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President’s Message

This past weekend I did something I’ve never done before: binge-watched Netflix.

More specifically, I binge-watched “Making a Murderer,” Netflix’s most recent serial documentary on Steven Avery’s decades-old legal issues.

I was struck by many things, not the least of which was that most of the attorneys needed better media training.

But from a broader perspective, what can we say about the documentary as a public relations campaign? Good story telling, drives conversation, “rises above the clutter,” activates audiences. Isn’t this how we mold and define our public relations campaigns?

As we move into 2016, I challenge you, public relations practitioners, to think critically about public relations. What role do we really play? Do we in fact drive conversation or activate audiences? Are we still evolving or have we reached our ultimate end game?

The Blue Ridge PRSA is here to help you on your public relations journey. Join fellow professionals for discussion and debate. Come to chapter events that challenge you and make you think. Tap into resources that help you become a better practitioner.

We kick things off on February 18 at the Hotel Roanoke with Allan Tsang, an accredited business advisor, analyst, and executive coach. We’ll explore “Creating Respect, Value, & Trust Through the Art of Negotiation.” If you haven’t registered yet, take a minute and visit us online. And since we are all dialed into the social web, be sure to like and follow us.

Make two more new year’s resolutions: join us for a year of unquestionable enrichment and binge watch more Netflix.

Have a great month!

Betsy Parkins
PRSA Blue Ridge President

Creating Respect, Value, & Trust Through the Art of Negotiation

As a public relations professional, have you ever thought, “If only I had been at the table during that conversation”? Have you ever sat with a client or a CEO and thought, “If only they would open up and tell me what I really need to know”? Have you ever wondered, “Why do conversations never lead to a resolution or a commitment? Why do I hear no more than yes”?

As professionals and individuals, we often experience emotional fear and anxiety when preparing for and executing a negotiation, or when presenting our value to someone and demonstrating why they need us. Let’s face it. It’s intimidating! Then as public relations professionals, we are often described as the “fluff” of the organization instead of a key player at the table. The result of this perception can send us kicking and screaming into the housekeeping closet as we prepare to clean up the “mess” because the “fluff” wasn’t necessary.

So what can we do? Learn to negotiate! Learn to improve the way we communicate and collaborate so that we can obtain respect in our profession, increase our perceived value, and build trust to develop better relationships with those who do need us, even if they don’t know it yet.

Put the broom back in the closet and join us at the first professional development luncheon of 2016 to be held on Thursday, Feb. 18 at noon at Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center with guest speaker Allan Tsang. Registration is now open on the chapter website.

Come prepared to learn:

  • How to negotiate with others so that they learn and respect your value
  • How to get others to share with you what they may not be willing to
  • How to use negotiation skills to get a seat at the decision-making table
  • How to provide feedback to, confront, and challenge a client or CEO while building a deeper level of trust

As an accredited business advisor, analyst, and executive coach, Allan Tsang has worked with hundreds of companies, including in IT and engineering, bio-medical and aerospace, as well as software developers and manufacturers.

Allan helps others overcome their fear of negotiating, build stronger agreements, and get what they want. Companies regularly hire him to help improve their customer and vendor relations, increase sales, and maximize profits.

Born in Hong Kong, raised in Africa, and educated in the United States, his early career took him to Boston, New York, and Atlanta before finally settling in the New River Valley as an entrepreneur and coach. His passion is in helping companies and executives make better decisions and build stronger agreements. By teaching, training, and coaching negotiation, he enables his clients to confidently perform and focus on a valid mission without compromising. Because of his proven track record, his clients regularly rely on his expertise when negotiating high stake deals with top Fortune Companies such as Google, Boeing, PepsiCo, Verizon, Northrop Grumman, CAT, GE, and Microsoft.

Additionally Allan has been named one of the Top 20 Under 40 by the Blue Ridge Business Journal, Nominated for the NCTC’s “Rising Star” and “NewVa Leadership” Awards, and is a credentialed/charter member of the Camp Negotiation Institute.

Learn more about his work at

Sponsorship Opportunities Available

Looking for a unique way to get your organization’s name in front of public relations and communications leaders in the community? Consider sponsoring a PRSA Blue Ridge Chapter professional development luncheon this year.

The cost is $250 to sponsor a luncheon and will include exposure in news releases, on our website, at the luncheon, and on social media. Contact president-elect and programs chair Jen Ward for more information.

Get a Free Luncheon with PRSA Luncheon Pre-Pay Option

SAVE NOW AND GET ONE LUNCHEON FREE! As a benefit of your membership, a pre-pay Professional Development Luncheon discount is offered to Blue Ridge Chapter members. This year, choosing the pre-pay option secures your registration for six Professional Development programs in 2016 at a discounted rate of $25 per luncheon instead of $30 per luncheon. That’s like getting one luncheon FREE!

Registration is still required for each luncheon using our online registration tool. If for some reason you cannot attend a program, you are more than welcome to send a colleague, guest, or a student in your place. In addition to great food and networking, the programs will feature a variety of key speakers and topics as related to your own professional development, the public relations profession, and ones that we feel will be most useful to you as a practitioner.

