PRSA Rochester Connect Newsletter

April 2020  

President's Message


Thanks for taking a few minutes to catch up on the latest from PRSA Rochester! I hope you are all staying safe and are doing well. Now more than ever, the way we communicate with each other, our clients, businesses, and organizations is critical. We are dedicated to helping you navigate this time and the impact it may have on your professional life.

PRSA is offering several tools and helpful resources during this pandemic. Keep an eye out for future communications from us or visit our website to learn more.

And, as always, don't hesitate to reach out to us directly at [email protected] with questions, ideas, or for support.


Sarah Blackwell
Break the Ice Media

Senior Consultant & Director of Client Services

585-394-0787 x4 | [email protected]

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PRSA National and Northeast District News

PRSA National News

As communications professionals, we are all well aware of the ongoing concerns surrounding the spread and impact of COVID-19. Your health and safety continue to be our most important priority, and we remain committed to keeping you up to date on the actions PRSA is taking as the situation develops.

To support you, PRSA National has offered a host of information and resources, including courses, webinar recordings, articles, blog posts and more. For example, this month, PRSA is offering a webinar titled, “Managing Communication in a Time of Crisis: Learnings From the Impact of COVID-19,” on Thursday, April 30 at 3 p.m.

For more on all of these resources, visit this website.  

PRSA National also offers help with membership fees. All members are eligible to switch to quarterly payments with no additional fee if they can’t make their full membership dues payment at renewal time. PRSA has also launched a hardship program for select eligible members. More on both:

Lastly, PRSA is seeking candidates for its open national board of director positions for next year. There are currently two positions for which members of our district can submit nominations, northeast district director and director at large. The deadline to apply is Tuesday, May 5. Details available at

Please reach out to Rochester board members/assembly delegates Michelle Cometa at [email protected] or Bobbi Lonobile at [email protected] for more information or with questions. 

Northeast District News

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Northeast District Conference is postponed until next spring, wrote Mike Masseur, NE district president (Southeast New England Chapter), in a message to the district. The next Northeast District Conference will be held Friday, June 18, 2021, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The Yankee Chapter will host.

As a result, the Capital Region chapter in Albany will host in 2022 and our chapter will host the conference in Rochester in 2023. While it may seem a long way off, it’ll be here before we know it! Look out for a number of conference planning volunteer opportunities. 

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Ethics Corner

Top Tips on Crisis Communications from America’s Crisis Guru

Since cases of COVID-19 dramatically increased across the state and the country in March, most organizations have dealt with difficult situations – perhaps even situations that rise to the level of a crisis. It’s fitting, then, that James E. Lukaszewski, ABC, APR, Fellow PRSA, shared tips on ethical crisis communication for the April PRSA Board of Ethics and Professional Standards call.

Here are five things he shared that we should all keep in mind, particularly in light of the current situation. View the full recording of this webinar.

First, what is a crisis situation? Lukaszewski defines it as, “a people-stopping, show-stopping, product-stopping, reputationally redefining event that creates victims and/or explosive visibility”. The concept of “creating victims” is key. Victims can be people, animals or living systems (such as the environment). If a situation isn’t creating victims, it may be more of just a bad day than a full-blown crisis. Ignoring victims is often what leads to the explosive visibility part of the definition – eventually they will want to be heard. This is why addressing the victims matters. Which brings us to the next point…

Focus more on victims, less on visibility. One problem PR pros sometimes face is focusing too much on the “explosive visibility” piece to the point of causing the people we’re working for to forget the victims. When it comes to a response strategy, it’s important to stop creating more victims and also to manage the victim dimensions, communicate internally to employees, notify those indirectly impacted (such as partners) and then turn to managing media and other external stakeholders. All of these steps need to be underway within an hour of learning about a crisis, Lukaszewski says. Planning for a crisis in advance can help when it comes time to put these actions into practice.  

