Tips for entering the Silver Spike Awards

Planning to enter the Silver Spike Awards and want to make sure your entries are strong? Jen Eastwood from Foundry, Connie Liu from The Abbi Agency and Jenn Boyd from Weidinger Public Relations share some of their tips for successful entries. Each of these ladies have experience entering and winning Silver Spike Awards. Their main tips fall into three main categories: affordability, celebration and recognition.

Follow us on Facebook where we share videos like this one in addition to club updates, photos, events and more.

Enter the 2017 Silver Spike Awards here.

Why should you enter the Silver Spikes?

Thinking you may enter the Silver Spike Awards but feeling unsure? Jen Eastwood from Foundry, Connie Liu from The Abbi Agency and Jenn Boyd from Weidinger Public Relations share why they think you should. Each of these ladies have experience entering and winning Silver Spike Awards. Their reasons for entering fall into three main categories: align your objectives and results, explain your budget in detail and proofread the entries.

Follow us on Facebook where we share videos like this one in addition to club updates, photos, events and more.

Enter the 2017 Silver Spike Awards here.

The ethics of using photos

The ethics of using photos

While the ethics questions involving copyright infringement might be familiar to all of us, the world of social media has presented new ethics considerations.

One ethics question arises when someone uses another person’s photograph without authorization, acknowledgement or payment. It is not so well known that a photographer owns the rights to photos regardless of having registered a copyright. Further complicating the use of photography is the reality that nearly everyone with a smart phone can publish and share photographs.

One case of the ethics involved with photography, related at this link, involved a professional photographer who has been posting his photos on a media company’s website and their Facebook page. His photo subject is downhill skateboarding. He does not charge skateboarders who use his photos. He does, however, charge for-profit companies who use his photos, as they can make money off of them.

One skateboard manufacturing company downloaded one of his photos and posted it to its Instagram account. They did so without asking permission from the photographer and without offering to pay him. When he asked for payment, the company responded that they do not pay for Instagram sharing. In his post recounting this incident, the photographer goes on to reply to the company’s arguments for not paying him.

A photographer owns the copyrighted photo as soon as the photo is taken. A photographer can register the photo officially with the United States Copyright Office, providing additional legal protection for the photographer. The question of sharing has not been tested legally, and yet sharing without first obtaining the creator’s permission appears clearly to violate PRSA Code of Ethics provisions on several counts.

  • Promoting the free flow of information calls for preserving the integrity of the process of communication and for being honest and accurate in all communications.
  • Engaging in competition requires the preservation of intellectual property rights in the marketplace.
  • Disclosure of information requires PRSA members to be honest and accurate in all communications and to avoid deceptive practices.
  • Finally, preventing conflicts of interest calls for avoiding actions and circumstances that may appear to compromise good business judgment or create a conflict between personal and professional interests.

Professional ethics for photographers are spelled out on the website of the American Society of Media Photographers,

If you have questions or comments concerning ethics in public relations, send them to We look forward to hearing from you. Also, please plan to attend the PRSA Sierra Ethics Month lunch meeting on Thursday, September 14, 11:30 a.m., at the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa in Reno. You will have the opportunity to participate in an interactive ethics workshop by choosing a topic that interests you.


Can wearing multiple hats be easier?

If you have ever worked for a small business or non-profit, your job probably consists of wearing multiple hats.

So how do you get through the never-ending checklist and still manage to communicate strategically? The reality is there isn’t a plan to solve it all. Every small business, non-profit and one woman/man shop operates differently, faces different challenges and needs different solutions.

That being said, there is still hope even if you can’t solve all the issues at once. My advice: go back to the basics.


Write a plan
I’m not talking about a beautifully-crafted, PRSA-approved, RPIE (research, planning, implementation and evaluation) strategic plan (very few people have time for that).

What I am referring to is a one-page document that holds your business/non-profit’s key messages, goals and high-level strategies. If you already know this content by heart, it will be that much quicker to write it down. Once the plan is on paper, it will allow you to gut-check the work you do making sure it’s reaching your goal and that your key messages for a project align with the key messages of your organization.

Have more time to write a second plan or a third? Try jotting the strategies, objectives and tactics for your more routine events and programs so that they are easier to implement and measure when the next year comes around.


Ask for help
When you’re implementing a lot of the communications work yourself, it might feel like you are in a bubble. And that bubble can prevent you from collaborating and more importantly learning new ways to solve the communications problems you face.

Take the first step; ask for advice from others working in the non-profit or small business realm. That collaboration might just help you to figure out the magical formula to running communications, membership, outreach and all your other programs successfully as a one-person team.

And don’t forget about that group of professionals that might not work under the same business model as you. Everyone (those in government, private and agency communications included) wears quite a few hats. Even if those people that are doing a job with a larger budget or more support staff, they still have insightful, low-cost tricks up their sleeves.


Come to PR to Go
So, I haven’t given you a plan to solve all problems in this post. However, I am only one of countless professionals in this community willing to share their insights in hat-wearing and strategic communications.

Learn for free from some of these people and meet others from the non-profit and solopreneur community this August at the third annual PRSA – Sierra Nevada PR to Go event. Held on August 11, 2017 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the downtown Washoe County Library (301 S. Center Street, Reno), PR to Go is a speed-dating style free workshop where attendees will get the tips and tools they need to develop successful strategic communications plans.

