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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‘Fortifying Our Financial Future’ – An Overview of Detroit Chapter’s Award-Winning Sponsorship Program

Kim Eberhardt, President PRSA Detroit Chapter and Account Director for Identity:

Kim said the Detroit chapter sponsorship program started in 1997 and “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” She reviewed how the sponsorship program typically works, May to May, led by the chapter treasurer and executive board with the executive secretary “keeping it moving.”

She said sponsors are agencies, member companies and partners. The sponsorships help pay the chapter executive secretary salary, programs, social budget, etc.

The program offers tiered options of support and investment benefits with four core levels: Chapter, Benefactor, Patron, and Supporter.

Kim said with the COVID-19 pandemic, “2020 has been different – we’ve tried to pull away from that.”

Kim said they have taken a coordinated approach of “looking for year-long partners and beyond. This allows us to solidify the year-long operating budget on the front end without asking the same sponsors time and time again.”

The Chapter sponsorship level supports the chapter’s annual meeting (with logo on signage and program, recognition at podium, and four tickets at $300 value). Monthly program sponsors get eight tickets, plus social media opportunities on Twitter and blog.

Sponsorship income has declined from a high of $25,000 in 2016 to $22,225 in 2017, $21,500 in 2018, to $18,500 in 2019.  “It’s a challenging trend,” Kim said, citing retirements and lost connections.

“The big challenge is COVID-19, like for all of us,” she said. “We had to get creative, acknowledge realty, show value, appeal to sense of community and duty, broaden the tent, and be flexible.”

The chapter responded by expanding their asks, emphasizing diversity and inclusion, launching responsive programming, and offering prorated sponsorships, “though no one took us up on it,” Kim said.

They also offered discounts for long-term commitments (15% for three years, 10% discount for two years).

The results: “2020 hit the mark of $18,205 (goal was $18,000) and we’re still going,” Kim said.  “We’re proudest that we focused on lower level sponsorships and bringing people into the fold.  Early on, we tried to launch interesting program, with a specific focus for members in transition because we’ve had a lot of layoffs.  We showed how to use that content and sponsors responded.”

She concluded, “We’re a long way from the days of higher sponsorships, but we feel good about where we are at.”


Jared:  How do you decide who you are going to reach out to for sponsorships?

Kim: “Couple of factors: First, be aware of what is happening in the market; look at agencies that are new in town and need exposure; keep eyes and ears open; perhaps an organization where someone recently became APR; be mindful of data points internally; also knowing the right time to make the ask. Monitoring signs, identifying people.

Kim Skeltis: Are there other annual meeting sponsors?

Kim Eberhardt: The annual meeting is wrapped into the corporate sponsorship. The chapter does not solicit sponsors separately for the annual meeting. It is coordinated through the secretary; the executive board has a strategy session on who to go after, and everybody on the board is responsible for exploring contacts. Secretary may be responsible for follow-up. It’s not a requirement but an expectation that executive board members may contribute a supporter level sponsorship of $300.

Sara Payne: How do you approach organization that supported you in past and turned you down. Do you approach the following year or are they off the list?

Kim: GM is an example – we lost a key advocate. We did approach them the following year. We try to be flexible; they may have another place in the budget for a sponsorship; flexibility might include volunteering additional resources to keep them at a traditional sponsorship level.

Adrienne: What are the scholarship pay-outs?

Kim: Two separate $2,000 scholarships.


The 2020 East Central District Diamond Awards competition is NOW OPEN!


Receive the District-wide recognition you deserve! The East Central District of the Public Relations Society of America will recognize public relations brilliance in campaigns and tactics for its 43rd annual Diamond Awards competition. Within the East Central District, there are national-caliber campaigns and tactics that deserve recognition. The Diamond Awards are presented to public relations practitioners who have successfully addressed a communication challenge with exemplary skill, creativity and resourcefulness.

The Diamond Awards are open to any public relations professional who is a member of the 17 chapters of PRSA East Central District, AND any nonmember 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.

Click here to look over the 2020 Call for Entries.

