YES, You Should Use GIFs on Social: Here’s Why

By Megha Pai, Social Media Co-Chair

 

GIFs — you use them with your friends, your coworkers and maybe even your mom. 

But if you work in communications, should you use them in your social media strategy? 

 

If you aren’t sure, I’m here to tell you this: GO FOR IT.

via GIPHY

Add Some Fun to Your Community Management 

Sure, you can use GIFs proactively in the content you create. But they work best when you’re performing social media community management. Replying to comments and messages from your audience in a helpful, on-brand way is an art. Formulating these comments can get complicated when the comments you get on social are random and completely unrelated to the posts themselves – but it’s worth trying to answer them. And what better way to steer conversations in a positive direction than by using fun, relevant GIFs? 

 

At the end of the day, people want to be heard. Show them you’re listening. 

 

Build Positive Relationships

Over the years, I’ve read some strange comments and messages while conducting social media community management. But that didn’t stop me from trying to forge a bond between the brands I was representing and the commenters – using thoughtful replies and timely GIFs.  

 

Forging bonds and building relationships is what social media is all about. That’s where GIFs can help: GIFs make your brand appear more personable and approachable. By having down-to-earth conversations with your audience while using GIFs when appropriate, you’ll keep them coming back to your social channels for more.

 

Remember, social media is supposed to be a social medium – engaging with your followers is important, and GIFs can play a key role in doing that. Ultimately, you’re using your brand’s social media channels to build a community – one that informs your followers about the things that matter to them. 

 

Building community through social media has been a hot topic in the social media industry for years. It was a big talking point at the Ragan PR Social Media & Digital Communications Conference, Social Media Week New York and our virtual event with PR Girl Manifesto. So, build community and add relatable humor to your social channels with GIFs! 

 

Are GIFs On-Brand for Your Brand?

Still unsure if GIFs are on-brand for your brand? When in doubt, review your brand guidelines and trust your instincts. 

 

If your client’s brand uses a serious tone on social media and other platforms, GIFs might not be for them…unless they’re open to switching things up. There’s no reward without a little risk, and the results GIFs can yield (in terms of positive sentiment and engagement) might surprise them.

 

Take a health/wellness client I worked with at a previous job. The last time we ran a contest on Facebook for this client, I thanked the contestants who commented on our contest post with GIFs in our replies, instead of using “thank you” text alone. For each reply, I picked a different GIF. Receiving a GIF unique from everyone else’s GIF created a custom experience for each person commenting on the post – drawing heartfelt reactions (and Facebook heart reactions) from the client’s followers on social media. The thoughtful GIF replies made audience members feel seen and heard. 

 

So, what are you waiting for? GIF up your social media strategy today!

Be that friend: How to be an Ally for the LGBTQIA+ Communities

by Josh Porterfield
D&I Committee Member

 

Allies for the LGBTQIA+ communities are everywhere — they’re in your workplace, they show up for our city’s annual Pride parade and celebration, and some may even be your family and friends. All in all, you know people in your life who are allies, but do you know what being an ally really means

Point blank — allies are the straight men and women who care. They stand strong with the LGBTQIA+ communities, fighting  “Karens”, conservatives and crashing homophobia.

I believe that being an ally is like working as a secret agent — there’s no bright rainbow pin that gets handed out to let others know you’re an ally. Allies work behind the scenes shutting down homophobia in and outside of the workplace. More importantly, they’re also out at drag brunch on the weekends having fun with their LGBTQIA+ friends. 

Just like how you would keep watch for discrimination or harassment in the workplace for people of color or women, being an ally for the LGBTQIA+ communities works in similar ways. It’s about learning what phrases and actions are offensive and discriminatory. Although it’s also just as simple as following your intuition. When you hear anti-LGBTQIA+ comments or microaggressions, listen to your gut. Did that sound appropriate? Appropriate for the workplace? Appropriate at all? 

Check out tips on how to be a great ally from GLAAD:

  • Be a listener.
  • Be open-minded.
  • Be willing to talk.
  • Be inclusive and invite LGBTQIA+ friends to hang out with your friends and family.
  • Don’t assume that all your friends and co-workers are straight. Someone close to you could be looking for support in their coming-out process. Not making assumptions will give them the space they need.
  • Anti-LGBTQIA+ comments and jokes are harmful. Let your friends, family and co-workers know that you find them offensive.
  • Confront your own prejudices and bias, even if it is uncomfortable to do so.
  • Defend your LGBTQIA+ friends against discrimination.
  • Believe that all people, regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation, should be treated with dignity and respect.

Gays, lesbians and those who don’t identify with the gender they were given have been around for much longer than you think. For years and years, members of the LGBTQIA+ community have had to hide and keep their identity secret from friends, family, their bosses, colleagues and even the police. 

