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President’s Message

Truthiness: “a quality characterizing a ‘truth’ that a person making an argument or assertion claims to know intuitively ‘from the gut’ or because it ‘feels right’ without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or facts.” (from Wikipedia)

As a professional communicator, how do you feel about “truthiness”? Does it exist? Is it acceptable in today’s world? Do audiences really care, so long as it fits one’s perspective? Tough questions to ponder as we move through the remainder of 2016 and into 2017.

What’s not tough to think about is our final chapter luncheon, Dec. 8 at the Hotel Roanoke. Please bring a friend for just $25. We’ll have plenty to celebrate, like all the amazing Summit Award winners, as well enjoy the company and fellowship among our friends.

Speaking of the Summit Awards, special thanks again to Gala committee members Catherine Fox, Jen Ward, Chuck Lionberger, and Josh Meyer for their hard work. It was a special evening honoring terrific public relations work, Adam and Alison, and WDBJ7’s Joe Dashiell (read more about the gala, including a full list of award winners, below).

Take time this Thanksgiving to be truly grateful.

Betsy Parkins
PRSA Blue Ridge President

Don’t Miss Our Year-End Celebration!

Are you ready to celebrate the year and the holidays? How about doing it together?

Join us at noon on Dec. 8 for our end of year networking social!

Bring a friend for just $25, a discount off our non-member rate, and introduce them to all of us and PRSA.

We will celebrate the year we have had, announce a few awards, induct our executive board for 2017, and enjoy a holiday buffet lunch together at the Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center. Register for this event here.

See you on the 8th!

20th Anniversary Summit Awards Gala - One to Remember

The Blue Ridge Chapter held its 20th annual Summit Awards Gala on Nov. 3 at the Roanoke Sheraton Hotel, recognizing the best in public relations work in western Virginia. The chapter introduced a new format to the awards competition this year and received more than 60 entries in various campaign and tactics categories. Gold and Silver awards were presented in most categories, and a “Best in Show Award” was presented to the top scoring entry in each of the two divisions: campaigns and tactics.

This year, the Chapter decided to honor the memories of Alison Parker and Adam Ward, who were tragically lost in August 2015, by creatingthe Adam & Alison Award for Media Excellence. Chapter members nominated members of the media who exemplified excellence in media reporting. The PRSA Blue Ridge board then selected a single winner. The winner of the inaugural Adam & Alison Award for Media Excellence is Joe Dashiell from WDBJ TV.

“Many of us worked with Adam and Alison closely and we continue to grieve over their loss,” said Chapter President Betsy Parkins. “We wanted to find a way to honor their memories for many years and we felt this award would be a great way to do that.”

The Blue Ridge Chapter presented another special award: The Lin Chaff Award, named in honor of a founding member of the Blue Ridge Chapter who was widely respected in the public relations profession. This award recognizes overall creativity in a tactic or campaign. The winner of the 2016 Lin Chaff Award is Carilion Clinic for the Up and Away: Launch of the Carilion Children’s Brand Campaign.

The 2016 Summit Award winners are:


Community Partnerships:

  • Gold: Roanoke County Public Schools – Load the Bus 2016
  • Silver: BAE Systems – Radford University Summer Bridge Community Partnership

Internal Communication (For-Profit Organizations):

  • Gold: Access Advertising & Public Relations – Friendship Brand Guide
  • Silver: Access Advertising & Public Relations – BAE Systems – Ordnance Systems, Inc.

Internal Communication (Non-Profit Organizations):

  • Gold: Carilion Clinic – Inspire 2016: The Superhero Within

Issues & Crisis Management:

  • Gold: City of Roanoke – Bringing George Takei to Roanoke

Marketing Products or Services (For-Profit Organizations):

  • Gold: Access Advertising & Public Relations – Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge Content Marketing Campaign
  • Silver: Access Advertising & Public Relations – Inorganic Ventures TCT CustomStock

Marketing Products or Services (Government/Education Organizations):

  • Gold: Va. Dept. of Transportation, Salem District – Travel to the Left Side: The Diverging Diamond Interchange
  • Silver: Roanoke County Parks, Recreation & Tourism – Splash Valley July 2016 Campaign

