PRSA Greater Cleveland is the final ECD chapter to be profiled in the Chapter Spotlights. Thank you to all chapter leaders! Your support has been invaluable!

By ECD Communications Chair Mark Pompilio

They say the heart of rock and roll is still beating in Cleveland, and from what we’ve seen from PRSA Greater Cleveland… we believe ’em!

Rock is king when you’re home to the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame. But as Past President, APR, Fellow PRSA, and all-time chapter “front man” Chris Lynch reminds us in the May ECD Chapter Spotlight, “Clevelanders are used to being the underdog.”

Maybe it’s playing with an ever-present chip on the shoulder that makes Cleveland go so big. It is one of the premier metros among ECD membership and Chris is proud to proclaim the accomplishments of his chapter with a bully pulpit bullhorn.

It’s not bragging when you can back it up.

PRSA Cleveland not only pivoted during the pandemic, they at times tripled the number of professional development programs to keep members eagerly engaged.

They leaned forcefully into DEI by building a chapter committee, programming, education and scholarship. And just like the heart of rock ‘n roll that kept beating through the pandemic, so did the Cleveland Rocks Awards.

The chapter’s flagship event at the Rock Hall lit up the dark COVID-19 year of 2020 with a virtual platform.  They shot the entire ceremony on video, including 50 different clips, interviews, and musical rock classic interludes – all from the Rock Hall.

It is tough for Cleveland to escape its past. After all, this is the city where combustible pollutants frequently lit up the Cuyahoga River. Singer Randy Newman infamously crooned, “Burn on, big river, burn on.” The dagger was Randy’s innocently snarky line, “Cleveland, city of magic, city of light.”

Yea, right.

Clevelanders sometimes feel like they can never escape the futility. Just ask those die-hard and sometimes left-for-dead Browns fans.

When your Heisman-winning, top-pick quarterback is on the way out as damaged goods, and your new zillion-dollar QB comes with a damaged reputation… the river seems to be once more “smokin’” through their dreams.

It’s the job of PR professionals to tell the better story. Sometimes it’s the story of redemption.

Let’s talk about that river.

The Cuyahoga River was once one of the most polluted rivers in the U.S.  It commonly caught fire, 13 times since 1868. 

The worst blaze in 1952 caused $1.3 million in damages. The most fatal was the 1912 fire with five deaths.  The damage wasn’t as bad and no one died in the 1969 fire, but it drew the most attention.

As reported in TIME, the country was become more aware of ecology and a shift was underway from industry to technology, and waste dumping to recycling. 

Inspired by the 1969 river fire, Congress passed the National Environment Policy Act (NEPA). It became law in 1970 and helped establish the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The river no longer burns, but the legacy is bright.

The good work of public relations has a long history in Cleveland. A predecessor to PRSA Cleveland, is the Cleveland Advertising Association, organized in 1901 as the Cleveland Advertising Club “to establish advertising as a positive force in business and promote Cleveland as an advertising center.”

According to Case Western Reserve University, in 1908 the club formed the Vigilance Committee to encourage truth in advertising and good business ethics by monitoring careless and deceptive advertising. Renamed the Fair Practices Committee, it expanded its activities, eventually evolving into the Better Business Bureau.

Cleveland is the largest city on Lake Erie and one of the most populous urban areas in the country. It was founded in 1796 by General Moses Cleaveland who gave the city its name. (The Cleveland Advertiser changed the spelling in 1836 so it would fit better on the newspaper’s masthead).

It was a huge advantage to be a port city connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Cleveland grew into a major manufacturing center thanks to transportation by river, canals, and railroad lines. The economy flourished also through financial services, healthcare, biomedicals, and higher education.

By the early 20th century, Cleveland had emerged as a major American manufacturing center. It attracted waves of immigrants from eastern and southern Europe and the rural south. The Cleveland Indians won their first World Series in 1920.

The city was hit hard by the Great Depression. There were labor struggles and strikes. It rebounded after World War II as an “All-America City” and the Indians won the 1948 World Series. The 1950’s saw the rise of new music coined by Cleveland DJ Alan Freed as “rock and roll.”

In the 1960’s the city’s economy slowed. People fled to the suburbs as the rail and steel industries declined. In 1978 Cleveland became the first major American city since the Great Depression to default on its federal loans.

Cleveland entered the new century with a more diversified economy and gained a national reputation as a center for healthcare and the arts. And thanks to the Cuyahoga River cleanup, it has become a national leader in environmental protection.

Cleveland lost World Series heartbreakers in 1995, 1997 and 2016. The Browns haven’t won an NFL title since 1964.

But who cares if you believe “Major League” in 1989 (Wild Thing!) is one of the best sports movies ever made? The Browns have talent, the fans still believe, and Cleveland baseball rises again as the “Guardians.”

The secret, says Chris: “Put us all together, we’re going to tell great stories.”

One more time Randy…

Cleveland city of light city of magic
Cleveland city of light you’re calling me
Cleveland, even now I can remember
Cause the Cuyahoga River
Goes smokin’ through my dreams.


Submitted by Past President Chris Lynch, APR, PRSA Fellow

Give us a brief history of your chapter.

The Greater Cleveland Chapter was chartered in 1951. It currently has 195 members. The chapter currently has 41 APRs (21% of its total membership) and seven Fellows (3.5% of its total membership).

PRSA Cleveland is the professional organization that brings together public relations, communications and marketing practitioners throughout Northeast Ohio.

Who are your current executive officers?

President: Heidi Modarelli-Frank, APR

President-Elect: Sydney Stone

Past President: Chris Lynch, APR, Fellow PRSA

Treasurer: Brian Newbacher

VP-Diversity Chair: Kimberly Smith-Woodford

VP-Membership: Rosemarie Ascherl

VP-Communications: Vicki McDonald, APR

Secretary: Bobby Batyko

Chapter admin: Lynn Bracic

Describe your membership.

The PRSA Greater Cleveland Chapter is the professional organization that brings together public relations, communications, and marketing practitioners throughout Northeast Ohio. Among the Chapter’s most important activities and duties:

  • Coordinate networking events and activities
  • Develop and host professional development activities for members on all levels
  • Serve as a resource for public relations students at all levels
  • Provide recognition of excellence and best practices in all facets of the public relations field
  • Develop and establish, in conjunction with the national chapter, ethical standards for the profession

What is normally your biggest project of the year?

As our chapter’s largest fundraiser, the Cleveland Rocks Awards, honor outstanding campaigns and tactics developed by our PRSA community. Funds raised benefit four scholarship funds: Student, Multicultural Student, Associate Members, and Non-profit Members.

Reflections on 2021 #PRSAROCKS wouldn’t be complete without a special thanks to our presenting sponsor Falls & Co . Our recent program (sporting the theme ‘Let There Be Rock!’), returned in person and was held at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame & Museum, with more than 140 professionals in attendance.

How has your chapter adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Ironically with the pandemic, we were able to double and some months, triple the number of professional development programs, that we were able to offer our members and prospective members through virtual programming.  It also allowed us to tap into programming from a more diverse number of practitioners, from around the country. However, we have seen some networking and personal interactions that members crave from our society, so we have been – slowly but surely – been adding in-person events to the mix again.

How is your chapter leaned into Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion?

Our initiatives include:

  • Establish a multi-cultural committee
  • Speak out and advocate for equality, while publicly pointing out and condemning racism
  • Create quarterly DE&I programming to better foster inclusion and educate chapter members and all Northeast Ohio communicators on the features and benefits of a multicultural society
  • Reach out to the communications community to embrace and recruit new members of diverse backgrounds and culture
  • Create and support educational and scholarship opportunities for communications students from multicultural backgrounds

What is your chapter’s proudest achievement?  Why?

While we feel our Cleveland Rocks awards events (an award-program unlike any other we like to boast), that has featured MTV DJs, music and media celebrities, a mix of video and live performers – and all the while raising thousands of dollars for students, multicultural students, and memberships for new Associate and Non-Profit members – the fact that we FINALLY got a new website created and implemented; well, that was a Herculean task. Visit us at

Any “little known/fun facts” about your chapter to share?

