Kim passed her APR!!

She was waiting to receive her official notification from PRSA, but now that she has, I want to be one of the first to tell you that Kim Simko Banks has passed her APR exam!! I know many of you have been following her journey through the APR process on our blog.

She studied really hard for the exam, and all of her hard work paid off. Congratulations, Kim!! I’m so proud of you!!!

I’m sure Kim will post something soon to give more insight about her exam experience, in case others are looking to possibly follow in her lead. Stay tuned for more details!


How do you know you are ready for the APR exam?!

After moving on to the final step in the Accreditation process, I feel like I am stuck! I have been studying for the APR exam the entire summer (to include reading all 17 chapters of “Effective Public Relations”), using the flash cards that Beth Thomason was so nice to loan to me, re-reading my notes and using the APR study guide I received from Brett Turner.

I feel like I definitely am on my way to performing well with the exam, but I am hestitant to make the appointment. What if I need to study more? How will I know when I’m ready? I think I will just make the appointment for the end of August and will have to work off that date to make sure I am really prepared…but I am really scared.

Is anyone else in the same boat? Has anyone recently passed their APR exam? If so, I would love to hear your advice!

Palmetto PR Diva Dish – Kelly Davis, APR, president of Davis Public Relations and Marketing

Liza and I have both had the pleasure of working with Kelly Davis, APR, president of Davis Public Relations and Marketing, on a variety of SCPRSA projects and activities. She is a great advocate for independent practitioners, and we’re glad she participated in the weekly profile with us! Read on to learn more and have a great weekend.

o Please provide title and a brief description of what you do:
o President of Davis Public Relations and Marketing, a full-service independent communications firm based in Columbia, South Carolina. We provide strategic public relations planning, branding, media relations, community relations and marketing programs to clients in a variety of industries with a special emphasis on health care and public policy.

o How did you become interested in the public relations industry?
o After majoring in English at Furman University, I took at job at a large corporation in Columbia, where I had a terrific mentor who encouraged me to pursue my master’s degree in journalism and a career in public relations. I knew that PR would be a great fit for my communications skills and my desire to connect companies with the communities they serve.

o What changes have you seen in the industry that is the most interesting to you?
o Independent practitioners now represent one of the fastest growing segments of the public relations industry. This fascinates me not only because I am independent, but also because of the success rates that I am seeing among independent practitioners. Success for each one of us means greater acceptance and greater understanding that small firms are just as competitive as large firms in pursuing big business and providing high quality, effective service to our clients.

o Are you involved in any professional associations? If so, what are they and what do you learn by being involved?
o I have been a member of the Public Relations Society of America and its South Carolina Chapter since 1997. I have been on the SCPRSA board since 2000, including serving as Chapter President in 2002, and currently serve as the Chapter Ethics Officer and the Chair of PRSA’s Independent Practitioners Alliance, a professional interest section with more than 200 members across the country. As the world’s largest professional association for public relations practitioners, PRSA has been vitally important to my professional development, networking and understanding of industry trends. Plus, I have made a lot of terrific friends!

o What is the one piece of advice you would give students that are interested in pursuing a career in the public relations/investor relations industry?
o Take advantage of internships and part-time job opportunities. I encourage everyone to work or intern in the non-profit sector early in their career. Non-profits can be great places to learn and practice a lot of skills while being given actual responsibilities that make a difference in the organization.

o Please describe your experience in obtaining your APR. Was it different than you thought? How has it made a difference in your professional career?
o I began studying for the APR exam shortly after completing my master’s degree. At the time, you had to have five years of experience to pursue accreditation, so it was the perfect time to take the exam since I was still in a “study mode” from graduate school and still had all of the theory and history at the top of my mind. The APR process has changed since I took it, but in serving as a Readiness Review panelist and helping others prepare for the exam over the past few years, I now believe that the process is geared more to helping people succeed than it was in the past.

Before starting my own company, I was fortunate to work for other PRSA members who understood the value of accreditation, so it did help me in securing a raise when I passed the exam and in landing a new position for which APR was a desired qualification. Now as an independent business owner, I often explain to potential clients that working with an accredited practitioner means that they not only have PR counsel who fully understands the history and theory of public relations, but they also have one who is committed to ethical practice.

o What is the best thing about your job?
o I love the variety of working with different clients and being able to use different skills to meet each client’s needs. It’s rarely the same thing every day. I also take a lot of pride in helping my clients make a real difference in the lives of the people they serve. Working in the same community where I was raised, I feel that the work I do gives me a great opportunity every day to give back and to do my part in making South Carolina a better place to live.

o What is the thing you like least about your job?
o I am most frustrated by the lack of understanding of the public relations profession, whether it is from people who equate public relations only with media relations or from those who accuse us of being “spin doctors.” The recent controversy involving a CBS News commentator who made disparaging comments about the public relations profession in general (and PRSA in particular) really illustrated the challenge we have on a daily basis to help people understand the full range of services that public relations encompasses as well as the duty we all have to advocate for our profession.

