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MINNEAPOLIS - August 5, 2019

5 Tips to Design Highly Effective Corporate Social Responsibility Campaigns

By Katie Hickman, Maccabee Public Relations via

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) campaigns are on the rise as brands explore how they can stand out in a crowded, noisy marketplace, position themselves apart from their competition and make a statement with consumers. In fact, Fortune Global 500 firms spend $20 billion a year on CSR activities. The most successful CSR initiatives are authentic, engaging and further the brand’s mission. But to accomplish this, brands need to objectively look at the competitive landscape and identify the unique story they can tell.

Imagine you’re walking into your local shopping mall and you have the choice of going through two doors. One has a sign above it that says “Beautiful” and the other door says “Average.” Which do you choose? The beauty brand Dove and its agency, Ogilvy & Mather Chicago, executed this challenge as part of its “Choose Beautiful” campaign in six countries, asking women to make this decision. Dove's video shows a surprising number of women entering through the “Average” door. It also depicts friends walking through the “Beautiful” door together and a mom pulling her teen daughter towards the “Beautiful” door. The video, and accompanying survey of 6,400 women about how they perceive beauty in themselves, received national media coverage from
Fortune to Time magazine and sparked a conversation about what beauty means.

When done well, CSR campaigns like Dove’s can result in earned media, goodwill and even a measurable increase in sales. But, given all of the noise your brand is competing with, how can you set up your campaigns and partnerships for success? Here are five tips to help you create a successful, and highly-effective, CSR campaign.

MINNEAPOLIS - July 2, 2019

2019.Schriner.blog_post.media_trust_1253938372.jpgThe Media Trend that Matters Most: Trust

By Mo Schriner, PhD

Logan Paul? Who in the world is Logan Paul?

The first time I saw the name “Logan Paul” was on Google's Year in Search 2018. The name was listed as one of the year’s most searched people on Google at No. 4 – below No. 3 Brett Kavanaugh and ahead of No. 5 Khloe Kardashian.

Google’s list of most searched people is important not because of the power of the individuals, but the power of the publisher. I had never heard of Logan Paul because my primary trusted media sources don’t provide information about “the Goofy dude,” as Logan describes himself on his Twitter bio.

YouTube is the media source and primary publisher for Logan Paul – and it’s not on my go-to daily news media sources.

Logan Paul represents the Wild Wild West of our media landscape today. He is a 20-something from a suburb of Cleveland made famous by videos he posted on Vine and YouTube. He has millions of followers on various social media channels and has made millions in ad revenue and merchandise sales by leveraging his follower-dom. His “goofy dude” description does not capture the bizarre, attention-seeking content he produces, which another famous YouTuber called “sociopathic garbage fire.”

The rise of Logan to one of the most searched people on Google, made rich and famous on social media by behaviors distinctly outside the mainstream, illustrates the one media trend that matters most: Which media do we trust - and which media do we not trust.

Digging into trust factors brings clarity to the picture of our media environment now and into the future. The issue of trust – or distrust – in media shapes how we think about, consume and react to media, as well as how we contribute in creating and sharing content.

5 Key Takeaways about Trust – and Distrust – in Media

1. We have a crisis of trust
We have a problem with trust that is redefining who we are. The “we” that I’m referencing are we the people of the United States of America, who are on track to form a much less perfect union by no longer trusting institutions.

Historically, the U.S. has experienced cycles of distrusting government. Vietnam protests in the 1960s and Watergate in the 1970s are contemporary flashpoints of distrust in government. But considering that the revolutionists in colonial times were motivated by distrust of British government, America was founded on distrust in government. The issue today is institutions of all sorts – education, religion, corporations, media, etc. – have had a serious decline in trust.

“The United States is enduring an unprecedented crisis of trust.” That statement, by Edelman’s president and CEO, summarized the findings of the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, an annual global survey by one of the world’s largest public relations firms about various aspects of trust. The irony of the trust crisis, as the report noted, is it is occurring at a time when the U.S. economy is measuring record-high stock markets and record-low unemployment rates.

To put media distrust into context, Gallup surveys show the decades-long decline: 68 percent of Americans expressed trust in media in 1968 and it remained around 70 percent in 1972 and 1974, during the Watergate period. But by 2016, American trust in media hit an all-time low of 32 percent. It’s since rebounded to 45 percent, which varies widely among different demographic groups.

The cause of the crisis is the lack of truth, according to Edelman’s analysis. About two in three people surveyed said they couldn’t tell the difference between good journalism or falsehoods and are unable to identify the truth. When we don’t know who or what to believe, we stop trusting.

The decline in trust in institutions opens opportunities for Logan Paul-type personalities to gain credibility – and gain media attention – by situating themselves outside the mainstream and those distrusted institutions. There’s a reason Logan’s merchandise carries the brand “Maverick” and features hoodies.

2. It matters who is telling the story
Media influence revolves around the process of storytelling, and it matters who tells the story, what the story is and how the story is told. The wonky way to look at this is through communication research in three areas:
• Agenda setting – media tells us what to think about
• Priming – media sets the stage and context for how we understand issues
• Framing – media shapes how we perceive issues

Whether people searching Logan Paul’s name love him or hate him, he is setting the agenda, setting the stage and context for issues, and shaping perceptions on issues via YouTube.

The mogul publishers of social media are YouTube and Facebook. YouTube has inched out Facebook as the leader, although both are far more popular than any other social media sites, according to Pew Center Research surveys. Agenda setting includes advertising, as YouTube, along with other media companies owned by Google, vies with Facebook in controlling the vast majority of online advertising.

The lines distinguishing media that is news and information, and news that is entertainment, have been blurring for decades. The lines essentially disappeared, when in 2009 a Time online poll found the most trusted newscaster in America among the younger age groups was late-night comedy talk show host Jon Stewart.

The lines now acting as parameters defining our media environment are the deep divisions among media consumers in what media we trust.

