On This Last Day of April, Thoughts on Participation on the Universal Accreditation Board

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

Cold, bleak and rainy here in Chicago, this last day of April. Perfect conditions to take on lots of productive tasks indoors, like publishing a post.

But what topic?

Ah, April is Accreditation month, the 30 days when many in the profession charge forward to promote the value behind the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credential.

Well, The PRDude has commented on Accreditation quite extensively, including in past Aprils, as noted in this post from April of 2014.

tactics_large_bannerAnd, I had an article published in PRSA Tactics in April of 2010 on APR mentoring best practices from Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) chapters around the nation.

But, this space hasn’t shared enough thoughts on the board that administers, markets and confers the APR, the APR+M for military public affairs officers and the new Certificate for Principles in Public Relations for college graduates.

I’m referring to the Universal Accreditation Board (UAB), the appointed body of Accredited members from eight public relations organizations, including PRSA, of which I’m a member.

Source: The Universal Accreditation Board web site.

Source: The Universal Accreditation Board web site.

From 2006 to 2011, I served as a member of the UAB. To say is was an honor is an understatement. The same goes for how my experience on the UAB elevated me personally and professionally.

All self-deprecation aside, I was kind of  a PR mutt when I was appointed to the UAB. I earned Accreditation in 2004, and had served on the newly formed PRSA Accreditation Marketing Committee (of which I later chaired.) During my many years at agencies and with an association, I had not been and active participant — much less a volunteer — in the public relations profession.

For the record, I was not a “joiner,” unless one would count being a Chicago Cubs fan and beer aficionado.

Serving on the UAB elevated me as a business communicator because I got to actively participate and make decisions on something I cared about and something I believed in. At each meeting, I had to hold my own with a body comprised of smart, experienced PR strategists from academic, agency, military and non-profit disciplines.

Frankly, during my first block of meetings held at PRSA headquarters on Maiden Lane in New York, I was a little intimidated. Hey, I was the new guy and lacked the pedigree of most — okay, perhaps all — of my colleagues!

Soon I became acclimated to procedures, and after a while, understood the acronyms that often surfaced in Board meetings. (KSAs — yes, the knowledge, skills and abilities tested in the CBE, the Computer Based Exam.) And, I contributed, first conducting an audit of the old UAB website, then co-chairing the MarCom (marketing communications) work group.

Perhaps the most lasting reward from my UAB service: The bonds and friendships I forged with many colleagues, many who remain my friends still.

From another perspective, that’s what public relations is all about: Building mutually beneficial relationships.

 

 

 

 

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D.C. PR Pro Joe Kovacs, APR Shares Thoughts on Accreditation, the Profession, D.C.

How cool is this: A few years ago, a fellow public relations professional who was planning to pursue the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) credential reached out for advice.  He was living in Denver at the time, and he learned about my passion for the credential by reading some articles I wrote that was published in PRSA Tactics, perhaps this one.

I was, of course, flattered, and of course, I offered my assistance. The guy in question, Joe Kovacs, APR, is the subject of this question and answer post from the PRDude.  Since our initial  communication via phone, Joe and I have met in person during business meetings I’ve attended in Washington, D.C., most recently chronicled in this recent “travelogue.”

Here’s what Joe — Director of Marketing for a Bethesda, Maryland-based CPA firm — had to say about his career, Accreditation and what’s taking place on the national political scene and his burgeoning career as a fiction writer.

Joe Kovacs, APR

Joe Kovacs, APR

1. What are the biggest challenges you face when managing communications for Gelman, Rosenberg & Freedman, CPAs, which has a large, diverse client base?

You have to do the best job possible segmenting your communications. That’s a huge challenge. You can send ANY client helpful information about personal taxes, since everyone has to pay Uncle Sam. But business owners won’t benefit or even find interesting the same material as nonprofit executives. So you really do need to dig deep into the demographics of EACH of these distinct audiences, think about what matters to them and develop customized messages for distribution that will help them find solutions to their problems or build on success they already enjoy.

Another huge challenge is bridging internal communications gaps. Every professional in a fast-paced work environment tends to focus on their personal work and goals, and may not sufficiently consider the importance of sharing information internally among various stakeholders for a project. This can lead to a lot of hurt feelings and tension. I see one of my jobs as keeping an eye out for those gaps and providing communications to stakeholders whom no one thought to contact about some new item of interest to our firm. It’s a small thing, but when you can keep everyone on the same page, it really does work miracles.

