Sustaining the Rainbow: Ensuring We’re Perpetuating Pride and Everything it Stands for Long After June

By Ashley Jones
Communications Chair

Marsha P. Johnson. Gilbert Baker. Peter Tatchell. Audre Lord. Bayard Rustin.

These are only a few names among the thousands of LGBTQ+ individuals and allies who have fought against the discrimination, belittlement, ignorance and hatred against the LGBTQ+ community. Without their contributions, Pride wouldn’t be what it is today, and the world would be a little less colorful. Less diverse. Less loving. 

For the LGBTQ+ community, June marks an incredibly important time. It’s a time to promote self-affirmation, acceptance, visibility, equality and more. It’s a time to break down constructs and stigma. It commemorates the revolutionary Stonewall Riots that led to an urgency for change, that made the following recent milestones possible: 

Despite the curveballs 2020 tossed at the world, Pride continued to thrive this year, albeit virtually. Today, our voices are more powerful than ever. We’ve been given digital platforms with which we can take control of the narrative, share our stories and lend our support. During the month of June, some of the biggest, most notable brands in the world use their platforms to share messages of unity and support to their massive followings and loyalists. The support of brands like Disney or Skittles can’t be understated or undervalued. 

We in advertising, branding, marketing and related fields are responsible for the portrayal of what is considered the “norm” or “acceptable.” When brands step forward to promote the rainbow and donate financial aid to organizations that work to keep the LGBTQ+ community safe — not only during June, but year-round — that’s how love wins.

Here are some of the loud and proud 2020 Pride campaigns:

Calvin Klein – #PROUDINMYCALVINS

  • Calvin Klein’s Pride campaign featured nine LGBTQ models, spearheaded by Jari Jones, a plus-size Black transgender model, actress and activist. In addition to a multi-color designed line for men and women, Calvin Klein’s campaign collected donations in support of the onePULSE Foundation, a non-profit organization established by the owner of the Pulse nightclub following the devastating June 12, 2016 shooting in Orlando, Florida.

Skittles – Only #OneRainbow Matters

  • To celebrate Pride, Skittles removed their own rainbow to stand in solidarity and demonstrate support for the LGBTQ community. While the brand has launched this campaign previously, this marked the first year they brought the gray “Pride Pack” to the U.S. As part of the launch, Skittles partnered with LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD, with $1 donated to the group for each sale of a “Pride Pack,” up to $100,000. 

BMW – Driven by Pride

  • BMW USA’s 2020 Pride campaign, “Driven By Pride,” featured extremely colorful BMW 8 Series Convertibles with a Pride version of the BMW logo proudly stamped on the hoods. The brand’s campaign also included communications across their social channels, participation in a special broadcast event by NYC Pride, and support of the “Pride Everywhere” campaign by The Trevor Project, which is the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ youth.

Kiehl’s – #HealthySkin For All

  • As a go-to brand for skincare, Kiehl’s used their platform to emphasize inclusivity by celebrating the diversity among their customers, community and employees with their #HealthySkinForAll campaign. The brand also donated $100,000 in a partnership with The Trevor Project and called on the talents of Lucy Kirk, a UK-based LGBTQ illustrator to design the Pride page of their website.

Disney – Rainbow Disney Collection

  • The Mickey Mouse powerhouse debuted a new Rainbow Disney Collection in recognition of Pride 2020, complete with clothing, stuffed animals, toys, keychains, bookbags and other memorabilia. In addition to the colorful ensemble, Disney also donated $100,000 to GLSEN, a leading education organization working to create safe and inclusive K-12 schools for LGBTQ students.

Bliss – Self-Care for a Cause

  • This year, Bliss began an ongoing partnership with The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ youth. The skincare brand pledged $150,000 to the organization and, in celebration of Pride month, donated 100% of net proceeds (up to $40,000) from joint sales of Limited Edition Pride Makeup Melt™ Wipes – as well as classic Makeup Melt™ Wipes – to support The Trevor Project’s efforts. This partnership worked specifically to support suicide and mental health resources like Trevor’s Lifeline hotline, peer support community TrevorSpace, trained crisis service counselors, and more — which are all being relied on in increased amounts during COVID-19. 

Bombas – Love. Compassion. Comfort.

  • Bombas celebrated Pride with the launch of a new collection celebrating the bright, diverse LGBTQ+ community. For every pair of socks sold, a pair was donated to someone in need in the LGBTQ+ community through The Ally Coalition.

The ongoing support of organizations providing resources to the LGBTQ+ community is imperative to the well-being, protection and advocacy of these individuals — who continue to be marginalized. Learn more and lend your support year-round with these local resources and national organizations.

Black Lives Matter written on cardboard sign raised at a protest

Take the first step: Let’s all do our part to make public relations and Pittsburgh more diverse

Support Black-owned businesses, creatives and more with this resource list

 

By the PRSA Pittsburgh board of directors

 

As members of PRSA Pittsburgh, we understand that there is a lot of work to be done when it comes to racial equality in our fair city and in western Pennsylvania.

If you haven’t already — and you certainly should — read board member Taylor Fife’s personal reflections on what it’s like to be a person of color in the professional world in Pittsburgh, let us reiterate: The city’s own Gender Equity Commission found that Pittsburgh is the worst city for Black women to live in, according to Bloomberg’s CityLab

As an organization, we want to be a part of the community that is welcoming, encouraging and helps drive change. So in that spirit, we have compiled a list of resources that we hope can help inform decisions from where to donate and what local businesses to support, to how to hire more people of color and include more people of color in leadership roles.

Take the first step by using these resources at the start of every project, and help us make not only Pittsburgh, but public relations as a whole more inclusive and equal.

