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The Role of PR in Advancing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

On June 18, we were joined by 24 communications professionals for a candid conversation on how we as public relations professionals have an opportunity to play an important role in shaping how our organizations, and our chapter, address diversity, equity and inclusion issues. Moderated by executive coaches and senior PR professionals Tracy Imm, APR, and Cathy Nyce, the chat was held as part of PRSA Maryland’s promise to continue to work to be more diverse and inclusive through meaningful and measurable goals.

*Due to the nature of the chat, it was not recorded but below is a quick snapshot of what was discussed.

“Your professional life starts with who you are. By pursuing transformational change, you can, and, and in fact, must change yourself. The act of working for transformation is transformative.”

On a personal level, Cathy Nyce led us in an exercise on how to develop a Personal Declaration to guide our actions. We can begin by asking …

  • What do I believe?
  • To what am I committed?
  • What is my growth edge?
  • What is important to me? Why?
  • What are the contributions I want to make?
  • How will I know when I am standing in my declaration? Note: looks like speaking out, making a contribution; not standing is staying silence

On a professional level, we talked about holding our organizational leadership accountable for statements and making sure they follow through with concrete actions. One challenge discussed was what to do if your organization’s leadership is hesitant to wade into social issues. Suggestions included pointing out that they do not want to be on wrong side of issues or left behind. Broaden their view illustrating where they may already be in that space on other issues. Also, stressing that doing nothing could be affecting future recruitment. The younger generation are activists as well as more diverse and integrated. They are asking about organizations ethics and values; critical talent could be loss if an organization seems uncaring.

We also talked about how important it is to reach out internally to employees. Suggested actions include surveying employees on what they need in terms of resources, offering mental health services to minority employees, and making DE&I part of the strategic plan.

Finally, we asked what we can do as a chapter to support our members. Below is a list of some of the suggestions:

  • provide more resources.
  • review the chapter’s strategic plan, and add diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives (short term and long-term goals).
  • partner with minority organizations such as HBCUs, etc. to increase connections and networking
  • offer pro bono work with a minority organizations, businesses, and non-profits.
  • survey minority members in their experiences with PRSA.
  • reach out to PR minority students. Support internships in agencies.

This is, of course, only one step in the long process of advocating for change within our professional and we welcome all our members to participate in the ongoing conversation. We will be continuing the conversation begun at our 2018 and 2019 annual conferences with expanded dialogue at our 2020 virtual conference on racism in our city, and specifically in our industry, and systematic ways to overcome it. Save the date for Sept. 24 and 25!

 

Update! We are pleased to announce that after this chat, two participants stepped forward to lead our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. They will be working on building the committee over the summer and begin creating a strategic plan and DEI metrics to be launched in January 2021. Email us if you would like to be part of the initiative.

The new COVID challenge >> too many zoom meetings! Let’s hack the virtual meeting!

We held our 4th #PRSAMDWeeklyChat on Friday, May 1 where we “hacked” the virtual meeting. Led by Maryland Chapter administrator Peggy Hoffman, the chat delved into how we can alleviate some of the pain points of virtual meetings and shift them from dreaded to welcomed 

Listen below for the full chat or see recap for some of the top tips shared by all the participants. And for more tips, check out Peggy’s list at Virtual Meetings? Let’s Make Them Engaging! 

Tips for all participants:  

  • Use a virtual background such as a portable web around screen or virtual background (see Howfinity to learn how to add). Tip: use an image off a photo site such as Big Stock, IStock, etc., or have a professional do one for you.  
  • If not using a virtual background, know what is going on behind you. Be sure there is enough light but no glare. A light in front of you is recommended.  
  • The camera angle is key. Be sure to look into the camera, not at your screen.  
  • Raise your laptop up so you are not looking down.  
  • Put white piece of paper or foamcore below your chin to lighten the face (see 5 simple ways to improve your Skype calls for more).
  • Mute your mic until you want to participate. Also turn off email and calendar alerts. 

Tips for meeting planners:  

*Don’t have people just sit there … keep them engaged. 

  • Create a theme of the day. Be creative and make each day different. 
  • Have a powerful agenda. Review at top of meeting to stay on track. 
  • Use a slide deck only when you need it. Put it away when you don’t so you can see the participants.  
  • Use a virtual white board, i.e., Trello board, split screen (Zoom/Board) 
  • Split up into groups, i.e., Zoom Rooms. If no breakout options, use Google doc to collaborate in groups.  
  • Insert polls and fun slides into presentations. 
  • End early. Leave them all wanting more.

