Celebrating the 2020 Diamond Award winners

By Andrea Farmer, APR, 2020 Director at Large and 2021 Treasurer

We’re excited to announce the results of the East Central District’s 43rd 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.

A hearty congratulations to SET SEG from the Central Michigan Chapter for winning the Best of Show award for “SET SEG Family Healthcare Center.” SET SEG, a non-profit company providing employee benefits, workers’ compensation and property/casualty services to Michigan’s public schools, opened the SET SEG Family Healthcare Center, a primary care facility that exclusively serves mid-Michigan public school employees and their families. This campaign used numerous strategies and tactics to target school districts to increase utilization of the healthcare center.

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

The 2021 Diamond Awards program will open in spring 2021, so start preparing your submission now!


As Central Ohio Goes… So Goes Our ECD December Chapter Spotlight!


By ECD Secretary Mark Pompilio

“As Ohio goes, so goes the nation.”  The Buckeye State may no longer be the presidential election bellwether or American microcosm it once was, but the heartland still has heart. As does the PRSA Central Ohio Chapter that calls Columbus home.

In the bewildering year of the COVID-19 pandemic, PRSA chapters leaders and members managed to pivot, reevaluate, take stock, and take charge.  We saw strength and resolve across the East Central District, and can truly say, “as Central Ohio goes, so goes PRSA!”

At the virtual QuickStart 2020 Conference, Central Ohio Chapter President Katie Thomas reported that the unity of her chapter is strong. It was the milestone 70th anniversary of the chapter, the first PRSA chapter in Ohio.  In a year that many want to forget, they chose to make 2020 a year to remember.

Katie said her chapter used the opportunity to fund scholarships for students to attend ICON and create a COVID-19 scholarship.  She said they were excited to make a bylaw change to add a key D&I position to the board. Like all of us, they couldn’t their success celebrate in person, but 150 attended their virtual awards.

Not only was 2020 a year for Central Ohio to celebrate, it was a year to sing about. They even have the tune and lyrics to prove it!

Here’s more from President Katie Thomas in the December 2020 ECD Chapter Spotlight:

“While 2020 was a challenging year, Central Ohio PRSA was able to continue providing quality programs and engaging with members,” said Katie. “After COVID-19 struck, we transitioned our programs to a virtual format. In total, we hosted 13 programs ranging from Women in PR, Meet the Media, Self-Care, Implicit Bias, and more.

“Our annual conference, “The Modern Communicator,” was going to be a two-track conference in-person, and we successfully transitioned it to online with two concurrent tracks and more than 80 attendees. Our PRism Awards had another successful year, and our online awards program had more than 150 attendees.

“2020 also marked our 70th anniversary. We used this as an opportunity to fundraise for the future of our profession: our students. In total, we were able to fund six students to join PRSSA, three students attended our annual conference, one student received a stipend to attend PRSA International ICON, and a young professional received a scholarship to pay for dues as part of our new COVID-19 scholarship.

“In April, we hosted a three-night series called, “What Comes Next” for students, where they could learn about job searching during a pandemic, virtual interviewing tips and ask questions of professionals. 

“Our chapter set a strategic priority to increase our diversity and inclusion efforts. We successfully passed a bylaw change to create a permanent position on our Board of Directors, a Diversity & Inclusion Officer. We also added a Diversity & Inclusion category to our PRism Awards and hosted two programs, one on implicit bias and racism. Because of our efforts, we received an Honorable Mention from PRSA National.


Chapter History:

  • Central Ohio PRSA was the first chapter in Ohio, founded in 1950.
  • CO-PRSA conducted the first public relations professional development seminar in the state
  • CO-PRSA elected the first female chapter president in the U.S. (1958).
  • CO-PRSA is the first known chapter to present an Outstanding Citizen Award (1961),
    Distinguished Practitioner Award (1970), and Rookie-of-the-Year Award (1976).
  • CO-PRSA had the most (six) APR members in Ohio when PRSA announced its first list of
    APR members (1965).
  • CO-PRSA became the host chapter for Ohio’s first chapter of PRSSA (Ohio State University)
    in 1968.
  • CO-PRSA conceived, arranged and hosted the first district-wide APR study seminar and
    examination in the US (1968).
  • CO-PRSA won the PRSA National Chapter Banner Award (1976).

Current Officers:

President – Katie Thomas, APR

Immediate Past President – Alicia Shoults

President-Elect  – Diane Hurd

Treasurer – Heather Sheppard

VP Planning & Procedures – Courtney Tobin

VP Membership – Kristen Vitartas

VP Programs – Heather Clark

VP Communications – Serena Smith

Ethics Officer – Kerry Francis, APR

Director At Large (2020) – Lois Foreman-Wernet, PhD, APR

Director At Large (2020) – Tara Parsell

Director At Large (2020) – Wendy Schwantes, APR

Director At Large (2021) – Alisa Agozzino, PhD, APR

Director At Large (2021) – Mike Vannest

Director At Large (2021) – Jennifer Rieman

Assembly Delegate – Natalie Kompa, EdD, APR

Assembly Delegate – John Palmer, APR

Membership Profile:

The Chapter’s member database (about 250+ members) is made up of professionals in the following industries and has approximately 150 members at a
director level or above:
• Non-profit – 98
• Corporate – 84
• Agency – 50
• Education – 38

• Healthcare – 8 

What is your biggest project of the year?