Our hope is that someday soon, people of color won’t have to feel like they’re the “Only” anymore. And we want to keep growing this list — until we don’t need it anymore! So please email us at info@prsa-pgh.org or contact us via social media or here on our website.

The best way to be an ally is to stay educated, connected and informed. We’ve provided below resources to help our members stay involved, including ways to donate, sign petitions and network and put that knowledge into action:

Where to donate to Black Lives Matter and related causes

Black businesses you can support right here in Pittsburgh

Tips on how to find and hire Black people for leadership positions

Public relations organizations and resources for Black professionals

Public relations resources and communities led by Black women

 

 

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A post shared by PR Girl Manifesto (@prgirlmanifesto) on

  • Before You Hit Send by Enoma Owens, “encouraging PR pros and media mavens to stay one step ahead before hitting send” on a pitch/email to a reporter

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Before You Hit Send (@beforeyouhitsend) on

 

Black-owned or -led public relations businesses and Black PR leaders in Pittsburgh

 

Black-owned and -led media for media relations

 

Black creative professionals

 

  • 1Hood Media
    Collective of socially conscious artists and activists who utilize art to raise awareness
    1hood.org
    info@1hood.org
    412-345-1192

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Dante Lindsay of Treo Productions
    Freelance Director, Photographer and Editor
    rashaad4534@gmail.com
    412-595-4544

 

 

 

 

 

Please email us at info@prsa-pgh.org or contact us via social media or here on our website to add or be added to this list.

Pittsburgh skyline photo by PRSA board member Alex Grubbs

Are you an ‘Only’ in Pittsburgh? Good, let’s elevate our stories together 

On this 155th anniversary of Juneteenth, we commemorate the ending of slavery in the United States as of June 19, 1865. It is also a time to reflect on the work still needed to be done to address the lasting consequences of systemic racism.


By Taylor Fife

Social Media Co-Chair
[Originally published at TaylorFifeMarketing.com]

 

“That matters?”

A professor once asked me this after I pitched an op-ed on the importance of the New Pittsburgh Courier to Black journalists and communicators. 

I wasn’t surprised at all by the question because for nearly all my life I’ve been an ‘Only.’

I was given the designation in elementary school and I’ve upheld the position ever since. I’ve become very familiar with those kinds of questions, and I knew they were saved specially for people like me. 

The answer to my professor’s question simply lied in the lack of diversity in the room.

I was the only Black person, and I’d be the only Black woman to receive a broadcast reporting degree that year. 

That meant that I was the only one who truly understood (and feared) how immensely difficult it would be to become a Black communicator in a city, let alone a country, that actively works to silence voices like my own.

I’d have to work ten times harder than others ever would because of the color of my skin – and I’d have to do it alone. 

‘Onlys’ are in need of support because we aren’t finding it in our universities or workplaces.

We need to know there are organizations out there like the New Pittsburgh Courier that amplify Black voices and experiences, and have long recognized that they mattered. 

What it Means To Be An ‘Only’

According to “Women in the Workplace,” a study conducted in 2019 by McKinsey & Company, the impact of being an ‘Only’ is a phenomenon affecting 20% of all women and twice that for women of color where they feel uniquely alone in the workplace. They are more likely to experience racial discrimination and microaggressions.  These include comments or actions that dismiss or downplay their experience. 

As an ‘Only,’ you learn to navigate your workplace with hesitancy because you are outnumbered. 

We perform a daring balancing act of staying true to our own identity while prioritizing the comfort of our white counterparts — it’s called the art of being Black in white spaces

We become agreeable and assimilate to white expectations of appearance and conduct.

We avoid coming off as “too black.” We code-switch. We straighten our hair every day. 

Personally, I’ve learned to always keep my voice low and calm so as to avoid being labeled as the ‘Angry Black Woman.’

‘Onlys’ experience explicit but almost always covert racism — the subtle innuendos and backhanded compliments that are wrapped in pretty bows. 

Like when I receive the most shocked faces when people find out I’m the one behind my company’s blog and social media accounts as if it’s humanly impossible for a Black person to do such a thing: “Wow, you have such a way with words. You’re so articulate, too.”

I’ve been interviewed although I already had the job, facing relentless questioning from white colleagues about my new initiatives. I’ve recited my resume too many times to count to prove my competence and capability, but the same was not required for them because management “trusted” them.

Just last year, Pittsburgh was labeled the worst city in America for Black people by local writer Damon Young and the worst city for Black women to live in by the city’s Gender Equity Commission so it’s not surprising that the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey  found that Black people are rapidly leaving the city.

The Problems Of Being An ‘Only’ 

It’s not surprising why I’m an ‘Only.’ 

In the workplace, my singularity often puts me under scrutiny as a representative of the Black community. It’s actually one of the biggest tasks of being an ‘Only.’ You become the token Black person, the go-to for any and all questions pertaining to the Black experience because your employers and colleagues believe just your answers alone are enough to paint the picture.

But now is the time this changes.

Countless stories, unique perspectives and brilliant ideas are going unheard, more often ignored. 

Contrary to popular belief, no two Black people are the same. We each have different lived experiences and insights to offer and they all are valuable, and we deserve to share them. Our uniqueness unlocks innovation.

Between the COVID-19 pandemic and the killings of Rayshard Brooks, George Floyd and many other Black people by the hands of police, Black employees are suffering. 

We have concerns for our personal safety both inside and outside the workplace. We are filled with anxiety and grief. We are traumatized. And if an employer truly cares about their employees, the care shouldn’t stop at skin color.

