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

We Have Infinite Creative Opportunities to Solve Customer Experience Problems

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Home Improvement

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

Retail

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

Dining

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

Sports

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

Travel

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

Amusement Parks

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

Beauty/Fitness

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

Commercial Real Estate

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

Electronics

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

Education

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

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

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

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

Photo by Caroline Moore Photography

 

By Kristen Wishon
PRSA Pittsburgh Public Service Lead


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

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

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

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

Kelsey Waros, program manager for SWSG Pittsburgh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Photo by Alex Grubbs, PRSA Pittsburgh Multimedia Lead

New Diversity & Inclusion Chairs discuss visibility and impact that diverse voices can bring to Pittsburgh’s public relations industry

Photo by Alex Grubbs, Multimedia Lead

Compiled by Stacey Federoff
Web Content Manage
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We, as PRSA Pittsburgh, recognize that we must elevate the voices of those who are so often silenced, and tell the stories of the individuals who are so often undervalued. We are proud to stand by and support individuals of all races, genders, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations and abilities. Unfortunately, a lack of diversity continues to exist in our field. Your voices and stories are integral to changing the narrative and creating a future in which opportunities are equal.

In the last few months, after George Floyd was killed and Black Lives Matter protests took hold all over the world, we knew we couldn’t stay silent. We strove to give a platform to marginalized voices. We spoke about being an ‘only’ in Pittsburgh; we shared resources to help public relations professionals in Pittsburgh take the first step. We also recognized key campaigns during Pride and how to support LGBTQ+ people year-round.

Taylor Fife, PRSA Pittsburgh Diversity & Inclusion Co-Chair and Social Media Co-Chair

Megha Pai, PRSA Pittsburgh Diversity & Inclusion Co-Chair and Social Media Co-Chair

To ensure our chapter makes these efforts a priority long-term, we’re proud to announce the appointments of Taylor Fife and Megha Pai as our Diversity & Inclusion Co-Chairs. Both also serve as Social Media Co-Chairs on our board.

They both took the time to talk with PRSA Pittsburgh’s Communications Committee Chair Ashley Jones for our Screen To Screen series on Instagram Live. Here is a portion of that interview:

Q: How do you plan to help PRSA Pittsburgh promote diversity and inclusion in your new role as Diversity & Inclusion Co-Chair?

Taylor Fife: Implementing programs that promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace, specifically with events, panels and Q&As. Anything that we do, we want to show the diversity that exists, that’s out there — a diversity of age, career experience, race, sexual orientation, or any other unique identifier. We want to give diverse people a platform they might not get somewhere else. We want to be that support system for them that they may not be getting in their workplace. We also want to provide them with opportunities like a chance to be on our committee, maybe even a chance to be on the board or take the lead on a project.

I’m really excited about that because, especially when it comes to having diversity on panels with speakers, I know personally how satisfying and rewarding it feels to see someone who looks like you on a platform. It’s just an amazing feeling, so I would love to be able to give that to someone else through programming.

Megha Pai: I plan on promoting it mainly through social and on our blog, which is something we’ve been doing already. It’s been a great effort from the full board and the communications team, but I think really engaging people through education is the first step, then over time maybe we engage more of the membership so we get different perspectives like those of LGBTQIA+ members and people who are differently abled. People from underrepresented groups want to feel like their voices are heard in a professional way, but also overall, too. I’m a woman of color, but I don’t necessarily know the experiences of other people who are underrepresented. I feel it’s important to let their voices be heard — I’m still learning things, too.

Q: What are the biggest challenges that you see with diversity in our profession in Pittsburgh?

Taylor Fife: There’s not a lot of diverse voices at the table. There’s not a lot of diverse experiences. It’s a pipeline that is a larger societal issue. I mentioned it a little bit in my blog that I was in elementary school when I first kind of realized that I was different from the people around me, that I was the only person who looked like me.

It’s this pipeline — the systemic racism — that exists in all of our institutions in our educational system. I mentioned that I was the only Black woman to graduate from my major. If I’m the only black woman to graduate from my major, then I had this feeling that when I got to the workplace, I’d be the only Black woman again.

