LeadershipFPRA Rewind: CN Winter Symposium

February 14, 2019

By Ali Beemer

LeadershipFPRA Class III’s year is in full swing, and as a member of the class, I have to say, it’s been an amazing experience thus far. The group of 15 professionals from across Florida, seven of whom are from the FPRA Orlando chapter, reconvened for our second session January 24-25. Our group was able to participate in FPRA’s Counselors Network (CN) Winter Symposium in St. Augustine – a professional development conference attended exclusively by senior-level professionals. Not only was it a fun networking opportunity, it also gave many of us in the leadership class learning opportunities that were unmatched in our industry.

Our itinerary began with the first speaker of the symposium, David Riggleman, communications director for the City of Las Vegas, who started a powerful discussion on the mass shooting tragedy that occurred on October 1, 2017, and the city’s response. It was a raw and emotional conversation for everyone in the room, no matter the experience level. We took away many important crisis key learnings from David, who had to remain calm through his own emotions and stages of grief during the tragedy itself. One of the most impactful takeaways was the importance of having an effective emergency response plan and implementing training across all levels for alignment when tragedy strikes. Many of us are so busy with our day-to-day responsibilities that we don’t prioritize training, particularly crisis training. It was a great reminder that crisis training should be a priority and the day-to-day is not guaranteed.

Next up was Mickey Nall, APR, CPRC, to discuss the ever-changing landscape of influencer engagement and PR strategy. This is a convoluted topic for many of us since the strategy and landscape continues to evolve daily. What makes someone an influencer? Are high numbers important anymore? Do they provide the ROI that’s worth the (sometimes extremely high) price tag? Mickey gave us a true deep-dive into the world of influencers currently and what’s next, including the rise of the micro-influencer – great news, a high following doesn’t always equal high return. Plus, some really important statistics to consider when looking to increase your influencer budget (i.e. More than 50 percent of women have purchased a product endorsed by an influencer, according to Digital Marketing Institute – I’m guilty of this). And who knew that Aunt Jemima was the first influencer (thanks, Mickey)?!

After the session concluded, it was time to explore the beautiful city of St. Augustine as a group. Tours of the historic (and beautiful) Flagler College and the unique St. Augustine Distillery were on the agenda, giving us the perfect opportunity to get better acquainted with our fellow colleagues. We concluded our evening with a group dinner and compared thoughts on our experience at the Winter Symposium. For many of us in LeadershipFPRA, it was our first time at this conference and we all agreed that the opportunities offered – the intimate group size, the open conversation and the schedule of events – all made this experience smart, engaging and fun.

Interested in becoming a part of LeadershipFPRA and joining the fun? Click here to learn more about the LeadershipFPRA program and stay tuned for information on joining next year’s program.

Photo credits: Chris Gent, APR, CPRC

Chapter Rewind: New Year, New You

February 14, 2019

By Mark R. Richardson, Manager, Public Relations, Media Relations, & Communications, Seminole State College of Florida

With the start of a new year, most of us tend to make New Year’s resolutions such as eating better, exercising more, or trying to give up bad habits. One resolution that you can make any time of the year that will have a substantial impact on your life is to learn something new.

At FPRA Orlando’s January professional development breakfast held at Seminole State College in Sanford, we explored the many paths that are available for public relations professionals to continue their education. Whether it be a certificate program to gain an in-depth understanding of Microsoft Excel or pursuing a master’s or doctorate degree, the options are endless.

FPRA state accreditation chair Ginger Broslat, APR, CPRC; Associate Professor and Assistant Director of Academic Programs for the Nicholson School of Communication at UCF Melissa Dodd, Ph.D., APR; Summer Pessatore, Student Admissions Specialist at Seminole State College; and, Rollins College Crummer Graduate School of Business Recruitment Manager Linda Puritz discussed the numerous opportunities available for PR professionals to take their careers to the next level.

We learned that, with today’s technology, you don’t have to sit in a classroom to take a course. With a computer and an internet connection, you can take online classes as an alternative to on-campus classes.

Keep in mind that online classes aren’t for everyone. They require a unique commitment as well as good time management skills, motivation and self-discipline. They are neither easier nor more difficult than on-campus courses, but they do call for a special kind of dedication. You should take stock of yourself and examine your learning preferences before enrolling in any online class.

