joseph Priest, Elizabeth Watts and Davina Gould

It lasted two hours, involved 13 PRSA members and included 22 résumés, but the contribution it made to the future of our local public relations community is incalculable.

 On Feb. 2, our chapter’s Public Service Committee and Students Committee held a résumé review session and mixer with USF’s PRSSA chapter at the USF Zimmerman School of Advertising and Mass Communications. PRSA members divided into groups to judge student résumés on areas such as organization, strategy, and effectiveness; discussed their impressions with the students in their groups; and concluded by addressing the students and offering some final tips about starting a public relations career. Then, to reward the students and judges for their hard work, PRSA hosted a mixer where both chapters got to know each other better while enjoying a catered dinner from Carrabba’s. 

PRSA Tampa Bay President Bobby Eagle opens the review session with USF PRSSA President Vanessa Dreher.

Our résumé review team included 13 volunteers who gave up a Thursday evening to help prepare 22 students begin the first chapter in their public relations careers. The members included both seasoned professionals who were able to share lessons from the breadth of their careers, as well as younger professionals and new graduates who were able to offer insight from their recent experience on both the academic side and professional side of public relations.

 Our team included these members:

  • Lauren Bopp
  • Betty Carlin, APR
  • Bobby Eagle, APR
  • Christie Ebanks
  • Davina Gould, APR
  • Mary Haban, APR
  • Mary Margaret Hull, APR
  • Paula MacDonald, APR
  • Joseph Priest
  • Alana Siceloff
  • Jessica Summers, APR
  • Elizabeth Watts, APR
  • Jessica Wyland.

And they’re off. PRSA members (first two rows) plunge into judging résumés while PRSSA members (back rows) prepare to meet with the judges. 

The groups discuss their remarks before meeting with the students.

Our members had a busy night. Assembling in a large classroom inside the USF Communication and Information Sciences Building, they broke into three groups, and each group was assigned approximately seven résumés that it was given about 20 minutes to review. The groups then had all the PRSSA members whose résumés they reviewed come over, and the groups took another 20 minutes to discuss their impressions on each résumé with each PRSSA member. To wrap up the review session, all the PRSA members came to the front of the classroom to share some of their top-line observations and recommendations on how the students could refine their résumés and start their job search. 

Students find out how their résumés fared from the judges.

Bobby Eagle (left) and Christie Ebanks (second from left) go over their impressions.

Jessica Summers (center left) and Paula MacDonald (center right) share their thoughts. 

Although we only had a couple of hours to contribute, our team had an amazingly rewarding experience. We were able to provide 22 aspiring public relations professionals with real-world advice, tap in to a pipeline of the latest public relations talent to consider for our organizations’ hiring needs, and strengthen our relationship with the largest local PRSSA chapter.

The Public Service Committee and Students Committee are working on other ideas to keep our chapter involved in the community and engaged with college students this year, so stay tuned to the PRSA Tampa Bay website for more events and ways in which you can participate. 

PRSA members end the session with some final recommendations to students before beginning the mixer. 

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PRSA Tampa Bay Donates 46 Gifts to Charity

By Jessica Butzier and Joseph Priest

A lot of Tampa Bay kids and teens will be having a little bit brighter holiday this year thanks to our members. On Dec. 15, our chapter hosted its end-of-year holiday mixer at Bonefish Grill in South Tampa, and, for the second year in a row, the Public Service Committee held a toy drive to raise donations for the Metropolitan Ministries Holiday Tent.

Members enjoy cocktails and hors d’oeuvres at Bonefish Grill.

Metropolitan Ministries expects to serve nearly 20,000 families in need for Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, and our chapter has been eager to help. To spur even more donations, for the past two years, we’ve added a prize drawing to randomly award a few contributors with special prizes.

To participate, members had to bring a new, unwrapped gift, which would be collected with the other gifts and dropped off at Metropolitan Ministries the next day. At the end of the mixer, we ended up collecting 46 gifts, including toys, dolls, books, and games, and gift cards totaling over $150.

Each gift donated earned the contributor one ticket that was entered in a drawing for three prizes, which included two special prizes of $25 gift cards to Publix and one grand prize of a $50 gift card to Roy’s Restaurant. Congratulations to Mary Haban, APR, for winning the grand prize this year!

Our gift donations. Thank you, contributors!

The mixer was our last event for the year and was preceded by a farewell message earlier in the week by our 2016 president, Jennifer Dunn, APR. 

The Public Service Committee thanks everyone who donated to the toy drive and helped our chapter give back to the community through our activities this year. Stay tuned to the PRSA Tampa Bay website for more ways you can help us serve in 2017. 

The mixer is the chapter’s last event for the year. Stay posted for an announcement on our January event soon. 


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Farewell Message from Jenn Dunn

As this year draws to a close and my time as president comes to an end, I’m humbled as I reflect on what we’ve accomplished this year as a chapter. I’m also forever indebted to this organization for what it has done for me, both professionally and personally.

As one of the largest PRSA chapters in our state, the Tampa Bay chapter has been fortunate to meet so many new members this year as well as reconnect and engage with members who have been a part of our organization for years. Through top-notch programming, this year we took a glimpse into the world of NFL PR with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, provided valuable facetime with local media at our annual Media Roundtable, and even had the honor of hosting author, entrepreneur, speaker, and worldwide connector Peter Shankman.

Through our chapter’s nationally-recognized Accreditation program, we welcomed four new APRs into our ranks, bringing our total number of accredited members to 73. Now in its second year, we increased our total number of submissions to our chapter’s annual PRestige Awards by ten percent over last year. We even successfully filled nearly 100 percent of our chapter’s volunteer positions through the efforts of our tireless chapter volunteer coordinators.

We’ve also taken great strides to invest in our membership, the next generation of PR professionals, and our community. This year, our chapter hosted two successful membership mixers on both sides of the Bay, chock full of networking and connections (and don’t forget – our final membership mixer of the year will be held on Dec. 15!). We worked closely with our local PRSSA chapter at the University of South Florida to host specialized events and provide them access to our professionals and development opportunities, as well as provided scholarships to benefit students majoring in public relations. I’m proud to say we also made it a priority to give back to our local community through a public service event benefitting the Hillsborough Education Foundation and a holiday toy drive in support of Metropolitan Ministries.

As we look forward to 2017, I can attest that the future is bright for our chapter. Our 2017 board of directors is comprised of a stellar group of new leaders, including current president-elect and my friend, Bobby Eagle, APR. Under his leadership, I have no doubt that our chapter will rise to even greater heights.

It’s been my distinct honor and privilege to have served as your chapter president this year. Thank you for allowing me this opportunity – one I’ve aspired to for several years as both a member and volunteer leader of our chapter. It’s because of you, our members, that I’ll look back fondly on this experience. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your dedication and commitment to PRSA Tampa Bay and industry, as a whole.

Best wishes always,

Jennifer Dunn, APR

President, PRSA Tampa Bay

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