“I think they are all big! 🙂 I would say programming is our biggest project – we aim for monthly programs, in addition to an annual conference and an awards ceremony. We also distribute a bimonthly newsletter and run social media to make sure we are keeping our members informed.”

How did your chapter’s priorities shift with the COVID-19 pandemic?

“We had to shift all of our programming virtually – including an already ambitious plan for a two concurrent track conference, our awards ceremony and monthly programming. We also had to make sure we were continuing to engage our members and students. Staying in touch was more important than ever.”

How did your chapter respond to social justice unrest and issues of Diversity & Inclusion?

“We worked with our colleagues in East Central District to make a statement to our members. We also took inventory of what we were doing. 

Our 2019 to 2021 Strategic Plan identified specific goals related to diversity and inclusion. They included to:

  • Facilitate a culture of inclusion within our chapter;
  • Implement programs with topics related to diversity and inclusion that feature speakers representing diverse backgrounds;
  • Have a representative of the diversity and inclusion committee sit on various committees to allow for cross representation;
  • Actively invite interested members of all backgrounds to join committees and serve in leadership roles;
  • Develop and implement a plan, criteria and expectations that would create a path to elevate diverse members from committee membership, chair roles and board roles. 

“We immediately took steps to start modifying one of the six director-at-large positions to become a Diversity and Inclusion Officer. This position expands upon the chapter’s mission statement, vision statement and Diversity and Inclusion Committee. We are proud that this passed through our membership and PRSA National and will start in 2021. We also held programs on implicit bias and racism for our members to have this conversation. We are constantly evaluating and looking at ways we can bring this to the forefront. 

What is your chapter’s proudest achievement?

Does surviving 2020 count? 🙂

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

The world’s first and only song about public relations had its debut (and demise) May 18, 1976, written by Les Hinshaw after winning the Distinguished Practitioner Award.

What’s your secret to a “happy chapter” – especially in the challenging year of 2020?

“I think being there for each other… being a support in any way possible. On the board level we stepped up to help where needed and contacted our members to see what they needed. 

Have a question for Katie?

Contact her at katie.crabtree@gmail.com



Creating Sustainable Systems: Leadership Manuals and Your Board

How can you help onboard your board and provide the resources they need for the year? Central Ohio PRSA has created a comprehensive leadership manual and Chapter President Katie Thomas was the guide at the Oct. 28 ECD Board Meeting Best Practice presentation.

Jared introduced Katie Thomas, APR, Central Ohio PRSA chapter president and manager of population health marketing at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. She talked about the chapter’s comprehensive leadership manual

Katie said chapter leaders talked to the members and ask asked a wide-open question: “What were their gaps in knowledge?” The gaps turned out to be chasms and the answers were enough to fill a book – or in this case, the Central Ohio Chapter Leadership Manual.

Even experience leaders admitted to gaps. “If they had been on the board, what were they still fuzzy about?” said Katie. A lot, she said, because there simply wasn’t enough time in group orientations to cover all the material. She said they “needed to pack in a lot of nitty gritty details into the board retreat meeting,” and just didn’t have enough time.

Katie said when John Palmer was chapter president, board members received a leadership manual packed with multiple details. She asked John for it and used it as a basis for meeting leadership needs for the next year.

Katie gathered feedback from board members and found common questions. “They wanted to know about committee responsibilities, what programming had taken place in the last year, what is a board report – what goes in it? Survey Monkey. How do you set up a program? Who is in charge of that?” she said. “We wanted a place where you could go for all that information.”

The manual isn’t just a textbook.  To make it practical they packed it with forms, guides and samples.

“One question was: What does an agenda look like? We included an example of that as well. We included a copy of the strategic plan, results of our mid-year survey, our content calendar. We included forms so people could see what budget looks like. We broke it down on committee level, how do you get into Survey Monkey, what’s everything you need to know if you are planning program. As a board member, what are my responsibilities? We added additional content around that. We listed our communication channels and logins.

“The idea is you don’t have to recreate the wheel – there are templates available. We included a board agenda and John put committee report together for specific committees.  How many people attended an event? What were survey results? Even from a nitty gritty tactical level: ‘Oh – I’m supposed to be doing X, Y and Z!’

“It was also a way to make sure things don’t fall through cracks for next year.

“The content calendar was (intentionally) vague – to let the committee decide content.  One thing we get a lot of questions about: What have we done? So, we made sure we had historical data for last five years – what (events, programming) we’ve done, and how many people attended.”

