In Defense of Truth: Public relations professionals must lead by example when it comes to mis- and disinformation

By Bob Oltmanns, APR
Former PRSA Pittsburgh president

 

It was probably Winston Churchill who said, “a lie will travel around the world and back again before the truth can put its pants on.”  

And remember that Churchill died long before cable TV and the internet, which means that in 2021, things are much, much worse.

Whether fueled by misinformation — defined as false, inaccurate, or misleading information communicated regardless of an intention to deceive — or disinformation, which is deliberate deception, the use of either type of communication to gain an advantage are not new ideas. In “The Art of War,” written in the fifth century B.C., Chinese general Sun Tzu noted that “all warfare is based on deception.” And today, America is painfully divided to a degree not seen since the Civil War, caused in part by inaccurate information.

And let’s be clear — this divisiveness is not about who is on the right side of the facts. It’s about the blurring of the lines between opinion and fact. There are plenty of causes for this.

One is the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987, which lifted the requirement that holders of broadcast licenses present controversial issues of public importance with balance and honesty.

Another is the rise and ubiquitous presence of social media in virtually every aspect of American life. In the 1960s and ‘70s, there were only three television networks, and CBS veteran anchor Walter Cronkite was voted the “most trusted man in America.” A former wartime correspondent and UPI reporter, Cronkite was obsessed with accuracy and detail. Sadly, accuracy has been gradually eroding under the pressure of ratings, clicks and analytics.

Now, a Pew Research Center study finds that over half of Americans look to social media to get their news, most frequently on Facebook, which makes inadequate provisions for editing, fact-checking, or even, in many instances, truth or accuracy.

So this is where we are now.

The RAND Corporation has been examining the systemic causes and effects of mis/disinformation in American society. In its 2018 report, “Truth Decay,” RAND points to four trends that have led to the deterioration of accuracy and balance in the dissemination of information:

  • Increasing disagreement about facts
  • Blurring of the line between opinion and fact
  • The increasing volume and influence of opinion over fact
  • Declining trust in formerly respected sources of facts

Regardless of where you fall on the political or ideological spectrum, it’s hard to argue with RAND’s analysis. Perhaps even more troubling, however, is the realization that these trends have entrenched themselves in democratic societies, not just in the U.S. but around the world wherever free speech and a plurality of ideas is essential. Much like cancer infects our vital organs, misinformation thrives where free speech is inviolate.

But here’s where this comes back to us in the PR profession. 

While there’s not much consensus around potential solutions to the problem of systemic mis/disinformation, the RAND study offers two strategies that point to our role in all this:

  • Pursue changes in the way information is disseminated, including journalism that better separates fact and opinion and facilitates more accessible science communication.
  • Identify tools and governance mechanisms to address the spread of online disinformation.

Insofar as the public relations profession works extensively with both journalists and social media, we have a vital role to play in combating mis- and disinformation.

PRSA’s “Voices4Everyone” campaign is our profession’s first step in that direction. In our capacity as advocates that serve the public interest with honesty and the highest standards of accuracy and truth, we need to be more than passive supporters of these values. Our obligation to be fanatics for truth and  accuracy in our roles as advocates must now be a clarion call. 

It’s not enough — or even fair — to stand on the sidelines and demand that journalists and social media fight the uphill battle in the war against mis- and disinformation alone. Public relations professionals, after all, are the suppliers and brokers of content, ideas, messages and imagery that ultimately becomes the narrative behind the daily news and social media conversations of our time. 

Like it or not, this is our fight, too. We’re in this neck-deep, and if you’re still not convinced, think long and hard about how much inaccurate information is contained in press releases and social media campaigns every day. Intentional or well-meaning, it happens. But it can’t continue. Our profession, if it is to remain an essential business function and valued partner to the fourth estate, must look within itself to ensure that we don’t exacerbate the problem. Rather, we need to be part of the solution.

It’s our job — in whatever organization we represent — to “preserve the integrity of the process of communication … be honest and accurate in all communications … and correct erroneous communications” for which we are responsible. This is a time for us to step up to the PRSA Code of Ethics and lead by example.

Failure to seize this moment in history and help bring about meaningful progress in this struggle will assign the public relations profession to the role of an irrelevant by-stander when the First Amendment needed us most.

 

—————

Bob Oltmanns, APR, Fellow PRSA is the president of OPR Group. He is an accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America, the PRSA College of Fellows, the PRSA Counselor’s Academy, and is a member of the PRSA Pittsburgh Chapter Renaissance Hall of Fame. He also served as president of the Pittsburgh Chapter of PRSA in 1995.