More on Rocks – we held our 2020 celebration on a virtual platform, but shot the entire ceremony, including all speakers/presenters and sponsors, on video. The finished program featured 50 different clips, interviews, and musical rock classic interludes all from the Rock Hall.

What’s your secret to a “happy chapter”?

Hey, Clevelanders are used to being the underdog.  And a lot of times, PR people are too.  Put us all together, we’re going to tell great stories, laugh and share practical advice about how we can all do our jobs and communicate just a little better every day.



The name “White Pine” stands out among our ECD chapters because it may immediately put you to the test.  It’s not a big city, like Cleveland or Pittsburgh, nor does it conjure an identity, like Bluegrass and Thoroughbred.  But if you are a Michigander, you know White Pine.

They know the actual Michigan town of White Pine is located in the Upper Peninsula. PRSA White Pine represents the Great Lakes Bay Region, better known as the Tri-Cities, the region surrounding the Greater Tri Cities of SaginawBay City, and Midland. It is part of Central Michigan and includes much of Bay, Midland, Isabella and Saginaw Counties.

To get a handle on this area, think of crook of the thumb on the Michigan hand.

It’s fourth largest combined statistical area in the state of Michigan, but population has fallen consistently through recent censuses. In January 2009 local community and business leaders began calling it the Great Lakes Bay Region, hoping a cooperative regional focus could spur economic development.

PR opportunities have come from several large corporations that have operations in the region. They include the Michigan Sugar Company, a cooperative owned by 1,250 farmers in Bay City; the GM Powertrain plants in Flint, Bay City, and Saginaw; the Dow Chemical Company world headquarters in Midland; Nexteer-Saginaw Steering Systems in Saginaw; and the  S.C. Johnson and Son manufacturing in Bay City making Ziploc products.

Today White Pine Chapter members work more in health care and higher education, non-profits and small businesses.

A key associaton is with Central Michigan University. It was established in 1892 and has more than 20,000 students on its Mount Pleasant campus.

The area welcomes travelers and is included the tourism lore descibed as “Pure Michigan.” The Great Lakes Bay Region is tucked along the eastern coastline at the base of Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay and invites road trips to discover six unique vacation stops in Bay City, Birch Run, Chesaning, Frankenmuth, Midland, and Saginaw.

COVID-19 was hard on the tourism industry. Healthcare thrived, but for all the wrong reasons. Economic challenges among small and mid-sized cities in Mid-Michigan impacted everyone, and brought an exisential challenge to the White Pine chapter.

“Over the past few years, we’ve watched our membership dwindle, to the point of ECD reaching out to rescue our fledging chapter,” said Chapter President Holly Roenicke in the April ECD Chapter Spotlight. “We gathered ‘core members’ and have stayed together.”

The struggle isn’t over. “We have not had an in person meeting, since… October 2000?” said Holly. But they rely on the strength of their senior members, the youth of their PRSSA Chapter at Central Michigan University, and a belief that the chapter has a role to fill and services to provide to the PR community.

So when Michiganders and non-Michiganders alike hear the name “White Pine” they should think “resiliance.” ECD collectively values the history, the culture, the contributions and the community of each chapter.  As we enter what we are encouraged to believe is a truly hopeful spring, our April Chapter Spotlight shines brightly on White Pine.


By Holly Roenicke, Chapter President

Give us a brief history of your chapter.

The White Pine Chapter was chartered in 1988. White Pine Chapter currently has nine APRs (60% of its total membership) and no current Fellows. PRSA White Pine serves public relations professionals in the Great Lakes Bay Region, which includes Bay, Isabella, Midland and Saginaw counties.

 Who are your current executive officers?

President: Holly LaRose-Roenicke, APR

President Elect: Jerry Boehm

Past President: Melinda Ann Shriner, APR

Treasurer: Karen Stiffler, APR

Membership Chair: Kristen Squires

Describe your membership.

Our membership is small – but most members are loyal to this region, the White Pine Chapter, and helping one another. Two of our founding members, Melinda Shriner, APR, and Karen Stiffler, APR, are still active members some 34+ years! We’re well represented in health care and higher education, and also have members in non-profits and small businesses.

What is normally your biggest project of the year?

We are the professional chapter to the PRSSA Chapter at Central Michigan University. We partner with the students, and their advisor Jim Wojcik, associate professor of journalism, to put together a half day conference for students and professionals. The conference drew approximately 50 attendees when it was last held, prior to the pandemic.

How has your chapter adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic?

In 2020 White Pine PRSA reached out to members and regional friends in public relations to encourage them to use the Eventbrite online planning site as a new chapter resource. We said, “While we wait for the time when we can gather together again, we invite you to take part in this online learning opportunity our chapter has purchased. We hope you find it beneficial. Meanwhile, work hard, stay safe, be healthy!”

It followed the chapter’s webinar series, “Communications During COVID-19.

White Pine continued to address COVID-19 and Crisis Communication head on in 2021 with timely member events:

Feb. 24, 2021 – Communicating in a Pandemic – Peer Insights & Networking

As communicators, we’ve been in crisis mode for a year and our personal lives turned upside down due to coronavirus. Hospitals have had to announce no visitors, alternatives for 100% capacity, masks or no masks, and finally, assuring employees and the public the vaccine is safe.

The virtual Peer Insights discussion included two of our own front line (super)heroes, Millie Jezior, APR, public relations manager for MidMichigan Health and Kristin Knoll, planning and communications manager at Covenant HealthCare. Millie Jezior shared her experience on how a local story angle on the COVID-19 vaccine delivery took off with national and international media. Kristin Knoll shared how communications took center stage amidst the pandemic for both internal and external audiences.

We took time to break out and connect because we all have been “in this together.”

Sept. 21, 2021 – The Day the Dams Broke – A Case Study in Crisis Communications

In the early morning hours of Tuesday, May 19, 2020, residents in Edenville Township, northeast of Midland, Mich. were asked to evacuate due to an “imminent dam failure” at the Edenville Dam. After seven inches of rain in 48 hours, the Edenville and Wixom Lake dams breached, sending potentially nine feet of water toward the city of Midland. In all, 10,000+ residents living along the floodplain of the Tittabawassee River were evacuated with no deaths, and those displaced had emergency shelter.

The virtual panel discussion with emergency officials from Midland, Midland County and United Way addressed how preparation is key in responding to potential crisis in your area and gave communication advice for the first 24 hours, first weeks and months following devastation of a community.

What is your chapter’s proudest achievement?  Why?

The PRSA Michigan chapters (PRSA Detroit Chapter, WMPRSA – West Michigan Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, PRSA White Pine Chapter and CMPRSA) came together to form the PRSA Michigan Chapter Collective, a historic statewide collaboration to provide programming and resources to all PRSA members in the state.

Any “little known/fun facts” about your chapter to share?

We gave a shoutout to our Millie Jezior who was MidMichigan Health “Corporate Most Valuable Person” for July 2020! We think she’s awesome year-round, but hey, we’re happy she’s being recognized.

What’s your secret to a “happy chapter”?

Secret to a happy chapter? A few volunteers willing to say “yes.” Over the past few years, we’ve watched our membership dwindle, to the point of ECD reaching out to rescue our fledging chapter. We gathered “core members” and have stayed together. Like everyone, we are challenged by how the workplace is changing and we are trying to find a mix of meeting our members needs in professional development and networking opportunities.




We’re excited to announce the results of the East Central District’s 44th annual Diamond Awards competition, which recognized public relations excellence in both campaigns and tactics. The Diamond Awards are open to any public relations professional who is either a member of the 17 Public Relations Society of America chapters within the East Central District or a non-member of PRSA whose place of business is within the district’s boundaries. The East Central District covers the states of Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, western Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Congratulations to SORTA/Metro from the Cincinnati Chapter for winning the Best of Show award for “10 Days on 10 Routes” in the Events & Observances: 8 days or more category. The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) is a tax-supported, independent political subdivision of the State of Ohio and is a government entity. SORTA operates Metro fixed-route bus service and Access paratransit service for people whose disabilities prevent their riding Metro buses.

