Creating & Telling a Company’s Story from Day 0 to IPO

In the start-up world, where founders have clear exit strategies from Day 0, communication professionals have an incredible opportunity to lead the development and narration of a company’s story – who they are, what they do and why they matter – to the world.

In this session, Sarah will share lessons she’s learned in her career working with venture-backed companies, specifically:

  • about how communications can not only raise the visibility of a brand and shape a company’s overall image, but
  • also move the needle in other aspects of the business in preparation for an exit, IPO or strategic sale.

Recommended social handles and hashtags:  @PRSA_NPD, #PRSAGameChangers, @sarahtatone, @vacasarentals

Op-Ed: Why I’m excited about the conference

By Taraneh Fultz, APR

One of the things I love about volunteering with PRSA is that you get the freedom to do things here that you could never do at work.

That’s why every new PRSA volunteer experience of mine has started with “what if?”

It’s led to some pretty interesting adventures:

  • Watching my friend and mentor, Barbara Kerr, APR, receive her College of Fellows medallion and crying my eyes out next to her husband (see image).
  • Talking Joel Stein into coming to Portland for less than a third of his regular fee and watching my idols ask for his autograph.
  • Serving as my chapter’s first millennial president the same year I celebrated my 10th anniversary of membership.
  • Flying to Boston for 24 hours to attend a national strategic planning committee meeting and sneaking in a game at Fenway (luggage in tow, straight from the airport).
  • Going to my first past presidents’ dinner where I got to meet folks who were chapter president at a time when I was learning to ride a bike.
  • Turning a nominating committee meeting into a backyard dinner party and introducing colleagues to Persian kebabs and baghali polo.
  • Eating oysters for the first time while at ICON in New Orleans with my fellow PRSSA members after having sold our weight in Krispy Kremes to raise enough money to finance the trip.

Now having joined our District’s leadership team, when faced with the knowledge that the next district conference was during my term as chair, the question I asked was “what if we could have a conference with ICON-level programming (without ICON-level pricing) that had the bonding opportunities of an old-school slumber party like ‘Thirteen Going on Thirty’?

Jacque Coe (aka my new PRSA BFF and your District conference chair) took up the challenge, and the 2018 North Pacific District Conference was born.

  1. First, we found the perfect venue. The Hyatt at Olive 8 in Seattle’s meeting spaces have floor-to-ceiling windows, so we’ll never feel like we’re learning inside of a coffin. Plus, their food is yum, and their rooms are wow.
  2. Next, we have a cocktail reception with Chris Porter because who doesn’t want to start off a conference with beer and wine? Not us! He’ll talk about the transition from a PR director into the owner of Seattle’s “best pie shop.” Plus, there’s pie. “Best pie shop” pie. Mmmm.
  3. Then we have our keynotes. There’s Frank, the guy who leads communications for Microsoft, the company that basically ushered in personal computing; Scott, who was the longest serving press secretary under George W. Bush, and who we bet will have some rather interesting things to say about the current team in the White House; and Nick, who before returning to Wired as its editor-in-chief revitalized the as its editor by focusing on — what else? — “telling better stories.” He’ll be talking about technology and fake news, among other awesomeness.
  4. Rounding out our program is a list of session speakers that could have been keynotes. Here’s a partial list: a senior adviser to the Clinton White House, an artist and writer whose work has been described as “our favorite reason for the Internet to exist,” an Emmy-Award-winning TV reporter, producer and photographer, and (spoilers!) Washington’s attorney general, who’s going to talk about the communications behind fighting Trump’s travel ban. (And we’re still collecting more.)
  5. Finally, we’re bringing the fun back to networking. Frank’s thinking about hosting a morning run. I’m looking into how to pull off a mini-slumber party with a screening of “Sleepless in Seattle,” a PJ fashion show, followed by a dance party for those hopped up on sugar and spiked punch. And since I’m pregnant, there’s talk of bringing in baby shower games, like guessing how big my belly is.

The bottom line? Even if you come to the conference a stranger, you’re going to leave a friend. A friend with a lot of new inspiration, tips and tricks to up-level your game at work, but a friend nonetheless. And isn’t that really why we joined PRSA in the first place? To be surrounded by people who get us, push us and make us better?

So what about you? Why are you excited about the upcoming conference?

And if you’re not registered yet, or if you are, and you haven’t booked your room at the Hyatt, what are you waiting for?