The event is open to nonprofit directors / communications managers and solopreneurs. You can learn more about the topics we’ll cover and RSVP here. Interested in volunteering for the event? Contact me at


About Jessica Fagundes
Jessica Fagundes is the vice president of community relations for PRSA – Sierra Nevada Chapter and a public information officer at the Nevada Department of Agriculture. As a former non-profit communicator, she too found a knack for wearing multiple hats.

Strategy drives the tactics towards results

Creating tactics is always the fun part of marketing — whether it’s the advertisement, social media components, television interview or the promotion, these are the enjoyable tools we enjoy crafting to drive our business forward.

However, without a strategy to guide a campaign, they end up being solo components lacking cohesiveness. In marketing, tactics that constantly deliver your message and reinforce your brand are called touch points. Touch points work when they connect to each other like links in a chain, with a common theme and message.

The entire concept is referred to as “stickiness” and really identifies how well your messaging sticks to the customer.

A strategy doesn’t need to be a year’s work poured into binders loaded with content.

The shorter the better, increasing the odds that the strategy will be implemented, is a great rule of thumb and most businesses’ marketing strategies can be completed in less than five pages.

A strategy should follow the SMART concept for goal setting: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time sensitive (deadline). A goal has to be set; and then a strategy created; this will be your path to reach those goals. Only then is it appropriate to start designing the fun tactics that will push out your message. Your strategy should also contain who your target audience is, a SWOT analysis of your business (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats), how you will measure the progress and results and how you will celebrate achieving your goals!

Additionally, you should clearly define your marketing message, understand what is unique about your business, service or products (also known as the USP), and have a solid working knowledge of how your clients use your business and what their needs are.

Your strategy should be a simple road map to accomplish your objectives, move the needle on your progress and obtain the goals you set out for your business. Chinese philosopher and general Sun Tzu wrote 2,000 years ago, “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

Ira Gostin is a member of the board for the Public Relations Society of America, Sierra Nevada Chapter. He founded 120 West in 2016 with an exclusive approach to investor relations, marketing and corporate communications. Contact Ira on LinkedIn or at

Ethically Speaking

Ethically Speaking

By Dean Schermerhorn

Have you ever faced an ethical dilemma in your public relations work? Do you occasionally have ethical questions during a project? If you do encounter ethical questions, you now have another resource for finding an answer. Besides the ethics resources that the PRSA national organization offers, your local Sierra Nevada chapter has an Ethics Advisory Council.

This group of seasoned PR professionals was formed in 2016 and expanded this year to provide our members with ethical guidance and practical answers to real-world situations. The Ethics Advisory Council consists of Dan Davis, APR; Bethany Drysdale; Jen Eastwood; Jim Ellis, APR, Fellow PRSA; Ira Gostin; Christel Hall, APR; Susan Hill, APR. Dean Schermerhorn, APR, is an ex officio member as Vice President of Ethics for the Sierra Nevada chapter.

Please rest assured that your ethics inquiries or comments will remain strictly confidential and will be discussed only within the Ethics Advisory Council. If we found that your question or situation would be valuable as a case study, we would obtain your permission before proceeding.

In a recent meeting, members of the Ethics Advisory Council discussed developments in journalism and politics and the need for a sharp focus on ethics. Some of the attacks on the news media have made it clear that the public relations profession has a duty to protect a free press. As PR professionals, we work within the journalistic tradition of promoting the free flow of information. We provide the news media with accurate and truthful information that serves the need of our communities. In turn we must support the news media’s ability under the First Amendment to gather the facts and report the story, wherever that may lead.

As stated in the PRSA Code of Ethics, public relations professionals have a responsibility to be honest, transparent and credible, whether writing a blog post or pitching a story to the New York Times. We need always to keep this ethical requirement in mind.

To make it convenient and secure to contact the PRSA Ethics Advisory Council, we have set up a mailbox for you. Please send your ethics questions and ideas to We look forward to hearing from you.

April is APR Month

Internationally recognized, the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) integrates timeless communications principles with contemporary strategies and tactics.  The Accreditation process is a valuable step in a practitioner’s career, benefiting the practitioner, the employer/clients and the public relations profession as a whole.

The process has four steps: application, panel presentation, examination and maintenance. The application is straightforward. The panel presentation includes completing a professional history questionnaire that demonstrates the required experience and understanding of the Knowledge, Skills and Abilities of today’s practitioner. Candidates prepare and submit a completed strategic plan and present before a panel of APRs.  Assuming the candidate passes that portion, they are able to take the computer-based multiple choice exam. The final step is advocating for the profession.

The competencies assessed during the Panel Presentation and computer-based include:

    • Research, planning, implementation and evaluation of public relations programs.
    • Ethics and law affecting the field of public relations.
    • Communication models and theories.
    • Business literacy.
    • Management skills and issues.
    • Crisis communication and management.

Pursuing the APR gives you direct access to top public relations leaders—APR holders who will guide you through the process of achieving the Accreditation—and provides the tools you need to distinguish yourself as an accomplished achiever in the public relations field. Learn more and earn your APR today at Contact Alison Gaulden, APR, for more information.


Luncheon Panel Discussion: Press Release Pre-Launch

The world of media is changing fast. Submission rules we knew just a few years ago might no longer apply. What can we do to be better professional partners?

