How to Be Heard: Learnings from the Pennsylvania Women’s Conference

By Deanna Tomaselli
Young Professionals Co-Chair

Speaking up doesn’t always come easy for everyone. But there’s a difference between speaking up and being heard. It’s less about being the loudest voice in the room, and more about being seen and recognized, which unfortunately doesn’t always happen.

The Pennsylvania Conference for Women took place virtually this year, and speaker Charmaine McClaire – an executive coach and communications expert – shared her insights on the topic of helping people find their voice. Which can be even more difficult now, as we’re not meeting in person and meetings take place virtually over tools such as Teams or Zoom. Charmaine notes that we need to have domain over our own narrative. Because if you don’t define yourself, others will define yourself for you.

Defining Who You Are

When thinking about defining ourselves, it’s more than just a title. For example, yes, I am Vice President of Client Services at The Motherhood, but how does that resonate with who I am speaking to? Charmaine notes that there is power in our voices and our stories. And your story is about how you add value. What’s your personal value proposition? When I think about mine, I help my clients tell their brand story to targeted audiences through the power of influencer marketing. They can reach new customers through these trusted, established thought leaders in their communities. See the difference?

In addition to talking about your value, it’s also important to quantify it. There’s strength in numbers, and quantifying what you do (or the data behind it) helps bring your story to life. Perhaps that means the amount of budget you manage, or the number of people on your team.

An important note here, too, is that what you do may not always be your day-to-day job. Instead, it can be what you are passionate about. This could be the work you’re doing in your community – whether that means volunteering with a non-profit, writing a blog, sitting on a board of directors or helping at your church. Or something like being a caretaker of a neighbor, child or parent. Whatever it is that you do – and whatever brings you happiness and provides others value – should be included in your personal definition.

The Six Principles

Now that you’ve established who you are, it’s time to be heard! Here are Charmaine’s six principles to put this into action:

  1. Communicate the vision: Leaders communicate a vision, not a task. They paint a vivid picture that you can see long-term.
  2. Speak in headlines: When you think about watching or seeing the news, you know what is attention-grabbing. Use this same principle when communicating your vision.
  3. Have three “must-make” points: What are the top three takeaways you want people to remember and that encapsulates your vision? These are the three questions every audience member will have: Why should I listen? What’s in it for me? What do you want me to do about it?
  4. Create witnesses: Make sure you have people in your corner that are witnesses to your great work. Setting them up in advance to be your advocates and back you up can help make sure your vision is heard.
  5. Don’t audition for the part: You don’t need to ask for permission to share your insight. Show up and communicate because you’re going to add value.
  6. Embody your message: Ensure you are walking, talking and acting the part. Because you must believe and live your message before conveying it to others.

Practice Makes Perfect

Before your next call, presentation or conversation, practice. Don’t speak with a question mark. Speak with authority. Try practicing in front of a mirror or record yourself on your computer or phone. One other tip is to make sure your witnesses are ready to go before you speak. Say you are presenting via Zoom and someone argues with your or disagrees with you. Yes, they have the right to, but your witnesses can serve as backup to prove your thoughts. Knowing they are there can help you build your confidence.

Now is the time to take action. While being heard can be intimidating, the results will speak for themselves. As Charmaine noted, be freaking powerful.

Deanna Tomaselli is a Vice President at The Motherhood, an influencer marketing agency, and an active member of the PRSA Pittsburgh board. She shares industry insights, career learnings, and life in the ‘Burgh at PRettyinPgh.com.

From the armed forces to the civilian workforce: Tips to attract, hire and retain veterans 

By Taylor Fife
Diversity & Inclusion Co-Chair and Social Media Co-Chair


Did you know veterans face a higher unemployment rate than civilians, especially in Pennsylvania? Just last year the state had the
second highest unemployment rate of veterans in the country. 

For PHV, our 2020 public service nonprofit partner, this data is simply unacceptable. 

PRSA Pittsburgh’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee invited PHV to appear in a special Screen to Screen episode on Facebook Live, “Why You Should Be Hiring Veterans.” The event aimed to highlight inclusive hiring practices for veterans and the unique qualities they bring to the workforce. 

Kristen Wishon, PRSA Pittsburgh’s public service chair, interviewed PHV Executive Director Dayna Brown; Employment Specialist Brian Harkins, a Marine Corps veteran; and George Scott, a former PHV employee and Marine Corps veteran, who shared his gratitude for PHV’s support as he worked to rejoin the workforce in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

 

Problems veterans face when rejoining the workforce

A lack of understanding of the veteran experience, miseducation and the stigma of mental health are some of the biggest issues veterans face when rejoining the workforce.

