COPRSA Diversity & Inclusion Program Focuses on Forward Momentum: You’re Invited to Come On Board!

You’re invited to be part of maintaining the forward momentum of Central Ohio on the Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) front by joining the D&I committee for 2018!

Our next meeting is May 9 at 5:30 pm in room #1 at the Driving Park branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, 1422 East Livingston Avenue. Take a look at our accomplishments to date and bring your ideas to the meeting! Questions? Call Shanikka Flinn at 614.893.7711.

D&I Accomplishments

PRSA National recognized Central Ohio PRSA with a Chapter Diversity Award, Honorable Mention, for strides made in 2016 and 2017 to advance diversity and inclusion at the local level. The award – presented during PRSA ICON 2017 in Boston – acknowledges the outstanding efforts of our D&I Committee members: Shanikka Flinn, chair; Gayle Saunders, APR; and Jaron Terry, MS, APR, Fellow PRSA.

In addition to changing our chapter’s bylaws in 2016 to reflect 21st century D&I goals, the 2017 committee, which also included David Welsh and Kevin Terry Smith:

  • Sponsored a mixer for current and prospective members
  • Produced a panel presentation, “D&I: It’s Not Just HR, It’s PR,” at the August 2017 chapter luncheon, sponsored by The Saunders Group
  • Offered a seven-session APR Prep Course featuring COPRSA university professors and PR professionals
  • Published D&I articles in PRSay, PRSA Tactics and Columbus CEO magazine
  • Produced and hosted radio programs, which included a noted national author, and community and committee members
  • Presented on D&I to PRSA Health Academy; PRSA ICON16, PRSA ICON17 and Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Ohio.

We hope you will join us in helping to move the needle forward on D&I in PRSA and in the public relations profession.

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Member Profile: Christopher Stollar, APR

By Christopher Stollar
Public Relations Consultant for Nationwide

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My wife and I both work at Nationwide (we were even once on the same floor and shared the same printer!). We live in Clintonville with our two kids, a 4-year-old daughter and a 2-year-old son. We have been active members of Veritas Community Church in the Short North for almost 10 years, volunteering especially with our church’s anti-human trafficking ministry called She Has A Name.

What do you like doing outside of work, such as hobbies or volunteer activities?
I love to write. It’s always been my passion. In 2016 I got the wonderful opportunity to have my first novel published by Boyle & Dalton. The Black Lens is a dark literary thriller that exposes the underbelly of sex trafficking in rural America. My debut novel won Grand Prize in the 2016 Writer’s Digest Self-Published e-Book Awards. As a former reporter, I conducted more than three years of research for The Black Lens, including interviews with survivors, social workers and police officers right here in Central Ohio. You can learn more at

What is your current job title and role?
I am a public relations consultant for Nationwide.

What is your professional and educational background?
I’m a former reporter who has a master’s degree in journalism and an accreditation in public relations. I spent three years working as a general assignment reporter in Oregon before realizing that it would be hard to balance family life with the long hours required to do journalism right. My wife and I moved to Columbus in 2009 right at the peak of the Recession to be closer to her family. I worked for several years in marketing at a local nonprofit before starting my career at Nationwide. Last year marked my fifth anniversary at our company!

What is your biggest accomplishment?
Since 2015, I have led a team that plans the PR strategy for Nationwide’s annual Business Owner Survey. We ask more than 1,000 business owners across the country dozens of questions about key topics, such as cybersecurity, disaster recovery and succession planning. That proprietary research has helped generate more than 135 million earned media impressions stemming from over 100 news articles with both niche trade publications and top-tier outlets like NBC, Forbes and Entrepreneur.

What do you like most about your work?
I love the challenge of using data to drive media results. Reporters love a good story, but they also want unique and proprietary research that nobody else has so their articles can stand out in an increasingly cluttered news landscape.

What inspired you to join PRSA?
I joined PRSA because I wanted the ability to network with and learn from local experts in this field.

How have you gotten involved with Central Ohio PRSA?
I just joined our local chapter’s social media committee because I wanted to help expand our reach in this critical area. I am also planning to sit on panel presentations for candidates who are pursuing their Accreditation in Public Relations. I received my APR last year and found the experience extremely helpful when it comes to strategic planning.

What advice do you have for people interested in PRSA?
Join your local chapter! You’ll love the experience. And once you join, become part of a committee. It’s a great way to network, get involved and make a difference in our profession.

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Breaking Down the AP Stylebook’s New Rules on Gender

by Jaron Terry, MS, APR, Fellow PRSA

In August, PRSA is celebrating Diversity Month by focusing on the diverse communities, people and practices that comprise public relations. We will also be providing advice and insight on how to build a better PR profession through diversity and inclusion. Here, the Diversity & Inclusion Committee and other PR thought leaders offer their insights on the importance of a diverse and inclusive workplace. Join the discussion by following @PRSADiversity and using #PRSADiversity in your social media posts.

