#PPRA Member Monday – Melissa Squarcia Fordyce

#PPRAMember Monday_Fordyce

Melissa Fordyce joined the Philadelphia Foundation in September as their Executive Director, Marketing & Communications. She has been a member of PPRA for five years and serves on our board of directors.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PhiladelphiaFoundation/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/the-philadelphia-foundation/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/philafound

Melissa Fordyce serves as Executive Director, Marketing and Communications for the Philadelphia Foundation. In this capacity she works to create, oversee and implement short-and long-term brand and marketing strategies and disciplines that elevate public understanding of the Philadelphia Foundation’s work as the region’s oldest and largest community foundation.

Having dedicated more than a decade of her career to nonprofit communications, Melissa previously served as the Director of Communications for Presby’s Inspired Life. Prior to that, she spent seven years with Catholic Leadership Institute. Melissa’s early career began in television news as an assignment editor for NBC10 in Philadelphia.

An adjunct professor at Temple University teaching nonprofit communications, Melissa also serves on the Board of the Philadelphia Public Relations Association (PPRA) and Villanova Communications Affinity Network (VCAN). She is a 2004 graduate of Villanova University and is currently pursuing a Master’s in Strategic Public Relations from George Washington University.

PPRA: What projects are you working on right now?

MF: Currently, the Philadelphia Foundation is preparing to host On the Table Philly on October 17. It is a forum designed to elevate civic conversation, foster new relationships and create a unifying experience. Anyone can host and it’s a prime opportunity to give a voice to issues that matter to you. You can register on our website.

PPRA: What is the favorite part of your job?
MF: Everyday I walk into my office and I see this breathtaking view of the city and beyond and I say to myself “I am so grateful to be here. I get to serve all of you.” The work that we do at the Philadelphia Foundation touches every inch and aspect of greater Philadelphia and the absolute favorite part of my job is knowing that what I do today, is the change I get to see out my window tomorrow.

PPRA: What was your latest and greatest accomplishment at your job?

MF: I started this new role with the Philadelphia Foundation in September. Personally, it was an accomplishment to get here. It is an honor to serve greater Philadelphia in this capacity. And I am grateful that the leadership of the Philadelphia Foundation saw the potential in me to elevate their mission to a new level.

PPRA: What one piece of advice would you give to your fellow PR pros?

MF: Network. Network and Network. That’s three, but I think you can tell how important I think it is! There is no right or wrong way to do it as long as you are committed to making and maintaining a circle of professional influence. It will pay off tenfold — I promise!

PPRA: What book or movie could you read or watch again and again?

MF: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. I don’t know that I could read it over and over because it’s insanely long! However, its an amazing TRUE story about the power of forgiveness, perseverance and the resiliency of the human spirit. The story inspires me again and again.

PPRA: What’s your favorite spot in Philly?

MF: I’m a Jersey Girl! And proud of it. But if I had to pick a favorite spot or neighborhood I would have to say South Philly. I have wonderful childhood memories of eating Pop’s Water Ice on my Aunt’s front stoop as we watched the fireworks show from the Vet.

PPRA: If you weren’t in PR, what profession do you see yourself in and why?

MF: I had always thought it would be fascinating to be a presidential speechwriter. There is just something about the way in which the (written) and spoken word can captivate people that is awe-inspiring to me.

PPRA: Favorite Philly Food?

MF: Soft Pretzel w/Spicy Mustard. Hands down the best. snack. ever! Also pairs well with Italian Ice!

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#PPRA Member Monday – Samantha Byles

#PPRAMember Monday_Byles

Samantha Byles is a Senior Account Executive with Bellevue Communications Group and has been a member of PPRA for three years.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/samantha.byles1

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/samanthabyles26/

Originally from Boston, Samantha moved to Philadelphia to attend Temple University and ended up staying. She graduated from Temple in 2013 with a news journalism degree, and worked with a company that produced hyper-local magazines nationwide before jumping into PR with a local engineering firm.

PPRA: What projects are you working on right now?

SB: I work with both nonprofit and for-profit clients on everything from traditional PR – press releases, media advisories, media relations – to the more general Communications/Marketing items like social media, content creation, and public affairs. A majority of my efforts nowadays are focused on a wireless infrastructure client that is looking to raise their brand awareness in Philadelphia, which translates to introductory meetings with leaders in the city, networking, and finding speaking/event opportunities.

PPRA: What is the favorite part of your job?

