PRSA PGH 2024 Strategic Goals and Objectives

Each year, the PRSA Pittsburgh board develops a strategic plan to guide our communications, programming, and member services. The pandemic and the resulting recovery have fundamentally changed people’s working relationships, both with their employers and their extracurricular activities like PRSA. This is a new reality that PRSA PGH continues to adapt to with varying degrees of success. In 2024, we will apply the lessons learned over the last four years and focus on embracing these new relationships, opportunities, and expectations. This year, we will focus on the following goals and objectives:

Goal 1: Increase interest and engagement within the PRSA PGH Board 

  1. Update Board member value proposition, improving Board member retention and encouraging new volunteers.
  2. Revise Board succession plan and Nomination Committee process.

Goal 2: Improve the integration between communications, sponsorship and programming to drive increased attendance and engagement with PRSA PGH events. 

  1. Create and distribute at least 10 monthly newsletters to membership.
  2. Optimize Mailchimp distribution lists and send more targeted communications to specific groups (e.g., young professionals, APRs, agency employees, etc.).
  3. Develop and distribute a programming calendar by the end of February.
  4. Increase promotional efforts for events by creating event-specific integrated promo plans.
  5. Secure sponsors for at least 50% of our events.

Goal 3: Diversify PRSA PGH membership. 

  1. Increase awareness and membership inquiries from PR practitioners at national brands, universities, and other under-represented organizations in the area through the use of paid media and targeted outreach.
  2. Establish a baseline member conversion rate of PRSSA-PRSA chapter members.
  3. Increase the number of followers/fans/subscribers by 15% over last year (website, newsletter, social media).
  4. Create a member referral program.
  5. Increase promotion and advocacy efforts for diversity-related initiatives (e.g., Black Excellence Scholarship, panels and events, etc.)

Almost Irresponsible

by Charlene Payne, PRSA Pittsburgh Diversity & Inclusion Chair

“I find it almost irresponsible to not work with a DEI consultant when you are in a pitch or
when you are developing work,” said Frauenglass. “The consultants widened our view.” 

— WSJ, Coffee, Patrick, 9/25/23

This statement deserves two hands up and an “amen!” Unfortunately, there are several organizations that don’t feel this way. Why does it seem so difficult to provide equity to underrepresented populations? We are all responsible for offering a more level playing field to all populations. But for some reason diversity, equity, and inclusion are still prominent pain points.

  • “In employment, names can influence employment opportunities. A Harvard study found job candidates were more likely to get an interview when they “whitened” their name. Only 10% of black candidates got interview offers when their race could be implied by their resume, but 25% got offers when their resumes were whitened. And 21% of Asian candidates got interview offers with whitened resumes, up from 11.5%.” (The Conversation, 2023).
  • The American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom reported 695 attempts to censor library materials and 1,915 unique titles targeted for censorship – a 20% increase since 2022 (an all-time high since ALA’s recording of attempts over 20 years ago). “The vast majority of challenges were to books written by or about a person of color or a member of the LGBTQIA+ community” (American Library Association, 2023).
  • In June 2023, “In a 6–3 ruling,1 the Court held that Harvard and UNC admissions programs, which account for race at various stages in the process, violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (the UNC/Harvard decision)” (U.S. Department of Education, 2023).
  • The Legal Defense Fund is analyzing the Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard and Student for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina decisions and its effect on corporate DEI programs. The management term “glocal,” explains the need for global application and practice with local transformation. (Harvard Business Review, 2022).
  • A Brandeis University study for Economic and Racial Equity found the GI Bill enriched the lives of White Americans far more than Black Americans. This limits the opportunities for Black Americans to socially advance. (The Washington Post, 2022). The Washington Post shares, “Veterans pushed out for being gay are still waiting for VA benefits.”
  • The Business Disability Form stated that “…78% of disabled employees reported having to drive the adjustments process themselves rather than their managers taking the initiative (Forbes Magazine, 2023).

Biases and discrimination is everywhere. The evidence is there. Let’s continue to get the work done!

How PRSA Pittsburgh is Celebrating 25 Years of Reused Materials with Construction Junction

by Neha Murthy, PRSA Pittsburgh public service committee member

Construction Junction is the largest and coolest reuse nonprofit in the Pittsburgh region.

