PRSA Western District Conference
April 26-28, 2022 | The Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa
Tucson, Arizona

The 2023 Western District Conference schedule will be available early 2023. Below is a sample of last year’s conference schedule as a point of reference.

Dates, times, topics, speakers and locations are subject to change.

Sample of Last Year’s Conference Schedule
Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Thinking about getting your Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) credential? Wonder what it takes to start the APR journey? If you have a desire to elevate your career as a public relations professional through accreditation, then this pre-conference APR Kickstart Session is for you! Hear from current APRs and learn tips and strategies on how to study, prepare and pass the APR test. Take that next step to becoming an accredited PR professional. Kickstart your APR journey at this pre-conference session!

This is an optional add-on to the regular conference registration. Price: $25.00

Kick off your conference experience with an immersive workshop on leadership. Among the most important characteristics of a great leader is their ability to create more leaders around them. Whether as a mentor, coach, sponsor or manager, each mode of leading creates a foundation for bringing out the best in individuals and teams. Developing leadership skills (in ourselves and others) starts with building our understanding and assessing different attributes of leaders. In this pre-conference leadership workshop Scott Simon, an executive coach and founder of the Simon Leadership Group, will tap into your inspiration for leadership and help facilitate a plan for you to lead others. Learn how to stock your leadership toolkit at this 2-hour workshop!

This is an optional add-on to the regular conference registration. Limited seats available. Price: $60.00

Sponsored by Strategic Communication Solutions, LLC

Meet fellow conference attendees amid refreshing beverages and a select casual dining menu at Prince Waikiki’s poolside deck as the 2022 Western District Conference officially begins.

Sponsored by Anthology Marketing Group/FINN Partners, Becker Communications, Bennet Group Strategic Communications, IQ360, Pineapple Tweed, Pono Communications, and Under My Umbrella

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Enjoy an assortment of seasonal cut fruit, yogurt, assorted pastries and coffee and juices.

Here’s a quick stat: Companies have already put billions of dollars into the Metaverse in the past year. Buying virtual “properties,” creating virtual “clubs” and getting prepped for what some are calling the biggest seismic shift in the way we use technology and embrace content since the founding of the Internet. Instead of selling tickets to your next event, your audience can purchase NFTs, a sort of “souvenir” of your event that lives online. 

Over time, this will shift how communicators work, as well. Virtual desk-side chats in 3D. The latest specs of your latest product beamed in 3D to a reporter’s headset. A virtual walkthrough of your client’s factory floor, from thousands of miles away. A CEO in his office talking to a reporter in hers, each in a different city or country. It’s happening today, and it’s only getting more exciting. Join 5x bestselling author and the founder of Help a Reporter Out, as well as frequent CNN and MSNBC contributor Peter Shankman for an exciting look into where we are — and where we’re headed. 

Sponsored by the University of Hawai‘i School of Communications

Track 1: Strategic Communications

Speaker: Natasha Dressler 

​​This session ​​Natasha Dressle​r will guide you through one of the most sought-after requests in the media: Thought Leadership. Learn what Thought Leadership is, how to position you and your clients for more press success – even in the slow seasons, and how Thought Leadership can aid with a positive ROI for you or your client’s business. 

Speaker: Tara Coomans 

Today’s businesses are operating in uncharted territory, they’re expected to help solve societal and cultural problems by all their stakeholders: employees, investors, and consumers. But for brands not founded in purpose, this is a challenging atmosphere, PR can make a break this transition for companies. 

Track 2: Leadership & Professional Development

Speaker: Ku’ulani Keohokalole​, MA​ 

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives are not new, yet inequities exacerbated by the pandemic compelled organizations in Hawaiʻi and around the world ​- and with them, communications professionals -​ to recognize and convey the urgency for change and a renewed commitment to cultivating more inclusive​ and ​​,​equitable companies. Kuʻulani Keohokalole​,​ ​Owner & Principal Consultant of People Strategies Hawaiʻi, ​will share her experience with advancing DEI ​in the workplace​. Kuʻulani will highlight effective strategies and provide insights and actionable takeaways about how ​PR ​professionals and ​organizational ​leaders might advance equity in their own workplaces.