“Veterans struggle to be understood by the majority of the population,” Brown said. Less than 8% of the U.S. population has served or is serving in the military. “It’s a small population, but a very important one. That means the other 92% of our population have never served in the military and can’t directly relate to the veteran experience.”

More conversations between local veteran organizations and the top levels of the military could combat this misunderstanding. Open and direct lines of communication will help build a better pipeline to understanding veterans and implementing equitable hiring practices.

“Civilians are a very important part of our transition back into society and the barrier between us and them needs to be broken,” Scott said.

Employers and hiring managers need to educate themselves on the issues veterans face when rejoining the workforce. This includes eradicating implicit biases and moving past the mental health stigma surrounding veterans. 

Many people associate post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental illnesses with military combat and war veterans, but one out of every five civilians, or about 20% of the U.S. population, is enduring a mental health issue, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Only about 8% of military veterans experience mental illness, reports the Department of Defense.

“That’s significantly lower than the civilian population, but yet the perception is that mental health illnesses are a lot higher in the military,” Harkins said. 

Civilians, employers and hiring managers should seek understanding rather than trying to be understood. They must recognize that everyone has traumas, not just veterans. 

Unique qualities veterans bring to the workforce

Returning to civilian life, veterans possess countless skills to benefit an employer, including:

  • Discipline
  • Leadership
  • Time management
  • The ability to work unsupervised and hold themselves accountable
  • Critical thinking skills, especially under pressure or tight deadlines

“They’re incredibly committed, flexible, resourceful and resilient,” said Brown, who is also the spouse of a Marine. “Many veterans have often led teams and were responsible for the general welfare and wellbeing of the people who they were leading, even after the mission was completed. Just imagine how valuable they would be to a team.”

How employers can implement inclusive hiring practices

Five days’ worth of transition assistance is given to service members who are leaving the military, intended to help acclimate to civilian life.

“Unfortunately, it’s just five days, so then it ultimately becomes up to the veteran to pick up the pieces and fill in the gaps where they don’t understand,” Brown said. 

Employers should instead aid veterans in their transition, taking advantage of local veteran centers.

“Ease the stress and trauma of unemployment for them,” Brown said. “Remember, they’ve been working hard in the military to protect our country and they’re coming back to the unknown. Just come alongside a veteran and guide them.”

Employers also need to become more innovative in their hiring practices, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the existing digital divide even more.

“When I was going through the interview process for the Red Cross, I explained to them that Zoom didn’t work for me,” Scott said. “I explained my situation and they were willing to talk to me over the phone and even through texting.” 

Scott was grateful his future employer was aware of his unique situation and needs, but knows not all veterans receive the same treatment.

“We all have to work together to be stronger together,” added Scott

Employers need to realize most people have legitimate reasons for gaps in their resumes. Brown urges employers to become more aware of the unique challenges a veteran may have endured, or are still enduring. 

“Have another veteran look at a veteran’s resume, or have a veteran sit in on an interview, so they can aid the hiring manager and assign a mentor to help transition the veteran into the culture of your company,” suggested Brown. 

In order to create a supportive environment fostering veteran success, PHV encourages companies and organizations to join its employer partner network

“I wouldn’t have made it without PHV,” Scott said. “I couldn’t find employment but PHV hired me. They are breaking down the barriers to employment.” 

Veteran employment, training & educational resources

PHV recommends the following resources to veterans, employers, hiring managers and any individuals who want to aid in improving veteran hiring outcomes in our region.

Regional Resources

National Resources

Certifications

PRSA also offers free, national membership to qualified public affairs professionals transitioning from the military to the civilian workforce.

Please email us at info@prsa-pgh.org or contact us via social media or here on our website if you would like a veteran service organization added to this list. 

Introducing PRSA Pittsburgh’s Black Excellence Award

By Morgan McCoy and Alex Oltmanns
PRSA Pittsburgh Renaissance Award Co-Chairs

There will be plenty of changes to this year’s Renaissance Awards. From a virtual format to a new means of entry, the 2021 event is set to be one unlike any other that PRSA Pittsburgh has ever hosted.

But one of the changes we’re most excited about is the introduction of the PRSA Pittsburgh Black Excellence Award. Through this award, we aim to recognize Black men and women for outstanding academic achievement, commitment to the practice of public relations and commitment to the city of Pittsburgh.

