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!

Takeaways from the Ragan Media Relations Conference

By Deanna Tomaselli

From April 3-5, I traveled to New York City to attend the Ragan PR & Media Relations Conference hosted by KPMG. You may have caught it on our Instagram stories! Here, a variety of speakers and panelists shared insights and best practices for cultivating relationships with members of the press, grabbing media coverage and getting brand stories told. Here are some of the highlights:

Write enticing copy with the AP

Amir Bibaway from The Associated Press kicked things off with practical tips on writing enticing copy. Amir actually reads every single pitch he receives, and that’s a lot. It’s nice to know someone is reading our stuff. Per Amir, “Nothing is easier than to stop reading!” And he’s right – journalists will drop off after reading a pitch that’s way too lengthy and confusing. So, what are they looking for?

  • Entice the reader from the first sentence and give a hook.
  • Tell a story.
  • Anecdotes are great – if they are true.
  • Numbers and data are EVERYTHING.
  • Always include visuals, quotes and photos.

Amir also stressed to pick up the phone! This is debated in the PR community but personally, I agree with this. More often than not they may have missed or forgotten about an email, so a quick phone call can allow you to cut through the clutter and remind them. Amir also said to be aware of deadlines, and if the journalist says it’s not relevant, reply and ask them what else they are working on to keep the conversation going.

Tying social media into your PR efforts with Muckrack

Greg Galant, co-founder and CEO of Muckrack, spoke to how social and PR can work together in your media relations efforts. Don’t spend too much time on Twitter? Rethink your approach! Per a recent Muckrack report, 70 percent of journalists still use Twitter. Here you can see what they’re tweeting and do your research, and also interact with them and share their stories. And if you’re really lucky, slide into their DMs. Speaking of, here are some fun facts from Greg from that recent Muckrack report:

  • Journalists LOVE being followed and they love when you share their stories. They need eyeballs on their articles.
  • Follow and engage with journalists BEFORE you pitch them, that way you establish some sort of relationship/recognition with them.
  • Follow #journorequest for hot leads.
  • Best time of day to pitch? Morning.
  • 93 percent of journalists prefer email.
  • Make your pitch under three paragraphs – the shorter the better!

Why do journos reject a pitch?

  • Not personalized.
  • Confusing.
  • Too lengthy.
  • Bad timing.

Get to the point!

Joel Scwartzberg, senior director of strategic and executive communications with the ASPCA didn’t bring in any cute puppies, but he did bring Albert Einstein. One of my favorite quotes I always think of in PR is how Joel opened his presentation: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Joel and Einstein are right. Joel gave us a quick quiz to ensure that the statements we are pitching are in fact grammatically correct (Can it follow, “I believe that…”) and also true and feasible. Starting with something correct and true, then you have to ask yourself, “What is the highest value we can attach to the message to make it the most compelling?” He also stressed to avoid “badjectives” like great, important, etc. Not relevant! So think like Joel and be succinct, compelling, and add value.

The Pitch Tank

One of my favorite parts about media relations conferences from Ragan is their “Pitch Tank” sessions. Here, you can stand up in front of the entire room and panel of journalists, Shark Tank style, and say your pitch out loud. This is a unique way of getting immediate feedback. The panel gave great insight into what makes a great pitch:

  • Make it visual.
  • What are you bringing that’s NEW?
  • Don’t use superlatives.
  • Do your research.
  • If possible, don’t cold pitch.
  • Treat a journalist like a PERSON, not slimy sales pitch-esque.

If a journalist is interested, they have to sell the story too, to their editors or producers, so equip them with the best possible information and hooks to ensure it’s sold all the way through.

The Media Relations Conference was a great three days of learning and interacting. Check out the hashtag #raganPR on Twitter for lots more tips and tweets. What tips will you take away from this? What are some tips you’d recommend in making a great pitch? Let us know in the comments.


Deanna Tomaselli is an account supervisor at Havas PR and an active member of the PRSA Pittsburgh board. She shares industry insights and career learnings on

Young Professional Communicator Tour Recap: Moxie

By Cameron Finney and Kameryn McGee

For four years, college students are constantly trying to figure out their career and question what it will be like to experience the “real world” industry.  If you’re lucky, you’ll find great connections that lead to amazing opportunities and even a possible job. For the world of communications, specifically public relations and advertising, you are always aiming to get that experience that leads you to working for an agency or firm.

