ICON 2020: We are the flame

By: Julia Grimm, Otterbein University, 2020 Central Ohio PRSA Icon Scholarship Recipient 

“Go where there is no fire and be the flame” is the life motto for Adriênne Bolden, a speaker at the PRSSA ICON 2020. This is my new challenge as a public relations professional.

I think we all have wondered, “where do we go from here,” after the drama of 2020. Then again, the craze of the year hasn’t stopped yet. ICON 2020 was there to answer our questions.

At the conference, Jon Meacham said our country is the most divided in its history since the civil war. Laurie Garrett stepped us through the divisive and scary moments in our experience with COVID-19 and where we have fallen prey to lies and disinformation.

But I couldn’t help smiling when the BBC reporter’s phone kept falling down during a panel discussion and when a keynote speaker had her phone go off twice during her presentation.

This isn’t where we talk about being able to pivot and adapt. Instead, it’s time to acknowledge a new beginning for our profession and the world. 

As PR professionals, Nina Jankowicz reminded us that we are on the frontlines of calling out disinformation. 

We are also the people who can encourage real conversations in a polarized country. We can change inequity’s in our workplaces. As Candace Steele noted, we don’t have to compromise our integrity; don’t “PR” something but lead with the truth. 

Steele told us that it was okay to fail. It’s time to show the world that we can learn from our mistakes and be better professionals because of it.

The future can look scary, especially when Martin Waxman teaches us how artificial intelligence can impact the future of our profession. 

But I believe that humans must control the integrity of our profession now and in the future. 

Rob Biesenbach taught me how to tell my story instead of reciting my LinkedIn profile. What is the story I will leave behind in this profession? Is it a LinkedIn profile of awards and degrees? 

This is what I have learned at ICON 2020: I want to leave behind a legacy of integrity and a commitment to my profession of always fighting for the truth. Go be the flame.


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5 PR Tips to Keep Your Restaurant Top-of-Mind Amid the Pandemic


The restaurant industry has undoubtedly been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. With the consistent underlying fear of forced closures, restaurants nationwide have had to shift their business models and incorporate new health and safety measures.

As year-over-year sales remain down for many, restaurants now must focus on aligning their marketing and PR efforts to not only gain new customers, but to remain top-of-mind with existing fans. The following tips are the perfect starting point for restaurants to encourage new and returning diners to choose them when looking to order carry-out or visit a dining room.

1. Be transparent, truthful and timely.

Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen restaurants go under fire for lacking transparency with their customers. The best way to ensure your restaurant’s reputation is not altered during this time is to continue to be transparent and truthful and to do so in a timely manner.

Consistently sharing updates on your website, social media and with the media (if relevant) keeps guests in the know on the status of your restaurant’s hours, services and health and safety practices. In addition, each update can help keep your brand in front of consumers. 

2. Position restaurant leadership as industry thought leaders.

There’s one thing for certain during the pandemic – there’s no playbook. As restaurants across the country work to pivot their businesses, it presents an ideal opportunity to provide meaningful and insightful expertise through thought leadership opportunities. Thought leadership can help restaurants build more trust around your brand and services and make you stand out as a subject matter expert.

While being seen as a thought leader doesn’t always happen overnight, the more valuable and authentic content that you share will better help position your restaurant’s leaders as experts in the industry. To get started, pitch interview opportunities with your restaurant’s leaders to local media and industry trade outlets. However, make sure your leaders are also strong communicators and can clearly articulate their ideas and opinions. A poor interview can make the media less likely to reach out for future interviews.

3. Engage with food bloggers and influencers.

There is no doubt that many consumers have been taking to social media over the past six months as they’ve spent more time at home. Now more than ever, social media is one of the most affordable and accessible ways to connect and engage with diners. Collaborating with local bloggers and influencers is a great way to showcase menu items and specials as well as communicate your restaurant’s health and safety message. Invite them to dine at your restaurant or order carry-out and host a giveaway to not only introduce your restaurant to potential new customers, but to also gain a significant number of new followers on your restaurant’s social media platforms.

4. Pitch virtual cooking demonstrations.

2020 has become the year of virtual “firsts” for many people. Virtual happy hours, birthday parties, award ceremonies - even cooking demonstrations. Media outlets across the country have shifted their interview formats to adhere to health and safety guidelines. Just like in-person cooking demos, these media features are a great way to highlight menu items and promotions and share your restaurant’s story with consumers.

