Home » Chapter Chat » August 2019

President’s Report

Martha GastonDear Members,

Forget football pre-season or back-to-school season; here at PRSA Philadelphia it’s officially Pepperpot season. If you haven’t yet thought about how you and your company will get involved, now is a great time.

Don’t have a tactic or campaign to submit? There are plenty of other ways to participate in Philadelphia’s premier PR event: placing an ad in our program, sponsoring part of the awards show or attending the annual event on Nov. 5.

There’s much more to being a PRSA Philly member than awards, though. As a member, you have free access to PRSA national webinars and certificate programs on a variety of topics, from crisis communications to learning about the value of accreditation. Prefer to learn and network with other professionals in real life? We’ve got that covered, too.

This month, PRSA Philly will go to SEER Interactive in Northern Liberties to learn about Strengthening PR and Digital Through SEO and creating smarter strategies to amplify our messages. Learn more about this great program below.

If you’re an up-and-coming professional, PRSA Philly’s popular PR Institute is gearing up for its 2019 sessions. Through Sept. 8, young professionals can sign up this 11-week program, which covers communications and business skills that help boost careers such as developing strategic communications plans and budget planning. Those interested should contact our PR Institute Chair Melanie Wright for more information.

I hope you enjoy our August Chapter Chat!


Martha A. Gaston, APR
PRSA Philadelphia President

Welcome New Members

Please join us in welcoming our newest chapter members!

Amber Burruezo

Ashley Cordova
Senior Vice President, Finance and Investor Relations

Beckie Liwacz
Communications Publicist

The Pepperpot Awards have become a long-standing tradition for Philadelphia-area PR professionals to join together in recognizing the top PR campaigns, tactics and professionals. In 2018, we celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the awards program.

Enjoy networking with peers, hors d’oeuvre and a champagne toast and dessert to celebrate!

Download the 2019 Call for Entries here. Submissions will be collected through Judgify.

Want to support this event and get your name in front of the best in the industry? Download the Sponsorship Opportunities here.

For years, marketing communication pros have faced the challenge of effectively integrating various strategies and tactics into their arsenal. It’s no easy feat to create a holistic approach and connect the dots between earned media, SEO, PPC, traditional advertising, and organic and paid social media.

However, two of these strategies intersect quite easily: SEO and PR. Both share a goal of creating thoughtful content to appeal to a designated target audience.

Modern-day public relations professionals have become increasingly aware of the need to understand how SEO and PR work together most effectively. In this session, we will identify and explain the best ways to strengthen your PR strategy through common SEO tactics.

Date: Tuesday, August 20, 1-2:30 PM
Price: $25 member, $35 non-member, $15 student
Location: Seer Interactive, 1033 N 2nd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19123. The event will be hosted on the 7th floor.

About the Presenters:
Samantha Gower is a Senior SEO Associate at Seer Interactive. With her education and skill-set firmly in Public Relations, Sam transitioned to Search Engine Optimization specializing in outreach and influencer relations. Sam’s day-to-day is never the same but always revolves around how she can connect her client’s solutions to aid users in their online journeys through data analytics. You can catch Sam on Temple University’s campus teaching Digital Media, Social Media, Audience Analytics for Public Relations.

Tyler Cameron joined Seer Interactive as an SEO Associate in March 2017. Prior to Seer, he  worked in public relations, telling the stories of clients in various industries including emerging technology enterprises, professional and financial services, and non-profit. A Temple Owl for life, Tyler earned his bachelor’s degree in 2015 after studying communication and business. Now, he is pursuing his master’s degree in digital marketing from Temple’s Fox School of Business.

Meet the Board: Melanie Wright, PR Institute Chair

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

What is your current job title and responsibilities?
I am the Director of Strategic Communications with Ainsworth Communications, an integrated marketing and corporate communications consultancy. I work with business leaders and influencers to provide strategies that increase brand awareness, income and impact. I function as the Chief Corporate Brand Guardian for my clients by dealing with issues surrounding, C-Suite media relations, crisis communications, employee engagement, investor relations and social media engagement. I have expertise in directing and developing corporate social responsibility initiatives for purpose driven brands, including partnerships with tech and sports giants Microsoft, Google, NASA, Disney, the NFL, the U.S. Olympic Committee and the Latin GRAMMY Awards®.

