PRSA Rochester Connect Newsletter

December 2020  

President's Message


Well, we’ve made it!

It’s the end of another year – and certainly a year unlike any we’ve had before. In 2020, PRSA Rochester went virtual (along with the rest of the world) and we’ve done our best to stay connected and keep our PR community up-to-date on everything this amazing chapter has going on.

On Thursday, we’ll host our 2020 Annual Business Meeting, our “State of the Union” so to speak, with an update on what we accomplished this year and our transition into 2021. Open to all PRSA Rochester chapter members and guests, we sincerely hope you’ll be able to join us. At the end of our meeting, we’ll be raising a glass to toast to the end of 2020. It doesn’t have quite the same celebratory tone as we take at our annual Holiday Party – but we’ll be cheers-ing with smiles on all the same.

Thank you to everyone who took a moment to read our emails this year, attend a virtual event, volunteer for a committee or become a member in 2020. You are the bread and butter keeping this organization alive and we appreciate you.

Happiest of Holidays! Stay safe and well. We’ll be back with our next newsletter, led by our incoming PRSA President, Melissa Greco Lopes, in 2021.

Until then,

Sarah Blackwell

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Upcoming PRSA Rochester Programs and Events

PRSA Rochester Annual Business Meeting

Join us for our Annual Business Meeting, to be held virtually on Thursday, December 17 from 9-10 a.m. Open to all PRSA Rochester chapter members and guests, your Board will use this time to discuss the state of the chapter, its financial position and to recap the 2020 year - an unprecedented and unconventional year for us all.

Bring Your Own "Breakfast Beverage" to enjoy during the event - we'll be hosting a virtual toast to the end of 2020 at the conclusion of our event. Registration is required in order to receive the Zoom link.


PR Apprentice Program is now The Pitch! – Virtual Edition Spring 2021

We’re setting our sights on a spring edition of the annual PRSA Apprentice Program, which is newly named The Pitch. We missed our seasonal program this year in the fall, but COVID had other plans. That said, COVID can’t stop us, so we’re pivoting and hope you’ll stick with us too! The Pitch has been a great success because of YOU, our actively loyal members who serve as coaches and judges to support the students. Stay tuned for details on a virtual edition of The Pitch in spring 2021. And, if you’d like to put your name on the early list to volunteer again, we welcome your early commitment to “Count me in.” Drop a note to [email protected] and she’ll be sure you’re included. 

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Event Recap

Event Recap: 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge

PRSA was one of nearly 470 organizations to participate in the 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge. Along the way, we gained a deeper understanding of race and equity, and the ways that discriminatory practices can negatively impact our community. The challenge was an opportunity to consider new ways to see our work through a racial equity lens and move toward building a racial equity culture within our personal lives, workplaces, and in PRSA Rochester. Our board is committed to this work and over the next year, will offer programming that seeks to highlight the role of communicators in leading the change.


Podcast Club Survey – Did You Respond?

Please take a few minutes to share your feedback in our survey for the PRSA Podcast Club by Monday, Dec. 21. This is a FREE initiative that we’re piloting next year and we want to ensure there’s interest before rolling it out. We are seeking your input to help shape the initiative that’s best suited to members' lifestyles. We’d like to pilot this to our members first before rolling it out to the masses. We hope you’ll join us!

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Member News: Congratulations to our New APR Designations

We are excited to announce that PRSA Rochester chapter member Melissa Greco Lopes has received her APR designation! Melissa is the Assistant Director of Marketing and Communications at St. John Fisher College and currently sits as President-Elect of the PRSA Rochester chapter. Way to go, Melissa, what a tremendous accomplishment!

Visit our website for information on earning your Accreditation in Public Relations.

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PRSA National News

PRSA’s delegate assembly and annual meeting took place on Saturday, December 5, virtually this year because of the COVID -19 pandemic.

Our chapter’s assembly delegates, Michelle Cometa and Bobbi Lonobile, attended the meeting, which covered a lot of ground. The delegates elected the 2021 board of directors and discussed and voted on six bylaw amendment proposals. These were explained in a recent email to members: Proposals 20-01 (Ex-officio Exception), 02 (Bylaws Petition), 03 (Delegate Certification), 04 (Proxy Representation), and 06 (Delegate Terms) passed. There was much discussion about Proposal 20-05, which would have allowed members without their APR to serve as officers and directors. Ultimately, it did not pass.

