Thoughts on Accreditation from Anne O’Connell, APR: A Q & A

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)\

For the past few years, one way I gave back to the public relations profession was to help nurture professionals who were pursuing the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credential through my volunteer work on behalf of PRSA Chicago.

I’m pleased and proud to share these thoughts from Anne O’Connell, APR, a Chicago area communications professional who participated in the Chapter training program in 2014 and earned the APR earlier this year.

Here’s Anne’s unedited replies to my questions regarding the APR challenge.

1.   Congratulations again on earning the Accredited in Public Relations credential. What was the most challenging part of the APR process?APR 50th

Thank you, and again, I appreciate your help. It’s hard to pick just one most challenging aspect as the overall process is taxing.  At first, I was worried about the timing of the research and my case study.  How would that mesh with my readiness review and the timing, based on the year, during which to take the examination?  Michael Henry (of Online2Learn, producer of the APR online study program) also was helpful in reassuring me that my timeline was doable. The case study does require a lot of mental energy, but it’s worth it. 

 2.   How do you plan to use the knowledge, skills and abilities learned from the APR process in your work?

I already have been using the KSAs in my current position.  I have been informally mentoring my staff in the best practices I’ve learned.  I work at an all-girls private high school and have started a club for students interested in public relations, journalism, graphic design and related fields.  I have shared some of my new knowledge with these students, as well.


Anne O’Connell, APR, was recognized for earning Accreditation by PRSA Chicago at the Chapter breakfast March 25. Oh, and that’s me at left.

 3.   Can you provide a brief overview of the experience at the ProMetric Testing Center? Were you intimidated in any way by the rigid testing process?

I checked out the ProMetric center prior to my testing day.  The staff were helpful and explained how things would work.  I wasn’t intimidated.  In fact, one thing I found slightly amusing, on the morning I took the exam, was the staff told me if I went into the testing center with my zip-up sweatshirt on (over a T-shirt), I’d have to keep it on for the duration of the test.  Other tidbits were I could not take Kleenex into the testing area, nor could I take a couple of cough drops I had in my sweatshirt pocket. Now, I would not cheat, but even if I were so inclined, there is no way one could put cheat notes on a cough drop wrapper! 

All that aside, the test itself was situation after situation – very much process based, as all had indicated.  Each screen gives you a scenario and then multiple-choice answers.  I took a break to get a drink of water about half-way through.  The time seemed to go quickly, though I did not feel rushed and had extra time than I needed to finish.  I found some of the answers to slightly contradict what I had learned, but I chose the most logical answers that were closest to being what I considered being correct. I only marked a few questions to return to ponder further, but when I did so, I left the answers as I originally had them.

4.   The numbers tell the story: The APR program has been in decline, and PRSA has launched a concerted program to boost participation by professionals. What do you think needs to be done to get more professionals to pursue Accreditation?

I’m not up on what has been considered or done, but perhaps college/university professors could be engaged to help encourage students to pursue the APR once they are eligible. It occurs to me, though, having just met a young professional that the timing is interesting.  Once graduating from college, s/he needs five years in the profession.  That timing roughly puts people around the age of getting married and then perhaps having children.  Maybe there is a way to quantify that the APR enhances one’s earning potential, and that could be promoted extensively.

5.   In 50 words or less, give a shout out on why all serious PR professionals should consider earning the APR.

I highly recommend that serious PR professionals earn the APR.  I am much more strategic, valuable and confident.  I wish I would have pursued my APR earlier in my career. One of my goals now is to directly encourage colleagues I know and then mentor them through the process.

The Yerkes Observatory: A Celestial Travelogue at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Little did I know that our tour of the historic Yerkes Observatory along the shores of Lake Geneva, the resort community 90 or so miles north of Chicago, would hit home personally in these two ways:

1. The Observatory was funded by a guy — Charles Yerkes — who made his second fortune in Chicago.

2. Mr. Yerkes, who lived quite the colorful life, was a pioneer in the development of Chicago’s rapid transit rail network.

Loyal followers know that I am a real Chicago guy, and currently I use my public relations and communications skills to support research completed by a transportation research unit at a leading university here. So, it was quite fascinating to learn more about the Observatory, its benefactor and link to Chicago and Chicago transit.

You can learn more about Yerkes from their website. But below are images taken Saturday while Susan and I joined some 40 others in a tour of this fascinating facility, part of the University of Chicago.

Welcome to Yerkes.

Welcome to Yerkes! You can quickly ascertain that the architect was not a minimalist when it came to style and symbolism.

Yes, they have smaller telescopes here, too.

Yes, they have smaller telescopes here, too.

Susan touring the small museum.

Susan touring the small museum, which includes art, artifacts and insight on the lives of the astronomers and their families.

A view of the the Observatory from grounds behind the main entrance.

A view of the the Observatory from grounds behind the main entrance. Yerkes opened in 1897.

Our outstanding guide (man in blue sweatshirt) was passionate and the proverbial fountain of knowledge.

Our outstanding guide (man in blue sweatshirt) was passionate and the proverbial fountain of knowledge on Yerkes — the man and the Observatory.

