PR – The Love Affair Between Storytelling and Discretion

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

By: Ashley Jones

Storytelling & Discretion – A Love Story

Romeo and Juliet. Catherine and Heathcliff. Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. They all have one thing in common in the world of fiction: they’re epic romances. The equivalent in the PR realm? The star-crossed love of storytelling and discretion.

As PR professionals we’re required to channel our brains’ right hemispheres and deliver creative messaging, concepts, and narratives that resonate with diverse audiences while simultaneously evaluating the potential nuances of responses to campaigns and company news or updates. It’s a delicate balance.

To avoid negative backlash, a PR professional may err on the side of caution at the sacrifice of ingenuity. A good PR professional may weigh multiple tiered options within or just outside of a client’s comfort zone (the “well, we put it out there” mentality). But a great PR professional challenges complacency with compelling ideas that are still authentic to a brand, their goals and their audience.

Think About It

Imagine a world where State Street Global Advisors’ “Fearless Girl” didn’t stand tall and strong? Or where Nike’s “Dream Crazy” campaign didn’t include Colin Kaepernick? There was probably hesitancy at first, options needed to be weighed. Without a doubt the board rooms were abound with devil’s advocates and a profusion of questions:

“Will there be criticism of the statue being a girl and not a woman?”
“Will the juxtaposition with the Charging Bull be understood or viewed as exploitive?”
“What are the potential risks of associating our brand with an individual with such polarizing critics?”
“How can our association with Kaepernick affect sales and current business affiliations?”

While the best laid plans of mice and men can often go awry, it’s these discretionary Q&As that lead to the most effective storytelling with the best results. In these brainstorms it’s realized that to achieve A, we must do B and C and to avoid D, we must do E and F. Discretion isn’t about scratching an idea or completely restructuring it until it’s something different entirely, discretion is the constructive feedback necessary to align unconventional ideas into a digestible, appealing narrative.

Take Pepsi’s ad featuring Kendall Jenner for example. An attempt to insert themselves positively into a global discussion gone horribly wrong. Without the right amount of discretion in their execution, they trivialized an entire movement in seconds. On the flipside, they may have taken discretion a step too far (possibly after their previously mentioned blunder) as their recent “Is Pepsi Ok?” ad fell flat despite an all-star cast. Then, boom! They finally nailed it with their Pepsi rewind ad (with the exception of the Kendall Jenner ad, of course) with brilliant reminiscing, fun and a focus on what’s made them iconic without being narcissistic.

The Takeaway

Storytelling without some degree of discretion? Crazy first (and last) date.
Storytelling with too much discretion? Lukewarm feelings.
But that magic balance between storytelling and discretion? Unconditional love.

2019 PRSA Pittsburgh Renaissance Award Winners: The Complete List

On Thursday, January 31, more than 200 of Pittsburgh’s most talented communicators gathered together at the 2019 Renaissance Awards held at the Senator John Heinz History Center.

The annual ceremony — which honors the best of the region’s communications campaigns, tactics and individual practitioners — was moderated by Nicole Paxinos, PensTV host and master of ceremonies.

This year PRSA Pittsburgh distributed more than 50 honors to organizations — ranging from agencies and corporations to hospitals and nonprofits, including Westinghouse, Allegheny Health Network, UPMC Health Plan, Iron City Beer, Seton Hill University, Bank of America, Home Depot and more.

PRSA Pittsburgh thanks its generous sponsors: Havas PR, Burson Cohn & Wolfe, EM-Media, and Point Park University.

Awards and Judging

Top entries received a “Renaissance Award” distinction and runners-up received an “Award of Merit.” Several categories had multiple winners, depending on the numeric scores provided by the judges.

  • Entries were independently evaluated by a panel of judges from the Public Relations Association of Mississippi and scored upon impact.

See the complete list of winners below. 