I think there definitely has to be more outreach, more mentorship, and — just like we were talking about — giving more people more platforms to speak. Because once you see someone else who looks like you, doing something like what we’re doing right now, it can impact somebody. Then they might say, well, I can do that. That’s how we get more and more people into our profession.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish as Diversity & Inclusion co-chair?

Taylor Fife: If I could just have the smallest impact, and it impacts somebody else, then it just keeps becoming like a chain reaction kind of thing; that’s honestly what I hope for.

Whenever I shared my blog, my father, he actually shared it out with his friends too. And they were all from Pittsburgh, and they’re all professionals, but they spoke about how they experienced the same exact things, and it caused them to leave Pittsburgh. They didn’t feel supported. I want to try to stop that pattern of people leaving because they don’t feel supported. If PRSA Pittsburgh can be a catalyst for change when it comes to that, that’s amazing.

Megha Pai: Like Taylor said, we want to make people feel included and make sure people see others like them in these positions. Because as someone who’s Indian-American, I’ve heard people stereotypically ask me why I haven’t chosen certain professions;  people would say, ‘Oh, why aren’t you a doctor, why aren’t you an engineer?’ But anyone can be anything; anyone can have any career. You don’t have to stick to other people’s expectations of your livelihood.

Q: How can co-workers be allies to help combat workplace challenges in terms of diversity and inclusion?

Megha Pai: Co-workers can be allies just by listening whenever people bring up a problem or an issue or an idea — they can really be that supportive resource. Coworkers can take steps to educate themselves, too, and then take action by helping co-workers who might have a harder time speaking up with their ideas, or getting promoted, or taking the next step in their careers. Just having that collaborative dynamic would be really helpful.

To hear more of the interview, including Taylor’s reflections on how employers can address systemic racism and microaggressions in the workplace by becoming anti-racist and anti-oppressive, check out PRSA Pittsburgh’s IGTV tab on our Instagram page.

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

Back of a man's head watching a train go by. Photo by Ashik Salim on Unsplash.

There are a lot of white guys in my head

By Dan Ayer
PRSA Pittsburgh Vice President
[Originally published by Oyster Creative Co. on Medium]

I read a lot. Watch even more movies. And have a scary ability to Shazam most songs in my head faster than the app.
I was lucky. I grew up with a bookcase directly above my pillow (safe sleep be damned). I would devour books when I couldn’t sleep. My parents had an insane record collection from the late ’60s and early ’70s that would be the envy of any audiophile. And movies? Like any thirty-something white male, my brain is 72 percent movie quotes.
That love of story and art led me to become an English major. But— plot twist — one that actually found a career using that degree.
However, that’s not the point of this article.

At Oyster Creativewe’re starting a series on Medium called “Pearls,” all about creative inspiration. Where it comes from, how to come up with ideas and how they come to life. The goal is to highlight people who inspire us with art, music, writing, film, and whatever else that drives us to be creative.
I’m director of PR and Content, and I drew first straw. So, I sat down to write my list of people I wanted to highlight.
And want to guess what they all had in common?
Y-chromosomes and a skin tone that lacks a lot of melanin.

My list made #OscarsSoWhite look like a United Nations Convention.
Listen, if you look at my bookshelf you’ll find Ta-Nehisi Coates, Damon Young, RBG and B.I.G. If you look at my Netflix watched list you’ll see Chappelle, #blackaf and a shocking amount of Nora Ephron films.
It’s not that I don’t expose myself to art created by women, Black, Latino, Asian, and LGBTQIA artists, it’s that occasionally my comforts too often take me back to an Apatow movie, Bill Simmons podcast or Ben Folds album.
Are those guys not deserving of praise? Do they not inspire me to create?
Absolutely not. But as a creative, it’s my job to develop voices and messages that bring brands and stories to life.
And honestly, I can do better.

