Home » Chapter Chat » March 2019

President’s Report

Martha GastonMarch Madness. Whether or not you follow college basketball or participate in betting pools, the term is so apt. In March, the weather is crazy, clients and bosses insist on more outputs as the dreaming/planning stage of the year subsides and personal obligations ramp up again. In the midst of the madness, though, we need to take time to invest in our most valuable asset: ourselves.

I’ll admit that I’m guilty of not spending much time on myself, but I do feel that it’s crucial to invest time in career development. Just like athletes don’t just show up for the Big Dance without practices and drills, PR professionals need to learn and refresh skills to move their careers forward. PRSA Philadelphia and PRSA national offer members many ways to do just that, from free webinars and networking events, to programs and articles in Strategies & Tactics.

Have five minutes? Read an article in this newsletter or national’s Strategies & Tactics to learn something new or brush up on a best practice. Have an hour or two? Come to one of PRSA Philly’s monthly programs.

I owe much of my career success to the learning and practice I’ve gotten through PRSA over the years. Investing my time volunteering on the Board of Directors, attending dozens of programs and studying for and achieving my APR designation not only support our chapter, but they tangibly benefit my career.

The good news is that it’s only March – there is still plenty of time to participate in 2019. I encourage each of you to take advantage of that and step away from your individual madness to make time for personal development. I promise it’ll be worth it!

Martha A. Gaston, APR

Welcome New Members

Please join us in welcoming our newest chapter members!

Caitlin Burns

Nicole Connell

Associate Director, Strategic Communications

Penn State Abington

Jill DiSanto, MA

Public Relations Director

Penn Museum

Melissa A. Fordyce

Director of Communications

Presby’s Inspired Life

Aswin Mannepalli

Margaret Sundell

Meet the Board:  Tom Logue, Treasurer

By Michele Besso, Public Relations Director at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) and PRSA Philly Communications Committee member

Where do you currently work and what is your title?

I am a senior associate at AKCG – Public Relations Counselors in New Jersey, where I am approaching my two-year “work-iversary” with the AKCG team (June 1). I served AKCG as an intern before starting full time in 2017.

What do you like most about your

current job?

The amazing, talented and thoughtful team at AKCG is what I love most about my job. We are a tight-knit team and our leadership places a lot of emphasis on both personal and professional growth, so each of us are encouraged to pursue what we like to do most in this field.

Where are your degrees from?

I have a B.A. in Public Relations and a B.A. in Advertising from Rowan University.

What made you want to get into public relations?

I have had an interest in communications since my days as a student in high school. Early on, I had lofty aspirations of becoming a film and television director. At Rowan College of Burlington County, my aim shifted toward journalism. But thankfully, when I transferred to Rowan University, my advisors and professors encouraged me to take on a second degree – public relations. I loved it. I instantly felt like I had found my true calling and I quickly took on several leadership roles in the university’s PRSSA chapter – an organization to which I am forever grateful.

What are your responsibilities as PRSA treasurer?

I help create, guide and oversee strategic finances for one of the nation’s largest PRSA chapters. As an executive member of the Chapter’s board of directors, I also provide counsel on key strategic decisions for both the short- and long-term future of the chapter.

How long have you been a member of the board and why did you want to get involved?

I have served on PRSA’s board of directors since January 2017 as its secretary and, now, treasurer. PRSA has been an integral part of my growth in this field. It allows me to network with numerous professionals across multiple organizations, industries and specialties. It helps me stay up to date on industry trends and best practices, and it allows me to sharpen my skill set as a practitioner and leader.

Do you have an industry mentor or do you mentor someone?

I do my best to learn as much as I can from all of the knowledgeable and polished professionals I meet in PRSA, but in terms of bettering myself as a practitioner of PR, I owe the world to AKCG’s senior leaders – Chris Lukach, APR, and Mike Gross, APR. I met each of them separately during my tenure as a student. Over that time, they provided me with thoughtful and invaluable guidance towards my education and career – a contribution which they continue to this day.

What are some tips you have for young professionals just getting started in PR?

Network, network, network. If you can only develop one skill set in this field, networking will likely provide the best return on your time and investment. And “networking” should not be limited to meet-and-greets and handshakes. If you connect with a seasoned professional, ask to meet up with them for a cup of coffee. Stay connected with them and keep an open dialogue with them; that will make it easier (and less awkward) to get your foot in the door when an opportunity arises.

When you’re not at work or busy with PRSA, what are some of you your hobbies?

When I’m not at work, I am a huge fan of playing amateur sports – a true “weekend warrior.” Depending on the season, I typically play two to four sports year round, including volleyball, softball, ultimate frisbee and flag football. But, like most of us, fitting any extracurricular activity into a packed worked schedule can get tricky.