Regardless of what learning environment is best for you, it’s up to you to take the next step to not only improve yourself but also the world around you, because as Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Member PRofile: Steven Calamusa

February 14, 2019

Steven Calamusa
Sr. Communications Coordinator, Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC – The Reliable One)

Give a brief explanation of your job.
Within the Corporate Communications team, my team and I handle customer, employee and crisis communication efforts.

How long have you been a member of FPRA and why did you join?
I’ve been a member for about two years. FPRA is a great way to connect with those who fully understand and appreciate what we do day-in and day-out.

What has been your favorite FPRA event so far?
The 2018 Image Awards. This was my first FPRA event, and it was great to see such great work from our local PR/Communications community. I was also honored to be present to see Alyson Lundell, my former boss at Universal Orlando Resort, named PR Pro of the Year. She truly deserves it!

Tell us about an exciting achievement (personal or professional).
I earned my MBA from UCF in May 2018.

What was your first job?
Non-professional: Summer Camp Counselor; Professional: Public Relations at Universal Orlando Resort

Fun fact:
I’ve committed to experiencing at least one new country every year of my 30s. Two years in and I’ve hit 11. Can’t wait to plan my next!

Contact Information:

A Message from the President

January 11, 2019

Jeff Grainger, APR

Happy New Year to everyone in the FPRA family.

Looking back at 2018, I am thankful to each and every one of you. I think one of the great things about an organization like ours is that we can turn to each other in times of challenge and triumph. I feel like we faced a lot of both this past year, both personally and as an association. I also feel like we’ve come together and are better for everything we faced together last year.

Last year our state president challenged us to find balance. It’s something we all struggled to find, but I hope you all had success doing so. This year, we’re challenged to be Smart, Engaged and Fun. It seems like an easier challenge, but I want to add my resolution to start now and not put off incorporating those three elements into our work and our lives. FPRA is here to help…


One of the most valuable things I’ve done for my professional development is earn my accreditation. If you haven’t earned your APR or your CPRC, don’t put it off. The spring APR sessions will be starting soon. Get with Mandy Kimmer, APR, CPRC today and see how you can take that first step toward accreditation.

If you already have your accreditation, or it isn’t in the cards for you right now, think about something new you can learn this year. Through monthly programming, webinars and conferences FPRA has lots of ways to support getting smarter in 2019.


We have lots of ways for you to have fun as well. Each monthly program features chances to catch up with old and new friends. We had a lot of fun in December with our annual service project, and there’s more planned for the future. Keep an eye on our social media channels for some more informal events coming in 2019. Sometimes it’s fun to just hang out with our PR friends in an informal setting to talk shop or not. Our annual backstage pass event is always a lot of fun too, so keep an eye out for that.

Most of us love our work or we wouldn’t be doing it. That’s part of having fun too, so don’t let the first part of the year go by without enjoying what you do.


I changed up the order because I wanted to emphasize the importance of being engaged. It’s cliché to say you get out of an organization what you put in, but I really believe it’s true. If you haven’t been to a monthly program in a while, resolve to come see us in 2019. We’ve tried to make it easier by letting you know in advance when the January, February and March programs will be.

If it’s been a few years since you entered an Image award, resolve to enter at least one this year. There is a lot of great work recognized every year, but I’m confident that there’s even more that isn’t.

Your FPRA board is doing a lot of great work putting together programs and services for you, so why not resolve to chip in this year and join a committee. Let me know if you’re interested and I’ll put you in touch with a board member who could use your unique skills.

I’ve suggested a lot of resolutions here. If you can tackle them all, great. If it’s more your style to pick one, focus on it and then move on to another, do that. Whatever you decide, I encourage you to not stagnate in 2019. Get smarter, get more engaged and have more fun. Let FPRA help you with all three.

Best wishes for a happy and prosperous New Year,


Quotes Corner

January 11, 2019

Here’s to New Beginnings

By Jonathan Gabriel, FPRA Orlando Vice President, Student Outreach

Jonathan Gabriel

It’s January, and for the first time in two years, we have a brand-new Quotes student executive board to work with. I don’t know them – their abilities, hopes and fears – at least not yet. For most of these students, it’s their first time taking on a leadership role in the club. The springtime is ripe with possibility.