As PR practitioners, we’re called upon to be creative and clear in our writing, and to follow rules of spelling, punctuation, grammar and style. Therefore, it’s logical for us to regard The Associated Press Stylebook as “the bible” for all things written.

With this in mind, it was a relief for me — the vice president of the board for PFLAG Columbus, a local chapter of the national organization that promotes dignity and respect for LGBTQ people — when AP announced new guidance on the use of “they” as a singular, gender-neutral pronoun in stories about people who identify as neither male nor female or ask not to be referred to as he, she, him or her.

“People have long thought that gender is a binary — that a person is either a man or a woman — when in reality gender is a spectrum,” said trans activist and consultant Jacob Nash, a panelist on gender at the 2017 PRSA Health Academy Conference in April and at PRSA ICON’16.

Nash said that some transgender individuals (who do not identify with the biological sex they were assigned at birth) eschew the gender binary altogether and refer to themselves as “gender-nonconforming,” meaning their gender expression differs from conventional expectations of masculinity and femininity.

“For all these persons, having a gender non-specific pronoun is important not only for spiritual and mental health, but in some cases for physical safety as well,” said Nash, founder of Margie’s Hope, an Akron, Ohio-based organization that helps transgender people.

The 2017 AP Stylebook has an entry on gender that includes descriptions such as “cisgender” (people whose gender identity matches their biological sex at birth) and “intersex” (people born with genitalia or chromosomes that don’t fit typical definitions for males or females). According to The AP Stylebook, “Gender refers to a person’s social identity while sex refers to biological characteristics. Not all people fall under one of two categories for sex or gender, according to leading medical organizations.” The Stylebook advises writers to “avoid references to both, either or opposite sexes or genders as a way to encompass all people.”

“We offer the new advice for two reasons,” said AP Stylebook editor Paula Froke. [As] recognition that spoken language uses ‘they’ as a singular, and [because] we also recognize the need for a pronoun for people who don’t identify as a he or a she.”

Increased acceptance

According to a first-of-its-kind Harris Poll conducted for GLAAD (formerly the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), a media-monitoring organization, “Young people today are more accepting of LGBTQ people than ever before. And as acceptance has grown in this country, so too has the number of young people who describe themselves as LGBTQ.”

According to the survey, 63 percent of cisgender, heterosexual millennials consider themselves allies of LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning) people, and another 23 percent describe themselves as “detached supporters.” Of millennials surveyed, 20 percent identify themselves as LGBTQ and 12 percent of those say they are not cisgender. Regardless of why young people report higher numbers of gender nonconformity, the need for a singular, non-gender-specific pronoun is clear.

Although people often use “they,” “them,” or “their” as singular pronouns when speaking, writing still tends to treat these words as plural. AP now suggests using a person’s name in place of a pronoun or rewording sentences to avoid pronoun use altogether.

Singular use of “they” still takes a plural verb, which I find easier on the ear, as in “they walk” (as opposed to “they walks”). For me, using “they,” “them” and “theirs” as singular pronouns sounds better than other gender-neutral alternatives that have been proposed, such as “xe, xem, xyrs” or “ze, hir, hirs.” In my opinion, “they,” “them” and “theirs” as singular pronouns will become more commonplace over time, so that eventually writers will no longer have to explain that the person being referred to prefers a gender-neutral pronoun, as AP currently suggests.

Finding clarity

Froke said the 2016 Stylebook team had considered making the pronoun change, but because alternative proposals for gender-neutral pronouns existed, they felt more time was needed.

“This year’s team resumed the discussions at the outset of our work,” she said. “Over several months we crafted language intended to address the need for these usages in some cases while being mindful of the need for clarity for all readers.”

As someone who champions writing and speaking for LGBTQ inclusion, I applaud AP for its forward momentum. Writers can also look to the free, online “GLAAD Media Reference Guide,” which provides more extensive guidance on covering the transgender and gender-nonconforming community. It also includes a comprehensive glossary of terms.

“GLAAD has championed the use of LGBTQ-supportive language in media since our founding in 1985, and we welcome The AP Stylebook including new rules for citing gender that are in accord with those we have long advocated,” said Rich Ferraro, GLAAD’s chief communications officer.

