Engaging the unengaged: Focusing on minority audiences in the tourism industry

By Veronica Figueroa Fernandez, PRSA Diversity & Inclusion Committee 

Our need for exploring and adventure connects us as people, allowing us to create lasting memories. And while traveling can be stressful at times, for persons with disabilities the challenges can often feel overwhelming.

According to The World Bank, one billion people, or 15% of the world’s population, experience some form of disability. One-fifth of the estimated global total, or between 110 million and 190 million people, experience significant disabilities.

With an awareness that understanding the needs of disabled persons can result in increased visitation, Experience Kissimmee (Osceola County’s tourism authority) is leading the charge locally in promoting diversity and inclusion in their marketing and public relations efforts.

Recently, Experience Kissimmee partnered with leading accessible travel blogger Cory Lee (pictured above) from CurbFreeWithCoryLee.com, where he visited the destination and shared wheelchair accessible activities in Kissimmee–from soaring over alligators at Gatorland to exploring the town of Celebration.

Cori Powers, director of communications at Experience Kissimmee, shared with us why diversity and inclusion are crucial to the travel and hospitality industry.

Why is it important for Experience Kissimmee to promote accessible tourism?

As a destination, we promise a vacation where sunny hellos, out-of-this-world adventures, and wow-worthy experiences are always included. That promise pertains to everyone. Part of Kissimmee’s appeal is its accessibility. We put the focus on fun, so that accommodations, transportation, and access is as worry-free as possible. It’s important our messaging promotes that in Kissimmee, the entire family, no matter age, race, style, or culture, stay and play together.

Why should diversity and inclusion matter to the travel and hospitality industry?

The travel and hospitality industry needs to be representative of the population it serves. As buying power shifts, the industry needs to work to acknowledge and pivot messaging and communications efforts to fit individual audiences and needs.

How else is Experience Kissimmee featuring diversity and inclusion in their public relations efforts?

Whether we are talking to consumers, groups, event planners, event rights holders, or travel agents, our messaging is that Kissimmee is accessible. We work to educate different audiences that all are welcome here. We achieve this by promoting our partners and events that share our focus on inclusion and diversity, making it easy for us to tell that story.

As you already know, we hosted blogger and disabled traveler Cory Lee in Kissimmee. At Gatorland, he was able to zipline 350 feet through the air right over the Alligator Breeding Marsh on the Gator Gauntlet. We’ve also worked with LGBTQ influencers such as Perez Hilton, distributed a press release touting Kissimmee’s autism-friendly attractions and accommodations, and constantly showcase our hotels and vacation homes’ ability to accommodate any special needs.

We also have established local events that help promote our destination as inclusive and diverse. Experience Kissimmee sponsors PrideFest Kissimmee in June, a celebration grounded in welcoming and acknowledging the impactful contributions of our local LGBTQ community. Our area celebrates diversity through many multicultural events, such as the Caribbean Fusion Festival and the Cuban Sandwich Festival.

As public relations professionals, we need to engage a focus on minority audiences to make them our regular audience because ultimately, diversity and inclusion is something that all customers, including discerning travelers, notice and value.

Frank R. Stansberry Scholarship Recipient: Danna Saenz

We are pleased to announce that this year, three students at UCF will be awarded the Frank R. Stansberry Scholarship.

Over the next several months, we will introduce you to each student. First up, is Danna Saenz, a West Palm Beach native whose expected graduation date is May 2020.

Danna Saenz with immediate past PRSA president Scott McCallum.

Why did you choose to major in communications?
As a crossroads of the social sciences, communications gave me the opportunity to mix creative liberty with critical thought about human interaction and expression.

Have you completed any internships? If so, where and what was the most valuable thing you learned?
My first internship was with Treasure Box Kids, Inc. where I wrote blog posts about the ethical fashion market. I just finished my second with the Legal Aid Society of the Orange County Bar Association, Inc. where I worked to start their first PR efforts. Both places presented the challenge of learning industry-specific language and practices, teaching me the value of flexibility, independence, and the importance of research in communication.

What would you like to do professionally?
Growing up with a privilege my parents lacked instilled in me a passion to give back. That drives me to seek PR and communications work for nonprofits and the broader public interest realm.

PRSA Orlando’s May Newsletter

Take a look at PRSA Orlando’s May Newsletter.

Silence is not golden when there is an expectation of caring

By Alyssa Badalamenti, PRSA Orlando Diversity and Inclusion Chair

When you don’t respond to something within a crisis, your silence makes it seem like you don’t care.

We know this specifically as public relations professionals because this is PR Crisis 101.

When a large mistake is made within your company and it affects people negatively, people expect a company response to show you care.

When a tragedy happens within the public, people expect (or at least appreciate) a company response to show you care.

If you don’t publicly recognize that you do care about diversity and inclusion, your silence will make it seem like you don’t care.

What would reasonable people appropriately expect a responsible organization to do in this situation?

Big brands responding to a lack of diversity and inclusion in recent years has created a shift and an expectation for all companies to step up. Each of your stakeholders in the case of diversity expects you to publicly address it as part of your company values.

Will silence be seen as indifference?

Calling out that you’re supportive of actionable policies and positive changes made to address diversity and inclusion is the expectation. If you’re not part of this message, it could be perceived that your company is indifferent to it.

Will those who matter to us expect us to do or say something?

It’s become equally as important to the public as it is to employees and stakeholder groups that you are using good workplace practices and taking steps to make everyone feel included and recognized.

