Why spend thousands of hours a year mentoring young people?

By Adrienne Wallace, Ph.D.

When I was just a little seedling in undergraduate studies, I recall writing a thank you note to a professional after she spoke to my fundamentals of public relations class. What was so shocking about that note was that I actually got a note back! However, to my horror, instead of being inspiring or challenging, it was openly hostile and threatening. In this note, she called me “overly emotional” and “saccharine,” essentially calling me a kiss ass! I was afraid I blew it by simply extending gratitude to her for taking time to visit my class.

What I didn’t understand exactly then, but now understand, was that I was looking for a mentor in this woman. I was trying to express gratitude for her time in an attempt to develop a relationship with her, but boy was I barking up the wrong tree. She was conveying to me that my gratitude was a “weakness,” and I frankly couldn’t disagree more. I knew in my heart and my bones that this “professional” was wrong on so many levels. This interaction made me first cry, but then it made me angry, and then I became determined to do better for others than this woman did for me.

So why do I do it? Why spend thousands of hours a year mentoring young people?

Gratitude drives me to mentor others.

Despite people sometimes believing the contrary, no one “makes it” in this life without the help of others. I feel that if I can demonstrate gratitude and inspire gratitude in others in the early stages of young pro careers, and that personal interactions, even the early or beginning ones (like the kind needed for networking) can be less intimidating and, dare I say it, even fun. By creating an environment where kindness chokes out the darkness, the playing field can be somewhat leveled to the point where we can all engage in meaningful, thoughtful and mutually beneficial ways. We shouldn’t be cutting each other down (and women know how to cut the deepest, don’t they?). The truth is we need each other, and if you cannot mentor positive interactions and coach sound professional development, then get out of the way. The rest of us have a world to inspire.

Maintaining relevancy drives me to mentor others.

Nothing keeps you as fresh in a profession than having meaningful dialogue with folks who are different from you. The longer I’m a professor the further away from the current college-going generation I get (for the most part). In order to be a better practitioner I need to know what’s coming down the pipe. In order to be a better connector in the classroom, I need to know what drives, moves or scares my students. In order to help fight injustice in the workplace, I need to understand how other people think. And so on. My thoughts are a result of my personal experiences, and they are not the only experiences. Exposing myself to the issues of others helps me becomes a more empathetic professor and professional.

Building and maintaining a network drives me to mentor others.

A mentor/mentee relationship should not be quid pro quo; however it does work both ways. I’m not so naive that I cannot wrap my mind around the possibility of working for professionals a generation or two younger than me. The people I mentor have connected me to their own networks, recommended me for positions, and informed me of new opportunities. While I have not as of yet capitalized on this information for myself, this network has helped me pass along opportunities to others. Since I work with young professionals so often, I typically get job postings and internship opportunities before they are posted public. This is very valuable to my mentees and advisees. Just today, I had a former intern send me a job description about a week before it becomes public, so she is using her network to connect to my network in order to pre-screen qualified graduating seniors for an entry-level job. That’s plain smart. I’m happy to help move this information through the system. You can’t beat the networked approach to hiring.

The future of my profession drives me to mentor others.

I didn’t have a strong female mentor early in my career. I fumbled and stumbled through the first five years of my career. The future of equality and quality depends on professionals mentoring the next generation of pros. If I (we – all of us really) don’t help the up-and-coming generation get their foundation solid now, who in the world will we be forced to collaborate with later? There are a lot of haters out there that like to complain about how this generation can’t do this or that, or complain that they do certain things and not others, but you know what…we’re part of this problem. Their perceived or actual failings and deficiencies are actually OUR failings and deficiencies. Gen Y/millennials are STARVING for our attention, they want to be helped and mentored toward success. They are eager to learn and have so much to teach us if only we would just pay attention to the signs. To maintain ethics, professionalism, sound tactical implementation, creativity, strategy and problem-solving in public relations means I have to demonstrate to the next generation of practitioners how to do it well and how to not screw it up. Then they are able to add their personal style to this tribal knowledge and be better than us/me/we. We can’t start them out at a deficiency just because it bothers us. We have to be better than that.

The secret to mentorship that often goes overlooked is that it’s not a one-way street. It’s not just the mentee that benefits; the mentor also benefits. Being entrusted as a mentor has grown my own career and added a richness to my own life that I honestly didn’t even know I was missing until I started mentoring young people. Very early in my career I stumbled upon this Hindu proverb and it struck a chord within me: “They who give have all things; they who withhold have nothing.” You could say I embraced it as my personal mantra. I do believe that I have all things.

