Does your nonprofit need communications services? Apply to PRSA Pittsburgh’s Public Service Project

UPDATE: RFP Deadline Extension
We want to allow adequate time for nonprofits to respond to our Public Service RFP. We’ve extended the application deadline to 5 p.m. on Friday, May 22, 2020. Please submit your proposal to Kristen Wishon at ka.wishon@gmail.com.

 

By Kristen Wishon
PRSA Pittsburgh Public Service Chair

 

Check in with your nonprofit communicators: Chances are, they are not OK.

If they haven’t been laid off or furloughed, our nonprofit cohorts are facing unchartered territory in regard to communications challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many nonprofits are facing budget constraints due to decreased revenues from earned income streams, and cancellations of large fundraisers and other donor-engagement events. On the flip side, nonprofits in service industries are facing increased demand for services and constrained capacity.

All of these elements mean that communications professionals are pivoting their efforts to break through the noise and effectively communicate their changing needs and priorities to their audiences.

Not to mention the impact on smaller nonprofits, many of which are closing. We’re seeing this in our Pittsburgh community already. 

As a fellow nonprofit communications professional working in the sector since 2013, I can relate. 

At the end of the day, this is not a cookie-cutter situation for any nonprofit. However, all is not lost.

We want to help our city’s nonprofit communicators


Each year, PRSA Pittsburgh members engage in a public service project to support the communications efforts of an area nonprofit. As this year’s Public Service Lead, I think it’s more important than ever for us to rally around the Pittsburgh-area nonprofits that are in greatest need.

That’s why PRSA Pittsburgh is adjusting its annual public service project to assist with communications projects for area nonprofits deeply affected by the current COVID-19 pandemic. We don’t want to guess or assume what our nonprofit community needs, so we’re now accepting responses to our RFP here. Here’s how we may be able to help:

  • Planning and executing a communications strategy in response to the nonprofit’s current needs,
  • Granting beneficiary designation at a PRSA Pittsburgh virtual event or events, and 
  • Planning and executing a communications campaign to support a new fundraising initiative, new virtual events or programming; promoting a new initiative, etc.

Responses are due by Friday, May 8, 2020 now extended to Friday, May 22, 2020. Please share this opportunity with any colleagues who might find this partnership helpful.

PRSA Pittsburgh members: Join the Public Service Committee 

We can’t accomplish this project without the help of our members.

PRSA members can help review RFP responses, select the nonprofit project we undertake this year and help add the needed manpower to implement a project or campaign.

If you’re interested in joining the Public Service Committee, please reach out to me directly

Additionally, you can join me Monday, April 20 on PRSA Pittsburgh’s Instagram Live for the next edition of our “Screen to Screen” series. [Update: Watch the recorded version here.]

I will talk more about my experiences as a nonprofit communications director, provide advice to other nonprofit communicators and answer questions about this year’s public service project.

Alex Bracken | Unsplash

With ‘Screen To Screen,’ PRSA Pittsburgh aims to keep providing connections to local PR community

[This is Part One in a series of recaps of past “Screen To Screen” episodes – be sure to tune in to Instagram Live twice per week at 5:30 p.m. for new additions to the series.]


By Stacey Federoff
Web Content Manager

 

At PRSA Pittsburgh, we value making connections between members and providing tools, support and education to all members. It’s right here in our value proposition. During this time of the COVID-19 global pandemic and related shutdown, we wanted to make sure that didn’t stop, especially when we need to connect virtually, since we can’t connect in-person.

With that in mind, twice per week, we’ve been hosting “Screen To Screen”, an Instagram Live series, to discuss and explore different topics related to industry best practices during these unprecedented times. Tune in at 5:30 p.m. most Mondays and Thursdays for the latest episodes, or check out our IGTV for some of the past episodes.

Here’s what we’ve learned from the first four experts who’ve joined us:

Deanna Tomaselli – Working From Home

If you missed Deanna’s tips about working from home, since it was our very first episode once the stay-at-home order started, no need to worry: She summed up her most important recommendations in a blog post for us, which includes things such as:

  • Keeping your commute time – Using the extra hour in the morning and evening to work out, meditate or just sleep in.
  • Doing some chores during the work day – Easy tasks like folding laundry during a webinar can help cross off personal tasks to reduce stress.
  • Listening to audio books, podcasts and Instagram Live streams – Mundane tasks can be more fun with some reading or laughter in your ears.
  • Taking advantage of online resources – There are plenty of fitness studios, TV, networking and educational videos, classes and livestreams.
  • Setting boundaries – Communicating with work team members and family members about work-life balance as well as flex-time or away from your desk.
  • Keeping the Good Vibes Rolling – Whether it’s lighting candles, supporting local businesses or donating to a relief fund, taking small steps and being grateful can help at any time.

Steve Radick – Crisis Communications

Steve helped lead the efforts on arguably one of the most controversial modern Super Bowl commercials, so we talked to him about crisis communications during this crazy time. 

Keeping a close eye on the news to stay up-to-date was the place to start, while taking a longview, not reacting too quickly and monitoring other brands. Some PR industry sources he suggested were:

A lot of brands were doing a lot of things well, but the bar for doing good has now been set a lot higher than just writing a check: Taking a stand for employees, customers, and other stakeholders is important. And the legal department shouldn’t be driving these communications, instead, any communications should be in plain English, conveyed with empathy and gratitude. “It’s ok to say we don’t know all the answers, but that the only thing we care about is your safety,” Steve said.

Local examples of authentic crisis communications are included in a previous blog post of ours, such as the partnership between Giant Eagle and Primanti Bros. as well as Wigle Whiskey and other distilleries shifting to produce hand sanitizer.

Dan Ayer – Content Creation

Since Dan is an award-winning copywriter and public relations pro who develops ideas, strategy, and content that drives business for clients, we knew he would have expert advice about content creation during the COVID-19 pandemic and shutdown. 

He emphasized that content should convey real meaning. Instead of goals related to selling, brands should prioritize goals related to being helpful right now. Messages should contain a level of empathy. “Put yourself in the shoes of someone going through the worst possible scenario,” Ayer suggested. 

Now is the best time to understand brand voice – who they are, what they stand for, what their goals are – and use it to develop messages, even including humor and entertainment, if that is appropriate.

