Member Spotlight: Bob Oltmanns

Connect with Bob

Describe your career.

I’m the president of OPR Group LLC, an independent public relations/marketing communications business. Before I started OPR in 2010, I was the president of one of Pennsylvania’s largest independent PR firms.

I didn’t start out intending to work in public relations. As a kid growing up in New Jersey, I had wanted to be an architect and went to architecture school after high school. But I soon discovered that I didn’t have the design skill set I’d need to cut it as an architect, so I switched to teaching. My dad was a carpenter, and I had worked as a draftsman while in architecture school, so I majored in industrial arts education. But while I was doing my student teaching in the 1970s, the energy crisis really fascinated me. So by the time I got my teaching degree, I was more interested in pursuing my passion in alternative energy systems. Pitt offered me a full scholarship and a graduate assistantship to study energy resources in the School of Engineering. I jumped at it and that’s what brought me to Pittsburgh. After getting my masters degree, the bottom dropped out of the energy industry and the only job I could find was a public information position in the federal fossil energy research program. At the time, I had no idea what that was but I needed a job. I learned a lot in a real hurry and had to essentially acquire the education for this career that I should have gotten in college while I was actually on the job. But that’s how I got my start in PR.

After doing that for 4-5 years, a small PR firm here in Pittsburgh needed help with some technology accounts. I had lived in a technology environment both in grad school at the Department of Energy, so that’s how I got started in the agency business.

But I never lost my love of teaching, so I’ve been fortunate enough to be on the adjunct faculty at both Carnegie Mellon University and Duquesne University Center for Environmental Research and Education.


How do you explain what you do to other people?

This is the age-old affliction we in PR seem to have. We make our living explaining our clients’ businesses to the world, but for the life of us, we can’t explain what WE do to anyone who doesn’t already work in PR. I actually wrote an article on this phenomenon about 20 years ago called “PR and the Cocktail Party Syndrome.” We’ve all been there. You walk into a cocktail party and someone asks what you do. “I work in public relations,” you say. “Oh, you mean like advertising.” And to avoid stuttering out some inside-baseball PR-speak jibberish, we simply say, “Well, advertising is part of what we do.” And then you proceed to follow them all over the room all evening with “And I also do media relations…..and speechwriting…..and community relations….and social media…..”

It’s a bloody curse.


Where do you currently live?

I live in the small town of Chester, West Virginia, about 45 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh.


Where is your favorite restaurant?

My absolute favorite spot is the York Harbor Inn in York Harbor, Maine. (I used to live there.)

But in Pittsburgh, I like different places for different meals. Breakfast at Pamela’s, lunch at Gaucho Parilla Argentina, burgers (and those shakes!) at Burgatory.


How long have you been in PRSA?

Since 1985


Why do you believe PRSA is beneficial?

In my career, PRSA has been a fabulous vehicle for professional development, networking, and business opportunities. I once did a root-cause analysis of where my clients came from and found that PRSA was the best source of referrals. And some of the friendships I made in PRSA 30 years ago are still some of the best friends I have in this business.

2016 Programming Preview

By Elizabeth Bacheson, Programming Chair

We’re working on an ambitious programming calendar for our members this year including several expert speakers, panel discussions and networking events. Here’s a preview:

Young Professionals Communicator Tour Series

Our Young Professionals committee will host their first tour of the year in March! The Communicator Tours series provides students and young professionals with a look inside a variety of PR agencies and corporate settings in the Pittsburgh area. Past tours include rue21, BRUNNER, Elias/Savion and Gatesman+Dave. Stay tuned for where our tour series will make its next stop!

GIFs, Memes, Hashtags, and Celebrities – What content can brands create and share and what should they avoid?

We’re working on a Q&A discussion with an IP/copyright attorney to discuss the do’s and don’ts for creating, curating and sharing content. This can often be a blurry topic, so we’re looking to bring some clarity to this important issue.

PRSA Cleveland Partner Event

We’re looking forward to joining forces with our fellow PR pros at PRSA Cleveland for a partner event to unite our two cities.

And much more!

