“Identifying the Elephant in the Room” Empowers the Next Generation of Communication Professionals

Six-Part Seminar Series from INICIVOX and Pitch Publicity Brings Together Communications Majors and Alumni from Howard University and University of Florida to Address Challenges of Racism in Journalism, Advertising and Public Relations


NEW YORK, Sept. 10, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- In the midst of political strife and social turmoil, college students from across the country are seeking ways to make a difference in the world and create lasting solutions, particularly as it relates to systemic racism. While this call-to-action is not unique to this generation, developments in technology have allowed for collaboration, information and ideas to be leveraged like never before. Eager for change, Howard University’s Public Relations Student Society of America (HU PRSSA) and the University of Florida’s Association for Media Professionals (AMP) have come together to host a free seminar series, leveraging the knowledge base of its respective alumni, called, “Identifying the Elephant in the Room: Critical Communications Strategies in the Face of Racism.” The virtual seminar series, sponsored by INICIVOX and Pitch Publicity, is open to students at Howard University (HU) and the University of Florida (UF) interested in entering communications careers in various industries. The program is designed to help mentor and prepare students for meaningful, impactful work that involves addressing the long-standing elephant in the room when it comes to racism.

“In communications classes they prepare us with the skills to execute work, but there are not many university classes that prepare students for responding to inappropriate comments or offensive ideas,” said Ariel Cooley, PR major and HU PRSSA president. “We understand these are big issues to address and we also recognize that they are difficult to teach in a classroom setting. By creating an open dialog between our alumni and students on racism in the workplace, our hope is that we, as future communicators, can help to close the racial divide by using more effective communications strategies.”

Participating HU and UF alumni in the series are successful professionals who have valuable career lessons to share from all sides of the elephant. Students will have the opportunity to ask hard-hitting questions dealing with taboo topics such as tokenism, stereotypes and generalizations, images that isolate, authenticity in corporate change, microaggressions, pandering promotions, allies and more. 

“The only way to change something is to start talking about it so we can understand it,” said Anjelica Jones, telecommunication news major and UF AMP president. “Our generation has been tremendously awakened by injustices in our country, which is why continuing the discussion is vital. It’s crucial that our peers learn how to communicate effectively on sensitive race-related topics to better understand systemic racism and its implications in the media, workplace and other various aspects of society because this is not a thing of the past, it’s happening now.”

“Identifying the Elephant in the Room” presents an unparalleled opportunity for future communication professionals who will one day be in positions of power to make decisions about messaging and images, both internally and externally. Each of the six seminars during the fall semester will be broken up into popular communications career tracks including sports, politics, entertainment, fashion and beauty, healthcare and news media. Students who register and attend the full series will receive a certificate from INICIVOX on virtual networking and diversity relationships. Admission to the virtual seminar series is free, but registration is required. All seminars will all be held from 4-5 p.m. ET on Wednesdays; the first seminar takes place on Sept. 23. Register for free here: https://bit.ly/elephantpanels.

Seminar Series Schedule:
Following is a detailed list of HU and UF alumni panelists and moderators who will serve as mentors in the “Identifying the Elephant in the Room” seminar series. Please check https://bit.ly/elephantpanels for more updates as additional alumni are added to the series. Seminars are virtual and will all be held from 4-5 p.m. ET on Wednesdays:

Sept. 23: Sports
HU Mentor Panelists:
Caryn Grant, Manager of Diversity & Inclusion at NASCAR
Deontay Morris, Podcast editor, Sports & Gaming at Spotify, former FOX Sports producer

HU Panel Moderator:
Brian Jackson, Morning news anchor at WTXL ABC 27 (Tallahassee), former sports reporter

UF Mentor Panelists:
Jocelyn Moore, Venture partner at Ozone X Ventures in New York and serves as the executive-in-residence at The Gathering Spot in Atlanta, former EVP, Communications and Public Affairs, National Football League
Keith Tribble, Executive senior associate and partner of Brentwood Partners, a multi-dimensional consulting firm specializing in advising clients in sports and entertainment, former EVP and athletic director at UCF, CEO, Orange Bowl Committee

Oct. 7: Politics
HU Mentor Panelists:
Cameron Trimble, National director of African American Paid Media at Biden for President and founder of Hip Politics
Kristal Knight, Political director, Priorities USA, the largest Democratic presidential super PAC in Washington, D.C.

