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ePro April Edition

Welcome to the April edition of ePRo, the electronic newsletter of the Houston chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA Houston). With Spring now upon us, the PRSA calendar is filled with great opportunities for professional growth, networking and good times.

PRSA Houston Luncheons:
April 21: "The Altria family of companies--Philip Morris and Kraft Foods--
A Story of Corporate Evolution" David Sylvia, Director, External Communications, Altria Corporate Services.

A successful organization must embrace change to remain vibrant, relevant and an integral part of an evolving society. Altria Group Inc.''s tobacco companies failed to fully recognize the significance of the changes that had occurred in society''s views about tobacco – especially the responsibility to confront and deal with some very real problems including addiction, youth smoking and the serious diseases caused by smoking and second hand smoke. It cost the company significantly in how the public viewed them.

Altria Group Inc. and its operating companies, Kraft Foods, Philip Morris USA and Philip Morris International, reexamined themselves and began a proactive effort to engage with stakeholders on important issues impacting society. David Sylvia will discuss why the name was changed and the steps the company is taking to manage its corporate identity through external communications and engagement with the public.

David Sylvia serves as director, external communications in the corporate communications department at Altria Corporate Services, Inc. In this role, Mr. Sylvia is responsible for developing the external communications strategy and plans, along with the execution of both the paid (advertising & sponsorship) and earned (media relations, public relations & components of the external communications plan.

April 21 Board Meeting and Luncheon

PRSA Houston meets the third Wednesday of each month at the Houston City Club at Greenway Plaza . Networking begins at 11:30 a.m. A buffet lunch service begins at 11:45 a.m. , followed by the meeting at noon . Luncheon fees if reservations are made before April 19 at 5 p.m. are $25 for members, $35 for guests and $15 for students. Luncheon fees if reservations are made after April 19 at 5 p.m. , or for walk-ins, are $30 for members, $40 for guests and $15 for students. All "no shows" will be billed. Please bring your check payable to PRSA Houston to the meeting.

To register to attend our next meeting, register online at or call (713) 526-1089.

PRSA Houston Calendar Filling Up with Exciting Luncheon Programs

Mark Hayden, programs chair for PRSA Houston, has been busily booking great speakers for the chapter''s upcoming luncheons. Though we all know that schedules are subject to change, at present, upcoming luncheons will feature the following:

  • May - TBD – General Manager News 24  Houston 
  • June 17 – Excaliber Awards, no speaker
  • July 21 – Lisa Dollinger, Clear Channel Communications: "How Clear Channel Cleaned Up the #@$! Air Waves"
  • August 18 – Melanie Jones of Southwest Airlines: “When Legal Issues Become PR Issues”
  • Sept. 15 – Media Day

“Going once, going twice…” PR Foundation Gears Up for Annual Auction

For the past several years, the Houston Public Relations Foundation has hosted a silent auction in conjunction with the PRSA Excalibur Awards, which this year is June 17. The Foundation''s vision is to enhance the quality of education by creating a permanent educational endowment that will allow it to provide scholarships, grants and programs that benefit students and educators.

The silent auction is a major fundraiser for the Foundation, and the Foundation board is once again asking PRSA members to help. PRSA members can donate or solicit items for the auction. Items vary in both value and gift type: wine baskets, calculators, theater tickets, athletic events, dinner for two, golf outings, airline tickets, crystal vases, art pieces, photography and design services, etc. In addition to donating or locating items for the auction, members are invited to open their wallets and purses during the Excalibur Awards to support this important cause.

To donate an item, or for more information, contact Cindy Suggs at (713) 636-1783 or

PRSA Excalibur Awards

Don''t miss your opportunity to showcase the magic of your craft by entering the 2004 Excalibur Awards competition! This annual competition honors outstanding professional accomplishments in the development and execution of comprehensive public relations programs and individual communications tactics.

Call your entries in at (713) 241-1584 or mail entries to:
* All entries are due by 6:00 p.m. on April 14.

2004 PRSA Excalibur Awards
c/o Anne Peebles
Shell Oil Products US
P.O.Box 2463
Houston , TX 77252-2463

Please direct questions to: Anne Peebles at (713) 806-2238 or

Public Service Program Revised to Mirror Success of Job Bank

The Houston PRSA Chapter is applying the success of its Web site Job Bank to the fulfillment of its Public Service bylaws in addressing the practical needs of its membership. Later this month, a “Public Service Opportunity” drop-down item will be added to the chapter''s on-line Job Bank to match community requests for volunteer consultation with the professional development and personal passions of individual members.