Every year as part of its public service initiative, PRSA Pittsburgh looks forward to giving back to its community. After carefully reviewing proposals from various nonprofits from the southwestern region, our chapter is happy to announce its pro bono partnership with Construction Junction for 2023. 

Construction Junction is a local nonprofit that champions the concept of a “circular economy” by promoting conservation through reuse of building materials catering to enthusiasts, donors, and shoppers alike. Homeowners, builders, DIY-ers and reuse supporters can find Construction Junction’s storefront in Pittsburgh’s Point Breeze neighborhood. 

Through this year’s public service partnership, PRSA Pittsburgh will work with Construction Junction to develop a communications plan to creatively replay 25 years of Construction Junction’s history and reintroduce it to Pittsburgh through its 25th anniversary next year. The communication efforts will focus on creating awareness across all stakeholders and the local community to help CJ attract donations and footfalls.

Construction Junction plans to celebrate this momentous milestone beginning in January 2024 and culminating with an event on November 12, 2024. PRSA Pittsburgh will also help create buzz around the much-loved annual fundraiser (also happening for the last time this year), Steel City Big Pour, slated for Saturday, October 7, 2023. Big Pour is a fun event, featuring some of the finest foods and craft beers from the Pittsburgh region, and live art by local artists. 

“If it can’t be reduced, reused, repaired, rebuilt, refurbished, refinished, resold, recycled, or composted, then it should be restricted, designed or removed from production.”– Pete Seeger, Folk Singer & Social Activist. 

This quote perfectly describes the phenomenal work done by Construction Junction. The company was founded in 1999 by Pennsylvania Resources Council (PRC) to serve the Pittsburgh region as a facility for collecting second-hand materials destined for landfills and then making them available for sale to the public. 

The nonprofit focuses its efforts on creating awareness of the importance of transitioning from a world focused on demolishing and disposing to a world where disassembling, adapting and repurposing are the norms. 

Construction Junction collects material donations in three ways – 15% deconstruction projects, 40% material drop-offs and 45% pick-up services. These are then recycled, refurbished and displayed for sale at its 30,000+ square foot retail store. The outlet features a large collection of furnishings, appliances, home renovation and garden materials, tools, hardware, and other unique finds. If lucky, one could end up finding deconstructed vintage and antique items. And the best part is that these materials only cost a fraction of the cost of new ones. 

The nonprofit is a proud member of Build Reuse, the premier national organization encouraging the recovery, reuse, and recycling of building materials in the United States. As an employer, Construction Junction believes that everyone must be allowed to become a productive member of society – so much so that a whopping 39% of its staff have had some kind of barrier to employment. Construction Junction is a three-time winner of the coveted Goodwill SWPA’s Power of Work award in 2011, 2014 and 2016 and has also won the Legacy award in 2022. 

While recycling construction and demolition debris is growing, reuse in this waste stream is rare and hard to quantify. According to the 2019 City of Pittsburgh Demolition Permits, the quantity of debris is estimated at 81,000 tons, and the projected potential value of building components is over $3.5 million. Construction Junction has been instrumental in keeping building materials worth $27.6 million in active reuse since 1999 and repurposing more than $5.75 million building materials in the Pittsburgh region itself. The nonprofit believes that this is just the tip of the iceberg and is working hard to develop more partnerships to elevate the impact. The Impact Report by Construction Junction offers a comprehensive view of their ground-breaking work. 

PRSA Pittsburgh, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, is one of the few PRSA chapters to offer pro-bono services. In fact, in 2023, PRSA Eastern Central District awarded PRSA Pittsburgh the PRominent Chapter Award for its work in this area. The PRSA Pittsburgh Public Service Project is an annual initiative with goals of supporting local nonprofits and providing hands-on experience to its members. In 2022, the organization partnered with South Hills Interfaith Movement. To learn more or to volunteer for the committee, contact Jocelyn Buhite at

How PR Can Lead by Example to Promote Workplace Wellness for Mental Health

by Melissa Reiger, Senior Vice President, Health & Wellness, Red Havas. Original post first appeared in PRNews.

