Accreditation: Past, Present And Guiding The Future

APR White Paper And Timeline Now Available

It’s early morning during the last full week of March, and it’s snowing outside…in Virginia! It’s a gentle snow, and undoubtedly one of winter’s last gasps before the full emergence of spring.  I know spring is right around the corner, because the crocuses are in bloom and the flowers always seem to know.

It’s a perfect time to reflect upon my career, where it’s taken me and how satisfied I’ve been with the journey.

It’s been more than 40 years since I started along my path, and I still love this work that I do. In that time the field of public relations has grown and flourished.

APR 50th Anniversary Logo Outlines

 

Yet in some ways, our field is still in its infancy. We struggle to emerge as a profession in the cla

ssic sense of the term. For example, there is no licensing authority. We are making progress, however.  We have built a credible research basis for the field and we engage clients—be they internal or external clients—as professionals. We also have professional organizations, each with their own codes of ethics to guide our practice.

The field also has a recognized credential program. It’s called Accredited in Public Relations. The APR. And, it’s celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. And, April is APR month. As the snow falls and the seasons are about to change, it seems an appropriate time to reflect on the credential and look forward to the promise it provides.

I’ve never been able to figure out why the APR has had such a hard time gaining traction. I’ve heard some feel it doesn’t measure what they do in the office. I’ve heard it takes too much time. I’ve heard people would rather get a master’s degree. APR measures why you do what you do. It measures what you should know in order to do what you do well. It takes as much time as you want it to take, and it is not a master’s degree. It is a credential that must be maintained, not point-in-time learning, but continual refinement, sharpening and adjustment of knowledge, skills, and abilities.

I better understand those who wonder what’s in it for them. What does a Readiness Review accomplish? How does a Computer-based Examination apply to my work? Why is maintenance required?

Today, the Universal Accreditation Board shares with you a White Paper and historical timeline of APR. These documents present an honest self-look at the evolution, management and state of the APR today and answer the questions I pose above. They arrive at an important time as PRSA, a UAB participating organization, examines the credential in light of the OPG study.  I encourage you to read this White Paper, the timeline and the OPG study. Think about these critical documents. And, act on them for the betterment of the field.

(Note: The original content can be found on PRSAY.)

Mitchell Marovitz is president-elect of the National Capital Chapter and a member of the Universal Accreditation Board.

 

Making Your Association the Go-To Resource

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Imagine there’s breaking news dominating the airwaves—and it’s regarding your industry sector. This is your moment to shine, to take to the cameras or the microphone and share your polished expertise and your messages. You are the go-to source on this subject!

Or are you? Is your phone is ringing off the hook, or is it silent?  Without adequate preparation, visible messaging, and established audience relationships, you may be ignored or simply overlooked. They may not know they should come directly to you.

Whether during a crisis or in “peace time,” it can be a challenge for association communicators to own their space as a visible, go-to resource for a variety of audiences. But it can be achieved with a strategic plan in place, and this four-pronged approach you can help in crafting or revamping your group’s communications strategies.

1. Want to own it, and grab it. Don’t wait for it.

  • A proactive, comprehensive battle plan is important to get your group or organization ahead of  the latest stories, but first, you have to know exactly who you want to be, whatit is you want to do and say and to whom you want to communicate it to.
  • Is your audience a combination of consumers, media, regulators and legislators? Where are they getting their information? Identify existing gatekeepers, including trade media and other groups.
  • Audit media coverage; social channels, congressional records and regulatory comments – wherever your organization should be – and figure out whois getting traction with your issue. Are allied organizations taking your share of voice? Are you losing it to the opposition?
  • Get your leadership and spokespeople onboard with your plan by sharing this audit, and manage expectations from the outset. Executive support goes a long way toward success.

2. Get your house in order.

  • Shore up your messaging. Strengthen your message points and anecdotes, make them compelling and make them consistent and optimized across all platforms.
  • Audit your information and your digital platforms. Is your content fresh, original, optimized and interesting? Do you provide something of unique value? And are you updating your platforms regularly and using them to guide conversations on an issue?
  • Review relationships with reporters and influencers. It is easier to engage them if you have proactively determined who they are, what they are looking for and how to be a resource to them.

