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



Afternoon Coffee Break Idea Swap Recap

We held our second “Coffee Break Idea Swap” on Tuesday, May 12, 2020. We had nearly 20 members on the virtual meeting and discussed a variety of topics. Here’s a summary of what was covered.

Media Relations 

Question: What advice do you have for explaining to the CEO that some stories are still media worthy during this COVID-19 era? 

  • The media is hungry for feel-good and community stories to counteract negative headlines. An example is the success Joe Culotta has had highlighting volunteers during this time with their virtual luminary campaign
  • Continue to use tried and true techniques—regular pitching works if it is timely. 
  • Newsrooms were already slim, but are now even more so. Remember to let your newsroom contacts know you understand their needs (and pain) and become a resource to help them better do their job. One way to do so is to pitch relevant topics or tailor your pitch to current issues. 
  • Keep in mind, many papers are furloughing or significantly reducing hours, so some reporters may not be working a regular schedule. Timeliness is key and have source availability ready when you pitch so you can schedule interviews on the spot.
  • Because they are already stretched so thin, when you pitch a story to a journalist or broadcast outlet make sure to provide video and image assets. 
  • Monitor what is happening and build trust with your CEO (and external clients). “Be the umbilical cord for the client” and feed them the types of stories that are being covered and what types of stories would be appropriate for the corporation or client.  
  • When communicating during a crisis, you need to have options for different scenarios and situations because things change quickly, so don’t rely on one scenario and be ready to update your pitch based on the latest information. 
  • While email is still the preferred method for reaching journalists and many agree that it has been successful, social media is another tool to reach out to media contacts. Many are overwhelmed with email or aren’t getting calls to their office numbers, so social media is a great way to build a relationship with media contacts. One great tool is Twitter Messaging. Facebook Groups is another tool to look for building relationships with media contacts. Reporters are on social media as much as the rest of us and picking up their ideas there, too. One practitioner has had success reaching journalists through discussion threads on mommy groups and another posted content in three or four “farm to table” Facebook groups which popped up as a result of the media. 

Webinar Marketing

Questions: What advice do practitioners have for marketing webinars to key audiences and charging for them?  Rosen College is offering a webinar to alumni, but wondering if it makes sense to broaden the audience? What are others charging for webinars? 

  • Depending on the purpose of the webinar, if it is for retraining, then focusing on offering to alumni for free is an excellent benefit to alumni who may be in need right now. If it is meant for branding or lead generation, it might be good to open it up to a wider audience of potential students. 
  • Consider charging for non-alumni or non-members and consider giving discounts to target groups. 

Working from Home Tips

  • Block the bottom of glass doors so your dog doesn’t bark whenever somebody walks or drives by.
  • When doing phone meetings, consider taking a walk. Some have found walking meetings very helpful. 
  • Take a break at lunch and get some fresh air!
  • Don’t neglect your self-care. Work out, spend time with your family, eat well. Find your simple joys. It’s too easy to become “on” 24/7 right now, working before sun up and well past sundown… but don’t.
  • Build in some discipline to leave your phone and computer behind after the work day, get enough sleep. Take care of yourself, go outside and walk with your dog.
  • Be intentional about when to turn on and off; when your priorities aren’t in order everything suffers. 
  • Manage expectations of your family, bosses and clients. Be sure to let them all know when you are available… and when you aren’t. Set up some boundaries and let your colleague know that you will be unavailable after a certain time. 

Job Search Support

  • Check PRSA Orlando job board and PRSA National JobCenter.
  • Keep networking. 
  • Stay as flexible as you can, if that means you sidestep into a job that isn’t QUITE PR, or take advantage of this time to update your resume, learn some new technology and fill in the blanks with things you haven’t had time to do. 
  • Consider writing some articles on LinkedIn to be top of mind. Recruiters are still  very active on LinkedIn right now and your keywords will help their search. 
  • UCF is offering a few free basic classes right now – like “creating WordPress sites” that could help add to your skillset.
  • Create a website and/or blog showcasing your work and writing.

Internal Communications/Transitioning Back to the Office

Question: How are others managing internal COVID-19 communications when we are getting mixed messages from political leaders and scientists? What does going back to work look like (provide face masks, hand sanitizer, what’s crossing the line)? And, we have to consider the environment where kids are not going back to school and don’t have access to summer camps…

  • The biggest challenge is making sure our workspace is safe and avoid lawsuits in the future. When is or isn’t it safe to come back to work and can employees continue to work from home if they wish? 
  • Twitter announced they’re allowing their team members to work from home forever! Well, the employees that are able to do their jobs remotely. Which really helps with parents with kids who aren’t in school. Perhaps this will influence many other companies. 
  • Stefanie Macfarlane, who works with attorneys at RumbergerKirk, noted that there are protections for workers with health conditions and parents who lack childcare that those employees can be accommodated to work from home, or in cases where they cannot, qualify for unemployment, but if an employee refuses to go back to work because they are afraid, they may lose their job. According to Employment and Labor Attorney Linda Bond Edwards, “Most importantly, workplaces should pay particular attention to guidance from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Department of Labor and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and other entities that regulate workplace issues. The EEOC has prepared a question and answer document (“What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws”) that answers most employer questions.

