Nuggets & Tots and other Board Meeting Topics

By Samantha McClintock

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

Last week, it was the latter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We need your help

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

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

That’s where you come in.

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

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

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

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

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

Meet a Member: Ellen Dietrick

Twitter | LinkedIn

Where do you work/what do you do?

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


What’s your title?

I am an Account Coordinator.


How do you explain what you do to your mom?

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


Where do you live?

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


What’s your favorite bar/restaurant?

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


How long have you been a member of PRSA?

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


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

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


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

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


What’s your favorite think about Pittsburgh?

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

Event Recap + What’s In The Works

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

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

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

Here are some other things we have in the works:

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


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

Why I’m glad I went to a ‘grad school dark’ place 

Grad school was always on my radar, but I never thought about the exact time I’d return to school. When I was still getting my bachelor’s, I made jokes about going back to school when I hit ‘grad school dark.’ See, I made that joke fully expecting to graduate and be successful.

As we all know, life always has other plans.

After spending almost a year in retail, I hit that dark place. More than a lack of guidance for my future, I realized I was losing my passion for my selected field of public relations. The longer I was away, the less I remembered why I chose it in the first place. Then the IMC program at WVU got involved.

As an active member of PRSSA and frequent PRSA Pittsburgh event attender, I was very aware of the Integrated Marketing Communications program offered online by West Virginia University.  In fact, I always assumed I would select it because of the convenience and high honors it’s received.

I signed up for an online chat to learn more and within a week I had gathered all the materials and applied. I’ve heard nightmares about the application process for grad school, but I found the process relatively painless. WVU understands where its students are coming from and tries to make it as simple as possible and waives testing with a high enough GPA.

When I found out I was accepted, I was beyond excited for the next step in my life. But also incredibly terrified.

Yes, it was quite the adjustment learning to do school online, but the community created was amazing. More than just the conversations you have within the class discussion board, most of the students rally together on Facebook and form the relationships necessary to succeed.

I was sure online school would mean two years of working alone, but it was meeting other professionals and learning from them as well. It was incredible.

Over 20 months, I took 11 different classes, ranging from social media to analytics to crisis communication. And that is just the tip of the iceberg with the class offerings. You can select classes that support your current career path or try to learn something completely different and expand your knowledge.

My time at WVU also presented the biggest academic challenge I’ve faced. The final course is a capstone designed to test everything you’ve learned in the previous 10 courses. For nine weeks, you have to essentially function as an agency and create a complete campaign with real executions for a client. To say it’s demanding is an understatement.

It’s also incredibly rewarding.

As much as I was pushed, I realized I was equipped with everything I needed to succeed in my campaign. Yes, the work was hard, but I knew what I was doing. And sure, there was a little bit of ‘fake it till you make it,’ but there was very little to fake.

Whether you know you want to grad school or you’re on the fence, make the right choice and consider WVU. The schedule is tailored for you. If you want to take summers off, great. If you want to take one class a term, excellent. If you want to speed through and get everything done in just more than a year and a half, do it. The IMC Program at WVU wants you to succeed in whatever way works for you.

What are you waiting for? If you want more information, visit, and definitely check out the open house at BRUNNER Thursday, April 28, from 6 to 8 p.m. I mean really, what have you got to lose?


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

Welcome, Soon-to-Be Graduates, to PRSA Pittsburgh

By Meredith Klein

As we prepare to welcome the newest class of PRSSA graduates to the ranks of PRSA Pittsburgh, I wanted to get a better understanding of what the transition from PRSSA to PRSA is like.  As vice president of the chapter, and after serving as young professionals co-chair for two consecutive terms, I’m passionate about helping emerging professionals to identify and assume their niche in the marketing communications world.

So, as college graduations swiftly approach and we look forward to welcoming new members to our chapter, I connected with PRSA Pittsburgh blog coordinator and Social B community manager, Valerie Bennett, to learn more.  Val recently eclipsed her first anniversary of college graduation as well as her first anniversary with PRSA Pittsburgh and provided some great feedback on easing the transition. Check out my Q&A with her below!