Joining national organizations like the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) is a great way to find those connections and get prepared for that next step. The Clarion University PRSSA chapter, along with other young professionals and universities, was able to attend the Young Professional Communicator Tour presented by PRSA Pittsburgh and Moxie on March 29.

Moxie is a well-known marketing agency, headquartered in Atlanta, with offices in Pittsburgh. Its impressive client roster includes Rachael Ray’s Nutrish, Piada, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, Porsche and UPMC, just to name a few. Moxie planned a panel of six employees to discuss how they got started, what skills they find to be most important to have in the industry, their favorite projects they’ve worked on and offer other advice for the eager young professionals.

The atmosphere was fun, exciting and family-like amongst the employees. The excitement for their work came through in their voices and gave all that attended a lot to look forward to for their future.

Join Us at the PRSSA Graduation Party

Image via AIA Pittsburgh

Join PRSA Pittsburgh on Wednesday, April 25, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Poros in Market Square to celebrate the PRSSA 2018 graduates. Join us for drinks and appetizers while networking with PR professionals.

The cost to attend for PRSSA student is $25, which will include a drink ticket, appetizers and a discount on their PRSA Associate Membership.

Upon arrival, students will receive information regarding the PRSA Associate Membership and a promo code that they will enter at checkout when registering as a PRSA Pittsburgh Member.

In anticipation of the event, a few of our board members and committee leads shared the following advice for PRSSA graduates.

“Be aggressive. It may feel like you are reaching out to too many people or too much, but keeping yourself top of mind for busy professionals will help you in the end,” said Sydney Carver, PRSA Pittsburgh Social Media/Publicity Chair.

“There are a lot of new graduates and not a lot of available positions. Working three or four internships even after graduating is common. Many will get frustrated and give up. Don’t let a boring, run-of-the-mill resume keep you from reaching your potential. Spend some time now updating your resume and online presence to set yourself apart. Even that may not be enough to get you the job, but it should at least help you get your resume printed out and put on the boss’s desk a lot more often,” said Steve Radick, PRSA Pittsburgh Immediate Past President.

We are honored to recognize PRSSA members at our graduation celebration on April 25 – before you put on that cap and gown, stop by Poros to celebrate!

Be sure to RSVP here.

Duquesne PRSSA’s Experience Hosting its Third Annual Networking Event: “Bridging Opportunities”

By Duquesne PRSSA

This semester, our Chapter has held its third annual “Bridging Opportunities” networking event on Friday, March 23, from 5:30-7 P.M. in the Duquesne Student Union. This event continues the tradition of our Chapter of holding a networking event open to the entire school each spring semester where students can interact and connect with different employers in the marketing, advertising, and public relations field.

Since this is the Chapter’s biggest event of the year, it is very important that we prioritized and executed all of the necessary steps to make the event possible. The first thing we needed to complete was the room request and order food through Parkhurst Catering. Next, we wanted to focus on outreach. We created flyers, brochures, posters, a press release in the Duquesne Duke, and an email blast to all Business and Liberal Arts school students. Lastly, we had to gather information on the companies that we were hoping would attend, create and send an invitation, and then see which companies confirmed.

On the day of the event, timing and logistics were very important. We had to make sure we picked up the catered food on time, make sure representatives knew when and where the event was taking place, and make sure other PRSSA members could get to the event. Finally, any expenses we had were written down in a spreadsheet, included with receipts, were given to the Reimbursement Center. Overall, we learned that time management is crucial.

If you don’t manage your time wisely, duties can begin to add up, causing a hectic and stressful situation. We also learned that things don’t always go as planned. We had to adjust on various different occasions, but just because you have to take a different approach, it doesn’t always mean that the overall goal will be ruined.


Students who join PRSSA at Duquesne University participate in professional development, firm tours, visits from public relations professionals and hands-on, skill building public relations activities.  In addition, our Chapter sponsors networking opportunities in the form of talks and roundtable discussions led by Pittsburgh’s top public relations professionals.

3 Takeaways from Point Park University’s Speaker Series

By Morgan McCoy

Looking back at the fall 2017 semester, Point Park University’s PRSSA Chapter is thankful to all the speakers that took time out of their busy days to spend time with our members. From non-profit to agency, these distinguished professionals gave invaluable advice, encouragement and tips.