Call it the Chapter (and Verse) Bible, the Encyclopedia PRitannica, or the DIY for PR wonks. The Leadership Manual is the one-stop shop, chock-full-of-stuff, go-to, ‘Google it’ reference guide. It’s built on hard-earned, blood-sweat-and-tears” experience so others can follow your paved path instead of having to bulldoze their own.

“I tell everyone,” said Katie, “Get your favorite beverage, sit back and relax and have a great time reading this! You can get all your information in one place.”

Kim Skeltis asked: When do you get the manual? Katie said the Leadership retreat is at the beginning of the year; as soon as it is over, the manual is in the Google drive. References to it are in multiple board communications.

About Katie:

Katie Thomas, APR, has more than 16 years’ experience across the spectrum of the marketing and communications field. Katie is the manager of population health marketing at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, where she focuses on community wellness and population health initiatives and leads content strategy and development for the On Our Sleeves movement to transform children’s mental health.


Katie’s long history with PRSA began in college where she was an active member of PRSSA. Since then, she has remained dedicated to PRSA by serving on the liaison and programs committees, national PRSA Young Professional Mentor Program, on the board of directors and now as president. For her commitment, in 2018, she received the Walt Seifert Award for Outstanding Service.

Her work has been recognized locally and nationally by the Ohio Society of Association Executives, PRSA Central Ohio, American Marketing Association – Columbus Chapter, Pensions and Investments Eddy Awards, Addy Awards and the National Intramural Recreational Sports Association.

Katie received her bachelor’s degree from Otterbein University and her master’s degree from The Ohio State University. She is also a certified Spinning instructor and mentors students at South High School and Ohio State.



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.



ECD is proud to claim our distinguished colleague Clare Wade in the newly announced 2020 class of the PRSA College of Fellows.

Clare is an APR and Manager, Corporate Communications for Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She is one of the 15 College of Fellows members PRSA announced on Aug. 6 and will be formally inducted in a virtual ceremony on Oct. 25.

Clare is a past president of the PRSA West Michigan chapter and the American Advertising Federation West Michigan chapter. She has twice been recognized as West Michigan’s Distinguished PR Practitioner. Spectrum Health is Michigan-based integrated health system with 14 hospitals, 31,000 team members and a health plan serving 1 million.

Clare spoke with ECD secretary Mark Pompilio about the journey of career, community and conviction toward Fellowship, and the people who most inspired her quest.

How do you feel about receiving the honor?

I was thrilled. I was so excited. I couldn’t even believe it.  We are linking on social media, all getting to know each other. The role of a Fellow is to find ways to give back to PRSA. We will be working with those who have been Fellows for a while for ways to engage in projects and committees. Much like joining a chapter.

To qualify for admittance, you must have 20 years of experience, but to be admitted they must be quality years.  How did you choose the most meaningful highlights of your career that perhaps most influenced your selection?

The process itself helps you determine those milestones that help support your application. The application itself – there are eight pages – blank – to share your background, tell your story, and demonstrate the 20 examples of how you have provided superior professional performance, how you have advance the profession, how you provided service within your community, and how you have throughout your career been a role model for others in public relations.

It’s basically the biggest job interview you’ve ever had. You look at your career and showcase how you have put it together. It’s a portfolio of your public relations work – not just your work, but how you made an impact. Its exciting.  You have a chance to really reflect on the work you’ve done and the relationship you’ve had.

The difference is that you don’t go to an interview. You submit your application and six individuals submit letters of support. For each of the 20 highlights you provide, you list the contact person. This is where the public relations community you are part of comes into play because they are speaking on your behalf.  It was very humbling. People I’ve known and worked with are the ones who provided the “interview” answers.

The College of Fellows Cole is like an endowment – it helps keep the organization strong and growing.

Becoming a PRSA member is the first level. The APR tells you how to do it. The College of Fellows is the component that brings the whole circle together.

It’s like a spectrum: You join the organization, adopt high standard of practice and ethics, and as Fellow you look at it more broadly.  How can we look back and make the organization better? How can we inspire young professionals to do their best work and be their best selves? And how can we learn from them?

I’m grateful for the experience.  It doesn’t stop there. Every day there are new situations and opportunities to learn from each other. We need each other. We’re one big community.

I don’t have much knowledge about the selection process for Fellows, and I suspect many of our ECD members would admit the same. What goes into becoming a Fellow?

Becoming a Fellow starts when you join PRSA. The application is as personal as you are. It shares how your passion for PR results in the most meaningful highlights of your career. The process is daunting, exhausting and renewing.


We need our professionals to be part of the College of Fellows. When you hit the midpoint in your career you need to focus and plan for it. It’s a big undertaking. It took me months, in the middle of COVID-19. You have to be very focused to do it. It took me several years to work up the courage to do it.

Talk to others. Dr. Tim Penning at Grand Valley State University, who became a Fellow last year, gave me the encouragement and help I needed to be ready to dive in.

