The power of Facebook in tragedy

Image via Pulse Orlando

By: Chelsea Cummins

I remember sitting in church and going to check my phone as the service began to wind down. I was expecting a text from my sister, but what I received was a notification that the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history had occurred in Orlando.

I quickly flashed the screen to my friend and we both began frantically searching the Internet for more information. Most major news outlets hadn’t really been covering the event yet; in fact it was Buzzfeed that delivered the tragic news to me.

Instead of turning on the news, we went to social media. In 2016, it’s almost assumed here is where you can find the most recent updates as they happen. I’ll never forget Sandy Hook and the hours my friend and I sat watching CNN while constantly refreshing Twitter for more accurate and up to date information.

More than just an outlet for news, social media serves as a way to assure friends and family of safety. When circuits are busy and lines are jammed, we can still access our Facebook to let the people who love us most know we are ok.

When tragedy strikes, we flock to social media to comfort, learn and inform. Even though one study found users believe traditional media is more credible, we still look for the immediacy provided by social networking.

Last year’s attacks in Paris were no different. More than news, social media served an important purpose. Hashtags like #prayforparis and #PorteOuverte (open door) welcomed the world to support the victims and their families and offer shelter when it was needed most. The Moments feature on Twitter pushed the important updates regarding the attacks to the top of your feed. It was here that Facebook activated its Safety Check tool, allowing those in the area to mark themselves or others as safe.

Safety Check was introduced in 2014, and used for natural disasters like the devastating earthquakes in Nepal and Chile. The Paris and Brussels attacks were the first to see it implemented in a non-natural disaster situation. While the feature is currently staff-activated, Facebook is looking into ways to give users that functionality.

No site reacts better to tragedy than Facebook I think. I don’t say this as a bad thing or to imply that the most popular social media site is capitalizing on the pain of others. Instead, Mark and the gang recognize they influence they have. With more than 1 billionactive monthly users, almost everyone is touched by Facebook in some way. We were even invited to add a filter to our profile pictures to show our support.

The most recent shooting in Orlando was no different. Facebook served many purposes during the attack. Beyond the Safety Check, Facebook gave Pulse a way to alert attendees to get out. Seven minutes after the shooting began, the club posted“Everyone get out of pulse and keep running.” This was one of the first indicators of the mass shooting, with Orlando police waiting to confirm until 4 a.m.

Unfortunately, the access to Facebook means more than just the good guys can use it. It appears that the gunman, Omar Mateen, had five different accounts he used to search things like terrorist groups and law enforcement agencies. Leading up to the shooting, he posted about ‘Islamic state vengeance’ and plans for an Islamic state attack in the U.S. During the attack, he was searching for news about the club and shooting.

For better or worse, Facebook is everywhere and it’s available for almost anyone. According to the Pew Research Center, 30 percent of the general U.S. population uses Facebook for news – and that was in 2014. When disaster strikes, it’s good to know Facebook is using that power to help its users reach their loved ones and provide an outlet in the chaos.


Chelsea N. Cummins is the fixed operations marketing coordinator at Hunter Truck Sales and Director of Communications for PRSA Pittsburgh. Her passions in life include Jesus, her nieces, Twitter rants and blogging about all her ill-advised decisions. And obviously the field of public relations. Please be her friend: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | LinkedIn

Create Content for Humans, Not Machines

By Steve Radick, PRSA Pittsburgh President

[ This post originally appeared on ]

Let me preface this post by saying that I’m the current Director of PR and Content Integration at an agency. I’m telling you this so that I can tell you this – I really hate content marketing.

Well, let me rephrase – I hate what marketers have done to content marketing. Content marketing used to represent the new era of marketing – a less offensive, less intrusive, and more useful way of advertising. Brands realized that interrupting what their customers were doing only to shout at them with CTAs were getting their ads blocked and fast-forwarded with increasing regularity.

The content marketing revolution was upon us! Brands came to understand that if they started creating really useful and entertaining content, people would not only stop avoiding it, they would even (gasp!) search it out. This led to brands creating everything from full-blown magazines to films to video games to how-to videos. Life was good. Brands stopped shouting at customers and started delivering more of what their customers were looking for.

