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Meet New Member Nick Cavey

As Director of Communication, Nick Cavey is in charge of the MD Department of General Services (DGSE) social media pages, the DGSE website newsroom, and communications with the governor’s press office. Nick also handles media inquiries and Public Information Act requests and helps coordinate outside events and inter-office communication with other teams in the department.

Nick joined PRSA Maryland in January. Be sure to welcome him to our chapter at that next event or via LinkedIn!

Hometown: Hampstead, Maryland

Currently Reside: Hampstead, Maryland

Education: Nick earned a bachelor’s degree in communication studies from West Virginia Wesleyan.

Why did you choose a career in Communications/PR? How did you get into your current job?

[At Wesleyan] I was actually highly involved in the radio station and spent my senior year as general manger of the station. And I thought, hey, how cool would it be to work at a radio station? And then I realized it was extremely difficult to actually work in radio.


I got a job with the state and was over at the Maryland Insurance Administration as the assistant director of government relations. While I was working there I liked the communication aspect of it, going out and talking to people, the inter-office communication, planning events, and everything like that. After a while I decided to switch lanes and got into the director of communication position here.

How has being a PRSA member benefited you?

It’s been a busy year so far, so I haven’t been able to get to any events. But I have been able to go on the website and watch a couple of webinars, which are really helpful. One of the big things that we’ve been trying to do this year is increase our followers on Facebook and our LinkedIn account. There’s a bunch of different social media webinars out there and a lot of them have been very helpful.

How do you stay on top of industry-related news and trends?

Typically our audience and our major customers are other state agencies. We don’t typically deal with the public a lot. Usually when searching news articles every morning I’ll go through a couple of the major papers around here and I’ll look at a dozen other smaller papers from counties. I just go through the front pages first to see if there are any front page stories that involve DGSE or could potentially involved DGSE, and I keep an eye out for other things for other state agencies. If there’s something there I can always send it over to my counterpart at another agency, but they all do the same thing as well. So you get to know the other communication directors and we all try to help each other out.

A career in communications/PR can be stressful at times. What do you do to relax?

Especially working in a state agency, we’re always working. Just because it’s five o’clock doesn’t mean we set the phone down. If there’s something going on I can be called at 10:00 and have a conversation about whatever is happening. Yeah, that can be stressful at times. But I think the best way to relax, personally, is to go home and enjoy my family and have a nice dinner; cook dinner and sit and watch TV.

What are your passions/interests/hobbies?

I’m a very big movie buff, usually watching movies, TV shows, and everything like that. Currently—and I know I’m behind on the times—but I’m finally getting a chance to watch Game of Thrones. My friends have been telling me for years, “hey, you need to watch this!” And I finally gave in and gave it a shot and it’s been pretty good.

Best piece of advice received:

Try your hardest, because if you don’t try hard you might as well not try at all. I’m not going to get anywhere just going in and doing the bare minimum. Being like that, you’re not going to stand out. If you want to succeed, move up, you’ve got a short one here, so be willing to put the work in.

Connect with Nick on LinkedIn

Member Profile: Edwin “Ed” Bodensiek

Edwin (Ed) Bodensiek will be our keynote speaker at the PRSA Maryland Conference on June 12 where he’ll address the future of marketing and communications and the coming convergence between our fields and customer experience (CX). Click here for a sneak peek of Ed’s keynote.

Ed made an early transition into CX while in healthcare, as the head of branding and communications for a Fortune 500 public company. In 2016, Ed became the first Chief Experience Officer in the Am Law 200, for Maryland powerhouse Miles & Stockbridge.


Hometown: West Palm Beach

Education:  Florida Atlantic University

Describe what you do professionally:  I design immersive brand experiences for competitive advantage.

How did you get into your position? Ignoring silos. They exist of course, but I’ve long pretended they don’t. I’ve found that when you engage people across functions – when you tell them you want to co-design something special with them – you can get almost anything done.

Like many PRSA members, I began in marketing communications and public relations. In time I realized that people like us had the creative firepower to solve all kinds of problems for our organizations. I’ve always had a stubborn mindset of wanting to help leadership and my colleagues achieve their desired results, wherever that took me. I never thought – oh, I’m just the creative person in the room and should stick to my lane, whatever that means. I turned it all around, so the creative people were at the center of solving all kinds of operational issues – using the tools we know – but also learning to use some new ones too. I’ve never had all the answers but found that others usually did – if only we asked the right questions.

The mindset helped me navigate radically new environments. For example, when I moved from Johns Hopkins to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, I was in a very new world. Here I was, appointed by the President of the United States, into a role forcing me to combine my communications background with other disciplines – for example, public policy. At first, it was uncomfortable, but it was also how I grew as a professional. Those of us in the communications tribe think very strategically about things like target audiences and messaging – which means we are always thinking about the larger aims, and usually asking questions. It translated well to such a new environment as the federal government. The same thing happened again at my next stop – a co-op agency of the State Department. I was named head of communications and outreach for the U.S. Fulbright Scholar Program, and our goal was to find more highly qualified applicants to represent American scholarship overseas, almost like ambassadors from higher education. It forced me to combine yet again with another discipline – recruiting.