Us ‘Onlys’ come in to work every day with a tremendous amount of pain — and on top of that we tolerate racism and discrimination and microaggressions.  No one would ever know, though, since we do it all with smiles on our faces — because there is no one around us who truly understands why we’re upset in the first place. 

It’s Time To Take Action

Employers need to become anti-racist and anti-oppressive.

It’s time to prioritize the marginalized.

We need more than just statements against racism, digital black boxes and donations. We need policy and procedural changes — because Black representation everywhere should’ve always been a requirement.

We need to create safe workplaces where every employee of color feels comfortable, supported and able to thrive and succeed.

Black storytellers are valuable, and our voices have the power to fundamentally deconstruct the way things are. 

That’s why I’m using my platform to inform and inspire other similarly situated BIPOCs of the PRSA Pittsburgh community to share their experiences as professionals. 

I hope that by elevating our stories, people in power will have to start to make the changes necessary to eradicate systemic racism. 

So, if you’re an ‘Only’ like myself, I’m excited to meet you and I’ve been looking for you. 

Now flood the comments.

How to Navigate the Job Search During COVID-19 Times

Insights from our recent virtual event included resume and networking tips from people who lost or left jobs during the pandemic, then used these helpful tactics to find new ones.

By Deanna Tomaselli
Young Professionals Co-Chair

Searching for a new job is no easy task, let alone during global pandemic. But hiring is happening. And people right here in Pittsburgh are landing new jobs, or even shifting their career paths. We spoke to a few of them at the recent virtual PRSA Pittsburgh panel, “Navigating the Job Search During COVID-19 Times.” Here are their top takeaways.

The panelists:

 

Alex’s Insights: Be patient

Alex brought a helpful HR perspective to the mix. She stressed that right now, things may take a bit longer and start dates are getting pushed back, so job-seekers should stay patient. In regard to the tricky subject of salary negation for new professionals, Alex says to do your research. While numbers may be inflated on job searching sites, understand the incomes of someone in your area at your level. You can most definitely negotiate! Even if it’s not for something like salary, don’t discount negotiating for something like commuter benefits or more vacation days. And if you want more, have a reason – and data points – to back it up.

 

Marina’s Insights: Stand out from the crowd

Marina has been through a roller coaster over the last few months. She, unfortunately, lost her job in March due to the pandemic. But, she immediately reached out to her mentor and got to work. She treated job searching as its own full-time job, spending lots of time researching companies in Pittsburgh, and carefully targeting each cover letter to the position she was applying for. Her mentor also suggested she make her resume as succinct and to the point as possible – and all on one page. She also added some of her personality by adding “Professional Walker of Cats” in the description of herself! Needless to say, it caught the attention of her soon-to-be employer. Here’s how she transformed her resume and landed her next dream job: Tapping into her network (and expanding it) while being honest and true to herself helped.

 

More on resumes

Our HR guru Alex also added that quantifying your accomplishments are very key when it comes to resumes. She also suggested looking at the description of the job you are applying for, then using those keywords in your own resume. Also, apply as early as possible! Set up alerts on LinkedIn, Indeed, and other job-hunting platforms, so that when a job pops up, you get notified right away. Be detailed and show examples of your work and how they apply to the job. And if you are just starting out or changing careers, be creative and show how that applies. For example, if you only have waitressing experience, that’s client service, right?

 

Chris’ Insights: Make yourself a thought leader

Throughout the panel, LinkedIn stood out as an essential platform for virtual networking and job searching. Everyone agreed that having a solid profile of work history, a description of yourself and your skills, plus a nice cover photo and headshot work well. And that sliding into DMs of recruiters and contacts can help jumpstart conversations. But Chris also said to take it a step further by posting about the companies you want to work for (or the people you want to work with). A super fan of Stitch Fix, Chris often tags them in posts highlighting recent news or thoughts he has on the brand. And a recent post he wrote on Giant Eagle garnered him 12,000 views after just one post! More engagement means more visibility. Think of LinkedIn like an ongoing cover letter to the world.

 

Jannah’s Insights: Get comfortable being uncomfortable

Speaking of Giant Eagle, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard about them week after week since March, as the grocery industry has been completely flipped on its head. Her company had to rethink how they did pretty much everything – from conducting media interviews on Zoom, constant communication to the workforce, pivoting how people shop and more. This “forced innovation” as Jannah called it has allowed them to tap into the expertise of their employees, and the ones who are acting quickly and efficiently are standing out from the crowd. Something job seekers can do, too. Showing you are proactive and a team player can go a long way.

 

Emma’s Insights: Tap into your creative intuition

Emma has been in the education field for a few years, and always thought she was going to become a teacher. But once she launched a side hustle selling soap, she ended up falling in love with marketing the product. Creating content and imagery was so much more appealing to her, so she decided to go back to school for marketing. She made some quick tweaks to her resume – including adding a description at the top talking about her career change, and putting in some real writing examples from past blog posts she’s done – and ended up landing a virtual internship this summer. Emma took her passion, and made it happen.

 

Job searching and day-to-day business operations are forever changed due to COVID-19. But this pandemic has opened up more opportunities where virtual connections are happening, and people are landing more virtual work than ever before.

Coming soon, you can learn more from the panelists by watching a recording of the event on our YouTube page. Then continue the discussion in our Young Professionals Facebook Group.

Consider a crisis as a learning opportunity, not an inconvenience

Senior PR manager at Philips reflects on how ventilator demand during COVID-19 shifted the company’s strategy – and what others can take away from it

 

By Stacey Federoff
Web Content Manager

 

On Thursday, May 28, PRSA Pittsburgh hosted “Agility in the Age of COVID-19”, an informal virtual discussion with Meredith Amoroso, a senior manager of public relations in Philips Global Press Office and former PRSA Pittsburgh Chapter President. Led by Andrew Conte, director of the Point Park Center for Media Innovation, the two dove into crisis communications learnings influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amoroso saw first-hand how the demand for ventilators during the COVID-19 pandemic had taken a toll on employees at Philips Sleep and Respiratory Care.

