20th Anniversary Observance

I’m still trying to figure out where 2011 went to, but New Year’s Eve will soon be here, and with it, the start of a very special year for PRSA Suburban Chicago: Our 20th Anniversary. It’s difficult to believe that it’s been 20 years since a group of professionals formed what began as the Greater O’Hare chapter.

Twenty years ago I was a young professional, fresh out of college, new to Chicago and trying to establish myself in this profession. I was gingerly feeling my way, trying to translate the lessons of my PR instructors at Illinois State University into the realities of the working world. I joined the Chicago chapter, then discovered how nearly impossible it was to get to the lunchtime programs from the suburbs. After a couple of years, I somehow stumbled across the Greater O’Hare chapter, and have never looked back. The smaller, more accessible size of our chapter has allowed me to develop leadership skills I couldn’t have in a larger organization, and introduced me to many incredible people along the way who have been friends and mentors for many years.

Thanks to the opportunity to serve as our chapter’s Assembly delegate, I’ve been privileged to see and have a voice on the direction of our profession. I’ve had the opportunity to see the future as part of Champions for PRSSA and a judge for the Bateman case study competition each April in New York. I’ve met and become friends with many luminaries of our profession, including the legendary Betsy Ann Plank, APR, Fellow PRSA; Sam Waltz, APR, Fellow PRSA, Kathy Larey Lewton, APR, Fellow PRSA, and so many more. I’ve had the opportunity to speak to others in our profession, and have listened – and learned – from the best. It’s trite to say, but what you get out of any organization is only equal to what you put into it, and I’ve gotten so much more than what I’ve contributed.

We’re going to celebrate this milestone all next year with special observances, culminating with a one-of-a-kind celebration next November 13th, in place of our usual November dinner meeting that you won’t want to miss. We have an extra special guest speaker that normally wouldn’t be speaking to our group, and having heard him speak several times over the past 25 years, I promise you a great experience. We’re going to bring back as many past presidents and as many current former members as we can find for this event, along with colleagues from the other professional communicators’ organizations in the Chicago area. So save the date, watch the newsletter and the website for additional details, and join us throughout the year at our monthly programs and socials.

Debra Bethard-Caplic, APR, MBA
2012 President

Including Advocacy Campaigns in Public Relations

Scared for your Future

Imagine being a college student from a low income family. You’ve had to work since you were of legal age to do so and you have a night job to keep your finances going. It’s tough, but thanks to the Illinois MAP grant, getting an education isn’t just a dream. That is until the state repeals funding for the MAP grant, putting your tuition—and future—in danger.

This was exactly what happened to thousands of students across Illinois in 2009. Worried for both their students and themselves, many universities rallied in opposition of the cuts, seeking repeal. Of these many schools was DePaul University, where November’s speaker Cheryl Procter-Rogers had recently been hired. Continue reading Including Advocacy Campaigns in Public Relations

Ready to Earn Your Accreditation?

Interested in earning your Accreditation, but don’t know how to start? Established in 1964, the Accreditation Program is the profession’s only national post-graduate certification program. The APR credential is a sign of commitment and expertise in the profession of public relations. It measures a public relations practitioner’s fundamental knowledge of communications theory and its application; establishes advanced capabilities in research, strategic planning, implementation and evaluation; and demonstrates a commitment to professional excellence and ethical conduct.

If you are interested in being a part of an accreditation preparation group, contact chapter President Debra Bethard-Caplick, at dcaplick@quicksilveredge.com for details on the 2012 study group forming after the first of the year.

Share PRSA Suburban Chicago With Colleagues in Our Membership Sweepstakes

It’s been a tough couple of years in the public relations profession as the economy has struggled to right itself. Organizations of all sizes in the Chicago struggled, and cutbacks hit the public relations and marketing professions have suffered significantly over the last few years as employers have reacted to the markets uncertainty by slashing positions – and as we all know, PR is the first to be cut and the last to recover. Our chapter wasn’t alone in feeling the effects of the recession, as membership dropped over the past few years in response to the negative economy as employers cut positions and budgets. But encouraging signs are starting to appear, and we’re seeing a gradual uptick in membership levels and interest in the chapter.

