With Hours to Go, A Final Thought on April APR Month

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

With just a few hours left in April 2017, just a final though on efforts underway to promote the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credential.

After all, April has been designated Accreditation Month, and those of us who earned the credential are somewhat responsible for its future. So, what can APRs do help keep the process advancing?

I offer this very simple suggestion: Serve as an APR Panel Presentation member.

As an APR, here’s what your participation in the Accreditation process will accomplish:

  • Demonstrate your commitment to the credential and profession.
  • Provide an opportunity to learn more about the current KSAs and revisions to the APR process.
  • Meet fellow APRs and candidates seeking the credential.
  • Earn maintenance points needed to retain your APR standing.

And, if another incentive is needed, think of this: When you pursued Accreditation, three APRs found the time and demonstrated the commitment to participate in the presentation you had to deliver to move to the next step in the process.

Yes, we’re all busy these days. But hopefully more APRs will find the hours needed to review a candidate’s Questionnaire, review the document and commit the two or so hours required for the Panel Presentation.

Please find the time in your career to let someone else have that opportunity. Prove your commitment to the value of Accreditation.

Now it’s your turn fellow Accredited professionals: What can we do to nurture and advance Accreditation?

After all, the road to Accreditation transcends one month.

 

 

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April is APR Month, So What Should I Do?

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

Certainly, it’s appropriate that April is APR Month. After all, April is a time of awakening, a time to invigorate, a time to take on new personal challenges — an ideal time to showcase the leading public relations voluntary mark of distinction.

(From another perspective, as a student of English literature — and with no disrespect to T.S. Eliot — I never accepted the claim that April is the cruelest month.)

The message here is one I wholeheartedly support.

Back to APR Month, the 30 days when an emphasis is placed on the value behind the Accredited in Public Relations credential. Loyal followers of the PRDude blog certainly are aware of my dedication to Accreditation and the impact its made on my practice of public relations.

As noted in this post from February, I’ve had the honor to get elected again to the Board of the PRSA Chicago Chapter as APR Chair. The challenge: Re-energize APR initiatives within the chapter by:

1) Building awareness for the importance of earning the credential.

2) Launching a structured training program later this year.

To gain insight, I participated in a conference call hosted by PRSA last month. APR chairs from various chapters shared thoughts on programs and initiatives underway. Here’s what I learned.

  • Word of mouth, blogs, and regular testimonials are invaluable.
  • Mentoring programs for APR candidates keep them engaged.
  • Cash scholarships are great incentives.
  • Generate acceptance for the credential by reaching out to top 50 employers.
  • Contact the local SHRM chapter and suggest they recommend “APR preferred” on help wanted notices.
  • Engage current APRs to contribute and point out that they can earn maintenance points through volunteer and leadership efforts.

Without question, very solid and rational ideas and directives.

So, now it’s your turn: What suggestions do you have to help PRSA Chicago jump start the APR program?

I welcome responses throughout April and the months to follow.

Thoughts Just Before a Summer Storm

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

Here, during the minutes before a summer storm strikes, one can still hear, see and learn.

Looking north from our back porch, shortly before a summer storm.

Looking north from our back porch, shortly before a summer storm.

I can still hear the cicadas, their symphonic chorus almost deafening at times. The thunder sounds lumber in my direction, announcing the rain to come.  Although the evening chirps from the cardinals and robins, a pleasure on a summer evening, are not to be heard.

As darkness comes earlier than it should around the 7 p.m. hour, I still see life on our humble street in the Avondale section of Chicago. My neighbor walks her dog, hurriedly I gather, as she’s aware of the threatening weather.  A young woman with a backpack makes her way home, handheld in hand, while a cyclist — his helmet and headlight flashing — pedals hurriedly south on Whipple Street.

And, as for the lesson: Embrace the moments before a challenge and revel in watching nature unfold around you, even here in the heart of a big city.

Okay.

Have you had enough of this “creative” stuff?

What I’m doing is practicing creative writing, well sort of. And why? Because I’m proud to announce that starting this August, I will start graduate studies in English at the university where I work.

Yes, English, with a concentration in creative studies.  Hey, I was an English major at Illinois State University, you know.

And, why not public relations?  Well two very good reasons:

  1. The university does not have a public relations program.
  2. I’m confident that my Accredited in Public Relations credential — and a few decades of practical experience — has prepared me for the profession.

So stay tuned to read updates as I begin another personal journey to learning and growing.

Now, it’s back to engaging with the approaching storm, its presence awe inspiring, humbling and …

I’ll stop for now.

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.

Chicago Cubs: Here’s Who Should Throw Out the First Pitch at NLCS

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

An open letter to the Chicago Cubs (and anyone else who wants to read this post):

After careful consideration, this life-long Chicago Cubs fans is making an unbiased recommendation on who should throw out the ceremonial first pitch when the team takes the field the evening of October 20 to face the New York Mets in the National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field:

Me, Edward M. Bury, APR.

