President’s Letter: January 2021

Stefanie Macfarlane, APRHappy 2021! It’s finally here! Every New Year is filled with anticipation and hope, but never in recent memory has a year held so much expectation and promise. There certainly is a lot of pressure on 2021 to be a great year. And then, six days into it, we watched with horror as rioters assaulted the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to delegitimize the election of the President and Vice President of the United States.

PRSA 2021 Chair Michelle Olson, APR reminds us that there is strength in our unity and in a letter to members, encouraged us to “join together to help restore faith in our democracy, and continue to model the importance of behaving civilly, peacefully and ethically.” She also reminds us that as communicators, our profession is built on the pillars of timely, accurate and truthful information. We must continue to serve as “steady voices at a time of great imbalance.” 

Despite the upsetting scenes and attack on our democracy, there is a sense of hope and unity in bringing civil discourse back into the forefront. I am reminded of a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. who said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” 

With much uncertainty on the horizon, there is also hope and a sense of relief that at least vaccines are being distributed and that, as we move into 2021, we will see progress toward ending the pandemic and economic recovery. We also begin our year with the announcement of PRSA’s new Chief Executive Officer–Linda Thomas Brooks. We can all look forward to her leadership and vision. 

As we continue down the path of uncertainty, PRSA Orlando is committed to providing insightful programs and networking opportunities that will inspire and guide you along the way. We aim to be your spark of creativity and to light the way to your success. We plan to offer virtual programs through June, and will look to offer hybrid and in-person events, as feasible, later in the year. We also will continue to hold less formal opportunities for networking and idea sharing.

We are thrilled to be the host chapter for PRSA ICON 2021 October 17-20 at the Marriott Orlando World Center. The host chapter committee is coming together and, if you want to help us create an amazing conference, please reach out to our Host Committee Chair Jamie Floer, APR, CPRC.

Our first program of the year couldn’t be more timely: “Free Speech and the First Amendment: Can They Really Say That?” on Thursday, January 21. Be sure to register today! In February, we will celebrate Black History Month and are thrilled to offer a meaningful program focused on Unconscious Bias on Thursday, February 18. 

As we face 2021, do so with brave hearts and a willingness to be a spark that lights the way.

Stay bright!

Stefanie Macfarlane, APR
PRSA Orlando Regional Chapter President

Thank You for a Trailblazing Year; Get Ready for ICON 2021 in Orlando

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

That was my high school class motto. It resonated with me then (just a “few” years ago) as I set out into the “real world,” and it still resonates with me today as I reflect on 2020 having had the honor of serving as your chapter president.

I have worked alongside a truly amazing board of directors – a talented group of PR professionals and leaders who came together, despite adversity, to blaze new paths and leave remarkable trails. There have been highs (plenty to be thankful for) and lows (some we’d like to forget, but lessons learned for growing and improving).

But now we look forward, and I am proud to have Stefanie Macfarlane, APR, and her 2021 board, lead the chapter during this pivotal time. As the 2020 president-elect, she was a true partner, assisting me in guiding the chapter into uncharted territory. Under the leadership of Stefanie and Jamie Floer, APR, CPRC, all eyes and ears will be on Orlando as we proudly host ICON 2021, Oct. 17-19, at the Orlando World Center Marriott. Planning is already underway, and we will need your support. Stay tuned for more details.

We certainly know 2020 was not an easy year. We did see a decline in our membership, as individuals lost their jobs, companies cut back spending and PRSA membership could not be sustained. We appreciate those who managed to maintain their membership. To support those former members who were unable to maintain it because of hardship and/or financial need due to COVID-19, we created the PRSA Orlando Hardship Fund. You can donate through Dec. 10 or apply through Dec. 11.

Check out and register for our final program of 2020. All ticket sales and donations will go to the 2020 PRSA Orlando Hardship Fund Program

  • Dec. 10, 5-6:30 p.m.PRSA Gives Back Virtual Holiday Mixer. You won’t want to miss the live entertainment from National musician Stephanie Christofore. Wear your favorite holiday sweater for our Ugly Sweater contest and be ready to play some reindeer games – all for a good cause! All proceeds from the ticket sales will support the PRSA Orlando Hardship Fund, plus the Orlando Regional Chapter will match donations made to the Orlando Hardship Fund. Don’t miss this fun night where our community will come together to support one another. If you can’t join us, we encourage you to please consider donating to the fund.

Here’s to safe, healthy holidays and a more normal 2021.

Rich Donley, APR
2020 President, PRSA Orlando Regional Chapter



‘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 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

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

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

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

Mid-Year Brings Virtual Membership Mixer, PD Sessions

It’s hard to believe it’s July already. On one hand, where has the time gone? On the other, many of you are probably already over 2020, right?

It has definitely been an interesting year for all of us, but hopefully, it has challenged you to think and act in new ways, learn additional skills and pause a bit to reflect on what is important in life.

While we may not meet in person any time soon, that hasn’t stopped your board from continuing to provide members with professional development, idea swaps, mentoring and networking opportunities. It has not stopped us from addressing diversity & inclusion challenges, having difficult conversations and taking action. It has not stopped our community from valuing PR professionals and beginning to hire again — as our Job Bank has seen an uptick in recent weeks.

Be sure to register for our upcoming events, including a virtual Member Mixer, monthly program and PD webinar: 

  • Thurs., July 9, 5:30 p.m., Member Mixer. Grab your favorite beverage, hat, sunglasses and Hawaiian shirt and join us for a free virtual hangout — tacky tourist style;
  • Thurs., July 16, 9 a.m., monthly program, “Communicating in Real-Time to Business Needs During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” featuring Laureen Martinez, APR, Orlando Economic Partnership, discussing media relations efforts and other marketing tools the Partnership has used since the onset of COVID-19, such as webinars, podcasts and videos; and
  • Aug. 4, 11:30 a.m., webinar, for APRs interested in learning more about applying for the College of Fellows, presented by our one-and-only Geri Evans, APR, Fellow PRSA. Registration information and more details to come.

