2019 PRSA-NCC Thoth Awards Are Open!

By Sabrina Kidwai, co-chair Thoth Awards Committee

One of the events members look forward to every year is the Thoth Awards in the fall. It’s a great time to celebrate the best communication campaigns and components created by professionals in the DC area. It’s an annual tradition and now it’s your chance to take part in the great celebration.

Do you have a successful communications campaign or component(s) that you are excited about from 2018? Is there a PR agency or association/nonprofit that you believe should be recognized as a great communications team? If so, now is your chance to submit for the 2019 Thoth Awards. Deadline to submit is July 1 and the early bird deadline is June 7.

As a Thoth committee, we made a few changes to the program this year, and we believe it will help streamline entries as well as give more members an opportunity to apply for and attend the awards ceremony. Here’s what’s new this year:

  • We have changed the awards from a dinner to a lunch. Save the date for Friday, Sept. 27, at the National Press Club. It’s now called The Thoth Awards Luncheon.
  • We took a fresh look at all the categories and have combined some and eliminated others, due to lack of submissions over the past four years. A full list of changes is online here.
  • In the past, we heard from independent PRSA-NCC members that pricing for Thoth can be prohibitive for a small business, so we wanted to ensure that entry is accessible from a financial perspective. So, we are introducing a PRSA-NCC IPRA price this year: early bird pricing is $95 and regular price is $135.
  • We are offering special pricing for first-time Thoth Award submitters. Some of our members haven’t submitted for a Thoth Award before, and we want to encourage them to apply this year, with hopes that they will become repeat applicants. This special pricing is only for PRSA-NCC members.
  • In the past, we gave out both the Thoth award and Award for Excellence (entries that were second place). This year, we are only giving out the Thoth awards. It will provide you with more opportunities to network with and celebrate the winners.

During the Thoth Awards Luncheon, we also are going to recognize professionals in the industry with more than 30 years of experience, presenting them with our prestigious Hall of Fame Award. Last year’s winners were Martha Boudreau, Executive Vice President & Chief Communications and Marketing Officer at AARP, and Patty Yu, Principal of theYucrew, and they gave great speeches that inspired us to innovate and challenge ourselves every day. I can’t wait to see who we will honor this year. If you know someone who should be nominated for the Hall of Fame award, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, submit your nomination by July 26.

We hope you apply for this year’s awards! If you have any questions regarding the submission process, please reach out to me or Aprill Turner.


Partner With a Membership Organization to Help Market Your Business

By Kate Perrin, CEO PRofessional Solutions, LLC

This is PRofessional Solutions’ 25th anniversary and while I credit its longevity to providing excellent PR temp services, equally important has been leveraging the reach of our marketing time and dollars through organizations like PRSA-NCC who spread our message to our target audience.

Fish Where You Know the Fish Swim

Small business owners must find ways to get noticed and demonstrate competence.  Membership organizations provide many ways to do that.  Our target audience is communicators and those who employ them, so where better to focus than on PR professional societies?

Each business needs to identify the best ways to highlight itself, but we’ve identified three roles you can play that membership organizations appreciate and will put your firm in the spotlight:

Be a Supporter – Become a sponsor either of the organization or of one of its events.  Donate to auctions that support its programs or causes.  Contribute to its large events.  This gets your firm’s name visible to leadership, members and participants.  And be sure to attend yourself.

Moderating a PRSA-NCC 2012 panel on using a career coach

Moderating a PRSA-NCC 2012 panel on using a career coach

Participate! – Make yourself or key members of your organization available to write for the membership organization’s newsletter, website or blog.  Participate in its mentorship programs.

Meeting with students at PRSA-NCC PR Day 2018

Meeting with students at PRSA-NCC PR Day 2018

Demonstrate Knowledge and Expertise – This can mean serving as speaker, panelist or moderator for the organization’s programs, but also consider opportunities that highlight the accomplishments of others.  Nominate worthy members for the organization’s highest professional recognition.  Or, work with the organization to create events or scholarships which may be linked to your business’ support that will build future industry talent or highlight outstanding industry achievers.

