Yesterday’s Sage Advice, Today’s Work Hacks

Nancy Wiser, APR, Fellow, PRSA, President, Wiser Strategies

Most careers move through several stages. My informal breakdown includes the exciting “Newbie Stage,” the more profitable “Advancing Pro Stage,” and finally, the astonishing “I’ve Been Around Forever Stage.”

I’m in the middle of the third phase. I must admit, it’s a little scary sometimes when I do the math and realize just how long I’ve been in the working world. Recently I was in the car traveling with a couple of team members and before I could stop myself, I calculated my tenure and blurted the number out. Then I quickly said, “Don’t tell anyone I’ve been working that long!”

It’s passed quickly, perhaps because of the variety of roles I’ve been fortunate to experience. My professional career began in therapeutic recreation. Four years later, I was given the opportunity to become director of community relations with Eastern State Hospital. While in high school and college I was a lifeguard and swimming instructor for six years.

So, after 40+ years of full- and part-time employment (please swear you won’t tell anyone!), I’ve gathered many tips about working. Or, using today’s vernacular, I know a lot of “work hacks.” Some of them came from the excellent bosses I’m fortunate to have had and other mentors who took the time to help me.

Here is a sampling of sage advice I value most:

  • “If you don’t have anything to do, pick up a broom and sweep the floor.” That was advice from my first boss, my dad, to my older brother. But, I include it here because it was said for me to hear as well. Dad established a screen printing business before screen printing was cool and we hung out there and helped him when he had large jobs. I learned a great deal from him and attribute my work ethic to his industriousness. Without his example, I may not have taken the risk of starting my own business.
  • “Don’t answer questions you aren’t asked and keep your answers brief.” This came from Butch, my boss when I was a recreation therapist at the state psychiatric hospital. Officials were conducting a periodic review and I thought I was being loyal when I offered information about how Butch made sure we always had adequate staff for our programs. Little did I know he’d been telling them how understaffed we were. Oops. Indirectly, his advice is always a part of media training programs we conduct.
  • “Remember that people who appear to be talking to themselves are actually having a very normal reaction to stimuli that’s very real to them. Their response is rational considering what they are experiencing.” This reminder was shared by a psychologist who talked with visiting groups about the mentally ill people we cared for. I’ve remembered that often when I thought someone was way off base.
  • “The role of the public relations professional is behind the scenes, not in the forefront,” said Lance, a consummate professional. At the time, I thought this was a little strange, especially because I was such an exuberant and outgoing person and bursting to be in the middle of things. But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized it is usually true. Even when we are the spokesperson or leading a program, we are representing our organization, not ourselves.
  • “I don’t know if you’ve ever thought of looking for a different job, but this would be a good time to start a search. “ A personnel director spoke these words to me in kindness. Public relations and marketing positions often are highly political and it’s easy to be a victim of people in high places coveting your job for themselves or their friends. This was the case in one of my positions and Leonard gave me the heads up. It wasn’t a shock to me because I’d already figured out the situation, but the advice coming from him motivated me to take job hunting seriously. Fortunately, I was able to find my next dream position before the ax dropped. The moral to this story is to cultivate relationships wherever you work so someone will tell you what you need to hear even if it’s hard.
  • “They haven’t hit rock bottom yet. When they do, they will be ready to listen more closely and implement the strategies we are outlining.” My firm represented an insurance company in a fight with the state attorney who had sued the company. The client’s public policy advisor was one of the most strategic thinkers I’ve ever worked with. It’s often hard for companies to take aggressive positions to defend themselves until there are no other alternatives. Eventually, they were ready to listen.
  • Speaking of strategic thinkers, Tom Preston, APR, Fellow, PRSA, once said, “Elected officials are not your friends. They can be your allies, but they are not your friends however they like to position themselves.” In other words, don’t rely on them to do what’s in your best interest or even to follow through on what they may have expressed as their position on an issue. They will always do what is in their best interest or that of their constituents.
  • “People just need an excuse to do what you want them to do.” This is my saying, and, indeed, my advice. If you want people to act in certain ways, give them the excuse they need. Why do thousands of people flock to Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington (or others around the country) to watch “horse racing as it was meant to be”? They do it because it’s an excuse each spring and fall to pull together the latest fashion, gather with friends, drink adult beverages and enjoy a beautiful day in the Bluegrass watching majestic Thoroughbreds run. The vast majority of attendees don’t follow racing and many don’t even bet. But, they don’t miss Keeneland because it’s a ritual and they want to be a part of this iconic seasonal event.