A huge thank you to Therese Joseph (Shift Collaborative), Felicia McKinney (Point Park University), Brenda Jaros (Goodwill), Emmiley Stern (Tailored Marketing) and Jessica DiVito (Special Olympics) for joining us last semester to share your knowledge with our members. Here are three big takeaways from our guests:

It’s how you hustle

Each of our speakers shared their paths to success and each had one thing in common: hustle. When all else fails, you must know how to get back to business and try, try again until the goal is met. If you want it, you work hard for it, and we saw firsthand how well that hustle worked for each of our speakers.

Passion, passion, passion

Passion was a big point that each of our speakers touched upon. Every great communication project has a team of passionate workers that tirelessly perfect their plans to deliver maximum impact. DiVito has a passion for connecting supporters with athletes by telling their stories through newsletters and more. Seeing speakers so passionate about their causes on every level showed our members how inspiring a career in communications can be.

Networking is real

While it’s not all about networking, all our speakers encouraged our members to get out there and start getting involved so you can meet communicators in their backyard. Being involved in the community by doing something as simple as volunteering to help with local PRSA events can connect you with industry professionals. A great network can lead to great opportunities. Be kind and be genuine.

We would also like to thank Top Hat for allowing our members to visit at the end of the semester. With similar advice to the above, our members have a great understanding of the industry.


Morgan McCoy is a student at Point Park University and firm director at Bison Media. Email Morgan here

2018 Renaissance Award Winners: The Complete List

On Thursday, Jan. 25, Pittsburgh’s most talented communicators gathered together at the Senator John Heinz History Center to honor the best public relations campaigns, tactics and individual practitioners as part of PRSA Pittsburgh’s 2018 Renaissance Awards. Jeff Barton and Sam Panico, co-founders of Jam X Creative, served as the masters of ceremonies.

Entries were independently evaluated by a panel of judges from PRSA’s Dallas Chapter. The top scored entries received the ‘Renaissance Award’ distinction and the runner-ups received the ‘Award of Merit.’ Several categories had multiple winners depending on the numeric score of the judges.

The Renaissance Awards handed out more than 50 honors in total to companies ranging from agencies and corporations to professional sports teams and nonprofits, including Havas PR, Burson-Marsteller, BRUNNER, UPMC Health Plan, and the Pittsburgh Steelers, among others.

See the complete list of winners below:


B2B Campaign

Renaissance Awards

  • Top Hat, Will Work for Beer
  • Burson-Marsteller, Bank of America: Research, Relationships and Resources for Small Businesses
  • Pipitone Group, Guttman Energy Fleet Card Awareness Campaign

Award of Merit

  • Havas PR, Transitions Change Agents: Appealing to Younger Eyes

Digital Campaign

Renaissance Award

  • MarketSpace Communications, Pittsburgh International Airport: “We’ll get you there”
  • Top Hat, Will Work for Beer

Influencer Relations

Renaissance Award

  • Gatesman, Inc., Candace Cameron Bure / StarKist Influencer Program

Integrated Marketing Campaign

Renaissance Awards

  • BRUNNER, Make 90 Seconds Last a Month: The Story of the 84 Lumber Super Bowl Ad
  • Gatesman, Inc., Duquesne Light Company’s #PowerItForward Campaign

Awards of Merit

  • UPMC Health Plan, FY16-17 Individual Open Enrollment Integrated Marketing Campaign

Media Relations

Renaissance Awards

  • Havas PR, Curiosity Cube Sparks Scientific Curiosity Across the United States
  • Michael Baker International, Michael Baker International Media Relations Program
  • Havas PR, Survey Says: Parents View Kids’ Play Differently Among Generations
  • Havas PR, RESPECTAgZone: Protecting Indiana Township’s Thriving, Green Land
  • Top Hat, Will Work for Beer
  • WordWrite Communications, Steel City Rehab Debuts on HGTV
  • Burson-Marsteller, The Future is On: Leviton’s Tech Innovation Rebirth through Media Relations

Award of Merit

  • Burson-Marsteller, Fueling Education: CITGO Inspires Children to Become Lifelong Readers

New Products & Services Communications

Renaissance Awards

  • Top Hat, Will Work for Beer
  • Burson-Marsteller, Leviton Decora Smart: Making Every Home a Smart Home

Award of Merit

  • Garrison Hughes, Heinz History Center – WWII Campaign

Reputation Management

Renaissance Awards

  • Havas PR, Curiosity Cube Sparks Scientific Curiosity Across the United States
  • Top Hat, Will Work for Beer
  • Havas PR, Changing Perceptions: How National Vision is Encouraging Optometrists to Give Corporate Optometry a Second Chance
  • South Fayette Township, 175th Anniversary of South Fayette Township
  • BRUNNER, Make 90 Seconds Last a Month: The Story of the 84 Lumber Super Bowl Ad