For some brands it may be best just to sit things out for a while, mindful of what you’re doing. Ask: Will this content help achieve a business objective? Or, could a pivot work better, without capitalizing inappropriately on the situation? Communicate messages clearly, concisely and intelligently while being open and honest.

Great communicators and great brands are the ones who do the best at creating some emotional relief in addition to a sense of connection. Cottonelle’s “Share A Square” campaign is an example of being smart and helpful at the same time. Miller Lite and Aviation Gin are supporting bartenders. Nike is inspiring people to “play inside” and the NBA is granting access to past “classic” games. 

B2B brands can also make meaningful decisions about content and public relations, such as MSA Safety’s donation of N95 masks to Pittsburgh-area hospitals.

Content creators can play an impactful role for businesses during this unprecedented time, when they have the chance to engage and inspire people – and that highlights the overall importance of communication. Understanding the power of championing clients’ stories, content creators should take pride in and realize the responsibility of being valuable and helpful during this pandemic.

 

Next up for the “Screen To Screen” series at 5:30 p.m. April 14, we have Alex Grubbs, an MBA student, who will share strategies to cope and maintain focus during the current climate. See you then!

 

[In Part Two, we’ll recap episodes on reliable sources, social media and portfolio-building.]

 

Emma Matthews Digital Production | Unsplash

How to Keep Your Sanity While Work From Home Seems to Last Forever

By Deanna Tomaselli
PRSA Pittsburgh Young Professionals Co-Chair

Emma Matthews Digital Production | Unsplash 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take a walk every day. Have a dedicated workspace. Keep your usual hours. We’ve read blog post after blog post lately on work-from-home tips. And while I will offer a few tips of mine that I recently shared on PRSA Pittsburgh’s Screen to Screen series, what I won’t offer is sugar-coated, regurgitated “rules” to follow.

Because as someone eloquently put it on social media: You’re not working from home; you’re at home trying to work during a global pandemic. Here are some tips to maintain your sanity.


Keep Your Commute Time

While I don’t encourage you to go for a drive for 30 minutes in the morning and at night, you do have an extra hour (give or take) theoretically. I’ve been using mine to either 1) sleep longer some mornings or 2) plan my meals/groceries. My coworker mentioned she’s been getting more sleep than ever right now, which is amazing! It may be tough for some to get good sleep juggling this new life, along with anxiety over things we can’t control, but if you can sleep, do it. There is no shame in sleeping until 8 a.m. or even 9 a.m. on a Wednesday, if you don’t have a meeting first-thing. Other mornings, it feels good to get up early to work out, meditate, or just drink coffee. It’s all about balance.

On the other hand, grocery shopping is now officially the Hunger Games, and I prefer to online shop, which takes calculated strategy to plan out groceries and meals in advance. So, I also use that early-morning time to plan. Regardless of what you do with it, use this time wisely.


Do Some Chores During the Work Day

A lot of articles and posts tell you NOT to do things around the house during the day, but I disagree (to a point). It’s very easy to throw in a load of laundry, then take a break later to fold it. I’ve been sitting in on quite a few webinars, so I’ll listening in while folding laundry at the same time.

I don’t think it’s wise to do major things like mop the floors or vacuum your entire house or apartment during the day. But, easy tasks like running your robot vacuum or the dishwasher, throwing dinner into the Crock-Pot, or spraying Lysol on the doorknob or remote for the tenth time are all ways to maximize the day and allow you to check things off your personal list to create less stress.

 

Listen to Audio Books, Podcasts and Instagram Live streams

Recent data shows that podcast listenership is down, and audience growth dropped by about 15% through most of March. This makes sense because we’re not commuting, a time when many people listen to podcasts.

But I am still making an effort to listen to some of my favorite podcasts like Office Ladies and Business Casual. I do this while making dinner, walking the dog or organizing. We’re all cleaning our drawers and closets right now, so why not throw on Jessica Simpson’s Open Book (recommended on Audible and then listen to the podcast about it) and make your experience more enjoyable?

There are also plenty of Instagram Live streams and other video series that don’t really require looking at the screen, so I’ve been listening in to many of those. My two current favorites are Miley Cyrus’ Bright Minded and John Krasinski’s Some Good News.

 

Take Advantage of Free Online Resources

There are SO many free things online right now at our fingertips. First, shout out to PRSA Pittsburgh for utilizing Instagram Live and showcasing board members on the bi-weekly “Screen To Screen” series. PRSA National also has numerous webinars and assistance for crisis communications on its website.

Many fitness studios are offering free trials and classes. Use this time to upskill, learning something to better yourself career-wise (this list from PR Daily is a great resource). And there’s no shame in taking advantage of free TV. If you haven’t watched The Sopranos yet, now is your chance. Seriously, go watch it.

Also, now is still a great time to network. I had virtual coffee with a new contact a couple of weeks ago and it was nice to connect that way. Fast Company has more tips. And Social Media Today has a great list of must-have tools and apps for remote working.

 

Set Boundaries

This tip is usually on most lists, but it’s important. Recently, a fellow member of a Facebook group I am a part of commented about missing a client’s call. Within five minutes, the client called her boss to complain, but she was just out taking a quick walk at lunch. Really? Thankfully, I do not work for anyone like that, but some might. Setting boundaries is key right now with coworkers and bosses.

If you use a platform to communicate with co-workers like Slack or Teams, set an away message if you’re going to be gone from your computer for longer than 30 minutes during the day. If you are taking advantage of flex time – as my company has so graciously offered – make sure to communicate when you’re using it. Let clients and outside contacts know, too. You don’t have to go crazy, but just communicate. And keep within your hours. It’s so easy to work late at home (I am typing this blog post at 9:45 p.m., for instance), but give yourself a break. Right now, we’re lucky to have pretty good weather in Pittsburgh, so go outside when the work day ends and sit on your porch or grass al fresco. Use that time to check in with friends and family or even better, leave your screens inside.

A final note on this: Set boundaries with whomever is living in your house, too. That means spouses, roommates, children, etc. Let them know when your working hours are and stick to those. Also, shout out to all the working parents right now. I do NOT know how you are managing and my hat is off to you.

