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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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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SMART Goals for the Modern Communicator by Hannah Schuller

As a recent graduate entering the public relations field, I created lots of personal and professional goals the past few months as I mapped out what I want the next steps of my career to be. My favorite goal setting technique is SMART – setting goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. As I attended PRSA Central Ohio’s “The Modern Communicator” Annual Conference and learned about succeeding in the communication field, I identified SMART tips and tricks that could help individuals or companies rise to the top of their PR game.

SPECIFIC: FrazierHeiby’s session about strategic storytelling offered multiple tips to narrow down your brand’s purpose and value. Ann Mulvany and Whitney Somerville talked about how important it is to know what your company stands for and be clear about what you’re willing to do on behalf of your company. Strategy is making a clear, informed decision and being specific about your choices. If your company doesn’t have a specific purpose and values, you can’t tell amazing stories in a way that strategically impacts your brand. Finding great characters, moments and emotions can be key to a story that furthers your brand’s specific purpose.

MEASURABLE: Amy Shropshire presented about how content and SEO work together. When content strategy and search engine optimization intersect, measurability is key to ensuring your content is performing the highest it can. It’s important to define your audience, audit what you already have and measure for success.

ACHIEVABLE: In Hana Bieliauskas’ session about leveraging strong influencer partnerships, I learned about the attainability of influencer work. Overall, 92 percent of consumers trust influencer marketing over traditional advertising, which is a compelling reason to utilize this avenue in your marketing strategy but can be a bit overwhelming knowing where to start. There are many types of influencers, but most posts on Instagram are from micro-influencers, who have between 5,000 and 100,000 followers. Inspire PR Group mainly works with nano-influencers, who have less than 5,000 followers. Influencer marketing doesn’t have to involve celebrities and extremely popular creators – it’s achievable to reach out to nano- and micro-influencers with high engagement to create meaningful relationships for your brand or client.

RELEVANT: In the keynote address about rebranding in a millennial world, Christine King talked about the challenges facing baby boomer brands as they fight to stay relevant in today’s digital environment. As a millennial/Gen Z cusp, which Christine called a “Millzy,” it was interesting to see how much I resonated with her advice. Brands should focus on visualization over explanation to stay relevant, both online and in-person – millennials are drawn to clean lines and minimalistic design that mimics the Silicon Valley experience. They should also provide need-based solutions to stay relevant to millennials, while including a deeper meaning behind their brand story. Disruptors like Amazon and Coca-Cola, who put the customer first while inventing and being patient, are great examples of baby boomer brands innovating to stay relevant in today’s world.

TIME-BOUND: In the plenary session about leading through crisis with Hinda Mitchell, president and founder of Inspire PR Group, I learned so much about how timing is crucial in crisis communications. This topic has been on my mind since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and this session gave me insight into the essential traits of a leader and how to respond timely in a crisis. Hinda’s biggest tip was to never assume it won’t happen to you – you have to have a plan ready in case of emergency. When a crisis hits, it’s imperative as a leader to bring your team together to assign roles and make sure you can be reached quickly and easily. Successful brand recovery in a crisis takes authenticity, consistency, reliability, strong execution and time.

I’m so grateful to have been awarded a scholarship to attend The Modern Communicator conference with so many amazing Columbus PR professionals. I can’t wait to continue learning and growing within the chapter and create many SMART goals to come!


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Takeaways from the Modern Communicator Conference by Haley Bender


While I never thought my first post-grad conference would be over Zoom, I sat down at my laptop on Friday excited and ready to learn. Here is a summary of some of the best advice and tips I received from the best and brightest of Central Ohio PRSA: 