That's one pretty big telescope, for sure. And, it still works.

That’s one big telescope, for sure. And, it still works!

If you look really close, you'll see the Yerkes Observatory dome across the still frozen Geneva Lake.

If you look really close, you’ll see the Yerkes Observatory dome across the still frozen Geneva Lake in the town of Williams Bay.

Some final personal thoughts: They don’t build ’em like this anymore, and more people should visit this great place, because there’s much more to the Lake Geneva area than water and resorts.

Sun-Times’ Digital Direction Sign of Times

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

A news report last week regarding Chicago’s longest-standing source of daily news was somewhat expected, given today’s digitally-driven world, but nonetheless saddening.


What kind of viewers/readers do you think the Sun-Times plan to target with its new direction?

The Chicago Sun-Times, the metro area’s remaining daily tabloid and number two newspaper, was “re-launched” as more of a national publication featuring news on a web platform designed to appeal to an audience well beyond the metropolitan Chicago area.

After viewing the site, yes there’s lots of news, much of it local. And yes, the print edition will still be published; but the news published by the new Sun-Times Network is delivered in the kind of “bash-you-over-the-head-with-headlines-and-graphics” style that makes it a challenge to gauge what’s news and what’s sponsored content.

Here's the cover of the "new" Sun-Times.

Here’s the cover of the “new” Sun-Times.

This development is certainly not surprising to anyone who’s followed the news business in Chicago or in just about any major market around the world.  Today’s readers demand news with drama, and they want a lot of it.

The old business model — publishing journalism that serves the community — doesn’t work as well anymore, as evidenced by news last month that the Sun-Times had planned another round of staff cuts.

Back in the day, the Sun-Times was considered the more “street smart,” blue-collar of the Chicago daily papers.  (I remember when Chicago had five daily newspapers, but that’s a topic for another day.)  It was the paper delivered to our home while I was growing up, and its marketing tag line was, “The Bright One.”

Sad to say, that light has gotten a lot dimmer over the years. So, perhaps, has real journalism. Or at least, journalism as I knew it and practiced it a long time ago.

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Want more from The PRDude on the newspaper business?


Advice for the Next Mayor of Chicago: Three Ways to Raise Needed Revenues

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

In a little over a month, Chicagoans will return to the polls to elect our Mayor, along with some aldermen. As you may have learned, the general election here on February 24 did not yield a Mayor.

Incumbent Rahm Emanuel was forced into a run-off race with Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, a Cook County Commissioner who — along with three other candidates — captured enough votes to prevent Mr. Emanuel from getting the 50 percent-plus-one vote majority need to win re-election.

First, best of success to both candidates.

Second, below are suggestions to whoever wins the election April 7 on tackling one of Chicago’s nagging issues: Raising needed revenues without raising taxes, cutting vital city services or enacting other draconian measures.

So, without further ado, three ways to build Chicago’s bottom line.

  1.  Expand the Number of Tiki Bars. For some reason, those of the hipster set have taken to faux Polynesian nightclubs that serve $13 drinks adorned with umbrellas, flowers and large chunks of pineapple. In Lost Lakeour humble Avondale neighborhood, the just-opened Lost Lake tiki bar has patrons lined up out the door, even on cold evenings. As noted from a Yelp reviewer:  “The room is tastefully decorated and comfortable; makes you feel as though you have been whisked away from the cruel Chicago winter to a Caribbean island.” Yes, a Caribbean Island that from the outside looks a lot like Diversey Avenue. But just think of the revenues Chicago would gain from liquor license fees and sales tax revenues if there was a tiki bar on every other block!
  2. Make it a “Long, Strange Trip” Every Weekend. This dead50Independence Day holiday Chicago will be invaded by hoards of the living Dead. You know who I’m referring to — Deadheads, or fans of the almost defunct band the Grateful Dead. Yes, the ultimate jam band will play three shows here as part of its final “Fare Thee Well” tour and mark its 50th anniversary of playing songs that last 47 minutes on average.  Tickets are expensive and very hard to come by, as noted in this commentary. Same goes for hotel rooms, and I trust sales of tye dyed T-shirts will be brisk, too. The result: Millions of dollars spent in Chicago. So why not have the Dead play Chicago every weekend in 2015! Even if the real Dead members won’t perform, just hire some look-alikes. Deadheads reportedly are usually in some alter state of consciousness and probably won’t know the difference.
  3. If You Smoke ‘Em, Pick ‘Em Up. As depicted in the Ciggiesaccompanying photo, some people in Chicago fail to properly dispose of cigarette butts after they’ve enjoyed a smoke. This causes not just unsightly litter, it detracts from the street scape and requires clean up. Here’s a potential solution to combat butt scofflaws and raise some cash: Institute a new law fining property owners for spent butts found on their property. Perhaps $100 per butt? As you can see from the photo above, there’s about $4,000 in untapped potential revenue from this one location.

So, there Mr. Next Mayor. My thoughts on ways to get Chicago out of hock.

And, if you’re wondering who I’ll vote for, here’s my answer: The right candidate.