GFW PRSA February Luncheon

Effective PR Begins With Effective Listening

About this Event: Research shows listening is the most important communication skill for your career. So, what can you do to be a better listener? As PR pros, we take great pride in how well we communicate. We work hard to write concisely and effectively. We practice repeatedly to speak with passion and authority. Yet, most of us rarely put that kind of focus on the most important aspect of communicating: listening.

Research shows listening is the most important communication skill for your career. So, what can you do to be a better listener? PR pro and PRSA member John Hoffmann will share some thoughts that can help. In his presentation, you’ll learn:

    • Why most people aren’t very good listeners.
    • What it means to be a mindful listener.
    • How you can listen to understand.


Featured Guest Speaker
John HoffmannDirector of Communication Strategy with Exeter Finance & Adjunct Instructor of Speech Communication with Tarrant County College


Schedule for Feb. 5, 2020 (NOTE: This is the first Wednesday of the month.)

  • 11:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. – Luncheon registration/networking
  • 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. – “Effective PR begins with Effective Listening”



  • $30.00 (members)
  • $35.00 (national members)
  • $35.00 (non-members)
  • $20.00 (students)



  • Seasonal Fruit Salad
  • Garden Salad with Cucumbers, Grape Tomatoes
  • Red Onions, Cheddar Cheese & Croutons
  • Dressings: Ranch, Blue Cheese, Balsamic Vinaigrette
  • Grilled Chicken Marsala with Cremini Mushroom Sauce
  • Garlic & Parmesan Crusted Cod, Smoked Tomato Butter
  • Herb Roasted New Potatoes, Seasonal Vegetables
  • Assorted Rolls and Butter
  • Cherry Cobbler and Pecan Pie

Getting the Third Degree – February PR History

Written by: Jeff Rodriguez, Historian

On February 27, 1992, 79-year-old Stella Liebeck spilled a cup of McDonald’s coffee on herself while sitting in a car. Normally, that would not be worthy of mention, except for what happened in the months to come: Liebeck was severely burned by the hot liquid, she was awarded a tidy $2.9 million – and she was vilified as the greedy woman who cashed in on her stupidity.

Most PR pros are at least vaguely aware of this story. But few people are aware of the background. For example, Liebeck suffered second- and even third-degree burns as a result of the spill; she was hospitalized for eight days and underwent a skin graft; and she was left her partially disabled for two years.

Also noteworthy: before seeking a lawyer, Liebeck had written a letter to McDonald’s, asking for $20,000; they offered $800. And in the 10 years prior, McDonald’s had received some 700 reports of burned customers and paid more than $500,000 to settle claims.

Still, the accident was Liebeck’s own fault, and the $2.9 million she was awarded in 1994 seemed a pretty sweet payout – and the media let everyone know it. “Java jury burns McD’s for $2.9m,” said one headline; another paper called the case a “Hot McVerdict.” International media also covered the story; one German paper announced, “Millions for coffee.”

Some media didn’t report the full story, others just plain got it wrong. For example, at the time if the spill, Liebeck was sitting in the passenger’s seat of her grandson’s car, which was parked and did not have cup holders. But both NBC News and George Will stated that Liebeck had been holding the cup between her legs while driving.

From there, it only got worse. Liebeck was mocked in political cartoons and by late-night comics; the spill was parodied in an episode of Seinfeld, and a citizen created The Stella Awards, presented annually to “any wild, outrageous, or ridiculous lawsuits.” ABC News called the case, “the poster child of excessive lawsuits” – prompting the Republican party to cite the case as a prime reason to introduce the Common Sense Legal Reform Act. This, class, is what a public relations crisis looks like.

But Liebeck did not have a PR team working to get out her side of the story. As one analyst later observed, “Once everybody decides what is true about something … how do you deal with the fact that they might be wrong?” So when a trial judge later reduced the payout to $640,000, it was widely perceived as a measure of justice for McDonald’s. (The parties later settled for a confidential amount.)

The epilogue: Liebeck died in 2004, age 91. In the years following the suit, several media outlets produced quality pieces, trying to fill in the narrative. But in 2009, Toby Keith released a song with the lyrics, “Spill a cup of coffee, make a million dollars.”

Was Liebeck’s big payout justified? Was any settlement appropriate? What could she have done in response? And what could McDonald’s PR team have done to manage the situation — or perhaps even prevent it?

These questions may be worth considering while you sip your morning coffee today. But carefully, please.

Your PR talents are needed!

Looking to serve or volunteer? GFW PRSA is a great way to get connected. There are openings on the GFW PRSA board committees and special interest groups. Please email if you would like to get more involved with the chapter and she will get you plugged in.

GFW PRSA Chapter Holiday Happy Hour

Join us for a holiday happy hour to celebrate GFW PRSA’s amazing year, and offer a toast to 2020!

Date & Time
Monday, Dec. 16, 2019
5:30 to 7:30 p.m. ~ Come & Go

Kent & Co. Wines
1101 West Magnolia Avenue
Fort Worth, Texas 76104

Costs & Other Details
General Admission: $5
First drink and appetizers are covered by your ticket price.
Guests are welcome.
We hope to see you there!

GFW PRSA January Luncheon

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion: A 21st Century Game Changer

About this Event

What role does PR play in advancing D&I in the organization? How can PR work hand-in-hand with HR to discover and celebrate that common humanity?

PR and HR leaders increasingly find themselves dancing to the same music. The growing demand for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion — locally, nationally and globally — impacts both public relations and HR roles and responsibilities. This interactive presentation will lift up critical Diversity, Equity & Inclusion practices that strengthen a company’s capacity to Walk (HR) the Talk (PR).

Estrus Tucker and Cathy Holt, both with DEI Consultants, will address how PR and HR managers must work in concert with the C-Suite to promote and implement D&I initiatives. Attendees will gain clarity about their growing role in co-creating a thriving, human-centered culture.

Participants will also learn:

  • The value of diverse perspectives in connecting with diverse audiences.
  • Understanding how PR impacts diversity and diversity will impact PR.

PR leaders are encouraged to invite their HR, Talent Management, and Education colleagues to join them for this impactful discussion and luncheon.


Featured Speakers from DEI Consultants, LLC

  • Estrus Tucker, Chief Equity Officer
  • Cathy Holt, Chief Transformational Learning Officer


Schedule for Jan. 8, 2020

  • 11:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. – Luncheon registration/networking
  • 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. – “Diversity, Equity & Inclusion: A 21st Century Game Changer”


Buffet Menu

  • Baby Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese, Toasted Almonds, Roasted Beets & Blueberries
  • Dressings: Balsamic Vinaigrette & Ranch Dressing
  • Seasonal Fruit Salad
  • Red Potato & Arugula Salad
  • Grilled Chicken Bruschetta
  • Baked Salmon with Walnut Pesto
  • Cauliflower & Potato Mash
  • Steamed Seasonal Vegetables
  • Assorted Rolls and Butter
  • Yogurt Lemon Pound Cake with Marinated Strawberries
  • Blueberry Almond Fudge



  • $30.00(members)
  • $35.00 (national members)
  • $35.00 (non-members)
  • $20.00 (students)


Special Thanks

Special thanks to Balcom Agency for donating the graphic design for this month’s program topic.

Estrus Tucker, Chief Equity Officer, DEI Consultants, LLC

Cathy Holt, Chief Transformational Learning Officer, DEI Consultants, LLC