Jaron Terry, MS, APR, Fellow, PRSA, is president of Jaron Terry Communications, Ltd. She teaches crisis communications at Franklin University, serves on the volunteer board of PFLAG Columbus (Ohio) and is a member of the national-level PRSA Diversity & Inclusion Committee. She is past president of the Central Ohio Chapter and provides strategic consulting as well as writing services. Find her at or [email protected] @JaronTerry

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Action Item: Strategic plan survey for chapter members & PR professionals

By Erin Maggied, November 12th, 2015

The PRSA Central Ohio Chapter’s policy is to develop a new strategic plan (2017-2019) every three years to help guide resources of the chapter for programming, membership events, awards and recognition and more! 

This fall, the chapter is working with a communication research class at Ohio University-Lancaster to conduct quantitative research of the chapter membership and PR professionals. Results will help the development of the new plan that will be announced in the fourth quarter of 2016.

A special planning committee will convene in early 2016 to work with the board of directors, committee leaders, volunteers, members and other stakeholders in developing a new strategic plan. To complete the online survey, click here. The survey is open to Chapter members, PRSSA members and PR professionals. Deadline to complete the survey is November 23.

If you are interested in joining this committee, please contact the chapter’s 2016 President, John Palmer at [email protected] 

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Setting and Achieving the APR Goal

By Katie Thomas, October 14th, 2015

For a few years now, achieving the APR credential has been a goal of mine. I originally started studying after I received my master’s degree, figuring I was already in study mode from school. Unfortunately, life got in the way and that goal was put on hold.

Fast forward to 2015—I go into study mode again, when I receive word from PRSA that I’ve been selected as a beta tester for the new examination. I find myself on a three-month timeline to complete the Readiness Review and take the exam. The results would be emailed a month later. With a typical APR exam, you know (unofficially) right away if you pass.

On September 30, at 12:25 p.m., my heart raced as an email, subject line, “Notification for Beta Examination,” hit my inbox. I clicked it open and saw, “Congratulations!” I did it! I received my APR.

If you’re interested in pursuing your APR, here’s my advice for preparing for the exam:

  • Contact our chapter Accreditation chair. I met with Kara Allison when I was first thinking about the process. She was helpful in thoroughly explaining the process and going over the knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) that would be on the exam. It’s important to work through each KSA and see where your strengths and weaknesses are when you begin preparing for the exam.

  • Study first—then apply. This helps in case those life events come up and throw your studying off track. You have a year to complete the Readiness Review and exam after your application is approved.

  • Set aside designated studying time—and stick to it. Going into this process, I knew to succeed I would need designated studying time. My husband was supportive in my schedule and did whatever I needed to help me stick to it. Since I was on a three-month timeline, I studied about 10 hours a week. The amount of hours per week depends on your timeline. I also enrolled in the APR Online Study Course. It’s divided into 10 self-paced modules with suggested readings, assignments and sample questions written by fellow peers so you get a better feel for how the questions will be worded on the exam. The course also offers a weekly call with peers and APRs where you can present notes on the readings or a case study. As part of the course, you can connect with APRs who can review your case study or answer questions. I highly suggest writing a practice case study and having it reviewed by an APR. It helped me take the concepts I was reading about and apply them more effectively.

  • Read Cutlip and Center’s Effective Public Relations. And read it again. Go ahead and buy the book. This book was helpful in my studying and has contributed to my growth as a PR professional. I now keep it at my desk at work.

  • Use the resources of APRs in our chapter. I am grateful to Kerry Francis, APR, who continually encouraged me on my APR journey and checked in to on my progress. My Readiness Review panel was also wonderful in their support and encouragement. Find someone to be your cheerleader or answer any questions you have.

  • Don’t give up! It takes time to achieve this credential but it’s well worth it. I feel I am a much better PR professional now. Make a goal and stick to it. You can do this!

Katie Thomas, APR, is a senior strategist-consumer marketing at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. She is currently chair of the Central Ohio PRSA Programs Committee. Contact her at [email protected]

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Central Ohio Chapter and East Central District Represented at PRSA Leadership Rally

By M.J. Clark, APR, and Beth Watkins, July 27th, 2015

Last month, PRSA’s national office held the annual Leadership Rally for incoming chapter and district leaders in New York City. Central Ohio Chapter members M.J. Clark, APR, representing the East Central District in place of Sarah Bednarski, and Vice President of Membership Beth Watkins, representing the chapter in place of President-Elect John Palmer, were pleased to attend.

The Leadership Rally is an important orientation, leadership and networking event designed to help prepare PRSA chapter, district and section leaders for 2015 and beyond. In addition to sharing resources available through the national office, the conference also provided information on chapter financial management and budgeting, leading and managing a board, member attraction and retention, programming, sponsorships and scholarships as well as opportunities for leaders of similar-sized chapters to share common challenges and solutions in roundtable discussions.

Attendees also got a sneak peak of the 2015 PRSA International Conference from the Georgia Chapter, which is hosting the event in Atlanta this year. In 2016, the International Conference will be in Indianapolis, a mere three-hour drive from Columbus.

