Ron Culp #withUFPRSSA


From Chicago to Gainesville, Ron Culp, a veteran professional in the PR world, came on April 17 to speak to UF PRSSA members about the state of the industry, how to differentiate yourself from the crowd of resumes and applicants, and the importance of LinkedIn and other social media networks, among other topics. Culp, who is now an educator at DePaul University, shared his story and professional background and answered questions fielded from Twitter, those who attended, and his own students back at DePaul.

He touched on the job market and the growth of opportunities in the industry, including increases in salary for PR positions. While the opportunities are there and the market is competitive, future practitioners beware: being a PR executive is considered to be the fifth most stressful job, as Culp noted. But for those who are still aspiring to pursue a career in PR, he offered three tips on how to land a job in the industry.

First, differentiating yourself is an absolute must in order to stand out in a stack of resumes. To emphasize his point, Culp rolled out a 31-foot list of candidates who applied for a particular position at an agency. Out of the thousands of applicants only about 20 to 30 candidates were considered finalists for the position. Joining PRSSA and being active in organizations and clubs were just some of the tips he offered about trying to separate yourself from the crowd.

Then, he emphasized the importance of networking, particularly with fellow students and using social media. Specifically, Culp encouraged the use of LinkedIn and said that it should be at the top of his top 3 business social media platforms, with Twitter and Facebook following close behind. When turning to social media, be sure to follow and engage with professionals and topics that you’re interested in and personalize your invitations on LinkedIn. Networking digitally is great but forming connections in person is even better. He said to try to meet with guest speakers who are invited to classes and those people you encounter at conferences and networking events.

Finally, Culp discussed the need for a solid resume that reflects your volunteering experience, internships, involvement, and skills. He noted that students should actively engage online, write for campus publications and guest posts, post comments and show interest in a variety of topics. So, the next time you’re at a magazine stand, buy the magazine you’d be least interested in reading and go from there.

Some other advice he offered was to not be afraid of asking questions, particularly to your boss, and also mentioned actively engaging with them and asking about their work. Culp said getting to know business and being able to speak about it is important in knowing how to “move the needle” and explain how PR affects the bottom line to executives.

Overall, he said it’s about putting the time in early on in your career, making yourself stand out, and network, network, network. And if you don’t enjoy the jobs you’re doing, it’s best to move on.

Follow Ron on Twitter @culpwrit and read his blog at

Written by Will Clewis

Advice from a Disney director of communications


As the director of communications and public affairs for Disney Signature Experiences, Cynthia Martinez shared her expert experience with members of UF PRSSA and HPRSA on Monday, March 18. With many opportunities in the communications field, Martinez offered her professional advice for students, emphasizing her top three skills needed to succeed.

UF PRSSA’s Vice President of Programming Leah Antovel and HPRSA’s Public Relations Director Marta Sanchez prepared a Q&A session to give students the opportunity to hear Martinez’s background, career experience and lessons she has learned. Her laid back and relaxed demeanor reflected her authenticity in answering questions, allowing students to learn and apply what was said.

Throughout the entirety of the session, Martinez continuously stressed the importance of writing.  

“Writing is too important to not know how to do it,” Martinez said.  

In public relations, writing is at the center of our work. With press releases and press kits, it’s vital to understand the importance of strategically connecting with the audience. Storytelling is key to the public relations industry. Martinez has found it important to create content the way people are used to digesting it. Learn to tell the story in a way that personalizes the message to your audience.  

In her various public relations positions, Martinez emphasized the importance of getting experience. Asking questions and volunteering to work on projects is the best way to accomplish this. Seeking work in different areas of the profession allows one to know his or her own strengths and weaknesses.

Learn, ask questions, soak it in.

It’s better to ask now than to make a mistake later. In addition, it’s also vital to have a broad picture of the communications plan. Asking what the brand wishes to accomplish and how to accomplish the task is essential.

The top three skills Martinez suggested students should focus on include writing, media relations and social media.  In writing, professionals need to understand how to use different styles and voices.  This is effective in communicating a message to the audience. With media relations, learn the importance of the relationship. The media can be used to benefit a brand and effectively communicate messages.  Lastly, social media’s popularity influences how people communicate with each other. Understand how it impacts a brand.

During the hiring process, Martinez shared the important qualities she looks for when hiring new team members. First, she looks at the cultural fit. It’s crucial that the person fits with the environment. Having the ability to work with others can impact the overall content produced.  Martinez admitted that at the end of the interview process for potential employees, she asks two situational questions: “You had a really good day, what is it that made that day good? You had a really bad day, what is it that made that day bad?” These questions measure what someone views as successful and what throws someone off.

The Disney Signature Experiences director encouraged students to gain experience by exploring different areas. With Martinez’s expert advice and goal-driven knowledge, students were able to understand the role writing and storytelling play in the evolving public relations industry.


Written by Ashtyn Steele

Cover Photo from Beam Travel

It Is Your Crisis Conference: Takeaways from Regional Conference


UF PRSSA traveled to Statesboro, Georgia this weekend to attend the first PRSSA Regional Conference of the year.

Over the course of two days, members listened to the stories of guest speakers, networked with other students and professionals, and worked through “The Office” themed crisis workshops.

Here are the key takeaways from the conference:

Keynote speaker: PR and Communications Manager for Moe’s Southwest Grill, Lindsay Haynes, APR

Haynes described reputation management as influencing and controlling the public perception of a person or organization. The Queso Competition, Three Amigos Taco Competition and Mean Tweets are all great examples of PR campaigns that Moe’s implemented to boost their reputation.