Social Media Campaign

Renaissance Awards

  • Gatesman, Inc., #Charlie4Prez

Awards of Merit

  • Gatesman, Inc., S&T Bank Celebrates 115 Years of Relationship Banking
  • MarketSpace Communications, Children’s Community Pediatrics – “We like you, like us back”
  • UPMC Health Plan, This is What a Runner Looks Like
  • DDI | Development Dimensions International, DDI Social Media


Written Content

Renaissance Award

  • Michael Baker International, Michael Baker International Signature Magazine
  • Michael Baker International, Michael Baker International Social Media Management
  • BRUNNER, Innovation Labs
  • Havas PR, Sparking Online Conversation around Quality of Life

Awards of Merit

  • BRUNNER, Home Marketing Article Series
  • DDI | Development Dimensions International, It’s Not About Men vs. Women in the Workplace
  • Havas PR, Highlighting a YOUniverse of Bayer Innovation

Multimedia Content

Renaissance Awards

  • UPMC Health Plan, Screening with Meaning

Awards of Merit

  • BRUNNER, Lucky Leaf Recipe Videos
  • 321Blink, Zachary’s Mission – Sharing Heart Award
  • Havas PR, Clean Shades on National Sunglasses Day: Using Video Content to Educate and Entertain
  • Pittsburgh International Airport, Ready for Takeoff

Promotional Content

Award of Merit

  • BRUNNER, Atlanta Business Chronicle Promotional Content

Annual Report

Renaissance Award

  • MarketSpace Communications, Allegheny County Airport Authority – “Momentum” 2017 Annual Report


PRSA Rising Star Award

  • Breanna Stephens, Havas PR

PR Entrepreneur of the Year

  • Ben Butler, APR, Top Hat

PR Disruption Award

  • 84 Lumber

PRSA Member of the Year

  • Jordan Mitrik, BRUNNER

Communicator of the Year

  • Burt Lauten, Pittsburgh Steelers

Bob O’Gara Student Scholar

  • Maura Fenske, Waynesburg University

PRSSA Chapter of the Year

  • Waynesburg University PRSSA

Hall of Fame Award

  • Kelly Kimberland, APR, UPMC Health Plan

PR Team of the Year


Best in Show

  • Top Hat, Will Work for Beer

Leadership: Tactics December Issue Recap

By Bre Stephens

A good leader positively impacts not only an organization, but also employees — who are the driving force behind the company’s success. The December issue of Tactics helps others find their way as a leader with tips on cultivating innovative thinking, successfully managing teams, improving upon weak spots and learning tricks of the trade from other leaders.

Bright Ideas: Leadership That Encourages Innovative Thinkers

  • Brad MacAfee, CEO and senior partner at Porter Novelli, believes in creating an environment in which people at every level contribute to innovation. He outlines his six principles that drive organizational success.

In the Lead: 5 Ways to Master the Art of Team Management

  • Being a manager can be challenging, but it is also rewarding. Marissa Connelly, account supervisor at Litzky Public Relations, shares five tips that will help PR pros master the art of managing a team.

Southwest’s Linda Rutherford on Airline Industry Leadership

  • Linda Rutherford, senior vice president and CCO at Southwest Airlines, discusses her leadership style, what the PR industry is doing well and what it can improve upon in terms of leadership, and how Southwest (employees included) handled recent mishaps.

Closing the Gap: Plank Center Research on PR Leaders Shows Room for Improvement

  • According to a 2017 report card from the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations and Heyman Associates, overall leadership in PR is fairly average. Bruce K. Berger, Ph.D., professor emeritus of advertising and public relations at the University of Alabama (UA) and research director for the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations at UA, provides insight into scores for each category (leadership performance, job engagement, trust in the organization, work culture and job satisfaction) for this year’s report card, shares what needs attention and identifies steps for improving leadership in the years to come.

Leaders Learning From Leaders: Giving Back and Paying Forward

  • Elyse Hammett, APR, vice president of marketing and communications for the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, explains why sharing is the key to success and how PR leaders can learn from other leaders to create the ultimate impact.

Read the latest issue of Tactics here.


Bre is an account executive at Havas PR. Follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.