3. We don’t share the same stories
Despite all the sharing of stories on social media, we don’t share the same stories. There are numerous deep divisions among media consumers.

Edelman’s surveys on trust have distinguished between “informed” publics and “mass” publics. Informed publics are defined by four criteria: age 25-64, college educated, household income within the top 25 percent per age group in each market, and self-reported significant media consumption and engagement in business news and public policy. Edelman has tracked a persistent gap, with mass publics having far less trust in institutions than informed publics, although informed publics have also experienced declining trust levels.

The divide of informed/ mass publics shouldn’t be translated to mean mass publics do not consume media. Rather, they are more likely to turn to non-institutional or non-traditional sources of news and information. One Gallup survey found whites were significantly more likely than Hispanics or Blacks to believe media were biased and to not trust media. In the 18-29 age group, only one in three expressed confidence in the media over the past decade, the lowest of any age group, according to another Gallup. Where does that age group get its news? On social media.

When it comes to political media, the divide in trust is driven by both political leanings and media preferences. The Washington Post’s recent Fact Checker Poll confirmed the stereotype of audiences, CNN was primarily cited as credible by Democrat-leaning media consumers while Fox News was cited primarily by Republican-leaning.

Do newsmakers sway the media agenda, or do media publishers sway newsmakers’ agenda? Research has show influence can go both ways. For example, an innovative study in the Journal of Politics tracked the spread of Fox News Channel across the U.S. in the 1990s and found the cable news channel did affect members of Congress in the positions they took. The placement of Logan Paul as No. 4 most searched person in 2018 is an example of a newsmaker influencing the agenda of the media publisher.

Actual media consumption adds important context to explaining the media divide. A summary of the most watched TV networks in 2018, by Indie Wire, reveals shifts among consumers of television. Fox News had 2.5 million viewers, a slight increase from 2017, while CNN had fewer than one million viewers, which continued its downward slide from 2017. Based on Nielsen ratings, the Indie Wire report also showed the traditional networks of NBC, ABC and CBS, respectively, in the top three spots, but the networks admit their hold on audiences is tenuous.

The more telling shift, as Indie Media noted, is that family shared TV viewing is a thing of the past. The media divide is further extended by digital advertising, in which marketers target micro niche markets and ensure we don’t share the same stories via advertising either.

4. We are all trusting social media less
One aspect in common among Americans is we are all trusting social media less. Social media is the leader at the top of the trust crisis, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer, with significant increases in negative opinions about social media globally.

Facebook and Google, the top publishers of media worldwide, continue to offer open platforms for publishing with minimal standards of community, ethical or social norms, which allows content producers like Logan Paul to draw audiences with obscene and indecent content.

Although, as Engadget reports, there are now “editors” at YouTube charged with putting more restrictions on content creators such as Logan Paul. But the censoring has given the YouTube celebrity yet another opportunity to promote his lurid content, as noted in his recent tweet, “i age restricted my party vlog @YouTube see im responsible.”

Government regulation may be the next step. Big Tech is engaged in a Big Political Debate about regulation, such as proposed legislation reported on by The Verge. Even Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has agreed some regulation is needed, although that path may not be clear until after the 2020 elections.

5. Solving the Equation: Trusted media = local media + transparent media
A final takeaway in exploring our trust – and distrust – of media is optimism in two key indicators. The first is that Americans trust their local TV and newspapers in delivering credible news. A survey by the Poynter Institute found three in four people trusted their local news media. But they have far less trust in national news media. Republicans had a wider gap than Democrats in trusting local and distrusting national news.

The trust in local and distrust in national follows the same pattern found in Fenno's Paradox, note the Poynter survey authors. Fenno’s Paradox is a phenomenon in which Americans express strong distrust and disapproval for Congress as a whole yet continue to re-elect their own congressional representative. Likewise, we express distrust of national media, but when it comes to local news or individual journalists, we trust.

The problem is local media is in sharp decline as the advertising revenue local TV and newspapers depended upon shifts to Google and Facebook. The Knight Foundation, with an endowment built upon a newspaper empire that has since crumbled, is a national leader in advocating for local media to “make our democracy stronger.” The foundation is supporting 12 organizations with a variety of missions to strengthen local reporting.

The second indicator of optimism is that a majority of Americans are willing to rebuild trust in news media. The Media Insights Projects conducted a study that identified points of miscommunication between the public and journalists. For example, more than half of people surveyed did not understand the meaning of the term “op ed.” (FYi – here's a good definition of that journalism term, and others, from the Des Moines Register.) Alternatively, 63 percent of those surveyed said they’d prefer news coverage with more facts and less analysis, and 66 percent of journalists surveyed said that’s what they expect to do in their reporting.

Trust rebuilding, says a report by Axios, will depend on media delivering news and information with greater transparency. That includes revealing advertising revenue sources.

Transparency is a lesson all sources of information – and institutions – could improve upon. It is core to moving people from distrust to trust.

Mo Schriner, PhD, is co-chair of the Minnesota PRSA Communications Committee and a communications consultant based in Eagan. She has a portfolio career of 20+ years of work in communications (

MINNEAPOLIS - May 17, 2019

Brandpoint Celebrates Along with PR Professionals at the 2019 MN PRSA Classics

The 2019 MN PRSA Classics Awards was a night of celebration, recognition and excitement. This year marked the 41st anniversary of the Classics, an event that allows PR professionals in the area a chance to be honored for the hard work they’ve achieved over the year, as well as an opportunity to network with their peers.

Members of the content marketing agency Brandpoint were excited to attend this year’s ceremony, as well as sponsor both the Classics and the Minnesota chapter of the PRSA. Brandpoint’s David Olson, Senior Vice President, and Annette Albrecht, Business Development Manager, were both in attendance and offered their takeaways from the event.

A Night of Celebration and Support

“It was really powerful to see the whole community come together,” said Albrecht. “It created such a fun atmosphere to hear the roar of cheers from the tables when someone won. Everyone was celebrating together, whether they were on the account or not.”