The pre-pay option includes the February, April, June, August, October and December programs. The deadline to pre-pay is Monday, Feb. 14, 2016.

To take advantage of this option now, pay online by signing up for this “event” here.  

If you would like to pay by check, follow the same process online and print a copy of the invoice. Send the invoice  with a check made payable to PRSA Blue Ridge by the Feb. 14 deadline to Blue Ridge Chapter PRSA - PO Box 804, Roanoke, VA 24004.

Meet Your 2016 Blue Ridge Chapter Officers and Committee Chairs

In December 2015, the Blue Ridge PRSA membership inducted the 2016 board of directors at its chapter meeting. The following individuals will serve on the board:

Executive Board:

  • President - Betsy Parkins
  • President-Elect - Jen Ward
  • Treasurer - Scott Ramsburg
  • Secretary – Teresa Hamilton Hall
  • Immediate Past President – Chuck Lionberger, APR
  • Assembly Delegate – Douglas Cannon, Ph.D., APR+M, Fellow PRSA
  • Director at-Large (2015-2016) - Alison Hammond
  • Director at-Large (2015-2016) - Catherine Fox
  • Director-at-Large (2016-2018) - Josh Meyer
  • Director-at-Large (2016-2018) - Adedayo Abah

2016 Committee Chairs:

  • Accreditation ’16 – Chuck Lionberger, APR
  • Accreditation ’17 – Betsy Parkins
  • Accreditation ’18 – Jen Ward
  • Awards Chair – Chuck Lionberger, APR
  • Ethics Chair – Douglas Cannon, Ph.D., APR+M, Fellow PRSA
  • Newsletter Coordinator – Allison Lindy
  • Social Media Coordinator – Lori Greiner
  • Website Coordinator – Scott Ramsburg
  • Hospitality Chair – Catherine Fox
  • Membership Chair – Taylor Ricotta
  • Mid-Atlantic District Rep - Chuck Lionberger, APR
  • Nominating Chair - Chuck Lionberger, APR
  • New River Valley Chair – Laura Neff-Henderson, APR
  • Professional Development Chair - Alison Hammond
  • Programs Chair – Jen Ward
  • Public Service Co-Chair – Heidi Ketler, APR
  • Public Service Co-Chair – Tiffany Bradbury
  • PRSSA Academic Advisors – Frank Kalupa, Ph.D. (James Madison University); Amy Bonebright (Liberty University); Jeremy Langett, Ph.D. (Lynchburg College); Vincent Hazelton, Ph.D., APR, Fellow PRSA (Radford University); Douglas Cannon, Ph.D., APR+M, Fellow PRSA (Virginia Tech)
  • PRSSA Professional Advisors – Amy Whittaker (Liberty University); Shelly Whitaker (Radford University); Lori Greiner (Virginia Tech)

Are you ready to be a leader? Would you like to consider a future leadership role as a committee chair? Or would you like to get involved as a committee member or on a special initiative/event?

Please let chapter president Betsy Parkins know how you’d like to become more involved.

APR Boot Camp Scheduled for April

If you have ever considered earning Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) status but just never got around to it, now is the perfect time to start down that path. The PRSA Mid-Atlantic District is hosting the country’s second-ever District APR Boot Camp on April 6-9 at the Jefferson Lakeside Country Club in Richmond.

Why seek accreditation? It sets standards of practice and legitimizes our profession. Even more, it builds accountability by identifying you as having demonstrated broad business and communications knowledge, strategic perspective, and sound professional judgment in the field. Accreditation in Public Relations also demonstrates a commitment to lifelong learning and serves as a source of great personal pride for public relations practitioners.

Interested? Then the APR Boot Camp is a great opportunity for you to pursue accreditation. This course is designed to provide a setting that will meet the needs of busy professionals whose schedules don’t permit extensive preparation time. It's a four-day intensive program for APR candidates to prepare and advance through the Readiness Review™.  At the end of that time, candidates will take the computer-based Examination for Accreditation in Public Relations.

The deadline to register is March 1. The APR test takes place on April 9, so APR candidates are encouraged to register and start studying as soon as possible. Information about the Boot Camp is available on the PRSA Mid-Atlantic District website

2015 Illuminator and Sparky Winners Awarded for Chapter Contributions

Alison Hammond and Catherine Fox were recognized at the Dec. 10, 2015 chapter luncheon for their commitment and service in 2015 to the PRSA Blue Ridge Chapter.

The PRSA Blue Ridge Illuminator Award was presented to Alison Hammond, marketing & communications specialist for Commonwealth Catholic Charities. Alison also serves on the Blue Ridge PRSA board of directors as director at-large and serves as chair of the professional development committee.

Created in 2001, the Illuminator Award is presented to a member who energizes the organization with his or her positive attitude and bright ideas, among other contributions.

The PRSA Blue Ridge Sparky Award was presented to Catherine Fox, director of public relations & tourism at the Roanoke Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau. Catherine also serves on the Blue Ridge PRSA board of directors as director at-large and serves as chair of the hospitality committee.

