Why We’re Bringing Cards Against Humanity to Pittsburgh

Use a euphemism whenever possible. Take a neutral position on anything controversial. When in doubt, say “no comment.”

Most public relations professionals are well-trained in defensive PR tactics that keep our organizations on the safe side of the public. Just as all doctors learn that the cardinal rule of medicine is to “first, do no harm,” PR practitioners typically believe that it is better to say nothing at all than to risk offending someone.

With these principles in mind, it may seem like an odd choice for PRSA Pittsburgh to invite Jenn Bane, the community manager from the popular game Cards Against Humanity, to speak at our inaugural PR Summit. Branded as the “Game for Horrible People,” the company was founded entirely on the idea that it can be fun to say things that are inappropriate, controversial, absurd and downright shocking.*

The game goes against every PR principle in the book. So what can Cards Against Humanity teach us about public relations?

Above all, the success of the game is based on trust and authenticity. As my colleague Nick Paradise noted in his recent blog post for ethics month, the world is currently experiencing a crisis of trust. Many people have lost trust in the media. They’ve lost trust in corporations. And they’ve lost trust in our institutions. In the age of information, there’s a deep fear that the public isn’t being told the entire story.

As people crave more authenticity, PR messages that paint a rosy, picture-perfect view can fall flat, leaving people wondering if there’s something to hide behind the scenes. Cards Against Humanity takes the opposite approach. They lay out the worst and darkest sentiments from the beginning, with nothing left to hide. But behind the scenes, they give vast amounts of money to charity.

The game’s audience is delighted by this subversive approach that makes light of words but delivers above and beyond what it promises. As a result, the audience has become incredibly loyal, trusting the company to make them laugh no matter the cost. As a result, Cards Against Humanity has been able to pull off incredible stunts. They charged an extra $5 for their game for a Black Friday Sale, and made tens of thousands of extra dollars. They raised more than $100,000 to dig a giant, pointless hole. They even sold more than 30,000 boxes of actual bullsh*t. Each time, they were clear and direct about what they were doing and why. And their audience appreciated it so much they paid for it.

The brand is, as promised, incredibly controversial. But whether you love the game or absolutely hate it, our point in bringing them to the PR Summit is to challenge how you think about risk in PR. Like every other industry, the public relations field is now under constant threat of disruption. To innovate and adapt to change, we have to be willing to consider that our tried-and-true techniques might no longer be effective, and that previously unheard-of tactics may work in a new context.

PRSA Pittsburgh is taking this theory to heart with the launch of the PR Summit this year. The Summit replaces our annual Professional Development Day, which has typically been geared toward helping younger professionals network with others in the PR community. While the PR Summit will still accomplish this, we wanted to broaden our approach and provide more valuable insight that will spark big ideas for experienced practitioners, young professionals and students alike.

In addition to featuring Cards Against Humanity, we’ll also hear from Steve Radick, VP & Director of Public Relations at BRUNNER, on how creating a bold and controversial Super Bowl ad put a southwestern Pennsylvania company on the map and earned the spot as AdWeek’s #1 Super Bowl ad. Carnegie Mellon professor Ari Lightman will also speak on how artificial intelligence is disrupting social media. And for practical tips on getting media attention, we’ll hold a panel discussion with several journalists who will talk about what it takes to grab their attention.

No matter what industry you work in or the stage of your career, you will leave the PR Summit energized to try something new. You might walk away ready to revolutionize your PR strategy from top to bottom. Or you might gain the courage to execute a bold new PR tactic that you’d been afraid might fail. You might even leave the event outraged and ready to prove that your existing PR strategy is the best in the business. But you won’t leave without feeling a renewed passion for your career.

Join us for the PR Summit on October 19 from 6-9 p.m. at the Carnegie Science Center. Register here.

*If you aren’t familiar with the game, it’s played by one player reading aloud a black card that asks players to fill in the blank. Each player then submits a response from their hand of white cards. The reader shuffles all the response cards, then reads them aloud, choosing the one that he or she likes best as the winner.

