Close-up of a faded multicolor mural on a brick wall with a sign to the left that says, "Accessible Entry" with a small wheelchair accessible icon

PR Summit Digital Series: Building a More Accessible, Inclusive World

By Megha Pai

D&I Committee Co-Chair and Social Media Co-Chair  

As a society, it’s our job to make things as accessible as possible. As part of the 2020 PR Summit, one session touched upon an aspect of diversity and inclusion that isn’t talked about often enough: disability.  Anyone with a disability should be given the opportunity to access the same places and resources as anyone else.

Celebrating peoples’ unique identifiers and leveling the playing field for everyone are important aspects of diversity, inclusion and equity that we should all strive to achieve. And, an inclusive society can make things easier for everyone to use and understand, not just those with disabilities. 

A Tool for Change: The Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990. That’s 30 years of progress in access and inclusion, which was the direct result of many years of effort by those with disabilities and disability advocates.

In fact, there are about 11 million people of various disabilities who want to and are able to work, but only around 29% are employed — compared to 75% of the typically abled population.

To celebrate the 30-year anniversary of the ADA, PublicSource and Unabridged Press wanted to know the answers to these questions: 

  • How has the ADA changed life for Pittsburghers with disabilities? 
  • What progress still needs to be made now, three decades after the law was passed? 

When compiling this information, it became apparent that a website was needed. Enter Remy Davison, web designer. Remy worked on creating an accessible website that hosted stories, first-person essays, video, and podcast content. To ensure the site design was intuitive, clean, and accessible to everyone, Remy conducted accessibility testing with a range of users with disabilities.

Increase Your Website’s Accessibility

Below are a few tips from Remy about how to increase the accessibility of your website.

  • Make your website logically laid out
  • Design your website with the input of those with disabilities
  • Utilize alt text in images
  • Provide an accessibility menu 
    • Resources like UserWay can help with this
  • Check your site against the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

The technology permeating our lives makes accessibility more possible than ever before. So, if you have the capabilities to customize your site in a way that makes it more accessible, use them. As Remy says, “Customization is key when designing for accessibility.”

A Technological Shift We’re Capable of Handling

Remember when smartphones became more popular in the early 2010s? During that time period, there was a huge shift in making websites optimized for mobile screens … before that, they were only really usable on computer screens. 

Similarly, we should be seeing the same shift in making websites optimized for accessibility. Even if you have to retrofit your site, do it. 

Continuing the Conversation

Disability is an often-neglected aspect of diversity and inclusion, so having this discussion was a critical part of our month-long PR Summit. 

Through thoughtful communications, comprehensive storytelling and the power of technology, we can continue making this world accessible for all.

Learn more about all of PRSA Pittsburgh’s D&I efforts here.

PR Summit Digital Series: CEOs Against Stigma Recap

By Nelli Tokleh
Diversity & Inclusion Committee Member

PRSA Pittsburgh hosted the second installment of the PR Summit Digital Series last week with “Combatting the Stigma of Mental Illness in the Workplace.” This online event featured our 2019 public service recipient, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Keystone Pennsylvania and its director of communications and marketing, Maria Kakay. The session highlighted how our chapter’s members collaborated with NAMI in a campaign called CEOs Against Stigma,  – which we engaged with local business leaders to combat the stigma of mental illness in the workplace. 

Moderated by PRSA Pittsburgh board member Deanna Tomaselli, Vice President of Client Services at The Motherhood, the session discussed the strategies and tactics of this campaign — as well as how the pandemic has impacted mental health for workers in 2020.

CEOs Against Stigma 

NAMI is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of children, adolescents, adults and families affected by mental illness through recovery-focused support, education and advocacy. With the CEOs Against Stigma program, our chapter helped increase brand awareness of the program’s mission by:

  • Educating executive leaders about the impact mental illness is having on the workplace 
  • Assisting leaders in developing policies and practices that prioritize mental health and reduce stigma
  • Urging CEOs to sign the CEO Pledge, which unlocks access to a six-step toolkit (a free program)

Campaign Rollout 

To kick off the 2019 campaign, chapter members formed a committee. This committee was tasked with planning a strategy and executing the following tactics:

  • Conducting research, including a survey to reach CEOs
    • This survey was focused on the state of mental health in each CEO’s workplace
    • Research was also conducted into which local media outlets had covered the topic of mental health 
  • Planning a targeted media approach, including:
    • Writing and distributing a press release on the PRSA Pittsburgh and NAMI partnership
    • Sending media invitations for the breakfast event 
  • Promoting the campaign on PRSA Pittsburgh and NAMI Keystone PA’s website and social media channels
  • Hosting a breakfast event for the community, to raise awareness 
  • Garnering media coverage on the partnership and breakfast event in several local broadcast, print and online outlets 

Survey Results 

We developed a survey to get a temperature check on the state of mental health in the workplace from local CEOs themselves. This tactic helped our team communicate the results to NAMI, who went on to promote their mental health resources to support local businesses. The goal was to help these businesses prioritize mental health and reduce the stigma around it. 

Key highlights from the survey included these findings: 

  • 75% of CEOs had employees who were experiencing mental health concerns, or who had family members experiencing mental health concerns
  • 90% were concerned about a loss of productivity 
  • 60% of companies had an Employee Assistance Program 
    • Of those that did not, 70% had other resources

Campaign Results

Throughout the year, we successfully increased awareness of the campaign in the community. Highlights included:

  • Reaching CEOs in the Pittsburgh region
  • The CEO Pledge being signed by Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto
  • Booking media interviews with WESA-FM and “Our Region’s Business”

Get Involved 

To volunteer with our local NAMI chapter, please contact Maria Kakay at If you’re a local CEO who wants to learn more about NAMI’s free resources, contact Maria as well. 

To get involved with our chapter’s various public service campaigns, email our Public Service Chair Kristen Wishon at

Also, check our website for details about upcoming PR Summit sessions throughout October. 

You can also follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more news and events from our chapter. 

This year’s PR Summit consists of weekly presentations in October featuring topics in recognition of Global Diversity Awareness Month. Every Wednesday, PRSA Pittsburgh will host one or two sessions facilitating hard conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion in the PR industry. Each presentation will include time for Q&As, so that attendees can participate in these critical discussions. RSVP here


First PR Summit Session Aims to Transform the D&I Landscape in PRSA Chapters

By Charlene Payne
Diversity & Inclusion Committee Member

It’s a unique time for businesses and organizations committing to a renewed focus on diversity and inclusion. It’s a time where communicators can lead conversations, redirect dialogues, and mitigate the repercussions of unconscious biases to help us discover the real issues and challenges. 

This made Felicia Blow, APR, Co-Chair of the PRSA National Diversity & Inclusion Committee and 2021 National Chair-Elect Nominee, the perfect choice for our first PR Summit session. Felicia challenged attendees to think, act, and make a difference in our communities (through voices and  actions) in her presentation, “Think, Act, Make a Difference: Transforming the PRSA D&I Landscape.” 

We must communicate with others to help them find their voices, and to help them understand the true issues, Felicia said. These themes of equity and inclusion were woven throughout her powerful presentation, which included PRSA’s strategic plan and methods on how to engage current and future professionals.

Diversity & Inclusion Best Practices

Felicia’s recommended steps align themselves with the PRSA Strategic Plan’s objectives. They include:

  • Being an example to other organizations when it comes to diversity and inclusion. We must have representation within our organization by being planted at the table.
  • Showing integrity to other organizations. We have to be an example for other groups with diverse leadership.
  • Establishing one consistent definition for diversity and inclusion,  a separate initiative from affirmative action, EEOC, quotas, etc.
  • Creating pipelines from Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to the organization.
  • Partnering with organizations like the National Association of Black Journalists and ColorComm.
  • Reimagining the definition of “new pro” (recent graduate vs. new to the industry).

Implementing Diversity & Inclusion 

Felicia recommends completing the following tasks when implementing diversity and inclusion into your chapter or organization:

  • Read the PRSA D&I Strategic Plan. Share the insights within it to strengthen its execution.
  • Build a D&I Calendar for the remainder of 2020. Begin thinking of your 2021 D&I activity calendar now.
  • Prepare for annual recognition of PRSA’s Diversity and Inclusion Month in October. 
  • Reach out to the National D&I Committee with questions and support.