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

Gatesman+Dave Provides Perspective on Advertising

By Dave Kwasnick

So in pondering what makes an ad great, one word popped into my mind.


Yeah, I didn’t see that coming. Allow me to explain. But first, do you remember the movie? (The original please, not the remake.)

“Carol Ann.”

“Don’t go into the light.”

“You only moved the headstones.”

Then you probably remember this scene: The boy’s creepy clown inexplicably goes missing in his room. (Note to parents: don’t buy your kids creepy clowns.) With ghosts running amuck, he’s pretty freaked out. So the boy looks for it under…the…bed. Slowly, agonizingly he musters the courage to peek into the darkness and sees….nothing. The tension evaporates. Poof! The boy spins back under the covers and BOOM! gets a big ol’ bear hug from Slappy the Satanic Circus Performer.

First time I saw that, I nearly peed myself.

Thirty years later, I watched it with my daughter. Pretty sure she did too.

Point is, we both knew exactly what was coming and we watched anyway. Heck, we secretly yearned for it. Why?

Two words: human nature. We love the delicate interplay between expected and surprise. The expected gives us a context we understand. It draws us in with familiarity, makes us say, “been there before.”  Take the scene from “Poltergeist.” Who hasn’t been slightly traumatized by the sight of a clown during childhood? ‘Nuff said. The surprise? That’s the thrill, the entertainment, the liberation from the ordinary world we all seek – if only for a moment. So when the clown finally popped out, it wasn’t an unwelcomed shock but rather the fulfillment of sought after expectation.

When you get the balance of expected and surprise just right, it’s magic and it never gets old.

Not surprisingly, “Poltergeist” was a huge success at the box office.

Fast forward to this Sunday. We’re gonna see a lot of commercials. The vast majority of them are one-offs created just for this game (though they’ll undoubtedly run throughout the year.) These spots are the product of five, 10, 15 creative teams, armies of social media, account and media people working toward this moment since before the confetti settled at last year’s game.

Yet nestled into this mélange of :30 second eye candy will be a spot that isn’t the singular product of a frantic 12-month birthing process. Nor is it really new. In fact, it’s the extension of a campaign that’s been running for seven years. And, like the clown in “Poltergeist”, we see it coming every time.

Yet we can’t stop watching.

It’s the Snickers campaign. I don’t laud it because I’m especially fond of Snickers (I’m not.) Or because I have a deep respect for the work BBDO does (I do.) I single it out because it shares something truly great, supremely effective advertising campaigns all have in common. You guessed it – the blend of expected and surprise.

Snickers expected, captured in wonderfully simple language, is “You’re not you when you’re hungry.” It’s an insight we can all relate to. Who hasn’t bitten someone’s head off when blood sugar dips way below the refill line?

Been there before.

And the surprise? Substituting an iconoclastic list of entertainment legends to personify people’s surly, calorie-deprived alter egos. Betty White. Aretha Franklin. The late Abe Vigoda. And this year Wilem Dafoe.

Yes, essentially it’s the same spot every time. But in this case, it does more than give us a moment of mirth or a fleeting bit of entertainment. It makes us, consciously or otherwise, grab a Snickers when hunger pangs have us acting, well, not like us. Think about it. Bet you’ve had a Snickers recently. How do I know? Because this campaign has taken Snickers from the back shelf of the candy aisle to a brand poised to crack the $1 billion mark.

When you get the balance of expected and surprise just right, it’s magic and it never gets old.

And that’s not just human nature.

It’s damn good business, too.


Dave Kwasnick is Partner, Executive Vice President, Chief Creative Officer at Gatesman+Dave, a fully integrated, independent marketing communications agency with expertise in branding, advertising, digital, public relations, social media, and media planning and buying. To learn more, please visit or join in on the conversation at or

PRSA Pittsburgh hosts annual Renaissance Awards

By Autumn Barszczowski
[ This post was originally published on Her Campus – Point Park:  ]

When told that he was a Public Relations group’s “Communicator of the Year,” Mayor Bill Peduto joked that it is probably because he is always available.