She went on to say she was excited to see how agencies would win a piece of business and create memorable campaigns, even if the topic was a difficult one. “It’s incredible to see how agencies use their creativity to generate national awareness for a brand,” Albrecht continued.

Companies like Weber Shandwick and Padilla were well-represented at the awards ceremony, as well as PR groups from Best Buy, Carmichael Lynch and the student-led CLAgency.

“The engagement level from both the attendees and the MN PRSA Board of Directors was incredibly high,” Olson said. He also added that it was great how the Board stayed until the very end to talk to people, some members even going out after the event to carry on the celebration beyond the ceremony.

A Chance to Network

The PR industry in the Minnesota area is like a tight-knit community. To encourage engagement between groups, the Board placed an emphasis on pre-show networking while organizing the event.

“Everyone knows everyone, so an event like the Classics is a great time to talk shop, learn about what’s going on with your peers and connect on potential projects,” Olson explained.

Olson also observed that there was a notable level of genuine engagement from all attendees.

“While not always the case in settings like this, it was easy to go up to someone and say hi,” he said. “You could really tell people wanted to be there and were having a great time. Everyone wanted to engage and chat.”

Albrecht noted that it added a level of excitement to the event to be able to celebrate and catch up with peers. “It’s such a good opportunity to go out and really mingle with people in your industry that you don’t get a chance to [see] on a regular basis,” she said.

Brandpoint and the MN PRSA

This is the first year that Brandpoint has been a sponsor of the Minnesota chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, and they have sponsored the Classic Awards for two years.

Additionally, this was the second year that Brandpoint offered their creative design services to the MN PRSA Classics. Graphic designer Janelle Van Bockel created the logo for the event, as well as the programs and other assets for the Classics.

Supporting the local PR and marketing community is incredibly important for Brandpoint as a company, and partnering with the MN PRSA gives them a chance to be involved with professionals and events in the communications industry.

About Brandpoint

Brandpoint is a full-service content marketing agency located in Hopkins, MN. Brandpoint acts as an extension of their clients’ team, providing content creation, strategy and distribution.

May 15, 2019

APR prep course equips 20 Minnesota PR pros 

Local PR leaders donate more than $10,000 in time to help others earn accreditation 

by Jake Sturgis, APR, MinnSPRA board past president; Janet Swiecichowski, APR, Minnesota PRSA board of directors; and Joan O’Fallon, APR Minnesota PRSA accreditation chair

At the end of APR Month in April, 20 public relations professionals celebrated the completion of a six-session Accreditation Prep Course and are well on their way to earning their APR credential.

The APR prep course was offered in partnership by Minnesota PRSA, Minnesota School Public Relations Association (MinnSPRA) and Minnesota Association of Government Communicators (MAGC) for their members. Nine candidates registered through PRSA and 11 registered through MinnSPRA.

These 20 candidates have gained confidence and strengthened their knowledge, skills and abilities to master the strategic aspects of public relations and practice at a highly ethical leadership level.

The APR prep course began in October 2018 and continued through April 2019. Course participants have one year to complete their APR portfolio presentation and four-hour exam.

We are grateful for the public relations professionals who shared their expertise for the APR Prep Course covering the topics of research, planning, evaluation; managing relationships; understanding communications models and theory; managing issues and crises; leading the PR function; and applying ethics and law.

The course was coordinated and instructed by APRs from Minnesota PRSA and MinnSPRA. Presenters included Barb Nicol, APR; Janet Swiecichowski, APR; Paul Omodt, APR; Rose McKinney, APR, Fellow PRSA; Carissa Keister, APR; Susan Brott, APR; Dave Schoeneck, APR, Fellow PRSA; Lisa Heibert, APR; Marsha Pitts-Phillips; Shannon Prather; Paul Blume; Emily Buchanan; Susan Beatty, APR; Jill Spiekerman, APR; Bob Noyed, APR; Barb Olson, APR; Stephen Dupont, APR; Jacque Smith, APR; Brooke Warden, APR; and Greg Zimprich, APR, Fellow PRSA.

“We are all committed to your success,” said Minnesota PRSA President Greg Zimprich, APR, Fellow PRSA. “Thank you for advancing your career and our profession. Accreditation helps us all stay relevant, resourceful and inspired.”

We’d also like to share our appreciation with the Northwest Suburban Integrated School District for providing free classroom space. This school district’s facility in Brooklyn Park offered A/V technology, easy access and free parking, and we’re grateful for the hospitality and generosity of school district staff.

Accreditation in Public Relations (APR)
Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) integrates timeless communication principles with contemporary strategies and tactics, giving you a competitive edge with recruiters and hiring managers, and preparing you to counsel and become a senior executive. Currently, 77 members of Minnesota PRSA and 17 members of MinnSPRA are accredited.

If you’re interested in learning how you can become accredited, contact Joan O’Fallon, Minnesota PRSA accreditation chair, She’d be happy to talk with you about the process and benefits of APR.

The APR Prep Course was coordinated by Jake Sturgis, APR, MinnSPRA board past president; Janet Swiecichowski, APR, Minnesota PRSA board of directors; and Joan O’Fallon, APR, Minnesota PRSA accreditation committee chair.


May 13th, 2019

Secrets of Getting Your Company Featured on a Podcast: Behind the Scenes in Podcast Nation

By: Paul Maccabee

MINNEAPOLIS (May 13, 2019) How can marketers like you get your CEO or brand spokesperson interviewed on a podcast that’s heard by tens of thousands, or even millions, of listeners? And, just as challenging, how can you convince your CEO that securing a podcast interview could be as valuable for your company as an interview in "Bloomberg Businessweek?"

Until recently, our getting a Maccabee PR client interviewed on a podcast was seen as a peripheral “nice to have,” built upon “must-have” interviews with traditional media such as "USA Today" or the "Wall Street Journal." But, the success of podcasts such as “Serial” (downloaded more than 340 million times), “This American Life” (2.5 million people download each episode) and the “Tim Ferriss Show” (300 million episodes downloaded), plus hundreds of business-oriented podcasts, suggest that the medium has morphed from entertainment into a mission-critical thought leadership channel.

