Member Get a Member Winners: Niki Gianakaris and Abby Rizen

Congratulations to PPRA Members Niki Gianakaris and Abby Rizen for winning the March “Member Get a Member” contest.


Gianakaris is the Director of Media Relations at Drexel University. She referred her colleagues Lauren Ingeno and Frank Otto.

Rizen is the Director of Media Relations at Vault Communications. She referred colleagues Amanda Michelson and Rachel Jakubowitcz.

The two will receive a prize package that includes a gift card to the Hard Rock Cafe Philadelphia, a gift certificate to U-Bahn and BRU Craft and Wurst and tickets to the Philadelphia Folk Festival, Helium Comedy Club and Eastern State Penitentiary, among other gifts.

Now, members have another chance to win prizes for recruiting their friends, clients and colleagues to PPRA. The third “Member Get a Member” contest kicks off today and runs until 5 p.m. on Friday, March 31.

You could win a package that includes restaurant gift cards, event tickets, and more. The prize is designed to exceed the $175 membership fee.

Here is how to get involved:

  • Work your network to let people know what YOU like about PPRA and why they should be a part of our organization.
  • When you refer someone, make sure that they mention your name when they register. New members will be tallied. The person who recruits the most members is the winner.
  • This contest is open to all members, including General Members, Board Members and Committee Chairs.

Good Luck!

Careers 101: The Headliner of Philly PR Student Networking


Register for Careers 101 here.

Careers 101 is a networking and career advice event hosted by the Philadelphia Public Relations Association, aimed at helping public relations and communications students connect with professionals in their field. Maybe you are wondering: ‘so what?’ That could describe most networking events anywhere. What makes Careers 101 so special? Well, I could tell you that it is because of the hard work put on by the students and professionals that planned it, or the amazing quality of the panelists and networkers each year, or the amazing sponsors, such as The Creative Group, who make it all possible; but really it’s all that and more.

11 years ago, Careers 101 began as a small event at U Arts, and has since matured into a Philly PR staple for students and young professionals alike. This year, Careers 101 will be at the PECO Energy Hall on 23rd and Market Street, but in the past it has been held at Temple and Drexel Universities as well. At the event, students can look forward to meeting Philadelphia’s very best PR professionals, from the recently graduated to the not so recently graduated. This year, the panel will consist entirely of past PPRA Fast Track award winners. The Fast Track award is given to one individual each year who have made an impact on the profession early in their career and continues to be a trailblazer – so you can be firm in the belief that these panelists have only the very best to offer you. And if you’re feeling nervous – don’t.

Last year was my first time at Careers 101, and even though I’d helped to plan and host the event, I was still nervous as I walked in the doors of the building. Because I had helped to plan it, I was nervous that no one would show up or that people wouldn’t like it. And because I was (and still am) a student, I was nervous about mingling with professionals in the field that I want to become a professional in. But as it turned out, I had nothing to be nervous about. Why? Because all the older, super experienced PR professionals were once in yours and my own shoes: a PR student or newbie looking for some contacts to understand the industry. After the panel ended I picked out the first person I wanted to talk to, reminded myself that they were a student once too, and introduced myself. In fact, after about five seconds I blanked on the entire English language. Instead of any number of negative reactions I was envisioning, my conversation partner laughed, clapped me on the arm, and asked me what I thought of the panel. This opened up the dam, so to speak, and we had a great conversation and agreed to have lunch soon.

Attending Careers 101 helped me decide where I want to work after graduation, and gave me the resources to get there. I met some awesome people and created lasting connections, I heard some top-notch advice from PR’s best, and I even got free tips on my resume and a professional headshot! The Careers 101 of this year will afford you all of the same benefits, benefits that will only multiply as you attend more events, which is why you can expect to see me there again this year.

Faiz Mandviwalla is a senior at Temple University majoring in Strategic Communication with concentrations in Public Relations and International Communication. Faiz is an Assistant Firm Director for PRowl Public Relations, recently completed an internship with Bellevue Communications Group, and is an active member of PPRA’s College Relations Committee and the Temple PRSSA chapter. Follow Faiz on Twitter @faizmand and on LinkedIn here.

2016: My (Leap) Year of Firsts

There is no doubt the first month of 2016 both started and ended with a splash for me.  Literally.  After reading I Dare Me, Lu Ann Cahn’s witty and wonderful book of candor and inspiration, I informed her how moved I was by her story and she invited me to join her exactly where her book began – at the Polar Bear Plunge in Atlantic City, NJ.

First, let me explain the premise of her book. Though a survivor and highly successful and well-known investigative reporter with a loving family and fruitful life, Lu Ann was feeling stuck and her daughter Alexa convinced her to do a daily first – something new every day – for an entire year.  These “firsts” turned into a blog and then a book, which is continuing to impact lives one page at a time.