“I was emotional on a number of occasions, meeting these people who you could tell were just exhausted, but didn’t care. They wanted to be there, they wanted to do the work,” she said. “They said, ‘I’m just glad to be here, I’m glad I can do my part.’ ”

Philips’ Pittsburgh connection

Originally founded as Respironics – the first to develop a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine for the treatment of sleep apnea, Philips Sleep and Respiratory Care has since 2009 been a Murrysville-based arm of the health technology company headquartered in The Netherlands.

In January, the company, which focuses on health technology, saw the demand for ventilators begin to rise as cases of COVID-19 rose in China, and with it the company’s production rose too, Amoroso said. The communications team began an initial strategy, well before early March as coronavirus cases hit the United States.

“How can we be very transparent and communicate what we’re doing to meet the evolving needs all over the world of these pieces of medical equipment?” is what the team focused on, she said.

When coronavirus hit

First, with offices and manufacturing facilities in China, the company focused on internal communications to keep “business continuity while keeping our employees and our customers really safe.” This included emphasizing social media and media protocols, in case anyone was approached by journalists, to balance employees’ pride in their work with safety in high-risk situations like hospitals treating COVID-19 patients.

For external communications, “it’s extremely difficult to prepare for the complete unknown,” instead Amoroso said she and the team had a clear understanding of what steps the company was taking, thanks in part to access to the highest executive leadership at the company.

“Our teams worked day and night to innovate and develop an emergency-use ventilator,” she said. “Something that usually takes years and years of ideation and conceptualization and production, we were able to create something in just a matter of weeks that still met all the stringent medical standards. We wanted to tell that story, we wanted to talk about how … the  employees at Philips came together to create something that could fill an existing gap in accessibility to ventilators worldwide.”

Remain agile

This pandemic has caused a shift in thinking, so it has altered communications strategies as well – and not only how people themselves are experiencing it, but also how journalists are covering it, and how PR pros should describe their businesses to people. “We just have to remain agile and change the way we’re talking about [things].” 

Particular to her industry, Amoroso said the cancellation of trade shows meant thinking about how to build relationships differently, where otherwise she would be pitching and sending press releases to journalists. Now she’s sending “tickler” emails and making phone calls – maybe to say hello and reference something posted on LinkedIn – just to touch base with press because she doesn’t get to have those one-on-one interactions. 

Here are other takeaways that Amoroso shared during the event for communicators in a crisis:

  • Find ways to create a team. Even as the only PR person at a small company, you can make a difference during a crisis by bouncing ideas off people in different departments. But be sure to assert yourself to ask the right questions and make recommendations that you feel are the right call.
  • Use background for interviews, like holding statements and briefing documents, to help guide executives during a crisis. This will help them understand each journalist and their background, Amoroso said, even if it’s only LinkedIn or MuckRack profiles with past stories.
  • When you don’t know an answer, be transparent and remain in communication with who’s asking it. “Communicate, let them know we’re here for them,” she said. Be aware of journalists’ deadlines.
  • “Don’t always think you know what you’re doing” and “be willing to learn,” she said. Take a crisis as a learning opportunity, not an inconvenience. “You can’t prepare for the impossible, but know your product or your business very well.” So when a reporter asks, you can “respond at a high level and make them feel heard” allowing the company to be a part of the conversation.
  • During a crisis, “you have to find things that make you proud of the company you represent and make you proud of the position that you’re in,” she said. Sometimes that means considering strategies that change the prevailing narrative.
  • Balance telling the business side of the story with the human side of the story: “We were able to pull that together and tell some human interest stories that I think honestly have been some of the most popular pieces of content that we put out there so far.”

For more insights, such as how she and her team faced a challenge, watch a recording of the event on our YouTube page.

Don’t miss our next virtual event on June 10 at 6 p.m.: Navigating the Job Search During COVID-19 Times

Sign up for our newsletter to be the first to hear about these kinds of events.

Photo by Jessica S. Irvin on Unsplash

How to adjust social media best practices during COVID-19

By Megha Pai and Taylor Fife
PRSA Pittsburgh Social Media Co-Chairs


Social media can feel like a blessing and a curse — especially these days, when we’re drowning in information (and misinformation). Brands on social media in the midst of this global pandemic should focus on helping people and building communities — this isn’t the time to be slinging around salesy promotions. 

Here are some social media best practices to keep in mind:

Keep Communicating, Transparently 

Taylor: It’s important for a brand to keep connected with their community through the thick and thin, especially in the nonprofit sector. Social media provides a free and easy way for nonprofits to stay engaged with existing and prospective donors while keeping their missions in front of them.

  • Think about the business relationship you’ve built with your consumers as you would a personal relationship. You wouldn’t want to leave your best friend in the dark, right?
  • Think about what your audience needs. Update them on product availability and services and most importantly, communicate the measures your brand is taking to promote social distancing.
  • Think about your digital presence. Create virtual offerings and be prepared to maintain a strong digital presence for several months.

Megha: I agree, virtual events help to fill a need people have during this time — the need to learn, connect and grow. PRSA Pittsburgh’s communications chair Ashley Jones began the “Screen to Screen” Instagram Live series soon after social distancing measures were implemented. (Check out tips from past episodes.)

It’s been a great way for our organization to continue providing programming and helpful information while everyone is apart. Additionally, while communicating with your audience, it’s important to do so authentically and transparently.

