Making the Case for APR

August 7, 2014

By:Debra Bethard-Caplick, MBA, APR
Chair, PRSA Midwest District/Immediate Past President, PRSA Suburban Chicago

“Personal satisfaction” has often been the answer given for why PR professionals should earn their APR, but to me, that’s a terrible reason to give, if that’s the only one. Yes, I got quite a bit of personal satisfaction out of earning my Accreditation, and still do. But that’s not why I did it, and neither should you. Personal satisfaction is not a valid business reason for the APR.

I chose to begin the Accreditation process for several reasons, chief among them the fact that I had held a succession of positions where not only was I the only person in the company to have a public relations background, but the organizations’ managers themselves had skewed ideas on what PR was, to varying degrees. After several years of this, I had begun to question myself, my education and my career choice. Did I get something wrong? Did I have unrealistic expectations of what working in PR was supposed to be? Did I need to change the way I was doing things?

In the summer of 2000, my chapter offered a series of Saturday morning study sessions over the summer, I signed up, more as a way to reassure myself that I wasn’t on the wrong track. At that point, I wasn’t sure I was actually going to go through with taking the exam itself. All I knew was that there was something not quite right with my career, and I thought perhaps going through the Accreditation process might help me figure out what I needed to change.

Boy, did it ever! The abstract bits and pieces of communication and persuasion theory still floating around in my brain from my college classes suddenly had solid experience to anchor to. It all finally made SENSE. And while there was a considerable amount of personal satisfaction in achieving accreditation, I found tangible business results as well. My employer, my colleagues, and later on, clients – all changed how they responded to me as a professional. But the biggest benefit was the improvement to my professional skills and confidence. I have a dual Masters/MBA, but earning the APR credential that now goes after my name meant that I have proven professional skills that not all PR executives have. It’s been of more practical value to me than the master’s degrees. It made me a better professional, with skills and practical knowledge that I have passed on to other executives over the past five plus years as an APR coach. I believe in the value of Accreditation because I’ve seen what it can do for those that have earned it. I’d encourage anyone who is interested in being a better, more skilled public relations manager or executive to earn accreditation. It’s one of the most practical investments you can make in your career – and it’s very satisfying, as well.

Affinity Call Recap: Volunteer Recognition

July 16, 2014

By Brant Skogrand, APR, MBC

Skogrand PR Solutions, LLC

Immediate Past Chair, PRSA Midwest District

The strength of a PRSA chapter rests upon the shoulders of its volunteers. With all the heavy lifting, however, it can be easy for volunteers to burn out.

On the most recent PRSA Midwest District affinity call, chapter representatives shared best practices as well as challenges regarding volunteer recognition.

Chapters use several approaches to recognize volunteers, including:

  • An annual peer-nominated “Volunteer of the Year” award,
  • Summer potluck picnics,
  • A winter holiday party combined with the chapter’s annual meeting, and
  • Acknowledgement of individuals at chapter programming events.

Certain chapter committees naturally attract volunteers, such as the student relations committee. Perhaps that’s because professionals are eager to help the next generation of public relations practitioners.

For several chapters, “business community outreach” committees have trouble gaining momentum. In addition, probably because of all the work involved, awards ceremony committees have challenges keeping volunteers.

What do Miley Cyrus and PR have in common?

July 14, 2014

By Revee White – Mid-Missouri PRSA President-Elect

It’s not twerking. It’s the story that was told to us repeatedly at the June PRSA Midwest District Conference about the blurred lines between public relations, marketing and advertising. It’s one that hit close to home for me.

My company is going through a major transformation and is putting a huge focus on marketing. As the manager of the Communications Department, our Chief Financial Officer came to me.

“I want to change your department to the Marketing Department. Your background is in journalism and communications, right? Do you know anything about marketing?”

I know nothing about marketing. And everything. But it took me awhile to come to both of these conclusions.

Joe Cohen, National PRSA President, presented twice during the conference on the new direction of public relations. That new direction includes three big focuses:
Integrated marketing;
Data and analytics; and
Business literacy.

Cohen also drove home a very important point for me: PR has skin in the game of owned, paid earned and social media. We must step up to the plate and think like a marketer.

I took the challenge. My department changed from the Communications Department to the Marketing Department, and I am now the Director of Marketing. I’m no Babe Ruth, but I hope I hit this one out of the park.

Revee White
Mid-Missouri PRSA President-Elect

Twitter: @reveew

Crowdsourcing with a Purpose

July 11, 2014

By: Lewis Pryor, assistant vice president – Public Affairs at State Farm in Bloomington, Ill.