Sponsored by Burson Cohn & Wolfe, the award will grant $2,000 to one new graduate who is of African-American/Black ancestry and working in the PR, marketing or communications field in the region. All applicants must have graduated from an accredited four-year college or university located in the U.S. in the last three years and accepted a communications/PR/marketing position in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Why the Award Was Developed

But before we outline how to enter, it’s important to discuss the inspiration behind PRSA Pittsburgh’s newest award. 

Many studies indicate that the industry still struggles to attract young Black professionals to public relations careers, and PRSA Pittsburgh has had its own struggles attracting, retaining and developing Black PR leaders. Our membership is only 2% Black. Over the last five years, our Board has only had three Black members. 

We need to do more to show talented Black communications, public relations and marketing students there is a home for them here in the Pittsburgh PR community. We need to show them we see, hear and need them and do more to identify, hire and develop these future leaders.

How to Apply

PRSA Pittsburgh has developed the following application that all potential applicants must complete and submit before the December 11 deadline.

  • A completed entry form.
  • A typed, one-page letter of recommendation from a PRSA member or an individual associated with the communications profession (corporate, agency, government, higher education or nonprofit).
  • A 500-word personal essay or a video on why diversity matters to the public relations industry and the significance of having a diverse workforce in the public relations industry.
  • In addition, please provide an answer to at least one of these topics below:
    • What is the role of communications professionals in helping companies and the city do better when it comes to racial equality?
    • What Black communications role models do you look up to in this industry and why?
    • What recent multicultural communication efforts have helped to bridge the gap between the community and your college/university or new place of employment?

PRSA Pittsburgh’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee will serve as the review committee for this award.

Please make sure all materials are error-free and thoroughly proofread. All application materials must be submitted to renaissance@prsa-pgh.org by December 11. Incomplete or late applications will not be considered.

Hear from SEO experts at DICK’S Sporting Goods in our At Home With series

By Catherine Clements
Young Professionals Co-Chair

Tune in on Zoom for PRSA Pittsburgh’s new, virtual series at home with top communications professionals in the area from some of your favorite Pittsburgh brands. Next up is Pittsburgh legend DICK’S Sporting Goods.

During this 45-minute session, we’ll be talking to four SEO experts about who they are, what they do and how they got there. Registrants will have the opportunity to network and participate in a live Q&A. Plus, they’ll provide actionable tips for you to be the best comms pro you can be!

Save the Date: Thursday, November 12 at 5:30 pm on Zoom


RSVP via Eventbrite

 

A Look at the Lineup:

Noah Fleming, SEO Specialist

LinkedIn

Noah has been working in the digital marketing space for 7+ years and is currently a SEO Specialist at DICK’S Sporting Goods. He oversees Apparel, Footwear and other divisions within the organization to drive organic traffic.

 

 

Ray Judy, SEO Content Specialist

LinkedIn

Ray serves as the SEO Team’s Content Specialist. His main responsibilities include developing content for the Pro Tips blog and writing SEO copy for shoppable eCommerce pages.

 

 

 

Tara Kaloz, SEO Specialist

LinkedIn

Tara Kaloz, marketing and eCommerce professional with over a decade of multifaceted experience. She is currently an SEO Specialist at DICK’S Sporting Goods, where she oversees Outdoor Equipment, Golf and other divisions. She loves coming up with creative solutions for an ever-changing industry.

 

 

Andy Wert, eCom Analyst – SEO

LinkedIn

A graduate from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in marketing, Andy began his professional career in SEO working for the agency Merkle Inc. After spending a year and a half in the agency setting, Andy made the transition to in-house SEO and has recently joined our DICK’S Sporting Goods team as an SEO Analyst.

PR Summit Digital Series: CEOs Against Stigma Recap

By Nelli Tokleh
Diversity & Inclusion Committee Member

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

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

CEOs Against Stigma 

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

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

Campaign Rollout 

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

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

Survey Results 

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

Key highlights from the survey included these findings: 

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

Campaign Results

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

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

Get Involved 

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

To get involved with our chapter’s various public service campaigns, email our Public Service Chair Kristen Wishon at ka.wishon@gmail.com.

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

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

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

 

First PR Summit Session Aims to Transform the D&I Landscape in PRSA Chapters

By Charlene Payne
Diversity & Inclusion Committee Member

It’s a unique time for businesses and organizations committing to a renewed focus on diversity and inclusion. It’s a time where communicators can lead conversations, redirect dialogues, and mitigate the repercussions of unconscious biases to help us discover the real issues and challenges. 

