Crisis Communication Workshop Attracts Sell-Out Crowd

If there’s one topic that communicators want to stay current with, it’s crisis communication. PRSA Maryland’s workshop on crisis communication, which was held at Baltimore Research on September 22, 2017, attracted pros from near and far. We packed the house with PRSA members and non-members from as far away as Harrisburg, PA.

Speakers included Jeff Davis, APR, Van Eperen, and Dan Dunne, APR, Erickson Living. They shared their expertise on the topic and provided real-life examples of crises they managed for their organizations. Attendees walked away with proven strategies, tips, and recommendations they could implement for their companies’ crisis communications plans. 

One workshop attendee said, “I learned tangible strategies and tactics to include in my crisis communications plans plus best practices for counseling clients through a crisis.”

Jeff Davis, APR, Van Eperen

Dan Dunne, APR, Erickson Living

Learning Never Ends: The Value of Continuing Education for Public Relations Professionals

Learn how staying on top of the latest trends can help practitioners in one of the most dynamic professions continue to advance their careers.
By Malissa Carroll 

As someone who works in a health professions school, I have become familiar with the value that continuing education holds for physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and other health care professionals. In addition to the mandated continuing education requirements to which they must adhere to remain in practice, these practitioners are always searching for new opportunities to expand their knowledge and skillsets, allowing them to better serve their patients and practice at the top of their licensure. While health care and public relations are two vastly different fields, my experience has shown me that, in the area of continuing education, there might be some lessons that we can share.

To Learn is to Lead

Similar to health care, which has witnessed an incredible evolution in recent years, advances in technology have helped public relations become one of the most dynamic professions in which individuals can pursue a career. The constant advent of new mediums and platforms through which brands can share their messages – from smart phones to social media – challenges public relations professionals to keep up with ever-changing trends, contributing to the need for continuing education to help us acquire the skills necessary to incorporate these advancements into existing plans, strategies, and tactics.

Fortunately, we as public relations professionals do not need to look too far for opportunities to build on our existing knowledge and skills to ensure that our work makes the greatest impact for our clients. Whether you are an early career professional who is interested in obtaining an advanced degree or an experienced practitioner who wants hone his or her skills on a new platform, there are numerous options available to help you meet your personal and professional education goals.

Attend a Conference

One way for working professionals to gain new knowledge or acquire new skills is to attend conferences focused on their field or area of interest. These events often feature distinguished speakers who are leaders in the profession and from whose experiences everyone in attendance can learn. In addition to the national conferences and workshops offered through the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), you can find a number of local and regional events through PRSA-MD, which can offer insight into how peer organizations are staying on top of the changing industry.

Complete an Advanced Degree

Colleges and universities are becoming increasingly sensitive to the needs of working professionals who are looking to advance their careers with a master’s or other professional degree. Many institutions now offer students the option to complete their degrees entirely online, while others provide evening and weekend courses that seamlessly fit into working professionals’ busy schedules. The University of Maryland University College, Notre Dame of Maryland University, Georgetown University, and New York University are just a few of the institutions that offer advanced degree programs for public relations professionals. A quick Internet search will lead you to many more results – at least one of which is sure to meet your unique needs.

Pursue a Certification

Obtaining a professional certification is another way to demonstrate your proficiency as a public relations practitioner. As the nation’s largest professional organization serving the communications community, PRSA offers a range of certifications for new and experienced professionals to demonstrate drive, dedication, and values in the field of public relations, including the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) credential. The APR credential certifies a public relations practitioner’s drive, professionalism, and principals, setting that individual apart from peers and positioning him or her as a leader and mentor in the public relations field.

Register for a Webinar

For public relations practitioners who do not have much time to spare, webinars provide an excellent opportunity to pursue continuing education. These one- to two-hour events are designed for professionals who want to keep abreast of current trends in the field, but who might not have the time available to earn a formal certification or degree. PRSA offers a wide range of webinars – many available at no cost to members – that aim to help practitioners understand new concepts or tools, as well as refine their existing skills.

Abigail Adams once said, “Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.” Whether on the frontlines of patient care or behind-the-scenes bringing awareness to a brand, the value that continuing education can have on an individual’s career cannot be understated. If you have one hour, one week, or one year or more to spare, there are continuing education options available that will help you stay on top of current trends to ensure that you can continue providing the best service for your clients.

Strengthening Our Core. September Is PRSA Ethics Month!

This month, and throughout the year, PRSA offers a variety of resources to help members become excellent and ethical professionals and public relations practitioners.

We hope you will take advantage of some, or all, of these opportunities to learn and to sharpen your public relations acumen.

From journal articles to webinars and Twitter chats, there is something for everyone during PRSA’s Ethics Month!