It seems there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t hear about the latest and greatest public relations campaign talks about the power of “crowdsourcing.” The idea is where a “crowd” can provide ongoing feedback on projects, teach and – in the case of public relations – be an active part of a campaign. Some practitioners will talk about this recent phenomenon as a threat, but I believe it produces enormous opportunity for PR professionals when crowdsourcing is done with a clear purpose.

The very core of PR is about engaging various publics. And, the foundation of any successful campaign employs those publics to become aware, behave or act in a certain way. Crowdsourcing is, by its very nature, a moving organization where people participate based on their own beliefs and passions. The key for PR professionals is to create campaigns that align with your organization’s mission while striking a chord with groups who can act.

State Farm looked for new, more relevant ways to engage with consumers regarding their philanthropic donations, and launched Neighborhood Assist (NA) which empowered people to identify issues in their community via Facebook. Then the program connected them with a local nonprofit that can help solve the problem, and provided an opportunity to receive $25,000 in funding support. Causes were submitted via Facebook to the State Farm Youth Advisory Board (YAB). The YAB includes 30 students, 17-20, across North America who run a $5 million-a-year grant program where they review the submissions and selected 100 finalists. Then communities rallied behind their cause by voting on the State Farm Facebook page for three weeks. The 40 top vote receiving causes each won $25,000.

The result? 38,000 people took to Facebook and cast more than 1.2 M votes in three weeks. The 40 winning organizations came from 22 states and the top five voting-receivers came from cities with populations less than 275,000.The CAE website had 418K unique visitors while the Facebook site had 22K socials shares. In addition, nearly 200 unique media placements were garnered. However, the most impressive result was winning a 2013 Silver Anvil Award.

This program provides helpful lessons and tips into effective crowdsourcing:
Be transparent. Every rule and step must be very transparent. Any program that appears it isn’t above board because of lack of transparency will turn people away.
Keep it simple. The process to become engaged must be very simple. Multi-step processes and involved entries will greatly reduce conversion rates.

Engaging your publics. This is easier said than done, but the program has to engage audiences and then keep them engaged throughout the campaign.
Be Unique. Create a program that is different than other programs.

Following these easy steps can help your program stand out and produce outstanding results. But, whatever you create it must balance organizational alignment with what the public cares about. That’s crowdsourcing with a purpose!

Lewis Pryor is assistant vice president – Public Affairs at State Farm in Bloomington, Ill. He also currently serves as president of the Central Illinois PRSA Chapter and a board member of the PRSA Midwest District Board

Midwest District Welcomes New Chair – Debra Bethard-Caplick

July 10, 2014

If you were at the PRSA Midwest District Conference in Springfield, Missouri, you’ve already heard the news, but for those of you who couldn’t make it, here’s the scoop:

My name is Debra Bethard-Caplick, and I’m the new Midwest District chair for the remainder of 2014. I’ve got some very big shoes to fill as Lori Marble steps down after an incredibly action-packed first five months to take care of increased job responsibilities. I’ll be working with Chair-elect Kellie Wostrel, Immediate Past Chair Brant Skogrand, and the rest of the Midwest District board to make sure the rest of 2014 is the success Lori and all of you envisioned at the start of the year.

Many of you know me from my time as the president of the Suburban Chicago chapter, or from the National PRSA Assembly the past few years. For those of you who don’t, I’m the founding member of Quicksilver Edge Strategic Communications, a boutique agency based in Chicago that focuses on generational communications. I’m married to my Chicago paramedic and part-time PR spouse James, and proud puppy parent to five furballs, and will be happy to show you photos any time.

I’m writing this from the 2014 Midwest District Conference, and I have to say it’s the biggest one yet. The Southwest Missouri chapter has done a fabulous job putting together this conference. The lineup of speakers is impressive, and the attendance is the largest of the past three years. I want to congratulate Southwest Missouri on their efforts. I also want to congratulate Debbie Harvey, past president of the Chicago chapter and the 2014 recipient of the Platinum Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Midwest District. Debbie is an outstanding professional, and her contributions to PRSA and the Midwest District are impressive.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to attend a conference, I strongly urge you to start thinking about attending in 2015. There are several chapters interested in hosting the conference, so if your chapter is thinking about hosting or have questions about the process, be sure to contact me, Kellie, Brandt or any of the district board members.

I hope to have a chance to see lots of Midwest District people this fall at the International Conference, but in the meantime, be sure to check in on the District’s LinkedIn group, our conference Facebook page, or join us on Twitter @PRSAMidwest. And if you have any questions, or would just like to chat, you can find me at or @dcaplick.