As a result, we’re launching our first formal membership drive in many years. But to be successful in returning the chapter to pre-recession levels, we need your help. We’re asking everyone to invite a professional colleague to a chapter event in 2012. As an incentive, we’ve acquired several prizes to raffle off, including gift cards to assorted stores, restaurant gift certificates, a $100 US Savings Bond, and one year’s free national membership in PRSA – a $255 value! For each colleague you bring to a chapter event, you receive one entry into the raffle. If your guest joins PRSA Suburban Chicago, you get two entries while the new member gets one entry. For each subsequent guest you bring who becomes a new member, you receive TWO entries into the raffle instead of one, improving your odds of winning. If you are a former member who rejoins the chapter, you receive an entry into the raffle just for rejoining, plus reimbursement of your $35 reinstatement fee. In addition, every member who brings a guest to a chapter event receives a small gift as thanks for helping to spread the word about PRSA Suburban Chicago and contributing to the chapter’s activities. The drawing will be held at the chapter’s year end celebration on November 13th. Winners will be notified by email within 30 days following the drawing.

2011: A PRSA Retrospective

Debra Bethard-Caplick, APR

2011 in Review

I look at the calendar and still can’t quite believe that 2011 is over. It’s been a fascinating journey serving as president this past year, one filled with successes and not-quite-successes (I refuse to succumb to the business-speak mandate to call them “challenges.”). But for all that, it’s been a good year.

We’ve weathered the worst of the recession’s ravages and are beginning our return to previous membership levels. Among other achievements during 2011, we’ve forged a new, cordial relationship with PRSA Chicago and other professional communication groups in Chicago, modified our name to PRSA Suburban Chicago instead of Chicagoland, established a very successful series of “PR After Hours” socials for informal networking, hosted a career workshop for jobseekers and an APR study group for members seeking accreditation, and featured top caliber speakers at our monthly programming dinners – and that was just the beginning. We even made it through February without being forced to cancel due to a blizzard! If you’re familiar with our recent history, you know that’s quite an accomplishment.

Next year looks to be even brighter, as we celebrate our 20th Anniversary. I won’t tease you with details, except to say that if you don’t at the very least make it to our year end party on November 13th, you’ll miss out on a very, VERY special experience.

I hope you take time as 2011 draws to a close to reflect on the year just past, and the brighter one to come. I invite you to join us next year as we celebrate our 20th Anniversary of serving PR professionals who live and work in the suburban Chicago area, and as we embark on our next 20 years. I look forward to seeing you all next year.

My wish for you all is a safe and wonderful 2012 and a very, very happy and prosperous New Year!


PRSA Suburban Chicago Presents: A Trade Show Gone Global

PRSA Suburban Chicago Presents:

A Trade Show Gone Global – IMTS – The International Manufacturing Technology Show

The Internet makes every company international, whether you intended to be or not. So how do you manage  international PR in addition to your already overloaded workload? PRSA Suburban Chicago is kicking off our 20th anniversary year with Mary Uhrina of Clearly Write, who is a key part of the virtual management team for the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS), which is ranked among the largest trade shows in the world. IMTS has evolved from a biennial week-long event where manufacturing professionals gathered into a full time community.  Mary Urhina will present the story of how IMTS engages the global manufacturing community using the full range of communications tools managed by show management and a virtual agency as well as some of the lessons learned working with exhibitors and visitors from all over the world.

Mary Uhrina

Mary Uhrina is a member of the IMTS virtual agency team, specializing in public relations and marketing communications for the show and its sponsor, The Association For Manufacturing Technology.  Her company, Clearly Write, specializes in crafting clear and consistent messages and in turning complex technical information into powerful stories.  She has worked on both the agency and corporate sides always focusing on manufacturing.  Mary is also inventor of the Virtual Press Release Writer™, a tool used by numerous trade shows.

Mary is a board member of the Business Marketing Association Chicago Chapter and was the most recent recipient of the organization’s Proud Award.  She also has been honored by her alma mater, Mount Mary College, with the Madonna Award for Professional Excellence.

Start your professional year off right with PRSA Suburban Chicago on January 10th at the Sheraton Suites – Elk Grove Village and register now.

6:00 p.m. Registration/Networking
6:30 p.m. Dinner/Program Follows

$25 PRSSA Students ~ $30 PRSA Members ~ $40 Non-Members

No Time to Ponder – Communicating in the Aftermath of 9/11

-Chris Orris

No Time to Ponder

“Why did they do it? Didn’t matter. How did they do it? Didn’t matter.”