Back to the plunge. As a native of the Jersey Shore, I treasured the ocean year-round.  However, the thought of dipping so much as a toe in the water during the winter months seemed treacherous, let alone the thought of completely submerging my entire body.  Though for the first time in my life, this plunge somehow seemed like something I just needed to do…and I did…we did. This started my “year of firsts.”


Throughout January I engaged family, friends and co-workers to help me come up with new ideas to add to my list of “firsts.”  The ideas were only accepted and added to the list if they were beneficial to my mind, body, soul and/or career and did not conflict with my core values (ie: faith, morals, beliefs, etc.). Therefore, I had to reject the dare to only drink Mountain Dew for a day and the dare to kick my feet up on my boss’ desk.  Some firsts can lead to lasts.

Here are some of the highlights from my first month of “firsts”:

  • Day 11 – Pay for the person behind me in line.
  • Day 12 – Substantively compliment three strangers.
  • Day 14 – Blow bubbles to greet speakers.
  • Day 17 – Give relationship advice to a stranger.
  • Day 21 – Attend a judicial swearing-in ceremony.
  • Day 24 – Swing at the playground in the snow.
  • Day 25 – Meet three moms and give them flowers.
  • Day 27 – Attend a Turning Points for Children meeting.

On January 31, I ended my first month of “firsts” back where I started – in the water. I worked through fear of claustrophobia to successfully complete a 90-minute sensory deprivation float.  (If you have no idea what I am talking about, Google it.)  It was as reinvigorating as the plunge was, though thankfully it was much, much warmer.

This whole experience of doing something new every day has given me a fresh appreciation for life.  It has allowed me to communicate and bond with strangers in meaningful ways, remember the fun and importance of playtime and step out of my comfort zone on a frequent basis.

In PR, we need the skills of having the courage to go up to strangers and the compassion to connect with people from all different backgrounds.  Our toolbox of skill sets can be as vast as the diversity of clients and industries that we represent.

In sharing all of this with you, I encourage you to challenge and dare yourself to complete significant “firsts” that will stretch you and allow you to grow both personally and professionally.

Lastly, I kindly ask that you share suggestions and/or opportunities for “firsts” with me. Tickets to a new show or exhibit? Client opening a new restaurant? Access to a behind-the-scenes tour? Looking forward to sharing many more “firsts” with PPRA.

Meredith Z. Avakian-Hardaway is president of the Philadelphia Public Relations Association and director of communications and marketing at the Philadelphia Bar Association.  Connect with her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter at @MZApoetry.

September President’s Message


Dear PPRA Members,

After a decade of involvement with PPRA, I am humbled and appreciative to now have the opportunity to serve as your president. I’ve ghost written and contributed to many leadership letters and columns throughout my career, but it’s always a little different when your name is at the bottom. As I noted in my inaugural address at our Annual Meeting in June, I take this new post seriously and therefore vow to work hard and strive to make you all proud with a capital “PR.”

In case you were not able to attend our Annual Meeting, here is a brief recap of the three initiatives I outlined for the 2015-2016 programming year:

  • Firm Founders Series – This brand-new program series will feature notable professionals who have started their own PR (or marketing) firms. This panel discussion series will cover the ins and outs of what it takes to make the leap and start your own firm.
  • Diversity & Collaboration – I’ve encouraged our Board to keep diversity at the forefront while planning all PPRA programs and events this year. Additionally, we will strategically partner and collaborate with numerous associations, businesses and organizations.
  • A Mighty Partnership – Pro bono starts with PR. As part of our Philly PRoactive efforts, this year we are providing meaningful opportunities for PPRA members to donate their time, talent and/or treasures in support of Mighty Writers, a local non-profit organization that helps Philadelphia kids (ages 7-17) learn how to think and write clearly.

Additionally, we are always looking for new, unique and affordable venues to host our programs and events. Do you or your clients have some space worth showing off? Please let us know!

In the meantime, I hope to see you at one of our many fall programs, as we wrap up the second half of our 70th anniversary year.

Best regards,

Meredith Z. Avakian-Hardaway
2015-2016 President
Philadelphia Public Relations Association


Discount at Philly Bash for PPRA Members



Hundreds of locals will walk the red carpet, chat with Philly Happening TV, and party the night away in honor of the amazing Philadelphia community.

Since the beginning of the year, thousands of local people, places, events, and businesses have been nominated across 11 comprehensive Happening List categories ranging from “Food & Drink” to “Home Improvement” to “Everything Philly.” And Happening list excitement will reach a fever pitch on Monday, June 8, 2015 at the debut Philly Happening List Red Carpet Bash!

Good news! If you are a PPRA member you can receive a discount for this event. Click here to read more about the details of this event and to purchase your tickets. Enter “PPRA” in the promotional code box to receive your discount today!