Watch as our panel of journalists share exactly what they’re looking for from us.

Panelists: Brian Duggan, Reno Gazette-Journal; Arianna Bennett, KTVN; Oliver X, Reno-Tahoe Tonight; and Lynette Bellin, Reno Moms Blog.

Moderator: Alison Gaulden, University of Nevada, Reno – Reynolds School of Journalism.

PRSA Sierra Nevada February 9, 2017 Luncheon from Foundry on Vimeo.


Facts Matter: PRSA Advocates for the Truth

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) takes seriously its role to advocate for truth and accuracy in communications. Our Code of Ethics champions six key values, including advocacy for the profession, honesty in communications, expertise through professional development, independence, loyalty to public interest and fairness.

Sierra Nevada PRSA provides this region’s communicators with resources to elevate their practice and guidance for communicating ethically; we feel this is a timely moment to endorse the national PRSA’s position on the recent use of the phrase “alternative facts” as it has far-reaching consequences.

The full statement from Jane Dvorak, APR, Fellow PRSA and Chair of the PRSA Society for 2017 is here:

Truth is the foundation of all effective communications. By being truthful, we build and maintain trust with the media and our customers, clients and employees. As professional communicators, we take very seriously our responsibility to communicate with honesty and accuracy.


The Public Relations Society of America, the nation’s largest communications association, sets the standard of ethical behavior for our 22,000 members through our Code of Ethics. Encouraging and perpetuating the use of alternative facts by a high-profile spokesperson reflects poorly on all communications professionals.


PRSA strongly objects to any effort to deliberately misrepresent information. Honest, ethical professionals never spin, mislead or alter facts. We applaud our colleagues and professional journalists who work hard to find and report the truth.”


– Jane Dvorak, APR, Fellow PRSA, Chair of the Society for 2017

Both our board of directors and our membership include multiple, diverse professionals who work hard to eschew the inaccurate descriptor of “spin doctors.” We know first-hand the dangers of painting any industry with too broad a brush.

Interpretations of facts may vary, but deviation from truth unseats any item of information from its position as fact. We will continue to advocate to all professional communicators that they embrace fairness and honesty in dealing with the media and the general public. We work diligently to foster ethical practices and encourage all fellow professionals to hold fast to integrity when communicating.


Rachel Gattuso
President of the Sierra Nevada Chapter of PRSA

The Public Relations Society of America’s Code of Ethics can be found at


This blog is also featured on ThisisReno and Nevada Business Magazine.

Five area communications professionals to receive top recognition at PRSA Sierra Nevada Silver Spike Awards dinner

The Sierra Nevada Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) is pleased to announce outstanding professionals and will formally recognize these individuals, as well as the best local public relations and communications programs, at the Silver Spike Awards: Celebrating 30 years of Excellence. The celebration and dinner will take place on Thursday, Nov. 17 at 5:30 p.m. in the Whitney Peak Ballroom.


“Our chapter has so much to celebrate in our 30th year, and these honorees are all exceptional examples of the great work happening every day in our community,” Amanda Horn, 2016 PRSA Sierra Nevada president, said. “This year we are celebrating 30 years of excellence in public relations and communications here in the region,” Horn is the director of communications at the Nevada Museum of Art.


In addition to the individual award winners, the ceremony will recognize Silver Spike award winners, Bronze Spike award winners, Award of Excellence winners, a Student Choice Award and Best of Show. The Sierra Nevada chapter partners with the Public Relations Student Society of America each year for the Student Choice Award.


PRSA Sierra Nevada also partnered with the Southeastern Wisconsin PRSA chapter to provide unbiased awards judging to members and entrants. Individual award winners, listed below, were selected by a committee of local chapter members and community members.



2016 Individual Award Recipients


thumbnail_susan_hill Susan Hill, APR, recently retired from her role as the Marketing Director at the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine after a more than 35 year career in communications and will be recognized with the chapter’s fourth ever Lifetime Achievement Award. Her legacy as the marketing director at the medical school is two-fold. She will be known as the visionary who brought the med school out of the 1990s and into the 21st century with a website redesign and rebuild; and as the director who, in partnership with KPS3, successfully rebranded the School of Medicine to more closely align with its parent university, UNR. Hill has been deeply involved in developing future professionals through her work mentoring PRSSA students from UNR, and her commitment to the PRSA Sierra Nevada chapter has been extraordinary. She has served in many board roles in the early days of the organization, always participated as a student mentor, provided APR support and innumerable Readiness Reviews, and sharing knowledge with members whenever asked. PRSA runs in her blood. And PRSA is a better organization with a 30-year history because of her leadership.


mccormick9932Nancy McCormick joined EDAWN in 2012 after retiring from a 32 year career with AT&T. In her role, she’s implemented a variety of initiatives including visitations to primary companies, the creation of a primary company list, support for expansion for existing companies, connections among companies within the community, and work with community partners to solve larger issues and implementing workforce development strategies. A total of 181 primary company visits were made during the year. 14 critical business issues were addressed. The Primary List, which is used by prospects, existing companies looking for customers and suppliers, and by employees looking for opportunities expanded to over 470. More than 400 WCSD educators toured TRIC and learned workforce requirements. More than 300 attendees participated in the Annual Existing Industry Awards, and McCormick’s team increased EDAWN’s involvement in the workforce development plan. She spearheaded the new advertising campaign, Rethink Reno, to coincide with Burning Man to attract interest to Reno. She developed a business toolkit which is available to anyone and hosted on the website. McCormick’s commitment to excellence and community are why she is most deserving of the Gold Spike Community Excellence Award.