2. How has earning the APR and what you learned during the process contributed to crafting strategies to meet the firm’s communications goals?
One book I read when I was studying for my APR was Strategic Planning for Public Relations by Ron Smith. I think that book, more than any other, pushed me from being a tactician to a strategist. It really broke down all the different roles of communications professionals within an organization, which gave me a vivid sense of the different between someone who just does something and someone who thinks about what is the right thing to do. I wouldn’t have read this book if I hadn’t studied for my APR.

The other factor that turned me into a strategist for my firm is the APR test itself. It was an amazing test. Anyone who is going the route of accreditation should prepare themselves for the reality that it isn’t about rote memorization. You have to absorb knowledge and learn to think like a strategist because the APR test essentially gives you various fictional scenarios and it’s the “thinking” you developed during the study process that will serve you when you choose your answers. Really, I can’t say enough about the resources that PRSA encourages you to study or the intelligence behind the testing format, which helped me grow into a strategist.

Earning the APR credential helped elevate Joe Kovacs, APR, to become a strategist.

Earning the APR credential helped elevate Joe Kovacs, APR, to become a strategist.

3. Speaking of Accreditation, we became acquainted when you reached out for guidance on the APR process after reading article I wrote for the PRSA Tactics magazine. Have you inspired others in your market to pursue the APR?

I don’t know that I have directly inspired anyone to say okay, yes, I’m going to go for it. But I have had some friends who decided to pursue Accreditation and one of the first things they told me they did was reach out to me for advice because they knew I had already gone through the process. I will say, though, that I think any communications victories you achieve on your employer will reflect on the value of the APR.

Not long after I became Accredited, I joined the public relations committee of a membership association. The following year, I was asked to be chair. The year after that, I was asked to be on the organization’s board of directors. That was an incredibly flattering experience, and I attribute whatever success people think I may have had, to my accreditation training. When the board launched a strategic communication committee late last year, guess who was selected to be the board liaison to that committee? And we have had some successes in media relations since then that I know have got some people excited. I regularly list the APR after my name (including on my LinkedIn profile) so whenever people look at how I’ve become more involved in the association, I hope they also notice the APR and think…hey, I wonder if that can help me out, too. I would be excited if anyone did that and ended up pursuing accreditation.

The U.S. Capitol, the symbol of D.C. to many. Photo Credit: jointblog.com.

The U.S. Capitol, the symbol of D.C. to many. Photo Credit: jointblog.com.

4. You work in metropolitan Washington, D.C. — the center of the national debate on all things taking place in the nation. Do you get very involved in the conversation? And, who do you plan to vote for in November?

Yeah, you know, this city doesn’t have the best reputation. Washingtonians are often considered rude, short and ambitious, and they’re only interested in you if you can help them get where they want to go professionally. I wish I could say that’s completely untrue, but there is some truth to it. With that said, though, a lot of the fiery personalities are individuals with big hearts pursuing some fantastic causes. D.C. is a nonprofit mecca simply because with Congress here, you have a lot of groups that send their government relations people up to Capitol Hill to advocate for this and that. I did that; I worked for several nonprofits, including once as the media relations coordinator on the government relations team of an educational nonprofit. The other side of that coin then is that you may have some cold, ambitious people, but many of them are committed to making the world a better place, and that’s the side of D.C. that people should consider more often, in my humble opinion. As for who I would vote for, I don’t feel comfortable sharing personal politics. But two candidate who are NOT running who it would have been interesting to see are Joe Biden on the left and Paul Ryan on the right.

5. And, when we visited last you shared some insight into your fiction writing. Would you care to share some further insight about you chief character and why you’re taking on this “second career?

Wow. Second career may be too strong a word at this point. But yes, I did just publish a literary novel independently. My main character is a Border Patrol agent in Arizona. I intentionally chose someone very different from me–meaning, I’m not from Arizona and had little knowledge about the Southwest when I first started this project–so that the writing wouldn’t become derivative and end up as some barely disguised autobiography. I think I succeeded in that regard. I am well into the first draft of another novel that takes place in Wichita, Kansas in the early 1900s. Again, I think by choosing a different location and time period, I can focus on how to build a good story rather than by writing about myself. I have always had a vivid imagination. That hasn’t gone away with time and I enjoy being excited about a lot of things and being child-like occasionally. One should never lose one’s zest for life and personal creation is a great way to keep the fires burning.

Part II: What Are the Top (Fill in a Number) Public Relations Blogs? The PRDude Finds Out

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

Due to the overwhelming response (well, at least by the standards of this blog) to last week’s post, I’ve done some further analysis into the leading blogs that center on all — or some — things public relations.