The complete list of winners is here. Congratulations to all!

The 2022 Diamond Awards program will open in summer 2022, so start preparing your submission now!



John Denver may have been unkind to our ECD brethren in Toledo when he called Saturday nights there “like being nowhere,” but he made some amends with his love song to West Virginia.

 I-64 may not be a typical “Country Road” but it takes you home to Charleston, the eagles’ nest of the Appalachians and pinnacle of the PRSA West Virginia chapter.

The chapter was founded in 1979 and serves the entire mountain state. Though the roads are like a rollercoaster ride, they all truly lead to Charleston, where Interstates I-64, I-77, and I-79 converge. Many PR pros find their way there to learn, work, or attend events.

West Virginia is so rich in wilderness that your arrival in Charleston is startling. Nestled between the hills and the Kanawha River is a city of 50,000, the largest in the state and the state capital.

But chapter leadership treats members like a big family, and that means sharing the love. They make a deliberate effort to spread chapter events across the state. Country roads lead to many homes, and after all, West Virginia is the “mountain mama.”

PRSA West Virginia is the ECD Chapter Spotlight for November 2021. Kaylin Staten, APR and chair-elect for the 2022 ECD board, is a member of the PRSA-WV Chapter and a past-president of the former River Cities Chapter.

PRSA West Virginia President Jennifer Goddard provided the Chapter Spotlight survey just as her chapter completed one of its signature events, the Nov. 16, 2021 Hall of Fame Induction ceremony at the West Virginia University Reed College of Media.

The honorees included Cathryn Harris, Joe Gollehon, and former ECD administrator Diane Slaughter, all APR and all PRSA Fellows. Charlie Ryan, APR, was inducted virtually.

“It was a hybrid event planned and executed beautifully by the PRSSA students at West Virginia University and supported by the Marshall and West Virginia State University PRSSA chapters,” said Jennifer.

“Members of our Hall of Fame represent the best of our profession through their career excellence, mentoring of others and community involvement demonstrated over decades,” Jennifer told West Virginia News. “They are the best of the best.”

Our ECD chapters are as individual as their environs. Shine the beam of the Chapter Spotlight on each chapter and the light will bounce back differently. It reflects the culture, personality, and organic innovations of each organization.

For PRSA West Virginia, the Hall of Fame inductions has become an opportunity to connects the wisdom of senior practitioners with the energy and ideas of those early in their careers.

“The Hall of Fame ceremony also supports the next, diverse generation of upcoming PR professionals — those who will follow in our footsteps and need our support and encouragement,” is how the chapter describes the connection.

“PRSSA Chapters at WVU, West Virginia State University and Marshall University are collaborating to raise funds for their chapters to support programming and assistance in membership fees. WVU PR students and their chapters of PRSSA are responsible for our ceremony as part of their capstone project.”

Before we turn to the PRSA West Virginia Spotlight Survey… a few words about this “mountain mama.”

It was country roads only when the Charleston area was settled by pioneers, who moved west after the Revolution. Fort Lee, the first permanent settlement, was built in 1788 by Col. Savannah Clendenin and his company of Virginia Rangers. Daniel Boone was an early resident and a member of the Kanawha County Assembly.

Legend has it that Charleston was first named “Charles Town” after Col. Clendenin’s father, Charles. It was later shortened to “Charleston” to avoid confusion with another Charles Town in the eastern part of the state, which was named after George Washington’s brother, Charles.

As rebrand brainstorming often go, “Chuck Town” never got any traction.

The discovery of salt brines along the Kanawha River, and the first salt well in 1806 created great economic growth.

Charleston, like much of western Virginia, was divided in loyalty and the dispute over slavery between the Union and the Confederacy. West Virginia broke away and became the 35th U.S. state in 1863.

The North wanted West Virginia for economic reasons. Heavy industry, particularly the steel business of the upper Ohio River region, depended on coal. Early in the Civil War, Federal units from Ohio marched into western Virginia solely to capture the coal mines.

A century and a half later, the debate continues about the future of energy, the economy, and the balance of power in a divided government.  Just ask Sen. Joe Manchin: you get a pretty good view from the Mountain State. His publicist is of course available to take your questions!


Give us a brief history of your chapter.

Our chapter was founded in 1979 and serves the entire Mountain State. At our peak in the mid-1990s, we had more than 150 members, four PRSSA chapters and more than 20 APRs. We are currently 79 members strong. 

Who are your current executive officers?

President: Jennifer Goddard, APR

President-Elect: Jordan Ferrell

Treasurer: Dr. Ali Ziyati

Secretary: Brett White

Describe your membership.

Our membership is quite diverse with many solo practitioners, corporate members, state government communications, non-profits and small businesses. 

What is normally your biggest project of the year?

Typically, we have a really strong Crystal Awards program with hundreds of entries, a festive gathering for the awards presentations and engagement across the entire state, involvement of students and professionals. 

How has your chapter pivoted with the COVID-19 pandemic?

Like most, we moved programs online and offered free or discounted programs beginning in March of 2020. We quickly shifted a professional development program to all virtual in April. 

How is your chapter leaned into Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion?

We are developing our programs with an eye to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. We partner with our Young Professionals and we are engaging students to help us keep all aspects of DEI in our programming, recruitment and membership goals. 

What is your chapter’s proudest achievement?

We have developed a Hall of Fame, now in its third year. It celebrates the hard work of our long term members who have contributed to the growth and excellence in our state’s public relations legacy. Not only have we honored some outstanding professionals, we partner with the PRSSA chapters to plan and host the event. This gives students an opportunity to plan an important event, but they act as ambassadors to the honorees. The proceeds from the event are divided by the PRSSA chapters.  

Any “little known/fun facts” about your chapter to share?

At one time we had one of the highest percentages of APRs in the country. 

What’s your secret to a “happy chapter”?

Listening to our members and making conscious effort to fulfill our status as a statewide chapter. We have been deliberate in hosting events in every region of the state and removed the focus on the capital city. 

Do you have a preferred contact email in case other ECD chapters have a question for you?



Holy Toledo! There’s a lot to love about the Glass City, it’s demilitarized Ohio-Michigan war zone, and the hard-working, big-hearted members of the PRSA Northwest Ohio Chapter.

The chapter was founded in 1951 by public relation professionals supporting the region’s industrial strength including the post-World War II momentum for the Jeep brand.

We know what came next in the late 20th century for many bustling midwestern towns. Declining manufacturing base and the demand to diversify to survive.

The Toledo region has adapted and grown, and so has the NWOH chapter.

It’s never easy. Chapter membership, now at 58, declined by about 30% through the pandemic.  It is holding ground with the leadership of Chapter President Becky Vogel, Ethics and Inclusion Chair Claire Morrow who provided this Chapter Spotlight Survey report, and the ongoing support of past-president Jared Meade.

Jared is founder and principal of Rayne Strategy Group and 2022 chair-elect of the ECD board.

“After serving at the chapter level for several years, I was inspired to join the ECD board in an effort to improve district relations,” he said, “especially for chapters that need find themselves in need of district/national organizational support.”

The chapter takes pride in its response to the COVID-19 disruptions.  It also deserves recognition for acting well ahead of the curve on the pursuit of diversity and inclusion.

Clair noted that in 2008 the chapter established a diversity chair position and surveyed the chapter to understand the mix of age, gender, specialty area, and racial or ethnic group.

“In 2020, it became increasingly clear that our chapter needed to not only continue to support DE&I efforts but to become actively anti-discrimination,” said Claire. “With guidance from Nationals, we were able to direct our membership to diversity resources and adopt a chapter-wide diversity statement.”

“Unfortunately, COVID set us back but also taught us new things,” said Claire when asked about the strong start in the 2008 survey. “We have a lot of work to do this coming year!  We had some great results from that survey. We’re currently trying to recreate similar survey participation going forward!”