Unfortunately, just as marketers did with commercials and TV, spam and email, banner ads and the Internet, we’ve reduced content marketing to nothing more than yet another way to score some impressions, views and likes. Rather than solving problems, telling stories, and collaborating with our customers, we’re poring over analytics and algorithms to figure out ways to optimize clicks and shares.

Engineers, analysts, and data scientists have wrested control of content marketing from the creatives, writers, and storytellers. We’re letting Facebook’s, Twitter’s, and Google’s algorithms decide what to create and when and how to share it. And like a Las Vegas casino, those algorithms are put in place to help the house, not you the brand, and surely not the end user. And so on we go feeding the machine, creating and sharing more and more content, all in an attempt to get these algorithms to smile down upon us with the occasional huge payout.

Las Vegas slot machines.jpg

Here’s the problem. In our big data haze, we’ve forgotten the whole point of content marketing. How much of the content we create anymore is truly for our customers? How much of it actually builds our brand? How much time and money are we spending on creating content that serves another platform’s goals more than our brand’s business goals?

Creating content for a social media platform is a lot like feeding the slot machine – put in a lot of cheap coins to trigger an algorithm and hope for a jackpot. Instead, let’s start creating content for people, not machines. Let’s take back control of our brand’s story from the social platforms. Let’s get back to creating content that benefits our customers. Let’s get back to using data to enhance our decision-making, not make decisions for us. The data that we have access to now is exponentially more powerful than it was even just a few years ago, but rather than using that data, we’re just abdicating our decision-making to it. Data should be used to help us identify what our customers actually need, not just what they’ll click the most.

Sure, that video interview with your head of customer service may have taken a lot more time to create and probably won’t get as many likes as that cat GIF you shared the other day, but it was probably a hell of a lot more effective at telling your brand’s story and educating your customers about who you really are and what you can do for them. I’m guessing it’s also a lot easier to justify the time and expense of creating a customer service video than a series of cat GIFs.

Steve Radick is the Vice President, Director of Public Relations at Brunner in Pittsburgh. Find out more about him here.

Practitioner Profile: Jeff Krakoff

Tell us about your academic background

I graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) with a bachelor’s degree in journalism/public relations and am still very connected to the University. While in college, I had to work and pay my way through school; I’m so proud of the education I received, and the relationships and opportunities I’ve been able to cultivate in the decades since. I try to give back in a small way by serving on the Board of Directors of the IUP Alumni Association and serving as professional advisor to IUP’s PRSSA chapter.


What was your first job and how did you find it?

While in college, I worked as a freelance writer for the Pittsburgh Press/Post-Gazette and also covered some sporting events for theAssociated Press. But, my first full-time, professional job was in the communications department at Thrift Drug Company, a division of JCPenney (now Rite Aid via a couple of mergers/acquisitions) in Pittsburgh. I found it by networking with other IUP alumni working in the area and was told by a person that their friend was about to leave a job at Thrift. So, I had my resume and cover letter in at the right place at the right time, and the rest is history.


What was the most important lesson you learned from that job that you still carry with you?

I can think of two lessons. First, there are many different types of people and personalities in the workplace. As a result, you need to have flexibility in how you deal and interact with people to accomplish your goals. Second, be able to recognize an opportunity when you see it. While I was an entry-level person, I was quickly able to write speeches for the company president and interact with other executives because I was willing to accept challenges and opportunities that I wasn’t really comfortable with at the time.


Give us a snapshot of the remainder of your career path, in addition to your current job and responsibilities.

