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Important Update for APR Candidates

Here’s some great news for APR candidates!

There are now two ways to take the examination for Accreditation in Public Relations (APR). As of June 19, 2020, candidates have the option to take the APR exam either at a Prometric Testing Center or remotely through Prometric’s ProProctor application.

For a remote proctored exam, candidates must consent to being videotaped and supply their own laptop with camera, microphone, and internet connection. They must also be able to install a software application (“app”) prior to the test event. For information about both options, see www.prometric.com/pruab.

Additionally, if you are a candidate who is ready to give your Panel Presentation, PRSA Maryland can now administer virtual panel presentations using Zoom, WebEx, GoToMeeting, or another virtual platform. If you are ready for one of these steps, or if you are interested in learning more about the APR, contact Dianna Fornaro, APR, at dfornaro@ceiwc.com or go to https://prsamd.org/apr/.

Never assume your crisis is over … until your audience says so!

We took a brief break from our #PRSAMDWeeklyChat only to come back on June 12 with PR pro Jeffrey Davis, APR, Managing Partner, Van Eperen! Jeff talked about the realities of crisis communications and why you need a solid plan to address Covid 2.0, our national conversation about racism and whatever awaits us in the “Next Normal.”

Listen below to full conversation below or read recap for highlights.

Highlights:

What is a crisis? Internally, a crisis is an event or a series of events which threaten the organization’s ability to achieve its mission. Externally, a crisis is an event or a series of events which put your organization’s values on trial in the court of public opinion.

Realities of a crisis: Your values will be communicated and will under public scrutiny. Remember that what you say must be reinforced by your behavior. Important publics (employees, media, competitors, neighbors, family, critics) are paying attention to you. Be ready with good messaging.

Basics of a crisis: Ask “what do you want people to think about you?” That you care, are doing something, and will prevent recurrence. That you are accountable and will be part of the solution. Have a solid messaging strategy that includes a media policy, prepared messaging platform procedures, trained/tested spokespeople. Tip:  When training spokespeople, practice with a series of Q&As that will prepare the spokesperson for the hardest questions imaginable. *Don’t train in the midst of a crisis! Crisis specifics make the news.

Tip: Journalists often put out calls for more information via social media. Be a part of the story; be prepared to answer those calls.

Initial statement: Don’t ignore the “window of opportunity.” Respond quickly. Your initial statement may be broad but make sure it is timely and be sure to address the key issues during this critical period. Tip: Don’t put the news media ahead of your own employees. They are your ambassadors and can help get the messaging out. Let your employees know what is going on. Tip: Organizations can be pulled into employee issues. If this happens, respond quickly.

Create a solid crisis communications plan that includes a mobile option allowing easy access to all. The mobile plan can be setup based on crisis levels vs. specific scenarios, i.e., Level 3 – Emergency event; Level 2 – Significate/threshold event; Level 1 – Major event. The plan should identify team members and their roles, current contact information, template statements, and social media passwords.

Crisis Management Best Practices:

  • Risk assessments – identify scenarios; plans using levels
  • Scheduled sessions to review plan
  • Regular updates to plan – internal team, external stakeholders, media/influence lists, contacts, templates, mobile version
  • Media/speaker training for primary spokespersons

 

Internal communications in the age of COVID-19

When the pandemic hit earlier this year, many organizations immediately started focusing on their external stakeholders making sure their customers knew the organization valued them especially as they had to close down or curtail operations for an indefinite period of time. But what about their internal stakeholders 

On Wednesday, May 27, we were joined by Jodi Davidson, VP, Global University & Inclusion, Sodexo Corp.; Tia Mason Howard, APR, Director Internal Communications, MedStar Health; Tom Williams, APR, Managing Director, Communications, MPT; Kristi Yowell, SHRM-SCP, SPHR, Associate VP for Human Resources, Goucher College; & Dianna Fornaro, APR, Director and Accreditations Chair, PRSA Maryland Chapter (moderator) to discuss the importance of not neglecting this vital group.  

Listen to the full discussion below.  