Mr. Oltmanns is also a member of the PRSA “Voices4Everyone” initiative, which supports a national conversation to build mutual understanding, trust, and civic engagement through inclusive civil discourse. He is also a member of a regional study group on the Rand Corporation’s “Truth Decay” project, which is examining the diminishing role of facts and analysis in American life.

 

Best Practices for Sourcing Diverse Talent for Your Workplace

by Kaidia Pickels
D&I Committee Member

Editor’s Note: This blog is part of an ongoing series that highlights content featured in PRSA Pittsburgh’s Diversity & Inclusion Toolkit.

 

Across the PR industry, companies large and small have committed to making their workplaces more diverse and inclusive and are actively taking steps to attract a diverse set of talent. Research has shown that diverse and inclusive workplaces lead to higher revenue growth, more readiness to innovate and even higher employee retention. Great Place to Work, an authority on inclusive workplace culture, has extolled the value of diversity and inclusion at work not just as a competitive business advantage but as a core tenet of maintaining a functional work environment.

How can I bring more diverse talent into my workplace?

A key fact of inclusivity in the workplace is that having a diverse and inclusive workplace leads to an increased ability to recruit a diverse talent pool. Essentially, the more diverse and inclusive your workplace becomes, the more attractive it is to other candidates from diverse backgrounds.

However, if your workplace currently lacks diversity, getting started can seem difficult. Investing in inclusivity and bringing diverse talent to your company offers significant long-term benefits, but what about the short term?

One way to get started is by using PRSA Pittsburgh’s Diversity & Inclusion toolkit, which is an invaluable resource for companies looking to recruit diverse talent. Inside you’ll find a comprehensive list of diverse employee groups and professional networks from across the region, many of which offer job listing services, corporate sponsorships and even direct networking with talent from diverse backgrounds.

What are some associations for diverse talent sourcing and recruiting?

Women in the Workplace:

Organizations like iRelaunch, a return-to-work association, Lean In and Corporate Women Directors International support women in the workplace by advising corporations on ways to support and uplift women – especially in positions of leadership. The American Business Women’s Association offers paid job postings and a network of working women and women business owners.

Industry-specific member groups like the Association for Women in Science, the Society of Women Engineers and the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology offer additional support and advocacy for women in fields that are particularly lacking in gender diversity, such as science, technology and engineering. These organizations are great resources for creating corporate sponsorships and partnerships that lay the groundwork for gender diversity in STEM-related workplaces.

Talent from Minority Populations:

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 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 PhD 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.

African-American/Black Talent:

The Executive Leadership Council (ELC) and the Corporate Board Initiative (CBI) are two organizations that support Black executives and future leaders in the corporate world. Industry-specific organizations like the National Black MBA Association, the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and the Information Technology Senior Management Forum also work to increase the representation of Black professionals in their chosen fields.

The Black EOE Journal and the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) also support emerging Black professionals as jobseekers and students, investing in their career development and offering opportunities for networking at diversity-focused conferences across the country.

Hispanic/Latinx Talent:

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.

Asian American and Pacific Islander Talent:

The Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics, Inc. (LEAP) and the National Association of Asian American Professionals are member organizations that both offer sponsorship opportunities for corporations and professional networking opportunities to connect with AAPI talent.

Asian Women in Business is a member organization that supports and offers visibility for Asian professional women and business leaders.

Native American Talent:

American Indian Business Leaders (AIBL) supports and promotes the education and development of future Native American leaders in business, and the American Indian College Fund distributes scholarships to indigenous students pursuing higher education. Both organizations provide opportunities to invest in future Native American professionals for a more diverse and inclusive workforce.

LGBTQ+ Talent:

Organizations like the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and Pride at Work are member organizations that support LGBTQ+ professionals in the workplace and advocate for inclusive work environments and opportunities for LGBTQ+ talent. Out and Equal offers executive leadership development for LGBTQ+ talent and maintains LGBT Career Link, a database of LGBT jobseekers.

Certain groups like Reaching Out MBA, which empowers LGBT MBA students, and the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals (NOGLSTP), which supports GLBT people employed in scientific or high technology fields, provide additional mentorship and sponsorship to talent in particularly underrepresented fields and can be a great way to network with LGBTQ+ candidates in those fields.

Individuals with Disabilities:

Career websites like Ability Jobs and Job Access and Disabled Person host job boards that companies can use to post job opportunities that welcome candidates with disabilities or to recruit disabled talent. Career and Job Resources for Disabilities American Job-Seekers also offers job listings for free.

The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) provides consulting services for employers that are looking for ways to accommodate and employ individuals with disabilities in the workplace as well as ADA compliance assistance.