thumbnail_serious_constanceConstance Aguilar, Director of PR and Tech for the Abbi Agency, is the recipient of the Mark Curtis Jr., Chapter Member of the Year Award. Aguilar hasn’t shied away from a challenge, she hasn’t taken no for an answer and she has never accepted the status quo for herself, this community or this industry. The work Constance has done is far reaching in Reno’s nonprofit, culture and business community. As those who have worked with her know, she will take any opportunity to tell the story of Reno, its people and the causes that are shaking the ground we step on. Her unmovable support has achieved true success – she has changed the conversation.




thumbnail_parker-heidi__verticalHeidi Parker, Executive Director for Immunize Nevadais receiving the Mark Twain Community Service Award in recognition of her deep involvement in community health and Immunize Nevada’s efforts aimed at helping close the vaccination gap facing Nevada. Parker is constantly adapting to her audience, much like a public relations professional. She understands the complexities that come with disseminating vaccine information, constantly seeking to engage with all parts of the community and to share the message of Immunize Nevada. One of the difficulties that comes with her position is handling the vocal segment of the public that stands against vaccinations.




Jessica Fagundes, Public Information Officer for the Nevada Department of Agriculture, will receive the Outstanding New Practitioner Award, whichrecognizes someone who has been working in the profession for less than five years and has not only demonstrated a high-level of commitment to the profession and the chapter, but a sincere desire toward making our community a better place to live. Jessy graduated from UNR’s Reynolds School of Journalism in 2014, but that was hardly the beginning of her professional career. She has just shy of three years of professional work under her belt, but prior to graduating Fagundes held internships throughout most of her college years that included work with the Nevada Department of Agriculture, Immunize Nevada and the Renown Health Medical Group. She is a strategic thinker and thoughtful writer, both of which were noticed during her time at the Nevada Farm Bureau. She is also consistently involved as a leader in PRSA Sierra, as well as her passions of 4-H and FFA.


The 2016 Silver Spike Awards ceremony is made possible with generous support from NV Energy and KPS3 Marketing. Be a part of the Sierra Nevada Chapter’s 30th Anniversary at the 2016 Silver Spikes awards ceremony. With the purchase of a Celebration! slide, your company’s message will rotate before and after the ceremony. The cost is only $500 per slide ($250 for non-profit organizations). Contact Ayse


Caglar at for additional information.


The Sierra Nevada Chapter of PRSA was established in 1984 by a dozen public relations practitioners in northern Nevada. It was the second PRSA chapter in the state, complementing an older chapter based in Las Vegas and aimed at providing public relations practitioners in northern Nevada and the Lake Tahoe area with a closer professional connection to each other and to national public relations activities. The Chapter has been recognized as a leader in PRSA from its beginnings. Formal recognition of that leadership was accorded in 1995 with the national “Best of Chapter Excellence” award. The Chapter is active in professional development for its members and community-service service programs for organizations without formal public relations departments. It maintains a close working relationship with the Theodore E. Conover Chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) at the University of Nevada, Reno, helping the student organization toward a number of regional and national awards, including the prestigious Bateman Case Study championship.

Code of Ethics also applies to social media

Social media has the ability quickly to amplify ethical mistakes. This direct exchange involving multiple sources might lack the balanced accuracy and verification system inherent to traditional media. Thus social media material can be unfiltered and can lead to inaccurate information and the potential for a wide range of harmful circumstances if not carefully vetted and verified.

The public relations professional must ensure that information entering the fast-paced environment of social media is fully compliant with PRSA’s Code of Ethics. Public relations professionals have a responsibility to their publics to be honest, transparent and credible, striving for meaningful social media content that fosters trusted relationships and creates value.

Social media ethics are relevant to these sections of the PRSA Code of Ethics.

Disclosure of information: Content providers should fully disclose paid placements and all associations with a product, to support informed opinions and rational decision making.

Safeguarding confidences: Content providers must remember that social media increases the risk of improperly disclosing confidential information. Content providers also must recognize an employee’s right to free speech as defined by the National Labor Relations Board.

Conflicts of interest: While creating content and participating in online conversations are excellent branding tactics, as subject matter experts, we must disclose conflicts of interest when communicating with audiences. If working with social media influencers and providing product samples, require proper disclosures according to Federal Trade Commission guidelines. If you receive gifts, ensure that they are nominal, legal and infrequent.

Free flow of information: Ensure that consumers can readily distinguish between sponsored content, news reporting and editorial content.

Enhancing the profession: The use of social media should include keeping publics informed and educated about the issues surrounding the profession. It also should share best practices and case studies.

Visit the PRSA website to review the Code of Ethics

A strategic, six-step approach to the Silver Spike entry process

My PR team and I recently sat down to determine which clients, campaigns, projects and events we should consider entering for the PRSA Silver Spike Awards. For anyone who has submitted these before, you know they are a ton of work! So we wanted to be strategic, thoughtful, creative…much like a winning campaign. Here’s how we approach the process.