This made Felicia Blow, APR, Co-Chair of the PRSA National Diversity & Inclusion Committee and 2021 National Chair-Elect Nominee, the perfect choice for our first PR Summit session. Felicia challenged attendees to think, act, and make a difference in our communities (through voices and  actions) in her presentation, “Think, Act, Make a Difference: Transforming the PRSA D&I Landscape.” 

We must communicate with others to help them find their voices, and to help them understand the true issues, Felicia said. These themes of equity and inclusion were woven throughout her powerful presentation, which included PRSA’s strategic plan and methods on how to engage current and future professionals.

Diversity & Inclusion Best Practices

Felicia’s recommended steps align themselves with the PRSA Strategic Plan’s objectives. They include:

  • Being an example to other organizations when it comes to diversity and inclusion. We must have representation within our organization by being planted at the table.
  • Showing integrity to other organizations. We have to be an example for other groups with diverse leadership.
  • Establishing one consistent definition for diversity and inclusion,  a separate initiative from affirmative action, EEOC, quotas, etc.
  • Creating pipelines from Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to the organization.
  • Partnering with organizations like the National Association of Black Journalists and ColorComm.
  • Reimagining the definition of “new pro” (recent graduate vs. new to the industry).

Implementing Diversity & Inclusion 

Felicia recommends completing the following tasks when implementing diversity and inclusion into your chapter or organization:

  • Read the PRSA D&I Strategic Plan. Share the insights within it to strengthen its execution.
  • Build a D&I Calendar for the remainder of 2020. Begin thinking of your 2021 D&I activity calendar now.
  • Prepare for annual recognition of PRSA’s Diversity and Inclusion Month in October. 
  • Reach out to the National D&I Committee with questions and support.

This first PR Summit session taught us that chapters and organizations can use PRSA’s D&I Strategic Plan to deliver quantifiable results—helping them maintain strong footing in today’s multicultural marketplace, and in the global landscape of the future. If you’re interested in additional strategies on how to include diversity and inclusion in your organization, check outPRSA National’s Diversity & Inclusion Toolkit.

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

Matching the Postcard to the Destination: ‘Putting the PR in Press,’ an Event Recap

By Ashley Jones
Communications Chair

PR and media: They go together like (dare we say it?) peanut butter and jelly. And while the kitchens may be different, often pros within these respective fields use similar ingredients, tools and recipes of their trades to achieve a mutual goal: Telling a good story.

Understanding the reciprocity between these professions has always been essential to fueling the accomplishments of both PR pros and journalists alike. However, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic brought a wealth of change and challenges to newsrooms, PR offices and communications between the two.

On Sept. 15, PRSA Pittsburgh partnered with Women’s Press Club of Pittsburgh to host “Putting the PR in Press,” a PR & media panel during which we explored the perspectives of PR pros, former journalists and current journalists on these ever-changing industries and the common career transition from one to the other. The following panelists offered their expertise and experiences during the one-hour lunch and learn:

  • Billie Kellar, HR Manager at Garrison Hughes
  • Michael Machosky, Public Relations Coordinator at Markowitz Communications and Staff Writer at NEXTpittsburgh
  • Nicole Schuman, Content Manager at PRNEWS
  • Deborah Todd, Communications Manager at University of Pittsburgh

Moderated by Jennifer Miele, Chief Communications Officer at the Diocese of Greensburg, the former WTAE reporter led a powerful discussion including tips for pitching newsrooms, building a professional network, updating resumes and, ultimately, how to transition your skillset from one industry to the other. 

Here were our key takeaways:

Networking & Nailing the Pitch

Finding and interacting with journalists is one of PR pros’ biggest challenges, according to Muck Rack. COVID-19 caused disruption in the news cycle, editorial calendars and basic human interaction. So, how do we continue to build a network remotely, make our stories relevant and match the headline to the reporter? Here are a few tips:

  • While meeting in-person is rather shaky right now, reaching out and connecting virtually is safe and a must.Journalists need connections just as much as you do — consider virtual coffee,”  said Deborah Todd.
  • Pitching should be purposeful. Who you’re pitching to matters most. Knowing what that reporter is currently working on also helps. It’s important to have an understanding of timing. Don’t try to recycle things you’ve already put out there. Know when the pitch you’re sending is relevant or not.
  • Create stories that are regionally specific. Localization is important.
  • More than anything, be creative. “Shovels in the ground and ribbon cuttings are hard to sell right now. There have to be better ways to position your story and you have to figure those out,” said Michael Machosky.

State of the Newsroom

U.S. Census data shows that PR pros now outnumber journalists 6-to-1.