Another point Haynes made very clear is that authenticity plays a major role in brand personality during a crisis or a PR campaign. As a company, you need to stay true to your values. However, it is important for you to be able to separate your own personal brand from the company’s during this process.

Guest speaker: Employment Brand Strategist for Cox Enterprises, Briana Daugherty

As an employment branding strategist, you have to constantly look at how your company is perceived by consumers, employers and potential applicants. Knowing how to promote the company’s culture, environment and leaders to the public is essential.

Here are six steps to follow when responding to negativity:

  1. Listen

  2. Know if and when to respond

  3. Set up a response flowchart

  4. Acknowledge the problem

  5. Respond

  6. Learn

Guest speaker: Auctioneer, Alex Grovenstein

When it comes to dealing with a crisis, having a team is important because it brings people of different backgrounds together and offers different perspectives for every scenario.

Grovenstein created the crisis ABCs:

Always have a seat at the table. Doing so will ensure that you are fully immersed in the company’s culture and leadership.

Be proactive. Always plan ahead for things that could happen, because things are always going to happen.

Communicate the truth.

Written by Amanda Carr

"What Are You Planning On Doing With That?"

You’ve survived Thanksgiving and now you’re in the home stretch for the holidays. As any typical college student, you look forward to the breaks as they are safe havens from exams and endless assignments. However, the holidays also entail reconnecting with old faces. A lot of them.

Unfortunately, these people aren’t the lovely friends you’ve met at college. They’re the vaguely familiar relatives that you see once a year. Apart from cool uncle John, most of them are out of touch with your life, and that one conversation you have each year never varies. 

If you’re studying public relations, then there’s a rare chance that anybody remembered what your major is. Every conversation you gently remind them, and after an acknowledged nod follows an all-too-expected, “So what are you planning to do with that?” For some reason, no one assumes that PR is the intended career. 

Public relations is a relatively new academic field, so the plan of practicing PR isn’t obvious to many. It’s moments like these where I wish I could tell people I’m going to be a doctor or a lawyer, the degrees that come with instant understanding and appreciation. Why is it that majors outside of STEM or business undermined?

Society seems to have a skewed view on the value of certain careers. Expertise in fields like history, art, and linguistics are undervalued because the direct results aren’t obvious. Unlike a doctor who can physically stitch up a wound, it takes years for a linguist to uncover ancient language roots. The stitched wound is immediate, which is why it’s easy for us to understand its usefulness. A linguist's work will contribute valuable knowledge that will construct history we can’t yet see nor use, but it doesn’t make it any less important. 

The issue lies in our perception of the word useful, which is why STEM careers are easily acknowledged in today’s world. Jobs that work behind the scenes have a subtle, yet great effect on society. An average English teacher is responsible for fostering the communication of hundreds of students. The job is underpaid, but these individuals spend years investing their energy into students who in turn use the knowledge in the future. This lack of appreciation is harmful because all jobs have a role in society. For example, there is so much technology that facilitates communication, but it’s useless if we are unable to have a conversation.  

As future PR practitioners, it’s going to be our job to have those conversations with our public, and unfortunately, it’ll be on us to prove the worth of our work. Unlike doctors and lawyers, our results aren’t always obvious, just as our careers aren’t obvious. To legitimize our communicative work in a world that increasingly demands it, we will have to purposefully act to prove results.

So, what am I planning to do with my major? I’m planning to use my earned degree to work for an agency or a company that I’m passionate about. I’m planning to work in public relations so that I can engage in honest, positive and meaningful messages.

Written by Victoria Goncharova

UF PRSSA partners with Connect Our Kids for holiday campaign

UF PRSSA members Celeste Mahfood, Valentina Pinzon and Christine Skofronick participating in the #FosteringFamilyTraditions campaign at our holiday social event

UF PRSSA members Celeste Mahfood, Valentina Pinzon and Christine Skofronick participating in the #FosteringFamilyTraditions campaign at our holiday social event

As part of our community service project, UF PRSSA partnered with Connect Our Kids (COK) for the second year in a row. This year, we helped COK with its #FosteringFamilyTraditions campaign.

COK is a non-profit organization that aims to bridge the gaps in technology in the foster care system. The #FosteringFamilyTraditions campaign is a nationwide effort to raise money throughout the holiday season so COK can develop intelligent software that will dramatically improve the family recruitment process.

UF PRSSA encouraged members and their friends to publish a brief video or photo on social media to share their family holiday traditions, donate $6 and ask six friends to do the same.

Andrea Mora, VP of Chapter Development, organized a committee to help with graphics, recruit friends and family to participate, and help people take their videos and photos at our holiday social.

Andrea Mora, VP of Chapter Development, holding the raffle jar and gift cards

Andrea Mora, VP of Chapter Development, holding the raffle jar and gift cards

“I loved having the opportunity to be a part of this campaign,” Ashtyn Steele, UF PRSSA member, said. “It allowed me to grow in experience and contribute to a cause that positively affects children in foster care.”

UF PRSSA secured gift cards to Mi Apa, Gator BTW and Gator’s Dockside for participants to win in a raffle at our holiday social event. For every #FosteringFamilyTraditions post a member published on each of their social media platforms, one ticket with their name was entered in the raffle. The winners of the raffle were Christine Skofronick (twice!) and Taylor Hadden.

Last year, Give BIG America, Connect Our Kids’ national fundraising campaign, raised $25,000. This year, UF PRSSA wanted to help COK continue that momentum. We thank COK for allowing us to support its mission to change the lives of foster children across the country.

“By sharing my family tradition, I realized that not everyone is fortunate enough to experience their own traditions,” Rosa Medina, UF PRSSA member, said. “Raising awareness and raising funds for this cause was a great idea.”