  • Hana Bieliauskas from Inspire PR Group taught us about influencer partnerships.  Because of the more authentic nature of influencer content, 92% of consumers trust influencer marketing over traditional, making them a valuable asset to PR strategy.  Don’t forget to thank the influencers you work with by sharing their content and recognizing their hard work. 
  • At the Strategic Storytelling: Maximizing Your Impact session, Ann Mulvany and Whitney Somerville of FrazierHeiby discussed the importance of organizations having strong values that are authentic to their brand and brand purpose. A great example of a brand that stands behind their values is Ben and Jerry’s. 
  • Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Abbie Roth informed us on how the hospital uses content marketing to maintain peer reputation. Nationwide Children’s Hospital has a print magazine, website and Twitter account for doctors and medical research content that is minimally branded and professional so that a doctor in any hospital can feel comfortable reading it. 
  • COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement has shown us the good and the bad of organizations in crisis. Hinda Mitchell from Inspire PR Group says the most important thing a leader in an organization can do is prepare for a crisis before it happens. Mitchell gave six key steps to being prepared for a crisis: 
    • Know who is on the crisis team and why.
    • Designate a spokesperson. 
    • Have a list of internal and external key contacts and numbers.
    • Prepare an established media and social media policy for employees. 
    • Do training and scenario planning. 
    • Review the plan regularly and update it as necessary to ensure there aren’t any gaps in the plan. 
  • You might think public relations and content marketing are two totally different things, but Michelle Garrett of Garrett Public Relations shared how the two can overlap. PR and content marketing are both important for content creation, building relationships, gaining visibility through reaching out to audiences and thought leadership. Garrett gave great advice for PR professionals dabbling in content marketing: if you can’t seem to get media to cover your story, publish it yourself on your blog or website. 
  • Video can be very overwhelming to newcomers but video experts Dan Farkas and Beth Menduni shared their favorite hacks for making the best video content. Dan Farkas shared the advice, “Put your talent in the best situation to thrive.” Meaning, make sure your talent is comfortable and prepared to ensure the best video content. They also recommended using Adobe Premiere Rush for simple and effective editing. 

Overall, the virtual conference was a successful learning experience. Big shoutout to PRSA Central Ohio for putting on this event despite the COVID-19 hurdles. 

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2020 Virtual Conference: The Modern Communicator Recap

Thanks to the collaborative and positive spirit of conference organizers, speakers and attendees, the 2020 Central Ohio PRSA virtual conference was a success! Each year, this event brings PR and communications professionals together for a day of sharing and learning. Although this year’s conference had to be rescheduled and adapted to a virtual format due to COVID-19, we are so grateful for this community who kept the conference entertaining, educational and running smoothly. If you’re interested in learning more about each speaker and their presentation, please visit the links below:

Rebranding in a Millennial Kind of World

Christine King, Tealbook + CASK Communications

Leveraging Strong Influencer Partnerships to Build Awareness, Tell Stories & Build Trust

Hana Bieliauskas, Inspire PR Group

Truths and Myths of Multi-Channel Marketing

Samantha Parsons and Leah Franklin, Cardinal Health

Teaching Social: Why Understanding Social Media’s Usage and Impact is Important for Every Employee

Diane Lang, Nationwide Children’s Hospital

Strategic Storytelling: Maximizing Your Impact

Ann Mulvany and Whitney Somerville, FrazierHeiby

Integrating Content Marketing in a Peer Reputation Strategy

Abbie Roth, Nationwide Children's Hospital

Content and SEO: Better Together

Amy Shropshire, Columbus State Community College

When Organizations are Tested: Leading through Crisis

Hinda Mitchell, Inspire PR Group

What's PR Got to Do with Content Marketing? 

Michelle Garrett, Garrett Public Relations

Selling Out Arenas – One Fan at a Time

Jenn Cartmille, Greater Columbus Sports Commission

Media Buying 101
Mark Subel, Two Wheels Marketing
Stephanie Cotts, Brandwell Solutions
Video Storytelling and Hacks
Dan Farkas, The Ohio State University
Beth Menduni, The Mktg Dept


Building a Long-Term Marketing Strategy for Domestic Violence Shelter Capital Campaign
Hinda Mitchell, Inspire PR
Pam Georgiana, Lutheran Social Services
Big data. The big reason why data can help demonstrate ROI

Rob Carnell, Huntington National Bank

Storytelling in B2B Marketing and Communications

Aaron Brown, Fahlgren Mortine

Data, Data Everywhere

Lauren Parker, FrazierHeiby


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Online option now available for the Examination for Accredited in Public Relations By Toby Lichtle

Adjusting to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has changed daily routines for many of us. How and from where we work has — at least for now — changed to varying degrees, making flexibility welcome and often necessary. The good news is PRSA is now offering an online testing option for those pursuing their Accreditation in Public Relations (APR).