 

Keep the Good Vibes Rolling

Music is a staple in my day. Having a great playlist can keep your energy up, or soothe you. I shared a few in my recent monthly newsletter (shameless plug!). I also like to light a candle or diffuse essential oils during the day to keep it zen. Having fresh flowers is also a nice option. Order yourself some from a local shop.

I also have donated to a few local people doing great things for healthcare workers and food for those in need, and that makes me feel better about making a small difference. Of course, ordering food from local favorites also shows support. What I Ate, the Pittsburgh foodie Instagram account, is encouraging everyone to take selfies with their takeout or delivery, then tag them and use the hashtag #PGHtakeoutselfie to help get the word out.

My favorite email newsletter, Morning Brew, also just launched a new newsletter called The Essentials. It’s a guide to staying active, healthy and happy while quarantined, and drops every Monday, Wednesday and Friday in the evening. Something we all need. 

Some mornings, I wake up and work out, drink hot water with lemon, shower and do my hair and makeup. Other days, I roll out of bed late with greasy hair and plop down at my laptop in my PJs and struggle to focus. While I do think getting ready and having a routine are both keys to feeling better – and I encourage you to do that most days, I also encourage being lazy and not getting out of sweatpants sometimes. It’s a weird time, and we’re allowed!

I also continue to remind myself to be thankful that I have a job and a house and food on my table, and for that I am truly grateful. So give yourself a break, keep things in perspective and stay positive. We’ve got this!

 

Deanna Tomaselli is an Associate Vice President at Red Havas and an active member of the PRSA Pittsburgh board. She shares industry insights, career learnings, and life in the ‘Burgh at PRettyinPgh.com.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Stay at Home, Stay Informed

By Ashley Jones

As communicators, we know the power that words carry. We understand that when used correctly, words have the inimitable power to inform and inspire. But, we know all too well, when used carelessly, words can have just as much of a dangerous impact.

“Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday.

During this time of confusion and distress, we want to provide our members with information and resources from media outlets we trust most.

A Message from PRSA National

A massive amount of COVID-19 related information is being delivered to all of us from hundreds of sources at an unprecedented pace. The role of public relations professionals as advocates for truth, accuracy and transparency in accordance with the PRSA Code of Ethics is integral to our daily practice but especially crucial in times of crisis.

Current circumstances offer an opportunity for us to be part of the solution. Our expertise can help drown out the din and assist communities in deciphering facts from fiction. The World Health Association (WHO) says there is an “infodemic,” and with the abundance of information comes the danger that this could overwhelm people to the point they begin to tune out just when they most need to be informed.

PRSA and the PRSA Health Academy believe the best work we can do is to simplify the process and direct people to reliable, credible information resources. As a result, they’ve created the INFOdemicRx infographic (below) that depicts a simple, three-action-steps guide to help consumers and communities find the information they need amidst conflicting claims, hype, misinformation, disinformation and information overload.

Where to Get Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the PR Industry

Stay Connected: Webinars to Tune Into

  • PRSA Health Academy Section
    • You’ve Got This! Build a Social Media Presence to Align Message with Market
      • Tuesday, March 24, 2020
      • 3PM ET
      • Register here.
  • PR News
    • Communicating About COVID-19 — Navigating a New and Uncertain Crisis
      • Wednesday, March 25, 2020
      • 1PM-2PM ET
      • Register here.
  • Ragan and PR Daily
    • Crisis Communications Virual Conference: Managing Communications Through Coronavirus
      • Tuesday, March 31 2020
      • 11AM-4PM ET
      • Register here.
  • PRSA
    • Principles of Effective Crisis Response
      • Available now. Access here.

How Brands in the ‘Burgh Are Coping

1. Steel City – #renegadewash Challenge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Smith Brothers Agency – #TogetherApart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Pittsburgh Penguins & Aramark – Donation of 2,000 lbs. of perishable food items from PPG Pains Arena to 412 Food Rescue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Bigham Tavern – Wingsday at Home

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. 412 Food Rescue – Call for surplus food to distribute to families and children in need

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. Eat’n Park – #DailyDoseofSmiley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7. Primanti Bros. – Partnership with Giant Eagle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Kind of Content Do YOU Want to See From US?

Let us know what information, tips, or other encouraging content we can share that would be most beneficial to you.

Email us or DM us on any social media platform.

Man standing in the righthand-side of the frame in focus wearing a medical mask holding the strap on a subway with other riders behind him out of focus.

Effective crisis communication during outbreaks depends on authenticity, not hope

By Jeremy Church
[Originally published by WordWrite]

 

Today’s rapidly changing information cycle can either be a cure for bad news or make it worse.

In the case of an epidemic (or likely pandemic) like the coronavirus, this type of instant access merely feeds the public’s need for more details.

Yet misinformation during a crisis is sometimes more prevalent than the facts, which — along with science — are increasingly under attack, not just in this country but also around the globe.

Consider the results of a Feb. 27 survey from 5W Public Relations that found 38% of beer drinkers would no longer buy Corona under any circumstances and 16% didn’t know whether Corona beer is related to the coronavirus.

Hold my lime-infused beer.

What the world needs now is … facts

We need accurate, timely updates to help us make informed decisions about how countries, governments, businesses and individual citizens should react and respond to a serious global crisis like this one.

It’s not a coincidence that the regimes that are the most oppressive and least transparent in terms of sharing information (i.e. China and Iran) have been among the hardest hit by the virus. Getting essential facts about the illness in the hands of health care workers and increasingly worried citizens is critical. That can’t happen if government institutions are more concerned about protecting their reputation than keeping people safe.

The two best fact-based resources to understand widespread disease and public health threats in real time are the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Both have detailed summaries of the current crisis on their websites, here and here. Each also has prevention strategies that include basic precautions similar to what is recommended to guard against the common cold or flu.

The reality is the WHO believes a coronavirus pandemic is near. (As I write this today, the WHO has yet to categorize coronavirus as such only for semantical reasons you can feel free to explore here.)

According to the CDC, coronaviruses are common in people and animals. Some early patients in China were connected to a large seafood and live animal market. But other patients reportedly did not have exposure to animals. Person-to-person spread has now been reported outside China, including in the United States. Increasingly, new locations have seen“community spread,” meaning some who are infected are not sure how or where they became exposed.