He said folks can direct message him on Twitter, as well as texting him, but to climb through his window is better than sending him a message on Linkedin.

Every year, Pittsburgh’s chapter of the Public Relations Society of America holds a Renaissance Awards dinner to honor agencies from all over the city of Pittsburgh and their accomplishments in events, fundraisers, campaigns, and more.

“We’re going to be a city that learns to handle growth,” said the mayor, in response to the president of Pittsburgh’s Chapter of PRSA Steve Radick’s comment, which is to keep people in the city of Pittsburgh with communication and innovation.

During a dinner of carrot ginger soup and Peruvian style free-range chicken with tri-color quinoa and chimichurri sauce, the group presented awards in 17 categories, of both individual and collective achievements.

The mayor wasn’t the only winner of the night. Other agencies won for accomplishments in digital/social media campaigns, community relations/public service campaigns, and awards for special events, observances, or fundraisers.

The PRSA works to highlight the previous year’s accomplishments from PR agencies and individuals in order to learn from each other and create better ideas for the upcoming year, according to Steve Radick, president of Pittsburgh’s Chapter of PRSA.

“The Renaissance Awards gives an opportunity to look at success the PR community had” said Radick.

Along with these agency awards, Rachel Willis, a sophomore from Duquesne University and a double major in Public Relations and International Relations, was awarded with the Bob O’Gara Scholarship. The scholarship worth $2,000 was established to recognize outstanding public relations students for all of their hard work.

Students applying for the scholarship were asked to write an essay explaining what Public Relations meant to them. According to Willis, PR allows people to build relationships, a community, and gives them a way to engage with others. “To me, together that means we can impact others and affect change,” Willis said of the PR community.

The Agency of The Year Award went to The Motherhood for their Stork OTC campaign, which compiled blog posts from mothers about their difficulty in conceiving and the options that they found that could assist them in their process. They also hosted live Twitter chats in which they helped to promote the sales of the Stork OTC.

The ceremony ended with The Motherhood also being named “Best in Show” out of all the agencies in attendance, but the only agency out of 87 to receive a perfect score from the judges.

The Renaissance Hall of Fame Award, which went to Bob Oltmanns of OPR Group, LLC. During his speech he discussed his time in the PR field, leading up to that moment.

“This business is fun if you hang around long enough,” said Oltmanns, during his acceptance speech. He was nominated by fellow colleagues in PRSA, including Kenneth P. Service, Vice Chancellor of Communications at the University of Pittsburgh.

Service was inducted into the PRSA College of Fellows in 1998, four years before Oltmanns in 2002, according to the PRSA website.

These Renaissance Awards are “good for people to get to know each other and to learn from each other…to learn different ways of doing things,” said Service.

Other winners include Giant Eagle, Gatesman+Dave, Smith Brothers Agency and more, which can be found on the PRSA’s website.

Pittsburgh, the new Silicon Valley?

First there was Google, now there is Facebook. Just as Google is celebrating their 10th year in their Pittsburgh office, Facebook announced that they will also begin building an office in the Steel City.

Pittsburgh, which has been ranked in the top 60 best places for business and careers by Forbes, is well known for its rich art and culture. However, originally known for its steel and manufacturing industry, (hence the name the Steel City), Pittsburgh is now known for their technology, education, healthcare and financial services industries.

In addition, with close to 35 colleges and universities surrounding the Pittsburgh-area, it’s no wonder these tech giants are attracted to adding the city of Pittsburgh to their office geography, even if the weather can be unpredictable at times.

So why does this matter to the field of public relations and communications? Well, the new Facebook office in Pittsburgh will be dedicated to its Oculus Research virtual reality system, which the company acquired in 2014 for $2 billion.  The virtual reality market, which has seemed like an unusual concept of the future, is already affecting how professionals communicate to their target audiences in marketing campaigns.

An example of virtual reality currently being used is illustrated in the Marriott’s latest campaign, #GetTeleported, according to Holtz. The Marriott is using Oculus Rift technology to transform the travel industry, by using it as part of their campaign to fully immerse consumers in their first-ever virtual travel experience. Even though the campaign is still considered to be in prototype phase, the Marriott is taking full advantage of the virtual reality technology by developing an entire marketing campaign focused around it.