Review the campaign judging score sheet and the tactics judging score sheet as you prepare for your entries your entry. The PRSA Diamond Awards Toolkit 2020 for Chapter presidents is also available.

Click here to enter the 2020 Diamond Awards competition.

Deadlines are:
Early Bird Deadline: August 17, 2020
Regular Deadline: September 21, 2020
Final Deadline: October 12, 2020

View the 2019 Diamond Award Winners.


PRSA National Representative for PRSA-ECD Spotlight: Richard (Rick) Batyko, APR, Fellow PRSA

Rick is the Chief Marketing Officer for the YMCA of Greater Cleveland, which covers four counties and serves 150,000 people Northeast Ohio. The Y is a nonprofit focusing on youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Rick has 30 years of Fortune 100 and nonprofit communications, marketing, public relations and brand strategy experience. He has held executive public relations and marketing positions with Babcock & Wilcox, AlliedSignal, Honeywell International, The Cleveland Foundation, Team NEO and The Greater Cleveland Partnership. Rick is a graduate of Ohio University with a major in Public Relations and received his Master of Arts in Public Relations from Kent State University. He holds his accreditation with the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), is a member of its College of Fellows and serves on PRSA’s national board of directors. Rick has served as an adjunct faculty member at Kent State University’s Master of Public Relations program. He has contributed to several books and authored journal articles on the subjects of communication, marketing and economic development.

Home Chapter: Greater Cleveland and Akron Area

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

This question needs a timestamp because my favorite part of PRSA isn’t a stagnant answer. When I need to draw on a network, that’s my favorite part. When I need resources and ideas, and PRSA provides them, then that’s the best part. Professional development, thought leadership, inspiration — for me, it’s all there. My favorite part is a moving target.

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

As ECD’s national board rep, I want to keep the District informed. More importantly, I want to hear from its board and its members. We have a phenomenal Regional Rep in Crystal, so I also want to support her. I will feel accomplished if by the end of my term (2020) the District will have found my role of value in their efforts to serve members. I also hope to help our new board representative transition to the national board.

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

While I work in an integrated marketing and communications job, and nearly every executive position I’ve held featured the “marketing” title, I consider myself a public relations professional. Especially in today’s environment where the tag “fake” is prevalent and misinformation is widely and purposely disbursed, I value the PRSA Code of Ethics. For me, our Code is the filter through which all communications and actions should be passed. No other communications or marketing professional association takes such a strong stand on ethics. Indeed, that’s my favorite part of PR.

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

I have been at this for more than 30 years, so in the interest of brevity, my highlight comes from the breadth of my career. From serving in leadership roles in small nonprofits to a major foundation to Fortune 50 companies, I’ve learned that the impact of one’s decisions may vary (number of people affected, cost of execution, staff required, etc.), but the guiding principles of decision-making do not. Any missteps in my tenure have happened when I allowed myself or others to distract me from level-headed, careful and thoughtful decisions and I rushed to judgment or to action. If one is disciplined about the decision-making process, then even in most rushed, panicked situations, muscle memory kicks in and good decisions are made.

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

I may be cheating here, but I find PRSA’s own answer to this question as powerful as anything I can add: ” PRSA provides lifelong learning opportunities and access to a variety of resources to prepare you for every stage of your career. If you’re new to the industry, a long-time veteran, or somewhere in between, PRSA helps members meet tomorrow’s challenges.”

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

PRSA’s 10 Districts are sometimes overlooked by members who value their chapter and national. ECD is more vulnerable to being unnoticed than some others because we do not conduct an annual conference. Yet, it was ECD that invented QuickStart, a program that has been copied by most Districts. Our awards program, wonderfully refined this year by the ECD board, is bringing regional recognition to our members’ good work. And we are blessed with a plethora of outstanding leaders who we recognize with the Platinum Award. The Districts are the unsung heroes of PRSA. However, those of us who have been involved with ECD found knowledge sharing, leadership training, network building and comradery that we will value always.

Would you like to add anything else?

It has been the highlight of my career to represent the ECD on the national PRSA Board of Directors for the past four years.