UF PRSSA members Carly Rogers and Taylor Hadden posing for their #FosteringFamilyTraditions campaign photo

UF PRSSA members Carly Rogers and Taylor Hadden posing for their #FosteringFamilyTraditions campaign photo

Written by Amanda Carr

Photos by Amanda Carr

Advice with Andy Polansky

On Monday, Nov. 19, CEO of Weber Shandwick, Andy Polansky visited the University of Florida to answer questions about the industry and share his advice to students. As the chief executive officer of Weber Shandwick, one of the world's leading communication and marketing services, Polansky focuses on client services, collaboration, and the value of firm's culture, while also striving to recruit a diverse group of employees in order to breed innovation. In the process, he has made Weber Shandwick an award-winning agency that is continuously paving the way for the public relations industry. During the Q&A, he left students with the following advice:

1.    Mix it up. 

During your undergraduate career, make sure to expand your knowledge on different topics. Don't just take public relations classes; expand your horizons and venture into politics, multicultural studies, business, etc. This will not only make you more well-rounded but allows you to contribute more to your place of work. 

2.    Have a voice.

Believe in something and stand behind your beliefs. If you're passionate about a specific topic, use your platform and be knowledgeable about what you're saying. When applying for positions, use your values to your advantage. Research the company and if there is something that you both value, bring it up in a conversation! It will make you stand out and show that you are passionate about the company.

3.    Have breadth in your experiences. 

Make sure to seize every opportunity and gain as much experience as you can. The different experiences you have can create new outlooks and ideas that you can share. 

4.    Test the waters and find your people. 

Whether your heart is set on an agency, corporate, or non-profit work, stay open-minded and test out different areas of PR. Keep in mind that what's most important is the people that you work with. Ask yourself, "Do they uplift you and make work an enjoyable environment to be in?" If the people around you don't make work an enjoyable one, it's okay to say goodbye. 

5.    Be mindful of potential growth opportunity. 

Make sure there is room to grow within your organization or company. Is your place of work going to give you opportunities, or will they keep the same person in position even if you could do a better job?  

Written by Jada Crespo

Photo taken by Jackson Chabot

What to Tell Your Friends and Family Who Don't Know What PR Is

You researched public relations extensively. You understand what kind of careers it offers, and you even know where you want to be in five years. Your friends and family, however, have no clue what PR is, and you’re not sure what to tell them.

Like many other public relations majors, you find yourself frequently explaining what PR is to your friends and family. So often that you aren't even sure what it is. Well, maybe not. But it would be nice if there was just a simple way to tell those curious people--  because who are we kidding? Public relations is a wide variety of things with a lot to explain.

How about we start with the basic: Ask your curious friend or family member what their favorite company is and why. One of the reasons they love that company is probably its ability to communicate effectively. It is important for companies to uphold a relationship with their consumers and key publics. They do this by maintaining a strong social media presence and finding unique ways to engage with and involve the public in their decisions. Public relations is a bridge between the media and the company. Companies need to be careful not to burn it. But if they do, there’s always a PR team ready to help rebuild the damage.  

Public relations is also the immediate image and feelings you get when you think about a particular company. Ask your friend to think about Nike. They probably immediately thought of a check mark, right? They probably also thought of sports and felt motivated to act, given their slogan, “Just Do It.” Their overall feelings are due to brand recognition and reputation, and there is a PR team behind that, as well. Public relations is responsible for promoting the brand of a company and ensuring that they look favorable to the eyes of the public. PR is both proactive in maintaining a positive image and reactive when crises occur.

Finally, ask your friend if they’ve ever been the target of a social campaign that resulted in them pledging to not smoke tobacco or to practice safe sex. Well, that's PR! PR is made up of organized campaigns that result in a shift in public behavior. Campaigns consist of a series of activities and planned events that ultimately relate to a specific goal. This goal can be to increase public engagement with a company or to build awareness for a specific cause. Think of PR as the social influencers behind companies and their brand; they help spread viral conversations.

Explaining PR to your friends and family members can be daunting at first, but once you identify examples that surround you in the media today, you can help simplify it. Instead of giving them the textbook definition, provide them with real-world experiences. Chances are, they have been influenced by a PR team before.

Written by Tamarra Thal

PRSSA President Elections

The University of Florida’s Public Relations Student Society of America, PRSSA, elected its 51st president Wednesday, January 24 with a unanimous vote.

Jordan McCrary, 20, a junior public relations major, was named PRSSA president-elect for the 2018-2019 academic year.

“It feels like an accomplishment because I feel like I have given so much to this organization over the last 3 years,” McCrary said. “I love our members and the faculty that supports us, the college that supports us as well as the university that supports us.”

Nicole Graney, PRSSA President 2017-2018 (Left) and Jordan McCrary, PRSSA President-Elect 2018-2019 (Right)

Nicole Graney, PRSSA President 2017-2018 (Left) and Jordan McCrary, PRSSA President-Elect 2018-2019 (Right)

Nicole Graney, 20, is the current president of PRSSA and will be working to make the transition of leadership seamless.

“We, unlike other chapters, have our elections early in the semester in order to have a training period,” Graney said.

UF PRSSA is an alpha chapter of the National PRSSA society and was formed 50 years ago. It was one of the first professional organizations at UF.

According to the PRSSA website, its mission is, “To provide exceptional service to our members by enhancing their education, broadening their processional network and helping laugh their careers after graduation.”

McCrary wants to ensure that UF’s chapter returns to its roots and focuses on working with each other.

“We need to start from the ground up again,” McCrary said. “A lot of our members don’t even know the people that are sitting next to them at meetings.”

