In this issue

Northeast District News

PRSA has announced its new slate of officers nominated for 2021. Felicia Blow, APR, of Hampton University, has been named chair-elect. To see the full list of nominees, check out the press release from PRSA.

PRSA has also announced the 15 new members into the College of Fellows, an honorary organization within PRSA comprised of more than 350 senior professionals and educators, each of whom has left a significant footprint on the public relations profession.

Congratulations to JoAnn LeSage Nelson from the Albany Chapter and long-time leader with the PRSA national board. She has been elected into the 2020 Cohort of the PRSA College of Fellows, considered to be the pinnacle of a person’s communications career. Read more here.

PRSA Rochester Connect Newsletter

August 2020  

Message From Your President

Hello and Happy Summer!

Thank you for taking a few minutes to catch up on the latest from PRSA Rochester. We’ve had an exciting summer so far, with a few great virtual events in the books and a few more coming down the line.

First, a HUGE thanks to all who tuned in this June for our first ever Virtual PRism Awards! We missed seeing you in person but were still excited to recognize our Rochester area’s best, brightest and most creative campaigns of the 2019 and 2020 year. Congratulations again to our Rising Star, Jessica Lewis, our Executive of the Year, Kim Condon, our Best of Show winners and all of our 2020 recipients.

August brought a nice change of pace and a deep calming breath with our Self-Care Flow for the PR Pro sessions, led by Melissa Mueller-Douglass, LMSW, founder and facilitator of MYRetreat. Mindfulness was top-of-mind, and these two sessions had us slowing down and practicing some serious self-care.

We also got to hear from Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce President Bob Duffy this month, on re-opening Rochester amid COVID-19. Duffy brought his insight into the impact and challenges that we faced in our region, and his thoughts on our path forward.

Don’t forget to register for our rescheduled and retooled Meet the Media Panel on August 20, as we hear from our local reporters about the changes they have faced distributing information during a pandemic and the ways that we can work to support each other moving forward. And keep an eye on email and the PRSA Rochester website for more of our virtual learning series as sessions are announced!


If you’re interested in volunteering or have an idea for an upcoming program or initiative to share, we are always listening. Please reach out to us at [email protected]


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Call for Volunteers

Our PRSA Committees are always looking for more volunteers. And you don’t have to be a PRSA Member to help out! It’s a great way to get involved. Below are the committees of our chapter:

  • Programming: Organizes the chapter’s workshops and educational sessions. To join, email Michelle Cometa.
  • PRisms: Plans the annual PRism awards program and ceremony. To join, email Olivia Rotondo.
  • Diversity: Raises awareness of the importance of diversity and inclusion within the public relations profession. Also plans the annual PR Apprentice Program for area college students. To join, email Nadine General.
  • APR: Provides mentorship and guidance to those seeking to get their APR or take the next steps in their careers with long-term professional development. To join, email Jamie Frumusaor Patty Corvaia.
  • YP/PRSSA: Engages with local PRSSA chapters and young professionals through special events and educational sessions. To join, email Sarah Warren
  • Membership: Works to grow and retain our chapter's membership through direct outreach, email campaigns and special events. To join, email Kristin Tutino
  • Communications: Creates and publishes content on the chapter's social media, website and emails. To join, email Colleen Onuffer
  • Assembly/District: Helps plan the 2020 PRSA Northeast District Conference by joining one of the conference committees - marketing, programming, sponsorships, or logistics. Email Bobbi Lonobileif you're interested. 
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Upcoming PRSA Rochester Programs and Events

Rochester Media Panel

Rochester’s media landscape has shifted dramatically in recent years, and with COVID, there’s been even more swift change for media and PR pros alike. Tune into a virtual media panel to hear from local reporters who can speak to the changes in our media landscape. Registration info can be found here.

Virtual ICON Conference

The 2020 ICON is going virtual! ICON is PRSA’s digital gathering of thought leaders, industry experts and partners in communication, public relations and marketing. These experts will deliver four days of innovation, insights, ideas and inspiration directly to you at your location, no matter where you are in the world, on Oct. 26-29. Registration info can be found here.

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Event Recap

3 Questions to Ask Yourself When Planning a Virtual Event

So, you want to hold a virtual event. We’re here to tell you, it can be done!