Work hard, even when there’s not much to do. Don’t over communicate. Plan for the worst but be prepared for people to resist. Realize that not all promises will be kept. Listen to friends’ warnings of rough seas ahead. Understand what motivates people and you can give them an excuse to do what you want them to do.

These are just a few of the lessons I’ve learned and tried to apply. What are some of your favorite work hacks?

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Don’t Be Slow to Register for QuickStart!

By Jennifer Flowers-Kolf, APR, PRSA ECD Chair-elect; QuickStart Chair

Did you know 48 percent of Americans live within 600 miles of Columbus – making it less than a day’s drive away for almost half of the country? It’s certainly a convenient meeting spot for most of our 17 East Central District (ECD) chapter leaders and a great location for the PRSA ECD’s annual QuickStart conference on Sept. 14-15, 2018.

PRSA’s ECD is one of 10 PRSA districts in the U.S., and represents more than 2,700 members in 17 chapters in six states. The QuickStart conference is the only opportunity the district currently has during the year to bring chapter and district leaders together in one place.

Registration for ECD QuickStart is currently open to all ECD chapter leaders. The first 10 registrants will receive a $150 travel scholarship this year, which can offset hotel or gas costs (one per chapter). ECD chapter and district leaders can register here by Saturday, Sept. 8. Reservations at PRSA ECD’s hotel room block for QuickStart can be made by Wednesday, Sept. 5 via this link.

But, QuickStart isn’t all learning and business. We also have a little fun with a special kick-off welcome reception at Bar Louie on Friday, Sept. 14 – the night before the conference – at 5:30 p.m.

So, if you’re taking on a chapter leadership position in a PRSA chapter within one of these ECD district chapters, then we want to see your smiling face in Columbus Sept. 14-15:

  • Bluegrass Chapter
  • Central Michigan Chapter
  • Central Ohio Chapter
  • Cincinnati Chapter
  • Dayton Area Chapter
  • Detroit Chapter
  • Greater Cleveland Chapter
  • Hoosier Chapter
  • Northwest Ohio Chapter
  • Northwestern Pennsylvania Chapter
  • Pittsburgh Chapter
  • River City Chapter
  • Thoroughbred Chapter
  • West Michigan Chapter
  • West Virginia Chapter
  • White Pine Chapter

Contact me at JFlowe28@forddirect.com if you have any questions and we will see you in Columbus soon!

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East Central District Wants YOU!

By Chris Kemper, APR, ECD Board

Time is tight.

Your to-do list just grew tenfold. The boss gave you an assignment with an absurd deadline. And that project that was on the back burner just moved to the front burner – and you must act before it rolls onto the kitchen floor.

We all know there’s no such thing as a typical day, but I’m sure we all deal with such pressures on a frequent basis. One way to alleviate this pressure is to know the needs and priorities of your audience, customers and stakeholders.

Your East Central District wants to do the same. Our annual survey is live, and we want to hear from you! Your input will be invaluable as we continue to shape our work to support you — the chapters and chapter leaders within our district.

Oh, and because I know time is a valuable resource, by completing the survey you will be entered to win a $20 Starbucks gift card!

The survey closes on Friday, Aug. 31. It can be found at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/PRSA_ECD_2018.

Thank you for adding your voice to the District’s work!

Chris Kemper, APR, is a member of the Cincinnati Chapter. 

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Six Tips to Craft a Winning Diamond Awards Entry

 

So, you want to write a winning awards entry but are not sure where to start? Don’t worry. You’re not alone. Many PR professionals struggle to boil down their efforts into a concise, thorough summary with supporting evidence. With East Central District’s Diamond Awards season upon us, check out these six tips to help you craft a winning entry!

  1. Think Metrics

Without metrics, how is success defined? Strong entries start by identifying measurable goals and objectives and end by demonstrating their wins and shortfalls. Judges need to clearly understand what you set out to do compared to what you achieved. Use hard numbers to demonstrate success, like stating that you grew Facebook followers by 30 percent in three weeks, exceeding the goal of 20 percent.

