Inspiring clients by building their trust as a communications coach and counselor by working to clarify their messages.
Marsha served as a public and media relations leader for Greater Twin Cities United Way for more than a decade.
As a former broadcast journalist, she understands the rapidly-changing news media environment and the critical component of quality storytelling.
Photo by Sarah Swanson Photography
Marsha’s multi-faceted communications career includes serving as adjunct faculty at the Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication (HSJMC) - University of Minnesota; 2020 J-term adjunct faculty at the University of St. Thomas - Opus College of Business; appointed as a Fall 2019 HSJMC Diversity and Inclusion Fellow; held several positions in television news; moderator/producer of a weekly public affairs program; corporate television; voice-over work; and as an associate professor at Springfield Technical Community College (STCC).
Marsha spearheaded several large-scale public relations efforts – most notably the NFL-Sanctioned Super Bowl LVII Gospel Celebration which broadcast on BET; Minnesota Hunger Initiative’s annual Thanksgiving Day Walk to End Hunger; provided crisis communication expertise – including the aftermath of the 35W Bridge collapse and the north Minneapolis Tornado. She conducts media interview coaching for executives.
Marsha also moderated the live-streamed town halls for the two final 2018 Minnesota gubernatorial candidates.
Marsha believes in high standards for the community and is committed with board service that include Prepare + Prosper, the Leadership Advisory Council of the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies (GTCYS), Chaplain of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Delta Phi Omega Chapter, and served two terms on the Ripley Memorial Fund/Women's Foundation of Minnesota.
Her professional affiliations include:
Marsha earned a Bachelor of Science Degree from Northeastern University in Boston, Mass.; attended Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Conn. and United Theological Seminary (formerly located in New Brighton, Minn).
She is an ordained minister, serving in leadership capacities at her church.
In the waning hours of the long Memorial Day weekend, a south Minneapolis street that had been filled with warmth and sunshine, morphed into horrifying darkness in less than 10 minutes.
George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American, died at the hands – a knee, actually – of Minneapolis Police officers. In broad daylight. Recorded by witnesses. Crying that he could not breathe. Asking for water. Calling out for his deceased mother.
In my role as Diversity and Inclusion Officer for the Minnesota chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), I feel compelled to share the heaviness in my heart over what transpired; the fatigue of the repetitive pattern-almost-commonplace occurrences of African American men and women who have been killed at the hands of law enforcement.
This commentary is not a broad-brush indictment against the men and women who serve to protect our communities. Rather, it reflects the work we as communicators can and must do. As PRSA members, we provide counsel on how to communicate in challenging situations, with diplomacy, grace, and transparency. Our Code of Ethics mandates that we protect and advance the free flow of accurate and truthful information that is essential to serving the public interest and contribute to informed decision making in a democratic society.
I recall moderating a Minnesota PRSA breakfast round table held in the wake of the 2016 Philando Castile shooting titled “Navigating Public Relations and the Media in Racially Charged Times.” At this event, an impressive panel of communication leaders opened the door to a real and honest conversation, and I was lulled into a false sense of thinking we were on the cusp of change. Four years on, Minnesota is once again under the glare of the global spotlight.
Fact: education, employment, health, and wealth disparities persist in the Twin Cities and the state of Minnesota. Fact: African Americans have been at greater risk of contracting and dying from COVID-19. As national figures descend on Minneapolis to share their outrage, Mr. Floyd’s death adds another layer to the anxiety and distress that we, as a society, already feel. This is a pivotal point in our nation’s history.
Eric Garner, a 43-year-old African American New York man, arrested in 2014 for allegedly selling loose cigarettes on the street, repeatedly cried out “I can’t breathe!” after police used the chokehold method on him – as bystanders recorded his death on their cell phones. Mr. Floyd’s anguished, repeated cries of “I can’t breathe!” possessed the eerily familiar echo of Mr. Garner’s, that will remain forever embedded in our collective consciousnesses.