That starts with exposing myself to more work by people who don’t look, talk or think like me.
So, I’m making a goal. For every piece of content, art or music I consume created by a white dude, I’m going to make sure that I continue to make an effort to include just as much content created by people of color, women and members of the LGBTQIA community.
I don’t think it will be a problem. I’ve never turned down a good book or binge.
And as someone who’s always loved a good story, I can’t to wait to see what’s on the next page.

Oyster Creative Co. is a full-service advertising and marketing agency. The best way to shuck an oyster is to come at it from every angle. And that’s how we approach marketing. We find the right way to attack your individual challenge. Visit PRSA Pittsburgh’s jobs page to consider joining the team as a public relations and social media specialist.

I Graduated, What Now? A Pandemic-Era Guide for the Class of 2020

By Nicole Tobias
2020 Bob O’Gara Scholarship winner

 

To the Class of 2020: Congratulations, we’ve made it! 

We have worked incredibly hard to make it to this monumental moment in our lives. Coincidentally, another monumental moment in our lives is happening. No one could have predicted that a global pandemic would happen and disrupt so many lives and events, including the remainder of our senior year, graduation and job search. Many of us were looking forward to jumping right into the workforce. Now we are all at home, probably dressed in some form of leisurewear with hair that has not been washed in three days, reevaluating our futures.
So, what now? While it may seem challenging to thrive during a global pandemic, there are still ways to better yourself during this time.

Take a Break

While it is important to continue to work and not entirely clock out of life, it is also equally important to take days to yourself and rest. Take advantage of this time to catch up on all the rest you lost during the school year. Binge watch an entire series on Netflix. Learn how to cook that recipe you have always wanted to make. Do whatever it takes to help you rest, relax and reenergize because once we have the opportunity to go back to work, you are going to do a major disservice to yourself and your employer if you are already run down and exhausted.

Continue Professional Development

There are a plethora of resources available to help us all continue professional development.

  • Many classes and certifications are available for free online and can give you the opportunity to understand a subject better and add another skill to your skillset. 
  • Get involved with your PRSA Chapter to see what they are doing during this time and engage with whatever content they are producing. 
  • Join webinars pertaining to our field; most of them are free! 
  • Reading case studies and actively looking at what brands are doing during this crisis can help expand your mind and think of how you and your future employer may respond to a situation like this. 
  • Above all, network, network, network! Catch up with PRSSA friends you haven’t talked to in a while. Make the effort to make new connections in your PRSA Chapter. Ask your mentors and or advisors if they would want to catch up with you and video chat. Everyone is here to support each other now more than ever, so never be afraid to reach out!

Update Your Materials

Maybe within this last year you have produced some quality pieces that would make wonderful additions to your portfolio. Maybe you don’t have any form of portfolio to show potential employers. Now is the time to either create or revamp your portfolio. The same can apply to your resume. Go back and update your resume with any new skills/certifications you have earned during this time as well as updating your status at school and with any on-campus jobs or organization positions you may have had. Updating your portfolio and resume can be a lengthy process, especially if you have not maintained it for some amount of time. However, it will make your life so much simpler when hiring freezes are lifted and the job opportunities arise; you will already be prepared instead of scrambling to put things together.

Accept Whatever Happens

The reality of this situation is, no one knows exactly what our new normal will look like. Many of us are also going to be unemployed for an extended amount of time; probably longer than we would like. Life is incredibly unpredictable, and sometimes not everything is going to happen the way we expect. Even though life throws those inevitable punches, it is important to roll with them as best as we can. Adaptability is key. We’re often going to find ourselves in challenging predicaments that make us uncomfortable, but even those uncomfortable and challenging moments can produce major growth. Do your best to accept and adapt to what situations come your way, and you are sure to see growth that will better you in the long run.

Nicole Tobias is a recent graduate from Waynesburg University where she studied Public Relations and Marketing. Nicole was also the recipient of the Bob O’Gara Scholarship at the 2020 PRSA Pittsburgh Renaissance Awards.

 

Sustaining the Rainbow: Ensuring We’re Perpetuating Pride and Everything it Stands for Long After June

By Ashley Jones
Communications Chair

Marsha P. Johnson. Gilbert Baker. Peter Tatchell. Audre Lord. Bayard Rustin.

