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Philly Chapter 70th Anniversary  PRSA Philly

News / Articles

August 2022

Michele Besso | Published on 8/25/2022
August 2022 PRSA Philly Chapter Chat

President's Letter
by Michele Besso

As I write this, we’ve just held our August networking happy hour in New Jersey. It was a ton of fun meeting up for some cold brews and chatter at Bonesaw Brewery. I made so many connections and (I hope) converted a few people to becoming members.

That’s what happy hours are for – to make industry connections which could lead to any number of things in the future – whether it be a job, general advice or a longtime mentor. We hope you will continue to join us for these events moving forward.

Speaking of events, we have a BIG ONE coming up and I really hope you’ll come out and support our chapter.

As part of our 70th anniversary activities, we are honored to host PRSA National Board Chair Felicia Blow, Ph.D., APR, for lunch, learning and celebration on Tuesday, Sept. 20 at Rodeph Shalom in Philadelphia.

Felicia will be speaking about diversity, equity and inclusion, an issue of profound importance for strategic communicators and public relations professionals. In our roles, we should empower and guide leadership in embracing inclusivity, and in “speaking truth to power,” Felicia said.

With the Philadelphia chapter celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, it is apropos to also celebrate PRSA's 75th anniversary and the amazing efforts put forward that will define PRSA now and well into the future.

This is sure to be an enlightening and empowering conversation that will include a beautiful lunch and a chance to see some of your peers!

Please register here today for the Sept. 20 event.  While we will take walk-ins who pay at the door, we strongly encourage you to register for this event so that you’re guaranteed a seat. It also helps for our planning purposes.

Hope to see you there and at the other events we will be offering throughout the fall. Happy end of summer!

Michele Besso
President, PRSA Philadelphia

Exclusive Member PRofile:
70th Anniversary Edition
FeaturingSteve Lubetkin, MBA, APR, Fellow, PRSA
by Wendy Harris, SHRM-CP
In celebration of the 70th Anniversary of PRSA Philadelphia, over the next few months the
newsletter will feature several leaders and members of the organization to share their insights about the PR field, moments from their careers, challenges they’ve faced, and advice they have for the next generation of PR professionals.
This month, we provide a Q&A with Steve Lubetkin, APR, Fellow, PRSA, Managing Partner, Lubetkin Media Companies.
“I've always believed that if you're in a career, you should make a commitment to professional development, professional leadership networking, and learning about what you're doing. So, PRSA seemed like the natural place to learn more about the practice of public relations to sharpen my skills to gain credibility.”

Q: Why did you choose public relations as a career?

A: I was a print and broadcast reporter for about five years and was hoping to spend my career as a journalist, but the joke was you could either be a journalist or buy groceries, but you couldn't do both. I had just gotten married out of college and really needed to kind of hit the cash register a bit more. So, I was writing for a print publication and one of my beats was commuter transportation. I wrote a couple of stories that got the attention of the folks at Conrail, who were operating the commuter railroads in New Jersey at the time. They liked what I wrote, and they called me up and said we would you like to come to work for us. Once I discovered that it was going to pay a lot more than being in the newspaper business, I started working for the railroad and I spent almost 10 years working for Conrail. Within two years they relocated me to work at Conrail’s corporate headquarters. I continued to move up and got involved in some very interesting media relations and crisis communications work.
Q: Who were some of your early influences in this business?

A: My first supervisor on the railroad was a long-time railroad executive named Don Campbell. He started his career as a ticket agent, worked his way up through supervising ticket agents, and ended up as the manager of commuter relations. It was a PR and customer relations kind of a role, but he was the person who schooled me in corporate etiquette, politics, and generally and taught me how to behave in the corporate world. By the time I was working at Conrail’s Philadelphia headquarters, I got to the point in my career where I knew I needed to get a little bit more of the principles of public relations and I started studying for the APR exam in the mid-80s. I took the Philadelphia chapter’s “Seven Professional Evenings” class which was taught by David Kirk and Tony Fulginiti. Tony is a Professor emeritus from Rowan University. David ran his own PR firm and was an APR and a fellow, and Tony was an APR and a fellow, and they were terrific instructors. I learned an enormous amount about PR from them.

Q: What do you enjoy most about working in PR?

A: I like the challenges of trying to communicate to non-technical audiences about technical issues that the companies I work for are facing. I spent all of my PR career on the corporate side, in transportation with Conrail and technology with Unisys. I also worked for companies in the financial services sector. The bulk of my work was explaining complex issues to non-technical audiences and using my writing ability and communication skills to do that.

Q: What are some of your most memorable moments working in PR?