Traditionally, the chapter has adopted a national campaign or participated in campaign development marathons for select non-profits. However, the economic downturn of recent years has made recruiting member participation in these initiatives very difficult. Job protection, professional survival and the burden of reduced staff have taken precedent over members donating their time and energy for volunteer consulting services. In response, the chapter has redefined its Public Service initiative to deliver practical benefits to members interested in building their portfolios, acquiring new experiences in rounding out resumes and expanding their network of professional contacts while providing qualified non-profits with valuable public relations consultation.

Volunteer postings from the Houston Humane Society, Planned Parenthood of Houston and Southeast Texas, and Habitat for Humanity NW will debut on the site later this month. So watch for this free service on the chapter''s Web site and please contact Public Service Chairman Kelli Newman ( with any questions.

PRSA Houston Members Critical of
City Club

A big thank you to more than 100 PRSA Houston members who responded to our online survey regarding the monthly luncheon. As a result of the findings, the PRSA Houston board has asked our hospitality committee, headed by Amy deMasi, to conduct a search for a new venue and provide recommendations.

We value your feedback and want you to know we are acting on what you told us. You said access to the location is among your greatest concerns (83 percent said it was very or somewhat important) and parking challenges at the Houston City Club are intolerable (71 percent rated the City Club poor or fair in terms of parking).

We agree. While we search for a new location, we have negotiated with the Houston City Club to open adjacent parking lots on luncheon days to ensure nobody has to park off-site.

You told us you would like to periodically visit distinct venues around Houston and we agree. In July, we have tentatively scheduled the luncheon at the new Hilton Americas-Houston next to the George R. Brown Convention Center .

You told us it is important to get events on your calendar as early as possible and we are responding. In recent months, we have put systems in place to ensure you know who our speakers are well in advance through postings on our Web site ( and via e-mail reminders.

It is also important to give credit where it is due. More than 65 percent of respondents say PRSA Houston is doing a good or excellent job of presenting speakers and topics that are pertinent, which rated as the number one factor influencing whether a member will attend a luncheon. Kudos go to Mark Hayden , our programs chair, who has booked representatives from Hewlett-Packard, American Airlines and Altria Group, Inc. in successive months.

While a number of respondents suggested the Junior League as new base venue, Amy deMasi''s research indicates that the only days open for monthly luncheons there are Mondays. Given the fact that “no time” was listed as the single most important reason members do not attend the luncheon more often, many on the board have strong concerns about moving to Mondays.

In the months to come we may ask for your participation in additional online surveys to ensure that our members'' views are considered when we make decisions.

PRSA Houston Defends PR Professionals

The practice of public relations has taken its share of criticism lately. In response, an op-ed penned by PRSA Houston President Dan Keeney, APR, was recently published in the Houston Business Journal.

The op-ed, which appeared in the March 15, 2004 edition of the Houston Business Journal, is available online at http:// houston.bizjournals/2004/03/15/.

“One of the more valuable services PRSA Houston can provide to the public relations community is to continuously educate business leaders about what we do,” Keeney said. “For too long, public relations practitioners have been mischaracterized as professional liars and it hurts all of us. Just as we would for our companies or clients, we need to be aggressively defining what PR is and its value to the business community and our community at large.”

If you would like to share a reprint of the article with your supervisor or CEO, contact Keeney at

Win Free Registration for PR Day 2004!

Make sure you attend April''s monthly PRSA luncheon because the PR Day 2004 committee will be giving away one full-day registration to PR Day 2004!

The PR Day 2004 committee has selected the Hyatt Regency Downtown as the venue for this year''s signature professional development event. In the last month, we have also finalized the participants in a “Fundamentals in PR” panel – Judi Swartz (Business Wire), David Mendel (Marion Montgomery), Melissa Stevens (FKM Stevens), Sarah Voss-Simpson (Waste Management) and Jeff Chastain (Transocean).

We are currently soliciting sponsorships for PR Day 2004. If you are interested in more information, please contact Terri Larson at or (713) 831-6573.

Chapter to Name Excalibur Legacy Award Winner for 2004

As PRSA Houston gathers at the annual Excalibur Awards on June 17 to honor a year''s worth of professional accomplishments, the chapter will also honor a lifetime of professional achievement with the 2004 Excalibur Legacy Award.