Apologize and empathize. The two most powerful concepts in crisis communications: Apology and empathy. You need those two things to begin to recover. Many shy away from apology but from as victim’s perspective, an apology is often not a legal issue and it’s often a victim’s minimum request. Empathy matters because it can help a victim settle down.

Squash the culture of silence in your organization. Lukaszewski says many crises start with silence, which is the greatest promoter and protector of untruthful behavior. When people do not speak up or when they feel discouraged from speaking up, it allows unethical behavior to perpetuate, creating a culture of silence that could lead to prolonged unethical behavior and a situation that’s more difficult to bounce back from later on.

When in doubt, return to ethical decision-making basics. In a world that’s constantly changing, ethical decision-making may not be as easy as it seems. Lukaszewski shared this framework created by Kathy P. Fitzpatrick, JD, APR, for making ethical decisions.

  1. Define the specific ethical issue or conflict.
  2. Identify internal/external factors that may influence that decision.
  3. Identify key values.
  4. Identify parties who will be affected by the decision and define the PR pro’s obligation to each. Talk to these parties to better understand things you may not be thinking of!
  5. Select ethical principles to guide the decision-making process. When in doubt, see PRSA’s Code of Ethics.
  6. Make a decision and justify it.


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COVID-19 Resources

As we all work to navigate these times, we’re here to help provide tips to help aid mental health and stay positive.

  1. Schedule “No Screen Time” – We’re already very connected, but now more than ever we’re on our computers, phones, tablets to stay in touch in and outside of work. The strain of being focused on screens can lead to fatigue and exhaustion – both physically and mentally. Give your eyes a break. Find alternative activities that don’t require screens. Read a book, re-organize your home, knit, paint and so on.
  2. Take care of your body – Take deep breaths. Stretch. Meditate. Try to eat well-balanced meals, move your body regularly, get plenty of sleep. This will help boost your immunity and your resilience.
  3. Take mini breaks throughout your workday – In the office, we’re constantly moving around. Going from meeting to meeting, conference rooms, talking to our peers. Without this outside stimulus one can find themselves sitting in one place all day. Get up! Move around! Take a few minutes to do a quick house chore, take a walk outside (staying safe and six feet apart). Avoid eating lunch at your home desk.
  4. Set boundaries for social media consumption – Stay informed but set appropriate limits. The wide adoption of social media has made it easier than ever to connect with people and share information around the world. But it also makes it easier for people with or without a negative intent to spread false information.
  5. Find ways to stay accountable – Creating a routine and sticking to it is a great way to help wellness and mental health, but the burden of keeping this doesn’t need to fall on your shoulders. Share your wellness plan with a friend or family member who can help. Think of the different areas of your life that may require different accountability plans—physical, emotional, academic and professional.
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PRSA Young Professionals

Meet the 2020 Young PR Professionals Committee!

This affinity group of PRSA Rochester fosters collaboration with young and new professionals who have joined the communications career field, providing opportunities to develop valuable connections with seasoned professionals in the Rochester area. 

Read their latest blog to learn about the YP committee, meet the members and see how you can get involved!

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Member Spotlight

In this member spotlight, we’re highlighting an APR dynamic duo: Jamie Frumusa, APR, Public Relations Director at Tipping Point Communications and Patty Corvaia, APR, Internal Communications Manager, Highland Hospital. These two professionals are co-chairs of the Rochester APR Committee and active members of the PRSA community. Learn more below!

