Monday, May 11, 2015

APR: What's in it for Me?

By: Susan Christensen
PRAM State, VP of Accreditation

In the movie Field of Dreams, there’s a moment when Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella has had enough.

He has plowed under a profitable cornfield to build a baseball diamond for Shoeless Joe Jackson and a team of ghostly baseball greats. Yet he’s denied entry to the magical place where the players disappear each evening.

“What do you mean I’m not invited?” says Ray. “That’s my corn out there. You guys are guests in my corn. I’ve done everything I was asked to do. I didn’t understand it, but I’ve done it. I haven’t once asked what’s in it for me.”

“What are you saying, Ray?” asks Shoeless Joe.

“I’m saying,” Ray replies a bit sheepishly. ‘What’s in it for me?”

I love that scene because it says a lot about human nature. When we confront a challenge, we expect something special in return. So in my role as VP of Accreditation for PRAM, I’m hoping to encourage new applicants with real-life examples of the benefits of an APR.

Here’s what accredited professionals across the state say they’ve gained from “going the distance.”

  1. Confidence and expertise. Long before he was CEO of GodwinGroup, Philip Shirley was a young PR guy with no academic background in the field. So he immediately saw the value of getting accredited. “I began studying as a way to force myself to learn the craft,” he said. “Two major factors from that study changed the course of my career in critically important ways. First, the sense of accomplishment gave me the confidence to make difficult decisions that would impact my employer’s success. But perhaps more importantly, the study forced me to learn the discipline of public relations along with the processes, procedures and ethical guidelines that have served me for 40 years.”
  2. Credibility and respect. As communications director for Horne LLP, Kassi Rushing works among accounting professionals with plenty of initials behind their names. So she knew becoming certified in her own field would engender respect. “I work in an industry that is heavily regulated, licensed and accredited,” she said. “Earning my APR was the signal that I, too, was operating at the highest level within my area of expertise. I’m completely convinced that without my APR, I’d never have been in the position to write my own job description at Horne. The APR allowed me to position myself as qualified and prepared.”
  3. Professional camaraderie. About 5,000 PR practitioners in the U.S. are accredited in public relations. And joining this elite group signifies you’re on the same plane with people who see the APR designation as the calling card of a consummate professional. “Having been accredited since 1992, I can tell you that when dealing with PR professionals across the U.S., it evokes both commonality and credibility,” says Donna Richey, GodwinGroup senior partner and chief strategy officer. “It helps you position to the next level and it is worth the time.”
  4. An advantage in the job search. After nearly 30 years in PR at a Fortune 500 company, Checky Herrington began a new job search. And he quickly realized he needed a way to stand out in a crowded field. “Almost every application included a section about certifications and accreditations, which I did not have,” he said. “Despite many successful years in public relations, I saw a real need for a designation that would help me rise above the competition. The APR challenged the way I have done things and brought me face-to-face with some of the best thinking in my field.” As for the job search … Checky is now a marketing research analyst for the Office of Public Affairs at Mississippi State University.
  5. Promotions, recognition and paycheck payoffs. When you’re at a PR conference, take a closer look at the people sporting APR on their badges. Are they PR directors? Workshop presenters? The people being recognized at the awards banquet? An APR designation often influences the selection of all of the above, so it’s a great way to get recognized—and financially rewarded. One study found that accredited PR professionals make about 20 percent more than non-accredited peers. 

Convinced you want to be part of the APR team? To learn more, go to or contact me, at

Friday, May 8, 2015

Ethics: The Struggle Doesn't Have to be Real

By: Samantha McCain
PRAM State, VP of Communications

As public relations professionals, we are bound by a set of guidelines for practice. Now, I don’t know about you… but when I was in school, I never imagined that I would ACTUALLY deal with ethical issues. Of course noone would ever ask me to do anything that went against my own moral code, let alone my personal one! But then again, the world was also quite a rosy shade of pink, and unicorns existed. The good ole days? 

As I prepare for the APR Examination, I find myself looking at ethical dilemmas and the industry in a completely different light than I did in school. The real world is tough, and job application can sometimes be tricky:
  • “Do I use that picture when I’m not sure where it actually came from?”
  • “Can I record this event, when the background music is a pop song - currently on the radio?”
  • “I signed a nondisclosure agreement, but telling my spouse isn’t a big deal… right?”
  • "I need to find a screen printer... I wonder if we can use my son-in-law?"

