PRSA Orlando Members Share Timeless Career Advice on Women’s History Month

By: Veronica Figueroa Fernandez, PRSA Orlando Diversity & Inclusion Chair
As an association with a focus on personal and professional development, and in celebration of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, PRSA Orlando connected with longstanding members and public relations practitioners who have achieved success in their field. Continue reading to learn how the industry has changed in the last three decades and for timeless advice from these industry veterans.

Geri Evans, APR, Fellow PRSA, President, Evans PR Group

  • How long have you been in the PR industry? I have been in the communication and PR Industry since 1970, first teaching a wide variety of communication courses at the college and university level, and then entering corporate communications in 1996 beginning in the hotel industry, moving into the healthcare and association fields, and then starting my own firm in 2003.
  • How has the industry changed since you started? The greatest change I have seen (aside from the rapid expansion of channels PR professionals have available to them for the distribution of their message) is in the actual role of the PR professional from implementer/doer to influencer/trusted advisor.  It has been exciting to watch PR professionals become the company’s conscience, the strategic communication leader, a valued person at the head table, a true influencer.   
  • What is the best career advice you have ever received?  Doing the right thing may not always bring success, but compromising your integrity will almost always lead to failure.
  • What advice would you give aspiring public relations students? Show up, be present, stay curious, learn all that you can, be nice, and show gratitude.

Danielle Hollander, APR, Chief Marketing Officer, Visit Orlando

  • How long have you been in the PR industry? Over 30 years
  • How has the industry changed since you started? How media is defined has changed greatly as to how messages are delivered. One thing that has not changed is messaging is still the key as is relationships.
  • What is the best career advice you have ever received? Take time to know all aspects of the business, clients, and how they contribute to the success of the company. Advice for working women: It’s not about achieving balance, it is about achieving integration when it comes to meshing work and life. When you are at work, you don’t stop being a mom, sister, daughter, wife, or partner. And when you are not at work you don’t stop being a professional.
  • What advice would you give aspiring public relations students? Learn how to read, understand and utilize data. Always be curious.

Lorelie Johnson, APR, Senior Director, Communications – Florida, Charter Communications

  • How long have you been in the PR industry? Over 20 years
  • How has the industry changed since you started? Technology has made the biggest impact along with the constant access to news and information.
  • What is the best career advice you have ever received? Do the best with what you have and if you need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it.
  • What advice would you give aspiring public relations students? Never underestimate the power of connecting in person or picking up the phone when building relationships.

Vicky Mixson, APR, Executive Vice President & Chief Communications Office, Wycliffe Bible Translators

  • How long have you been in the PR industry? After I graduated from the University of Florida in 1978, Roger Pynn (another former PRSA Orlando chapter president) hired me as Orlando’s first female PR account executive at McAllister-Barker Associates. 
  • How has the industry changed since you started? Almost everything about the industry has changed in the last four decades. The primary “tools of the trade” when I started my career included electric typewriters, telecopiers (an early version of fax machines), snail mail, business cards, and landline phones. Oh, and businesswomen wore pantyhose! Things moved at a slower pace. Local media relations efforts involved getting to know reporters who covered the types of businesses you represented and partnering with them to be a resource for their stories. Orlando had three TV network affiliates, one major newspaper, and a handful of news radio stations.
  • What is the best career advice you have ever received? Early on, one of my mentors told me, “People like to work with people they like.” How true that is! We almost always choose likability over ability. Both qualities matter, but likability, combined with competence and the willingness to work hard, is the secret sauce to long-term career success.
  • What advice would you give aspiring public relations students? 1) Take a genuine interest in people. Be as concerned with helping others succeed as you are in building your own brand. 2) Never stop learning — listen to podcasts, read good books, attend webinars, invite interesting people to coffee or lunch, volunteer. 

Muffet Robinson, Director of Public Relations, Pathlight HOME

  • How long have you been in the PR industry?  I’ve been in the PR industry for more than 25 years, in both Baltimore and Orlando. 
  • How has the industry changed since you started? The PR  industry was more specialized when I began, in terms of what I did and what I had to know to be successful. My specialties were community relations, public outreach and writing, and eventually media relations. I didn’t have to worry about actually designing graphics to go with materials I wrote, or about posting anything anywhere and adding any lead-in content. I had only to concern myself with how everything would fit together to become a great finished product, or what I would say to a reporter about a project or “happening.” The digital world, especially social media, changed everything! As exciting as it has been, a PR pro must now know something about everything in the PR tool kit, be able to strategize it all, and be much more generalized in their knowledge and abilities. Job specs now require candidates to be multifaceted in PR, knowing how to write and design, etc., and even to have some marketing know-how as well. And need I mention how quickly a news story goes around the world?
  • What is the best career advice you have ever received?  The best advice I have received is to train your successor and make your boss look good!
  • What advice would you give aspiring public relations students? My advice to students: (1) Become an excellent writer, be clear, and pay attention to grammar and syntax. No matter what your focus area is, you will need to communicate it or about it. (2) Always be honest and transparent in your dealings with people. PRSA has a Code of Ethics for a reason. (3) There’s no such thing as “off the record.”   

Lorri Shaban, APR, President, True North Marketing + Public Relations

  • How long have you been in the PR industry? Since my first internship at the Florida Department of Tourism, it’s been a wild, wonderful 30-year ride that I expect to continue for years to come. I’ve sat on both sides of the boardroom table, as a corporate executive and as the head of an agency (where I’m admittedly more comfortable). And I’m fortunate to have found a career that I love, one that requires equal parts strategy, creativity, and hustle. 
  • How has the industry changed since you started? I’m not quite sure how we accomplished so much without cell phones, laptops, and email (horse and buggy, anyone?). But what turned the industry on its head was the introduction of both the “world wide web” and later, social media. News outlets began moving their content online, and suddenly we all became intrepid explorers in a whole new world. We could research and analyze content, reporters, positions, white papers—all of which made our planning and approach much more targeted and strategic.  
  • What is the best career advice you have ever received? Four simple things, from two brilliant counselors and mentors, Roger Pynn and Joe Curley: 
  1. Focus on what keeps your client awake at night.
  2. Analyze the big picture, not just the snapshot.
  3. Bring your clients solutions, not problems.
  4. Anticipate. Don’t wait to be asked. (My personal favorite, which one day I’ll have tattooed on my wrist.)
  • What advice would you give aspiring public relations students? No matter how much experience you have, you’re not expected to know everything on day one. It takes time to learn the products, processes, people, and culture. Take advantage of that honeymoon period and ask loads of questions. Do your own research. Be inquisitive and curious and absorb as much as you can. With that foundation, you’ll start connecting dots and your creativity (and confidence) will grow. That’s when you start adding value to an organization – and become invaluable yourself. Oh, and anticipate – don’t wait to be asked!