Over the years, I have served as an account executive at Public Images, Inc., a boutique public relations firm on Long Island, N.Y.; worked as communications director of the Hardwood Manufacturers Association, a trade group representing the lumber industry and promoting consumer goods and sustainability relating to hardwoods; and as public relations director at Westhead Marketing Communications, a full-service agency. Then, in 1993, I founded Krakoff Communications Inc. and spend 14 years growing that business before rolling it into global firm Burson-Marsteller in 2007. I was senior director in the Brand Marketing Practice with some of the best and brightest people in the business both around the country and around the world. While I immensely enjoyed my time at Burson, I was once again bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and decided to restart Krakoff Communications in August 2013. It’s been a great three years since, and I look forward to growing the business while making it a place where people truly enjoy their work and clients enjoy the results they achieve by partnering with us. As the president of a smaller firm, I wear many hats from company management and new business development to rolling up my sleeves and writing, working with designers and doing whatever it takes to make our clients and my company successful.


You recently formed a new business partnership with the Stryker-Munley Group.  Congratulations.  What made this partnership so attractive to you and how will it affect the work that you do?

Yes, we are really excited about this. First, being part of Stryker-Munley Group now gives us a large number of high-quality people to work with in major business centers including New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Memphis, northern New Jersey, Sacramento and St. Louis. Plus, we plan on expanding into other markets as we move forward. The biggest effect this will have is the ability to tap into so many talented professionals to allow us to better serve our clients while having a presence in multiple cities to help clients with needs outside of this area.


Looking back on your career, what was the best piece of advice that you ever received?

My dad, some professors and others always said to find something you love to do and you’ll be successful. They were right. While you may never love what you do all day every day, if you find something that makes you happy and feel challenged, you’ll find that you have a little extra jump in your step and will be successful because your passion and energy will be palpable.


Tell us about a memorable moment in your career.

I helped a client plan for a visit from President Barack Obama who wanted to release the latest economic numbers in my client’s factory. It was interesting to meet and shake hands with the President while dealing with the White House Press Corps and to work with journalists representing media from around the globe. I also am very proud of being inducted into the PRSA Pittsburgh Renaissance Hall of Fame in 2011 because it is recognition from my peers that I must be doing something right!


In your opinion, what are the three most important attributes needed to be a successful public relations practitioner?

In no particular order, I’d say be an enthusiastic learner, be a great writer and be strategic. We all need to be willing to be lifelong learners and constantly improve our writing and communications skills while paying attention to strategies that will meet our communications objectives.


What is your advice to students who want to work in public relations or young public relations professionals just starting their careers?

See question #6. Find something that makes you want to get to work each morning and doesn’t feel like work. I’d also urge young professionals to be flexible and to be open to the opportunities that may become available as they progress through their career. While some people like to have their lives planned out for many years, you just never know when a change in direction could be a great thing.


How has the public relations field changed since you started working?

Since I wrote college papers using an electric typewriter and used a 5-1/4” inch floppy disk to store things on my first work computer, it’s obvious that technology and the opportunities and challenges of the digital world are the biggest changes I’ve seen.


What’s next?  What do you see as the next big trend in public relations?

I’m not sure exactly what the next trend will be, but I do know that a trend that never goes out of style is for public relations professionals to be able to tell a good story so that our audiences are informed and motivated to take actions that will be beneficial to both themselves and our organization or client.

Communicator Tour Recap + Upcoming Programming

Young Professionals Communicator Tour Recap

The first Communicator Tour of 2016 was a huge success! Nearly 40 students and young professionals gathered at American Eagle’s headquarters in the South Side on May 3 for an evening of engaging discussion and invaluable networking. The panel discussion included executives from both internal and external communications, across the American Eagle and Aerie brands. Attendees were treated with insight into the wild world of brand marketing and a sneak peek at American Eagle’s amazing corporate culture. It is our goal as an organization to expose young marketers to a plethora of great opportunities throughout Pittsburgh, so stay tuned for upcoming Communicator Tours at other unique locations around the city this fall!