These are only a few names among the thousands of LGBTQ+ individuals and allies who have fought against the discrimination, belittlement, ignorance and hatred against the LGBTQ+ community. Without their contributions, Pride wouldn’t be what it is today, and the world would be a little less colorful. Less diverse. Less loving. 

For the LGBTQ+ community, June marks an incredibly important time. It’s a time to promote self-affirmation, acceptance, visibility, equality and more. It’s a time to break down constructs and stigma. It commemorates the revolutionary Stonewall Riots that led to an urgency for change, that made the following recent milestones possible: 

Despite the curveballs 2020 tossed at the world, Pride continued to thrive this year, albeit virtually. Today, our voices are more powerful than ever. We’ve been given digital platforms with which we can take control of the narrative, share our stories and lend our support. During the month of June, some of the biggest, most notable brands in the world use their platforms to share messages of unity and support to their massive followings and loyalists. The support of brands like Disney or Skittles can’t be understated or undervalued. 

We in advertising, branding, marketing and related fields are responsible for the portrayal of what is considered the “norm” or “acceptable.” When brands step forward to promote the rainbow and donate financial aid to organizations that work to keep the LGBTQ+ community safe — not only during June, but year-round — that’s how love wins.

Here are some of the loud and proud 2020 Pride campaigns:

Calvin Klein – #PROUDINMYCALVINS

  • Calvin Klein’s Pride campaign featured nine LGBTQ models, spearheaded by Jari Jones, a plus-size Black transgender model, actress and activist. In addition to a multi-color designed line for men and women, Calvin Klein’s campaign collected donations in support of the onePULSE Foundation, a non-profit organization established by the owner of the Pulse nightclub following the devastating June 12, 2016 shooting in Orlando, Florida.

Skittles – Only #OneRainbow Matters

  • To celebrate Pride, Skittles removed their own rainbow to stand in solidarity and demonstrate support for the LGBTQ community. While the brand has launched this campaign previously, this marked the first year they brought the gray “Pride Pack” to the U.S. As part of the launch, Skittles partnered with LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD, with $1 donated to the group for each sale of a “Pride Pack,” up to $100,000. 

BMW – Driven by Pride

  • BMW USA’s 2020 Pride campaign, “Driven By Pride,” featured extremely colorful BMW 8 Series Convertibles with a Pride version of the BMW logo proudly stamped on the hoods. The brand’s campaign also included communications across their social channels, participation in a special broadcast event by NYC Pride, and support of the “Pride Everywhere” campaign by The Trevor Project, which is the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ youth.

Kiehl’s – #HealthySkin For All

  • As a go-to brand for skincare, Kiehl’s used their platform to emphasize inclusivity by celebrating the diversity among their customers, community and employees with their #HealthySkinForAll campaign. The brand also donated $100,000 in a partnership with The Trevor Project and called on the talents of Lucy Kirk, a UK-based LGBTQ illustrator to design the Pride page of their website.

Disney – Rainbow Disney Collection

  • The Mickey Mouse powerhouse debuted a new Rainbow Disney Collection in recognition of Pride 2020, complete with clothing, stuffed animals, toys, keychains, bookbags and other memorabilia. In addition to the colorful ensemble, Disney also donated $100,000 to GLSEN, a leading education organization working to create safe and inclusive K-12 schools for LGBTQ students.

Bliss – Self-Care for a Cause

  • This year, Bliss began an ongoing partnership with The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ youth. The skincare brand pledged $150,000 to the organization and, in celebration of Pride month, donated 100% of net proceeds (up to $40,000) from joint sales of Limited Edition Pride Makeup Melt™ Wipes – as well as classic Makeup Melt™ Wipes – to support The Trevor Project’s efforts. This partnership worked specifically to support suicide and mental health resources like Trevor’s Lifeline hotline, peer support community TrevorSpace, trained crisis service counselors, and more — which are all being relied on in increased amounts during COVID-19. 

Bombas – Love. Compassion. Comfort.