“Journalists have had a really rough few months, I’ll be honest,” Nicole Schuman said. “Staff and revenue has been affected. I’m personally doing more writing than I ever have before across a wider range of topics. But if we can get through this year, we can get through anything.”

With newsrooms seeing unfortunate shrinking, how do we as PR pros continue to adapt along with journalists, and what should we know about the news cycle?

  • Editorial calendars have changed significantly as a result of COVID-19. Be sure to stay on top of what is current in the news cycle.
  • Remember, the news cycle never stops.
  • News is needed now more than ever, especially as traditional media resources continue to downsize.
  • Brand newsrooms are becoming more integral to journalists’ toolkits in regards to sourcing content, and here are some that can serve as inspiration: Marriott, Spotify and National Geographic

Transitioning from Journalism to PR

Employment of public relations specialists is projected to grow 6% from 2018 to 2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. As public relations continues to grow and play a pivotal role for brands — especially during times like these, in which crisis management, building awareness and storytelling is crucial — many journalists are making the switch. Here’s how and why it works: 

  •  There are tons of transferable skills!
    • Interviewing skills come in handy when communicating with clients, colleagues and internal teams, vendors, etc.
    • The ability to operate under deadline pressure while maintaining accuracy is extremely beneficial to the business side of operations
    • Strong storytelling and writing abilities are essential to any PR guru

“We’re looking for strong communicators. Someone with strong writing experience. I haven’t had one position in the communications field that hasn’t required some kind of writing sample or writing test,” said Billie Kellar.

  • As a former journalist, you have insider knowledge about newsroom processes and a better understanding of who might be interested in a story or not. Having a wide net of media contacts and an understanding of how and when to communicate will be beneficial to any PR firm or team.
  • Your beat or specialty as a journalist can inform the kind of brands you work with as a PR professional. Having specific knowledge of a specific industry transfers well in terms of brand storytelling.
  • As for resumes, don’t use the same template for every job posting.

Mentorship

Whether you’re in PR, journalism or a different field altogether, first and foremost on your to-do list should be to find a mentor. Identify organizations and seasoned professionals who can lend experience, advice and support. Often, it’s these networks and individuals who can help you get your foot in the door. 

Ultimately, whether you’re pitching a press release or transitioning your career, it all comes down to timing. So, keep Jennifer Miele’s advice in mind: 

“The postcard has to match the destination.” 

If you would like to learn more about the efforts of the Women’s Press Club of Pittsburgh, or would like to get involved, you can join their mailing list at tinyurl.com/wpcnewsletters

If you have any feedback regarding this event, or events you’d like to see in the future, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at info@prsa-pgh.org.

White coffee mug, full of coffee, sitting on long wooden table with wooden chairs out of focus in the background

Uncertain Times Call For Substantial Change

By Jesse Serra
Programming Co-Chair

Throughout history, it’s been proven time and again that controversy paired with bravery can lead to substantial change in society — consider the Women’s Suffrage Movement, the Stonewall Riots, the Civil Rights Movement, and, most recently, the Black Lives Matter Movement. Diversity and inclusion efforts have come to the forefront as a result of some of the world’s most recent tragedies. It’s time to make D&I not just conversation, but action, through efforts to ensure equal opportunities for all.

These thoughts and more were explored during PRSA Pittsburgh’s panel event, “Leadership Strategies to Cultivate a Diverse & Inclusive Environment,” featuring local D&I professionals:

Recognizing there is an unfortunate lack of support and prioritization for diversity and inclusion in the workforce, as well as in our communities, is the first step to initiating necessary conversations and change. Our panel of powerhouse women not only demonstrated passionate dedication to D&I efforts, but provided encouragement and actionable takeaways that we as professionals can implement immediately in both our personal and professional lives.

Throughout the lunch and learn panel discussion, a recognizable theme was change and improvement. How do we begin or better efforts that are already in place? It’s simple: action. We can no longer believe that ideas or wishful thinking is enough. It’s time to have difficult, transparent conversations that lead to implementing strategies, efforts, support teams and more. Action must take place in order to see change and to create the inclusive world we need. And it starts with each of us.

What can we do as individuals?

  1. Self-reflect. Are we each doing our part? Dunn posed that each of us should look in the mirror and ask ourselves: Who is included in our circle of peers and how we can expand it? Who or what are we most invested in, and are we working to incorporate diversity and inclusion in our day-to-day lives? What kinds of conversations are we having in our own homes and how can we expound on the importance of these matters?
  2. Be authentic and vulnerable. As we begin these conversations, which may be difficult or outside of our comfort zones, being honest and clear can encourage others to do the same. In being transparent and vulnerable, we inevitably create a safe place for others to join in with confidence. When we are able to let our guards down, we become more willing to relate to others and that is truly what our world needs.
  3. Be on the right side of history. Again, it is not enough to just be talking about change. Even when involving ourselves in conversation, words without actions to support them won’t change a thing. This is not simply a trend to follow, but the forming of our society’s future.