It’s a fluid situation, as doctors currently struggle to determine how many are ill and what the mortality rate is. Thus far, most deaths have been confined to the elderly and those with underlying health issues. Most people are expected to experience only mild symptoms.

Those are the facts, but anything more I write today specific to the coronavirus will be dated tomorrow. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t use our current situation as a litmus test for what needs to happen when we next encounter a deadly strain of disease — because it will happen again.

What coronavirus reminds us about ALL crisis communications

At WordWrite, we handle about a dozen crisis situations per year. We’re in the middle of two right now.

In our experience, there are four main types of crisis:

  1. Acts of God
  2. Acts of man
  3. Acts of God, made worse by man
  4. Acts of man, made worse by God

An epidemic or pandemic would be an example of an act of God, made worse by man. It’s made worse by man, literally, in the way we unintentionally pass disease to one another. From a crisis communications standpoint, it’s also made worse by man if the information isn’t conveyed promptly and accurately.

Most crises are predictable. This one is not. That doesn’t mean you can’t prepare. Hope is not a strategy.

We trust our doctors and scientists to develop a vaccine and help curb the spread of infectious diseases. It also turns out we should also listen to them when it comes to communicating during a crisis, because they follow a similar playbook to one we’d recommend at WordWrite.

Many of the suggestions offered by the CDC in the midst of the bird flu outbreaks that began more than 20 years ago are still relevant for any government or business leaders today.

  1. Show empathy.
  2. Suggest an appropriate action to take.
  3. Show respect.
  4. Communicate information clearly and quickly.
  5. Stick to the facts.

Similarly, the WHO’s Pandemic Influenza Risk Management Guidance from 2017 offers a straightforward, no-nonsense assessment of what an effective strategy should contain, including “processes to collect, develop and distribute information in a timely manner, and procedures to ensure that formats are appropriate to the target audiences. The strategy should take into account behavioural [sic] aspects of how people react to, and act on, advice and information they receive, not only from authorities but also from sources such as mass and social media. Public understanding of hazards and risks is complex, context-dependent and culturally mediated.”

When communicating in any crisis, these elements win

Both the CDC and WHO are referring to what we at WordWrite would describe as the three critical elements to creating an effective story behind your crisis response: authenticity, fluency and engagement.

We would label these as the building blocks to uncovering, developing and sharing your Capital S Story — why anyone would buy from you, work for you, invest in you, partner with you, etc. In the case of a crisis, this story answers the question of why anyone should trust and believe what you’re saying.

You must always start from a place of truth, sharing the factual perspectives of those working in your organization to incorporate their viewpoints on an important topic, which, in this case, would be a rapidly evolving public health issue.

Next, you engage these expert storytellers to share their assessments because they are the most qualified to inform and educate the public on a particular subject. They are not always the president or CEO of a company or leader of a country. This approach helps dispel myths and reduce concerns about corporate or political agendas driving the communications strategy.

Finally, if — as the WHO argues — the public’s ability to understand risk “is complex, context-dependent and culturally mediated,” then we must consistently measure the engagement level our target audiences have with the messages we share during a crisis.

Today’s modern communications strategies often ignore the characteristics the WHO describes — deep human experiences rooted in biology and shared culture.

The cure for a crisis of communication

Constant noise blurs the lines between belief and facts. “Fake news” is part of the lexicon. Digital clutter is a virus of its own.

Effective storytellers are hard to find, especially in a crisis. People who are reliable and relatable in their ability to communicate their knowledge of your organization and the issues impacting your audiences are at a premium. Identify them and let them do their jobs.

Any crisis has heroes and villains. Public skepticism of government institutions is at an all-time high. Your business or organization doesn’t want to function from that kind of reputational deficit.

Operating from a crisis playbook built upon the principles demonstrated in your Capital S Story can build trust as well as keep your people informed and safe.

In an epidemic or pandemic, the only real bad guy should be the actual disease.

Looking for help with your own crisis communications plan? WordWrite offers Crisis Training as part of its Chapter Series training sessions.

Woman with bowl of popcorn and TV remote control

Which commercials were Super Bowl stand-outs? PRSA Pittsburgh board members weigh in

By Stacey Federoff
Web Content Manager


Sure, the Kansas City Chiefs won Super Bowl LIV on Sunday night – but on to the more important part of the annual football spectacle: Commercials.

The NFL’s “Big Game” draws an audience of more than 100 million people, with Fox Corp. charging as much as $5.6 million for 30 seconds, according to the Wall Street Journal’s review of the ads.

Nostalgia and humor were major themes – prominent in spots from the likes of Walmart, Cheetos and Mountain Dew – as AdWeek and Ad Age both noted in their round-ups of the commercials.

USAToday’s Ad Meter rated the two presidential campaign ads from Democrat Michael Bloomberg and President Donald Trump that aired during the game with the lowest scores, along with Pop Tart’s “Fixed The Pretzel” spot.

PRSA Pittsburgh board members shared which commercials they thought stood out from the rest, and there were some clear favorites:

Google’s “Loretta”

 

It was a simple, moving way to demonstrate how their voice search works. 

Dan Ayer, vice president

I think Google did a great job with showcasing an illness and turning it into a sentimental moment with the power of technology. It definitely was a heart-wrenching segment to watch, but Google’s concept was one that caught everyone’s attention as soon as it aired.

Mallory Manz, programming co-chair

I loved this commercial because of its emotional impact. The man in the commercial was suffering from memory loss and used his phone to help keep the memory of his wife Loretta alive. I believe Google’s ad showed the benefits of AI but did it in an intimate and touching way to help make the concept relatable to the average consumer, especially older consumers. The ad also helped to show the different functionalities of AI and how it doesn’t need to be something we are afraid of but instead can help us when we cannot help ourselves.

Taylor Fife, social media co-chair

Google recently dealt with some major reputational blows due to news of its not-so-great internal culture. Tech brands at large aren’t regarded as particularly likeable, relatable or human. Google seemed to challenge those notions with their Super Bowl commercial “Loretta”. They turned the product into a long-term friend for an aging man. It made me cry, even as a major skeptic of their company. It was just a very smart position for the brand, especially if they have sights on the senior market with the upcoming “Silver Tsunami.” I’m in the senior living industry and can tell you this got a lot of buzz in my circle.

