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Philly Chapter 70th Anniversary  PRSA Philly

News / Articles

February 2022

Published on 2/22/2022

President's Letter
by Michele Besso

Hello everyone!

As I write this, the temperature is over 65 degrees in FEBRUARY and it is forecasted to drop down to 40 degrees or below by tonight. I think I’m getting weather whiplash! I don’t know about all of you, but I’m ready for spring. March 20 cannot come soon enough!

Now that warmer weather is on its way and things are starting to return to a more “normal” (is that even a word we use anymore?) state, with some mask mandates and restrictions being lifted, we are hard at work planning for outdoor, in-person events this summer and fall, while continuing our virtual events in the immediate future.

Speaking of which, on March 1, we will offer a fabulous virtual program, “Change is Scary (Good!): Messaging Major Changes to Internal & External Audiences,” with Jillian Ivey. The event at 6:30 p.m. is free to PRSA and PRSSA members and $10 for non-members. We hope you will attend and bring a friend! Register here

We are excited to celebrate our 70th anniversary as a chapter in 2022. We have created a committee to plan for this yearlong celebration. If you would like to be involved, please e-mail me at

Back in 2019, PRSA Philadelphia joined with PPRA (Philadelphia Public Relations Association) to renew their commitment to diversity and inclusion together. Each organization is committed to continuously striving to be as inclusive as possible by weaving diversity into the fabric of its day-to-day operations and organizational culture.

That being said, we’re starting a new series in the newsletter this month where we celebrate the diversity of our membership by spotlighting a member and why he or she decided to join PRSA. We hope you will enjoy it! We will continue to revisit our commitment and find additional ways to celebrate diversity among our membership.

We also continue to revisit what we offer to our members and how the Philadelphia chapter, partnered with PRSA National, can provide you with the best “bang for your buck” in terms of professional development, networking, programming, mentoring and best practices. Stay tuned for more developments in the near future…

Please know that I’m always here if you have feedback or ideas for how to make our chapter better. We are the fifth largest chapter of PRSA, and as such, we want to provide the most meaningful experience for all of our over 300 members. Recruitment and RETENTION of members is a clear focus of our board moving forward. Any ideas, feel free to reach out to me.

Have a great day!

President, PRSA Philadelphia

Exclusive Member PRofile

PRSA member since: October 2021

Workplace and title: University of Pennsylvania, Senior HR Communications Specialist for the Division of Human Resources. I create communications strategies and messaging for various HR departments including Benefits, Talent Acquisition, Quality of Work-life, Talent Development, and Staff and Labor Relations. I write and edit articles for the Division’s newsletter, manage and write content for the website, design various marketing materials, and coordinate and produce an internal podcast.

Why I Joined PRSA: I joined PRSA so that I can engage with other communications professionals in the Philadelphia region. I also want to learn more about the public relations field, what my peers are doing in their respective professions, and share best practices that I can adopt to enhance my work.

Hobbies and Special Interests: I absolutely love home renovation and take on a new project every year, whether it’s a bathroom makeover or a simple room refresh with a new coat of paint. I also enjoy screenplay writing, reading, and bike riding, all of which I find very relaxing and just plain fun.

If I could trade my profession for any other in the world, it would be: A Hollywood screenwriter. Writing is my passion and I love storytelling, so if I could spend my days creating lines for great actors and actresses, that would be a dream come true.

Insight from a PRSA Pepperpot Awards Winner
by Michael Wood, MBA

Q&A with Rick Buck, senior director, Communications & Public Relations, for the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), about his team’s PRSA Philly 2021 Pepperpot Best of Show award for the AACR Annual Meeting virtual press conference.

1. Describe your team’s challenge that you nominated for the Pepperpot?
Every year, the AACR holds press conferences associated with our Annual Meeting, that showcase the latest lifesaving breakthroughs and discoveries in cancer research presented from cancer researchers from all over the world. In 2020, with 25,000 people expected to attend the Annual Meeting in San Diego, the meeting quickly shifted to a virtual event, including our press conference, just one month after COVID-19 shut down everything. There were several challenges with having to quickly pivot to an all-virtual press conference while working remotely in such a short amount of time, including working with a new virtual platform partner. In March 2021, we held our Annual Meeting press conference virtually again with similar challenges. I like to call the Annual Meeting our “Super Bowl” as it requires tremendous planning and teamwork, internally and externally, for several months leading up to the meeting that draws a very large contingency of consumer and trade journalists. Our team worked very hard to successfully hold multiple virtual press conferences while also executing other key communications initiatives remotely such as social media, the meeting newspaper, and blogs coverage for the Annual Meeting.

2. What was your approach to holding a virtual press conference and what made your event exceptional?
Holding successful virtual press conferences required significant amount of planning and preparation!  A successful press conference always starts with newsworthy information for journalists.  Our public relations and science communications teams reviewed hundreds of research abstracts and developed a dynamic press program featuring eight of the most newsworthy studies and selected four to be featured in the virtual press conference. Normally, we hold three days of press conferences for our in-person meeting featuring three to four presenters each day.  Virtual press conferences with editing are expensive so we held just one virtual press event in 2020 and 2021.  

To minimize risk of technical issues, we pre-recorded the opening remarks from our moderators, the AACR President and AACR Program Chair, along with the presentations from the four presenters selected for the press conference.  We held the Question-and-Answer session live with the moderators, presenters, and the members of the media.