Created in the late-1990s, the Sparky Award recognizes a member who exemplifies what it means to be active in the chapter by embracing an initiative that supports the PRSA mission to advance the public relations profession and professional. This person is seen as adding a spark to the organization.

Many thanks to Alison and Catherine for your continued dedication to the chapter!

2015 Leadership Assembly Extends Period for Associate Memberships

The 2015 session of PRSA’s top policymaking body adjusted one membership category and modified the annual dues-setting process.

Blue Ridge board member Douglas Cannon, Ph.D., APR+M, Fellow PRSA, represented the chapter at the Nov. 7 PRSA Leadership Assembly in Atlanta.

The 335 Assembly delegates adopted two bylaw changes. One extended the period for associate membership from two years to four for PRSSA members and from two years to three for other new practitioners. The other authorized the PRSA Board of Directors to set annual dues but restricted increases to not more than 5 percent during any five-year period. The Assembly would approve or modify dues when it considers the annual budget. The change was designed to prevent sporadic large dues increases. The last increase—in 2011—was 13 percent.

Associate membership was open to practitioners with less than two years of paid professional experience. A membership study showed that 50 percent of associate members didn’t become regular members after two years because dues increased too much. Under the previous system, associate members paid $60 per year for two years. They needed to pay $255 for the third year to continue their PRSA membership.

Under the new system, PRSSA members pay $60 to become PRSA associate members the first year after graduation, $115 the second year, $155 the third year, and $200 the fourth year. Former PRSSA members would pay $255 to become regular PRSA members five years after graduation.

New practitioners who didn’t belong to PRSSA in college would pay $115 for the first year of associate membership, $155 for the second, and $200 for the third.

The dues change was expected to retain about 400 associate members per year.

A revenue task force, led by incoming PRSA Chair Mark McClennan, APR, proposed the administrative change to dues setting after four years of study. Under the previous system, the Leadership Assembly both determined and approved dues increases. The process complicated annual budgeting. The Board of Directors could not propose a budget based on additional dues revenue until after the Leadership Assembly determined a dues schedule. As a result, programming changes lagged at least a year behind revenue changes.

In other business, the Assembly heard reports on the state of the society from 2015 Chair Kathy Barbour, APR; Chief Executive Joseph Truncale, Ph.D., CAE; 2015 Treasurer Jane Dvorak, APR, Fellow PRSA; Incoming Chair McClennan; and Immediate Past PRSSA President Heather Harder.

The Assembly elected 2016 officers:

  • Chair-elect: Jane E. Dvorak, APR, Fellow PRSA; president, JKD & Co., Lakewood, Colo.
  • Treasurer: Deborah A. Silverman, Ph.D., APR, Fellow PRSA; associate professor of communication, Buffalo State University, Buffalo, N.Y.
  • Secretary: Anthony W. D’Angelo, APR, Fellow PRSA; professor of practice, University of Syracuse, Syracuse, N.Y.
  • Midwest District: Joyce A. Lofstrom, APR; senior director, corporate communication, HIMSS, Chicago.
  • North Pacific District:Ronele M. Dotson, APR; president, RAD Strategies Inc., Reno, Nev.
  • Southeast District: Amy T. Coward, APR, Fellow PRSA; vice president, public relations, Palmetto Health Foundation, Columbia, S.C.
  • Southwest District: Sam James Morrey Sims, APR; director of public relations and marketing, US Fleet Tracking, Edmond, Okla.
  • Sunshine District: Bonnie P. Upright, APR; senior vice president, Olympus Foundation Management, Orange Park, Fla.
  • Director At-Large: Don Hale; vice president, public relations and marketing, Georgia State University, Atlanta.

New Member Spotlight

Name: Melissa D. Vidmar

Title & Company: Business Development and Communications Manager; Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center

Joined PRSA: Oct. 2015

College/University Attended? New River Community College and Virginia Tech

Why did you choose PR as a career? I enjoy working with people and finding solutions to problems. PR also has many different opportunities and creative outlets that can be applied to many occupations within the field/industry.

What have been the highlights of your career so far?

Radford University

  • Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) Award Winner for Class Reunion Gift Challenge Publication

Virginia Tech

  • 2010 Communication Excellence Award, Nominee
  • Branding Certified, VT
  • CASE Award Winner for Grand Opening of Holtzman Alumni Center Publication

Are you married; single? Married

Children? No children

Pets? Lucy, a boxer/German shepherd mix

What are your hobbies/interests? Traveling, jazz music, and the Hokies


Upcoming events at a glance: 

  • Sunday, Feb. 14—Deadline to sign up for 2016 Professional Development Luncheons pre-pay discount

  • Thursday, Feb. 18 – “Creating Respect, Value, & Trust Through the Art of Negotiation” professional development luncheon; Noon; Hotel Roanoke; Register here

  • Tuesday, March 1—Deadline to register for Mid-Atlantic APR Boot Camp

  • April 6-9—Mid-Atlantic APR Boot Camp; Jefferson Lakeside Country Club, Richmond; More info here 


Tell Us What's Going On!

Help keep PRSA Blue Ridge members informed by submitting items for the chapter newsletter. Please send your industry-related story ideas and articles to newsletter coordinator Allison Lindy.

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