Marketing Products or Services (Non-Profit Organizations):

  • Gold: Carilion Clinic – Up and Away: Launch of the Carilion Children’s Brand
  • Silver: Anstey Hodge Advertising Group – Mill Mountain Theatre Markets Season Opener/Musical Revue

Public Relations Campaign (Government/Education Organizations):

  • Gold: B2C – Cave Spring Volunteer Fire Department Recruitment Campaign
  • Silver: Roanoke County Parks, Recreation & Tourism – Explore Park Adventure Plan Public Launch

Special Event (Two days or shorter):

  • Gold: ndp – eXperience
  • Silver: Roanoke County Public Schools – Graduation Live 2016

Special Event (Longer than two days):

  • Gold: BAE Systems – Team Radford 75th Anniversary
  • Silver: Va. Western Community College – 50th Anniversary Celebration

BEST IN SHOW: Carilion Clinic – Up and Away: Launch of the Carilion Children’s Brand


Annual Report:

  • Gold: Access Advertising & Public Relations – Foundation for Roanoke Valley Annual Report
  • Silver: Institute for Advanced Learning and Research – 2015 Annual Report


  • Gold: Anstey Hodge Advertising Group – Hollins University Summer 2016 Magazine
  • Silver: Access Advertising & Public Relations – Virginia Museum of Transportation: 611 Magazine, Summer 2016

Media Relations (For-Profit Organizations):

  • Gold: Access Advertising & Public Relations – Navy Week
  • Silver: Access Advertising & Public Relations – TMEIC PV Test Lab Opening

Media Relations (Government/Educational Organizations):

  • Gold: Va. Dept. of Transportation, Salem District – GO ORANGE: Work Zone Awareness Week in the Salem District
  • Silver: Va. Western Community College – Roanoke Times Insert

Media Relations (Non-Profit Organizations):

  • Gold: Carilion Clinic – Life-Guard 35th Anniversary Celebration

Mobile/Tablet Application:

  • Gold: Roanoke County Parks, Recreation & Tourism – Roanoke County Parks App

Multimedia Program (two minutes or less):

  • Gold: Carilion Clinic – Up and Away: Launch of the Carilion Children’s Brand TV Spot
  • Silver: Va. Department of Transportation, Salem District – Travel to the Left Side: The Diverging Diamond Interchange

Multimedia Program (longer than two minutes):

  • Gold: Roanoke County Public Schools – Graduation Live 2016
  • Silver: Access Advertising & Public Relations – Inorganic Ventures: Transpiration Control Technology (TCT) Custom Stock

Newsletter (internal audiences):

  • Gold: Institute for Advanced Learning and Research – Newsletter – The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research

Print Publication (single page):

  • Gold: Roanoke County Parks, Recreation & Tourism – Explore Park Adventure Plan Brochure
  • Silver: Access Advertising & Public Relations – Rolling of the Bulls Signature Poster

Public Service Announcement:

  • Gold: Montgomery County – Citizens Alert – Sign up Today!

Social Media:

  • Gold: Institute for Advanced Learning and Research – Strategic Communication with Social Media
  • Silver: Va. Western Community College – Fall Semester Countdown

Website (primary site):

  • Gold: City of Roanoke – The New
  • Silver: Access Advertising & Public Relations – VCOM website

Website (special purpose or microsite):

  • Silver: ndp’s Holiday Pie-Jinx


  • Gold: ndp – The Boys Home of Virginia Op-Ed
  • Silver: Roanoke County Public Schools – State of the Schools Speech 2015

BEST IN SHOW: Carilion Clinic – Up and Away: Launch of the Carilion Children’s Brand TV Spot

Congratulations to all award winners and many thanks to all participants! Thanks also to the Summit Awards committee for putting together such a special gala.

Blue Ridge Representatives Help Change PRSA Bylaws, Elect Officers

Blue Ridge Chapter delegates helped approve two bylaw changes and elect 2017 national officers Oct. 22 at the PRSA Leadership Assembly in Indianapolis. Douglas Cannon, Ph.D., APR+M, Fellow PRSA, and Adedayo Abah, Ph.D., represented the Blue Ridge Chapter at PRSA’s top policymaking meeting.