What’s Next: June Programming

  • Women in Business Partner Event at Wigle Whiskey: Join us for our first annual women in business event to be held atWigle Whiskey on Wednesday June 15!  You’ll hear from 2016 Pittsburgh Business Times BusinessWomen First recipient andWigle Whiskey co-owner Meredith Grelli, as well as participating in breakout sessions with noted Pittsburgh influencers, and networking with other communications professionals.
  • GIFs, Memes, Hashtags and Celebrities – What content can brands create and share and what should they avoid?:  Join us at the River’s Club on Wednesday, June 29 with Registration and breakfast at 8:00 a.m. and a Q&A panel discussion from 8:30-9:30 a.m. We are excited to have Cecilia Dickson, Christian Ehret and Chris Sherwin, all IP attorneys from The Webb Law Firm, join PRSA President Steve Radick, VP/Director of PR and Content Integration at Brunner, to discuss the do’s and don’ts for creating, curating and sharing content.  This can often be a blurry topic, so we’re looking to bring some clarity to this important issue that affects so many of us! For example:
  1. We can all agree that stock photos are terrible. So what photos are safe to use? Can I use Creative Commons photos? If so, under what conditions? How do I know if I’m in the clear or not?
  2. There’s a great skit that Jimmy Fallon did the other night that would be perfect for our brand to share on social. Can I share the clip from YouTube?

This can often be a blurry topic, so we’re looking to bring some clarity to this important issue that affects so many of us!

Stay tuned for more information about our upcoming events and what’s to come this year! Be sure to follow us on Twitter at @prsapgh and like us on Facebook at PRSA Pittsburgh for more updates!

GIFs, Memes, Hashtags and Celebrities: What content can brands create and share and what should they avoid?

Using Google Images can cost you thousands of dollars. A Jewel-Osco ad about Michael Jordan results in a decade-long lawsuitand millions of dollars in legal fees and settlements. A Tweet triggers a $6M lawsuit. With every high-profile lawsuit, #socialmediafail hashtag, and cease-and-desist letter, we know our lawyers and general counsel become more and more likely to pull out the red pen and cut anything that could remotely be considered a legal gray area.

And so on we go, back to our desks to create content that will get approved. If it happens to also be funny, profound, engaging, or interesting, well, that’s just an added bonus. The most important thing is getting it past Legal, right?

PRSA Counsel made me remove this image of our lawyer writing “not approved” on a stack of papers I’d given him to approve.

How did we let things get to this point? How did we let lawyers gain so much control over what we do and the content we create? How they did go from “General Counsel” to “What I Say Goes”?

They’ve gradually taken on greater control over the content we create because they’re speaking a language that’s totally foreign to us. We accept whatever they say because we are completely and utterly unfamiliar with things like copyright laws, regulatory guidelines, and legal precedents.

You see, their job isn’t to create engaging content. It’s not to accumulate likes, shares, or follows. It’s not to make something go viral. It’s to protect the interests of their organization. That’s it. That’s what they care about. No lawyer has ever been fired for saying “no” to a Facebook post. So, put yourself in their shoes – what incentive do they have to let you take any risk?

That’s why it’s our responsibility to get more educated about what those risks actually are. I’ve worked with a lot of lawyers from a lot of highly regulated industries over the last ten years – from the federal government to healthcare to banking – and most of them have been more than willing to sit down and explain their points of view with me. But I had to be the one to ask.

That “no” we so often assume is written in stone is more than likely a “no” because they don’t have enough information or don’t understand it or don’t have the right context. That “no” can and should be looked at as a conversation starter, not a conversation-ended. But to have that conversation with the lawyer, you’ve got to be educated yourself. You’ve got to arm yourself with the knowledge about what is and isn’t allowed, what other brands have done, what the legal precedents are. You’ve got to be able to empathize with your lawyer colleagues and understand where they’re coming so they can do the same with you.

Let PRSA equip you with the knowledge and confidence to have your next conversation with your Legal team. Join us at the River’s Club on Wednesday, June 29 for our next event, “GIFs, Memes, Hashtags and Celebrities: What content can brands create and share and what should they avoid?”

Registration/breakfast will begin at 8am with a Q&A panel discussion from 8:30-9:30am. I’ll be facilitating a panel discussion featuring Cecilia Dickson, Christian Ehret and Chris Sherwin, all IP attorneys from The Webb Law Firm, to discuss the do’s and don’ts for creating, curating and sharing content. Here’s a small teaser of some of the questions we’ll be tackling, but we’ll also keep it pretty informal so please bring your own challenges and questions and we’ll address those too, either in person or via follow-up blog posts.

