Rhonda Morin, APR: Accreditation boosts credibility tenfold

By Jean Kempe-Ware, APR
Member, PRSA Oregon Membership Committee and APR Coaching Team

As a member of a Maine Wilderness Rescue Team and an emergency medical technician, she hung by ropes off cliffs and carried the injured on litters down mountains.

As a cyclocross racer, she navigates barriers, jumps off platforms and sprints through mud and has won multiple state titles and a bronze medal in a national championship.

And last fall, Rhonda Morin, executive director of communications and marketing for Clark College Foundation in Vancouver, WA, achieved another goal: Accreditation in Public Relations (APR).

“I can fix your wheel, fix your public relations problem and fix your broken arm … all in the same hour,” Rhonda laughs. “I know how to help people in crisis.”

From elephants to APR … a 20-year journey

During her 20-year career in communications and public relations, Rhonda organized a trip for international journalists to Zimbabwe, where she witnessed elephants in the wild. She worked as a journalist for niche magazines and in corporate communications for Maine Public Broadcasting. Currently, she edits Clark Partners, a 28-page alumni magazine.

In 2015, she received the platinum/gold award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) District VII for Best Practices in Fundraising Campaigns for Clark College Foundation’s $20 million campaign.

Why did Rhonda pursue APR at this stage in her career?

“Chuck Williams, APR, (PRSA Oregon’s APR guru) called me. He was kind, direct and persistent. ‘See you in February,’ he said.”

But Rhonda hesitated.

“I am curious and a lifetime learner. I have attended countless conferences and workshops in my career and thought I knew everything about public relations. I wondered what more I could learn. Plus, I’m a person who completes things. I hold my free time precious, and I knew the process would take time.”

After attending the APR orientation session, Rhonda knew she was in for the long haul.

“What I learned was above and beyond my expectations. The chapter’s APR sessions helped me put the puzzle pieces together. Everything I learned was applicable to my line of work.”

Rhonda gives up three races to study

Rhonda set a deadline to complete the process. She worked on her oral presentation at work during down time.

“That process helped sharpen my presentation skills,” she notes.

To study for the APR computer exam, she hunkered down for three solid weekends and for a few hours after work for about four weeks.

“Fall is my busy season. I race almost every weekend. I gave up three races to study for the APR test. That’s a big deal to me,” Rhonda said.

Rhonda’s credibility goes up tenfold

Was it worth it?

“As soon as I told my supervisor I was pursuing my APR, my credibility went up tenfold. Colleagues started coming to me to ask high-level questions. My credibility is higher than ever,” she says.

But, she notes, with accreditation comes responsibility. “You are now the voice of ethics and reason. You need to say, ‘Wait. Why do we need this?’ when someone suggests a tactic. ‘What is the goal? What is the objective?’”

Rhonda’s advice

Rhonda encourages fellow PRSA chapter members with at least five years of experience to pursue APR.

“You are busy. You have family. You have obligations. I had races. You’ve got to fit it in,” she says. “If you are serious about your career, if you want to jump to the next level, if you want credibility, if you want to boost your confidence, APR is how you do it.”

APR Orientation: Saturday, Feb 16

PRSA Oregon offers a series of free Saturday morning classes to help chapter members prepare for and successfully complete the accreditation process. The course begins with an orientation session Saturday, Feb. 16, location to be announced. Email patti@prpatti.com or williwy@aol.com for more information.

 

Words from a new APR

“I am so proud!”

Jaimee Mayfield Fox just earned her accreditation in Public Relations from the Universal Accreditation Board.   

“It’s all worth it,” she says. “You have to believe in yourself. But you also have to put in the work.”

Jaimee is Multnomah County Health Department’s HR Communications Manager. She started as a county communications specialist in 2011. She began her work toward the APR in 2016. It’s less than a year-long program if you can devote the time. But Jaimee had a few interruptions along the way. She got married, bought a new home, and got a promotion.

“Ask yourself: Do you really want this?” she advises. “Life will try to get in the way if you drag it out. Put in the effort.”

 

Jaimee had support from the PRSA-Oregon coaches, who guided, advised and pushed her to the end. And she had crucial support from home and work.

“I couldn’t have done it without the support of my boss,” Jaimee said. “And my husband Jamal encouraged and helped me to stay focused. He continually told me, ‘You got this.’”

Jaimee’s husband Jamal Fox is property and business development manager for the city of Portland Bureau of Parks and Recreation.

Jaimee has some advice for those of you contemplating earning your accreditation.

“Take advantage of the resources the chapter offers you,” she says. “Find your study style. Make sure you know and understand how you learn. You have to study like you’re going to apply it to a real-life scenario.”

Jaimee says the computer test was hard, but not impossible.

“I was careful to make sure I stayed within time. ‘Keep going,’ I told myself. I was tired! But I just took a deep breath, and said, ‘What will be, will be.’”

She passed easily. Despite the time it took, the delays along the way and the amount of hard work, Jaimee insists the APR is worth the effort.

“This has been both a personal and professional goal,” she says. “Even going through the process was valuable. Once you apply this process, all of a sudden it makes sense.”

Your success in any field is dependent on remaining relevant, motivated and imaginative. The Accreditation in Public Relations credential certifies your professionalism and principles. And it positions you as a leader in the competitive field of public relations. The process of earning your APR exposes you to today’s cutting‐edge strategies and practices; it helps you assess your skills to identify strengths and opportunities for growth; it demonstrates your personal and professional commitment to excellence; and it provides the tools you need to distinguish yourself in this field.

“It’s exciting to use my new learning,” Jaimee says. “I have to calm myself down at work! Once you get to the other side it’s so rewarding.”

—Dave Thompson, APR, former chapter president