Getting Real on Virtual


On June 21, 2018, PRSAFTL welcomed Ari Lisjak from Virtual Bird and Jay Miolla from Gramercy to our “Reimagine Storytelling with AR/VR/MR” meeting. Treasurer Britt Peemoller interviewed both speakers on stage, following the five Ws to gauge the actual impact of these up and coming technologies in the communication field.

Why: Both speakers emphasized that Virtual Reality (VR) presents the opportunity to create content that connects emotionally. The reason is that the technology enables full immersion in content. This can be hard to describe, but luckily our speakers came well equipped with all the latest VR gear to try on. With a VR headset on, attendees were able to experience a video shot at night, followed by a video with bright natural light, instantly changing their mood, regardless of the fact that it was 8 p.m.

Who: The race is on between all players in the tech, entertainment, and gaming industries to see who can find the best every day applications of VR. Whoever breaks the code will lead the way to an entirely new market. Currently, speakers explained that VR production is a mix of art and science. A typical project takes a team of five to seven people: a project manager, a 3D artist, a 3D animator, a technician, a sound engineer, voice-over talent, and—crucially—a storyteller to write the script.

How: As with other communications disciplines, you need to understand the strategy and how you will properly use the technology. Is there any benefit in using this technology for your project? Is it a good fit into the overall communications strategy? How will you measure results? The advice is to approach VR as another tool in the toolbox. 3D modeling and 360-degree videos take time, so planning is essential. Once production is done, it’s very common to use the assets for multiple applications. For example, 360-degree video can be used at a live event, and then reused for mobile purposes. It pays to scope carefully so that you can pay for projects. Budgets typically start at about $20,000 and projects can take months to complete.

Where: Retail, manufacturing, healthcare, construction, real estate, tourism, and other industries where training and showcasing are critical, are early adopters of VR. Ask PRSAFTL president-elect Victoria Miklausich, of Ryder, who tried on a headset for a demo of a warehouse training class, an example of VR that would apply to her industry. Product launches and Snapchat filters are also common everyday applications today. Jay explained how having an abundance of data helps the necessary modeling. For example, MRIs are detailed 3D models of the human body. This data makes it possible to use VR for remote diagnosis and surgery, bringing about a “rebirth of medicine.”

Victoria and Ari
Victoria Miklausich and Ari Lisjak @PRSAFTL

When: Ari explained that there is an 18-month window of opportunity to reach first-time users of VR. Some everyday applications are already happening, in gaming, medicine, and other areas. For everything else, Internet bandwidth is still a limitation. Gear pricing is coming down: new headsets go for $200. Once certain scenarios are better exploited, like connecting people over social media, the uptake could be quick. The VR market is expected to go from $13 billion in 2017 to $143 billion in 2020.

A big part of the experience was really being there to try on the new technology, but here’s the presentation if you want to catch up with this amazing new technology.

The Inside Scoop of Brightline’s Stance on Transportation and Hospitality

In May, Ali Soule, Director of Public Affairs and Media Relations at Brightline, spoke to event attendees about the brand new high-speed train system, their future plans for the growing project and the importance of community and rider satisfaction.

Soule began the presentation by painting a picture: You live in West Palm Beach and want to attend a Miami Heat game. What is the process to get there? You might leave around 4 p.m. to drive down to Miami, find and pay for parking, costing over $20. After the game, you would be sitting in traffic to get out of the parking lot, to get back on the highway, and drive back to West Palm Beach which would take over an hour.

With Brightline, you can avoid all of that. Just hop on the train and enjoy an hour-long, stress-free ride down to Miami without sitting in traffic. The train back to West Palm will even hold until the game is over in case it runs overtime! Making your experience as easy as possible is what Brightline is all about.

Another item of importance for Brightline is the partnership between them and the community they are working with. Before a project gets put into action, numerous community outreach events are held to hear from residents, businesses, government officials and more, and address their concerns of the upcoming Brightline station and the trains passing through the neighborhoods. Working as a team is what makes the process smooth and efficient, making every party happy in the end.

