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

By Alexis Wary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Honoring Black History Month and Beyond: A Campaign Roundup

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

by Taylor Fife
D&I Chair

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

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

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

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

Ulta Beauty’s MUSE 

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

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

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

— Bre Zboran

Hulu’s Celebrate Black Stories

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

— Megha Pai

Ben & Jerry’s Black History Month Campaigns and Initiatives

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

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

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

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

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

— Alex Grubbs

Best Buy & Popsockets Partnership

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

— Taylor Fife

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

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

— Charlene Payne 

KABOOM!’s Black History Month Campaigns and Initiatives 

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

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

— Kariann Mano

The Rainforest Action Network’s Black History Month Campaign

 

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

— Kariann Mano

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

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

Cultivating an accessible, diverse and inclusive PR community

by Bre Zboran
D&I Committee Member

 

The lack of diversity in the PR industry is staggering. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women hold over 72.8% of PR management jobs, but only 10.7% of those roles are held by Black women and 3.1% are held by both Asian and Hispanic/Latino women.

Resources like PR Girl Manifesto—an inclusive community of over 40,000 PR professionals—can make a difference by empowering emerging and current PR pros to use their abilities to transform the industry, change the narrative and create a future of equitable and inclusive opportunities for all women.

Taylor Fife, PRSA Pittsburgh’s diversity & inclusion chair, had an inspiring conversation with brand strategist and founder of PR Girl Manifesto and AB MEDIA GROUP, Fatou Barry. During “Empowering Tomorrow’s PR Leaders: PR Girl Manifesto Joins PRSA Pittsburgh for Black History Month,” Barry spoke about her experience as a young Black woman in PR, how brands and employees can foster a diverse and inclusive community, the importance of self-care, and actionable advice for aspiring PR professionals.

 

Recognizing the power of community

For Barry, post-grad wasn’t as easy and linear as people made it seem. She felt unprepared, that there weren’t enough resources, and that she was both learning and working at the same time. Realizing that she wasn’t alone, Barry created PR Girl Manifesto as an accessible, community-centered platform that provides an equal foundation for learning and growing.

“We work to eliminate barriers of entry instead of creating them,” said Barry. 

PR Girl Manifesto also caters to those who might not have a linear path in the industry. 

“PR and communications can make you feel like you have to follow a certain trajectory to be successful. We recognize that that’s not the case at all,” said Barry. “People are coming from other industries and wanting to find a career in PR. They’re individuals who might not even have had the opportunity to go to a two-year, let alone a four-year college, to learn all of these things.”

Navigating the PR industry as a young Black woman

When Barry graduated college in 2014, there was pushback to young and innovative ideas. The industry leaned toward traditional PR, and it wasn’t as acceptable to be a multifaceted PR professional. On top of those challenges, she also felt like she had to overcompensate to be respected. 

“I was experiencing a lot of ageism as a young Black woman in this industry where my ideas were second-guessed,” said Barry. “I always had to prove myself or always had to give 200% to prove that I was providing value.” 

This experience influenced how Barry navigates the PR Girl Manifesto community as she works to break down the barriers of what a traditional PR pro looks like.

“I wanted to prove to myself and to others that you didn’t need to look a certain way, that you didn’t need to behave or value certain things to be successful in the industry, and that you can really do things your own way,” said Barry. 

Implementing D&I practices during Black History Month and beyond

There’s not a one-size-fits-all D&I approach for brands, but for the ones ready to take it seriously, initiatives have to start at the company’s foundation. 

While people are quick to post Black History Month content or make comments on racial inequity, it’s important to first ask the following the questions:

  • Are you pulling from a diverse pool of candidates when hiring? 
  • Do you make an effort to utilize diverse vendors? 
  • Do you value the diverse voices in your company? 
  • Does this reflect where the company stands internally?

“For brands who are looking to foster diverse and inclusive communities, it has to be a goal,” urged Barry. “It has to be ingrained in the bottom line—that at the end of the day, this is something that’s important to us and that reflects itself in everything that we do.” 

