Home » Chapter Chat » November 2019

President’s Report



Martha Gaston

Happy November!

I can think of no better month to express my gratitude for all we accomplished as a chapter in 2019. I am thankful for all of our members: those who participated in an event from our media pitching seminar with Michael Smart to our higher education workshop, who engaged with us on social media and those who spoke to a friend or colleague about PRSA. As a non-profit organization for professionals, we rely on your participation and engagement to thrive.

There are even more reasons to be grateful: Earlier this month, we celebrated local PR stars at the 51st Pepperpot Awards, hosted by Ronnie Polaneczky, editor of The UpSide section of The Philadelphia Inquirer. I was honored to present the chapter’s annual Integrity Award to NBC 10’s Tracy Davidson, who, along with being a broadcaster in Philly for 20 years, is a champion of several causes in our community.

It was also my pleasure to give the President’s Award to Lori Doyle, Senior Vice President of University Communications at Drexel University, and PRSA Philadelphia’s Membership Committee Chair. Lori is an invaluable resource to many PR pros in the area, and she has been an outstanding leader on our board of directors. Congratulations again to all of the Pepperpot winners!

PRSA Philadelphia also celebrates the 2019 PR Institute participants, who wrap-up their 10-week program this month. A big thank you to Melanie Wright, PR Institute Chair, and our professional mentors who volunteered their time this fall.

Finally, in the spirit of gratitude, I need to recognize the PRSA Philadelphia Board of Directors, Committee Chairs and chapter administrators. Thank you for all you do for PRSA and the communications community in Philadelphia.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Martha A. Gaston, APR
PRSA Philadelphia President

Welcome New Members

Please join us in welcoming our newest chapter members!


Emily Branch             
Cage Free Design and PR

Amanda Lake            

Todd Lineburger       
AVP, Foundation and Alumni Communications                        
Rutgers University Foundation and Alumni Communications

Mia McNeely

Maria Montero        
External Affairs        
Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority

Daniel Pettine      
Manager, Public Relations 
Allen & Gerritsen

Marissa Phillips
Communications Specialist
Philadelphia Gas Works (PGW)

John Reynolds
Account Supervisor and Director of Media Relations
Buchanan Public Relations

Emma Schmidt 

Alyssa Shand-Perreault
Marketing Communications Specialist

Mallory Siegfried     
E-Communications Specialist Greater Lehigh Valley REALTORS

Gordon Tayloe                                                                                  

Event Recap: PR Institute Awards Ceremony

By Mellany Armstrong, associate director of communications at Moore College of Art & Design, PRSA Philly/Communications Committee Member

PRSA Philadelphia Chapter celebrated the newest graduates of the PR Institute with a party at Smokin’ Betty’s in Philadelphia on November 21.

The six participants spent eight weeks in a public relations “boot camp” to create a plan for this year’s client, Runwell, The Linda Quirk Foundation, which provides access to treatment programs for substance use disorders through financial scholarships. The nonprofit helps those in recovery pay for treatment beyond the typical 30-day rehab program. Runwell raises money through athletic events like races.

“All of our clients are worthwhile organizations, but this one was really relevant,” said Melanie Wright, chair of the PR Institute. “When the team members did the presentation, [they asked] ‘How many people know someone who is in recovery or who has had a substance use disorder?’ and everybody raised their hand.”

Kevin Peter, director of Runwell, a program of Caron Treatment Centers, said Runwell meets an urgent need.

“We had good insurance that covered the first 30 days of our son’s treatment,” he said. “But when a counselor recommended extended care, that expense was paid out of pocket. We were very fortunate to be able to afford that. Lots of people can’t.”

Wright said Runwell, like many of the PR Institute’s clients, needed help spreading awareness of  its mission. Over the eight weeks, the team members interviewed workers at Caron as well as people who have run marathons to raise money for Runwell. Because there are a lot of organizations that do similar things to fund-raise, the teams had to come up with something that stands out.

One part of the plan included holding a signature tether race, where people are connected to each other for the duration of a race.

“We wanted to compare it to folks that are going through the struggle of addiction and substance use disorder, and they usually lean on someone else when they need support,” said participant Sakeenah Benjamin, public information coordinator for WHYY.  “So we wanted the race to be that you have to be tethered together for the entire race to make it through.”

Phil Jackson, who works for the United way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, said the team came up with a complete program for Runwell.

“The plan highlighted all of the areas of opportunity for the business, starting with things like budgeting, building partnerships through media sponsors, and really digging into the weeds of social media growth,” he said.

“The client was just blown away, and the team members are actually helping people and families make a difference in their lives,” Wright said. “One of the things we stress in the program is to come up with a comprehensive plan that can realistically be executed by the client. They suggested an advisory board to help provide expertise, and guidance in how to get volunteers.”

Wright said the PR Institute helps the participants see more than just one part of a public relations plan.

“It’s really big-picture thinking, more on a management level, and this program really prepares them for that next management level of responsibilities,” she said.