If I can do it, you can too. Can you imagine the power of mentorship if we each mentor one that mentors one that mentors one? Help me build a mentor army, won’t you?

Author’s note: A version of this blog first appeared in a print edition of West Michigan Woman Magazine, it has been since been modified and edited.

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2018 Platinum Award Winner: Rick Batyko, APR, Fellow PRSA

Every year PRSA Chapters within the East Central District (ECD) region are given the opportunity to submit a nomination from their membership for consideration of the District’s top practitioner recognition, the Platinum Award.

This year five nominations were received. The PRSA ECD Board was impressed with the quality of all the applications. After careful review, the Board selected Rick Batyko, APR, Fellow PRSA, of the Greater Cleveland Chapter as this year’s honoree.

Rick has more than 30 years of Fortune100 and nonprofit public relations, marketing and brand management experience. Currently, he is serving as senior vice president for marketing, communications and development for Team NEO in Cleveland. Prior, he has served as director of communications for Babcock & Wilcox; as a director of communications and brand management for AlliedSignal; as manager, e-media and news management at Honeywell International; and prior to Team NEO as an officer and vice president for marketing and communications at The Cleveland Foundation. He began his career in PR leadership roles with Rio Grande University and Lake Erie College.

“I’ve had the good fortune to serve on the East Central District board with Rick in the past and have appreciated his support and leadership as a national board member,” said ECD board chair Andrea Clark, APR. “This is a well-earned recognition.”

Batyko is a graduate of Ohio University’s E. W. Scripps School of Journalism with a major in public relations, and received his Master of Arts in public relations from Kent State University in 2012. He holds his Accreditation with the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and is an adjunct faculty member at Kent State University’s College of Journalism and Mass Communication, teaching courses in the Masters of Public Relations program.

Rick is on the PRSA National Board of Directors representing the ECD region, and was recently voted in to continue on the Board at the national assembly.  He is a past president of the Greater Cleveland and the Akron Area Chapters of the Society and past chair of PRSA’s East Central District’s Board of Directors. He has presented at a number of PRSA’s international and regional conferences, chaired or held positions on several national committees and has been a delegate at six national assemblies. He served on the 2013 College of Fellows Selection Committee, co-chaired the 2014–16 College of Fellows Strategic Planning Committee, a member of the PRSA Investment Committee, and a Champion for PRSSA.

For his service to the profession, Batyko was inducted into PRSA’s College of Fellows in 2009. In 2013, PRSA Greater Cleveland Chapter presented him with its Lighthouse Award, which acknowledges a senior-level practitioner for contributions to the field and the community.

His writings have appeared in an ABC-CLIO book on advertising titled, “We Are What We Sell” (2014); in a University of Akron Press book on community-building economic development titled, “Under the Rustbelt” (2015); and in a Praeger book titled, “Debates for the Digital Age” (November 2015). He is editing for ABC-CLIO (Greenwood imprint) an encyclopedia of the global digital. He has been published in the Public Relations Journal and in other outlets. His thesis, “The Impact of Japanese Corporate and Country Culture on Crisis Communications: A Case Study Examining Tokyo Electric Power Company,” was published to OhioLink in 2012.

Batyko’s son, Bobby, is a graduate of Kent State University in public relations and is working for a nonprofit in Oberlin, Ohio. His daughter, Erica, is also a graduate of Kent State University in public relations and is working for a full-service advertising agency in Cleveland, Ohio. His wife, Mary, teaches for Akron Public Schools.

 

Photo credit: Team NEO
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Why PRSA Still Matters to Me

By Dr. Steve Iseman APR, Fellow PRSA

The “What’s in it for me” question drives the world – and that’s human nature.

But in terms of our professional organizations and affiliations I think as people age, both in their lives and in their careers, the question gradually shifts from “What’s in it for me?” to “What’s in it for others?” And that’s certainly been the case during my years of involvement with the Public Relations Society of America.

In the early days folks value most what they can learn from participating in PRSA that would benefit their careers. At first they are looking for programming that will help improve their skills. Later PRSA often becomes the source for the connections and the network they need to advance their careers. And later on the focus frequently shifts to seeking information about becoming better strategic thinkers, planners and managers. And all of these are great benefits of a professional organization like PRSA.