What can we do to improve the workplace?

“Maintaining transparency and being open and honest about current conversations is essential in the workplace,” urged panelist Malesia Dunn.

Ensuring current and potential employees feel safe, heard and represented begins with the recruitment process. It’s pertinent to ensure recruiters’ perceptions are unbiased and that parts of the process such as job descriptions and outreach platforms are reaching a wider pool of potential candidates. It also matters what happens after a new hire joins the team. Providing D&I resources and tools can help new hires feel welcome, as well as ensure that D&I efforts already in place will continue to be exercised as the talent pool grows. 

Our panelists discussed key factors to ensure that the workplace is a safe environment, or a place where personnel feel secure, needed and in community with others. Based on each of their backgrounds and current D&I initiatives, they broke down three main components:   

  • Development

    When a new hire comes on board, what will they first encounter? Will their initial interactions be validating and helpful? Or based on prior biases? To hope for the best when a new hire comes through the door does not suffice. Nor for a newcomer who just moved to a city like Pittsburgh to immediately feel at home. For people to find their niche, connections become vital in growing roots and opening up opportunities. If organizations lack ample ways for employees to grow and develop in each of their positions and environments, efficiency and creativity will be greatly suppressed.

    “If you want to get the most out of your people, the best thing you can do is to engage them and alleviate the burdens they are carrying,” explained panelist Paloma Denardis.

    Helping employees become confident, strong-willed individuals can create the thriving culture your business needs led by personnel that readily and confidently execute.

  • Representation

    When we see people like ourselves and find commonalities, we feel more secure and represented, thus reinforcing the need for diversity. Lewis and Dunn both spoke about the significance of being Black women in the workforce — and many times being the only Black person present in a meeting or working in a department.

    “Seeing someone who looks like me draws me in and helps me feel represented,” Lewis said.

    Ensuring team members represent marginalized groups is crucial to creating a welcoming environment for others as they seek employment, research organizations and businesses, and retain talent. As a woman, a minority, or someone with a disability, to see a person or people similar to you in the workplace creates an environment in which you are not an outlier.

  • Relationship

    Recruiters, in particular, are faced with taking the initiative to meet people where they are, in order to minimize bias and ensure a strong D&I strategy is in place.

    “Go out to the places your new hires are and place yourself in their communities and groups,” Lewis explained.

    Reaching out beyond our normal circles, getting out of our comfort zones and engaging with professionals and colleagues who may not look the same as we do are all crucial. There’s a wealth of untapped talent in regards to underrepresented groups who have unparalleled knowledge, experience, creativity that would benefit any organization. Research and identify the best platforms to connect with these individuals, maintain these relationships and continue to grow these connections.

The gravity of current events and engagement in the Black Lives Matter movement is changing the trajectory of conversation and society. It’s time for action.

PRSA Pittsburgh recognizes that we must elevate the voices of those who are so often silenced. We are proud to stand by and support individuals of all races, genders, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations and abilities. Our D&I committee is dedicated to doing our part in changing the narrative and creating a future in which all opportunities are equal.

Thank you to all who took part in this conversation and we encourage you to join in on further conversations and follow these resources.

Connect with the panelists, reach out to our D&I co-chairs, look to our industry leaders and make your mark on history by finding the purpose in hardship. Certainly, keep up with new D&I efforts within PRSA Pittsburgh and stay connected as we work to build sustainable environments for all. 

Finally, extend your voices and let us know what more you need from us to ensure representation and inclusivity: info@prsa-pgh.org

Diamond-shaped yellow sign with black winding road arrow on a roadside

We Have Infinite Creative Opportunities to Solve Customer Experience Problems

By Steve Radick
PRSA Sponsorship Lead
[Originally published at SteveRadick.com]

 

It’s been said necessity is the mother of invention. Well, we’re all going to find out just how true that is really soon. On March 11, 2020, everything changed. From manufacturing to travel to sports, every industry was forced to rethink everything.

Since then, companies around the world moved millions of office workers to remote work in a span of just a few weeks. Restaurants moved their entire business to carryout and delivery. Retailers figured out how to do curbside pickup without months of red tape getting in the way.