Here are just a few highlights from the chat:

Ignoring your internal communications can lead to an information vacuum filled with misinformation, confusion, and anxiety.  Ways to prevent this is to …  

  • Create internal messaging that aligns with external messaging. Be sure to recognize there are different stakeholders involved 
  • Avoid standalone communications so the message is consistent by coordinating with all departments. (i.e., standardized templates)  
  • Provide a steady stream of communications. For example, MPT made the commitment for video conference every two weeks to provide a regular form of communications 
  • Engage all leadership to stay consistent  

Effectively communicating with employees who are working virtual, especially for those new to this nature of work, is equally important. Be sure to …  

  • Provide adequate tech support 
  • Be patient and flexible as not everyone is tech-savvy  
  • Send print materials to people who may not be as engaged 
  • Communicate through text (HR app)  
  • Create a simple ask a question on a COVID-19 website page to answer questions about pay/safety/work requirements, etc.  

 *Consider that not all employees are remote. Don’t forget to arm leaders with the necessary tools to stay in touch 

Keeping all employees engaged and upbeat is another challenge. Be sure to …  

  • Acknowledge the strangeness of the situation. Create a campaign asking for videos of what it is like to work under these circumstances, i.e., at home with family, empty offices, etc. Share widely.  
  • Offer a place where people can express out loud the challenges they are facing (personally, professionally, etc.) Create a space of validation. Encourage open conversation via virtual coffee withs, happy hours, lunch gatherings, etc.  
  • Share kudos received from the external community to reinforce their importance. *People want to know their efforts are valued by both leadership and the community.  
  • Develop a social recognition platform where colleagues can give kudos, showcase work, post photos, etc.  
  • Recognize that your team may not be doing what they normally are good at and focus instead on those things your team is doing best right now.  
  • Establish norms and options/flexibility. Not every call/virtual meeting needs to be mandatory.  

*Tip for leadership: Be transparent! Admit you don’t have all the answers but will work on getting those answers asap.  

Have tips you’d like to share? Send to info@prsamd.org.

 

 Missed the last weekly chats? Here you go …

PRSA Maryland hosts first successful APR panel presentation online!

PRSA Maryland Chapter’s APR Chair, Dianna Fornaro, APR, announced that the first-ever virtual APR Panel Presentation held this spring was an enormous success!

Dianna explains that, prior to COVID-19, PRSA National required chapters to host the APR Panel Presentation (formerly called the Readiness Review) as live, in-person meetings. The Panel Presentation is the first step in a candidate’s quest for accreditation and requires the candidate to present a PR campaign that he or she has been intimately involved in. During the presentation, the judges score the candidate on presentation skills, including speaking, listening, and engaging.

However, because of the need for social distancing during the current pandemic, the APR Committee took to Zoom to host its first very successful Panel Presentation in April. Special thanks to the candidate, Andre Riley, Director of Communications for Baltimore City Public Schools; and to judges Ken Smith, APR, Manager of Internal and CEO Communications for Boeing Defense, Space and Security and a PRSA-MD Board Member; David Marshall, Ph.D., APR, Professor and Chair of the Strategic Communications Dept. at Morgan State University and a PRSA-MD Board Member; and Janice Smith, Ph.D., APR, Assistant Professor and Director of The Strategy Shop at Morgan State University (and no relation to Ken).

Learn more about getting your APR!

The new COVID challenge >> too many zoom meetings! Let’s hack the virtual meeting!

We held our 4th #PRSAMDWeeklyChat on Friday, May 1 where we “hacked” the virtual meeting. Led by Maryland Chapter administrator Peggy Hoffman, the chat delved into how we can alleviate some of the pain points of virtual meetings and shift them from dreaded to welcomed 

Listen below for the full chat or see recap for some of the top tips shared by all the participants. And for more tips, check out Peggy’s list at Virtual Meetings? Let’s Make Them Engaging! 

Tips for all participants:  

  • Use a virtual background such as a portable web around screen or virtual background (see Howfinity to learn how to add). Tip: use an image off a photo site such as Big Stock, IStock, etc., or have a professional do one for you.  
  • If not using a virtual background, know what is going on behind you. Be sure there is enough light but no glare. A light in front of you is recommended.  
  • The camera angle is key. Be sure to look into the camera, not at your screen.  
  • Raise your laptop up so you are not looking down.  
  • Put white piece of paper or foamcore below your chin to lighten the face (see 5 simple ways to improve your Skype calls for more).
  • Mute your mic until you want to participate. Also turn off email and calendar alerts. 

Tips for meeting planners:  

*Don’t have people just sit there … keep them engaged. 

