Friday, Sept. 18, 2020


  • Saki Indakwa, president-elect, PRSA Southwest District; Past-President PRSA Houston Chapter; External Communications Manager, KIPP Texas Public Schools
  • Milton Howery, III, president-elect, PRSA Memphis Chapter; Director of public relations, Memphis Tourism   
  • Tiffany Briggs Low, programming co-chair, PRSA Chicago Chapter; Manager of executive and strategic communications, McDonald’s Corporation      
  • Andrea Gils, co-chair, PRSA Diversity and Inclusion Committee; Marketing & Communications Manager, University of Kentucky 
  • Kayee Ip, programming co-chair, PRSA Chicago Chapter; Manager, CAP Presenters Program at the College of American Pathologists
  • Carolyn Lok, president, Public Relations Student Society of America


  • 11 – 11:15 a.m. – Welcome & ECD Overview & Announcements
  • 11:15 – 11:45 a.m. – Leadership Development & Board Relations
  • 11:45 a.m.  – 12:30 p.m. – Membership Engagement (Three Parts): Diversity and Inclusion, Programming and PRSSA
  • 12:30 – 12:45 p.m. – PRSA Chapter Showcase
  • 12:45 – 1 p.m. – Q/A with speakers and participants
  • 1 p.m. – Conclude

ECD Chair-Elect John Palmer welcomed everyone to QuickStart. Thanked team members Sue Patrick and Kaylin for planning the pivot to a virtual event. John previewed the conference agenda for the day and introduced ECD chair Adrienne Wallace.

ECD Chair Adrienne Wallace Welcome:

Adrienne credited John for no small task of switching to virtual. She gave an overview of the district including 17 PRSA chapters in six states and 63 PRSSA chapters in the six states. 2,144 members, 480 APR’s and 35 Fellows.

We are here for the chapters – period.  Our mission is to build stronger chapters throughout the district by facilitating chapter leadership. ECD administrator Jenn Gilman; PRSA NE Regional Rep. Crystal DeStefano PRAS Board of Directors ECD rep Rick Batyko. Jennifer Day from Detroit is on the ballot this year.

ECD Diamond Awards: Sept. 21 deadline, Oct. 21 final deadline

Announcement of new Fellow Clare Wade.

Thank you to departing board members Sue Patrick and Jennifer Flowers-Kolf.

Leadership Development & Board Relations

Milton Howery, III, president-elect, PRSA Memphis Chapter; Director PR Memphis Tourism:

It’s in these challenging moments that you really find your talent as a leader.

I personally believe moral grounding is what all of our leadership revolves around. It is the groundwork, the foundation for all the decisions we will make.  It’s the ability to not face decisions based on money or self-interest, but what is right and what is important.  Is an individual leading with what is right and best for the organization overall?

MORAL GROUNDING: Leadership succession – visionary leadership – inclusive leadership – motivational leadership – empathetic leadership.

Leader must be able to admit mistakes; must be aware of our bias; have a curiosity about others – your board members – and connect with them; cultural awareness; effectiveness of collaboration, including others in the conversation and decisions you are making; motivational: are you able to complement team members when things go well.  We get used to running to the next thing without taking time to say team did a great job. Find ways to make it fun.

Having empathy – even why you don’t agree. As a black male I was really stressed when I saw the things happening in our country. People checking in to see how I was doing meant a lot.

Leadership succession is one of the most important pieces – can’t lead without knowing how you will pass the torch to the next person. Focus not just on what you want to accomplish but look far into the future.

Working together to address member needs:

Chapter survey – how many years in PR? What type of organization (corporate, non-profit, education, agency solo practitioner)? what industry? What topics are most interested (top 3)?

Collaborative virtual workspaces – board, interest groups, committees, chapter members & non-members.

Special interest sections – Make sure programming reflects all the special interest of people in the organization

Directory of experts – have in advance for topics that come up.

Virtual storage for sharing – make sure all documents are accessible to all board members. Google docs seem easiest to use and free.

Succession planning: Outgoing and incoming presidents must take the lead to start year with strategic plan – start early.

Be honest and evaluate chapter performance – what do members do, how can they improve.

Identify chapter goals and vision – increase community involvement, increase membership, improve programming, more diversity and inclusion. Set goals and hold yourself responsible.

Publicize the path to leadership – make it obvious how to step up, get involved. Identify candidates. Include the people on your committees – creates a natural pipeline for leadership and organization success.  You can’t do it all by yourself.

On-boarding, training and expectations – Make sure members aware of what organization offers. Retreat should also be fun and not the only time you get together this way throughout the year. Know and communicate the expectations. Make opportunities for training and encourage participation.

Strategy Planning: Vision, Mission, Goals

Everything aligns itself with the vision; Mission is our purpose, why we do what we do – it all goes back to the members and meeting their needs; goal is those tangible things you want to accomplish.

Strategic Planning Process: Mission statement, board retreat, visions and goals, values and ethics, financials (members who have lost jobs, special programming needs), communications and marketing, timelines and deadlines, implementation monitoring plan (evaluate throughout the year and measure in meaningful way), industry analysis (don’t fall behind on what’s happening in the industry – you don’t want obsolete programming), become aware PRSA National and District resources.