2019 PRSA Pittsburgh Renaissance Award Winners

Individual Awards

  • PRSA Rising Star Award – Jordan Mitrik, Brunner
  • PR Entrepreneur of the Year – Aaron Easler, Top Hat
  • PR Disruption Award – Iron City Beer
  • PRSA Member of the Year – Deanna Tomaselli, Havas PR
  • Communicator of the Year – Brian Ludwick, Bank of America
  • Bob O’Gara Student Scholar – Morgan McCoy, Point Park University
  • PRSSA Chapter of the Year – Waynesburg University PRSSA
  • Hall of Fame Award – Courtney Myers, Havas PR
  • PR Team of the Year- Allegheny Health Network Public Relations Team
  • Best in Show – Gatesman, Instilling Prestige in Michigan Ross Through the First-Ever MBA Summit


B2B Campaign

  • Renaissance Awards
    • Havas PR, Adapting to Younger Eyes
    • Havas PR, Transitions PRO Instagram Launch
    • Havas PR, Transitions Style Colors and Style Mirrors Product Launch
    • WordWrite Communications, McClintock & Associates’ StoryCrafting & Brand Relaunch
  • Award of Merit
    • Pipitone Group, Meti-Span Building Barriers Advertising Campaign

Content Marketing Campaign

  • Renaissance Awards
    • Brunner, The Home Depot Rental Brand Launch
    • Top Hat, Iron Restoration: The Comeback of Iron City Beer

Crisis Communications

  • Renaissance Award
    • WordWrite Communications, YMCA CPR Plan

Digital Campaign

  • Awards of Merit
    • Pipitone Group, ACAA “Real” Campaign
    • Top Hat, Iron Restoration: The Comeback of Iron City Beer


  • Renaissance Awards
    • Gatesman, Instilling Prestige in Michigan Ross Through the First-Ever MBA Summit
    • Burson Cohn & Wolfe, There’s a New Bank in Town: Bank of America’s Retail Entrance
    • Pipitone Group, Jumbo Coater Grand Opening Campaign
  • Awards of Merit
    • Burson Cohn & Wolfe, Bank of America Suits Up at The Big Game
    • Field General, Coffee with Valerie
    • Seton Hill University, Seton Hill University Centennial Campaign

Influencer Relations

  • Renaissance Awards
    • Burson Cohn & Wolfe, Automation for All: Leviton’s Decora Smart Solutions Shines Bright with Help from Influencers
    • Brunner, FY18 Musselman’s and Lucky Leaf Influencer Programs
    • Havas PR, Adapting to Younger Eyes
    • Top Hat, Iron Restoration: The Comeback of Iron City Beer

Integrated Marketing Campaign

  • Renaissance Awards
    • Brunner, The Home Depot Rental Brand Launch
    • Gatesman, Driving Positive Brand Perception for Duquesne Light Company
    • Top Hat, Iron Restoration: The Comeback of Iron City Beer
    • UPMC Health Plan, UPMC Health Plan Emergency Department Diversion Marketing
    • UPMC Health Plan, UPMC Preventive Screenings Marketing Campaign
  • Awards of Merit
    • MarketSpace Communications, “Meet The Georges” Campaign
    • Jam X Creative, Pittsburgh Pickles Primanti’s Love Media Relations

Internal Communications

  • Awards of Merit
    • Gatesman, Launching a New Brand for a 154-year-old company
    • Westinghouse Electric Company, Servant Leadership at Westinghouse

Media Relations

  • Renaissance Awards
    • DDI, Global Leadership Forecast 2018
    • Havas PR, Curiosity CubeTM Ignites Scientific Passion
    • Havas PR, Driving Buzz for Scene75’s Pittsburgh Opening
    • Havas PR, Turn the Page for “Unshattered”
  • Awards of Merit
    • Burson Cohn & Wolfe, Making It Happen: Sustaining Leviton’s Position As A Tech Innovator Through Media Relations
    • Burson Cohn & Wolfe, Breaking Down Self-Driving Car Misconceptions One Rider at a Time
    • Blender, Inc., Putting down roots to help our region grow
    • Gatesman, Activating National Media Relations to Position Northwell Fertility
    • Havas PR, Make Room for Recess

