It is with delight that we venture out of the Midwest in the month of May and head south to Louisville, Kentucky to shine the ECD Chapter Spotlight on the PRSA Bluegrass Chapter!
Our thanks go to Bluegrass Chapter President Alexa Bacon for providing the information and insights into what makes Bluegrass run.
All our ECD chapters are testing the turf to see how soon and how safely event planning can move away from the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic. Like most of us, Bluegrass is not at full gallop yet, but in her Chapter Spotlight summary Alexa gives a good indication they are rounding the curve with the grandstand crowd on its feet.
“We decided to keep moving forward and produce monthly programs and virtual networking events despite the uncertainty of the pandemic,” Alexa said about the challenges of keeping the chapter meaningful to its members.
“When we were given the option to postpone our two biggest programs, we instead hosted and implemented them both 100% virtually, a feat our Landmarks chairs had to figure out on their own without any previous experience. We’ve continued our success… and hope to move to hybrid and/or in-person events in the near future.”
Finally, Bluegrass roots run deep in this chapter. You may hear banjo strings ringing and the Bluegrass breakdown building when Alexa talks about keeping “in tune” as the secret to a happy chapter.
Give us a brief history of your chapter:
PRSA Bluegrass Chapter was founded in 1957 to serve communications professionals in Louisville, Kentucky, and the surrounding areas — including Southern Indiana. We have almost 80 registered members in our chapter and hope to continue growing in the coming years.
Who are your current executive officers?
President: Alexa Bacon
President-Elect: Tracy Green
Immediate Past President: Abigail Varner
Secretary: Lauren Deitering
Treasurer: Tamara Davis
Landmarks Awards: Kelsey Thomas
Membership Chair: Jody Hamilton
Communications Chair: Amy Higgs
Communications Support Chair: Beth Clayton
Ethics Chair: Lauren Cherry
Director-at-Large: Rachel Collier-Carr
Director-at-Large: Jonathan Wahl
Describe your membership:
We represent a diverse mix of experienced practitioners with a shared passion for advancing the practice of public relations across the region. From recent college graduates to leaders of some of the biggest brands in business today, our membership is made up of nearly every practice area and professional setting within the communications field. Our membership includes both agency and in-house professionals.
What is normally your biggest project of the year?
For almost four decades, the Landmarks of Excellence Awards program has recognized the very best professional communications across greater Louisville. We host this event every year in October and usually receive over 200 submissions from local public relations and advertising agencies, corporate communication, and in-house marketing teams. From building a social campaign around Call to Entries to hosting the event (virtual or in-person), this requires an extensive amount of work for our Landmarks Chair and board members. In addition to presenting awards to the highest-scoring campaigns, we recognize a Communicator of the Year, Hall of Fame inductees, and Excellence in Journalism recipient each year to commend notable individuals within the Louisville area. We also highlight upcoming talent by presenting a ‘Rising Star’ award to 2-4 individuals under the age of 32 in the PR and Communications field who show great promise in their career.
How has your chapter pivoted with the COVID-19 pandemic?
When the pandemic began in March 2020, we quickly shifted our previous plans to sustain our programming while keeping everyone safe and healthy. Our main goal was to remain an active chapter during COVID so we could provide our members with resources to deal with the effects of the pandemic in their workplace and a sense of community during social distancing.
Two big shifts were re-planning our big yearly event, PR Bootcamp, which was planned in March, to an entirely virtual event in November and continuing monthly programming during a time of uncertainty. After a break in April to regroup, we began hosting monthly virtual programs for the rest of 2020 beginning with our ‘Landmarks How-To’ panel in May. We also planned a 100% virtual Landmarks event which had high attendance and participation despite the physical limitations of the pandemic.
How is your chapter leaned into Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity?
In 2019, we decided January’s monthly program every year would center around Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity and named the program ‘Courageous Conversations.’ In January 2020, Victoria Russell — Chief of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion for Papa John’s Pizza — led an inspiring program about advocating for Diversity and Inclusion in our workplaces. This past January, Ashley Duncan, Vice President & Director of Inclusion and Diversity at Republic Bank, spoke about how PR and marketing professionals can be doing to ensure greater inclusivity and equity in corporate communications. We also pledged to our members in the summer of 2020 that our Chapter would provide a $500 donation to the Louisville Urban League in honor of our 2017 Communicator of the Year, Sadiqa Reynolds, and $500 to the Committee to Protect Journalists, a nonprofit organization that protects the rights of journalists across the globe so they can report the news safely and without fear of reprisal.
What is your chapter’s proudest achievement? Why?
Our proudest achievement as a chapter was successfully navigating the limitations of the pandemic and coming out stronger than ever. We decided to keep moving forward and produce monthly programs and virtual networking events despite the uncertainty of the pandemic. When we were given the option to postpone our two biggest programs, we instead hosted and implemented them both 100% virtually, a feat our Landmarks chairs had to figure out on their own without any previous experience. We’ve continued our success by hosting virtual programs in January, February, March, and May of 2021 and hope to move to hybrid and/or in-person events in the near future.
What’s your secret to a “happy chapter”?
Inclusion and communication are two important themes we’ve focused on this past year as a chapter. Our leadership wanted to ensure our members feel welcomed and empowered during and after our monthly programs. Hosting a diverse range of programs focused on timely topics gives our members the signal that we are in tune with important issues happening within our world and want to provide helpful content centered around these vital conversations.