This first PR Summit session taught us that chapters and organizations can use PRSA’s D&I Strategic Plan to deliver quantifiable results—helping them maintain strong footing in today’s multicultural marketplace, and in the global landscape of the future. If you’re interested in additional strategies on how to include diversity and inclusion in your organization, check outPRSA National’s Diversity & Inclusion Toolkit.

This year’s PR Summit consists of weekly presentations in October featuring topics in recognition of Global Diversity Awareness Month. Every Wednesday, PRSA Pittsburgh will host one or two sessions facilitating hard conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion in the PR industry. Each presentation will include time for Q&As, so that attendees can participate in these critical discussions. RSVP here

Matching the Postcard to the Destination: ‘Putting the PR in Press,’ an Event Recap

By Ashley Jones
Communications Chair

PR and media: They go together like (dare we say it?) peanut butter and jelly. And while the kitchens may be different, often pros within these respective fields use similar ingredients, tools and recipes of their trades to achieve a mutual goal: Telling a good story.

Understanding the reciprocity between these professions has always been essential to fueling the accomplishments of both PR pros and journalists alike. However, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic brought a wealth of change and challenges to newsrooms, PR offices and communications between the two.

On Sept. 15, PRSA Pittsburgh partnered with Women’s Press Club of Pittsburgh to host “Putting the PR in Press,” a PR & media panel during which we explored the perspectives of PR pros, former journalists and current journalists on these ever-changing industries and the common career transition from one to the other. The following panelists offered their expertise and experiences during the one-hour lunch and learn:

  • Billie Kellar, HR Manager at Garrison Hughes
  • Michael Machosky, Public Relations Coordinator at Markowitz Communications and Staff Writer at NEXTpittsburgh
  • Nicole Schuman, Content Manager at PRNEWS
  • Deborah Todd, Communications Manager at University of Pittsburgh

Moderated by Jennifer Miele, Chief Communications Officer at the Diocese of Greensburg, the former WTAE reporter led a powerful discussion including tips for pitching newsrooms, building a professional network, updating resumes and, ultimately, how to transition your skillset from one industry to the other. 

Here were our key takeaways:

Networking & Nailing the Pitch

Finding and interacting with journalists is one of PR pros’ biggest challenges, according to Muck Rack. COVID-19 caused disruption in the news cycle, editorial calendars and basic human interaction. So, how do we continue to build a network remotely, make our stories relevant and match the headline to the reporter? Here are a few tips:

  • While meeting in-person is rather shaky right now, reaching out and connecting virtually is safe and a must.Journalists need connections just as much as you do — consider virtual coffee,”  said Deborah Todd.
  • Pitching should be purposeful. Who you’re pitching to matters most. Knowing what that reporter is currently working on also helps. It’s important to have an understanding of timing. Don’t try to recycle things you’ve already put out there. Know when the pitch you’re sending is relevant or not.
  • Create stories that are regionally specific. Localization is important.
  • More than anything, be creative. “Shovels in the ground and ribbon cuttings are hard to sell right now. There have to be better ways to position your story and you have to figure those out,” said Michael Machosky.

State of the Newsroom

U.S. Census data shows that PR pros now outnumber journalists 6-to-1.

“Journalists have had a really rough few months, I’ll be honest,” Nicole Schuman said. “Staff and revenue has been affected. I’m personally doing more writing than I ever have before across a wider range of topics. But if we can get through this year, we can get through anything.”

With newsrooms seeing unfortunate shrinking, how do we as PR pros continue to adapt along with journalists, and what should we know about the news cycle?

  • Editorial calendars have changed significantly as a result of COVID-19. Be sure to stay on top of what is current in the news cycle.
  • Remember, the news cycle never stops.
  • News is needed now more than ever, especially as traditional media resources continue to downsize.
  • Brand newsrooms are becoming more integral to journalists’ toolkits in regards to sourcing content, and here are some that can serve as inspiration: Marriott, Spotify and National Geographic

Transitioning from Journalism to PR

Employment of public relations specialists is projected to grow 6% from 2018 to 2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. As public relations continues to grow and play a pivotal role for brands — especially during times like these, in which crisis management, building awareness and storytelling is crucial — many journalists are making the switch. Here’s how and why it works: 

  •  There are tons of transferable skills!
    • Interviewing skills come in handy when communicating with clients, colleagues and internal teams, vendors, etc.
    • The ability to operate under deadline pressure while maintaining accuracy is extremely beneficial to the business side of operations
    • Strong storytelling and writing abilities are essential to any PR guru

“We’re looking for strong communicators. Someone with strong writing experience. I haven’t had one position in the communications field that hasn’t required some kind of writing sample or writing test,” said Billie Kellar.