So, what did my days (okay, I spent around two hours) of subsequent primary research reveal?

shift-communications-logo-dkThe Most Impressive. There has to be a “winner” of sorts in this PR blog analysis, right? I pick The Shift Blog, published by Shift Communications, an established communications firm that concentrates in consumer, B2B and healthcare. Some reasons why: The blog is clean, well-designed and easy to navigate. There’s a good balance of topical posts (social media and content marketing strategies) on relevant subjects balanced by common sense commentary (communicate face-to-face and career advice for first-year professionals.) And, the Shift team offers opinions and occasionally shifts (could not resist) to the lighter side, as evidenced by this post on the agency’s “virtual employee.”

No Defense, Lots of Offense. Let me explain. In my cursory analysis, I found many posts that addressed the value of public relations and those who work in the profession; but I did not find blogs that tackled the frequent misrepresentation of public relations, which to the uneducated is “just like advertising” or purely publicity.  This blog even incorporates a somewhat derogatory and unflattering term for PR professionals in its name.  Come on, fellow public relations bloggers! Rise up against those misinformed members of the media and general public that equate public relations with propaganda.

You Call This a “Blog?” Part II. With no disrespect to a leading industry publication, but how can they publish a report that aggregates tweets on a major national issue — the wage discrepancy between men and women — and call it a blog?  I trust a savvy person with a Twitter account could get the same results by entering #EqualPayDay in the Search Twitter window. As I understand the process, blogs are supposed to offer insight, commentary, opinions, news. It’s supposed to require some work.

This exercise has also revealed public relations remains an always-evolving communications practice. The men and women who provide communications counsel and convey thoughts via blogs contribute to the dialogue needed to identify best practices, address issues involving business and ethics and keep public relations moving forward. That’s positive, and it’s necessary.

Here at the PRDude, I’ve attempted to do contribute to the public relations conversation, and tackle other stuff, too.

 

 

 

 

What Are the Top (Fill in a Number) Public Relations Blogs? The PRDude Finds Out

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

In my unquenchable thirst for keeping in step with the ever-evolving practice of public relations, I initiated some primary research. Specifically, a short analysis of the “top” public relations blogs.

prn-logo-color

Well, PR Newswire — more precisely an article by the company, not a blog — ranked third in my google search.

Now, what’s “top” certainly is up for debate; and I maintain that both quantitative (like visits and comments) and qualitative (like whether the blogger can craft a lucid, meaningful post) findings should be measured.

For the record, my research was quite rudimentary: I googled “top public relations blogs in 2016” and reviewed the results.

The top three results were, in order:

  1. The Top 50 Public Relations Blogs, a June 28, 2013 post from the nice people at Cision.
  2. 60 of the best Public Relations blogs in the world, published by InkyBee.com.
  3. 2016 Public Relations Trends: Are You Ready for What #PRisNow?, a January 14, 2016 post from PRNewswire.

Okay, so I’ll exclude #3, although the article was well-written and informative, and add another submission from my findings: The Top 10 Public Relations Blogs, a post from a site called Blogworld.com.

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Since it was launched, this blog continually ranks among the “top” public relations blogs.

Before I share some thoughts, I must disclose the following about two blogs that surfaced in my research:

So, I’ll withhold any comments on these two fine online sources geared to us communicators. But here are four very, very general thoughts on the others I visited.

Vehicles for Big Agencies. Not a surprise, but the PR behemoths publish some very impressive blogs that provide a platform to share views, comment on the state of the profession, and of course, help grow the client base. In fact, this agency, which needs no introduction, manages 10 blogs!

I'll bet back in the day, lots of PR pros enjoyed a martini (or two) at lunch.

I’ll bet back in the day, lots of PR pros enjoyed a martini (or two) at lunch.

Whimsical Names. Some PR bloggers thought up attention-grabbing monikers for their sites, something I certainly can relate to. (For the uninitiated, the PRDude is not the pen name for some surfer/slacker named Chad who lives in a shack in the hills above Malibu.) An example is this blog, a mash up of the profession and a famous cocktail.

You Call This a “Blog?” As I understand it, blogs are original content published by the person/organization hosting the site or by a contributor.  Yet, sites like this one — simply an aggregation of posts published by a recruiting company — got rated among the top 50 blogs.

Straightforward PR Blog. To borrow a classic phrase shared in the advertising business, some PR blogs cut through the clutter to provide no-nonsense commentary on the profession.  Visit this site to see what I mean.

Given more time — and I may publish a “part two” analysis — I could analyze much more in the fascinating world of public relations blogging. But I’ll conclude stating that this site is my favorite PR blog at the moment.