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Perspectives Blog

Honoring a Model Member
By Minnesota PRSA Admin
Posted: 2022-06-07T15:36:00Z

From left to right: Minnesota PRSA President-Elect Ben Saukko, APR; Minnesota PRSA Immediate Past President Jennifer Bagdade, APR; 2022 Padilla Award Winner Marsha Pitts-Phillips, APR; Minnesota PRSA President Dave Neuger, APR

The Minnesota PRSA Classics Gala is the premier annual event for the Minnesota Chapter of PRSA. In addition to recognizing companies for their outstanding work from the previous year, it holds up a chapter member who exemplifies excellence. That honor comes in the form of the Donald G. Padilla Community Excellence Award. Throughout the years, Padilla Award honorees have left a lasting impact in ways we don’t even always know. Each of the honorees has exhibited the Community Excellence Award tenets of leadership, contributions to the profession, and the PRSA mission, through extraordinary contributions to the profession and community.

We have an inspiring list of past Padilla Award honorees, and our 2022 award winner, Marsha Pitts-Phillips, APR, is no exception. As she noted in her acceptance speech, Marsha follows a long line of distinguished members whom I am certain hold a shared humility of being inducted into this exclusive club. I hesitate to use the word “club” because it can have exclusionary connotations which is the furthest thing from what this group personifies. Rather, it’s a club of inclusivity. It’s a club of compassion. It’s a club of excellence.

In my presentation, I said, “It would take way too long to run through all of her accomplishments that make her such an outstanding candidate for this award, so let me just say that I cannot think of a better honoree for the Donald G. Padilla Award in 2022.”

It was my distinct honor and privilege to present the award to Marsha. She’s a tremendous PR professional, an amazing leader and, most importantly, she is an awesome person. Allow me to share a few highlights that made her the Board’s unanimous choice. To create this blog, I borrowed heavily from Board Member Leah Kondes’ nomination submission as an endorsement of Marsha.

Marsha has had and continues to have a lengthy and distinguished career in communications that has included broadcast journalism, nonprofit PR leadership, strategic consultation and academia. She is the President and Founder of MRPP & Associates Communications, LLC. Before establishing her own firm, she spent several years leading public relations at Greater Twin Cities United Way.

She recently served as a communications team member for the historic establishment of the first Black-owned bank in the Twin Cities and in Minnesota, First Independence Bank; she collaborated on public relations for the NFL-sanctioned Super Bowl LVII Gospel Celebration, which aired on BET; and she has moderated several high-profile events such as a 2018 Minnesota gubernatorial town hall meeting.

Marsha is the definition of service-leadership. She shares her experience and expertise with the next generation of PR professionals; she has been an adjunct faculty member at the University of Minnesota Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication (HSJMC) and at the University of St. Thomas, Opus College of Business. She continues as an HSJMC Distinguished Diversity and Inclusion Fellow, a position to which she was first appointed in 2019. In this role, Marsha partners with faculty to integrate inclusion, equity and diversity in their courses.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. As I said, her contributions cannot possibly be totally captured in a presentation … or a blog for that matter.

Marsha was the 2020 recipient of the PRSA D. Parke Gibson Pioneer Award the same year Minnesota PRSA received the PRSA ICON First Place Award as Diversity and Inclusion Chapter of the Year.

I know firsthand that Marsha thrives on collaboration and is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion and cultural awareness in communications. She was appointed as the first Diversity and Inclusion Officer and led a team focused on developing programs, initiatives and partnerships aimed at greater inclusion and understanding among chapter members. She’s currently secretary/treasurer of Minnesota PRSA.

Marsha’s service is reflected in the National PRSA and our state chapter:

  • Established a Minnesota D&I Community Advisory Council
  • Committee Chair for a “Communicating Across Cultures” panel discussion
  • Led the effort to organize and moderate a panel of communication leaders following the 2016 police shooting of Philando Castille, “Navigating Public Relations and the Media in Racially Charged Times”
  • Secured Minnesota’s first governor-appointed Chief Inclusion Officer James Burroughs, for chapter-sponsored events in 2017 and 2020. (Burroughs is now Children’s Minnesota senior vice president, government and community relations, chief equity and inclusion officer.)
  • Co-chaired the 2018 IABC/Minn. PRSA Diversity and Inclusion Forum “Empowering Conversations: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion”
  • Panel moderator for “Understanding Cultural Nuances in Communication”
  • Planned and led a forum focused on helping communicators create change through diversity, equity and inclusion
  • Panelist for “The Intersection of Ethics and Diversity and Inclusion” featuring PRSA National Chair Dr. Felicia Blow, APR, and Immediate Past Chair Michelle Olson, APR
  • Panelist for the June 2020 HSJMC-Minnesota PRSA post-George Floyd killing “Ethical Public Relations, Press Conferences, and Public Engagement During Crisis”
  • Organizer and panelist on the 2021 PRSA ICON panel, “Your Society at Work: Diversity & Inclusion Tools, Tips, and Tricks to Create YOUR chapter’s D&I Success Story.”

She is also co-vice chair of the National PRSA Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

Marsha believes in giving back and paying forward. Her community board and volunteer service include Prepare + Prosper board and its DEI Committee; mentoring ThreeSixty Journalism high school students; serves on the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies (GTCYS) Leadership Advisory Council (LAC); and speaking to Metro State University public relations classes.

Additional professional affiliations include the National Black Public Relations Society; the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Media-Related Members Task Force and its local affiliate, the Twin Cities Black Journalists. In 2020 and 2021, she facilitated panels at the NABJ national convention’s Leadership Academy: “How to Breakthrough to Become a News Director or General Manager.”

She’s ordained clergy and a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

Thank you, Marsha Pitts-Phillips, for serving as a model PRSA member.

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