McCrary would like to see the organization’s members move to find value in each other and build a network within the local chapter.

Kay Tappan, a lecturer in the department of public relations, is the adviser to UF’s PRSSA.

“I am very excited for this next chapter for PRSSA,” Tappan said. “Jordan has worked hard and done a lot of things this year for the chapter as vice president.”

PRSSA is open to all majors, and McCrary and Graney encourage everyone to join.

The remaining PRSSA executive board members will be elected on April 4.

Story written by Jordan Johnson


Wise Words From Public Relations Experts Pat Ford and Marcia DiStaso

At 6:15 P.M. on Wednesday, November 10, the students of PRSSA assembled in the College of Journalism and Communications for a general body meeting featuring two of UF’s own on-campus PR experts. Speakers Pat Ford, a UF Professional-in-Residence and Senior Advisor for Burson-Marsteller, and Marcia DiStaso, a UF PR professor and the Public Relations Chair, opened up about their experience and expertise working among the top agencies and PR professionals in the world.

Pat Ford imparted valuable advice as well as an absorbing account of his professional career, with a resounding passion for the values which he holds foremost in all his work. Ford’s 28 years of experience working with renowned PR agency Burson-Marsteller is marked by responsibility for client satisfaction and the immense pride which he took in his agency’s projects. Though exemplifying excellence and prestige, it is Ford’s habit of bolstering others, especially young professionals, and his intent to meaningfully impact the world which has defined his career. Above all, he advocates for diversity, holding the Diversity Champion award as testimony.  

The clearest message delivered that night was the value of an altruistic attitude. As Marcia DiStaso espoused the prominence of UF’s PR program, Ford expanded on the stirring effects of industry leaders. A high achiever himself, he remained aware of the long road of progress ahead and his capacity to create headway. Both speakers stayed in line with this message regarding advice on achievement in the industry itself.

“Half of succeeding in this business is to just care,” DiStaso said.  

Ford’s approach to excellence was encapsulated as he responded to a student’s question, “Is it a young person’s game?” In tentative confirmation, Ford pointed out the importance of constantly monitoring news and trends. The question reflected the fast pace of the industry and the necessity of staying up-to-date. Rather than taking youthful advantage as a sort of deterrent, he saw this as an energizing factor towards harder work.

DiStaso explained how students should not expect a long running in a single agency such as Ford’s. According to her, many professionals will likely hop around among the multitude of agency types. She urged students to be investigative and research them, especially by going in-person to see agencies and attending info sessions.

“We have to be careful that when we think of agency we don’t have one thing in mind,” DiStaso said.

Distaso also urged students to consider an advantageous opportunity to enroll in two new immersive courses providing industry insight. The courses will be taught by world-class professionals Linda Rutherford, CCO for Southwest Airlines, and Lesley Gaines Ross of Weber Shandwick on the CEO activism and crisis management. 

PRSSA members in attendance were very lucky to hear from these two incredible speakers who lent their sincere remarks on success and fulfillment in the PR field. A big thanks to Pat Ford and Marcia DiStaso for their time and knowledge.

Written by Whitney Mecca 

Photo credits: Langston Dunbar

4 Tips from Lisa Kiefer

Lisa Johnson Kiefer met with PRSSA members for dinner on Wednesday, November 1 to discuss her background as a PR professional. She has more than a decade of experience in PR firms and in cutting-edge PR research as well as having run own consultancy. From her experiences gained as a UF Gator graduate in 2007, where she received both the Ruth and Rae O. Weimer Award and Scholarship, and the Florida Public Relations Association Award for Outstanding Public Relations Graduate, to her current role as a top executive at Wakefield Research, a top Washington D.C.-based market research firm today, Lisa shared incredible insights into the industry, tips on the job and internship application process, networking advice and more. For those who did not make it, here are Lisa’s biggest pieces of advice for students interested in all things communications.

1. Get Active

In today’s world, applying for a job is as easy as the click of a button. That means a much bigger applicant pool for jobs – making it harder to stand out. The way to set yourself apart, Lisa says, is to get active. It’s one thing to join a student group as a member and an entirely different, and more beneficial, thing to get active, such as by joining a committee or running for a leadership position. Taking a more active role on and off campus as a student gives you more “real-life” experience outside the classroom, and exposes you to professors and other professionals who could end up helping your career at some point. Lisa, who currently serves on the board of directors for the Public Relations Society of America’s National Capital Chapter, noted that even in a chapter of nearly 1,200 members, there is a well-known core of those who are actively involved on a consistent basis. Being on the radar of industry leaders who are in hiring roles or might know someone at a company you want to work for can be a game-changer in your ability to get internships and future jobs.

2. Don’t rush over applications

Responsible for all hiring for her division, Lisa is attuned to the application and interviewing process, and she shared what she looks for most in applicants. First and foremost, she says you must read job postings carefully for special instructions, such as whether a cover letter is required or if you’re asked to use a specific subject line. This is often companies’ way of weeding candidates who can’t follow simple instructions out. And it works: candidates often don’t follow instructions to send a cover letter, and some don’t even send a resume – assuming just hitting “Apply” on LinkedIn will suffice. Lisa says and other leaders on the team immediately rule out anyone who doesn’t follow the instructions. Also, pay close attention to your documents and communications, especially when you’re applying to multiple companies. She often receives cover letters with other company names, or the wrong position cited in the document or in files names. She stressed the importance of tailoring materials to each company you’re applying to and proofreading your application, since it’s employers’ first impression of you.