That’s what PRSA is: a community of people who help each other. We share best practices, experience and try to help each other succeed.

You are assigned what they call a “GoodFellow” who acts as a consultant. They play a very important role providing background on the process and perspective on your application. My GoodFellow was Robin Schell at Jackson Jackson & Wagner.  She was fantastic. I enjoyed meeting (virtually) with her, and she offered valuable guidance.

You have to talk about yourself. You’re used to supporting clients and organizations, not necessarily yourself.  She reviewed the process and made sure I understood it. It was helpful to have a second pair of eyes on the application – what I chose to highlight and whether the outcomes were clear.

What made you want this?

I think we all have people in our lives who inspire us.  Fred Chapman was a Fellow in our West Michigan chapter.  He had a career in business and a separate career as a professor at Grand Valley State University. He also adopted our PRSSA student members because he was such a role model.

I was a colleague of his and he was helpful as a mentor. At PRSA conferences, he took students to dinner, introduced them to PR professionals and inspired them to win awards. He was such a charismatic and giving person. I felt I wanted to honor him.  Tim and I are the first Fellows in our chapter in a while.


It must be sad that he isn’t here to see you achieve this.

It’s been eight years – he died in 2012. He was an amazing individual. He influenced so many people. He was president of our chapter, president of the New England chapter, worked at Mercedes Benz in New Jersey and was elected to public office. He showed you never stop learning; you never stop meeting people and contributing. I’m sure he’s very proud of Tim and me. 

Talk about your work at Spectrum Health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Because of COVID-19 we all had to reaffirm what we’re doing. Personally, and professionally, what are our priorities? What is most important to us? How do we carry out our mission in life with so many restrictions in place?

People who work in health care, first responders and essential workers likely have a very different view of the pandemic than those who are not as close to it. We have seen the impact on family, community and coworkers, particularly our community of color. It is exhausting and heartbreaking. We’re so proud to be part of a health system helping others in the most difficult time of their lives.

Is it disappointing that the College of Fellows Class of 2020 induction event will be celebrated virtually on Sunday, Oct. 25?

This is how our world is right now. I feel honored.  The virtual celebration is the official celebration. The intent is if we can meet in person in 2021 at the PRSA International Conference we can make that a celebration, too.

How will becoming a Fellow impact your continued involvement in PRSA?

It’s twofold.

I have been active in the local chapter. I’m on the membership committee right now. I just had a call with the membership chair to talk about next year.  My goal is to continue to be active locally and take on new projects through the College of Fellows to help on both levels.

The local chapter is the home base, the home team, the most important work I do.  I can take that on a higher level and contribute at the College of Fellows as well. Jumping into the unknown is what I like to do. Pursuing something new is exciting for me, I like that challenge. That’s why community is so important. You’re off on new adventures, and you need people behind and beside you.

It sounds as if the College of Fellows is your “Fellowship of the Ring”!  You have a new challenge, but your home chapter is always your “Shire.”

We are all trying to make the world a better place!


Board Member Spotlight: Bob Rotatori

We’re featuring our Board Member Bob Rotatori this September!

Read more about Bob here.

Home Chapter: Greater Cleveland (PRSA CLE)

What is your favorite part about being part of PRSA (National, District and Chapter levels)?

Interacting with public relations/communications colleagues and learning new skills/technics.

What do you hope to contribute to PRSA-ECD in 2020?

To help expand the awareness of the District and national news/information to the chapters, and to help facilitate interaction between chapters.

What is your favorite part of public relations (and other related communications industries)?

The constant ebb-and-flow of work and project; the satisfaction of successful campaigns for clients; the type of people we get to work with regularly.

Talk about your career. What have been some highlights and missteps, and what have you learned from them?

Created successful campaigns & projects from nothing in regards to history and/or budgets; garnering national press on projects; leading the efforts of earning four unique Guinness World Records; and many, many crisis communications efforts. To me, ‘missteps’ are learning experiences, but one regret is remaining in one position for a very long length of time and not expanding to new opportunities.

What would you say to a prospective member who wants to join PRSA but is on the fence?

The networking and learning opportunities are invaluable to our career.

What do you like most about QuickStart, the Diamond Awards and/or other PRSA-ECD initiatives?

QuickStart provides the opportunity to network with other Chapter/District leadership, learn new things and confirm that some challenges/issues are universal within the organization.

Would you like to add anything else?

Network, network, network….

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Rachel Coffman, President PRSA West Virginia chapter and VP TS Consulting LLC presented the Best Practice segment for the Aug. 26 ECD Board call.

The PRSA- West Virginia Chapter selected diversity and inclusion professional development as its focus in 2020. The chapter worked with a local economic development group, the Charleston Chamber of Commerce, and YWCA to create a partnership for the event. Due to COVID-19, the event was cancelled. With quick adaption, the event was transformed into a virtual two-day conference.

The event was one of the chapter’s largest professional development events in recent years and had attendance from PR professionals across the country.