Delegates changed the PRSA bylaws to allow:

  • Virtual Leadership Assembly meetings and remote online voting
  • The PRSA Board of Directors to interview candidates and make nominations for society officers: chair-elect, secretary, and treasurer

These organizational changes take effect immediately.

Delegates elected the following officers for 2017:

  • Chair-elect for 2018: Anthony W. D’Angelo, APR, Fellow PRSA, professor of public relations practice, Syracuse University.
  • Treasurer: Debra D. Peterson, APR, vice president, external communications and community relations, CenturyLink, New Century, Kan.
  • Secretary: T. Garland Stansell, APR, chief communications officer, Children’s of Alabama, Birmingham, Ala.

Newly elected members of the PRSA Board of Directors are:

  • Tri-State District: Andrew McCaskill, APR, senior vice president, global communications, Nielsen, New York.
  • East Central District: Richard J. Batyko, APR, Fellow PRSA, senior vice president, marketing, communications and development, Team NEO, Medina, Ohio
  • Western District: Michelle Olson, APR, general manager, Scottsdale office, Fingerpaint, Scottsdale, Ariz.
  • Northeast District: Jo Ann S. LeSage Nelson, APR, vice president, client services, Pierce Communications, Albany, N.Y.
  • Mid-Atlantic District: Samantha Julie Villegas, APR, president, SaVi PR, LLC, Washington.
  • At-large: Robert T. Hastings Jr., APR+M, Fellow PRSA, executive vice president, communications & government affairs, chief of staff, Bell Helicopter, Fort Worth, Texas

Jane Dvorak, APR, Fellow PRSA, will serve as 2017 PRSA chair. She is principal of JKD & Co., Lakewood, Colo.

The Leadership Assembly passed—but did not approve—a third bylaw proposal. It would have allowed the PRSA Board of Directors to amend organizational bylaws. Those changes could have been reviewed and overturned by the Leadership Assembly when it convened each year. The amendment didn’t receive a two-thirds affirmative vote.

Students Turn Knowledge into Action

The Blue Ridge PRSA Chapter presented $350 grants to each of its five student chapters at the annual chapter meeting in October.

Thanks to the Lynchburg College PRSSA and Liberty University PRSSA students who stayed after the October luncheon to discuss upcoming chapter plans. A number of PRSSA advisors and PRSA-Blue Ridge board members were on hand to offer insight and suggestions. The James Madison University PRSSA was unable to attend.

Radford University PRSSA interim advisor William Kennan, Ph.D., accepts the student chapter’s check from PRSA Blue Ridge president Betsy Parkins.

Lynchburg College PRSSA faculty advisor Jeremy Langett, Ph.D., chapter president Amanda Frattaroli, and historian Barbara Rypkema accept their check.

Liberty University PRSSA president Reid Koutstaal and vice president Amanda Johnson accept their chapter’s check from PRSA Blue Ridge president Betsy Parkins.

Virginia Tech PRSSA students, along with faculty advisor Douglas Cannon, Ph.D., fellow PRSA, APR+M, and professional advisor Lori Greiner, accept their chapter’s check.

The five PRSSA chapters have had a busy and productive start to the school year. 

This semester, James Madison University PRSSA achieved its goal of winning national Star Chapter status at the PRSSA National Conference in October. To be eligible, chapters must meet eight out of 10 requirements, including community service, strong chapter relations with its parent chapter and engagement with high schools to increase awareness of public relations.

Also, the JMU PRSSA hosted a business etiquette workshop and resume speed dating event, and they raised funds and designed and marketed a new JMU School of Communication Studies t-shirt that cautions “Watch Your Language!”

Smile! The JMU student chapter will offer an opportunity to get an updated LinkedIn headshot for $5 on Nov. 16.

JMU students are seen at one of several agencies in Washington, D.C., including Edelman, Porter Novelli, CRAFT DC and Crosby Volmer.

The Lynchburg College PRSSA is working on the College's Quality Enhancement Plan to gauge attitudes surrounding the "WE Write for Success" program. It has involved focus groups with current students and instructors.

