Chapter Rewind | Lessons Learned from Pulse

April 15, 2017

Chapter Rewind | By Zenaida Kotala

FPRA and PRSA Members Listen to Lessons Learned from Pulse

FPRA and PRSA Members Listen to Lessons Learned from Pulse

Plan ahead and develop relationships before you ever need them.

That was Heather Fagan’s message to a group of public relations professions gathered for a special FPRA and PRSA’s joint March breakfast workshop at the Citrus Club in downtown Orlando.

Fagan, Mayor Buddy Dyer’s chief of staff, spoke about how her office communicated to the media and the public during and after the shooting at the Pulse nightclub on June 12, 2016.

The sold-out workshop featured Fagan and other public information officers that responded to the Pulse tragedy including representatives from the county, Orlando Health, and former PR Pro of the Year Sara Brady who represents the owners of the nightclub. WKMG reporter Eric Sandoval also provided his perspective because he was one of the first reporters on the scene.

The shooting at the gay nightclub left 49 dead and more than 50 wounded. Many were members of the Hispanic community. Pulse is the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. Despite the tragedy, the tone of the city’s initial response helped create a spirit of resilience that translated into #OrlandoUnited, which has been recognized worldwide.

Fagan was called early Sunday morning, 10 minutes before Mayor Dyer picked her up on the way to the scene.

The city has good partnerships with police, the county and the hospital already so it was easier to call people in the early morning hours, she told the crowd. It’s important to have good relationships, but it is also key to have a process to responding to crisis situations.

A disaster is not the time to be negotiating who is going to be responsible for what, she said. Plan it out and practice with multi-agency mock drills. That way when a crisis happens, you are better able to respond in a timely manner, Fagan said.

She also talked about the power of social media and the early decision to use Twitter as the city’s official way to communicate with the media. There was just no way Fagan and her team were going to be able to keep up with requests, so social media was the way to go. The team responded to thousands of inquiries that continue even today, as the community prepares to remember the tragedy on its first anniversary.

Kena Lewis, APR, the director of public affairs for Orlando Health, referred to the hospital’s crisis manual during her presentation. Her advice – if you have a plan that would accommodate 50 people, now blow it up for 100 or more. You can’t predict exactly what the crisis will be, but there are steps that can be taken to prep and then you have to have good relationships to be able to pivot when circumstances change.

Other speakers shared their personal stories and provided tips for PIOs who may find themselves dealing with a massive crisis.

Tips included:

  • Have relationships with set up protocol before you need to.
  • Assign someone to monitor the news because you won’t have time to do it. And sometimes you’ll have to respond to information you weren’t aware was out in the public domain.
  • Record interviews, that way you can remember and correct facts.
  • Ask for help, you can’t possibly handle it all.
  • Prioritize by asking yourself, do I have to make that decision today?
  • Keep a jump bag handy at all times.
  • Assign someone to take care of your PR team so they eat and sleep.

Start With Your APR Leave With Your Master’s

April 13, 2017

Thanks to a new partnership with Northeastern University, public relations professionals can now use their APR certification toward Northeastern University Master’s Degree.

Anyone who has successfully completed the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) professional certification can be awarded the equivalent of three courses of academic credit (nine quarter hours) toward a Master of Science in Corporate and Organizational Communication. This recognizes the rigorous program of study required to earn the APR, which is the industry credential for public relations professionals who demonstrate their understanding of and commitment to strategic communications principles through a multi-step review process based on established industry competencies.

If you’ve earned your APR, congratulations! Now you can apply that learning toward a master’s degree — and save time and money in the process. If you’ve been thinking about earning your APR, this may provide added incentive.

This advanced standing for APRs in the Master of Science in Corporate and Organizational Communication means students can complete the Master’s in 12 courses rather than 15, with a corresponding 20 percent savings in tuition. This Master’s is available both online and in Boston, making it easy for APRs anywhere to take advantage. Special bonus: Earning an advanced degree qualifies APRs for automatic re-Accreditation during the three-year maintenance cycle.

If you’ve been thinking about getting your master’s degree, now may be the time.

Quotes Corner

April 13, 2017

Stefania Markowicz, Director of Communication for Quotes, the PR Club at UCF

New Changes Bring New Opportunities

By Stefania Markowicz, Director of Communication for Quotes, the PR Club at UCF

Moving to a new city can be scary. Especially if you’re going away to college. Three hours away from home. With no mom and dad. At a university with over 64,000 students.