“Our plans got hijacked by COVID-19 in March,” said Rachel. “We converted to virtual and we were glad we did. We were planning this about two weeks before George Floyd’s death and the riots that followed.

Prior to 2020, our chapter had low minority membership. We wanted it to grow. We had a D&I committee, but we hadn’t done the best job of growing engagement.  We had no programming; it was not a welcoming environment. We went to ICON and realized we had so many gaps in delivery of programming.  We were having the same speakers over and over – no wonder we had a drop in engagement. 

Going into my presidency, I looked at diversity as a need.  The area around West Virginia is a very white community. Maybe we aren’t doing the best job of picking topics. Audit yourself, why have we not done this? Is non-minority membership an excuse? No. We had to ask ourselves the hard questions.

First Steps: We wrote down realistic goals. 60 percent of members pay dues, but we never see them.  We have been working with about 25 people who are speaker engaged.  We had new professionals come in who stepped up with professional development focused on diversity. 

We wanted a two-day conference. We wanted to be honest with ourselves. We reached out to minority groups for help framing out a program that answers the right questions and provides the right information.

We built relationships. We knew it would be a better event if we did it together as a community. We reached out to the City of Charleston as part of diversity and equity week. We cross-promoted with our memberships. They ended up cancelling their event. The Charleston Area Alliance partnered with us with their women-based event on Thursday and our event Friday. Saturday would be the YWCA End Racism 5k Race.  Everything got resituated because of COVID-19 but we were able to have engagement virtually.

Planning – We each took a time slot. I planned morning and afternoon speakers to build out the program. We had a good mix of panels, sessions and speakers. I reached out to sponsors – focusing on businesses making diversity a priority in their company. Dow Chemical prioritizes diversity in the company and community, and they were a perfect fit. (With additional sponsors) we brought 500 percent more sponsorship dollars than we usually do.

Content – The corporate-employee relations panel included a representative from Dow. That gave them an opportunity to talk about what they’re doing.

We decided to do it in a two-day period in same week (May 19 and May 21) to avoid “computer burnout.” Had about 65 attendees. We usually have about 24, and it’s been rare to have more than 40 in the past five years, so it was higher than normal.  The participating organizations sent out nationwide invitations, so we gained perspective from across the nation, not just our pocket community.

Program: On Tuesday, May 19 the YWCA did Implicit Bias training, part one – a good eye opener, and D&I in a virtual world.  Thursday, May 21 was part two of Implicit Bias training, and Decoding Diversity in PR. We are now looking ahead to programs on special needs inclusion.

Jared Meade asked about response. Rachel said, “We were glad we did this virtually because we had great feedback.”

Jennifer Flowers-Kolf asked if the chapter had gained membership. Rachel said not yet.  “We need to do more work to get minority engagement. The state has a conference for minority businesses and would like to do a presentation at that event.”

Rachel welcomed members to email her with questions about the event: rachelcoffman@tsgsolution.com.

Thanks Rachel!


Board Member Spotlight: Jared Meade, APR

This August, we are highlighting Board Member Jared Meade, APR.

Jared Meade, APR, brings more than 16 years of public relations experience – with an emphasis on the healthcare and education sectors – to his current roles as founder and principal of Rayne Strategy Group and as manager of Public and Media Relations for Owens Community College. Located in Perrysburg, Ohio, Owens is an accredited two-year, state-assisted institution of higher education serving the diverse academic needs of credit and non-credit students on multiple campuses throughout Northwest Ohio. 

Prior to Owens, Jared served as Media/Communications Specialist for ProMedica Health System, an 11-hospital health system serving 27 counties in Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan. His responsibilities at ProMedica included media relations for three of the hospitals within the system: Bay Park Community Hospital, Flower Hospital and Toledo Children’s Hospital. This included all internal communications for Toledo Children’s Hospital, the second-largest hospital within ProMedica.

In addition to his role as a director for the East Central District of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), he is the immediate past president of the Northwest Ohio PRSA chapter, the founding member and former president of the public relations alumni chapter at Eastern Michigan University, where he was named the chapter’s Alumnus of the Year in 2009, a PRSA Independent Practitioners Alliance Executive Committee member, a member of the Board of Advisors for the Museum of Public Relations and a member of the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA), the PRCA PR and Communication Council and the PRCA COVID-19 Taskforce. He is also currently serving as the Media Chair for the Toledo-Lucas County Complete Count Committee for the 2020 Census. Previously he served as a board member for the Children’s Theatre Workshop, a nonprofit that provides theatrical training for Toledo-area youth. 

Most recently, he received the Gold Hermes Creative Award from the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals (AMCP) in 2018. 

Meade earned a Bachelor of Science in Public Relations from Eastern Michigan University and a Masters in Strategic Public Relations from George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management. He earned his Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) in 2018. 

Home Chapter: Northwest Ohio

What is your favorite part about being part of PRSA (National, District and Chapter levels)?