Ethics Month Special: Tactics September Issue Recap

By Bre Stephens

As PR professionals, we’re often faced with situations that force us to use our moral and ethical compass to guide clients or own organizations. Since September is Ethics Month, it’s only fitting that this month’s issue of Tactics touches upon how to deal with crises, navigate ethics as young professionals and ground ourselves in our own principles — while aligning with the PRSA Code of Ethics.

3 Tips for Navigating Ethics as a New Professional

  • It can be challenging to navigate the murky waters of ethics, especially as a young professional. Lindsay Moeller, PR executive at Two Rivers Marketing, outlines her top three tips on ethics for new pros.

A Matter of Principle: How to Be a Truly Trusted Strategic Ethics Adviser

  • James E. Lukaszewski, APR, Fellow PRSA, discusses how to define your personal core values and principles to best resolve ethical dilemmas.

Recovery Mode: Bouncing Back From a Crisis, Stronger Than Ever

  • When a crisis strikes, it’s vital to properly execute your organization’s crisis plan, with keen attention on the crisis recovery phase. Bob McNaney, senior vice president of crisis and critical issues for Padilla, offers insight into how to come out stronger than ever after a crisis.

Can Ethics Exist Without Principles?

  • Jonathan R. Slater, Ph.D., director of the Institute for Ethics in Public Life at SUNY Plattsburgh, explains how the PRSA Code of Ethics — coupled with your own instinct — can guide you in ethically challenging situations.

When Crisis Strikes: A Guide for Small Businesses

  • V.K. Fields, founder of V.K. Fields & Co. PR PROS, understands that a crisis can happen to any company — no matter the size. She shares how small businesses without a crisis management/communication plan can prepare themselves following a few basic steps.

Read the latest issue of Tactics here.


Bre is an account executive at Havas PR. Follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.

Public Doesn’t Mistrust PR Pros – It Mistrusts Everyone

By Nick Paradise, Ethics Chair

PR practitioners: are you worried that the general public doesn’t trust you? That your neighbors, colleagues and the people watching on TV think you deal in lies and deceit? Don’t feel so bad. They don’t trust anyone else either.

The 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer,  the international PR firm’s 17th annual effort, found what it calls a “global implosion” in trust.

“Trust is in crisis around the world. The general population’s trust in all four key institutions — business, government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and media — has declined broadly, a phenomenon not reported since Edelman began tracking trust among this segment in 2012.”

Among those four institutions, only NGOs and business had a majority of trust, though both still barely hovered above the 50 percent mark. The media saw the largest year-over-year decline with 5 percentage points. Shockingly, the survey found that people trust search engines more than they trust any form of media out there.

As PR professionals, the survey’s results may be a double-edged sword. On one hand, they don’t just look suspiciously at us; they look that way at everyone.

Yet, our profession is inexorably tied to the media, and we certainly play a role in the perception of businesses, government and executive leadership. Is this noted decline in trust an indictment on the work we do as PR pros? Or an indicator that too many organizations out there are ignoring the advice of those paid to burnish their employer’s image?

Whatever the answer, we need to work to change this. But how? A critical component is to encourage ethical behavior in communications and operations. Full transparency isn’t possible in many fields, but openness needs to be valued over opaqueness. The PRSA Code of Ethics states its primary values as Advocacy, Honesty, Expertise, Independence, Loyalty and Fairness. We must remember that these traits are not only to be exhibited in service to our employer, but equally so towards the public.

It’s not easy, and we may not win the boardroom battle every time, but it’s on us to push the organizations we represent to adhere to high standards of truth and knowledge, to be accountable for our actions, to seek to ultimately serve the public interest and to deal fairly with everyone we interact with— whether it be clients, employers, competitors, peers, vendors, the media or the general public. Only through upholding these values, and steady changes in how we all do business, can we hope to begin restoring trust in the institutions we represent.

Part of being an ethical PR practitioner is to put yourself in the shoes of every stakeholder when considering courses of action and to serve as a sort of conscience for your client or company. After all, if you’re not doing it, who will?


Nick Paradise is director of public relations at Kennywood Park and also serves as Ethics Chair for PRSA Pittsburgh.

Young Professionals Communicator Tour Heading to Carnegie Mellon University

Our Communicator Tour Series is headed to Carnegie Mellon University!