In recent months, our PR agency has secured podcast interviews for the CEO and Chief Medical Officer of Virgin Pulse (see The Evolution of Workplace Wellness with "HRchat" and the Wellness Council of America’s "WELCOA Cast") and for the Vice President at LifeSpeak (Suicide Prevention: An Overlooked But Crucial Workplace Wellness Initiative with "HR Daily Advisor" and "The Psych Central Show" podcast’sA Digital Approach to Employee Mental Health.)

What’s so appealing about these podcasts for clients? 

  • The time required from our clients is minimal, compared to the time commitment of collaborating on a bylined article for a trade publication
  • The podcast is eminently shareable on social media channels
  • Many podcasts combine the audio interview with text – so your audience can consume your messages in both print and audio form
  • Podcasts give clients the opportunity to express their personality in a way that infographics, e-books and print interviews seldom do
  • Finally, podcasts lend themselves to depth and nuance – Which PR opportunity would your CEO prefer: a two-paragraph quote in a magazine article or a 60-minute wide-ranging podcast?

For this MaccaPR blog post, we interviewed three podcast producers with whom we’ve worked – Gabe Howard of "The Psych Central Show" podcast; Bill Banham of "HRchat"; and Jim Davis of the "HR Works" podcast – to find out how you can get your spokesperson interviewed on the most powerful podcasts possible.

HOW TO PITCH A PODCAST PRODUCER WITH A POTENTIAL GUEST (WITHOUT DRIVING THEM MAD)  “I wish PR professionals understood what our show was about,” laments Gabe Howard of "The Psych Central Show" podcast. “We get pitches for potential guests who simply aren’t a fit. This wouldn’t be so bad if the pitch explained why they were thinking the guest may work (i.e., a mommy blogger might have something to discuss about postpartum depression). But more often than not, we get a pitch that doesn’t fit at all. It’s a time waster.”


(Pro Tip: How do you find the right podcast to reach your target audience? Check out Pandora’s Genome Project podcast recommendation engine, along with searching Apple’s iTunes and the podcast directories.)

The biggest mistake PR pros make in approaching his "HRchat" podcast, says Bill Banham, is “pitching without offering educational content ideas. We get a ton of applications to showcase services and products, without connecting their goals with meeting our requirement of educating the business community about how to improve the world of work.”

 “The best podcast pitches tell us why a potential interview would work on our podcast,” adds Howard. “We had a pitch once that said, ‘you’ve covered this topic before, approximately six months ago, but from the male perspective.’ The fact that they did their homework and knew how to stand out made us really want their guest on our show!”


How do you approach producers with a guest idea? “Email me ... although LinkedIn messages are also a great option,” says Banham. “We aim to make the guest selection process as easy as possible.”

“Send us a single email; we do pretty much everything via email,” says Howard. “Have everything summarized in that email. We don’t need to know the person’s complete backstory – so many pitches I receive are 10,000 words! But if you want to, yes, include some links.”

“When a PR pro wants to give me a heads up about a great potential guest, a simple email is all that’s needed,” adds Jim Davis of the "HR Works" podcast. “Our wait time to record is often three to six months, and PR people have to respect that. The entire podcast process is long, and the Jack Russell Terrier approach of some PR people adds unnecessary stress – which I can easily avoid by not selecting those guests. It’s unfortunate that a potentially great guest might miss out because of the actions of their PR people. Of course, if it’s a really big name, the added stress can be worth it!”


“Perhaps the most important thing to me is that the guest sounds natural,” says Davis. “I may have gone over the content of the podcast with the guest ahead of time, but I need to be able to explore topics beyond the scope of the preparation if the guest brings up something that deserves a closer look. When guests sound like they’re reading their answers and waffle when they’re asked questions they didn’t prepare for, the whole episode sounds flat. I think of each podcast episode as a conversation, and that flow is really important to me. 


“The biggest mistake that PR professionals make is when they think that our podcast is for promoting the organization or products,” continues Davis. “I know that can be hard for PR people to hear. Promotion should be as unintrusive as possible – we’re dedicated to providing useful information and guidance to our audience. If a guest or host talks about something at the end of the podcast or makes a brief callout in the beginning, I find that to be a little more acceptable.”


Research shows that half of all podcasts are consumed in the home, and one-fifth are consumed while driving. “We offer both a magazine and a podcast,” says Banham. “The biggest difference is that podcasts can be consumed passively; for example, while you’re commuting. Typically, our 'HRchat' podcast is 20-25 minutes in length – that equates to 2,000 to 2,500 words in print – so the podcast is much more in-depth than typical 600 to 800-word articles.”

“Magazine articles are summaries of quick information,” notes Howard. 'Our "Psych Central Show' podcast is a conversation about a subject – complete with deep dives, analogies, questions and even tangents – all tied together to give listeners a real world understanding of the topic.”


“Podcast interviews can be booked and recorded pretty quickly,” says Banham, “but the release date is usually at least four weeks later due to our backlog of shows.”

“We need at least four weeks, and often six to eight weeks” of advance preparation before posting the podcast, says Howard. “Unless the subject is in the news or VERY hot. But generally, our average is four weeks’ advance notice.”

“Our podcast airs every other week, and we receive five or so guest requests a month,” says Davis. “We begin talking to guests four to six months ahead of the broadcast of their episode. Much of that is due to the time it takes to book a guest, prepare questions, conduct the recording, edit the episode, post it and distribute it. Even if we rushed the whole process, it would be at least a month from start to finish.”

* * *

Still on the fence about adding podcasts to your marketing strategies? Look no further than these statistics – 51% of the population has listened to a podcast; an estimated 22% of consumers (or 62 million people) listen to podcasts weekly; and Nielsen data indicates that 16 million consumers consider themselves “avid podcast fans.”

