Representation Matters

By Alyssa Badalamenti, Diversity & Inclusion Chair

The animated film, Coco, recently won Oscars for Best Animated Feature Film and Best Original Song at this year’s Academy Awards. The film represented a young, Mexican boy who had dreams of becoming a musician; a heartfelt story with culture and diversity beautifully woven in. But it was Director Lee Unkrich’s words in his acceptance speech that really stuck with me:

“With Coco we tried to take a step forward toward a world where all children can grow up seeing characters in movies that look, and talk, and live like they do. Marginalized people deserve to feel like they belong. Representation matters.”

A small fire of emotion lit inside me after hearing this impactful sentiment because it resonates in so many places and among so many matters in this world. And while increased representation advances diversity and inclusion throughout all industries, it’s also directly important to our very own public relations industry. PRSA’s defined role in diversity and inclusion efforts is to reach and involve members who represent a broad spectrum of differences. Students and entry-level roles must be able to visualize themselves as a PR professional, and that goes hand-in-hand with actually seeing the representation of someone similar within our industry.

How else can we aim to involve members and learn from others if we don’t have representation of differences in the PR field? It’s probably safe to assume without researching statistics that several decades ago there weren’t many differences among the working individuals in our profession. Now, we have better resources, better strength, and better representation to include diverse members.

And by having diverse members, we can benefit by educating each other about our differences and provide knowledge and support to help each other succeed in PR. For example, representation of millennials has certainly correlated to evolving types of communication methods. Millennials have built momentum and created a standard in connecting in new ways with the media and the public.  Just look at police departments and their ability to communicate faster during a crisis by using social media. And yet, those same millennials are learning what actually to say during said crisis on social media, among many other tactics that come with experience, from their baby boomer peers.

If we continued as a profession to be more purposeful in increasing representation and talking about our differences, public relations professionals will have a continuous back-and-forth learning experience. The opportunities to grow professionally and personally are endless when there’s representation of diversity and inclusion within our own stories.

A Louder Voice for Diversity & Inclusion

By Alyssa Badalamenti, Diversity & Inclusion Chair

The last 12 months have highlighted diversity and inclusion in such a powerful way that it makes my role as Diversity and Inclusion Chair only a microscopic piece of a much larger initiative in our lifetime.

As a public relations professional (and an ethical and moral human being), I have been encouraged by the power of voice in the last few months, albeit the horror stories we’ve read across headlines. Because let’s admit it: this isn’t just about the recent sexual harassment allegations. This is about shifting the longstanding choice to look away or avoid change from what we’ve always known to be. The brunt of the Harvey Weinstein acts coming to light may have given buoyancy to a louder and more diverse voice.  The response has even become a movement for greater awareness, listening, and action.

When we think about diversity and inclusion in the workplace, we may have always ignored the fact that there were no women keynote speakers planned at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show. We may have always ignored that although H&M communicates to a diverse audience, their recent misstep seemed to disregard an entire part of that audience. We may have always been uncomfortable with asking the right questions to gain knowledge about how to become more inclusive and diverse in our own organization, or in our own SELF!

What this movement teaches us is to embrace our differences and work together to understand each other so we can improve our skills in collaboration.

PRSA defines diversity and inclusion as follows:

“To champion diversity of thought, cultures, disciplines, ideals, gender, disabilities, sexual orientation and age in order to develop an inclusive society. By reaching and involving members who represent a broad spectrum of differences, we will encourage and educate members about the benefits of a diverse profession by providing professional development, knowledge and support to help them succeed in public relations.”

Champion is more than following; it’s being the one to make the difference and take the action.

Reaching other members and involving those who represent differences will educate ourselves and others to better our profession and help us succeed.

This is our time to use the momentum of truth and voice; to encourage diversity and make an impact so that we can support each other and be inclusive in all aspects of PR—our messaging, our teams, our audiences, and our thoughts.

Even in my “microscopic” role, I am empowered to be a part of the larger initiative with a loud voice and a strong collaboration among all those who will join me in becoming an agent of diversity and inclusion.

How Nonverbal Communication Speaks Loudly Through Diversity

By Alyssa Badalamenti, Diversity & Inclusion Chair

Over the holidays I traveled to three different countries – all of which I didn’t speak the native language, but learned a few key phrases to help me communicate throughout the day.

What I quickly realized, though, was even though I could speak “enough,” the language didn’t actually help me as significantly as I thought it would. Instead, while trying to speak my message, there were follow up questions I couldn’t understand. So, without even thinking, my reaction was to respond with my hands and animate nonverbal cues to communicate more fully. In turn, the others responded the same way, and we actually had a short conversation that came to the point naturally, and without even speaking to each other.

This nonverbal communication helped me through three language barriers, so much that I didn’t feel like I was at a disadvantage not knowing the native tongue. It’s amazing how through simply using your hands and expressing emotion through your face to set the tone spoke more loudly than “il conto per favore,” which plainly means, “may you please bring the bill?” I added in nonverbal signs for how the food was great and that we were pleased and ready to go.

