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Celebrating Teri O’Neal, APR, on Becoming Accredited

Teri O’Neal, APR, Director of Public Relations for the woman-owned, full-service creative agency A. Bright Idea Advertising and PR, was the latest PRSA Maryland member to become accredited. Dianna Fornaro, our chapter’s APR Manager, recently sat down with Teri to discuss her APR journey. As Teri herself says: “It’s definitely about the journey, not just the destination.”

  1. Can you share why it was important to you to earn your APR?  The timing felt right to renew my commitment to my career and the PR profession in a very public fashion. Currently, I provide leadership and strategic oversight for a five-person public relations department. I serve as a working manager, allowing me to lead by example and grow talent within the agency. I take my role as a leader and mentor very seriously. I wanted to instill a commitment to lifelong learning in my team. But, even more than that, I chose to do it for myself. The sense of accomplishment and overcoming my fear of taking the [APR exam] is priceless.
  2. How long did it take you? Were there particular challenges? It took me 13 months from the approval of my application to the date I took the CBE [Computer-based Exam]. However, realistically, I have been stopping and starting this process since 2008. I have terrible test anxiety, always have, and I let the thought of this challenge overwhelm me time and time again. It wasn’t until I chose to do this for myself and my team that I decided to hit this challenge head-on during the pandemic.
  3. Was it particularly difficult or not during the pandemic? Committing to this process during a global pandemic had its challenges and opportunities. While I had more time available to study and participate in the online course, I was also working virtually and experienced the burnout from staring at my computer all day and all night. The cohort of people also going through this process at the same time really helped get me through it, as did my mentor, Anita Brightman, APR, Fellow PRSA.
  4. Has earning your APR enhanced your career professionally? If so, how? Even after 23+ years in the industry, I learned so much about PR through this process. It confirmed the theories and communication models I knew and added additional tools to my toolbox to enhance my approach further. Understanding that this industry requires a passion and a thirst for knowledge, I feel like this is the beginning of the journey, not the end. I look forward to learning and growing in the profession as part of this distinguished network of PR practitioners.
  5. Would you recommend your colleague pursue their APR? If so, why? I would definitely recommend any PR professional pursue the APR. Investing in your career and committing to making yourself better, regardless of whether you are new to the industry or more than two decades in, will make you more confident in your practice and opens up relationships with others in the industry. I am truly grateful to all those who encouraged, guided, and supported me through this process. I have solidified old relationships and established new ones. I have gained additional resources that I immediately put into place with my clients. It’s definitely about the journey, not just the destination. I have grown and learned so much in the last year.
  6. Would you like to share anything about the challenge of earning your APR? The biggest challenge for me involved not wanting to let anyone down, including myself. I have been practicing for 23 years, and the fear of failing a test that gauged what I do for clients every day scared me. Once I pushed myself to overcome my fear and the stigma that I didn’t have the time to invest in the process, my commitment to making this happen solidified. PRSA has the tools and resources necessary to give you the foundation necessary to succeed—you just have to believe in yourself.
  7. Any pointers? Take the online course and join several cohorts!!! I did a summer and fall cohort because I couldn’t commit the time at first to attend every session. Use the online course to set the rhythm for your studying. Study before you submit and schedule your panel presentation. It is important to know all aspects of the RPIE process and other KSAs before meeting with your panel. Know that your panel has gone through this as well and wants to see you succeed. Any feedback provided only seeks to make you better. If you can find a mentor it really helps to keep you focused, build your confidence, and encourage you to keep going, even during a global pandemic. Read the Effective Public Relations (EPR) book and the study guide. I spent the days leading up to the exam re-reading the study guide and looking at the flashcards provided by the online class. Use the strikethrough and flagging features in the online test; these help to narrow down your answers. Don’t forget to go back to review your answers before you submit the test. And, most important, relax and breathe. Find the courage within yourself to accept the challenge, and you can achieve this goal.

 

PRSA MD Service Opportunity: Call for Judges for Wisconsin PRSA Awards

It is that time of year again where our chapter performs a valuable service for another PRSA chapter around the country – the judging of their chapter’s annual professional awards.

This time we are being called to judge The Northeast Wisconsin Chapter awards. https://prsanewis.org/index.php

This service is invaluable because without judges PRSA chapters would not have a ready remedy to celebrate the hard work and professional achievements of PRSA members.

Of course, this act is reciprocal.

Because of our participation in this, it allows our Best In Maryland entries to be judged by a sister PRSA chapter later this year. We are expecting an announcement soon about what chapter will be judging us this year for our December BIM awards.

With that said, I am soliciting your help. We will need at least 20 volunteers to participate in this year’s judging.

Here are the touchpoints:

1. If you won a PRSA MD Best in Maryland Award last year or your company did, this is a great way to pay your win forward. Your award was made possible because other PRSA members around the country volunteered their time to look at your entries.