While qualitative data is acceptable, stating that you “received several emails saying how great the music was at the event” frankly won’t cut it. If you must use qualitative results, do what you can to show how it was purposefully, even scientifically, gathered, such as fill-in-the-blank evaluations.

  1. Don’t Assume

Keep in mind the judges do not have any history with your entry topic. Do not assume they will fill in the blanks. When writing, pretend you are explaining your logic–why you did what you did–to a stranger on the street. Keep it pithy and to the point. Double check that your explanation does not have any gaps by asking a colleague to poke holes in your entry.

  1. Share Your Challenges

Don’t count out your entry if your project did not reach the set objectives. Rarely is there a clear path to any goal. In fact, the twists and turns along the way often create heart in an entry. Take advantage of explaining the challenges showing how you adapted to changing circumstances and redirected your project to accommodate them.

  1. Enter the Correct Category

While it may seem simple, all too often excellent entries are entered in the wrong category. To avoid this embarrassing blunder, write your entry to make a case for achieving the category objective. For instance, Brand Management entries should demonstrate how your campaign helped your organization or client manage their brand. If you are not clear on the correct category, seek advice from the chapter or committee organizing the awards.

Also, be careful to enter into the correct division: for-profit, non-profit, government, etc. While you may work for an agency, if your entry is on behalf of a nonprofit client, make sure you enter in the nonprofit division.

  1. Know the Criteria

The devil truly is in the details. Make sure you understand and follow the limitations and restrictions for things such as font size, page count and supporting materials. It might seem tedious, but the last thing you want is to get disqualified for a silly oversight. Take the time to triple check your entry before submitting it for judging.

  1. Check Out the Competition

One of the best ways to improve your summary is to get inspired by reading past winning entries. Model their flow and format, modified to meet your unique entry. Just like when you are conducting research for a new project, learn what the judges liked in past years and adapt those characteristics into your piece. Ask colleagues if you can read their winning award entries, or check out Anvil winners on the PRSA National website.

 

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A Collaborative Statement on the Essential Value of a Free Press

The statement below was released Aug. 16 by PRSA, the PRSA Foundation and eight other professional communication organizations to collaboratively express our support for the critical role of a free press and the First Amendment. With the unanimous support of your Board of Directors and staff leadership, it was done in concert with more than 200 newspapers across the U.S. who are today voicing, in their own ways, that ethical journalism, and freedom of thought and expression, are perpetually essential to democracy.

In today’s political climate, there will inevitably be charges that this statement reflects a political stance or bias. It does not. Rather, it affirms the U.S. Constitution and the values that transcend political parties and other affiliations; in fact, the statement is co-signed by the Global Alliance and other organizations with significant international representation that also subscribe to those values.

In that spirit, please feel free to add your voice to a monumentally important conversation.

“The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”                

~ Thomas Jefferson

This oft-cited quote conveys the fundamental importance of today’s free press despite its articulation before electronic, digital and social media were invented. The dramatic expression by a founding father who was brutally criticized by the media of his time underscores that the standing of a free press transcends politics, geographies or other affiliations.

Today, we join with our compatriots in the news media to proudly affirm the Fourth Estate as a vital engine of democracy. Without it, and without freedom of thought and expression as provided by the First Amendment, informed decision-making is not possible and individual freedoms suffer. From a global perspective, journalism serves all people through ethical pursuit of the truth.

To read the remainder of this statement from Anthony D’Angelo, APR, Fellow PRSA, 2018 National Chair please click through to PRSA here. 

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Twenty-Two Years Later, My APR Continues to Pay Dividends

By Richard J. Batyko, APR, Fellow PRSA

© Keith Berr Productions, Inc.

Public relations professionals who do not have their APR and do not intend to get the credential are often as passionate arguing against the need for it as those who have attained accreditation argue for it. These are not new positions in our field. Way back in 1995, when I decided to get my accreditation, such arguments were raging around me. Twenty-two years later, I am as pleased with my decision to earn the credential as I was the day I passed the tests.