5. Keep in touch with and reward your loyal customers.

Now is the time to remember and recognize guests who have supported your business along the way. Whether it be through an exclusive tasting event, virtual cooking class or meal discount, offer something specifically for e-newsletter subscribers, app users and other loyal customers.

While the experiences may look different, there are still many ways to get your restaurant’s name and story out there and continue to engage with customers. For additional public relations and marketing tips or to learn more about how to make your restaurant stand out during the COVID-19 pandemic, visit or email us at [email protected].


Susie Dunlea is an account coordinator at Inspire PR Group, a national public relations firm that is proud to work with restaurant groups and trade associations to help communicate effectively and tell their stories.


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Update Reminders From the 2020 Universal Accreditation Board Chair

Update Reminders From the 2020 Universal Accreditation Board Chair
By: Emma Prusha


The advocation for the accreditation process is cause that is and needs to be championed widely. Here are some updates from the chair of the Universal Accreditation Board. The computer-based Examination for Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) is now offered remotely. Candidates now have the option to either sit for the Examination at a Prometric Testing Center or remotely through ProProcter. The remote exam includes protocols such as allowing ProProcter to utilize exam takers microphone and camera, as well as downloading the software to ensure integrity during the exam. Once candidates advance from their Panel Presentation, they will be offered the remote examination option. The Panel Presentation Replaces what was formerly the Readiness Review. It is often conducted virtually. The candidate Panel Presentation questionnaire now only consists of two parts instead of three. The questionnaire requires candidates to provide written answers to questions about their organization roles and their professional experience. Panel Presentation has been in use since 2017 and is used as a way to assess a candidate' s knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs). In addition, Accreditation Renewal replaces what was formerly "APR Maintenance". APR Renewal utilizes Continuing Education Units (CEUs) as the unit of Accreditation Renewal, which align to reflect current standards and best practices in professional development programs.The Accreditation Renewal will allow better member tracking and an overall process improvement.  The cost of Accreditation Renewal is still $75, and it occurs every three years.

The percentage weights of KSAs was switched in 2016 to better reflect the profession. The different KSAs on the Examination for APR are important for candidates to note. 

KSAs Percentages:  

  • For Researching, Planning, Implementing and Evaluating programs (RPIE): 33%.
  • For Applying Ethics and Law: 13%.
  • For Managing Issues and Crisis Communications: 13%.
  • For Leading the PR Function: 18%.
  • For Managing Relationships: 15%.
  • For Communication Models, Theories and History of PR: 8%.

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PRSA Central Ohio Chapter received an honorable mention as part of the 2020 PRSA Chapter Diversity Awards. The committee was recognized during the PRSA's Virtual ICON in October. 

The award was based on the achievements of the chapter in the past year: 
  • Hosting programs on "Getting it Right: Writing and Communicating To, About and With the LGBTQ community," "Uncovering and Confronting Implicit Biases," and "Creating Inclusive Campaigns," "From Statements to Action to Anti-Racism: The Communicator's Role in Making the Statement a Reality"
  • Providing a comprehensive list of resources about racism to members 
  • Adding a Diversity & Inclusion category to the PRism Awards
  • Authoring articles for PRSA National and Central Ohio PRSA 
  • Adding a Diversity & Inclusion Officer position to the Board of Directors 
  • Providing implicit bias training to the Board 
  • Helping ensure diverse representation in programming 

Congratulations to committee membersShanikka Flinn (chair), Jaron Terry, APR, Fellow PRSA, Gayle Saunders, APR, Joshua Hartley, Jenese Wallace, Mackenzie Betts, Jamaal Bell, APR, and Wendy Schwantes, APR!


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Dr. Alisa Agozzino Selected as This Year’s PRSA ECD Platinum Award Recipient

Every year, PRSA’s East Central District presents the PRSA ECD Platinum/Don Durocher award to a deserving professional within the 17 chapters in six states that the district represents. This year, PRSA ECD has chosen PRSA Central Ohio’s very own Alisa Agozzino, PhD, APR, associate professor of public relations at Ohio Northern University as this year’s ECD Platinum Award recipient.

The PRSA ECD board of directors accepts nominations from around the district and then votes on a selected recipient who has achieved a distinguished service record to PRSA at the local, district and national levels.

Dr. Agozzino has provided service to the Central Ohio PRSA Chapter as a committee chair and a member of the Board of Directors. At PRSA’s national level, she serves as the chair of PRSA’s Educators Academy and as the National Faculty Advisor for PRSSA.

Congratulations to Dr. Agozzino for this highly deserved award! 