PRSA Coffee Break Idea Swap

We held our first Coffee Break Idea Swap on Thursday, April 23. There were about 20 members who joined the virtual meeting and we covered a number of topics. Here’s a recap of what we discussed.

Media Interviews/Press Conference Tips: 

  • When using Zoom or other video conferencing for a press conference or large group, begin the meeting with everyone on mute and have them send questions through chat. You can call on people and unmute them for question/discussion. It’s helpful to have someone moderate the chat to point out things to the moderator (via text or whatever is efficient) that he/she may miss due to hosting. 
  • Facebook Live is a great tool for interacting with audiences. 

Translation of Important Information: 

  • Remember to translate, especially during a crisis. It’s important to communicate in all of the languages of your audience. 

Video Chat Tips:

  • Camera/Blocking: Make sure the lens is as close to eye level as possible. Background should be relevant or interesting, but not distracting. 
  • Lighting: Have light on the subject’s face, not the back. Can be window light or lamp (but don’t sit in front of a window). Light on the eyes is important in how the subject will be viewed. 
  • Mic: use a mic, can be a headset, or your headphones from iphone, just don’t broadcast from the laptop. 
  • Remember to speak to the camera rather than the screen.

Making a Quick Video for Social? Here Are Some Free Tools: 

  • Adobe Spark and Camtasia

Event Cancelations: 

  • Many are moving events to the fall, October/November, but even still there is no definitive point when we can be certain that it is safe or people will feel comfortable with large crowds. 
  • As we plan for events in late summer or fall, many are looking at physical changes that may need to be made to accommodate social distancing measures or consider virtual options. 

Work From Home Tips: 

Decompress at the end of the day – step away from your work station –here are some ideas that were shared: 

  • Take a walk to clear your mind and get fresh air.
  • Enjoy some afternoon tea or coffee break. 
  • Change your view and work on your patio if you can. 
  • Go outside to play with your dog.
  • Put on your calendar the things you are doing that takes you away from work, like schedule your yoga, etc. With WFH, everyone thinks you’re always available. 
  • Cooking can be therapeutic and a nice way to take a break from work. 
  • Take shifts with your spouse with the kids.
  • Make a schedule for the kids (and yourself too).
  • Remind yourself and your team that you still need to take vacation time, even if you have nowhere to go. You need to find opportunities to break away.

Communicating/Handling Email While Working From Home: 

  • Email Management – email is out of control for some of us. While you may just want to delete a lot of them, many offices have moved to tools (chat and project management) for quick questions and conversations: Slack, Trello, Microsoft Teams (internal communications), and Wrike. 
  • One participant says she prefers Slack over email to communicate with organizations and welcomes Microsoft Teams over more email. 
  • Look for unique ways to reach out to people as email may not be the best way to reach people right now.
  • is easy to tag people with tasks and keep projects separated. One participant said she uses it for freelance clients and projects and it cuts down on email. 

Communicating with Compassion and Standing Out from the Clutter During a Pandemic: 

  • Produce thought leadership content to break through the clutter. 
  • Host Virtual Roundtables for our clients with others in their industry so they can discuss best practices with peers. 
  • Remember that client/brand contacts are human beings, too. Don’t make every communication about work. Check on how they and their families are doing.
  • Consider video requests or send fun e-cards. 
  • Bring clients together and facilitate the conversation as we talk to a variety of organizations and hear more than they may be hearing. 
  • Omni Productions (Orlando) will be offering a free recording session in their studios during the month of May for Central Florida organizations as their way of giving back to the community.

Going Back to Work (in the office)—What are your companies planning at this time? 

While there are still a lot of unknowns about when or how we are going back to work, here’s what some shared: 

  • Be part of the conversation about bringing employees back to work to ensure we are helping communicate concerns and processes. 
  • Going “back to work” will be very gradual and different depending on the organization. Many are looking at what changes will need to be done in the office environment and how many people will be in the office at one time. 
  • Properties are looking at downsizing scenarios as many companies may choose to keep employees remote as it saves money for less office space and is good for the environment. 
  • On the flip side, some employees will want to go back to the office as many extroverts thrive in that environment. 
  • For all the advances in technology we’ve made and by becoming more accepting of WFH, in-person communication is still so important. Though our new world will be much different in the coming months, a return to in-person engagement will be important.