  • Articles
    • Jim Lukaszewski – How to Be a Truly Trusted Strategic Ethics Advisor
  • Webinars
    •  3-4 p.m. EDT, Sept. 14 – Incorporating Ethics in the Public Relations Classroom: Tips, Tools and Resources for Communications Educators  
    • Free for members & available on-demand on Sept. 21*
    • 3-4 p.m. EDT, Sept. 19 – The Ethical Expectations of Leadership 
      Free for members & available on-demand on Sept. 24*
  • Twitter Chats @ #PREthics
    • 8:30-9:30 p.m. EDT, Sept. 12 – Ethics … A ‘World’ of Difference  – Ethical behavior is a personal decision, but unethical actions can affect hundreds if not thousands of innocent people. Join PRSA’s Board of Ethics and Professional Standards on Tuesday, September 12, from 8:30-9:30 PM as we welcome Anthony Gray, President and CEO of the Institute for Global Ethics to discuss the realities of the effects of unethical thought and action.  Use the hashtag #prethics to add your insights and ask your questions while learning how the Institute for Global Ethics works with its clients to provide practical tools to build ethical fitness and cultures of integrity at home, at school, in the workplace, and in society. 
    • 4 p.m. EDT, Sept. 25 – Truth in Communications –PRSA/SPJ with Reuters journalist Andrew M. Seaman, SPJ Director of Communications Lauren Bartlett, and Washington State Dept. of Transportation representative Travis Phelps
  • Blogs – Watch for new posts throughout the month
  • Research –New materials for the classroom are available for order through the Educators’ Academy
  •  Ethics Sessions at the PRSA International Conferenc
    • Your Society at Work: Board of Ethics & Professional Standards, Sunday, Oct. 8, 11 a.m. – Noon
    • Developing a Personal Crisis Preparedness Plan,  Tuesday, Oct. 10, 8 – 9 a.m.
    • How to Speak Up and Keep Your JobTuesday, Oct. 10, 11:30 a.m. -1 2:30 p.m.

*Watching PRSA webinars on-demand is a great way to engage your team at work or even your entire chapter. Consider holding a lunch-and-learn together. Show the webinar, and take breaks to discuss concepts—or simply share with members and encourage them to access webinars on their own time.


Get the Most Bang for Your Buck: Public Relations on a Limited Budget

By Malissa Carroll

Five tips to help your company or organization “do more with less” when executing your PR plan.

The benefits that organizations can reap when they dedicate the necessary time, effort, and resources into developing and implementing a comprehensive public relations plan will often outweigh any financial commitments associated with executing the plan. However, at a time when budget uncertainty continues to plague small and large businesses alike and organizations begin to look for new ways to “do more with less,” it serves us well to remember that, as public relations professionals, there are steps we can take to ensure that our work continues to have the greatest impact even when budgets have been stretched paper thin.

Know Your Audience
The importance of knowing your organization’s audience can seem obvious to the seasoned public relations professional. However, it is worth restating, as any PR efforts that do not target those audiences will almost certainly waste time and resources – neither of which PR professionals on a shoestring budget can afford. Understand the needs of your organization’s audiences and focus your efforts on channels that will drive those individuals to your business, such as garnering attention from niche publications focused on your specific industry.

Build Relationships
While especially important for PR professionals who work with members of the media, relationship building can extend beyond networking with local journalists and influencers. Establishing a strong presence on social media – Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn – is inexpensive and can be an invaluable way to engage with your audiences. Dedicate the time to regularly post content that demonstrates the value that your organization brings to others, not just an occasional news story.

Treat Content as King
Never underestimate the value that well-crafted, versatile content can add to your PR plan. For professionals on a limited budget, this content can easily be developed in-house, without hiring a professional copywriter. You can also review materials from previous campaigns to see if there is content that you can repurpose with minimal to no updating. Once your content has been finalized, share it across all platforms at your disposal to achieve maximum impact with your audiences.

Integrate Communications
Integrating communications can be an excellent way for PR professionals on a limited budget to extend the reach of their efforts. Did your organization recently invest in the production of a new print publication? Think about how you might be able to adapt pieces from that publication for your organization’s website or social media platforms. This practice will not only help extend the reach of your content, but also ensure that your organization is sharing a consistent message across all media.

Leverage Your PRSA Membership
As PRSA members, there are numerous resources that you can take advantage of to remain on the cutting-edge of the profession – many of which are available at no cost. Attend a networking event hosted by your local chapter to see how other PR professionals are maximizing their efforts on a limited budget. Register for a free webinar or read a recent white paper to learn new skills that you can bring in-house to reduce the costs associated with hiring outside agencies. Your PRSA membership comes with many benefits. Do not overlook them.

A strong public relations plan can bring immeasurable value to an organization’s brand and reputation. By adhering to the tips above and investing the necessary time and effort, you can not only demonstrate your ability to “do more with less,” but also ensure the success of your PR plan and, consequently, your organization.

Maryland Conference Attracts 150+ Pros

More than 150 communications professionals attended the 2017 PRSA Maryland Conference at Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore on June 8, 2017.

PRSA Maryland Chapter President Claudia Ciolfi kicked off the day by welcoming guests and speakers and set the stage for a day-long of learning and networking with peers in the communications and public relations industries.