Consider these three questions from our 2020 PRism Award Ceremony planning committee:

  1. Will it be a live broadcast or recorded in advance? Weigh the pros, cons and risks associated with each.
  • For example, if a live broadcast, what’s your back up plan if technical difficulties occur? Our planning committee did not want to depend on in-the-moment technology and potential hiccups that could occur.
  • If recorded in advance, will the show run as-is, or will there be post-show editing/production? We chose to do some light post-show production. We added in pre-recorded videos from guests of honor and merged it with the awards portion. It was simple to remove snafus with the script. If done live, we would’ve had to roll with the punches.
  1. What platform will the live feed/video be shared on? The 2020 PRism Awards Ceremony was pre-recorded on Zoom, edited and then scheduled to broadcast “live” via Facebook Premiere.
  2. Depending on the type of event you’re holding, consider if and how you’ll take audience questions. Although there is not a question & answer portion for the PRism Ceremony – it was fun to watch the Facebook Live engagements and see messages of support and congratulations come through.

 We’ve only scratched the surface. There are many more ways to bolster engagement and celebrate. Just look to high school graduation ceremonies, caravans for special moments and weddings held via Zoom.

Navigating this virtual environment can be nerve-wracking, but as with any event planning, the right team, practice and a little bit of luck will help you pull off a near-perfect event. You got this!

Your 2020 PRism Chairs,

Olivia Rotondo, Traci Legonelli and Elaina Mancuso

PRSA Rochester hosts Bob Duffy for webinar about phased reopening of Rochester and Finger Lakes region

PRSA Rochester hosted Bob Duffy, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce, during a member-only webinar on Aug. 12. He shared information about the communications and logistical planning that went into the phased reopening of the Rochester and Finger Lakes areas. Joined by Shannon Ealy, Sr. Director, Marketing and Engagement, also part of the Chamber of Commerce, the two provided insights about how the processes were managed and who was involved in the many different initiatives to keep the region physically, socially and economically healthy.

Appointed by New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo as an advisor on the reopening of businesses in the area, Duffy explained that throughout the past several months of the pandemic, he has seen and continues to see, incredible collaboration and courage from the community.

“I’m proud of the community’s response to the pandemic and what we’ve accomplished together,” he said, praising the University of Rochester Medical Center and Rochester Regional Health System staff members as well as Monroe County Health leadership.

Several other takeaways from the hourlong event included:

The region was often one of the first to be approved for reopening during the phased state process because the case numbers were being managed and at points decreasing

  • Much of the decline in cases and hospitalizations overall in the state came about because of regular information about prevention and the community’s compliance with the recommendations of social distancing, wearing masks regularly and testing.

Duffy and his team were part of the larger, statewide communication effort to provide information about area trends to the governor and to bring information from the capitol to the regions. The use of regional communications team was a strategy that saw results, Duffy said, and having multiple communications channels from traditional to social media available and working within the Chamber’s well-established relationships with individuals and businesses.

Some of the comments from participants included how the state re-looked at its response to care for individuals in nursing homes and Duffy acknowledged that this is a crucial area.

“We intend to look at what we can do differently, to review what was done, learn from what was done, what we could do better,” he said.

More than 20 PRSA Rochester members participated and were able to ask questions related to how the state would re-visit its response to the CV-19 virus in nursing facilities and how it will go forward should there be a second wave as is generally expected with the opening of schools, as well as businesses and other facilities, across the states.

“We can keep to many of the guiding principles that got us to this point in anticipation of another wave,” said Duffy.

The Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce is first and foremost an advocacy group, and that is a key resource for information about regional businesses that make up the community. 

“Our group is all about advocacy and we do it with persistence and respect. We are here to promote our community, help when we can and build relationships,” he added.

PRSA Rochester intends to host more of these current event webinars with community leaders and seeks input about future sessions from members. Contact [email protected] to share ideas and resources for webinars.

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Virtual Programming

PRSA chapters across the country have become closer as virtual programming has removed geographic boundaries. Here are a few upcoming programs from our friends at chapters in other parts of the state and the country:

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PRSA Membership

This month’s PRSA membership special:
For new and returning members, your initiation or reinstatement fee will be waived when you join National as a Regular member ($260 annual dues) and you’ll receive a FREE 1-yr Chapter membership ($55 savings). Just use the promo code CHAPTER2020 when filling out your application here:

Did you know that you can pay your membership in quarterly payments?

