Surround Yourself with a Like-Minded Team

Surround Yourself with a Like-Minded Team, Who Complement Your Weaknesses:
A Recap of News Generation’s Panel

by Kelsey O’Planick


Panelists from Left to Right: Kate Perrin, Regina Lewis, Paul Quirk, Samantha Villegas

Putting the right team together is critical to the outcome and success of your project. Whether you’re in-house looking to bring on some additional help, you’re a PR firm who has won a new client, or a small business or independent looking to offer more value to your clients outside of your core expertise.

It can be much more cost-effective to structure your team in such a way that you’re having people do what they’re great at. Everyone has a stake in the game. Everyone brings something special and unique to the table, and it allows you to capitalize on talent and provide the greatest outcome.

But how do you choose the right people for your team? How do you decide what to outsource help for? A panel of experts recently shared their thoughts and experiences at News Generation’s panel event on Thursday, May 18 at the City Club of Washington, “Developing Your Team & Executing Together: How Organizations, Firms & Independents Can Work Together Effectively.”

The panelists included Samantha Villegas, President of SaVi PR, LLC; Paul Quirk, Director of Communications at Digital Impact Alliance at the United Nations Foundation; Kate Perrin, CEO of PRofessional Solutions, LLC; and Regina Lewis, CEO of Regina Lewis, LCC and Media Contributor & Consultant.

Some of the panelists’ key points were about building your networks, surrounding yourself with other like-minded professionals, and bringing in help when you need it to fill gaps as a cohesive team. It was suggested to find a team that complements your weaknesses for the best results. Also, attend networking events hosted by groups like PRSA and WWPR, and do pro bono work to help secure referrals for clients.

Leverage people you trust and have self-confidence so you don’t have to say ‘no’ to projects when you may have in the past. Think creatively when your team is at a point of change. And on a more pragmatic note, some panelists suggested having a contract and non-compete clause when hiring subs for a project you lead.

For more information on News Generation, a boutique media relations firm in Bethesda, please contact Susan Apgood 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.

PRSA: What’s In It For You?

By Samantha Villegas, SaviPR

Villegas-Samantha-copy-427x424This year, I began my first term as a director on PRSA’s National Board. I was voted into the position by the Leadership Assembly last fall, having run from the floor during the meeting. The speech I gave, I was told afterward by many of the delegates, was what won them over. Board Chair Jane Dvorak told me that it was the fact that I mentioned the gratitude I felt for PRSA that earned her vote, and that of other board members in the room.
It’s true, too, as anyone who knows me will tell you, I often say that I owe my career to PRSA, and I mean that literally. While I landed my first PR job on my own more than 20 years ago, it was the mentor I met there that introduced me to the organization. Once a member of PRSA, it was the APR that gave this gal with no PR in my academic background, the knowledge, confidence and credibility I needed to excel at my work and advance in my positions. Then it was the network of colleagues I met at events and on committees who, whenever I needed advice or was looking for a new opportunity, answered with amazing counsel or recommendations or referrals.

So, when a mentor called me last summer to ask if I would consider running for the National Board, of course I jumped at the chance to lend my time and attention to the organization and the people who had lent so much of their time and attention to me. The value I have derived from my membership did not happen extemporaneously. Our behavior, as members, has a direct and substantial influence over the value we derive from PRSA. Here are a few behaviors that I have found greatly enhance the value and overall experience.

  1. Treat your PRSA membership like a gym membership. It’s the same thing. You don’t magically receive value just by joining. You pay the membership fee for the opportunity to work out. Just like you must go the gym to work out to get fit, you must come to events and get involved to realize the true benefit of membership. So, go to and review the list of committees. Pick the one you are most interested in and join them. Flex your PR muscle for us and you will be rewarded with additional experience for your resume, and a close-knit group of local professionals who will offer you counsel and referral when needed.
  2. Be Humble. There’s a lot of ego in our field, which I think, collectively, does us all a big disservice, because that arrogance tricks us into thinking we have nothing left to learn. It stunts our growth and drives people away. When you acknowledge your weaknesses, and believe you have more to learn, you not only open yourself up to further professional and personal growth, you open yourself up to others, which is something we need to do in an industry based on relationships.
  3. Invest Because You Are Worth It. Times are tight. I get it. But the worst possible thing you can do is not join PRSA or attend a professional development class because your employer won’t pay for you. It’s not your employer’s job to look out for your future, it’s yours. So, invest your own money if they won’t. Take advantage of the quarterly credit card payment option (around $65 every three months) and just make sure you set aside $22/month to cover it. It’s doable. Then, avail yourself to the dozens of free webinars and get the membership rate at events. Trust me, no one in my position after 20 years says, wow, I regret spending that money on my career.
  4. Pay it Forward. I am where I am in my career today because dozens of people gave back in some way to help me get here. Now it’s my turn. I share what I know, share opportunities, share failures, whatever I’ve learned, the value grows exponentially when shared.  So, take what you need from PRSA, then turn around and give some of yourself back to it.

A Warm Welcome from PRSA-NCC!

By Lisa Joahil

pr-new1If you feel like networking is a task and making the first move is the hardest part, you are not alone. Many students graduate from college and attend networking events for the very first time as working professionals. Many working professionals also feel like it is their first day at college when they start networking at their new job. So, how do we break the ice? How do we overcome that awkward feeling of rejection and lack of confidence?

As I walked through my very first networking event in Washington D.C., at PRSA-NCC’s New Professionals Happy Hour at La Tasca, I quickly learned the solution. I was greeted by members of the New Professionals committee, Jenna Mosley and Josh Gordon, who immediately made me feel welcomed and provided meaningful tips for transitioning into American culture. I recently moved to the area and right at that moment, it dawned on me. The solution was to smile. The welcoming smiles of everyone from various industries within public relations (PR) made it easier to smile back and feel relaxed. At that moment, I was convinced that this was the first step to breaking the ice at any networking event.


From Left to Right: Dolly Maiah, Janicia Moore, Eric Winkfield, and Kelsi Oliver

The New Professionals Happy Hour boasted an attendance of over 50 PR professionals representing their various organizations in an environment that provided an opportunity to form meaningful connections. Many organizations and institutions were represented including American University, Elon University, Full On Communications, Hager Sharp and Sound Exchange. Everyone was very eager to share business cards and offer professional advice and in no time, the smiles turned into laughter. Networking became easier and the connections I made that night would form lasting impressions as I transitioned from another country.

I really enjoyed learning from others that evening and would recommend that if you are a new PR professional in town, mark your calendar when you receive networking emails from PRSA-NCC. The connections you could make will prove to be invaluable. Happy Networking!