To help hold companies accountable, employees should keep track of everything upper management has said—or hasn’t said—about their commitment to D&I. Benchmark the things that you feel are lacking, and be upfront about it. 

“Allyship is great, but we want you to be an accomplice,” said Barry. “Being an ally is ‘I empathize with you.’ Being an accomplice means ‘I’m committed to doing this work with you.’

Prioritizing self-care in PR

As PR pros, we’re expected to be always on and connected—going above and beyond for our jobs and clients. Yet, many people don’t talk about the toll this takes on our mental health. Barry once wore her exhaustion, stress and anxiety as a badge of honor because she felt it meant that she was a hard worker. Now, she’s using her platform to actively dispel this narrative. 

“You deserve to rest. You deserve to be happy. You deserve to feel like you have a life outside of your work,” said Barry. “For us, it’s so important to get that type of content out there because we know that a lot of people aren’t hearing that anywhere else.”

Her biggest self-care tip? Set boundaries. This could mean not checking your email between certain hours of the day or not taking calls before or after a designated time. It’s important to communicate these boundaries to others so they understand how best to interact and engage with you. 

Sharing advice for young women and women of color in PR

  1. You deserve to be here “Not believing that you deserve to be somewhere will keep you stuck, will keep you playing small. When you get an opportunity, do not second-guess it. You’re getting the opportunity because you deserve it and you’ve shown you deserve it,” said Barry. Young women and people of color often feel like they continually have to pay their dues even long after they’re paid, and that there’s always another level they need to reach. However, Barry shares an important reminder: “You cannot let people who are committed to making you second-guess yourself be the barometer for how you view what you’re doing and your work.”
  2. Follow as many industry publications, podcasts and platforms as possible. This not only includes PRWeek, Cision and PR Daily, but also other platforms such as Before You Hit Send and Publicist.co. Ingrain yourself in the industry as much as possible.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask PR pros for help. Barry is passionate about breaking down the narrative that PR pros don’t engage with or can’t help each other. “We’re a community, we’re a network,” she said. “I think we need to lean into that.”
  4. If you want to create your own agency, work at an agency first. This experience and knowledge will help you figure out the best systems of procedure, how to handle certain situations and how to structure things in a sustainable way.

Taking action

One of the most important takeaways is that if you see something, or if it feels uncomfortable or wrong, call it out. 

“Even if I don’t verbally say something, if you know that it’s affecting me, if you see me making myself small because of something that I’ve experienced or something that clearly showed inequity, that’s your moment to stand in the gap,” said Barry. 

As communicators, we also face an added responsibility when it comes to speaking up. 

“We know what it looks like to communicate, we know how powerful communication is—so why would we ever be the ones to stay silent, when we know the power of stories, words and language?” asked Barry. 

Additionally, it’s important to commit to understanding for the long term, especially since racial inequity doesn’t always look the same in every circumstance. 

Check out the inclusive and empowering PR Girl Manifesto community on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Oatly, Jeep, Toyota: What was your favorite Super Bowl ad?

PRSA Pittsburgh board members share their takes in a year filled with recurring themes.

By Stacey Federoff
Web Content Co-Chair

 

In an unusual year with some big-name brands sitting out the Big Game, the ones who chose to run spots during Super Bowl LV on Sunday night gave viewers plenty to talk about.

Thirty seconds of airtime went for up to $5.5 million this year to reach up to 100 million viewers, according to Wall Street Journal.

Most commercials featured celebrities with themes either heavily reliant on comedy and escapism or hopefulness and inspiration.

Just like last year, PRSA Pittsburgh board members weighed in on the commercials they thought stood out from the rest:

Uber Eats’  “Wayne’s World”

We saw A LOT of nostalgic content in the commercials this year. Nostalgia takes us back to memories that make us happy. As soon as I heard the Wayne’s World intro, I immediately got excited and was thrown back to memories of first watching Wayne’s World bits. Hopefully their eat local CTA is seriously helping local restaurants all around the country.