What’s more, new statistics reveal that podcast listeners are more likely to follow your company or brand on social media than non-podcast devotees. Whether you want to reach digital photographers, éclair-lovers, people in recovery, blues guitarists, scuba divers or IT directors – with more than 700,000 podcasts available, there’s a podcast out there that your target audience is listening to. So why aren’t you (and your brand) part of that conversation?

Paul Maccabee is president at Minneapolis-based Maccabee, a strategic public relations and online marketing agency.

April 17, 2019

How Earning My APR Gave Me an Edge on the Competition


In the spring of 2010, I was working in a mid-level PR job at a company that I loved. While I was gaining valuable on-the-job experience, there were times I desired a greater depth of knowledge. I wanted something that would give me extra training and credibility that others in my field might not have, without the financial and time commitment required of a Master’s degree.


I had heard of the APR certification through my PRSA membership. I knew that earning the certification would help me stand out, but I was too intimidated to give it a try. I kept putting it off, thinking that in one more year I might be ready. Then I got the push I needed: I found out I was expecting my first child, due right before Christmas.


I knew that I would be coming back to work after maternity leave, and that time would be more limited with a new baby at home. I decided to jump in and try to complete my APR certification before my daughter arrived. My goal was to come back from maternity leave with cutting-edge knowledge that would make me more valuable to my employer.


I started the process immediately by attending an informational meeting followed by several study sessions. I found a study buddy and we got together several times to go over the material. Studying and preparation took time, but it wasn’t as overwhelming as I had anticipated. I was supported every step of the way by my local PRSA Chapter. I was able to carve out space in the evenings and on weekends, and it only took me a couple of months to get ready. All my efforts paid off: I successfully passed my Panel Presentation and the Examination for Accreditation in Public Relations on the first try, and have been proudly certified since summer 2010.


Having the certification has greatly helped my career. I became president of my local PRSA Chapter in 2017, and shortly after became executive director of a small nonprofit. More than once, there have been jobs I’ve been interested in that required an APR certification – I wouldn’t have been able to even apply without taking this step in my career.


For more information about the Accreditation in Public Relations process, visit


Jill Harrison, APR, is a Regional Communications Director at UnitedHealthcare in Minnetonka. She is the previous president of the PRSA Oklahoma City Chapter, and currently does committee work for PRSA Minnesota. She has been in the communications field for 15 years.

January 25, 2019


Minnesota PRSA Installs 2019 Board of Directors

Minnesota becomes nation’s first chapter to elect Board-level Diversity and Inclusion Officer;

2019 Board of Directors unanimously elects Marsha Pitts-Phillips to newly created role.


MINNEAPOLIS (January 25, 2019) – The Minnesota chapter of PRSA (Public Relations Society of America) placed newly-elected and returning members of the Executive Committee and Board of Directors in the roles they will fill throughout 2019. The transition took place during the Board’s first meeting of the year on Jan. 9 in Minneapolis.


President Gregory J. Zimprich, APR, Fellow PRSA, who serves as Director of Finance Communications at Medtronic, takes the reins of the more than 300-member Minnesota PRSA chapter comprised of corporate, agency, independent, non-profit and government public relations practitioners from Minnesota, the Dakotas and western Wisconsin. The Minnesota Chapter also serves as the advisory organization for the nine PRSSA student organizations within the region, including those locally at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, the University of St. Thomas, and University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, among others.


At its 2018 annual meeting in December, Minnesota Chapter members unanimously passed several bylaw amendments including one that created the nation’s first full-voting, Board-level Diversity and Inclusion Officer position to serve as part of the chapter’s Executive Committee. Marsha Pitts-Phillips, a long-time advocate for diversity throughout her distinguished career in communications, was unanimously elected to fill this new role at the group’s January Board meeting.


“I am honored, humbled and excited to be at the forefront of this initiative and take this responsibility very seriously,” Pitts-Phillips said. “Having the full weight of the Board, leadership and membership behind this is extremely important to create progress, and we have that. As members of the communications profession, we are at a time to join in on the discussion – and – to take action surrounding diversity and inclusion.”


While other chapters have previously created Diversity and Inclusion committees, Minnesota PRSA is the first to incorporate a full-voting, Board-level position into its Executive Committee. Pitts-Phillips said she plans to draw from past professional experiences in the Twin Cities community – as a working broadcast journalist, non-profit public relations leader and individual communications consultant – to develop relevant programs, initiatives and partnerships aimed at greater inclusion and understanding among chapter members and those in the local community of practice.


“Diversity and inclusion is a business imperative and should be woven into the fabric of, and reflected by, every professional entity.” Pitts-Phillips said. “In the case of Minnesota PRSA, we will utilize the basic tenets of good research to better understand what has been done, and how we can, moving forward, reflect the values we stand for through our programming and interactions with the broader community.”


Through its programs and services, Minnesota PRSA promotes engagement among its members at every stage of their careers with the knowledge, resources and connections to achieve professional excellence. It also focuses on driving ethical and strategic outcomes while advocating for the profession.

“It’s a great honor to lead this organization in 2019 and to follow in the footsteps of so many inspirational leaders in the local community who have held this role in the past,” Zimprich said. “We have an exciting and aggressive agenda in the year to come, and I couldn’t be more excited about partnering with Marsha to take meaningful steps when it comes to the diversity and inclusion opportunity both for our Chapter as well as the profession more broadly.”