Amid the news of first-term Pennsylvania Senator John Fetterman checking himself into the hospital for treatment of clinical depression, mental health is once again at the forefront of discussions. Among the chatter in the past few weeks has been an outpouring of support from both politicians and Americans alike.

But despite the strong support, there remains controversy and miscommunication about what “mental health” truly means—all made murkier in the world of politics by uncertainty with recent claims of there being “no contingency plan” pending the Senator’s recovery.

Communications’ Role in Mental Health

As communicators, we’re cautious by nature to rally behind politics and controversial topics. Just like mental health can’t be placed into a one-size-fits-all bucket, each person, and each situation, is unique. The topic of mental health transcends politics…and how it should be addressed needs to be normalized.

At the same time, sharing mental health struggles can be daunting for PR professionals at all levels—let alone for those in a leadership position. But it’s time for more people to get vulnerable. While being an advocate and an ally is something that is, and always will be, greatly needed, there is something very inspiring about a leader who is willing to open up and share something that resonates with the broader team.

Here are four tips to help PR professionals lead by example when it comes to promoting mental health and wellness.

Normalize that Mental Health IS Health

Have you ever been personally impacted by anxiety or depression? Have you lost (or almost lost) a loved one to suicide? Do you know anyone who has? Is one of your loved ones struggling with a mental health issue? Chances are, you answered yes to at least one of these questions. That’s because mental health is relevant to everyone.

While research has shown that one in four adults will report a mental health condition at some point in his or her life, additional research by the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA), Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) and Opinium shows that PR professionals are even more greatly impacted.

An astronomical 90% of those in PR said they experienced mental health issues to some extent in 2021. Beyond this:

  • 67% of PR pros said an overwhelming workload was a key source of their stress.
  • 61% said they felt guilty for taking time off of work due to mental health.
  • 40% of those experiencing mental health issues did not tell anyone at work about it.
  • 25% who did speak up did not find their workplace to be understanding and supportive.

Mental health issues are experienced from the top down, with CEOs and top leaders in all fields impacted. One study revealed that 49% of CEOs struggle with mental health—reporting that they are overworked, fatigued and suffering from continual stress.

Talk the Talk

As part of the normalization process, PR professionals and communicators should “talk the talk” when it comes to promoting a safe environment for mental health and fitness. Whether or not you personally struggle from a mental health issue, it’s important to make sure that all team members understand that you—and your company—stand behind the mental health and wellbeing of the entire workforce.

Nine out of 10 PR professionals have experienced mental health issues in the past year. Mental health is not only a topic that should be discussed openly, but also one that should be treated as a priority. As the saying “it’s okay to not be okay” becomes more commonplace, PR professionals will start to become more comfortable acknowledging their own needs and addressing concerns before they become a larger issue.

Many people are lucky to have access to an “inner circle” of family members and friends with whom they can discuss their mental health issues—but some still struggle or don’t feel comfortable opening up about certain issues. While a manager or colleague may never make that “inner circle,” by showing support, he or she can go a long way in gaining trust and ultimately improving the health and wellbeing of the overall team.

Walk the Walk

PR professionals and companies can promote mental health and wellness in a number of ways—starting with encouraging employees to take time off if they need it.

Companies can also provide access to a positive, safe and private space so that team members feel they can get the help they need without feeling discriminated against.

Red Havas works hard to ensure a “life-work balance” among team members. We offer a wide range of initiatives, including flexible hours and time off—including a “REDjuvination hour” that employees can take and bill to a job code weekly; bonus summer and PTO days; paid sabbaticals for anniversary milestones; and access to digital resources, such as the Headspace app for all employees.

Get Vulnerable

As PR professionals, our primary role is communicating…yet why are 40% of those struggling with mental health not talking about it in the workplace? Messages from the top can go a long way in reinforcing that it is okay to take a step back and prioritize mental health.

That said, leading by example can be intimidating for many top executives. The message shift that needs to happen is that vulnerability should not be seen as a sign of weakness, but rather as a sign of strength. No single person is perfect and getting vulnerable can be a way to improve connections and confidence among team members.