In addition, Slippery Rock University is using virtual reality to allow prospective students to “visit campus” using a computer or smart phone, according to the school’s website.

By connecting consumers through augmented reality, through the creation of realistic holograms, Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus Research, will be one piece of advancing technology that those in the Steel City will get to watch develop in their own backyard.  They will be able to have first-hand experience on Facebook’s continuing advancements in communication, especially when it comes to virtual reality technology.

The possibilities are endless and it will be interesting to see what Facebooks success will look like in the next few years.


Amanda Hardt is the Renaissance Awards co-chair for 2016. She currently is the marketing assistant at Schneider Downs and loves to attend PRSA events. In addition, Amanda likes to push her personal boundaries by training for a 50K race in March, but she also likes to relax with a good movie. Feel free to connect with Amanda on LinkedIn.

My First PRSA Event – PRSA Pittsburgh’s 2016 Renaissance Awards

By Valerie Bennett

Once a year, the professionals of our industry gather to celebrate the accomplishments of fellow agencies and their peers. This gathering is known as the PRSA Pittsburgh’s 2016 Renaissance Awards and took place last Thursday at Hotel Monaco.

The Renaissance Awards are much more than an awards banquet; it is a time when the busy professional communicators of Pittsburgh can come together and catch up with old friends, co-workers, and meet the rising new talent.

As being a part of the “new to” crowd for PRSA and Pittsburgh, this event was a great experience and an even greater networking opportunity. Professionals from all corners of Pittsburgh including agencies, colleges, and corporations were in attendance. From this networking, I was able to hear stories of the past and how the industry we love so much has grown.

The entire night was beneficial but what I appreciated the most was being able to see some of the best campaigns created within this city along with the passion, determination, and endless work that went into each piece, making them truly memorable.

I am grateful I was given the opportunity to attend this event as well as hold a membership with an organization that continues to surprise me. One which worked so hard to make this event special to each individual who was present. I couldn’t have asked for a better first event to attend, and I am already looking forward to the next.

PRSA Pittsburgh Celebrates Outstanding Work, Individual Practitioners as Part of Annual Award Show

Held at the Hotel Monaco, the Renaissance Awards were emceed by Leah Lizarondo, founder of Brazen Kitchen and cofounder of 412 Food Rescue. Mayor William Peduto was in attendance for his win as Renaissance Communicator of the Year, as were many of the region’s top public relations and communications professionals from leading agencies, corporations, non-profit organizations and educational institutions. Campaigns and tactics are honored in many categories, including media relations, marketing communications, community events/public service and special events.

“In this industry, we stand on the shoulders of giants. And each year, the PRSA Renaissance Awards give us an opportunity to not only recognize these giants, but to be inspired by them and to build on their successes. One of the things I like most about these awards is listening in on the conversations that take place at the tables. That’s where the seeds for next year’s winners tend to be planted,” said Steve Radick, President of PRSA Pittsburgh.

Entries were independently evaluated by a panel of judges from PRSA’s East Central District, comprised of chapters from Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Western and Northwestern Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Kentucky. The top scored entries received the ‘Renaissance Award’ distinction and the runner-ups received the ‘Award of Merit.’ Several categories had multiple winners depending on the numeric score of the judges.

Complete list of winners:


Digital Social Media Campaign

Less than $25,000 – Awards of Merit

  • Brunner: Jarden WeMo WeMoments Blogger Outreach Program
  • Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania: #GasSmellfie Public Safety Social Media Contest
  • Elias/Savion Advertising: AIRMALL USA: Fit2Fly Week AND Random Acts of Kindness Week
  • Gatesman+Dave: S&T Bank’s Hunt for Holiday Hundreds
  • The Motherhood: Influencer Driven Campaign Helps Deliver 126,000 Days of Clean Drinking Water to Children in Developing Countries