3. After you land a job, practice humility and be an avid learner

It’s important to get involved as a student, and do well in your classes. It can often be the differentiator to your getting the job. But, Lisa says, once you and others have been given those jobs, it is often a much more even playing field – and there will be a lot to learn from peers and supervisors. Those who take a job on with humility, and are receptive and willing to learn, are very often more successful than employees who feel they already know what’s needed to succeed in the job and turn their noses up at opportunities to learn. No matter how far into your career you get, Lisa says there is always going to be something you need to learn, or learn how to do better.

4. Give it at least a year

If you have landed a job, congratulations! Lisa suggests trying to stay in jobs for at least a year before moving on. Of course, if you work in a truly toxic environment, have to relocate or have other extenuating circumstances, there are exceptions. But otherwise, Lisa says the year-mark can often be when you’re finally comfortable in a position, and what felt stressful in previous months because you were still learning the ropes of a new job or company can dissipate and leave you feeling more confident in your knowledge and skills. It can also benefit your long-term career opportunities, by gaining more recognition and trust with leadership and learning more advanced skills once you’ve moved beyond initial onboarding and “learning the ropes.”

It’s also useful in the job application process to show consistency in your resume. While an instance here or there isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker depending on how long someone has been working, Lisa often sees resumes where candidates have left multiple or back-t-back jobs after only a few months. This is typically a red flag in that it can signal someone is unable to commit to a job, and with companies usually spending a great deal of resources onboarding and training new hires, frequent “job-hopping” can result in a candidate being removed from consideration.

We thank Lisa for her generous advice and all the knowledge she has shared with us to prepare us for a successful career in communications. Make sure to come to an upcoming meeting with more professionals through PRSSA to connect first-hand with talented individuals in PR. Is there a specific sector or PR field you would like us to cover? Send us your suggestions at

Written by Laura Henschel


Gainesville, FL (October 25th, 2017) -- The UF chapter of PRSSA welcomed David Meslar, the manager of collegiate marketing at Under Armour based out of Baltimore, Maryland. Meslar provided students with real life insight on sports marketing, networking in the professional field and maintaining a good work ethic.


After graduating from The University of Tennessee-Knoxville in 2008, Meslar moved to Colorado where he became a ski instructor. He then moved back to the East Coast after receiving a contracted marketing role and, later, a sales role at Coca Cola.

“Learn your pitch and be told no a million times and then after that, transition that into the next role that you really want,” Meslar advised.  

After Melsar joined Kobe Bryant and a small startup group working with Body Armor Sports Drink, he received his current position as the manager of collegiate marketing at Under Armour.

Some of his talking points included real life preparation, choosing the right job and failing before receiving the perfect position.

“Maximize that opportunity, now you have that chance that you’ve gotten this role, you really just have to absolutely kill it,” Meslar said. “Get in there every single day, love what you’re doing and make sure that you’re doing everything possible to set yourself apart from the rest of the group.”

Written by: Parul Sanjiv, Senior Telecommunications major

UF in Boston: PRSSA National Conference

Twenty UF PRSSA suitcases went to Boston this October. Our enthusiasm and chants could be heard as we walked through the Boston Park Plaza Hotel. You could feel it in the air: National Conference was finally here. The opening night celebration was great as we rocked our Gator gear and showed other schools our Gator pride.


Early mornings started with a cup of coffee and an extensive schedule of events. The topics of each session were phenomenal and the speakers even more so. They would sometimes overlap with each other, so we had to make tough decisions on which ones to attend.


Michael DiSalvo from Ogilvy took the stage on Saturday afternoon to crack the audience with hilarious life experiences and great advice on creativity. Ian Cohen from Weber Shandwick made us laugh, cry and even drop our jaws as he guided us through his journey on visual storytelling.


Another big highlight was our fangirl moment as Judy Smith made her way to the stage Sunday afternoon. In case you were wondering, Smith is the woman behind the Olivia Pope, the iconic main character of the TV show Scandal. Smith walked up and down the aisle as she answered questions, gave advice and even took selfies with the audience. Of course, our UF squad was lucky enough to get a photo with her, and it will forever be in our memory.



Aside from getting advice from professionals, we were also able to bond with each other. We built friendships on lunch dates, walks around the city and karaoke nights. On Sunday we had our chapter dinner at a restaurant called Fire and Ice. We took advantage of the buffet as we talked and shared our experiences with each other.


Monday was the conference’s formal dinner. Everyone was shining in their best attire, cheering on the winners of PRSSA’s scholarships and awards. After dinner, we headed to a Spanish restaurant for a mixer with UF Alumni and professors. It was an excellent opportunity to network and talk to people who were once in our shoes.


PRSSA National Conference was truly a great experience. We all grew as professionals and came back with new life tools, friendships and twitter followers. I can’t wait to see what Austin, Texas will bring to the table next year, as we start the countdown.


Maria Dominguez is a senior at the University of Florida. Follow her on twitter: @MarialeUF

Down the Rabbit Hole with Katie Boyles


“Creativity won’t go on a resume; you can’t quantify it,” said Katie Boyles. Boyles went on to say that like a muscle, creativity is something you have to work on. The Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) meeting on September 27 took place at 6:15 p.m.. As people casually began to walk in, they took pizza and soda, found a place to sit and mingled with other participants. The meeting officially began at 6:30 p.m. with brief announcements for the PRSSA members regarding membership responsibilities and upcoming events.

The event had a full house with over 50 people there; some individuals sat on the floor when seating ran out. Boyles was introduced by PRSSA executive members Jordan McCrary and Macey Wilson who had known Boyles previously because they had interned at Axia Agency this past summer. Boyles gave a short introduction and explained how she is a Public Relations Strategist at Axia PR Agency, as well as involved with media relations and creativity consulting.