One can be successful in our field without an APR, or a master’s degree, or even a degree in the academic disciplines most associated with the practice of public relations. I suppose there can be equally strong arguments for and against getting those credentials. My decision was not based on who had the better argument. I consider myself a lifelong learner because I want to be the best I can be in my profession. Any opportunity to enhance my skillset interests me, whether I can definitively prove a pocketbook ROI for my time and money.

Making the case more powerful for me was that an APR is not simply another professional development workshop or a one-time training program. An APR is a commitment to our profession and is distinguished from many other one-time learning opportunities because once the credential is earned, it must be maintained. I also wanted a competitive differentiator to give potential employers a tipping point to pick me over another candidate.

As with many learning experiences, I found the journey toward obtaining my APR a worthwhile ride. My study group was supportive (I am still in touch with many of them) and our professional advisor was encouraging. The test was challenging, but with the proper preparation, I found no surprises and passed on my first attempt. Had I not passed, I knew that supportive network that helped me prepare would be available to me for another attempt; that was reassuring.

I am a passionate member of PRSA, so in addition to the professional advantages I’ve experienced through my APR, I have also found the credential helpful as I ascended into various leadership roles in chapters, district and in national posts.

I am proud of my APR and encourage anyone considering earning the credential to go for it. I have never met anyone who regrets having taken this step.

Richard J. Batyko, APR, Fellow PRSA has been practicing public relations for 30 years in Fortune 500, nonprofit and philanthropic organizations. He is a member of PRSA’s Board of Directors and an adjunct professor in Kent State University’s Master of Public Relations program. Image credit: © Keith Berr Productions, Inc. www.keithberr.com – all rights reserved.

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The value of PRSA Leadership


By Nancy Wiser, APR, Fellow PRSA

There I was, a youngish professional from a small city, sitting as an equal with some of the nation’s PR elites. It was an eye-opening experience to serve on the PRSA Board of Directors, the PRSA Foundation and related committees. Together we made decisions regarding policies, professional development requirements, future leadership and other issues of the day.

How did I get there? Was I connected or an extremely talented person? While I like to think so, the truth is I was there because I raised my hand and volunteered to play a leadership role in our association repeatedly through the years.

Service takes time, but it’s a worthwhile investment. I sometimes wonder about professionals who say they don’t have the time or money to be involved with a professional organization. I paid my own dues and monthly luncheon fees for the first 10 years that I was a member even though I worked for non-profits and didn’t make a lot of money. My first leadership position was chapter secretary. Step by step I progressed through every officer position in the chapter, then each East Central District position. Year after year I gained experience and contacts.

That’s when I received a call that PRSA needed to fill the unexpired term of Don Durocher. Don was a highly respected and beloved ECD member from Detroit, so these were big shoes to fill. Someone on the Board had recognized my service and nominated me for the seat. Fortunately, Tom Preston, APR, Fellow, PRSA, for whom I was then working, was all for it. He agreed to give me the time and pay the expenses for me to serve.

So, what’s the payoff of spending your personal and professional time this way? The benefits I experienced fit into several categories:

Gaining visibility: Had I wanted to move to a bigger market, I could easily leverage my relationships with renowned leaders such as Patrick Jackson, John Beardsley and John Paluszek. You may or may not recognize those names, but they were leaders worth knowing and emulating. John L. Paluszek continues to serve the profession as Senior Counsel at Ketchum.

Learning from peers: We tackled tough issues on the board and it was illuminating to see how others approached problem-solving and communication. In addition, I could get their input on issues I was grappling with.

Camaraderie: I grew very close to a few of the board members I served with. We had fun spending time in different cities where the meetings were held. It’s been many years, but I still have fond memories of them and the good meals and laughs we shared.

Having a say: As communicators, we want to have input into our professional association, so it can be meaningful to consider the challenges and opportunities, offer solutions and then work together for the best possible decision. Leadership gave me experience in doing this and made me value my membership more than those who have no idea what goes into association management.

Recognition is not something I usually seek, but I must admit it feels good when it comes along. The East Central District recently noted my years of service with the 2015 Platinum Award. It wasn’t until I looked at the completed nomination form that I realized how many roles I’d played over the past 36 years. Ironically, the award is given in honor of Don Durocher, whose seat on the national board I’d filled.

Hands down, leadership in PRSA has helped me grow as a professional and gain confidence. I know that there are thousands of my peers I can call on and many of them are my friends. What a great return on my small investment!