Above all, Brightline’s top priority is safety. They host safety events to get the message out that it is crucial to be cautious around all trains and train track corridors, following the crossing gates and signs when they are activated. It’s important to follow the laws and never try to beat a train; it is never safe.

So what does the future hold for Brightline? Their next immediate project is the station in Orlando, where the trains will be 900 feet in length, passing an intersection within 45 seconds, causing no delay in traffic. Beyond Orlando, the project continues growing statewide, moving into Jacksonville, Tampa and more cities across Florida. But Florida won’t be the only state with the high-speed train experience. Charlotte, Atlanta and cities in Texas are prospects for their own Brightline station.

For more information about Brightline, visit their website and see our live tweets from the event on our Twitter page!

Ultimate Software’s Darlene Marcroft Discusses Company Culture & PR


In April, Darlene Marcroft, Vice President of Public Relations and Communications at Ultimate Software, spoke to attendees about the importance of employee communications and culture, and how it creates positive PR for Ultimate Software. The central belief at Ultimate is “people first,” which is also their company’s tagline. Their understanding is that when companies put “people first,” they can all achieve greatness. In other words, taking care of your employees is taking care of your business. This model has led Ultimate to be FORTUNE’s winner of “Best Company to Work for” seven times. “Devoting lots of resources to keep employees happy will keep shareholders happy, which will grow and improve the business,” says Marcroft. “Companies that have great culture are more profitable.”

So how does this outstanding mindset of company culture and putting your employees first benefit Ultimate’s PR? Turns out, “people care more about culture than they care about compensation,” Marcroft states. When word gets out about how amazing it is to work at Ultimate, the applications come flooding in. They are known for their flexible, supportive, “people first” workplace, which makes the company a favorable choice for job seekers.

Darlene offered five tips to find out how your current employees view your company’s culture and how to build off of that feedback:

  • Help HR articulate the story. Provide employees with engagement surveys a few times a year without overwhelming employees with too many surveys
  • Identify relevant stories. Ultimate Software’s 401k plan and sports-focused culture are a few topics that the media will cover
  • Share the good stuff. Promote your company’s success and use your culture to show a competitive edge
  • Get involved. Integrate community activities into your culture. Giving back to the community can be a team building exercise
  • Partner with HR. Have your PR department partner with HR, creating an opportunity to help one another understand the culture and get the story out
Darlene Marcroft Presentation
Download Darlene’s presentation

Marcroft closed her presentation by highlighting the fact that when communication professionals tell a story about company culture, they are not only promoting the company, but they are also promoting the best of humanity.

Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that a company is nothing without its people. Make your employees happy, and they will make you happy.

Crisis Communications Through The Broward County Mayor’s Eyes

Broward County Mayor Beam Furr spoke at the PRSA Greater Fort Lauderdale Chapter’s March event, discussing crisis communications planning and the multi-layered approach the County takes to prepare for and manage crises before, during and after they occur. Furr was accompanied by Emergency Management and Public Information Office staff from the County.

Mayor Beam Furr
Broward County Mayor Beam Furr

Mayor Furr highlighted three major crises the County has faced in the past year: the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, Hurricane Irma, and the Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport shooting, all of which garnered media attention on the national and international level. He shared how the County’s approach reflects the fundamental components of crisis planning:

  • Crafting a plan that addresses possible scenarios based on past and present-day experience
  • Assembling a skilled team
  • Coordinating with key stakeholders
  • Messaging before, during and after
  • Strategies for communicating across multiple channels
  • Practice, practice, practice
  • Structured post-event debriefs to reflect, course-correct and improve

For example, before and during hurricane season (June to November), the County maximizes its marketing efforts to emphasize the importance of preparedness for any serious weather event. Faced with communicating to a population of nearly two million residents, Mayor Furr explained how the County must decide the best way to reach as many people as possible. The Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan outlines what should occur in the case of a disaster. The number one resource to display all hurricane-related information is the emergency page on the County’s website, The ultimate goal is for residents to prepare, have a family emergency plan, know where to evacuate, and have enough food and water if a widespread power outage occurs.

