PRSSA’s 2013 National Conference was held in Philadelphia, and offered a variety of opportunities for its 1,100 attendees to learn, explore, and discuss the public relations profession. Each day, students at the conference were able to choose from a smorgasbord of workshops and sessions led by fellow students or industry pros. Here are brief recaps of three sessions that left a big impression on me:

3. From the Crisis Trenches: Blazing a New Trail in Communications – Rae Bazzarre & Katherine McLane, LIVESTRONG Foundation

On a name recognition scale from 1 to 10, Lance Armstrong is a 20. That’s why, when the America’s most famous cyclist admitted to doping in 2012, the LIVESTRONG Foundation (link to:, which he founded, went into crisis mode.

Rae Bazzarre and Katherine McLane were the public relations team at the foundation, and handled the wave of questions and media attention that Armstrong’s admission triggered. Bazzarre and McLane turned the crisis to an opportunity by integrating the nonprofit’s mission into each of their statements.

“When your mission is in jeopardy, it’s not time to whisper, it’s time to shout.” – Rae Bazarre

The crisis response was so successful that it earned the LIVESTRONG Foundation a Silver Anvil- the public relations industry’s highest award.

2. The Passion Conversation: Be an Explorer of Your Own Passions – Geno Church, Brains on Fire @genochurch

“No passion, no conversation. No conversation, no word of mouth. No word of mouth, no successful business.”

The Passion Conversation, co-written by Geno Church, is on my Christmas list. Geno’s presentation at National Conference touched on how organizations, businesses, and products really succeed when their audiences and consumers are passionate about them. He pointed out that advertising prompts only 22% of conversation about any product.

As PR experts, communicators, and marketers we need to realize the importance of word-of-mouth, and find ways to cultivate, among publics, the passion that will help our organizations succeed.

1. Chapter Presidents’ Leadership Workshop – Cassandra Bailey, Slice Communication @cassoryl

If I could only take away one thing from all of National Conference, it would be five words that Cassandra Bailey said during her presentation to chapter presidents…“Different is better than better.”

Cassandra pointed out that our lives are so full, and the markets so flooded, that it is a struggle for anything to stand out. Slice Communications, her Philly-based PR firm, turns molds upside down and creates success for clients by helping them be truly different than their competitors.

Cassandra also shared how individuals can gain success by being different. Some of her top tips?

  • Find and embrace your unique brand. Be both interested and interesting.
  • Study everything. Be well read and constantly evolve and a person and professional.
  • To really stand out, love every minute of your work.

Each of these sessions at National Conference presented new ideas, inspired me, and had me furiously taking notes in nearly illegible shorthand. To learn about more National Conference sessions visit

– Audra Hartges
President of PRSSA