On Thursday, October 5, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. PRSA Pittsburgh will be visiting Carnegie Mellon University’s newly-renovated Marketing & Communications office for our second Communicator Tour this year. This will be a multi-speaker event, including: social media manager, Assistant Vice President for Content & Communications, Vice President for Marketing & Communications, and more. Following the presentation, there will be a tour of their facility.

“We are excited to visit CMU and their new four- story Marketing & Communications office, students might not know what goes on “behind the scenes” at their school and this is an opportunity to find out” said Taylor Bombalski, PRSA Pittsburgh’s Young Professionals co-chair.

Students and young professionals will have an opportunity to see behind the scenes and hear from PR professionals that work in higher education. “We can’t wait for students to attend this tour. Since we typically tour advertising or public relations agencies, it will be exciting to learn what goes on behind-the-scenes in a university setting. We hope students will enjoy learning about and touring one of the most popular universities in the Pittsburgh area, as well as a top-ranked school in the world,” said Kariann Mano, PRSA Pittsburgh’s Young Professionals co-chair

To RSVP for the event, please send a note to youngprofessionals@prsa-pgh.org by Friday, September 29. You can also register here.


About Carnegie Mellon Marketing & Communications

The Marketing & Communications Division leads and coordinates strategic marketing and communications for Carnegie Mellon University, raising the institution’s global visibility and deepening its reputation as one of the world’s great universities. M&C tells the university’s stories through its own rich array of tools and platforms; it cultivates ambassadors among CMU’s extended global community; and it reaches out to influential audiences through a variety of traditional and new media. The division enhances the CMU experience for faculty, staff, students and alumni by facilitating clear communication within the university community.

The division provides leadership, guidance and coordination for leaders and communicators across campus, collaborating with other offices, colleges, schools and departments. We provide expertise in websites, creative design, videos and photographs, news packages, media relations, social media, leadership communications and more. We help articulate and highlight the distinctive excellence of Carnegie Mellon University and its broad and deep impact on the human condition.

For more information about Carnegie Mellon Marketing & Communications, visit their website at http://www.cmu.edu/marcom/.

FAQ: What’s the Inside Scoop on the APR Computer Exam?

By Ben Butler, APR

[This is the sixth post in the APR Journey Series exploring the Accreditation in Public Relations credential and the journey to getting it. Check out the introductory post here.]

The computer examination is the final step standing between you and your Accreditation in Public Relations (APR). You’ll be cleared to take it once you pass your Panel Presentation.

I get a lot of questions about the exam. How does it compare to what you might’ve taken in college? How long is it? What types of questions are asked?

Here’s the scoop on the APR computer exam:

The Format: Online, Paragraph Comprehension, Multiple Choice

The examination is entirely online, taken within an approved testing center. More on that later.

Every question presents a paragraph of information. You read it, are asked a question about that information and have a series of multiple choice answers.

The common misconception with multiple choice questions is that the answers are “super easy” and you’ll be able to wing the test. Not in this case. Even given that they’re multiple choice, you still need to command the knowledge (overviewed in the study guide).

Study at the Beginning of the Process

I mentioned it in previous posts, but I would study for the examination before even sitting for the Panel Presentation.

Studying for the exam will enhance your overall success and make the journey a lot smoother.

How to Study

The answer really comes down to your learning style. For me, I had the study guide printed and put into a binder. I’d take that — and the recommended texts — to local coffee shops and breweries and read through it until it stuck. For you, maybe it’s a study buddy, set of flashcards or all of the above.

All in all, what you need to walk away with is an understanding of what’s detailed in the study guide. You should be able to cite a certain theory, type of public relations, business models or law affecting our profession. But, you should also be able to apply that information to real-life situations.

Taking the Exam

Online examinations are facilitated by an approved list of testing centers, which will be shared by PRSA when you make it to this stage.

These are the same type of testing centers that administer graduate school examinations. Before you go into the examination room, you’re required to stash all the contents of your pockets in a locker.


Have some study questions? Get in touch with me — I’m happy to be your sherpa.


Ben Butler, APR, is the client services director for Top Hat, an award-winning marketing communications firm in Pittsburgh, and the Accreditation Director for PRSA Pittsburgh. In his past life he served as a public relations guy for a motorsports complex, director of inbound partnerships for an inbound marketing agency and head of communications for a software startup. He’s been named a Top Under 40 Communicator and is Accredited in Public Relations (APR)—a distinction held by less than 20-percent of all practitioners.