As the wife of an African American husband, the sister of two African American brothers, the aunt of several African American nephews and the mother of two young adult African American sons, I worry every time our sons venture out - whether to go for a run, meet friends at an eatery or sports bar (pre-COVID) or to simply drive to the store. When our sons were pre-teens, my husband and I had "the familiar talk" of all African American parents about how to handle themselves if they are ever stopped by or have an encounter with police. We know these early lessons are not guaranteed to protect them.
According to the most recent data, Blacks or African Americans comprise 19.4 percent of the Minneapolis population. Yet a 2015 American Civil Liberties Union report of a three-year analysis shows African Americans and Native Americans (who comprise 2 percent of the city’s population) are arrested at rates nearly nine times higher for low-level offenses.
In the days and weeks ahead, many of us, while managing our emotions, will be called upon to provide counsel and serve as spokespersons for various institutions in response to Mr. Floyd’s death and to a rightfully angry community.
I encourage us to be intentional in connecting with one another. Let us hold each other to even higher standards. Let us be upstanders, not bystanders. I am immensely grateful for the numerous text messages and phone calls from colleagues. Reaching out to someone may help stop their tears. We are still navigating the uphill battle of this pandemic while dealing with the aftermath of Mr. Floyd’s death. Practice self-care.
Minnesota PRSA is dedicated to change based on strategic and ethical outcomes. We stand with Minneapolis and our nation, in mourning the loss of Mr. George Floyd. Father. Beloved family member. Hard worker. Suffocated under the weight of a knee.
Marsha R. Pitts-Phillips wrote this commentary as Diversity and Inclusion Officer for the
Minnesota chapter, Public Relations Society of America
May 28, 2020
"Fact: education, employment, health, and wealth disparities persist in the Twin Cities and the state of Minnesota. Fact: African Americans have been at greater risk of contracting and dying from COVID-19." - Marsha R. Pitts-Phillips , commentary for Minnesota PRSA
It's about relationships combined with steep journalism and public relations experience - including strategic program planning, content development and editing; and a drive for equitable representation in the media. It's understanding the importance of leveraging media moments, whether in front of a camera, a microphone or sitting across from an editorial board. It's providing counsel gained from experience as a spokesperson, understanding quality story placement. Situation assessment in crisis. Knowledge of responding quickly across multiple media platforms. Whether developing or activating a crisis plan, it will get done.
More than a decade of experience as head of public and media relations in the nonprofit sector; former television and radio journalist; corporate television programming production and voice-over work
Whether writing opinion pieces for editorial pages, collaborating with corporate community relations, or promoting the good works of an organization, we can advance the good works of your company or organization.
Story placement - whether the lead, above the fold or on public radio - it's earned through solid pitching and with clarity, to educate the public.
Public Relations with emphasis on media relations and strategic communications
Executive Media Interview Coaching
Content Development and Editing
Social Media Strategy
WCCO Radio 830-AM Radio - June 6, 2020 - Steele Talkin' with Host Jearlyn Steele
Hubbard School of Journalism Town Hall - June 4, 2020
Ethical Public Relations, Press Conferences, and Public Engagement During Crisis (co-sponsored by Minnesota PRSA)
Minnesota Daily - April 2, 2020
COVID-19 - U of M Adjunct faculty experience shifting to online
WCCO 830-AM RADIO - February 16, 2018
Esme Murphy interviews Marsha Pitts-Phillips on John Hines Show about the cultural phenomenon #BlackPanther @esmemurphy @wccoradio
WCCO 830-AM Radio - June 24, 2018
Jearlyn Steele and producer Sheletta Brundidge speak with Marsha Pitts-Phillips about the recent shooting in north Minneapolis. @wccoradio @twohautemamas1
Two Haute Mamas Podcast - December 1, 2018
Marsha Pitts-Phillips shares steps businesses can take in the immediate aftermath of a hack to protect their brand and reputation.