New Products & Services Communications

  • Renaissance Awards
    • Burson Cohn & Wolfe, Meet Erica: Bank of America’s AI-Driven Virtual Financial Assistant
    • Havas PR, Transitions Style Colors & Style Mirrors Product Launch
    • Top Hat, Iron Restoration: The Comeback of Iron City Beer
  • Award of Merit
    • Pipitone Group, Acuity Low-Iron Glass Product Launch Campaign

Reputation Management

  • Renaissance Awards
    • Burson Cohn & Wolfe, Closing an Historic Pittsburgh Factory with Dignity
    • Havas PR, Curiosity CubeTM Ignites Scientific Passion
    • Burson Cohn & Wolfe, There’s a New Bank in Town: Bank of America’s Retail Entrance into the Pittsburgh Market
    • Top Hat, Iron Restoration: The Comeback of Iron City Beer
  • Awards of Merit
    • Allegheny County Airport Authority, The State of PIT Airport
    • Pipitone Group, “Know the Code” Campaign

Social Media Campaign

  • Renaissance Awards
    • Havas PR, Transitions PRO Instagram Launch
    • Top Hat, Iron Restoration: the Comeback of Iron City Beer
  • Award of Merit
    • UPMC Health Plan, UPMC AnywhereCare Thermometer Giveaway Campaign


Annual Report

  • Award of Merit
    • Allegheny County Airport Authority, 2017 Annual Report: Transforming Pittsburgh’s Airports

Multimedia Content

  • Renaissance Awards
    • Top Hat, Iron & Coal (Photography)
    • Top Hat, It’s Different, Like Always (Video)
    • Top Hat, Make it Pittsburgh-er (Video)
    • Top Hat, We Were There (Video)

Promotional Content

  • Award of Merit
    • MarketSpace Communications, Fiesta Website

Written Content

  • Renaissance Award
    • Havas PR, Transitions Style Collection Guide
  • Awards of Merit
    • MarketSpace Communications, Brewery Guide Website
    • Allegheny County Airport Authority, Why We Love Mister Rogers . . . But Aren’t Naming Pittsburgh International Airport After Him
    • Top Hat, What’s Old is Cool Again: Harnessing Nostalgia to Build Hype

He Should be Fired! She Should be Fired! Everyone Should be Fired!

By: Steve Radick

Yesterday, KDKA fired Michael Telek, one of their producers, for creating this graphic. Had this been created thirty years ago, most people wouldn’t have even noticed, and the ones who did would chuckle, look at the person next to them and say, “did you see that?” and then moved on with their day.

Today, that graphic gets screengrabbed and shared around the world. It gets turned into memes and GIFs. It gets added to news aggregators and newsfeeds. It even becomes a topic on other programs too (ESPN is an expert at this). And with every post, share, and comment, the worst parts of the Internet become more visible, more vocal, and more emboldened.

The pitchfork-carrying social media users come out in full force.

“Whoever created that should be fired!!”
“I’m never watching that channel again!”
“This is incredibly offensive – hope your station goes bankrupt!”
“I hope your dog dies and you get run over by a truck!” (things tend to escalate quickly on the Internet) 

As the hyperbolic speech escalates, brands feel like they’re held hostage. So they respond, lest a social media boycott picks up momentum. Unfortunately, all too often, this response consists of giving in to the demands of the social media mob and firing the individual. #boycott is avoided. The conversation goes away. And the mob moves on to their next source of outrage. Situation defused right? Except, well, for the guy who no longer has a job because of a choice he made that was no worse than dozens of others I’ve made throughout my career. I was just lucky enough to not have them go globally viral.