Morgan McCoy, Renaissance Awards co-chair


Hyundai’s “Smaht Pahk”

One of my favorite ads was the Hyundai “Smaht Pahk” ad. I thought it was clever and funny, plus really nailed the message of the feature of the car. I think the brand did a nice job engaging on Twitter before and after it aired, too. Where they fell short though, was they didn’t have much going on on Instagram and TikTok. When I looked, they had no stories or current posts (it was from earlier in the day), so I think they could have created longer conversations if they extended it into other social channels, because that’s where people are also engaging during the game.

Deanna Tomaselli, young professionals co-chair

Jeep’s “Groundhog Day”

This year, I noticed a lot of the ads used celebrities as influencers. While some of them were funny, they missed the mark because the underlying “so what” was missing. Two ads stuck out to me: Google’s “Loretta” commercial with its heart-warming story about an elderly man trying to remember his wife, and Bill Murray and Jeep’s Groundhog Day commercial — but that might just be because I’m a big fan of Bill Murray!

Robin Rectenwald, secretary

One of my favorites was Jeep’s  Groundhog Day commercial. It was super timely since it aired on Groundhog Day, and memorable because of its humor and pull from a movie many people are familiar with. Due to the movie sequence, it had a classic, familiar face and showed how the product made a huge difference in Bill’s everyday life – (nothing is worse than trying to copy something without having the original person, am I right?!) He had a huge smile on his face getting up every day at 6 a.m. to face that #JeepLife! They teased it on social, so they were able to stretch their content over a few days and start their conversation early, which may or may not have drawn in viewers to check out their full-length commercial.

Kariann Mano, member services chair

BONUS: Jeep posted a longer “Director’s Cut” version on YouTube

Cheetos’ “Can’t Touch This”

 

I loved the Cheetos “Can’t Touch This” commercial. It’s been years since Cheetos has debuted a Super Bowl commercial and this year was perfect timing with it being the 30th anniversary of “U Can’t Touch This”. It was hilarious and clever to mix the product’s universally known “Cheetos fingers” (which Cheetos executives recently announced is officially referred to as “cheetle”) dilemma with M.C. Hammer’s catchy ’80s hit. It was fun, catchy, relatable and (dare I say it?!) cheesy in the best way.

Ashley Jones, communications chair

***

For even more discussion from Pittsburghers about the Super Bowl commercials, Steve Radick, sponsorship lead, served as a guest on the Pittsburgh Current’s podcast, which you can listen to via audio platforms or as a YouTube video.

He calls Post Malone’s appearance in Bud Light Seltzer’s ad “delightfully self-aware” and talks with Bethany Ruhe, associate publisher and co-founder at the alt-weekly, about the best ads that bring together culture, product and insight.

Acrylic awards on display table onstage at 2020 Rennaissance Awards

2020 PRSA Pittsburgh Renaissance Award Winners: The Complete List

PRSA Pittsburgh Renaissance Awards Honor the Year’s Best in Communications

Top Hat and Red Havas win Best in Show for Perfect Scores; PPG’s Bryan Iams Inducted into PRSA Pittsburgh Hall of Fame

On Thursday, Jan. 30, nearly 250 of the region’s most talented communicators, marketers and public relations professionals gathered at the Pittsburgh Playhouse to celebrate the PRSA Pittsburgh Renaissance Awards presented by Red Havas.

John Chamberlin and Rachael Rennebeck, hosts of the YaJagoff!!! Podcast, emceed the annual ceremony, which honors the best of the year’s communications campaigns, tactics and individual practitioners.

PRSA Pittsburgh distributed 87 awards to local agencies, corporations and nonprofit organizations. Impartial judges from the PRSA Western Michigan chapter reviewed the entries. Campaigns included work on some of the most recognizable brands such as Bruster’s Real Ice Cream, Duquesne Light Company, Highmark, Pittsburgh International Airport, I.C. Light Beer, Peoples Natural Gas, PPG Paints, Primanti Bros., S&T Bank, VisitPITTSBURGH and many more.

Bryan Iams, PPG VP of Corporate and Government Affairs, was honored with the Renaissance Hall of Fame Award; while John Pepper, Director of Communications and Marketing at the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, received the Communicator of the Year Award.

Top Hat and Red Havas took home Best in Show for their campaigns which received perfect scores from the judges.

In addition, the PR community paid tribute to Markowitz Communications and Veritas Communications Advisors for their crisis management work for the Tree of Life tragedy.

PRSA Pittsburgh thanks its generous sponsors: BCW, Covalent, EM Media, Point Park University School of Communication, Red Havas, StudioME and WordWrite. See the complete list of winners below.

2020 PRSA Pittsburgh Renaissance Award Winners

Renaissance Individual Awards

  • Hall of Fame – Bryan Iams, PPG
  • Communicator of the Year – John Pepper, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy
  • PR Team of the Year – VisitPITTSBURGH
  • Rising Star Award – Stacey Federoff, Point Park University
  • PR Entrepreneur of the Year – Aire Plitchta Reese, Aire Reese Consulting
  • PRSA Member of the Year – Brian Ackermann, Red Havas
  • PRSSA Chapter of the year – Waynesburg University
  • Bob O’Gara Student Scholarship – Nicole Tobias, Waynesburg University

Campaigns

B2B Campaigns

Renaissance Awards

  • Red Havas, Costa: Kicking Plastic in the Optical Industry
  • Red Havas, Transitions Academy, Light Years Ahead
  • Red Havas, Transitions Change Agents
  • Red Havas, Transitions Signature GEN 8 Launch
  • WordWrite & Foothold Studios, New Pig Launches National Safety Month Program to Recognize the Country’s Safest Floors and Workspaces

Award of Merit

  • BCW, Joining Forces with a Global Powerhouse to Benefit the Small
    Business Owner
  • Red Havas, Leveraging Industry Best Practices from the Transitions Innovation Awards

Content Marketing

Renaissance Awards

  • Brunner, The Home Depot Rental 2019 Content Marketing Campaign
  • Top Hat, Reclaiming the Light Beer Throne in Pittsburgh
  • WordWrite & Foothold Studios, New Pig Launches National Safety Month Program to Recognize the Country’s Safest Floors and Workspaces

Award of Merit

  • Brunner, G4A 2019 Content Strategy

Crisis Communications

Renaissance Award

  • Markowitz Communications and Veritas Communications Advisors, Tree of Life: Effectively Managing a Multitude of Crisis Communications Challenges and Issues Involving the Deadliest Anti-Semitic Attack in U.S. History

Digital

Renaissance Awards

  • Pipitone Group, Peoples Natural Gas – Let’s Talk Energy: Construction Heat Digital Campaign
  • VisitPITTSBURGH, Pull Up a Chair. You are Welcomed Here!