PR Boot Camp: Tactics August Issue Recap

By Bre Stephens

It’s time to get in shape — PR shape, that is. The August issue of Tactics features content to help you enhance your skillset, with insights into effectively communicating complicated information, sharing key metrics and breaking out of a creative funk. So, gear up and check out some of this month’s top articles.

Summer Reads for PR Pros

  • Hanna Porterfield, chair-elect of the PRSA New Pros Section and senior account executive at Development Counsellors International, shares must-reads for PR pros to dive into this summer.

Math for PR Pros: What Metrics Should You Keep Your Eye On?

  • Math may not be a favorite among PR pros, but it can be necessary for demonstrating the value of our work. Robyn Rudish-Laning, programming co-chair for PRSA’s New Professionals Section, outlines the key metrics that matter most.

Finding Your Ah-ha Writing Moment

  • Stuck in a creative rut? We’ve all been there. Ann Wylie can help with the 5-Step Creative Process.

Real Simple: Tips for Communicating Complex Information

  • Sunni Brown, assistant director of media and public relations at the University of Richmond, understands how difficult it can be to comprehend complex language, let alone turn it into simple content. Check out her three tips for translating complicated information into readable and digestible material.

A Currency Affair: Understanding Blockchain Technology

  • We’ve all heard of a bitcoin, but do you know about the technology behind it? Stephen Dupont, APR, vice president of public relations and branded content for Pocket Hercules, helps us to understand this technology, called “blockchain”, and what it means for the marketing and communications world.

Read the latest issue of Tactics here.


Bre is an assistant account executive at Havas PR. Follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.

Agency vs. In-House Comms: One Career, Two Different Worlds

By Bridgette Borst Ombres

People always ask me, “Which do you like best – agency or in-house?” Or, I find myself in talks with a recent graduate who will be on the fence and wants help weighing the pros and cons of each. No one wants to potentially miss anything happening on “the other side.”

As someone who has worked in the agency sector, done a fair amount of independent consulting and has also worked in corporate communications – I can say, you gain rich experience in each and both can be equally rewarding.

In my experience, below are some of the contrasts.

Breadth vs. depth of work

In the agency and consulting world, you get a wide range of experience working with different clients who make up different sizes and industries. While you may not become an expert in any one industry, this side of the business allows you to explore a breadth of PR, cultivate media relationships across a variety of beats and discover what you enjoy most. On the other hand, corporate communications offers PR pros a deep understanding of one brand and its assets. The good news? These folks become brand and industry experts. The bad news? You could get pigeon-holed in an industry that you don’t want to work in forever.

Doing what you love

Unfortunately, not all clients (and industries) are created the same. You may be extremely passionate about telling one brand’s story and fired up about advocating for a specific issue or cause, while you’re not so jazzed about another client’s work. A benefit in corporate communications is you have the opportunity to seek out an industry or issue that you’re passionate about and put all of your energy into it every day.

The “team” can look very different

One of the great advantages to working at an agency is being able to bounce ideas off of fellow creatives who understand what you do. Whether you’re testing different messaging, thinking through a crisis response or vetting a media pitch, you have a team of communications professionals you can learn from and who can offer valuable feedback. Often times, collaboration with other seasoned PR pros is harder to come by in-house. Your colleagues might be all very great at their jobs, but when it comes to marketing communications, they just don’t get it – and that can be frustrating at times. The product itself can also be less quality, not having the benefit of collaborating with other, like-minded professionals. As the old saying goes, ‘two heads are better than one!’

Getting the green-light

Waiting to get client approval on every single landing page, ad, story angle, speech, op-ed, etc. can mean deadlines getting pushed back. Based on my experience working in-house, getting sign off from legal, execs and IT is easier and much quicker.


To sum it up from my point of view – if you like specializing in something and prefer more structure, in-house communications may be the best option. On the other hand – if you dig more variety in your work, then agency is the way to go!


Bridgette Borst Ombres is a former television news reporter turned PR and marketing professional with a decade of experience working in the communications field across agency, corporate and nonprofit sectors. Bridgette is the director of marketing and communications at a tech company in Pittsburgh and also consults for a variety of businesses.