Taylor: Yes, transparency is important — if you don’t share the status of your company with consumers, you may lose their trust. 

  • You don’t want to come across as out-of-touch with reality. It’s always better to acknowledge a tough situation than to ignore it.
  • You don’t want to deliver content that goes against what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) recommend, so be mindful of what you’re putting out there.
  • You don’t want to come across as trying to profit off of these circumstances with pushy, disingenuous content. For PPC campaigns, tread lightly.

Megha: Yes, organic social content is your friend right now. Find out what your audience wants to see from your brand:

  • Launch polls on Instagram Stories
  • Ask questions on Twitter
  • Get feedback using methods that work for you

Remember, your content should always be developed with your audience in mind.

Trust Credible Sources

Megha: It’s always important to consider the source, especially when you’re on social media. Here at PRSA Pittsburgh, we’ve created a resource page on our blog to help our members stay informed during this time. The CDC and WHO will always be go-to sources for anyone seeking credible information on the pandemic, but I also like local news outlet PublicSource.

Taylor: Yes, finding credible and trusted sources is key. Unfortunately, when using social media, people often fall victim to misinformation. Luckily, social media platforms like Facebook are aiming to tell users when they have interacted with “fake news” about the coronavirus. 

Megha: They have, and I appreciate seeing social media platforms doing their part to help stop the spread of misinformation! Just look at TikTok, which puts a disclaimer on in-platform videos where users mention the coronavirus, urging viewers to consult credible sources. TikTok has also formed a partnership with WHO aimed at providing useful, accurate information for TikTok’s audience base.

It’s Time to Pivot

Megha: We both agree that pivoting is essential to a brand’s social presence during this time — you can’t keep creating your usual content in a vacuum, oblivious to something that’s affecting the entire world! But we know pivoting isn’t easy. 

Taylor: Pivoting can be stressful and daunting because it takes you out of your comfort zone and may even force you to do more work than ever before. 

Megha: Very true. Also, when we talk about pivoting here, we’re talking about two different things: 1) the goods/services themselves and 2) the content.

  • If you have the capacity and ability to pivot what you’re producing or providing to others, great.
  • If you can only pivot your messaging, that works, too. 

Taylor: I view this time as an opportunity for innovation and growth. We’ve seen many companies stepping up, pitching in and taking on projects that are not in their traditional niche. 

Megha: Yes — just look at the fashion designers making surgical masks! Local brands like Maggie’s Farm Rum are helping the Pittsburgh community by making hand sanitizer to donate to first responders.

Taylor: Organizations are also creating emergency response campaigns like #GivingTuesdayNow to help raise funds in this time of critical need.

Access is important in these times, too: Central Outreach Wellness Center, whose mission is to support the needs of the LGBTQIA and HIV+ community, tested thousands of people for COVID-19.

Ultimately, people will remember the acts of good that brands are performing during this crisis. Acts of service also turn into feel-good content that promotes positive messaging!

Megha: Yes, positive messaging will help us all get through this! Here are some example I like:

  • Nike’s campaign about staying in, which says: “If you ever dreamed of playing for millions around the world, now is your chance. Play inside, play for the world.”
  • Jeep’s #StayOffTheRoad campaign is also a great pivot that encourages fans to “Explore the great indoors.”
  • Steel City’s sign that says “Tough Times Didn’t Break Us, They Made Us”
  • The Byham Theater’s sign that says “This is just intermission.” What a great way to lift people’s spirits!

How Social Has Helped Us During This Time

Taylor: I eat, sleep and breathe social media. You’ll rarely ever NOT see me buried in my phone. Social media has been my main source of receiving information for years and that hasn’t changed during COVID-19. Every communicator should follow as many reputable local, national and international news media outlets as possible on social media (there’s my broadcasting degree coming out). Staying informed and knowledgeable about the world around me has been vital in helping me develop content during this time.

Megha: I agree, Taylor, and I love the content WHO has been publishing on its social channels. Lately, I’ve really appreciated how social media has helped me stay connected to everyone.

It’s also interesting that Zoom has practically become a social network, as observed by Matthew Kobach, Manager of Digital and Social Media at the NYSE. Before the pandemic, I associated Zoom with work, since I used it for client calls and internal meetings during my time at Havas. But the other day, I created a personal Zoom account and used it to talk to my former colleagues from Havas on a weekend. Life comes full circle. 

Taylor: Social media has been my main source of entertainment these days, and I know Megha feels the same. Virtual happy hours, Instagram Live DJ parties, arts and crafts sessions, cooking sessions, webinars — there is so much creative content out there right now! My favorites are:

Megha: Yes! I love the comedy videos on TikTok, humor on Twitter and memes on Instagram. There’s a lot of interesting content out there — which is good for us, since consuming great content is key to writing and creating great content.

 

It’s an extremely challenging time to be working in communications right now, and there is no beginner’s manual. But here at PRSA Pittsburgh, we hope to help other communicators in the area make sense of it all by sharing our experiences with you.

Reach out to us on PRSA Pittsburgh’s social channels, or at meg.pai25@gmail.com and taylorfifemarketing@gmail.com, to let us know what content you’d like to see!

Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

No liquor store, no problem: Beer recommendations offer alternatives

By Ben Butler
Website Lead

Editor’s Note: Ben Butler is an accredited public relations professional, entrepreneur, and Certified Cicerone®. A Cicerone is the beer industry’s equivalent of a Sommelier. With the designation, he’s one of 4,000 beer “experts” worldwide.

 

I get messages daily about what I’m drinking and what people should be drinking. But I’ve never gotten more than during COVID-19, especially here in Pennsylvania where the state-run liquor stores closed March 17. On April 20, select stores were re-opened to take phone orders for curbside pickup, met with mixed success by customers.