The workshop began with a description of why ideation is important. The answer is essentially that “no one changes things up.” Companies tend to use the same tactics to get their information to reach a public — for example, press releases. The question Boyles then posed is “how can we get out of our thinking?" Boyles explains that we, as creative thinkers, need to realize how our brains work and get into a different mindset for creative outlook.

Boyles learned about ideation sessions directly from the Vice President of Creativity at Walt Disney — the man that took part in an ideation session that sculpted the idea to literally send Toy Story’s Buzz Lightyear to infinity and beyond.

Activities discussed in the session included tactics like playing with toys, such as Play-Doh, to make senses aware; implementing a ‘cell phone jail’ to apply greater focus; as well as using the “how might we?” game or the “yes and…” game. The essence of the “yes and…” game is to eliminate the aspect of “idea ownership.” When everyone adds an idea to a bigger idea, no one can claim ownership over it broadening creative opportunities for team ideas as a whole.

The “yes and…” game was a tactic that gained audience popularity. The entire room participated in a game of “yes and…” by starting with an imaginary $500,000.00 allotted to UF PRSSA to spend, and each member spitballed an idea off of one another.

Katie: Nicole what would you use the $500,000.00 for?

Nicole: I would use the $500,000.00 to take PRSSA on a cruise.

Jordan: Yes, and we all get tee-shirts.

Jamie: Yes, and we all go out to meals together.

Macey: Yes, and then we go to Chicago to tour all the agencies.

And so on…

Another tool described was the ‘twist it’ and ‘what if’ tactic where Boyles then showed the audience her official idea sketchbook. “CelebriTOES!” An idea about celebrities promoting a specific toe-fungal medication and sharing their own stories — one that never made it passed the thinking stages…

Celebritoes was undeniably the most memorable part of the session; it got every workshop participant laughing. Laughter was the background theme song of the event. Boyles was an enthusiastic, entertaining, insightful and hilarious speaker who continuously apologized for “taking us down the rabbit hole” with ideas of celebrity toes, PRSSA cruises, and was the idea about Car Spa’s filled with minions mentioned yet?

"Axia loves working with University of Florida PRSSA students! We’ve recruited so many top-quality interns,” Boyles said.

With the aroma of pepperoni pizza and ideas of celebrity toes and zebras on a beach, it was undoubtedly a workshop for the books.

Written by Hannah Ross



Please join us on Wednesday, Feb. 22 from 6-8PM in the Gannett Auditorium for an interactive workshop between UF PRSSA, AD Society, JCA and AMA!

Come be a part of this fascinatingly unique experience:

We refer to these workshops as CoLabs and utilize a process that was invented and trademarked by grants manager, Bess de Farber- a certified professional facilitator. CoLAB workshops are two hour sessions where participants wear profile signs outlining their interests, strongest skills, groups they belong to etc. and engage in a three minuteone-on-one "speed meetings". In these high focused conversations participants quickly reveal passions, skills and resources that may otherwise take months to uncover. Each participant's photo, profile sign and contact information is then loaded into a password protected website for online follow-up after the workshop.

Students Utilize Social Media for a Study at UF

    More students at UF are motivated to work out and using social media to share this after after a recent study at UF went in-depth behind the science of exercise. 
    A study at the UF College of Medicine’s department of pathology, immunology and laboratory medicine found that irisin, a hormone that the body releases during exercise, can help fight obesity and diabetes. 
    According to the study, which was recently published in the American Journal of Physiology — Endocrinology and Metabolism, the hormone actually prevents fat from forming and works by boosting the activity of genes and protein that are used when burning fat. 
    Students are now changing their perspective on exercise, said Brady Sweet, an active 20-year-old junior majoring in criminology at UF. 
    “A lot of people work out to fix a problem, and after that you’re done,” Sweet said. “The fact that there is evidence that you can prevent these diseases should convince a lot of people you need to stick with it.” 
    Students involved in fitness-related organizations are working to spread the word about this new study. 
    Steven Svoboda, president of the Gator Youth Fitness Movement and senior nutritional science major at UF, said knowing the science behind exercise would allow students to be more inclined to work out.
     Svoboda, 21, said their organization is working to inform students about the benefits of exercise and help them become more active. 
    “I think social media is a huge platform that needs to be utilized to reach students,” Svoboda said. “I’m looking to increase our membership and promote fitness for all levels and for me personally.” 
    The research team worked on the study for about three years, said Yousong Ding, assistant professor at the college and co-author of the study. Researchers studied how the hormone irisin functions in order to understand its benefits and how to apply it in future drug development. 
    “With this research, I think people should engage in more physical activity to stay in shape and be healthy and active, especially for people in Florida.” Ding said.    

Written by Jamie Honowitz, VP of Digital Strategy


Bill Imada invites UF PRSSA Members to “taste the street”

Bill Imada, founder, chairman and chief connectivity officer of IW Group, spoke to UF PRSSA members on Oct. 5 about what it means to taste the street. 

 “My job is to make you think a little differently,” Imada said. 

Imada explained that in order to think innovatively and achieve success in public relations, individuals must do the following:

Build your brand identity. Brand identity is created by investing in five pillars, Imada said. The first pillar is equity, which refers to experiences. Next is essence. To establish the essence of your brand, you must decide the balance between the emotional and the rational in dealing with peers, clients and employers. Third is value, which refers to what you bring to an organization, community or company. Next is personality. Individuals must decide how they want to be perceived – are you playful? Serious? Both? The last pillar is promise. What promise will you make after you leave college to your family, friends and community?

Create your own path. Imada encouraged members to keep dreaming up new ideas and sharing them with the world. 