— Nicole Tobias, Renaissance Awards Co-Chair

Toyota’s Upstream

My favorite Super Bowl ad was Toyota’s spot featuring American Paralympic swimmer Jessica Long. I personally love emotional and wholesome ads, and Toyota’s was among my favorite of all time. The ad tugged at the heartstrings while simultaneously promoting their brand’s values of hope and strength. I also loved how the ad showed the importance of adoption and accepting and valuing a person’s differences.

— Taylor Fife, Diversity and Inclusion Chair


DoorDash’s The Neighborhood

There wasn’t a clear #brandbowl winner last night. There were several that rose above a generally weak crop of ads this year though. I thought Toyota’s Upstream was really well-done, and drove a ton of interest in Jessica Long and Toyota’s Olympic sponsorship. DoorDash’s The Neighborhood was the biggest hit of the night with my kids (“It’s Lafayette!!!”) and it really stood out compared to what UberEats did.

Anheuser-Busch’s “Let’s Grab a Beer” was the best spot to embrace the craziness of the last year, easily beating Cabela’s and Jeep. WeatherTech stayed true to their “Made in America” ad roots and it continued to resonate well here. Fiverr, eTrade, Amazon, and T-Mobile had the funniest spots of the night. Reddit created the most buzz with their five-second ad. And even though it wasn’t an official Super Bowl spot because it aired before the game, I really loved Proctor & Gamble’s #CloseTheChoreGap spot.

T-Mobile’s Rockstar

I’ll go with DoorDash’s The Neighborhood and T-Mobile’s Rockstar as my two favorite of the night because both felt big enough for the biggest stage, both told me something about their actual product and both were funny enough that they drove second screen searching/viewing. Rocket Mortgage’s two ads took the top two spots  on USA Today’s AdMeter which is more an indictment on the quality of the AdMeter than on the Rocket Mortgage ads. On the other end of the spectrum, we can all agree with the AdMeter that Oatly did indeed finish last.

— Steve Radick, Sponsorship Lead

 

Oatly’s Wow No Cow

But did Oatly really finish last? The ad was cringeworthy but the “Wow! No Cow!” tune sung off-key by the CEO certainly caught people’s attention. A t-shirt that proclaimed “I totally hated that commercial” sold out on their website in less than five minutes after the commercial aired, so people were paying attention.  If the purpose of their advertising was to create awareness and drive people to their site, then perhaps this odd ad was more genius than meets the eye. I don’t think it is any more out there than some of the odd, funny ads we have seen in the past (Can you say frogs chanting “Bud-wei-ser”?). It will be interesting to see how Oatly’s sales fare after this crazy and weird advertising stunt.

— Camille Downing, Student Liaison

 

Jeep’s The Middle

We saw an excellent bundle of ads calling for peace, unity, and United States empowerment from big brands like WeatherTech floor liners and Jeep — my favorite of the two.

Other than comedy gold from Will Farrel (General Motors), Amy Schumer (Hellmann’s mayo), and Tracy Morgan (Rocket Mortgage), there were just too many failed ads.

My honorable mentions go to Mountain Dew and E-Trade. John Cena starred in a flamboyant, straight-to-the-point ad with the kind of tropes that made me remember paradise for just a moment. It was an eye-catching contest promotion with a simple call to action — count how many bottles of Mountain Dew fell out of the trunk and enter to win on Twitter.
As for the E-Trade commercial, did anyone else relate to the boy in his garage bulking up? I sure did.
— Josh Porterfield, Graphic Design Lead

State Farm’s Drake from State Farm

My top 3 were Reddit for the creativity, State Farm for the hilarity of the guest cameos (you can never go wrong with Paul Rudd and Drake from State Farm made me laugh out loud!) and I am in the minority here, but Oatly for the weirdness that got everyone talking. It was clever to me to advertise oak milk surrounding your “typical” Super Bowl staples — beer, chips, etc. And that goofy song and low budget look was memorable, and that to me worked.