Supporting a long list of celebrities who are talking more about their mental health struggles—from Jewel to Maria Carey—more CEOs are also starting to step up and share their stories.

When it comes to promoting mental health and wellbeing in the PR profession, companies that take just a few small steps can make a huge difference in boosting health, productivity and even company loyalty.

Renaissance Awards 2023: A Night of Celebration and Success

by Caitlin Jefferson, 2024 Renaissance Awards Co-Chair

The 2023 Renaissance Awards are officially over, and we had such an enjoyable evening of fun, laughter, and celebration. We came together to honor local organizations, agencies, businesses, and communicators in Pittsburgh for their innovative work across all aspects of public relations and marketing communications. Chris Mueller, co-host of The PM Team with Poni & Mueller on 93.7 The Fan, emceed the annual ceremony.

More than 40 different communication campaigns and tactics created in 2022 from some of the most recognizable brands such as Duquesne Light Company, Allegheny Health Network, PPG, and Highmark were honored at this year’s awards ceremony.

In addition to celebrating creative work, PRSA Pittsburgh awarded its annual Black Excellence Award, sponsored by Red Havas. The $2,000 scholarship, given this year to Vicie Simpson, honors one Black young professional working in the region’s communications field.

Oyster Creative Co. sponsored the Bob O’Gara Student Scholarship, which was awarded to Duquesne junior Morgan Emery. BCW sponsored the awards ceremony, while Duquesne Light was the Champions Sponsor of the event.

Duquesne Light Holdings took home Best in Show for their Global Clean Energy Action campaign. A complete list of winners is also on this site, but here are the individual winners:

  • Renaissance Hall of Fame — Hollie Geitner, Duquesne Light Company
  • Communicator of the Year — Brittney Coburn, The Motherhood
  • Renaissance Rising Star — Megan Clista, Oyster Creative Co.
  • Black Excellence Award — Vicie Simpson, Brunner
  • Renaissance PR Team of the Year — The Motherhood
  • PRSSA Chapter of the Year — Point Park University
  • PRSA Member of the Year — Josh Porterfield, RIZZO International
  • Bob O’Gara Student Scholarship — Morgan Emery, Duquesne University

The ceremony would not have been possible without the extensive planning and preparation from our Renaissance Awards Co-Chairs: Lauren Suchy and Kaidia Pickels. We are looking forward to all the amazing PR tactics and campaigns this year will bring as we start prepping for next year’s ceremony.

Observing Hispanic Heritage Month in the ‘Burgh

by Kaidia Pickels, D&I Committee Member

National Hispanic Heritage Month 2022 kicked off on September 15th, marking the beginning of the annual celebration of the many historical and cultural achievements of Hispanic Americans and their immeasurable contributions to the United States.

To both honor this month and offer meaningful content that supports Hispanic American PR professionals in our region, PRSA Pittsburgh has gathered a selection of resources and organizations dedicated to the development, recruitment and promotion of Hispanic American PR talent here in the ‘Burgh. Feliz Mes Nacional de la Herencia Hispana!

Professional Development

The Pittsburgh Metropolitan Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (PMAHCC) is the preeminent regional organization that advocates for Hispanic-led businesses and the Hispanic community’s economic and civic interests in Pittsburgh. Its activities include networking opportunities with Latino business people and professionals in the region, access to U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) resources and events, education and advisement for business owners and professionals, and invaluable development tools such as microloans, brokered introductions to corporations and elected officials, and access to public contracting opportunities.

Since 2008, the Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA) chapter in Pittsburgh provides its members with opportunities for “professional networking, development of leadership talent, relationship building and proving of integrity.” The organization also offers best practice guides and a mentoring program to support Hispanic and Latino professionals in every stage of their careers.

The Pittsburgh Hispanic Development Corporation (PHDC) is an organization that focuses on community development in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area and is “dedicated to improving the lives of Hispanics in the region, increasing the Hispanic population, supporting existing and new Hispanic businesses, and increasing Hispanic investment in the region.”