  • Bombas celebrated Pride with the launch of a new collection celebrating the bright, diverse LGBTQ+ community. For every pair of socks sold, a pair was donated to someone in need in the LGBTQ+ community through The Ally Coalition.

The ongoing support of organizations providing resources to the LGBTQ+ community is imperative to the well-being, protection and advocacy of these individuals — who continue to be marginalized. Learn more and lend your support year-round with these local resources and national organizations.

Black Lives Matter written on cardboard sign raised at a protest

Take the first step: Let’s all do our part to make public relations and Pittsburgh more diverse

Support Black-owned businesses, creatives and more with this resource list

 

By the PRSA Pittsburgh board of directors

 

As members of PRSA Pittsburgh, we understand that there is a lot of work to be done when it comes to racial equality in our fair city and in western Pennsylvania.

If you haven’t already — and you certainly should — read board member Taylor Fife’s personal reflections on what it’s like to be a person of color in the professional world in Pittsburgh, let us reiterate: The city’s own Gender Equity Commission found that Pittsburgh is the worst city for Black women to live in, according to Bloomberg’s CityLab

As an organization, we want to be a part of the community that is welcoming, encouraging and helps drive change. So in that spirit, we have compiled a list of resources that we hope can help inform decisions from where to donate and what local businesses to support, to how to hire more people of color and include more people of color in leadership roles.

Take the first step by using these resources at the start of every project, and help us make not only Pittsburgh, but public relations as a whole more inclusive and equal.

Our hope is that someday soon, people of color won’t have to feel like they’re the “Only” anymore. And we want to keep growing this list — until we don’t need it anymore! So please email us at info@prsa-pgh.org or contact us via social media or here on our website.

The best way to be an ally is to stay educated, connected and informed. We’ve provided below resources to help our members stay involved, including ways to donate, sign petitions and network and put that knowledge into action:

Where to donate to Black Lives Matter and related causes

Black businesses you can support right here in Pittsburgh

Tips on how to find and hire Black people for leadership positions

Public relations organizations and resources for Black professionals

Public relations resources and communities led by Black women

 

 

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  • Before You Hit Send by Enoma Owens, “encouraging PR pros and media mavens to stay one step ahead before hitting send” on a pitch/email to a reporter

 

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Black-owned or -led public relations businesses and Black PR leaders in Pittsburgh

Black-owned and -led media for media relations

Black creative professionals

Please email us at info@prsa-pgh.org or contact us via social media or here on our website to add or be added to this list.

Pittsburgh skyline photo by PRSA board member Alex Grubbs

Are you an ‘Only’ in Pittsburgh? Good, let’s elevate our stories together 

On this 155th anniversary of Juneteenth, we commemorate the ending of slavery in the United States as of June 19, 1865. It is also a time to reflect on the work still needed to be done to address the lasting consequences of systemic racism.


By Taylor Fife

Social Media Co-Chair
[Originally published at TaylorFifeMarketing.com]

 

“That matters?”

A professor once asked me this after I pitched an op-ed on the importance of the New Pittsburgh Courier to Black journalists and communicators. 

I wasn’t surprised at all by the question because for nearly all my life I’ve been an ‘Only.’

I was given the designation in elementary school and I’ve upheld the position ever since. I’ve become very familiar with those kinds of questions, and I knew they were saved specially for people like me. 

The answer to my professor’s question simply lied in the lack of diversity in the room.

I was the only Black person, and I’d be the only Black woman to receive a broadcast reporting degree that year. 

That meant that I was the only one who truly understood (and feared) how immensely difficult it would be to become a Black communicator in a city, let alone a country, that actively works to silence voices like my own.

I’d have to work ten times harder than others ever would because of the color of my skin – and I’d have to do it alone. 

‘Onlys’ are in need of support because we aren’t finding it in our universities or workplaces.

We need to know there are organizations out there like the New Pittsburgh Courier that amplify Black voices and experiences, and have long recognized that they mattered. 

What it Means To Be An ‘Only’

According to “Women in the Workplace,” a study conducted in 2019 by McKinsey & Company, the impact of being an ‘Only’ is a phenomenon affecting 20% of all women and twice that for women of color where they feel uniquely alone in the workplace. They are more likely to experience racial discrimination and microaggressions.  These include comments or actions that dismiss or downplay their experience. 