— Deanna Tomaselli, Young Professionals Co-Chair

 

Paramount+’s Expedition

I liked the Oatly ad! One of the only spots I enjoyed this year, to be honest. It gave the CEO personality, makes you want to like the company, and for someone who doesn’t drink regular cow milk, it felt on brand. People are still talking about it, which is great!

The celebrities in plenty of commercials really dulled the content for me because I viewed it as they were there to get that quick pandemic dollar! Not judging, but it felt that way. Maybe it’s just cause we’re in this specific environment right now. But I will say Paramount+ felt more realistic with the celebrities than the rest. And the Millennial in me got hype at the Jersey Shore reference.

Oh and shoutout to H.E.R. for her rendition of America The Beautiful. That guitar solo was killer. She’s half-Filipino like me, too!

In terms of the game … uh, good for the Bucs, I guess. If only the Steelers were there …

— Alex Grubbs, Multimedia Lead

 

Honoring Black PR History: A reflection on pioneers of the industry

As PRSA Pittsburgh celebrates Black History Month, we pause to reflect, examine and thank the PR pioneers who enabled today’s practitioners to excel in the industry.

by Taylor Fife, Diversity & Inclusion Chair

 

At least once in our careers, we’re asked why we decided to join the public relations and communications industry.

The answers given are often quite simple – “Because I love to solve problems,” “Because I’m a natural storyteller,” “Because I enjoy connecting with my community.”

But the answer I give is complex and deeply personal  – “Because of Bayard Rustin.”

As a Black woman in the industry, I stand on the shoulders of giants who’ve broken down barriers for people of color.

Every day as a digital marketer, I roll out of bed, log on to social media and I write freely, without fear. I write to influence others – something Black people, like Rustin, were once arrested, beaten or even killed for doing.

Black PR Industry Pioneers

The Black PR legends before me paved the way for professionals like me to enter and excel in the industry.

Not just this month, but every month, we must remember that the faces of PR include  ones of color.

We honor and thank the change agents of Black PR History for their contributions, because to them, we are forever indebted.

Here are only a few of many examples of Black PR pioneers:

Ida B. Wells

Ida B. Wells (1862-1931) was a civil rights advocate, journalist, and feminist. Wells is notably praised for her social activism campaigns designed to promote women’s suffrage and the abolition of lynching.

Wells was also known as the, “Princess of the Press.” She crafted appeals to change public opinion in America and Europe. Her efforts resulted in support for her campaigns.

In 2020, Wells was awarded a Pulitzer Prize, “for her outstanding and courageous reporting on the horrific and vicious violence against African Americans during the era of lynching.”

Joseph Varney Baker

Joseph Varney Baker (1908-1993)  was once described as, “the dean of Negro public relations men.”

As the Museum of Public Relations reports, Baker was the city editor of the Philadelphia Tribune, a newspaper for African Americans that is still published today. After leaving this job, he provided public relations counsel for the Pennsylvania Railroad.

In 1934, Baker became the first Black PR firm owner in the country. Subsequently, he became the first Black person in public relations to become known for acquiring significant accounts from large corporations in America.

Baker was also the first Black president of PRSA Philadelphia  and the first Black man to gain accreditation from PRSA.

Maggie Lena Walker

Maggie Lena Walker (1864-1934) is best known for becoming the first Black woman to charter and become a bank president in the country.

“Walker was said to have a genius for public relations, and used her skills and drive to help her community, rally support for her causes, and establish long-lasting, successful institutions,” according to the Museum of Public Relations.

Inez Kaiser

Inez Kaiser (1918-2016) forged her career while struggling for basic rights that were denied to Black people in the ‘60s.

She was the first Black woman to own a PR firm in the country. Kaiser was also the first Black woman to join PRSA and was active in her community and politics.