  • As a former journalist, you have insider knowledge about newsroom processes and a better understanding of who might be interested in a story or not. Having a wide net of media contacts and an understanding of how and when to communicate will be beneficial to any PR firm or team.
  • Your beat or specialty as a journalist can inform the kind of brands you work with as a PR professional. Having specific knowledge of a specific industry transfers well in terms of brand storytelling.
  • As for resumes, don’t use the same template for every job posting.


Whether you’re in PR, journalism or a different field altogether, first and foremost on your to-do list should be to find a mentor. Identify organizations and seasoned professionals who can lend experience, advice and support. Often, it’s these networks and individuals who can help you get your foot in the door. 

Ultimately, whether you’re pitching a press release or transitioning your career, it all comes down to timing. So, keep Jennifer Miele’s advice in mind: 

“The postcard has to match the destination.” 

If you would like to learn more about the efforts of the Women’s Press Club of Pittsburgh, or would like to get involved, you can join their mailing list at

If you have any feedback regarding this event, or events you’d like to see in the future, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at

White coffee mug, full of coffee, sitting on long wooden table with wooden chairs out of focus in the background

Uncertain Times Call For Substantial Change

By Jesse Serra
Programming Co-Chair

Throughout history, it’s been proven time and again that controversy paired with bravery can lead to substantial change in society — consider the Women’s Suffrage Movement, the Stonewall Riots, the Civil Rights Movement, and, most recently, the Black Lives Matter Movement. Diversity and inclusion efforts have come to the forefront as a result of some of the world’s most recent tragedies. It’s time to make D&I not just conversation, but action, through efforts to ensure equal opportunities for all.

These thoughts and more were explored during PRSA Pittsburgh’s panel event, “Leadership Strategies to Cultivate a Diverse & Inclusive Environment,” featuring local D&I professionals:

Recognizing there is an unfortunate lack of support and prioritization for diversity and inclusion in the workforce, as well as in our communities, is the first step to initiating necessary conversations and change. Our panel of powerhouse women not only demonstrated passionate dedication to D&I efforts, but provided encouragement and actionable takeaways that we as professionals can implement immediately in both our personal and professional lives.

Throughout the lunch and learn panel discussion, a recognizable theme was change and improvement. How do we begin or better efforts that are already in place? It’s simple: action. We can no longer believe that ideas or wishful thinking is enough. It’s time to have difficult, transparent conversations that lead to implementing strategies, efforts, support teams and more. Action must take place in order to see change and to create the inclusive world we need. And it starts with each of us.

What can we do as individuals?

  1. Self-reflect. Are we each doing our part? Dunn posed that each of us should look in the mirror and ask ourselves: Who is included in our circle of peers and how we can expand it? Who or what are we most invested in, and are we working to incorporate diversity and inclusion in our day-to-day lives? What kinds of conversations are we having in our own homes and how can we expound on the importance of these matters?
  2. Be authentic and vulnerable. As we begin these conversations, which may be difficult or outside of our comfort zones, being honest and clear can encourage others to do the same. In being transparent and vulnerable, we inevitably create a safe place for others to join in with confidence. When we are able to let our guards down, we become more willing to relate to others and that is truly what our world needs.
  3. Be on the right side of history. Again, it is not enough to just be talking about change. Even when involving ourselves in conversation, words without actions to support them won’t change a thing. This is not simply a trend to follow, but the forming of our society’s future.

What can we do to improve the workplace?

“Maintaining transparency and being open and honest about current conversations is essential in the workplace,” urged panelist Malesia Dunn.