Veterans:

Private-sector employers looking to hire career-ready veterans seeking jobs can work with Hero2Hire and RallyPoint to connect with candidates with military experience, and JOFDAV.com hosts a database of disabled veterans also looking for work.

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 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 info@prsa-pgh.org.

YES, You Should Use GIFs on Social: Here’s Why

By Megha Pai, Social Media Co-Chair

 

GIFs — you use them with your friends, your coworkers and maybe even your mom. 

But if you work in communications, should you use them in your social media strategy? 

 

If you aren’t sure, I’m here to tell you this: GO FOR IT.

via GIPHY

Add Some Fun to Your Community Management 

Sure, you can use GIFs proactively in the content you create. But they work best when you’re performing social media community management. Replying to comments and messages from your audience in a helpful, on-brand way is an art. Formulating these comments can get complicated when the comments you get on social are random and completely unrelated to the posts themselves – but it’s worth trying to answer them. And what better way to steer conversations in a positive direction than by using fun, relevant GIFs? 

 

At the end of the day, people want to be heard. Show them you’re listening. 

 

Build Positive Relationships

Over the years, I’ve read some strange comments and messages while conducting social media community management. But that didn’t stop me from trying to forge a bond between the brands I was representing and the commenters – using thoughtful replies and timely GIFs.  

 

Forging bonds and building relationships is what social media is all about. That’s where GIFs can help: GIFs make your brand appear more personable and approachable. By having down-to-earth conversations with your audience while using GIFs when appropriate, you’ll keep them coming back to your social channels for more.

 

Remember, social media is supposed to be a social medium – engaging with your followers is important, and GIFs can play a key role in doing that. Ultimately, you’re using your brand’s social media channels to build a community – one that informs your followers about the things that matter to them. 

 

Building community through social media has been a hot topic in the social media industry for years. It was a big talking point at the Ragan PR Social Media & Digital Communications Conference, Social Media Week New York and our virtual event with PR Girl Manifesto. So, build community and add relatable humor to your social channels with GIFs! 

 

Are GIFs On-Brand for Your Brand?

Still unsure if GIFs are on-brand for your brand? When in doubt, review your brand guidelines and trust your instincts. 

 

If your client’s brand uses a serious tone on social media and other platforms, GIFs might not be for them…unless they’re open to switching things up. There’s no reward without a little risk, and the results GIFs can yield (in terms of positive sentiment and engagement) might surprise them.

 

Take a health/wellness client I worked with at a previous job. The last time we ran a contest on Facebook for this client, I thanked the contestants who commented on our contest post with GIFs in our replies, instead of using “thank you” text alone. For each reply, I picked a different GIF. Receiving a GIF unique from everyone else’s GIF created a custom experience for each person commenting on the post – drawing heartfelt reactions (and Facebook heart reactions) from the client’s followers on social media. The thoughtful GIF replies made audience members feel seen and heard. 

 

So, what are you waiting for? GIF up your social media strategy today!

Be that friend: How to be an Ally for the LGBTQIA+ Communities

by Josh Porterfield
D&I Committee Member

 

Allies for the LGBTQIA+ communities are everywhere — they’re in your workplace, they show up for our city’s annual Pride parade and celebration, and some may even be your family and friends. All in all, you know people in your life who are allies, but do you know what being an ally really means

Point blank — allies are the straight men and women who care. They stand strong with the LGBTQIA+ communities, fighting  “Karens”, conservatives and crashing homophobia.

I believe that being an ally is like working as a secret agent — there’s no bright rainbow pin that gets handed out to let others know you’re an ally. Allies work behind the scenes shutting down homophobia in and outside of the workplace. More importantly, they’re also out at drag brunch on the weekends having fun with their LGBTQIA+ friends. 

Just like how you would keep watch for discrimination or harassment in the workplace for people of color or women, being an ally for the LGBTQIA+ communities works in similar ways. It’s about learning what phrases and actions are offensive and discriminatory. Although it’s also just as simple as following your intuition. When you hear anti-LGBTQIA+ comments or microaggressions, listen to your gut. Did that sound appropriate? Appropriate for the workplace? Appropriate at all? 

Check out tips on how to be a great ally from GLAAD:

  • Be a listener.
  • Be open-minded.
  • Be willing to talk.
  • Be inclusive and invite LGBTQIA+ friends to hang out with your friends and family.
  • Don’t assume that all your friends and co-workers are straight. Someone close to you could be looking for support in their coming-out process. Not making assumptions will give them the space they need.
  • Anti-LGBTQIA+ comments and jokes are harmful. Let your friends, family and co-workers know that you find them offensive.
  • Confront your own prejudices and bias, even if it is uncomfortable to do so.
  • Defend your LGBTQIA+ friends against discrimination.
  • Believe that all people, regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation, should be treated with dignity and respect.