A: The biggest one was in the early 1980s when the Reagan administration came into office. One of the things they decided to do was to privatize Conrail, which been federally owned and was the conglomeration of five bankrupt northeastern railroads into a single company. At the time Conrail had just turned the corner and was starting to make a profit. The Reagan administration wanted to break it up and sell the profitable pieces to Conrail’s competitors. Our management decided to launch an effort to keep Conrail independent through a public stock offering. I was tasked with running a large portion of the grassroots communications effort to get other constituencies, audiences, and stakeholders to advocate for Conrail getting a chance to be independent and to be sold in a public stock offering. I spent a couple of years traveling all across the country to visit with editorial writers at newspapers in very small towns, not because the small towns were so critical, but at the time the newspapers in those towns were influential on the members of Congress who were going to be voting on this situation. We needed to go to the hometown district and get the hometown newspapers to urge these Congressmen to vote in favor of an independent Conrail and, ultimately, they did. It was a major victory for the railroad. Conrad was privatized in what was then (1987) the largest initial public stock offering in U.S. history.

Q: Why did you join PRSA and how did it help your career?

A: I've always believed that if you're in a career, you should make a commitment to professional development, professional leadership, networking, and learning about what you're doing. So, PRSA seemed like the natural place to learn more about the practice of public relations to sharpen my skills to gain credibility. I thought getting the APR would be a real important credibility bump for me. I started the APR while I was working on my MBA. While I was at Conrail, I was working on my MBA by going to school one night a week. I took one class a semester and it was going to take a long time to finish, so I set the APR as an intermediate goal I could achieve first. I got my APR in 1988. PRSA was really the place where I got a lot of practical skills going to seminars that the Philadelphia chapter ran. Later, when I started working in New York, I got involved in the New York chapter too. I also spent time as chair of the Technology Section and Financial Communications Section, before spending five years on the Universal Accreditation Board.

Q: What were some of the biggest challenges you faced as a board member, chapter leader or national leader?

A: I think the biggest challenge was getting the National Board to embrace the accreditation program fully. There were people in national leadership who felt that the APR doesn't deliver what it was intended to deliver. I think some of that has to do with the bottom- up approach that PRSA takes to the APR in that it's a personal credential. There isn’t a lot of incentivizing people to make the APR an important professional credential, you have to be very self-motivated.

Q: What do you see as some of the biggest challenges facing PR practitioners today?

A: I think that the biggest one is credibility. There's an enormous amount of “Astroturf” publicity being done, where an organization that has been concocted by some special interest appears to be an independent advocacy group, but it has a hidden agenda. There's an enormous amount of that being done by people who do not subscribe to codes of ethics like the ones embraced by members of PRSA and other communications professional organizations.

Q: What is your philosophy regarding the role PR plays in shaping a company's brand and culture?

A: I think public relations people are the story tellers, the public face of the organization, and if they're going to have any credibility, they're going to have to be brutally honest with corporate executives and tell them things that they may not want to hear. We live in an age where, increasingly, employees want their company to stand for something, to have some kind of values beyond just making the best widgets. Companies that don't walk that walk honestly and transparently are going to face damaging credibility issues in the marketplace. A company can't credibly claim, for example, to stand for LGBTQ rights on one hand, and then use corporate PAC money for donations to politicians who are voting against LGBTQ rights.

Q: What message do you have for young people who are considering a career in PR?

A: I would say be true to yourselves and don't compromise your values or your principles because you're afraid you're going to anger someone you report to in your corporate career. Give your clients, if you're working in an agency, honest advice. Tell them how things are going to play out and give them options; don't be afraid be the canary in the coal mine. Don't be afraid to give truthful, valuable advice. And be prepared to change jobs if you are asked to violate your ethical standards.

Q: If you could change one thing in your career what would it be?

A: I have to say I wish I had had the courage to become an independent practitioner sooner; to start my own firm sooner. It's turned out to be an exciting rollercoaster, but it's also turned out to be a place where I've had more freedom and more ability to do some exciting things then most of my corporate jobs.

10 tips for Preparing your Pepperpot Award Entry
Featuring:  Mike Gross, APR
by Michael Wood, MBA

If you’re thinking you or your team has done award-worthy work in the past year, now is the time to be planning entries for the 2022 PRSA Pepperpot Awards.

The Pepperpots recognize the strongest campaigns, tactics and individuals driving our industry and region forward. Deadline for early bird submissions is Friday, Sept. 16 and the final deadline for all entries is Friday, Oct. 7, 2022.

The chair of the PRSA National Honors & Awards Committee, Mike Gross, APR, president of NJ-based AKCG Public Relations Counselors, suggests you think like a judge, customize your entry to the category descriptions, and with so many award categories, “don’t be shy” in entering multiple categories and “get the most mileage as you can out of your exemplary work.”