Ann Marie Varga, APR, Manager, Internal Communications, AdventHealth

  • How long have you been in the PR industry? 38 years 
  • How has the industry changed since you started? The field of public relations has changed significantly in nearly four decades. I started my career in the mid-‘80s before the Internet — yes, it’s true, there hasn’t always been an Internet. I actually didn’t know what public relations when I graduated with a degree in English and Speech Communications from Rollins College. I loved to write and an on-air stint hosting an interview show on Rollins WPRK Radio sparked a love of reporting in me, which has served me well over the years as a publicist and issues manager. For my very first job, I literally “joined the circus” when I answered an ad for a writer at Circus World, a theme park then located southwest of Walt Disney World. My love of reporting and writing was put to great use and it really was the coolest job in the world! I got to play with baby elephants, Michael Jackson used to come regularly to ride our wooden rollercoaster, my office was an actual train car, and I worked with media from around the world during a time when the news was balanced and much more manageable. While it was baptism by fire as I learned on the job about public relations, issues management, and crisis communication, today’s 24/7 news cycle and citizen journalism are far more challenging. It makes getting ahead of the news impossible. This was never more evident than during my tenure at Orange County Government when I led my team through the Pulse Nightclub Tragedy. The relationships we built with colleagues during good times, served us well as professionals from every institution and organization in Central Florida who worked together for our community. I absolutely love what I do and this field is forever fascinating.
  • What is the best career advice you have ever received? “Don’t sweat the small stuff” is probably the best career advice I ever received. I actually think that’s good career advice and life advice. I would say that my “sage” advice is to always treat colleagues with respect and dignity — no matter their position or their title. Always be a champion for others because life often goes full circle. An incredibly talented UCF communications student was an intern at our agency in the late ‘80s. I took a hiatus from my career path to have two kids and she continued her trajectory. She later was my boss at a statewide electric utility and then my client when she was Vice President of Communications for a global company. She remains one of my best friends to this day. I can tell you countless stories of others who have gone on to be incredibly successful — honestly far surpassing me. Mentoring others and helping them succeed is a worthy purpose and that invested effort has always come back to me when needed.
  • What advice would you give aspiring public relations students? First, leave your ego at the door. Whether you’re a rookie or a veteran in your field, you will gain more through an attitude of appreciation than entitlement. There’s a huge divide between being confident and being cocky. I guarantee there will always be someone in the room who knows more than you do, no matter your age or level of experience. Second, embrace change. The field of communications has changed so much since I started my career and it will definitely continue to change. If you don’t adapt and seek out innovation, you will be left behind.

The Significance of Black History Month in 2021

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

Traditionally, the month of February is dedicated to celebrate the history and accomplishments of African Americans and their central role in American history. However, given the events that took place in the last year, such as protests calling for racial justice and an end to police brutality, Black History Month has more significance than ever in 2021. This year, it is important to go beyond the 28-day celebration and instead leverage our roles as communicators to educate our audiences, uplift Black voices and stories, and continue to advocate for change. 

What follows are quotes from PRSA Orlando members when asked what Black History Month meant to them and asked about its significance in 2021:

Kimberly Allen, Communications Coordinator, Seminole State College of Florida:

“Black History Month means honoring the stories and successes of African Americans and highlighting how these contributions form a vital piece of the collective American history. Personally and professionally, it reminds me of those who laid the foundation for who and where I am today and on whose shoulders my accomplishments rest. As a communicator, the celebration of Black history implores me not only to remember the stories of Black achievement from the past, but also to ensure they live on and that progress continues.” 





Richard Alleyne:

“While a 28-day observance hardly does justice to the many contributions people of African descent have made to this country, this year’s Black History Month is particularly poignant given the level of attention paid to last year’s protests around racial equity.  The stark realities and grievances held by this historically marginalized group were laid bare by these civic actions and have sparked long-overdue conversations and policy reform.  I remain hopeful sustained change will come and I’ll continue to do my part to help bring it about.” 






Shayla Cannady, Senior Manager, Public Relations, Orange County Public Schools:

“As a child, my parents were intentional about exposing me to the history of Blacks in America. Today those countless lessons serve as reminders of the sacrifices made so that I may seize the opportunities that have been afforded to me over my life. Professionally, it is not only my responsibility, but my obligation, to use my education and expertise to share stories of Black Americans past and present, champion for cultural awareness through communication, and promote inclusion for all minority and marginalized groups in America. While this year, we celebrate the inauguration of the first Black woman elected as U.S. Vice President, the tragic events and repeated, fervent cries for racial justice in 2020 highlighted in the media only serve to showcase the progress that still needs to be made in this nation. For the past 45 years, America has earmarked Black History Month as a time to recognize and celebrate the achievements of individuals of African and Caribbean heritage. Twenty-eight days, however, are inadequate to cover such a robust history of success, let alone stories that include struggle and strife in this “land of the free and home of the brave.” Acknowledgment of past and current atrocities, as well as the accomplishments of Black Americans has to occur, not just in February but every day, to create a safe and brave space for dialogue, understanding, and healing current and future generations so desperately deserve.” 