This was certainly the case with me, but as I became better at all of those things I realized, as many folks do, that public relations is more than just telling our stories, persuading our publics or building our brands. Public relations with its emphasis on open, honest, ethical communication really does provide the best hope for, 1) Cosmic Balance, 2) Universal Harmony and, 3) Preservation of Life in the Free World as we Know it Today.

I recognize that I’ve been lucky to work in a field that does so much good for so many. But with that recognition comes responsibility. And to me that responsibility has always been to find ways to stay involved with PRSA – advising students, counseling others, mentoring colleagues and working to strengthen public relations education. I’m happiest when I’m doing things to help others improve their skills, develop their networks, become better strategic thinkers and understand the critical role that public relations has in our world – in short to be able to live the same rewarding life focusing on the “What’s in it for others?” question that I’ve enjoyed so much for so many years.

Dr. Steve Iseman APR, Fellow PRSA, is Professor Emeritus at Ohio Northern University.

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New president, new opportunities, new challenges

Mary Hemlepp, APR, Senior Communication Strategist
Kentucky Community and Technical College System

A new president brings a great deal of excitement to an organization, along with opportunities and challenges to its public relations professionals. When the Kentucky Community and Technical College System’s (KCTCS) new president took the reins nearly four years ago, one of the first steps our Marketing and Communications Department took was to develop a plan to introduce him to internal and external audiences. Then, we worked with him to determine the voice and tone of his writing.

A little history of KCTCS, which has 16 colleges across Kentucky. We have just turned 20-years-old, and for the first 16 years, we had only one president. When he retired and Dr. Jay Box took the position, we knew we had to rethink our communications to fit his style.

Dr. Box had been the system chancellor, president of one of our colleges and served in other leadership roles with KCTCS. This was a plus because we knew him and his speaking style. Another plus was he served on several state and national boards and committees, so he already was well-known in some circles. He also was a community college graduate and had been a faculty member, which gave us some messaging opportunities internally as well as externally.

One of the first things he did was to give a vision speech to internal audiences. He wrote it, so that provided us some insights into how he writes and speaks. Dr. Box is a Texan. His style is down-to-earth and approachable, so we used that as a starting point.

We wanted to create a voice that not only shows his open style, but also his depth of knowledge without sounding authoritative or condescending. We wanted to make sure his voice was relatable to students, business leaders and the public.

After some deliberation and several tweaks, we all agreed on these voice characteristics:

  • Approachable
  • Conversational
  • Empathetic
  • Knowledgeable
  • Authentic

In addition to his voice characteristics, we’ve been working on his visibility throughout Kentucky and the U.S. Some of our best opportunities for Dr. Box come from public radio and public television, which reach statewide audiences. Additionally, a statewide business publication and most media markets are amenable to interviews and op-eds. He has a blog, but so far, the number of followers is low. Twitter followers, however, continue to grow.

We send newsletters from the president to several thousand stakeholders who’ve opted in, and we are working on a new, more targeted version of that for key influencers. He has a website, which we are in process of upgrading and incorporating into our new content management system.

Nationally, our president is called on by higher ed publications for interviews or quotes about issues affecting community colleges or higher ed in general. These are the types of opportunities we want to expand, and we continue to try to build relationships with those outlets.

Internally, one of the first branding steps we took was a college tour. He visited our 16 colleges where he had town hall meetings with faculty, staff and students. He also met separately with local business leaders, elected officials and media. This was the first time many people had met him, so the town hall format and small group meetings showcased his personality well.

Other internally focused branding includes quarterly KCTCS News videos in which we pair Dr. Box with a former television anchor who hosts the program. Dr. Box does other videos throughout the year, including a yearly holiday message.

We still have plenty of work to do even though we’re four years into his presidency. At the top of our list is to continue building relationships with legislators and business leaders throughout Kentucky. Right behind that is more national exposure. His involvement in Rebuilding America’s Middle Class and the American Association of Community Colleges give us a leg up, but we continue to look for additional opportunities to brand our president. The next thing on our list is a podcast.

If you have tactics that worked for you, I’d love to hear about them. Email me at mary.hemlepp@kctcs.edu.

Mary Hemlepp, APR, is a member of the Thoroughbred Chapter in Lexington, Ky.

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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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