Now, a look back.

In the 1807 Treaty of Detroit the region’s four Native American tribes ceded land surrounding the mouth of the Maumee River where Toledo later developed. 

Proposed construction of the Erie Canal in 1824 launched a fierce competition among small towns along the Maumee River to be the canal’s ending terminus. The towns of Port Lawrence and Vistula merged in 1833 to better compete and chose the name Toledo.

Toledo didn’t get the ending terminus, but it demonstrated brand research without the help of Google.

Popular legend says local merchant Willard J. Daniels suggested Toledo because it “is easy to pronounce, is pleasant in sound, and there is no other city of that name on the American continent.”

The chapter is “Northwest Ohio” but don’t be surprised to see Maize and Blue flying.

Depending on your point of view (and where you sit at “The Game”) Ohio won the Toledo War with Michigan for some land near Lake Erie.  Militias gathered at the border but never engaged and the only casualty was a Michigan deputy stabbed in the leg with a pen knife.

The attacker was a guy named “Two” Stickney who was defending his elder brother “One” Stickney. Ohio got the land, Michigan got the Upper Peninsula, and Toledo got “Stickney Avenue.”  It makes you wonder who the neighbors are at 1 and 2 Stickney Ave.

Toledo industry grew fast in the 1920’s but was hit hard by the Great Depression. WPA projects including the Toledo Zoo and Toledo Museum of Art still stand today.

Several Fortune 500 automotive-related companies had their headquarters in Toledo, but only one remains. Toledo is Jeep headquarters, GM has operated a transmission plant there since 1916, and Cleveland-Cliffs has invested $700 million into modernizing the local steel industry.

Toledo is known as the Glass City because of its long history of glass manufacturing. That corny “Holy Toledo” probably came from the city’s many fine church designs.

The town has a rich history in music, especially in jazz, but “Country Boy” John Denver gave the town a strange soundtrack.

Denver recorded “Saturday Night In Toledo, Ohio,” composed by Randy Sparks after spending a boring night in town. Denver got enough push back to cancel his Toledo concert.  But when he returned in 1980, he drew a record crowd and got big applause when he sang the Toledo song.

Maybe it was a show of Toledo’s open heart, second chances, and no hard feelings. But it might also have been their sense of irony.  They get it, they can take it, and they can give it back.

Give us a brief history of your chapter.

The Northwest Ohio Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America was founded September 5, 1951, with 15 members representing such major Toledo-area corporations as Libbey-Owens-Ford Co., Owens-Illinois, DeVilbiss, Toledo Edison and The Toledo Blade, among others.

Members of the chapter exemplify the standard of professional qualification, as nearly 30 percent have achieved accreditation in public relations (APR). The Northwest Ohio Chapter maintains about 85 members who, through affiliation with PRSA, nurture individual professional development and guide their organizations, our community and society toward regarding relationships with all their various publics and one another.

Who are your current executive officers?

Becky Vogel, President

Sean Williams, President Elect and Program Chair

Allison Westhoven, Vice President and Membership Chair

Katie Blyth Hatcher, Vice President and Communications Chair

Kayla Lewandowski, Secretary and Treasurer

Claire Morrow, Ethics and Inclusion Chair

Kaylah Benore, Director-at-Large and PRSSA Liaison

Kari Bucher, Chapter Administrator

Describe your membership.

Although the chapter began with representation from major area industries, the composition of chapter membership has changed over the years. These changes include increased female membership as well as greater representation of small businesses and non-profit organizations.
Additionally, membership has moved from strictly a journalism education and experience to a range of educations and experiences in marketing and public relations.

How has your chapter pivoted with the COVID-19 pandemic?

Our chapter was extremely fortunate to have connections to a variety of virtual presenters. After postponing our March 2020 meeting, we were able to seamlessly integrate these virtual programs into our schedule for the remainder of the year.
These virtual events allowed us to bring in speakers that would not have been feasible in a pre-pandemic world. From discussions about local development, deep dives into data and even the future of AI – the virtual world allowed us to bring in fresh and engaging programing.
In addition to diving head-first into virtual programming, we used our social media as a resource for industry professionals to find trustworthy sources, reference best practices for COVID-19 related issues and remind members that they have a network of support in PRSA.

How is your chapter leaned into Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion?

DE&I efforts have become increasingly important to our chapter. In 2008, the chapter established the diversity chair position and received a 50-percent response to a diversity survey that helped to determine the extent of diversity in the chapter by age, gender, specialty area and racial or ethnic group. Twenty-seven members attended the International Conference held in Detroit, where the chapter received an award for its growth in membership.

In 2020, it became increasingly clear that our chapter needed to not only continue to support DE&I efforts but to become actively anti-discrimination. With guidance from Nationals, we were able to direct our membership to diversity resources and adopt a chapter-wide diversity statement.

We are currently developing our DE&I strategy for the future and plan to consciously incorporate DE&I topics, conversations and resources into everything we do as a chapter.

What is your chapter’s proudest achievement?  Why?

Our chapter’s biggest achievement to date would be our pivot at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. As I mentioned previously, our connections enabled us to jump into virtual programing and bring some truly amazing speakers to our membership. What started out as a challenge turned into a phenomenal professional development opportunity.

Any “little known/fun facts” about your chapter to share?

Some fun facts about our chapter include:

  • Approx. 30% of our members have achieved accreditation in public relations (APR).
  • Three members – Jim Little, Jim Richard and Dr. Jeanette Drake – have been elected to the prestigious College of Fellows
  • Our chapter has had four members who have served the society on the national board: Chris Hauser and Reg Jackson served as National Secretary, Don Connell was on the board and Jim Little served as president of the national PRSA. He has been one of only a few members from Ohio to lead the national organization as president.

What’s your secret to a “happy chapter”?

Our executive board prides itself on its efforts to stay in tune with our membership and community. We’ve all had a rough couple of years and our chapter has tried to remind our members to value their mental health, physical well-being and personal safety in light of a continually challenging professional environment.

We are constantly learning new ways to connect with our members and adapting to the ever-changing public health situation. More than anything, we know that our chapter feeds off personal interaction at meetings and events. We are tirelessly working to facilitate that same connection through our virtual programming and limited in-person events when possible.

Do you have a preferred contact email in case other ECD chapters have a question for you?

Contact President Becky Vogel –



QuickStart Leadership Conference 9-17-2021

In what we have come to know as the “new normal” the 2021 QuickStart Leadership Conference was yet again a virtual format. The ECD board looked at the bright side: a compact session for attendees, a virtual jet-setting crowd of speakers (hello, London calling!), pennies-on-the-dollar cost comparison, and above all, continuity. Pandemic be damned, the show carries on!

ECD chair John Palmer opened the conference with a review of ECD board accomplishments. “DEI initiative kicked off this year and the board has been very active on the topic,” said John. “We’re working on a program for DEI chairs in October. No journey is too long with the right company.  It’s always a great collaboration to have working with PR pros.

But First a Word from Our Sponsor… Butler University Master’s in Communications Program

Mark Rademacher from ECD sponsor Butler University took the floor to talk about the master’s in communication program.  “It’s 100% online and built for working pros,” he said.  He outlined a program of intensive courses; optional weekly zoom meetings; the 10-course program can be completed in 20 months. There are 5 required foundational courses; 5 elected courses to tailor experience for goals. Admission counseling focuses on good fit; it’s a small program with no more than 25 students in a cohort.

Membership Recruitment and Retention with PRSA membership chair Bart Graham:

“Crickets” said Bart was the response to his call for volunteer outreach from PRSA. “How do we retain the members we have?” he asked.

He called membership a four-legged table: recruitment/retention/volunteering/engagement. “Think about it this week – you’re going along as a chapter, you’re recruiting like crazy, but you have to engage them and have to keep them.”

Bart’s WETP approach: Welcome new members and guests; Engage with all, be Prompt with your welcome, Thank members and guests.