  1. Think Big. We thought about all the great projects we had completed over the last year. We thought about times that strategy and planning really paid off, times we saw incredible results and times we got crazy creative. We put all those successes and wins down on paper and raised our glasses for all the PR badassery we had accomplished. Pro-tip – brainstorming over drinks is never a bad idea.

  2. What goes where. Next, we looked at each potential entry and determined which category made the most sense. We didn’t want to enter too many submissions in the same category as we’d be essentially going up against ourselves.

  3. Get it down on paper. After we whittled down our list of possible submissions we drafted outlines for each entry. We included draft copy or bullet points for each section of the written entry (Research/Planning, Budget, Goal, Objectives, Execution and Results). We also included a list of what would be submitted as part of the supporting materials and started thinking about what needs to happen to gather it all together. Keep in mind the supporting materials should elevate your written entry.

  4. Edit. We then got back together and took a critical look at our possible entries to see if they had what it takes to actually win. Was the research and planning solid? Is the goal clearly stated? Were there measurable objectives? Emphasis on measurable there. Can the execution be concisely, yet thoroughly articulated? Do the results kick ass? And is it creative? If it’s lacking in any of those areas, we cut it.

  5. Map it out. Set deadlines and give yourself some wiggle room. Aim to have submissions finalized days before they are due so that if you need the extra time it’s not a total scramble.

  6. Edit again. Once you’ve narrowed down your possible submissions to this-is-for-sure-what-we-are-entering submissions, get your drafts fine-tuned and then edit, edit, edit. Always keep the judging criteria in mind and don’t get too wordy, you only have two pages after all. BUT! Make sure you include everything that is required.

Enjoy the process along the way and be ready to celebrate – win or lose – on November 17 at the PRSA Sierra Nevada Chapter Silver Spike Awards Banquet.

Get a look inside the Silver Spikes!

Join us at The Abbi Agency on Tuesday, Sept. 13 for an inside look at how to produce an award-winning entry. There will be snacks and wine (thank you Abbi + friends!), so please let us know on Facebook if you’re planning to attend!


jen-eastwood-headshotAs director of public relations at the Bauserman Group, Jen Eastwood leads the agency’s public relations team to achieve results for non-profit organizations like Animal Ark, Boys & Girls Club of Truckee Meadows, Hometown Health and Reno Rodeo Foundation; beloved events like the Reno Rodeo, Barracuda Championship PGA TOUR and Night in the Country Music Festival; and gaming properties like Coeur d’Alene Casino in Idaho and Inn of the Mountain Gods in New Mexico.

Dissecting a winning award entry

As we approach the few short weeks before entries for the PRSA Sierra Nevada Silver Spikes are due, we know that each of you have diligently planned your campaigns throughout the year just for these awards and are practically finished with your entry.

However, on the off chance this isn’t you, here are a few tips for how to receive some recognition for your hard work.

From a person who has entered six Silver Spike awards and won a few as well as lost a few, I hope to share my knowledge and insights. After being familiar with the process, I now plan many of my campaigns based on the entry requirement for the Silver Spikes. However, when I was beginning my first few, I noticed that my most successful campaigns were very focused on results. I began with the results in mind, chose a category based on those results and the entire entry focused on those results. For first timers or veterans, my biggest suggestion is to keep the success top of mind throughout the entry process.

But first, let’s start with the good news, the entry is only two pages long. That said, this two-page submission must address six areas:

  1. Situation/Research/Planning
  2. Budget/Resources
  3. Goal/Action
  4. Objective
  5. Execution
  6. Evaluation/Results

It’s all about the results

With the results in mind, the most important part of filling out an award entry is deciding which category to enter. After picking your category and before writing, keep in mind that our sister in Wisconsin will be reading and evaluating these entries. This chapter has very limited awareness of the Sierra Nevada region or the many acronyms with in it. So prepare yourself to explain room and context in your entry.

When you begin writing your entry, pull up the judging criteria and keep it by your side throughout the process.

Each area is awarded different points and it is important to know where to place the emphasis in the entry. You may feel some sections may not relate to your entry, but you must address it anyway. For example, maybe the entire campaign was done under the retainer – that still needs to be noted in the budget section.

As you write, continue to refer back to your results or success and make sure everything you write is driving back to that. If a tactic or strategy doesn’t help directly support that result, leave it out. It is tempting to cover the full breadth of a campaign, but

the more focused the entry, the clearer it will be for the judges to evaluate and likely result in a higher score.

After writing the entry, ask a colleague or two to review and evaluate against the judging criteria to see what sections may be lacking information, unclear or just unrelated to your results. Take this to heart and make these changes before sending it off.

Once your entry is off, sit back and relax and have faith that choosing a specific category and highlighting your key success will pay off. Good luck!

Ready for more tips and expertise? Join us for a look inside the Silver Spikes!

Join us at The Abbi Agency on Tuesday, Sept. 13 for an inside look at how to produce an award-winning entry. There will be snacks and wine (thank you Abbi + friends!), so please let us know on Facebook if you’re planning to attend!



Connie Anderson began her PR career at a young age, helping host successful lemonade stands and garage sales for friends, neighbors and family alike. Her passion now has led her to the spearheading the growth of The Abbi Agency’s travel and tourism department as the PR Manager. She is also the VP of Membership for the PRSA Sierra Nevada chapter. She enjoys talking about really anything, trying her hand at a new recipe, or crossing hikes of her bucket list with her fiancé.