The student group also is brainstorming strategies to improve course survey responses. A plan for that objective should be in place by the end of the semester.

The Liberty University PRSSA had a sweet Skype meeting with Anna Lingeris of The Hershey Co., who sent in advance a sampling of candy, including Cookie Layer Crunch, Hershey’s newest product that won’t hit store shelves until December. Lingeris gave insight into her role at Hershey and the skills she looks for in interns. She also gave advice on applying for a job after graduation.

LU PRSSA President Reid Koutstaal reports that the “National PRSSA Conference was a blast!” Four executive board members, a member of the chapter’s student-run PR firm Innovations, and PRSSA National Board member Liz Skeele attended the Indianapolis event. Conference workshops covered such topics as crisis, entertainment, start-ups, blogging, politics, storytelling, CSR, non-profit, and much more. “We were able to network with current students as well as PR professionals from all over the country and from all kinds of companies. We were also able to connect with, and learn from, other chapters,” says Koutstaal.

Liberty University PRSSA members in Indianapolis for the PRSSA Conference.

This semester, the Radford University PRSSA hosted a number of events, including a bake sale fundraiser, a chili sale fundraiser, and a social media workshop.

The Virginia Tech PRSSA hosted Elevations: Raising the Bar for PR, a two-hour conference to motivate students to be their best in PR and strategic communications. James Williams, Ph.D., the keynote speaker from the University of Tennessee, delivered a thought-provoking talk on personal branding. A Q&A session featured a panel of public relations professionals. Attendees also had time to network. About 35-40 students attended the event, which also raised money and cans of food for the Women's Resource Center.

VT PRSSA students also hosted resume speed dating and speakers at several meetings. The chapter firm planned a promotional event for a local frozen yogurt business.

Radford University and Virginia Tech PRSSA students at Elevations.

The Blue Ridge PRSA has a tentative date set for its 2017 PRSSA Leadership Retreat and Pizza Party: Friday, Sept. 8. Roanoke location to be announced. We’ll revisit the date next semester to be sure it works for all fall calendars.

The Blue Ridge PRSA and its PRSSA chapters have Facebook and Twitter accounts, so it’s easy to connect. Let’s stay in touch!

Are You Taking Advantage of Your Membership Benefits?

Did you know that your PRSA chapter membership comes with the benefit of participating in live webinars on a variety of public relations topics completely free? A number of them are even available for a set time after the live event to be viewed on-demand.

Take advantage of your free learning opportunities! Check out these remaining live webinars coming up this year, and be sure to refer back to the PRSA website often to see what has been added to the webinar schedule:

New Member Spotlight

Name:  Deborah Bell (“Debbie”)

Title & Company:  Community Outreach Coordinator, Office of the Attorney General of Virginia

Joined PRSA:  August, 2016

College/University attended: Graduated from both Virginia Tech and Radford University

Why did you choose PR as a career?  I enjoy the ability to combine law enforcement and public service resources together

What have been the highlights of your career, or what are some goals of your career? Working with many volunteers, especially as President of the Virginia Tech Alumni Association, Roanoke Valley Chapter; Working with the Roanoke County Police Department in the Criminal Investigations Division; Assisting on political campaigns; And (currently) working toward my Crime Prevention Specialist Certification (goal). 

Are you married; single? Married to Brandon Bell (fifteen years)            

Do you have children? Two children

Do you have pets? Two dogs, Lincoln and Mary Todd 

What are your hobbies & interests? I especially enjoy the extreme sports – white water rafting and mountain biking

What is the strangest situation you have found yourself in, or what has been your biggest adventure? Every year my two best friends and I plot a secret vacation spot and folks must guess where we are headed – it has to be different every year. (This year, a passport will be required!)


Upcoming events at a glance: 

·         Thursday, Dec. 8 – Year-End Chapter Luncheon; noon; Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center; Register here.



Tell Us What's Going On!

Help keep PRSA Blue Ridge members informed by submitting items for the chapter newsletter. Please send your industry-related story ideas and articles to newsletter coordinator Tricia Simons.

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