What has worked: Reaching out by LinkedIn and network; spotting new members weekly on the national directory and reaching out; not being shy about “volun-tolding” someone! Use LinkedIn messaging. Quarterly contacts with chapter or section members; starting small member meetups with COVID guidelines; zoom chats apart from regular programming is popular.  Work closely with chapter presidents. Bart says, “It helps to have a screw loose!”

“Anything to get members out to a meeting or chapter chatting with each other,” said Bart. “Single stay-at-home mom for example, is struggling on how to do this.  I’m always thinking of new and different things to do. As long as it’s legal, they pretty much let me do it!  They know me and usually run the other way because they know I’m going to ask them to volunteer for something!”

Emotional Intelligence: 5 Leadership Skills Communication Pros Must Know with coach Heather Evans:

Heather said there are five pivots, five choices you can make to set into the strongest leadership position, your strongest self. Each one is about communication. Emotional intelligence and deep leadership begin inside ourselves and with communication.  There is a sea change in leadership today, and how to step into leadership.

Anchors to leadership are about ways to communicating, about “languaging.” Language carries with it intent and creates change.

5 Pivots are CLEAR:

Challenge vs. Opportunity

Listening to Inner Critic vs. Coach

Emotional armoring vs. emotional intelligence

Autopilot vs. Conscious leadership

Response-based listening vs. listening to understand

  1. Challenge vs. Opportunity: the neurobiology of leadership.

Stress, anxiety, irritably (amygdala) blocks the neocortex creative center of the brain from rational thinking.  If we are going to step into strength of leaders, we must claim ownership over our own minds.

More dominion over our minds need resilience, trust/safety/innovation.  Gateway is self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills.

Small tweaks have big impact (Japan’s Kaison way).

We don’t have to feel overwhelmed.  A small tweak is what these pivots are. So you are not cutting off access to your most resilient self.

2. Listening to Inner Critic vs. Coach: Exercise: take 3 or 4 deep breaths/hold/exhale.

Leaders have mastery over the inner conversation.

Notice pattern of negative thinking and shift the other way.

Between stimulus and response is a gap.  That’s where real leadership lies: our response to everything around us.

The voice is yours. I’m in charge, it doesn’t get to run me. Who am I listening to? Is it my inner critic? The inner coach has a different voice.

Recognize inner strengths.  IC is trying to protect us from doing something wrong, looking foolish, feeling shame.  When in balance, notice we don’t want IC to go away, but keep in balance (out of balance, it is a perfectionist, highly critical; rule maker, opinionated observer).

What is one good thing that could happen if I was less critical?

Asking yourself questions that require you to think puts you into your highest brain capability.

3. Emotional armoring vs. emotional intelligence: signs – anger, being right, trying to control – protective mechanism too. Result is lot of toxicity.

Toxin – behavior – antidote

Toxin: blaming, defensiveness, stone-walling, contempt

Behavior: attack, victim, withdrawal, hostility

Antidote: soft start, open mindset, curiosity

Personal responsibility, curiosity 2% truth

Courage, speak up, transparency, coaching

Highly damaging to giver and receiver, personal development

Coming in with curiosity triggers neocortex.  Ticket out of defensive position is personal responsibility. Get more curious about that.

2% truth – feedback may be negative, feel defensive, but what if there was just 2% truth to it – what could I take out of that?

Courage to speak up, may help to have coaching.

What situations bring out this toxin in you? in your team?

The antidote to armoring is curiosity.

4. Autopilot vs. Conscious leadership

Conversation starters: the story I made up… I’m curious… tell me more… I’m wondering… help me understand.  Walk me through that… WHAT IS YOUR PASSION AROUND THIS? Tell me more about this…  tell me why this doesn’t work or doesn’t fit for you…

Words change your brain

Disempower language vs. owner language

I should, I ought to, I have to… swamped, stress… get through… (now running on less capacity)

Shift to owner: intend to… I choose to… I want to… (uses what I’m going to get from this, what is the gift in the garbage? How can I use this?  How can this situation strengthen me? Owner language changes our brain.

5. Response based listening vs. listening to understand

No. 1 complaint about relationships – not listening.

Part of not listening is you already think you know.  Our perception is accurate and complete. There is a different scenario to everything, but we believe our perception is complete and that impacts our ability to listen.

3 levels of listening

Level 1 – internal – Attention is on your thoughts, feelings and interpretations.

Level 2 – focused – periodically checking accuracy of your understanding.

Level 3 – global – encompasses the environment, your senses.

Perception Checking:  I hear you say… is that accurate? If I’m hearing you accurately you mean… How does what I’m saying fit for you?

Mind reading: I heard you say… which means…  it seems you are saying this that means that.

Unconditional Positive Regard (assuming positive intent)

Neutrality – key if on the receiving end of feedback – recognize all feedback is just information. Ask clarifying questions, etc. is strength of leadership.

Leadership is a mindset.

4-part process: objection – contraction – exploration – buy-in:

Objection: “this cannot be good” is stress response.

Contraction: “I don’t really want to deal with this.”

Exploration: “How can I make this work for me?”

Buy-in: “I have figures out how I can make this work for me, and for others (team).”

Game-changing transformation leadership.

Coaching exercise: think of challenge, explore choices making no commitments, prize yourself for being willing to go for the learning.

And now a word from our sponsor: StarChapter Update by Rebecca Chadwick:

The challenges to volunteer leaders this past year has been great. They value StarChapter for much more virtual engagement and its convenience. StarChapter helps increase membership, revenue, attendance, value, insights; decrease learning curve, effort, time, redundancy.

The Difference between Authentic DE&I Recruitment and “Pandering” with Barbara Phillips:

Authentic recruitment has broadened out to the culture, said Barbara in her presentation from London.

Privilege:  We all have privilege.  “When you are accustomed to privilege, discussion of DEI can feel like oppression.”  No one needs to be shamed, feel uncomfortable; but like any transformation program, it may feel uncomfortable.

Barbar said the UK has 9 protective characteristics enshrined in law. There is only one group that is actually pandered to, by definition of the word pander, and that is the white male, heterosexual with the most advantage in workplace.

Clean up before inviting folks over.

See what’s there now in your organization and clean it up. Global mindset – not just geographic, but universality. Global mindset indicated by qualities – openness; awareness of your culture’s impact on other cultures, especially if yours is the dominant culture; global understanding; treat others as they want to be treated.

Look at the bricks of your organization and acknowledge you would like to be diverse but may not be. You cannot do anything about recruitment until you understand what is going on inside the organization and the corporate structure.  DEI strategy must be imbedded in corporate strategy (it’s not just about tactics).  Draw a line under it and start again. Re-imagine it. Accountability, and share success.

Questions to ask yourself or clients if you want to be diverse:

  1. Why is our leadership in the pipeline so white and so male?

There is no talent pipeline problem.  Why do we think there is a pipeline issue?

  • What is your organization doing about pay gap?  If same job pays more for another individual, why is that?
  • Why are there practices that allow discrimination, and why are we not holding anyone accountable?
  • Why isn’t there more lived experience in those in organization speaking for DEI?


  1. How hard would it be to actually find meaningful board representation?
  2. How hard is it to find visible representation among senior leadership?
  3. How hard is it to establish a safe environment for all employees?
  4. Performance procedures, evaluations that disadvantage groups – what are you doing to dismantle that?
  5. How hard would it be to commit and finance long-term culture change and transformation? (where all employees can succeed uninhibited).

Social media has opened up messaging about what is happening inside the organization.  One continuum of message: make sure it is consistent. No one is immune from this. Lived experience representation is changing.

Pay gap is one process.

Creating meaningful support groups are only worth having if members of the group are allowed to be part of the decision making that affects them. Include them.

Visual representation – look at the black and brown bricks at bottom of your triangle and figure out why they are not higher up.  You cannot conduct any meaningful DEI strategy unless you consider this.