Less than $25,000 – Renaissance Award

  • Gatesman+Dave: SHOP ‘n SAVE Surprise and Delight
  • MarketSpace Communications: Children’s Community Pediatrics – CCP Wow Moments


More than $25,000 – Award of Merit

  • Brunner: Musselman’s Apple Butter Blogger Outreach Program


More than $25,000 – Renaissance Awards

  • The Motherhood: The Stork OTC Reach 57 Million with a new, at-home optionto those trying to conceive
  • Gatesman+Dave: Camp Invention Paid Social Registration Campaign


Community Relations/Public Service

Less than $50,000 – Awards of Merit

  • Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania: Santa’s Poison Prevention
  • FISA Foundation: Pittsburgh-Allegheny County Observance of 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Gatesman+Dave: 2015 Foodland Scholarship Program
  • OPR Group.: Environmental Focus: PA’s Environmental Affairs Television Program
  • Shift Collaborative: Taking the Stigma out of Afterschool Meals: Go Ahead, Get Your Grub On
  • The Motherhood: Influencer Driven Campaign Helps Deliver 126,000 Days of Clean Drinking Water to Children in Developing Countries
  • The Motherhood: The Motherhood and United Nations Foundation’s Shot @ Life Campaign


Less than $50,000 – Renaissance Award

  • Gateman+Dave: Westmoreland County Airshow


More than $50,000 – Awards of Merit

  • Allstate Insurance Company: Putting the Community in Good Hands
  • Burson-Marsteller: Paralyzed Veterans of America #UNSTOPPABLE
  • Shift Collaborative: Public Activations. A Huggable Robot. Playing the Horn for Healthcare


More than $50,000 – Renaissance Award

  • Red House Communications: OpenStreetsPGH 2016


Individual Award: Not-for-Profit Communicator of the Year

  • Patti Jo Lambert, Friends of the Bantam Jeep, Inc.


Special Event, Observances, Fundraisers

More than $35,000 – Award of Merit

  • Giant Eagle: Giant Eagle Cookie Launch


Not-for-Profit, Less than $35,000 – Renaissance Awards

  • Elias/Savion Public Relations: Father’s Day Pledge Public Signing Event
  • Shift Collaborative: Messaging and Brand Experience for a New Pittsburgh Festival – Picklesburgh


Not-for-Profit, More than $35,000 – Awards of Merit

  • Burson-Marsteller: Paralyzed Veterans of America #UNSTOPPABLE
  • Pipitone Group: Campaign for the Church Alive


Not-for-Profit, More than $35,000 – Renaissance Awards

  • Gatesman+Dave: National Inventors Hall of Fame Greatest Celebration of American Innovation Event
  • Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh: Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh UPMC 125th Anniversary Campaign


Individual Award: Renaissance Communicator of the Year

  • Mayor William Peduto


Media Relations

Less than $20,000 – Awards of Merit

  • Chemistry Communications: WEFTEC Trade Show
  • Elias/Savion Advertising: Center for Organ Recovery & Education


More than $20,000 – Awards of Merit

  • Allstate Insurance Company: Bringing Safety to the Steel City
  • Burson-Marsteller: Opternative Launch Media Relations Campaign
  • The PNC Financial Services Group: The Tower at PNC Plaza Opening


More than $20,000 – Renaissance Awards

  • Havas PR: Drug resistant epilepsy – The AspireSR generator launch
  • Burson-Marsteller: Defining a Digital Leader


Internal Communications

Awards of Merit

  • HM Insurance Group: HM Values Matter Program
  • Stern Public Relations: Take Your Parents to Work Day


Renaissance Award

  • Havas PR: Seeing What Sets National Vision, Inc. Apart


Individual Award: Renaissance Rising Star Award

  • Meredith Klein, Senior Account Executive at Gatesman+Dave
  • Jessica Franklin, External Communications & Community Affairs Representative at U.S. Steel


Marketing Communications

B2B, Less than $50,000 – Award of Merit

  • HM Insurance Group: HM Content Marketing – Specialty Pharmaceuticals


B2B, Less than $50,000 – Renaissance Award

  • Garrison Hughes: First National Bank – Business Banking


B2C, Less than $50,000 – Awards of Merit

  • Garrison Hughes: UPMC Medical Mondays
  • Mindful Creative/Downing Communications: Mainstay Life Services IMC Campaign