These roles have real value to the organization of which you’re a sponsor and its member at the same time they are valuable marketing approaches for your firm.

2018 annual WWPR dinner for past Presidents and winners of the PR Woman of the Year award

2018 annual WWPR dinner for past Presidents and winners of the PR Woman of the Year award


sorryBy Karen Naumann, APR, Vice President at Susan Davis International

Apologies abound. From political figures, religious institutions, entertainers, corporations, there seems to be an apology issued in the public domain every week.

Crisis Response

For professional communicators, the apology is an attempt to restore the image of the entity or person, preserve the business/organization, and minimize damage after a crisis. However, simply saying “sorry” is not the proper response for every crisis as academia’s Situational Crisis Communication Theory would inform.

Before taking a message position, culpability should first be carefully considered. Ask, “Was the person or organization actual the victim? Did the situation arise through unavoidable circumstances or unknown factors?” If the answer is “yes,” then “sorry” is not the response.

  • If there is clearly another blame-worthy party, then the message positioning could shift blame to the culprit and attack the accuser of the false accusation.
  • If there is some negligible responsibility to be taken, then minimizing role and justifying choices may be the best message positioning.
  • If, however, responsibility for a tragic and avoidable situation falls with your client or organization, then “sorry” is only the beginning. Compensation to those affected and demonstrating authentic change is immediately required.

This is a simplistic framework of crisis message positioning. The content of the crisis response will likely be multi-layered.

Sometimes the foundational messaging framework is followed by necessary instructional information for those affected by the crisis. Instructional information can be actions taken to correct or mitigate the threat of the crisis for stakeholders. Also, expressions of compassion and sympathy may need to be part of the messaging, especially if there was a loss of human life.

Regardless of response message positioning selected, always be transparent, accurate and swift.

Once the Smoke Clears

The above addresses crisis response messaging. Issuing the messaging and fielding media inquiries is not the end of the crisis.

Post crisis is comprised of follow up actions and changes to avoid similar crises in the future. The benefit of time to make sense of a crisis may be an opportunity to issue a report stemming from investigations into the crisis and the actions taken to prevent another going forward.

A thorough report can set the record straight and restore faith in an organization.

The Best Offense Is a Good Defense

In the end, the best crisis is the one that never happens. Preventing crisis should be job #1 for the professional communicator.

Pre-crisis scenario building is pivotal to that risk management role. Scenario building is a strategic-planning technique that projects multiple future situations for an organization.

While there is no rigid scenario building process, the most respected models are rooted in James E. Grunig’s work. Steps to consider include:

  1. Conduct environmental scanning of stakeholders, influences, trends
  2. Identify issues emerging from environmental scan
  3. Zero in on areas of potential crisis, such as legal/regulatory, physical locations, internal employees and clientele
  4. Examine the intersection of issues, stakeholders, influences, trends, and areas of potential crisis
  5. Create response frameworks for the potential crises identified.


Additionally, actively preparing the crisis response team for the most likely scenarios for an organization is a common initiative led by communicators. These efforts should go beyond the crisis response team to prepare the entire organization from the top down and to open dialogue that promotes deep understanding of what stakeholders think of the most probable crises.

Additionally, communicators, along with internal leadership, should proactively work toward mitigating the circumstances that may lead to the crisis in the first place.

About the Author

Karen Naumann, APR is a Vice President at Susan Davis International, a Washington D.C.-based public relations and public affairs firm. She is a member of the PRSA-NCC Board of Directors.

25 Criteria to Review Before Writing for PR Purposes

By Don Bates, APR, Fellow PRSA, PRSA-NCC Writing Workshop Instructor

(Next Washington, D.C., workshop, April 30, 8:30-4:30, at The George Washington University. )

Before you write anything for professional public relations purposes, you need to review these 25 accepted criteria to ensure that your assignment is well-written, its structure is correct and its content is sensitive to the needs and interests of the target audience.

These criteria apply to all PR writing. They are based on what PR managers, writers, researchers, journalists, editors, teachers and consultants consider as essential based on their professional knowledge, experience and expertise.

Print the list, which is alphabetical, on a large note card or half sheet of paper you can attach to your computer, printer, bookcase or somewhere else close at hand where you can easily read it.