  • How long have you been involved in PRSA Rochester?
    • Jamie: Before starting my career here in Rochester, I was a member of PRSA Atlanta, and throughout college, I was a member of PRSSA. I have also been a member of PRSA Buffalo Niagara Chapter for the past several years. Here in Rochester, I’ve been a member since 2011 and have held various committee positions including Programming and PRisms. Patty and I have co-chaired the APR Committee together for the past four years. It’s been an exciting and rewarding journey to help fellow chapter members achieve their accreditation and learn new skills that will advance their careers.
    • Patty: I have been a member since 2003. I earned my APR in 2009. I have volunteered in a variety of ways in past years, such as judging PRism entries and participating in APR panel presentations. I was honored to be asked to be the Rochester APR co-chair with Jamie.  
  • Describe your role in the APR program for the Rochester PRSA. How long have you been serving this role?
    • Jamie and Patty have been co-chairs since 2016.
    • As co-chairs, we work together to promote the accreditation to public relations professionals in our community, we meet with those interested in earning the accreditation, and we guide them through the process.  This includes hosting information sessions, reviewing applications when asked, and scheduling panel presentations. As chairs of a sub-committee, we are not board members of PRSA Rochester, but we are a part of the board. We have ongoing communications with the national PRSA team regarding any changes that could occur in the accreditation process, any concerns local candidates and APRs may have, and any other APR-related issues that may arise. Throughout our time as co-chairs, we have worked to enhance awareness about APR and its benefits among chapter members. Another goal of ours is to engage current APRs with special rate offers, recognition during events and speaking opportunities. Additionally, we recently designed an APR Starter Program that we hope to offer annually to members interested in accreditation.
  • What motivated you to apply for your APR accreditation?
    • Jamie: The reason I was so interested in creating a group-style APR program is because my study group was so helpful. Having others around you going through the same process keeps you motivated on the journey (which isn’t an easy one). My mentor Barbara Pierce, APR, always spoke highly of the process and encouraged me to seek out accreditation to learn more about the industry and hone my skills. I am so grateful to her for pushing me to get my APR, because it completely changed the way I approach all aspects of my craft.
    • Patty: My mentor and former supervisor, Maryalice Keller, told me about APR and encouraged me to earn my accreditation. She was (and is) someone I look up to.  Her support throughout the process was exceptional and so vital to me being successful.
  • Since receiving your APR, how have you implemented your learnings into your professional career?
    • Jamie: In every possible way! The two most meaningful takeaways from the process for me:
      1. Driving home the importance of ethics in everything we do as PR professionals. Ethics is 13% of the APR exam, and since earning my accreditation I have learned to look at all situations through this lens.
      2. Learning to be more strategic in setting goals and objectives (33% of the exam). Before starting a project, we should always take in the bigger picture because it isn’t enough to just execute tactics. Having a clear understanding of why, with research to back it up, a firm grasp on how it all fits into broader business goals and knowing how to appropriately measure success are key.
    • Patty: Too many to count. I started my career in journalism. I counted on my “gut” to guide me in my early years. Going through the APR process helped me understand the science and the principles behind our profession, why we do what we do.
  • How, if at all, has earning your APR accreditation helped you during this global pandemic? 
    • Jamie: Tipping Point Communications specializes in crisis communications and issues management. These past few months have been an intense time for this niche practice, but I am so proud and honored for the opportunity to help companies do the right thing and be a light in all this darkness. Crisis Communications strategy is 13% of the APR exam, and through the process and reading case studies in the APR Study Guide, I learned that transparent, honest and people-first communication is critical and that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. You sometimes must make a choice that isn’t black and white, wrong or right, but the best solution for those involved at the time.
    • Patty: Every day! I work at a hospital. There is no plan for something like this, but there are principles and case studies that have certainly helped. What I learned going through the APR process shapes every action. The APR process is not the only part that is valuable. Maintaining the accreditation for many of us requires continuing education. Keeping up to date with trends in our industry is important, too! 
  • What advice would you share to fellow PR and communications pros who are considering applying for an APR?
    • Make sure it is the right time for you. You may be at a point in your career that you’re ready for the journey. Make sure you have the time to dedicate to it! It does require studying and preparation. If you have a mentor, see if they can be of support. For some, now might be a great time to work on earning your accreditation. While at home, you can put together your portfolio and review the APR Study Guide materials available for free online. Call us! We are here to help!
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