Vanessa Green-Skyrmes, Founder, VGS Communications:

“As a Hispanic journalist and PR professional, Black History Month has had a positive impact on what minorities are able to accomplish. It has undoubtedly opened professional doors and along with that, it has allowed me to broadcast the importance of this month-long celebration in an act of gratitude. This is the epitome of why I value so much the influence one can have on the message that is received by an audience. Words matter and you must understand that your reputation can take years to build and mere seconds to destroy. This year, Black History Month has an even more powerful message that must be highlighted: BLACK LIVES MATTER. Following last year’s marches, it is only appropriate to heighten the significance of this celebration because the inclusivity of an entire race is worthy of being fought for and acknowledged. Those who attended marches and protests are being recognized during Black History Month along with many others who have made a difference in history because their allegiance to contribute to the greater good is how racial justice is accomplished. It has been a year of awakening and realization that even though some say the politically correct terms in regards to racial injustice and discussions, it doesn’t really mean they truly believe it. We have to be conscious of our actions, intentional with our messaging, and acknowledge that as a country we still have a lot of work to do.” 

Tyrone Law, Public Relations Specialist, Zillow:

“Black History Month began because for so long the accomplishments and contributions of Black Americans were often deliberately excluded from America’s history of growth in helping it become the most powerful country on Earth today — and the month has been observed for just four decades — let that sink in. As a professional communicator, I think of Black History Month as an awareness campaign, which has and still is contributing to what I believe is mainstream America’s shift towards a more realistic and accurately-depicted diverse and inclusive American identity. We can see this through media, policy, and various workplace activities. As a Black PR person, I get a thrill out of being able to help shape, spread, connect and influence culture and information in rooms and for organizations that many of my ancestors never had a chance to impact. As an industry, we have a long way to go in the fight towards more diverse representation at all levels, but I feel we are headed in the right direction. Happy Black History Month, PR peeps!” 


Kena Lewis, APR, Corporate Director, Public Affairs & Media Relations, External Affairs, Orlando Health:

“Black history is a vital component of American history that, unfortunately, has not been accurately or widely shared. The result is generations of Americans who are unaware of the contributions we, as a people, have made to this great nation or of the actions taken against us to eradicate our history – both literally and figuratively. As a professional communicator, I hold myself responsible for not only providing accurate information but also for calling attention to inaccurate information and correcting it. Telling the truth is not enough. We also have to dispel untruths. Black History Month takes on even more significance in 2021. Some individuals will and are attempting to position the protests and the protesters as something other than what they were and are. We must be alert and engaged to ensure the events of 2020 are presented accurately, especially in history books, so as to not let others twist our story to fit their preferred narratives.” 


Aijana Williams, Senior Specialist, Internal Communications, Hilton Grand Vacations:

“Black History month means recognizing the incredible accomplishments of those in the Black community—past and present. It means looking at our past and seeing how far we’ve come, yet, still having so far to go. It also means providing an opportunity for others to see a broader spectrum of who Black people are. We are inventors, writers, musicians, scientists and so much more, and this is the perfect time to put it all on display and celebrate. When I think about my role as a communicator it’s important to share my unique perspective as a Black woman. Hopefully, in doing so, I lend a voice to others who may otherwise not be heard. Following last year’s protests and the light they shined on the continued racial injustices in this country, Black History Month 2021 is a chance for many to recognize that Black history is American history. You can’t separate the two. We all have a role to play in working towards a more just society for everyone.” 

Black and white puzzle pieces

PRSA Unveils D&I Strategy, Outlines Steps To Building Diverse Organization

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

In the wake of George Floyd’s death, we have seen a national outcry and protests against racism, injustice and police brutality occur worldwide, calling for change. Finding words to respond to social injustice isn’t easy, but there are steps we can take to navigate these issues with sensitivity. 

At PRSA Orlando, we believe addressing diversity and inclusion, especially during this time of crisis,  has never been more important. PRSA’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee recently unveiled its 2020-2022 D&I Strategic Plan and new D&I Toolkit, outlining the organization’s efforts to become more diverse and inclusive. 

The strategic plan’s four objectives lay out the framework for PRSA, and its nationwide chapters, to fulfill its mission to position the organization as a model for the communications profession:

  • Increase awareness and understanding of PRSA as a diverse and inclusive organization among its members and staff by 15% by 2023.
  • Increase diverse representation among leadership throughout all levels of PRSA by 25% by 2023.
  • Increase awareness of PRSA as a diverse and inclusive organization among external stakeholders by 15% by 2023.
  • Increase and retain the number of multicultural students in PRSSA and new multicultural professionals into PRSA by 15% by 2023.

Additionally, the organization has acknowledged the lack of diversity across its membership and leadership and has shared definitive steps they are taking today: 

Improve Diversity of Board of Directors

While the current Board is among the most diverse in the organization’s history, PRSA has asked the Governance Committee to reexamine the Bylaws and to recommend amendments that can help move barriers that have kept Board leadership out of reach for so many members, particularly members of color. 

Increase Committee Participation

PRSA plans to engage more members from diverse backgrounds, including Black members, members of color, and LGBTQ+ members, with their national committees to ensure a range of perspectives and ideas are represented. 

Expand Delegate Representation

PRSA is asking Chapter leadership to reevaluate how they choose delegates for the annual meeting of the Leadership Assembly and consider the ways in which they can bring new voices and members of underrepresented communities into the process. 

Deliver on Diversity & Inclusion Strategic Plan

The three-year D&I Strategic Plan, published earlier this year, builds on research and investments by the Board that began in 2019 calls for an expansion of tools and resources across the organization to help build an inclusive community. Additionally, PRSA published a new D&I Toolkit that provides best practices and will help accelerate success and scale our efforts throughout the organization and the industry.

Develop Programs to Further Guide New Professionals

PRSA will be launching a pilot program to support new professionals of color, expanding upon past programs established by the College of Fellows and creating a comprehensive process to build more substantive and effective relationships. The program will launch this quarter and be available to the entire membership by the end of 2020.