The chapter’s 2019 leadership consists of the Executive Committee and Board of Directors as follows:


Executive Committee

●      President – Gregory J. Zimprich, APR, Fellow PRSA, Medtronic

●      President-Elect – Dan Hauser, APR, Minnesota Medical Association

●      Treasurer – Jennifer Bagdade, APR, PR UNSPUN, LLC

●      Secretary – Dave Neuger, APR, Neuger Communications Group

●      Ethics Officer – Brooke Worden, APR, Weber Shandwick

●      Diversity and Inclusion Officer – Marsha Pitts-Phillips, MRPP & Associates Communications, LLC 

●      Immediate Past President – Eva Keiser, APR, plural i


Board of Directors

●      Membership Committee – Jacqueline A. Larson, APR, City of St. Louis Park

●      Accreditation Committee – Sean McDonnell, APR, McDonnell & Co. LLC

●      Classic and Awards – Tammy Nystuen, APR, Cargill

●      Diversity and Inclusion – Marsha Pitts-Phillips, MRPP & Associates Communications, LLC

●      Professional Development Committee – Ben Saukko, APR, AmeriPride Services

●      Student Relations Committee – Janet Swiecichowski, APR, University of St. Thomas

●      Career Center Committee – Meredith Voltin, APR, UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation

●      Communications Committee – Ayme Zemke, APR, Beehive Strategic Communication


About Minnesota PRSA

Minnesota PRSA is the ninth-largest chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), the world’s largest organization for public relations professionals with nearly 32,000 professional and student members. A strong, active part of Minnesota’s communications community since 1953, Minnesota PRSA’s membership is comprised of more than 300 corporate, agency, independent, nonprofit and government public relations professionals from Minnesota, the Dakotas and western Wisconsin. Through its programs and services, Minnesota PRSA delivers on its mission of engaging members at every stage of their careers with the knowledge, resources and connections to achieve professional excellence, drive ethical and strategic outcomes, and advocate for the profession. Learn more at

November 7, 2018


Minnesota PRSA Bylaw Changes Approved


UPDATE - At the December 5, 2018 Minnesota PRSA Annual Meeting, the proposed bylaw changes were approved by the membership. The changes to the bylaws are outlined below. To view the approved bylaws visit HERE.


The field of public relations and communications is continually growing and evolving. As a professional organization serving this industry, Minnesota PRSA needs to be reflective of our profession and the needs of our members.


As Minnesota PRSA enters its 66th year, the chapter is facing some significant challenges that if not addressed now will impact the long-term viability of the organization. The Minnesota PRSA leadership team and our committees have been working tirelessly through the year to identify and implement strategies to strengthen the organization and deliver value to our members (and our larger communications community). 


As part of this effort, the Minnesota PRSA Board of Directors recommends a number of changes to the chapter’s bylaws. The current bylaws were last updated in 2015.  The recommended changes fall into four areas:

●      Allowing for up to two (2) non-accredited members on the chapter’s board of directors. This change is in line with the composition of the PRSA National board and provides our chapter with an expanded candidate pool as well as the opportunity to engage a more diverse and younger set of candidates. Candidates for executive positions (Treasurer/Secretary, President-Elect, President and Ethics Officer) will still require Accreditation.


●      Combining the position of Treasurer/Secretary. This change compresses the length of service commitment for holding a leadership position. In recent years, much of the work load required for both positions has been delegated to the chapter’s association management firm so the requirements should not be overtaxing.


●      Creating a Diversity & Inclusion Officer position. Similar in scope to the Ethics Officer, the Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Officer will lead the chapter's D&I efforts and serve as a resource for our membership. As a chapter, we are committed to D&I efforts and must lead by example. We engaged local D&I leaders to help develop this position, and their input and expertise was key in creating this new position and bylaw.


●      Clarifying, Condensing and Updating language. We took this opportunity to comb through the bylaws and identify areas where clarification was necessary, condensing was warranted and the updated language is more reflective of our larger society.

These changes have been reviewed and approved by the PRSA Governance Committee as well as the PRSA Board of Directors.


In accordance with our chapter bylaws, the Minnesota PRSA Board of Directors is presenting these changes to the membership 30 days in advance of the chapter’s Annual Meeting slated for December 5, 2018. The attached document provides a side-by-side comparison of the current chapter bylaws and the proposed changes.


If ratified by the members in attendance at the annual meeting, the revised bylaws will go into effect on January 1, 2019.

August 10, 2018
Keegan Shoutz

Let's Connect: Keegan Shoutz

Meet Keegan Shoutz, Vice President of Creative Services at Lola Red PR.


July 31, 2018

Minnesota PR Community Loses an Icon, an Advocate and a Friend

Friday, May 18, 2018

By Eva Keiser, APR

2018 President Minnesota PRSA

The Minnesota public relations community mourns the passing of one of its founding members, Dennis McGrath, APR, Fellow PRSA.

Stories on his recent retirement (Star Tribune), his passing (Pioneer Press) and his obituary (Star Tribune) only touch on his lasting legacy. He was instrumental in the development of the Twin Cities public relations community.

After spending several years in journalism and corporate public relations, Dennis joined Dave Mona to start Mona & McGrath (later Mona, Meyer, McGrath & Gavin) which was eventually bought by Weber Shandwick, one of the world’s largest public relations firms. He served as president of the Minneapolis office, and spent time in the New York and Tokyo offices. Recently, he put his time and talents toward helping the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis navigate allegations. His support of the community and public relations organizations is endless.

For me, his lasting legacy will be the mentoring, support and encouragement he gave so freely to thousands of individuals like myself.

The first time I heard of Dennis McGrath, I was a recent college-grad on the job search aspiring to work at Mona & McGrath. After landing an internship at another prestigious Twin Cities firm, I still was a little awe struck when I found myself sitting at his table at a Minnesota PRSA monthly luncheon program. From the moment he introduced himself, he was charming, engaging and genuinely interested in my perspective. He made an impact and made me want to join Minnesota PRSA. 

A few years later, I found myself as the editor of the chapter’s monthly printed newsletter and often Dennis and his wife Betsy would send me notes with ideas, advice and support. Over the years, I knew that if I or Minnesota PRSA needed anything that I could always reach out to them for help.

As Lynn Casey, CEO of Padilla, said in the Pioneer Press, “You either have the mentoring gene or you don’t, and Dennis had it. He gave me — and I know he gave every one of the others that he mentored — the gift of confidence when we needed it to go further.”

While I never really got the chance to work with Dennis, I can say that even my brief encounters with him impacted me profoundly. He shaped my perspective on what it means to be a leader and a mentor.

