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Conference Chronicles: One attendee’s tales from the 2013 PRSA Sunshine District Conference

August 14, 2013

By: Kim Polacek, APR – Media Relations Coordinator at Moffitt Cancer Center

Sand, surf and sun – that may be what most recall after spending a weekend in Fort Lauderdale. However, my weekend excursion to the East coast left me with valuable advice that will stay with me throughout my career.

My journey began with the PRSA Quick Start program. Quick Start is a workshop for PRSA board members and chapter leaders. As someone who would like to get more involved with PRSA Tampa Bay, this was a great opportunity to learn more about the commitment and roles each board member plays within the chapter. During the four-hour session, members shared their successes, struggles and together discussed creative ways to improve our organization at the chapter and district levels. I highly recommend those looking to take a more active role in PRSA attend Quick Start. The information shared in this casual, yet educational forum will help set you on a path to leadership success.

The following day the 2013 PRSA Sunshine District Conference began with a burst of energy. Ron Magill, communication director of Zoo Miami, was the opening speaker. He reveled in the fact that he likes to break the rules of public relations, but that it has paid off for him and the Zoo. Magill stressed the importance of relationship building with the media, which to him includes giving them unprecedented access to behind-the-scenes activities at the Zoo. His philosophy of transparency with the media has not always been popular with his bosses or co-workers, but it has catapulted Zoo Miami, and him, into the international spotlight.

PRSA Tampa Bay President Noelle Anderson, APR and Treasurer Jennifer

PRSA Tampa Bay President Noelle Anderson, APR and Treasurer Jennifer
Medeiros with Ron Magill, communication director at Zoo Miami

Another highlight from day one was keynote speaker and PRSA Chair Mickey G. Nall, APR, PRSA Fellow. His passion for public relations and inspirational advice kept the audience thoroughly entertained. He believes public relations professionals must scale the twin peaks of PR – their work must be both creative and effective. It is all about the storytelling. You need to get to the heart of the story so the audience connects and understands your message. Also important, according to Nall, is to always ask yourself what are you doing well and what you can do better.

The second day of the conference was short, but packed with great information. It began with communications expert Virgil Scudder. You may recognize the name from his column, In the C-Suite, in The Strategist. Scudder says all good communicators are shapers of perception. And in order for communication to be effective it should be based on the 4 C’s – clear, concise, credible, and delivered with confidence. Never use a big word when a small one will do. He also emphasized the importance of creativity: don’t be afraid to offer a unique idea, even if it gets turned down.

Here are some other memorable quotes from the conference:

  • “Relationships are important. Cultivate personal relationships with reporters, business leaders, anyone who can help you get your message to the masses.” – Ron Magill, communication director, Zoo Miami
  • “Use social media to turn your unhappy customers into brand advocates.” – Lainey Garcia, manager of external communications, McDonald’s Corporation
  • “Graphics, not words, are the most effective way to reach people. Showing and telling is what creates effective narratives.” – Mickey Nall, 2013 PRSA Chair
  • “The strategy for print media is digital first. Online has become more important than newspapers and magazines.” – Kevin Gale, editor of the South Florida Business Journal
  • “Communication is not what you know or say, it is what the other person takes away.” – Virgil Scudder, CEO, Virgil Scudder & Associates

I want to thank PRSA Tampa Bay for providing me with the opportunity and scholarships to attend this year’s conference. The people I met and advice I received have already started to make an impact on my work and career.

Next year’s PRSA Sunshine District Conference will be hosted by the Gulf Coast Chapter in Naples. I hope to see you there.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Kim P. permalink
    August 15, 2013 11:15 am

    I wanted to let everyone know video clips from the 2013 #PRSAsunshine conference can now be found at

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