PR Rings at the 2019 PRSA Travel and Tourism Conference

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Public relations and communications professionals in the travel industry flocked to Philadelphia to ring the proverbial PR Liberty Bell at the annual Public Relations Society of America’s 2019 PRSA Travel & Tourism Conference

“Let PR Ring” was the theme of this year’s conference and attendees were not disappointed. There was a TON of activity over the course of three days that included pre-conference workshops, AMAZING keynote sessions, networking opportunities, and even a special appearance from ‘The Italian Stallion,’ Rocky Balboa, as seen below.


Attendees of #PRSATRAVEL departed Philly with a mixed bag of PR tips and tricks from reporters, editors, influencers and brand journalists. So if you missed this event or were just too busy retaking your picture for Cision’s graffiti wall we’ve got you covered with a few key takeaways for our team’s favorite sessions.

“Philly Who?" Is the podcast telling the stories of the doers, thinkers, and performers of Philadelphia

This was a very cool session that was setup as a special live recording of said podcast. The host, Kevin Chemidlin from Cue 9 Creative sat down with Sarah Schwab, the Director of Marketing and Communications for the Philadelphia Flyers.  What made this a fun session is Sarah shared the story behind the Flyers’ new mascot, Gritty. Gritty was introduced in September 2018 and his popularity took off.  

I didn’t realize this but In 2018 all but two NHL had mascots, the Rangers and the Flyers.  Schwab said, “we basically had FOMO and just wanted to join the party.”  They did a few market research groups, but the direction really came from the staff, and some tough love advice from top fans. President of Flyer’s and former player Paul Holmgren said “’Let’s make a splash’ and that’s what we did,” said Schwab. 

September 13, 2018 was Media Day and they revealed Gritty internally with the players, that followed with a debut at the Philly Please Touch Museum – a hit with the kids. During the event Gritty’s first tweet was “It Me.” 


While everyone who met Gritty personally during the launch was loving him, Twitter was a different story.  People were calling for the Flyer’s marketing and comms staff’s jobs and while they were prepared for backlash it took everyone by surprise to get such mixed messages. 

Later that day, the Penguins tweeted “LOL OK” to which Gritty responded “Sleep with one eye open, Bird.”  Then a few hours later, Philly rallied and threw support behind Gritty— funny how a little ‘friendly’ competition will get things going! At the end of the session Schwab left us with the following advice: 

“…you have to take some chances, it worked for us and we leaned in.  Be Authentic, do what feels right for your brand. Merch sales are up, attendance is up and we’re just having fun with Gritty.”

Storytelling at its Best: When Travel Stories Transcend to Lifestyle Media

This session took shape as more of a Q&A with the following speakers; Ryan Krogh, senior editor, Men’s Journal; Craig Waxman, senior producer, CNN Digital Labs  and Rachel Gallaher, senior editor, GRAY Magazine

They covered the following: 

What travel stories resonate best with your audiences? 

  • GRAY is a design mag, so it has to have that element and hook

  • At CNN everything is about characters and about people doing amazing things

  • Men’s Journal is character driven, looking for a narrative 

What would motivate your outlet to go on FAMS? 

  • GRAY:  We love design fairs, anything with a unique perspective, but we’d go on FAMS for a cover or feature story 

  • Men’s Journal: We try to have a story in mind, an angle, worthwhile and slotted into the magazine before we go 

What’s the balance between pitching you a story and/or a person, versus letting you self-discover once you’re in a destination? 

  • Men’s Journal: We assess features up front 

  • GRAY: 90% of the time, we’re not going onsite without a game plan 

Travel trends you’re seeing now? 

  • CNN: We're into 2nd tier cites, finding the enclaves of creativity and uses of new media 

  • GRAY: Not a trend but looking at cities through a different lense, finding the smaller niche and unique perspective  

What is essential to include in a travel related pitch to your outlet? 

  • Men’s Journal: Brevity helps, at least in the beginning.  Get to the point.  

There you have it; a solid session where pitching took center stage. At the end of the day, the goal of a travel PR professional is to build long-term relationships with journalists, as well as generate earned media coverage. 

(Want more on this? Check out our 2019 Travel Pitching Kit.) 

Last but not least, our favorite keynote: Jocelyn Glei | Stop Wasting Your Time with Fake Productivity

I had the privilege of introducing Jocelyn as the opening keynote at this year’s conference. She’s the author of Unsubscribe, host of the podcast, Hurry Slowly, and creator of the online course Reset.

For Jocelyn, it’s pretty simple: ”I help people find more creativity and meaning in their daily work." 


There’s a simple equation that sums up her session:

Real Productivity = investing your time 

Fake Productivity = killing time 

Almost 50% of Americans say that they are regularly exhausted from work. Drawing on material from her podcast Hurry Slowly and her new online course RESET, Jocelyn K. Glei talked about how we can begin to recalibrate the way we work before it’s too late. She called out the obsession with a “more, better, faster” approach to work and “fake productivity” which is creating a sense of never-ending overwhelm. No matter what your role, PR, Comms or other, simply hearing and discussing her best practices around setting boundaries, slowing down, and bringing meaningful creative work back into daily routines was extremely helpful.

So that ends another successful PRSA event. On behalf of the Cision crew we thank the PRSA Travel and Tourism team for crushing the event for the speakers, sponsors and most importantly the attendees. See you all in Spokane in 2020!

And as always, let us know if we can help with any and all of your PR and comms needs!

David Cardiel is Cision’s Head of Global Demand Gen. He’s spent the last two decades building high performing marketing teams and installing demand gen engines at both startup and enterprise organizations. As a musician, a dachshund lover and avid concert-goer, David is all about creating creative prospect and customer experiences, episodic in nature, that move the needle for a brand.  David is currently leading a high-performing marketing team in the development and execution of ABM strategies across Cision.

About Cision Contributor

This post was written by a guest Cision contributor.

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