  1. Accurate
  2. Actionable
  3. AP styled
  4. Attributed
  5. Audience-centric
  6. Benefits focused
  7. Clear
  8. Concise
  9. Credible
  10. Direct
  11. Engaging
  12. Evaluated
  13. Factual
  14. Incisive
  15. Informative
  16. Insightful
  17. Logical
  18. Measured in tone
  19. Persuasive
  20. Positive
  21. Readable
  22. Researched
  23. Simply stated
  24. Strategic
  25. Substantiated

Please share the list with colleagues, students, clients and employers. You have my permission.

About the Author

Don Bates, APR, Fellow PRSA, is a well-known PR/PA executive, writer, teacher and consultant. He has worked for national and international corporations, nonprofit causes, professional associations and agencies. He conducts writing workshops worldwide. He has taught in China, Japan, Singapore, Italy, Switzerland, Peru, Spain and other countries. Don also teaches graduate public relations courses at New York University and is a senior advisor on PR agency M&A with Gould Partners. He owned and operated The Bates Company, NY/DC-based PR and marketing firm, which he sold after 12 years in business. He is a member of the PRSA-NCC and PRSA-NY chapters, and an honorary trustee of the Institute for Public Relations, which he helped to establish.

How To Shift Negative Traits into Positive Leadership Attributes

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Guest post by Heathere Evans

My grandmother lived to 101. On her 100th birthday, I asked her to tell me how she managed to live such a successful life. “Everything in moderation,” she said with a little sparkle in her eye. Who knew that Nana’s simple wisdom would prove to be one of the most effective strategies for personal growth and professional success?

In the work I do as a leadership coach, I see over and over how hard we are on ourselves. We all have things we would like to improve. Perhaps you have a list of what you’d like to stop doing, start doing or change. But even self-improvement needs moderation or we can start thinking we’re not good enough, we’re broken. Before we know it, we’re not feeling good about where we are—ever. It’s classic destination addiction, a term coined by my mentor and friend Dr. Robert Holden that describes a preoccupation with the idea that happiness is in the next place, the next job and with the next partner. This kind of approach to “self-improvement” is the No. 1 cause of self-induced stress.

But what if there’s actually nothing about you that needs to be fixed?

How to Evolve Our Limiting Traits

Fundamentally, there’s nothing wrong or broken about any of us. Inside what we consider to be “negative” traits and behaviors we’d like to improve are simply aspects of ourselves that need to be recognized, brought to the surface and strengthened. Most often, our success depends on the ability to make that shift to the strongest parts of who we are quickly and adeptly.

Think of aspects of your (or anyone’s) personality as existing on a spectrum. Limiting traits are on the lower/weaker end and more productive traits are on the higher/stronger end. To reach our full potential, we need to learn to evolve low-end traits to the highest end of the spectrum, so they actually become personal strengths.

This level of growth often takes some coaching, but every aspect of your personality has a gift to give you. The key is to stop looking outside and start strengthening what’s within. Below are four examples of how personality traits perceived as negative are nothing less than strengths in disguise.



Self-Doubt   –> Skilled Inquiry

If you’re running self-doubt as information or evidence, then it becomes a block. But one of the most important skills of successful leaders is asking the tough questions! Give the Inner Doubter a new job—helping you build powerful skills in inquiry.

Complaining –> Requesting

Recently I worked with a team in the midst of an organizational change that had not gone well. As a result, lots of people were frustrated and complaining. What do leaders do when we notice we’re caught in complaining? Create a powerful request. The aspect of the personality that notices when things could be improved is an important part of who we are. We want to embrace it and give it a job that supports our success by making requests that improve things in our offices and our lives.

Inner Critic –> Inner Coach

The consistency of the Inner Critic is unmatched in its ability to support our success when it is shifted into the Inner Coach. The inner conversation that was negative switches over into one that is encouraging, supportive and helpful.