Getting and keeping participants engaged:  

  • Ask participants to change their names to something fun, i.e., superheroes, famous people.  
  • Ask people to do things, i.e., if someone has a great suggestion, ask them to post in chat.  
  • Use interactive buttons to keep participates engaged: Chat to share tips, comments; Reactions to insert Thumbs up/Thumbs Down, Clap Hands; Raise Hand to hold a vote.
  • Be human. Add fun items to the meetings such as wear or share fun items, i.e., Mickey Mouse ears, mugs ect.; have surprise guests, i.e., pets, family members; include a virtual tour of an animal farm via Goat-2-Meeting.
  • Allow participants to share as needed. Allowing people to share funny stories/ gripes/ tips for dealing has been really key at the beginning of internal meetings.
  • Encourage stretch breaks. 
  • Monitor to see if people are checking out. Be flexible. 

Additional tips on using Zoom:  

  • Zoom shortcut key: to Mute/Unmute microphone – hold down space bar when talking and release when not 
  • Know the difference between meetings (everyone is on video) vs. webinars (only moderator/presenters are on video).  
  • Copy chats after meeting using three ellipsis at bottom of chat.

Staying Ahead of the Spread – PR and COVID-19

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch from Pexels

By Jeffrey Davis, APR

With the coronavirus (COVID-19) elevated to global pandemic status, the phase of precautionary wait-and-see measures has passed, including for your communications strategy.

Particularly for organizations on the front lines – from seniors housing to tourism to major conferences – how and when you connect about the outbreak is imperative to fostering reassurance and trust.

A public health crisis doesn’t have to send you into a messaging tailspin. Here are rapid response tips on how to prepare:

Employees First
Focus first on internal communications to emphasize safety and share the policies and actions your company is actively taking.

Think beyond a single all-staff email that may go unread and opt for over-communication. Coordinate with HR to use all the available avenues like signs in common areas, social media, infographics and videos.

At our Baltimore office the management team has sent a reassuring visual message with small actions like doubled soap products in the restrooms and wipes and sanitizing cleaner stations in the common areas.

Employees need to know if/how you are encouraging a change in routines such as using technology to decrease unnecessary human contact. Let people know if you endorse work-from-home to prevent contamination and if you have any updated sick leave policies.

Now is also an OK time to highlight how you are helping any coronavirus response efforts, financially or otherwise, and to encourage other companies to follow suit.

Consider the Source
Skip the politics and rhetoric by going straight to trusted institutions, staffed with expert immunologists and doctors, as sources for facts and recommendations.

At the top of the list are the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the World Health Organization.

Remember to keep the tone of your communications strong but temperate, promoting awareness and not panic.

Consult Your Crisis Communications Plan
This is the moment to put your crisis PR plan into motion.

Begin with the crisis communications basics: identification of team members; assignment of tasks; updates to template statements; and verification of current contact information including access to social media/passwords.

Next, look at the possible scenarios specific to your organization and plan accordingly. These could include leadership or employees diagnosed with COVID-19; travel policies and restrictions; impact on production or delivery of products; and questions about executive level decision-making which could be called into question.

Industry organizations are helping members with communications, so take advantage of their expertise.

For example, the U.S. Travel Association posted a holding statement, a set of talking points and a social media guide with sample posts and images specific to coronavirus. One of U.S. Travel’s messages: “The challenge in moments of public health concern is to react properly to the situation, but to not overreact.”

If you delayed or canceled an event you will need to announce the decision quickly. Even more important: if you elected to proceed with an event your messaging is extremely important as the reasoning behind the decision will receive extra attention and scrutiny.

Prepare but Preserve Your Narrative
One of your employees, a family member, or neighboring company could become infected or impacted. If word gets out and connects you in any way to the outbreak you must be prepared for questions – both internal and external – about policies you have in place and the steps you took. You need to have an answer.

Weave into your messaging how you prepared for and came out strong after SARS, Ebola, H1N1 and similar outbreaks in past years. This demonstrates your preparedness and confidence in weathering another outbreak.

At the same time, don’t allow COVID-19 to take over your narrative. Be proactive and ready to answer questions but remember you have broader organizational messages to deliver. Make sure this new topic is part of your ongoing spokesperson prep and is included in your media training exercises.

If you need assistance in messaging, crisis communications planning or getting the word out we are ready to help.

Jeffrey Davis is managing partner with Van Eperen, a Board Member of PRSA Maryland, and  Baltimore editor of Capitol Communicator.

A Maryland PR Pro’s ‘America in Miniature’ Slogan Offers a Better Idea for Election Diversity

by Jeffrey Davis, APR

Originally printed in Capitol Communicator 2/13/2020. Reprinted with permission. 