Join me in celebrating Dennis’ legacy by sharing your memories by commenting on this blog post.


Rose M. McKinney says...

Posted Monday, May 21, 2018

Throughout my career Dennis McGrath encouraged me to stretch into new roles and take on greater responsibility. When I was considering a new job, he asked me, "What's the worst thing that could happen?" And he quickly answered the question for me by saying, "If it doesn't work out, you pick up the pieces and do the next thing." So, I did, and it worked out every step of the way. We also had the opportunity to work together on several PR campaigns including the Minnesota Zoo and Vatican Splendors/Minnesota Historical Society. His counsel and guidance was spot on and helped create awareness and results that mattered for both organizations. Thank you, Dennis McGrath for being a career-long mentor and friend.


David P. Kostik says...

Posted Friday, May 18, 2018

While I have little to say about Dennis McGrath that hasn't already been said, I can say that I am fortunate that Dennis touched my career on a number of occasions. I valued his wise counsel and his friendship, particularly when we worked together through a difficult crisis. I sincerely appreciate the contributions Dennis made to our community, to our profession, and to my professional development.


May 16, 2018
By Dan Hauser, APR

Take the Time to Mentor Someone


Thirty years ago, as a young pup fresh out of the University of Iowa journalism school, I moved to the Twin Cities to begin my full-time professional career. At that time, I had my eyes set on a writing position, having worked for my high school and college newspapers, and written several freelance stories as an unemployed graduate trying to build up a portfolio.


I scoured the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press’ classified sections (remember those?) for opportunities and sent off dozens of pithy cover letters trying to convince potential employers that I was the next Woodward or Bernstein. I supplemented these efforts by trying to set up a series of informational interviews. Most employers who didn’t have open positions wouldn’t take the time to see me, but a few did.


One interview sticks with me today, three decades later. It was with Brian Anderson, long-time editor at Mpls/St. Paul Magazine. Sadly, Brian is no longer with us. He died in 2010 at the age of 65, after a battle with leukemia.


Brian didn’t have an opening for me met with me, nonetheless. I don’t recall exactly what we discussed but I remember coming out of that meeting enthused and a little smarter. He had years of journalistic knowledge he could impart, stuff you wouldn’t find in the academic setting.


I greatly appreciated Brian taking the time out of his busy schedule to meet with a complete stranger. It meant a lot to me. And, I think it means a lot to students and recent grads out there looking to start their professional PR career. For that reason alone, I encourage all PR veterans to take the time to meet and mentor those just starting out in the field.


Have you made yourself available to speak with young PR professionals?


If you have, thanks. You’ve made a difference. If you haven’t, why not? This career is all about making and maintaining connections. You’d be helping future practitioners significantly if you share with them what you’ve learned in the trenches. It’s easy and it’s fulfilling.


Volunteer to talk with the local chapter of the PRSSA at one of its meetings. Introduce yourself to a student at the next PRSA event you attend. Let them know you’re available for coffee if they want to pick your brain.


Keep the golden rule in mind - treat others as you want to be treated. Think of when you were starting out and how much you benefited (or would have benefited) from sitting down for an informational interview with some sage professional. Your gift of time and knowledge will provide immense support and likely prove to be invaluable.


February 15, 2018

A checklist to help you prepare your career for 2030

This guest post is by Stephen Dupont, APR, vice president of public relations and branded content at 
Pocket Hercules, a Minneapolis branding and creative firm. He is a frequent contributor to PRSA's Strategies & Tactics, as well as its Professional Development programs.


The year 2030 is just 12 years away … The key to starting to prepare for your career in the year 2030 is to start thinking like a futurist – developing a mindset that visualizes the changes ahead to help you prepare yourself and the organization(s) you represent. What should you do now to prepare for the future ahead? Here are 24 tips to start acting on now:


#1 Read! Reading has never been more important to learn new perspectives, study the past, and understand new systems and technologies. What should you read? Focus on books offering differing views about the future and new technology. Also, read science fiction as well. Click here for a reading list.


#2 Invest every day in your career –Invest in your career like investing in a 401-K retirement account. Do just one thing – even if it only takes 15 minutes – every day. But do something. Like compound interest, your efforts will steadily grow over time to achieve the goals you desire. What should you do? Update your LinkedIn profile; read a news article or watch a YouTube video about future technology; or invite a friend out for an informational coffee. If it advances your knowledge and skills, or helps you meet new people who can help you lean forward into your career, then it’s well worth it.


#3 Write more; seek to write better – Writing will always remain core to communicating well. The more you work at it, the better you become at not only writing, but thinking, too. Focus your efforts on learning how to write for a wide variety of communications – from audio messages to social media posts to white papers to news articles. The key is that regardless of what you’re writing, you are writing to build understanding and to persuade your reader to take action (or possibly, no action).

January 11, 2018

Take Aways from PRSA's International Conference

In October Tom Sedlacek, Marketing and Communications Leader at Minnesota-based Grain Elevator and Processing Society (GEAPS) attended the PRSA's International Conference in Boston. 


We asked Tom to share some of Take-Aways he gleaned from the conference sessions he attended. These takeaways represent insights as well as good reminders. 

Happily Ever After: Boosting Business Results

Session focused on how to define clear goals to better measure success

●      Takeaway: It’s crucial to define engaged prospects. It is suggested to have a stakeholder (the Board) define what they are looking for. Examples: How do we define success for the Expo. Is it overall number of booths? Percentage of exhibitors retained? Average post-conference survey score? Number of complaints?


Inside Innovation Inc: Creating an AGILE Framework for Working Smarter

Session explored how to innovate, creating value from new ideas, new technologies and a new way to work

●      Takeaway:AGILE is a project management approach that incorporates rapid feedback and constant adaptation. The goal is to get things to the consumer as quickly as possible, gather feedback and do it better next time. Version 1.0, 1.5, 2.0 Example: If we surveyed everyone who attended a webinar, and used that information to re-shape how the next presentation is delivered. 