Jared Meade introduces:

Andrea Gils, co-chair, PRSA Diversity and Inclusion Committee; Marketing & Communications Manager, University of Kentucky

Objectives and Agenda:

Overarching Goal: first year PRSA adopted a strategic plan. Measurement by:

Comparing measurement of 2019 internal benchmark survey responses vs. new 2020 benchmark survey. Resulted in the plan. Goal to position PRSA as a model organization for D&I.

Four Objectives Identified:

  1. Increase awareness and understanding of D&I among members and staff by 15%.

Strategy 1: Programs and activities to make change.

Strategy 2: best practices

  • Increase diverse representation among leadership by 25% by 2023.

Strategy 1: 0 build pipeline of diverse leaders across chapters, districts, sections.

Strategy 2: Promote diverse membership.

  • Increase awareness among external stakeholders by 15% by 2023.

Strategy 1: program.

Strategy 2: Tell story

  • Increase and retain multicultural students in PRSSA and new multicultural professionals into PRSA by 15% by 2023.

Strategy 1: outreach to historical black colleges.

Strategy 2: create endowment, increase scholarships

Strategy 3: infuse New professionals Section (0-5 years) with more D&I strategies.

Resources for Chapter Liaison D&I Took Kit

We don’t want to give definition of diversity because it is changing all the time. Gender expression, disability – we don’t talk enough about these things. Growing number of Hispanic chapters – have translated Spanish version of toolkit.

Calls to Action: Read plan – one goal is to have all chapters adopt a diversity and inclusion statement. Follow PRSA initiatives; PRSA is asking members to update their profiles with expanded aspects.

Membership Engagement – Chapter Programming

Kayee Ip, programming co-chair, PRSA Chicago Chapter; Manager, CAP Presenters Program at the College of American Pathologists

Chicago programming 2019: Setting expectations for the year and priorities from members perspective. Understand the pulse of the industry, what topics that matter to them. Had cultural moments planned – elections coming up – put pivoted to membership engagement continuity.

Tiffany Briggs Low, programming co-chair, PRSA Chicago Chapter; Manager of executive and strategic communications, McDonald’s Corporation      

When pandemic got serious had to take a step back and think about what the rest of the year look like? Pivoted to meet membership where they were – sticking to a virtual format. What is most important right now?  Internal communications, brand purposes. Focused on leading communications in the “new normal” to kick us off. Looked for communicators finding value in the purpose space; insight into what that looks like across agencies and in-house.  Also had panel of women leaders- how have they shifted forward, how are they leading in time of social injustice, case study on how they handled crisis situations. Message to clients on why you need a PR person in your corner when hard topics arise.

Keeping members engaged and proving value ad when people may have to pull out of membership due to financial crisis situation.

Future of membership engagement for programming – Historically do a lot  of panel based events –  love to get different perspectives and make sure it is well-rounded program.  2021? Completely in-person program is not likely. Can we do dual events of digital and live? Relative content – with op-ed, tapping experts.  Keep ear to the ground from members, in the news, what is relevant.  A different lane now – doesn’t have to be so structured.  Also figuring out networking piece in digital world.

PRSSA – Carolyn Lok, president PRSSA, University of Florida PRSSA.

Bridge relationships with the COVID-19 environment we are in – if members are prepared to enter the industry in this climate.


More representation in leadership, panels, SM; BIPOC

Creating opportunities/spaces for minority students, low-income students; internship, volunteer programs; scholarships.

Engaging in conversations with underrepresented groups; identify HBCU,HACU international chapters; twitter chats


Consistent communication – monthly newsletter to chapters, leadership meeting once per semester, PRSA-PRSSA liaison.

Increase in district events, discount rates to chapter events, shared event programming.

Building support systems – social events, happy hours virtually.


Mentorship: career chats, interview tips, resume/portfolio reviews, Zoom office hours.

Online webinars: offer hands-on opportunities and interactions to help students grow professional development skills and knowledge. Especially valuable with pandemic unknowns about career path next year.

Intentional – Purposeful – Authentic

Especially important in this time to provide value to both parties. It’s easy to feel alone – support is so important.

Chapter Showcase:

White Pine, Michigan – Holly: small but mighty with 18 members – loyal members with 55% APR. Keeps us tight knit and dedicated. Highlights for 2020: offered Measurement Basecamp free to members. Involved with Michigan PRSA events.

Central Ohio – Katie Thomas: 2020 marked 70th anniversary. Used opportunity to fundraise for scholarship fund for student to attend ICON, COVID-19 scholarship, 3 students attending conference. Excited that submitted bylaw change to add D&I position to the board and will be on nominating ballot. 150 attendees at virtual awards.

West Michigan – Kim: 100 members in wide geographic area, most from Grand Rapids area. We launched a D&I event in November 2019 and continues in October 2020. Fundraising for endowment fund for scholarships – need to raise $30,000. Partnered with other Michigan chapters to host Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.  Interviewing D&I consultants for board and chapter development. Launched before COVID-19 experience based cohorts, broken up by years of experience for small groups conversations. First round was in-person, now even more important since COVID-19. Congratulate newest Fellow Clare Wade!