Besides the content, the key to these virtual press conferences is an excellent facilitator and overall moderator. Julia Gunther, our associate director of public relations, did an outstanding job of facilitating the overall press event and the Q&A with about 120 journalists from across the U.S. and globally, including The Washington Post, USA Today, NBC News, and more who submitted their questions via live chat. It was an incredibly challenging time during COVID-19 with everyone (the presenters, the journalists and all of us internally) in different locations. We are very proud of the virtual press event and its results in terms of news coverage.

3. What are the lessons learned from your press conference project?
As mentioned, planning is the key, from the overall content and event flow, to managing access for all the journalists, to holding several rehearsals with our virtual production company. The other key was good communication. During the press conference, with all of us remote, we were in the heat of the moment with troubleshooting behind the scenes, granting last minute access to the media, and answering questions for participants. We had an internal text chain to help stay in constant contact.

4. Why do you believe the PRSA Pepperpots are valuable for your team?
I really encourage more members – whether from corporate, nonprofit or agencies -- to submit their entrees for the Pepperpots to showcase the great work being done in their areas. It is a great opportunity to highlight your organization’s work and learn from others too. This is what is of value for our team. Third party recognition from your peers is validation of your work, and it is great for team morale along with recognition from colleagues and leadership.   I have an amazing public relations team (who are also Philly PRSA members per our group membership) and they deserve to be recognized. The team members are Julia Gunther, associate director of public relations; Matt Burns, manager of public relations, who wrote our submissions; and Katie Venango, senior coordinator.  We have other talented team members who support many of the media efforts, including Srivani Ravoori, PhD, director of science communications, and the science writing team.
5. What is your recommendation to other PRSA members for the Pepperpots?
Plan early.  Don’t wait until the end of the year when notice comes out about the award submissions. Keep the Pepperpots in mind throughout the year. To PR department heads, I encourage them to support their team’s work and also the PRSA Philly chapter by encouraging submissions and then buying tickets to attend the Pepperpots.  It’s a great year-end team event!
Connect with Rick on LinkedIn at and follow on Twitter @Rick__Buck
Check out AACR’s Newsroom that also houses the AACR Stories, Cancer Today, Leading Discoveries and AACR blog
AACR Newsroom | American Association for Cancer Research

Congratulations to the entire AACR Communications & PR team for winning:
PRSA Philly's Upcoming Events

“Change is scary(good!): Messaging major changes to internal & external audiences” with Jillian Ivey on Tuesday, March 1 at 6:30 p.m. EST

Free for PRSA & PRSSA members
$10 for non-PRSA members

New Coke. “SyFy.” Daimler-Chrysler.

When a company makes a major change—to its branding, product offerings, corporate culture—a lack of messaging around this can literally make or break the organization.

Whether you’re rolling out a new initiative, changing a beloved logo, introducing a new CEO, or implementing a new policy, it’s crucial to create a story that you can share with both internal and external stakeholders to create buy-in and assuage fears.

In this session, you’ll learn how to identify your key messaging around major changes, determine the different audience segments that need to be kept apprised of these changes, and effectively message map to audience to guarantee you won’t go the way of New Coke.
About the Speaker

Jillian Ivey (principal, Jilletante Creative) is a communications consultant, content strategist, writer, and editor in Philadelphia with over a decade of experience in the field. A former arts journalist, Jill earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her master’s from Rutgers University, Camden; she is also a certified yoga teacher and offers classes throughout Philadelphia. Jill lives in South Philly with her husband and their pets.
Help PRSA Philadelphia Celebrate 70 Years of Service!
In support of our 70th anniversary in 2022, we are creating a committee to plan for this yearlong celebration with a new logo, a branding campaign, news features and special events. If you are interested in joining this committee, please reach out to Rick Alcantara at for more information.
PRSA National News

Professional Development opportunities from PRSA National, including webinars, workshops, on demand training sessions, case study presentations on various industry topics, and a range of certificate programs can be found HERE.
Upcoming Webinars:
Diverse Dialogues: Building a Better Workplace for Black Employees
Feb. 22, 2022 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

PRSA IPA Business Building Webinar: Flight Lessons: Navigating Through Life's Turbulence and Learning to Fly High
Feb. 23, 2022 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

PRo Chats: A Conversation on How New Pros Can Navigate Their Career During COVID-19
Feb. 23, 2022 3:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Entertainment & Sports: How They Got Here, Feb. 2022
Feb. 24, 2022 3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Planning Ahead
PRSA 2022 Employee Communications Connect Conference
Apr. 11 – 13, 2022, Nashville, TN

Find PRSA Philly Members for Networking

Plan a coffee chat or a lunchtime conversation with a peer.

During this COVID pandemic, opportunities for in person programs and networking have been limited, or not available at all, which may be disappointing to many.

Yet, many PRSA members are likely to be open to a 1:1 chat with another local professional to share experiences or offer advice. It takes a bit of initiative but could be tremendously valuable. Here’s how you can identify members of our PRSA Philly chapter to form new professional relationships:
  1. Go to your MyPRSA account by logging in here.
  2. Click on My Networking Tools on the right-hand side of the page, under your name and account information and select Member Directory.
  3. Select Philadelphia Chapter and click Go. You will get 305 people listed! You can filter results further to find members by expertise, type of organization, industry.
Take advantage of our Member Directory this month. You never know what could happen!
Love your PRSA Membership? Encourage a friend or colleague to join today!
Learn more here
PRSA Job Board
For those of you who may be in the hiring position, we hope that you will 
submit your openings as they become available so we can share them with our
community of PR and communications professionals.
If you are on the job hunt yourself, check out our local chapter listings.
We also encourage you to visit the PRSA National job board.