Gays, lesbians and those who don’t identify with the gender they were given have been around for much longer than you think. For years and years, members of the LGBTQIA+ community have had to hide and keep their identity secret from friends, family, their bosses, colleagues and even the police. 

Pride started as a riot — the community pushing back against all those cultural forces. If you’ve ever wondered why it’s important for LGBTQIA+ communities to be visible during the month of June  in the streets of every major U.S. city during the month of June, then your questions will be answered: 

In the end, to be an ally, if you’re simply a nice person that has respect for others no matter their identities, you’ve got it right. Love always wins. 

 

Be an Actionable Communicator for the AAPI Communities

 

By Alex Grubbs and Megha Pai, PRSA Pittsburgh board members
with contributions from Sunny Yang

Editor’s Note: Asian American and Pacific Islander is abbreviated as AAPI throughout.

In honor of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, PRSA Pittsburgh’s Diversity & Inclusion committee held a virtual event in partnership with the Filipino American Association of Pittsburgh (FAAP) to discuss how to be an actionable communicator for the AAPI communities. This event was moderated by PRSA Pittsburgh board members Alex Grubbs of Battenhall and Megha Pai of Pipitone Group, who are part of AAPI communities themselves.

Our esteemed panelists included:

These panelists and our moderators spoke on a variety of issues, from the rise of violence against AAPI individuals to racial harassment. They also discussed the Model Minority Myth, how media and poor rhetoric harms everyone, colorism, juggling duality between countries, multiracial backgrounds and more.

AAPIs are not a monolith. To start having active communication about these communities, it’s imperative that we address and be aware of the many obstacles AAPI people face.

Learn more about the AAPI communities and our speakers below.

This list will be continually updated.

Important facts and statistics

Resources

Communication organizations

Pittsburgh/Pennsylvania organizations

Social media to follow

Our Speakers

Sunny Yang

Sunny Yang is an Of Counsel with Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP who focuses her practice on international business matters and trade. She represents Chinese entities doing business in the U.S., as well as U.S. entities pursuing investments and operating in China. She has experience negotiating and structuring business transactions, as well as advising corporate executives in matters such as planning for the purchase of U.S. property by non-U.S. persons, transferring and protecting assets and wealth, and strategizing business succession planning. Sunny has overseen legal operations including handling market entry, corporate compliance, import-export matters, employment, immigration and litigation. Sunny is active in several industry organizations, holding leadership roles in regional and national bar associations, as an officer and former board member of Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Pennsylvania, a member and former Chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Community & Asian Attorneys Committee of the Allegheny County Bar Association, a former Executive Council member of the Women’s Division for the Allegheny County Bar Association, and Vice –President /Secretary of the Federal Bar Association – Western PA Chapter.

 

Don Michael Mendoza

Don Michael Mendoza is the Co-Founder and

Executive Artistic Director of LA TI DO Productions where he’s collectively produced over 300 cabarets, concerts, theatrical shows, and events throughout Washington, DC (Arena Stage, Shakespeare Theatre Company, The Kennedy Center), New York City (Dramatists Guild Foundation, Feinstein’s/54 Below, Bowery Poetry Club), Los Angeles, his hometown of Pittsburgh, and beyond, since 2012. He most recently played a supporting role in the film The Girl Who Left Home (October 2020) alongside Paolo Montalban (Whitney Houston’s Cinderella) and is the creator of his re-branded blog and new podcast: Producing While Asian (www.producingwhileasian.com). Don Michael holds a B.A. in Musical Theatre & Journalism, and a M.A. in Strategic Communication from American University.

 

Prachi Patel

Prachi Patel is a migration communications consultant for the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and communications manager for the Alliance for Refugee Youth Support and Education (ARYSE). She is also a co-founder of South Asians Building Bridges (SABB), a Pittsburgh-based organization building dialogue around race and equity within and beyond South Asian communities. She holds a degree in anthropology from the University of Pittsburgh and was a Princeton in Asia fellow based in Colombo, Sri Lanka in 2019. She has a background in international development, participatory storytelling facilitation and youth engagement.