UF Panel Moderator:
Jonathan Lovitz, Senior VP of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), serving as both national press secretary and head of advocacy and political work

UF Mentor Panelists:
Erica P. Loewe, Deputy communications director at Office of U.S. House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn

Oct. 21: Entertainment
HU Mentor Panelists:
Kristina Thomas, Writer, director, “Worth It” and “House of Balls”; and former script coordinator for Netflix, Lionsgate and Showtime networks
Jamila Cummings-Osouna, VP of strategy, publicity and marketing for Multicultural Division at Allied Global Marketing

UF Panel Moderator:
LaKendra Tookes, Actor, writer, comic, former staff writer for “Saturday Night Live” and correspondent for NBC’s “Access Hollywood”

UF Mentor Panelists:
Nona Jones, Author, entrepreneur, pastor, head of Global Faith-Based Partnerships at Facebook
Chris Linn, former president truTV (Warner Media), EVP, programming and head of production for MTV, VP of production at Spike TV and Nickelodeon

Nov. 11: Fashion/Beauty
HU Mentor Panelists:
Charreah Jackson, Executive coach, communications consultant, award-winning journalist, author, former relationships editor at Essence
Khalea Underwood, Beauty editor at The Zoe Report

HU Panel Moderator: Yasmine Parrish, Influencer Marketing, The Honest Company, and Chief Action Officer/Founder, Muse Makers Management, Inc.

UF Mentor Panelists:

Nov. 18: Healthcare
HU Mentor Panelists:
Isa Miles, Senior communication adviser in the HIV Prevention Branch of the Division of Global HIV and TB, for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

HU Panel Moderator:
Kirsten Allen, Communications director, Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, U.S. House of Representatives 

UF Mentor Panelists:
Kamelya Hinson, Senior health communication specialist for the Department of Health and Human Services Division of Strategic National Stockpile; health communication specialist for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Dec. 2: News Media
HU Mentor Panelists:
Charanna Alexander Jean, Staff editor, Weddings Section, The New York Times, Owner at Love Ink
Khaila Burke-Green, Diversity communications and partnerships manager at Comcast NBCUniversal

UF Panel Moderator:
Angela Buonocore, former chief communications officer at The Pepsi Bottling Group, ITT and Xylem

UF Mentor Panelists:
Mindy Marques, President and Publisher, executive editor, Miami Herald Media Company
Yvette Miley, SVP of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for the NBCUniversal News Group and NBC Sports, former SVP for MSNBC and NBC News

About the Student Groups:
Howard University Public Relations Student Society of America (HU PRSSA)
Located within the School of Communications at one of the country's top universities, the HU chapter was the first Historically Black College or University chapter in PRSSA.

University of Florida Association for Media Professionals (UF AMP)
The Association for Media Professionals is a mentorship program at the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications aimed at creating media professionals through meaningful mentorships.

About the Sponsors:
Pitch Publicity is a New York City-based firm specializing in securing publicity. Its very name is derived from the pivotal function of gaining publicity: the pitch. From developing a newsworthy story angle for the media, to creating the perfect combination of program elements for a fundraising event, one of the primary keys to obtaining results that have an impact is a carefully crafted strategic message, or pitch. Pitch Publicity’s campaigns have resulted in billions of media impressions worldwide and is credited as the first public relations agency to strategize live media interviews at both the deepest and highest points of the planet (scientific laboratory Aquarius, 63 feet beneath the sea; and Mount Everest summit, 21,000 feet above sea level). While based in the heart of New York City, Pitch Publicity operates as a virtual company to encourage inclusion of public relations talent from across the nation and to more efficiently and effectively serve clients around the world whose voices need to be heard.

INICIVOX means to inspire, embark and launch through voice. The company is an outgrowth of the collective soft skills learning of Pitch Publicity taught by founder and communications expert, Amy Summers through her microcast, “The Pitch with Amy Summers.” This is the first published INICIVOX smart voice course based on her 20-plus years career experience in public relations with her publicity firm, Pitch Publicity. Subscribers from around the world learn how to use classic communications skills with today’s technology. These micro tutorials are designed to help others become more skilled and effective communicators in both their professional and personal lives in order to better navigate careers and relationships. INICIVOX is mentorship on the go, when you need it the most and can be heard daily, free of charge, anywhere voice is heard including Amazon’s Alexa, Google Play and Google Home, Trebble FM, iTunes, Spotify and multiple podcast platforms. A more immersive study, full course subscriptions and live events are available to individuals, corporations and universities.

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Pitch Publicity Ariel Cooley_President, HU PRSSA Anjelica Jones_President_AMP

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