I am very proud of my profession and believe that public relations when used correctly can change the world for the better. Volunteering my time at the national, district and chapter levels allows me to do my part in ensuring that we all leave the profession in a better state than we found it.

What do you hope to contribute to PRSA-ECD in 2020?

I would like my biggest contribution to be an increase in chapter engagement. I want each chapter to realize the usefulness of the ECD and to feel as if their voice is not only heard but that the ECD has taken what they have said and tried to use it for the betterment of all members.

What is your favorite part of public relations (and other related communications industries)?

My favorite part of the public relations profession is its ability to truly bring people together and through communication make the world a better place.

Talk about your career. What have been some highlights and missteps, and what have you learned from them?

I think my biggest misstep in the beginning of my career was not believing in myself. Too often I would stay silent when I knew the right direction to go in a project because I felt I had not had enough experience. Looking back now I realize I missed a lot of opportunities because I didn’t speak up. I’ve since learned that no matter where you are in your career, your input is valuable and you should never be afraid to speak up.

What would you say to a prospective member who wants to join PRSA but is on the fence?

My advice to anyone thinking about joining a professional organization is to look at what is offered to members by way of professional development and opportunities to get involved. I would also look to see how that professional body is supporting and advancing the profession. If all of those things match up with a potential member’s aspirations, then jump in with both feet.

What do you like most about QuickStart, the Diamond Awards and/or other PRSA-ECD initiatives? 

I believe that any initiative that allows a professional to develop their skills or gain recognition for the amazing work they have done is something that should be applauded. That recognition and development is my favorite part of these initiatives.

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Diamond Award Case Study: Yes on Proposal 2

By Elizabeth Battiste, APR, Senior Account Executive at Martin Waymire

Home Chapter: Central Michigan PRSA

Name of Award Entry: Yes on Proposal 2: From grassroots campaign to national phenomenon

Category: Public Affairs Campaign


Two days after the 2016 election, 27-year-old Katie Fahey posted on Facebook to see who would like to “take on gerrymandering in Michigan.” The post went viral; thousands of citizens stepped up to create Voters Not Politicians (VNP), a citizen-led movement to end gerrymandering. It was an uphill battle. Polling showed redistricting was a foreign concept to most voters. Political leaders scoffed; business and special interest groups announced opposition. No funders stepped up. Still, VNP grew as new volunteers signed up daily, coordinated largely on social media. All-volunteer grassroots energy propelled the organization to collect 425,000 signatures to put Proposal 2 on the ballot, overcome a lawsuit that went all the way to the Michigan Supreme Court, fight back against a vicious opposition campaign and inform millions of voters across the state with earned media, television ads, social media and one-on-one voter contact. Ultimately, Proposal 2 passed with 61% of the vote, changing Michigan’s political landscape for decades to come.


– Primary research: VNP held four focus groups with moderate, conservative and African American voters in Detroit and Grand Rapids to inform a statewide poll of 1,000 likely Michigan voters to guide communication strategy including demographic targets, key messages and likely opposition messaging. That research drove door-to-door, traditional and paid messaging. After paid ads launched, subsequent polling found a 14-point increase in support and an 8-point decline in opposition. This insight influenced further paid media investments and earned media messaging in target areas.

– Primary research: As the election neared, weekly tracking polls assessed the effectiveness of our, and our opponents’, ads and earned media messaging. We also tested digital and TV ads to optimize performance and finalize messaging.

– Secondary research: The state’s Qualified Voter File was analyzed to determine target audiences of most likely voters, reviewing past voting behaviors and partisan voting data. We also interviewed consultants and experts who passed redistricting reforms in other states to develop best practices.


Research showed that the more voters learned about gerrymandering and Proposal 2, the more likely they were to vote yes. We developed a simple but effective message that thousands of volunteers across the state could follow consistently: Proposal 2 is the right “F-I-T” for Michigan: fair, impartial and transparent.

Campaign Goals: Secure 50%+1 of the vote with broad support across Michigan counties. The overall campaign budget – and the money we would need to raise to execute it – exceeded $15 million.

Objectives: Secure positive local, state and national earned media coverage, build a robust social media presence, maintain a consistent message while mobilizing volunteers to have conversations with voters at the local level across the state.

Target audiences: Persuadable voters (over 2 million across the state), national and state funders and partners and the news media.


Martin Waymire’s engagement with the campaign began in October 2017, near the end of the 110-day signature collection effort. We quickly moved to raise credibility of the campaign and interest in the issue by creating a “people versus establishment”/”David versus Goliath” narrative and:

– Positioned Katie Fahey as the nonpartisan, nonpolitical face of political reform in Michigan, unveiling her at a reporter roundtable that elevated the narrative of the campaign to a national scale when the Associated Press coverage caught the attention of The Rachel Maddow Show.

– Drafted and placed an op-ed in the conservative-leaning Detroit News, one of the state’s most respected publications, countering attacks by Republicans on the campaign’s nonpartisan nature.