Strengthen Relationship With HBCUs and HSIs

Our PRSSA students at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) need more advocates and resources to help bridge the gap between racial inequality and career advancement. Working closely with the faculty advisers at these institutions, PRSA will forge a deeper bond and connection with students interested in pursuing a career in communications and become a better ally to our future leaders.

Launch Training at the National and Local Levels

PRSA will provide unconscious bias training for all PRSA staff and Chapter, District & Section leadership this year and continue the instruction annually. They will also host professional development courses for all members focusing on D&I in the workplace and communicators’ roles in leading the conversation internally and externally for their organizations.

Pledge Support to Diversity Action Alliance

Along with the PRSA Foundation, PRSA is an active member of the Diversity Action Alliance (DAA) and has fully committed to the tenets of the coalition’s goals and objectives. Rooted in a mission to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in the communications and public relations profession, the DAA will provide transparency into the industry’s progress and hold stakeholders accountable and ensure we’re all working toward fulfilling our commitments.

PRSA Orlando believes that a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment fosters creativity, new perspectives, innovation, and better employee performance. Our chapter first introduced the Diversity & Inclusion Board Chair three years ago, in our continued efforts to increase focus on this important issue. Since then, our chapter won a 2018 PRSA Chapter Diversity & Inclusion Award, hosted its second annual Dinner, Diversity, & Dialogue gathering, and has continued to focus on providing meaningful blog posts and programs on the topic. We stand behind PRSA’s strategic vision and efforts to diversify our industry and create long-lasting change, and will continue to work hard to meet the needs of our underrepresented members. 

We welcome suggestions from our PRSA Orlando members on how we can help communications professionals address diversity and inclusion in the profession and at large.

Please reach out to PRSA Orlando’s 2020 Diversity and Inclusion Chair, Veronica Figueroa, to continue the discussion.

The City of Orlando Leads The Way in LGBTQ+ Inclusion

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

Last year was a banner year for the LGBTQ+ community in the city of Orlando and throughout Central Florida. Not only did Orlando receive a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index, a nationwide evaluation of equality in municipal laws, but Orange County adopted the city of Orlando’s resolution to better integrate with certified LGBTQ-owned businesses in Central Florida. 

For Orlando, showing its support to the LGBTQ+ community is not just an act of civic responsibility. According to Felipe Sousa Matos Rodriguez, Inclusion, Diversity & Equity Senior Specialist for the City of Orlando, supporting LGBTQ-owned businesses is an important economic development strategy. 

“The City of Orlando is a city for everyone and we are proud of our diversity. [The LGBTQ+ community] is the backbone of our economic growth,” he said. “The goal of our diversity program is to support minority, women, and now LGBTQ-owned businesses by giving them educational opportunities and exposure to potential contracts.”

With this resolution, Orlando recognizes the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce’s certification process which certifies that LGBTQ+ individuals own at least 51 percent of a business, tracks the city’s contracts and spending with certified LGBTQ-owned businesses, and commits to increased outreach with the Pride Chamber, Orlando’s local chapter of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce. 

“Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and the Orlando City Council truly believe in making sure that our residents have equal opportunity to thrive in our city,” Rodriguez added. “This is yet another clear example of how the City Beautiful leads the way in Florida. Our message to LGBTQ+ business owners is simple – the City of Orlando wants to do business with you.” 

Cities across the nation have given underrepresented minority groups an opportunity to land public contracts. Now there is an effort to include LGBTQ-owned businesses in that process. Felipe Sousa Matos Rodriguez shared with us the value of becoming an LGBTQ-certified business in Orlando and marketing tips for businesses and their allies. 

What are the benefits of becoming a certified LGBTQ+ business owner? 

Felipe: “The National LGBT Chamber of Commerce offers a network of over 200 corporate and government partners seeking to do business with LGBTQ-owned businesses. They also have more than 1,000 certified businesses ranging from technology to professional services and newly-certified businesses will have full access to this incredible network. Additionally, the LGBTQ+ community spends $917 billion annually, and 75% of these individuals are likely to buy brands that are LGBTQ+ inclusive. The certification can lead to greater business exposure and greater appeal to consumers looking to spend money on businesses known for welcoming and inclusive nature.”

How many LGBTQ+ owned businesses does the city of Orlando have? What industries are represented? 

Felipe: “As we are only able to track the businesses that choose to get certified, we don’t have a definitive number of how many LGBTQ-owned businesses there are. We estimate that there are hundreds in Orlando and the surrounding area, if not more. Businesses who get certified are usually business-to-business because of the benefits involved, and a majority of our local LGBTQ-owned businesses are directed to consumers. Some of the industries represented are hospitality, professional services, technology, construction, and real estate, to name a few. 

Whether they make delicious treats like the ones sold at Se7en Bites or provide incredible event pictures like the ones taken by J.D. Casto Photography, our LGBTQ+ community is thriving with innovation. We encourage all LGBTQ+ owners to get certified. Our local Pride Chamber is happy to help anyone interested in the process.”

What are your best marketing tips for businesses that want to identify as LGBTQ-owned or friendly? 

Felipe: “The typical LGBTQ+ consumer is very engaged and they never forget positive inclusionary steps taken by large corporations or small businesses. Businesses seeking to attract them as patrons should consider financially supporting local LGBTQ+ nonprofits, sponsoring LGBTQ+ events, and placing ads in their local LGBTQ+ publications. Other steps could include using symbols such as the rainbow and transgender flags inside their business and creating nondiscrimination policies to protect their LGBTQ+ employees from workplace discrimination.”

What does Pride mean to you? 

