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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!

Member Profile: Brynn Devereaux, Ringmaster, Coyle Studios

Even a cursory look at Coyle Studios’ website will convince you that this creative and talented professional photography team has you covered, no matter the challenges you think your assignment may present. From aerial photography to portraiture, from fine art images to the nuances of art restoration and everything in between, Coyle Studios specializes in “making companies compelling and interesting.”

Enter Brynn Devereaux. Coyle Studios’ Ringmaster. Well, let’s just say that Brynn’s day-to-day work is not dull. Far from it. For starters, she’s the company’s chief client advocate, marketing guru, and field photography magician. But, to see what Brynn’s really up to, you’ll want to go one click beyond this member profile and pay her (and Coyle) a visit at www.coylestudios.com.

What is your hometown? Scranton, Pennsylvania, now; but, I grew up in Waverly, Pennsylvania – a small town about 15 minutes outside of Scranton.

Where did you go to college?  Towson University

How would you say your PRSA membership is of benefit to you? My PRSA membership has allowed me to learn from and work with some of the best PR professionals in the area. I like being part of an organization that encourages its members to make meaningful connections and hosts events with practical educational components. 

Do you have any personal or professional role models? I’ve always looked up to female swimming athletes like Natalie Coughlin and Janet Evans. You need a tremendous amount of physical and emotional strength and tenacity to be a swimmer, and those are skills that easily translate to the business world – especially a small business.

What are some of your interests/passions? I am passionate about all things swimming and reading. I used to teach swimming lessons, and it was so rewarding (and fun) to watch “my” kids grow. I also enjoy baking and binging shows on Netflix.

How can PRSA Maryland members connect with you? Email is best at brynn@coylestudios.com. It’s probably the most reliable way to get in touch with me. I hardly ever check my messages on LinkedIn .  .  .  .


Member Profile: Cathy Nyce

This month, we talked with Cathy Nyce, director of marketing and communications for Maryland Automobile Insurance, where she led the complete re-branding of the 40-year-old agency. Cathy also served on the 2017 PRSA Maryland Conference Committee helping to create a highly successful program.

What is your hometown? Macon, Georgia

Where did you go to college/university? 

Georgia College, B.A. in Journalism
University of Baltimore, M.A. in Legal and Ethical Studies

How would you say your PRSA membership is of benefit to you?

The educational programs are excellent and always provide learning that I can apply immediately in my role as director of communications, which benefits my team, as well as me. The networking opportunities have been great – I’ve made some key connections with communications directors in similar organizations that have led to mutually beneficial collaborations. As we launched a complete rebrand of Maryland Auto, I found strong resources and guidance through PRSA members. And, I’ve met fun people! Finally, the Best in Maryland Awards provided well-deserved recognition for my entire team and concrete results we could share with our executive team and board.

Do you have any personal or professional role models?

Katharine Hepburn and Ruth Bader Ginsburg

What are some of your interests and/or passions?

I am passionate about leadership and recently completed the Transformational Leadership program at Georgetown University. I am also passionate about mentoring and encouraging young women to participate in the political process – I serve on the Running Start Advisory Board. I love the beach, reading and paddle-boarding with my two rescue puppies onboard with me. And, I am a bit obsessed with my Peloton bike and Pure Barre classes.

How can PRSA Maryland members connect with you? You can email me at cnyce@marylandauto.net

Thank You to Our Chapter Sponsors

Thank You to Our Chapter Sponsors