Meaningful board representation. Recruit from within; don’t assume someone is comfortable remaining in one position. Speak to people in the community – they will tell you who to recruit. If you want talent to be diverse, make room for them, expand for them. Don’t box everyone in for low level job, etc. Sometimes skip levels. Go down, some people haven’t been given the opportunity.  Something may be oppressing opportunity within the organization.

Psychologically safe environment means you can be authentic, no fear of being authentic, can take risks, path ethically is clearly defined.

Grievance procedures awarded behaviors – check how they compare, check that with the cultures.

Micro-aggression – everyone knows it exists. If someone comes to you, believe them.  They have thought long and hard about coming to you.

Authentic recruitment- demand more from your recruiters.  Demand more if list is not good enough. It is up to the client to demand more; access different networks; partner with them not patronize.  Go public with your intent and ask for support.  We need you to support us.

Make sure DEI is represented in your mission, values, operating procedures.

See diversity of candidates and use that knowledge in your solution. Don’t underestimate the grapevine – what is being said about your organization.  Employees will absolutely talk to new recruits.

You have to look at your organization first and go out there and make sure you understand the culture.

If serious look at PIP.

Feedback Time in the President’s Forum:

Chair-elect Jared Mead said the 360 Survey revealed membership recruitment/retention as central concern of all chapters.

What is the impact of the cost of membership?

Bart said money factors it into it. “I hear people saying my company isn’t paying for it anymore. Chapters are doing something different for hardship. Some people simply forget. Reach out to members. It is COVID and we hope it comes back but can’t guarantee it.”

Megan Bonelli said members ask, “Will we meet in-person again?” It’s hard to be on camera all day. The level of communication can be a lot.  Multiple emails per week. Videos can take time. Member organizations were in decline ahead of COVID. Small groups, committees? We’re out of fresh ideas right now.

Bart’s final word of advice: Keep track of members and engage.



The East Central District will hold its first-ever, virtual D&I Chair Chat on Tuesday, Oct. 12, from 11:45 am to 1 pm.

The virtual event will feature Carmella Glover, president of the Diversity Action Alliance. Glover will share the results from the benchmark report released this summer and tell us how to use the results and other resources to help recruit, retain and engage under-represented populations in our chapters.



The “This is not your father’s Oldsmobile” tag line debuted in 1988 and marked the beginning of the end for the Olds brand, killed off by GM in 2000.  Slate called it a case for a how a strongly identified brand can over time become its undoing.

Olds tried to distance itself from its reputation for middle-class achievement status and ended up with no clear identity, alienated loyalists, and the old brand carved into its headstone.

That’s not the way PR is done these days in Lansing, the state capital and the sixth largest city in Michigan.

The Lansing metro is an educational, cultural, governmental, commercial, and industrial center. Neighboring East Lansing is home to Michigan State University with an enrollment of more than 50,000.

Central Michigan PRSA has its hub in Lansing but serves the diverse Mid-Michigan area of the state. The chapter proudly claims Michigan State Advertising/Public Relations Professor Andrew Corner, who will be formally inducted into the PRSA College of Fellows in October.

CMPRSA Past President Greg Rokisky represents the chapter’s energetic young leadership. Greg now serves as a director on the ECD board.

It took an abundance of energy and distinct leadership for CMPRSA to pull off a prompt pivot early in the COVID-19 pandemic to virtual programming.  “Our chapter’s members have repeatedly told us in surveys that programming is one of the major draws to our organization,” said Chapter President Jessica Tramontana in the Chapter Spotlight survey.

That included a trend-setting decision to take the PACE Awards to a virtual platform. “In 2020, our chapter was one of the nation’s first to host their annual awards program virtually,” said Jessica.

CMPRSA then leaned in powerfully to a central cause of our time by creating the “Inclusion, Diversity, Ethics and Advocacy (IDEA) Champion” position for the Chapter and naming Camara Lewis to fill the role.

“The IDEA Champion is a pivotal role to ensure diversity of thought and participation is found within all of our professional development activities,” said Camara. It included fresh policy, professional panel discussions, and speaking out against hate.

The chapter looks forward to moving past COVID and returning to more social, in-person times.  With “Sparty” down the road at Michigan State the lure may seem to be tailgating. But CMPRSA actually gets a bigger kick out of kickball. More on that in the chapter Fun Fact!

CMPRSA’s secret to happy chapter is an open secret.  They want to know what you think, and they want to be current with the demands of the time.

Looking back on the “Not your father’s” days in Lansing, there is no shame in the Olds name.

The founding of the company in 1897 turned Lansing into an industrial powerhouse. Founder Ransom Old’s spin-off REO Motor Car Company brand lasted another 70 years.

The city transformed into an industrial center for manufacturing automobiles and parts, among other industries and by 1956 doubled in size. Today, Lansing’s economy is diversified among government service, healthcare, manufacturing, insurance, banking, and education.

Not bad for the original “Biddle City,” a non-existent town on flooded swamp land, invented by scam artists.

In 1835 two brothers from Lansing, New York plotted floodplain land, underwater most of the year, and sold it to 16 men back in Lansing, describing it as a full city with town square. Too embarrassed to go home, the scam victims settled nearby in what is now metropolitan Lansing.

In 1847 Michigan looked to move the capital from Detroit to a more central and safer location. Frustrated by the political wrangling, lawmakers privately chose the tiny Township of Lansing.

It calls to mind Olds final slogan from 1999: “Start Something.”


Give us a brief history of your chapter.

CMPRSA was founded in 1977 by a handful of local public relations professionals. A beginning mission statement of the chapter stated its purpose was “an association through which public relations practitioners interact, develop professionally, support members and the community, and strengthen the profession.” Our chapter currently boasts over 150 members. 

Who are your current executive officers? 

Jessica Tramontana, APR- President

Ally Caldwell- President-Elect, Secretary

Greg Rokisky- Past President

Lisa Biering – Treasurer

Katherine Japinga – Assistant Treasurer

Camara Lewis – Inclusion, Diversity, Ethics and Advocacy (IDEA) Champion

Monica Ackerson, APR – Assembly delegate  

Describe your membership.

CMPRSA’s membership is a diverse group, composed of public relations professionals in higher education, associations, state and local government, agencies and more. 

What is normally your biggest project of the year?

Each year, CMPRSA hosts its annual awards program and fundraiser, the PACE Awards. The PACE Awards are mid-Michigan’s highest honor of public relations activities and are awarded annually to practitioners who, in the judgment of their (out-of-state) peers, have successfully addressed a contemporary issue with exemplary professional skill, creativity and resourcefulness. More than 300 organizations have been recognized for excellence in public relations over the past three decades. Non-profit organizations, corporations and public and private agencies in an area spanning eight counties can enter.

How has your chapter pivoted with the COVID-19 pandemic?

Our chapter’s members have repeatedly told us in surveys that programming is one of the major draws to our organization. Our programming committee chairs have worked hard to deliver content, speakers and networking opportunities to members in a virtual capacity to accommodate and recognize different comfort levels in the midst of a global pandemic. 

In 2020, our chapter was one of the nation’s first to host their annual awards program virtually. Originally scheduled for April, the first-ever virtual ceremony was held in June. Our event committee worked diligently to maintain the integrity of the event, while recognizing the program’s winners and sponsors. A post-event survey found that our members felt the event was a great way to feel connected in celebration of 2019, while also maintaining a safe environment during the pandemic. 

How has your chapter leaned into Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion?

Camara Lewis – Inclusion, Diversity, Ethics and Advocacy (IDEA) Champion:

In late 2019, CMPRSA adopted a brand new inclusion policy as our chapter continues to recommit ourselves to the work of a more diverse, equitable and inclusive community for every practitioner we serve in the greater Lansing and Mid-Michigan region. Our board continues to review this policy and enact change where and when it makes sense.

Part of our DEI goals is to attract, maintain and engage a diverse and ethical demographic to our region. The first step to upholding our values was to ensure the Inclusion, Diversity, Ethics and Advocacy (IDEA) Champion was part of the executive team.