Award of Merit

  • Pipitone Group, Presbyterian SeniorCare Network, Careers with Heart Recruitment Digital Campaign

Events

Renaissance Awards

  • BCW, Experiencing the Evolution of Color with the PPG Paint Brand
  • Gatesman, #BALovesPittsburgh: Launching a Nonstop Flight from Pittsburgh
  • Red Havas, Transitions Academy, Light Years Ahead

Award of Merit

  • Gatesman, The Second Annual MBA Summit: Committing to Conversation to Position Michigan Ross for Success
  • Think Communications, Inc. & Primanti Bros., Love at First Bite

Influencer Relations

Renaissance Awards

  • BCW, Experiencing the Evolution of Color with the PPG Paint Brand
  • BCW, Bank of America and Apple Pay Tap Their Way to Social Media Success
  • Brunner, FY19 Musselman’s and Lucky Leaf Influencer Campaigns
  • Mindful Kreative, The Arthritis Foundation’s “Get A Grip on Arthritis” Influencer Campaign
  • Red Havas, Transitions Change Agents (BEST IN SHOW)

Awards of Merit

  • BCW, A New View of Influencers and Office Depot: Influencer Campaign
  • WordWrite, XO, KB: Influencer Campaign Turns Customers into Friends

Integrated Marketing Campaign

Renaissance Awards

  • BCW, Leviton Load Center: Every Circuit Tells a Story
  • Gatesman, Increasing Customer Satisfaction for Duquesne Light Company by Putting the Customer First
  • Gatesman, If Nobody Gives, Nobody Gets: Moving the Needle on Organ Donation

Awards of Merit

  • Brunner, Bruster’s Real Ice Cream 30th Anniversary IMC
  • Senator John Heinz History Center, Destination Moon Integrated Marketing Campaign
  • Top Hat, Reclaiming the Light Beer Throne in Pittsburgh

Media Relations

Renaissance Awards

  • Gatesman, Capitalizing on a Monumental Milestone to Hijack Headlines
  • Red Havas, Costa: Kicking Plastic in the Optical Industry
  • Red Havas, Curiosity Cube® Ignites Passion in STEM
  • Red Havas, Leveraging Industry Best Practices from the Transitions Innovation Awards
  • WordWrite, Landing the Whale: Attracting Higher-net-Worth Financial
  • WordWrite, From Negative to Positive, Caliente’s Stories Resonate with Pittsburgh Community and Beyond

Awards of Merit

  • BCW, Heading Back-To-School Proud with Office Depot and Mario Lopez – National Media Relations
  • BCW, SAE International Steps Forward to Advance Safe Performance, Testing and Development of Autonomous Vehicles – National Media Relations
  • Brunner, Bruster’s Real Ice Cream 2019 Media Relations
  • Field General, 814 Day
  • Highmark Inc. PR Team, Highmark “War on Opioids”

New Products and Services

Renaissance Awards

  • BCW, Making Office Depot Worth the Extra Click and Trip – New Product and Service Communications
  • BCW, Leviton Decora Smart Voice Dimmer: Breaking Through the Noise
  • Red Havas, Transitions Signature GEN 8 Launch
  • Top Hat, Reclaiming the Light Beer Throne in Pittsburgh
  • WordWrite & Foothold Studios, New Pig Launches National Safety Month Program to Recognize the Country’s Safest Floors and Workspaces

Awards of Merit

  • BCW, Leviton Load Center: Every Circuit Tells a Story
  • Pipitone Group, Peoples Natural Gas – Let’s Talk Energy: Combined Heat and Power Campaign

Regulated Communications

Renaissance Awards

  • Beyond Spots & Dots, Pittsburgh Fire Fighters: Fire Ops 101
  • BCW, A New Day for an Old Retailer

Reputation Management

Renaissance Awards

  • Gatesman, Overcoming Negative Perceptions of Pace’s ADA Paratransit Service Through Education
  • South Fayette Township, South Fayette Community Day
  • Top Hat, Reclaiming the Light Beer Throne in Pittsburgh

Awards of Merit

  • Pittsburgh International Airport, Pittsburgh International Airport Launches Blue Sky News
  • Red Havas, Curiosity Cube ® Ignites Passion in STEM
  • WordWrite, From Negative to Positive, Caliente’s Stories Resonate with Pittsburgh Community and Beyond

Social Media

Renaissance Awards

  • Gatesman, Now #Trending: S&T Bank’s Name That Lange Campaign
  • Senator John Heinz History Center, History Center Shoots for the Moon with #MoonBox Campaign

Award of Merit

  • Top Hat, Reclaiming the Light Beer Throne in Pittsburgh

Student Campaign (NEW CATEGORY)

Awards of Merit

  • Point Park University, COR Carnival – Game for the Gift of Life
  • Waynesburg University, Comm 3:1 Campaign

Tactics

Multimedia

Renaissance Awards

  • Brunner, The Home Depot Rental Stop Motion Video Series
  • Gatesman, Carts are a lot like Hearts: Connecting Social Norms to Organ Donation
  • Pipitone Group, Presbyterian SeniorCare Network: Uniquely You Recruitment Videos
  • Pittsburgh International Airport, A Perfect Place for Presley
  • Top Hat, Reclaiming the Light Beer Throne in Pittsburgh
  • WordWrite & Foothold Studios, New Pig Launches National Safety
  • Month Program to Recognize the Country’s Safest Floors and Workspaces

Award of Merit

  • Pipitone Group, Peoples Natural Gas – Let’s Talk Energy: Combined Heat
    and Power Videos

Promotional

Renaissance Awards

  • Think Communications, Inc. & JDRF Western Pennsylvania, 27th Annual Promise Gala
  • Top Hat, Reclaiming the Light Beer Throne in Pittsburgh (BEST IN
    SHOW)

Written Content

Renaissance Awards

  • WordWrite, Redefining Earned Media in 100 Words, The Pittsburgh 100

Awards of Merit

  • BCW, Behind the Curtain: Realizing the full Potential of Additive Manufacturing Requires Leadership not Wizardry
  • Top Hat, Reclaiming the Light Beer Throne in Pittsburgh
  • WordWrite & Foothold Studios, New Pig Launches National Safety Month Program to Recognize the Country’s Safest Floors and Workspaces

It’s almost time to celebrate: what you need to know for the 2020 Renaissance Awards

By: Robin Rectenwald

It’s hard to believe that 2020 is already here, especially since we’ve been planning the PRSA Pittsburgh Renaissance Awards since February 2019.