SB: The discovery process – working with my clients before the event or before the press release to find the right story to share. I like to think of it as a puzzle, and you’re constantly going through each of the pieces to see what fits and completes the bigger picture.

PPRA: What was your latest and greatest accomplishment at your job?

SB: In May, I worked with the wireless infrastructure client to submit and plan a panel event for PHL Tech Week. Once we got approval for the event, I coordinated all logistics and materials for it – working with the venue, selecting, confirming, and prepping the panelists, the Powerpoint presentation, Eventbrite management, etc. It was a lot of work, but it was a project that I could own and it turned out to be a great event with about 35 attendees and a handful of valuable relationships for the client.

PPRA: What one piece of advice would you give to your fellow PR pros?

SB: Enjoy it! It’s very easy to get discouraged when you don’t get the desired coverage or have to defend a strategy to a stubborn client. When that happens, take a step back, and think of 1 thing in the process that went right, even if it was just a catchy headline, and 1 thing that you could actually change if you tried. This process I think allows you to stay positive while thinking about how you can improve in a realistic way.

PPRA: What book or movie could you read or watch again and again?

SB: Any of the Harry Potter movies – the books are good, but all the visual aspects in the movie are incredible, especially if you can see it in 4K.

PPRA: What’s your favorite spot in Philly?

SB: Dilworth Park – Cliche, I know, but I use SEPTA a lot as a commuter, so while I’m waiting for the regional rail or the next El, I like to sit outside at Dilworth Park and people watch. Between the fountain, Christmas Village, and other attractions, there’s always something to happily distract you.

PPRA: If you weren’t in PR, what profession do you see yourself in and why?

SB: Event or meeting planning – I like the organizational aspect of it and the ability to still be surrounded by people.

PPRA: Favorite Philly Food?

SB: Philly Pretzel, with spicy mustard.

#PPRA Member Monday – Lauren Woodard

#PPRAMember Monday_Woodard

Lauren Woodard is the Public Relations Manager for the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. She has been a member of PPRA for over two years.

Twitter: @Lauren609

Facebook: www.facebook.com/lauren.woodard.526

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lauren-woodard-a1436391/

Lauren A. Woodard is the Public Relations Manager on the Kimmel Center Cultural Campus. A graduate of Penn State University with a degree in English, Publishing, and Creative Writing, she has held positions at the Kimmel Center since 2014 – beginning as a Public Relations Intern, then serving in the Marketing Department in various roles, before transitioning back to Public Relations. She was appointed Public Relations Manager in 2018.

Her current responsibilities include overseeing media communications for programmatic Campus news and managing PR consultants for show-based initiatives. She assists in conceptualization of photo/video creation, social media marketing efforts, editing marketing content, creation of institutional messaging, and event management.

Lauren previously interned in Communications at The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University and managed a Marble Slab Creamery franchise.

A longtime resident of Delaware County, Lauren’s free time passions include kayaking, trash-to-treasure pickin’, Broadway musicals, salty foods, and ranch dressing.

PPRA: What projects are you working on right now?

LW: Right now, we are gearing up to kick off our 2019-20 season! “Hamilton” has just opened and we have another amazing Broadway season ahead. There’s also a ton of jazz, family-friendly, comedy, etc. in the pipeline, as always. Plus, we just announced another free art installation in our Commonwealth Plaza – two projects from Mexican designers, here through November 17.

PPRA: What is the favorite part of your job?

LW: Representing a performing arts center as an arts lover is the best. I grew up participating in musical theater productions, playing the violin, and singing in choirs up through college – and the Kimmel team really is a group who truly care about the arts & reaching Philadelphia through performance and education. It’s hard to pick *just* one favorite part of my job. I love the people, the variety of programming, and the education opportunities for students. We work with awesome consultants in the Philadelphia area and beyond who help us with press, promotions, buys, social media, and more. Every day is something different, keeping the work dynamic and diverse. It’s pretty rewarding to see the public having a great time in our spaces.

PPRA: What was your latest and greatest accomplishment at your job?

LW: We have a couple awesome residencies at the Kimmel Center, but during the 2018-29 season, I really wanted press for our Jazz Residency (then in its 6th year). We received coverage from 6ABC and NBC10, as well as “Jewish Exponent”, “South Philly Review”, and “Temple News”. (Thank you to all those reporters & producers who worked with me!) This program has not garnered a lot of attention in previous years, so we were thrilled to get the information out to the public and be able to get spotlights for a couple of our Jazz Residents – local Philadelphians creating new jazz work and getting it out into the community.

