‘A Year to Forget or A Year to Learn?’ As We Faced Global Pandemic, Social Unrest, Misinformation, Disinformation, Presidential Election

We all know 2020 has certainly been anything but normal, and many of us are ready to put it behind us and move on. But, as one speaker asked at this year’s PRSA ICON, “Strategic Communications: Navigating A World Disrupted held virtually Oct. 26-29, is it “a year to forget or a year to learn?”

We can all hope to return to some normalcy but it is often the challenging, disruptive, anything-but-normal days and situations that we tend to remember the most and, many times, when we learn some important life lessons and change our future course. No doubt, we have learned a lot this year. Many PR practitioners have been thrust into leading crisis communications efforts, redefining how to communicate, reexamining diversity efforts, and reinventing themselves and the organizations they represent.

No matter what side you are on, we can all agree that misinformation and disinformation have been rampant. This was a common theme discussed at ICON 2020. It has been difficult to know what the truth is anymore. Some of the most trusted individuals, companies and media outlets have spread untruths and demonstrated bias. Some intentionally and others unintentionally.

As PR professionals, we must ensure we are not contributing to these falsehoods, but continuously asking the right questions, digging deeper, fact checking, acting as responsible advocates, providing objective counsel and being accountable. To do anything less stains our profession and what we stand for. Honesty is one of our key PRSA Code of Ethics values, which states “We adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth in advancing the interests of those we represent and in communicating with the public.” You are empowered, and obligated, to make the right decisions. Embrace these learnings from a difficult year and make a difference.

Thanks for all of those members who completed our chapter’s member survey. Your input is invaluable and will help shape future programs, communications and diversity & inclusion initiatives.

Check out and register for our upcoming virtual programs, including:

  • Member Appreciation Month – Did you miss Recharging Your Mind? You still can recharge your body and spirit. Not a member yet and want to join the fun? Join today and take advantage of the Triple Play deal (through Nov. 30).
    • Nov. 12, 5:30 p.m., Recharge Your Body with certified Yogi Julie Kohler, to experience how yoga combines physical exercises, mental meditation, and breathing techniques to strengthen the muscles and relieve stress. Get ready to move in front of your screen.
    • Nov. 18, 5:30 p.m., Recharge Your Spirit: Member Mixer. Grab your libation and join us for a fun virtual mixer. We’ve got some “Speed Meeting” secrets in store to get to know each other better, even if we can’t physically be together. Our PRSA Orlando spirit is sure to raise yours.
  • Nov. 19, 1 p.m. (networking at 12:45 p.m.) – Orlando Magic Get off the Bench. Get into the Game. Vote with Trish Wingerson, director of public relations. Learn how the Orlando Magic partnered with Vote.org to activate a multi-pronged voting initiative campaign to increase voter turnout and participation in the 2020 Census. It’s sure to be a slam dunk.
    • At the start of this program, all members will also be voting for our proposed 2021 PRSA Orlando Board Member slate.
  • Dec. 10, 5-6:30 p.m. – PRSA Gives Back Virtual Holiday Mixer fundraising event. Tickets/donations will go to the 2020 PRSA Orlando Hardship Fund Program.
  • Oct. 17-19, 2021PRSA Orlando proudly hosts ICON 2021 at the Orlando World Center Marriott. Planning is already underway, and we will need your support. Stay tuned for more details.

Here’s to a year of learnings and new beginnings!

Rich Donley, APR
2020 President, PRSA Orlando Regional Chapter

Register Now: November is Member Appreciation Month

November is Member Appreciation Month – REGISTER NOW to
RECHARGE Your Mind, Body & Spirit!

Recharge Your Mind: Improve Your Marketability Panel
Friday, Nov. 6 at 12 noon
Sharpen your personal brand with our interactive panel of experts who hire. What better time to grab your lunch and get virtual tips for marketing YOU?