My loser award entry and six things I learned from it

I entered my own work for a Silver Spike last year for the first time. It was the only entry in its category, and it didn’t place. Not even an honorable mention. Thankfully, as Full House taught me, the only mistakes are the ones you don’t learn from.

Here are a few things I learned from losing against no one (or myself, if I’m feeling introspective about it). Hopefully these help you, too!

1. Get close to the process

Read the rules and scoring guidelines thoroughly. Our chapter has high standards (this is a good thing!) and it’s best to familiarize yourself with the judging process. I SERIOUSLY CAN’T EMPHASIZE THIS ENOUGH. Get comfy with the judging criteria to know what judges have been asked to look for.

Another quick way to get familiar is through being on the judging committee and/or serving as a judge when we judge our reciprocal chapter’s entries in the spring (you did know our entries are judged by another PRSA chapter, right?). So, see you at the committee meeting next year?

2. Reflecting on what I can do better

I got to take a look at what I would do or handle differently next time. Sometimes this thing we call a job can move so quickly, we forget to check our work. This evaluation process is so important – and not just in terms of ROI or client invoices. Evaluating helps us become better professionals. It helps us keep the goals and objectives top of mind. It helps serve the mission or our organization.

3. Reflecting on how badass I am

Writing my entry also gave me the opportunity to remember how much I completely killed it; how I surprised even myself with how capable I was. Win or lose, the work spoke for itself (in my mind, anyway).

4. Knowing the work doesn’t actually speak for itself

Not when it comes to the award anyway, it doesn’t. I was there; I remember what it took. But those judges? They’re half a country away, and don’t know anything about this community, my organization or the work we do. They can’t fill in the blanks, and they don’t read between the lines. Next time I’ll be sure to write a more thorough entry (maybe even before the deadline). Which brings me to …

5. Start writing the entry narrative early

I know you know this, but for real. Write your entry narrative early. Like, as the work is happening. You know when you’re producing award-worthy work. Start documenting it early. Everything happens so quickly, you’re bound to forget something if you don’t write your entry narrative until seven months later. Just do it. Start a Google doc with your team now, and start jotting down bullets. Seriously.

I know September 23 seems like eons away, but you know as well as I do, that will be here in the blink of an eye. Get started now. (You can even view a sample entry.)

6. Ask questions!

I may regret publishing this later, but ask your Judging Chair / VP of Recognition (me!) when you have questions. I can’t necessarily tell you what to do or not to do, but I can certainly point you to resources, give you some history or share my own experience.

Get ready to enter your best work in the Silver Spikes with us!

Join us at The Abbi Agency on Tuesday, Sept. 13 for an inside look at how to produce an award-winning entry. There will be snacks and wine (thank you Abbi + friends!), so please let us know on Facebook if you’re planning to attend!

rebecca_allured_headshot (1)Every square inch of Rebecca Allured is a communicator. She is a public information officer for the Nevada Department of Agriculture and VP of Recognition for the Sierra Nevada Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. In her spare time, she can be found hiking and camping with her husband and dog, experimenting with new recipes in the kitchen, or developing her Gilmore Girls quick conversation skills.

Four Local Public Relations Professionals Earn Accreditation

The Sierra Nevada Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America announces its newest accredited professionals in northern Nevada:

  • Dan Davis, APR
  • Tiffany East, APR
  • Jackie Shelton, APR
  • Dean Schermerhorn, APR

The Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credential represents the highest standards of performance and ethical practice in the field. The APR asserts professional competence; communicates professional expertise, plus personal and professional dedication and values and reflects progressive public relations industry practices and high ethical standards.

“Earning the APR demonstrates these professionals’ mastery of today’s strategic communications practice and their commitment to lifelong learning and ethical standards,” said Anne McMillin, APR, vice president of professional development for the Sierra Nevada Chapter.

To earn their accreditation, these professionals, over the course of a year, prepared and presented a case study demonstrating their understanding of the public relations planning process and then took an exam to demonstrate the knowledge, skills and abilities needed to excel in the profession.

Dan Davis, APR is the marketing manager at Bayer Properties (The Summit Mall); Tiffany East, APR is the owner of her own firm, Tiffany East PR; Jackie Shelton, APR is vice president of public relations at The Estipona Group and Dean Schermerhorn, APR owns Concise Communications. All are based in Reno/Sparks.

With the addition of these four new APRs, the Sierra Nevada Chapter boasts 19 of its 88 members, or 21 percent, who have attained their accreditation.

Public Relations Tips For Bolstering Your Brand’s Reputation

This blog has been previously posted at 






amanda-hornPublic relations(PR) is far more than just sending a press release. Communicators skate blurred lines between marketers, advertisers, digital divas, community engagers, reputation managers, publicists, brand advisers, social media strategists, and terms we haven’t created yet.