One can only imagine the kinds of questions going through the heads of Ryan Yantis and his co-workers while on duty at the Pentagon the morning of September 11, 2001. But nobody on staff had the luxury of pondering anything but the most important questions the moment after the Pentagon was hit. How to get to safety, where to look for the injured and caring for them took precedence over anything else.

As any American knows, that day had many heroes, Ryan included. But when all that could be done had been done to help those involved in the attack, the communications team had a job to do. They had months of press releases to write and media queries to handle. The next month would be the busiest they had ever had. And they had just lost their offices. Ryan detailed the aftermath and the difficulties in communicating in the aftermath of 9/11 to the chapter at the October 11th meeting.

Roll Up Your Sleeves

Ryan Yantis worked for the Office of the Chief of Public Affairs (OCPA). Following the attack, Ryan and his team had to scramble to find a place to work. After moving from office to makeshift office, the “Wandering Tribe” settled in a room that barely fit the personnel and what little resources they had. The team worked in what became known as “The Cave” with access to two computers and no cell phones.

Few tools and fewer places to work would make things hard for any public relations/affairs team. But Ryan and the rest of the Personnel and Human Resources team had to work under these conditions while handling the biggest national crisis in the history of the United States. Ryan and his partner used the two computers to read unrelenting email requests and monitor the media while delegating tasks to other workers with phones and only the most basic of office materials.

Nobody on the team took a day off for 37 days.

Making Big News

Following the first Pentagon memorial that took place one month after the fact, the OCPA knew it was in for the long haul. Ryan and the rest of the OCPA knew that a more important milestone lay ahead. “It’s the firsts – the first Thanksgiving with an empty chair,  the empty plate. Those were going to be significant.”

Ryan Yantis, Army Public Affairs Officer, Details the Events of 9/11 From His Perspective From Inside the Pentagon

Plans began for the one year memorial of the 9/11 attacks on the Pentagon. Ryan and the others had to ensure that the anniversary of the tragedy would be represented as thoroughly as possible. This meant a year’s worth of training generals for the media, gathering quotes from survivors, establishing an online presence and a million other tasks that come with telling the story of a nationwide tragedy.

They also needed to establish a method of evaluation for after the campaign. They set several objectives in their plan: increasing the Army’s “voice” within the top 25 mainstream magazines/dailies, engage the media with Army themes and values, involve 90% of Army command in the campaign and have 90% of the work done two days before 9/11 so that the entire team could attend the memorial service. Ryan stressed the last point in particular; the need to take care of their own, who lost friends, colleagues, and loved ones on that day. In addition to meeting these objectives, they wanted a way to validate the campaign’s success in the eyes of other PA/PR experts. With many of the professionals involved being members of PRSA, they decided on an award with which all of us should be familiar: The prestigious Silver Anvil.

To begin, the OCPA researched how the Army and other military branches’ key messages were relevant to the terrorist attacks. Plenty of connections were obvious, but it was imperative to have ready any information that made the Army’s message more valid. They took this data and other facts compiled about the event and combined them with Army values and core messages to develop clear, positive and informative points for use throughout the campaign.

In dealing with the media, the team created a corps of people involved with the attacks who could speak. A large variety of speakers both military and civilian were assembled, so that any reporter with any request could speak to someone relevant to their needs. A reporter in the Midwest reporting on a citizen’s reaction to the attacks could be connected to a married couple in Chicago with a New York firefighter son. A rural reporter looking to speak to a soldier could be transferred to one who grew up just 30 miles from the news station. With an established set of connections, Ryan’s team made the greatest heroes of the Pentagon just a phone call away.

But getting said heroes to talk about their exploits was a different challenge. As Ryan put it, the Army is not about “I or me. It’s about us and we.” Men and women who did heroic things at the Pentagon didn’t want to catch any praise that might steal the limelight from their co-workers or the Army as a whole. In the Army, this was a ubiquitous challenge that Ryan and the others had to overcome by assuring such heroes that the things they did on the 11th were not trivial, no matter how it was framed, and that it was to the benefit of the Army to be proud and outspoken about their efforts with regards to the media.