PPRA: What one piece of advice would you give to your fellow PR pros?

LW: This advice was passed down to me from my Director (love you, Leslie Tyler!) – I’d say always take the time to research what a reporter has written about recently, what they might be posting about on social media, what you might know about them personally. They are receiving so many messages and I try to make my pitches stand out by being able to call out details that grab their attention and hook them from the start.

PPRA: What book or movie could you read or watch again and again?

LW: Definitely “You’ve Got Mail” – that movie is a Nora Ephron masterpiece and endlessly quotable.

PPRA: What’s your favorite spot in Philly?

LW: Wandering around Reading Terminal Market is always fun. (Plug for our Campus, but in all honesty, the Academy of Music is my favorite theater – it’s gorgeous, historic, and just plain magical to spend time in.) I also love Pietro’s Italian restaurant on Walnut Street. They have THE BEST rigatoni alla vodka – highly recommend!

PPRA: If you weren’t in PR, what profession do you see yourself in and why?

LW: A writer – I love the non-fiction, satirical style (two slightly different examples that come to mind are David Sedaris and Mindy Kaling). There’s a lot of humor to be found in everyday life and not taking ourselves too seriously. I also think there’s a goodness in being willing to share and/or expose our own humanity and realness to enable readers to say ‘hey, me too!’

PPRA: Favorite Philly Food?

LW: Cheesesteak.

#PPRA Member Monday – Ryan Wall

#PPRAMember Monday_Wall

Ryan Wall is an Account Executive at Brian Communications. He has been a PPRA member for one and a half years.

Twitter: @ryan_wonderwall

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ryanmwall/

Facebook: www.facebook.com/RyanTheGreatWall

A friend once remarked that “Ryan thinks in action items”… which sounds about right. A creative thinker with a knack for social strategy, Ryan loves to come up with big ideas to tackle complex communications challenges. He enjoys taking a thoughtful approach to craft campaign narratives (he’s at his best in a brainstorm) and seeing projects come to fruition. Ryan is a proud alumnus of La Salle University (#NeverLost), passionate writer and noted lover of a witty pun. He’s been at Brian Communications since he graduated (and even before then, when he interned there his senior year). Call him, tweet him, if you wanna reach him.

PPRA: Who are your clients and what projects are you working on right now?

RW: I’ve worked with Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA), Milton Hershey School, La Salle University and the Horatio Alger Association, to name a few. I also work on the social media strategy for Brian, as well as the job shadow and internship programs. Right now, I’m very excited to be working on the re-imagining of the Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (I could go on and on about how my team helped #MoveTheSphinx)

PPRA: What is the favorite part of your job?

RW: I love the people I work with– I think that sometimes in PR, we forget that “relations” is literally a part of our job description. I am lucky to work alongside a team that has given me some of the greatest (and most caring) friends, cheerleaders and mentors I could have. The pace of agency life keeps me on my toes and pushes me to challenge myself daily. I feel like I am always learning and growing personally and professionally each day in the office.

PPRA: What was your latest and greatest accomplishment at your job?

RW: Earlier this year, I was able to support my alma mater on several high-level announcements. I worked alongside top executives from the agency to provide strategic counsel to leaders from La Salle, while working on extensive media relations and brand positioning projects. There were quite a few times when our CEO, Brian Tierney, specifically sought out my opinion as an (outspoken) Explorer to inform our strategy—as a younger professional, that made me feel incredibly valued and gave me a unique opportunity to take an informal leadership role early on in my career. Seeing press releases and media pieces that I wrote posted on the La Salle website was honestly something I could have never imagined back when I was a student. It was also incredibly cool to see a project I shepherded get syndicated nationally and receive over 2.5 million impressions. Being able to positively impact a community I hold so near and dear to my heart was an amazing and particularly special way to start my career. 

PPRA: What one piece of advice would you give to your fellow PR pros?

RW: Something I remind myself—and my friends—over and over is that you can never compare yourself to others. Despite working with (read: obsessing over) social media daily, it’s so easy to forget that real life is not just curated, picture-perfect Instagrammable moments. It’s no use getting caught up comparing yourself to peers, colleagues and role models because everyone goes at their own pace and has their own story. As soon as you start focusing on yourself and your goals, you’ll start to notice personal growth and find joy in your daily life. 

PPRA: What book or movie could you read or watch again and again?