Quotes has a busy few months ahead.  In February, they’ll be touring Orlando City Hall and learning about how local government PR pros effectively communicate with external media and internal partners. Later, they’ll learn how to submit a winning Image Award application and getting ready for Intern Pursuit. And while many students are getting ready for summer break, Quotes will be heading down to Miami to network with professionals there.

These students are eager and motivated to succeed. They could be sitting at home, but instead they made a conscious decision to better themselves. And that decision should be rewarded.

I’m fond of the phrase, “don’t pull the ladder up behind you.” As a professional, it is imperative upon me to influence and mentor the younger people coming up behind me. It gives me a great deal of fulfillment. In helping these students, I help myself as well. I become a better communicator. I help to identify rising talent. I leave the world a little bit better than I found it.

And what’s more – I am able to serve as a conduit for them to the wider professional world.

I’d like to ask for your help in “extending the ladder” to these students. How can you get involved?

  • Ask me about opportunities to speak to Quotes members, either at one of their meetings or as part of a tour of your organization. You can contact me at jonathan.gabriel@ucf.edu.
  • Talk to one student at an FPRA event. If you can’t locate one, come find me or one of my fellow board members and we can connect you. It just takes five minutes: tell the student what you do. Ask where their professional interests lie and give them your business card. Networking can be daunting at first for many students. By granting a student a few moments of your time, you’ve increased their confidence and helped them start to build their network. And you might have found your next intern.

Join me this year in the work of bettering the lives of these young people. Even the smallest amount of support can make a world of difference.

Member PRofile: Lauren Bowes

January 11, 2019

Lauren Bowes
Sr. Communications Specialist, External at Hilton Grand Vacations

Give a brief explanation of your job.
I am part of the External Communications team at Hilton Grand Vacations. Our role within the organization is to assist various business partners with crafting messaging for owners and guests, managing the corporate website and conducting media relations and crises communications on behalf of the company.

How long have you been a member of FPRA and why did you join?
I joined FPRA last summer when I started at Hilton Grand Vacations as a way to continue my education in our ever-evolving industry.

What has been your favorite FPRA event so far?
I haven’t had the chance to attend an event yet, but I am so looking forward to what’s in store for 2019!

Tell us about an exciting achievement (personal or professional).
I just completed my master’s degree in December.

What was your first job?
Account Executive at Bitner/Hennessy Public Relations

Fun fact:
I’m an avid traveler and plan at least one international trip every year. I visited Dublin and Amsterdam in 2018 and will be travelling to Prague and Vienna in April.

Contact Information:

Chapter Rewind | Digital Media for PR Pros

December 10, 2018

By Megan Paquin, APR, CPRC

Working as a public relations professional in a full-service advertising agency might make me a little biased, but I believe in integrated marketing communications strategies. Paid, earned, owned and shared media each have their own roles in achieving goals for our brands, clients and stakeholders. Yet, I was surprised to see at the Florida Public Relations Association Annual Conference when digital marketing expert Megan Harris polled the audience revealing many public relations professionals were unaware of digital marketing resources that are enabling marketing professionals to better target and influence key publics.

In public relations and marketing, our overall intent is to change behavior. Whether that is to encourage someone to buy our goods or services, or to think differently about our brands’ reputation. Public relations is hands down the most powerful tool (in my humble opinion) to gain endorsement and influence, yet I see time and again that reliance on earned, owned and shared media is sometimes not enough. Sometimes, we need a little rocket fuel.

Enter: digital marketing. My colleague Cristina Howard, director of digital media and analytics at &Barr, broke down for us the basics of digital marketing and, along with Fiona Cooke, director of southeast sales for Nativo, the ways public relations professionals can use to boost our efforts. Today’s digital marketing landscape extends far beyond the realm of display banners. We learned about native content, the next generation of advertorial where public relations professionals can place narrative content within the native settings of the websites where our target audiences are currently engaged. We also learned that programmatic advertising allows us to amplify high performing owned, earned and shared content, and boost it directly to those audiences who are most likely to engage with our message.

For me, the takeaways of this chapter meeting were that we can and should look to paid initiatives like digital marketing as an opportunity to add rocket fuel to our initiatives. With a greater understanding of the lingo and technologies available to do so, FPRA members can make sound recommendations to their stakeholders about when and how to leverage these technologies to move the needle. That’s pretty smart, definitely engaging and a lot of fun to see when it all comes together in successful integrated campaigns.