Nancy Wiser, APR, Fellow, PRSA, is president of Wiser Strategies in Lexington, Ky. Nancy is a member of the Thoroughbred Chapter and the Counselor’s Academy.

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Strategic Planning: A Unified Roadmap to Future Success

By Darcy Schwass, APR

Serving on chapter leadership is exciting. Knowing where your chapter is going, or should go, and how it’s going to get there is reassuring and exciting as well.

The Cincinnati PRSA chapter has a term process that ensures consistency in leadership members from year-to-year, while recruiting new members and providing opportunities for them to rise through the ranks. This means our chapter has leadership pros with a firm grasp of our unique challenges and opportunities, as well as fresh voices and perspectives.

It’s a process that has proven successful. But inherent leadership transitions, especially the election of a new president every year, merited a unified plan that would ensure consistent, measurable objectives and goals even under new leadership each year.

We needed a strategic plan.

If you’re looking for ideas on how to start a strategic plan process for your chapter, then check out these six steps below to find out how we developed our five-year strategic plan for the Cincinnati Chapter.

Recruit several voices.

We convened a strategic planning task force, consisting of leadership and nonleadership team members; longtime members and new members; agency and in-house professionals; seasoned members and new pros. An eclectic and diverse group ensured well-rounded views of long-term chapter goals.

Look inward and ahead.

At a Saturday morning meeting, Erin Rolfes, APR, our then vice president for programming, who is now serving as current president-elect, guided the task force through a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis and a discussion about desired goals for one year, three years and five years. Erin captured everything on the whiteboards at the front of the room.

Draft the plan.

As then-president-elect, I reviewed the many notes from our session and drafted our plan. I took a step back and determined what the overall goals were and their measurable objectives. From there, I drafted the associated strategies and tactics. The plan also included a situation analysis and an annual evaluation process.

Edit, edit, edit.

I shared the initial plan with a couple of key leadership team members who served on the task force and incorporated their input before sharing with the larger group. After incorporating their edits, we had a solid strategic plan draft.

Vote.

Our board needed to vote on the plan to make it effective. It passed unanimously.

Move forward.

It’s imperative for each year’s leadership team to ensure the plan is kept top-of-mind through annual transitions. It’s also incumbent upon each president to use the plan as a roadmap for the year and ensure the appropriate leadership team members assume responsibility for their objectives.

At the beginning of 2018, I was excited that we had a plan in place. We’re already tackling our objectives – especially those that need to be met by year’s end – and we have a good start on those that need to be met in the years ahead.

If you have questions or would like more insights about the Cincinnati chapter’s strategic planning process, feel free to contact me any time at dschwass@vehrcommunications.com. Happy planning!

Darcy Schwass, APR, is president of the Cincinnati Chapter, PRSA, and senior account executive for Vehr Communications.

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Platinum Award Winner

Please join us in celebrating our 2017 Platinum Award recipient Karen Stiffler, APR, of the White Pine Chapter.  The award,  the East Central District’s top individual recognition, was presented in November by Melinda Shriner, former chair of the East Central District, who read a letter of commendation from the ECD board.

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Mentor at ICON

Connect, ask and benefit from a lifetime of experience: College of Fellows Mentoring at the PRSA 2017 International Conference

Make the most of your PRSA 2017 International Conference connections, share your experiences and career goals with a member of PRSA’s College of Fellows, a distinguished group of accredited PRSA members with more than 20 years of professional experience.

The College of Fellows hosts 30-minute mentoring sessions from 4-6 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 8, and Monday, Oct. 9. Sessions are offered as a premium benefit (at no cost) for PRSA members.

These one-on-one professional development sessions are available to PR practitioners at all stages of their careers:

  • New professionals (career planning and advancement)
  • Mid-career (business skills and leadership)
  • Senior professionals (personal growth and development)
  • Your mentor will:
  • Provide professional, confidential insights based on extensive experience in the practice of public relations
  • Make creative, yet proven suggestions for handling public relations challenges
  • Offer encouragement and assurance
  • Provide a fresh perspective on your career goals and timelinesSign-up deadline Thursday, Sept. 28.
  • Sign-up form available at apps.prsa.org/iconmentoring
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