Off The Grid: How to Communicate with Remote/Unwired Employees
This session discussed the most effective ways to communicate – beyond email. 

●      Takeaway:Person-to-person feedback is critical. You can learn what technology you can use to connect – apps or texting, as well as how they spend their down time (breaks/lunches) at work. It is critical to talk to them in their environment to get a better understanding of their perspectives.

North Star For Your Non-Profit

Session offered tips on how to use traditional PR strategies and tactics to drive results.

●      Takeaway: 7 P’s – Prior Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Results. This session really focused on planning campaigns, beginning with an analysis of the competitive landscape, and communicating with stakeholders, whether through focus groups or intercept interviews. 

Convergence + Conversion: How to Integrate and Measure Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned

Session focused on how a PESO (Paid, Earned, Shared, Owned) model can help your team take a more holistic approach to brand building and measure your impact on business drivers with more precision.

●      Takeaway: If you don’t have a story, it doesn’t matter how much paid/social you have behind it. The panel also discussed the metrics that their organizations used to measure success. One key takeaway – if you have $1 to spend, put $0.90 into the audience 

Taking Big Data to the Next Level 
This session focused on how advanced analytics can drive better storytelling

●     Takeaway: There are a lot of ways to use data. Whether it’s driving strategy, fueling creative or demonstrating the impact of marketing and communications. 

Rural Reach: Strategic Communication With Rural and Low-Income Audiences

This session discussed how to use a research-based approach to drive the conversation and demonstrate a possible solution to tackle the rural and low-income market.

●      Takeaway: Rural audiences watch TV and often rely on their smartphones/data plans for internet access. It’s important to do market research (focus groups, intercept interviews) to learn the most effective ways to research and impact messaging. They also pointed out how influential large employers can be in smaller communities. 

Marketing in the Digital Era: Revenue, Resources and ROI

This session covered best practices for prioritizing audiences, reaching them with quality content, leveraging targeted digital advertising and building a website that works; identifying and introducing the latest technology that’s best for your business (e.g., CRM, marketing automation, etc.); and implementing modern marketing metrics to measure ROI.

●      Takeaway:Marketing is based on driving growth. Traditional marketing plans are not tied to organizational goals. Marketing should help the organization reach sales goals. It is important to develop buyer personas, identify key performance indicators /business measurements, and goals/challenges.  The session also recommended building a case for marketing automation tools. 


Editor's note: If you attend a PRSA conference or workshop, we've love to share your takeaways. Please contact if you want to share.

Friday January 5, 2018

Eva Keiser, APR

2018 President, Minnesota PRSA Chapter

Connecting in 2018 - Happy New Year and thank you for making Minnesota PRSA a part of your career!

Since 1996, Minnesota PRSA has been a place where I learned new skills, broadened my perspective, developed leadership abilities and connected with peers.


Over the years, the greatest value has come from the individuals I’ve met, the colleagues I volunteered alongside and the network Minnesota PRSA helped me create. 


It is this perspective that I bring to the chapter as your 2018 President. 


As our chapter went into planning for 2018, I challenged committees to create new and enhanced opportunities for members to connect with each other, with our organization and within our professional community. 


I’m excited to share how this vision is being brought forward!


Beginning with “Telling Your Brand Story through Design” event on January 18th at MSR Design (Click to register), we’ll be exploring topics and facilitating discussions around subjects that impact our profession, evolve how we communicate and enhance our careers. 


The educational, community-connecting and network-building programs scheduled for the coming year, include (but not limited to!):

      Expanding Your Role Beyond Communications Counsel - February 23 (Click to register)

     Making Big Ticket Corporate Partnerships Work for You  - February 23 (Click to register)

      Building and Maintaining a Corporate Social Responsibility Program - March 13 (Click to register)

      Responding to a Crisis

      Forecasting the Future of Communication in 2019 and beyond

      Understanding and Executing Content Marketing Strategies

      Building, Maintaining and Nurturing your Network in the Digital Age


Beyond engaging programming, we are creating opportunities for members to not only network but also share perspective and provide advice. 


In addition to traditional networking and informational happy hour events, we will be hosting quarterly Pint Size Solutions & Social Events. These events are a slight twist on the typical networking events as there will be an opportunity for small group sharing and discussions of challenges attendees are facing at the office.

      The first event will be held March 6th at the BlackStack Brewery in St. Paul. We are also launching a quarterly Career Coffee Series. This member only-series is designed as a forum to explore a wide-range of career topics.

      The first Career Coffee will be held on January 12th at Beehive Strategic Communication in St. Paul. Led by career counselor and Pioneer Presscolumnist Amy Lindgren and focus on “Career-Life Alignment” and how to develop strategies to realize personal and professional goals.                                                                           


Later in the year, we will be introducing our new Meet the Brand Icon Series. This member only-series is an opportunity for members to engage with the CMO of various icon brands. In these events, attendees will hear first-hand accounts of the challenges and strategies being employed by some of the world’s most well-known brands.


In February, we will be hosting the first annual PR North Student Summit at the University of St. Thomas. This all-day event brings together students from across the region to connect with Public Relations professionals and learn about potential career paths.


      In the afternoon, there will be a career fair focused on connecting future public relations graduates with agencies, corporations and non-profits hiring within the profession.


And let’s not forget about the chapter’s largest networking event; the Minnesota PRSA Classics Galawill be held in April.


From what I’ve seen, this year’s event promises to be spectacular. Additionally, the award entry categories have been streamlined and new categories have been added so that there is a place for everyone to enter.


We are also looking to connect with you through our bi-annual Member Survey. In past surveys, members told us that, like me, got the most value from networking opportunities. In the survey you’ll receive soon, we want to hear more about how our chapter can support you (and your colleagues). 


I hope our vision for 2018 energizes you to attend events, volunteer and build your network. Thank you for the opportunity to make a difference and to serve you in 2018. I look forward to connecting with each of you this year. 


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