The Value of In-Person Meetings in the Digital Age: A PRSA-NCC Event

by Jillian Cameron

Panel (1)

Photo courtesy of Danielle Bilotta

Whether you are a reporter, a PR professional, or anyone in the communications world, you probably rely heavily on email to connect with others throughout the day. Many prefer the comfort and the anonymity of online interactions compared to the riskiness of an in-person meeting.

On Wednesday, June 21, the Public Relations Society of America’s National Capital Chapter (PRSA-NCC) hosted a panel of experts to discuss why so many professionals are reluctant to have in-person meetings and how those meetings can be beneficial to not only yourself, but to your work.


Photo courtesy of Danielle Bilotta

Alex Gangitano, panelist and reporter for CQ Roll Call, discussed how in-person meetings are vital to maintaining relationships with her contacts and are “always worth the time.” Gangitano says that being able to put a face to the name not only creates relationships between reporters and their sources, but can also build trust that may prove to be invaluable in times of need.

But is the Internet to blame for the lack of in-person meetings? Panelist Dr. Mary Alvord of Alvord, Baker & Associates and former president of the American Psychological Association’s Society for Media Psychology and Technology , says that a lot of people have some degree of social anxiety that can be avoided through sticking with online interactions. Most of the anxiety related to in-person interactions is anticipatory, Alvord says, and will ease as the conversation begins.


Photo courtesy of Danielle Bilotta

Alvord outlined three dimensions of interactions: texting and email, phone and video chatting, and in-person. Texting and email can be useful for an initial contact, while video chatting provides the comfort of online communication with some of the benefits of in-person interactions. Yet, neither emailing nor video chatting create the same effects as in-person meetings.

While in-person meetings can create meaningful professional relationships, they’re not always necessary, according to Washington Post reporter and panelist, Michael Laris. Laris says that it’s not necessary to schedule in-person meetings with organizations that make information widely accessible and understandable on multiple platforms.

In order to prepare for those nerve-wracking in-person meetings, Seth Turner of the Congressional Management Foundation, says to remember your ABCs: acknowledge, bridge, and communicate. Practicing your talking points and doing your homework will set your in-person meeting up for success.

As moderator, Aaron Ellis, says it’s all about balancing online interactions with face-to-face communication. Finding a happy medium between sending out emails and grabbing coffee or lunch is the key to success and building strong professional relationships.

Enter Your Firm’s Best Work to Win a 2017 Thoth Award from PRSA-NCC

By: Jillian Cameron, News Generation, Inc.

The 48th Annual Thoth Awards, hosted by the Public Relations Society of America National Capital Chapter, recognizes and celebrates outstanding strategic public relations programs and components created in the Greater Washington, D.C. area.

Named for the Egyptian god of communication, the Thoth Awards (pronounced “tot”), is the National Capital Chapter of PRSA’s local version of the Silver Anvils. Previous winners include the National Education Association and Ogilvy Washington’s Bring Your Brave Campaign, among many others. The awards recognize work in public relations across 34 categories, ranging from public relations campaigns to tactics.

Entry to the 2017 Thoth Awards is open to both PRSA-NCC members and non-members, and will be open until Monday, June 24, 2017. But why should you apply to the 2017 Thoth Awards? As Raymond Crosby, President & CEO of Crosby Marketing Communications, puts it:

“The Thoth Awards are really worthwhile because the entries are judged by industry peers who know how to recognize great work that gets real results.  The greater Washington, DC region has a lot of high profile agencies and organizations that participate in this competition, so winning a Thoth says you’re the best of the best.”

This year’s Thoth Awards Gala will be held at the National Press Club on Thursday, October 12, from 6:00 to 9:00 pm. Still not convinced the Thoth Awards are for you? Here are some more testimonials from leaders in the Greater Washington, D.C. area public relations community:

“The PRSA-NCC Chapter is the largest PRSA in the country. The communications work produced in the metropolitan D.C. area is national-caliber work. Therefore, to win a Thoth Award is truly a great honor.”

– Jeff Wilson, Vice President, Padilla

“At News Generation, personal interaction with our clients is a huge priority. Being a finalist for a Thoth Award is a great opportunity to invite your clients with whom you entered to spend the evening with you at the Gala. The recognition of being a finalist or a winner positions your client as a thought-leader in the industry in front of peers. It has been a great way for us to continue to grow our relationships with clients, and shows them that the value we are providing them is strong enough to be recognized on such a large scale.”