She is a member of PRSA Pittsburgh, serves on the TEDxPittsburgh committee, the co-founder of Not Your Mama’s Book Club and volunteers as a mentor at both of her alma maters.

A Job Description for the CMO of Tomorrow

 [ This article originally appeared on The Way, Sprinklr’s content hub. As one of PRSA Pittsburgh’s sponsors, each month Sprinklr will be delivering you with some insights into how you can use technology to make your marketing more efficient and effective. ]

Marketing is going through an unprecedented shift. Customers have more power than ever before, and brands can’t rely on traditional methods to reach them.

As a result, CMOs are under immense pressure to lead their teams through this uncharted landscape. According to a survey by Deloitte, 80% of CMOs are sensing increased expectations and 82% believe they need to personally acquire new skills.

That’s why – in a new whitepaper about the future of marketing – Mohanbir Sawhney, Clinical Professor of Marketing at the Kellogg School of Management, outlined a brand-new job description for the CMO of tomorrow.

Sawhney wrote that CMOs have to master these six key roles to survive this marketing transformation.

1. The Customer Experience Conductor

Eighty-nine percent of companies now compete primarily on the bases of customer experience. And yet, according to a new study by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, less than half of today’s companies have an executive dedicated to this task.

That’s where the CMO comes in. The CMO needs to develop programs that will measure, monitor, and improve customer experience management across the company.

As Sawhney wrote, “By wholeheartedly taking ownership of customer experience, CMOs can position themselves to spur alignment among all of their organization’s customer-facing functions – including sales, research, commerce, and customer care.”

2. The Insights Generator

As the customer experience leader, the CMO will have access to a wealth of data from multiple touchpoints. They need to mine this data for insights about consumer needs and behaviors, and use those findings to fuel innovation.

“When these insights are fed to other functions,” Sawhney wrote, “customer feedback can dramatically improve products, qualify leads, target ad spending, and elevate customer service.”

3. The Growth Catalyzer

Smart CMOs don’t just identify great ideas; they own them and act on them.

McDonald’s, for example, used social listening to see that customers wanted breakfast sandwiches to be available all day. Marketers then worked with supply chains to build a new customer-driven menu: “All Day Breakfast.” This prompted significant revenue growth after 14 consecutive quarters of decline.

To drive similar success, marketing leaders must break down silos between teams. Those who gather social data and those who interact with customers must be able to communicate and collaborate in real-time.

4. The Brand Steward

All companies are vulnerable to public criticism and negative reviews online. That’s why CMOs must identify brand advocates and empower them to share their positive experiences. With advocates on their side, CMOs can help create engaged communities of new and loyal customers.

“By embracing the ‘brand steward’ role and committing to rank and file Advocates,” Sawhney wrote, “CMOs can not only guard against detractors, they can build and sustain brand affinity.”

5. The Marketing Communicator

Marketing leaders have to keep up with a growing number of digital platforms. This makes it tough to collect and coordinate data in real-time. CMOs can solve this issue by using an integrated platform that lets them collect data from multiple channels, build audience segments, and deliver personalized messages all in a single framework.

This communication tool will also allow the CMO to connect legacy systems like email and CRM, so all teams can have a unified view of the customer.

6. The Talent Incubator

CMOs aren’t the only ones affected by this digital transformation. Content directors, data scientists, and managers will need to be trained or re-hired to help the CMO fulfill these new responsibilities.

Marketing leaders must take a hard look at their current teams and find opportunities to expand digital and technical expertise. If current employees aren’t up to the job, CMOs need to find candidates with the right skill sets. After all, the CMO of tomorrow needs the team of tomorrow in order to succeed.

The Customer-First CMO Profile

The rules of marketing have changed. The role of the CMO must change with them.

As IBM’s Chief Marketing Officer Michelle Peluso wrote in the whitepaper, “20 years ago, the CMO was essentially the broadcast arm of a company in charge of taking the company’s messages and distributing them through advertising, PR, etc. But that is changing dramatically now.”

It’s up to CMOs to lead their companies through this new world of marketing. And that starts with mastering the six competencies outlined above. It’s not just critical if they want to keep their job; it’s also absolutely necessary if they want their company to survive.