One Year Later

The campaign met and greatly exceeded its objectives. Of the original list of key media identified, 80% of the top 25 dailies and 70% of the top news shows ran coverage of the Army during the week of 9/11’s one year anniversary. Over 600 feature stories on 9/11 appeared with mentions of core Army values. Not 90%, but 97% of major Army command participated in the coverage. And perhaps best of all, most of the work was done in time for the team to attend the official Pentagon memorial off-duty.

Exceeding each of their goals by so much was most likely validation enough for those on the team. But to make it clear that the campaign had been a success, the Army was awarded PRSA’s Silver Anvil in 2003. The professional organization recognized that the OCPA had done a magnificent job in honoring every life lost and every sacrifice made as a result of the terrorist attacks.

Ryan Yantis is a retired US Army lieutenant colonel and principal at Yantis Consulting, a public relations and crisis mitigation firm in the Chicago area.

Christmas is for Children….and PRSA Suburban Chicago Will Play Santa’s Elves

Christmas is for children…and for adults everywhere who love to see children smile! Don’t forget our annual Toys for Tots collection at our holiday party this November 8th. If you wish to make a donation, bring a new, unwrapped toy to our year end chapter meeting on November 8, and the Marines will take it from there.

Toys for Tots is an effort created by Marine Reservist and Director of Public Relations for Warner Brothers Studio, Bill Hendricks, to provide gifts for underprivileged children during the holidays. Hendricks started what become Toys for Tots at the urging of his wife when they were unable to find an organization they could donate toys to for distribution at Christmas. Their objective is to assist with the development of children for the benefit of them, their families and our nation’s future. The first Toys for Tots collection was in 1947, when Major Bill Hendricks, USCR, and a group of Marine Reservists in Los Angeles collected and distributed 5,000 toys to needy children.

Over the 62 years of the U. S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program, Marines have distributed more than 400 million toys to more than 188 million needy children.  Over its 18 year life span, the US Marines’ Toys for Tots Foundation has supplemented local toy collections with more than 81.3 million toys valued at more than $487 million.  The initial objective that remains the hallmark of the program today is to “bring the joy of Christmas to America’s needy children.”

For the past 10 years, PRSA Suburban Chicago has been proud to help meet that objective. Almost every year, chapter members and guests have donated toys to the chapter’s Toys for Tots collection drive.

Deadline for Nominations for Chapter Elections This Friday, November 4

Want to Make an Impact on Your Career?

If you’ve ever sat in a chapter meeting, thinking, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could….” now is your chance to make it happen. If you have what it takes to lead a chapter of professionals, consider running for a chapter board position for the coming year.

One of the great opportunities available as part of your membership in PRSA is the chance to develop your leadership skills as a chapter officer or committee chair. For younger members, it’s a way to develop critical management skills necessary for a successful career. For more established members, it’s a way to pass on the skills learned over a lifetime of professional practice to those who are following in their footsteps . It takes the contributions of all experience levels of chapter members to make PRSA Suburban Chicago a success.

Are you ready to be a leader?

Available PRSA Suburban Chicago Positions:
  • President-elect
  • Treasurer
  • Secretary
  • Assembly Delegate (a three-year term)
  • Director (a three-year term)

Responsibilities for the secretary and treasurer last for one year, whereas the Assembly delegate, director, president-elect positions extends for three. The president-elect automatically becomes president, and then subsequently immediate past president/elections committee chair, at the end of the year.

The following chair positions are also available, but don’t require election to the position:

  • Membership chair
  • Ethics chair
  • Public relations chair
  • Programming chair
  • Student relations chair
Nominations Due to PRSA Suburban Chicago Election Committee Nov. 4

If you are interested in any of these positions, please contact Mary Beth Huffman, Immediate Past President & Chair, Elections Committee, mbhuffman@impactmarketingpr.com, or Carl Alston, carl@lrfmail.org by Friday, November 4, 2011. Ballots will be due November 30th to news@prsascc.org, or fax to 773-445-5998.

Planning Committee for PR/Advertising/Marcomm Job Fair Starting

Looking for a job?

We’re looking for chapter members and other professionals join a team of PRSA Suburban Chicago chapter members to collaborate on the planning and execution of a job fair for public relations, advertising, and marketing communications professionals searching for a job. You’ll gain valuable experience and connect with potential employers in person before anyone else through your organizing work on the committee, while at the same time gaining project management experience. Continue reading Planning Committee for PR/Advertising/Marcomm Job Fair Starting