That’s why we’ve invited Michael to attend our Renaissance Awards ceremony tonight so that he can network with other members of this city’s PR and communications community.

While every organization is free to make their own employment decisions, we lament the fact that Internet trolls turns every indiscretion and mistake into a fireable offense. And that brands and organizations lack the conviction to not give in to the very vocal, very minority subset of the population that wants nothing more than to ruin someone’s life for a minor lapse in judgment. We welcome Michael to our community because we’ve all made decisions in our job we’d like to take back. Luckily, we had colleagues, mentors, and bosses who helped us learn from those mistakes and we’re better for it. Seems like a better solution than letting the worst parts of the Internet decide who does and who doesn’t have a job the next day.

Here at PRSA Pittsburgh, we want to be that supportive community, not only for people like Michael, but for all 200 of our members.

2018, We Bid You Farewell

Ah, 2018. The year of Bud Light “Victory Fridges” and witty KFC apologies for chicken shortages. The year was full of creative PR campaigns by both national and global companies and brands seeking to advocate socially-conscious ideals, pay homage to pop culture and simply defy conventionalism. With the expansion of possibilities thanks to advancements in the digital and social landscapes, 2019 promises to hold some of the most innovative PR statements to date. But before we dive into the new year completely, here’s a quick recap of some of the 2018 PR moments that made our board members’ hearts pound and heads spin:

Nike | Dream Crazy

“I loved Nike’s “Dream Crazy.” Agencies and clients need to start combining profit with purpose. When you look at millennials and Gen Z’s the expectation of organizational structures is different from that of their predecessors. Nike at a fundamental level, merged both profit and purpose beautifully while making a stand against a cluttered and competitive landscape. Nike has always been a disruptor because they attack things differently. And at the end of the day, you want people to be thinking and talking about your brand differently. This campaign didn’t feel super contrived or exploitative. It was in alignment with who Nike is, what they do and what they believe.”
-Meredith Klein, PRSA Pittsburgh Immediate Past President

Taco Bell | A Glimpse Into The Future Of Taco Bell (Inspired By Demolition Man)

Taco Bell marked the 25th anniversary of the movie Demolition Man, and the return of nacho fries, by recreating the futuristic restaurant from the movie in San Diego. When you walked in, it was a fully immersive “2032” movie experience. They served a four-course meal including the nacho fries as a stand-alone dish. It was really over the top. This effort scored tons of media and influencer coverage, flooding my phone all the way out here in the ‘Burgh. It’s also just a glimpse of the continuous media making Taco Bell is doing. They’re always thinking of something newsworthy and intriguing as heck.
-Ben Butler, PRSA Pittsburgh President

Nike | Dream Crazy

“My favorite PR campaign over the last year has to be Nike’s “Dream Crazy” campaign, not because of Kaepernick, but because what it represented for the communications industry. Here was an ad campaign that was driven not by the CMO, but by the Chief Communications Officer. This was the most expensive sign yet of the increasingly important role that communications, not marketing, professionals are playing in operational decisions of some of the largest brands. Like Patagonia or Starbucks before them, Nike put a stake down and said this is what we believe. And the fact that it helped drive sales for them too will only help other brands take that scary first step of actually saying something meaningful instead of hiding behind corporate buzzwords that don’t mean anything to anyone.”
-Steve Radick, PRSA Pittsburgh Vice President

MGM Resorts | Universal Love

“While admittedly a fan of KFC’s humor, my favorite campaign in 2018 was MGM Resorts’ “Universal Love.” 2018 was a year in which the LGBT community dominated headlines. We welcomed the first openly gay U.S. Governor, saw the biggest year in LGBT-inclusive film and continued the fight for same-sex marriage. MGM Resorts realized their influence in a city known as a destination for weddings and honeymoons and took that as an opportunity to appeal to a community so often marginalized in regards to that civil right. By changing the pronouns in traditional wedding songs, an action so small, they created a hugely positive reaction. It demonstrated that our best ideas don’t always have to be overly complex if the sincerity is there and the story and execution are done right. Inclusivity, inspiration and timely brand activism at its best.”
-Ashley Jones, PRSA Web Content Manager