Bottom line: in a fast moving entrepreneurial world, the power of PR has never been more relevant. While it takes far more than one article to delve into, here are a few solid PR tips to leverage when working to earn coverage in the same way that Reno recently has:

  • Know Your Media. Knowing which outlet and which reporter to talk to goes a long way in helping get your story out to the public. Learn the nuances between what an editor does on a day-to-day basis versus what a beat reporter covers, distinguish which broadcast reporter might like to focus on the arts beat over another. Refining the media contact’s focus will help ensure you route the information to the right folks for the best odds of getting your story covered.
  • Timeliness: Let’s say you’re hosting an event in April. Sending information out two days before cuts things a little close, but sending things out in the first of January may mean the outlet has no interest in helping publicize.
  • Who Is The End User? Who’s reading the article? Listening to the radio station? Watching the news broadcast? Put yourself in their shoes and craft a compelling reason why that audience member would want to know your information. Will it save them money, or provide them information, give them an edge? Keep the outlet’s audience in mind to give yourself the best chance for coverage.

As entrepreneurs, you have the power to bolster your business or enterprise by leveraging these same tools. I invite you to expand your knowledge of public relations by attending any of the Sierra Nevada Chapter of Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) events in the near future.

In particular, you may consider “Reboot and Retool in Reno,” a national-level professional conference hosted by the PRSA North Pacific District right in our backyard June 23-25. For tight budgets, this conference will have content for communicators in multiple roles. Coincidentally, the growth and energy buzzing about the Biggest Little City is why conference organizers selected to host in Reno.

If the tips above are garnering results enough to attract a district conference of this caliber, imagine what they can do for your business.

Amanda Horn is director of communications at the Nevada Museum of Art, Sierra Nevada PRSA Chapter president and co-chair for the North Pacific District Conference. Follow her at @TeboHorn or email her at

PRSA Judging

PRSA Sierra Nevada chapter reciprocates judging PRSA Wisconsin’s annual awards applications for the best of the best in campaigns or strategies and tactics. We judge their entries in April; they’ll judge our entries in October.


If you’ve hesitated submitting awards in the past because you don’t make a plan-you’re probably not alone. Come judge to learn what makes a great entry. Not sure if you’re qualified to judge? Join a mix of long time pros and new-to-the-industry judges for a judging jam, so you can have experienced sounding-boards. Maybe you can learn a cool tactic you can modify for your own work. Sometimes it’s affirming to see how much further along your skills really are. Long term chapter members often use this as a one of many ways to give back to the chapter and the profession.

We expect 60-75 entries that require two judges, with APRs third review for ties or giant discrepancies.

PRSSA Nevada is hosting the Judging Jam Night. Entries are all digital (the age-old binders are dead).

Tuesday, April 19

5:30-8:30 p.m.

The Reynolds School of Journalism, Room 216.

There will be tunes, a baller playlist, great work from our sister chapter, and an inside look at the entry process. We’ll even feed you. Maybe we’ll go for a celebratory cocktail after party for work well done.

Please RSVP to so we can count on your expertise and willingness to have fun.

In Defense of Accreditation

Publicists. Event Planners. Spin Doctors.

For years, those were the perceptions of the public relations practitioner. In the early days of the 20th century, there was some truth to those perceptions. Lack of training and ethical standards on the part of some practitioners perpetuated the negative perception of individuals who claimed to be public relations “professionals.”

In today’s world, the emergence of Accreditation has helped to bring stronger credibility to the public relations profession, especially by practitioners who have chosen to complete the strenuous process that leads to Accreditation. Being able to use APR (Accredited in Public Relations) is a mark of distinction for public relations practitioners who commit to the profession through ethical practices and sound judgment, strategic perspectives, knowledge of best practices, and the use of the research-planning-implementation-evaluation process.

Accreditation supports the maturation of the field of public relations, helping it move toward becoming a true profession similar to other professions that require certification or other credentialing. Ethics are and have been a central part of the Accreditation process. Once professionals are Accredited in Public Relations, they are required to follow a strict code of ethical standards.

Hiring managers and clients who choose Accredited public relations professionals know that they have chosen strategic thinkers who have demonstrated skills and abilities necessary to advise executives or managers on how best to establish and maintain the relationship necessary to meet organizational objectives. These professionals have completed the Accreditation process and are committed to maintaining that Accreditation through professional and personal development. That sets Accredited professionals apart from other practitioners.

If the APR distinction sounds like something you wish to pursue to add to your arsenal of professional talents and expertise, please contact our chapter VP of Professional Development, Anne McMillin, APR or call her at (775)682-9254.

Ethically Speaking

by Dean Schermerhorn, VP of Ethics

Welcome to the inaugural issue of ethics communications from the PRSA Sierra Nevada chapter vice president of ethics. Through this forum PRSA Sierra Nevada aims to keep ethical considerations on the minds of public relations professionals.

PRSA members already have a wealth of ethical resources available to them through the PRSA national website. The starting point is the PRSA Code of Ethics, which you can view online and download here.  These resources offer ethical guidance on issues that you might face as a public relations professional, such as the following.

In this political season you will no doubt see advertisements for candidates or causes that are sponsored by a front group. The ethical issue arises when a front group uses a name that obscures or misrepresents the actual interest of the people that make up the front group.