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2021 PRSA Central Ohio Board of Directors Announced

PRSA Central Ohio’s longstanding success is driven by the leadership of dedicated chapter volunteers, including its Board of Directors, loyal committee chairs, and driven committee members. 

The chapter’s Board of Directors help to ensure that the chapter is committed to its mission of empowering a diverse and inclusive community of members to drive strategic outcomes within their organizations by promoting ethical practice, building dynamic relationships, providing growth opportunities and recognizing excellence. We are proud to announce the 2021 Board of Directors, presented by the Nominating Committee and voted into office by the chapter’s membership: 

Executive Officers

  • President - Diane Hurd, Elected 2019
  • Past President - Katie Thomas, APR, Elected 2018
  • President-Elect - Heather Sheppard
  • Treasurer - Kristen Vitartas
  • VP Planning & Procedures - Mike Vannest, APR
  • VP Membership - Amber Epling
  • VP Programs - Christa Dickey
  • VP Communication - Serena Smith
  • Ethics Officer - Gayle Saunders, APR
  • Diversity & Inclusion Officer - Shanikka Flinn

Directors at Large

  • Alisa Agozzino, Ph.D., APR
  • Shannon Jack
  • Tara Parsell
  • Jennifer Rieman
  • Wendy Schwantes, APR

Assembly Delegates

  • John Palmer, APR
  • Natalie Kompa, APR

Now is a great time to consider committee-level involvement for 2021. If you’re interested in giving back to our great community of public relations professionals by serving on one of the chapters committees, learn more by reading about each committee and by completing a volunteer interest form today. There are a wide variety of opportunities to participate, with flexible time commitment requirements.

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Vote for the 2021 Proposed Slate of Officers and Directors

Volunteer leadership is at the core PRSA Central Ohio’s longestanding success. As we look toward the coming year, the nominating committee is pleased to present the 2021 slate of officers and directors. The slate is a dedicated group of members committed to serving our chapter, representing a strong cross-section of our chapter's membership.

We hope you will take a few moments to ensure your voice is heard by viewing and voting upon the slate presented by the nominating committee at
Additionally, now is a great time to consider committee-level involvement for 2021. If you’re interested in giving back to our great community of public relations professionals by serving on one of the chapters committees, learn more by reading about each committee and by completing a volunteer interest form today. There are a wide variety of opportunities to participate, with flexible time commitment requirements.
We would like to thank the nominating committee for their service: Alisa Agozzino, APR, Ph.D., Mackenzie Betts, Kerry Francis, APR, Currecia Gamble, Diane Hurd, John Palmer, APR, Kim Ratcliff, APR, Alicia Shoults, (Chair).

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Nominations Committee composition announced

PRSA Central Ohio would like to thank following individuals for agreeing to serve on the chapter’s nominating committee. Each year, the nominating committee confers to review nominations for those to serve on the chapter’s Board of Directors. This group must be made up of no fewer than five voting members, as well as the chapter’s incoming president serving in a non-voting role. Our chapter’s Bylaws require the following types of members to be represented among this group:

  • Chair – Past President
  • A past chapter president
  • A former chapter board member
  • A board member not up for reelection
  • The chapter’s ethics officer
  • Two members at large
  • President-elect (ex-officio)

This year’s nominating committee includes:

  • Alisa Agozzino, APR, Board Member Not Up For Reelection
  • Mackenzie Betts, Former Board Member
  • Kerry Francis, APR, Ethics Officer
  • Currecia Gamble, Member at Large
  • Diane Hurd, President-Elect (ex-officio)
  • John Palmer, APR, Past President
  • Kim Ratcliff, APR, Member At Large
  • Alicia Shoults, Immediate Past President (Chair)

The Nominating Committee will present a slate to the membership for voting, nominating one candidate for each office and expiring Directorship. Voting is expected to begin on the slate in late September or early October upon receipt of National PRSA approval on our chapter’s recent Bylaws changes adding a Diversity & Inclusion Officer.

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September is Ethics Month

It’s September, and that means it’s Ethics Month!

The three Ps – politics, pandemics and protests – have definitely highlighted some ethical issues lately. While some, such as truth in reporting, have been straightforward, others are a bit more subtle, like gaslighting. Never before has the ethical practice of public relations been more important.

September is Ethics Month, an opportunity to pause to celebrate the importance of PRSA’s Code of Ethics, recognized as the gold standard for ethical behavior throughout the communications profession. The theme of this year’s Ethics Month is “Doing The Right Thing,” a theme that really resonates in today’s environment – and is more complex than ever before.