Pride started as a riot — the community pushing back against all those cultural forces. If you’ve ever wondered why it’s important for LGBTQIA+ communities to be visible during the month of June  in the streets of every major U.S. city during the month of June, then your questions will be answered: 

In the end, to be an ally, if you’re simply a nice person that has respect for others no matter their identities, you’ve got it right. Love always wins. 

 

Be an Actionable Communicator for the AAPI Communities

 

By Alex Grubbs and Megha Pai, PRSA Pittsburgh board members
with contributions from Sunny Yang

Editor’s Note: Asian American and Pacific Islander is abbreviated as AAPI throughout.

In honor of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, PRSA Pittsburgh’s Diversity & Inclusion committee held a virtual event in partnership with the Filipino American Association of Pittsburgh (FAAP) to discuss how to be an actionable communicator for the AAPI communities. This event was moderated by PRSA Pittsburgh board members Alex Grubbs of Battenhall and Megha Pai of Pipitone Group, who are part of AAPI communities themselves.

Our esteemed panelists included:

These panelists and our moderators spoke on a variety of issues, from the rise of violence against AAPI individuals to racial harassment. They also discussed the Model Minority Myth, how media and poor rhetoric harms everyone, colorism, juggling duality between countries, multiracial backgrounds and more.

AAPIs are not a monolith. To start having active communication about these communities, it’s imperative that we address and be aware of the many obstacles AAPI people face.

Learn more about the AAPI communities and our speakers below.

This list will be continually updated.

Important facts and statistics

Resources

Communication organizations

Pittsburgh/Pennsylvania organizations

Social media to follow

Our Speakers

Sunny Yang

Sunny Yang is an Of Counsel with Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP who focuses her practice on international business matters and trade. She represents Chinese entities doing business in the U.S., as well as U.S. entities pursuing investments and operating in China. She has experience negotiating and structuring business transactions, as well as advising corporate executives in matters such as planning for the purchase of U.S. property by non-U.S. persons, transferring and protecting assets and wealth, and strategizing business succession planning. Sunny has overseen legal operations including handling market entry, corporate compliance, import-export matters, employment, immigration and litigation. Sunny is active in several industry organizations, holding leadership roles in regional and national bar associations, as an officer and former board member of Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Pennsylvania, a member and former Chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Community & Asian Attorneys Committee of the Allegheny County Bar Association, a former Executive Council member of the Women’s Division for the Allegheny County Bar Association, and Vice –President /Secretary of the Federal Bar Association – Western PA Chapter.

 

Don Michael Mendoza

Don Michael Mendoza is the Co-Founder and

Executive Artistic Director of LA TI DO Productions where he’s collectively produced over 300 cabarets, concerts, theatrical shows, and events throughout Washington, DC (Arena Stage, Shakespeare Theatre Company, The Kennedy Center), New York City (Dramatists Guild Foundation, Feinstein’s/54 Below, Bowery Poetry Club), Los Angeles, his hometown of Pittsburgh, and beyond, since 2012. He most recently played a supporting role in the film The Girl Who Left Home (October 2020) alongside Paolo Montalban (Whitney Houston’s Cinderella) and is the creator of his re-branded blog and new podcast: Producing While Asian (www.producingwhileasian.com). Don Michael holds a B.A. in Musical Theatre & Journalism, and a M.A. in Strategic Communication from American University.

 

Prachi Patel

Prachi Patel is a migration communications consultant for the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and communications manager for the Alliance for Refugee Youth Support and Education (ARYSE). She is also a co-founder of South Asians Building Bridges (SABB), a Pittsburgh-based organization building dialogue around race and equity within and beyond South Asian communities. She holds a degree in anthropology from the University of Pittsburgh and was a Princeton in Asia fellow based in Colombo, Sri Lanka in 2019. She has a background in international development, participatory storytelling facilitation and youth engagement.

Commit to Fostering Inclusive Workplaces and Equitable Opportunities for All — Sign our D&I Pledge

by Taylor Fife, D&I Chair

This blog is part of an ongoing series that highlights content featured in PRSA Pittsburgh’s Diversity & Inclusion Toolkit


As D&I Chair, I’m often asked: “W
hy is diversity and inclusion in the workplace important?” For myself and the D&I Committee, answering this question is never bothersome and never gets old. We welcome communicators who want to learn about the significance of D&I to the PR industry—that’s why we created our very own diversity and inclusion toolkit

We also encourage members to take our D&I pledge as a first step towards committing to fostering inclusive workplaces and equitable opportunities for all.

Why is diversity and inclusion in the workplace important?

An accessible, diverse and inclusive workplace is one that makes everyone, regardless of who they are or what they do for a company or organization, feel equally involved in and supported in all areas of the workplace, according to Great Place to Work, an authority on workplace culture and inclusivity.