B2C, Less than $50,000 – Renaissance Award

  • Stern Public Relations: John Cisna’s Brand Ambassador Tour


B2B, More than $50,000 – Award of Merit

  • Pipitone Group: Guttman Energy Fuels Division – Marketing Communications Campaign


B2B, More than $50,000 – Renaissance Awards

  • Gatesman+Dave: Del Monte Fruit Burst Trade Campaign
  • Pipitone Group: Solarban 50th Anniversary Campaign


B2C, More than $50,000 – Awards of Merit

  • Gatesman+Dave: S&T Bank “&” Campaign
  • Giant Eagle: Giant Eagle Cookie Launch


B2C, More than $50,000 – Renaissance Awards

  • Burson-Marsteller: Defining a Digital Leader – Elevating Bank of America’s Industry Leadership
  • Chemistry: UPMC Health Plan Individual Exchange Campaign
  • Havas PR: Giving America Something to Smile About – Rickey Smiley Eyewear
  • Smith Brothers Agency: Snack Mob Sampling Tour


Bob O’Gara Student Scholarship Award

  • Rachel Willis, Duquesne University




Blogger Outreach – Award of Merit

  • Elias/Savion Advertising: Pittsburgh Irish Festival Blogger Outreach


Blogger Outreach – Renaissance Award

  • The Motherhood: Brain Chase – Bring Online Summer Adventure Learning to Kids


Online Publication – Renaissance Award

  • Bravo Group: The Stream


Internal Website – Award of Merit

  • Chemistry Communications: H&R Block Intranet Redesign Brand Platform


External Website – Awards of Merit

  • Chemistry Communications: Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation: 125th Anniversary Campaign Microsite
  • Gatesman+Dave: StarKist Website Redesign


Other – Award of Merit

  • Smith Brothers Agency: Nestle Drumstick #FirstDayofSummer Periscope Takeover


Individual Award: Agency of the Year

  • The Motherhood


Creative Tactics

Other – Awards of Merit 

  • Chemistry Communications: Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation: 125th Anniversary Celebrity Video AND 125TH Anniversary Giving Booth
  • Garrison Hughes: Calgon Carbon Interactive Kiosk


Internal/External Publications, three or more colors – Renaissance Award

  • University of Pittsburgh: Pitt Magazine


Annual Report and Capabilities Brochure, Less than $20,000 – Awards of Merit

  • Garrison Hughes: Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation Community Report
  • HM Insurance Group: HM Workers’ Compensation Advantages – Digital Brochure


Annual Report and Capabilities Brochure, Less than $20,000 – Renaissance Award

  • Mindful Kreative/Downing Communications: ‘The Keys to Success’ Capabilities Piece


Annual Report and Capabilities Brochure, More than $20,000 – Renaissance Awards

  • Garrison Hughes: 2015 UPMC Cancer Center Report
  • MarketSpace Communications: Children’s Pediatrics – Pinterest Annual Report


Individual Award: Renaissance Hall of Fame

  • Bob Oltmanns



  • The Motherhood: The Stork OTC Reach 57 Million with a New, At-Home Option to Those Trying to Conceive. It was the only entry out of all 87 to receive perfect score from all judges.

#PRin2016: PR Is More Than Just A Workstream

By Steve Radick
[ This post was originally published on PRSAY: ]

We, PR professionals, have to stop thinking of ourselves as the “earned” bubble of the PESO model. If and when we do, we’ll realize that while we’ve been focused on writing press releases, pitching the media, and planning events, marketers from other disciplines are not only playing in the earned bubble too, they’re increasingly doing it better than we are.

We live in a world of integrated marketing whether we like it or not. Ad agencies are winning Cannes Lions for “PR campaigns” and PR agencies are winning for “ad campaigns.” We may be the only ones still drawing a line between PR and marketing and between paid and earned media.