PRSA Pittsburgh: Where did you go to school and what year did you graduate?
VB: I attended West Virginia University and graduated in May 2015.  I bleed blue and gold for life!  I actually started at Social B a week before I graduated college and recently celebrated my one-year anniversary.

PRSA Pittsburgh: Why did you become involved with PRSA Pittsburgh?
VB: I was part of PRSSA at West Virginia University for close to two years, serving as our president during my senior year.  I got involved because there were so many opportunities to learn, grow and develop as a professional.

I was an advertising major but also interested in public relations and felt PRSSA was a great opportunity to challenge myself to learn more.  I attended a regional PRSSA conference, on behalf of our chapter, and fell in love with the event and the people I met.  I even keep in touch with some of those people to this day!  After my great experience with PRSSA, the natural next step was to get involved with PRSA to maintain the connection.

PRSA Pittsburgh: What are some of the similarities between PRSA and PRSSA?
VB: PRSA and PRSSA both provide opportunities to network and learn from skilled professionals in your region.  One of my favorite things about PRSA Pittsburgh is that it’s a close-knit circle of people who are committed to helping you learn new skills and elevate your career.  The growth opportunities with PRSA Pittsburgh may be at a different magnitude but at their cores, PRSA and PRSSA share the same goal: to build the next generation of PR pros through education and networking.

PRSA Pittsburgh: What has been your favorite part of being a member of PRSA Pittsburgh in the past year?
VB: When I first joined PRSA Pittsburgh in 2015, I had just moved to a city where I didn’t know anyone and was starting my first job.  But by joining PRSA Pittsburgh I was able to quickly meet new people and connect with them on similar passions.  The chapter has created great opportunities to find mentors and people to whom I can look up to and learn from.

PRSA Pittsburgh: From your vantage point, what are the greatest benefits of membership?
VB: I think the access to knowledge is what sets PRSA apart.  The organization provides a variety of resources including newsletters, educational events and access to industry leaders in the region to help you develop.  Personally, I love the daily and weekly newsletters – I’ve even printed some of them out and hung them around the office so others can learn and absorb the information as well!

PRSA Pittsburgh: What keeps you excited about being part of PRSA Pittsburgh?
VB: Definitely the growth of the organization – I love to start somewhere and see where it goes.  PRSA Pittsburgh, and PRSA overall, has endless opportunities to study and evolve.  It’s a great community and everyone is willing to help you on your journey.

PRSA Pittsburgh: What’s your biggest takeaway for students looking to transition from PRSSA to PRSA Pittsburgh?
VB: The truth is, it can be scary to be fresh out of school.  You’re looking for ways to build relationships and extend your network while also looking for a job.  PRSA Pittsburgh was a tight-knit group that helped to make the post-college transition much easier and more enjoyable for me.

I was able to meet new people and being to develop relationships soon after my move to Pittsburgh.  It was comforting to know you had a great network that was invested in you and wanted to help you succeed.  It also helped me to learn the city better as I settled in to my new routine.

PRSA Pittsburgh: What has been your favorite PRSA Pittsburgh event to attend in the last year?
VB: The first PRSA Pittsburgh event I attended was the 2016 Renaissance Awards.  I was there on behalf of PRSA Pittsburgh to report on the event and the honors delivered that evening.   It was incredible to see all of the great work produced in Pittsburgh as well as the behind-the-scenes effort it takes to create award-winning campaigns.  It’s awesome to meet PR pros that you’ve heard about and become part of the conversation.

PRSA Pittsburgh: Three words to describe PRSA Pittsburgh.
VB: Exciting, educational, and innovative.

PRSA Pittsburgh: What would PRSA Pittsburgh’s theme song?
VB: I think it would be a mean combination of “Don’t Stop Me Now” by    Queen, “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees, and of course Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger.”

We’re excited to meet those of you who are recent graduates and looking to get involved with PRSA Pittsburgh! Contact us hereand let us know who you are and what you’re looking for – we’re here to be a resource as you begin the next chapter in your careers.


Meredith Klein is vice president of PRSA Pittsburgh and public relations account supervisor at BRUNNER.