Humble Harper Calls Philadelphia Home

By Brittany Eifert, Account Coordinator at RPA and PRSA Philly Communications Committee member

On February 28, a long-awaited moment struck baseball fans across the country: Bryce Harper signed a 13-year, $300 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies. For Phillies fans, this signified that a World Series ring could be in the team’s foreseeable future. For Harper, this symbolized stability for both his career and future family, as they grow in the heart of Philadelphia. “Even through the bumps and the bruises, I want to be part of that as well,” said Harper. “For me it was all about the long haul. It was about being able to dig my roots, being able to plant somewhere I wanted to be for a long time.”[1]

The Phillies held an introductory press conference for Harper on March 2 at Spectrum Field in Clearwater, FL. Throughout the event, Harper touched on several key points that portrayed his genuine disposition both on and off the field. In his opening statement, Harper expressed his appreciation for the Phillies organization.

He explained that from the moment he met Phillies’ owner John Middleton and his wife, Leigh, for dinner to discuss trade options he felt right at home. Harper explained how great it feels to be wanted by the Phillies organization and fans; moreover, he could not be happier with the overall stability Philadelphia vows to provide him and his family over the next 13 years.

Harper embodies the true meaning of a humble professional athlete. While he would not accept a less-than-lucrative contract for his success thus far in the MLB, Harper wanted nothing more than to find a good home for his wife and future offspring. After seven rewarding years as number 34 with the Washington Nationals, Harper did not think twice about picking a new number and leaving the legacy of “34” with the late Roy Halladay of the Phillies. While a misbuttoned jersey could be embarrassing for some players, Harper simply smiled at his and gave the buttons another try. After all, Harper just wants to “make baseball fun again.”[2]

[1] Apstein, Stephanie. “Bryce Harper’s First Choice Wasn’t the Phillies, But They Gave Him What He Wanted: Stability.” SI.com, Sports Illustrated, 2 Mar. 2019, www.si.com/bryce-harper-phillies-introduced-at-press-conference.
[2] Apstein, SI.com.

A Little Disconnect is Good for Our Health

By Christine Weirsky, APR, Communications Director, North America, AXA XL, a division of AXA and PRSA Philly Communications Committee member

Often my “out of office” message amuses people. It goes something like this: “I’m on vacation but no worries, I’ll be checking my email. I just can’t help myself.” And the sad thing is, I can’t. But I am really trying.

As communication professionals, we’re trained to be responsive. Admittedly, when I started in this profession, we weren’t connected 24/7. It was before Blackberries and yes, even mobile phones. But today, I carry two smartphones (one business, one personal) and work for a global company where someone is always up and working, and often expecting me to be reachable, too.

Some countries, including France and Italy, have passed “right to disconnect” legislation, offering employees the right to disconnect from work calls and emails during non-working hours. And some U.S. cities are looking to do the same.

But let’s face it, it is hard to let old habits die. According to a recent Robert Half Technology survey of IT leaders and office workers, two-thirds (66 percent) of technology leaders believe they could adhere to a ban on after-hours work emails, but 41 percent of office workers surveyed don’t think their manager would follow the rule. Only 46 percent of employees were confident they could resist the temptation to check emails after work.

Unfortunately, we just missed the National Day of Unplugging, an annual observance on the second Friday of March, which encourages a 24-hour period to unplug, unwind, relax, and do things other than using today’s technology, electronics, and social media.

For many of us, especially communications folks, unplugging is easier said than done. But if anyone is trying, like me, here’s some tips that I found potentially useful:

  • Understand you need time to unplug. I was semi-unplugged on Friday, unbeknownst to me that it was National Day of Unplugging, spending the day with my college kid home on spring break. It was a good day. And, now back in the grind on Monday, I am more productive than last Thursday.
  • Start disconnecting with small steps. Take a walk. Turn the phone off at lunch. My team once had an admin assistant that would remind us all to “be in the moment.” Whether it’s your kid’s soccer game or dinner with your mom, be there, not on your phone.
  • “Remember that being a ‘work martyr’ is not a good thing.” This was my favorite tip, found on FairyGodBoss.com. Very few people need to hear from me right away. I’m not that important. Certainly, if it’s a member of the media on deadline, I’m leaving an emergency number where they can reach me or another member of my team. And I’m going to leave an out-of-office message that helps me manage response expectations.

So here’s my new OOO message (compliments of HubSpot’s OOO Email Generator):

“Oh, this is awkward: You’ve caught me away from my desk. *The crowd gasps*. I’m on vacation, and I know I’m supposed to say I have limited access to email but the truth is, the WiFi works just fine here #SorryNotSorry. I’m just focusing on surfing instead of my inbox. Once I’m back from my holiday, I look forward to embracing WiFi again and following up with you. (After the post-vacation blues, of course.)