Seriously. Inquiring minds want to know.​

Eventbrite - 2018 PRSA North Pacific District Conference

Congratulations to the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter on its 2017 PRSA Chapter Diversity Award

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), the nation’s largest professional organization serving the communications community, presented the 2017 “Chapter Diversity Award” to the PRSA San Francisco Bay Area Chapter (PRSA-SF). The award was announced at the PRSA 2017 International Conference in Boston.

The Chapter Diversity Award is given annually to the PRSA chapter that best embodies and demonstrates key values in diversity and inclusion (D&I) and contributes to advancing diversity locally and nationally. The San Francisco Chapter’s D&I efforts, stood out among its peers for successfully developing and hosting multiple panels, workshops and seminars focused on the importance of implementing D&I programs and best practices.

“The San Francisco Chapter is very proud to have been chosen for this recognition. Our D&I committee worked diligently to ensure that diversity and inclusion had a seat at the table in all decisions about our program offerings and member communication,” said Annie Moore, 2017 PRSA-SF Chapter President.

The award is reflective of the work that the chapter produced and implemented from July 30, 2016 through July 31, 2017. During that time, the San Francisco Chapter successfully developed and hosted multiple diversity-minded programs and events including the “Fall Into Diversity” mixer, a Diversity & Inclusion Best Practices Google Hangout and Twitter chat, “United. Not Divided. Communicating Through a Crisis,” and “So You Have a Diversity & Inclusion Program. Now What?” In addition, the committee ensured a more diverse representation of communications experts across all programs and activities within the Chapter.

This year, Ayele Ajavon, Communications Manager at Autodesk and 2017 PRSA-SF D&I Director, took the additional step of volunteering on the Chapter’s Professional Development Committee, chaired by Marquise McCoy, Corporate Communications Manager at LinkedIn, and working more closely with the organizers of the Chapter’s Second Thursday Networking Committee, chaired by John McCartney, Managing Director, West Coast at Wise Public Relations, to ensure even greater synergy and more diverse representation across chapter activities and events.

“D&I is not a tactic or box to check off. It’s a critically important lens through which all communications activities flow and this year we ensured that it was embedded into the framework of all of our programing,” said Ajavon. “The PRSA-SF chapter has always tried to lead by showing what great public relations work looks like and this year, we were committed to serving as the gold standard for D&I in action.”

PRSA 2017 D&I Committee

  • Ayele Ajavon, Director
  • Ashleigh Richelle
  • Marquise McCoy
  • Joanna Rosenthal
  • Rahel Marsie-Hazen, Director-At-Large
  • Y’Anad Burrell, Immediate Past President, PRSA-SF

PRSA-SF D&I Statement*
PRSA-SF is committed to providing professional development opportunities that are reflective and inclusive of all segments of society. Our goal is to provide communications programming that encompasses a wide variety of ideas, perspectives and cultural backgrounds. Through our events and resources, we aim to encourage, educate and engage with a diverse group of communications professionals while affecting change and fostering growth in the public relations industry.

About The San Francisco Chapter of PRSA
The San Francisco Chapter of PRSA is a dynamic networking group of public relations professionals dedicated to the advancement of the profession and the professional. Visit for more information.

*PRSA-SF released its first-ever D&I statement in 2016 under the leadership of Y’Anad Burrell, CEO, Glass House Communications and PRSA-SF 2016 President

[This press release was distributed by PRSA San Francisco Chapter via PRWeb]

Congratulations to PRSA North Pacific District’s 2017 PR Practitioner of the Year Dianne Danowski Smith, APR, Fellow PRSA

Dianne Danowski Smith, APR

Dianne Danowski Smith, APR, Fellow PRSA, named PRSA North Pacific District’s 2017 PR Practitioner of the Year

District honors practitioner and founder of Answer2Cancer

After receiving a cancer diagnosis and fighting through treatment to recovery, this year’s PRSA North Pacific District Practitioner of the Year, Dianne Danowski Smith, APR, Fellow PRSA, turned her thoughts to the principles she learned in her practice of public relations to support others struggling with cancer.

Danowski Smith took her 20+ years of experience in public relations, and while she was recovering from surgery and weak from chemotherapy and radiation treatments, began creating an Oregon event called Answer2Cancer. Drawing on her connections, she secured sponsorships from dozens of heavy-hitter health care and cancer community brands. She built a consortium of support and helped host the day-long event, held on April 23, 2016 in Portland, where those impacted by cancer could learn, share and receive support from people who truly understood. Her goal was to get enough sponsorship dollars so the event could be free to cancer patients, their families and friends. She succeeded, raising 300% of her funding goal.