  1. Is it really verboten to use the #superbowl or #marchmadness or #olympics hashtags? Will I get sued if I use them? They can’t possibly be that restrictive, right?
  2. We can all agree that stock photos are terrible. So what photos are safe to use? Can I use Creative Commons photos? If so, under what conditions? How do I know if I’m in the clear or not?
  3. If someone shares a photo of my brand’s products on Instagram, do I really need to ask for permission if I just want to Tweet it out or Regram it?
  4. Do I really need to find everyone in this photo and get them to sign a photo release form?

This should be a really great event where you can ask your legal questions in a safe environment and get some talking points so you can turn that “no, you can’t use that photo” into a “sure, but make sure that you attribute it correctly” response.

Register Today!

Practitioner Profile: Jeff Donaldson

[ Practitioner Profile:  Each month, we will feature public relations and communications practitioners from the Pittsburgh area as a way to highlight their experience and share their insights and learnings gleaned during their professional careers. We also will feature local executives who may not be public relations practitioners themselves, but who believe in the power of public relations. If you’d like to hear from someone specific, please email us at ]

1.Tell us about your academic background.

I graduated magna cum laude from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University with a Bachelor of Science in Broadcast Journalism.  I minored in political science.


2. What was your first job and how did you find it?

My first job was as a part-time radio news anchor/reporter for a commercial radio station in Syracuse during my senior year in college. A friend was employed there, and the station was seeking additional newsroom staff. I had already been anchoring news on the college radio station at Syracuse University, so I had a radio news resume/demo tape and was able to secure employment as the Saturday night news anchor. Later, I became a part-time reporter and news writer for the station. The radio news resume tape I developed while working there helped me to secure my first full-time job as a radio news reporter before I graduated from college.


3. What was the most important lesson you learned from that job that you still carry with you?

Always look for options rather than obstacles. I was a very young reporter in my college town, and I carried plenty of responsibility.  I was on deadline constantly, and I had to often find new ways of attacking a challenge to make sure I got the story and got it right. It was a phenomenal learning experience.


4. Give us a snapshot of the remainder of your career path, in addition to your current job and responsibilities.

After graduating from college, I began a ten-year career as a broadcast journalist, primarily in Harrisburg, PA. I began working as an anchor/reporter at an all-news radio news in Harrisburg and then transitioned into TV news several years later – first as an assignments manager, then as a reporter for the Fox and NBC affiliates in Harrisburg. Eight years after graduating from college, I was hired as the main anchor for the Fox affiliate in Youngstown, OH, which enabled me to return to Pittsburgh.  I spent two years there. During a decade as a broadcast news professional, I was honored to win six Associated Press awards for outstanding news reporting.

My first job in my second career as a public relations/marketing practitioner was as the director of marketing and public relations for La Roche College in Pittsburgh. I spent five years there, and our team successfully implemented a comprehensive enrollment marketing strategy that netted the largest class of students in the institution’s history at the time. We also won a host of awards for the college’s website, recruitment materials, a TV commercial and the alumni magazine.

I then began a long and fulfilling eight-year run at Elias/Savion Advertising and Public Relations in Pittsburgh. I was hired as PR manager, promoted to director of public relations, and ultimately was made vice president of communications during my tenure. I served as chief communications counselor to all of the agency’s clients and oversaw the public relations and communications practices at the agency. The list of clients included everything from a national wireless communications provider to a national retail development client, a national window and door manufacturer, a regional financial institution and a regional law firm. Our team won a number of PRSA awards, and I was instrumental in building the agency’s crisis communications and media training disciplines.

My next stop was at Burson-Marsteller in Pittsburgh, where I served as senior counselor to a leading financial services/insurance company for about a year and a half. Our team successfully developed and launched a multifaceted public relations program that included the appointment of an NFL Hall of Famer as the brand ambassador and the creation and deployment of a nationwide survey on retirement and financial planning.