Felipe: “As an immigrant and a member of the LGBTQ+ community, there is never a day that goes by that I don’t reflect on the meaning of ‘pride.’ When I first came out my mother did not accept me and when I moved to the United States, I learned firsthand the obstacles faced by immigrants. These experiences shaped who I am today and I believe they made me stronger. I am grounded in our long history as a community and our fight for equal rights. Pride is not just a month of the year; it is our collective commitment to continue working towards a world where children won’t have to experience discrimination or family rejection. We come from a long line of leaders who fought before us. It is our duty to continue their legacy. Pride is walking in our neighborhoods, holding our loved one’s hand and hoping that one day that won’t be a sign of courage, but simply a display of love. I chose to work under the visionary leadership of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Commissioner Patty Sheehan because they truly believe in inclusion. They have never shied away from doing the right thing for our community, even when it wasn’t popular. I feel so blessed to have this opportunity and we are working hard to make sure our LGBTQ+ residents have a voice in their local government.”

Orlando’s inclusive policies date back to the 1973 non-discrimination ordinance. Since then, it has been at the forefront of LGBTQ+ inclusion. The city became the first government agency in Central Florida to create a domestic partnership registry in 2011; enforced City and Federal laws that prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations; supported multiple local LGBTQ+ organizations such as the Zebra Coalition and the Hope and Help Center of Central Florida; created programs in support of LGTBQ+ youth; and provided resources for those affected by the Pulse tragedy; among many other initiatives, you can learn about here

Through their inclusive efforts, Orlando has paved the way in advancing LGBTQ+ acceptance and, in turn, has attracted new businesses to the area and helped their bottom line. PRSA Orlando has a deep commitment to diversity and inclusion, and we believe that efforts such as the ones taken by the City of Orlando are essential to creating a thriving culture of belonging. 

Key Takeaways From Adweek’s Diversity & Inclusion Summit

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

Adweek’s inaugural Diversity & Inclusion Summit, brought thirteen chief marketing officers and brand leaders from top global organizations together for a virtual event to discuss how diversity, inclusion, equality and equity are growth drivers across all business sectors. 

Diversity and inclusion in business and marketing are often pushed to the sidelines during times of crisis, such as the coronavirus pandemic, but these brand leaders agreed that now is the time to double down on those efforts and find ways to creatively and meaningfully engage with underrepresented communities. 

Continue reading to see how some of the featured speakers at the summit are creating more inclusive workplaces and navigating D&I in their business and marketing strategies, and the takeaways you can incorporate into your own practices. 

Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer at P&G

Marc’s thoughts on the COVID-19 crisis: 

“During these times of crisis, diversity and inclusion, and equality in general, take a step back. The people who have been historically discriminated against tend to suffer disproportionately. What is distressing about it is that the very people who are marginalized are those working in the frontlines, such as women, African Americans, Hispanic Americas, Asian Pacific Americans, LGBTQ+, and people with disabilities.”

Marc’s thoughts on implementing D&I in business and marketing: 

“Don’t wait for anybody. If you’re not doing multicultural marketing in the US, you’re not doing marketing. Get your company to embrace D&I. If they don’t, leave.”

How P&G has taken action: 

“We recognized very quickly that many groups of people did not have access to the most basic of products, so we pivoted our annual relief efforts to COVID-19 relief efforts to make sure that we were supplying families in need, focusing on the hardest hit communities.”

Key Actions You and Your Company Can Take:

  • Refuse to snap back to what and who is familiar, and instead step forward on equality and inclusion.
  • Restart equal. Hire equal. Pay equal. Share equal.
  • Join forces to be a force for good. Don’t admire the problem, shine the light on it.

Antonio Lucio, Global Chief Marketing Officer at Facebook

Antonio’s thoughts on the COVID-19 crisis: 

“We need to make sure that diversity and inclusion isn’t one of the casualties of this pandemic. There is a need to accelerate progress, and I am worried that things will go back to square one, which will not work moving forward. The business case has proven time and time again that diverse teams perform better, and as roles continue to be cut or furloughed, we need to keep diversity and inclusion at the forefront.”

Antonio’s thoughts on implementing D&I in business and marketing: 

“Everyone likes to talk about the nice part of D&I, but it is hard. It is supposed to be hard. When you have a diverse group of people bringing different experiences, it is going to create some friction, but unless you’re willing to look at someone in the eye and accept the fact that their thinking is going to make your campaign better and move the company forward, then talking about D&I means nothing.”

How Facebook has taken action: 

From the beginning of the global health crisis, Facebook has been supporting the global health community’s work to keep people safe and informed by providing factual information in all six United Nations languages (English, Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian, and Spanish), among other efforts.

Key Actions You and Your Company Can Take:

  • Stay vigilant and address inequality head on.
  • Keep measuring your progress.
  • Take action.

Diego Scotti, Chief Marketing Officer at Verizon

Diego’s thoughts on implementing D&I in business and marketing: 

“Cannes was cancelled this year, and when the organizers put out their statement, they said that the creative community wouldn’t be able to put forward the work that would set the benchmark because of the circumstances. I would say that many brands are putting out some of the most meaningful, purpose-driven and diverse work at this time.”

How Verizon has taken action: 

“We are very focused on Pride month, but this year the parades won’t be there. We decided to launch a virtual campaign in June called “Voices of Pride,” that’ll amplify and promote the stories of that community.”

Additionally, Scotti touched on adfellows, a diverse and inclusive fellowship program created by Verizon designed to help individuals break into marketing and advertising. “Bringing all of these voices together to tell their stories… is the best way that we can keep moving forward.”

Key Actions You and Your Company Can Take:

  • Collaborate.
  • Help each other.
  • Champion outside-the-box thinking.

Claudia Romo Edelman, Founder of We Are All Human

Claudia’s thoughts on implementing D&I in business and marketing: 

“The Hispanic community is disproportionately affected and equipped. Many of them do not have enough information on the coronavirus pandemic because it is not being correctly translated or it is not reaching them. Now is not the time to stop engaging with this market. This is the time in which you have to increase representation in front of the camera and behind-the-scenes, and let us know that you see us. The Hispanic community is loyal and they want to see you champion and invest in their community.”

How We Are All Human has taken action: 

We Are All Human’s Hispanic Star Response & Recovery Plan has provided a resource directory and a marketplace for talent and services during the pandemic. They, along with their corporate partners, have also provided necessary resources such as food and routers to underserved communities.