Stay tuned to the website and social channels for more details on our Fall programs.

As always, we welcome your feedback and ideas. Looking forward to “seeing you” soon. Stay healthy and safe!

Rich Donley, APR
2020 President, PRSA Orlando Regional Chapter



President’s Letter: June 2020

Pandemic, Protests and Public Relations

As a global pandemic continues to impact us and we begin to show some 

signs of recovery, we have yet to recover from what divides us. We have seen peaceful protests and calls for change, as well as unrest, grip our nation in the past week. Some very close to home.

I do not pretend to know what it is like, but I do hope for peace. Forgiveness. Resolution. 

I do not pretend to know the answers, but I do know as public relations practitioners we know the power of communication — written, verbal and non-verbal. But not communication just to talk, but to listen, to understand. We need to be open. Raw. Honest. And we need to take action. 

We hear the pleas for justice and we cannot be silent. We need to communicate. Embrace our differences. Champion diversity, inclusion, equity, and equality regardless of thought, cultures, disciplines, ideals, gender, disabilities, sexual orientation and age.

PRSA Orlando proudly stands united with our Black members, colleagues and friends. Communicators — let’s do what we do and make a difference. Together. Change the world for now and for future generations. It begins with you. With me.

PRSA Chair T. Garland Stansell, APR, challenges us in his letter to members that although “communicators cannot single-handedly change the tide in our country, we can be a conduit to lead others to acknowledge the importance of using their voices in constructive ways — ways that help to move us through these troubling times and beyond to become better individually and as a society.” 

We are challenged to use our voices to stand for those who are hurt and frustrated. Now, more than ever, we also need to listen to those voices to help guide us in our action so that we may continue to further diversity, inclusion and civility in our organization.

We’re still in conversation as a board to figure out the best way to support, and we welcome feedback from our members. Please reach out if you would like to share ways in which our organization can serve. 

Rich Donley, APR
2020 President, PRSA Orlando Regional Chapter

President’s Letter: May 2020

Resilience. Reconnection. Reinvention.

Among all the negativity and “noise” in the world, I continue to be inspired by the selfless acts of kindness and coming together (virtually). There is resilience, reconnection and reinvention.

Despite the pain and loss, altered lives, fear and uncertainties of what’s to come, we are coming out of this not only changed, but also stronger. Life will not be normal as we once knew it. It will be a “different normal.” What did we discover (or re-discover)? What have we learned? What will we do differently going forward?

As communicators, the coronavirus has continued to put the spotlight on communications, albeit taking different forms than what we might have been accustomed to. But we are resilient and know how to reinvent ourselves, since we are used to the only constant: change. 

Some of you have noted how you now have earned a seat at the C-suite table. Your value has been there, but now it’s front and center and getting accolades. You should be proud of continuing to make a difference for your companies, organizations, clients and communities despite the uncertainty. I look forward to seeing your award-winning programs and learning from them.

Do you know a member who deserves kudos? Share them with us. Do you have good news to share? Share them on Good News Fridays on our Facebook page!

Thank you to those who completed our Communicating in Crisis survey. See this newsletter, our website and social media channels for other upcoming programs, professional development and networking opportunities. Be sure to register for our upcoming virtual programs:

  • May 12, 4 p.m.“Afternoon Coffee Break Idea Swap” is a chance for members and non-members to grab a cup of coffee and join us for a virtual conversation (FREE). We had so much fun and received positive feedback from our first one last month that we’re doing it again. We will be moderating the Zoom conversation, sharing pro-tips and exchanging ideas for solutions on hot topics.
  • May 21, 8:30 a.m. –  “Coming Together for Good in the Midst of Crisis,” with presenter Heather Morgan, APR, VP of Brand & Communications at Children’s Home Society of Florida. Learn practical tips to help your own organization or clients prepare for and respond to crises, motivate and engage staff at all levels, reach audiences with the right message during pivotal times, and appropriately position your organization. Free for members; $15 for non-members.

Thank you for all you do! Stay healthy. Stay safe! If you have questions or ideas, please contact me directly.

Rich Donley, APR

2020 President, PRSA Orlando Regional Chapter

President’s Letter: April 2020

We’re All in this Together


I hope this finds you healthy and safe. We all have been personally impacted by COVID-19. 

We have experienced lost lives, sickness, unemployment, pay cuts, business loss, increased workloads and stress. And the list, unfortunately, goes on. But we have also seen numerous heroes, including first responders, nurses, doctors, military personnel, grocery workers, truck drivers and more.

We also have witnessed businesses recreating themselves to assist, people leveraging their talents to sew masks, teachers reaching out virtually to their students, people doing random acts of kindness, and, of course, public relations/communicators providing crisis counsel and keeping their publics informed. And this list, fortunately, goes on.

Our thoughts go out to all of you as we continue to navigate these unprecedented times. It will change our lives forever. However, we’re #orlandostrong. We’re all in this together. 

Your PRSA Orlando Board has come together, virtually of course, to discuss creative ways to continue serving our members, including networking (virtual mixers/socials and idea swaps) and professional development (webinars, resource sharing, tips/advice, mentoring, etc.). Watch for our member survey to gauge your interests and needs. See this newsletter, our website and social media channels for updates.

I’m very proud of our board, members and sponsors that have stepped up during this uncertain time. Thank you for your continued support.

Stay healthy. Stay safe. Wash your hands. Practice social distancing. We will get through this!

If you have questions or ideas, please contact me directly.

Rich Donley, APR

2020 President, PRSA Orlando Regional Chapter