Commit to Fostering Inclusive Workplaces and Equitable Opportunities for All — Sign our D&I Pledge

by Taylor Fife, D&I Chair

This blog is part of an ongoing series that highlights content featured in PRSA Pittsburgh’s Diversity & Inclusion Toolkit


As D&I Chair, I’m often asked: “W
hy is diversity and inclusion in the workplace important?” For myself and the D&I Committee, answering this question is never bothersome and never gets old. We welcome communicators who want to learn about the significance of D&I to the PR industry—that’s why we created our very own diversity and inclusion toolkit

We also encourage members to take our D&I pledge as a first step towards committing to fostering inclusive workplaces and equitable opportunities for all.

Why is diversity and inclusion in the workplace important?

An accessible, diverse and inclusive workplace is one that makes everyone, regardless of who they are or what they do for a company or organization, feel equally involved in and supported in all areas of the workplace, according to Great Place to Work, an authority on workplace culture and inclusivity.

A diverse and inclusive workplace also fosters a sense of belonging, which ensures every employee feels safe and can bring their full, unique self to work. 

Research conducted by Great Place to Work shows many benefits of a diverse and inclusive workplace:

In fact, Great Place to Work says inclusion in the workplace is one of the most important keys to employee retention. Having an inclusive workplace culture not only helps attract a diverse set of talent but also helps retain the diverse talent attracted in the first place.

The company’s research on company culture reveals that when employees trust that they and their colleagues are treated fairly regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or age, they are:

  • 9.8 times more likely to look forward to going to work
  • 6.3 times more likely to have pride in their work
  • 5.4 times more likely to want to stay a long time at their company

Use PRSA Pittsburgh’s Diversity & Inclusion Toolkit as a Resource

A brand’s diversity efforts that lack genuine inclusion are often called “tokenism.” An inclusive workplace doesn’t just have a diversity of people present, it has a diversity of people involved, developed, empowered and trusted by the company. 

Modeled after PRSA’s Diversity & Inclusion Toolkit, PRSA Pittsburgh created its toolkit to assist local PR and communications professionals in developing relationships with diverse communities and committing to creating a future of equitable and inclusive opportunities for all in the region.

The toolkit has nine sections in total and includes:

  • PRSA Pittsburgh’s Diversity & Inclusion Pledge
  • A diverse, equitable and inclusive glossary of terms
  • A comprehensive list of diverse groups in the region
  • Ways to cultivate diversity and inclusion in the workplace

The D&I Committee has also committed to updating the toolkit annually to ensure its contents are current and relevant.

Take the PRSA Pittsburgh Diversity & Inclusion Pledge

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 in the form below*. 

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 info@prsa-pgh.org.

*Your information will be stored in PRSA Pittsburgh’s database and will be used to contact you regarding D&I Committee events and initiatives, as well as general chapter programming. 

Five Ways to Make Virtual Networking Valuable

By Deanna Tomaselli and Catherine Clements
Young Pros Co-Chairs

No matter where you are in your career, networking is a crucial skill. It can help you gain industry insights, make connections, learn about organizations, develop references and referrals and build your brand. The stakes are low and the upside is high.

Though, the challenge is most traditional paths of connecting have been postponed, canceled or completely reimagined. Coffees, lunches and happy hours must be more purposefully planned over Zoom or phone calls. It’s not as easy as swinging by a PRSA Off the Clock happy hour on your way home. Instead, we have to actively seek out virtual ways to network.

Given this challenge, and the adjustments and balance of work from home life, it can be easy to let something like networking fall to the back burner. Though, given the unknowns of this year, now is a more important time than ever to strengthen your network. Plus, many seasoned professionals will tell you, “nurture your network when you don’t need one.”

Now, how can you make virtual networking valuable? PRSA Young Professionals sat down with some of Pittsburgh’s best-networked pros to share their insights on how you can maximize your efforts, including:

#1 Be a Detective

Look at people who hold a job you’re interested in. Take notes on their “about” section, activity, education and experience. Look for commonalities and use this as fodder for your outreach.

#2 Bring People to You

Ensure your LinkedIn profile is complete with a headshot, headline, “about” summary and overview of your experience. You want to ensure the right people–like recruiters–can find your profile. Additionally, consider how your content can help you stand out. Are you sharing your perspective on the latest trend? Highlighting key takeaways from your latest read? These are all great ways to connect and add value for your connections.

#3 Go Where the People Are

Consider what platforms people in your field are most active. It may be LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram or even Clubhouse or Reddit. Whatever your avenue, be present, post routinely and engage with others.

#4 Connect with the Right Contact

Instead of reaching out to a recruiter, try finding someone with the role or a similar role you’re looking to land. Set up a 15-minute informational chat to learn more about the position. Taking this time to connect can build your credibility within the organization and help your resume stand out.