The Broward County Emergency Management Division combines their efforts with the County’s 31 cities, first responders, companies like Florida Power & Light, non-profit organizations, schools, and others to plan effectively and facilitate communication. Additionally, press releases are sent out to the media to provide updates on current weather situations and what residents and businesses should be doing at particular times. During the storm, a call center, reached by dialing 3-1-1, assists thousands of people with questions when a hurricane strikes.

Communication across all levels is the key to successfully manage a county-wide crisis. Once the public safety threat passes, the focus changes to recovery. After a hurricane, residents are asked to keep in touch and report damage to their homes, businesses or property. This feedback is used, along with a damage assessment tool, to ensure each situation receives the necessary help and response, which may require relocation, debris pick-up, and assistance with shelters.

The takeaway from the presentation that Mayor Furr stressed was that no matter what company you’re working for or representing, it’s critical to prepare for an unexpected crisis. In order to prepare, as a public relations professional, you and your team must develop a detailed crisis communication plan that covers how to manage the crisis from start to finish, and always includes an “after action” debrief at the end to improve efforts in the future.

Microsoft Philanthropies: Advancing A Future That’s For Everyone

On February 22, 2018, Jennifer Brooks, Director of UN Relations at Microsoft Philanthropies (photo), was the PRSA Greater Fort Lauderdale guest speaker, discussing the role her department plays at the multinational technology company. Microsoft Philanthropies is made up of a small team that works on the company’s corporate social responsibility projects, as well as partnering with local nonprofits that are knowledgeable about issues locally, and implementing solutions. Although they work alongside organizations, Microsoft Philanthropies is not a foundation and is separate from the personal philanthropic work done by Bill and Melinda Gates at the Gates Foundation. Brooks described how the company believes that the world is currently in the fourth industrial revolution, which allows us to create technology rather than use it alone. Being a part of this era allows Microsoft Philanthropies to “innovate for impact” by actively investing in communities and having their employees participate in giving back as well. Microsoft has donated over $1 billion to over 71,000 nonprofit organizations.

Jennifer Brooks
Jennifer Brooks, Director of UN Relations at Microsoft, spoke @PRSAFTL on 2/22

While 48% of nonprofits describe their IT infrastructure as “barely maintaining” or “failing to maintain,” 77% of jobs will require IT/digital skills over the next decade. Computer science and information technology skills are in higher demand than they have ever been before, and the youth and women of today are rapidly dominating the industry. A percentage of the younger population that have already acquired these digital skills early on are more than likely to transcend them into their college education and develop careers centered around it. Yet, many countries around the world are not able to exploit their “demographic dividend”: the younger generation not being able to pursue a career due to the fact that there are not enough jobs for all children coming into the work force. These are one of the many reasons why Microsoft’s promise is “advancing a future that’s for everyone.” In other words, moving technology forward without leaving people behind. Jennifer’s presentation ultimately outlined why Microsoft Philanthropies play a major leadership role at both a national and regional level.

Download Jennifer’s presentation file.

Watch this video for an example of the way nonprofits partner with Microsoft.

This article explains more about Microsoft’s vision for the impact of technology in society: Future Computed

Here’s how to contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Re-branding Riverside Hotel: Hospitality PR & Integrated Marketing Communications

Heiko Drobrikow, Executive Vice President & General Manager at the Riverside Hotel, kicked the year off at our first PRSA Greater Fort Lauderdale Chapter event with a talk on integrated marketing communications.. He took us step-by-step to describe how he and his team transformed the Riverside brand.

Riverside Hotel

When Dobrikow arrived at the hotel nearly 10 years ago,  he asked his staff what they felt the Riverside most needed to succeed. Their answer: marketing. Dobrikow then looked inside the marketing of the hotel as a whole to analyze metrics like email traffic, phone calls and expense reports. This ultimately helped him better understand the organization’s market outreach.