As an ‘Only,’ you learn to navigate your workplace with hesitancy because you are outnumbered. 

We perform a daring balancing act of staying true to our own identity while prioritizing the comfort of our white counterparts — it’s called the art of being Black in white spaces

We become agreeable and assimilate to white expectations of appearance and conduct.

We avoid coming off as “too black.” We code-switch. We straighten our hair every day. 

Personally, I’ve learned to always keep my voice low and calm so as to avoid being labeled as the ‘Angry Black Woman.’

‘Onlys’ experience explicit but almost always covert racism — the subtle innuendos and backhanded compliments that are wrapped in pretty bows. 

Like when I receive the most shocked faces when people find out I’m the one behind my company’s blog and social media accounts as if it’s humanly impossible for a Black person to do such a thing: “Wow, you have such a way with words. You’re so articulate, too.”

I’ve been interviewed although I already had the job, facing relentless questioning from white colleagues about my new initiatives. I’ve recited my resume too many times to count to prove my competence and capability, but the same was not required for them because management “trusted” them.

Just last year, Pittsburgh was labeled the worst city in America for Black people by local writer Damon Young and the worst city for Black women to live in by the city’s Gender Equity Commission so it’s not surprising that the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey  found that Black people are rapidly leaving the city.

The Problems Of Being An ‘Only’ 

It’s not surprising why I’m an ‘Only.’ 

In the workplace, my singularity often puts me under scrutiny as a representative of the Black community. It’s actually one of the biggest tasks of being an ‘Only.’ You become the token Black person, the go-to for any and all questions pertaining to the Black experience because your employers and colleagues believe just your answers alone are enough to paint the picture.

But now is the time this changes.

Countless stories, unique perspectives and brilliant ideas are going unheard, more often ignored. 

Contrary to popular belief, no two Black people are the same. We each have different lived experiences and insights to offer and they all are valuable, and we deserve to share them. Our uniqueness unlocks innovation.

Between the COVID-19 pandemic and the killings of Rayshard Brooks, George Floyd and many other Black people by the hands of police, Black employees are suffering. 

We have concerns for our personal safety both inside and outside the workplace. We are filled with anxiety and grief. We are traumatized. And if an employer truly cares about their employees, the care shouldn’t stop at skin color.

Us ‘Onlys’ come in to work every day with a tremendous amount of pain — and on top of that we tolerate racism and discrimination and microaggressions.  No one would ever know, though, since we do it all with smiles on our faces — because there is no one around us who truly understands why we’re upset in the first place. 

It’s Time To Take Action

Employers need to become anti-racist and anti-oppressive.

It’s time to prioritize the marginalized.

We need more than just statements against racism, digital black boxes and donations. We need policy and procedural changes — because Black representation everywhere should’ve always been a requirement.

We need to create safe workplaces where every employee of color feels comfortable, supported and able to thrive and succeed.

Black storytellers are valuable, and our voices have the power to fundamentally deconstruct the way things are. 

That’s why I’m using my platform to inform and inspire other similarly situated BIPOCs of the PRSA Pittsburgh community to share their experiences as professionals. 

I hope that by elevating our stories, people in power will have to start to make the changes necessary to eradicate systemic racism. 

So, if you’re an ‘Only’ like myself, I’m excited to meet you and I’ve been looking for you. 

Now flood the comments.

How to Navigate the Job Search During COVID-19 Times

Insights from our recent virtual event included resume and networking tips from people who lost or left jobs during the pandemic, then used these helpful tactics to find new ones.

By Deanna Tomaselli
Young Professionals Co-Chair

Searching for a new job is no easy task, let alone during global pandemic. But hiring is happening. And people right here in Pittsburgh are landing new jobs, or even shifting their career paths. We spoke to a few of them at the recent virtual PRSA Pittsburgh panel, “Navigating the Job Search During COVID-19 Times.” Here are their top takeaways.