Key Actions You and Your Company Can Take:

  • Maintain or increase your ad spend in the Hispanic market.
  • Support Hispanics as employees, consumers, and community.
  • Hire, promote, retain and celebrate Hispanics within your workplace.

Cynthia Chen, GM and President of Consumer Health at RB

Cynthia’s thoughts on the COVID-19 crisis: 

“There has been a lot of stigma toward the Asian community. When you think about the United States, the word ‘united’ stands out, but it has felt very divisive. It is 2020, and this is not acceptable. What our leaders say has a huge impact on their audience, and as a brand we have the unique responsibility to spread the truth.”

Key Actions You and Your Company Can Take:

  • Involve the community.
  • Build coalitions beyond Asian Americans.
  • Provide utility – empathy is not sufficient, utility is critical. It is about the lives and livelihoods of our people.

Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO at GLAAD

Sarah’s thoughts on implementing D&I in business and marketing: 

“Include LGBTQ+ people in your ads because it really does move the needle and drive acceptance and policy that supports that community.”

“When you market to a marginalized community, make sure that your company understands D&I and that there is an inclusive culture in your organization. You are not just marketing, you are joining a movement and that means more than putting a rainbow on a product. That means that we need you to stand up for us, and we will expect you to do so. There are going to be missteps. Don’t let fear stop you. The most important thing is the intention, that you’re looking to embrace and engage with a marginalized community, not just make a dollar from them.”

Key Actions You and Your Company Can Take:

  • Don’t just market to our community. Join our movement.
  • When done right, LGBTQ+ inclusion in ads is good for your bottom line and can also advance LGBTQ+ acceptance.
  • Ensure trusted experts from the community are brought in on your ad or campaign.

Shelley Zalis, CEO of The Female Quotient

Marc’s thoughts on the COVID-19 crisis: 

“One of the things that is very clear is that today, in this moment of crisis, D&I and equality for all is a business imperative. We are seeing the gender and racial gaps widen, and if we don’t activate change consciously we will widen the gap. This is our opportunity to get rid of junk and bring forward the positives. Look at the things during this crisis that have led to creativity and equity. Let’s not rewrite history, let’s create our future together. Shut that door and bring open a new one in advancing women and equality.”

Key Actions You and Your Company Can Take:

  • Create metrics that matter and hold yourself accountable.
  • Ensure you are not only filling your pipeline with diversity, but are also mapping the pathway for success.
  • Life stage accommodations to ensure you attract and retain the best talent, not just the available talent.

Bozoma Saint John, Chief Marketing Officer at William Morris Endeavor

Marc’s thoughts on current events: 

“What are we doing? Are we going to keep having these nice conversations about diversity and inclusion and expect something to change? We need to ensure that this conversation doesn’t stop with hashtags.”

“I challenge us to be uncomfortable having the conversation. Don’t sit by—when you’re quiet your silence is a weapon too. We can’t have nice conversations anymore. I want everyone to be enraged like I am enraged. I am an angry black woman today—and I want you to be too.”

Key Actions You and Your Company Can Take:

  • Be enraged.
  • Be enraged.
  • Be enraged.

Stephanie Buscemi, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Salesforce

Stephanie’s thoughts on implementing D&I in business and marketing: 

“Business is a platform for change. Businesses have a responsibility to give back and create change.”

“Instead of creating a separate team that audits things for inclusivity, it’s in the DNA of the company.”

“Tell the stories of underrepresented communities. You cannot be what you cannot see.”

How Salesforce has taken action: 

In 2014, Salesforce launched Trailhead, a series of free online tutorials that coach beginner and intermediate developers who need to learn how to code for the Salesforce platform, with the goal of driving the creation of nearly 3.3 million new jobs by 2022. Through Trailhead, Salesforce hopes to attract more women and minorities and other diverse audiences to the software world.

Key Actions You and Your Company Can Take:

  • Amplify diverse stories and hear across your community.
  • Scale globally, while providing your community with the tools to mount their own local campaigns.
  • Educate your entire organization on the need for deeper structural changes that value all of us.

Jason White, Chief Marketing Officer at Curaleaf

Jason’s thoughts on implementing D&I in business and marketing: 

“The cannabis industry has been built on the backs of people in jail, and as the industry flourishes, a lot of these folk are not allowed to participate. There is a stigma attached to this industry that needs to change. How do we allow people to participate in this industry and honor the communities and the people who have been marginalized?”

“If we’re going to be part of change, we have to make it part of our business model.”

Key Actions You and Your Company Can Take:

  • Send a message – hold recruiters accountable for DE&I (diversity, equity & inclusion).
  • Shine a light – invite us to the community of normalcy, while requiring the same accountability and transparency.
  • Change the narrative – encourage careers in cannabis and don’t perpetuate the cannabis stigma.

If you weren’t able to make the summit, you can catch the recordings here. The original and extended version of this blog post appeared on Laughing Samurai

The Importance Of Translating & Transcreating Your Marketing Campaigns

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

We live in a globalized society, and while it feels like we are all interconnected, it is easy to forget that cultures and traditions vary from place to place. When developing a multicultural marketing strategy, it is important to have content properly adapted into the language being used in the target markets because content that resonates with readers in one market may miss the mark in another. 

Spanish is the second most common language in the United States, with around 20 percent of the population in Florida speaking Spanish at home. That is an estimated three million people. After Spanish, Haitian Creole is the third most commonly spoken language in the state of Florida. The United States has a growing Hispanic population of more than 59 million people who are projected to reach a collective buying power of $1.7 trillion in 2020. Investing in quality translations for marketing to the U.S. Hispanic market is not just smart; it makes good business sense. Do you really want to leave that much of the population untouched by your messaging? 

Poor translations can hurt your business and can potentially hurt the integrity of your brand, or cause a loss of revenue. In 2009, HSBC Bank invested millions of dollars in an advertising campaign in which they translated their tagline “Assume nothing” in their target countries. However, the translation came across as “Do Nothing,” and it cost HSBC $10 million to fix the issue. They eventually changed their slogan to “The World’s Private Bank.” 