To illustrate, these are a few hypothetical examples of front group names and the actual interests that they represent:

  • Citizens for Tougher Tobacco Laws (committed to passing legislation in every state that pre-empts all local smoking legislation resulting in lighter state standards)
  • Citizens for Justice in the Workplace (advocacy group committed to a raise in the minimum wage)
  • Sustainable Earth (coalition of business organizations and interests committed to fighting tougher environmental legislation) PRSA Sierra Nevada chapter wants this to be an interactive forum for the discussion of ethical issues such as the following raised by PRSA members. Striking a balance in some of the following questions could well be topics for further discussion.
  • PRSA recommends against assisting front groups and people such as these. These examples relate to four of the code provisions in the PRSA Code of Ethics: Free flow of information, disclosure, conflict of interest and enhancing the profession. They also relate to the PRSA professional values of honesty, fairness and advocacy.
  • Crisis PR can present ethical challenges. The nature of the work is so fast that being transparent and accurate is difficult. Often you do not have all of the information.
  • This certainly is a challenge: One of the Code of Ethics provisions calls for disclosure of information, while the professional value of advocacy requires that we act “as responsible advocates for those we represent.”
  • PR professionals in health care face the ethical question of the need for patient confidentiality versus the public’s right to know.
  • In this case the HIPAA law seems to conflict with the PRSA code provisions for free flow of information and disclosure of information.
  • PIOs and other government officials must remember that open-meeting laws can apply even to the discussion of contracts and board meetings.
  • Similar to the previous point, open-meeting laws might conflict with the PRSA code provision for safeguarding confidences.
  • Written communication is not the only source of ethical challenges. A photographer was asked by a client to alter a photo to the extent that the photographer found unethical.
    • This case seems a more clear example of a client’s request violating the professional values of honesty and independence.
    • Please visit this site in the future to view and participate in discussions of ethics in public relations.

June Membership Drive!

Members, spread the word and let’s share this organization we love called PRSA!

We’re offering up some incentives for any of you that bring us new members and help us grow our community of professionals.

Here’s how:

  1. Recruit one new member and get a free lunch! Just have that member give us your name when they join.
  2. Know a company with five or more employees that could benefit from PRSA? If they join as a corporate member, you a table at this year’s Silver Spike awards for HALF PRICE!
  3. Associate members, tell your friends how PRSA has helped you in these early stages of your career. Get three friends to join and you get your chapter dues back.

For details and membership inquiries, contact Amy Demuth, VP of Membership, 775-378-0032.

Show Notes from the March Luncheon

March Luncheon – Show Notes:

First of all, thanks to everyone who was able to join us at the March 12 PRSA panel, “The Tough Talks.” It was wonderful to see such an engaged crowd, even if it seemed to go by all too quickly.
But I still have to reiterate: I feel guilty. To prepare, I met with each of the esteemed panelists. Bob Conrad, in the middle of a new company launch, fought morning traffic to answer questions about the multiple misconceptions involved with genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Heidi Parker, in the media whirlwind that landed in her lap after the Disneyland Measles outbreak, carved an hour to discuss challenges that come with countering minority (but highly vocal) voices. And Dr. Kelly Redmond, in the midst of lifetime achievement awards and oncology appointments, captivated my attention for two hours over coffee discussing, in short, how complex climate change can get.
I felt like a sponge the days leading up to the panel, so I sincerely hope you enjoyed the short time we were able to make them available.
What was apparent in both pre-discussions and the luncheon was that there were definite similarities constantly surfacing between the three topics. While there are always going to be nuances and challenges respective to every topic, the three nuggets our panelists brought to light that worked across the board seemed to be:
  • Target fence-sitters, not extremists. All three discussed that for some things, you just won’t be able to change the concrete-set minds of certain extremists – wherever in the spectrum they may be. Rather than wasting time or messaging strategy, focus on the fence-sitters who are actually open to consuming additional information in order to make an informed decision.
  • Fear doesn’t work. Negative headline after negative headline may be great for ratings, but in terms of imparting information that needs to sink in, they can be a detrimental. When people feel inundated, they’ll shut off. When they feel berated, scared, chastised, belittled, etc., your message isn’t likely to resonate as well.
  • Comparisons make things clear. Best way to get a complex message across? Analogies, metaphor, similes… so long as it doesn’t conflate things further. We don’t necessarily have to dumb ideas down for our audiences, but cutting through the clutter with a simple analogy or metaphor makes everything easier to swallow, be it climate change, GMOs, or vaccines. Just like bacon.
Since we ran late, here’s a list of reading the panelists wanted to make available:
Hope to see you at the April luncheon!
Rachel Gattuso
VP of Proramming

The Gray Area

The practice of public relations can present unique and challenging ethical issues. At the same time, protecting integrity and the public trust are fundamental to the profession’s role and reputation. Bottom line, successful public relations hinges on the ethics of its practitioners. To help our members navigate ethics principles and applications, we’ve created a new topic area that will appear regularly in our new Chapter PR Blog.

Welcome to the Ethics Corner – written by Betsy McDonald, PRSA Sierra Nevada VP of Ethics. 

read more…

PR Matters-A Workshop to Find, Retain and Engage Clients, sponsored by PRSA and KPS3

Thanks to our sponsors: KPS3, RSCVA and Constant Contact we are able to bring you a workshop to to gain a valuable foundation from industry experts for implementing effective strategies for your company. Whether you’re adding marketing and public relations responsibilities to your to-do list or you’re new to the field, people will be looking to you to fill the communications gaps in your organization.  Perfect for recent graduates, non-profit managers, small business or start-up professionals or anyone looking to catch up on the online tools and strategies so critical in today’s market. read more…

The PRSA Sierra Nevada Chapter is dedicated to upholding ethical standards, providing professional development, fostering networking opportunities and recognizing strategic communications excellence in our region.

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