#5 Don’t Fear the Cold Ask

Warm up to your connections first by reading their content or making endorsements and insightful comments. Be clear in what you’re asking and what the time commitment will be. Prepare by doing research and developing a question set ahead of time.

 Remember, networking is a level playing field. We each have something to give and something to get to help grow ourselves and others.

Looking to build your virtual community? Join the PRSA Young Professionals Facebook Group.

Powerful female mentors inspire women’s history month reflections from chapter members

By Kristen Wishon
D&I Committee Member

 

We don’t need any data, metrics, or case studies to know that women are outstanding. Whether it’s a parent, grandmother, sister, friend or mentor, we all have a female or female-identifying presence in our lives that has shown us strength, resilience, love and growth.

That’s not to say that women haven’t long faced inequities, especially in the workplace. It was only 57 years ago that women were protected from discrimination in the workplace as part of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

However, while the public relations sector is dominated by women, white men remain at the helm and hold most upper-level positions, according to the Institute for Public Relations. Other data shows that as many as 78% of CEOs in the PR industry are men.

Coupled with the prevalence of “work-first” culture, lack of balance, preference to masculine working styles in the workplace, increased scrutiny and more, women in our industry certainly face different career obstacles than their male counterparts.

It’s clear we all have work to do to ensure that women, especially women of color and those with varying sexual orientations, disabilities, ages, and intersectional identities, are not neglected from opportunity and growth in the workplace.

Despite all this, women in PR are setting a high standard for excellence in our industry. That’s why we asked you to send us a photo of your career mentor in honor of Women’s History Month. We received an inspiring array of powerful female leaders. 

Meet these mentors below, and add a comment with your own mentor if you weren’t able to submit for this blog!

 

Dr. Diana Martinelli, Dean, Widmeyer Professor in Public Relations, West Virginia University

Before Dr. Diana Martinelli became dean of the WVU Reed College of Media (known in my time as the “j-school”), she was my very first career mentor throughout my PR education at West Virginia University. She quickly went from my advisor to my graduate thesis chair to a sounding board for career advice and next steps. Diana’s kind nature coupled with her immense PR expertise makes her an immeasurable force in our field. Not to mention, Diana is a longtime member and supporter of PRSA!

— Kristen Wishon, Director Of Communications, Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council

 

Nancy Anderson, Associate Vice President, Social & Content, Red Havas

Nancy is a beam of sunshine who gives 110% to anything she does, no matter what obstacles are in her path. She believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself, providing encouragement and actionable feedback along the way. Her guidance and advice helped me become the content strategist I am today. I’m honored to know her!

— Megha Pai, Content Strategist, Pipitone Group

Denise Stokes, Realtor for Keller Williams Preferred Properties, Owner, DS Marketing & PR

I met Denise Stokes my senior year of college in 2011 during a PRSSA meeting. Since then, we’ve kept in touch even after both of us moved out of state — with me entering the world of full-time digital marketing in Pittsburgh and Denise starting as a real estate agent in Maryland. Over the years, Denise has guided me on job advice and helped me think strategically about my career moves (and even my physical move out of Texas!). I’ve learned a lot about myself related to patience, time management and challenged myself to think on new perspectives.

— Nelli Tokleh, Senior Social Media Manager, 9Rooftops Marketing

 

Kim Tarquinio, Vice President, Strategic Communications, Pipitone Group

Kim inspires me daily through her leadership and empathy. She goes the extra mile to make all of us new hires feel welcome, included and heard. Kim also plays each of us to our strengths and interests, while challenging us to grow further in new areas. I’m lucky to be on her team!

— Megha Pai, Content Strategist, Pipitone Group

Cooper Munroe, CEO, The Motherhood Inc.

Cooper is a pioneer in influencer marketing. In the early 2000s, she started one of the first “mom blogs” which quickly turned into a movement. After writing a post on Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and asking her readers to contribute what they had to help the victims, the post went viral (a term not yet used at the time) and showed the power an online community could have. And the rest is history. Today, she runs an all-woman team at The Motherhood, an influencer marketing company.

Not only has Cooper been an inspiration to me in her influencer work, but she is also a mom of four. As someone who is about to become a brand new mom this summer, I am inspired to see she could raise four kids and run a successful business. 

Cooper simply cares about her employees and is our biggest cheerleader. I have loved working for Cooper! 

— Deanna Tomaselli, Vice President, Client Services, The Motherhood Inc.

 

Megha Pai, Content Strategist, Pipitone Group

Gotta highlight my girl Megha Pai! As soon as I joined PRSA, Megha welcomed me and so many other newcomers and made sure we felt included. Since then, she’s been an incredible friend who has looked out for me and guides me personally and professionally. I’m beyond lucky to have someone like Megha in my life! 