Lastly, Hispanic and Latino professionals in Pittsburgh should also be aware of Vibrant Pittsburgh, a nonprofit membership organization with the goal of attracting, retaining, and elevating a diversity of talent to boost the economic vitality of the Pittsburgh region. Last year we heard from Vibrant Pittsburgh’s president and CEO Sabrina Saunders-Mosby about how her organization works with member corporations to enhance their diversity of talent through its D&I Forum, Employee Business Resource Group (EBRG) Council, mentorship program, and more.

Recruiting and Promoting

The New America Alliance (NAA), the Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement (HACE), and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute provide employers with opportunities to engage with and invest in developing future Latinx leaders in business, and the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility (HACR) represents nearly 50 million Hispanic professionals through its coalition of 14 member organizations that combine to create an unmatched national pool of Latinx talent.

Industry-specific groups like the Society of Hispanic Engineers (SHPE), Prospanica, and the Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting (ALPFA) support Latinx talent in their chosen fields, and student organizations like the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities and the National Hispanic Institute (NHI) offer corporations the opportunity to invest in and network with the next generation of Latinx professionals.

Additionally, the Alliance for Board Diversity (ABD) and the National Diversity Council (NDC) are coalitions of diversity-focused groups that offer opportunities for corporate partnerships with diversity councils and referrals for aspiring women and minority professionals who aspire to be board members. The Association of ERGs and Councils also offers its members top-tier resources and training for developing and maintaining a diverse workplace.

INROADS, Inc. and The Ph.D. Project are organizations that support students from diverse backgrounds in pursuing professional opportunities and advanced degrees, which helps to create a more diverse future workforce. Both organizations provide opportunities for career placements and job postings.

Learn More & Take the PRSA Pittsburgh D&I Pledge

PRSA Pittsburgh encourages its members to access its Diversity & Inclusion Toolkit for more information on ways to cultivate diversity and inclusion in the workplace all year round.

Additionally, PRSA Pittsburgh’s D&I Committee is proud to present our D&I pledge to PRSA members. The intent of the pledge is to advance diversity and inclusion in the communications and PR profession. After taking the pledge, we hope employers spark hard conversations in their workplaces and begin to build a more diverse and inclusive environment, ultimately earning deeper trust and more commitment from their employees.

PRSA Pittsburgh encourages PRSA members to virtually sign and commit to our D&I pledge. We also encourage members to print out and share the pledge (PDF) with their colleagues and peers who may not have access to technology. 

Communications and PR professionals of all identities and seniority levels are encouraged to inquire about joining our Diversity & Inclusion Committee at

How to Stand Out: The Importance of PRSSA and Internships in College 

by Gianna DiPaolo

Studying public relations in college can sometimes feel time-consuming, frustrating, and even borderline impossible, but the way you can stand out and learn more about the industry can be summed up in two concepts: PRSSA and internships. 

By joining your school’s PRSSA club you can not only participate and learn in-depth public relations practices such as how to properly write a press release, client outreach, and special events, but you’re also exposed to its parent organization, PRSA Pittsburgh. Through this association, you have the opportunity to attend local agency tours, extensive networking opportunities, education, special events and more. In addition to joining PRSSA at your school, it is also imperative to hold internships as they teach you real-world experience and knowledge you might not have learned in the classroom. 

If you’re interested in either PRSSA or an internship, below are points I’ve gained by personally participating in both during my college experience. 

Networking Opportunities

Our whole industry is built around networking. From the time we step foot in a PR classroom to attending an Off the Clock event, networking is always and will always be around us. 


While you can go to these events once or reach out to contacts yourself, PRSSA and internships can facilitate that process and increase your odds of talking to peers and public relations professionals (and potentially even your future boss). 

Going along with that, expanding your network gives you the chance to practice your people skills. For me, and I’m sure for a lot of other students, talking to professionals can be intimidating or scary, but by consistently attending PRSSA and PRSA events, sitting in on guest speakers, and taking the jump to email professionals yourself, it gets easier and you build confidence over time. 

Portfolio Builder

Portfolio building in the simplest terms is taking the white papers, social posts, creative briefs, and whatever else you work on throughout your college career and pasting them into your own online portfolio or website for future employers to see. 