Out of stock, can’t replenish your wine and liquor supply, and don’t know what to pick up? Well, the breweries, beer distributors, and bottle shops are still open. And I can guarantee you, there’s a beer for all of us out there. 

Here’s my guide to help you stock up enjoyably for the remainder of quarantine, and maybe find a new favorite in the process.

A Fan of Red Wine?

In the beer world, there are so many varieties that can compete with red wine. 

Finding yourself craving that Argentine Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon? Search for a Belgian Dark Strong Ale, or a Flemish Sour Ale.

If the hop profile of a pale ale sends you running for the hills, these beers might surprise you. Hops are vacant from the first impression. Instead, you get a complex depth of flavor that feels more like a fine wine than what you may normally associate with a beer. 

I’d recommend Monks Cafe Flemish Sour Ale, which is available at most larger-scale distributors here in Pennsylvania and places like Whole Foods.

Looking for the Champagne of Beers?

And no, I’m not talking about Miller High Life. 

There’s a beer that doesn’t just look like champagne so much you can put it in a flute, but will give you all the feels in the process. Best of all, this rare style is available in Pittsburgh. It’s called Grizzled Canary by Cinderlands, a Grisette, which is a mysterious French-Belgian style of old.

Beyond that, I’d recommend leaning into the sour category of beers. Look to Strange Roots, and look out for Berliner Weisse, Gose, and Wild Ales.

Got a Sweet Tooth?

Beer has a solution. Beyond “pastry stouts,” there are a variety of fruited beers that can scratch that itch.

Look for Lindemans Kriek, or Framboise. Both are fruited Belgian sour styles. 

Or look to fruited interpretations to classic styles like my favorite, I.C. Light Mango.

Whiskey on your mind? 

Easy enough, just go for a beer aged in whiskey barrels. Boom, roasted. 

Try venturing beyond the “fire” into Stouts and Porters. Eastern Hemlock by Dancing Gnome is an American Stout with depth to rival most whiskeys, especially as it warms.

Tequila more your thing?

I’d point again to the funky profile of Saisons, and sours. 

Boulevard even has a Tequila Barrel Lime Gose that’s widely distributed here in Pennsylvania. 

Finally, a Light Beer or Macro Lager Drinker?

Been depleting your vast supply of macro-style lagers and looking for something fresh?

Here are some beers to help you begin venturing outwards: 

Hang in there Pittsburgh. We’ll get through this!

I’ll look forward to seeing you at one of PRSA Pittsburgh’s Off the Clock happy hours in the near future. We can chat more about beer, communications, or whatever you’d like.


Ben Butler, APR is the founder of Top Hat — an award-winning design and marketing communications agency in Pittsburgh.

Top Hat is widely known for its nationally acclaimed work for breweries in Alaska, Seattle, Boston, Pittsburgh, and North Carolina including Iron City, Lord Hobo Brewing, and Reuben’s Brews.

Does your nonprofit need communications services? Apply to PRSA Pittsburgh’s Public Service Project

UPDATE: RFP Deadline Extension
We want to allow adequate time for nonprofits to respond to our Public Service RFP. We’ve extended the application deadline to 5 p.m. on Friday, May 22, 2020. Please submit your proposal to Kristen Wishon at ka.wishon@gmail.com.

 

By Kristen Wishon
PRSA Pittsburgh Public Service Chair

 

Check in with your nonprofit communicators: Chances are, they are not OK.

If they haven’t been laid off or furloughed, our nonprofit cohorts are facing unchartered territory in regard to communications challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many nonprofits are facing budget constraints due to decreased revenues from earned income streams, and cancellations of large fundraisers and other donor-engagement events. On the flip side, nonprofits in service industries are facing increased demand for services and constrained capacity.

All of these elements mean that communications professionals are pivoting their efforts to break through the noise and effectively communicate their changing needs and priorities to their audiences.

Not to mention the impact on smaller nonprofits, many of which are closing. We’re seeing this in our Pittsburgh community already. 

As a fellow nonprofit communications professional working in the sector since 2013, I can relate. 

At the end of the day, this is not a cookie-cutter situation for any nonprofit. However, all is not lost.

We want to help our city’s nonprofit communicators


Each year, PRSA Pittsburgh members engage in a public service project to support the communications efforts of an area nonprofit. As this year’s Public Service Lead, I think it’s more important than ever for us to rally around the Pittsburgh-area nonprofits that are in greatest need.

That’s why PRSA Pittsburgh is adjusting its annual public service project to assist with communications projects for area nonprofits deeply affected by the current COVID-19 pandemic. We don’t want to guess or assume what our nonprofit community needs, so we’re now accepting responses to our RFP here. Here’s how we may be able to help:

  • Planning and executing a communications strategy in response to the nonprofit’s current needs,
  • Granting beneficiary designation at a PRSA Pittsburgh virtual event or events, and 
  • Planning and executing a communications campaign to support a new fundraising initiative, new virtual events or programming; promoting a new initiative, etc.

Responses are due by Friday, May 8, 2020 now extended to Friday, May 22, 2020. Please share this opportunity with any colleagues who might find this partnership helpful.

PRSA Pittsburgh members: Join the Public Service Committee 

We can’t accomplish this project without the help of our members.

PRSA members can help review RFP responses, select the nonprofit project we undertake this year and help add the needed manpower to implement a project or campaign.

If you’re interested in joining the Public Service Committee, please reach out to me directly

Additionally, you can join me Monday, April 20 on PRSA Pittsburgh’s Instagram Live for the next edition of our “Screen to Screen” series. [Update: Watch the recorded version here.]