With less than 30 days to go until our biggest event of the year, I can’t express how excited I am for this year’s awards. January 30th will be a special night where nearly 200 local communications and marketing professionals will celebrate their achievements. We had nearly 30 companies submit more than 100 entries, the most PRSA Pittsburgh has had in years. We are grateful for your support and enthusiasm for our event and we can’t wait to showcase your hard work in just a few weeks.

Joining us will be John Chamberlin and Rachael Rennebeck, hosts of the humorous YaJagoff Podcast, to serve as the Master of Ceremonies for the evening. Don’t worry, they won’t poke too much fun at us. In fact, John has been a long-time supporter of PRSA, so we’re excited to be working with the rising duo.

As you gear up for the night of celebration, here’s what you need to know regarding this year’s event.

BUY YOUR TICKETS BEFORE JANUARY 24

Because the networking portion will take place in the lobby of the Pittsburgh Playhouse, we have a limited number of tickets. Please be sure to purchase your tickets early as we anticipate selling out. We ask that you purchase your tickets no later than Friday, January 24.

Tickets are available here.

We won’t have tables available for purchase since the awards ceremony will take place in a traditional theater, but we do have ticket bundles available.

MAKE SURE TO GO TO THE RIGHT LOCATION

If you haven’t been to the Pittsburgh Playhouse, here’s your chance! It’s a magnificent performing arts center located in the heart of downtown Pittsburgh. What better place to showcase the most creative marketing campaigns?

Be sure not to confuse the Pittsburgh Playhouse with its old location in Oakland. This year’s Renaissance Awards will take place at the new Playhouse located at 350 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15222.

PARKING

Street parking is free after 6 p.m. or there are plenty of spots available in the Market Square Garage (228 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15222), less than two blocks away from the Playhouse.

ARRIVE EARLY TO GET A BITE TO EAT AND DRINK

With so many smart and creative minds in one room, we hope to leave plenty of room for networking before and after the awards ceremony. Because we have a lot of awards to hand out, we hope to start the ceremony at 6:30 p.m. sharp. Be sure to arrive early if you want to grab something to eat and drink in advance. Here’s the tentative schedule of events for the evening:

  • 5:00 p.m.: Doors open at Pittsburgh Playhouse (350 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15222)
  • 5:00 – 6:30 p.m.: Networking, drinks and hors d’oeuvres
  • 6:30 – 9:00 p.m.: Renaissance Awards ceremony (no food or drink in theater)
  • 9:00 – 10:00 p.m.: Networking, coffee and dessert
  • 10:00 p.m.: After Party at Forbes Tavern (310 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15222)

WHAT’S ON THE MENU (we promise, it’s delicious)

Thanks to the staff at the Pittsburgh Playhouse, we’re excited for this year’s menu, which includes vegetarian and gluten free options:

  • Carving Station
  • Pasta Station
  • Cheese and fruit place
  • Hot Hors d’Oeuvres
  • Cold Hors d’Oeuvres
  • Gourmet coffee and desserts
  • Wine and beer bar (each ticket holder gets two free drinks)

AFTER PARTY

Reward your hard work and Renaissance wins with a cocktail (or two). Join us at Forbes Tavern to continue the celebration!

Our After Party is sponsored by StudioME, a user-friendly space for media creation in Pittsburgh. From first-timers to professionals, StudioME offers user-friendly studio spaces, equipment rentals, editing workstations, and custom production services for all media creators. The StudioME model was created with the challenge to deliver high quality content using brand new approaches to an outdated, over-priced model.

We’ll be sure to share any other event updates as they come in. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to me directly at robin.rectenwald@wordwritepr.com.

See you on January 30th!

A New Decade, A New Board of Directors

Under the strong, committed leadership of president Ben Butler, 2019 was a fantastic year for PRSA Pittsburgh, with tons of new faces, engaging programming and professional learning experiences ready to be channelled in the new year. PRSA Pittsburgh is thrilled to announce the official 2020 Board of Directors!

“I take a look at the goals we set out to achieve in 2019 and I’m thrilled because we’ve accomplished all of them,” says Ben Butler, APR, 2019 PRSA Pittsburgh President. “The 2019 board was one of the most cohesive, motivated, and fun groups I’ve had the pleasure to work with. Thanks to their efforts, we’re heading into 2020 with momentum, great leadership, and another rockstar board.”

The 2020 Board boasts an exciting mix of PRSA Pittsburgh veterans along with eager young professionals. This balance promises to foster new ideas and perspectives while having the experience necessary to carry them successfully to fruition.