Recharge Your Body
Thursday, Nov. 12 at 5:30 p.m.
Join E-RYT* and YACEP** certified Yogi Julie Kohler, to experience how yoga combines physical exercises, mental meditation, and breathing techniques to strengthen the muscles and relieve stress. GET READY TO MOVE in front of your screen!
*Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher (E-RYT) | **Yoga Alliance Continuing Education Provider® (YACEP®)

Recharge Your Spirit: Member Mixer
Wednesday, Nov. 18 at 5:30 p.m.
Grab your libation and join us for a fun virtual mixer! We’ve got some “Speed Meeting” secrets in store to get to know each other better, even if we can’t physically be together. Our PRSA Orlando spirit is sure to raise yours!
RSVP details will be sent separately for each event!

Register Now!

A Time of Turbulence, Transition and Transformation

While there are still three months remaining in 2020 (I mean, who can’t wait for this year to be over?), let’s hope the turbulence, challenges and difficult conversations serve as the foundation of change for a better tomorrow.  Your chapter leadership has been embracing change to better define our vision of 2021. 

Be sure to review the nominees for our 2021 board of directors, under the leadership of 2021 Chapter President Stefanie Macfarlane, APR, who has been my right hand this year. The new board, which will transition January 1, will be presented for a member vote during the annual meeting, Nov. 19 at 1 p.m. 

While we embrace diversity and inclusion throughout the year, October is designated as Diversity & Inclusion Month. As PRSA 2020 Chair T. Garland Stansell points out in his member communications, this year “takes on extra significance and sense of purpose … our theme, Transforming the Landscape, reflects the need for us to continue broadening and strengthening our commitment to creating a diverse, equitable and inclusive culture throughout PRSA and the communications profession.”

See our website and blog for insights and happenings from our D&I Committee and PRSA National for a mix of Diverse Dialogues, Twitter chats, special events and more.

Keep an eye on your email this month for a comprehensive chapter member survey. We are interested in your feedback to best serve you in the coming year. The survey addresses our programs, communications and diversity & inclusion efforts. Let your voice be heard.

Check out and register for our upcoming virtual programs (some will begin 15 minutes early for networking opportunities). Programs include:

  • Oct. 8, 3-4 p.m., “Writing Your Next Chapter” Career Chat. Regardless of your situation, join us for a conversation about brushing up your personal brand. Christina Stokes, vice president and director of talent acquisition at Rubenstein in New York, will discuss the best ways to present yourself. Topics include: resume refresh; virtual networking tips; pitching yourself in a pandemic; and mental health tips during a pandemic job search.
  • Oct. 15, 8:15 a.m. (networking); 8:30 a.m. (program) – How to Amplify Your PR Campaign Through Influencer Marketing,” with foodie influencer Ricky Ly of @tastychomps, Jeanette Johnson of J’s Everyday Fashion and Wall Crawl Orlando, and moderator Yadia Suarez of IZEA. Thank you to program sponsor Orlando Health.
  • Oct. 26-29, ICON 2020, “Strategic Communications – Navigating a World Disrupted. PRSA’s digital gathering of thought leaders, industry experts and partners in communication, public relations and marketing will deliver four days of innovation, insights, ideas and inspiration.
  • Nov. 19, 1 p.m. Orlando Magic (details to come), includes annual meeting with 2021 board slate vote by membership.
  • November and December – We also have other events in the works, including a Membership Appreciation Week and our annual PRSA Gives Back. See our website and social media channels for updates.

As always, if you have any questions, feedback or needs, please be sure to reach out. Stay healthy and stay safe!

Rich Donley, APR

2020 President, PRSA Orlando Regional Chapter

A screenshot of a virtual panel discussion

Takeaways From Adweek’s Hispanic & Latin American Summit

By: Veronica Figueroa Fernandez, PRSA Orlando Diversity & Inclusion Chair

Last month Adweek brought together 12 marketing leaders from global brands together for the inaugural Hispanic & Latin American Summit, where they discussed the gap between Hispanic and Latino consumers and the small marketing budgets allotted to them, the lack of Hispanic leaders in marketing, failures to reach the community, and the vibrant diversity found within them. 