I will talk more about my experiences as a nonprofit communications director, provide advice to other nonprofit communicators and answer questions about this year’s public service project.

Alex Bracken | Unsplash

With ‘Screen To Screen,’ PRSA Pittsburgh aims to keep providing connections to local PR community

[This is Part One in a series of recaps of past “Screen To Screen” episodes – be sure to tune in to Instagram Live twice per week at 5:30 p.m. for new additions to the series.]


By Stacey Federoff
Web Content Manager

 

At PRSA Pittsburgh, we value making connections between members and providing tools, support and education to all members. It’s right here in our value proposition. During this time of the COVID-19 global pandemic and related shutdown, we wanted to make sure that didn’t stop, especially when we need to connect virtually, since we can’t connect in-person.

With that in mind, twice per week, we’ve been hosting “Screen To Screen”, an Instagram Live series, to discuss and explore different topics related to industry best practices during these unprecedented times. Tune in at 5:30 p.m. most Mondays and Thursdays for the latest episodes, or check out our IGTV for some of the past episodes.

Here’s what we’ve learned from the first four experts who’ve joined us:

Deanna Tomaselli – Working From Home

If you missed Deanna’s tips about working from home, since it was our very first episode once the stay-at-home order started, no need to worry: She summed up her most important recommendations in a blog post for us, which includes things such as:

  • Keeping your commute time – Using the extra hour in the morning and evening to work out, meditate or just sleep in.
  • Doing some chores during the work day – Easy tasks like folding laundry during a webinar can help cross off personal tasks to reduce stress.
  • Listening to audio books, podcasts and Instagram Live streams – Mundane tasks can be more fun with some reading or laughter in your ears.
  • Taking advantage of online resources – There are plenty of fitness studios, TV, networking and educational videos, classes and livestreams.
  • Setting boundaries – Communicating with work team members and family members about work-life balance as well as flex-time or away from your desk.
  • Keeping the Good Vibes Rolling – Whether it’s lighting candles, supporting local businesses or donating to a relief fund, taking small steps and being grateful can help at any time.

Steve Radick – Crisis Communications

Steve helped lead the efforts on arguably one of the most controversial modern Super Bowl commercials, so we talked to him about crisis communications during this crazy time. 

Keeping a close eye on the news to stay up-to-date was the place to start, while taking a longview, not reacting too quickly and monitoring other brands. Some PR industry sources he suggested were:

A lot of brands were doing a lot of things well, but the bar for doing good has now been set a lot higher than just writing a check: Taking a stand for employees, customers, and other stakeholders is important. And the legal department shouldn’t be driving these communications, instead, any communications should be in plain English, conveyed with empathy and gratitude. “It’s ok to say we don’t know all the answers, but that the only thing we care about is your safety,” Steve said.

Local examples of authentic crisis communications are included in a previous blog post of ours, such as the partnership between Giant Eagle and Primanti Bros. as well as Wigle Whiskey and other distilleries shifting to produce hand sanitizer.

Dan Ayer – Content Creation

Since Dan is an award-winning copywriter and public relations pro who develops ideas, strategy, and content that drives business for clients, we knew he would have expert advice about content creation during the COVID-19 pandemic and shutdown. 

He emphasized that content should convey real meaning. Instead of goals related to selling, brands should prioritize goals related to being helpful right now. Messages should contain a level of empathy. “Put yourself in the shoes of someone going through the worst possible scenario,” Ayer suggested. 

Now is the best time to understand brand voice – who they are, what they stand for, what their goals are – and use it to develop messages, even including humor and entertainment, if that is appropriate.

For some brands it may be best just to sit things out for a while, mindful of what you’re doing. Ask: Will this content help achieve a business objective? Or, could a pivot work better, without capitalizing inappropriately on the situation? Communicate messages clearly, concisely and intelligently while being open and honest.

Great communicators and great brands are the ones who do the best at creating some emotional relief in addition to a sense of connection. Cottonelle’s “Share A Square” campaign is an example of being smart and helpful at the same time. Miller Lite and Aviation Gin are supporting bartenders. Nike is inspiring people to “play inside” and the NBA is granting access to past “classic” games. 

B2B brands can also make meaningful decisions about content and public relations, such as MSA Safety’s donation of N95 masks to Pittsburgh-area hospitals.

Content creators can play an impactful role for businesses during this unprecedented time, when they have the chance to engage and inspire people – and that highlights the overall importance of communication. Understanding the power of championing clients’ stories, content creators should take pride in and realize the responsibility of being valuable and helpful during this pandemic.

 

Next up for the “Screen To Screen” series at 5:30 p.m. April 14, we have Alex Grubbs, an MBA student, who will share strategies to cope and maintain focus during the current climate. See you then!

 

[In Part Two, we’ll recap episodes on reliable sources, social media and portfolio-building.]

 

Emma Matthews Digital Production | Unsplash

How to Keep Your Sanity While Work From Home Seems to Last Forever

By Deanna Tomaselli
PRSA Pittsburgh Young Professionals Co-Chair

Emma Matthews Digital Production | Unsplash 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take a walk every day. Have a dedicated workspace. Keep your usual hours. We’ve read blog post after blog post lately on work-from-home tips. And while I will offer a few tips of mine that I recently shared on PRSA Pittsburgh’s Screen to Screen series, what I won’t offer is sugar-coated, regurgitated “rules” to follow.

Because as someone eloquently put it on social media: You’re not working from home; you’re at home trying to work during a global pandemic. Here are some tips to maintain your sanity.