– Planned and executed a major petition turn-in event, where more than 100 volunteers formed a human chain, passing boxes of petitions into state offices. Local, state and national media outlets covered the event and it was broadcast live on VNP’s Facebook page with more than 38,000 views.

– Provided reporters copies of court records with details of how the 2011 redistricting was financed by business groups and carried out by Republicans for partisan gain, putting opponents on the defense.

Polling showed that Republicans were least likely to support the proposal, and independent voters shared concerns that the campaign was a “Democratic front group.” To combat this we:

– Formed “Republicans for Redistricting Reform,” a group of respected GOP lawmakers and influencers, who provided a conservative perspective for Proposal 2 and countered the false partisan narrative.

– Crafted and placed four columns by former GOP leaders, including U.S. Rep. Joe Schwarz and state House Speaker Rick Johnson in the state’s largest publications.

– Hosted and broadcast on Facebook live a bipartisan “Redistricting History Roundtable” with former legislators to highlight the unethical backroom deals of past redistricting cycles, helping the vital Capitol press corps understand this complex topic during a tremendously contentious election cycle.

We strategically communicated national support from former President Barack Obama, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander and former Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, all of whom visited Michigan. Schwarzenegger’s visit became a rally held hours before the Michigan State University-University of Michigan football game in the heart of downtown East Lansing. Over 300 people attended, garnering national media attention. VNP also received celebrity shoutouts on social media from Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt and Ed Helms.

To motivate and empower volunteers to share their compelling stories and reach target voters across the state in unique ways, while maintaining message consistency, we:

– Created a letter writing guide and hosted an online, interactive training to coach them through the process to encourage volunteers to write letters to the editor.

– Created materials that volunteers could print at home (postcards, signs and pledge-to-vote cards).

We harnessed volunteer passion and creativity to break through a cluttered political season while keeping the campaign interesting and authentic. Volunteers spread the message with Proposal 2 birds, Segways, a dozen gerrymandering songs, campaign “Yes On 2” emojis (👍✌️), jack-o-lanterns, goats, quilts, “Pups for Prop 2,” a 6-foot wooden replica of the first gerrymandered district and more. Volunteers delivered these unique awareness and persuasion tactics while reaching the campaign’s most remarkable accomplishment: knocking more than 463,000 targeted doors in key precincts across the state.


– Proposal 2 passed with 61% of the vote (over 2.5 million votes), winning 67 of 83 counties. VNP outperformed Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and won counties that voted for President Trump in 2016.

– More than 1,525 pieces of media coverage from the launch of the campaign through the election, including three pieces in the New York Times and coverage in The Washington Post, The Hill, Elle and 38 letters to the editor published in newspapers across Michigan.

– Twelve Michigan publications officially endorsed Proposal 2 including the Detroit Free Press.

– Over $15 million raised, with 98% of supporters donating $250 or less and 28,641 total contributions.

– 21,441 followers on social media, with top posts reaching 81K+ users on Facebook and 1.6M+ on Twitter.

What is your favorite part about being part of PRSA (National, District and Chapter levels)?

One of my favorite parts about participating in PRSA is the opportunity to judge annual award competitions across the country. It’s a great way to learn more about different projects in the public relations sphere, and it helps me strategize around new and creative ways to present my own award submissions.

What are you most proud of with regards to this Diamond/Merit Award entry?

Working on the Voters Not Politicians campaign to end partisan gerrymandering in Michigan is one of my biggest professional and personal accomplishments. It was an honor to work on a campaign that will fundamentally change the way our election districts are drawn for decades to come, and the work of thousands of volunteers provided a number of opportunities to get creative with public relations strategies and tactics.

What is something you learned throughout the process for this campaign or tactic?

Storytelling is key.

What is one tip you would recommend for those interested in submitting Diamond Award entries?

Start with the judging sheet and build your entry around what is listed. We have different criteria for our local awards, Diamond Awards, and national Silver Anvil Awards, so it’s important that you are crafting your entry with the specific event in mind. I make an outline with all of the requirements, enter the relevant information from the campaign, and then fill in the rest of the entry with narrative and examples.

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Board Member Spotlight: Kaylin R. Staten, APR

This month, we are also highlighting our Board Member Kaylin R. Staten, APR.

Kaylin R. Adkins-Staten, APR, is an award-winning, accredited public relations practitioner, writer and business owner based in Huntington, W.Va. Kaylin has 18 years of journalism and communications experience (11 years specifically in public relations), spanning from her days as a high-school newspaper reporter to present day. 

She is an alumna of the W. Page Pitt School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Marshall University and graduated with her Bachelor of Arts in public relations in 2010. Kaylin owns Hourglass Media, which aims to unveil the hearts of stories through public relations, writing and educational opportunities. Previously, she worked in nonprofit public relations at United Way of the River Cities for five years. Kaylin currently serves as PRSA-River Cities Chapter Past President (2020) and has served as President (2018-2019), Treasurer (2017) and Secretary (2016). She currently serves on the PRSA-East Central District Board and is the Digital Committee Chair and a QuickStart Committee member. She is a board member for Dress for Success River Cities in Huntington, W.Va., and serves on several nonprofit planning committees. 