The author, Ben Waldron, is a former journalist and PR professional, who joined the Content Marketing team in 2016 as Associate Editor.

What the 2016 Election Teaches Us About Digital Advocacy and the Future of Grassroots Campaigns

By Erin O’Connor, Account Supervisor at WordWrite Communications

[ This is a post from WordWrite Communications, a strategic communications consulting firm based in downtown Pittsburgh. ]

On November 9, 2016, millions of Americans tuned in to the morning news with a general sense of wonder. A business mogul, turned reality TV star, turned political candidate had been elected president of the United States, and every campaign analyst and statistician in the country crawled back into their foxholes to burn their Excel spreadsheets.

Though, despite the widespread shock and awe that ensued after the votes were tallied, one man who had been hired by the Trump campaign remained unsurprised by the results. Not because he was privy to some sort of foreign espionage or because he had savant-like tendencies, but because he knew he and his team had achieved something that no one had done before.

Flash back to summer 2016. Candidate Donald Trump engages data-analytics company Cambridge Analytica to aid his social media efforts. Unlike much of Trump’s decision-making during his campaign, the choice to bring on the company and its British CEO, Alexander Nix, went relatively unnoticed. After all, Hilary Clinton had relied heavily on social media throughout her campaign, and worked with big names like Google and Dreamworks. Why was this selection any different?

But it was. Nix’s strategy was complex, built around the idea that by cross-referencing people’s behavior on social media with their inherent psychological traits he and his team would be able to predict with incredible accuracy what message would attract particular voters. This was unique – in the past, political campaigns relied primarily on broad demographic data to drive decision-making. Trump was now using targeted psychographics. According to comments Nix made in a speech last fall, his team was “able to form a model to predict the personality of every single adult in the United States of America.”

Pretty soon, every message candidate Trump shared was driven by some sort of data point. Canvassers were provided with an app with which they could identify the political views and personality types of every household, so they could tailor their conversations. Before the third presidential debate, Trump’s team tested more than 150,000 variations of social media ads to find the right wording for his arguments.

Flash forward to now. What Alexander Nix and Cambridge Analytica achieved is noteworthy, not just because they helped Donald Trump defy conventional wisdom, but because they’ve taught the marketing world something very important about how to use social media for grassroots campaigns: Find the cross-section of people that align with your cause, and tailor your messaging as intricately as possible based on their beliefs, not simply their broad demographic profile.

For the past several years, our firm has worked with a number of non-profits and advocacy organizations to help them utilize social media as a tool to enhance their outreach efforts. We call it digital advocacy, the process of using technology to mobilize advocates around a particular cause. Think of it as a fancy term for the 21st-century method of walking around neighborhoods asking people to sign a petition. We take a host of digital tactics – blogging, social media, email, data analytics – and create a program that reaches the right audience in the right place at the right time.

This is more of an evolution than a revolution – marketers have been using digital strategy for years to help encourage users to buy a certain product or service. But what makes digital advocacy unique is the revolutionary role it plays in the nonprofit and political sectors.

Gone are the days of spending months soliciting volunteers to canvass local neighborhoods in hopes of adding a handful of names to your constituency. Never again will it take years to rally together a group of people who will stand ready and willing to advocate for your cause at a moment’s notice. And enticing people to donate can be achieved with the click of a button.

While we understand nonprofits and advocacy groups don’t always have access to funding that rivals that of a gargantuan U.S. presidential campaign, the beauty of the internet is that the tactics and methodology used by Alexander Nix and Cambridge Analytica can be evaluated and appropriately implemented on a much smaller scale, for much less money, with much less time. And because a blog would be nothing without some sort of list, we’ve put together a few tips for organizations looking to implement the latest digital advocacy techniques:

Create a game plan based on your audience’s behaviors

Learn as much as you can about your target audience and paint a picture of your ideal advocate. Use that as a baseline for determining your tactics. For instance, if you learn that because of the nature of your cause, most of your advocates likely live on Facebook, but not on Twitter or LinkedIn, focus your efforts accordingly.

