October Bulletin 2010


Detroit Chapter Public Relations Society of America  |  October 2010


Oct. 21 Toyota in crisis – how communications helped an automaker transition from recalls to recovery

Thursday, Oct. 21
8 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.
Hotel Baronette,
27790 Novi Road, Novi

During the first half of 2010, the crisis facing Toyota dominated headlines and news broadcasts around the world. With more than 8 million vehicles recalled globally, the world’s largest automaker saw its sterling reputation – painstakingly built over several decades – diminished in a matter of weeks. A company known for quality and reliability was relegated to punch-line status. Yet, in light of harsh public scrutiny and intense criticism, the car company is still selling vehicles at a solid pace in the U.S.

Join PRSA Detroit, IABC Detroit and the Automotive Public Relations Council (APRC) for a program featuring Curt McAllister, Midwest public relations manager at Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. McAllister, a PRSA Detroit Chapter member, will discuss the events involved in this historic corporate crisis and how communications played a pivotal role in reaching out to vital internal and external audiences, at the height of media saturation. He’ll divulge how public relations helped assure the industry’s most loyal customer base and forge an even tighter bond between dealers and the OEM. McAllister will also discuss how transparency and executive availability played prominent roles in a nationwide media tour that hit dozens of major and secondary markets across America.

In addition, McAllister will talk about ongoing communications tools and tactics that keep employees, dealers and customers apprised of the company’s activities, providing a sense of security and openness they’ve come to expect from Toyota.

Cost is $15 for members (PRSA, IABC or APRC) and $25 for nonmembers. Make your reservation, via PayPal, at www.prsadetroit.org – you do not need an account to use PayPal.

For questions, please e-mail Nancy Skidmore or call 248-545-6499.

From the President’s Desk
Perception is reality, but truly reality is reality

Fix the problem first; don’t use PR to ‘spin’ it.

By Rich Donley, APR

Photo of Rich Donley


We serve the public interest by acting as responsible advocates for those we represent. We provide a voice in the marketplace of ideas, facts, and viewpoints to aid informed public debate.


We adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth in advancing the interests of those we represent and in communicating with the public.


We acquire and responsibly use specialized knowledge and experience. We advance the profession through continued professional development, research, and education. We build mutual understanding, credibility, and relationships among a wide array of institutions and audiences.


We provide objective counsel to those we represent. We are accountable for our actions.


We are faithful to those we represent, while honoring our obligation to serve the public interest.


We deal fairly with clients, employers, competitors, peers, vendors, the media, and the general public. We respect all opinions and support the right of free expression.

While there is some truth to “perception is reality,” it becomes clearer to me every day that the real truth is “reality is reality.”

In my column earlier this year, I addressed what a difference time makes and how your brand and reputation can change in an instant, while highlighting the good (2010 Olympic Winter Games), the bad (Tiger Woods) and the ugly (Toyota*). Since that time, there certainly is some good news to point to, but unfortunately it seems even easier to find bad and ugly incidents that call into question ethics, honesty and transparency and that bring to light the real situation.

Just take a look at some news headlines from recent months:

BP begins image overhaul; Photoshopped BP oil spill pics discovered, BP fesses up

Hearing learns about secret recall efforts by Johnson & Johnson; J&J CEO: ‘We made a mistake’

HP CEO Mark Hurd resigns unexpectedly amid scandal

Egg farm family apologizes for salmonella outbreak, promises reforms

Marketing police nail Netflix red-handed: Video-rental firm gets busted bringing in paid stooges

For some of these incidents, I question what role public relations/marketing/communications professionals had in these situations. Did they have a seat at the management table? Did they raise concerns? Did they provide strategic counsel? Were they adhering to a code of ethics?

Employees – and it starts at the top – need to look deep within and address root causes, and not lie, mislead or use PR to “spin” it. As the saying goes, “you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.”

Our role as public relations practitioners is to serve as counselors, not publicists or “spin doctors.” Our value is the strategic counsel we provide, and that includes diving into the real issues early on, asking the right questions, saying things that might not be comfortable to hear, leading by example and be willing to put our job on the line.

We have a personal responsibility to do what’s right. As John Bailey, managing director, Lambert, Edwards & Associates, and founder, John Bailey & Associates, articulated at a recent PRSA-Detroit Ethics program, “Honesty is the ONLY policy,” and it can be taught – it starts at home.