— Nicole Tobias, Public Relations Professional

 

Beth Bauer, Assistant Director of Student Organizations and International Programs, Duquesne University School of Law

Beth was one of my colleagues at my first job out of college and she has been an unwavering mentor to me ever since. She welcomed me and helped me to gain confidence in my abilities and to realize my potential as a young professional. Her continued support has helped me to land my current position in the marketing industry. She is amazingly kind, hardworking and a true inspiration. 

— Taylor Fife, Account Executive, Red Havas

 

Mr. Heelyagirl and TikTok experts give advice on how to build communities

By Alexis Wary

Editor’s Note: A version of this post was originally published as part of the Point Park Center for Media Innovation’s monthly email newsletter. PRSA Pittsburgh partnered with the Point Park CMI to host this event.

TikTok has become one of the leading social media platforms, allowing for companies and businesses to reach audiences and ways for average people to produce and receive unique content that can potentially lead them to fame.

“Back when the pandemic hit, and I had my wheels — the only place I know as home — TikTok was an organic way to let off some energy, make some people, smile, laugh, and have fun doing it,” said Connor Clyde aka Mr. Heelyagirl, a TikTok creator from Pittsburgh with more than 200,000 followers. 

The Center for Media Innovation at Point Park and PRSA Pittsburgh worked together to host a virtual panel discussion on March 24, 2021, about the basics of TikTok and how it can be beneficial for companies and brands.

CMI Director Andrew Conte led the conversation with Clyde; Sloane Kelley, vice president of social media for 9Rooftops Marketing; and Heather Star Fielder, Point Park professor of multimedia, chair of the department of community engagement and director of Wood Street Communications

Gen Z and Millenials are most active on TikTok, a social media platform focused on sharing short video clips with pre-recorded or original sound. 

Clyde started using the app at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, leading him to unexpected fame. Now, he even reps his own T-shirts featuring one of his catchphrases: “Crop top, muffin top, don’t stop.” 

When he started making videos, Clyde said he had no expectations. He just wanted to entertain his friends and lift people up during these hard times. 

Eventually, one of his videos went viral and his audience started to build from there. Since then, he’s worked on collaborations and sponsored videos with brands such as GetGo and Smile Direct Club, earning up to $1,000 each. To keep the content authentic, Clyde said he only works with sponsors that he would partner with regardless of the money.

“You have to be genuine, people can cut through …(other) people who aren’t authentic,” he said. 

Apart from individuals making creative content, brands can benefit from the platform, working with creators to produce a balance of organic and sponsored content. 

“You want things to feel like it is in the voice of the creator they are working with,” Kelley said. 

Learning the mechanics of the app might seem intimidating, but brands shouldn’t be afraid to try it, especially if their target audience members are spending time there, she said. 

For anyone who wasn’t familiar with making a video on the platform, Star Fieldler walked through the process of making and posting a TikTok video. She also explained the pros and cons of the platform, and case studies from brands such as Chipotle and Ocean Spray. 

There is no formula to going viral on TikTok but, as Clyde said, by “putting out steady content, building followers and finding that secret sauce,” viewers can express themselves and build communities while also allowing brands to capture audiences’ attention.

 

Honoring Black History Month and Beyond: A Campaign Roundup

PRSA Pittsburgh’s D&I Committee has compiled a list of national and local brands that have expressed their commitment to dismantling racism and advocating for justice. 

by Taylor Fife
D&I Chair

In the summer of 2020, resounding calls for action to dismantle racism prompted brands to take a stand – not only declaring that “Black Lives Matter,” but acknowledging that racism exists and examining the role they’ve played in perpetuating it. 

Brands were called out and held accountable for racially-biased hiring practices, institutional policies, and decades of culturally insensitive and offensive marketing and advertising that causes harm to Black people. 

In turn, we saw a remarkable moment in our history where thousands of brands began to commit to diversity, equity, and inclusion, or DEI, efforts publicly.

The PRSA Pittsburgh D&I Committee recognizes the following brands working to provide sustainable and concrete action:

Ulta Beauty’s MUSE 

Ulta Beauty’s MUSE Black History Month campaign stood out to me because it showed its commitment to magnify, uplift, support, and empower Black voices in beauty. 

As part of this campaign, Ulta showcased Black leaders in the beauty industry — including Nancy Twine, founder and CEO of Briogeo Hair Care, and Cara Sabin, CEO of SheaMoisture — through 30-second videos on Instagram.