I’ve been particularly impressed at how agile brands (big and small) have been in adapting to this “new normal.” And while some of these adaptations have been most welcome (no middle seats!), they’ve been driven primarily  by survival. What happens when brands start using this as an opportunity to strategically think about how to transform … everything?

Looking forward, there won’t be a return back to normal. The story won’t be about recovery. It will be about transformation. The agility that we’ve seen over the last few months will become the new expectation, and the brands that realize this will come out on top.

Across industries, there are virtually limitless first mover opportunities for brands to creatively address some of the most long-standing and frustrating customer experience issues. I’ve listed some below but could easily come up with a dozen others over a beer or two.

Home Improvement

  • Will contractors that commit to wearing PPE while in your home become a permanent policy?
  • What commercial hygiene products (sanitizers, air dryers, etc.) will become “must-have” items for today’s homeowners?
  • Will homeowners look to create permanent “quarantine spaces” to allow for easier separation of sick family members?
  • What builders will focus on retrofitting homes with multi-generational spaces to allow older family members to cohabitate vs. going to a senior living facility?

Retail

  • Will contactless payments via phone replace credit cards much faster than we thought?
  • How should shoppers navigate the store differently?
  • Is there a more hygienic way to touch and try out in-store products before you buy?
  • Have masks and hand sanitizer received permanent placement in checkout aisles?
  • Will self-checkout become the new standard at all retailers – clothing, toys, electronics, etc.?
  • How can the dressing room be re-imagined to keep people coming into the store to try things on?

Dining

  • Which restaurants will replace the traditional tipping on the receipt with Starbucks’ “post-purchase tipping” method?
  • What’s the most realistic/effective face covering for cooks? Servers?
  • Is there a new algorithm for determining the optimal seating arrangement in a COVID-19 environment that minimizes the spread of the virus?
  • Which traditional sit-down restaurants will embrace the pizza slice model and transition entirely to carryout and delivery?

Sports

  • Can we develop a new way for football fans to watch a game at the stadium?
  • What’s the new way to sell hot dogs, beer, and cotton candy to fans in their seats?
  • What’s the new way for players to give autographs to kids?
  • Beyond touchless toilets and faucets, is there a way to make stadium restrooms more sanitary and efficient for fans?
  • What do live broadcasts look like when there are no fans?
  • What sports broadcast will finally move forward with the most obvious of innovations – real-time on-field audio?

Travel

  • What’s the future of the hotel check-in counter?
  • What’s the new standard for cleaning hotel rooms?
  • How can we eliminate middle seats on planes forever?
  • Is there a safer, more efficient way to board passengers on a flight?
  • Can seatback touchscreens be made touchless?
  • What’s the optimal post-COVID seat design on trains, buses, and planes?
  • Do we really need to still manually adjust the fan dial above our heads?
  • Will subway cars reorient seating so no one faces one another? Will car occupancy be limited?

Amusement Parks

  • Is there quick and effective anti-viral material or spray that can be used to disinfect rides in between runs?
  • What can be used to show you purchased a ticket instead of relying on wristbands?
  • What replaces the turnstiles everyone touches as they enter the park?

Beauty/Fitness

  • How can makeup counters be adapted to be more sanitary?
  • Nike’s created hijabs using performance material – who’s going to innovate face masks optimized for sports?
  • Is there a better way to sanitize gym equipment in between uses or will we continue to use sprays and paper towels?
  • We’ve already seen companies specialize in creating gym equipment that fits into your décor – who’s going to create furniture that doubles as gym equipment? Chairs that convert into weight-lifting benches? Rugs that double as yoga mats?

Commercial Real Estate

  • What’s an optimal post COVID office seating plan look like?
  • How many office buildings are going to install walk-through body temperature scanners?
  • Touchless faucets/soap dispensers/toilets and toilet lids seem obvious, but what companies will use this opportunity to rethink the very way a toilet or a sink is designed?
  • What will doors without door handles look like? More automatic revolving doors? Foot-operated doors?
  • Will we see voice-activated elevators?

Electronics

  • What TV brands will make webcams and microphones standard in their TVs (to allow for easier at-home fitness sessions and remote-learning classes)?
  • What laptop brand will make ring-lighted webcams standard?
  • Which company will create the mobile UV light sanitizer that can be attached to your phone?

Education

  • Learning to live with roommates is a key part of the college experience. What college will be the first to rethink the way dorms are set up?
  • Sitting students every other seat is the most simplistic way to create social distancing, but is there a more creative way to rethink the traditional classroom setup?
  • What college will entirely rethink remote learning as a core part of the four-year college experience?