I then joined Michael Baker International, a global engineering firm in Pittsburgh, as director of corporate affairs for business operations, where I oversaw communications for the company’s six regions along with its markets and practices.  During my one-year tenure at Michael Baker, our team generated enhanced visibility and greater share of voice for the company through a comprehensive, re-engineered media relations and thought leadership program. We also increased engagement levels for the company with clients, prospects and employees by creating and launching a stakeholder communications program across several owned channels.

In May 2016, I returned to Elias/Savion Advertising and Public Relations as executive vice president and director of account management.  I was fortunate to rejoin my former employer in an elevated role as a member of the agency’s senior leadership team. My charge in my new role is to serve as the lead contact for the agency on several of its key accounts while working to strengthen current client relationships and assist the team in generating new business.


5. What was the best piece of advice that you ever received?

Lead by example. Always demonstrate that you are prepared to go the extra mile, to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty regardless of your title. Never ask anyone else to do what you are not willing to do yourself.


6. Tell us about a memorable moment in your career.

Near the end of my career as a TV news reporter, my photographer and I covered an apartment fire in suburban Harrisburg that ultimately transformed into multiple deliberately set fires across the city in the span of four hours. Flames chased families in several locations into the streets. We had to chronicle the developments well into the overnight hours, following firefighters and interviewing frightened neighbors and residents who weren’t sure where the arsonist was going to strike next. It was a harrowing experience and a reminder of how one person’s actions can cause chaos and despair for many people in a short period of time.


7. In your opinion, what are the three most important attributes needed to be a successful public relations practitioner?

  • A strong writer: Someone who truly wants to be successful in public relations needs to be adept at writing well and writing on deadline. Public relations practitioners need to be able to digest and translate sometimes difficult concepts into something discernible and meaningful.  
  • A story teller:  Public relations is about telling good stories – about people, about organizations, about companies, about ideas. Do you know how to recognize the elements of a good story, to cultivate them, to piece them together into a cohesive and impactful narrative? Can you telegraph their significance to all the audiences that matter? And, do you know how to craft that narrative for all the channels – paid, owned, earned and shared – that people follow today? 
  • Fearlessness: From my experience, success in this business requires an element of fearlessness. You never know what might be around the corner – from managing demanding clients to interacting with the media, creating compelling content on deadline and constantly keeping up to date on what is happening in the world. Approach each day with confidence and a willingness to put in your all, and you’ll do well.


8. What is your advice to students who want to work in public relations or young public relations professionals just starting their careers?

I’m a news junkie, and it has always served me well.  My advice: Read and absorb every bit of news and information you can from multiple sources. Understand what is happening in the world – in business, in politics, in entertainment, in general. A well-informed public relations professional is a powerful consultative agent for his/her client or and/or employer.


9. How has the public relations field changed since you started working?

Social media has completely transformed the paradigm. In many ways, it has put technology into the hands of “citizen journalists” who do not follow the same rules of engagement as traditional journalists. At the same time, it has leveled the playing field for brands to interact directly with their constituencies. It is an entirely different world, one that is constantly evolving.


10. What’s next?  What do you see as the next big trend in public relations?

Based on my background in agency, nonprofit and corporate PR/marketing, the development and dissemination of compelling content has never been more of a priority for organizations of all sizes.  It’s about telling good stories on multiple platforms to create an impactful narrative for the brand.

Nuggets & Tots and other Board Meeting Topics

By Samantha McClintock

It wouldn’t be a PRSA Pittsburgh Board meeting without a little wine, a lot of planning and at least one board member calling in from a loud, crazy location. Some of our board members call in covered in sand and saltwater, while others call in covered in tater tot crumbs and spilled milk.

Last week, it was the latter.

We don’t really care where our board members are or what they’re doing, as long as they have great ideas to bring to the table. At the April Board of Directors meeting, held last Tuesday, April 26, we recapped an exciting month of events and planned for the month of May.