The Iowa caucus digital disaster prompted many of us to question the confusing and not-so-reliable system. Neighbors gathering in churches and libraries to convince each other to huddle under a sign for their candidate? Then it takes over a week to tabulate the results?

Not only is there a crisis communications lesson in how (not) to launch a simple but untested app, but it reminds us how a Maryland PR pro might have tipped us off to a better approach many decades ago.

Born in Western Maryland, the late Paul E. Welsh had an impressive public relations career in Baltimore, working as a reporter for The Sun from 1940 to 1955, and then PR for the new team in town, the Baltimore Orioles. He retired in 1978 after 21 years in public affairs at McCormick & Co.

Each year the Maryland Chapter of PRSA marks his legacy with the Paul E. Welsh Award, recognizing a PR pro who exemplifies his creative talent. In 2019, Van Eperen’s own Emily McDermott was honored with the prestigious award.

Welsh’s most enduring brainstorm came in 1939 when he created the slogan, “Maryland — America in Miniature.”

Picture yourself high above the mountains of Western Maryland near Welsh’s birthplace in Cumberland, Md., then heading past acres of farmland and rural communities. Then over the parks, row homes and office buildings of Baltimore, toward the Inner Harbor. Then it’s off to Annapolis, across the Chesapeake Bay and the rivers and marshland of the Eastern Shore and down to the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean.

That’s the Maryland version of “sea to shining sea,” and the people of Maryland are just as diverse as the terrain. Much more than the 90% white Iowa and 93% white New Hampshire. About a third of Maryland’s population is African American, 10% are Hispanic, and 7% are Asian, according to a census study by Wallet Hub showing that half of Maryland is white. Gaithersburg is the most diverse municipality in Maryland, followed by Hyattsville, Rockville, College Park and Greenbelt, which are among the top seven in the U.S. according to that study.

For that Iowa feel, candidates can meet with the farmers and visit the rural communities of the Eastern Shore and the northern counties. Montgomery and Prince George’s counties next to Washington, D.C. will test the views of the suburban voter, and of course there’s Baltimore and the complexities that come with an urban center.

Multiple media markets offer candidates a television presence for those campaign ads, including Salisbury and Hagerstown, and of course Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

And Maryland is compact, meaning more efficient travel and less exhaust and gasoline consumption for those campaign SUVs and buses. The food’s not bad either, so candidates can skip the staged diner interviews for something with more variety.

Let the Iowans gather in the gymnasiums and caucus all they want but imagine how the political landscape would change if Maryland voted first, allowing for a more accurate reveal of what a cross-section of Americans sees in the candidates.

Jeffrey Davis is managing partner with Van Eperen, a Board Member of PRSA Maryland, and  Baltimore editor of Capitol Communicator.

PRSA Maryland Chapter Bestows 44 “Best in Maryland” and Professional Awards

Best in Show Winners: Pictured left to right are: Chuck Fitzgibbon, Weber Shandwick, and members of Chesapeake Employers Insurance’s  Communications team:  Jim Taylor; Claudia Ciolfi; Dianna Fornaro, APR; Donna Wilson; Meaghan Yurek; Carolyn Gutermuth; and Archie Johnson.

The Public Relations Society of America Maryland Chapter (PRSA MD) presented its 2018 Best in Maryland awards December 11. Best in Maryland showcases exemplary efforts in public relations, communications, and marketing by PR firms, solo practitioners, marketing agencies, associations, and corporate communications teams. Kate Amara, reporter, and Barry Simms, I-Team reporter, both at WBAL-TV in Baltimore, emceed the Best in Maryland Gala and Holiday Party, December 11, at Martin’s West in Baltimore.

The 2018 Best in Show, the top BIM winner from all categories, was awarded to the Towson-based Chesapeake Employers’ Insurance Company for its, “Let’s Work to Reduce Opioid Addiction Now” reputation/brand management campaign.

Best in Maryland is the top award in each category, followed by the Awards of Excellence, if appropriate. The following are winners in the PR campaigns category:

Community Relations
Award of Excellence: Hope Lives Here Fundraising Program, Chase Brexton Health Care and  Devaney & Associates

Crisis Communications
Best in Maryland: Hurricane Harvey & Irma Response, Erickson Living

Events and Observances fewer than 7 days
Best in Maryland: Sheetz Launches Made-to-Order Cafe in Charlottesville, Planit
Award of Excellence: Beyond Bars 25th Anniversary commemoration, Girl Scouts of Central Maryland

Events and Observances more than 7 days
Best in Maryland: Belair Road Supply Centennial Anniversary, Clapp Communications

Integrated Communications
Best in Maryland: Integrace Brand Awareness Campaign, Integrace and Devaney & Associates
Award of Excellence: New Laws Campaign, Maryland Auto Insurance