Claudia Romo Edelman, founder of We Are All Human, moderated the conversation. She stressed the importance of Hispanic professionals remaining connected to their own roots and living authentically, and referenced P&G’s Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard, who suppressed his Mexican heritage for fear of being labeled. With Hispanic Heritage Month in full swing, we wanted to share insights from these leaders on the importance of Hispanic and Latino representation in the workplace and branding.

Claudia Romo Edelman, Founder, We Are All Human

  • The time for Hispanics is now. Hispanics need to be unified, be a community, and help, support, hire and mentor each other.
  • There is a need for allyship to open doors and give the Hispanic community a platform. 
  • According to statistics shared by Claudia, Hispanics and Latin Americans make up 18 percent of the population but only make one percent of elected officials holding office, leaders in the C-suite, and entertainment. “We have to change that equation,” she said. 

Maria Winans, CMO, IBM Americas 

  • In recent months, Maria has learned that brands need to be more human, lead with empathy, and give permission to their teams to be creative in re-imagining the future.
  • She applauded IBM’s advocacy efforts in mentorship, sponsorships, and intern programs dedicated to talent in underrepresented communities. 

Steven Wolfe Pereira, CEO and founder, Encantos 

  • The Hispanic community is over-mentored and under-invested.
  • “Let’s be crystal clear. We are invisible as a community, we are not acknowledged by brands. […] This is an epidemic across every industry. They love our dollars but they do not show up for us,” he said.
  • Steven mentioned that he’s taken part in similar conversations since the late 90s. “I am over incrementalism. We need to have control over our stories, companies, and leadership,” he shared. His frustrations were what led him to start his own company.
  • To Steven, unless there is a [Hispanic or Latin American] person in a position of power and influence, not in a D&I role, there will not be any change.

Yvette Peña, VP of Multicultural Leadership, AARP

  • Yvette believes that D&I should be everyone’s responsibility, not just the responsibility of the D&I department. 

Ivan Heredia, VP of Brand Engagement and Revenue, The Walt Disney Company

  • If you’re stuck between a place where the world is moving at a quick pace but your corporate environment isn’t, Ivan recommends that employees have ‘owner mentality’ to raise their hands, especially if they are the only Hispanic or Latin American in the room, and build a case study that’ll unlock opportunities to tell more stories, drive the bottom line, and build a path to representation. 

Rosi Ajjam, VP and GM at Estee Lauder’s Aramis and Designer Fragrance Lab Series

  • When Rosi moved to the United States four years ago, she did not know how to network. Through the help of her mentors, she was able to learn how to navigate cultural and business dynamics. 
  • She encourages Hispanic and Latin American leaders to share their stories and become mentors to younger colleagues. 

Andrea Perez, Global VP and GM, Nike’s Jordan Brand 

  • Andrea stressed the importance of mentoring BIPOC and doubling down on the injustices seen in the Black community in order to help address the injustices in the Latino community. 

Susan Betts, Director of Brand Strategy and Management, Google

  • When asked if they identified as Latina because she is Brazilian she said, “There is no one flavor of Latina. We are beautifully intersectional. I can be white, blue-eyed, speak English, and still be 100 percent Latina.”
  • Part of Susan’s agreement with Google is to focus on inclusive marketing, and she shared that three years ago Google began looking at their creative and extracting data. Through the audit, they found that they made progress in increasing the representation of BIPOC in their work. However, in 2019 they learned that only 6 percent of their ads portrayed Hispanic or Latin Americans. As a company, they now know that they need to do more to represent this community through positive portrayals that actively fight stereotypes. 

Fabiola Torres, CMO and Senior VP of Energy, PepsiCo

  • Fabiola mentioned that while brands want to appeal to new audiences and appear inclusive, they often hire “experts” in the Hispanic market that develop work rooted in stereotypes. She notes that their work does not represent the culture of today. 
  • It is important to re-learn and re-educate yourself and consult people outside of your comfort zone.
  • Fabiola shared that brands need to understand that there is a difference between marketing to a U.S. Hispanic market and marketing to an audience in Latin American countries. While there are commonalities, there are things that separate the audiences and brands should take the time to gather insights from focus groups. 

