Getting Smarter Over Lunch

jackieWhy should you attend your trade organization’s events? For the amazing chicken lunches, obviously.

If that’s not enough, how about this? If your industry is anything like public relations, it’s changing at the speed of light. Things like Facebook and Twitter were not part of our jobs only seven or eight years ago, and now we can’t work without them. I’m guessing technological advances have done the same to your industry.

Gauging Industry Trends

If you want to continue to excel, get promoted, get the raises or earn that higher-paying new job, it’s important to stay on top of your game. You need to know what technology, society and innovation are doing to your business. And you need to know that on a regular basis.  Being part of a professional organization allows you to learn about these topics from knowledgeable, experienced speakers relevant to your industry.

Pacing or Lapping Competitors

If that’s not enough, consider that your peers are most likely attending these industry events, which means you’ll get the chance to network with them and find out what’s going on in the local business community. What deals are being done? What new company is coming into the market? Who just got promoted? Or fired? Probably most importantly, if your competitors are there and you’re not, they’re getting all of your education and networking.

The Long Game

Your relationships within industry organizations will only flourish with time. You never know what opportunities may arise for you and that real estate contact you met back in February of 2015. But because of your consistent presence, you’re a name who is top-of-mind and now you get to capitalize on that.

You can learn more about the value of attending trade organization meetings at the January 26 meeting of the PRSA when the corporate communications director from Sierra Nevada Corporation shares what she learned in her experience as a national news correspondent.

Jackie Shelton is VP of Programs for the Sierra Nevada Chapter of PRSA ( and VP of Public Relations for the Estipona Group

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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

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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