Avoid Machine Translation

While services such as Google Translate and Babel Fish are easy and simple to use, their results are often inaccurate. Sure, using the service while on an overseas adventure might help you have a simple conversation with someone, but because machine translation is literal, it translates text without applying any human intelligence to the translation. For many marketers on a budget, Google Translate is an attractive translation tool because there isn’t a cost attached to use it. And while machine translation can save you money upfront, the resulting lack of engagement on campaigns and social media posts with potential and existing customers coupled with the drops in conversion creates a false economy.

Your audience can tell you’ve used Google Translate. According to an analysis by Politico in early 2019, every Democratic candidate for U.S. president had significant spelling mistakes on their Spanish websites and some of the pages even read as if they were directly plugged into Google Translate. Despite their good intentions to represent and resonate with the Latino electorate, the errors produced the opposite effect, prompting Spanish speakers to question how seriously the candidates were vying for their vote. 

Know Your Audience and Their Culture

When translating content, it is important to understand your audience, their values and their culture. As an example, there will be distinct variations in vocabulary and speech between Spanish-speaking countries. Because there are about 10 major Spanish dialects, and that Spanish is the main language spoken in 20 sovereign states, one territory, and a common language in the U.S., messaging tailored to a Mexican audience might not necessarily make sense to a Puerto Rican or a U.S. Hispanic market. It is crucial to your campaign’s success to knowing exactly who you are producing the translation for. 

Translate VS. Transcreate

Very often, marketers use the words “translate” and “transcreate” interchangeably, and while both are common language service options, there is a subtle variation between the terms. Rather than a word-for-word translation, some of your marketing campaigns will need transcreation – the adaption of content while maintaining the existing tone, intent, essence and style of the original message to resonate with the intended international audience. In order for your campaign to find success, it must be tackled by a linguist who can inject their own creativity, authenticity, and cultural knowledge.

Increasing your sales strategically through transcreated content and campaigns can drive brand recognition in new markets. Back in the 1980s, car manufacturer Mitsubishi Motors launched the Mitsubishi Pajero SUV, named after the Pampas cat, but it had to swiftly change the name of the model to the less suggestive Mitsubishi Montero for Spanish-speaking markets. 

When introducing urBeats to the French market, headphone manufacturer Beats by Dre hired a translation service to develop a French slogan for the product. The literal translation of its English slogan, “Made to take a beating,” did not make sense to French consumers. The team came up with the slogan, “Conçus pour résister à tous les tempos” (“Made to resist all tempos”), a play on the French phrase, “Conçus pour résister à tous les temps” (“Made to resist all weather conditions”), which resonated with the market. 

Final Thoughts

At the simplest level, businesses and brands taking educated risks are often the ones attracting the attention and resonating with a wider audience. Whether you’re looking to translate or transcreate an upcoming marketing campaign, keep in mind the tips discussed and remember that being daring and creative can play an important part in your multicultural marketing strategy. If adapting your content to Spanish or another language is not something you have the ability to do in-house, please visit our chapter directory on the MyPRSA portal to connect with local agencies with those capabilities. 

Diversity is a great force towards creativity

PRSA Orlando’s goal is to support communications professionals of all backgrounds. This year specifically, one of my goals was to look for opportunities to include everyone in our efforts and build new relationships. You can’t have a diverse membership if you don’t provide a diversity of opportunities.

We are all unique, come from a variety of industries, and are in various stages of our careers. One person cannot define diversity and inclusion.  That’s why this year, we expanded our team with the addition of two diversity and inclusion committee members working with the D&I Chair (me). Together, we shared experiences, brainstormed ideas and put words to action with a few key efforts.

We partnered with the Florida Diversity Council, where we found value in learning and hearing from Central Florida executives about what they’re doing to influence change and address diversity head-on.

We wrote ten blogs on various diversity topics like hip hop culture, engaging physically-disabled audiences, LGBTQ branding, and other focuses that influence and shape us daily.

We held a program on the role and impact of public relations in inclusion and diversity with EA Sports – a company that continues to evolve with its diverse audience.

We held our second annual Dinner, Diversity and Dialogue event fostering a culture of sharing experiences that influence our membership. We looked at the demographics of our association and held a dinner with 12 women in PR to discuss leadership. We learned the challenges they’ve experienced, the areas they wish they had more support in, and the advice they want to give young women in public relations. The findings will be shared in a thought paper that will be published on our blog early next year.

But perhaps what I’m most excited to share is that these types of purposeful, intentional efforts and direct outreach had a lasting impact. Our two D&I committee members came onboard after expressing interest following the first Dinner, Diversity, and Dialogue event. Three PRSA member attendees from the second dinner have officially taken on board roles for next year. This is the kind of change we’ve been looking for: getting members of all backgrounds more engaged with us by providing them opportunities that match their interests.

We found other ways to connect with our members too. We posted social media videos and graphics with quotes from our members on how to effectively communicate and incorporate diversity into their branding and messaging.

It’s hard to believe that the year is almost over when there’s so much more we want to do, but I hope you will continue to connect with us over the next year as D&I committee member Veronica Figueroa moves into the D&I Chair role.

Diversity and inclusion isn’t just a buzzword for us. It’s a commitment. It’s woven into who we are–within our practices, within our programs, and within our leadership.  We promise you we’re also taking your feedback to PRSA National to give them the best position to provide us the resources we need to address the diversity and inclusion challenges and opportunities within our profession.

One of the simplest, yet biggest values I believe PRSA brings is having each other as a resource and as a sounding board. As always, we appreciate any feedback, suggestions or ideas on how we can support you.

Have a beautiful holiday.


Alyssa Badalamenti

PRSA Diversity & Inclusion Chair

More Than A Campaign: Inclusion beyond the rainbow logo

By Veronica Figueroa Fernandez, PRSA Diversity & Inclusion Committee

Inclusive marketing has become a consumer expectation. And when companies, such as MAC Cosmetics, Levi Strauss & Co., and many others, have inclusive practices embedded into the fabric of their business, are proud to be a part of the progress toward equality, and are forces of change within the community, they will attract the right talent to deliver their brand message in an authentic way, fortify brand relevancy and drive sales.