Palessi | A Social Experiment by Payless

My favorite PR moment of 2018 was definitely from Payless. While I don’t think influencer marketing is something to brush off – 81 percent of consumers are known to frequently buy the items they’ve seen being shared on social media – this campaign brought it to a new light, at a time where people are calling out influencers for being too staged to get likes and money, rather than sharing their true thoughts and images. Payless’ fake pop-up store “Palessi” tricked influencers into thinking $30 Payless shoes were really high-end footwear that could go for upwards of $640 a pop. Their reactions were priceless! Not only did it create massive buzz for the struggling retailer, but it hit home on their message that you can wear affordable shoes that still look great. My takeaway: As we move further into influencer marketing in 2019, trust and authenticity are more important than ever, and having a large following is no longer enough.
-Deanna Tomaselli, PRSA Public Service Co-Chair 

With growing social media capabilities, the ongoing evolution of AI and VI, and the “push the boundaries” mindset that more PR professionals and agencies are adopting, we look forward to 2019 as a year to learn what we don’t know, persist with what we do and to always challenge ourselves and our colleagues to be exceptional.

See below for a shameless plug!

Kick off 2019 with the first PRSA Pittsburgh event of the year: the 2019 Renaissance Awards!

Come celebrate the best in public relations work in the Pittsburgh region on Thursday, Jan. 31, at the Heinz History Center for this premiere PR event. To register, click here.

2019 PR Summit – A Recap on the Minds & Brands Driving Pittsburgh Forward

By: Ashley Jones

On Wednesday, November 7, Pittsburgh PR professionals in various stages of their careers and aspiring students took time from the typical evening of late-night work and last-minute essay writing to attend this year’s annual PR Summit at SLATE STUDIOS. Located in the Strip District, the recently opened event venue has been freshly renovated, however maintains its original molded ceiling – a feature common among buildings in historic areas such the Strip and South Side. Its mix of restoration and antiquity served as a most fitting setting for this year’s PR Summit theme: Legends of Pittsburgh: Old, New & Resurrected.

After an indulgence of Iron City Beer and Iron Born Pizza, President of the PRSA Pittsburgh Chapter Meredith Klein kicked the night off with an eloquent introduction that reminded all attendees to use the occasion as an opportunity to network, pose questions, bounce ideas and, ultimately, celebrate the profession and the city in which we all have found our individual successes.

The evening’s keynote speaker, Melissa Wade, Senior Communications Director, VisitPITTSBURGH, delved into what makes Pittsburgh “hot.” In other words, what makes Pittsburgh an attraction? How do we get people here? From the arts to the scenery to the food to (who could forget?) the sports, Pittsburgh has a multitude of diverse activities and culture incomparable to other cities and alluring to anyone who isn’t a native. While the current foodie scene and tech boom earn Pittsburgh current recognition and entice outsiders, its rich history is also embraced. Wade reminded the room that Pittsburgh is, and always has been, a city of innovation. Pittsburgh brought the nation the first movie theater, the Polio Vaccine, the Big Mac, among other milestones. But, what makes Pittsburgh truly welcoming, unique and resilient? The people who drive it forward.

“We’re not just a city of the future. We ARE the future,” said Wade in her closing sentiments.

Following Wade’s presentation and a brief intermission was a panel truly representative of the “old, new & resurrected.” Panelists included Chris Daley, Senior Manager, Digital Media, UPMC; Anthony Vennare, CEO & Co-Founder, Fitt; and Ben Butler, APR, Founder, Top Hat — the agency of record for Iron City Beer. Dan Ayer, Founder, Field General Communications, served as a comedic moderator as he guided the conversation and Q&A segments for topics including ideation, growth and recreating relevance. From the consistency of a staple like UPMC, to the formation of a new company, to the revival of an original Pittsburgh brand, attendees were exposed to various perspectives and approaches to branding and PR at the different stages of a brand’s journey.