The panelists:

Alex’s Insights: Be patient

Alex brought a helpful HR perspective to the mix. She stressed that right now, things may take a bit longer and start dates are getting pushed back, so job-seekers should stay patient. In regard to the tricky subject of salary negation for new professionals, Alex says to do your research. While numbers may be inflated on job searching sites, understand the incomes of someone in your area at your level. You can most definitely negotiate! Even if it’s not for something like salary, don’t discount negotiating for something like commuter benefits or more vacation days. And if you want more, have a reason – and data points – to back it up.

Marina’s Insights: Stand out from the crowd

Marina has been through a roller coaster over the last few months. She, unfortunately, lost her job in March due to the pandemic. But, she immediately reached out to her mentor and got to work. She treated job searching as its own full-time job, spending lots of time researching companies in Pittsburgh, and carefully targeting each cover letter to the position she was applying for. Her mentor also suggested she make her resume as succinct and to the point as possible – and all on one page. She also added some of her personality by adding “Professional Walker of Cats” in the description of herself! Needless to say, it caught the attention of her soon-to-be employer. Here’s how she transformed her resume and landed her next dream job: Tapping into her network (and expanding it) while being honest and true to herself helped.

More on resumes

Our HR guru Alex also added that quantifying your accomplishments are very key when it comes to resumes. She also suggested looking at the description of the job you are applying for, then using those keywords in your own resume. Also, apply as early as possible! Set up alerts on LinkedIn, Indeed, and other job-hunting platforms, so that when a job pops up, you get notified right away. Be detailed and show examples of your work and how they apply to the job. And if you are just starting out or changing careers, be creative and show how that applies. For example, if you only have waitressing experience, that’s client service, right?

Chris’ Insights: Make yourself a thought leader

Throughout the panel, LinkedIn stood out as an essential platform for virtual networking and job searching. Everyone agreed that having a solid profile of work history, a description of yourself and your skills, plus a nice cover photo and headshot work well. And that sliding into DMs of recruiters and contacts can help jumpstart conversations. But Chris also said to take it a step further by posting about the companies you want to work for (or the people you want to work with). A super fan of Stitch Fix, Chris often tags them in posts highlighting recent news or thoughts he has on the brand. And a recent post he wrote on Giant Eagle garnered him 12,000 views after just one post! More engagement means more visibility. Think of LinkedIn like an ongoing cover letter to the world.

Jannah’s Insights: Get comfortable being uncomfortable

Speaking of Giant Eagle, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard about them week after week since March, as the grocery industry has been completely flipped on its head. Her company had to rethink how they did pretty much everything – from conducting media interviews on Zoom, constant communication to the workforce, pivoting how people shop and more. This “forced innovation” as Jannah called it has allowed them to tap into the expertise of their employees, and the ones who are acting quickly and efficiently are standing out from the crowd. Something job seekers can do, too. Showing you are proactive and a team player can go a long way.

Emma’s Insights: Tap into your creative intuition

Emma has been in the education field for a few years, and always thought she was going to become a teacher. But once she launched a side hustle selling soap, she ended up falling in love with marketing the product. Creating content and imagery was so much more appealing to her, so she decided to go back to school for marketing. She made some quick tweaks to her resume – including adding a description at the top talking about her career change, and putting in some real writing examples from past blog posts she’s done – and ended up landing a virtual internship this summer. Emma took her passion, and made it happen.

Job searching and day-to-day business operations are forever changed due to COVID-19. But this pandemic has opened up more opportunities where virtual connections are happening, and people are landing more virtual work than ever before.

Continue the discussion in our Young Professionals Facebook Group.

Consider a crisis as a learning opportunity, not an inconvenience

Senior PR manager at Philips reflects on how ventilator demand during COVID-19 shifted the company’s strategy – and what others can take away from it

 

By Stacey Federoff
Web Content Manager

 

On Thursday, May 28, PRSA Pittsburgh hosted “Agility in the Age of COVID-19”, an informal virtual discussion with Meredith Amoroso, a senior manager of public relations in Philips Global Press Office and former PRSA Pittsburgh Chapter President. Led by Andrew Conte, director of the Point Park Center for Media Innovation, the two dove into crisis communications learnings influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amoroso saw first-hand how the demand for ventilators during the COVID-19 pandemic had taken a toll on employees at Philips Sleep and Respiratory Care.