What is your affiliation with PRSA Philadelphia and how did you first become involved?
I am currently the chair of the PR Institute. I joined PRSA several years ago and I used to be quite active with the Philly Chapter. However, frequent travel to the west coast hindered my ability to stay active. I mostly just attended the annual international conferences. Ironically, during that time, I won industry awards for my work from PRSA and publicity club chapters in Chicago, Boston and NY. Once my work schedule permitted, I became more active with the Philadelphia Chapter to reconnect with my Philly network and to become active on the board.

What is the most rewarding part of your position as PR Institute Chair?
Providing our participants with a high-quality program that is relevant in a time of rapid change. One benefit that PRI offers over an in-house training program is the opportunity to network with senior level executives in the industry. Every year, I work hard to secure high profile media and agency executives as guest lecturers.

Participants have the opportunity to visit actual agencies and to tour local media stations. Over the years they have had the chance to interact and hear tips from executives with WHYY, NBC 10, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Tech Philly and various agencies and corporations based in Center City. One year I secured an SVP from NBC Universal in NY speak to the participants about her work as a producer and tips on how to pitch stories to the Today Show and Dateline. These executives are invaluable contacts for the participants that will reap benefits beyond their work in the PRI program.

How has PR Institute impacted you in your current position?
Personally, working around so much uninhibited creativity helps to remind me about why I love working in this industry so much. The competitive nature of the program fosters an entrepreneurial work culture, which leads to increased innovation, creativity, calculated risk-taking, service and continuous improvement. This attitude is contagious, and every session helps to keep my “creative juices flowing.”

At PRI, it is very fulfilling to work with clients who have limited resources but need promotional support to provide important services that impact society. My PRI activities helped me to secure work with a major client in San Francisco. Work with former PRI client, the Sustainability Business Network closely aligned with their mission to elevate humanity through business.

In what ways can PR Institute be of value to young professionals? Advanced professionals?
PRI can help professionals advance their careers. It is a great opportunity for young professionals to show their managers that they have the motivation and leadership skills needed to advance to the next level in their careers.

Advanced professionals will gain new insights on how to get better performance results in the fast-changing digital environment and expand their professional network. We also have opportunities for advanced professionals to serve as team mentors for the program. They have the option of attending all of the sessions in addition to being responsible for providing minimal guidance to the competing teams.

PRI helps participants enhance their professional skills and to create comprehensive and data-driven strategic plans for real-life clients. Final plans combine advertising, PR, social and digital media business solutions for maximum communication impact. Participants are encouraged to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset and are set up in competing teams, which then develop and pitch their plans to clients in a quest to “win” the business. Teams learn the challenges of running a mini agency through teamwork and collaboration during sessions in client relations, brief development, social media, PR, presentation skills and ROI/ budget planning.

PRI graduates can transition from excelling at executing tasks, to becoming a big-picture thinker.

Would you recommend PR Institute to professionals in industries other than communications (i.e., education, arts, technology)?

PRI is open to professionals from all industries. Our classes consist of people who work for agencies, corporations, government and nonprofit companies. We have had participants from the auto industry, retail, education and the military. The program is great for professionals looking for an affordable, educational opportunity to help advance or transition their careers into the PR field. We also get people who have been laid off and are looking for new-found relationships with course professors and industry colleagues. PRI is one of the few face-to-face learning opportunities in the area. Most professional development courses are either online or require out of town travel.

What advice do you have for those participating in the program this fall?

Come into the program with a winning attitude, have fun, be daring and network with your fellow participants. PRI is a rare opportunity where participants can recover from mistakes while working on a project, that won’t jeopardize their job performance at their regular place of employment.

The PR Institute was named after the late Nancy Bacher Long, a much loved and highly respected PR legend. I advise participants to channel her spirit as described during her 2012 memorial service:

Nancy was a doer like few people are.