Xavier Gutierrez, President and CEO, Arizona Coyotes

  • Be authentic and admit when you need help in marketing to the Hispanic community. 
  • Be unapologetic about being Latino/Latina and open to the fact that it may cause discomfort. 
  • “We need to promote and support an ownership mentality in our community, business, capital, corporate development pathway, and truly support each other in those factors.” 

If you weren’t able to make the summit, you can catch the recordings here.

Interns pose at a NASCAR event

How To Create A Diverse & Inclusive Internship Program In Your Workplace

By: Veronica Figueroa Fernandez, PRSA Orlando Diversity & Inclusion Chair

Building a diverse and inclusive company culture in the workplace has become a primary focus for many organizations, especially over the past year. Whether you’re running a well-known brand or a small business, building the right foundations for diversity and inclusion within your business should be an integral part of your diverse growth strategy. D&I college internships can be a stepping stone at building diversity within your company and can be one of the most effective ways to create meaningful change. 

Interns bring immense value to organizations, often bringing cutting-edge ideas to the table that can lead your company to success. A diverse class of interns means you’ll gain access to unique perspectives and develop an inclusive company culture. However, because internships are often unpaid, they become inaccessible to many in the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) community. 

Jordan Leatherman, Diversity & Inclusion Senior Account Executive at NASCAR, recently spoke to us about her organization’s diversity internship program. Twenty years ago, NASCAR created the NASCAR Diversity Internship Program (NDIP) to create an opportunity for students of color. Over the last two decades, the program has successfully grown to be a staple within the industry with 30 students participating each summer. 

The NDIP is a 10-week paid summer internship aimed at BIPOC who are currently enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate degree program or are considered a recent graduate. Eligible participants begin their experience with a 3-day orientation weekend centered around the NASCAR All-Star Race, and throughout the internship, they have access to weekly Lunch & Learns with industry executives, networking opportunities, and a mentorship program. 

If you’re just getting started on creating a diverse and inclusive internship program in your workplace, Jordan Leatherman has shared three tips to select candidates from different backgrounds. 

Diversify your candidate pool.

In order to hire interns who contribute to your organization’s diversity and inclusion goals, you will have to diversify your recruitment tactics. NASCAR currently works with Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), and top universities through Handshake to identify candidates for internships. Handshake is a platform that connects students on college campuses with internships and entry-level jobs. NASCAR also partners with organizations like the United Negro College Fund (UNCF),  Association of Latino Professionals For America (ALPFA), and National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) to promote the internship application. 

Leverage professional associations and organizations focused on serving diverse populations, and consider advertising in and attending events sponsored by those organizations. Niche job boards such as DiversityWorking, 70 Million Jobs, and Hirepurpose are just a small sample of how to connect with new audiences. Throughout the last 20 years, NASCAR has hired more than 20 interns from the NASCAR Diversity Internship Program for numerous roles in the organization including Brandon Thompson, VP of Diversity & Inclusion, and Kathryn Lee, Senior Manager of Marketing Activation.

Pay. Your. Interns! 

Internships are a critical component of a student’s college career, giving them a competitive advantage in the job market and an opportunity to gain experience in their desired field. However, financial barriers often prevent low-income students from pursuing and accepting unpaid internships. Students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds may need an income in order to pay for classes, their rent, or other necessities, leaving these valuable internships off the table. 

When organizations limit their internships to those who can afford them, their less affluent peers will graduate without the relevant work experience necessary to quickly land an entry-level job. “Paid internships eliminate barriers to students who would not be financially able to participate in unpaid internships. Historically unpaid internships are typically less diverse than their paid counterparts,” said Leatherman. 

Unpaid internships are a controversial topic in all industries, but with the knowledge that the public relations industry has a diversity problem, it is important to address the issue and enact change from the bottom up. In fact, the PR Council announced last year that its members pledged to pay their interns in the United States at least minimum wage in their market. The policy went into effect on January 1, 2020.

Create an environment that is inclusive and welcoming. 

