PR Summit Digital Series: CEOs Against Stigma Recap

By Nelli Tokleh
Diversity & Inclusion Committee Member

PRSA Pittsburgh hosted the second installment of the PR Summit Digital Series last week with “Combatting the Stigma of Mental Illness in the Workplace.” This online event featured our 2019 public service recipient, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Keystone Pennsylvania and its director of communications and marketing, Maria Kakay. The session highlighted how our chapter’s members collaborated with NAMI in a campaign called CEOs Against Stigma,  – which we engaged with local business leaders to combat the stigma of mental illness in the workplace. 

Moderated by PRSA Pittsburgh board member Deanna Tomaselli, Vice President of Client Services at The Motherhood, the session discussed the strategies and tactics of this campaign — as well as how the pandemic has impacted mental health for workers in 2020.

CEOs Against Stigma 

NAMI is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of children, adolescents, adults and families affected by mental illness through recovery-focused support, education and advocacy. With the CEOs Against Stigma program, our chapter helped increase brand awareness of the program’s mission by:

  • Educating executive leaders about the impact mental illness is having on the workplace 
  • Assisting leaders in developing policies and practices that prioritize mental health and reduce stigma
  • Urging CEOs to sign the CEO Pledge, which unlocks access to a six-step toolkit (a free program)

Campaign Rollout 

To kick off the 2019 campaign, chapter members formed a committee. This committee was tasked with planning a strategy and executing the following tactics:

  • Conducting research, including a survey to reach CEOs
    • This survey was focused on the state of mental health in each CEO’s workplace
    • Research was also conducted into which local media outlets had covered the topic of mental health 
  • Planning a targeted media approach, including:
    • Writing and distributing a press release on the PRSA Pittsburgh and NAMI partnership
    • Sending media invitations for the breakfast event 
  • Promoting the campaign on PRSA Pittsburgh and NAMI Keystone PA’s website and social media channels
  • Hosting a breakfast event for the community, to raise awareness 
  • Garnering media coverage on the partnership and breakfast event in several local broadcast, print and online outlets 

Survey Results 

We developed a survey to get a temperature check on the state of mental health in the workplace from local CEOs themselves. This tactic helped our team communicate the results to NAMI, who went on to promote their mental health resources to support local businesses. The goal was to help these businesses prioritize mental health and reduce the stigma around it. 

Key highlights from the survey included these findings: 

  • 75% of CEOs had employees who were experiencing mental health concerns, or who had family members experiencing mental health concerns
  • 90% were concerned about a loss of productivity 
  • 60% of companies had an Employee Assistance Program 
    • Of those that did not, 70% had other resources

Campaign Results

Throughout the year, we successfully increased awareness of the campaign in the community. Highlights included:

  • Reaching CEOs in the Pittsburgh region
  • The CEO Pledge being signed by Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto
  • Booking media interviews with WESA-FM and “Our Region’s Business”

Get Involved 

To volunteer with our local NAMI chapter, please contact Maria Kakay at If you’re a local CEO who wants to learn more about NAMI’s free resources, contact Maria as well. 

To get involved with our chapter’s various public service campaigns, email our Public Service Chair Kristen Wishon at

Also, check our website for details about upcoming PR Summit sessions throughout October. 

You can also follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more news and events from our chapter. 

This year’s PR Summit consists of weekly presentations in October featuring topics in recognition of Global Diversity Awareness Month. Every Wednesday, PRSA Pittsburgh will host one or two sessions facilitating hard conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion in the PR industry. Each presentation will include time for Q&As, so that attendees can participate in these critical discussions. RSVP here


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