As she shared event information through traditional and social media, she had an epiphany; once Answer2Cancer went live on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, it was shared like wildfire. At that moment she learned it was no longer a local initiative. She had just gone global, and requests to have an Answer2Cancer event in other communities began coming in.

“It’s a privilege to recognize our colleague Dianne, who used her own experience, combined with her PR expertise, to positively impact others,” said Alison Gaulden, PRSA North Pacific District 2017 Chair. “Many of us can only aspire to have our work have such a tremendous impact. Dianne is an exemplary practitioner.”

This PRSA North Pacific District Practitioner of the Year award is given annually to a PRSA member in the district who has worked full-time in public relations for more than five years and demonstrated excellence in public relations knowledge, skills and abilities. It honors those who have excelled professionally and given back to the industry through volunteer contributions.

Danowski Smith was selected out of nine nominees by a panel of judges who are PRSA members, Accredited and current or former district leaders.

“The profession and practice of public relations has taught me so much about real, honest engagement,” said Danowski Smith. “Early in my treatment, I realized no one is born knowing how to have cancer.  As I entered intensive treatment, I learned I didn’t know what I didn’t know. But using the principles of public relations has taught me about authentic communications and how to help others become empowered and engaged in their cancer care. And, research shows that those who are most engaged in their cancer journey statistically have better outcomes. That is the most important part of all of this.”

Danowski Smith has nearly three decades of experience in the management of public relations, public affairs, strategic marketing and corporate communications through her work at agencies and for large, complex organizations. She has garnered award-winning results in community programming, issues management, strategic counsel and tactical implementation. She serves on the 2017 board of directors of the Oregon Bioscience Association and the Beaverton Area Chamber of Commerce, chairing its Business Advocacy Council. For the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), she serves on the 2017 board of directors of PRSA Oregon as a leadership assembly delegate, and served in multiple chapter, district and national committee roles, including the 2006 president of the Portland Metro Chapter and as 2004 chair of PRSA’s North Pacific District. She is the recipient of the 2009 PRSA Portland Metro Chapter William W. Marsh Lifetime Achievement Award.

Smith counsels boards of national and local nonprofits as well as serving as an invited trainer for executives, administrators, community advocates, university students and leadership candidates. Additionally, she is a national speaker providing public relations and strategic expertise regarding media advocacy, strategic PR, scenario planning, social engagement and protecting one’s online reputation.


About PRSA North Pacific District

One of the largest geographic areas of PRSA, the North Pacific District consists of 2,500 members in 14 chapters located in Alaska, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.


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Announcing the 2017 NPD PR Practitioner of the Year finalists

PRSA North Pacific District PR Practitioner of the Year

The PRSA North Pacific District PR Practitioner of the Year award is given annually to a PRSA member in the North Pacific District who has worked full-time in public relations for more than five years and demonstrated excellence in public relations knowledge, skills and abilities. It honors those who have excelled professionally and given back to the industry through volunteer contributions to PRSA and mentoring young professionals.

A call for nominations was published in May and the deadline for submissions extended through the end of June.

We’re pleased to announce the nine North Pacific District PRSA members who were nominated for this year’s award:

Heather Barnum, APR
Communications Director, Utah Department of Human Services
Greater Salt Lake Chapter

Kristin Helvey, APR
President/Owner, Helvey Communications
Alaska Chapter

Amanda Thiebaud Horn
Director of Communications, Nevada Museum of Art
Sierra Nevada Chapter

Nance Larsen, APR, Fellow PRSA
Strategic Communication Consultant
Alaska Chapter

Colby Reade, APR
Account Supervisor, CMD
Oregon Chapter

Melissa Rohlfs
Director of Communications, Summit Public Schools
Silicon Valley Chapter

Michael Smart
Principal, SmartPR
Utah Valley Chapter

Dianne Danowski Smith, APR, Fellow PRSA
Vice President, Publix Northwest Public Relations
Oregon Chapter

Scott Trotter, APR
Community Relations Manager, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Greater Salt Lake Chapter

Judging will be done by a panel of out-of-district PRSA members who are both Accredited in public relations and are current or former PRSA district leaders.

The winner will be announced this fall and the award will be presented by NPD Chair, Alison Gaulden, APR, at an event in the winner’s local PRSA chapter.

Congratulations on this honor and best of luck to all the nominees.

The 2016 NPD PR Practitioner of the Year award went to Cindy Sharpe, APR from PRSA’s Puget Sound Chapter. You can learn more about Cindy and her award here.