Cincinnati – Brandy: Focused on how to keep going with virtual platforms. Held 16 virtual webinars, keeping everyone trained and engaged. Reached out to PRSSA members for conversations on keeping themselves marketable with so much uncertainly. Kept things life with virtual happy hour formats. Had a program on re-imagined live event and how to best use video.  Tough issues the country was tackling around inequality – held two D&I webinars on cultural competence and implicit bias training – both well attended.  Adapted to virtual award ceremony.

Akron – Jennifer: Very busy! Launched a new website in January.  Pivoted to virtual YouToo Social Media Conference. It’s the chapter’s biggest moneymaker.  Schedule for March 13. Pivoted when Ohio shut-down due to COVID-19.  Virtual event moved to April 24.  Mailed out all conference benefit materials, recorded the conference with attendees to view for next year. Everyone across U.S. got free Wend’s nuggets that day. Conference grew 30%.  Held first D&I webinar – free and reached capacity within days of announcement. Available for viewing on website.  Topic too big to cover in one session so will have series over coming months. First topic wasUncovering Unconscious Bias in Communications.

Pittsburg – Jordan: Echoed everyone’s sentiment – impressed with board and other chapter efforts during this crazy time. Partnered with local non-profit to provide pro bono services. Programming adapted to virtual events. Screen to screen virtual events every other week for the first four months on Instagram with board and chapter members to hit industry topics – never done before 2020. “Quick and dirty” topics on Instagram Live.  Crisis communications Learnings, Navigating the Job Search in COVID-19, Cultivate D&I environment; Putting the PR in the Press – shifting to virtual.  PR Summit Focusing on Hard Conversations on D&I – transitioned from one-day in person event to multi-day virtual event, every Wednesday in October digital series. Ranging from ageism in workplace to race and gender to moms and new parents in work force.  Introduced Slack in chapter process for board of executives to help exchange of ideas and down to membership. Recommends using communication tool. Launched a young pro Facebook group.  Have 130 in the group and engaged with board of directors.  Also focused on collaborations with PGH organizations.  Added a D&I committee to 2020 board. Announced chair position and four to five members.  Moving forward and helping plan Summit event.

Detroit – Kim: Felt proud and strong about programming we delivered. Great program with Gov. Whitmer’s spokesperson. Had already set out to make D&I a focal point for chapter for the year – encouraging to see people willing to have the conversation.  Annual sponsorship program had a goal of $20K – huge accomplishment to reach $18,866. Timing was not ideal, but we were able to get creative as a chapter to adjust benefits, prorate sponsorship plans, added more sponsors at lower dollar amounts. Any program we evaluate we make sure it is inclusive and is in line with D&I goals.  We make sure as a chapter that we try to do better and take some action. Made a statement of action plan after George Floyd murder.  Had to take a hard look, new it was going to be a tough year. New we would lose members because of unemployment, notable in the Detroit market. Decided to create program to promote transition to new employment.  How to get hired in tough environment, how to deal with

burnout during job search, tried to help members in professional transition.  Basically a match-making program with charities looking for support with members in need of work.

Dayton – Mark:

Our Chapter is ‘Dayton Strong’ in 2020! Rebranded our annual Prisms awards to ‘Gem City PR Awards.’ Responded to pandemic by moving awards from May to Sept. 24 in a virtual format. Responded to racial justice crisis by hosting a virtual ‘Diversity in PR Forum’ with several community PR leaders in place of the traditional Media Day event. The event drew 44 participants. Began sharing more virtual event opportunities from sister PRSA chapters. That’s been a bonus!

River Cities – Terry:  Established 2015. Former grad students worked together to form chapter. Serve 12 counties, small with peak of 15 members. Five are APR. Kaylin Staten is on the ECD board- former student of Terry. Faculty advisor for Marshall University PRSSA.  Second award ceremony was virtual this spring. Gearing up for third annual and trying to reach out and communicate better the value of PRSA membership.  Working closely with PRSSA chapter and new professional advisor with series of networking sessions and guest speakers through Zoom. Leadership succession is an important discussion as we try to branch out and get more people involved and utilize talent a little bit better.

Central Michigan – Greg: Shifted in-person awards to virtual in June. Formed a COVID-19 task force for our chapter, offered board members to keep board operations going for our members. Formed the #PRSAMI collaboration with all four Michigan chapters. Working on bylaw change to move DE&I board position to an officer position. Collaborating with West Michigan to interview D&I consultants to integrate training four our board and memberships.

Saki Indakwa, president-elect, PRSA Southwest District; Past-President PRSA Houston Chapter; External Communications Manager, KIPP Texas Public Schools

Collaboration and sharing: Use your district to learn and share best practices to learn from each other. SW district has a speakers’ bureau – reimburse chapter $100 to help pay for speakers.


Board retreat scheduling:

Milton – Soon after you confirm new board. Holiday time is busy but important to get going the sooner the better.

John thanked all participants and presenters; will email slide presentations and survey.

Conference concluded at 1:30 p.m.