Panelists will share strategies, tips and lessons learned from their experiences with community engagement as consultants as well as from within an institution. Learn how you can better engage and interact with those who may be affected by your organization’s work.

Track 3: Reputation Management & Marketing

Speaker: Dr. Joe Perez 

​​Anyone can make a pretty bar graph, but can you make sound decisions based on that graph? Is it actionable, or is it only fluff? How do you decide if flashy concepts can be turned into actionable visualizations? Can you see the end result of those concepts; will they ever become reality? Do you have the vision to combine beauty with brains, thereby driving decisions with data? Or do you settle for destroying direction with disaster? American mathematician John Tukey once said, “The greatest value of a picture is when it forces us to notice what we never expected to see.” What value do you see in your data? And what ideas do you have when you see it?​ Learn how you can capitalize on ​your ​ideas by blending internal with external, leveraging them into a cohesive strategy for both the short term AND the long term. As a CIO, see the five “Stages of the Spectrum” in action while discovering the difference between impact and influence, and how that difference plays into making data actionable. Catch the right blend of art and science, or beauty and brains, as you go from concept to reality. 

Speaker: Daniel Lemin 

If we have learned anything in the last 24 months, it is this: truth is not absolute. From echo chambers on social media to misinformation campaigns waged by foes, brands and executives have never been more at risk for mis- and disinformation than now. This is an era where consumers and stakeholders distrust brands and institutions more than ever. Technology has made it easy for misinformation to spread, and for bad information to spread like pollen. This session will explore how we got here and, vitally, what communicators need to know about managing brand and executive reputations in this unique era of distrust. This session builds on more than 15 years of experience working in the field of reputation and misinformation, including inside the world’s no. 1 search engine, Google. 


  • Na‘alehu Anthony, Director, Hawai‘i COVID Collective
  • Kim Birnie, Communications Officer, Papa Ola Lokahi
  • Chantelle “Tellie” Matagi, Hawai‘i State Department of Health
  • Kimberly Graham, We Are Oceania
  • Agnes Malate, Ph.D., Director, Health Careers Opportunity Program, University of Hawaii‘ at Manoa, and Co-Chair, FilCom CARES

Moderator: Shawn Nakamoto, APR, Kaiser Permanente

When COVID-19 vaccines were introduced in early 2021, public health officials and health care organizations across the world were tasked with vaccinating people according to age and occupation criteria. While Hawai‘i experienced early success in vaccinating its population — achieving more than 50% of eligible people completing their vaccination series — many within the Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and Filipino populations were not getting the vaccines. Research showed that there were many barriers to vaccine acceptance including access, language, geography, distrust of news and government, and other social determinants.

Join us for this keynote panel discussion with representatives from Papa Ola Lokahi, Hawai‘i COVID Collective, Hawai‘i State Department of Health, FilCom CARES, and We Are Oceania to learn about their collective efforts to increase vaccination rates among Hawai‘i’s most underserved populations.

Track 1: Strategic Communication​s

Speakers: Dr. Mary Ann Pearson, APR, Dr. Gaynell Vanderslice, and Dr. Monica O’Rouke 

Learn how research-based information on improving communication can increase leadership capacity in teams. The presentation and discussion will guide the audience through the process of Iinfluencing multi-generational teams and motivating them to work together synergistically while understanding the value of collaboration to create a highly motivated team. This valuable data will help PR professionals excel in new post-covid COVID environments.   

Research shows that thinking outside of the box about leadership and mentoring teams makes a difference. A deep dive into the published, peer-reviewed literature was conducted throughout the pandemic. The presenters have experience in the professional and academic world.   

Speaker: Mia Bolton 

How does your organization or brand recognize heritage, history, awareness and remembrance days, weeks and months?   

When it comes to marketing, iIt’s common to see engagement with these recognition moments in a prescriptive way. This can (and often does) feel performative to communities and, when the month is over, can leave those same communities feeling like acknowledging their history and culture is a fleeting trend. Even if you’re well intentioned, it’s important to understand how to approach these moments  transparently and with a community-centered mindset to ensure your impact matches your intention.  