These videos were brief but inspiring and impactful, covering essential topics such as representation in the beauty community while bringing to light the issue of hair discrimination (which is still legal in 43 states!). I also like that MUSE was written, directed, and produced by a diverse group of creators — further echoing Ulta’s commitment to D&I.

— Bre Zboran

Hulu’s Celebrate Black Stories

“Do not make your dreams small” is one of the many powerful quotes from Hulu’s Celebrate Black Stories ad that will stay with you long after the ad ends. This campaign aims to highlight the range of Black stories viewers can watch year-round through the streaming platform’s Black Stories hub. My top picks from the hub include Atlanta, Family Matters, Little Fires Everywhere, Sister, Sister, and more.

— Megha Pai

Ben & Jerry’s Black History Month Campaigns and Initiatives

Ben & Jerry’s remained firm in its core beliefs during Black History Month, standing up for anti-racism as a brand—even if the company is based on ice cream.

The ice cream company continually posted about anti-racism, promoting “Who We Are”— a podcast promoting Black voices, its partnership with former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and more. In a post on Instagram, the company published a photo set detailing how “There Are Two Americas.” The images highlighted how experiences differ between white people versus people of color to honor Black History Month. The post also detailed each episode of the podcast mentioned above. 

On Feb. 3, Ben & Jerry’s highlighted Colin Kaepernick’s nonprofit, Know Your Rights. The company’s press release revealed a mural that honors him and his dedication to fighting police brutality and systemic racism. Kaepernick also partnered with the company and launched “Change the Whirled,” a vegan, non-dairy ice cream. All of the proceeds are going to his nonprofit.

In a Feb. 12 press release, Ben & Jerry’s wrote “6 Facts about Racial Justice that Will Change the Way You Think about America,” focusing on how the power structure based on race was created in this country and is further perpetuated in modern times. This was also the company’s response to the BLM protests from this past summer.

Overall, the company is fully dedicated to reaffirming its anti-racism beliefs and anti-blackness through its continual push to uplift Black voices and causes affecting them.

— Alex Grubbs

Best Buy & Popsockets Partnership

“I love Best Buy’s Black History Month partnership with Popsockets. The project aims to bring Black teenagers’ designs to store shelves through a mentorship program with Popsockets’ graphic designers. The partnership positively impacts young, Black creatives and lets them know that their art and voices matter. It also helps them feel empowered and celebrates young artists while underscoring the critical need for opportunity and change in an industry where only 3% of designers are Black.”

— Taylor Fife

Plum Borough School District’s Celebrating Student Voices and App Campaigns

“Plum Borough School District has a couple of projects going on that I created for Black History Month. The first project is a four-week app campaign celebrating and educating our community about historical Black figures, milestones, and where we are now. The second project is a video for social media that captures student projects from each school district building.”

— Charlene Payne 

KABOOM!’s Black History Month Campaigns and Initiatives 

KABOOM! is a national nonprofit that works with communities to end playspace inequity and builds unique play spaces for that community. Playgrounds are a racial justice issue: Due to disinvestment in Black and brown neighborhoods, children don’t always have access to a playground where they can feel safe, so they miss out on the benefits of play. One survey states that public playgrounds play an essential role in fostering inclusiveness and play equity. For Black History Month, KABOOM! spoke about racial justice and helped bring attention to some of the young leaders who make a difference in their communities, such as Jakhil Jackson. At eight years old, he founded the nonprofit Project I Am, which helps homeless people by offering them “Blessing Bags” filled with items like socks, hand sanitizer, toothbrushes, and more.

In February, KABOOM! announced Lysa Ratliff’s appointment, the first Black woman to lead the organization as CEO, where she will continue to fight for racial equity across playgrounds.

— Kariann Mano

The Rainforest Action Network’s Black History Month Campaign

 

“The Rainforest Action Network featured one not-so-well-known civil rights leader every week during February on their social channels. They shared their image, quotes from them, and some background information about these leaders in their posts. They focused on Bayard Rustin, an openly gay civil rights leader who was one advisor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and helped to organize the March on Washington in 1963; Gloria Richardson, a leader of the civil rights movement in Cambridge, Maryland; Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer who has saved dozens of people of color from the death penalty and is working to end mass incarceration. He is also the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative.; and Fannie Lou Hamer, who never backed down from exercising her right to vote (even though she had been threatened, harassed, and shot at), and was a community organizer, women’s and voting rights activist, and civil rights leader.”  

— Kariann Mano

The PRSA Pittsburgh D&I Committee also encourages members to explore additional Black History Month campaigns and initiatives.

Communications and PR professionals of all identities and seniority levels are encouraged to inquire about joining our Diversity & Inclusion Committee at info@prsa-pgh.org.