And minority group or not, your most loyal and active audience expects you to be on top of diversity and inclusion. With appropriate diversity and inclusion messaging, even a latent public can become closer to your brand, which is good for business too.

If we wait to respond, do we lose the ability to influence the outcome?

You know the saying, “Now is already too late.” And chances are you’re already behind on this effort.

But in this case, it’s never too late to take a stance publicly because your audience expects your efforts to constantly evolve.

This isn’t a “set it and forget it” message.  Diversity and inclusion messaging should continue as long as you expect your company to thrive.

Give diversity and inclusion the time it’s worth by making company efforts more dynamic, then communicate the message that you do care loudly and often. Your audience expects it.

April Membership Promotion

Not a member of PRSA yet or considering rejoining?

In April, new and reinstated members pay no initiation fee and receive one year of Section membership for free. That’s a savings of up to $130!

Use code “APRIL19” on sign-up and don’t forget to select PRSA Orlando Regional as your local chapter.

Questions about your PRSA membership, email Maria Wyatt-Uhl or Carter Flynn.

PRSA Orlando’s April Newsletter

Take a look at PRSA Orlando’s April Newsletter.

April is APR Month

April is APR Month — but APR Month has nothing to do with Annual Percentage Rates. A second, less recognized, definition for APR is Accreditation in Public Relations.

In the world of communication professionals, Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) is a credential earned by public relations practitioners who commit to the profession through ethical practices and sound judgment, strategic perspectives, knowledge of best practices and the use of the research planning-implementation-evaluation (RPIE) process.

Unlike other professions (e.g., physicians and attorneys), the field of public relations does not require licensure or certification to practice the craft. But it does require expertise, knowledge and training to be a successful and strategic public relations professional and counselor. The decision to pursue the APR is both personal and professional.

So why should a company or organization care if its public relations employees have earned their APR?

Accreditation is a mark of distinction. The APR is earned through a rigorous process. Practitioners are required to present their knowledge to Accredited peers for review. This is followed by a comprehensive examination that tests candidates’ knowledge of the field. Perhaps most importantly, the credential signifies an understanding and commitment to a Code of Ethics, and ability to think and plan at the strategic level.

In today’s business climate, it is critical that an organization’s public relations function adheres to ethics. The complexities associated with technology, societal change and instantaneous news make ethics more important than ever as the profession matures.

As evidenced in a recent study completed by faculty at Baylor University*, Accredited public relations practitioners possess more confidence in providing ethical counsel to senior leadership than their non-Accredited peers. In today’s business climate, a solid understanding of ethics is critical to an organization’s success.

The public relations field has moved far beyond the stereotype of spin doctors and press agents of the 20th century. Today’s PR practitioners play a vital role in reputation management, crisis communications and issues management. A seasoned public relations pro operates at the strategic level, focusing on target audiences and measurable results, not just flashy media coverage and publicity tactics.

But how do companies and organizations know they are hiring the right person? The APR credential signifies that a professional possesses the competence necessary to operate at a strategic and ethical level in an increasingly complex communications world. Hiring managers and clients who choose Accredited public relations professionals know that they have chosen competent individuals committed to providing strategic and insightful advice and counsel.

2019 marks the 55th anniversary of Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) — and our Orlando chapter has a lot to celebrate. Join us at the April program for a special recognition of our 60+ APRs in Central Florida.

Questions about APR? Mimi Flatley, APR — mflatley@tcco.com and Laura Lord-Blackwell, APR — laura.lord@ocfl.net are here to help.

PRSA March 2019 Newsletter

Take a look at PRSA Orlando’s March Newsletter.

Diversity Blog: Our Numbers Do Not Decrease Our Impact

Authored by Mimi Flatley, APR, Co-VP of Accreditation

A few years ago, a colleague and I spoke during a university communications class about how we started in our respective careers. We began by asking the soon-to-be grads where they hoped to work after college: For a sports team, at a large health care organization, in the hospitality industry, for a leading tech company, and so on. I wasn’t surprised that not one answer was the industry I’ve spent the past decade working in—the industry that builds the stadiums, hospitals, theme parks and offices these students hoped to work in—construction.

Communications in the construction industry was not on my radar after college. But there is no place I’d rather be. While the numbers aren’t that impressive – women make up less than 9 percent of the construction workforce according to the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) – the women I work with truly shine.

Companies who “get it” address the gaps and offer ways to support diverse groups. At Turner Construction, for example, our Women Impacting Turner (WIT) employee resource group serves as a support system in the company to foster awareness, respect and inclusion. Turner Orlando’s WIT group includes a roster of more than 50 employees with a mission to work as a diverse team to build knowledge of business and leadership skills, and empower each other to develop and maintain work environments that recognize and cultivate a culture of diversity.

Each year during NAWIC’s Women in Construction Week, the group organizes professional development, community outreach, and networking events to highlight women in our industry. This helps empower women in construction. Just this past week, the group attended jobsite tours hosted by female project managers, attended safety classes, and highlighted the success of tradeswomen, an even smaller percentage of the construction workforce (3 percent).

As a communications professional, I’m glad the numbers don’t scare me. In my role today, I’m surrounded by engineers, safety managers, superintendents, and project managers – women – who are building the future. When women support each other, our numbers do not decrease our impact.

PRSA February 2019 Newsletter

Take a look at PRSA Orlando’s February Newsletter.