Professional development and training blog of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
October 31, 2011

Starting a New Agency Position With the Power of APR

It appears I am a “lifer” in the agency world, having passed my fifteenth year in the profession and beginning my fifth agency job. My latest position is not just any public relations post, however, as I’m now newly in charge of the Atlanta office of Cohn & Wolfe. As Spider-Man’s uncle would say, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

There are several reasons why I am an exceedingly happy agency guy. For one, I love collaborating with smart, talented people. I also enjoy variety and frequently change gears from big-picture planning, to tinkering with details. Overall, I like to stretch both my business and creative mind, and my agency’s cultural mantra to “Dig Deeper, Imagine More” is spot-on.

But having been in ad agencies, interactive shops and public relations firms, I’ve found there hasn’t been one overarching process guiding each new undertaking. Instead it’s been an alchemist’s recipe with hints of great brainstorms, heavy doses of financial stewardship and sprinkles of media relations, social media and event planning on top. What it hasn’t been, in most cases, is a repeatable formula for success.

I was reminded in the APR journey that there actually is one unified process that guides public relations professionals in new projects or campaigns, and it’s the ten-step plan at the heart of what we do.

Remember these steps:

  1. Establishing overall goals.
  2. Choosing target audiences.
  3. Setting objectives for these audiences.
  4. Articulating strategies.
  5. Plotting tactics.
  6. Selecting activities.
  7. Determining ways to evaluate.
  8. Deciding materials.
  9. Budgeting. 
  10. Timetabling the tasks

We sometimes use these terms when writing case studies or filling out award entries, but do we follow every sequential step every time? How often do we challenge clients and colleagues to heed these steps?

Through participating in the Readiness Review, studying and networking with wonderfully engaged classmates and generous teachers and mentors in the PRSA|GA Chapter, and then taking the Examination for Accreditation in Public Relations, the ten-step process has become second nature again.

Often you can get from point A to point B by following your own methodology; and sometimes a perfectly plotted path doesn’t actually lead to raise-the-roof results. But the ten-step process reinforced through the APR journey gives all of us the strength of starting on the same common ground. And for me, as I take the first steps in my new role, I trust I’ll be ten-stepping my way to lifelong successes.

Stephen Brown, APR, joined Cohn & Wolfe public relations firm this summer where he is managing director of the Atlanta office as well as an executive vice president for the agency network. He and his agency colleagues serve clients such as Walmart, 3M, Smuckers and Hyatt. Stephen is on the board for PRSA|GA and also serves on boards for Center for Puppetry Arts and the Alliance Theatre. He chose to pursue his APR as a refresher 16 years after graduating from the University of South Carolina as well as a springboard for other opportunities to serve in officer roles and speak at PRSA functions around the world. Says Brown, “APR is a great way to show you’re serious about the profession and diligent about following a strategic process in PR campaigns. I’m honored to join other colleagues who have heeded the call and made this accreditation process a priority.”

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