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'Your Communicator' - July Issue

Produced by the Blue Ridge Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.

Summer is here, finally! I don’t know about you, but one of my favorite things this time of year is getting away from work to rejuvenate and get a fresh perspective. The COVID-19 pandemic has made sneaking away more difficult, but in many ways it’s more important than ever (just stay socially distant and wear a mask).

Creating space for introspection and deeper thinking is critically important as a communicator. If you’re constantly managing highly stressful situations like the pandemic, the economic downturn, or the impacts of the societal shift we’re seeing with race relations and equity, then introspection may, unavoidably, be pushed to the bottom of your list.

I’ve been fortunate to speak with many of you over the past month. You’re one of my great sources of new ideas, new ways of thinking. As you can probably imagine, our chapter’s board has been thinking about new ways of doing things. Here are a few changes that are coming based on our current situation. While I’m a frustrated that we won’t be able to gather face-to-face any time soon, I’m looking forward to seeing the innovation that comes from this COVID-19 era.

1. All remaining luncheons will be virtual through Dec. 2020

2. The Summit Awards for 2020 will virtual. Stay tuned for the plan.

3. We’ve hired an intern – Bianca Pell from Virginia Tech. She will be helping us line-up more virtual programming for the remainder of the year.

I hope you all get a chance to get away this summer – even if it’s only a backyard getaway. I look forward to connecting with you soon.



One for the money.

Make time on Thursday, August 13 to hear from veteran PR leader Denise Hill. Denise is an Assistant Professor of Strategic Communications at Elon University and a former vice president of communications for several global brands will present via WebEx. This webinar is free to chapter and PRSSA members. Guests and students (who are not PRSSA members) are $10. Register online here.

Two for the show.

Take advantage of these webinars, many of which are free or low cost.

Three to get ready.

Here are some quick ideas to help you grow professionally.

Four to go.

Each month, learn more about one of our members. Please consider submitting your profile for an upcoming feature. Here’s how it works. This month, we have a chance to reconnect with long-time member and former chapter president Chuck Lionberger, APR, who is Director of Community Relations for Roanoke County Public Schools.

What was your best day as a communicator?

Probably my best recent day as a communicator was graduation 2020. That may seem strange because we didn’t really have a graduation in 2020 – at least not a traditional one. However, that’s what made this day amazing. After weeks of non-stop work, we premiered five online graduations without a hitch. It was the single largest video production I’ve ever done – more than five hours of finished video and all the associated promotions and media relations. In the end, most parents and students were very appreciative of the work and the viewing numbers were very high. What made this so great was that I was able to get everyone together despite a pandemic to prepare five graduation ceremonies – some inside, some outside (on a windy day).

Is there any famous person or character you can impersonate really well? Who?

Over the years, I’ve become pretty good at impersonating Sean Connery. That unique Scottish brogue can be very fun to play around. I even portrayed “Mr. Connery” in a spoof radio show while I was at JMU (fortunately there are no tapes that still exist).

If you could go back in time right now and give some advice to your 10-year-old self, what would it be?

Trust yourself. I didn’t have a lot of self-confidence when I was younger (some may be surprised to hear this). I second guessed everything and I was very timid and shy when it came to risks and trying new things. I would tell my younger self to go for it – most of the time what you want to do will work out and others will come around. Ignore the doubters and haters – they’re doing that because they’re secretly wishing they could do the same thing. And I’d remind my younger self to lay off the salt at bit. Trust me on that one. Oh, and be very careful on your 13th birthday – especially in gym class. Yeah, I know I’m changing the future and all that, but a broken arm is never fun.

Have you ever won a contest or competition? Which one?

My other name is the DisneyDaddy (this is NO secret to many). What many might not know is that I’m also Disney’s Biggest Fan. In 2009, Disney and United Vacations (the travel planning arm of United Airlines) set out to find Disney’s Biggest Fan and they found me. It was an essay contest and I sent in a short essay explaining why I was Disney’s Biggest Fan. Here’s what I wrote:

I am the biggest Disney fan! Why, you may ask?

I am the father of three children and married to Mickey (seriously, that's my wife's name!). We are a Disney family. No matter where you turn in our house you will see something related to Disney, be it figurines of Mickey Mouse to artwork to drawings.

When I am at work, I listen almost exclusively to Disney music (both park and movie music). When my family and I go to Walt Disney World, I end up taking nearly 2000 pictures each time. About half are of the family, the rest are of the park, fireworks, inside rides, you name it. When not in the parks, I'm creating my own Disney posters.

My kids and I are so into finding hidden Mickeys, that we will spot them all over the place outside of the parks. It's become a fun game between us.

I am so into Disney that I have created my own Disney blog ( and have been featured several times on Walt Disney World-related podcasts.

And yes, I have a Mickey Mouse watch purchased on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom (what true Disney fan doesn't?).

In summary, I am the head of an entire Disney family. We appreciate the magic and joy that only Walt Disney World can bring out in all who visit the Happiest Place on Earth!

I often hear the phrase asked of my children, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" I often counter with, "Do you want to grow up? - I haven't and don't plan to!" My goal is to stay a child at heart, and I hope to spread that magic to others. Walt Disney World has helped me so much to stay young.

I won a luxury trip to Walt Disney World and was able to enjoy some really exclusive experiences. What’s really funny is that 10 years later, I would take all those experiences and more than a decade of Disney trips and turn them into a travel planning business. So now, I’m the magic maker for many people. Oh, and I also work with United Vacations among many suppliers, which is a fun bit of irony.

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