APR candidates now have two options to take the Examination for Accredited in Public Relations (EAPR):

  1. A Prometric Testing Center, or
  2. Remotely, through Prometric’s ProProctor application.

Candidates who choose to take the EAPR remotely must have a computer equipped with a camera and microphone, internet connectivity and the ProProctor application installed prior to the test event. ProProctor allows candidates to test wherever and whenever is most convenient for their schedule.

At this time, remote testing is not available for the Certificate in Principles of Public Relations Examination (CERT). CERT candidates must schedule their examination at a Prometric Testing Center; however, ProProctor is expected to be available for CERT exams in September 2020.

Additionally, PRSA Central Ohio candidates ready for their panel presentation, or motivated to start the process, should contact Susan Alyse Bowers Fortner, Accreditation Committee Chair, for virtual options.

Best of luck to this year’s candidates!

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Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

By Gayle Saunders

Guess who’s coming to...

Dinner. Why is it the same question EVERY.SINGLE.DAY – Son: “Mom, what’s for dinner?” Me: “Son, we are in the middle of a pandemic, there are more important things to worry about. Let’s be grateful we have options for dinner.” Son: “Okay, mom, I was just wondering.”

Listening to your audience and responding to its need is critical. During these times of COVID-19, it is more important today than ever before.

As we watch our leaders communicate to their constituents, one thing has become abundantly clear...leadership matters, and having the right and diverse people on your team makes a difference. Ohio has become an example and will become a case study for communicators near and far on how to lead and communicate during a crisis, thanks to our governor, his team, and their commitment to transparency in communications.

In this unprecedented time of “alternative facts.” revisionist history, propagandist storytelling and daily barrage of misinformation, we as public relations practitioners, have a responsibility to develop strategies and communications that are transparent, real, and inclusive.

The roles we play, especially during crisis situations, are invaluable. There are examples after examples of communications gone bad, and how that negatively impacts community trust. And, let’s not overlook the social media disaster that targeted blacks, saying “there’s no need to worry about COVID-19.”

We must push the envelope to ensure our leaders are thinking about ALL constituents, how words matter, how strategies matter, how imagery matters. As we continue to drive toward our lives on the other side of the coronavirus, it is imperative that communicators of diverse backgrounds and experiences are at the table to counsel leadership and help drive strategies, messaging, and creative approaches to ensure ALL audiences impacted are receiving the critical information needed.

I offer a few key considerations as we work with clients during a crisis:

  1. Ask the tough questions – probe deeply.
  2. Determine if the right people are at the table to address multiple issues and audiences. Look around and see who is missing. Bring people of diverse perspectives into the discussion on the front end, rather than after the stuff has hit the fan.
  3. Be willing to acknowledge loss and be sincere in your sympathy to the loss. While you may not be able to share all the details, for various reasons, share what you can. And remember, it is imperative to show some heart during tough times.
  4. Communicate consistently and in a timely manner. Create a steady cadence of communications updates, and be sure media and community know when these occur. Provide access to these via social channels and other avenues.
  5. Develop communications approaches to reach audiences with the right message, where they are, and how they best receive the information. This includes your internal and your external audiences.
  6. Know who the key influencers are for your audience...who or what makes them believe?
  7. Select the right messenger(s) – be sure the people are relatable, trusted, demonstrate leadership, and exude confidence with a high level of compassion.
  8. Listen to your team, knowledgeable experts in the field, and your audience.
  9. Use social media to your advantage. Keep a pulse of chatter on social media channels and other networks and be prepared to respond as needed.
  10. Dispel myths quickly, address misinformation promptly.
  11. Most importantly, keep your crisis plan updated and have your team prepared.

Now, back to the question of the day – dinner. What is the relevance you ask? Audience matters...what is important to him matters. Responding in a timely manner, matters. Showing compassion and an understanding of his need, matters. You get the connection.

My diversion and avoidance tactic left an unnecessary void that could easily be addressed with an honest and transparent response. So today, when my son asks the dinner question, my response will be: “Son, I have not gotten that far yet, what would you like, or do you have a suggestion?” I guarantee, our engagement during dinner, and beyond, will be a totally different result – for the better.

E. Gayle Saunders, APR, is CEO of The Saunders Company, a full-service public relations firm in Columbus, Ohio. She is engaged by clients for support during crisis situations and has led public relations, crisis communications and acted as spokesperson for big brands such as The Ohio State University and Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at [email protected].