Betsy Hays, Cindy Sharpe and Pete Codella

Congratulations 2017 NPD Board members

The voting for next year’s PRSA North Pacific District Board was unanimous. Congratulations to next year’s district leaders:

Chair – Alison Gaulden, APR
Chair-Elect – Taraneh Fultz, APR
Treasurer – Erica Brown
Secretary – Christine Varela, APR
Immediate Past Chair & National Nominating Committee Representative – Pete Codella, APR
Montana & Wyoming Liaison – Christina Ragsdale, APR
National Board Liaison – Ronele Dotson, APR

Learn more about next year’s board of directors here.

Puget Sound’s Cindy Sharpe, APR, named PRSA North Pacific District’s 2016 PR Practitioner of the Year

The North Pacific District of the Public Relations Society of America announced Cindy Sharpe, APR, as its inaugural Public Relations Practitioner of the Year at its district conference held in Reno, Nevada June 23 through 25, 2016.

Cindy Sharpe, APR receives NPD award
Cindy Sharpe, APR, accepts the inaugural North Pacific District PR Practitioner of the Year Award. Photo by Bauserman Group.

This new award will be given annually to a PRSA member in the district who has worked full-time in public relations for more than five years and demonstrated excellence in public relations knowledge, skills and abilities. The award will honor those who have excelled professionally and given back to the industry through volunteer contributions to PRSA.

“We are thrilled to launch this opportunity to shine a light on the many talented public relations pros in our district who are so giving of their time to help further the profession. Congratulations to all of the finalists, and to Ms. Sharpe for being our inaugural winner,” said Betsy Hayes, APR, Fellow PRSA, district award chairperson and PRSA NPD immediate past chair.

The North Pacific District one of the largest geographic areas of PRSA, consists of 2,500 members in 15 chapters located in Alaska, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

“I’m incredibly honored to have been recognized by the PRSA North Pacific District. It’s my 30th year as a member of PRSA, so this award is especially meaningful for me,” said Sharpe.

Sharpe’s broad industry experience crosses the fields of healthcare, construction, insurance, government, travel and tourism, transportation, real estate and small business marketing.

As President/Owner of Sharpe Public Relations, Inc., initially located in Florida and for the past three years based in Seattle, Sharpe specializes in strategic public relations planning and counsel, crisis communications, government public involvement and education and engagement among her many talents. She has put her strong writing and editing skills to use in employee communications and government relations as well as training programs for corporate communications professionals, speechwriting and public speaking.

Prior to owning her own firm, she worked with AAA Auto Club South where she designed grassroots campaigns to support government relations efforts in three state legislatures and served as spokesperson while overseeing media relations and internal communications. She has also held positions at Shriners Hospitals for Children and Hill & Knowlton, Inc.

Sharpe has been a long-time leader in PRSA, beginning in college at the University of South Florida, where she was president of her student Public Relations Student Society of America chapter.

Upon graduation, she continued her PRSA membership with the Tampa Bay Chapter, volunteering for or chairing numerous committees and was elected to the board multiple times, including two years as chapter president.

She served on the PRSA Sunshine District (greater Florida) board as district chair and in other capacities, and has worked on several district conferences. She’s served on numerous national PRSA committees including nominating, bylaws and membership.

Sharpe moved to the Pacific Northwest in 2013, and again, jumped into PRSA service. She organized the Puget Sound Chapter’s first “PR Gives Back” event in 2013, which provides nonprofit organizations with free public relations and marketing counseling. Now in its third year, this event has given the gift of guidance to 60 Washington non-profit organizations.

Sharpe currently serves on the board of the Puget Sound chapter, where she recently chaired the chapter’s bylaws review and changed the way the chapter recruits and elects its officers and board. She has also served on the chapter’s diversity committee, assisted with its website, served as judge for various chapter awards programs, worked with the accreditation committee to peer review or counsel prospective Accreditation in Public Relations candidates and served on the chapter’s nominating committee.

While these are highly visible projects, she has enjoyed more working with up-and-coming practitioners, introducing them to the profession. She has mentored many students and young professionals, teaching them that volunteerism is a key to success. She also teaches that PR is more than “getting the word out.” It’s about behavior change, motivating people to act and strategically addressing a problem or issue. It’s about using research to not only identify and clarify a problem, but to also measure results.

Sharpe is currently working with the Puget Sound chapter’s student outreach committee to provide student support to affiliate PRSSA students in the area.

Betsy Hays, Cindy Sharpe and Pete Codella
Betsy Hays, APR, Fellow PRSA, Cindy Sharpe, APR and Pete Codella, APR, North Pacific District Chair. Photo by Bauserman Group.