Ensuring current and potential employees feel safe, heard and represented begins with the recruitment process. It’s pertinent to ensure recruiters’ perceptions are unbiased and that parts of the process such as job descriptions and outreach platforms are reaching a wider pool of potential candidates. It also matters what happens after a new hire joins the team. Providing D&I resources and tools can help new hires feel welcome, as well as ensure that D&I efforts already in place will continue to be exercised as the talent pool grows. 

Our panelists discussed key factors to ensure that the workplace is a safe environment, or a place where personnel feel secure, needed and in community with others. Based on each of their backgrounds and current D&I initiatives, they broke down three main components:   

  • Development

    When a new hire comes on board, what will they first encounter? Will their initial interactions be validating and helpful? Or based on prior biases? To hope for the best when a new hire comes through the door does not suffice. Nor for a newcomer who just moved to a city like Pittsburgh to immediately feel at home. For people to find their niche, connections become vital in growing roots and opening up opportunities. If organizations lack ample ways for employees to grow and develop in each of their positions and environments, efficiency and creativity will be greatly suppressed.

    “If you want to get the most out of your people, the best thing you can do is to engage them and alleviate the burdens they are carrying,” explained panelist Paloma Denardis.

    Helping employees become confident, strong-willed individuals can create the thriving culture your business needs led by personnel that readily and confidently execute.

  • Representation

    When we see people like ourselves and find commonalities, we feel more secure and represented, thus reinforcing the need for diversity. Lewis and Dunn both spoke about the significance of being Black women in the workforce — and many times being the only Black person present in a meeting or working in a department.

    “Seeing someone who looks like me draws me in and helps me feel represented,” Lewis said.

    Ensuring team members represent marginalized groups is crucial to creating a welcoming environment for others as they seek employment, research organizations and businesses, and retain talent. As a woman, a minority, or someone with a disability, to see a person or people similar to you in the workplace creates an environment in which you are not an outlier.

  • Relationship

    Recruiters, in particular, are faced with taking the initiative to meet people where they are, in order to minimize bias and ensure a strong D&I strategy is in place.

    “Go out to the places your new hires are and place yourself in their communities and groups,” Lewis explained.

    Reaching out beyond our normal circles, getting out of our comfort zones and engaging with professionals and colleagues who may not look the same as we do are all crucial. There’s a wealth of untapped talent in regards to underrepresented groups who have unparalleled knowledge, experience, creativity that would benefit any organization. Research and identify the best platforms to connect with these individuals, maintain these relationships and continue to grow these connections.

The gravity of current events and engagement in the Black Lives Matter movement is changing the trajectory of conversation and society. It’s time for action.

PRSA Pittsburgh recognizes that we must elevate the voices of those who are so often silenced. We are proud to stand by and support individuals of all races, genders, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations and abilities. Our D&I committee is dedicated to doing our part in changing the narrative and creating a future in which all opportunities are equal.

Thank you to all who took part in this conversation and we encourage you to join in on further conversations and follow these resources.

Connect with the panelists, reach out to our D&I co-chairs, look to our industry leaders and make your mark on history by finding the purpose in hardship. Certainly, keep up with new D&I efforts within PRSA Pittsburgh and stay connected as we work to build sustainable environments for all. 

Finally, extend your voices and let us know what more you need from us to ensure representation and inclusivity:

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

We Have Infinite Creative Opportunities to Solve Customer Experience Problems

By Steve Radick
PRSA Sponsorship Lead
[Originally published at]


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

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

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

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

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

Home Improvement

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


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


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


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


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

Amusement Parks

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


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

Commercial Real Estate

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


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


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

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

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

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

Photo by Caroline Moore Photography


By Kristen Wishon
PRSA Pittsburgh Public Service Lead

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

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

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

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

Kelsey Waros, program manager for SWSG Pittsburgh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Photo by Alex Grubbs, PRSA Pittsburgh Multimedia Lead

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

Photo by Alex Grubbs, Multimedia Lead

Compiled by Stacey Federoff
Web Content Manage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Communications and PR professionals of all identities and seniority levels are encouraged to inquire about joining our Diversity & Inclusion Committee at

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

There are a lot of white guys in my head

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Nicole Tobias
2020 Bob O’Gara Scholarship winner


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

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

Take a Break

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

Continue Professional Development

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

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

Update Your Materials

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

Accept Whatever Happens

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

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