7-Up was one of Kaiser’s major accounts. She also founded Del Sprites, an organization that helped disadvantaged African-American junior and senior high school girls pursue higher education.

Patricia Tobin

Patricia Tobin (1943-2008) was viewed by many as a queen of PR, master of networking and a guru of event planning.

She began her career as a broadcaster and in the early 1980s, Tobin organized an event for a sportscaster. That was the beginning of weekly “media nights” or “journalist jams” she would host, where people would come to socialize and network.

Because there were few opportunities for people of color in her field, Tobin decided to start her own company. She left her broadcasting job and began Tobin and Associates in 1983.

Most notably, Tobin co-founded the National Black Public Relations Society and served as a dedicated activist for minorities, women and youth.

Moss Hyles Kendrix

Moss Hyles Kendrix (1917-1989) is best known for his work with the Coca-Cola company. His employment with Coca-Cola made him the first Black person to acquire a major national account.

Not only did Kendrix revolutionize how advertising in America portrayed Black people, he also pushed his clients to employ Black practitioners and established a professional group to support and encourage Black communication professionals.

 

PRSA Pittsburgh encourages members to learn about more Black PR pioneers from The Museum of Public Relations and notable Black innovators.

PRSA Pittsburgh also encourages members to view our resource list of Black-owned businesses, creatives and more to show continued support and commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion during Black History Month and beyond.

Empowering Tomorrow’s PR Leaders

Not only has Black PR history shaped my career choice, but it also has propelled other Black women to make significant contributions to the industry and inspire generations to come.

In honor of Black History Month, PRSA Pittsburgh invites its members to a virtual discussion with Fatou Barry on Zoom from noon to 1 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 15. Barry is a brand strategist and founder of the inclusive community of over 40,000 PR professionals, PR Girl Manifesto.


Community resources such as PR Girl Manifesto empower emerging and current PR pros to use their abilities to transform the industry, change the narrative and create a future of equitable and inclusive opportunities for all women.

Attendees will learn how to commit to D&I long-term, how a career in PR can be a vehicle for advocacy and tips to help women excel in the industry and generate opportunities in the workplace. 

We’ll also reflect on Black PR History with Fatou and learn more about the professionals in her life that have inspired her to serve as a pioneer for future leaders among women and women of color.

RSVP for this free, virtual event on Eventbrite.

 

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.

How to Become an Innovative B2B Marketer: Integrating Innovation Into Professional Development Plans

By Steve Radick
PRSA Pittsburgh Sponsorship Lead

[This post originally appeared on Marketing Profs.]

The pandemic has given B2B marketing leaders a golden opportunity to rethink the culture of their marketing teams. Rather than worrying about how to recover, B2B marketers should be thinking about how to get stronger.

Culture change takes time, but one of the best ways to start is by integrating new steps into your employees’ professional development plans. After all, you are what you measure: Campbell’s Law posits that if a raise or corresponding value judgement is solely dependent on meeting a sales quota, employees will sacrifice their other job responsibilities—team management, skill development, and so on—to meet that quota.

If you integrate innovation into development plans, and subsequently into employees’ annual reviews, you can start holding them (and yourself) accountable for the changes you want to make. The metrics that make a successful employee must start including behaviors you want to see; otherwise, your teams will treat culture change as “nice to have” instead of a necessary focus.

That said, telling your employees to “be more innovative” or “take more risks in your work” isn’t helpful. Instead, create professional development goals that are specific, attainable, and measurable, and then provide detailed recommendations that are time-bound and actionable.

Use the pandemic as an opportunity to assess your professional development plans, for both yourself and your teams. Start with these questions:

  • Do you have a development plan? Do your employees? When was it last updated?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • What are your career goals? This year? Over the next 3-5 years?
  • What do you need to accomplish those goals? From yourself? From your team? From your boss? From the organization?
  • When was the last time you spoke with your team members about their personal career goals?
  • Do you have a plan for how to help them achieve those goals?
  • Do you hold them accountable for meeting their goals?
  • When was the last time you went down on the factory floor to better understand the complexities of your product manufacturing?
  • Do you monitor industry associations and know what the latest trends are?
  • Have you shadowed your sales force to truly hear the voice of your customers and understand their needs and what they are looking for?

