Meet an APR: Michael Vannest

Michael Vannest is communications and marketing director at the E.V. Bishoff Company. He earned the APR in January of 2019.

What prompted you to pursue your APR? Put another way, what's your WHY for being an APR?
The process was both nerve-wracking and fun. I tell people two things. First, you’ll get out of it what you put into it. Second, if you dedicate yourself to the process, it will help you to mature as a practitioner. You’ll learn something new, present case studies and put together a campaign from scratch, or rework one and do it the right way.

My why for pursuing the APR was to show myself that I could do it. It was a personal journey for me. In 2014, I was at a point where I needed to write my comeback story. I set a goal to focus on my new job at E.V. Bishoff and run a half and then a full marathon. Then, I bought a house and got married, and the only thing left on my list was the APR.

It was truly my greatest sense of accomplishment since graduating from college. Getting my APR was the icing on the cake for my comeback story.

Looking back on the process, what would you say to your pre-APR self—or anyone else thinking of taking the plunge—to help you better prepare?
My panel presentation was in October, and I took the test in January. Throughout the preparation process, I had confidence issues, but it just required commitment and practice.

I needed to have a classroom setting to work through the problems that I couldn’t understand, so I took the online course. Learning about the research was a challenge for me, especially the difference between outputs and outcomes on the objective front.

What three things stand out as benefits to having your APR. What have you been able to do because of it that would not have been otherwise possible? Why does it make a difference?
Having my APR has given me the credibility to be able to sit at the management table. My leaders know how I prepared for the accreditation, and how I have changed since then. They have put their trust in me because I can now communicate clear business objectives. With the APR, you will become an authority.

Knowing the difference between outputs and outcomes has changed how my company communicates with our stakeholders. It has brought amazing success to our programs. The campaign I used for my panel presentation leveraged the outcome of customer satisfaction. Using the guidelines laid out by the study guide, I was able to see results immediately, which was impressive to the owner of my company.

Some believe that anybody can do PR. Doing it right is a different thing. We face a stigma of being spin doctors. The APR breaks this myth. We have a Code of Ethics and are serious about our profession.

One last thing I’ll say is that many in our chapter who have experience but no APR claim to already be thought leaders. Does everyone need the APR to do their job? If we’re honest about holding ourselves to a higher standard and constantly learning, the answer is yes. No one knows everything. We all need to learn more. This is why we volunteer, and this is why we set the bar higher for ourselves when it comes to accreditation.

How did you prepare for the portfolio process? Which resources did you find most helpful?
Without these three keys, I would not have walked through the door of becoming an APR:

  1. The Cutlip and Center text (Cutlip and Center’s Effective Public Relations),
  2. The APR Study Guide and
  3. The online course.

The online course is the best $200 you will ever spend, and you get a discount as an APR. You can remain in the course for as long as you want. I remained in it for almost a year. You can go at your own pace, and every week you get to meet online and make connections. We also had Google meetings once every two weeks.

I’d also consider renting the text instead of purchasing it, but it is a very helpful tool.

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