Meeting Today’s PR Challenges Conference

For today’s public relations professionals, the challenges are significant. The public now consumes information at a rapid pace, forcing communications professionals to maintain that same pace.

That’s a task easier said than done, but “Meeting Today’s PR Challenges,” a one-day professional development program, will provide professionals with the information and tools to help in doing that.

Scheduled for Friday, April 21, at Penn State Behrend, the program, which is sponsored by the Northwestern Pennsylvania Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), will feature workshops and presentations for both experienced and new public relations practitioners. The program will be held in Penn State Behrend’s Advanced Manufacturing and Innovation Center, 5530 Technology Drive, Knowledge Park, Erie, PA 16510.

Sessions will be presented by professionals from Stevens Strategic Communications, Iron Empire Clothing, Mercyhurst University, Edinboro University, Penn State Behrend, General McLane School District, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Erie, McLane Church and Grace Church. The luncheon keynote talk, titled “Social at State: Best Practices From Happy Valley,” will be given by Bill Zimmerman, social media manager for Penn State University.

Several breakout sessions will also be offered throughout the day, allowing attendees the opportunity to share ideas and offer solutions for challenges shared by practitioners in the industry.

“Every year, we work to strengthen this program, and I honestly think this is the best it’s ever been,” said Steve Orbanek, president of the Northwestern Pennsylvania Chapter of PRSA and a marketing communications specialist at Penn State Behrend. “We have a great set of speakers and panel discussions lined up, and attendees can be confident that they will walk away with several valuable takeaways.”

The cost to attend is as follows:

* Full-course registration includes breakfast, lunch and a bowl of Penn State’s Berkey Creamery Ice Cream, provided at the afternoon networking session.

** Half-course registration allows up to three sessions throughout the day. Lunch is not included with the half-course registration.

Attendees who would prefer to be invoiced can request one by emailing Orbanek at Please note that cancellations will be accepted one week prior to event. Otherwise, reservations will be expected to be paid in full.

Students from any of the region’s colleges and universities — Allegheny College, Edinboro University, Gannon University, Mercyhurst University and Penn State Behrend — who are studying communications, public relations or a related field may attend free of charge but must register in advance by emailing Orbanek.

The program is co-sponsored by the NWPA chapter of PRSA, Penn State Behrend and Stevens Strategic Communications, Inc. For more information or to register, contact Orbanek at 814-898-6522 or

Topics and instructors for the course include:

  • Social at State: Best Practices From Happy Valley
    • Bill Zimmerman, Social Media Manager, News and Media Relations, Penn State University
  • Community Engagement and Storytelling to Create the McLane Advantage: Adapting for School Choice
    • Marissa Orbanek, Public Relations Director, General McLane School District
    • Richard Scaletta, Superintendent, General McLane School District
  • PANEL: Adjusting and Staying Relevant as PR Educators
    • Dr. Anthony Peyronel, Edinboro University
    • Karrie Bowen, Penn State Behrend
    • Brian Sheridan, Mercyhurst University
  • PANEL: Churches, Communications, and Creativity
    • Mary Solberg, Associate Director of Communications, Editor, Diocese of Erie
    • Joel Natalie, Regional Development Leader, McLane Church
    • Jess Burkell, Central Communications, Grace Church
  • Conducting a Marketing Communications Audit
    • Ed Stevens, Chairman and CEO, Stevens Strategic Communications
  • Building an Empire: The Rise of Erie’s Iron Empire Clothing
    • RJ and Jamie Messenger, Owners, Iron Empire Clothing

For a complete schedule and sessions descriptions, click here.

To download a brochure for this year’s program, click here.