“It’s probably one of the best programs that I think I’ve ever gone through in my professional life,” Jackson said. “There were times when we had different ideas on certain things, and we brought all of that together and in the end came up with something really solid.”

“It was really a great feeling when I saw the proposal come together,” said Jessica Gibson, a proposal consultant at Cigna. “I learned a lot about working with other people, a lot about time management and a lot about listening.”

“I felt accomplished and I felt like I helped change another nonprofit,” said Benjamin.

Pictured below: Jessica Nutt, Phil Jackson, Zachary Raczka, Michael Potter, Sakeenah Benjamin, Kelly Lyons


Meet the Board: Jake Farbman, APR Chair

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


Meet the Board

Jacob C. Farbman, Ed.D., APR

Chair, APR Accreditation Committee


Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Elmer, Salem County, deep in South Jersey. I currently reside in Langhorne, Pennsylvania.


What is your educational background?

I have an Associate’s degree in communication/journalism from Salem Community College, a Bachelor’s degree in communication from Rowan University, a Master’s degree in corporate public relations, also from Rowan, and a Doctorate in education from Rowan.


What is your current place of employment? Give a brief synopsis of your work history.

Currently, I serve two roles at the New Jersey Council of County Colleges, the state association that strengthens and supports New Jersey’s network of 19 community colleges, in Trenton. I am the Executive Director of the New Jersey Center for Student Success, which assists the state’s community colleges’ efforts to improve student outcomes, strengthen services to students, and serves as a statewide resource for innovation and best practices. I am also the director of communications, where I serve as the strategic communications counselor to the NJCCC’s leadership and executive board. I have also been an adjunct faculty member at The College of New Jersey in nearby Ewing since January 2001, where I teach a strategic public relations case studies and planning course each semester.


What do you like most about your current job(s)?

Being a community college graduate myself, I know first-hand the struggles students grapple with to complete their education. Knowing that the work that I do every day improves the lives of over 325,000 students at community colleges in the state is extremely rewarding. And teaching at the college level keeps me current in strategic communication best practices.


What or who inspired you to want to teach and what have you gained from the experience?

My mentor in graduate school, Dr. Don Bagin, was an amazing human being. He was a man of class, dignity, integrity, and honor. He set an example that many people have tried to follow, myself included. I’ve found that teaching PR at the college level is in a way giving back to him… continuing to advance our profession with the next generation of public relations professionals.


How long have you been involved in PRSA and in what capacity? Why made you want to join PRSA and get involved on the board level?

I joined PRSA as soon as I graduated from college with my master’s degree 20 years ago. I was involved with teaching in the PRSA Institute for 10 years, and have been helping John Moscatelli, APR, Fellow PRSA with the chapter’s APR program for several years. I’m honored that my colleagues thought highly enough of me to appoint me as APR Chair. Two very good colleagues and friends – Suzanne FitzGerald and Asi Schoenstein – have done a wonderful job serving in this capacity before me. I very much hope I can build on the strong foundation they have created.


What are your roles/responsibilities as APR chair?

I see this role as identifying, recruiting, and supporting interested strategic communicators with successfully completing the APR process. It is something we have talked about as a PRSA Philly board, and I am very fortunate to have the support and enthusiasm of the board to promote the Chapter’s APR program.


You yourself are APR accredited. What made you decide to get the accreditation? Why should people consider the accreditation?

There are a few reasons I wanted to earn the APR. At the time, I was toying with going back to school to earn a doctorate. I wanted to attempt the APR to see if I could dedicate the time and energy to accomplishing a professional credential while committed to two jobs. At the same time, very few strategic communicators nationally who represented community colleges held the APR. I saw this as an opportunity to strengthen my reputation in the community college sector.


Are there any upcoming APR boot camps or activities to promote involving APR?

Yes! April is APR Month! PRSA national has just launched a new professional development opportunity called the Executive Communication Online Series, designed to teach and empower communication professionals who want to elevate their skills. The program offers topics consistent with many of the knowledge, skills and abilities APR candidates will need mastery in to pass the APR readiness review and exam. More information can be found here: http://apps.prsa.org/Learning/Calendar/display/11572/Executive_Communication_Online_Series#.XJk-Y-tKhUM


What advice/tips would you give to young professionals just entering the PR industry?

The best single piece of advice I can offer to young PR pros is to find a good mentor. I’ve been very fortunate in life to have several. I tell my students that they will learn more from a mentor than they will in any college class. Mentors can help you strengthen both your professional and soft skills. And, they can help open doors for you to advance your career, in more ways than one.


Why is PRSA an important organization to be involved with?

PRSA has given me the opportunity to grow and strengthen my professional network. I have been able to help dozens of students land internships and entry-level jobs because of my connections through PRSA. I’ve also been able to contribute to the field through the PR Institute and APR program. PRSA has offered programming that has contributed to my professional development. It is a great organization that helps its members in several ways.


What do you like to do when you have free time?


I enjoy playing guitar, bass and piano. I also am an amateur luthier. I’ve built 10 electric guitars over the past five years.


Are you involved with any other organizations/groups?

I am also a member of the Philadelphia Public Relations Association.