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 here.

Just a reminder: 

As a PRSA member, you have access to a wide collection of online instructional videos, to further your skillsets in public relations and communications. Each month, new webinars are presented live. Each is valued at $200, but as a PRSA member, you get access for FREE. Check out the complete line-up and register today!

And, don’t forget that PRSA offers a wide assortment of discounts available at the PRSA Member Savings Center.

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Ethics Corner

How Ethics Can Build Trustworthiness in PR Pros’ Relationships

As PR pros, we all know the importance of building relationships with local media. Like all good relationships, even professional, trust is critical factor for success. We’re also in a climate where many people may be starting new jobs. We’ve created some helpful tips to build trusting, ethical relationships with media, influencers, clients and even former employers.

Give gifts ethically – if at all. Maybe it goes without saying, but maybe not: Sending a reporter a gift to ask for a positive story is unethical. On the flipside of the relationship, if you want to thank a reporter for a story they wrote, don’t do it with a gift. Often, a simple verbal or written thank you will suffice. You could also try these ideas

In this day and age, you can’t talk about ethical gift-giving in PR without also mentioning influencer marketing. It’s important for influencers to disclose if they were compensated for endorsing a product in social media content. This isn’t just an ethical matter, but also a legal one. If you’re involved with influencer marketing or thinking about trying it out, it’s worth reading the FTC’s Endorsement Guides.

Be honest about competing clients! That is, avoid working for two clients who are competitors – or at least, if you do, make sure you let them know up front. Additionally, if you have a strong financial interest in a client’s main competitor, it’s important to disclose that. Again, honesty is key to a strong relationship, including professional business relationships.

Don’t hold a grudge. When you leave a company, whether on good terms or bad, it might be tempting to take information with you, such as client lists or confidential information. However, doing so would go against PRSA’s safeguarding confidences provision of conduct. While parting ways isn’t easy, it’s important you do it fairly to maintain your integrity. 

Want to learn more about ethics? Check out the ethics section on PRSA’s website.


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Member Spotlight

In this member spotlight, we’re highlighting Alyssa Whitley, Public Relations Assistant at Dixon Schwabl. Alyssa has been involved in PRSA since day one in her career. From starting off in her college PRSSA chapter, to joining the Rochester chapter after graduation, she’s a very active member and passionate about all things PR.

What is your role at Dixon Schwabl, and describe your day-to-day?

As public relations assistant, I provide all manner of support for the public relations team at Dixon Schwabl, including facilitating work for our retainer and project clients. Most days, I’m conducting industry news research, writing press materials and social media content, and coordinating PR opportunities for my clients. The best part of my job is helping my clients tell their stories and gain recognition for the amazing work that they’re doing!

How did you first get involved with PRSSA and eventually the PRSA Rochester Chapter?

I joined PRSSA my first semester at St. John Fisher College and served as Chapter President my senior year! For me, it was really important I take advantage of every opportunity outside the classroom to build my network and put the skills that I was learning into practice. PRSSA was an amazing opportunity to pursue these passions as well as make some amazing friends in my major.

After graduating, I wanted to continue my involvement with the organization as a professional. I immediately joined the PRism Committee as a member and am serving as Co-Chair for the Young Professionals Committee this year.

What motivated you to join the YP committee, and what is your favorite part of being on this committee?

One of the things I’m most excited about is paying forward all of the guidance I received in college from professionals. My favorite part of the committee is mentoring students and sharing my experiences/advice with the goal of getting them prepared and excited to enter the industry. I also love the opportunity to network with other young professionals in the Rochester community!

What's the biggest obstacle you've overcome professionally while working during COVID-19, and how (if at all) has it changed you?

With COVID-19 came many challenges, and quickly. It was important for me to be flexible and innovative to help my clients continue their efforts during this time of uncertainty. I always try to see the positive in any situation, so I thank COVID-19 for the reminder to think on my feet, act quickly and get creative to make it happen!

What advice would you share with the young rising communication and PR professionals?

Say yes to as many different opportunities as you can! I’ve learned so much from my willingness to try new things. You never know how many doors the word “yes” can open!


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