“If you have a great way to reinvent the wheel, you should do it,” he said. “If you have a great way to navigate an un-level playing field, create a skateboard and get across.”

Listen, then act. Imada stressed the importance of connecting with clients. He advised members to take cues from others and always try to find a way to share their passions.

“Everyone has a story,” Imada said. “Find a connectivity point with everybody you meet.” 

Change the conversation. Don’t be afraid to disagree with something you hear, Imada said. Instead, respectfully share your perspective on the issue. 

“Don’t let people shut you up,” he said. “There should always be room at the table for a new idea, a new way of thinking, a new person.”

Be curious. Always be learning, asking questions and thinking about what’s next, Imada said. Do not be complacent, but challenge yourself. This is the time to do it, and this is what companies are looking for. Increasing involvement in PRSSA is a great way to accomplish this. 

Imada closed by encouraging members to work hard and be the best networkers they can be, but to not stress about getting a job right away.

“Enjoy the journey,” Imada said. “Learn as much as you possibly can from wherever you are and then share it.”

Written by Alexa Romagnolo

PRSSA National President speaks to UF PRSSA Members about “What PRSSA Means”

PRSSA National President Emma Finkbeiner spoke to UF PRSSA Members September 14 on “What PRSSA Means” to her and what it should mean to members.

Emma attended college at Northern Michigan University; a small college in the upper peninsula of Michigan, which had a PRSSA chapter of about 25 students at the time.

She made a point to explain to members that she joined her PRSSA chapter having no idea what she was doing; she just wanted to get involved.

At the end of her first year, she ran and was elected to be Chapter President of NMU’s PRSSA. Even further, she had a drive in her to bid and become elected National Publications Editor for Progressions and Forum.

At the end of her reign at NMU, she couldn’t get enough. While attending DePual University in Chicago for her masters degree in public relations and advertising; Emma is serving as the National President of PRSSA.

“The number one lesson I can give you is to work hard and stay involved,” Finkbeiner said. “I got here because of PRSSA”.

Finkbeiner drove into attendee’s minds the importance of attending National and Regional Conferences. “The connections you make there are going to get you really far,” she said.

National Conference is an excellent way attend career fairs, workshops and to form and nurture organic relationships with professionals in the public relations industry.

“I cannot stress how important networking will be in your future,” she said. Finkbeiner reminisced about the time when the CEO of GolinHarris asked to meet her! That moment knocked her off her feet.

Finkbeiner presented the idea of “servant leadership.”

“The servant-leader is servant first… it begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead.” - Robert K. Greenleaf

Finkbeiner brought this quote to member’s attention to reinforce the fact that to become a leader, you must get involved first. One cannot happen with the other. So, dive in!

For members, whether it’s attending conferences, writing for UF PRSSA’s blog, becoming a member of one of the committees or connecting with the mentor/mentee program, PRSSA is an incredible opportunity for students studying the public relations field.


“The Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) is the foremost organization for students interested in public relations and communications. We seek to advance the public relations profession by nurturing generations of future professionals. We advocate rigorous academic standards for public relations education, the highest ethical principles and diversity in the profession.” - PRSSA Website.

Written by: Sydney Denninger



University of Florida’s Public Relations Student Society of America held their second annual “Diversity in PR” panel on March 31 in UF’s Reitz Union.



Panelists Included:


Ana Gomez, Edelman

Sharon Jones, Ketchum

Ric Katz, Balsera Communications

Steve Rothaus, Miami Herald


The panel was moderated by Deborah Bowie, president and CEO of United Way North Central Florida and inaugural Diversity in Public Relations panelist.


The purpose of the panel was to bring forth the issue of diversity and inclusion in the communications industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 9.8 percent of blacks and 7.7 percent of latinos and hispanics hold jobs in marketing, advertising and public relations industries. This significant underrepresentation of latinos, blacks and asian islanders screams that communications in the US has a diversity problem.


Moderator Deborah Bowie asked the panelists what each of them thought was driving the diversity problem in the indutry. Gomez, a UF alumna, said that the problem is a reflection of our society. She said minorities are expected to be engineers, scientist and follow other STEM career paths, while the communications industry historically was dominated by white males.


Katz, the owner of a spanish-oriented firm, said it is “incumbent on firms to go out and find (minorities).”


Katz said as he walked through UF’s College of Journalism and Communications that day, he did not see many african heritage people.


“We as a profession have to reach out to each other, find people and train as necessary.”


The next issue the panelists focused on was the difference between diversity and inclusion.


Jones said that most organization’s goals are to grow, and to include will push to accomplish this intention.


“To grow, [companies] need to differentiate from their competitors,” she said. “You have to create a culture where innovation and creativity can take hold and run rapid.”


Jones made a point that resonated with the audience. She said if an organization can think of their population as an ingredient, they can come up with rich and complex products. The better product that comes out of including population ultimately includes everything we need to come out with a better product.


Bowie asked the panelists in the final minutes to discuss personal narratives.


“What I love best about what I do is the opportunity to meet people at the beginning of the employee life cycle,” Jones said. ‘What you grow and develop, that is pretty gratifying for me.”


Katz and Rothaus are partners. This is the first time they have ever spoken on a panel together. Starting out early in his career, Rothaus was concerned how being a gay man may affect his career path.


‘The industry back then was not open to LGBT people,” he said.”


Katz, on his experience in the industry, laughed as he said “I’ve been in PR since I was seven years old.”


As a closeted gay young adult , he said he felt the need to be a communicator.


“I wasn’t going to be hiding, i was going to have a message,” he said.


Gomez got into the business because she was “fascinated by the power of influence that communication has.” “It’s something different everyday and there’s a value in that.”