Our treasurer reported that we’re right on track with our budget, while our director of communication reported that the April newsletter was distributed (Did you get it? If not, click here.) We also have a new website in the works to make registering for events and reading our blog a much more pleasant experience. You’re welcome!

We chatted about past and upcoming presentations, including our trip to Waynesburg University’s recent regional conference, a stop at the Cal U PRSSA closing banquet and a visit to Westminster College.

We also discussed a potential discount program for members, which would allow us to partner with local businesses to offer discounts and percentages to PRSA Pittsburgh members. Is this something you’d be interested in? Let us know in the comments.

Programming reported that they are working on some upcoming summer events, including a Women in Business social Wednesday, June 15, at Wigle Whiskey on the North Shore. The event will feature a keynote presentation and four break-out sessions on topics relevant for women in business. Check back here, or on social media, for details.

Don’t worry; we’re already planning some fall and winter events, too, including our annual Professional Development Day and Renaissance Awards. We’re also looking to pull together a diversity panel for National Diversity Month in November.

We wrapped by laughing about a board member who carries her PRSA membership card in her wallet – which maybe isn’t even that funny. We thought it was.

Please continue to read our blog for event postings and updates, as well as a recap of next month’s meeting, which will be held Tuesday, May 31 at 6 p.m.

We need your help

Are you looking to get more involved with PRSA Pittsburgh? Do you like websites? Boy, do we have an opportunity for you.

I’m going to be blunt – our current website isn’t great or even what I would consider good. It serves our purposes, but we’re well aware there is room for major improvements.

That’s where you come in.

We’re planning to launch a new site in 2017, and we’re looking for someone to help lead the redesign process now through next year. This person would co-chair our website committee and eventually take over as our website coordinator on the 2017 Board of Directors.

We currently have a talented team in place to aid with the transition, but there’s always room for more. If you have web experience and are looking to take on the leadership role or just want to lend your expertise, we’d love to have you. If you don’t have the exact experience but still want to help, you’re welcome too.

Being a board member is a great way to make the most of your PRSA membership. Not only to get to work a group of really great people, you can help implement the changes you want to see in PRSA Pittsburgh and beyond. It’s a great opportunity for someone at any point in their career, from a seasoned vet to recent grad.

If you’re interested, please contact me via email at If you’re interested in helping the board but not with the website, I can help you out with that as well.

In a nutshell: We’re redesigning our website and need someone to take on a leadership role as committee co-chair that will lead to being the website coordinator for 2017. If you want to help with this or other board projects, contact me and we can work something out.

Meet a Member: Ellen Dietrick

Twitter | LinkedIn

Where do you work/what do you do?

I work at Havas PR — a PR agency that specializes in B2B. A typical day for me involves corresponding with a wide variety of clients — scheduling meetings, writing press releases, developing social content, creating reports and preparing for trade shows and conferences. If you walked into our office, I’d be the one running around in heels trying to balance a cup of coffee in one hand and a stack of papers in the other — I’ve become somewhat of a multitasking queen!


What’s your title?

I am an Account Coordinator.


How do you explain what you do to your mom?

Growing up, I always wanted to write. My mom always encouraged me to do exactly what I want to do, even though I’m sure she was worried I’d be living at home for the rest of my life if I really did follow my dreams of becoming a writer. So now I tell my mom that my job lets me do exactly what I’ve always wanted to do, but I actually get paid to do it.


Where do you live?

I grew up in Mt. Lebanon and then attended school in Cleveland, Ohio for four years (Go Blue Streaks!). I always knew that I wanted to come back to Pittsburgh, and I am lucky enough to have found a job that I love in my favorite city right after I graduated from college.


What’s your favorite bar/restaurant?

I absolutely adore the rooftop bar at Sienna Mercato – it’s a must on a summer night. But if I’m looking for something closer to home, the Hitchhiker Brewing Company is (quite literally) ten feet from my apartment. It’s the perfect place for a quick drink on a Saturday night, and it’s within walking distance of a lot of other great restaurants, too. But I must warn you, if you’re from Mt. Lebanon, you’re almost bound to see someone you know!