If you missed that lesson at home, you can look no further than the PRSA Code of Ethics. The PRSA Member Statement of Professional Values “provide the foundation for the Member Code of Ethics and set the industry standard for the professional practice of public relations. These values are the fundamental beliefs that guide our behaviors and decision-making process. We believe our professional values are vital to the integrity of the profession as a whole.”

It’s bad enough that people don’t know what public relations practitioners do, but when it’s done improperly, it makes it bad for all of us. The public relations profession needs some good PR (counsel, that is, not spin).

Get a seat at the management table. Be accountable for your actions. Be open. Be honest. Be responsible. Be ethical. You owe it to yourself, your staff, clients, customers, media and other key stakeholders who depend on your counsel, your decision-making, your products and services.

* As for Toyota, be sure to attend our October 21 breakfast program, Toyota in Crisis – How Communications Helped an Automaker Transition from Recalls to Recovery,” with member Curt McAllister, Midwest public relations manager at Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. The event will be held from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. at Hotel Baronette, 27790 Novi Road, Novi.

Annual Meeting offers recognition, celebration Nov. 11

By Brandi Marino


Thursday, Nov. 11
6 p.m.
The Townsend Hotel
100 Townsend Street Birmingham

Join your fellow members and colleagues for a celebratory evening at the 2010 PRSA-Detroit Chapter Annual Meeting, sponsored by Oakwood Healthcare System. The event is a chance for members to network, celebrate the achievements of the past year and look forward to what lies ahead.

At this year’s event, the chapter will recognize Lisa Vallee-Smith, APR, with the Robert Hefty Distinguished Service Award, and induct Melissa Motschall, APR, and Pamela Young, APR, into the PRSA Detroit Hall of Fame.

In addition to honoring these esteemed colleagues, the chapter will award the PRSA-Detroit Education Fund Scholarships; recognize the newly accredited members (APRs) and Ethics Honors Code participants; and elect the 2011 PRSA-Detroit officers and directors.

“You simply cannot miss this year’s annual meeting,” incoming PRSA Detroit Chapter president Susan Ferraro, APR, said. “I promise a classy, festive evening full of camaraderie and opportunities to collectively embrace and appreciate the value of what we all do for a living!”

Please join us Thursday, Nov. 11 at the Townsend Hotel, located at 100 Townsend Street in Birmingham. The evening will start at 6 p.m. with a reception, followed by dinner at 6:45 p.m. and the recognition program at 7:30 p.m. The celebration will continue after the formal program with an afterglow reception at The Townsend Tea Lobby.

Cost is $45 per person and can be reserved via PayPal through Nov. 4 at www.prsadetroit.org. Please contact Nancy Skidmore at 248.545.6499 if you have any questions.

PRSA-Detroit Annual Meeting attendees will be entered into a drawing for a one-night stay at The Townsend Hotel, the event’s Host Sponsor, based on availability.

Whether it’s to celebrate an award, if you’re attending the event from another part of town, or to treat yourself to a special evening, consider extending your PRSA Annual Meeting celebration, invite your significant other, and be a “tourist in your hometown” by staying overnight at The Townsend Hotel.

The Townsend is offering a special PRSA rate of $189 on 11/11, based on availability — For a reservation, call directly to 248-642-7900 – and ask for the PRSA rate, or book online: http://www.townsendhotel.com/ReservationCalendar.do insert booking code PRSA111810G and continue with date and room type selection to make the reservation.

Chapter board nominates officers, directors at annual meeting

By Kim Skeltis, APR

Proposed 2011 PRSA-Detroit Director Slate



Susan Ferraro, APR


Jennifer Flowers, APR (re-election)


 John Austerberry, APR


Jessica Killenberg Muzik, APR (re-election)


Rich Donley, APR

Incoming Board Directors

Carolyn Artman, APR

Hope Brown, APR

Karah Street

Melissa Vander Laan, APR

A key portion of the PRSA-Detroit Annual Meeting is the election of the chapter’s officers and directors, and the 2010 Annual Meeting is no exception. The 2011 slate of proposed incoming officers and directors will be presented to PRSA members attending the annual meeting for a voice vote.

Susan Schwandt, APR, current chapter secretary, is resigning from the board at the end of her 2010 term. Therefore, nominations will include two officer positions. Officer nominations include John Austerberry, APR, as treasurer; and Jessica Killenberg Muzik, APR, as secretary (noting she is also up for re-election). Both are current board directors.

Also up for re-election is Jennifer Flowers, APR, as vice president. Existing officers Susan Ferraro, APR, will move to president; and Rich Donley, APR, will move to immediate past president.