When building advertising audiences, start with demographics and build with psychographics

Per Nix’s findings, when building your target audience for your advertising efforts, consider people’s attitudes vs. simply who they are and build from there. If your audience is primarily comprised of females in their 20s, what does that person look like? What is their behavior, and how does that behavior translate to their activity on and off social media?

Stay in touch

Once you’ve attracted supporters for your cause, don’t go silent until you need them for something. Keep in touch with that audience by sending them email updates, or continuously updating your website and social platforms with new information.

Use the best tools

Now that digital advocacy has taken off, there are hundreds of tools to help groups expand their campaigns. Take for instance Pittsburgh-based influencer company The Motherhood. They’ve built a platform that can track down almost any type of blogger influencer out there with unprecedented precision – from environmental enthusiasts to moms who are concerned with the future of education.

Regardless of your budget, targeting to engage the right audience, at the right time, and in the right place, has become much easier with the advent of internet tools. Start with a cause, learn more about your audience and create a program that speaks uniquely to them.


This year, PRSA Pittsburgh has partnered with locally based breast cancer foundation, A Glimmer of Hope, to help raise awareness for their cause. For more information on the organization, please visit http://www.symbolofthecure.com/about.


Erin O’Connor is an account supervisor at WordWrite Communications. She can be reached at erin.oconnor@wordwritepr.com

FAQ: Is the APR Credential Good for Life?

By Ben Butler, APR

[ This is the fifth post in the APR Journey Series exploring the Accreditation in Public Relations credential and the journey to getting it. Check out the introductory post here. ]

The APR journey requires an intensive amount of front-end work. Naturally, you may be asking the question, “Is the credential good for life?”

Yes, and no.

The Low-Down: As Long As You Maintain, You Won’t Have to Go Through the Formal Process Again

The bottom line is once you successfully complete the examination process, you won’t need to go through it verbatim again. This is, of course, as long as you participate in maintenance. More on that in a moment.

So, that hard work you front-ended will be well worth it. In my opinion, maintenance is in the natural flow of any APR professional’s journey and doesn’t compare to the rigor of securing the credential.

All About APR Maintenance

To maintain the Accreditation, you will have to gather a minimum of 10 maintenance points over a three-year period.

The point breakdown includes:

  • Five points in “Continuing Education and Professional Development”
  • Five combined points across “Professionalism” or “Public Service.” It can be all Professionalism, all Public Service or a mix.

Maintenance Category: “Continuing Education and Professional Development”

“Continuing Education and Professional Development” refers to formal study in a college/university setting or time spent in communications subject matter.

Points within this category come from some familiar sources:

  • Online seminars
  • National conferences
  • Chapter programming
  • Completing the APR study course (as an Accredited Member)
  • Advanced College/University Degrees (automatic reaccreditation)
  • Serving as a panelist or instructor
  • Publishing a book (automatic reaccreditation)

Maintenance Category: “Professionalism”

“Professionalism” is reflected in your service to public relations organizations.

Once again, some familiar point sources here:

  • Serving as a National officer or board member
  • Chair of national committee or district chair
  • Serving as a local Chapter officer
  • Scoring a regional award from PRSA Chapters
  • Receiving a national award
  • Receiving a Silver Anvil Award

Maintenance Category: “Public Services”

These points are gained through volunteer or pro-bono work within the field.


The APR journey is all about showcasing not just your tangible skills and experience, but a life-long commitment to growth. That journey doesn’t stop whether you’re a young or retired professional.

Also as you can see from the actual categories, and their content, the points represent things that (in my opinion) an active communications professional should be doing anyway. If you’re not, you may be inactive in the industry, which doesn’t merit the retention of the credential.

All it takes is some documentation of your annual activities along the way.

The above-points are a high-level view. If you’d like to take a deeper dive, check out some additional resources here.

Need help? Get in touch with me — I’m happy to be your sherpa.


Ben Butler, APR, is the client services director for Top Hat, an award-winning marketing communications firm in Pittsburgh, and the Accreditation Director for PRSA Pittsburgh. In his past life he served as a public relations guy for a motorsports complex, director of inbound partnerships for an inbound marketing agency and head of communications for a software startup. He’s been named a Top Under 40 Communicator and is Accredited in Public Relations (APR)—a distinction held by less than 20-percent of all practitioners.