Once you’ve assessed the current situation, start creating plans that will form the foundation for a more innovative and effective marketing communications department—one that will attract, develop, and retain innovative employees.

Professional development plans should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely). Here are a few sample development plans for employees up and down your org chart that will build a foundation for a more innovative marketing team that could actually apply those strategies and tactics you see in conference agendas, blog posts and white papers.

These plans should always be customized to the individual employee – everyone has different strengths, weaknesses, goals and interests – but they provide a good framework for creating lasting culture change in your B2B marketing.

The pandemic may have forced us to adapt on the fly and come up with creative solutions to challenges we couldn’t have imagined a year ago, but it’s also showed us what’s possible if we think beyond best practices and identify new solutions. Let’s do more than recover from this. Let’s make this the start of a new beginning for all of us.

How to Be Heard: Learnings from the Pennsylvania Women’s Conference

By Deanna Tomaselli
Young Professionals Co-Chair

Speaking up doesn’t always come easy for everyone. But there’s a difference between speaking up and being heard. It’s less about being the loudest voice in the room, and more about being seen and recognized, which unfortunately doesn’t always happen.

The Pennsylvania Conference for Women took place virtually this year, and speaker Charmaine McClaire – an executive coach and communications expert – shared her insights on the topic of helping people find their voice. Which can be even more difficult now, as we’re not meeting in person and meetings take place virtually over tools such as Teams or Zoom. Charmaine notes that we need to have domain over our own narrative. Because if you don’t define yourself, others will define yourself for you.

Defining Who You Are

When thinking about defining ourselves, it’s more than just a title. For example, yes, I am Vice President of Client Services at The Motherhood, but how does that resonate with who I am speaking to? Charmaine notes that there is power in our voices and our stories. And your story is about how you add value. What’s your personal value proposition? When I think about mine, I help my clients tell their brand story to targeted audiences through the power of influencer marketing. They can reach new customers through these trusted, established thought leaders in their communities. See the difference?

In addition to talking about your value, it’s also important to quantify it. There’s strength in numbers, and quantifying what you do (or the data behind it) helps bring your story to life. Perhaps that means the amount of budget you manage, or the number of people on your team.

An important note here, too, is that what you do may not always be your day-to-day job. Instead, it can be what you are passionate about. This could be the work you’re doing in your community – whether that means volunteering with a non-profit, writing a blog, sitting on a board of directors or helping at your church. Or something like being a caretaker of a neighbor, child or parent. Whatever it is that you do – and whatever brings you happiness and provides others value – should be included in your personal definition.

The Six Principles

Now that you’ve established who you are, it’s time to be heard! Here are Charmaine’s six principles to put this into action:

  1. Communicate the vision: Leaders communicate a vision, not a task. They paint a vivid picture that you can see long-term.
  2. Speak in headlines: When you think about watching or seeing the news, you know what is attention-grabbing. Use this same principle when communicating your vision.
  3. Have three “must-make” points: What are the top three takeaways you want people to remember and that encapsulates your vision? These are the three questions every audience member will have: Why should I listen? What’s in it for me? What do you want me to do about it?
  4. Create witnesses: Make sure you have people in your corner that are witnesses to your great work. Setting them up in advance to be your advocates and back you up can help make sure your vision is heard.
  5. Don’t audition for the part: You don’t need to ask for permission to share your insight. Show up and communicate because you’re going to add value.
  6. Embody your message: Ensure you are walking, talking and acting the part. Because you must believe and live your message before conveying it to others.

