October 2018 Print

President's Report

On the eve of my travels to Austin, TX to represent PRSA Philadelphia at our 2018 Leadership Assembly, I’m filled with anticipation and hope. Anticipation to see old friends and meet new PRSA colleagues. And hope for a stronger national society based on the democratic and collective force of our voting assembly. 

And while our PRSA annual delegates assembly and ICON loom large for the society at large, here in Philly we are all about the Golden Anniversary Pepperpots!!

In the coming days, we will be alerting all Pepperpot finalists. I’m thrilled to report that we received a record number of Pepperpot submissions in 2018. And we are expecting a huge turn-out from finalists, attendees, and sponsors—SO PLEASE REGISTER EARLY TO SECURE YOUR SPOT! I can’t wait to see all of you on November 13!

PRSA Philly – Mission Focused on Diversity & Inclusion

A huge word of congratulations to Meredith Avakian and Deirdre Hopkins for spearheading the first annual PRSA D&I event that took place on September 25. This landmark event featured the following panel of blue-ribbon speakers:

  • Michael Days, Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion for The Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News and Philadelphia Media Network
  • Jeff Guaracino, President and CEO, Welcome America, Inc.
  • Doug Oliver, Vice President of Communications, PECO
  • Robyn Forman Pollack, Esq., CEO and Founder of Trellis Consulting LLC
  • Kassem L. Lucas, Partner, Pepper Hamilton LLP
  • Javier Suarez, Vice President, Strategic Partnerships, Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

Thanks to all who help make PRSA Philly great!!


John F. Kouten
PRSA Philadelphia

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Welcome New Members

Moria Miller

Kerri Taranto
Associate Member 2
Account Coordinator
Jacobson Strategic Communications

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50th Anniversary Pepperpot Awards Event

This year, PRSA Philadelphia is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Pepperpot Awards program! Join us on Tuesday, November 13, 2018 from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at the Down Town Club. We'll celebrate 50 years of PR excellence and recognize the top Philadelphia-area PR professionals, campaigns and tactics at the 2018 Pepperpot Awards. Enjoy networking with peers, heavy hors d'oeuvre, and a champagne toast and dessert to celebrate! Register for the event here.

A variety of sponsorship package and advertisement opportunities are still available for the event program. All sponsorship and advertisement requests must be emailed to pepperpots@philly.org to reserve space and submit materials by Friday, October 20. Thank you for supporting PRSA Philadelphia and our golden anniversary!

To download the sponsorship form and additional details about the sponsorship opportunities, click here.

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Calendar of Events

Have you ever wondered what’s next after PRSSA? It's PRSA! Whether you are currently a PRSSA student, faculty or advisor of a chapter, or a current PRSA professional member, we invite you to meet and mingle at our October 17 event. Enjoy food and beverages, network, and help open the lines of communication between PRSSA and PRSA by: 

  • Meeting others from the local PRSSA chapters

  • Hearing from current PRSSA/PRSA members

  • Learning about the benefits of PRSA membership locally and the additional benefits of belonging to a national association with 21,000 members

Click here to register.

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Events in Review

Working Toward Diversity and Inclusion

By Mellany Armstrong, Associate Director of Communications, Moore College of Art & Design, and a PRSA Philly Communications Committee member

A discussion on the challenging issue of how to implement more diversity and inclusion in the workplace and in communications brought out a large crowd at PRSA Philly’s first-ever diversity and inclusion panel event on September 25 at Maggiano’s Little Italy in Philadelphia.

Speakers on the stellar panel included Michael Days, Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News and Philadelphia Media Network; Jeff Guaracino, President and CEO of Welcome America; Doug Oliver, Vice President of Communications for PECO; Robyn Forman Pollack, Esq., CEO and Founder of Trellis Consulting LLC; Kassem L. Lucas of Pepper Hamilton LLP; and Javier Suarez, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships for the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

The event was put together by Meredith Avakian and Deirdre Hopkins, co-chairs of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee for PRSA Philly.