“The best LGBTQ marketing or public relations campaign your brand can push is the authentic joy your employees feel while contributing their best selves at work,” said Yolanda Londono. Prior to retiring, London served as Tupperware’s former vice president of global responsibility.

Earlier this year, Londono spoke at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Inclusion Incorporated Florida Regional Forum, an event created for businesses and partners to realize the full benefits of fostering LGBTQ inclusion.

Numerous studies have shown the positive impact of LGBTQ-inclusive practices on a company’s bottom line and its ability to attract and retain talent. To put it simply, diverse teams deliver superior results. Diversity is essential in marketing, but without an inclusive workplace culture, your message will seem inauthentic.

These days, consumers are looking for inclusion beyond rainbow logos and seasonal campaigns. They’re holding companies responsible for their hiring practices because they are looking to support companies that support its LGBTQ employees.

But despite significant progress, nearly 50% of LGBTQ workers nationwide remain closeted on the job, according to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s, A Workplace Divided: Understanding the Climate for LGBTQ Workers Nationwide. The report also shared 31% of LGBTQ employees said they have felt unhappy or depressed at work, with many not reporting incidents because they did not think anything would be done to address it.

What efforts can companies take in order to create an LGBTQ-inclusive environment in the workplace?

Integrate diversity training programs depicting realistic scenarios, including those issues reflecting the LGBTQ community, to directly impact office behavior. These programs can be integrated into already existing diversity and inclusion programs and help build inclusivity from the core.

Create and enforce inclusive policies, and establish procedures for dealing with employees who violate your policies.

Ensure your employee benefits, such as health insurance or life insurance, does not exclude your LGBTQ employees.

Develop gender-transition resources and guidelines for your company’s transgender and gender non-conforming employees.

Become involved in the community by supporting or sponsoring local events, such as Pride parades and festivals, or participating in Spirit Day, an annual awareness day created as a sign of support for LGBTQ youth and to speak out against bullying.

The U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE FOUNDATION is dedicated to strengthening America’s long-term competitiveness. We educate the public on the conditions necessary for businesses and communities to thrive, how business positively impacts communities, and emerging issues and creative solutions that will shape the future.

PRSA Orlando’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee attended the program to be able to share key takeaways with chapter members, and learn how to incorporate Londono’s advice within the public relations industry.

Why should diversity & inclusion matter to the public relations industry?

In honor of Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Diversity Month, PRSA Orlando‘s D&I Committee asked its members about the importance of diversity to the industry. Check out what members had to say! #PRDiversity

How hip-hop culture can enhance your career as a communications professional

By Tyrone Law, PRSA Orlando D&I Committee Member

According to the 2019 Nielsen Music Mid-Year Report, the R&B and hip-hop genre is America’s preferred musical style, accounting for 26.5 percent of the total volume of all music consumption in the country. In turn, hip-hop culture influences many of the trends and key moments that engulfs society today. Having a working understanding of popular culture, which currently is heavily driven by hip-hop culture, can help communications professionals create more comprehensive and trendy campaign messaging, cultivate strategic partnerships and expand upon or introduce new target audiences.

Analyzing trends and predicting their consequences 

Throughout history, music has represented and influenced dominant societal movements that transcend race, gender, ethnicity, social or economic status, and sexual orientation. Hip-hop is no different. For example, “Same Love” by Macklemore and Mary Lambert, an American hip-hop song, tackled issues of LGBTQ rights and helped bring awareness to Washington Referendum 74, which eventually legalized same-sex marriage in Washington State. Other R&B and hip-hop influencers, including Childish Gambino, Beyoncé, 50 Cent and many more also have created songs and other content that sway American social norms, trends, language, and politics.  As a result of this growing trend, many brands are studying, embracing and implementing elements of hip-hop into marketing and communications.  A recent example comes from, which recently teamed up with rapper Silento on its new anti-vaping campaign.

Strategic hip-hop partnerships and activations

A strategic partnership in the hip-hop space can build campaigns that speak appropriately to cultural nuances and resonate with audiences time and time again. This concept has already proven to be successful by several brand activations over the last five years. Some of the most memorable campaigns containing elements of hip-hop are Sprite and Drake, Mercedes Benz and A$AP Rocky, and General Mills and Travis Scott Reese’s Puffs cereal box collaboration. These examples and numerous more have resulted in millions of media impressions and hundreds of stories. The Pew Research Center projected that by the end of 2019, millennials will surpass baby boomers to become the largest living generation in the United States. It just so happens that this same demographic group (millennials) is also the top consumer of hip-hop music.

Embrace the hip-hop culture

Hip-hop culture is everywhere. Broadway has even embraced the genre.  Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton” is said to be one of the most successful Broadway shows of all time, holding the record for the most Tony Awards nominations. Communications professionals should immerse themselves in a diverse range of cultures. If you haven’t already, give hip-hop a try; watch hip-hop-themed movies; listen to a new hip-hop artist; hire someone who is more attuned with hip-hop culture to help inspire content and messaging that can bring your results to the next level.

PR campaigns should speak to what is manifested through popular clothing, art, attitude, style, music, video and language. Although culture is a revolving door of rapid changes, I’d bet hip-hop isn’t going to lose steam any time soon. Think critically on how to authentically implement this trend in your communications, and it just may lead you to that award-winning campaign or that promotion you’ve always wanted.

Editor’s note:  October is PRSA’s Diversity & Inclusion month. This post supports the organization’s effort of recognizing the importance of continuing to create awareness of this essential topic, and to recommit ourselves to actively promoting change for the betterment of the industry. PRSA is devoted to building consciousness by increasing visibility of D&I standards, resources and best practices for racial, ethnic, religious, sexual orientation and gender differences, as well as diverse skill sets, mindsets and cultures at all levels of the organization.