In the district meetings, members discussed best practices of district conferences, how to effectively share information about great speakers, how to best support those working toward an APR, and the benefits and process of applying to serve on the national board. There was a good deal of discussion and brainstorming about the most effective ways to benefit our member chapters, and we brought back many ideas to share with our Ohio PRSA district representatives and chapter leaders.

“Given our membership size, Central Ohio is in the ‘Very Large’ category with the New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Georgia (Atlanta), San Francisco, National Capital (D.C.), Houston, Philadelphia, Minnesota, Hoosier and Colorado Chapters. It’s validating to know we all face similar challenges and learn of some innovative methods for member engagement,” said Watkins.

Even though the rally had a packed schedule, there was still an opportunity to step out and enjoy a bit of New York. “Since our hotel was located in lower Manhattan, we enjoyed a great networking dinner near Battery Park with views of Ellis Island the Statue of Liberty. On the way back to our hotel, M.J. and I stopped by the 9/11 Memorial, which was very meaningful and peaceful. I recommend a visit if to anyone who goes to New York,” Watkins said.

“The district meetings provided a great balcony view of how PRSA works at each level, and I gained so much from the discussions,” Clark said. “Representatives from each district were so open and willing to share helpful ideas. I hope others from our chapter seize the opportunity to serve at a district level in the future.”

leadership rallyM.J. Clark, APR, second from left, and Beth Watkins, center, seated with other attendees from East Central District, represented the district and Central Ohio Chapter respectively at the PRSA Leadership Rally.
Photo credit: Sonja Popp-Stahly, APR, PRSA National Board of Directors and member of the Hoosier Chapter.

The PRSA Leadership Rally hotel was just two blocks away from the 9/11 Memorial.

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5 PR Criminals Invading Your Company and How to Avoid Them

By Lisa Arledge Powell, President, MediaSource, July 15th, 2015

With the rise of the public relations trend, brand journalism, PR departments are becoming infiltrated with a new type of offender – people who commit media misdemeanors and content crimes and sabotage your brand journalism efforts.

Meet the criminals you don’t want to ever become.

Here are the 5 most common culprits and how you can avoid them.

Logo Lover

Logo LoverCrime: The Logo Lover plasters her logo everywhere to make sure everyone loves her brand. You may have spotted this person in your advertising department. If so, that’s exactly where the Logo Lover should stay.
Punishment: Brand journalism content should not be overly branded. Shut down the Logo Lover by using your logo in a subtle way that fits seamlessly within your content. As a guideline, think about how an outside journalist would use your logo in the context of the story.

Professor Jargon

Professor JargonCrime: Professor Jargon is the highly intelligent person on your team who uses a lot of industry jargon in content for a consumer-focused audience. While the professor can be a great source for content, his technical talk can sabotage your brand journalism efforts because it will sound like a foreign language to your target audience.
Punishment: You need to school the professor on the rules of brand journalism. Teach him to be a brand journalist by simplifying his message. Don’t be afraid to provide talking points and rewrite and edit his comments.

Narcissistic Nancy

Narcissistic NancyCrime: In the PR world, Narcissistic Nancy is also known as the Brand Bludgeon. Nancy can talk for hours and hours about her brand, its products and experts. While Nancy’s constant promotion may seem helpful, her efforts can actually hurt your brand journalism campaign.
Punishment: When it comes to brand journalism, it’s not about you — it’s about your audience. Put Nancy in rehab while you filter through her branded ideas to see how they apply to your target audience. This idea-filtering skill is important to have as a brand journalist since people like Nancy can be a windfall of ideas for those who understand how to filter them.

Walter Wordy

Walter WordyCrime: Walter uses too many words when pitching your content to the news media. As a brand journalist you might have created a great story, but journalists will never know about it because they tune out Walter Wordy before he finishes telling his story.
Punishment: Put Walter on mute until he understands how to simplify his pitch. Use bullets with top line story information and include links with more details.

Machine Gun Manny

Machine Gun MannyCrime: The scariest criminal. Manny is aggressive in achieving brand exposure but has no strategy. He distributes content by targeting everyone everywhere, hoping that someone will be interested in sharing the story.
Punishment: Brand journalists should strategically choose the target they are trying to reach with every story. To lock up Machine Gun Manny, help him understand your target audience and key markets so that he can be more strategic.

Prevention is key. As a brand journalist you can use these tips to spot and educate these criminals before they commit any crimes.

Lisa Arledge Powell is president of MediaSource , a public relations firm that specializes in brand journalism. MediaSource has been named Best Health Care Agency in both 2013 and 2014 in Ragan’s Health Care PR & Marketing Awards. Connect on Twitter: @LisaArledge.

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