Leatherman says that it is important to institute diversity and unconscious bias training within your organization prior to the start of the internships. These programs are designed to expose employees to their unconscious biases and provide tools to eliminate discriminatory behaviors and thoughts. 

Biases are formed based on experiences, things you hear, media portrayals, institutional influences, and other external factors. When faced with situations that fit into these preconceived opinions people have created, they make a number of automatic perceptions and assumptions that are often incorrect. Making D&I a part of your organizational policies and systems is key to disrupt patterns of thinking and ensure everyone, from interns to your executive leadership, is on the same page. 

As employers move toward full D&I in the workplace, they should incorporate a comprehensive definition of diversity that applies to all hiring practices, including internship programs. For more ideas on how to create an inclusive internship program, check youth.gov’s how-to guide for employers. 

September Marks Change, Ethics and Philanthropy

“Ahhh, Labor Day is upon us. Schools are back in full swing. We are reflecting on our summer vacations and travels. We are enjoying sports and the arts.” Well, that would have been remarks for a normal September — in a normal year. But as we know, nothing has been normal about 2020. The only constant is change.

Our thoughts go out to those who have persevered despite these challenges and those who continue to face adversity. Your PRSA family is here for you. They have always been there for me during the highs and lows. Please reach out if we can help support. We are truly all in this together.

September is Ethics Month, which is a reminder of the challenges we as public relations practitioners face and the responsibility we have every day with every decision we make. The PRSA Code of Ethics is a useful guide as we “carry out (our) ethical responsibilities, setting out principles that uphold core values, including advocacy, honesty, expertise, independence, loyalty and fairness.” Check out this newsletter for other articles and resources, including upcoming webinars.

Be sure to register for our virtual programs (some will begin 15 minutes early for networking opportunities). Programs include:

Looking forward to seeing you soon.

Rich Donley, APR
2020 President, PRSA Orlando Regional Chapter

An group of employees have a discussion in an office meeting

How To Create An Equitable Workplace For Older Workers

By: Veronica Figueroa Fernandez, PRSA Orlando Diversity & Inclusion Chair

Nearly 2 out of 3 workers ages 45 and older have seen or experienced age discrimination on the job, according to results of a wide-ranging AARP workplace survey. More than 50 years after the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) was signed into law, forbidding employment discrimination against anyone over 40 years of age in the United States, “age discrimination remains a significant and costly problem for workers, their families, and our economy.”

An investigation by ProPublica and the Urban Institute found that 56 percent of workers over the age of 50 reports that they were pushed out of their jobs by their employers before they were ready to retire. Some of the comments these employees heard include, “older workers can’t handle the day-to-day demands of the job,” and “they can’t be retrained and are too hard to manage.”

Patti Temple Rocks, author of “I’m Not Done: It’s Time To Talk About Ageism In The Workplace,” writes that ageism in the workplace produces slanted messaging and it is bad for business. She shares that the idea that workers become less valuable as they age ignores reality. “The years of experience and the confidence that comes from an expanded track record of success can make employees more effective,” she said. 

She observes that when it comes to the creative world of advertising, the belief that people get better with experience is often replaced with the belief that the only answer is innovation, making us believe that innovation can only be achieved by young people. 

What many companies do not understand is that older workers possess a depth of knowledge and experience that is worth paying for. They believe that investing in younger workers is cost-effective and less risky, when in fact according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), workers 45-54 stayed on the job twice as long as those 25-34, so concentrating on training those over 40 was seen as a sound investment. 

In 2019, the median age of workers in advertising, public relations, and related services was 38.5. It is no wonder that advertising is considered a “Peter Pan” industry, meaning few employees make it long enough to retire from their roles. 

Organizations that sincerely value their employees and actively encourage them to reach their full potential need to create an equitable workplace where workers of all ages feel respected. So, how does one go about that? 

Remove hidden bias from the job description.