Chapter members are encouraged to nominate a colleague, mentor or role model who exemplifies the highest ideals of professional public relations practice. Candidates for the Legacy Award should meet the following criteria:

  • Candidates should be a PRSA member and either a current or former PRSA Houston Chapter member. The award may be given posthumously.
  • Candidates should have at least 25 years of experience in public relations.
  • Candidates should be easily recognized as a leader and expert in the field of public relations as demonstrated by:
    • outstanding service to his/her company, community, organization or educational institution
    • outstanding service to PRSA Houston
    • honors, awards and recognition
    • accreditation
    • advancing the body of knowledge and public image of the profession through:
      • teaching, writing, speaking mentoring
      • PRSA volunteer and/or leadership positions

Former Legacy Award Winners:

  • 2003: Gayle McNutt, APR, Fellow PRSA
  • 2002: Sabra Gill, APR, Fellow PRSA
  • 2001: Tom Stewart, APR, Fellow PRSA
  • 2000: Ralph Frede, APR, Fellow PRSA
  • 1999: Jim Hart

Nominations and a brief rationale (no more than two pages) should be submitted NO LATER THAN MAY 21 to:

Kris Taylor
PRSA Houston Immediate Past President
(281) 396-2303
Katy ISD/PO Box 159/Katy, TX 77492-1059

PRSA Houston Member News

PRSA Houston member Jennifer Weiner has left her job as public relations manager for the Houston Museum of Natural Science and has started her own PR company. As a freelancer, this career move allows her more time to be with her newborn son. Weiner can be reached at (281) 218-9715 or

Hornberger Foundation Announces Upcoming Luncheon Highlighting Houston Special Events

The National Association of Catering Executives and the International Special Events Society is hosting a luncheon on May 12, 2004, discussing the caliber of events that come to our fair city. Entitled, “Where We''ve Been and Where We''re Going,” speakers include George DeMontrond from the Super Bowl Host Committee and the former U.S. Olympic Bid 2012 Committee; Jordy Tollet, president of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitor''s Bureau and Shea Guinn, president and general manager of Reliant Park.

The luncheon will be held at the Edwin Hornberger Conference Center, 2151 West Holcombe, and registration begins at 11 a.m., with lunch and program taking place from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

RSVP to Dennis Doughty by May 7, 2004 at or (713) 524-0199. Cost is $25 if RSVP by May 7 and $35 if after May 7.

Schipul Technologies Offers A/V Services for PRSA Houston Luncheons

Thank you to our Web provider, Schipul Technologies, for providing the A / V projector and computer for our March and April meetings. In the meantime, our board has decided to make this opportunity available to others for the same recognition package. For the delivery and use of a computer and laptop (per month), we are offering the following package:

  • Mention in promotional e-mail sent to database of subscribers
  • Text link on PRSA Houston Web site (
    for one month
  • Ability to distribute materials to all luncheon attendees
  • Table in back of room to talk with luncheon attendees before and after the event--value $150
  • One lunch registration --value $35-$45

Please call Paula Ruth, APR, at (281) 870-1717 to schedule your month. Thank you for helping us keep the cost of our services down!

Biz 360 Sponsors PRSA Houston Luncheon

Biz360 was founded to solve a very specific business problem: the lack of a fast, reliable way to gather and analyze all the external information that exists in the media about a company, its brand and its products. Outside corporate boundaries, general news and industry publications, press releases, product reviews, analyst reports and message boards contribute to a vast sea of information that managers and executives cannot afford to ignore.

Biz360 is a privately held company located in San Mateo, CA, whose customers include Harley-Davidson Motor Company, PacifiCare Health Systems and Verisign Inc. Biz360 can be reached at (650) 373-3310 or on the Web at

The Value of Sponsorship

PRSA members are influential leaders and opinion-makers all over Houston and beyond. We make decisions for collateral development, catering, printing, advertising specialties, entertainment, corporate philanthropy, meeting locations and incentive packages, to name a few. Put your product--or your client''s products--before our 450 members and directly market to those attending a luncheon as a luncheon sponsor.

A luncheon sponsorship includes:

  • Mention in promotional e-mail sent to database of subscribers
  • Mention and text link in ePRo, the PRSA Houston newsletter
  • Text link on PRSA Houston Web site (
    for one month
  • Ability to distribute materials to all luncheon attendees
  • Table in back of room to talk with luncheon attendees before and
    after the event
  • Speak to the luncheon gathering (no more than 3 minutes)
  • One lunch registration
  • One set of mailing labels for all 460 PRSA Houston members

Luncheon sponsorship prices are:

  • 1x = $500
  • 2x = $900
  • 3x = $1,200
  • 4x = $1,400

Packages for special events such as Excalibur and PR Day are also available. Contact Paula Ruth, APR at (281) 870-1717 or to reserve your spot.

EPRo is the electronic newsletter of the Houston chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA Houston), and is a tool for you. Deadline for submitting items for the May newsletter is May 11, 2004 . We would love your thoughts and news, so send to

Kelly Papinchak
(281) 497-6567
Author: Kelly Papinchak
Phone: (281) 497-6567
Category: newsletter | Sub Category: epro