Keep Your Commute Time

While I don’t encourage you to go for a drive for 30 minutes in the morning and at night, you do have an extra hour (give or take) theoretically. I’ve been using mine to either 1) sleep longer some mornings or 2) plan my meals/groceries. My coworker mentioned she’s been getting more sleep than ever right now, which is amazing! It may be tough for some to get good sleep juggling this new life, along with anxiety over things we can’t control, but if you can sleep, do it. There is no shame in sleeping until 8 a.m. or even 9 a.m. on a Wednesday, if you don’t have a meeting first-thing. Other mornings, it feels good to get up early to work out, meditate, or just drink coffee. It’s all about balance.

On the other hand, grocery shopping is now officially the Hunger Games, and I prefer to online shop, which takes calculated strategy to plan out groceries and meals in advance. So, I also use that early-morning time to plan. Regardless of what you do with it, use this time wisely.


Do Some Chores During the Work Day

A lot of articles and posts tell you NOT to do things around the house during the day, but I disagree (to a point). It’s very easy to throw in a load of laundry, then take a break later to fold it. I’ve been sitting in on quite a few webinars, so I’ll listening in while folding laundry at the same time.

I don’t think it’s wise to do major things like mop the floors or vacuum your entire house or apartment during the day. But, easy tasks like running your robot vacuum or the dishwasher, throwing dinner into the Crock-Pot, or spraying Lysol on the doorknob or remote for the tenth time are all ways to maximize the day and allow you to check things off your personal list to create less stress.

 

Listen to Audio Books, Podcasts and Instagram Live streams

Recent data shows that podcast listenership is down, and audience growth dropped by about 15% through most of March. This makes sense because we’re not commuting, a time when many people listen to podcasts.

But I am still making an effort to listen to some of my favorite podcasts like Office Ladies and Business Casual. I do this while making dinner, walking the dog or organizing. We’re all cleaning our drawers and closets right now, so why not throw on Jessica Simpson’s Open Book (recommended on Audible and then listen to the podcast about it) and make your experience more enjoyable?

There are also plenty of Instagram Live streams and other video series that don’t really require looking at the screen, so I’ve been listening in to many of those. My two current favorites are Miley Cyrus’ Bright Minded and John Krasinski’s Some Good News.

 

Take Advantage of Free Online Resources

There are SO many free things online right now at our fingertips. First, shout out to PRSA Pittsburgh for utilizing Instagram Live and showcasing board members on the bi-weekly “Screen To Screen” series. PRSA National also has numerous webinars and assistance for crisis communications on its website.

Many fitness studios are offering free trials and classes. Use this time to upskill, learning something to better yourself career-wise (this list from PR Daily is a great resource). And there’s no shame in taking advantage of free TV. If you haven’t watched The Sopranos yet, now is your chance. Seriously, go watch it.

Also, now is still a great time to network. I had virtual coffee with a new contact a couple of weeks ago and it was nice to connect that way. Fast Company has more tips. And Social Media Today has a great list of must-have tools and apps for remote working.

 

Set Boundaries

This tip is usually on most lists, but it’s important. Recently, a fellow member of a Facebook group I am a part of commented about missing a client’s call. Within five minutes, the client called her boss to complain, but she was just out taking a quick walk at lunch. Really? Thankfully, I do not work for anyone like that, but some might. Setting boundaries is key right now with coworkers and bosses.

If you use a platform to communicate with co-workers like Slack or Teams, set an away message if you’re going to be gone from your computer for longer than 30 minutes during the day. If you are taking advantage of flex time – as my company has so graciously offered – make sure to communicate when you’re using it. Let clients and outside contacts know, too. You don’t have to go crazy, but just communicate. And keep within your hours. It’s so easy to work late at home (I am typing this blog post at 9:45 p.m., for instance), but give yourself a break. Right now, we’re lucky to have pretty good weather in Pittsburgh, so go outside when the work day ends and sit on your porch or grass al fresco. Use that time to check in with friends and family or even better, leave your screens inside.

A final note on this: Set boundaries with whomever is living in your house, too. That means spouses, roommates, children, etc. Let them know when your working hours are and stick to those. Also, shout out to all the working parents right now. I do NOT know how you are managing and my hat is off to you.

 

Keep the Good Vibes Rolling

Music is a staple in my day. Having a great playlist can keep your energy up, or soothe you. I shared a few in my recent monthly newsletter (shameless plug!). I also like to light a candle or diffuse essential oils during the day to keep it zen. Having fresh flowers is also a nice option. Order yourself some from a local shop.

I also have donated to a few local people doing great things for healthcare workers and food for those in need, and that makes me feel better about making a small difference. Of course, ordering food from local favorites also shows support. What I Ate, the Pittsburgh foodie Instagram account, is encouraging everyone to take selfies with their takeout or delivery, then tag them and use the hashtag #PGHtakeoutselfie to help get the word out.

My favorite email newsletter, Morning Brew, also just launched a new newsletter called The Essentials. It’s a guide to staying active, healthy and happy while quarantined, and drops every Monday, Wednesday and Friday in the evening. Something we all need. 

Some mornings, I wake up and work out, drink hot water with lemon, shower and do my hair and makeup. Other days, I roll out of bed late with greasy hair and plop down at my laptop in my PJs and struggle to focus. While I do think getting ready and having a routine are both keys to feeling better – and I encourage you to do that most days, I also encourage being lazy and not getting out of sweatpants sometimes. It’s a weird time, and we’re allowed!

I also continue to remind myself to be thankful that I have a job and a house and food on my table, and for that I am truly grateful. So give yourself a break, keep things in perspective and stay positive. We’ve got this!

 

Deanna Tomaselli is an Associate Vice President at Red Havas and an active member of the PRSA Pittsburgh board. She shares industry insights, career learnings, and life in the ‘Burgh at PRettyinPgh.com.