 3. Take Action and Prepare to React.

  • Proactively seek opportunities by researching editorial calendars, developing pitch copy and regularly delivering to media contacts. (Without spamming them of course!) Fly-ins, “lobby days” on Capitol Hill and a “speaker’s bureau” positioning your experts also increases your visibility.
  • Be reactive and responsive to the news landscape. In breaking news, pitch your available experts for comment. Respond to stories with notes to reporters, letters to the editor and op-ed/column submissions. Follow and interact with reporters in social channels, establishing relationships and responding to their work with positivity and “added value.” Keep an eye out for relevant Help a Reporter Out or ProfNet source requests.

4. Measure and Retool.

  • Assess how your association is doing. Have your spokespeople been quoted in more media hits or been sought directly for comment or advice? Has your issue area in general received more attention, and has your group’s point of view been included?
  • Celebrate your successes. Executive leadership and the C-Suite should know that dedication to a plan has led to positive results with an opportunity for growth.
  • Fine-tune your program where it needs shoring up. You’ll continually need to retool your assets and your plan in order to stay the go-to resource.

Francie Israeli has more than a decade of PR experience.  As Senior Vice President of KellenAdams Public Affairs, a division of Kellen Communications, she is responsible for strategic development and implementation of advocacy, media and issue-driven communications campaigns on behalf of a number of association and nonprofit clients.  She also serves as chair-elect of the Americas Region Board of Directors of the WORLDCOM Public Relations Group.

 

Q&A with Katherine Hutt: Words of Wisdom to Help You Prepare A Session Proposal – Part II

Katherine Hutt

It’s that time! The call for sessions for the 2014 PRSA International Conference is now open. We spoke with Katherine Hutt, APR, Fellow PRSA, who provides valuable advice and suggestions from her perspective and experience. Read this before you submit that session entry!

Q: What are your top three suggestions for submitting a strong session proposal?

  1.  Pay attention to the guidelines set out by the Conference Committee. Tailor your proposal to fit within the structure suggested.
  2. Play off the conference theme if you can. The Conference Committee is looking for a program that flows, so topics that fit within the theme are going to get more attention, especially if there are similar proposals.
  3. Spend some time thinking about a clever or action-oriented name for your presentation.

Q: Do you have advice to share on how to pick a topic or issue that will be most relevant and compelling for this audience?

The most compelling topic is one that you know a lot about. Let’s face it, none of us has cornered the market on public relations, so be sure to highlight what you bring to the table on a particular topic. Take a look at your practice over the past 18-36 months. What is the most significant thing you’ve done? What presents a new or different approach to a widespread matter? What new tactics or techniques have you tried successfully?

Q: How do you identify the right panelists to participate in the session?

Sometimes this occurs naturally, especially if you’ve worked on a team, hired a great agency, or been in coalition with other groups. Look for a balance of roles, levels of leadership, speaking styles, PRSA involvement, etc. Frankly, if I had a choice between an APR and non-APR to be on my panel, I would ask the APR. Have the most senior person serve as the moderator; this can be the most senior person on the project or the most senior person within PRSA.

One thing I would avoid is a panel made up of a client and a vendor only. They tend to end up sounding like commercials for the vendor’s services, even if that was not the intent. A vendor can be a valuable contributor to a panel, but make sure there is balance.

Q: What do you believe is the true value of organizing and participating in a session at the International Conference?

I get a lot of personal satisfaction out of public speaking and mentoring, so that is my primary motivation. If I was considering running for national office or was looking for a major career move, I would certainly see the value in high-visibility opportunities such as this.

I would say the one reason not to do it is to hone your presentation skills. We’re all professional communicators, so if you are not at the top of your game, practice elsewhere before attempting to speak at PRSA. People will get up and walk out of a session if the speaker is poor, the topic is disorganized, or the presentation does not meet the description in the program. Don’t throw something together at the last minute, even if you are a good extemporaneous speaker. You are being judged by a jury of your peers! Give them something to rave about.

 

Katherine R. Hutt, APR, Fellow PRSA, is Director of Communications at the Council of Better Business Bureaus, where she serves as national spokesperson for the 100-year-old BBB brand. She had her own PR agency for 15 years, and previously worked for two non-profits. A PRSA member since 1985, she has been accredited since 1989 and a Fellow since 2004. She has held several national positions, including the PRSA Board of Ethics, and is a past NCC president, board member and committee chair. She has also served as president of Washington Women in Public Relations, and WWPR honored her as “PR Woman of the Year.” She has spoken at three previous PRSA National Conferences and recently has a proposal accepted to speak at this year’s ASAE conference.