Stop Pitching and Start Helping: PR and Media Can and Should Be Working Together

By Elizabeth Bacheson

Public relations professionals hate pitching. Reporters, editors and writers hate being pitched. But here we are, driving each other crazy day after day anyway. How can we stop that?

On Wednesday, March 30 from 5:30-8:30 p.m. at Sharp Edge Bistro downtown, members of PRSA Pittsburgh and Online News Association (ONA) Pittsburgh joined forces for a no-pitch, no sell night of talking and learning from each other, or having a drink and getting to know each other!

Upon arriving, attendees were encouraged to share their questions or suggestions on slips of paper (or via the #PRSAONA hashtag) on what can be improved or should be avoided when working with either PR professionals or members of the media. This would serve as the basis of a moderated discussion later in the evening.

After mingling with fellow attendees over drinks and appetizers, PRSA Pittsburgh President Steve Radick who serves as VP, director of public relations and content integration at Brunner; and ONA’s Kim Lyons, news editor at NEXT Pittsburgh; held an interactive discussion to break down the barriers that PR professionals and members of the media may encounter when working together. And so we can take some advice from each other!

The topics and questions submitted spurred a great dialogue that offered some hilarious, truthful insights from both PR professionals and members of the media. Some included:

  • What’s your favorite and least favorite parts of working with PR professionals?
  • The fine line between persistence and badgering when it comes to pitching a reporter.
  • Get the reporter’s name right when pitching.
  • Should a PR professional formally thank the reporter after running a positive story about their client?
  • Crisis scenarios: If a PR person’s client isn’t available during a crisis, make sure you give the media the right point person.
  • What’s newsworthy? It’s the reporter’s job to judge that. PR professionals should have honest conversations with their client about what is a story and what isn’t. Taking it to a reporter will just burn bridges.
  •  You’re not doing a client any favors by shopping around a story that no one will be interested in.


The evening ended with a discussion on empathy. PR professionals have a job to do and so to members of the media, but we need to help each other out in order to do that. Enough said!


Elizabeth Bacheson currently serves as PRSA Pittsburgh’s Programming Director and social media communicator at Westinghouse Electric Company in Cranberry Twp., PA where she oversees corporate social media activities, including strategy and content creation to ensure alignment across social media accounts globally.

PRSSA – Benefits & Opportunities

By Megan Bayles, Waynesburg University PRSSA President

When someone hears about PRSSA for the first time, the most common reaction is, “What is that?” Most people would respond, “the Public Relations Student Society of America,” but, not me. I would respond, “PRSSA is a life-changing organization that will enhance your education, broaden your network and prepare you to succeed in the fast-paced professional world.”

PRSSA has transformed my life as a student studying public relations; opening my eyes to potential career opportunities, helping me gain national recognition, introducing me to future colleagues and providing me with additional funding for my undergraduate education.

As a freshman at Waynesburg University, I joined PRSSA, and had no idea what the organization was or what it had to offer. It was not until my sophomore year that I fully understood the organization’s member benefits, including: national publications, national and regional events, a career and internship center, professional development documents, competitions and scholarships, and access to a PRSA parent Chapter.

When PRSSA Chapters maintain and foster relationships with their PRSA parent Chapters, the possibilities are endless. As an active member of Waynesburg University’s PRSSA Chapter, I have had the opportunity, through PRSA Pittsburgh, to work hand-in-hand with some of the region’s finest public relations professionals.

Working with members of PRSA Pittsburgh has taught me how to conduct myself in a professional setting and has allowed me to network with professionals in the Pittsburgh area. These experiences have also taught me the importance of continuing my education, whether that be formally or within a professional organization like PRSA.

I believe that PRSSA lays the ground work for future professionals interested in public relations and communications. PRSA provides professionals with opportunities to continue their educations, practice their skills and give back to students in the region.

PRSA Pittsburgh has given back to me in many ways. The connections I have made by working with PRSA Pittsburgh have led to internships. The events I have attended have inspired me to become the best professional possible, and the knowledge I have gained has helped me finalize my post graduate plans.