The team implemented Facebook as a tool for engagement by creating events such as “Las Olas Oktoberfest,” which generated an impressive amount of traffic and led to thousands of dollars in new business for the hotel. This soon led them to shift the investment from print to digital, using platforms like TripAdvisor and others. The result of their efforts was a move from page 14 to page 1 on Google searches.

In addition to the focus on digital marketing, the Riverside Hotel looked at other areas of its business. To ensure fidelity – and recognizing the transient nature of the hospitality business – Dobrikow and his team created a rewards program. They looked closely at the  demographic profile of local customers to change food and beverage offerings so they appealed more to Fort Lauderdale residents, and used media relations to spread the word. He required all of his direct reports to attend local events and connect with key stakeholders in the community. And finally, they changed the way they told the Riverside story to help strengthen the property’s brand. Today, the Riverside Hotel is marketed as an international destination that offers travelers the unique experience of Las Olas right outside its front door.

Finally, Dobrikow offered his view on how PR pros can support businesses like his, which typically do not have a separate marketing budget. From his perspective, public relations professionals have an opportunity to serve as “strategic brand coaches,” guiding organizations through the constant changes they must navigate to stay ahead. An integrated marketing communications approach can maximize the impact of a brand by using various tools and strategies to draw in consumers through multiple channels.

Meet the 2018 Board @PRSAFTL

The PRSA Greater Fort Lauderdale chapter is happy to announce our 2018 board and committee chairs:

We are here to serve you. These are some of our chapter’s plans in 2018:

  • Starting January 18th, we will host monthly luncheons every third Thursday at the Riverside Hotel in downtown Fort Lauderdale. Register early for a discount!
  • February 7th is the introductory meeting to our free APR Prep Classes. Register Now!
  • Regular meetings for New Pros and Solo Pros
  • PR Wizard 2018 Awards recognizing professional excellence and service to both the community and profession

Want to get more involved? Volunteer! Here‘s more information on how to join the PRSA, or email our 2018 president if you are curious about our chapter.

We hope to see you soon at one of our programs, or contact us anytime with your ideas over email, Twitter, or Facebook.

PR WIZARD AWARDS Presented by Wizard Creations

The Public Relations Society of America Greater Fort Lauderdale Chapter’s PR Wizard Awards recognize public relations practitioners and journalists who have made significant impacts in both the profession and the Broward County/South Florida community.

This year, nominations are being accepted for PR Wizard Awards in the following categories:

COMMUNICATOR Communications professional who has made a significant impact in the public relations industry throughout her or his career.

NEW PROFESSIONAL Communications professional with less than 10 years of experience who has made a notable impact on behalf of the profession.

AGENCY Public relations or communications agency based in Broward County that ethically and notably represents the profession in a positive manner.

CORPORATE/GOVERNMENT/NONPROFIT DEPARTMENT Public relations or communications department based in Broward County that ethically and notably represents the profession in a positive manner.

OUTSTANDING JOURNALIST Journalist who works collaboratively with and is highly respected by communications professionals for her or his role in making a positive impact on the community through the media.

PRESIDENT’S AWARD Individual who has supported PRSA and elevated the role of the public relations practitioner throughout her or his career. This honor is bestowed at the discretion of the chapter president with the consent of the chapter Board of Directors. Nominations are not accepted for this category.

Nominations will be evaluated by a committee of past presidents from the Greater Fort Lauderdale chapter. Winners will be selected based on three criteria: • Professional accomplishment (40 percent) • Service and leadership in the community (40 percent) • Service to the profession (including PRSA) (20 percent)

Submit nominations to Nominations must be received by 5 p.m. on November 8, 2018.

The 2018 PR Wizard Awards will be presented at the chapter’s annual meeting on December 13.

The PR Wizard Awards are generously presented by Wizard Creations Branded Merchandise, and sponsored JM Family Enterprises.


Wizard Creations


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