Despite what phase we as professionals are at in our careers, or what stage our clients are in in their own journeys, Chris Daley said it best, “It’s about having the best idea and doing it service.”

Thank you to our sponsors, speakers and attendees for making PR Summit such an enjoyable and informative event.

Reminder – Call for entries for the 2019 Renaissance Awards is OPEN! Submit your best work, now!

Interested in serving on the 2019 PRSA Pittsburgh Board? Contact Meredith Klein or Ben Butler to learn more about the opportunities currently available!

Social Media & Digital Communications Tips from Ragan PR

By Megha Pai

Seattle is home to much more than the Space Needle and urban greenery – earlier this summer, the Emerald City played host to the Ragan PR Social Media & Digital Communications Conference at Amazon HQ. For those who didn’t get the chance to attend, below are some exclusive tips from the conference.

Create Content That Captivates

Andrew Davis, bestselling author, thinks content creators should take a note from reality TV shows. “Create suspense,” Davis says – by raising the stakes in your content, you’re giving your audience a story that can’t be ignored. Don’t reveal all the answers in the beginning, either – leverage the audience’s curiosity to weave a narrative they can’t walk away from.

Cultivate Community

Algorithms can be tricky to work with – but your social media strategy can be successful without catering to fluctuations in these algorithms. The secret? Nadia Petschek Rawls, director of social media and audience development at TED, urges communicators to focus on their audience. “Give your community a place to gather,” Rawls says. By identifying your unique value proposition and leveraging it in every piece of content you make, you’re creating a unique experience for your audience – and that experience will keep them coming back to your social channels time after time.

Keep Content Crisp

Bentley McBentleson, digital marketing manager at KFC, notes that keeping your content fresh sometimes requires “making nods to meme culture.” KFC did precisely that by including cats climbing on Colonel Sanders in a livestream. The quirky collaboration fit well with the brand’s identity, and caught viewers’ attention.

Curious about the rest of the conference? Catch more insights at the #RaganAmazon hashtag on Twitter.

Megha Pai is an assistant account executive at Havas PR. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Expert Panelists Give the 411 on Crisis Communications

Photo by Tim Long

By Ashley Jones

PR professionals of all levels, including eager students ready to enter the field, gathered this past Thursday to tackle the elephant in the room – crisis communication and management. While only a piece of the puzzle that comprises the entirety of PR, crisis communication is undoubtedly one of the more well-known components of our industry to those outside of the profession and one of the most challenging and rewarding aspects to those working in it every day.

It can be daunting to have a brand’s reputation and the success of their business relying on your team’s shoulders – particularly in this digital age where information spreads across screens like wildfire. Though a far cry from the medical field, crisis communications can best be described as the “brain surgery of PR” – we must be informed on each individual case, spot on in our approach and execution, and anticipatory of any setbacks that may require alternate tactics. So, how do we ensure we’re equipped to take on the worst? We turned to our expert veterans in the field to share their experience, advice, and best practices.

Moderated by Robin Rectenwald, Account Supervisor, WordWrite Communications LLC, a packed room in Point Park University’s media center listened to, and interacted with, a talented panel consisting of Paul Furiga, President & CEO, WordWrite Communications LLC; Cooper Munroe, CEO, The Motherhood Inc.; and Nick Paradise, Director of Public Relations & Social Media, Kennywood. For those who were unable to attend, a quick recap:

  • What is a crisis?
    • Paul Furiga likened crisis situations to a pot of water on the burner. Issues that cause the water to simmer can eventually boil over when left untreated or handled incorrectly, eventually becoming a crisis that can burn down the kitchen and leave lasting devastating effects.
  • Across industries, what are the common threads of crises and advice you give clients?
    • According to research, 95% of crises can be anticipated or avoided. Cooper Munroe reminded us that we live in an age of outrage. We’re emotional beings that have been provided digital vessels to react during our most vulnerable moments to delicate situations. PR teams need to have efficient processes and templates in place for clients to ensure lightning speed action and response. It’s all about proficiency and transparency.
  • What happens when the media calls about a crisis?
    • When you pick up the phone and a reporter is on the other end in a moment of crisis, remember to ask/say these three things: “What’s the story?,” “What’s your deadline?,” and “Let me get back to you.” The media is neither friend or foe, be as professional as possible and return accurate information to them as soon as possible.
  • How do you handle a viral media post?
    • Nick Paradise prompted us to remember a moment in time can live forever on social media. We were reminded to take a step back to assess the situation. Does a post need a response? Does the conversation need to be taken offline? Sometimes the best thing we can do is redirect to the positives and rely on our influencers and supporters to defend us.
  • What should companies do to return to normalcy?
    • With crises there are three steps: stop the bleeding, win hearts and minds, and restore reputation. Based on the degree of the crisis, timelines for each of these vary. However, having a thoughtful plan of action, professional execution, and consistency is pertinent to overcome the challenge.

After an informative hour and a half, it was clear: never mind our levels of expertise, when it comes to crisis communications we must rely on the capabilities of ourselves and our colleagues. The success of solving a crisis requires a strong, communicative PR team that practices timeliness, perspective, proficiency, transparency, and authenticity for their clients.

Thank you to our excellent moderator and panelists for extending their time and expertise to support the success of others in the field and thank you to all who attended. Be sure to join us at our happy hour on Thursday, September 27 from 5:30PM to 7:30PM at Pig Iron in Cranberry, PA.


PRSA Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh Magazine Talk Shop

By Jen Rignani

When members of PRSA Pittsburgh and staff of Pittsburgh Magazine gathered at the publication’s offices on a rain-soaked Tuesday morning on August 21, the algorithms that dictate our daily lives were silenced, if just for 90 minutes. The indubitable fact was this: For all of the digital tools and outlets available to us, personal relationships between editorial teams and communications professionals are the heartbeat of successful journalism and PR.

Lethargy can make us settle, in our profession, to pitch to emails (not people) and seek the easiest digital path to publication. So “putting a face to the name” plays a critical role in sharpening our skills. Traditional journalism and experienced publications have high standards and to navigate their terrain, it’s key to understand the genesis of idea to story. Further, it’s easy to get sucked into outlets like Media Post or chase the big dogs like The Wall Street Journal and forget what we have in our own Pittsburgh hills. City and regional magazines are considered a major media market and knowing the key people at the publication is a benefit we were delighted to extend to attendees from PRSA.

With Pittsburgh Magazine’s 50th birthday just around the corner, sprits were high. Editor Brian Hyslop and Betsy Benson, publisher and vice president actively engaged with young professionals who braved the weather to benefit from their deep expertise. For early-career PRSA members present, the breakfast event provided rare access to two highly experienced journalists and their team. Some highlights of the conversation:

  • All writers for the magazine adhere to strict journalistic guidelines as set for by the American Society of Magazine Editors, as do all members of the City and Regional Magazine Association.
  • Remember that as a monthly magazine, editors are working 2-3 months in advance on editions. So, don’t pitch a Christmas story in December!
  • “The 412” is a daily newsletter from the editors, and an opportunity to reach audiences in between issues.
  • The magazine always has, and always will have professional fact checkers assigned to all articles.

A telling sign of the journalistic times came when attendee Meesha Gerhart, owner of Red Tree Web Design flipped through one of the complimentary issues and asked, “Where do story ideas come from?” In the conversation that ensued, it was evident that it isn’t always clear today the difference between paid content and straight reporting. Betsy Benson emphasized that stories bloom from ideas, not advertising dollars. She said that they welcome outreach from PR professionals to engage with the magazine to do both, as both have great value to consumers and brands. They strive to ensure the difference is clear by labeling paid content.

