Summer 2020 Print

Letter from the President



I hope this message finds you and your loved ones safe and healthy. 

As we all continue to navigate the environment that has resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic, I have continuously observed the drive, perseverance, and cohesiveness of our board and members. Truth be told, extenuating circumstances during my first few months as chapter president have, at times, had me close to shaking my hand at the clouds and asking, “Why Me?”


  • Our treasurer had to step away for several weeks beginning in January to recover from a minor procedure (thankfully, he’s OK).
  • Then, in February, the only snowstorm that interrupted a very mild Western New York winter chose the afternoon before our first major event of 2020 to unleash its fury (the collaborative session was postponed, but still absolutely incredible). 
  • Finally, albeit under much more joyful conditions, our chapter administrator, PRSA Buffalo Niagara’s only paid employee, was expecting a baby to arrive in May (more on Kate’s new arrival in this newsletter).

Did I mention that I had just taken on expanded role at my day job? 

Bring it on, global pandemic.

This isn’t about me. My “purposeful rambling” is only intended to set the stage for the realization that our members are truly incredible. We root for each other, we pick each other up when we’re down, and we – collectively and individually – grow stronger from it. We’ve pivoted – and pivoted again – to successfully lead this chapter forward during a time that will be written about in history books. 

Case in point: When it became clear in March that in-person networking and professional development events, the lifeblood of PRSA, would be taken off the table, we changed our focus to offering online sessions that were topical and showcased the depth and breadth of our members’ talents. 

Thus far, we’ve presented webinars on “Communicating in a Time of COVID-19,” “How to Optimize Your LinkedIn Presence to get Hired,” and “The Value of PRSA Membership When You Need it Most.” Immediate past president Stacy VanBlarcom even offered a members-only hip-hop dance class that I’m still sore from.

Coming up this month will be a roundtable discussion on PR and marketing in higher education. We’re also putting plans in place for a panel of web development experts to provide us with insight on improving SEO and user experience design. 

It’s reinvigorating when you begin to see the forest through the trees, especially for someone who’s long held that everything happens for a reason. This pandemic has coerced more members to become engaged. It has forced us to add tools to our toolbelt that should be part of our repertoire even after we return to “normal life” (anyone else a new Zoom expert?). Most importantly, I think it has widened the lines of communication and taught us to value each other even more – as professionals and people.

I am humbled by the opportunity to serve as this chapter’s president.

Be well.

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Recap of virtual events

Over the past month or so, the Buffalo Niagara Chapter has diligently sought ways to keep members engaged and educated with free webinars and events. In May, E-Communications Chair Cassandra Kubiak shared with us ways to optimize your LinkedIn presence to get hired. We also danced it out with Past President Stacy VanBlarcom, APR,  learning some new moves & sharing in Hip Hop culture. Finally, we heard from Membership co-chairs Grace Gerass and Nia Carter-Redding on how to understand the value of a PRSA membership


In June we continue our virtual events with a roundtable discussion on the current state of public relations and marketing in higher education amidst the COVID-19 pandemic on June 16 at 12 p.m. and hear Online Do’s and Don’ts from Buffalo Web Experts on June 29 at 11 a.m.

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Excalibur Awards 2020

Each year, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Buffalo Niagara Chapter celebrates the programs, projects and people that strengthen and sharpen our profession at the yearly Excalibur Awards. Due to Covid-19, The 31st Annual Excalibur Awards have been moved to Wednesday, October 14th at Shea’s Seneca.


Have you or your organization run a successful campaign in regards to public service, crisis communication, internal communications or social media strategy? Or want to show off an audio/video program, published articles, or your direct mail campaign? We welcome Western New York’s best in public relations and communications, from top area professionals and organizations, to submit entries for this year’s Excalibur Awards. 

Visit our website to find more information, plus tips & tricks for a great submission!

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Member Discount Corner

Are you or someone you know interested in joining PRSA? Now's the time! If you join by July 31 and use the promo code CHAPTER20, you'll receive a WAIVED initiation/registration fee and FREE Buffalo Niagara Chapter membership ($50 value). The promo applies to reinstated members, as well. Please contact Grace Gerass, membership co-chair, at [email protected] with any questions.

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Financial Hardship Plan

We understand the difficult financial situation many of our members are faced with during the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn. PRSA is ready to assist with a financial hardship plan for those who qualify. The program covers those who have been a member of PRSA for a total of three or more years and are unemployed or temporarily disabled.

The hardship dues for regular national members is $125, a savings of $130 from the full dues of $255. Members who renew with the hardship plan will still receive all PRSA member benefits. To apply for the hardship program, members must complete and sign the application, on which they attest that they are unemployed or temporarily disabled.

If you or someone you know is experiencing financial hardship or are unable to pay for their membership please view the hardship plan application.

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Kate Backlas Welcomes New Baby

Kate Backlas, our chapter administrator, and her husband, Larry, welcomed a new baby daughter into their family. Grace Marie Backlas was born June 2 at 11:24 a.m. This is the Kate and Larry’s second daughter. They also have a 6-year-old named Annabelle.

You can join us in congratulating Kate by sending well wishes to [email protected]

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