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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 [email protected] or [email protected] for more information.

 

APR: Prepare for Luck

Author: Erin Merz, M.A. APR

“I believe luck is preparation meeting opportunity. If you hadn’t been
prepared when the opportunity came along, you wouldn’t have been ‘lucky.’”
— Oprah Winfrey

My journey to “lucky” began in 2011 when I managed public relations for Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, Conn. I was responsible for media relations, web content, social media and member publications for the state’s largest cultural institution. While my work was a critical part of the aquarium’s overall communication strategy, the position was heavily tactical. Earning my APR allowed me to gain more advanced knowledge, skills and abilities that weren’t constant during my nine-to-five.

Fast forward to 2013. Changes in my personal life spurred a solo cross-country move to Portland. I didn’t have a job lined up and only knew a few people in Oregon. But my work experience and APR designation gave me the confidence I needed during a big — and somewhat risky — life change.

I immediately joined and started volunteering with PRSA Portland (now PRSA Oregon). I quickly formed a network of PR professionals and an informational interview led to a mid-level agency job.

Then in January 2015, I landed my current role managing communications for Portland State Campus Rec. It was exactly what I’d hoped for when I ventured west — a position that combined my personal passion for health and wellness with my career aspirations. It was my shift from tactician to strategist.

How did APR help? Oprah Winfrey said it best. My degrees, decade of work experience and APR fully prepared me for my new opportunity managing a team and serving as the trusted adviser to departmental leadership. And maintaining my APR will ensure that I’m still prepared when luck strikes next.

Erin Merz

 

Erin Merz, M.A., APR, manages communications for Portland State University Campus Rec. She’s been a member and volunteer of PRSA Portland since 2013 and served as COO on the 2016 board. Find her online at erinmerz.com and on Instagram and Twitter @erinmerz.