This “us vs. them” attitude is the same argument we were having 20 years ago. Today’s consumer doesn’t care. And increasingly, clients don’t care either. As Kieran Donahue, VP of Marketing Americas at Hilton Worldwide said,

“The whole idea of PR versus marketing is crap. You are all connected.”

The things that make great brand marketing are the things that PR should have always been about – authenticity, newsworthiness, shareability, transparency, creativity. Think about the best marketing campaigns. They are filled with content that you seek out, that you watch willingly, and that you share with your friends. That’s the type of content that PR has always talked about. And as more and more people use ad blockers, DVRs and subscriptions to avoid interruptive advertising, PR thinking is finally showing real business dividends.

So while PR pros are sitting around arguing about how we should have a seat at the table, other disciplines have started doing PR work better than our own industry. That invitation to the table that we’re always waiting for? It’s not coming. Seats at the table go to the people with the best ideas, not the people in a particular box on the org chart. If we want a seat at the table, we have to earn it, and once we’re there, we have to be better guests.

We have to compete on the strength of our ideas, and that means changing how we think, how we talk, and how we present ourselves. We have to think of PR less as a workstream, as a functional specialty and start thinking of it as a mindset, as a unique perspective you can bring to marketing. I spoke about this topic at the PRSA International Conference in November. In my presentation, I shared five things PR pros have to start doing to improve the quality of those ideas.

Get inspired. Stop reading PR-only articles and blog posts. Stop going to PR-only events. top talking to PR-only people. You’re not only allowed to get out of the PR bubble, it is necessary for your survival. Broaden your horizons and start checking out what other marketing disciplines are doing. Understand how they talk about themselves. How they present their ideas.

Learn their language. Saying “I went into PR because I hate math” may be said jokingly, but every time it’s said, it sets our industry back. We may have different functional specialties, but we’re all business people with the same business goals. Learn about aided and unaided awareness, share points, RTBs, CTAs, CPMs, CTRs, and USPs.

Think critically. Rarely is a business problem solved solely with PR. We have to stop and think with our business hat on more often. Let’s ask “is that really the problem we should be solving? Is that the real problem?”

Own the big idea. We’re all tired of being asked to “PR this” or to “get coverage” for something. Why are we sitting and waiting for “the big idea?” What would happen if we were the ones coming up with the big idea? What would happen if we were driving this bus from the beginning instead of jumping on at the end? Do we even know what a “big idea” is? Instead of training our people to come up with big ideas, we train them to be smart and detail-oriented. We have to work harder to come up with our own “big ideas” – ideas that work across paid, earned, owned, and social. They have to impact the business in a profound way.

Sell in the big idea. Coming up with ideas is easy. Getting them sold in to your boss, to your client, to the finance department – that’s the hard part. And unfortunately, that’s the part we don’t do well. Here’s one example of how PR is losing that battle. Leo Burnett and MSLGroup’s Always’ #LikeaGirl campaign was one of the most iconic campaigns of the past year. Not surprisingly, it was awarded the Cannes Grand Prix in PR this year. Here’s the submission video they created for Cannes, the “Oscars” of advertising and creativity:

Pretty inspiring, huh? I’ve got three daughters and that video got me thinking they’re going to change the world. What a great way to showcase that campaign. Note how it uses video and striking imagery to tell a story and inspire people. That’s what sells in big ideas, not complex slides and detailed bullets.

If you’re interested in checking my whole presentation, it’s available here:  PR is what makes great brand marketing today, so shouldn’t we be the one leading the charge?

To Grad School or Not to Grad School??

By Bob O’Gara, Professor PR, Advertising and IMC, Point Park University 

First the obvious disclaimer:  I teach at the grad level and undergrad level at Point Park University. That said, after 25 years I am generally on top of trends in higher education and career development. For what it’s worth, here are my principles for graduate study beyond the Bachelor’s level.

1) Have a clear career goal or personal reason for reentering the academic path.  It could be gaining new skills, getting more current in the professions or even re-charging your personal and professional “system”.  In some cases you may want/need an advanced degree in communications or a business, management, leadership , law etc. degree.