However, when I moved back into healthcare I undertook the biggest –and most uncomfortable change of all.  I was named head of communications and brand for Select Medical, a $5B public company. I knew I was going to be busy building an internal, full-service agency. I did not know I would be asked to help solve a new challenge: designing a patient experience. The work soon morphed into employee experience, and then into cultural change and activation. All of these were new areas, but I started to ask questions, think about the big picture, and connect new dots. In a few cases we invented new dots. This was the real game-changer for me: Realizing our audiences formed perceptions from every single interaction with the organization. I suddenly saw how important it was to expand my work beyond the buyer’s journey. Working across a massive scale – across 42,000 associates and across all verticals and functions – we became much more intentional about designing moments that matter. This was the pivotal role that taught me what next-generation branding could look like. After nearly six years, I took those lessons learned into law, becoming the first Chief Experience Officer in the Am Law 200.

Current and past PRSA Maryland member activities: I am a current member of PRSA Maryland, and a former board member-at-large. More than a decade ago, I also co-chaired the Best in Maryland Awards. I’ll also be participating in the upcoming annual conference on June 12 in Towson.

What advice do you have for practitioners looking to do more with the PRSA Maryland Chapter?  Beyond paying attention to the great programming, pitch PRSA Maryland on an idea of how you can contribute. Practitioners have so much to offer their peers. It’s how we can all grow together.

What are your passions/interests/hobbies? Spending time with and learning from deeply thoughtful people who are super passionate about something – anything really. It’s inspiring to see that kind of focus and learning. I also have two baseball-crazy young sons, so I ought to add the Baltimore Orioles.  I’m originally a soccer guy, so that’s been an education for me, but I am hooked for life.   

More recently, my interest has been learning as much as I can from successful entrepreneurs. There are so many great models out there. I’m about to embark on a new journey – opening Cravety, LLC in another month or so. I plan to help others create the brands and cultures people crave. The two areas are powerfully connected, as what you get on the inside you get on the outside.

Best piece of advice received:  The CEO of Select Medical and my friend and mentor, David Chernow, taught me this: “Listen, learn, then lead.” 

How to connect with Ed:

Twitter: @EdwinBodensiek

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/edwinbodensiek/

Effective in June, you can also connect with Ed at ed@cravety.com or on his website at www.cravety.com

Click here for more information on 2018 PRSA Maryland Conference including Ed’s keynote address!

Member Profile: Emily McDermott

As an account supervisor at Van Eperen, Emily McDermott guides client strategy and manages accounts, overseeing client teams and deliverables. Emily also contributes to Van Eperen’s communications and supports business development in addition to recruiting and training staff and interns. This year, Emily was recognized as the PRSA-MD chapter Volunteer of the Year.

Hometown: Baltimore, MD


I earned a Bachelor of Science degree in communications, specializing in public relations. I was lucky enough to go to Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. It’s part of the UNC School System and located in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains.

Describe your day-to-day job:

That’s the hardest question to answer! I love agency life because every day, every minute, is different and unpredictable. Possibly the best way to explain it is to imagine taking all the things I said I do at Van Eperen and put them in a really big bag. Toss in multiple clients, the integrated PESO (paid, earned, shared, and owned media) model, math for tracking and measuring, leave space for the things I’m surely forgetting, and give it a shake for 4-6 minutes and THAT’S my day-to-day job. I love it!

How did you get into your position with Van Eperen?

Funny you should ask! I moved back to Baltimore in 2013 after living in Atlanta for seven years and immediately joined PRSA-MD. I was quite active in the PRSA Georgia Chapter and knew I wanted to continue to be involved with the organization here. Jeff Davis, APR (Managing Partner of Van Eperen) was co-president of the PRSA-MD board of directors at the time and I saw him at the first event I went to and introduced myself. As I became more involved with the Chapter I was asked to join the board and got to know Jeff better. Over the years my admiration for Jeff and his work grew and grew. His public relations consultancy was acquired by Van Eperen and it wasn’t too long after that Jeff was ready to expand Van Eperen’s Baltimore office. I met with him and CEO Laura Van Eperen and the rest is history!

What did it mean to receive the Volunteer of the Year award?

It took time to sink in because it was a complete surprise. I couldn’t have been more honored. I invest time and energy into PRSA-MD because it’s an organization that I believe in and it has truly made a difference in my life and professional development. To be recognized by the Chapter as Volunteer of the Year encourages me to do more and I hope others are inspired to volunteer with PRSA-MD, too.

What work are you most proud of doing for the Chapter?

Increasing the number of programs the Chapter offers is what I’m most proud of. It has been, and continues to be, a group effort. People suggest a topic they’d like to present or one they’d like to learn more about and we’re turning those ideas into meaningful programming for communication practitioners. Networking and professional development are the two biggest reasons people join the Chapter and it’s been a huge focus to deliver both. It’s a lot of work but the feedback has been fantastic and we’re excited to bring even more in 2018!

What advice do you have for practitioners looking to do more with the Chapter?

Speak up and don’t take on too much, too soon!