You’ve seen the job descriptions looking for a high-energy, savvy digital native that can outline a communications strategy in their sleep. While many managers do not intend to exclude older job applicants, common phrases in job descriptions may seem that way. “Digital native” for example, may discourage qualified applicants who didn’t grow up with an iPhone attached to their hand, scrolling through different social media feeds. “High-energy,” “ninja,” and “guru” often refer to younger candidates. 

More often than not, job applications require candidates to share milestone dates and information, such as college graduation year or highest GPA achieved. This can discourage older candidates from submitting an application, giving the perception that your company is searching for younger candidates. The best and brightest should be given an opportunity, regardless of age. 

Portray a diverse public persona.

Many times, before submitting a job application, candidates will visit your website and social media profiles to see what the culture at your agency or organization is like. If you’re lucky enough to work in a diverse office, share that! Ensure that your agency’s public profile demonstrates racial diversity and generational diversity. If you’re using stock photos on your website, make sure that they portray diversity and inclusion. 

Train your management to recognize hidden biases. 

Are leaders in your organization making assumptions that older workers cannot grasp changing technology? How are you training your leadership to eliminate age assumption practices? Managers need the training to help acknowledge and remove those biases. 

Update your policies. 

In a perfect world, it would be enough to trust your employees to treat each other with respect, but that is why it is important to place policies in place and enforce them. Update your workplace harassment policies to include that your employees cannot discriminate based on age and stress that they will not tolerate unfair treatment. Additionally, if your company has the ability to, consider offering a competitive retirement incentive plan to encourage your employees to stay for the long-haul. 

Offer professional development opportunities across the board. 

Professional development should be an ongoing process throughout an individual’s career, ensuring that employees remain relevant and up to date with knowledge and skills. Like their younger colleagues, older employees will leave companies if there aren’t opportunities to continue to grow in their careers. Do you encourage your younger employees to attend industry seminars or to earn certifications but do not do the same for your older employees? There is always something new for your employees to learn. Offer training and career advancement opportunities, fair to all ages and levels. 

Do you have any tips on creating an equitable workplace for older workers? Share them with us!

How Limbitless Solutions Empowers Children & Champions Accessibility

By: Veronica Figueroa Fernandez, PRSA Orlando Diversity & Inclusion Chair

Inclusive design doesn’t mean you’re designing one thing for all people. You’re designing a diversity of ways to participate so that everyone has a sense of belonging.” – Susan Golstman 

Meaningful, inspiring storytelling and advocacy in communications play an essential role in advancing Limbitless Solutions’ mission to provide wider access to expressive and affordable 3D-printed bionic arms for children. 

Limbitless was founded in 2014 by Dr. Albert Manero and a group of students after a mother reached out to Manero for help in creating a prosthetic arm for her son. Manero and the team found an affordable alternative by using 3D-printed material and sensor stickers to be placed on the child’s skin to activate the prosthetic when muscles are flexed. Limbitless has since become a nonprofit organization based at the University of Central Florida and has enhanced the capabilities and design of their prosthetic arm. The non-profit gained notoriety after partnering with Iron Man himself, Robert Downey Jr., to deliver a prosthetic arm to then 7-year-old Alex, who was born with a partially developed right arm. 

PRSA Orlando’s August program featured Limbitless Solutions’ President Dr. Albert Manero and Brand Director Ms. Mrudula Peddinti, who discussed the important role advocacy plays in empowering bionic kids and championing accessibility in any circumstance.

Here are some highlights:  

Approach to inclusive and accessible design: 

  • Personalization and expression are important to Limbitless Solutions who believe bionic arms are an extension of a person and should be bold, powerful, and exciting. 
  • The team at Limbitless found that the children receiving the bionic arms wanted to stand out and that by giving the children the ability to design their own arms gave them a sense of ownership and belonging. The organization noticed a change in the way children interacted with the world after receiving their bionic arm. 
  • Limbitless uses the term “bionic arms” in their branding because their recipients, “bionic kids” are all superheroes and it ties with their mission of empowerment, inclusivity and accessibility. 
  • They also created a smartphone app integration when they realized their desktop platform wasn’t as inclusive and accessible. The app helps children calibrate the bionic arms, and answers questions, among other features. 