I am excited to announce that, in May, I will begin my graduate studies at West Virginia University. While studying Integrated Marketing Communications, I will work as a graduate assistant in public relations and communications for the institution’s Reed College of Media. I also plan to become a member of PRSA Pittsburgh. It is my goal to give back to the region’s students; working with PRSSA members to mentor and assist them as they transition into the professional world, just as PRSA Pittsburgh’s current members have done for me.

March Board Meeting Highlights

The monthly PRSA Pittsburgh Board meeting on Tuesday revealed that the chapter is well on its way to reaching the 2016 strategic goals described in President Steve Radick’s post earlier this year.

In the first quarter of 2016, PRSA Pittsburgh:

  • Hosted two events: the annual Renaissance Awards at Hotel Monaco and a joint networking and media relations event with the Online News Association (ONA)
  • Presented on behalf of PRSA at locations such as CCAC Boyce Campus and Clarion University, with several more engagements at colleges and universities scheduled for spring
  • Distributed two of the chapter’s new e-newsletters, featuring programming previews, member spotlights, national PRSA updates and more.


Discussion at the Board meeting focused heaving on programming. Educational programs, communicator tours, membership events and networking activities are being planned on a monthly basis from April through December, sometimes overlapping and often featuring partner organizations such as WIB-Pittsburgh and PRSA Cleveland. Members should find these events fun and a little unexpected, and we look forward to sharing them with you as the planning unfolds. Stay tuned!

Plans for our 2016 Public Service Campaign and the development of a new PRSA Pittsburgh website also served as topics of discussion at the Board meeting. Many exciting projects are underway—more to be detailed following the April 26 Board meeting.

If you have any suggestion for our Board, email us as info@prsa-pgh or find the Board Chairperson you wish to reach here.

CCAC students learn the golden rules of PR from PRSA members – and joke about Kanye West

By Robin Rectenwald and Eric Winkfield

On Tuesday, March 28th, PRSA members Robin Rectenwald and Eric Winkfield made a trip to CCAC Boyce Campus in Monroeville to speak to a public relations class.

The class had just returned from Spring Break and finished reading a chapter on the internet and social media. Eager to share our insights as PR professionals, Eric and Robin jumped in once the class started at 12:45 p.m. and began sharing insider knowledge on social media tactics.

We first asked the class if anyone has a social media account and every hand shot up. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and even MySpace were a few of the platforms that students said they use.

Next, Eric gave a step-by-step overview on how to select a platform and start creating content. He proposed to the class to imagine their goal is to market McDonalds to women ages 25-30 years old. Eric asked which platforms these women might be using and the topics they might like to read. Together, the students came up with the following list of content to post on social media:

  • Low calorie meals
  • Nutrition
  • Budget-friendly products
  • Products for children and their families

At this point, the students sat up in their chairs and began firing out questions. One student mentioned that he is helping a business sell paints by utilizing social media and asked how he could be more conversational as opposed to sell, sell, sell.

Robin gave the students a very important tip to remember while working in PR: treat your audience like your friends. If you want to share with someone why they should try a new salad at McDonalds or why they should consider buying paint from a certain company for a DIY project, Robin suggested going about it the same way you would when speaking to a friend. Give reasons why and connect with them on a personal level as opposed to a salesman level. In PR, this is also known as the golden rule of getting to know your audience.

Robin and Eric were feeling good about all of the insider secrets they were sharing with these students until one bright student put them on the spot and asked the dreaded PR question – how to handle a social media crisis. We joked about the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders, Justin Bieber and Kanye West, but we hope that we were able to get across how important it is for an organization to have a crisis communication plan in place.

Carol Howard, the professor teaching this class, chimed in and asked how the students could apply what they learned to their class project. The class is currently helping The Youth Project, a nonprofit based in New Kensington, plan and fundraise for an opening at a new location.  The last half hour of the class was a group brainstorming session on how to pitch this story to the media and items to include in a media kit.

The PRSA Pittsburgh Chapter is full of board and chapter members who are passionate and knowledgeable about the field of public relations. If you’re interested in inviting a PRSA member to speak in your classroom, at your next meeting or event, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.