Want some reasons why? Please keep reading.

  1. Long-Time Fandom: As noted, I’ve rooted for the Cubs as long as I can remember. There were good memories, and some not-so-good.  (Think 1969, 1984, 2003 — forget it; that’s ancient history.) At the end of the game, my allegiance never faltered.
  2. Color Blue: People have told me I look good in blue. Something about bringing out the green in my eyes. And, there will be lots of blue and green at Wrigley Field the evening of the first NLCS game.
  3.  Vintage Cap: The cap that accompanies this post was
    One of my most prized possessions.

    One of my most prized possessions. Note the “Ball” pin on the brim.

    purchased back in 1984. Or perhaps it was 1985. It’s “the same kind the players wear.” I’ve worn it only to games and while watching the Cubs during playoffs. I promise to wear it next Tuesday.

  4.  I’m an APR. Okay, so why should holding the Accreditation in Public Relations count toward my qualifications? Simple: I don’t have a ticket, and having the honor of throwing out the first pitch would get me a seat. I think.  I’m demonstrating open disclosure, a sign of ethical public relations practices.
  5. Not a Hater. If you’re like me, you’ve had enough of the references in the media and by fans to “the hated Cardinals” and now, “the hated Mets.” Get over it! It’s a baseball game and the Cub fans need to demonstrate positive energy.

As the Cubs prepare to take the field in tonight’s NLCS game in New York, I’ll be rooting for an opening series win. And, of course, I’ll be hoping to get the honor to stand on the mound and throw that first pitch Tuesday.

One more thing: I promise to throw a strike.

Go Cubs!

 

 

 

 

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.

ChgPRSA150325EdwardBuryAnneO'Connell-1

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 PRDude’s Day as Delegate at PRSA 2013 Conference

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

PHILADELPHIA — It’s certainly appropriate that this post is being published here in the city known for being the place where our founding fathers set the wheels of democracy into motion.  (As well as the place where you can get a real cheese steak sandwich.)

Why you may ask?  Well, because The PRDude — actually Edward M. Bury, APR — served the Chicago Chapter of the Public ??????????Relations Society as a delegate at the 2013 PRSA Leadership Assembly.  On Saturday, October 26, PRSA leaders from across the nation gathered to conduct the Society’s business and recognize accomplishments.

My delegate responsibilities included voting on two Bylaws Amendments and the Nominating Committee Report.  While important to the Society, I believe readers will take more interest in the following:

PRSA One compOne PRSA. In his report on the State of the Society, Chair and CEO Mickey G. Nall, APR, Fellow PRSA, shared many positive thoughts about the profession, PRSA, the APR credential and other topics under the One PRSA banner.   My big takeaway: The Society has returned to 2007 membership numbers.

Bottom Line.  The Society is on sound financial footing, despite the still struggling economy, a mammoth force of nature and literally having the ceiling cave in.  Those were some thoughts from President and COO Bill Murray, CAE.  Some insight on the last two topics: The PRSA office in downtown Manhattan was out of commission for several days following Super Storm Sandy, and a water pipe rupture caused a ceiling to collapse and a minor flood of PRSA offices.  My big takeaway: Leadership and staff were well-prepared for challenges, responded promptly and demonstrated strong commitment to PRSA and the profession.

Fearless Future. Following the 10 a.m. break, Chair-Elect Joe Cohen, APR, trumpeted the theme of a “Fearless Future” for the profession as the guiding force behind the Strategic Plan 2014-16.  Public relations must embrace change and “adapt, evolve or risk irrelevance,” he said. Elizabeth A. Pesci, APR, Fellow PRSA noted that an improving business climate will lead to opportunities for practitioners.  My big takeaway: Thoughts I wholeheartedly subscribe to. APR_logo

Fixing APR. A report from consultant Laura Freebairn-Smith, Ph.D. of the Organizational Performance Group on a study regarding the Accredited in Public Relations credential especially hit home, given my passion for the credential, years spent on the Universal Accreditation Board and work with PRSA Chicago to help others earn Accreditation.  “Not a pretty picture solution,” was Dr. Freenbairn-Smith’s overall assessment of Accreditation, which as declined in terms of numbers, interest and respect.   My big takeaway: Thrilled that a sound assessment will guide what hopefully be a renaissance for the APR.

Lots of other stuff took place during the Assembly, but I’ll stop for now.

My final takeaway from my participation as a delegate: A lot of smart, successful professionals are working hard and allocating time and resources to guide the Society forward and improve the public relations profession. My role as a delegate hopefully a small difference.  What about you? What are you doing to “Advance the Profession, and the Professional?”