Messaging during unprecedented times: 

  • One of the first things Limbitless did when they asked their employees to work remotely during the global pandemic was to reflect internally and place a larger focus on internal communications, as well as the mental health and sustainability of the team. 
  • When pivoting from bionic arms to supporting hospitals and first responders by creating face shields, mask extenders and a prototype for a 3D-printed ventilator, Limbitless began to release information slowly, making sure that the focus was on the bigger picture and not on their team. 
  • According to Manero, Limbitless has taken a quieter voice to listen to the community and portray a message of inclusion. He observed that there are many areas where your messaging can become a pitfall and recommends companies to listen first and then move to empathy. 

The benefits of a diverse team:

  • From 2015 to 2020, Limbitless has worked with over 165 students and faculty, representing nine UCF colleges. The spring 2020 semester saw 35 student interns focused on engineering, film, digital design, studio art, advocacy and media, game design, outreach and logistics, and computer programming. The breakdown was 60 percent female and 40 percent male. 
  • Limbitless credits its interns for many of its ideas. “They haven’t just come to the table, they’ve helped build the table.” Peddinti, who began as an intern, rebuilt the website and made it more user-friendly. Interns have contributed to arm design, launching the blog and giving the organization a social media presence, magnetization of the arms, and much more. “That’s the beauty of having a diverse set of perspectives. You get creative ideas and transform the program.”

What’s on the horizon: 

  • The organization hopes to debut an expanded Learning Lab in 2021, continue research on Project Xavier, and expand bionic arms to adults, including to veterans and first responders. 

Action items to promote inclusivity in the limb difference community and beyond: 

  • “Become aware that we are all different from each other, and that is a beautiful thing.” Instead of operating in a loss or defect mindset and asking children questions such as, “how did that happen?” or “did it hurt?” have authentic conversations that are not defect focused, such as saying, “that is so cool! How does it work?” Help children adapt to their circumstances because the lack of inclusion and acknowledgement can be isolating. 
  • In accepting that we are different, we can move beyond insensitive wording and create communication that is inclusive of our many diverse audiences. 

The August program was sponsored by Curley & Pynn Public Relations

Tips For Making Social Media Content Accessible To The Blind; Visually Impaired

By: Veronica Figueroa Fernandez, PRSA Orlando Diversity & Inclusion Chair

Last month marked 30 years since a major milestone in our nation’s history – the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into law by President George H. W. Bush. In three decades we have seen how the lives of Americans have transformed, ensuring equal opportunities and access to the 61 million adults living with disabilities in the U.S. when it comes to employment, government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation.

And although increasing physical accessibility has been a central focus, it is important to recognize the obstacles that remain in place, such as creating accessible and inclusive social media content for the blind and visually impaired. 

Today, our lives revolve around a constant stream of breaking news alerts, status updates, tweets, memes, images, and videos. Social media has shaped our public discourse, from allowing us to connect with loved ones to reacting to happenings around the world.

Many aspects of social media are still inaccessible for the 2.2 billion people worldwide who suffer from vision impairment or blindness, despite the best efforts of social media giants like Facebook and Twitter. Creating a social media strategy inclusive of your audience takes time and effort, so we’ve shared a few tips below to help you get started. 

How Does A Blind Person Use A Smartphone?

Despite the iPhone being accessible to the blind and visually impaired since the launch of the iPhone 3GS over a decade ago, many still do not understand how they navigate their phones. The iPhone and other Apple products use VoiceOver, a screen reader program found in the phone’s settings. Android smartphones use TalkBack.

Screen readers are assistive technology that attempts to interpret what is being displayed on the screen. In the case of an iPhone, users can touch or drag their finger around the screen, and VoiceOver will read or describe whatever the user has selected, from reading sentences to describing images and emojis. The phone even has the capability of assigning commands from a gesture. And although the iPhone has the capability of “reading” an image, if the social media manager who posted the image originally is not following best practices for social media accessibility the screen reader tends to miss a lot.

Include Alt-Text.