A huge thank you to our hosts and to our members who took the time to join us. PRSA members who may have missed the event can get to know Pittsburgh Magazine and introduce yourself to the editorial and advertising staff here.


Exceeding Expectations: An Introduction into the Real PR World

By Josh Plichta

Once I graduate, how on earth am I going to network? Nobody is going to care about that new guy who works for a competitor. It’s over. The times of asking questions and being a student are gone. I am one of the “professionals” who is supposed to be giving advice, not asking for it.

OK, maybe a little dramatic. But that is what all too recent, senior in college Josh thought about entering the so-called, “real world,” and what a number of my fellow graduating peers thought as well.

Leaving PRSSA and joining PRSA felt like a major jump. I imagined a huge difference between the two organizations—one that went from development, to strictly professional all of the time.

Instead, my first experience with PRSA showed me that as PR professionals, we never stop developing. We never stop asking questions or being students either. Instead, we collaborate with each other, learn from one another and share experiences.

My eyes were opened to PRSA Pittsburgh a few weeks ago during a tour of Gatesman’s brand-new, downtown office. The welcoming atmosphere of not only the office space, but employees and fellow attendees, shaped my first PRSA experience. While I have been lucky enough to grow into a professional role through numerous internships and classroom experiences, seeing the benefits and authenticity of PRSA as a professional organization opened my eyes.

Hearing from the Gatesman PR team about their individual paths to becoming PR professionals or how they find passion in their client work every single day put me at ease entering a new experience. While I have the experience and confidence needed, extra opportunities like this past Thursday solidified my thoughts about PR and threw any reservations about joining PRSA out the window. With my first true PRSA experience (emphasis on one less ‘S’) under my belt, I look forward to more opportunities to come.


Josh Plichta is a recent graduate from Otterbein University where he studied public relations and health communications.

Your Questions About Google Analytics and SEO: Answered

By Kristen Hammett

Once upon a time, PR professionals working with data analytics wasn’t even a thought. Today, that’s no longer the case.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a bigger part of public relations than ever before. Joining forces, PR and digital experts can make a significant impact on their digital marketing plans. At the end of the day, the two have the same goal in mind: enhance brand awareness.

That’s why, on May 24th from 12 – 1:30 p.m, PRSA Pittsburgh will be holding an SEO & Google Analytics panel. The event will be moderated by Steve Radick, VP, Director of Public Relations and Content Integration, Brunner with insights from three local experts:

  • Kevin Amos, VP, Performance Marketing and Analytics, Brunner
  • Dan Monarko, Head of Channel Strategy and Analytics, Smith Brothers
  • Heather Starr, Chair of the Department of Community Engagement, Point Park University

When asked what attendees will gain from this event, Heather Starr said,

“I want to help lower the mental barrier of entry that many people have on SEO and Analytics. Too many PR people view it as a marketing tactic driven by algorithms and complex spreadsheets. And while that’s certainly a part of it, there’s also an art to it too.

Whether you’re analytical or creative or both, there’s an important role for you to play in the SEO and data analytics role. I want people to leave the panel and not only understand that, but to reach across the table to their analytics colleagues with some ideas on how they can better work together.”

Radick also weighed in on what he expects attendees to learn:

“I’d like people to understand that analytics is something that everyone can use to help them grow their brand. While they can get quite complex, just knowing the basics and using the data to inform your choices can make a big impact in engaging with customers.”

You may not realize it now, but blog posts like this one, content calendars, and many other types of digital output are great examples of how PR and SEO work together. Quality links and content bind PR and SEO together like glue.

If you would like to learn more about how these two distinct disciplines work together to achieve the same goals, or you have questions about SEO and Google Analytics, register for the event here.

Chick-fil-A is on the menu for lunch. Bring your appetite!