Internal Communications
Best in Maryland: Be a Customer Service Superhero, Chesapeake Employers’ Insurance Company
Award of Excellence: 2017 Employee Engagement, Building a Better Workday, LifeBridge Health

Marketing
Best in Maryland: We Love Lifting You Higher, BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport and Weber Shandwick
Award of Excellence: BGE Lighting Discount Campaign, BGE

Multicultural
Best in Maryland: New Laws Campaign, Maryland Auto Insurance

Public Service
Best in Maryland: Raising Awareness of the Maryland Poison Center, University of Maryland School of Pharmacy
Award of Excellence: Annual Check-Up Campaign, Carroll Hospital and Devaney & Associates
Award of Excellence: New Laws Campaign, Maryland Auto Insurance

Reputation/Brand Management
Best in Maryland: Let’s Work to Reduce Opioid Addiction Now, Chesapeake Employers’ Insurance Company

The following are the winners in the category of PR components:

Advertorials
Best in Maryland: Spanish-language Advertorials, Maryland Auto Insurance

Annual Reports
Best in Maryland: Building Stronger Connections – 2016 Annual Report, Chesapeake Employers’ Insurance Company
Award of Excellence: Maryland/DC 2017 Annual Impact Report, The Nature Conservancy in Maryland/DC

Blogs
Best in Maryland: Flooding the Swamp: Pocomoke Restoration, The Nature Conservancy in Maryland/DC
Award of Excellence: Van Eperen Voices, Van Eperen

Creative Tactics – Assoc/Nonprofit/Govt
Best in Maryland: Maryland Auto Minute, Maryland Auto Insurance

Editorial/Op-Ed Columns/Story Placement
Best in Maryland: Don’t Trash Maryland, Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration
Award of Excellence: Private Sector Solutions, Public Sector Challenges, Greater Baltimore Committee
Award of Excellence: Voice of America, Van Eperen

Magazines/Newsletters – Print
Best in Maryland: A Healthy Dose Magazine, Carroll Hospital and Devaney & Associates

Media Relations – Assoc/Nonprofit/Govt
Best in Maryland: Integrace Media Relations Campaign, Devaney & Associates
Award of Excellence: The Investment Gap in Spending on Infrastructure, American Society of Civil Engineers & News Generation, Inc.

Media Relations – For Profit
Best in Maryland: Charm City Bluegrass Festival, Planit
Award of Excellence: Supporting PC44 and Maryland’s Electric Vehicle Goals, Baltimore Gas and Electric
Award of Excellence: CBRB Mid-Atlantic President Media Tour, Clapp Communications

Publications
Award of Excellence: 2018 Scholarly Journals Catalog, JHU Press Journals Division

Social Media – Assoc/Nonprofit/Govt
Best in Maryland: “Victories for Veterans” Social Media Video Series, Crosby Marketing Communications
Award of Excellence: Securing America’s Future: The Power of Liberal Arts Education, Van Eperen and Council of Independent Colleges

Social Media – For Profit
Best in Maryland: Powering Lives Through Corporate Citizenship, BGE

Videos
Best in Maryland: SPARK Incubator – JPEO-CBRND, A. Bright Idea
Award of Excellence: Overcoming Opioids, Maryland Public Television

Websites
Best in Maryland: ForYourMarriage.org Relaunch, Crosby Marketing Communications

Click here to read winning entries summaries.

Professional and leadership awards were also given and include:

  • Lifetime Achievement Award – Pattie Yu, nationally recognized communications counselor and founder of Maryland PR agency, The Yu Crew
  • Educator of the Year Award – Tania Rosas-Moreno, Ph.D., associate professor of Communication at Loyola University Maryland
  • Rising Star Award – Catherine Gordon, associate, Client Experience, Weber Shandwick, Baltimore
  • PR Team of the Year Award – Lisa Brusio Coster, president of Coster Communications, and Dorothy Fuchs-Yeager, president of Purple Dot PR
  • Partner of Distinction Award – Mariner Management & Marketing in Columbia, MD, an association management firm that has been servicing PRSA MD for 13 years

Click here to read more on our professional award honorees.

The 2018 sponsors were Coster Communications, Purple Dot PR, Coyle Studios, Lisa Fargnoli, and In Tandem Design.

Click here to see who was there.

About PRSA Maryland
The Maryland Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA Maryland) helps public relations and communications professionals stay connected professionally and personally. As part of the nation’s largest and foremost organization of communication professionals, PRSA Maryland offers networking, training, resources and support to assist members in practicing public relations at the speed of communication. Click here to learn more.

Thank You to Our Chapter Sponsors

Thank You to Our Chapter Sponsors