– Kelsey Pospisil O’Planick, News Generation, Inc.

“For me, as a federal government communicator, the Thoth Award was certainly about recognition, . but so much more, too. It was exhilarating and incredibly satisfying for the entire team at the US Department of Labor to not only “go up against” work done by major corporations, international PR firms and influential trade associations, but to actually win? That was amazing! I knew that our work was as good, or even better, than work done by more experienced and bigger (including budget) Washington area PR professionals. Winning a Thoth proved it. And it was an incomparable morale booster–team members walked a little straighter and held their head up a little higher for weeks after the award ceremony.

This part isn’t as glamourous or exciting, but I think it’s still very important: The application process is a very worthwhile endeavor. It is rigorous and time-consuming, there is no doubt about that. But it makes you think (and think hard); it makes you ask yourself tough questions about your program and its results; it makes you write, and rewrite and edit; and it forces you to defend your project. You can’t just say it was great, you have to prove it. Too often, we don’t have the time to “post mortem” a project (we’re on to the next crisis). Working on the Thoth application gives you an opportunity for serious reflection and professional introspection. Everybody needs to do more of that. Especially PR people!

There was an unexpected benefit of winning several Thoth Awards, as well as winning a PRSA Silver Anvil and Bronze Anvil: our shop became known as a real talent destination—and not just in the federal space, but throughout the Washington, DC public relations community. Recruiting talent became easier (and we attracted the truly best and brightest) because we were an award-winning shop, just as cool and creative and exciting as the boutique PR agency of the moment. The team was certainly proud of that, and applicants very much wanted to be a part of it.”

– Carl Fillichio, Weedmaps, formerly of U.S. Department of Labor

Thoth Award Submissions Now Available Online – D.C.’s Most Prestigious PR Awards

by Susan Matthews Apgood, News Generation

thoth3Many organizations throughout the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area do great work in public relations, and submitting your work for a Thoth Award is an opportunity to showcase your most successful campaigns. Thoth Awards are given to all types of organizations, from independent to global PR agencies, from government agencies to advocacy and non-profit groups, and from private to publicly held companies – and across many categories.

Named for the Egyptian god of communication, the Thoth (pronounced “tot”) Awards recognize the most outstanding, strategic public relations programs and components developed and produced in the Greater Washington, D.C. area. Achievements are recognized in 34 categories, including 16 program categories that celebrate the best PR campaigns and 18 component categories that highlight top accomplishments in PR tactics.

The Public Relations Society of America’s National Capital Chapter (PRSA-NCC) hosts the local annual Thoth competition to recognize and reward outstanding achievement in public relations and to encourage continued excellence in the field. The deadline for entries for this year’s Thoth Awards early bird deadline is Friday, June 30 and the final deadline is Monday, July 24.

Here’s how to get started: Step 1: Before entering, be sure to view and print a PDF of the 2017 Thoth Awards Call for Entries; and Step 2: NEW for 2017: All entries will be submitted online.  To enter, just go to our Online Entry Portal.

To help you put together your entries, we a brief video on How to Win a Thoth Award. And, visit the PRSA-NCC website for the full details on the Thoth Awards. Follow us on Twitter at @prsa_ncc and use the hashtags #thoth2017 and #nightwithkingthoth. For more information, please contact Susan Apgood at or Danny Selnick at

Ready for Strategic Management of Public Relations?

By Suzanne Ross, Chair, Accreditation Committee

Last Friday, at the PRSA NCC Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) seminar to “Jump-start” candidates’ year-long study for their independent assessment, it struck me, that everyone is looking inward to align their moral compass, discover their unique professional advantage while developing a career roadmap to navigate a transforming industry.

Unlike career paths of a Chief Financial Officer and a Chief Executive Officer that have well-known professional skill requirements, the PR career path is less understood. PR practitioners seek the APR in order to acquire third-party validation and formal recognition of their professional competencies to advance a desired career in public relations.

The value proposition of an Accredited Public Relations professional is broad and deep expertise that supports operations, social effectiveness and measurement toward organizational performance goals.