Diversity and Inclusion Committee co-chairs
Meredith Avakian (left) and Deirdre Hopkins (right)
with Programming Chair, Martha Gaston (center)

“I think that diversity and inclusion needs to be woven in the fabric of everything we do as an organization, and truly as a society,” Avakian said.

Hopkins, who is involved with PRSA’s national policy on diversity and inclusion, said the program provided valuable engagement for members.

“One of the prongs of the national policy is that while we have a more diverse field of practitioners, we don’t have as many people in the hiring and in the management positions from diverse backgrounds,” she said. “So I really want to encourage and inspire that.”

Michael Days said that financial performance can be tied to diversity. He cited a report by McKinsey & Co. that examined diversity in the workplace over several years. The report, Diversity Matters, noted that more diverse companies are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above industry medians.

“Want to make more money? Have a diverse company where people are appreciated,” he said.

Panelists discussed how diversity and inclusion is hard to talk about, and how slowly changes are made.

Robyn Forman Pollack said that what gets in the way of progress is that companies are “hesitant to rock the boat.”

“People in leadership positions, though not all, find the status quo works for them,” she said. “It’s a difficult conversation.”

Doug Oliver referenced a song from the Broadway show, Hamilton, to make his point that CEOs and other company leaders need to be in on the conversation when it comes to hiring and promoting employees to create a more diverse and inclusive workforce.

“In the room where it happens, decisions are being made in there,” he said. “If I could get into the room, there would be a new outcome. We need to look two, three, and four levels higher.”

“It’s great to be in the room, but you have to be listened to,” said Pollack.

Other panelists suggested that if there is subjectivity, there is implicit bias, and that middle managers and heads of companies should participate in bias studies.

Pollack said training is not sufficient to solve the problem.

“Diversity is a business strategy that needs to be infused,” she said. “It’s a series of solutions that becomes like breathing in the office. That’s where it needs to go.”

Javier Suarez advised attendees to re-evaluate the networks in which they operate. He told the audience that he seeks out opportunities to bring new cross-sections of people into his life.

“Surround yourself with people figuring out how to drive diverse businesses to Philadelphia,” he said.

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Meet the Board: Stephanie Byrwa

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

While a student at Rowan University, Stephanie Byrwa was an active member of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). Today, Stephanie is giving back, as Emerging PR Pros Committee Chair for the Philadelphia chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). She facilitates professional development programming in support of new professionals and graduating college students from a number of student chapters in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. 

“I remember as a college student how PRSA members would come to our meetings and I was inspired by them as professionals,” Stephanie said. “I’m happy to hopefully be influencing college students now.”

As the liaison between local PRSSA chapters (including her alma mater), Stephanie visits the chapters and helps connect members with professionals who can answer questions about the industry and assist them with setting and achieving career-related goals.

To that end, the Emerging PR Pros Committee is hosting a PRSSA-PRSA Meet Up! Networking Event on October 17 from 4:30–6:30 p.m. at Shriners Hospitals for Children, where Stephanie works as the Marketing and Communications Manager. At the event, PRSSA students will have the opportunity to mingle with professionals and learn more about the benefits of PRSA membership.

“It’s a great way for members to find an intern or become a mentor to a student that might want to go into the same career path as them,” Stephanie said. “We are hoping that these students will become PRSA members when they finish their undergraduate degrees.”

Stephanie has been an active member of PRSA since graduating from college, serving first as Secretary of the Board and now as Emerging PR Pros Committee Chair. She decided to join the board after a prompting from fellow board member and friend, Rosie Braude. “It’s a good example for my staff (at work) to see that it’s important to be involved in other roles in your field,” she said.

Stephanie has been working at Shriners Hospitals for Children for nearly 11 years, her entire professional career. She enjoys her job and hopes that others will join PRSA to help find their own professional callings. “On any given day (at Shriners), I may be working on a new brochure, writing copy, or planning an event for patients and families. I enjoy working with the doctors, families, and everyone in between. Being able to tell people’s stories is very rewarding.”

When she’s not busy at work, Stephanie enjoys chasing after her 2 ½-year-old son and, of course, attending PRSSA meetings at Rowan University.

Register here for the PRSSA-PRSA Meet Up Networking Event!





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