With conference in the review mirror and bags finally unpacked, the reality of this being the last month of my tenure as Orlando Area Chapter president is finally sinking in. The year has flown by, as everyone warned me it would. It has been every bit the opportunity for growth that everyone said it would be. And everyone who told me it would be both intensely challenging and incredibly fun, well they were right too. But to those who told me it would be rewarding – you are masters of the understatement.
This has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my professional career, a point driven home at annual conference when our chapter claimed statewide President’s Awards for both Leadership Development and Student Engagement. The truly surreal moment was seeing my name on the plaque for Chapter President of the Year. We left that room with an armful of plaques that stand as testament to the caliber of the team that came together this year to serve on the Orlando board. Some were brand new to leadership roles. Others had been working diligently behind the scenes on behalf of the chapter for years. It’s entirely possible that some of you have never met them, but you should know how hard they worked this year and I’d like to share their success with you.
Kacie Escobar and Katarina Dos Santos are the treasury team. Going into this board year, we were committed to reinvesting in our members. This meant more giveaways, more raffles, and especially more scholarships – membership, Leadership FPRA, annual conference, etc. However our members were looking to grow, we wanted to support them. Kat and Kacie made it happen. They knew the budget inside and out, kept us on track and accountable all year, and in their spare time even managed to research and test a new registration platform to streamline finances and the member experience.
Julie Hall, APR, Jacqueline Kooser and Gabriel Soltren are the communication team. Member engagement was strong this year because this team made sure that communication was always flowing. With Gabriel at the helm, the website attracted roughly 30,000 page views this year. And Julie Hall worked tirelessly to gather our members’ stories, chapter events and industry tips for the newsletter each month, which consistently blew industry averages for open and click through rates out of the water. Jacqueline is the voice behind our social media channels. In the two years she’s served in this role, our impressions have increased by nearly 88 percent! And she’s led the charge in exploring new social avenues such as Facebook advertising and custom Snapchat filters.
Kelda Senior and Caroline Tanner are the membership team. You probably remember hearing from them at renewal time last year. They emailed, they called, they even met prospective members for coffee and they might have stalked a few on Facebook. You’d better believe we met our membership renewal goal and today we stand as the second largest professional chapter in the state.
And speaking of membership, have you checked out our student chapter lately? Jonathan Gabriel can tell you all about it. He’s served as VP of student outreach for two years now, and in that time the chapter has nearly doubled in size. He’s attended Quotes events, served as a speaker and coordinated tours that connected students with the professional community. He’s the first to introduce himself when a student walks into a professional chapter event and he follows up with each and every one of them afterward. If you’ve had a strong intern or a great new hire in the last two years, it’s likely that Jonathan helped them along the way to grow in professionalism and maturity.
Alyssa Chandler and Bailey Morris are prime examples of the incredible professionals emerging from our student chapters. They served as VPs of Scholarship Fundraising this year and helped us completely reimagine what that would look like for our chapter. Moving our scholarship fundraising efforts from a standalone event to a silent auction at Image Awards allowed us to work smarter, not harder, in our effort to support students working to join us in the PR field.
Since Image Awards was our most highly attended event of the year, there’s a good chance you saw that silent auction, along with all the professionals being honored for exemplary work in the past year. It was a sold-out event in an interesting new venue with fabulous food, classy décor and one of the most diligent, hardworking event planners I’ve ever seen. If you don’t know Marc Espeso, VP of Image Awards, you’re missing out. He’s agreed to serve another year in the role and I can’t wait to see what he has planned.
Mandy Kimmer, APR,CPRC headed up the chapter’s accreditation efforts for the year, co-hosting APR study sessions, organizing panels and facilitating the CPRC process. Five chapter members have completed the APR panel process this year, three of whom have also already successfully completed the APR exam. And the Orlando chapter is home to a new CPRC this year as well. To date, an impressive 22 percent of our chapter members hold credentials.
Mark Schlueb joined the team this year to serve as the VP of Media Relations. His primary task was Media Mashup and he killed it. The event drew 110 attendees, connected them with dozens of representatives from local media, and featured keynotes on the media frenzy surrounding the hunt for the Tampa serial killer and the world class media relations efforts of the Daytona speedway.
Two members of the board that play important roles behind the scenes are Chapter Secretary Susan Vernon-Devlin and VP of Sponsorships Megan Paquin, APR. Susan is an FPRA board veteran whose experience has proven invaluable time and time again. She’ll be stepping away next year to serve in other leadership roles, but I have a sneaking suspicion she’ll be back in the future and we’ll all be better for it.
Megan joined the board last year in a brand new position, VP of Sponsorship. She’s worked to streamline the chapter’s efforts to secure sponsorships and given us much needed guidelines for sponsorship levels. She’s been a valuable partner to all board members responsible for events and has helped us take steps to continue to secure our financial stability. I’m so pleased to see her stepping into the president-elect positon next year.
Which brings me to Jeff Grainger, APR, who is nearly done serving his year as president-elect and will soon be inducted as chapter president. Jeff is also an Orlando board veteran, having served in a variety of positions. That depth and breadth of experience was evident this past year as he put together programing that really spoke to our members, covering a wide variety of topics, interests and experience levels. He also served as a strong advocate for our chapter on the state board. I’m honored to be passing the gavel to him this month. The chapter will be in very capable hands.
And then there’s Alayna Curry, APR, who probably could have coasted through her year as immediate past president except that it’s not in her DNA. She was a resource to every member of the board this year, but she was also a catalyst for change. She drew the board’s attention to policies and practices that were no longer serving us and spearheaded the efforts to grow and evolve. When a board member had to step down unexpectedly, Alayna stepped up. And instead of sailing off into the FPRA sunset at the end of this year, she’s gearing up for yet another new position on the board: membership.
Many people will tell you that FPRA is a family. Never has that felt more true to me than it has this year. It’s been a pleasure and an honor to work with this team and to interact with so many of our members. It’s been an incredible chapter of #MyFPRAstory and I’m excited to see what the next chapter holds.