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Nominate an Outstanding Professional for ECD’s Platinum Award by Aug. 28

If you are reading this blog, you are likely a communications professional and someone who is either interested in or active with PRSA. Often, we are the ones most comfortable being “behind the scenes,” using our skills and abilities to highlight brands, organizations and leaders. PRSA East Central District’s (ECD) annual Platinum Award is our district’s opportunity to shine the spotlight on one of our dedicated volunteer PRSA leaders.

Every year, the ECD presents the Platinum Award to an outstanding professional from one of our 17 chapters. Named after former national PRSA board member; ECD PRSA board chair and Detroit PRSA Chapter President Donald P. Durocher, APR, Fellow PRSA, the Platinum Award recognizes a practitioner who has achieved a distinguished service record and is clearly identified as a role model for others.

Some of the areas of service to PRSA the award recognizes includes: PRSA chapter, district and national service; PRSSA chapter and national service; published materials; other awards and recognition; and general contributions to the PR profession.

The ECD has an incredible legacy of leadership within our ranks. Most recently in 2019, the board recognized Jennifer Day, APR, Great Lakes regional coordinator, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), with the Platinum Award. Jennifer is a past PRSA Detroit chapter president, past East Central District chair, past chair of the national district council and the 2019 recipient of PRSA’s Public Affairs and Government Section section’s Lloyd. B. Dennis Distinguished Service Award.

Each chapter is encouraged to nominate one leader from their ranks. All applications are due by Friday, Aug. 28 to Jennifer Flowers-Kolf, APR at jenniferflowerskolf@gmail.com. For more information about the award and criteria, see this link.



ECD June Meeting Best Practice Presentation “Creating a Virtual APR Class” by Leslie Galbreath, APR, & Accreditation Chair for the Hoosier Chapter

Leslie Galbreath began her Best Practice presentation “Creating a Virtual APR Class” at the June 24 ECD board meeting by saying taking APR virtual is “a big topic” and the Hoosier program had a really good head start, because the Hoosier chapter is one of most active in country in APR.

“In my own experience, years ago when I was thinking about becoming an APR, much of my business was global and I had a lot of travel overseas,” said Leslie “Life would happen, and I would have to get out of the APR training group.  Taking the class centered me on being a student again, but it was not always accessible.

“I developed a couple of objectives beyond just running an APR program: First, recruit more candidates. Second, and more importantly, modernize and improve the learning experience for the modern professional. Times are changing with more people getting degrees online.”

Hoosier Chapter’s First Steps to Virtual

Leslie said, “One semester online, one semester in person was the plan. We wanted to give working folks with other obligations more flexibility.  We wanted to improve the experience and work with National to improve the curriculum. 

“We achieve that by doing a few things: We tried alternating online/in-person instruction for the first time last year. To be honest, some of the more experienced instructors had trouble getting used to online instruction, while the younger pros were more used to it.”

Leslie said “We got lucky” in terms of timing. “With COVID-19, people had more time on their hands. We had 50 percent more attendance in online classes. It definitely broadened our reach up and down the state.”

Going Forward with Virtual

“We’re going to do fall semester online, with the way the coronavirus is going,” said Leslie. “Until last spring if you were an APR you could teach one of the courses. Our survey feedback said there were really great instructors and some very green.  We talked with the national board and instituted a three-year (APR) requirement and that upped the quality of the instructors.  We placed an emphasis on personal experience. In the end, especially (preparing for) the exam, they answered questions in the curriculum and applied real-world experience.

Versatility with Virtual

“We always make it a practice to record sessions with the Facebook group. They always have the ability to go back and review.  It was required for first-time instructors to have engagement inside the Facebook group.  They’re checking in, having conversations, and it’s kind of fun.

“We required each instructor to come to the lessons with five questions about the curriculum and give students a chance to talk.  The sessions started out at two hours, but we moved them to 90 minutes.

That seemed to be the threshold of attention span. We spent time going through student projects.  We included the satisfaction survey and benefitted from student comments.