While all of the work you did throughout your college career is great, showcasing PRSSA and internship work along with that school work puts you ahead of the curve. Not only does this show your future employer more than the school standard, but it also shows passion, drive, and determination to go the extra mile in the field of public relations. 

Hands-on Experience

Yes – you have the necessary textbooks, the online articles, the LinkedIn Learning videos, and your professors while you’re in the classroom, however, you’re not fully exposed to the public relations industry until you take your first internship. 

From my experience with internships, I’ve learned a lot about public relations in non-profit, small business, and agency settings which are all vastly different. Depending on the internship you take, you’re going to learn the ins and outs of the industry, the standards of the industry, and even how you perform in different sectors of the industry.

If there is one thing you can take from this article, it’s to join your school’s PRSSA club, make a killer resume, write a unique cover letter, and get on Indeed, Handshake, LinkedIn, or whatever job platform you prefer and start applying to internships. Although I know it sounds like a lot, and it can be, I promise it is worth it when you’re in your first interview and can be proud of all of the work you’ve accomplished.

If you’re a communications professional now entering the industry, consider joining PRSA Pittsburgh.

Identify Without Discrimination: The Importance of Being Included

by Charlene Payne, PRSA Pittsburgh diversity & inclusion chair

June celebrated Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ+) populations across the United States. It was a time to reflect on the laws that were passed to protect the LGBTQ+ community and their rights to serve in the military, adopt children, and legally marrying the same sex. June was also a time to remember the Stonewall Uprising of 1969, the event that inspired the gay rights movement in New York City and cities around the world. 

The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Civil Rights Act of 1964 Title VII “prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.” As we work incessantly to keep race and color in the forefront of our daily watch, sexual identity is equally important. The U.S. adult population that identifies with being LGBTQ+ has doubled over the past decade, with a possibility of increasing by 10% in the near future. 

Ensuring the LGBTQ+ community has a seat at the table

Through a recent webinar by the Federation of Associations in Brain and Behavioral Science  regarding LGBTQ+ and Multiracial Demographics in WMPD, the research shared that not identifying the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer community members hurts scientific and technological progress. The presentation stated Asians (5.3%), American Indians and Alaskans (0.7%) and the Native Hawaiian and Pacific (0.2%) populations smaller in number than the LGBTQ+ group (5.6%), but are numerically counted in industry-related surveys. It’s important to be counted here and on a larger scale so that the LGBTQ+ community can be supported, promoted, recruited and retained as a student, employee, or social contributor. 

The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs says

Since ancient times, governments around the world have counted their populations. By counting everyone, communities can determine the needs of their people;
where to build homes, schools, hospitals and where to invest in food supply, jobs and transportation. In this way, societies can progress.” 

The LGBTQ+ community faces discrimination academically, professionally, and in social arenas. Discrimination is prominent across generations and results in breakdowns financially, mentally and physically. Adding an underrepresented group, like race, adds another layer of distress, disappointment and misappropriation.

Discrimination compromises our present and future. The recent passing of the Equality Act (2021) has placed emphasis and expanded civil rights for the LGBTQ+ community. I look forward to a world where we can bring our experiences and knowledge to the table, progressing society as one human resource.

The importance of inclusion to the PR professional

Using inclusive language is important to PR professionals for language is how we inform, frame and respond to messages. I think inclusion has always been important to humans. We want to be on the team at all stages of life, including adulthood.

However, when teams become homogeneous, repeatedly hiring the same type of person,  they miss the opportunity to learn about different experiences and perspectives, allowing for enhanced creativity, innovation and problem-solving. Keep in mind, difference is where the sweet spot is – be sure to include it. 

Share our commitment to workplace inclusion

PRSA Pittsburgh encourages its members to access its Diversity & Inclusion Toolkit for more information on ways to cultivate diversity and inclusion in the workplace. 

As part of this toolkit, we encourage you to take our D&I pledge to advance diversity and inclusion in the communications and PR profession. We also encourage members to print out and share the pledge (PDF) with their colleagues and peers who may not have access to technology.

After taking the pledge, we hope employers spark hard conversations in their workplaces and begin to build a more diverse and inclusive environment, ultimately earning deeper trust and more commitment from their employees.