A diverse and inclusive workplace also fosters a sense of belonging, which ensures every employee feels safe and can bring their full, unique self to work. 

Research conducted by Great Place to Work shows many benefits of a diverse and inclusive workplace:

In fact, Great Place to Work says inclusion in the workplace is one of the most important keys to employee retention. Having an inclusive workplace culture not only helps attract a diverse set of talent but also helps retain the diverse talent attracted in the first place.

The company’s research on company culture reveals that when employees trust that they and their colleagues are treated fairly regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or age, they are:

  • 9.8 times more likely to look forward to going to work
  • 6.3 times more likely to have pride in their work
  • 5.4 times more likely to want to stay a long time at their company

Use PRSA Pittsburgh’s Diversity & Inclusion Toolkit as a Resource

A brand’s diversity efforts that lack genuine inclusion are often called “tokenism.” An inclusive workplace doesn’t just have a diversity of people present, it has a diversity of people involved, developed, empowered and trusted by the company. 

Modeled after PRSA’s Diversity & Inclusion Toolkit, PRSA Pittsburgh created its toolkit to assist local PR and communications professionals in developing relationships with diverse communities and committing to creating a future of equitable and inclusive opportunities for all in the region.

The toolkit has nine sections in total and includes:

  • PRSA Pittsburgh’s Diversity & Inclusion Pledge
  • A diverse, equitable and inclusive glossary of terms
  • A comprehensive list of diverse groups in the region
  • Ways to cultivate diversity and inclusion in the workplace

The D&I Committee has also committed to updating the toolkit annually to ensure its contents are current and relevant.

Take the PRSA Pittsburgh Diversity & Inclusion Pledge

PRSA Pittsburgh’s D&I Committee is proud to present our D&I pledge to PRSA members. The intent of the pledge is to advance diversity and inclusion in the communications and PR profession. After taking the pledge, we hope employers spark hard conversations in their workplaces and begin to build a more diverse and inclusive environment, ultimately earning deeper trust and more commitment from their employees.

PRSA Pittsburgh encourages PRSA members to virtually sign and commit to our D&I pledge in the form below*. 

We also encourage members to print out and share the pledge (PDF) with their colleagues and peers who may not have access to technology. 

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.

*Your information will be stored in PRSA Pittsburgh’s database and will be used to contact you regarding D&I Committee events and initiatives, as well as general chapter programming. 

Five Ways to Make Virtual Networking Valuable

By Deanna Tomaselli and Catherine Clements
Young Pros Co-Chairs

No matter where you are in your career, networking is a crucial skill. It can help you gain industry insights, make connections, learn about organizations, develop references and referrals and build your brand. The stakes are low and the upside is high.

Though, the challenge is most traditional paths of connecting have been postponed, canceled or completely reimagined. Coffees, lunches and happy hours must be more purposefully planned over Zoom or phone calls. It’s not as easy as swinging by a PRSA Off the Clock happy hour on your way home. Instead, we have to actively seek out virtual ways to network.

Given this challenge, and the adjustments and balance of work from home life, it can be easy to let something like networking fall to the back burner. Though, given the unknowns of this year, now is a more important time than ever to strengthen your network. Plus, many seasoned professionals will tell you, “nurture your network when you don’t need one.”

Now, how can you make virtual networking valuable? PRSA Young Professionals sat down with some of Pittsburgh’s best-networked pros to share their insights on how you can maximize your efforts, including:

#1 Be a Detective

Look at people who hold a job you’re interested in. Take notes on their “about” section, activity, education and experience. Look for commonalities and use this as fodder for your outreach.

#2 Bring People to You

Ensure your LinkedIn profile is complete with a headshot, headline, “about” summary and overview of your experience. You want to ensure the right people–like recruiters–can find your profile. Additionally, consider how your content can help you stand out. Are you sharing your perspective on the latest trend? Highlighting key takeaways from your latest read? These are all great ways to connect and add value for your connections.

#3 Go Where the People Are

Consider what platforms people in your field are most active. It may be LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram or even Clubhouse or Reddit. Whatever your avenue, be present, post routinely and engage with others.

#4 Connect with the Right Contact

Instead of reaching out to a recruiter, try finding someone with the role or a similar role you’re looking to land. Set up a 15-minute informational chat to learn more about the position. Taking this time to connect can build your credibility within the organization and help your resume stand out.

#5 Don’t Fear the Cold Ask

Warm up to your connections first by reading their content or making endorsements and insightful comments. Be clear in what you’re asking and what the time commitment will be. Prepare by doing research and developing a question set ahead of time.

 Remember, networking is a level playing field. We each have something to give and something to get to help grow ourselves and others.

Looking to build your virtual community? Join the PRSA Young Professionals Facebook Group.