Things that are simple, can often come with a big punch immediately or down the road. As we continue to expand the excellence of our profession, always go back to the basics (as identified by PRSA): 
  • Be honest and accurate in all communications.
  • Reveal sponsors for represented causes and interests.
  • Act in the best interest of clients or employers.
  • Disclose financial interests in a client’s organization.
  • Safeguard the confidences and privacy rights of clients and employees.
  • Follow ethical hiring practices to respect free and open competition.
  • Avoid conflicts between personal and professional interests.
  • Decline representation of clients requiring actions contrary to the Code.
  • Accurately define what public relations activities can accomplish.
  • Report all ethical violations to the appropriate authority.

Is there anything about ethics that surprised you when you began to dive deeper into your career?

Friday, April 17, 2015

We're Just Getting Started

For some organizations, a conference and awards ceremonies are the culmination of a year. For PRAM, they’re just the beginning.

As the recent state conference in Tupelo reminded me, one thing that makes PRAM unique is how so many professional relationships grow out our common interests into lifelong friendships. Finding those connections makes us human, and also Mississippians—just about every introduction leads to talk of where we grew up and who we know as we work out the paths that interlock us all.

But at our core, we are a group of students and professionals aligned to develop our careers and lives, in hopes of bettering ourselves and the organizations and communities we serve. Now that the conference has given us new ideas and inspiration, it’s time to get to the business of creating new opportunities for our colleagues and members to move forward with purpose.

Helping more PRAM members earn accreditation is high on the list of priorities! We are planning the bi-annual APR Boot Camp to coincide with the SPRF Hall of Fame inductions on July 31 in Starkville. More details will follow soon from Susan Christensen, APR.

Also looking ahead... save the date for the 2015 SPRF Conference in Point Clear, Ala., on September 20-23! The conference will feature the Lantern Awards, and entries are due by July 17.

This year, we also want to celebrate what you do and expand our influence in the world of public relations and related fields. You can already see that spirit reflected in our communications and in how successfully the PRAM Conference came together. More will also follow in these areas as the year unfolds.

Thank you being part of PRAM and for sharing the journey with us!

Jim Beaugez, APR
PRAM President

Friday, March 20, 2015

Three Reasons to Attend #PRAM2015

In his famous “1968 Comeback Special” that aired on NBC, Elvis Presley said “You can’t go on doing the same thing year after year.” While his words focused on the music that he was making at that point in his career, they are also true for those of us in public relations! You can’t go on doing the same thing year after year and expect to grow in your career. New technology and social media platforms are popping up every single day; and it is our job to make sure that our message is communicated in a way that our intended audiences and shareholders understand it. Professional development and networking opportunities are vital to becoming the best public relations practitioner you can be, no matter the stage of your career.

This year, the PRAM State Conference will be held in Tupelo, April 8-10. This is the BEST opportunity for you to network with other PR professionals throughout the state, and listen to great speakers who can help you learn new ways to approach your role in public relations. 

Topics will range from PR tactics from one of the country’s most visited homes and crisis communications following a natural disaster to a PRSA Silver Anvil winning case study from the US Navy and PR for the 21st century from a nationally-known speaker. I am confident that you will not find another conference this year that provides such rich professional development specifically for PR professionals - at such a great price.

Need a few reasons to convince your boss, or yourself to make #PRAM2015 a priority? Below are three:
  1. The price. The price. The price. Conferences for our industry do not come cheap, but between the registration, hotel cost and travel - you can come out right around $500. Considering most conference registrations start there, this is a steal!
  2. Quality networking without all the awkward conversations. We are so lucky to have an organization that is filled with compassionate people - and the conversations that happen at this conference are between friends!
  3. Speakers. Shonali Burke is leading the discussion on PR Measurement (and I hear she's a pretty big Elvis fan). Memphis Jones will absolutely lend a hand to helping you communicate better with a specific voice. Kevin Kern works for the legacy of Elvis. And that's just THREE of the speakers. The rest of the lineup will leave you with pages of notes and several tweets worthy of taking home for real-life application. 

The conference theme is “It’s Now or Never,” paying homage to Tupelo’s favorite native son and reminding us all that we can’t go on doing the same thing year after year. When it comes to your career in public relations, it’s now or never... so register today

Thank you. Thank you very much.   

- Jennie Bradford Curlee, VP of Programs/Conference Chair