“Curiosity, passion, determination — and a sense of fun infused everything she did. Nancy thought — no, Nancy believed — that most anything was possible. The glass wasn’t half empty, and it wasn’t even half full. As far as Nancy was concerned, it was filled to the brim — all you had to do was drink from it,” said her sister Mary Ann, who also is one of my most cherished friends.

Meet the Media: Marc Erlick, Television News Photographer at 6ABC

By Michele Besso, Public Relations Specialist at Masonic Villages of Pennsylvania and PRSA Philadelphia Communications Committee member

The PRSA Communications Committee recently spoke with Marc Erlick, a television news photographer at 6ABC. Read on about why he chose the news over going “Hollywood.”

List your current position/responsibilities.
I’m a Television News Photographer with 6ABC. I’m one of 22 photographers on staff and my responsibilities include shooting the story, editing it, and then performing the live shot for the daily newscasts. I couldn’t ask for a better work office because it’s wherever I have to drive to gather my story for the day.

Briefly list your previous work history.
I’ve always been a TV news photographer. I started my career in Salisbury, MD at WBOC. Eventually, after making stops in Harrisburg, Altoona, back to Salisbury and Baltimore, MD, I returned home to the City of Brotherly Love to work for the beloved 6ABC Action News team.

How and when did you get interested in photography/video?
In middle and high school, I wanted to work in show business, and thought I’d eventually become a famous director in Hollywood. Often during class, I would daydream about the speech I would give after being presented with an Academy Award for Directing. I thought, who wouldn’t like taking pictures or video? It’s easy, fun and you can do whatever you want. The only person I’d have to please is myself.

What made you want to pursue photography as a career?
I wanted to make this my career because I enjoy it and would rather get paid to do something that I really want to do. The Hollywood thing never worked out (which is fine by me) because my collegiate training was mostly in television, so I thought, why not try to work for a local news station! As it turns out, I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

What is an average day like for you on the job? What are your hours/days like?
In TV News there are no average days or nights. I work second shift, usually starting between 3 and 4 pm on any given day during the week. My weekends aren’t the same as the typical 9-5 guy — it could be any day of the week. Each day when I arrive at work I gear up, and then get my assignments from the Assignment Desk (The Desk). News is never the same day to day, so my story and locations change daily, and sometimes multiple times during the day.

Are you always paired with the same reporter or does it vary? Do you do a balance of features and hard news?
I’m not always paired with the same reporter. The Desk has their method of determining who I work with or if I’m solo for the evening. It’s whatever they feel is best for the evening newscast. When I’m with a reporter, we do stories that can lead the newscast, but then there are times we are able to do a fun, feature story. It really depends on the news flow of the day, because we might be on one story all day and then an hour before show time something else might happen and we’ll have to switch to that instead.

What are some of your favorite assignments and why?
I’m a huge sports fan, so naturally I like anything related to sports. It could be shooting a game, getting post game sound with players and coaches, or talking to fans about the team’s performance and whether they are going to “win it all” this year. When the Eagles won the Super Bowl, sure it would have been cool to have been at the game, but the real story was the celebration in the city. I got to party with everyone outside even though I was working.

What is it like working with PR folks? Any tips for what they can do better when working with the media?
To me there are two types of PR people. The first is the one who tries to control me. This means that they are breathing down my neck the whole time telling me how to do my job. I appreciate that they just want the best for the event but I know what I need to get and how to do my job. The second is the type that greets me and says if you need anything let me know. They usually have people lined up for me to speak with if I need. Then they leave me be to get whatever I need. Obviously, it’s easier to work with the second type of PR person but I’m always polite no matter who I meet when out at an event. I think the best tip I can give is to always be polite and courteous. It’s your event so you might as well make it as easy and painless for us to come in and tell the story. 