Whatever industry you’re in, there are unlimited opportunities to write a new future, all while your competitors are trying to return to the past. And if you don’t, someone else will … push the envelope, create the headlines, fail (and learn) quickly, and create an entirely new reality, one that may or may not include you.

Women and girls standing on a stage flexing their arms, dress for a semi-formal spring event, yelling a chant

Creating Meaningful Youth Mentorship during a Pandemic: Q&A with Kelsey Waros of Strong Women, Strong Girls Pittsburgh

Photo by Caroline Moore Photography

 

By Kristen Wishon
PRSA Pittsburgh Public Service Lead


When the Public Service Committee and I selected Strong Women, Strong Girls (SWSG) Pittsburgh as
one of our public service partnerships this year, I was excited to dig into SWSG’s mission to create enriching mentorship experiences that ultimately supports youth development for our community’s young women.

As a program that relies strongly on in-person connections, field trips, campus visits and other hands-on enrichment activities, the coronavirus pandemic has completely changed how SWSG conducts its mentorship programs

I wanted to learn more about how SWSG is still serving young women during the pandemic, so I chatted with SWSG Program Manager Kelsey Waros.

Woman standing against a brick wall, smiling with her arms folded

Kelsey Waros, program manager for SWSG Pittsburgh

With an impressive background in service, Kelsey develops the SWSG Girl Program, working closely with college women and mentors to deliver programming to 3rd to 5th grade girls. The Girl Program includes a network of universities that now serves 40 schools and community centers in greater Pittsburgh. In total, Kelsey helps to coordinate programs that serve more than 700 girls and 400 college women — you read that right!

Q: In a normal year, how would you describe SWSG programming for those that are unfamiliar?

Kelsey Waros: Our program is a three-tier mentorship model: The girls are mentored by our college women at our university chapters, and the college women themselves are matched with and mentored by professional women. For the Girl Program, each week, the college women mentors travel to their assigned community centers or elementary schools to deliver our high-quality curriculum for 90-minute sessions. This core programming is supplemented with enrichment experiences for the girls and mentors that include training, field trips and special guests. Recently, we launched our Role Models in Residence programming that brings professional women into the space to work with the elementary school girls through a specialized curriculum. 

What has been the greatest challenge to programming since the pandemic began?

SWSG is a program created for in-person interaction and program delivery. So, our biggest challenge has been to determine how to create lasting and beneficial relationships between girls and their college mentors, even while apart. Our girls are in 3rd to 5th grade, so we want to make sure our programming is fun for girls at such a young age, and girls will want to sign up in fall, even if we can’t be there in person! 

So much of SWSG’s programs relies on in-person mentoring and field trips. How would you describe virtual mentoring, and what creative solutions have you developed?

We’re working hard right now to make our programming accessible for all girls since we are unable to be there in person. We have shifted our curriculum to an online-friendly format, and plan to train our college women mentors in the fall on specific online tools, such as how to use platforms correctly, online safety and how to make a connection with our girls virtually. We are planning virtual field trips with our community partners, and for the girls who may not have access to computers — which is a big reality — we have delivered “SWSG program kits” to our sites. These kits include parent guides to our curriculum so that they may work with their girls on lessons, fun activity supplies girls can do at home, and a few fun giveaways so the girls can stay occupied at home! 

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?

I think the best piece of advice I’ve received within SWSG (and nonprofits in general) is to remember the “why.” We’re here to empower women and girls, and the population we serve needs to be at the center of everything we do. I think that with any position, you need to know why you’re there in order to bring the best version of yourself! Working in this organization has many layers, but it all comes down to our community and building strength in one another.  Showing up for your community, participating and going that extra mile is what we’re all about. 

How can someone get involved with SWSG? Are you seeking mentors?

We are always looking for people to join the SWSG family! No matter how you identify, we want you to be involved. If you’re looking to be involved with the Girl Program (elementary school girls being mentored by college women), feel free to contact me. We currently partner with Duquesne University, University of Pittsburgh, Point Park University, Carnegie Mellon University and Robert Morris University. If you’re looking to be mentored by a professional woman or become a professional mentor yourself, contact Marissa Escajeda at mescajeda@swsg.org.

 

PRSA Pittsburgh is supporting SWSG Pittsburgh as it shifts an annual fundraiser — the Strong Awards — to a virtual event. We’ll see our hard work come to fruition this Friday, August 7th at 8 a.m. during the first-ever virtual Strong Awards. PRSA members receive a $20 discount to the event using code PRSA at checkout.  Join us in supporting our region’s local nonprofits and our next generation of strong female leaders. We hope to see you there!