RW: I’ve read “The Opposite of Loneliness” by Marina Keegan every single year since I turned 18. It’s a collection of essays that is named after a beautifully written commencement piece focusing on the excitement (and anxiety) of the unknown. I think it’s informed my writing style quite a bit, and I always find myself reflecting on it differently. 

PPRA: What’s your favorite spot in Philly?

RW: I could people watch for hours in Rittenhouse Square. Catch me there every Saturday all summer with a book from the Parkway Library (a truly underrated gem) and a taco bowl from some hole-in-the-wall place. 

PPRA: If you weren’t in PR, what profession do you see yourself in and why?

RW: When I was younger, I wanted to be the Editor in Chief of Reader’s Digest. I don’t particularly know why, but I know I just have always loved to write. I could also see myself as a linguist or cultural anthropologist. I’ve also been told I’d be a good high school English teacher. So I suppose being in PR kind of takes elements from all these careers and combines them. 

PPRA: Favorite Philly Food?

RW: I will *never* pass up a cheesesteak…and before you ask, I’m partial to Dalessandro’s (Please don’t @ me).

#PPRAMemberMonday: Michelle Sonsino

#PPRAMember Monday_Sonsino

Michelle Sonsino is the Director of Communications and Marketing for Germantown Friends School. She has been a PPRA member for 7 years and currently serves as our Vice President for Membership.

Twitter:
Personal @pumpoclock
Professional @GFSchool

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michelle-sonsino-5659379

Facebook:
Personal @michelle.sonsinolewis
Professional @GermantownFriendsSchool

Michelle has over 15 years of diverse communications experience that spans public relations, internal communications, community relations, B2B and B2C marketing, grant writing, and crisis communications. 

Michelle currently serves as the Director of Communications and Marketing at Germantown Friends School, a role she loves because of the creative and thoughtful faculty and students, and the programmatic focus on social justice and equity. Prior to her work at GFS, Michelle served as the Director of Development at Career Wardrobe, where she currently serves on the organization’s Advisory Board. She has also held roles at the City of Philadelphia, Chubb Insurance, Aramark, and Women’s Way. Michelle interned for Philly.com when the site was in its infancy, and continued on as a part-time employee for two years.

Michelle volunteers with Saved Me animal rescue and has two sweet dogs, Crouton and Gretel. Michelle lives in Bella Vista with her husband and son, Max.

I appreciate being a part of the PPRA community for a few reasons. First, every event has directly advanced my work. From media panels to Pitch Perfect events, I have found direct success from building new relationships, gaining feedback from peers, and opening my eyes to new marketing concepts. I have also found the mentorship opportunities to be greatly beneficial, both learning from experts and advising those new to the field. Throughout my entire career, mentorship has been very important to me, from my first boss out of college to my current supervisor to the many people I have met at PPRA, I am grateful for their professional guidance and support, as well as meaningful friendships.”

PPRA: Who are your clients and what projects are you working on right now?

MS: I support many teams at GFS, including the leadership, admissions, fundraising, academics, athletics, auxiliary programming, community relations, and more! We also work with neighbors and non-profit partners.

PPRA: What is the favorite part of your job?

MS: Every day is different and there is always a new story to tell. The relationship between the school and the community is also heartwarming to me, particularly as someone who worked in nonprofits for many years. We partner with the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf, Breakthrough of Greater Philadelphia, John B. Kelly School, and many more! Students are able to learn from many different perspectives. I have the privilege of learning something new every day as well!

PPRA: What was your latest and greatest accomplishment at your job?

MS: I worked with a group of students to publicize their walkout efforts and we made it into the Wall Street Journal’s online site (well, for half a day), and many other outlets. I was beyond proud of their work to encourage, and demand, gun reform. They recognize their power to change the future, and I was thrilled to help get their message out.

PPRA: What one piece of advice would you give to your fellow PR pros?

MS: Be kind and honest, and enjoy your amazing job! It can be stressful, but how lucky are we to be able to share stories near and far?!

PPRA: What book or movie could you read or watch again and again?

MS: All the President’s Men. I watched it in high school and I think it sparked my interest in journalism.

PPRA: What’s your favorite spot in Philly?

MS: Dilworth Park, particularly when the fountain is on. This joyful site brings together people from all over Philadelphia and the world.

PPRA: If you weren’t in PR, what profession do you see yourself in and why?

MS: An adoption or foster care social worker. Adoption has played such an important part in my life and I would love to learn how to support others who are interested in building a family in different ways.

PPRA: Favorite Philly Food?

MS: John’s Water Ice