How long have you been a member of PRSA?

I just recently joined PRSA, so I’ve only been an official member for about a month now. However, I’ve been familiar with the organization for almost four years — I was the Vice President of PRSSA at John Carroll University! It was an incredible experience and it allowed me to grow so much as a leader and a member of the PR community. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to continue my membership with PRSA once I moved home to Pittsburgh.


What’s one thing other PRSA members should know about you?

I am about to share the most intimate detail of my life with you — I love cheese. Any kind of cheese — Gouda, American, cheddar, provolone — you name it. Any cheese, that is, except for Swiss. I won’t touch Swiss with a ten foot pole.


What do you hope to get out of PRSA this year?

Even though I’ve lived in Pittsburgh for most of my life, I am always looking to meet new people who enjoy the same things I do. If you don’t mind that The Bachelor is my guilty pleasure and that I can quote the entire Gilmore Girls series by heart (and I often do), then we’ll be best friends in no time. I also hope to get out of my comfort zone, whether it’s through networking events or simply getting involved in other aspects of the PRSA community.


What’s your favorite think about Pittsburgh?

I think if you asked anyone who has lived in Pittsburgh, they’d tell you it’s hard to narrow it down to just one favorite thing. But I think, in a way, that’s what I love most about Pittsburgh. We’re a city full of people who absolutely adore this city. We live and breathe sports and we proudly promote the world’s most fascinating accent (shaht aht to my fellow Yinzers who know what I’m talking abaht). You can’t get on a bus without seeing someone you know and there’s never a shortage of sandwiches and salads piled high with fries. I think this city has a unique way of bringing people together, and that’s something you don’t see every day.

Event Recap + What’s In The Works

Event Recap: Stop Pitching and Start Helping – PRSA Pittsburgh Joins Forces with ONA Pittsburgh

Public relations professionals hate pitching. Reporters, editors and writers hate being pitched. But here we are, driving each other crazy day after day anyway. How can we stop that? On Wednesday, March 30 from 5:30-8:30 p.m. at Sharp Edge Bistro downtown, members of PRSA Pittsburgh and Online News Association (ONA) Pittsburgh joined forces for a no-pitch, no sell night of talking and learning from each other, or having a drink and getting to know each other! 

PRSA Pittsburgh President Steve Radick and ONA’s Kim Lyons held an interactive discussion to break down the barriers that PR professionals and members of the media may encounter when working together. And so we can take some advice from each other! The topics and questions submitted upon arrival spurred a great dialogue that offered some hilarious, truthful insights from both PR professionals and members of the media. Read more in our blog post on the event here. 

Here are some other things we have in the works:

  • Women in Business Partner Event at Wigle Whiskey: PRSA Pittsburgh is thrilled to announce its  first-ever Women in Business event on Wednesday, June 15 at Wigle Whiskey in the Strip District!  Focused on elevating visibility of this critical topic, our goal is to connect emerging and established female professionals, throughout Pittsburgh, to start a dialogue.
  • GIFs, Memes, Hashtags, and Celebrities – What content can brands create and share and what should they avoid?:  We’re working on a Q&A discussion scheduled for May with an IP/copyright attorney to discuss the do’s and don’ts for creating, curating and sharing content. This can often be a blurry topic, so we’re looking to bring some clarity to this important issue.
  • PRSA Cleveland Partner Event: We’re looking forward to joining forces with our fellow PR pros at PRSA Cleveland this fall for a partner event that unites our two cities.
  •  Young Professionals Communicator Tour Series: Our Young Professionals committee will host their first tour of the year in May at American Eagle! The Communicator Tours series provides students and young professionals with a look inside a variety of PR agencies and corporate settings in the Pittsburgh area. Past tours include rue21, BRUNNERWORKS, Elias/Savion and Gatesman+Dave. Stay tuned for more details!


Stay tuned for more information about our upcoming events and what’s to come this year! Be sure to follow us on Twitter at @prsapgh and like us on Facebook at PRSA Pittsburgh for more updates!