Although they are not legal experts, they provide a similar staff counsel function as they are knowledgeable about legal principles and statutes important to the PR practice and advise management on stakeholder and ethical issues that could impact public opinion and an organization’s operation and success.

During the APR Jump-start, presenter Patrick Evans shared his expertise as a trusted advisor providing his network – both internal and external publics – with information and recommendations to anticipate or respond to issues and crisis.

Like other APR experts leading difficult conversations about what to do and what not to do when an organization faces a crisis, his advice is to tell it straight, consistently:

  • It’s a unique situation where a person banks a career on personal reputation: telling the facts, and explaining what his organization can and can’t do and why, with integrity and discretion. He said, “Every communication is a credibility transaction.”
  • “I’ve invested in building relationships before crisis or career-defining moments occur. Through strong relationships built on a sound reputation, I’m given latitude to resolve issues, because people know I’ll discover and share the facts.”
  • Whether communicating with senior management, the reporter down the hall, the blogger or diverse people on social media, he said, “I deliver on the promise of accuracy and truthfulness in communication.”

With insight from APR presenters Joyce Brayboy, Karin Drinkhall at the Jump-start and hundreds of APRs, I’m inspired to learn that when the issues are challenging, the speed of communication quick, and competition gets tough, APRs and APR candidates adhere to core professional practices and values that shore up the APR advantage.

Back to Basics: Sticking to Change Management Fundamentals in Navigating Trump Administration

By Robert Krueger

Political polls and pundits led the public to believe that President Donald Trump had an unlikely chance of winning the General Election.  Not only were American citizens surprised by the news on the morning of Nov. 9, 2016, but so were many leaders in the association, corporate, and nonprofit sectors. After spending months preparing and building relationships with potential appointees in a Hillary Clinton cabinet, these leaders were caught off guard and without plans for how to navigate an unpredicted set of policy and budget priorities in the Trump Administration.

170323-bIn a recent event hosted by the National Capital Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA-NCC) entitled The Trump Era: How DC Communicators are Capitalizing on Change, panelists addressed how their communications teams are responding to unforeseen changes and how the current Administration’s new focus impacts their organization’s reputation, advocacy efforts, and communication goal strategies.

Greg Staley, senior vice president of communications for the U.S. Travel Association, noted that despite the quick shift in planned messaging, his organization approaches the Trump Administration the same as they would approach any change in Administration. His association is focusing on educating the new Adminstration on the importance of travel industry to the overall U.S. economy.

This same point was echoed by panelist Jamie Hennigan. As Vice President of Strategic Communications for the National Association of Manufacturers, Hennigan said that a big focus of their messaging strategy is to educate Trump officials about the makeup of today’s manufacturing workforce. Contrary to the type of manufacturing job that the Administration has been speaking about in the first 100 days, the traditional manual factory floor laborer, characteristic of Rust Belt cities in the mid-1900s, has not been growing over the past three decades. Instead, the manufacturing sector is now extremely diverse and its workforce skews young.

“It is also important to remember that we also elected new members of Congress, so it involves educating them as well and getting them up to speed. As with every new President, we look to build new bridges and we expect everything to be just fine,” Staley added.

When asked about what have been the biggest changes to their communications role since Trump’s inauguration, panelists reported expanded roles and involvement with overall strategy.  According to Hennigan, his communications team is focused more on recruiting digital-first talent due to their increased importance within the organization.  Members of his team are now regularly at the table for any policy decision since any external communication, including a simple email to members, can potentially turn into a bad situation if not careful with messaging.

“I am now part of meetings that I have never been part of before,” said Michael McManus, vice president of corporate communications and government affairs for Asia Pulp and Paper. “I am now part of expansion and investment meetings, among others. If you are in the market, organizations are looking for people with expertise in government relations and communications to provide them with information and sound advice.”


Five Tips for Building Cyber Security Awareness and Policy Toolkit

Suzanne Ross and Kathy Stershic

Kathy Stershic, an information technology and policy expert from Dialog Research & Communications, led a dialogue on Wednesday, with the Public Relations Society of America National Capital Chapter’s Public Affairs, Government, and Accredited Public Relations professionals on “The PR Professional’s Role in Managing Data Privacy Risk.”


Kathy Stershic

Knowledgeable about global business, she distills complex information, and helps clients connect the bigger picture in even highly disparate situations – such as between cultures in the Silicon Valley and DC.