Meet the South Hills Interfaith Movement: PRSA Pittsburgh’s 2022 Public Service Client

By Jocelyn Buhite, PRSA Pittsburgh Public Service Committee Member

Everyone needs help at some point. Providing food, childcare, housing and other essential needs is a challenge for many families in the Pittsburgh region. Yet, stigma or shame leaves individuals afraid or embarrassed to ask for help. For more than fifty years, the South Hills Interfaith Movement (SHIM) has been there to help people meet basic needs, achieve self-sufficiency and build community. This year, the PRSA Pittsburgh Chapter selected SHIM as our partner to receive pro-bono PR and communications support through the 2022 Public Service Committee. I sat down with Seth Dubin, the Director for Development and Communications at SHIM to learn more about their work. 

Seth started by sharing the story of one community member that has really stuck with him and captures the spirit of SHIM’s work. Seth was volunteering at the organization’s food pantry and encountered a man who clearly wasn’t enthusiastic about asking for help. As the two of them walked around looking for groceries, Seth learned that the man lost everything due to a flood, including his car. Since he couldn’t get to work without a car, he also lost his job. 

In addition to providing the man with food that day, SHIM was able to provide financial aid to get his car repaired so that he could look for work again. Before the man left, Seth told him that he could always come back, and SHIM would be there for him. Seth said that he could feel the gratitude that the man had, the same gratitude that many others have when leaving SHIM’s pantry. 

“Because of our 250+ volunteer force and frontline staff, we are able to work directly with families. Prior to the pandemic, all our pantries were shop through and that was intentional. It provides the dignity that people deserve when they are asking for help, allows them to pick the things that they want and leave the things that they don’t, and allows the establishment of a relationship between the client and volunteer. From those conversations comes so much and we have that ability programmatically to respond to a variety of needs that people would present,” Seth said. 

Answering the challenges posed by the pandemic and inflation

SHIM was formed by a priest, rabbi and minister who wanted to create an inclusive community and address the challenges faced by people living in suburban poverty. SHIM has always adapted to meet the most pressing needs in the South Hills, but food insecurity, or the inability to consistently access nutritious and affordable food, has remained a top priority in this region. The COVID-19 pandemic put a spotlight on food insecurity, as many community members found themselves out of work and the highest inflation rate in decades made grocery bills increase.

Food insecurity disproportionately impacts communities of color and is particularly prevalent in our region. The 2020 FeedPGH Report stated one in five Pittsburgh residents live with food insecurity, nearly double the national average. One of the many factors that contribute to food insecurity is the housing crisis which has also impacted our region According to the Pew Research Center, 23% of renters are spending more than half of their income on housing, as the average U.S. rent has risen 18% over the last five years and the median home sale prices have surged.  

SHIM serves over 7,500 individuals through its food, clothing, financial assistance, education, family support and community building programs every year. From the results of a recent program evaluation, SHIM is planning to align its existing programs through a mentorship program to address the toxic stress that accompanies poverty. The mentorship program will help people establish goals that lead them to self-sufficiency using the EMPath framework. While SHIM’s programming and service operations continue to grow, it recognizes that it cannot do everything on its own.

Stitching together a quilt of community support through partnerships 

“At SHIM, we realize that we aren’t the answer to everything. While we do a lot and have a comprehensive list of programs, we cannot do it alone. Within the Pittsburgh ecosystem of social services, we have the ability to partner for more power,” Seth said. 

The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank helps stock SHIM’s pantry and the Department of Human Services of Allegheny County supports SHIM’s after school program, summer camp and Baldwin family center. Additionally, the United Way of Southern Pennsylvania provides funding for SHIM’s programs and SHIM partners with Jewish Family and Community Services on the ISAC program that provides immigrant connection services. 

Nearly 50% of the refugees in the greater Pittsburgh region reside in the South Hills, as well as a vibrant immigrant community. SHIM was founded on interfaith, multicultural principles of service and inclusion and continues to be dedicated to creating an inclusive community where everyone has the opportunity to thrive. SHIM’s continued service to individuals and the South Hills community is a perfect embodiment of Mr. Fred Rogers’ call to be a good neighbor

Jocelyn is a member of the PRSSA Chapter at Slippery Rock and a volunteer on the PRSA Pittsburgh Public Service Committee. She is currently also a Marketing Communications Intern at the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council

Share your skills

We are currently recruiting volunteers to join the Public Service Committee and support the PRSA-Pittsburgh/SHIM partnership. To learn more visit the 2022 Public Service page or reach out to committee chair Austin Price ( directly.  