It’s important to add a mixture of excitement into a career, as well as it is essential to add diversity in the workplace. More recently, not only has inclusion been about bringing diversity into the workplace, but putting these people in the positions to make decisions.


“It’s a smart business decision,” Jones said. Inviting diverse perceptions will lead to superior ideas.


Wrapping up the panel, panelists were asked to share the best advice they were given.


Sharon said the best advice she was given was “to be hungry.” Do not say no, do not be afraid of failure.


Rothaus said to trust yourself. Katz said that words matter, and Gomez said “be thankful and gracious to people who have helped us along the way,”


In her closing comments, Bowie reiterated the importance that communications is a field where it can not be done well if communicators don’t get to know different people. She said the more people and stories communicators expose themselves to, the better they will do.


“Diversity is all the ways in which we are the same and which we are different,” Jones said.


The world is changing, and if companies don’t include, they will be excluded from profitability, reputability and the capability of success.


This post was written by Sydney Denninger.

How To Work in High-stake Situations

Scott Farrell speaking to UF PRSSA members about crisis communications online. Photo by UF PRSSA member Sydney Denninger. 

Event: Crisis and Image Management in Social Media, University of Florida

Presenter: Scott Farrell, President, global corporate communications at GOLIN

Last evening, Scott Farrell, president of global corporate communications at GOLIN, described crisis as “any product stopping, people stopping or show stopping event that jeopardizes a company’s relationship with stakeholders or endangers their reputation.”

In a room full of Gators, this Badger (Scott graduated from Wisconsin) invited students into a conversation about crisis communications.

He shared well-developed insights that were backed by the work he does each day as the president of global corporate communications of his firm.

Giving students a holistic view of crisis, Scott began his dialogue by describing brands. On this topic he said consumers “buy” reputations. Image and reputation is a salient issue among all companies, he said.

To help combat the growing challenges of a changing landscape in crisis management, Scott offered five guidelines:


1.     “Slow” kills companies fast
            “Clients who aren’t ready to respond in the heat of the moment will fail,” he said.

2.     Your competitor’s crisis can become yours

3.     Social Media derives traditional media
            Scott suggested that this is that largest change that has occurred in the last 3-5 years.

4.     New venues of communication become global problems

5.     Local issues can become global problems

Many of Scott’s points suggested that speed plays a huge role in crisis communications. He said “it used to be that you would read about something in the New York Times and then tweet about it,” but the roles are now reversed.

With regard to messages, Scott touched on the role successful communicators play when crisis emerges. His “Six R’s of successful crisis communications” include: Rapid response, Responsibility, Regret, Restitutions, Reform and Resolution.

Spending his professional life as a communicator, Scott tied the evening together by saying that has public relations professionals, “we’re note like Scandal, we can’t always fix the problem completely.”


Lauren Maloney is the incoming president of UF’s chapter of PRSSA. She is a third year public relations student and serves as the business manager at The Agency, an integrated public relations and advertising firm at the University of Florida that is “staffed by students, lead by professionals and inspired by faculty.”

Follow Lauren on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.

Edelman Atlanta GM Engages Consumers with “Earned-Centric, Digital By Design” Principle

The General Manager of the Edelman Atlanta office mesmerized attendees at The University of Alabama PRSSA Southeast Regional Conference with her presentation on the changing food industry in the new millenia on Jan. 29. Alicia Thompson, an extraordinary PR professional with 24 years of experience in the industry, exemplified the conference’s theme "Innovating Tradition" by explaining how the Atlanta Edelman office is implementing a new principle: “earned-centric, digital by design”. This shift to a communication marketing approach means that Edelman wants to authentically engage the customer, and make sure that their campaigns can be picked up by the media and marketed through different channels.

Thompson explained how marketing today is no longer one-directional. She said that professionals must know that communication is two-way, and they must find which channel is most relevant to pinpointing their target audience and making sure their message gets through to the consumer.

“We’re human,” Thompson said. “Our ability to absorb that infinite content is finite.”

Specifically referencing the Edelman approach to the food industry, Thompson said that food is glocal and now takes on different meanings.

“I’m a foodie, you’ll have to excuse me,” Thompson chuckled.

Thompson referenced their current Arby’s case study. Edelman took on Arby’s as a client in 2012 because the company was looking for a way to become relevant again. The firm asked themselves the question “What is the best way to reach our audience in the new millenia?”.

Through research, Edelman found that the core consumers of Arby’s were meat lovers. They needed to amplify this demographic and attract people who no longer thought of Arby’s as their pit-stop for fast food.

Thompson took a counter-intuitive approach to promoting Arby’s brown-sugar bacon. She asked “Who is least likely to support bacon?”.

The answer was vegetarians. To achieve the earned-centric goal, the campaign used vegetarians to help tell a story of meat lovers. It was unusual and funny, which attracted the media on multiple platforms.

The campaign included writing a page-long apology letter to vegetarians that stated that Arby’s was sorry if any vegetarians gave in to eating Arby’s bacon because it is so irresistible.

The news was first broke by Times Magazine. Eventually the story was covered by Good Morning America and featured on Youtube. A meat helpline was also set up. Because the message was accessible on so many channels, the media picked it up and ran with it.

The results were extremely successful, with 19,000 + calls, 15,000 voicemails and 22 million media impressions in a 30 day period.

Thompson reiterated that this campaign could’ve been taken the wrong way by some audiences, and it is always important to have a crisis plan in case things go awry. Thompson’s memorable presentation on the constantly changing food industry and how PR practitioners can go about adapting to it was definitely a favorite at the PRSSA regional conference.

This post was written by UF PRSSA Member Sydney Denninger.