 What are your passions/interests/hobbies?

Everything revolves around my family and friends. Spending time with them is the most important thing to me. I love music and going to concerts and productions. And I’m passionate about giving back. Just over a year ago, I started volunteering with Thread, Inc., a Baltimore City nonprofit. Thread aims to engage underperforming high school students confronting significant barriers outside of school by connecting students with a family of volunteers and increased access to community resources. We work to foster students’ academic advancement and personal growth into self-motivated, resilient, and responsible citizens. It’s been one of the most challenging and rewarding adventures of my life.

Best piece of advice received:

I have two; be kind and be true to yourself.

Connect with Emily:

Email – emily@vaneperen.com

Twitter – https://twitter.com/EMcDermott48

LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/emilymcdermott/

Member Profile: Ben Caplan, Strategic Factory

As a senior project manager of Strategic Factory , Ben Caplan is responsible for assisting clients with branding and marketing through print and direct mail, signage and display, digital media and promotional advertisings. He recently volunteered on the 2017 Best in Maryland Awards Gala Committee.


Hometown: Baltimore, MD

Currently reside: Reisterstown, MD

Education: Ben earned a bachelor of science in marketing and communication from Towson University.

Why did you choose a career in Communications/PR? I love to talk and express myself and help others express themselves.

How has being a PRSA member benefited you? I recently joined and am starting to meet some influential people.

Who is your role model and why? My role model is my father, who passed away. He always taught me to be honest and to be there for those you love.

What are your passions/interests/hobbies? I am very interested in history, Civil War and JFK. I also love to play golf at a variety of places.

Best piece of advice received: Each day try to take a step forward in life and business.

Connect with Ben via LinkedIn


Member Profile: Phillip Yerby, Weber Shandwick

Phill Yerby
Weber Shandwick

As the senior manager, client experience at Weber Shandwick, PRSA Maryland Chapter Board of Directors member Phill Yerby is the strategic account lead for clients across numerous industries including energy, telecommunications, insurance and travel.

Hometown: Washington, D.C.

Why did you choose a career in Communications/PR?
I chose a career in public relations because I’ve always been enamored with the news. In college, I took an intro to public relations course and decided to switch my concentration from broadcast journalism to public relations.

How has being a member of PRSA benefited you?
It’s been an excellent way to stay up-to-date all the amazing work being done by PR practitioners across the region.

Who is your role model and why?
My role model is Bill Atkinson. Bill was one of my first managers at Weber Shandwick and he fostered in me a tenacity for always delivering results for my clients.

Tennis, cooking, taking in as much live music as possible. I’m also a die-hard Washington Redskins fan. #HTTR

Best piece of advice received:
The devil is in the details.

Connect with Phill:
Follow Phill on Twitter @RealPhi11.

Member Profile: Dianna Fornaro, APR, Chesapeake Employers’ Insurance Company

Experienced PR professional Dianna Fornaro, who earned her APR this past August, says she “could see the value in studying for the APR almost immediately.” Read all about Dianna’s journey below.

When did you undertake your course of study for the APR? What or who inspired you to take on this rigorous course of study? Did you have a mentor or someone who encouraged you to keep going, to follow through to the end?

I started the process back in August of 2016 and completed it exactly one year later, in August 2017. There are two parts to getting your APR: (1) the Panel Presentation, where you present a PR campaign to at least three APRs, and (2) the 4-hour computer-based exam (CBE). To prepare for the CBE, I took the APR online study course and participated in two online study groups with other professionals from across the U.S. We used social media to share practice scenarios and offer each other support. I also received support from several colleagues, including Dan Dunne, Tracy Imm and Jen Kellar, who are all APRs and active in PRSA Maryland. And I received support from my managers, Jim Taylor and Donna Wilson. The PRSA Maryland Chapter President, Claudia Ciolfi, was rooting for me the whole time, too!

As a mid-career communications professional, what unique rewards and benefits did you see in pursuing your APR?

I could see the value in studying for the APR almost immediately. The more I studied, the more strategic I became when approaching my work. I started thinking much more critically about tactics, too. For example, when someone said: “We need a video,” I found myself asking, “Why do we need a video? Is this the best way to get our message across? What is the strategy behind this video?” Also, I am now better able to consult on such things as ethics, copyright law and many other communications areas.

As a newly accredited professional, how do you see the APR as either changing or enhancing the trajectory of your professional career or perhaps even your choice of your volunteer commitments?

I joined the PRSA Maryland Board of Directors this year. This is something I don’t think I would have felt equipped to do had I not been studying for the APR at the time. Joining the board allowed me the opportunity not only to exercise my leadership skills, but also to meet some great new people! So, yes, the APR definitely contributed to my volunteer work.

What else would you like to share? What’s the one thing anyone thinking about pursuing the APR should know?

I would love to see other PRSA Maryland members go for their APR! I believe it lends credibility to our work as PR and communications professionals, and it really does elevate the profession. It does take a certain amount of focus and self-discipline, but it’s certainly worthwhile.

Congratulations to Dianna on getting her APR!

Thank You to Our Chapter Sponsors

Thank You to Our Chapter Sponsors