“In the second year of taking the program virtual; we’ve seen a 50 percent increase. Two from our ‘COVID class” we call it, have applied for National.  We’re getting better learning retention and better satisfaction in general.  We’re looking at it long term. It’s certainly a good option right now.”


Jennifer Flowers-Kolf: Did you charge for the online class?

Leslie: No, it was free for active members.

Jennifer: Would cost be a barrier to participation?

Leslie: We debated that in board meetings. These are questions for long-time changes, if we can continue with success of program, but we’re not there yet.

Mark Pompilio: What virtual platforms did you use?

Leslie: The sessions were Monday 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.  We started with Go To Meeting but have moved to Microsoft Teams for the next semester. The Facebook page is for conversations. It’s meant to be the community aspect, where we can talk to each other, have video access, get the reading assignments for next week and articles that apply.  We’re living in a case study right now and sharing information; classes are a traditional platform.

John Palmer: The Hoosier chapter is the largest in the district with 337 members including 74 APR’s and nine PRSA Fellows. (Detroit is the second largest ECD chapter with 301 members and 82 APR’s). There are 480 APRs in the ECD. Congratulations to Leslie and the Hoosier chapter for taking APR to another level, especially in member retention.Congratulations to Leslie and the Hoosier chapter for taking APR to another level, especially in member retention.

Leslie – We see the APR course as a great way to recruit new members. Some only joined because of the access to APR so we see it as recruitment tool.


Board Member Spotlight: Adrienne A. Wallace, Ph.D.

This month, we are highlighting our current Chair Adrienne A. Wallace, Ph.D.

Adrienne A. Wallace is an enthusiastic communicator with over 20 years experience in both the public and private sectors ranging in scope from nonprofit, health, education, government, hospitality, politics, lobbying and finance.

Adrienne teaches undergraduate courses at Grand Valley State University mostly in the PR emphasis and has a passion for student-to-professional development. She advises the student-run PR firm GrandPR and the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter at GVSU. She also serves as the Ad&PR Internship Director and GVSU’s Bateman Competition faculty advisor. Adrienne is a board member of the West Michigan Public Relations Society of America (WMPRSA), chair of the East Central District Public Relations Society of America (ECDPRSA), communications chair of the PRSA Educators Academy (PRSAEA), and serves the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) on the social media committee and is the chair of the website committee.

Adrienne received her Ph.D. in public administration with a focus in public affairs and public policy from Western Michigan University (WMU) where she focused on the intersection of public relations, participation and lobbying on the creation/implementation of public policy in the United States. She’s a Grand Rapids Westsider, amateur chef, wife to tech/PR geek Derek DeVries (Lambert & Co.) and mother to rescue beagles Rosie and Watson.

– Ph.D. in Public Affairs, Policy & Administration, Western Michigan University
– M.P.A. in Government & Non-Profit Administration, Grand Valley State University
– M.S. in Communications, Grand Valley State University
– B.S. in Health Communications/Advertising/Public Relations, Grand Valley State University

Home Chapter: West Michigan

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

The impact we can have at all levels is really up to the individual. I like being able to get as dirty as I want in the process of leadership. It’s been my distinct privilege to work with PRSSA students at all levels of their educational and professional careers.

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

I’m usually involved in board work to move initiatives along and encourage collaboration within units – I like involving many people to achieve goals. Most people just want to be asked to participate and I’m not afraid to make the ask. We had two goals for ECD this year: 1 – support our chapters more efficiently, 2- more effective outreach to PRSSA chapters for deliberate student involvement in the district. So far our board initiatives have been robust and successful. Our members have needs and our board has solutions. It’s been amazing to work with these folks.

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

I love a good crisis – that looks worse typed out. 🙂 There is nothing like being the cool-headed person, formulating solutions, in a room full of drama against the unknown future. Feeling like you can make an immediate difference in a situation is a really gracious experience.

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

I’ve made pretty much every mistake one can make in PR and every time I’ve learned from the experience and bounced back more resilient than before. There is something so powerful about experiencing a loss, an error, or whatever – that really makes you appreciate the good stuff that goes right. I think you learn more about people in times of crisis and failure than you do when everything is going smoothly. Life is pretty easy when you are untested and when there are no obstacles in the way. Having the courage to fail and recover forces us to look inward at our own mortality and answer the question, can I go on? There is personal power in that experience and it builds confidence in what is possible. I maintain you don’t know what you can do or who you are without some adversity.