Nominated for three-year terms as incoming directors are Carolyn Artman, APR; Hope Brown, APR; Karah Street; and Melissa Vander Laan, APR.

The board wishes to extend its thanks to board directors with expiring terms: Linda Hagan, APR; Mike Isopi; Susan Schwandt, APR; and Kim Skeltis, APR.

Oct. 13 What’s in store for
The Huffington Post?

Wednesday, Oct. 13
Breakfast: 8 a.m.
Program: 8:30 a.m.
San Marino Club
1685 E. Big Beaver, Troy


Since its launch in May 2005, The Huffington Post news, entertainment and leading social media blog has quickly become one of the most widely-read, linked to and frequently-cited media brands on the Internet. Join the Adcraft Club for a special breakfast with Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief. Hear how this nationally-syndicated columnist and author of 13 books has taken The Huffington Post from a tiny blog to one of the largest independent news sites in the world, with more than 20 sections (including college, comedy and local editions for New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Denver) and more than 23 million unique visitors.

After the 2008 election, many suspected The Huffington Post’s growth would stall because the majority of its traffic was entirely political. Instead, they added categories as well as fresh and aggregated content increasing the number of visitors by nearly 90 percent in one year.

Now that The Huffington Post has made it to the top 10 current events and global news destinations, what does the future hold? Join us to find out what’s in store for The Huffington Post and how it may just become the world’s largest independent news site.

Tickets are $15 Students (with Student I.D.); $20 Junior Members (under age 25); $25 Members; $35 Nonmembers. Register today or call 313-872-7850!

Communicating to multicultural audiences (part 2 of 3)

By Jasmin Nadalizadeh

Multicultural groups within the United States are growing rapidly. Last month, Fleishman-Hillard’s Ana Toro, APR and Katerie Troutman, co-chairs of FH’s Multicultural practice group introduced us to the importance of reaching out to these audiences, In part two of this three-part series on multicultural communication, they share more of their insights.

Q. How receptive are multicultural audiences to digital communications? Which channels tend to be the most popular?

A. It’s no secret that nowadays, everything a corporation promotes, gives, or produces, should be integrated into the Web. With this being the case, how can multicultural digital audiences be ignored?

Credible brands are utilizing social media to reach customers and to build or maintain reputation. As social media continues to grow, the ability to reach more consumers globally has also increased. Twitter, for example, has expanded its global reach to Japan, Indonesia and Mexico, among others. This means that brands are now able to advertise in multiple languages and therefore reach a broader range of consumers. Social media has become the new “tool” for effective business marketing and sales. The popular networking sites of Facebook, and Twitter are social media’s most commonly used in the U.S. for socialization and connecting friends, relatives, and employees. Social media has become modernized to reach consumers worldwide, and become appealing to big and small businesses. In addition, smartphones are becoming the majority of handheld devices across the world, and mobile gives the Web a whole new dimension in affordability, accessibility and marketing.

Q. What other advice would you give to PR practitioners who are looking to ensure that they include multicultural audiences in their PR plans?

A. Be part of the planning process. It will be very hard to build a case if the client or your PR team is not aware of the opportunity at the early planning stage. Some industries and clients have a natural fit for multicultural programs, but others do not. Showcase the consumer behavior and do your own research to share with your PR team so they’ll see that the brand (or category) resonates (or not!) among that group and why. Please follow up in November’s bulletin for more insight, tips and tricks on multicultural communications from these industry experts. Visit PRSA-National for more information on diversity initiatives.

PRSA-Detroit recognized for strong
chapter management in tough year

PRSA-Detroit won the PRSA East Central District (ECD)’s prestigious Chapter Excellence Award in Chapter Management a second consecutive year, recognizing the chapter’s extraordinary efforts to manage a chapter of its size during the challenges of 2009.

Judged by the Northwestern Pennsylvania Chapter, the PRSA-Detroit award submittal won out amongst other chapters in the “large chapter” category of 150 or more members.

Kim Skeltis, APR Immediate Past President“Last year was like no other in our chapter’s 65-year history,” said 2009 PRSA-Detroit President Kim Skeltis, APR.  “The recession hit our members hard, which had a direct impact on how we ran our chapter.  We needed to be creative to deliver excellent value at a lower price point to help members through the tough times, and yet many of our cost-cutting measures have remained to this day because they just made good sense.”