Powerful female mentors inspire women’s history month reflections from chapter members

By Kristen Wishon
D&I Committee Member

 

We don’t need any data, metrics, or case studies to know that women are outstanding. Whether it’s a parent, grandmother, sister, friend or mentor, we all have a female or female-identifying presence in our lives that has shown us strength, resilience, love and growth.

That’s not to say that women haven’t long faced inequities, especially in the workplace. It was only 57 years ago that women were protected from discrimination in the workplace as part of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

However, while the public relations sector is dominated by women, white men remain at the helm and hold most upper-level positions, according to the Institute for Public Relations. Other data shows that as many as 78% of CEOs in the PR industry are men.

Coupled with the prevalence of “work-first” culture, lack of balance, preference to masculine working styles in the workplace, increased scrutiny and more, women in our industry certainly face different career obstacles than their male counterparts.

It’s clear we all have work to do to ensure that women, especially women of color and those with varying sexual orientations, disabilities, ages, and intersectional identities, are not neglected from opportunity and growth in the workplace.

Despite all this, women in PR are setting a high standard for excellence in our industry. That’s why we asked you to send us a photo of your career mentor in honor of Women’s History Month. We received an inspiring array of powerful female leaders. 

Meet these mentors below, and add a comment with your own mentor if you weren’t able to submit for this blog!

 

Dr. Diana Martinelli, Dean, Widmeyer Professor in Public Relations, West Virginia University

Before Dr. Diana Martinelli became dean of the WVU Reed College of Media (known in my time as the “j-school”), she was my very first career mentor throughout my PR education at West Virginia University. She quickly went from my advisor to my graduate thesis chair to a sounding board for career advice and next steps. Diana’s kind nature coupled with her immense PR expertise makes her an immeasurable force in our field. Not to mention, Diana is a longtime member and supporter of PRSA!

— Kristen Wishon, Director Of Communications, Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council

 

Nancy Anderson, Associate Vice President, Social & Content, Red Havas

Nancy is a beam of sunshine who gives 110% to anything she does, no matter what obstacles are in her path. She believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself, providing encouragement and actionable feedback along the way. Her guidance and advice helped me become the content strategist I am today. I’m honored to know her!

— Megha Pai, Content Strategist, Pipitone Group

Denise Stokes, Realtor for Keller Williams Preferred Properties, Owner, DS Marketing & PR

I met Denise Stokes my senior year of college in 2011 during a PRSSA meeting. Since then, we’ve kept in touch even after both of us moved out of state — with me entering the world of full-time digital marketing in Pittsburgh and Denise starting as a real estate agent in Maryland. Over the years, Denise has guided me on job advice and helped me think strategically about my career moves (and even my physical move out of Texas!). I’ve learned a lot about myself related to patience, time management and challenged myself to think on new perspectives.

— Nelli Tokleh, Senior Social Media Manager, 9Rooftops Marketing

 

Kim Tarquinio, Vice President, Strategic Communications, Pipitone Group

Kim inspires me daily through her leadership and empathy. She goes the extra mile to make all of us new hires feel welcome, included and heard. Kim also plays each of us to our strengths and interests, while challenging us to grow further in new areas. I’m lucky to be on her team!

— Megha Pai, Content Strategist, Pipitone Group

Cooper Munroe, CEO, The Motherhood Inc.

Cooper is a pioneer in influencer marketing. In the early 2000s, she started one of the first “mom blogs” which quickly turned into a movement. After writing a post on Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and asking her readers to contribute what they had to help the victims, the post went viral (a term not yet used at the time) and showed the power an online community could have. And the rest is history. Today, she runs an all-woman team at The Motherhood, an influencer marketing company.

Not only has Cooper been an inspiration to me in her influencer work, but she is also a mom of four. As someone who is about to become a brand new mom this summer, I am inspired to see she could raise four kids and run a successful business. 

Cooper simply cares about her employees and is our biggest cheerleader. I have loved working for Cooper! 

— Deanna Tomaselli, Vice President, Client Services, The Motherhood Inc.

 

Megha Pai, Content Strategist, Pipitone Group

Gotta highlight my girl Megha Pai! As soon as I joined PRSA, Megha welcomed me and so many other newcomers and made sure we felt included. Since then, she’s been an incredible friend who has looked out for me and guides me personally and professionally. I’m beyond lucky to have someone like Megha in my life! 

— Nicole Tobias, Public Relations Professional

 

Beth Bauer, Assistant Director of Student Organizations and International Programs, Duquesne University School of Law

Beth was one of my colleagues at my first job out of college and she has been an unwavering mentor to me ever since. She welcomed me and helped me to gain confidence in my abilities and to realize my potential as a young professional. Her continued support has helped me to land my current position in the marketing industry. She is amazingly kind, hardworking and a true inspiration. 

— Taylor Fife, Account Executive, Red Havas

 

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