Now, let’s enjoy the summer!

Hello, Springfield!

July 10, 2014

By Brant Skogrand, APR, MBC 

Joe Cohen at 2014 Midwest District Conference

Joe Cohen, APR, the national chair of PRSA, discussed PRSA’s strategic plan, the evolving role of public relations professionals, and the “seven deadly sins of PR.”

Approximately 200 public relations practitioners recently converged in Springfield, Mo., for this year’s PRSA Midwest District Conference. While storms in the Chicago area delayed those flying through O’Hare Airport, travelers persisted and were rewarded with excellent learning and networking opportunities.

The conference, with a tagline of “Firm Foundations/New Horizons,” featured three keynotes:

  • Minnesota’s James Lukaszewski, ABC, APR, Fellow PRSA, spoke on “Gaining Influence: How to Have a More Important, Powerful, Influential and Fulfilling Career.”
  • Joe Cohen, APR, the national chair of PRSA, discussed PRSA’s strategic plan, the evolving role of public relations professionals, and the “seven deadly sins of PR.”
  • Missy Maher of Edelman shared her insights on marketing to the modern family. 

More than 25 breakout sessions provided plenty of choices for attendees. Topics ranged from content marketing to social media measurement to chocolate addiction and beyond.
Approximately 20 PRSA members either already involved or interested in PRSA leadership participated in the conference’s QuickStart session. They learned how to focus their leadership qualities for chapter success from Regina Waters, Ph.D., of Drury University, who discussed best practices from around the Midwest District and heard from Cohen on the role of PRSA National.

Brian Lee at 2014 Midwest District Conference

Brian Lee, APR, instructs attendees how to measure and analyze social media efforts.

While a printed program provided an overview of the conference, attendees also were able to download the Guidebook app to create a personalized schedule and be updated about schedule changes on the fly. The app proved its use when two sessions were scratched due to the cancellation of the speaker’s flight from Chicago. 

In addition to networking opportunities throughout the day, attendees hit downtown Springfield for dinner at a restaurant of their choice and ended the evening with a gathering at Springfield Brewing Company.

The annual Midwest District Platinum Award, the district’s highest individual honor, was given to Debbie Harvey, APR. She was president of the Chicago chapter in 2012 and championed and led development of the 2012 Midwest District Conference in Chicago. Harvey works for the American Medical Association as the vice president of change strategies.

Thanks to the Southwest Missouri PRSA chapter for providing an excellent professional development opportunity!

To see tweets from the conference, search Twitter using the hashtag #prsamdc.

Brant Skogrand, APR, MBC, is the immediate past chair of the PRSA Midwest District, a past president of Minnesota PRSA, chief communications officer of Skogrand PR Solutions, and author of the small business PR book “19 Tips for Successful Public Relations.”

Visit Springfield, Missouri for the 2014 PRSA Midwest District Conference

April 18, 2014

Volunteers from Southwest Missouri PRSA have been working for almost a year to plan the 2014 PRSA Midwest District Conference. We’ve secured three highly respected keynote and general speakers and dozens of dynamic breakout session speakers. We’re confident that the program has something for everyone.

Conference hotel

Our conference hotel and convention center is perfect for this conference. We are the only event at the hotel. Most of our conference rooms are in the same area, so we will definitely have a sense of community. And all of the conference rooms have integrated AV and free Wi-Fi!

If you’re interested in bringing your family, the Ramada Oasis also has nice indoor and outdoor pools. Most of the hotel rooms have been redone in the last year or two. The very reasonable hotel rate, $89, also include a free hot breakfast.

Make it a vacation

The Springfield area has many activities for families. From Bass Pro Shop to the Discovery Center to Fantastic Caverns, there are many activities to keep your family entertained while you’re at the conference.

After the conference, you might want to head to Branson for the weekend. Branson is less than an hour away and includes lakes, shows, Silver Dollar City, White Water and many other activities.

Getting to Springfield

Springfield-Branson National Airport (SGF) is served by American Airlines, Delta and United. Most destinations in the Midwest are just one connection away (direct flights from Chicago). The hotel offers a free airport shuttle, so your transfer from the hotel will be worry free.

Driving to Springfield? No problem. The hotel is located just off Interstate 44 and the hotel has plenty of free parking.

We hope you’ll join us in Springfield June 18-20. It is going to be a great conference. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me!

Andrea Mostyn
2014 PRSA Midwest District Conference Chair
Assistant Director of University Communications at Missouri State University