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Changes coming to the PRism Awards in 2020

Author: PRism Awards Committee

For many of us, January represents a new beginning and fresh start to achieve new goals; but did you know PRSA Central Ohio made some new year resolutions, too?

Based on feedback from previous years and a commitment to offer a premier PR awards event in Central Ohio, PRSA Central Ohio has made some exciting updates to this year’s PRism Awards:

  1. An easier way to submit entries. The PRism Awards submissions will now be completed in Award Force—an award-winning software designed for awards that will offer entrants an easy, efficient and secure way to submit their entries. Entries will no longer be single-page or multi-page PDFs, but text submission areas for each item being judged will allow for clear, concise reporting of your successful work. Be on the lookout for an invitation from PRSA Central Ohio for an upcoming tutorial on how to use Award Force to submit your entries! Be on the lookout for an invitation from PRSA Central Ohio for an upcoming tutorial on how to use Award Force to submit your entries!

  2. Earlier opportunities to submit your best PR projects from 2019. The Prism Awards deadlines have been set as Monday, Feb. 24 by 11:59 p.m. for the early bird deadline, and Monday, March 2 by 11:59 p.m. for the final deadline. Review this year’s categories and entry guidelines document and start preparing your entries now!

  3. New awards category to highlight diversity and inclusion. PRSA Central Ohio has created a new category to recognize PR tactics that focus on diversity and inclusion. This year’s new category will honor PR pros who are leading diversity and inclusion efforts in Central Ohio while also highlighting the significance of diversity and inclusion in PR.

  4. New look, new venue. We’ve got a fresh logo and a great new venue at High Line Car House for a refreshed PRism Awards Ceremony that will not only celebrate award winners, but will serve as a place for Central Ohio’s communications professionals to mix and mingle. Plan to join us Thursday, May 7.

More information will be sent to you in the coming weeks.  Please don't hesitate to reach out if you have any questions.

Thank you,

PRSA Central Ohio

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Welcome to 2020 with Central Ohio PRSA!

Can you believe it? It’s already 2020, the beginning of a new decade! Speaking of new beginnings, I want to introduce myself.

My name is Homa Moheimani, manager of media & communications for the Ohio Restaurant Association. But more importantly, I’m honored to serve as your new Central Ohio PRSA Vice President of Membership.

THANK YOU for your membership because without you, PRSA wouldn’t exist.

2020 also marks Central Ohio PRSA’s 70th year! For the last 70 years, we’ve been furthering the development of public relations professionals in the Central Ohio region, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to have you as a part of the family.

We’re the storytellers, leaders, communicators, defenders of the brand and so much more in our personal and professional circles. So, it’s important that we develop relationships, learn from one another and grow together in our careers.

I want to make sure you have everything you need to make the most of your membership, and give you a direct line of communication to your Central Ohio PRSA Board of Directors. Go ahead, send them an email. They’d love to hear from you!

I hope you’re already taking advantage of the PRSA member benefits available to you. Just in case, below my email signature highlight several available right now.

We all have new year’s resolutions, including expanding our professional networks, or maybe even finding a new job. What’s the best way to do that? MAKE CONNECTIONS!

Now is the perfect time to take your membership to the next level by getting involved in a committee as a volunteer. Serving your chapter is the best way to get your name in front of top industry professionals in an area that interests you. Not ready to serve on a committee? Write blog posts, volunteer to host a program or get a speaker for a program — there are many ways to make a contribution!

Have questions? Shoot me an email at [email protected], connect on LinkedIn or I'm always up for grabbing a coffee and chatting. Or, reach out to any board member; we're happy to answer any questions about member benefits, programming, or simply career and life questions. That’s what we’re here for, right? 😉

Let’s make 2020 the best yet. I look forward to seeing you soon!

Homa Moheimani
Vice President of Membership
Central Ohio PRSA

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Central Ohio PRSA 2019 Year in Review

As we gear up to celebrate Central Ohio PRSA's 70th anniversary in 2020, let's take a moment to review how far we've come in 2019. Thank you to all of our members, speakers, volunteers and sponsors that help make the Central Ohio PRSA chapter a success!

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