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

It’s worth a try. Just go to a few chapter events and decide, those are low barrier to entry and usually low cost or free. What do you really have to lose?

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

I love QuickStart. I think it’s so refreshing to get to know our chapter leaders 1:1 during this time. It makes you feel less alone in the issues that your own chapter is facing as there is likely someone else with the same problem. It encourages group collaboration and problem solving in a way I’ve not been able to really feel at a national level at PRSA.

Would you like to add anything else?

One of the hallmark reasons I’ve been involved in PRSA is to mentor students in PRSSA into emerging PR leaders. We need mentors in PRSSA chapters now more than ever before. If you are not close to your PRSSA chapter locally, find out how to get involved. We can’t continue to complain or be worried about what the next gen will do or experience if we are not ourselves making action to support or aid the next level of leader in PR. I think one of the most frustrating things I experience in my day-to-day job is how hungry my students are for sound mentors and on the other side hearing how much complaining professionals do about young people. PR Pros: get over it and forge a relationship with a young person. You will learn from them as much as they learn from you.

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PRSA Cincinnati Goes Virtual to Get More Virtual!

The Cincinnati May 27 Zoom event Re-imagining Live Events with the Use of Video represents all the best about our ECD members: It answered the call for member engagement by delivering a timely topic through inter-chapter cooperation, innovative delivery, and a generosity of shared resources.  Learn more in this ECD conversation with event organizer Bridget Kochersperger, PRSA Cincinnati Chapter Vice President of Programming.

PRSA Cincinnati May 27 Zoom Event:  Re-imagining Live Events with the Use of Video

Zoom presenter Molly Berrens is the owner of the video production company Spotted Yeti Media. She talks to non-profits about turning fundraisers into virtual events. With COVID-10 she has tweaked her services to include corporate events, conference events, and training presentations.

Her genius is for combining pre-corded videos with live components. For example, an event might stage live watch parties reacting to pre-recorded speeches.

Bridget: “The biggest thing she touched on were live charitable events. How you can still meet those fundraising goals, have something that still feels special to people, and gave us some examples of what she’s worked on the last couple months. One was for the Cincinnati Opera, one for Xavier University, and another for Learning Grove, an education non-profit that turned their gala into a week-long campaign with live and prerecorded elements. You could donate throughout the whole week. Ultimately the organizers said it was their most profitable fundraiser ever. I’m sure a part of it was because of very low overhead cost.”

Deciding to go virtual:

“It’s tricky.  When this all started no one was sure how long it was going to last. But right off the bat we had to cancel our monthly event for April.  It was supposed to be a program about working with influencers. But working with influencers was going to change with this too, so it would no longer be relevant.”

The PRSA Cincinnati-Columbus Connection:

“We saw that everybody is talking about shared resources.  So, we shared a few programs with Columbus and our chapter. Columbus hosted a program about personal self-care in the age of COVID.

“We came up with May events and opened a premium Zoom account.  That came together pretty quickly. We’ve been in quarantine for two months now, and we’ve asked, are people still hungry for Zoom events?”

Scoring Molly and Spotted Yeti for the Meeting:

“I used to work for PR agency that shared a building with Spotted Yeti – both female-owned – and I kept in touch with her. She shared posts about a presentation with a non-profit leader on LinkedIn so I reached out to her. She did all the hard work I just shared the opportunity. She did it as a free event.

“She is truly very, very talented. Hopefully she will get a few phone calls out of it.”

Making if a free event:

“Everybody is struggling – financially or with how to fit in their roles. We wanted to give them this free resource. We don’t often do that, even for our members, but it felt like it was the right time to do it.”