2) Be sure you have the time.   Sounds obvious, but from an educator’s perspective lack of time results in poor grades and limited learning.

3) Select the format most applicable to your lifestyle.  The offerings now include online only, regular classroom attendance and a hybrid combining both.  Online is deceptively easy to accept nut it requires enormous self-discipline and classroom offers a comfortable personal environment that you may be very used to.

4) Pick a major, degree or set of courses that best suit your needs.  Consider skill based courses to enhance your technology, more theoretical or strategic courses or even intellectual courses in the liberal arts to heighten critical thought.

5) Some general principles:  Study course construction (syllabi, etc.)  carefully.  Research your teachers for the right combinations of professional and academic experiences.  Review the required readings for relevance.  Sit in on classes BEFORE you commit to a program.  Ask to meet recent graduates and current students.

Grad school is a serious commitment and often a long time period.  Today’s times mean we must commit to lifelong learning, but how we do it may be grad school or another avenue to professional development such as PRSA professional meetings and workshops.

*This is a sponsored post. Learn more about sponsoring PRSA Pittsburgh here:   

PRSA Pittsburgh announces 2016 Board of Directors

The Pittsburgh Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) is pleased to announce its 2016 Board of Directors. The new team is comprised of board veterans, new members and everyone in between. Together they will continue to advance the field of public relations in the Pittsburgh area through professional development, member events and more.

“As one of the larger chapters within PRSA, the Pittsburgh chapter is an influential voice in the public relations industry on both a local and national level, and I’m flattered and honored to be named 2016 President,” said Steve Radick, 2016 PRSA Pittsburgh President. “We’ve got a great Board in place for 2016, and I can’t wait to work with them to create a diverse and engaged PR community here in Pittsburgh.”

The 2016 Board includes:

  • President: Steve Radick, BRUNNERWORKS

  • Vice President: Meredith Klein, Gatesman+Dave

  • Immediate Past President: Meredith Amoroso, Mullen

  • Secretary: Darcey Garda, National Alliance on Mental Illness

  • Treasurer: Caitlin Driscoll, Better Business Bureau of Western PA

Committee Leads and Chairs:

  • Programming Director: Elizabeth Bacheson, Westinghouse Electric Company

  • Renaissance Awards Co-Chair: Amanda Hardt, Schneider Downs

  • Renaissance Awards Co-Chair: Noah Fleming, Steel City Media

  • Speaker Series Lead: Mendy Nestor, Infinity Concepts

  • Professional Development Chair: Robin Rectenwald, Veterans Leadership Program of Western Pennsylvania

  • Young Professionals Co-Chair: Jamie Kurke, Gatesman+Dave

  • Young Professionals Co-Chair: Livia Vissat, Management Science Associates, Inc.

  • Communications Director: Chelsea Cummins, Goldberg, Persky & White, P.C.

  • Social Media Chair: Samantha McClintock, Dollar Energy Fund

  • Blog Coordinator: Valerie Bennett, BRUNNERWORKS

  • Website Lead: JoAnn Jenny, University of Pittsburgh

  • Multimedia Lead: Tim Long, Em-Media, Inc.

  • Member Services: Jessica Franklin, United States Steel Corporation

  • Student Liaison: Bob O’Gara, Point Park University

  • Diversity/Ethics & Student Liaison: Eric Winkfield, West Virginia University

  • Directory/Job Bank: Dr. Andrew Lingwall, Clarion University
  • Accreditation: Jeff Worden, Worden Public Relations

  • Senior Practitioners Liaison: Allison Peiritsch, Slippery Rock University

To learn more about PRSA Pittsburgh and open positions on the board, please contact Chelsea Cummins at

About PRSA Pittsburgh

The Pittsburgh Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America represents more than 200 of the region’s top public relations professionals. The organization offers professional development, social, education and networking activities, including seminars with top PR leaders, award programs, dynamic speakers and communicator tours. PRSA Pittsburgh members are part of the nation’s largest organization of communications professionals, representing  a piece of nearly 20,000 members nationwide. for more details.