The IDEA Champion is a pivotal role to ensure diversity of thought and participation is found within all of our professional development activities. Adding the IDEA Champion to the executive committee not only adds a voice to the most strategic level of CMPRSA it ensures the position is filled in accordance with bylaws.

Continuing our DEI efforts this year we wrote a statement of support to the BIPOC community, spoke out against Asian (AAPI) hate and hosted a panel on accountability with four black women public relations practitioners who offered sincere and direct feedback to virtual participants on being better advocates and allies. 

Any “little known/fun facts” about your chapter to share?

In August 2019, CMPRSA coordinated a kickball game against the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Detroit Chapter. SPJ Detroit Chapter won, and future games have been delayed due to COVID-19, but it was a creative and fun way for public relations practitioners to connect with journalists. 

What’s your secret to a “happy chapter”?

Surveying your members to use research to meet and deliver on member’s expectations.

Do you have a preferred contact email in case other ECD chapters have a question for you?

Jessica Tramontana
cell (517) 974-6302
Go Green! Go White!


PRSA Fellow Awarded District’s Annual Platinum Award

East Central District Board of Directors selected Jaron Terry, MS, APR, PRSA Fellow (Central Ohio Chapter) as the honoree of this year’s Platinum Award.

Jaron Terry, MS, APR, PRSA Fellow (Central Ohio Chapter)

ECD’s Platinum Award recognizes outstanding professional service among district PRSA members. Every year, the ECD presents one Platinum Award in honor of former national PRSA board member and ECD board chair Donald P. Durocher, APR, Fellow PRSA. In Durocher’s memory, the district board recognizes a practitioner who has achieved a distinguished service record and is clearly identified as a role model for other professionals through chapter, district, and national service.

Jaron is an innovative collaborator, practicing public relations at the highest strategic, creative and ethical levels for four decades. An entrepreneur and veteran, she is an authentic, dedicated practitioner, teacher, mentor and friend. An independent practitioner since 1995, Jaron is president of Jaron Terry Communications where she utilizes the full gamut of public relations and marketing communications tools to favorably position organizations within their target markets. Specializing in health care, she is well-versed in strategic planning, media relations and marketing communications, and is an accomplished speaker and writer with numerous awards, including Central Ohio PRSA Tom Poling Practitioner of the Year.

Additionally, she enthusiastically champions APR, and actively mentors peers, young professionals, PRSSA students and her own nontraditional students as an adjunct professor at Franklin University.

Jaron is a champion for diversity and inclusion. She seeks opportunities to educate and inform fellow colleagues about diversity and inclusion initiatives wherever possible, helping to make the profession more well-rounded. She was a key driver in starting the Central Ohio PRSA Diversity & Inclusion Committee, which has received national recognition, and has been a presenter on this topic multiple times for organizations all around the country.  

Jaron holds a BS in Mass Communications, magna cum laude, and an MS in Media Management, from Virginia Commonwealth University. 

Her nominator shared, “Jaron worked tirelessly throughout her career and is deeply passionate about advancing the PR profession. As an independent practitioner, she guides her clients to enhance their business success while communicating inclusively and effectively. Her work has been recognized with local and national awards.  She is passionate about growing and cultivating the next generation of PR professionals. She is one of the hardest working individuals and cares deeply for this profession. Simply put – our PR community is better because of Jaron’s leadership and contributions.”

Jaron joined PRSA in 1981 at the Richmond, Virginia, PRSA chapter. She transferred her membership when she moved to Columbus in 1986, and she immediately became involved with the Central Ohio chapter with committee service. Since that time, she has served in various roles from a local, district and national level. 

She is a sought-after speaker and regularly presents at the regional level to chapters within the East Central District and across the country, most notably regarding implicit biases and diversity and inclusion. 

Talking about diversity and implicit bias can make some people uncomfortable and reluctant to dive deep for fear of saying the wrong thing. Others want to have an open and honest discussion about how implicit (or unconscious) bias can negatively affect not only our workplace lives, but our personal lives, too, but are concerned about being “politically correct” and so say nothing. Jaron has successfully led several leadership forums in partnership with Gayle Saunders, APR, and Shanikka Flinn, on this topic for the East Central District and other local PRSA chapters. 

Jaron recently spoke at the Kansas City PRSA Chapter on the topic: “From Statements to Action to Anti-Racism: The Communicator’s Role.” The panel presentation provided attendees with substantive takeaways to encourage increasing inclusion from the executive level to the front line, making awareness of implicit (unconscious) biases part of organizational culture, and implementing eight actions to encourage anti-racism from execs to the front line.

Additionally, she has presented and moderated events within the Central Ohio PRSA chapter. Recently, she moderated a discussion in June 2021 on “Showing Support for the LGBTQ+ Community through Informed Communications.”

Jaron (right) with MJ Clark, APR, PRSA Fellow (Central Ohio Chapter and 2014 honoree of Platinum Award), and PRSA ECD Chair and PRSA Central Ohio member John Palmer, APR, at a Central Ohio Chapter event in 2016 when MJ and Jaron were recognized for being inducted into the College of Fellows. 

PRSA Chapter Service: 

Jaron has been an integral member of the Central Ohio Chapter for four decades. She has served the chapter in various leadership roles, including: Ethics Officer, an assembly delegate for three terms, a member on the Board of Directors from 1995 to 1999 and 2009 to 2011, and a founding member of the Master’s Committee. Jaron served as the president in 2010 during the chapter’s 60th anniversary. 

As the 2016 Ethics Officer, Jaron co-led a task force along with board member and current Ethics Officer, Gayle Saunders, APR, to explore and implement the chapter’s diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiative. A formal committee was set up at that time to promote diversity and inclusion in the PR profession, support PR professionals from diverse backgrounds, and educate our members through timely, relevant content and educational programs. The committee has received national PRSA recognition three times, due to the involvement of Jaron and committee members. The chapter introduced its first D&I Officer position in 2020. 

Jaron is passionate about discussing how our workplaces and PRSA can achieve diversity and inclusion and the importance of it. As a member of the Central Ohio PRSA Chapter’s D&I committee, Jaron has worked with her fellow committee members to:

– Host quality programming on various topics, including: “Getting it Right: Writing and Communicating To, About and With the LGBTQ community,” “Uncovering and Confronting Implicit Biases,” and “Creating Inclusive Campaigns,” “From Statements to Action to Anti-Racism: The Communicator’s Role in Making the Statement a Reality”

– Provide a comprehensive list of resources about racism to members 

– Add a Diversity & Inclusion category to the chapter’s annual PRism Awards

– Author articles for PRSA National’s Strategies and Tactics and Central Ohio PRSA 

– Provide implicit bias training to the Board 

– Help ensure diverse representation in programming

In addition to her committee support and leadership roles, Jaron’s work has received several PRism Awards, Central Ohio PRSA’s awards program. In 2011, Jaron was named the Tom Poling Practitioner of the Year, which is the chapter’s most prestigious honor and recognition.

PRSA Service: 

Not only is Jaron actively involved on the local PRSA level, but she also dedicates her time and talents to serving national PRSA. 

Jaron was named to PRSA’s national-level Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) committee in 2016 and currently serves as the co-chair. The committee is devoted to building consciousness by increasing visibility of D&I standards, resources and best practices for racial, ethnic, religious, sexual orientation and gender differences, as well as diverse skillsets, mindsets and cultures at all levels of the organization.

In 2016, Jaron earned PRSA’s highest distinction by being inducted into the College of Fellows, an honorary organization within PRSA composed of more than 250 leading professionals and educators who have left a significant footprint on the public relations profession. 

Jaron also is a regular presenter at the national level presenting through PRSA-led webinars and at ICON. In May 2021, she presented on a panel discussion focused on uncovering implicit bias to achieve PR success. During the webinar, the panelists discussed how our workplaces and PRSA can achieve diversity and inclusion goals by uncovering our own implicit biases, building diverse teams, and recognizing the value and strengths in cultures we consider different.