Q&A with Judy Phair: Words of Wisdom to Help You Prepare a Session Proposal

JPhair2

It’s that time! The call for sessions for the 2014 PRSA International Conference is now open. We spoke with Judy Phair, APR, Fellow PRSA, who provides valuable advice and suggestions from her perspective and experience as a session reviewer, organizer and panelist. Read this before you submit that session entry!

Q: What are your top three suggestions for organizing a session?

A: First, you must connect your topic to the overall theme of the conference and decide the appropriate track that most closely matches your session; your proposed session must be relevant to the audience and fit within one or more of the tracks. Second, the focus of your proposed session must be current and relevant and apply to a broad audience (unless it’s targeted to a specific section, such as travel and tourism). The session proposal must be timely and valuable with a clear statement on the expected outcome from an attendee perspective. Lastly, choose the right panelists that are most appropriate for the subject matter—people who have relevant stories and experience to share.

Q: Can you share suggestions on how to put together a winning proposal?

A: Get to the point quickly, and keep it simple. You need to address why the topic is important and how it relates to the field today, and elaborate on the expected outcome or takeaway for attendees. Illustrate why professionals should care about this topic right up front.  Remember that the devil is in the details, so don’t forget to proofread before submitting. Also, make sure that you choose the right track that is most appropriate for your proposed session topic to make sure the proposal reaches the right reviewers.

Q: What do you believe is the true value of organizing and participating in a session at the International Conference?

A: There are many benefits to organizing and participating in a session, but most importantly, you are helping public relations professionals expand their skills and expertise, and advancing the profession. In addition, you are building on what you know and enhancing your own skills and expertise, and therefore, adding value to your clients and/or employer. I believe it is important to stay focused on growing your career by constantly building on your level of knowledge and expertise within the field and presenting at the PRSA International Conference is a great opportunity for all PR professionals. Best of luck to you!

 

Judy Phair is president of PhairAdvantage Communications, LLC, an independent consulting firm founded in 2002.  She is a seasoned public relations executive with extensive experience in strategic planning, branding, global public relations and marketing, media relations, fund raising, and legislative relations. Judy was 2005 President and CEO of PRSA and a recipient of PRSA’s highest individual award, the 2010 Gold Anvil Award.  It is considered PRSA’s Lifetime Achievement Award and is presented to an individual “whose work significantly advanced the profession and set high standards for those engaged in the practice of public relations.”  In late 2013, PRSA-NCC inducted Judy into its Hall of Fame.  Earlier, the Maryland Chapter of PRSA honored Judy with its Lifetime Achievement Award, and her work has been recognized with numerous other awards in public relations, publications, marketing, and crisis communications. Judy is a frequent speaker on public relations and marketing issues, with appearances in China, Italy, the United Kingdom, and Croatia as well as the United States. She also writes extensively in the field.

Plan B for 2014: Your Antidote to Reality’s Punch

Reality Punch

You say you don’t have time to plan ahead. You’re overloaded. Have too much to do to launch 2014. Let’s take a look at the results that can happen when an organization doesn’t consider all the options and plunges forward without a Plan B in case of disruption. Key excuses for neglecting to plan ahead1:

1. No time.

You remember the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico? Containment took twice as long as expected–4 million barrels of oil were released. The cost to BP by the end of 2010? $17.7 billion, a 29 percent drop in its stock price2 and a tremendous hit to the company’s reputation. Certainly the company had a basic operating plan—a working theory—about what needed to be done to achieve the desired results. But when the initial plan went dramatically off course, what then?

 2. Why plan when things change so fast?

If you don’t know where you are now–don’t have a baseline– how can you be fully aware of best strategy to pursue when tossed by threatening circumstances? In turbulent times it’s even more important to know True North, so you can rise with the tide, not drowned.