Of course, there are cultural differences among nations that prove some nonverbal behaviors vary in their message, but for this example let’s put that aside and instead focus on the fact that those of different nations are still human beings. Good communication carries strongly all over the world.

In 79 AD, on the southwest coast of Italy, the extremely dangerous volcano, Mount Vesuvius, explosively erupted over the city of Pompeii. All those residing there died instantly of thermal shock. Back then (and for thousands of years), settlements painted and drew pictures on the walls of their city and homes to depict expression. Even though we lost the chance to learn about the people of Pompeii through written language, we’ve learned about them through their paintings. When viewing just one, we see a narrative and several learnings of how they lived. These stories are told without words, yet we can interpret the message of what they mean just by focusing on the details of the painting. Pretty remarkable.

So what does this mean to me—to you? This is more than the lesson of “nonverbal communication is still communication.” This trip and these type of experiences actually instead remind me to not overthink things when working in communications among different audiences. Simple pictorial or nonverbal communications speak loudly. Getting to the point is the most important part, and be aware of facial expressions that set the tone of your messages. Nonverbal signals speak loudly to those of all backgrounds, so never underestimate your ability to communicate effectively and authentically to those who are different than you.

Diversity, Inclusion, Public Relations and Beyond

By Jaylen Christie, Chairman of Diversity & Inclusion

An age-old axiom states that all good things come to an end. And so it is that my term as PRSA Orlando’s Chairman of Diversity & Inclusion has officially come to a close. It’s truly been a fantastic year – not just for our wonderful chapter, but for the Public Relations Society of America nationwide. I humbly believe that 2017 was the year that Diversity & Inclusion received a beautiful and much-needed spotlight. While the subject has, in fact, always been acknowledged in some way, shape or form, I’d respectfully argue that a renewed focus has been placed on it within the PRSA nationally.

PRSA Orlando had the honor of providing our amazing members with diverse programming including communications as related to the LGBTQ community, race, and justice. Moreover, 2017 also saw PRSA Orlando participate in a coast-to-coast Twitter chat on the state of diversity regarding public relations, and multiple conference calls with several diversity chairs from other PRSA chapters to brainstorm ideas and tactics regarding inclusion. As a group, we also worked very hard in submitting a detailed entry for consideration of the PRSA Chapter Diversity Award, an accolade bestowed upon PRSA chapters that embody and demonstrate key values in diversity and inclusion, and that contribute to advancing diversity as shown by submissions of best practices or case studies. Suffice it to say that it was a pretty good 2017.

I am looking forward to another marvelous year of keep diversity and inclusion in the conversation and how it relates to public relations. After all, companies with intent to build positive relationships in diverse markets would be wise to recruit and retain talent that accurately reflects the population of their clients. As indicated in one of my previous blogs, and to use another time-tested axiom, variety is indeed the spice of life.

Over the course of this year, our amazing members were also reminded that inclusion and ethics go hand-in-hand and were taught how to drive success through diversity. As the public relations profession continues to grow, statistics have shown that a lack of diversity in communication-related positions has continued. I’m optimistic that this will change. PRSA’s national Diversity & Inclusion Committee is committed to driving this – and it starts with placing a spotlight on the subject. We did that this year and it is my hope that everyone was left feeling enlightened and empowered.

As I make the transition to VP of Communications for PRSA Orlando, I am pleased to announce that my colleague and fellow board member, Alyssa Badalamenti, will be taking over my spot, and I have no doubt that she will keep the conversation going. PRSA Orlando has a lot of fantastic things in store and I couldn’t be happier to share these experiences with everyone.

Here’s to many more years of celebrating diversity and inclusion: cheers!

PRSA Orlando Gives Back

Donation to Red Cross benefits Puerto Rico recovery efforts
PRSA members and guests raised $244 during the 50/50 raffle at our Splitsville member social this month to fund a donation for Hurricane Maria recovery efforts in Puerto Rico. A special thank-you goes to Laura Lord-Blackwell, APR, for donating back her raffle winnings, too! The contribution was sent directly to the American Red Cross in their recovery efforts. Learn more about how the funds will benefit those in Puerto Rico.

Positive messages for Mental Health Association


During their November board meeting, PRSA Orlando Board of Directors shared in an activity by creating “oranges” with positive messages written on them to brighten people’s day. On the back of each orange had a mental health resource on it. They were passed out during the “Orange You Happy” Suicide Awareness Campaign, hosted by the Mental Health Association of Central Florida.

Volunteers at Ronald McDonald House


PRSA Orlando members volunteered this month at the Ronald McDonald House in Central Florida. The group donated and assembled snack kits for the families with handmade cards from PRSA Orlando, and did some light cleaning around the house to prep for the holidays.