Know Thy Local Government

They say that local government is the bright spot in our country’s politics right now. Andrea Knowles, Executive Director of the Broward Legislative Delegation, stopped by for lunch with PRSA on September 20, 2018 to help us make local government work for us. If you ever voted on a midterm election you know there are dozens of elective positions on the ballot, none of which are POTUS. Take out pen and paper and see if you can name the eight people filling the key roles in the four layers of government that make a difference in your life. Chances are you will need Google, so you get bonus points if you find out your district number in the process:

Layer Position Name District #
City Mayor   N/A
City Commissioner    
County County Commissioner    
State Capitol State Representative    
State Senator    
Congress US Representative    
US Senator   N/A
US Senator   N/A


Once you know your elected officials, you can get them to know you. Asking your mayor for help should not be hard; there are 24 incorporated cities in Broward county, and less than 20,000 people voted in the last election for mayor in the biggest of them. Your county commissioner is one of nine in the Broward County Commission. It might be trickier to understand how to make things happen at Florida State Capital level. Enter Broward Days, an organization that advocates the interests of Broward County to the state legislature. Broward Days is organized around a yearly two-day meeting in Tallahassee, and a series of local events of groups with similar interests or “impact teams”. For example, the marine industry is one of 13 impact teams. The price to join Broward Days is $260 per year per person. Next Broward Days in Tallahassee are on March 12-13, 2019.

Florida State Representatives serve 2-year terms, and State Senators serve 4-year terms. Just keep in mind that the Florida legislative session is only 60 days long. That is because your state senators and representatives are filling part-time jobs. They get back home to their day jobs once the session is over every year. Essentially, states representatives, state senators, and other local officials are taking time away from their business to work for us. That alone is a good reason to know them and making sure they know you.

A meeting with recent PR graduates

We dedicated our August 16th luncheon to welcoming recent PR and communications graduates to Fort Lauderdale. PRSAFTL membership chair Tasha Yohan and chapter president Victor Aimi met with a lively group of new graduates from Nova Southeastern University, Florida International University, Florida Atlantic University, and Florida Gulf Coast University, among others. Members of local PR agencies and faculty also attended. We discussed some tips about looking for jobs in our area that should apply to both graduates and current students:

1 – Based on chapter membership data, PR agencies employ the most communication professionals in our area. In fact, Matt Levinson from O’Connell Goldberg and Robbin Lubbehusen of Red Banyan were present at the meeting. Other industries employing the most PRSA members are educational institutions, government, non-profits, healthcare, and transportation/tourism. The full list of industries paints a compelling picture of the diversity and growth of the communication job market in the Broward County area—let Victor know if you need help meeting members in any of these industries:

PRSAFTL 2018-08-15 Roster by Industry

2 – If you are a communication student, it is great idea to join the PRSSA chapter at your school. PRSSA is the student arm of the Public Relations Society of America. It will help you make connections with the industry while you are in school, so that you are better prepared to enter the market when you graduate. FIU Professor Hugo Ottolenghi, an advisor of the PRSSA chapter at FIU, attended our event along with graduates Michelle Kwong and Meredith Marseille, Meredith being a former president of the PRSSA chapter at FIU. Professor Ottolenghi recommends PRSSA to his students to help them get closer to the actual practice of the profession while studying. This a list of PRSSA chapters in Florida, with links to their contact information—a special shout out to the recently started chapter at NSU:

Flagler College

Florida A&M University

Florida International University

Florida Memorial University

Nova Southeastern University

Palm Beach Atlantic University

Rollins College

The University of Tampa

University of Florida

University of Miami

University of North Florida

University of South Florida

3 – As a recent graduate or former PRSSA member, you have the most convenient door into PRSA: remember to join! If you need financial help to join PRSA, or have any questions, please contact Victor or Tasha for assistance. See you at our next meeting!

How to Crush It on Camera

On July 19, 2018, PRSAFTL was joined by Dave Aizer for a session of “Media Training Tips & Tricks.” Aizer is a host, head writer and executive producer for South Florida’s CW affiliate, WSFL-TV, as well as a media coach, public speaking coach and on-camera coach. Some attendees remember him as the host of Nickelodeon’s hit game show “Slime Time Live.” He distilled his years of experience to just “5 keys to glory”:

5 Keys to Glory

Aizer’s approach is based on thorough preparation, followed by a confident, high-energy delivery. He advised to focus spokespeople on what’s unique in their content, making sure they select the talking points that are most relevant to the audience of each piece. He emphasized the importance of using B-roll, pre-recorded video segments that can be inserted, with the speaker as a voice-over, to illustrate the main takeaways. He also recommended having an “active rehearsal,” or the actual recording of speakers as part of their prep. Once it’s time to perform, Dave explained that it’s crucial to keep spokespeople free of distractions, arriving well in advance, and never stressing them out with additional advice just before going on camera: all the tips and talking points must have been covered beforehand.

A couple of attendees then sat with Dave for mock interviews. There was no preparation this time, but participants quickly showed the value of sharing a story to connect with the rest of us, sharing something new about their lives. Dave was an engaging host, and even left a flier to remind us of the importance of being ready for our next time on camera.


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.