T. Garland Stansell, APR, PRSA 2020 Chair, presented a state of the society report and an overview of the year, needless to say a very different kind of year than ever before. For an overview of the year, PRSA has published an annual report of sorts. You can check that out here:

In the afternoon following the business portion of the meeting, a presentation was made about a new PRSA initiative. Voices4Everyone is an advocacy program aimed to position PRSA and PR professionals as change agents leading a national conversation to build mutual understanding, trust and civic engagement through better and more inclusive discourse and fact-based dialogue. Expect to hear more about this.

More information about the assembly is found on PRSA’s website. Members are required to log-in to access some portions.

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Northeast District Update

The 2021 slate of district board officers will be out soon, which will include, for the first time, a Diversity and Inclusion officer.

The 2021 Northeast District conference hosted by the Yankee Chapter will take place virtually on the afternoon of Thursday, June 17 and the morning of Friday, June 18. The conference programming committee is always looking for volunteers. More to come on the conference as details develop.

For more information, please contact Michelle Cometa, [email protected] or Bobbi Lonobile, [email protected].

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Ethics Corner

Ethics Corner: Position Papers Now Available to Help with Common Ethical Conundrums 

The national PRSA website now has updated position papers to help PR pros navigate common ethical challenges in communication. Topics include "Pay for Play," ethics and social media, and paid spokesperson/influencers. To view the papers, go to and click "BEPS Position Papers."

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Young Professionals Blog

YP Blog: Resources for Students Navigating a Virtual World

 The impact from the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us all to be adaptable as we’ve changed the way we live, work and attend school. For students, the virtual learning environment has limited the opportunity for hands-on experience, networking and professional internships. Additionally, recent graduates entered a challenging job market this spring as businesses navigated shut-downs.

In light of this, the PRSA Young Professional Committee has compiled these helpful resources to continue your learning journey and bolster your resume.


  • PRSA: PRSA's extensive professional development programs offer communications professionals a wide variety of learning opportunities. Most webinars are free for PRSA members. Explore the options here.
  • Make Your Fundraising Event Virtual from MobileCause: The current social distancing required by COVID-19 doesn't mean you need to abandon your upcoming fundraising events or campaigns. Watch this free webinar to hear from nonprofits who have held successful virtual events.


  • Muck Rack: Take your media skills to the next level by attending quick, practical courses and earning industry-recognized certifications here.
  • Sprout Social: Check out their social media career growth plan. Learn more here.
  • Hubspot: Take your professional skills to the next level with free, online training from HubSpot Academy. From quick, practical courses to comprehensive certifications, learn everything you need to know about the most sought-after business skills here.
  • Facebook and Instagram: Interested in strengthening your business page management skills? There are a bevy of resources available here.


  • The Skinny on PR: From social media and content marketing to crisis management and media relations, PR News will deliver you the top stories in communications. Sign-up for their eNewsletters here.
  • PR Daily: Sign up here to receive the latest articles from PR Daily directly in your inbox.
  • Social Media Today: Get the latest social media news, trends and tips delivered to your inbox. Sign up here.
  • Michael Smart PR: Get Michael’s five winning subject-line formulas and best PR tips each week free here.
  • Social Media Examiner: Get original Social Media Examiner content delivered to your inbox for free here.

PRSA Rochester

Check out the full blog on our website to learn more.


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PRSA Membership Deals

Happy Holidays from your Membership Committee,

We just wanted to say a quick thank you to all of our PRSA members. It’s been a crazy year, and we appreciate you hanging in there with us. Shifting from in-person programs, workshops, networking events, and the PRism Awards to an all-virtual model has not been easy. But you were there — participating, engaging, and supporting your local chapter — for that we are so grateful. We are looking forward to 2021, and the opportunity to all be together in person again soon!


Kristin Tutino, Wendy Boyce, Robyn Rime, Colleen Onuffer and Monique Patenaude


New Member/Reinstated Member Offer:

 Become a PRSA member, or reinstate your membership and your initiation or reinstatement fee will be waived! And you’ll also receive a $50 Amazon Gift Card. Restrictions apply. Sign up today to be part of the nation’s largest organization for PR and communications professionals. Visit and enter the code HOLIDAY50.