Certainly elements of the automotive industry have repositioned to blaze ahead until they hit a speed bump. Between Oct. 2009 and March 2010, Toyota recalled 8.5 million vehicles.  A dealer improperly installed all-weather floor mats from an SUV into a loaned Lexus sedan. As a result the vehicle’s accelerator stuck on the mat, causing a tragic, fatal accident. In addition to the loss of life, this incident cost Toyota well over $2 billion in repairs, recalls and lost sales.3

While nonprofits and agencies might not place themselves in the same situation as the auto industry, they can relate to the lingering impact of the 2013 Sequester on businesses in Washington area–pointing to the need for a Plan B to cushion against future challenges.

 3. We get paid for results, not planning.

This focus on doing—tactics— can provide the satisfaction that activity can bring without providing true results. When spending money to research long-term goals is seen as nonessential, how does an organization know whether it’s selecting the right path? What is the baseline—the starting point—from which progress is assessed? How do you know when a project is in need of a course correction?

4. We’re doing OK without a plan.

Without a contingency plan, how can you set a course if the company suffers a dramatic setback? What if you lose major funding? What if despite your financial checks and balances you find serious discrepancies? What if a leader dies or leaves unexpectedly?

In the Enron fiasco, top executives were selling their own stock while assuring employees that the company was not losing value. Employees lost their retirement nest eggs in addition to the severe financial setbacks for the company, their industry and the public they served.  Bankruptcy proceedings revealed losses of $13.1 billion for the parent company and $18.1 billion for the affiliates. Thousands of people in Houston, the energy hub, and elsewhere lost their jobs.4

If you think about the “horrible what ifs” that could make life miserable in the year ahead, taking time now makes more sense and it will prepare you and your team to roll over the unexpected reality punches ahead. You’ll have a path to center your communications program as you set a course for 2014.

1 Cutlip & Center’s Effective Public Relations, pp. 266

2 Ibid. p. 344

3 Ibid.p. 344

4 “The Fall of Enron,” Bloomberg Businessweek, Dec. 16, 2001.

To read more:  Jeffrey Liker, “The Toyota Recall: What Have We Learned” The HBR Blog Network

(Feb 11, 2011), http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2011/02/toyotas-recall-crisis-full-of.html (accessed Aug 2, 2011)

PR and the Multimedia Journalist

National Public Radio’s gleaming new headquarters was the appropriate setting for the recent Public Relations Society of America’s National Capital Chapter (PRSA-NCC) panel discussion, “Meet the Multimedia Journalists.”

Why? NPR gets nearly as many eyeballs on its rich website as it does ears to its signature programs, Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

media_relationsFive top journalists, including an NPR reporter, told a crowd of over 150 PR professionals what it is like to work with them in a media world where filing a story fifteen minutes after it breaks may be too late, and where reporters are expected to Tweet, shoot video and…oh…write crisp copy with a great deal of accuracy.

The one foolproof method to avoid having your calls go to voicemail and your emails to spam folders is to be trustworthy, knowledgeable, responsive and realistic about what is – and what is not – news.

The speakers, Scott Hensley of the NPR Shots Blog, Jayne O’Donnell of USA Today, Noam Levey of the Los Angeles Times, Greg Otto of the Washington Business Journal and James Politi of the Financial Times were frank in their description of their increasing responsibilities in the multimedia journalism universe.

Here are some key takeaways from the discussion:

Timing is everything: Reporters only have eight to fifteen minutes to get a breaking news story published, and will update it frequently throughout the day. If you have a source or information, help the reporter right away. The next day is too late.

Email (not phone) is the way: PR pros can and should be part of the solution for journalists who often perform two jobs at once. Send tailored, succinct individual emails and don’t beat around the bush. Reporters generally like talking with some PR reps on the phone (and it’s lamentable that others don’t) but their schedules frequently prevent it. Hensley noted that he gets 100-200 pitches a day and usually doesn’t answer the phone unless he knows the caller. He checks voicemail only about once a month.

Peg your pitch to current events: If you have a health care story, for instance, draw a direct connection to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Levey expects to be busy with the uneven rollout of the health exchanges for another six months, but reporters like O’Donnell may have room for other pitches.

Infographics? No thanks: The five panelists were unanimous on this point: they don’t want your art department’s beautiful infographics. Instead, they prefer raw data from which they can build their own charts, graphs and tables. That said, NPR’s Shots Blog might be able to tweet an infographic or post it on his Tumblr page.

National Peach Month is not news: The calendar is littered with commemoratives, and some, like Breast Cancer Awareness Month or Black History Month, have legs. But Politi and the others said stories need to stand on their own.