Jaron has spoken for several ICON presentations and will be a featured speaker during this year’s international conference presenting on the topic of “Understanding the ABCs of DE&I: Allyship, Bias and Civility.” In 2020, she presented at ICON on “Getting it Right: Diversity & Inclusion in LGBTQ+ Inclusion.” Jaron also spoke at the 2017 PRSA International Conference on “Proudly Said – Writing and Speaking for LGBTQ Inclusion.” 

In addition to her many presentations, Jaron also is a frequent contributor and author to national PRSA and industry publications on relevant public relations and diversity and inclusion topics.

PRSSA Service: 

Jaron is recognized as a teacher and mentor to other professionals within the industry. 

She is a long-standing member of Champions for PRSSA, which is designed to reinforce strong and productive relationships between professionals and students. As a Champion of PRSSA, she gives back to the profession by regularly meeting with and supporting students through PRSSA. 

In addition, Jaron has served as an adjunct professor at Franklin University since 2010, teaching public relations courses online and face-to-face, including Media and Crisis Communications, as well as an undergraduate elective course, Creative Thinking. At Franklin University, she also serves on the Public Relations Advisory Board for the College of Arts, Sciences and Technology. 

Jaron enjoys counseling students – from Franklin University, as well as, from local PRSSA chapters – about their career goals and providing guidance to them as they enter the workforce. Jaron also is passionate about expanding opportunities for making the public relations field more diverse and inclusive. 

# # #



Historically, Cincinnati is a town made for PR.  When your founding fathers name you “Losantiville” (a Latin-Greek word puzzle about proximity to the Licking River), you know you have some work to do.

Your burgeoning meat-packing industry earns you the nickname “Porkopolis.”  Even the culture-bolstering “Queen City of the West” campaign had its limitations when you’re 2,400 miles from the Pacific. (Note: Cinci may not be San Francisco, but it once had five cable cars).

Give credit to General Arthur St. Clair, a member of the society that honored the Roman leader Cincinnatus, for recognizing “an awful name, damn it” and providing a welcome rebranding!

But Cincinnati is an American original.  It survived the years when it truly was the wild, wild west. By 1800 it could boast a French pastry chef and a hairdresser. German and Irish settlers helped create a diverse and worldly population. Fugitive slaves traveled across the Ohio River and through the city searching for freedom in the North.

By 1900 it was the most densely-populated city in the U.S. By 2000 it was the home of multiple major corporations (shopped for P&G products at Kroger lately?)  The city’s wide variety of employers has served as a hedge against economic downturn and the Queen City keeps rolling along like the Ohio River.

Even through a pandemic.

“Some might say that as PR pros, we were built for the chaos COVID-19 threw at us,” PRSA Cincinnati Chapter President Brandy Jones tells us in the August ECD Chapter Spotlight.

“Our membership was looking to PRSA for solutions,” she said, and the chapter was resourceful in its pursuit of answers.  Cincinnati not only embraced the new normal of going virtual, they dug deep into the content.  

They thought to address, “messaging sensitive information regarding those who became ill or died as a result of COVID-19,” according to Brandy. “Our chapter stepped up to bring in top-level experts, and industry leaders to provide tips and resources.”

Commitment to DEI starts at the top of the chapter. “As our chapter’s first African American president,” said Brandy, “it is not lost on me the significance of the role and the responsibility that comes with it to ensure that the work we do as a chapter reflects the change we want to see throughout the industry.”

More details about these endeavors are in the August ECD Chapter Spotlight on Cincinnati. You’ll learn three big reasons for chapter pride; a little known fact about the chapter regarding an historic address by an esteemed centenarian; and a little bit about baseball.

You see professionals of all walks in Cincinnati know there is no better way to let off a riverboat gush of steam then by gathering after work at a Reds game.

Yes, the Big Red Machine can manufacture an industrial-size amount of fun. “You get out of PRSA what you put in,” is the motto for PRSA Cincinnati.  “There’s no crying in baseball, as Tom Hanks told us famously in “A League of Their Own.” As this happy chapter has learned, there are no strangers at a Reds game.


Give us a brief history of your chapter.

The Cincinnati Chapter was founded in 1951 and currently has 143 members.

Who are your current executive officers?

President: Brandy Jones, APR

President-Elect: Bridget Kochersperger

Vice President, programming: Sara Cullin, APR

Immediate Past President: Robin Klaene, APR

Accreditation Director: Allison Schroeder, APR

Community Service Director & New Pros Chair: Tiffany Luckey

Director-at-Large: Rob Pasquinucci, APR

Diversity Director: Suzanne Boys, APR

Ethics Director: Shara Clark

Finance Director: Tess Brown

Membership Director: Jenifer Moore

Blacksmith Awards Co-Chair: Elizabeth Desrosiers

Blacksmith Awards Co-Chair: David Honchul, APR

Content Strategist: Annie Efkeman

Digital Strategist: Lauren Hall

Media Day Co-Chair: Zach Stipe

Media Day Co-Chair: Will Jones

Sponsorship Chair: Barbara Grimsley, APR

Describe your membership.

We currently have 143 members in our chapter and are growing. Our members include recent graduates to professors and CEO’s representing just about every sector of the industry, such as sport communications, corporate communications, non-profit and agency among others.

What is normally your biggest project of the year?

Each year we hold our annual Media Day seminar, which provides an opportunity for practitioners to sit across from local, and on occasion, even national reporters to learn how to best work with them to increase the odds of coverage. This seminar also provides practitioners with new tools and tips from their fellow PR pros who have had success launching major projects and campaigns, as well as lessons learned from crisis situations.

How has your chapter pivoted with the COVID-19 pandemic?

Some might say that as PR pros, we were built for the chaos COVID-19 threw at us. I’m proud to say that our chapter leaders quickly adapted to the ever evolving circumstances of the pandemic and the impact it had on our members, who were at the front and center of constantly changing messaging for their organizations. We pivoted our in-person programming to virtual webinars, realizing that now more than ever our membership was looking to PRSA for solutions. Whether it was how to communicate to a workforce working from home, planning virtual ribbon cuttings, to messaging sensitive information regarding those who became ill or died as a result of COVID-19, our chapter stepped up to bring in top-level experts, and industry leaders to provide tips and resources.

I’m extremely proud of our chapter leaders, who despite their own professional and personal challenges, never wavered in their commitment to the association and their peers.

How has your chapter leaned into Diversity, Inclusion and Equity?

We acknowledged that the PR industry as a whole is facing a challenge when it comes to attracting and retaining people of color and put our words into action to fix that. As our chapter’s first African American president, it is not lost on me the significance of the role and the responsibility that comes with it to ensure that the work we do as a chapter reflects the change we want to see throughout the industry. We have made a commitment to diversity and inclusion from our selection of speakers and topics to providing opportunities for training on the role of practitioners in holding the organization’s we serve accountable for doing the same. I’m also pleased to share that this year we will be bestowing our first annual Diversity scholarship to a minority college student and to a practitioner to encourage deeper chapter engagement and learning opportunities.

What is your chapter’s proudest achievement? Why?

I’m proud to say that we have many things to be proud of, especially our members impact on the profession. In fact, our chapter has produced three national presidents: William Werner, Edward VonderHaar and Judith Bogart.

Any little known facts about your chapter?

The Cincinnati Chapter has one of the highest numbers of APR professionals, currently there are 56 active APR’s in our chapter. For years we have put great emphasis on the importance of earning Accreditation. As part of those efforts, in 1992 under the presidency of Tom Schick, Dr. Edward Bernays, Fellow, PRSA, was our esteemed guest for our annual Accreditation Assembly. This event was held just weeks before Dr. Bernays’ 101st birthday.

What’s your secret to a happy chapter?

We encourage our members to get everyone involved early and often and to have some fun. We always say that you get out of PRSA what you put in. We know our members work hard every day guiding their agencies or companies through communication strategies, crisis and the like, so we really enjoy opportunities to network via happy hours or a Reds game to further build a sense of community.

Do you have a preferred contact email in case other ECD chapters have a question for you?

Brandy Jones, APR,, 513-254-2587 (cell)

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