Making a Positive Impact To Celebrate Diversity, Today

by Chris Hayes, D&I Committee Member

The first half of the year is packed with diversity and inclusion observances, like Black History Month, Women’s History Month and PRIDE month, but leaders know that creating an inclusive communications industry is a year-round initiative. There’s no better time than today to reinforce our shared commitment to opening up the conversation to underserved and underrepresented groups. Celebrating diversity and creating a culture of belonging helps people gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of each other and honoring each other’s differences. 

Making real, tangible change is an ongoing responsibility, and if you’re looking for opportunities to further your support of diverse groups below are tactics that will set you on the right path.

Sponsor Women and People of Color

When it comes to supporting women and members of historically marginalized communities (HMCs), there’s a big difference between mentorship and sponsorship. While many leaders and people in positions of power believe they are sponsoring underrepresented groups, in reality they are acting solely as mentors. The key difference between the two is influence. 

Mentorship focuses on methods of direct help such as guidance, feedback and coaching. On the other hand, sponsorship involves externally facing support – advocacy, visibility and promotion. When a boss or leader amplifies the work or accomplishments of their minority employee, they are aiming to positively influence an audience’s perception of that employee. Instead of a two-way street between the sponsor and protege, it becomes a three-way relationship between the sponsor, protege and audience. 

If you’re an executive, team leader or influencer in the workplace, consider ways you can sponsor women and people of color instead of just mentoring them.

Educate Yourself on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

If you are looking for an easy way to become more inclusive in your work and/or personal life, there’s no better starting point than education. It could be as simple as reading books about other cultures, watching movies that depict the struggles of underserved groups or listening to podcasts hosted by people with varying perspectives. No matter what approach you take, you are guaranteed to come away from the experience with newfound knowledge that will benefit you and those around you.

You can also take a step back and listen more carefully to your friends and coworkers of different races, genders, sexuality and cultures. Engage in conversation with them and ask them for ways you can help be a more inclusive, supportive ally. Other ideas could be to participate in diversity and inclusion training at work and support minority businesses.

Recognize Implicit Biases

While nobody has control over how their upbringing affected their implicit biases, we do have control over how we identify these biases and move forward. In the workplace, implicit biases can lead to decreased productivity, underutilization of talent and stunted innovation and business growth. In our personal lives, these biases can result in fractured relationships and resentment among family, friends and colleagues. That’s why it’s so important that we learn to recognize our inherent biases and do what we can to eliminate them.

The first step toward removing implicit bias is to simply understand that they exist in everyone. By familiarizing yourself with racial, age, and gender biases, you can begin to recognize when you are engaging in them. Additional steps to help remove these biases include exposing yourself to a wide array of social groups and attending events of different cultures, practicing mindfulness, and adjusting your perspective to varying points of view.

Whether you’re a seasoned advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion or if you’re just starting your journey, there’s always more work to be done to help elevate and support underserved and underrepresented groups professionally and culturally.

Learn More & Take the PRSA Pittsburgh D&I Pledge

PRSA Pittsburgh encourages its members to access its Diversity & Inclusion Toolkit for more information on ways to cultivate diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Additionally, PRSA Pittsburgh’s D&I Committee is proud to present our D&I pledge to PRSA members. The intent of the pledge is to advance diversity and inclusion in the communications and PR profession. After taking the pledge, we hope employers spark hard conversations in their workplaces and begin to build a more diverse and inclusive environment, ultimately earning deeper trust and more commitment from their employees.

PRSA Pittsburgh encourages members to virtually sign and commit to our D&I pledge. We also encourage members to print out and share the pledge (PDF) with their colleagues and peers who may not have access to technology.

Communications and PR professionals of all identities and seniority levels are encouraged to inquire about joining our Diversity & Inclusion Committee at