“I was emotional on a number of occasions, meeting these people who you could tell were just exhausted, but didn’t care. They wanted to be there, they wanted to do the work,” she said. “They said, ‘I’m just glad to be here, I’m glad I can do my part.’ ”

Philips’ Pittsburgh connection

Originally founded as Respironics – the first to develop a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine for the treatment of sleep apnea, Philips Sleep and Respiratory Care has since 2009 been a Murrysville-based arm of the health technology company headquartered in The Netherlands.

In January, the company, which focuses on health technology, saw the demand for ventilators begin to rise as cases of COVID-19 rose in China, and with it the company’s production rose too, Amoroso said. The communications team began an initial strategy, well before early March as coronavirus cases hit the United States.

“How can we be very transparent and communicate what we’re doing to meet the evolving needs all over the world of these pieces of medical equipment?” is what the team focused on, she said.

When coronavirus hit

First, with offices and manufacturing facilities in China, the company focused on internal communications to keep “business continuity while keeping our employees and our customers really safe.” This included emphasizing social media and media protocols, in case anyone was approached by journalists, to balance employees’ pride in their work with safety in high-risk situations like hospitals treating COVID-19 patients.

For external communications, “it’s extremely difficult to prepare for the complete unknown,” instead Amoroso said she and the team had a clear understanding of what steps the company was taking, thanks in part to access to the highest executive leadership at the company.

“Our teams worked day and night to innovate and develop an emergency-use ventilator,” she said. “Something that usually takes years and years of ideation and conceptualization and production, we were able to create something in just a matter of weeks that still met all the stringent medical standards. We wanted to tell that story, we wanted to talk about how … the  employees at Philips came together to create something that could fill an existing gap in accessibility to ventilators worldwide.”

Remain agile

This pandemic has caused a shift in thinking, so it has altered communications strategies as well – and not only how people themselves are experiencing it, but also how journalists are covering it, and how PR pros should describe their businesses to people. “We just have to remain agile and change the way we’re talking about [things].” 

Particular to her industry, Amoroso said the cancellation of trade shows meant thinking about how to build relationships differently, where otherwise she would be pitching and sending press releases to journalists. Now she’s sending “tickler” emails and making phone calls – maybe to say hello and reference something posted on LinkedIn – just to touch base with press because she doesn’t get to have those one-on-one interactions. 

Here are other takeaways that Amoroso shared during the event for communicators in a crisis:

  • Find ways to create a team. Even as the only PR person at a small company, you can make a difference during a crisis by bouncing ideas off people in different departments. But be sure to assert yourself to ask the right questions and make recommendations that you feel are the right call.
  • Use background for interviews, like holding statements and briefing documents, to help guide executives during a crisis. This will help them understand each journalist and their background, Amoroso said, even if it’s only LinkedIn or MuckRack profiles with past stories.
  • When you don’t know an answer, be transparent and remain in communication with who’s asking it. “Communicate, let them know we’re here for them,” she said. Be aware of journalists’ deadlines.
  • “Don’t always think you know what you’re doing” and “be willing to learn,” she said. Take a crisis as a learning opportunity, not an inconvenience. “You can’t prepare for the impossible, but know your product or your business very well.” So when a reporter asks, you can “respond at a high level and make them feel heard” allowing the company to be a part of the conversation.
  • During a crisis, “you have to find things that make you proud of the company you represent and make you proud of the position that you’re in,” she said. Sometimes that means considering strategies that change the prevailing narrative.
  • Balance telling the business side of the story with the human side of the story: “We were able to pull that together and tell some human interest stories that I think honestly have been some of the most popular pieces of content that we put out there so far.”

For more insights, such as how she and her team faced a challenge, watch a recording of the event below and on our YouTube page.

Read about our follow-up event: Navigating the Job Search During COVID-19 Times

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