I came to the University of Central Florida (UCF) this past fall – a mere 8 months ago. It was my first time in college, and I didn’t have many friends who were planning on attending UCF with me. This meant adjusting to a completely different lifestyle, managing my time more efficiently and forming a new circle of friends. I was excited, but nervous. For the first time in my life, I truly had to be independent.

To be blunt, fall semester was rough. I wasn’t sure where I wanted to get involved or how I was going to make friends, so I ended up doing nothing besides going to classes and doing homework most weeks.

But then, a magical thing happened in the spring. I discovered Quotes, the PR Club at UCF – and it’s probably the best thing to have happened to me at UCF so far. Quotes has done so much for me; it has motivated me to get into the Advertising-Public Relations major at UCF, helped me to make friends with very similar interests and allowed me so many opportunities for networking in the public relations world. To me, this is priceless.

Roger Pynn, APR, and Ashley Tinstman of Curley & Pynn. “They spoke about a topic I had never heard of before – The Message Matrix®”

Being in Quotes allows me to go to unique events and learn valuable information for furthering my career as a student wanting to be a PR pro down the line. Just this past month, for example, I was taking part in an event led by Roger Pynn, APR, CPRC, and Ashley Tinstman of Curley & Pynn. They spoke about a topic I had never heard of before – The Message Matrix®. Had it not been for Quotes, I would have never known about this event, where I learned the basics of reputation management and consistent message delivery.

Now, my life is not “go to class and get your homework done.” It’s “go to class and get your homework done, and attend Intern Pursuit, and sit in on PR speaker events, and tour downtown agencies, and update the Quotes Facebook account and go to Tallahassee for a three-day PR trip.” To a random person, this might seem overwhelming. But to me, it’s exactly what I wanted in a college experience.

So thank you, Quotes, for everything you have given me up to this point. I will never stop being thankful for it.

Member PRofile: Mark Schlueb

March 16, 2017
Mark Schlueb

Mark Schlueb
Sr. Communications Coordinator
University of Central Florida

Give a brief explanation of your job. 
I’m lucky enough to be part of UCF’s News & Information team, a group of pros much smarter than me who I learn from every day. I love working at UCF — it’s such a dynamic place that there’s always something going on. I write stories about cool faculty, from archaeologists to nanoscientists, and students who are so accomplished they make me feel like a slacker when I think back to my own college days. Our team pitches our stories to local and national media, and we handle a huge volume of inquiries from reporters, too.

How long have you been a part of FPRA?
I joined FPRA in 2015 because that’s when I left my longtime job as a newspaper reporter for a career in public relations, and I knew I had a lot to learn. There’s a wealth of knowledge among FPRA’s membership that enables newbies like me to learn from people with decades of experience.

Why did you join?
I joined FPRA in 2015 because that’s when I left my longtime job as a newspaper reporter for a career in public relations, and I knew I had a lot to learn. There’s a wealth of knowledge among FPRA’s membership that enables newbies like me to learn from people with decades of experience.

Favorite FPRA event:
I’ve enjoyed every FPRA event I’ve attended, from the media mashups with PRSA to presentations by PR pros from around Florida. But so far, the 2016 state convention was the most valuable. With sessions on everything from crisis communication to video production to social media, there was plenty to learn. The happy hours weren’t bad, either.

Tell us about an exciting achievement.
I married my best friend and have raised two awesome sons. Also, mayors of two cities have proclaimed “Mark Schlueb Days.” Totally undeserved, but feel free to celebrate.

What was your first job?
My first job was at a Taco Bell in my hometown of Titusville. I saved enough money to buy a beat up Mustang and can still roll a perfect burrito with my eyes closed.

Tell us something people may not know about you.
When people learn I’m the youngest of 10 children, they always ask, “What was it like growing up with nine brothers and sisters?” Loud. It was really loud.

Contact Information:, 407-823-0221 or @MarkSchlueb


Chapter Rewind: February Breakfast – Taking on Tallahassee

March 16, 2017

Chris Carmody, Alayna Curry, APR and Robert Stuart at the Taking on Tallahassee presentation at the Wayne M. Densch Discovery Center at Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens.

Chapter Rewind | By Gabriel Soltren

Economic Development is hot right now. Chris Carmody and Robert Stuart with GrayRobinson spoke about government priorities in Tallahassee. During the Taking on Tallahassee presentation, they explained that 116 million people visited Florida in 2016. However, some in state government want to cut marketing efforts and trim the role of Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida.