Kathy generously shared five tips with PRSA NCC members to help you get ahead of the data privacy and protection issue and lead your organization’s cyber security and data breach preparedness and response efforts.

Begin to build your PR communications and messaging toolkit such as:

  • Prepare policy statements
  • Explain the context of the problem
  • What you are doing to correct the problem – to the extent possible
  • What you are doing to prevent the problem from recurrence

Self Assessment: What is Your Digital Footprint and Cyber Security Awareness?

Engage leadership, IT experts and staff in constructive dialogue:

  • What are your goals: Do you need to protect your data, your business, your reputation, your time and operations?

If possible, employ a privacy-by-design approach which is proactive and preventative.  It takes into account human values and privacy protections, throughout your data system.

  • What is a realistic threat? More than 75 percent of small business IT pros report that employees are their weakest link for cyber-attack.

A privacy impact assessment will help you identify strengths, weaknesses and risk while enabling an informed choice about opportunities your business could take to protect its reputation, business operations and stakeholders.

Stershic Tip #1:  

Know what’s promised—and not—in your company’s privacy notice

Privacy notices – those external-facing documents that give customers the Ts & Cs of sharing their data with you – have become de facto for most businesses, and are often legally required. Even though these policies can be lengthy and challenging to read, they’re a binding agreement with anyone whose data you collect. And there ARE people who read them! Know what your company notice says is being done with collected data – and make sure that actual practices align to that promise.

Stershic Tip #2

Match your product or service claims to reality

No one can truly ‘ensure’ that data security is 100% guaranteed or that your company’s approach is absolutely the best practice or your product is entirely defect-free. If you make such claims, someone just may hold you to them. Find clever ways to make value claims that still match what is truly possible. You’ll need to run it by Legal anyway, so get a head start and wow them with your savvy messaging skills!

Stershic Tip #3

Understand what you’re collecting and why you need it

It is so tempting to gather as much data as you can because “someday” it may come in handy. Data gets stale fast, limiting its useful shelf life. If you have a breach or some regulator comes poking around, you may well have to substantiate a business rationale for holding whatever data you possess. That means a real business purpose now, not a “maybe someday we’ll use it” reason. You can’t get in trouble with what you don’t have, so gather what you truly need and let go the rest.

Stershic Tip #4

Educate staff and remain vigilant

  • Phishing campaigns attack lists of contacts simulating outreach from banks, retailers or government agencies.
  • Malware malicious code can be transferred to legitimate (trusted) sources, including through file transfer protocol (FTP) servers, that store and transfer malware tools.  Any app or link can contain embedded malware.
  • Prevent vandals by understanding (generally) how malware trojans differ and what can be done to prevent them, how botnets can backdoor into your system, and how to prevent viruses and worms from infiltrating your system.
  • While malicious outsider cyber-attacks are real and increasing, the majority of data breaches are caused by human error. Accidental data exposure, lost devices, disgruntled workers doing bad things, papers laying around, unsecured computer screens…any of this ever happen in your workplace? Staying aware of what’s available to whom can go a long way in keeping data secure.

Stershic Tip #5

Overcome Inertia

It’s natural to feel overwhelmed. With years of marketing expertise and current data privacy know-how, Kathy Stershic at Dialog Research & Communications is ready to be your on-demand data privacy manager—for a little or a lot of help.

Not Thinking About Data Privacy? Think Again.

PRSA Dialogue: March 29, 2017
Suzanne Ross, APR

Are you providing educational and strategic counsel on cyber security and privacy to leadership and colleagues within your organization and the publics you serve? 

As high-profile data breaches and invasive malware unfold in the news at increasing frequency, it’s an opportune time to use this heightened awareness to educate your stakeholders about data hygiene and preventive practices, as well as begin to develop a cyber security policy and scenario-based response plan.


Kathy Stershic facilitates PRSA-NCC dialogue. Photo credit: Suzanne Ross

Kathy Stershic, an information technology and policy expert from Dialog Research & Communications, led a dialogue on Wednesday, with the Public Relations Society of America National Capital Chapter’s Public Affairs, Government, and Accredited Public Relations professionals on “The PR Professional’s Role in Managing Data Privacy Risk.”