Gross, a past president of the Philadelphia chapter, has served as a frequent judge for both national and chapter awards. He recommends participation in the Pepperpots since they become a “great validation for the professionalism of our field” and awards help “strengthen relationships with your boss or agency client.” The award program also is a way to share best practices and support your peers in the region.

Looking for guidance in developing an award submission? Gross says check out PRSA National’s database of Anvil Award winning case studies. Anvil Awards | PRSA and Tips for preparing entry

The entries require a concise two-page summary of your campaign or tactic that addresses strategic PR elements:  insights and analysis (research), planning (strategies), execution (implementation), and evaluation (results).

Mike Gross’ 10 tips for making your entries stand out:
  1. Do good work, and keep it organized so preparing an award entry is easier later.
  2. Tell a clear, concise and compelling story with your two-page summary and give context for the project. Don’t assume judges from another region will grasp local references. The entry summary is most important.
  3. Research packs a punch and is an often-overlooked aspect of the entry. Explain any research you conducted and how research influenced the strategies chosen.
  4. Articulate measurable objectives, ideally aligned with the organization’s goals. Objectives are the MOST important element for most judges. Distinguish between goals and objectives, strategies vs. tactics. The best focus on attitudinal and/or behavioral change. Objectives should involve numbers. What do you want to accomplish when.
  5. Don’t spend too much time in the weeds, describing tactical details. Judges are more interested in why you did something, than what you did specifically – as well as how you prioritized certain actions and how they linked to the strategies.  In implementation section, provide examples.
  6. Tie your results to the plan objectives. Think more strategically than only media coverage or social engagement. Qualitative and quantitative results provide evidence of how objectives were achieved and how the entry impacted the success of a broader program for the organization.
  7. Illustrate your story with supporting materials. If you referenced something in the summary, prove it with supporting materials. Explain the situational analysis. Provide examples of the tactics. Document results. Be selective, provide only the best material.
  8. Use the judging criteria as a guide and match them with section headers for your entry.
  9. Make it easy for the judges to read your entry and pleasant to the eye. Use white space, subheads, bullets, and bold key phrases so key aspects are easily found.
  10. Don’t delay; so many entries are submitted in the final days or even moments. It’s not too early to prepare, so the entry preparations don’t become “a heavy lift.”
There’s no secret to success.  Demonstrate research and insights, define clear objectives, winning strategies, and provide clear benchmarks for evaluation.

Access the Pepperpots Call for Entries Now

Early Bird: Friday, September 16 at 11:59 PM
Absolute Final: Friday, October 7 at 11:59 PM
PRSA Philly's Upcoming Events


Come out and celebrate the 70th Anniversary
of the PRSA Philadelphia Chapter! 

Thought Leadership in PR: A Conversation with PRSA's Felicia Blow on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Tuesday, September 20, 2022, 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM

Rodeph Shalom
615 North Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA  19123

*FREE parking available behind the building off Green Street.

PRSA Philly is honored to host PRSA National Board Chair Felicia Blow, Ph.D., APR for lunch, learning, and celebration. This will be a tremendous conversation encompassing diversity, equity, and inclusion, the top moments in PR, and the top leaders of our profession.

Register now to reserve your seat at the table!

About our Speaker
Dr. Felicia Blow, APR, is award-winning leader with extensive organizational, fundraising, strategic planning, leadership and management experience. With a 30-year career spanning work in Manufacturing, Waste Management and Environmental Services, Telecommunications; and Higher ED, Dr. Blow currently serves as Associate Vice President for Development at the renowned historically black institution Hampton University. 

At Hampton, Dr. Blow led the university’s $150 Million Dream No Small Dreams II Campaign as its campaign director. That campaign concluded in 2019 and exceeded its goal in raising more than $166 million in support of university priorities. She also has earned the Accredited in Public Relations credential, by PRSA. Dr. Blow earned her Bachelor’s degree in Mass Media Arts from Hampton University, Master’s in Business Administration degree from Strayer University, and Doctorate in Higher Education Administration from Old Dominion University. 

Timely Announcements

Click HERE to register now with one of the codes below!

Coupon codes:

  • Use code PHILLY30 for $30 off chapter dues for returning PRSA Philly members who also need to register for a PRSA National membership
  • Use code PHILLY20 for $20 off chapter dues for new PRSA Philly members who also need to register for a PRSA National membership
  • Use code PHILLY2022 for $30 off chapter dues for those with an existing National membership
* You must be a PRSA National member to join the chapter.
PRSA National News

Professional Development opportunities from PRSA National, including webinars, workshops, on demand training sessions, case study presentations on various industry topics, and a range of certificate programs can be found HERE.
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PRSA Job Board
For those of you who may be in the hiring position, we hope that you will 
submit your openings as they become available so we can share them with our
community of PR and communications professionals.
If you are on the job hunt yourself, check out our local chapter listings.
We also encourage you to visit the PRSA National job board.
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