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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.

 

Museum of Public Relations Tour Reminds Maryland Chapter of First Woman President

A press kit premiering the movie “Dumbo,” a stereograph, Edward L. Bernays’ wooden in-box and

Virginia H. Pie, APR (Photo: C-SPAN’s coverage of American Red Cross leadership and others during a news conference about workers with AIDS in the workplace, April 19, 1988)

history-making PR artifacts and books were all part of PRSA Maryland’s live and customized virtual tour of The Museum of Public Relations in New York. The tour included a focus on famous Maryland PR execs, as well as women in PR, to mark Women’s History Month in March. 

Tour leader and museum founder Shelley Spector reminded attendees of an important Maryland chapter milestone with national significance. The Maryland chapter is known for having one of the first female chapter leaders in the nation and doing so a year ahead of National.

That leader was Virginia H. Pie, APR (later Virginia Pie-Pistolesi, following her marriage to Domenic “Tony” Pistolesi).

Chapter members were saddened to be reminded that Virginia passed away from cancer in 1991 at age 57 at her home in Hedgesville, W. Va. 

Pronounced PEE-AY, Virginia Pie-Pistolesi’s obituary in The Sun noted that she was a special events and promotions officer at Red Cross headquarters in Washington, D.C. and had been the organization’s national director of public affairs from 1981 until 1988. She also served as community relations director for the Baltimore chapter of the Red Cross from 1964 to 1973. The Washington Post noted she also worked for the Red Cross in El Paso, Alexandria and Richmond.

She was Maryland chapter president in 1972 during her time at the local Red Cross, marking the first year the chapter was recognized as “Maryland.” From 1961 to 1971 the chapter was known as the Baltimore chapter of PRSA.

The former Virginia Hughes was a native of Charlottesville, Va., and a graduate of the University of North Carolina where she earned a degree in journalism. She won a Silver Anvil award among other honors.

 

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/.

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!

Spring Session of APR Online Course begins January 28

The next session of the APR online course begins with an Orientation on Jan. 28 at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time. This course is invaluable to help you prepare for the APR exam.

Participants in this course are PR and communications professionals from all over the country. Facilitators are senior PR professionals who hold the APR designation as well as senior level positions at private and public organizations across the U.S. They often speak from experience to the various topics at hand.

The course is supported by a Study Guide as well as several textbooks. Over the course of 13 weeks, you will delve into the 10 modules, or chapters, covered in this course. Chapters include: Public Relations: A Management Function, Applying Ethics and Law, Communication Models and Theories, Managing Issues and Crisis Communications, Leading the PR Function, Managing Relationships, and, of course, Research, Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation (RPIE), the 4-step process that is at the heart of all successful public relations campaigns

During the final week of the course, you’ll have a chance to discuss your ideas for a Communications Plan utilizing RPIE. This information will be especially helpful in preparing your individual Panel Presentation, which must be presented and approved before you can take the APR exam.

The course is very convenient; it will be held completely online for one hour each week during the evening from 8:00 – 9:00 p.m. The PRSA member price is $195 (group discounts are available), and participants may take this course up to three times a year – in the spring, summer, and fall.

For more information on the APR online course, click here,

For the Spring 2020 course schedule or to enroll, click here.

 

–Industry News