2. If you want to submit an award this year for PRSA MD BIM, this is a good chance to see what the judging process is so that you can form a strategy when our BIM call for entries goes out later this year.

3. If you want to see what other PRSA professionals are doing around the country with campaigns, this is a great opportunity to get a look at the landscape of work in another part of the country especially with COVID communications.

If you can help, please send me an email: david.marshall@morgan.edu letting me know that you are willing to participate.

The entries are expected to be delivered to PRSA MD this weekend, and all entries are due back to NE Wisconsin on March 27.

I will be in touch with further directions once I receive your email saying you can volunteer.

Thanks so much for considering this meaningful service opportunity. It would be great to hear from volunteers by this Saturday.

Best to all, and thanks for being a member of PRSA MD.

David Marshall, Ph.D., APR
PRSA MD Chapter President

PRSA Public Affairs and Government Section’s first webinar of 2021

Building Bridges

Join your fellow Section members on Tuesday, Jan. 19 at 4 p.m. EST for the Public Affairs and Government Section’s first webinar of 2021, Why Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Matter: The Human Capital and Public Affairs Connection to Building the Best Organization.

Hear leading Public Affairs and Human Capital (previously known as Human Resources) professionals discuss programs to build bridges between their offices and how they communicate their efforts. 

During this webinar, you will explore: 

  • Ways to identify who owns the DE&I program in your organization and what is the current plan/program. 
  • What is the relationship between PA, HC and EEO offices in organizations?
  • What are the roles and responsibilities of each?
  • How can the three collaborate in implementing the plan?
  • How does PA work with HC/EEO to make everyone DEI savvy in the organization? 
  • Identify the best practices and/or gaps in your organization’s DE&I plans/programs.  

Going forward, PAG Section members will consult their organizations for current DE&I plans and best practices in order to provide data that will be shared in a report compiled by the Section. 

Webinar presenters:

  • Moderator: Felicia Blow, APR, Associate Vice President for Development, Hampton University
  • Kermit Howard, Division Director, Human Capital Division, Department of Interior
  • Marta Lugo, External Affairs Officer-Racial Equity, D&I, Civic Engagement, Santa Clara Valley Water  
  • Cyrus A. Salazar, Director, Office for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Department of Defense

REGISTER NOW!

 

Meet Board Member and Volunteer Laurie Farrell

For the November issue of WebNotes, we met Laurie Farrell, PRSA Maryland board member and volunteer. Laurie is the owner and president of her own freelance firm, Mission Street Communications, and was the chair of the PRSA Maryland Conference this year.

How long have you been a member of PRSA and why did you join?

I have been involved with PRSA Maryland since 2004. I’ve always been excited to learn new skills, meet new people and make connections, and PRSA has helped me do that.

What did you enjoy most about being the conference chair for the 2020 PRSA Maryland Conference?

I also chaired last year’s conference and at first, I thought that this year’s conference might not be as much work because it was virtual. But it became a challenge as we had to figure out what was going to resonate with people and what would keep viewers engaged when so many have “Zoom fatigue.” This led us to get to work with some awesome speakers from all over the country, who we would not ordinarily be available for an in-person event. We brought in a producer, Laurie Reuben, who was great to collaborate with. Overall, I love creating content and experiences as a team, rising to the occasion when there’s a challenge and collaborating with others.

What is your current position?

The coronavirus pandemic hasn’t been an easy time for anyone. I was part of a layoff due to budget cuts as a newer employee. This provided me with a bit of a break to focus on the conference and my family, and allowed me to gain clarity on what I want to do next. I also have my own freelance business called Mission Street Communications, which I’m starting to do more for. My goal is to land with a mission-based organization where I can be part of a team and help them reach their goals and make some meaningful contributions while also continuing to learn and grow.

What do you love most about the PR field?

The essence of PR is cultivating and growing mutually beneficial relationships, which I’m all about. I also love the strategy that goes into it, collaborating with organizations to solve problems and provide solutions that make an impact. So much has changed and developed over time, but the fundamentals are always going to be the same. You always have to think about reputation management and crisis communications, hone your writing skills, and strategize about how to engage different audiences. It’s fast-paced and always changing, which makes this profession so interesting and fun.

How do you define success?

First, just giving back, participating in my community and being a good human being. Our measures for success tend to change over time as we travel along in life. For me, success is making the time to do the things I truly enjoy, either on my own or with the people I enjoy most. And then, making sure to be very present for it. You can accomplish all kinds of things, but you need to ask yourself “how am I making the most of the time I have?” There’s so much joy in everyday, ordinary moments – like seeing a cool leaf or savoring the first sip of a hot cup of tea or skipping with my granddaughter. Really recognizing the value of those simple moments makes for a great life.