Some of the initiatives highlighted in the award submittal included how the chapter:

  • Reduced monthly program costs by more than 65% through donated venues and simpler meals
  • Implemented a hardship plan to help members who had lost jobs
  • Created a fundraising event with reduced operating expenses with Strikes for Scholarships
  • Converted the monthly newsletter to HTML and created a social networking presence on Facebook, Twitter and Flickr

Detroit is one of 16 chapters in the East Central PRSA District.  The award was announced at the ECD QuickStart 2010 Conference on Sept. 25, an annual conference for incoming chapter presidents.

DeVilling Group team cruises to victory in PRSA Open

The 2010 PRSA Open championship team The Devilling GroupThe DeVilling Group team won the 2010 PRSA Open on Sept. 15, posting a sizzling 14-under par and besting a handful of teams sharing second place with scores of nine-under. The DeVilling team members were Mike DeVilling, Dave Wieme and Tony Moscone.

The Open – which was revived after a one-year hiatus due to economic conditions – was presented by title sponsor PR Newswire and raised approximately $2,500 for the chapter scholarship fund.

Other sponsors include Corporate Sponsors: Airfoil Public Relations, BusinessWire, Chrysler, DTE Energy, Eisbrenner Public Relations, General Motors, Henry Ford Health System, Marx Layne & Company, OnStar, PR Newswire, Weber Shandwick, and Lambert, Edwards & Associates; and In-Kind Sponsors: Corp! Magazine, Refreshment Sponsor; Hennessey Capital, Hole Sponsor; and AAA Michigan, AAA Michigan, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Business Wire and The Townsend Hotel.

Fourteen teams comprising 52 players participated in the Open and enjoyed near perfect weather conditions at the par-3 Strategic Fox course in Plymouth.

With its win, the DeVilling Group took home the coveted Frank Seymour Memorial Trophy, which had been held by GM since the last Open in 2008.

Why I’m a member of PRSA-Detroit

By Jared Bryan

Account Coordinator

Eisbrenner Public Relations

Bulletin Co-editor

It all started when I took my first course in public relations at Wayne State University. Shelly Najor, PhD, talked about the benefits of joining PRSSA and regularly brought recent graduates and professionals in to speak to the class.

However, participating in something outside of the classroom didn’t really click until I met Mary Henige, APR, a former chapter president. As I’m sure you are aware, Mary is passionate about students joining PRSSA and getting involved with PRSA events. She takes every opportunity to communicate the benefits of membership, and this time was no different. I was captivated by her enthusiasm and inspired by her hard work and dedication!

Following her presentation, I signed on as a member of PRSSA and began researching what the organization was all about. Over the next two years, I served in various officer positions and volunteered at the PRSA Golf Outing, where I met a number of welcoming professionals.

Eventually, I began working closely with PRSA-Detroit members to prepare for the PRSSA 2008 National Conference, and saw the importance of building relationships, honing my skills and improving my understanding of the profession.

At the completion of the conference, I applied and received the Donald P. Durocher Memorial Scholarship, which brought everything full circle for me. It finally clicked. It is through these experiences that I understand the generosity of PRSA-Detroit members and the value of getting to know them better. Why are you a PRSA-Detroit member?

If you’re interested in sharing your story in a future issue of this chapter publication, you can find me on Twitter, LinkedIn or send me an e-mail. We would love to hear from you!

Worth Noting

Eisbrenner Public Relations has promoted Melissa Zula from accounting manager to controller. Zula is responsible for the accounting operations of the firm, including the production of periodic financial reports, maintenance of accounting records and implementation of a set of controls.

Hennessey Capital LLC has promoted Kim Eberhardt to vice president, marketing and communications. She had been the director of marketing. Eberhardt is responsible for advertising and marketing strategy, social media strategy and execution, client and internal communications, public relations, sales support and community outreach.

New members

Donna Fontana
The Quell Group

Katya Pruett

Jacci Woods
MotorCity Casino Hotel

Ad Video Library Monitoring Michigan's Media.

Calendar of Events

Oct. 13 – Adcraft Club of Detroit, Breakfast with Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post, Breakfast 8 a.m., Program 8:30 a.m., San Marino Club, 1685 E. Big Beaver, Troy. Tickets are $25 for members, $35 for non-members.

Oct. 21 – Toyota in crisis – How communications helped the automaker transition from recalls to recovery, 8 – 9:30 a.m., Hotel Baronette, 27790 Novi Road, Novi

Nov. 11 – PRSA Detroit Annual Meeting, 6 p.m., dinner meeting and program, The Townsend Hotel, Birmingham. Tickets are $45.