There’s no quick fix. Determining your approach will require thoughtfulness and self-reflection – and in turn, your audiences will feel more connected to your vision, your values and the work you do overall. Join this session to explore some guiding questions and workshop a four-step process for planning your actions – not just your content – with these recognition moments in mind.

Track 2: Leadership & Professional Development​

Speakers: Mary Prevost and Mark Mohammadpour, APR 

America’s workforce is changing, and the concept of independent workers is growing in popularity. Our industry is no different. Many seasoned PR pros are leaving the traditional workforce and turning to careers as an independent consultant. According to the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed, “the number of PR freelancers increased by 23% from 2019-2020.” Are you looking to become one of the next to go solo? Learn from two former agency execs turned solopreneurs who have successfully forged their own businesses for a combined 10 years. This session will expand upon the popular panel discussion at the 2019 PRSA Western Conference to discuss how to get started as a solopreneur, what resources you’ll need to succeed on your own, the specific benefits for PRSA members who are looking to make the transition, advice on branding yourself to gain (and grow) clients and ways you can keep your personal and professional lives in harmony. 

Speaker: Jennifer Strong-McConachie 

Public relations professional and author Jennifer Strong McConachie shares principles and stories from her worldwide sports and business career to help others succeed via leadership, strategy and mindset. 

Learn how to GO FAR in your own life with Jennifer’s three-part, total approach to charting your desired course; how to set and accomplish big goals while overcoming obstacles; deep ways for developing personal and professional fulfillment and resilience; and how to adapt to what life throws at you while staying true to your vision for your future. Join Jennifer as she climbs mountains, runs volcanoes, treks deserts, hikes canyons, bushwhacks jungles, and swims seas, and shares how these endurance experiences translate into a winning outlook on life. 

Track 3: Reputation Management & Marketing​

Speaker: Carolyn Smith Casertano, MA, APR 

From crises involving former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to CEO Vishal Garg and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, ethical lapses and whistleblower accusations continue to demonstrate the painful learning lessons about risk and reputation management. In a new post-pandemic environment, brands need to review their business practices, their internal and external channels, and evaluate strategies for a new world order that demands a higher level of transparency, stakeholder trust and engagement, and a heightened sense of corporate social responsibility, employee activism and the relationship between risk, reputation management and crisis preparation. In a hyperconnected world that thrives on social media and celebrity scandal, public relations professionals are challenged more than ever to help brands identify, diagnose and respond to reputation threats that can overwhelm even the most trusted organizations.

The reciprocal nature of aloha is an important value of Hawaiian culture. There is much to be said around the work that Hawaiʻiʻs tourism industry does to ensure that the Hawaiian culture is represented in all aspects of the visitor experience. Since 1997, the Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association (NaHHA) has advocated for the development and advancement of Native Hawaiians in tourism. Through project management, consulting, training and facilitation, NaHHA perpetuates the aloha spirit and Hawaiian culture in hospitality. 

In this session, NaHHA and one of Hawaiʻiʻs luxury resorts, The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikīkī Beach, join together to discuss the pivots taken by Hawaiʻiʻs visitor industry to move towards a model that gives more than it takes and how marketing these islands has shifted in recent years. 

Get a taste of Waikiki nightlife and cuisine with our annual conference dine around! As the host city of this year’s conference, we planned a fun night out at the International Market Place (IMP), located in the heart of iconic Waikiki. Spend time at three fabulous IMP restaurants — Moani Waikiki, ShoreFyre, and SkyBox Taphouse — and indulge yourself in classic to contemporary island cuisine. Take advantage of this night out with conference colleagues! Food, drink, networking in Hawaii … what else could be better?

Price: $65.00

Friday, April 29, 2022

Enjoy an assortment of seasonal cut fruit, yogurt, assorted pastries and coffee and juices.

Diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) are the hottest topics on executive agendas, organizational practices, job listings, workplace training, media and conference/event programs. For communicators, culture plays a critically important role in the DEIB agenda. One of the hottest skills for communications professionals in the age of DEIB is cultural competence. PR practitioners are well positioned to lead inclusive communications for audiences, employees and organizations. This keynote will address how cultural competence drives engagement, celebrates communities and breaks down bias in the age of inclusion.

Sponsored by Kaiser Permanente

Track 1: Strategic Communication​

Speaker: Ira Gabriel 

A self-confessed “mountain bike” enthusiast, Ira Gabriel spent the first few months of the pandemic on Zoom calls and tinkering with his bikes on weekends. After more than 20 years running automotive media brands, Ira found the process of building a bike had a lot in common with the disciplines of public relations. With an appetite to learn, explore, and deliver, Ira shares his journey into the strength of a good PR plan and how building a bike gave him additional insight into how the two are more connected than you think. 

Speaker: Cynthia Weaver 

Effective communication consists of sending and receiving messages between two or more people where the intended message is successfully delivered, received and understood. As professional Communicators, we are called to create messaging that is clear, concise, correct and compelling! Communicating with Intention focuses on the careful consideration required to craft authentic messaging to communicate with purpose. This interactive presentation will explore effective tools and resources, as well as the preparation and planning required to genuinely connect with audiences to achieve intended goals and objectives. Attendees will rReview notable campaign successes and failures and learn best practices for success while having a candid conversation about thinking before speaking, why words and images matter and so much more. 

Track 2: Leadership & Professional Development

Speaker: Cynthia Zhai 

The world has been filled with uncertainty, unpredictability and instability for the past 2 years. As a result, mMany people have experienced anxiety, panic and fatigue, wondering what the future holds. It’s at this uncertain time that pPeople are looking for communication leaders who can speak in a voice that connects with them, unites them and brings a sense of certainty and hope to them. 

Technology can advance but it won’t replace the leadership presence your voice projects. Your voice has never been as important as of now. How you speak and come across has become vital in uniting people and influencing them. 

In this interactive, practical and fun session, you’ll master the tools and techniques to speak with a powerful voice that engages, unites, influences and inspires the employees. 

Speaker: Terina Maldonado 

In ​Step into Your Moxie®​ Speak Up and Influence​,​ participants will strengthen their inner and outer voice so that they can better speak up for themselves and the ideas and issues that matter most ​to themselves and their company​. Through a mix of coaching, training, role play, and ​small and full ​group conversation, participants will begin to develop the mindset, skill set, and habits to boost their communication confidence so they can speak with more power and impact and move people to take action whenever they speak. 

Track 3: Reputation Management & Marketing

Speaker: Veronica Biczo 

We’ve heard content is king and context is queen, but what does that mean in the real world? How can kings and queens of content marketing drive conversions and ultimately sales?   

It’s not as easy as building the content in the right place for the right audience. It takes time, effort, research, testing and many times blowing up your content marketing plan and starting over again! But the work, meticulous word-smithing and strategic marketing is all worth it if you can convert a prospect into a lead then into a reoccurring customer.   

This presentation will share examples and steps to take on leveraging a strategic content marketing plan that leads to conversions. 

Speakers: Kathleen Pahinui from the Honolulu Board of Water Supply & Kirsten Kagimoto from the Sierra Club of Hawaiʻi Sierra Club of Hawaii & Honolulu Board of Water Supply

During our annual PRSA Western District Conference, the district recognizes the public relations projects and exemplary service that elevate our industry to the next level. We recognize their achievements with two awards: the “Best in the West” and “Platinum Service Award.” 

The Best in the West Award is composed of the best-in-show winners from our chapter-level awards. The award will highlight the creative public relations efforts of our members in the past year. Each chapter board will submit one or more entries for judge’s consideration and the winners will be recognized at the Western District Conference. 

The Platinum Service Award is given to district talent that have contributed to the success of the public relations industry. The winners have showcased a strong sense of leadership and a knack for PR strategies that push our industry forward. Each chapter is able to submit one nominee per year, and the winner is recognized at the Western District Conference. 

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