What members learned from Molly:

“It wasn’t just focused on fundraising, but that is a common, annual event most people have. She talked about conferences and training. She had a poll about industries and touched on different types of events like award ceremonies.  At the start of the event we asked the question: “What type of events are you looking to potentially take virtual this year?” There were five options (non-profit fundraisers, award ceremonies, theatrical and arts events, trade shows, and conferences) plus “other.” The least interest was in taking theater and arts online.

Molly started the presentation by introducing the audience to her company and their concepts. She defined their approach to “Smart Video” saying, “When you think about our smart devices it all starts with end user data.”

She outlined the Spotted Yeti process of “Discover, Tell Your Story, Make an Impact, Review and Improve,” and their “full script to screen” production.  She focused her talk to chapter audience on “pivoting to video” when transitioning to virtual events.

She asked, are we starting your event with a video? Where does the emotional piece fit best in the presentation? She talked about taking advantage of the benefits of going virtual: the opportunity to increase your audience, decrease your budget, expand the event timeline and gather more data.

She put particular emphasis on a live program, beginning with the question does it need to be live? Is it streaming live, or pre-recorded and released at a certain time to give a recorded-live feel.  How it’s made could be truly live or sudo-live.

Bridgit: “We had a pretty good rate of engagement in this event. We capped it at 100 because our Zoom account only allows 100 participants. We showed 70 active participants.  That’s a lot of folks. That is more than we usually have. Offhand, it was probably the best attended event we’ve had in 10 years. Granted it was also free and we did more outreach with our neighbor chapter.”

What’s on the Virtual Landscape Horizon:

“Next we’re doing a diversity program.  It’s taking place in two parts on June 16 and June 23. It was planned in advance (of the death of George Floyd in police custody and nationwide protests). The email went out May 27 before everything happened, but it’s more important than ever.

“The first part is Implicit Bias Training, and the second is Cultural Sensitivity during COVID-19.  We’ll keep going in July with it, offering reciprocal membership rates. Someone from Columbus can get our chapter rate. We did the last one for free because we thought it was the right thing to do. 

“Our Blacksmith awards are in traditionally in November but are still up in the air.  We have the date and venue locked down but obviously everything is still unsure. Molly has really great ideas on how to take award ceremonies virtual.”

Virtual Newsgathering in time of COVID-19:

“We believe we will cancel our media event – one of our signature events – originally scheduled for October and push it to the spring. We talked about having it as a virtual event, but we weren’t sure how it would work.

“More organization are going to find balance in it (virtual news gathering). It’s more convenient for media to attend and more people are sitting and listening.”

Beyond COVID:19 – Still Virtual?

“I think a lot of our programs are going to be virtual, but people in our organization are craving interaction and we will want to get back to in-person invents. But maybe it will be a mixture. We have our social and networking events. I think they will come back primarily in-person.”

Final Thoughts:

“I think we came away from it (Reimagining Live Events with the Use of Video) thinking we had better attendance than expected. We were very happy about that, and we had board members who said it was great, timely content.

“The biggest take away for me is that people still want this content and are hungry for this content. We’re still uncertain about how the rest of the year will be – no one truly know what happen, we could end up in isolation again in November – but everybody is having to look outside the box for their clients and their organizations.”

Bridget Kochersperger


PRSA Cincinnati Chapter Vice President of Programming

Regional Marketing and Communication Manager for Ulmer and Berne LLT

Molly Berrens

Spotted Yeti Media/823 Scott St. Covington, KY





A Statement from PRSA East Central District

The Public Relations Society of America East Central District is appalled by the events leading to the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and so many other members of our Black community. We condemn all acts of racism. We dedicate ourselves as communicators to stand in solidarity with our Black members, Black colleagues, Black students, and the Black community at large to promote the principles of equality. We pledge our support to convene people for solutions and to listen in order to empower change in our communities. Furthermore, we resolve to do our best as advocates to bring truth to power, act always with justice, and to commit ourselves to an essential role in resolving systemic racism.

*Please stay tuned in the coming days for programming designed to help our District, PRSA Chapters and PRSSA Chapters fulfill this statement. Thank you to our 17 PRSA Chapters for contributing to this statement.

PRSA’s Statement:

PRSSA’s Statement:

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