Robert Stuart with GrayRobinson explained how to play by the rules when communicating with legislators in Tallahassee.

Are legislators using social media and technology? Yes. They are increasingly posting videos as an alternative to writing press releases. For example, the governor and the house of representatives posted opposing videos to drum up support for and against Florida’s economic development agencies. A new rule banned lobbyist from texting elected officials while working on the chamber floor. Now there is a simple yet effective phone app from Lobbytools that lets lobbyist know when a legislator is available for texting.

Lawmakers are working on legislation dealing with police body cameras, red light cameras, health care issues and medical marijuana.

At the end of the day, there is no substitute for meeting with your representative. “Politicians are always trying to contact constituents,” said Stuart. “Call your local representative’s office and ask them how they want to be contacted.” Carmody and Stuart suggested that constituents stay in touch with their representatives. Legislators are always thinking about re-election and value what voters have to say.

Click here for more event photographs.

Intern Pursuit

March 11, 2017
Karina Saad

Karina Saad

This is how I see it

Whether you have been an intern, supervised one, or both, you might agree with me that no two internship experiences are the same. This is why I have decided to share my perspective as an intern. My journey is one that has been so enriching that it deserves to be told and to have an audience.

This is how I see it: we live in a very competitive world, where standing out and finding opportunities to show what we are made of are scarce. This last word, “scarce,” has hope in it, as no matter how hard it might be to enter the professional world, there is always a door that opens. This internship was that door for me.

My journey started when I was attending one of the monthly meetings that Quotes, the PR club at UCF, organizes. Our guest speaker was Jennifer Bisbee; after listening to her I knew I had to introduce myself. She talked about the day-to-day life of a public relations professional and made it sound as amazing as it was challenging. I knew I had to intern with her organization, Bisbee and Company.

Do you remember the first time you ever visited a museum? I do. I felt like no matter where I decided to turn my head, I would encounter a piece that would make me learn something new, leave me speechless and inspire me. This internship has made me feel the same way.

Bisbee and Company is like a big art museum, and each project I have been able to be part of is like a piece influenced by many hands. Each one tells a story and each one teaches something different. I have had the opportunity to observe and learn from every experience.

No matter how astonishing a museum might be, if the visitor doesn’t have the right attitude, then its value is not appreciated. The visit is meaningless. This also applies to my internship. I feel like no matter how great of an opportunity it might be, if I don’t give my best and try as hard as I can to meet the expectations of those who believe in me, then I’m wasting my opportunity.

Every good museum has knowledgeable guides and information centers so visitors don’t get lost. With this internship, even when it might be daunting to take action on projects that I’ve never done before, I have not felt overwhelmed because of the guidance, patience and goodwill of the team with whom I have worked.

Like that museum I once visited, Bisbee and Company has exposed me to a whole new world full of opportunities and knowledge. Now I must summon the best version of myself to contribute my own “works of art” – to boldly put forward my unique ideas and perspective.


KUA’s Chris Gent Installed as Kissimmee Chamber Chairman

February 14, 2017
Chris Gent, APR, CPRC

Chris Gent, APR, CPRC

KUA’s Chris Gent Installed as Kissimmee Chamber Chairman

KISSIMMEE, Fla., January 30, 2017 – At its 92nd annual meeting held on Jan. 28, the Kissimmee/Osceola County Chamber of Commerce installed Chris Gent, vice president of corporate communications for Kissimmee Utility Authority, as its 2017 chairman. Gent will serve until Dec. 31, 2017.

Gent succeeds Sharon Smoley, state director of government affairs for Charter Communications, who served as chairman in 2016.

The Kissimmee/Osceola County Chamber of Commerce is a private, non-profit, membership-driven organization comprised of approximately 900 business enterprises, civic organizations, educational institutions and individuals. It is the largest chamber of commerce in Central Florida.

Gent has served on the Chamber board since 2010. He also serves on the boards of the Chamber Foundation, Community Vision, Kissimmee Main Street, Florida Hospital Kissimmee Community Advisory Board, Florida Public Relations Association Counselors’ Network, and the Florida Public Relations Education Foundation.

At the utility, Gent holds responsibility for internal and external corporate communications, including marketing and advertising, media and public relations, employee communications, special events and organizational philanthropy. He holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Central Florida and master’s degree in strategic public relations from The George Washington University in Washington, DC.

Founded in 1901, KUA ( is Florida’s sixth largest community-owned utility powering 70,000 customers in Osceola County, Fla.