When you were working in Salisbury, MD in 2011, you were honored as the Chesapeake Associated Press Broadcasters Association Winner for Outstanding Television Photography. What was the award for and how did it feel to be recognized in that way?
It’s always nice to be recognized for the work that we do, so of course it was an honor. I was awarded this honor from a compilation of stories that I had shot and edited throughout the year. One story was about a metal artist, and I was able to capture video and sound to make you feel like you were in his workshop. Another was out on a boat with the Maryland Natural Resource Police, whose job it is to make sure that fishermen follow the rules of each fishing season. I don’t ask for a pat on the back but if it comes, I appreciate it and the people who helped me earn it.

When you have free time, what do you like to do?
Lugging a camera and tripod around is tiring, so I’ll watch movies, sports, catch up on my shows, or play video games. I’m also an occasional golfer. I’m not very good but I try when I’m out on the course. I mainly relax and take it easy, so I’ll be ready to go come Monday evening.

PRSA NJ and PRSA Philadelphia Senior Pros Shoot-the-Breeze Open Roundtable

By Ken Scudder, Ken Scudder Training and Consulting

Take 16 PR executives, each with at least 15 years’ experience, add a conference room, bagels and coffee, and an open agenda and what do you get? A wide-ranging, frank discussion of today’s PR world.

The July Senior PR “Shoot the Breeze” session, held in AKCG’s new headquarters in Glassboro, NJ, included back-and-forth on how to increase clients’ social media presence, the pros and cons of working with younger staff, and the future of APR and accreditation.

The meeting, a joint-venture of PRSA-NJ and PRSA Philly, included PR agency staffers, solo practitioners, trainers, educators, audio and graphic consultants, and in-house PR executives. All agreed that while there are challenges to working with millennials, there are also benefits, such as their high level of enthusiasm and energy, their thirst for knowledge, and their desire for a work environment that offers rewards beyond just a salary and respects the work/life balance. And while the group offered tips on increasing a client’s online following, the point was also made that the quality of the followers matters just as much, if not more, than the quantity. The group also had suggestions for improving the APR process and possibly linking it to a college degree in PR.

PRSA Philadelphia Awards Member Scholarship to ICON

PRSA Philadelphia recently offered a scholarship to one lucky chapter member to attend the PRSA International Conference in San Diego. We are pleased to congratulate Chad Harris, the winner of the scholarship contest to PRSA ICON. Chad is a recent graduate of Penn State University, Berks with a bachelor’s degree in Professional Writing. He is employed by the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, Allentown’s minor league baseball team.

To receive the scholarship, contestants submitted information about how they became interested in public relations, what they hoped to learn at the International Conference, and how they would engage with PRSA Philly on return. The scholarship is valued at $1,400, the registration cost of the conference.

“I am honored to receive this scholarship,” Chad said. “It never occurred that my entry would be considered because I am not a traditional student.”

Chad’s career in public relations is a second one for him. Studying accounting immediately following high school, he discovered after four years that the accounting field was no longer of interest. He turned his attention to food service, managing a variety of restaurants in New Jersey and north central PA before returning to Penn State to pursue his passion of public relations and sports communications.

Among the stand-out elements of Chad’s entry was his recognition of the value of networking and becoming involved early with professional organizations. He attended the PRSSA National Conference and National Assembly events in 2018.

“By connecting with PR pros across the country, I’ve been able to learn from many different people doing many different forms of PR,” he said. “There have been professional opportunities that have emerged, mostly in writing, which is something I love to do.”

The contest also stipulated that the winner would serve PRSA Philly in the year to come, and Chad plans to join the Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

”As an older graduate working hard to find my entry-level post in the PR field, I am finding some hiring managers are not fully able to grasp the idea that there is value in someone like me who comes to the profession a bit later in life. There is room in our profession for people who bring many diverse capabilities and perspectives to the table.”

“PRSA Philadelphia is excited to present our chapter’s first conference scholarship to Chad,” said Martha A. Gaston, APR, PRSA Philly president. “His commitment to PRSA and enthusiasm for our chapter will benefit all of our members as he shares his conference learnings and participates in our D&I Committee as we continue to assure diversity and inclusion in all PRSA Philly initiatives.”

Congratulations to Chad Harris!