Practice Makes Perfect

Before your next call, presentation or conversation, practice. Don’t speak with a question mark. Speak with authority. Try practicing in front of a mirror or record yourself on your computer or phone. One other tip is to make sure your witnesses are ready to go before you speak. Say you are presenting via Zoom and someone argues with your or disagrees with you. Yes, they have the right to, but your witnesses can serve as backup to prove your thoughts. Knowing they are there can help you build your confidence.

Now is the time to take action. While being heard can be intimidating, the results will speak for themselves. As Charmaine noted, be freaking powerful.

Deanna Tomaselli is a Vice President at The Motherhood, an influencer marketing agency, and an active member of the PRSA Pittsburgh board. She shares industry insights, career learnings, and life in the ‘Burgh at PRettyinPgh.com.

From the armed forces to the civilian workforce: Tips to attract, hire and retain veterans 

By Taylor Fife
Diversity & Inclusion Co-Chair and Social Media Co-Chair


Did you know veterans face a higher unemployment rate than civilians, especially in Pennsylvania? Just last year the state had the
second highest unemployment rate of veterans in the country. 

For PHV, our 2020 public service nonprofit partner, this data is simply unacceptable. 

PRSA Pittsburgh’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee invited PHV to appear in a special Screen to Screen episode on Facebook Live, “Why You Should Be Hiring Veterans.” The event aimed to highlight inclusive hiring practices for veterans and the unique qualities they bring to the workforce. 

Kristen Wishon, PRSA Pittsburgh’s public service chair, interviewed PHV Executive Director Dayna Brown; Employment Specialist Brian Harkins, a Marine Corps veteran; and George Scott, a former PHV employee and Marine Corps veteran, who shared his gratitude for PHV’s support as he worked to rejoin the workforce in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

 

Problems veterans face when rejoining the workforce

A lack of understanding of the veteran experience, miseducation and the stigma of mental health are some of the biggest issues veterans face when rejoining the workforce.

“Veterans struggle to be understood by the majority of the population,” Brown said. Less than 8% of the U.S. population has served or is serving in the military. “It’s a small population, but a very important one. That means the other 92% of our population have never served in the military and can’t directly relate to the veteran experience.”

More conversations between local veteran organizations and the top levels of the military could combat this misunderstanding. Open and direct lines of communication will help build a better pipeline to understanding veterans and implementing equitable hiring practices.

“Civilians are a very important part of our transition back into society and the barrier between us and them needs to be broken,” Scott said.

Employers and hiring managers need to educate themselves on the issues veterans face when rejoining the workforce. This includes eradicating implicit biases and moving past the mental health stigma surrounding veterans. 

Many people associate post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental illnesses with military combat and war veterans, but one out of every five civilians, or about 20% of the U.S. population, is enduring a mental health issue, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Only about 8% of military veterans experience mental illness, reports the Department of Defense.

“That’s significantly lower than the civilian population, but yet the perception is that mental health illnesses are a lot higher in the military,” Harkins said. 

Civilians, employers and hiring managers should seek understanding rather than trying to be understood. They must recognize that everyone has traumas, not just veterans. 

Unique qualities veterans bring to the workforce

Returning to civilian life, veterans possess countless skills to benefit an employer, including:

  • Discipline
  • Leadership
  • Time management
  • The ability to work unsupervised and hold themselves accountable
  • Critical thinking skills, especially under pressure or tight deadlines

“They’re incredibly committed, flexible, resourceful and resilient,” said Brown, who is also the spouse of a Marine. “Many veterans have often led teams and were responsible for the general welfare and wellbeing of the people who they were leading, even after the mission was completed. Just imagine how valuable they would be to a team.”

How employers can implement inclusive hiring practices

Five days’ worth of transition assistance is given to service members who are leaving the military, intended to help acclimate to civilian life.

“Unfortunately, it’s just five days, so then it ultimately becomes up to the veteran to pick up the pieces and fill in the gaps where they don’t understand,” Brown said. 

Employers should instead aid veterans in their transition, taking advantage of local veteran centers.

“Ease the stress and trauma of unemployment for them,” Brown said. “Remember, they’ve been working hard in the military to protect our country and they’re coming back to the unknown. Just come alongside a veteran and guide them.”