Relentless self-improvement can mask feelings of not being good enough and keep us from realizing the gifts of who we are. As we grow as leaders in our lives and our workplaces, let’s embrace and evolve our personalities. Here is a coaching exercise to get you started:

Coaching Exercise:  In what parts of your personality do you think “this needs to change about me” or “this needs to be fixed”? See if you can name one talent or skill you have related to it.

About the Author: Heathere Evans, APR is a leadership consultant known for her emotional intelligence workshops and coaching programs that help transform cultures, individuals and brands. She can be reached at pivotincorporated.com, on LinkedIn and IG @coaching.evolved.

How Online Reviews Improve Your Public Relations

By Grayson Kemper, Senior Content Writer for Clutch

People value and increasingly reference online reviews for your company during their vetting process for services providers.

Reviews are the online form of word-of-mouth marketing. Evidence shows that 84 percent of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.

According to a recent survey, almost all consumers (97 percent) take customer reviews into account as they are making purchases. In addition, customers spend over 31 percent more on a business that has predominantly positive reviews on their site.

These statistics demonstrate that online reviews can both influence whether a customer decides to partner with or purchase from your company and how much they are willing to pay to do so.

Given these stakes, your business needs to use online reviews to engage people online and improve your public relations. If you can do so, you open the opportunity to make a positive impression of your business, better promote your products, and generate more sales.

How Online Reviews Can Benefit Your Business

Reviews can improve your relationship with customers. Customers trust and often engage with online reviews. Reviews also can result in increased customer conversions. Customers who read positive reviews about a business have a 133 percent higher conversion rate.

As clients browse the reviews posted on your site, they will gain more confidence in your products and business as a whole.

Negative reviews can actually work in your favor as well. As long as you handle negative reviews properly, you can prove that your business values excellent customer service.

Online Reviews and Directory Sites Help SEO and Web Traffic

There also are SEO benefits to online reviews.

All major search engines offer reviews, such as Google Reviews, particularly for local listings. Allowing your site to be listed and reviewed increases the chances that people encounter and click through to it, which increases your website traffic.

In addition to search engine reviews, you can list your company on directory sites such as Angie’s List or The Manifest. These sites generally rank well in search engine results for a broad array of terms, which presents the opportunity to earn secondary traffic. They also provide an opportunity to demonstrate the results you can produce for your clients, a crucial factor of consideration for every potential client.

How to Turn Online Reviews Into PR Tools

Your business should encourage your customers to leave reviews on your site.

Client reviews largely contribute to your company’s reputation. Positive reviews can increase your company’s credibility. Even if you have negative reviews, you can improve your image if you can demonstrate a sincere willingness to fix an issue or improve on past mistakes.

Online reviews are a powerful marketing tool, as they play a significant role in influencing customer purchase decisions. If handled correctly, reviews can be used as a PR tool to improve the reputation of your business.

Grayson Kemper is a senior content writer for Clutch, a B2B research and reviews firm in Washington, D.C. He focuses on marketing and emerging technologies research.

Hobby Your Way to CEO

By Helen Sullivan, APR, Fellow PRSA


Are you working too hard to have time for a hobby? Rethink that. If you want to move up the corporate ladder, get a hobby. That’s the takeaway from a fascinating article in the October 2018 Harvard Business Review (HBR).

According to HBR, many CEOs of top companies in the United States have one thing in common: they make time for hobbies they are passionate about, and those hobbies enhance, rather than detract from, their ability to succeed.

According to the article, David Solomon, CEO of Goldman Sachs, moonlights as a DJ. Brian Roberts, CEO of Comcast, plays squash. Whether they’re cycling, studying Taekwondo, being a drummer in a band, playing basketball, building a collection, flying airplanes or fishing, these CEOs don’t just play, they excel. Many attribute their hobbies to their success—teaching them lessons in humility and authentic leadership, providing a true escape, helping them learn never to quit and finding ways to be their best.

My favorite quote was from Andy Wilson, CEO of Electronic Arts, who said, “I train a lot of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and you know, when someone’s trying to take your head off, you pretty much can only think about that.”

Down time is much needed time to refresh your body and soul. Don’t feel guilty on that golf course, race course or online art course–you need that, and maybe your career needs it, too.

Originally posted on the IPMI Blog of the International Parking & Mobility Institute