Be cautious with embargoes: Embargoes level the playing field and allow newsmakers to pitch large numbers of news organizations simultaneously. While our panelists are grudgingly accepting of their utility for articles in medical journals, reporters are wary of them because they inevitably get broken. Reporters like Otto recommend cutting a deal with a reporter on the embargo’s terms before you pitch to protect yourself and your organization.

Don’t Tweet a pitch: Use Twitter to research what reporters are reading and thinking about; you might discover a great conversation starter, and a winning pitch angle. Pitching over Twitter, however, is a no-no. Many reporters (not all) treat Twitter like their own personal whiteboard and don’t want it used to make transactions with PR pros.

What has your experience been working with journalists today versus a year or so ago? Leave a comment below or tweet me at @aaroncohenpr.

Aaron Cohen has over thirty years of communications experience and provides strategic counsel and tactical support to some of MSLGROUP’s largest clients. He is the incoming co-chairman of PRSA-NCC’s Professional Development Committee for which he moderates panel discussions on traditional media relations and social media. You can also find him on Twitter, where he’s @aaroncohenpr.

Colleen Johnson contributed to this post.

This first appeared on the MSL Group’s Beltway and Beyond blog. To see the original post please click here.

The future of America’s newspapers

Amy Mitchell

Amy Mitchell oversees the Pew Journalism Project.

If you spent some time reading a newspaper in the last 24 hours, you are in the minority. According to the Pew Research Center, just 23 percent of Americans surveyed said they read a newspaper the previous day. In fact, today more than half of Americans get their news online.

These trends and others were the topic of discussion at an Oct. 30 PRSA-NCC 20+ LeaderPack luncheon where Amy Mitchell of the Pew Research Center spoke about the future of newspapers. Mitchell oversees Pew’s Journalism Project, and she shared her insights with about 30 senior PR practitioners who attended the event.

We all know journalists who have lost their jobs as a result of newsroom cutbacks. Stagnant advertising revenue, failure to adapt fast enough to digital technology and a culture resistant to change—these are just a few of the reasons for newspapers’ decline over the past decade. Yet, amid the glum news, there may be a glimmer of hope for newspapers, Mitchell said.

First, the bad news:

  • Print advertising revenue continues to fall.
  • For every $1 gained in digital advertising, newspapers lose $16 in print advertising.
  • 72% of total digital mobile display advertising goes to just six companies, and none of them are traditional media companies.

Now, some good news:

  • Tablet and smartphone owners are using these devices to read news. Nearly two-thirds say they get news this way weekly.
  • 78% of tablet users read more than one in-depth article in a sitting.
  • 72% of tablet users read an in-depth article that they were not initially looking for.

According to Mitchell, consumers are reading as much news as they are emails on their mobile devices, and newspapers are having some success in charging for this content though paywalls. Newspapers also are earning income from other sources such as consulting, conferences, delivery services and packaging their content for technology companies.

Mitchell noted that for the first time, The New York Times has more circulation revenue than advertising revenue. The Times has worked hard to win readers to its mobile platform, and it was one of the first newspapers to institute a digital pay plan.

In D.C., all eyes are on The Washington Post and what changes Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeff Bezos will make. Odds are, he will use his considerable technology acumen to transform the Post into a new kind of media company, one more focused on providing a service and less concerned about producing a product.

If you are interested in learning more about the future of journalism, Pew publishes an annual “State of the News Media” report. Here are six trends from this year’s report that are worth paying attention to:

  1. The effects of a decade of newsroom cutbacks are real—and the public is taking notice.
  2. The news industry continues to lose out on the bulk of new digital advertising.
  3. The long-dormant sponsorship ad category is seeing sharp growth.
  4. The growth of paid digital content experiments may have a significant impact on both news revenue and content. (Pew says 450 of the nation’s 1,380 dailies have started or announced plans for some kind of paid content subscription or paywall plan.)
  5. While the first and hardest-hit industry, newspapers, remains in the spotlight, local TV finds itself newly vulnerable.
  6. Hearing about things in the news from friends and family, whether via social media or actual word of mouth, leads to deeper news consumption.

Jay Morris is president of Jay Morris Communications LLC, an independent PR and marketing firm in Alexandria, Va. He serves on the PRSA-NCC and IPRA boards and blogs at waywardjourney.com.