Employers also need to become more innovative in their hiring practices, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the existing digital divide even more.

“When I was going through the interview process for the Red Cross, I explained to them that Zoom didn’t work for me,” Scott said. “I explained my situation and they were willing to talk to me over the phone and even through texting.” 

Scott was grateful his future employer was aware of his unique situation and needs, but knows not all veterans receive the same treatment.

“We all have to work together to be stronger together,” added Scott

Employers need to realize most people have legitimate reasons for gaps in their resumes. Brown urges employers to become more aware of the unique challenges a veteran may have endured, or are still enduring. 

“Have another veteran look at a veteran’s resume, or have a veteran sit in on an interview, so they can aid the hiring manager and assign a mentor to help transition the veteran into the culture of your company,” suggested Brown. 

In order to create a supportive environment fostering veteran success, PHV encourages companies and organizations to join its employer partner network

“I wouldn’t have made it without PHV,” Scott said. “I couldn’t find employment but PHV hired me. They are breaking down the barriers to employment.” 

Veteran employment, training & educational resources

PHV recommends the following resources to veterans, employers, hiring managers and any individuals who want to aid in improving veteran hiring outcomes in our region.

Regional Resources

National Resources

Certifications

PRSA also offers free, national membership to qualified public affairs professionals transitioning from the military to the civilian workforce.

Please email us at info@prsa-pgh.org or contact us via social media or here on our website if you would like a veteran service organization added to this list. 

Introducing PRSA Pittsburgh’s Black Excellence Award

By Morgan McCoy and Alex Oltmanns
PRSA Pittsburgh Renaissance Award Co-Chairs

There will be plenty of changes to this year’s Renaissance Awards. From a virtual format to a new means of entry, the 2021 event is set to be one unlike any other that PRSA Pittsburgh has ever hosted.

But one of the changes we’re most excited about is the introduction of the PRSA Pittsburgh Black Excellence Award. Through this award, we aim to recognize Black men and women for outstanding academic achievement, commitment to the practice of public relations and commitment to the city of Pittsburgh.

Sponsored by Burson Cohn & Wolfe, the award will grant $2,000 to one new graduate who is of African-American/Black ancestry and working in the PR, marketing or communications field in the region. All applicants must have graduated from an accredited four-year college or university located in the U.S. in the last three years and accepted a communications/PR/marketing position in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Why the Award Was Developed

But before we outline how to enter, it’s important to discuss the inspiration behind PRSA Pittsburgh’s newest award. 

Many studies indicate that the industry still struggles to attract young Black professionals to public relations careers, and PRSA Pittsburgh has had its own struggles attracting, retaining and developing Black PR leaders. Our membership is only 2% Black. Over the last five years, our Board has only had three Black members. 

We need to do more to show talented Black communications, public relations and marketing students there is a home for them here in the Pittsburgh PR community. We need to show them we see, hear and need them and do more to identify, hire and develop these future leaders.

How to Apply

PRSA Pittsburgh has developed the following application that all potential applicants must complete and submit before the December 11 deadline.

  • A completed entry form.
  • A typed, one-page letter of recommendation from a PRSA member or an individual associated with the communications profession (corporate, agency, government, higher education or nonprofit).
  • A 500-word personal essay or a video on why diversity matters to the public relations industry and the significance of having a diverse workforce in the public relations industry.
  • In addition, please provide an answer to at least one of these topics below:
    • What is the role of communications professionals in helping companies and the city do better when it comes to racial equality?
    • What Black communications role models do you look up to in this industry and why?
    • What recent multicultural communication efforts have helped to bridge the gap between the community and your college/university or new place of employment?

PRSA Pittsburgh’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee will serve as the review committee for this award.

Please make sure all materials are error-free and thoroughly proofread. All application materials must be submitted to renaissance@prsa-pgh.org by December 11. Incomplete or late applications will not be considered.