Screen readers describe the content, images, and charts to the blind and visually impaired using alternative text, or alt-text for short. When developing a social media strategy, marketers should keep descriptive alt-text in mind when drafting captions for future social media posts.

  • Avoid saying, “This is a picture of…” They know. Because the screen reader will automatically recognize an image, you can assume the user is aware as well. An alt-text caption of a picture, for example, could read, “My very excited one-year-old nephew and I were ready to have fun at Universal Studios Orlando and posed in front of the globe outside of the park entrance,” rather than, “This is a picture of my nephew and I outside Universal Studios Orlando.” 
  • Everyone loves a laugh. Be descriptive and don’t be afraid of using humor. 
  • Some blind and visually impaired social media users lost their vision gradually and are familiar with color, so don’t be afraid to mention it. 
  • Don’t overthink your caption! Your captions are being read by a robot, but don’t feel like you have to write like one. 
  • Screen readers read everything, so avoid using excessive emojis on your captions or alt-text. No one wants to hear, “face with tears of joy,” fifteen times in a row. 
  • Transcribe text. Screen readers won’t be able to read images such as a picture of a historical marker, plaque, chart, meme, screenshot, or GIF. Summarize what the image is showing.

How-To Add Alt-Text.

The automatic alt-text social media platforms use does not always work and will use general terms such as “food” as an automatic descriptor when you could be describing dishes such as “a succulent roasted pig, with a side of crispy Brussels sprouts in a bowl,” or “a hearty, warm chicken soup.”

The character count for alt-text varies by the social network. We’ve linked to each social network’s how-to below, but it is easy to figure out once you upload an image and choose edit or advanced editing options.

Write Your Hashtags in Camel Case.

Make your hashtags accessible by capitalizing the first letter of each word. This format is known as camel case and allows screen readers to read the words individually rather than as one long, jumbled word. #YourHashtagsShouldLookLikeThis

Color contrast.

Color contrast is important for colorblind social media users. According to W3C, the contrast between text color and background should be 4.5 to 1. Problematic color combinations include red and green, green and brown, green and blue, blue and gray, blue and purple, green and gray, and green and black.

Earlier this year Marks & Spencer, a British retailer, posted an image regarding some of their new measures in place surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. The initial image was incredibly difficult to read, but once enough of us tweeted at them, they swapped out the image for one that was easier to read.

First Version:

Second Version:

These tactics are only a small glimpse at how social media marketing can be inclusive and accessible to the blind and visually impaired. And while social media giants like Facebook have opened many doors to these users, they continue to encounter many glitches and problems with the programming and feel as if there isn’t enough manpower dedicated to addressing these issues. By making a few adjustments in your social media strategy, you are opening your brand up to a wider audience to fall in love with you. 

The original version of this blog post appeared on Laughing Samurai.

Despite Adversity, Camaraderie, Caring and Commitment Still Constant

While there still remains so much uncertainty in the world about the ongoing pandemic, reopening schools and returning to some form of normalcy, one thing for certain that hasn’t changed is our fellow PRSA members who, despite adversity, are still bringing it — the camaraderie, caring and commitment.

Whether it’s virtual monthly programs, professional development, mentoring, board meetings, virtual idea swaps, video conferencing calls, emails, milestones, job changes or award wins, we continue to see caring, counseling, communicating, consoling and celebrating. Thanks for all you do to advance the professional and profession.

Be sure to check out the winners and awards of commendation for the 2020 PRSA Sunshine District Radiance Awards Presented by Publix. Congratulations to all!

Look for our upcoming programs as we finish out the year, including:

  • August 20, 8:30 a.m., “Empowering Children, Creating Hope” featuring Limbitless Solutions. The organization’s president and its brand director will discuss how advocacy in communications and media plays an essential role in the organization’s mission to provide wider accessibility to expressive bionic arms for children. This virtual program is free for PRSA Members; $10 for non-members.
  • September – SeaWorld 
  • October – influencer marketing panel
  • November stay tuned

“See” you soon.

Rich Donley, APR
2020 President, PRSA Orlando Regional Chapter