Spirited Discussion

Immediately following her address, attendees turned their attention to a spirited media panel discussion that explored how sometimes the media are the message when it comes to shaping the perception of Baltimore city. Panelists included Baltimore Sun Managing Editor Sam Davis, WBAL-TV I-Team Lead Investigative Reporter Jayne Miller, WMAR-TV News Anchor Kelly Swoope, and several representatives from Baltimore city community organizations.

The remainder of the morning consisted of breakout sessions that focused on

  • measurement;
  • podcasting;
  • visual content;
  • Facebook Live;
  • crisis communications;
  • influencers and advocates.

“The presenters have been amazing,” said an attendee. “The panel discussion this morning was invigorating.” Check out this Facebook Live video for more comments.

Just Getting Started

The lunch-time general session featured Jesse Holcomb from Pew Research Center, and Katie Paine, from Paine Publishing. They discussed the importance of properly and accurately measuring PR and communications and how to avoid falling prey to senseless metrics.

More breakout sessions included:

  • podcasting for today’s news environment;
  • partnering to build an effective virtual agency;
  • how to lead a creative team with passion, purpose and possibility.

“Great sessions and networking at #PRSAMD17 at Loyola U–particularly good info for new Independent Practitioners,” tweeted member Laura Wilcox.

#PRSAMD17 Awesome visual content workshop! Learned so much,” tweeted member Cathy Nyce.

Wrapping it Up

The final general session consisted of a panel discussion about the state’s public education campaign to help combat an epidemic of opioid and heroin abuse and overdoses.

PRSA Maryland thanks the generous sponsors who helped to make this conference one of the most successful events in the Chapter’s recent history:  Vitamin, Loyola University Maryland-Emerging Media, Capital Media, Chesapeake Employers’ Insurance Company, PRSA Mid-Atlantic District, Brand3, Jay L. Baker Photography, Erickson Living, Harrison Communications, and Image 360.

“I want to personally thank the Chairman of the Conference Planning Committee, Dave Curley, Senior Vice President of Sandy Hillman Communications,” said Claudia. “Dave’s leadership, dedication and commitment to success enabled him and the members of his committee to plan and execute an industry conference full of innovation and inspiration.”

2018 Conference Committee

The committee for the 2018 conference is forming now. If you want to be part of next year’s event, please volunteer. Email your contact information to

Effective Crisis Management – Catastrophe or Opportunity?

Written by PRSA Maryland Communications Committee member Caitlin Wolf.

If I told you that a crisis is an opportunity for businesses to increase shareholder value, would you believe me?

Walking into PRSA’s “Introduction to Effective Crisis Response” seminar in Chicago on May 22, I viewed crisis management as an overwhelming, fast-paced communications task that meant hours of anxiety. Far from an opportunity. The workshop, led by Helio Fred Garcia and Adam Tiouririne of the Logos Institute, was an eye-opening experience that left my colleague and me confident that we could use crisis management to create a powerful competitive advantage for our clients.

Advantage? Yes. At a moment when all eyes are on your company, you have more control than you think. When done right, your ability to manage crises can have a positive impact on your brand’s bottom line. In fact, based on research by Knight and Pretty with the University of Oxford, companies that respond to crises well not only protect their stock price, but increase it, by an average of five percent. On top of its stock, a company’s reputation, operations, employee morale, demand for products and services, and strategic focus are protected when crises are handled well.

So, how can you go about managing crises the right way? Here are four key steps PR practitioners at any business should follow:

Know the patterns.
Bad things happen, even to good people and organizations. It’s what you do next that counts. Historically, there are approaches that always work and those that never work. Understand the patterns by studying crises and harvest the learnings—especially those occurring in your industry. How did the company respond? When did they respond? How was it received? Once you know this, understand you must intervene early enough to change the pattern.

Know what to ask.
When your CEO runs to you and asks, “What should we say?” you must begin by knowing which questions to ask. To regain the trust of your stakeholders, the most important question to ask is “What would reasonable people appropriately expect a reasonable organization to do in this situation?” Don’t be burdened by the thought that a common-sense solution won’t work.

Know what to say, and when.
Once you have the answer to your question, keep in mind that the single biggest predictor of reputational harm in a crisis is the perception that you don’t care. Craft responses to the “what reasonable people expect” question at the granular level for each stakeholder group. Communicate these responses in a timely way that shows you care.

Gain first mover advantage.
Whoever is first to define the crisis, the company’s motives, and their actions wins. Don’t let the media be the first to define these. Be prepared by establishing a crisis response plan. Craft well-structured standby statements ahead of time that address acknowledgement of potential crisis events, frame your organization’s values, your approach for addressing the event, the actions you plan to take, and next steps for your company and stakeholders.

Having a structured crisis management plan makes courage (and anxiety) less necessary. When done right, you will remain calm, regain the trust of your stakeholders; and, your stakeholders will likely reward you for demonstrating skill during a time of catastrophe.

Caitlin is PR Account Director for Planit.

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