Who inspires you?

Anyone who is doing good things in the world, taking risks, and stretching themselves. All three of my daughters inspire me when I see the people they have become. Now that my kids are older, I get to continue to share in their lives, and they inspire me a lot.

What is one thing – either industry-related or not – you learned in the last month?

Going back to the conference, the different ways and tools to provide engaging content for people virtually. There’s so much more you can do now. I think when we’re back in person, these lessons I learned are important to remember as well. Keep it interesting and keep it relevant.

What is something about you (a fun fact) that many people may not know?

I make amazing playlists. I like to create playlists based on how I want to feel the next day, or what I want my mood to be. I have magic powers to transform my day with playlists, and it absolutely works!

What is a podcast you would recommend?

“How I Built This.” It’s an NPR podcast where Guy Raz interviews innovators, entrepreneurs, and those who have started successful businesses. Guy is such an excellent interviewer and the stories are interesting and inspiring. Guests include the founders of Ben & Jerry’s, Airbnb, Warby Parker, Canva and Bobbi Brown.

Where did you grow up and where would you like to retire?

I was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and grew up in Pasadena, Maryland. I like to think about retiring in New England, like Massachusetts, or Beaufort, North Carolina.

If you had to eat one meal every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Gluten-free pancakes with maple syrup (and maybe some bacon). For obvious reasons, that’s not a good idea. So, I’ll replace that with one of my super healthy (and delicious) soup recipes.

Chapter member Ashlene Larson has been selected by The Daily Record to receive one of its 2020 Leading Women awards

Ad Agency Leader Ashlene Larson Named One of Maryland’s 2020 Leading Women

The Daily Record Recognizes the Next Generation of Maryland’s Women Leaders

Ashlene-LarsonBaltimore, Md., (October 15, 2020) — The Daily Record selected Ashlene Larson, director of public relations and social media for the award-winning, Baltimore-based advertising agency, Planit, to receive one of its 2020 Leading Women awards.

“This year’s Leading Women are professionally accomplished, involved in their communities and committed to making a difference and inspiring change,” said Suzanne Fischer-Huettner, group publisher of The Daily Record. “They are the next generation of leaders in Maryland, and The Daily Record is pleased to recognize their achievements.”

The Daily Record’s Leading Women awards honor women who are 40 years of age or younger for the accomplishments they have made so far in their careers. A panel of previous Top 100 Women and Leading Women winners selected the honorees based on their professional experience, community involvement and commitment to inspiring change.

“We are thrilled, but not surprised, that Ashlene was named to this year’s Leading Women honorees,” said Matt Doud, president and co-founder of Planit. “While she certainly brings a unique and critical perspective to the field of public relations, resulting in worldwide news stories for our clients, it is her passion – her commitment – to mentoring the next generation of PR professionals and her never-ending crusade to elevate working moms that make her an invaluable leader. Ashlene has helped architect policies for the betterment of all employees at Planit while simultaneously serving as a changemaker, a mentor, and an unstoppable force in our industry.”

Larson moved to Baltimore from Canada in 2009 during a recession, continuing a career in PR where she immediately had to assimilate to an entirely different country, American culture, and the PR/media market. Ten years later, Larson leads an award-winning PR team at Planit. Due to her strategic leadership and vision, Planit’s PR & Social Team won the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Maryland’s 2019 PR Team of the Year.

Larson is an active pillar in the community. She is a volunteer within the PR and advertising agency, but also within the community via Girl Scouts and St. Vincent de Paul. She currently serves on the Board of the American Advertising Federation (AAF) of Baltimore, a position held since 2015, where she also chairs the PR Committee and is the current Second Vice President. Through this volunteerism, she has traveled to Annapolis on behalf of the Federation’s members and the advertising community to oppose a digital tax, which was recently voted down. Larson is a published thought leader featured in WYPR, the Baltimore Business Journal, the Baltimore Sun, and more. She also gives back to the industry through speaking engagements with Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Maryland and the AAF on the topics of crisis communications and PR, and by serving as a judge for the PRSA Maryland ARC Awards in 2019.

To view The Daily Record’s complete list of Maryland’s 2020 Leading Women, visit https://thedailyrecord.com/leading-women/winners/.

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About Planit
We’re Planit. A strategic, digitally-minded agency that leads revolutions for national and global clients. Whether that’s through a variety of media channels, PR, social, or the “next big thing”—if it isn’t bold, creative, and smart, we’re not doing our job. That’s why clients including Royal Building Products, Kiddie Academy, Sheetz, Barclays US, and The AMES Companies trust Planit. And that’s why we continue to receive stellar industry recognition, including being named to Entrepreneur Magazine’s Entrepreneur 360™ List, winning the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® Award, and Advertising Age’s Small Agency of the Year.

–Industry News