 Membership Benefits:

Don’t forget as a PRSA member you have access to a wide collection of online instructional videos to further your skillsets in the public relations and communications communities. Each month, new webinars are presented live. Each is valued at $200, but as a PRSA member, you get access them for FREE. Check out the complete line-up and register today! And, be sure to check out the vast assortment of discounts available at the PRSA Member Savings Center.

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Member Spotlight

In this member spotlight, we’re highlighting two PRSA members and recent APR recipients – Charla Kucko, Senior PR Consultant, McDougall Communications and Rich Pulvino, Manager, Corporate Communications & Social Media, ESL Federal Credit Union. Check out their full interviews on our website!

Charla’s Interview:

What motivated you to apply for your APR accreditation?

I’m a big believer in professional development. There is always more to learn. I had been thinking about earning my APR for years. My colleagues Mike McDougall and Heather Kowalczyk are both APRs. They encouraged me to pursue it and I’m so glad I did. I’m proud to join many friends and former colleagues in the local APR group. I look forward to when we can gather again!

Describe how this process of studying and working towards your accreditation was during the pandemic? Were there any challenges or lessons learned? 

It was a year-long process. The first part was to prepare a presentation based on a PR project that I led. I delivered the presentation in front of a panel of APR judges last December before the pandemic. After passing the presentation, I had through the end of October this year to take the APR exam. I studied for about a month prior to taking the exam remotely in October due to the pandemic.

Since receiving your APR, how have you implemented your learnings into your professional career? 

Studying for the APR reinforced much of what I have been practicing throughout my career. I enjoy helping clients to identify their PR goals and objectives and coming up with creative ways to help achieve them through strategic planning. It’s also rewarding to help clients navigate crises—this year has been especially challenging for so many.

What was your biggest takeaway from this process?

It’s important to build PR on a strong strategic foundation. While it may be easy to jump into short-term tactics, there is no substitute for a solid strategic plan based on research with built-in analytics to measure effectiveness and results. I learned so much through the APR process and I’d like to thank my colleagues at McDougall for their encouragement!


Rich’s Interview:

When did you decide you wanted to apply for your APR? Was this a goal you always wanted to work towards in your career?

My favorite part about the APR is the commitment to lifelong learning it supports, as the requirement to recertify every three years ensures you'll be focused on continuous education in the PR field. APR became a goal of mine back when the NE District Conference was last hosted in Rochester. I attended an APR Workshop, and it was a great way to learn the ins and outs of the APR process. While timing didn't work out for me back then, I figured 2019 was as good a time as any to officially start the process.

Describe how this process of studying and working towards your accreditation was during the pandemic? Were there any challenges or lessons learned? 

The biggest lesson I'd say is to make sure you consistently carve out time to study throughout the process, even if it's 15-30 minutes a day. It's not an exam you can cram for, and that regularity keeps the information top-of-mind. While I was able to complete my panel portion pre-pandemic, the pandemic and resulting closures hit about three weeks before I was supposed to take the exam. With our testing site closed and PRSA not providing virtual proctoring until late-June, I wasn't certain if I'd meet my one-year deadline. For some reason, I was having issues with the virtual proctoring technologies on my computer, so I had to wait until the testing site reopened, which happened in August just before my one-year deadline was up (phew!). Fortunately, our PRSA Rochester APR Chairs, Patty and Jamie, as well as PRSA National, are excellent, easy to reach resources who are always happy to work with you on any issues you're experiencing.

What learnings from your studies for the APR accreditation have been most useful to you in relation to your current role? 

Revisiting the research and communication theories has been very helpful. Pairing these learnings with the creation of our plan at work has allowed me to put more weight and theoretical learnings in place to better support our methods, practices and strategies. Also, Ethics, First Amendment and Comm Law are always important topics for us to keep fresh in our minds, and the APR process is an excellent way to revisit and refresh your knowledge in these areas.

What advice would you share with fellow PRSA members who are interested in earning an APR accreditation? 

If you're interested, go for it! Learn as much as you can about the APR process so there aren't any surprises about the timeline. There's never going to be a definite "good time" to devote a year of your life to studying, case studies and exams. If you're interested, reach out to Patty and Jamie to learn more, and if you're motivated to get your APR, sign up. There was no greater motivator for me than being on the 12-month clock once I officially submitted my paperwork.

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