• PRSA-BlueRidge

'Your Communicator' - March Edition

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


Well friends, it’s been an interesting past month – one that has reminded me of the importance of solid crisis communications planning. The novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) has continued its spread around the world, and I know that many communicators in our region have been busy planning their organization’s response. Recent reports suggest that mortality rate of the disease may have been overstated, which is good news, but that doesn’t mean we’re letting up on our planning.

In our push to be as helpful and relevant to our members, your board is working on a no-frills, no cost webinar in the coming days to help communicators better plan. Stay tuned…and stay well!

Best regards, Chris Turnbull

PRSA-Blue Ridge President

One for the money.

I recently worked on a story about disparities in providing health care services (specifically because of a person’s race), and I continue to learn about the challenges faced by our colleagues who identify as a minority. That’s why I’m attending our next event. Normally, we’d have a luncheon. Instead, in April, we’re partnering with Virginia Tech on an evening event in Blacksburg featuring another national speaker – Felicia Blow, APR. Make plans to be there. I had the pleasure of sitting next to Felicia at the International Conference in the fall. She’s amazing!


Two for the show.

There are free webinars offered by PRSA National in March. If anyone is interested in watching, send me note and perhaps we can organize a watch party.



Three to get ready.

Here are some quick ideas to help you grow professionally.


  1. I know all of us are trying to find the best way to show our value to organizations. One way I illustrate the work we do is by analyzing the sentiment of our earned media, our social media, as well as some proprietary patient and community surveys. Here are some tips on how to set up sentiment analysis for your organization.

  2. I never thought we’d see custom spokespersons. Check out what Amazon is working on.

  3. And I can’t leave you without one story about COVID-19. Here are some tips to help you determine if you should postpone or cancel an event.

Four to go.

Each month, learn more about one of our members. We’d like to learn more about you! Here's how you can be featured in an upcoming issue. Since we’re running low on profiles this month, you’ll have to suffer through learning a bit more about me.


What was your best day as a communicator?

Like others have mentioned, my worst and best days are usually back to back. While some of our work is glamorous and we’re out in front – like a grand opening celebration or delivering great news to a grateful public – a good amount of our work is done in the shadows. I have found that it’s that shadow work, that work that doesn’t win any awards, that I’m most proud of. I was asked to write an obituary once, following a tragic death. I didn’t know the person, but the young family was relying on me to capture their love for their family member. I wound up writing the piece on a 45-minute deadline in their home, as they grieved in an adjacent room. What a privilege. It’s an experience that has stuck with me over the years. Sadly it wasn’t the only time that has happened in my career.


How did you find PR?

When I was in college, I was convinced I wanted to work in the music industry. I did internships at WPOC FM93.1 in Baltimore, Sony Music in Nashville and even convinced our Dean of Student Affairs to support an independent study project where I would produce, design, market and sell a classmate’s CD (remember them?). My summer in Nashville convinced me otherwise, but my independent study project allowed me to pitch my story to media outlets not just in Roanoke but in Baltimore and in Bangor (where my classmate was from). Everyone picked up the story, and it gave me confidence that I could do media relations. With that very limited experience, John Lambert Associates agreed to hire me after I graduated. My path has meandered since then, but I’ve always come back a strong focus on communications. I’ve never met a great leader who isn’t also a great communicator. Likewise, I’ve never met a great communicator who wasn’t also a great leader.


Did you try anything for the first time in the last year? What?

This will seem insignificant to many of you, but I’ve always wanted to learn how to tie a bowtie. One Saturday last fall, I spent an hour and a half sitting in front of YouTube trying to figure it out. I’m proud to say, I’ve pretty much nailed it now. I still can’t tie one in the dark, but it doesn’t take me an hour and a half to tie one either! That’s progress.


What is the most meaningful gift you’ve ever received? What did it mean to you?

Never underestimate the power of the written word, in the form of a handwritten letter. There’s something magical about a personal note of thanks or encouragement that transcends what could be posted on Facebook or typed in an email. The act of writing long-hand says so much to the person receiving the note. I’ve been fortunate to receive many of these over the years and I save them to read every once in a while. One in particular that I remember was a note of encouragement from my father while I was in college. I had been through a difficult time, and somehow he knew the right words at the right timing. Now I try to offer the same to those in my life who might need encouragement themselves. Yes, it take a lot of time to do it right. Yes, it’s always worth it.

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