  • Create a theme of the day. Be creative and make each day different. 
  • Have a powerful agenda. Review at top of meeting to stay on track. 
  • Use a slide deck only when you need it. Put it away when you don’t so you can see the participants.  
  • Use a virtual white board, i.e., Trello board, split screen (Zoom/Board) 
  • Split up into groups, i.e., Zoom Rooms. If no breakout options, use Google doc to collaborate in groups.  
  • Insert polls and fun slides into presentations. 
  • End early. Leave them all wanting more.

Getting and keeping participants engaged:  

  • Ask participants to change their names to something fun, i.e., superheroes, famous people.  
  • Ask people to do things, i.e., if someone has a great suggestion, ask them to post in chat.  
  • Use interactive buttons to keep participates engaged: Chat to share tips, comments; Reactions to insert Thumbs up/Thumbs Down, Clap Hands; Raise Hand to hold a vote.
  • Be human. Add fun items to the meetings such as wear or share fun items, i.e., Mickey Mouse ears, mugs ect.; have surprise guests, i.e., pets, family members; include a virtual tour of an animal farm via Goat-2-Meeting.
  • Allow participants to share as needed. Allowing people to share funny stories/ gripes/ tips for dealing has been really key at the beginning of internal meetings.
  • Encourage stretch breaks. 
  • Monitor to see if people are checking out. Be flexible. 

Additional tips on using Zoom:  

  • Zoom shortcut key: to Mute/Unmute microphone – hold down space bar when talking and release when not 
  • Know the difference between meetings (everyone is on video) vs. webinars (only moderator/presenters are on video).  
  • Copy chats after meeting using three ellipsis at bottom of chat.

How we’re living, working, and coping during the COVID-19 crisis

Photo by Kyle Hanson on Unsplash

 

We wrapped up the week with a dose of optimism and ideas on how to find a balance. Joining us in the chat were three PR pros who are sitting in the middle (you know that space where you have to delegate down and up?) – Lauren Walbert (Sandy Hillman PR), Emily McDermott (Van Eperen), and Phill Yerby (Weber Shandwick).

Each offered a glimpse into their challenges and successes on finding that balance. Note: we don’t have a recording of this chat but below are some of the top tips offered.  

Challenge: Not being in the office and connecting with your team on a daily basis.

Tip: *Be your #1 advocate! Put a hard stop to the day for some self-care.

  • Hold weekly Zoom Happy Hours to chat about non-work issues.
  • Hold regular team meetings to exchange ideas.
  • Hold one-on-one meetings with staff (up and down) to discuss work/issues etc.
  • Above all … be flexible!

Challenge: Experiencing more anxiety issues caused by increased noise, limited spacing, etc.

Tip: *Find a calming app to help deal with the stressors. Check out the Happiness Lab podcast series to help destress.

  • Have open conversations with other people in the house.
  • Share with your team how you are feeling, i.e., you’re exhausted over trying to balance and deal with stress – BE HONEST, BE VALUABLE
  • Put your computer and work stuff away at the end of the day.
  • Cut out too much news and transition to more helpful podcast vs news

Challenge: Trying to get work down vs. giving family attention (including being teacher to your children) when needed.

Tip: *Know that you can only take in so much info a day so limit your intake to avoid overwhelming yourself.

  • Establish your own space.
  • Get into a routine by setting limits on your time.
  • Take breaks during the day

Challenge: Feeling energized especially if you’re losing or pausing clients.

  • Find something meaningful to do, such as starting a new hobby or volunteering for a local cause.
  • Get out as much as possible.
  • Interact with others (at a safe distance of course!).
  • Support local businesses as much as possible.

Challenge: Taking vacation or days off when this is a demanding time for communicators

Tip: Find time to turn it off! Do have to have selfcare; talk to other people … take a break!

  • Ask for a mental health day
  • Shut down with out of office
  • Driveway drive-bys
  • Avoid workspace as much as possible
  • Take advantage of Employee Assistance Programs if your employee provides
  • If you’re self-employed, take vacation with no check-ins.

Look for the positive – create your own environment (i.e., put on your own music). Get into your own space!

So what’s to like about this new work environment? How about the flexibility?

  • Flexible work hours (but stay consistent!)
  • More time to exercise, i.e., online exercise classes
  • Savings on gas, childcare, etc.
  • Less chitchat while trying to get out of work so workday ends when it ends.

The question in the end is How will this time change the way we work?

 

Have tips you’d like to share? Send to info@prsamd.org.

Missed the last few weekly chats? Here you go …

 

Thank You to Our Chapter Sponsors

Thank You to Our Chapter Sponsors