She explained, the increasingly complex and interactive devices in our environments through the Internet of things (IOT) such as sensors that monitor traffic lights and building functions, or devices with embedded and networked functions (glasses, watches, refrigerators, televisions and beds) can offer powerful social benefits, but they also enable an unwanted bridge into our private lives.

Discussion Focused on Conflict to Core Values

Stershic said, “From cyber breaches to data brokering, there’s a lot of confusion about what’s happening with our data.”

Collectively, event participants were mostly concerned about two issues:
i) Sustaining trust personally in their interactions
ii) Sustaining trust on behalf of the organizations and stakeholders they serve

  • Assumption: The capturing of datasets on U.S. consumers through alliances and relationships is eroding trust.
  • Response: Make trust central to your brand promise and core message.

What are the Legal and Regulatory Boundaries of Privacy Expectations and Implied Consent?

People in the U.S. hold strongly to rights under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution that protects our right to personal privacy, also referred as the “right to be left alone.”

The Supreme Court Fourth Amendment case, Boyd v. United States, 116 U.S. 616 (1886), describes the invasion of privacy as not only physical, but applies to all “ invasion of his indefeasible right of personal security, personal liberty, and private property[.]”

Invasion of our privacy through these devices can have damaging outcomes not only to individuals but also to companies liable for exposure of embarrassing information and intrusion of privacy.  Stershic said, “It’s an issue of brand trust as much as liability.”

Orin Kerr, a Professor at The George Washington University Law School explains, the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, applies from a legal point of view, only to actions of the government.  However, the Fourth Amendment principles and assumptions also inform our common conception of the boundary between the public and private spheres.[i]

What Triggers Changed Public Opinions?

Data collection itself wasn’t objectionable until use of data conflicted with fundamental values. One participant at the event commented, “I didn’t realize that by signing a permission to using a database of an Internet service or wireless communication provider, I also gave them permission to share or sell my information to another third party.”

The U.S. third-party doctrine is your voluntary approval to third parties such as banks, phone companies, Internet service providers (ISPs), and e-mail servers to allow access to your information and you have “no reasonable expectation of privacy.”

Although you may have given your authorization for data collection, with the understanding that you were agreeing to principles to help prevent objectionable content, you may not have realized your risk exposure. While protections under the first amendment for the use of a person’s name or likeness for commercial purposes, or exclusive advantage and benefit, could result in misappropriation, or False light, requirements such as proof of knowledge and indifference to a person’s preferences and injury, make it difficult to pursue legal remedies. Anyway, after discovery, your reputation is already potentially compromised by adjacencies that are not necessarily “uniformly objectionable.”

Holding firm to the third-party doctrine, Facebook’s data use policy statement is explicit: “You give us permission to use your name, and profile picture, content and information in connection with commercial sponsored or related content served or enhanced by us.”

On the one side, the Supreme Court opined the terms of service contract did not extend to target advertising or create profiles of users’ preferences. The Court held that this distinction provided an appropriate way to draw the line between reasonable and unreasonable expectations of privacy, concluding that “[b]ecause the two processes were allegedly separate, consent to one does not equate to consent to the other.”[ii]

On the other side, Congress on Tuesday, repealed the Federal Communications Commission’s plan to roll out stronger privacy rules and protections administrated by the Federal Trade Commission. What impact this will have on the collection and targeting of messages to the consumer is unclear as this also changes the regulatory framework governing internet service providers and other telecommunication carriers.


Over the short term, the public and private sector will likely continue to reconcile and accept this practice as a tradeoff for preferred services and access to business opportunities reaching some four billion people globally at an estimated $4 trillion revenue opportunity.  The benefits of free-market innovation are unlikely to be curbed unless a re-calibration occurs as a result of cyber intrusion, manipulation and impersonation influences public opinion, impact markets and public safety.

Follow-up: See Kathy Stershic’s FIVE Tips for Developing your Data Breach and Information Policy Toolkit coming on Wednesday, April 6.



Internet Association of Privacy Professionals:

US State Breach Notification Laws: -technology/security-breach-notification-laws.aspx.

US Federal Trade Commission: and security

The FTC’s Data Breach Response: A Guide for Business and business blog, provide steps that businesses can take and whom to contact in the event of a data breach, as well as a model breach notification letter.



[ii] Google Inc. Gmail Litig., 2013 LEXIS 17278, at *13.