One of the great things about being a PRSA member is the access to many resources, including training, best practices and even counsel from me, your Ethics Officer, and the Board of Ethical Standards and Practice (BEPS). This month, BEPS will offer a variety of opportunities to gain information – and share your insight and lessons learned! Some highlights include:
APRs Speak: Black Men Discuss Ethics, Equity & Inclusion
Password: BEPS
Sept. 2, 12 p.m.
Moderator: Stacy Smith, APR, Fellow PRSA
Panelists: Brandon Wilson, APR, president & CEO, Wilbron Inc.; Roszell Gadson, APR, public affairs specialist, State Farm; Cedric F. Brown, APR, columnist, “D&I Explained,” PRSA’s Strategies & Tactics; Kenn Dixon, APR, vice president of communications & public relations, Texas Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
Leading With Ethics
Sept. 8, 3 p.m.
Presenters: Nance Larsen, APR, Fellow PRSA, vice president integrated marketing communications, The Strive Group; BJ Whitman, APR, Fellow PRSA, president, BJW Public Relations; Michelle Egan, APR, Fellow PRSA, chief communications officer, Alyeska Pipeline Service
Twitter Chat
Ethical Challenges in Today’s Global Information World
Sept. 17, 8 p.m.
Follow along @prsa using the hashtags #PRSAChat and #EthicsMonth
Editorial Coverage
Weekly PRsay Blog Posts
Feature article in the September issue of Strategies & Tactics

This month, I encourage you to take a moment to think about ways you apply ethics in your daily work – and how that makes a difference for you, your organization and the profession. Check out these great resources, and don’t hesitate to reach out to me if I can be of assistance with gathering information or working through an ethical dilemma.

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Lessons learned from the 2020 Modern Communicators Conference by Katherine Keber

It’s not every day that I have the opportunity to attend a professional development conference in pajama pants, but this year’s Central Ohio PRSA Conference via Zoom made that dream a reality. As an attendee, I joined seven topic-specific sessions, a keynote address presented by Christine King, and a plenary address presented by Hinda Mitchell. Through these sessions, I learned many tips and tricks for effective communication that will certainly aide me throughout my career.

Here are three of my key takeaways from the conference:

Don’t be afraid to update an industry mainstay’s brand.
Rebranding in a Millennial Kind of World (Christine King, Tealbook, CASK Communications)

In the conference’s keynote address, speaker Christine King focused on several popular brands that have rebranded themselves to appeal to a changing consumer base. Wendy’s and Coca-Cola, two examples presented by King, have each approached rebranding differently. Wendy’s reconceptualized by adopting a uniquely informal voice, especially on social media, and has shifted focus away from its history. Wendy’s frequently engages directly with consumers and competitors on social media, often employing millennial humor and wit. However, Coca-Cola has remained committed to its story through initiatives like the Coca-Cola Journey, which aimed to share Coca-Cola’s connection to communities across the world. Coca-Cola has chosen to appeal to younger consumers by updating their visual brand and product offerings, while still creating content that interests an older consumer base.


Develop a clear plan and communicate about it.
Truths and Myths of Multi-Channel Marketing (Samantha Parsons and Leah Franklin, Cardinal Health)

When developing campaigns, it’s important to have a game plan. In this session, speakers Samantha Parsons and Leah Franklin presented a six-step process designed to help communicators develop successful nurture campaigns. Successful nurture campaigns rely on strategy at all levels, including consistent coordinated efforts across departments. An integral part of the process is determining which digital channels should be used to disseminate your message. Many professionals believe that only trendy channels can reach your audience, but it’s important to identify which channels work based on who you’re targeting, what their need is, and what you are choosing to measure.


Tell a damn good story.

Strategic Storytelling: Maximizing Your Impact (Ann Mulvany and Whitney Somerville, FrazierHeiby)

Speaker Ann Mulvany nailed it when she said, “If 2020 has taught us anything so far, it’s that we have to be agile.” In an ever-changing world, communicators must be able to embrace shifts in modes of communication while continuing to produce great stories. Cost-effectiveness and efficiency are important to keep in mind; communicators can create content to utilize in multiple ways across different channels. Communicators can also use existing content to engage with new audiences on emerging platforms, leading to efficient, impactful storytelling. Centering communication strategies around the client’s core values can aid communicators in developing stories that are more genuine and well-received.

I’m so grateful I had the chance to attend the 2020 Central Ohio PRSA Conference. Each conference session contributed to knowledge that will transfer to my studies and future career. Thank you to the conference organizers, presenters, and scholarship committee for providing professional development experiences like this to PR students and professionals across Central Ohio!

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