Proposed and finalized by the PRSA Pittsburgh Nominating Committee, we welcome:

  • President | Jordan Mitrik, Brunner
  • Vice President | Dan Ayer, Field General
  • Secretary | Robin Rectenwald, WordWrite
  • Treasurer | Darcey Mamone, NAMI 
  • Assistant Treasurer | Brian Ackermann, Red Havas           
  • Immediate Past President | Ben Butler, APR, Top Hat
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  • Communications Chair | Ashley Jones, Beyond Spots & Dots
  • Social Media Co-Chair | Taylor Fife, Manchester Bidwell Corporation
  • Social Media Co-Chair | Megha Pai, WordWrite
  • Web Content Manager | Stacey Federoff, Point Park University
  • Multimedia Lead | Alex Grubbs, Point Park University
  • Multimedia Committee Member | Nick Jones, Point Park University
  • Website Lead | Ben Butler, APR, Top Hat
  • Member Services Chair | Kariann Mano, Red Havas
  • Programming Co-Chair | Jesse Serra, rue21
  • Programming Co-Chair | Mallory Manz, Carlow University
  • Renaissance Awards Co-Chair | Alex Oltmanns, Pipitone Group
  • Renaissance Awards Co-Chair | Morgan McCoy, Touchtown
  • PR Summit Co-Chair | Nathan Petrillo, NeighborWorks Western Pennsylvania
  • PR Summit Co-Chair | Lily Whorl, Red Havas
  • Young Professionals Co-Chair | Deanna Tomaselli, Red Havas
  • Young Professionals Co-Chair | Catherine Clements, Red Havas
  • Accreditation Lead | Ben Butler, APR, Top Hat
  • Public Service Lead | Kristen Wishon, Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council
  • Student Liaison | Camille Downing, Point Park University
  • Sponsorship Lead | Steve Radick, BCW Global

A Message from the 2020 President

“For PRSA Pittsburgh, 2019 was filled with high-energy events and engaging members. As we turn the page to 2020, I look forward to continuing the legacy set forth by previous Chapter leaders while creating new opportunities for our members with my fellow board of directors,” said Jordan Mitrik, 2020 PRSA Pittsburgh President. “There has never been a more exciting time to be a communications professional, and we are committed to creating a community in Pittsburgh you feel proud to be a part of. Cheers to a new board, a new year and a new decade!”

Diversity Chair Position Still Open!

It’s not too late to join the 2020 Board! We’re still looking to fill our revived Diversity Chair position. We welcome fresh ideas for fulfilling the role and anticipate that the Diversity Chair will be highly involved across every aspect of PRSA Pittsburgh communications, events and member relations. Communications and PR professionals of all identities and seniority levels are encouraged to inquire or apply at info@prsa-pgh.org!

 

We look forward to an exciting year of propelling Pittsburgh PR forward!

Peloton Ad Still Has Everyone’s Heads Spinning

“A Peloton?!”

Little did Peloton know that the ad that began with this simple exclamation would spark a global controversy. By now you’ve either seen or at least heard about Peloton’s recent holiday blunder. The 30-second commercial titled, “The Gift That Gives Back,” has stirred both controversy and mockery among audiences. From comedic spoofs and outrage over perceived sexist and classist undertones to the company’s stocks falling, the spot has generated conversation and results that the Peloton brand didn’t anticipate.

“We constantly hear from our members how their lives have been meaningfully and positively impacted after purchasing or being gifted a Peloton Bike or Tread, often in ways that surprise them,” a Peloton representative said in a statement Wednesday.

“Our holiday spot was created to celebrate that fitness and wellness journey,” the statement said. “While we’re disappointed in how some have misinterpreted this commercial, we are encouraged by — and grateful for — the outpouring of support we’ve received from those who understand what we were trying to communicate.” – The New York Times

Peloton’s efforts to convey a relatable fitness journey, while admirable and surely made with the best intentions, missed the mark. But what was it about this ad specifically that struck such a cord? There was the backlash regarding the husband’s demeanor, the camera angles, the facial expressions of the “Peloton Wife.” But it was more than that. The ad didn’t feel genuine, it didn’t evoke inspiration or pathos. It was…well, awkward.

Here are some thoughts from Deanna Tomaselli and Ashley Jones:

What did you think about the ad?

D.T.: When I first saw it while watching TV before all the uproar, I thought they missed the mark and it was corny. Especially compared to last year’s holiday ad where the husband buys the bike for his wife and secretly uses it for himself (there’s one where the wife buys for the husband, too.) Clever! Then I saw the online reactions and just laughed. Do I think it’s sexist? I wouldn’t go that far; I would say it’s simply a bad ad.

A.J.: I saw the ad before seeing any of the online commentary and opinions, and my immediate response was “Oh man, this makes me cringe.” And I wasn’t cringing because I was offended in any way, the ad was honestly just laughable to me. I didn’t think it would receive this kind of negative attention, particularly surrounding sexism. The claims about the husband being abusive are a stretch. It simply lacked a powerful, resonating message.

What would you have done differently?

D.T.: If they want to follow her journey, I would have changed it to her buying it herself. That changes the dynamic. It’s her choice and her journey.

A.J.: I think if they wanted to stick with a “gift giving” theme it would have been more powerful to have a story behind WHY she wanted one. Did she have a health scare that warrants the need for more exercise? Is she fulfilling a lifelong dream to run a marathon and this will help with training? Does she have a beloved friend or sibling who she used to exercise with that now lives far away, but the bike enables them to work out together again? Some kind of storyline would have at least helped us as an audience root for her and detract a lot of this “sexism” talk.

What do you think makes this ad resonate so awkwardly with audiences?

D.T.: Peloton ads have always been kind of a joke (just take these memes). This one though, she just looks terrified. It’s a home workout for crying out loud! No one will see you. Plus, the way she is Instagram storying (so it looks like) is just weird.

What’s important to recognize, is that Peloton is an aspirational brand. The bikes and treads are certainly not cheap, so clearly, they are trying to reach a target demo, which I think always comes across in their messaging and advertising. I think people took this TOO far and should have kept it more fun, like the memes above. I also liked Peloton’s response since I would have been disappointed as well. All in all, I think people are making too big of a deal about this, but Peloton should get called out because the ad is bad. But, I would still like a bike. 😊

A.J.: I think it was how overly dramatic the entire commercial was. It was difficult to feel inspired by an already in-shape woman talking about her (for some reason?) scary, at-home journey to…being more in shape? On her incredibly expensive stationary bike? The actress’s facial expressions were distracting and the script was just so over-the-top. I’m not bashing the fact that this woman is healthy and wants to push herself to be the best, but it’s just not hitting home the message I think Peloton wanted to.

Don’t get me wrong, I love an ad that causes a stir because interesting conversation and perspectives ensue. The response to this was reminiscent to me of the polarizing effects of Gillette’s “The Best Men Can Be” ad. However, Gillette’s ad had purpose, a timely and powerful message. This just lacked authenticity.

Tell us – what were your thoughts on the ad?

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Thanks to our 2019 PRSA Holiday Party sponsors!