Her first and favorite professional love is writing, and she blends that passion into her public relations and other communications work for clients and in personal projects. She released her first book, From Granny’s Kitchen, in 2016. Her children’s counting book, Plastic Cupcakes, was released in 2018, with more written works coming soon. She has been featured in The Huffington Post, Thrive Global, Women’s Health, American Profile, Harness Magazine, PRSA’s Strategies & Tactics and a slew of local and regional publications. 

During her career in PR and journalism, she has received several PRSA-River Cities Chapter Tribus Awards, PRSA-WV Chapter Crystal Awards, and PRSA-East Central District Diamond Awards. Those include the Best in WV Award from PRSA-WV in 2011 for her Community Relations Campaign work for “National Prescription Drug Take Back Day” and the Best Tactic in the Tri-State Award from PRSA-River Cities in 2020 for Cabell County Family Resource Network’s “Kids’ Dental Health Month Electronic Press Kit.” Her business’ work on the statewide The Call WV campaign also garnered two Bronze Telly Awards in 2016. In 2010, Kaylin earned the Marvin L. Stone Award for Outstanding Journalist at Marshall University, an award given to only one student per year. She earned her Accreditation in Public Relations in October 2018 and became one of only approximately 4,000 accredited PR practitioners in the world and one of 11 in West Virginia. She was named as one of The Ironton Tribune’s “35 Under 35” recipients in 2020. 

She is an advocate for mental health, human empowerment, mentorship, and education/children’s issues. In her spare time, Kaylin enjoys writing; reading; watching “Star Wars” movies; traveling and seeking adventures; spending time with her husband Jared, son Luke (arriving in September 2020!), and cat children Ilia Garnet and Meera; and daydreaming of Paris.

Home Chapter: River Cities

What is your favorite part about being part of PRSA (National, District and Chapter levels)?

I have been involved with PRSA since my PRSSA days at Marshall University. I have always enjoyed the camaraderie of membership and the notion of professional development and extended learning mixed with networking. I have developed hard and soft skills I wouldn’t have necessarily had without serving at the Chapter and District levels. I am also an awards geek. I’ve served as a Silver and Bronze Anvils judge (as well as a judge for many other Chapters) and have spearheaded PRSA-River Cities Chapter’s first two years of the Tribus Awards. I like being able to see all of the amazing public relations work going on in small to large markets.

What do you hope to contribute to PRSA-ECD in 2020?

My main task at hand is to help enhance PRSA-ECD’s digital footprint with the help of the board and input from Chapters. So, I want to continue the momentum of previous efforts and add some new tech and tactics in 2020 and beyond. I also want to help Chapters get the resources they need when that need arises, and making that easy is a top priority.

What is your favorite part of public relations (and other related communications industries)?

Being able to tell stories, whether it’s through the lens of a client’s messaging or sitting down one and one and talking with someone for an interview. You can never underestimate the power of storytelling, and that is what drew me to PR in the first place. That, and never having the same day twice. I like having multiple projects and campaigns to work on and honestly how integrated the industry has become. I’m never bored, that’s for sure!

Talk about your career. What have been some highlights and missteps, and what have you learned from them?

I have been part of so many wonderful campaigns and projects that it’s difficult to choose just one! So, I will express something I learned while being a business owner. Being a PR practitioner and owning your own company are not the same thing, and I have had to develop a new set of skills to be at the helm of my company. I have learned SO many professional and personal life lessons during the past five years that my company has been in existence. There’s something about being thrust to the fire that will allow you to learn what works and what doesn’t VERY quickly. At the beginning, I tried to be everything to everyone, especially if I had the skill set to handle a certain campaign or tactic. What I realized was that tailoring my processes to a niche set of offerings allowed me to be more authentic and passionate about the work I am doing.

What would you say to a prospective member who wants to join PRSA but is on the fence?

I always tell these individuals to try it out. See if you like it and what you can glean from attending a regular meeting, speaker series, panel discussion, workshop, conference, etc. Be open-minded and willing to learn. I feel like there is always something new to learn, and PRSA’s content adheres to industry standards, best practices and ahead-of-the-curve tools. Being part of a professional organization adds to your credibility and reputation, no matter what sector you work in.

What do you like most about QuickStart, the Diamond Awards and/or other PRSA-ECD initiatives? 

I really like meeting with all of the Chapter, District and National representatives at QuickStart. You are able to put faces to names and learn about their successes and missteps along the way. PRSA-ECD always has relevant and comprehensive presentation topics, and I think attending is a vital part of being a Chapter leader within our District. I attended as a Chapter leader, and I always encourage others to attend as well.

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