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'Your Communicator' - September Issue

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

How often do you have those “small world” moments? I seem to be having more and more of them!

- This summer I ran into a friend at a secluded South Carolina beach – small world!

- A few years ago, I gave a speech at a conference in Orlando and ran into a PR pro from Miami whose wife grew up in Roanoke and attended high school with my wife – small world!

- My most outrageous example happened in my travels for the World Bank. I ran into a UN colleague in Bangkok that I had last seen a few months earlier in South Sudan – small world!

Those who work in PR are often natural connectors, so those moments may not seem so coincidental. They’re usually a result of our intense focus on building relationships. And whether the relationships are personal, professional or both, those connections ultimately become the fabric of our lives. If you’re like many PRSA members, you come to our meetings or events because of them -- at least in part.

Your board is committed to helping you make those connections, and I want to express my gratitude for their service during a difficult year. Though we still have four months left in 2020 and there’s much more work to be done, we’re close to electing our next slate of board members who will represent you next year. Their work is important for our community of communicators. They will help shape the connections that you make for years to come – for an example, take a look at Linda Scarborough’s profile in this newsletter.

Stay tuned for next year’s slate, but don’t wait to tell us how you would like to get involved in the chapter. For decades, our chapter has been offering development opportunities to foster leadership in the communications community in our region. Get involved right away.



One for the money.

Make time on Thursday, October 8 to hear from veteran PR leader Phillip Tate, APR, Fellow PRSA. Phillip is Senior Vice President at Luquire George Andrews. This webinar is free to chapter and PRSSA members. Guests and students (who are not PRSSA members) are $10. An email invitation with details will go out soon. Stay tuned.

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 hospitality chair Linda Scarborough, who is Marketing and Communications Manager for LewisGale Regional Health System.

What was your best day as a communicator?

For several years, I volunteered as the PR Director for the Miss Virginia Pageant. Each June, the contestants from across the state would arrive in Roanoke to begin their week of competition. I enjoyed being able to study their profiles in search of a unique talent or trait that would generate publicity for the organization and the aspiring young ladies.

Nicole Johnson caught my attention as someone having many special qualities. While she didn’t win her first year, she returned with experience and a platform like no one before her. Nicole was one of the first contestants to focus her platform on a very personal battle with a chronic disease – diabetes. I pitched her story locally and it was picked up by the Associated Press. New to the field of PR, it was very gratifying to see the story of this talented and determined young woman appear in so many print publications.

On a side note, life after winning the state crown has been extremely rewarding for Nicole. During her service as Miss Virginia, she went on to become Miss America 1999. Nicole was only the second representative of Virginia to claim the national title. In 1979, Kylene Barker became the state’s first winner chosen to represent the nation as Miss America. Nicole went on to receive a Master of Public Health degree and has continued to spend her life working for various organizations dedicated to finding a cure for diabetes.

What was your worst day as a communicator?

My worst day as a communicator was when I was a television reporter in Louisville, Kentucky. During the Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm), the family of the first casualty of that state lived in Louisville. I will never forget being sent out to the family’s home to knock on their door and ask to interview them about the tragic news that they had just received about their son. They were very gracious and invited me into their home to share stories and photos of their military hero.

It was a very uncomfortable assignment for me to intrude on a family during their time of grief, but as I was assigned to the story, I had to put all personal feelings aside, keep my composure and do my job to produce a story that would honor the young man who lost his life while at war.

How did you find PR?

As a broadcast journalist, I had often thought about life after television. Since I had spent my career covering news stories, I thought a natural progression would be to transition my skills into a job in public relations. I liked the thought of being able to pitch stories to the media since I knew firsthand what reporters were looking for in a story.

I researched the leading public relations professionals in the area and contacted agency owner Lin Chaff to gain insight into the best approach for landing a job in PR. She advised me to get involved with the Blue Ridge Chapter of PRSA in order to make connections with others already in the field. It was advice that has continued to pay off nearly 20 years later.

Two decades after joining BRC-PRSA, I contacted a member that I had initially met at one of my very first PRSA luncheon meetings. He ended up hiring me and I was able to fulfill one of my long-time goals of working for an advertising agency doing PR.

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

This year, wearing a mask is the one thing that I’ve done for the very first time. I’m pretty confident I’m not alone in having the experience of wearing a mask (surgical, not Halloween) for the first time during these past few months.

What’s the longest line you’ve ever stood in, and what was it for?

My husband and I love to attend live concerts, and if you’ve ever been to a general admission show and you want to get a spot close to the stage, you can expect to stand in line for a few hours. In 2018, my husband and I traveled to upstate New York to see Neil Young perform at the historic Capitol Theatre. It was a general admission show (no assigned seating). After riding by the venue about 11am, we noticed a handful of fans were already standing in line. We parked and joined the initial diehard fans by standing in line until the doors opened at 7pm for entry into the venue. It’s still hard to believe that we stood in the same spot for eight hours and continued to stand throughout the concert for another three hours.

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