o Are there any exciting announcements you’d like to tell us about (either with your own practice or one of your clients)?
o On July 2, Davis Public Relations and Marketing celebrates our fourth anniversary. I am very proud and excited about all that we have accomplished since taking that leap of faith four years ago. Every day brings new opportunities for personal and professional growth. I particularly want to express my sincere appreciation to my friends and colleagues who have been so supportive of my company and to all of the clients who have entrusted their business to our team.

o How do you balance your professional career with your personal life?

o Being self-employed, I probably work longer hours now than I did working for someone else, but I’ve also learned to embrace the flexibility that owning my own business gives me. I make it a priority to spend time with my family and friends – those personal relationships are precious to me. I started working with a personal trainer this year, and my new commitment to regular exercise has really made a difference mentally as well as physically. Anything you can do to stay energized and refreshed will only make you better when you return to the office.

o Anything else you would like to add?
o I’d like to thank Liza and Kim for creating this terrific resource and meeting place for us Palmetto PR Divas!

Pattie Boyd, Eric Clapton and…PR?

I know. I know.  I am supposed to be studying for my APR this summer.  But when I was in the airport flying to Florida last week for the July 4 holiday, I picked up a delicious memoir, “Wonderful Tonight” written by Pattie Boyd (she was George Harrison’s – of the Beatles – first wife and later married Eric Clapton). 

She inspired songs such as “Something,” “Layla” and “Wonderful Tonight” among others.  Let’s just say neither marriage really ended well.  I read her book twice while laying on the beach and decided to pick up Eric Clapton’s autobiography in the airport on the way back – to read his side of the story. (As consumer savvy as I think I am, I can definitely fall victim to marketing tactics and impulse buys…the two memoirs were conveniently next to each other in the book store.)

Anyway, I have completely enjoyed both books, not because of all the name dropping and an insider’s view to the rock n’ roll lifestyle, but because it’s so refreshing to learn about people’s experiences and how they deal with internal and external challenges they face.  I love a good story that details the rise and fall – and rise again – of someone who has been through the ringer.

The public relations industry is not as glamorous as rock n’ roll (much to the dismay of students everywhere hoping to become Samantha Jones from “Sex and the City” once they begin their PR careers), but there are a lot of parallels.  Dealing with rejection, encountering difficult personalities and not seeing eye-to-eye on creative processes are some I can think of off the top of my head. 

This past week I’ve been disappointed with a professional situation, but there is no reason to dwell on it too long.  So, as I move onward and upward and eagerly await what’s next around the corner, I will listen to Eric Clapton’s “Unplugged” in my car and think of how I can apply the lessons I’ve learned from this disappointment moving forward.  As silly as it may seem, reading these memoirs this week has helped me realize how important it is to stumble a bit, because you’ll be able to realize exactly why it happened at some point in the future.

Keep on keepin’ on, folks!

IP survey – business practice issues related to Independent Practitioners

For independent practitioners, one of the best sources of information and knowledge are other independent practitioners.


Fortunately, every other year for the last eight years, Vincent Hazleton, APR, Ph.D., Fellow PRSA from Radford University in Virginia and Jay Rayburn, APR, Ph.D., Fellow PRSA from Florida State University have conducted a survey of business practice issues related to independent practitioners of public relations.


The survey results are made available to independent practitioners and other members of PRSA, FPRA, SPRF, and other public relations professional organizations. Professors Hazleton and Rayburn present the findings at the PRSA International Conference and publish the results in Tactics.


It’s now time to conduct the survey again.  If you are an independent practitioner, please click on the link below and take the survey.  It will only take about 10 minutes.  The researchers will gladly provide you with a copy of the results if you wish.


To “qualify” as an independent practitioner, you must be an individual whose primary income is derived from the practice of public relations. You should be in business for yourself, own your business and have no other full time professional staff, even though you may form alliances with other independent practitioners who provide services to your clients.


If this describes you, please take a few minutes to fill out the questionnaire. All information is confidential. Your answers will never be associated with your name.


To take the survey, click on  Also, please feel free to forward this link to other independent practitioners or IP groups.


Palmetto PR Diva Dish – Jo Halmes, APR

I’d like to consider myself a modern working girl, but I have to admit I am a bit superstitious.  And since it’s Friday 13th, I’m not exactly going to avoid all activities and human contact, but let’s put it this way:  If something disappointing happened to me today, I’d blame it on the Big 1-3 in a heartbeat.  And that’s just the way it is.

Enough superstition, let’s talk about Jo Halmes, APR, entreprenuer, business woman and soon-to-be mother of three!  How does she do it all?  Read below to find out.

o        Please provide title and a brief description of what you do:

President of Halmes Strategic Marketing & PR. Provide marketing and PR services as an independent consultant to various businesses and non-profit organizations.


o        How did you become interested in the public relations industry?

By a fluke. I always liked to write and found out through a friend after changing my college major for the fifth time that I could actually make a career out of something that came easily to me versus going into a field that I wasn’t passionate about.


o        What changes have you seen in the industry that is the most interesting to you?

The use of technology. Even simple things like email and web sites have made practicing our profession much easier. It’s pretty amazing to see how quickly you can gather information on any topic and how fast people can communicate with the tools that are available. It’s grown exponentially in just even the past 5-10 years.


o        Are you involved in any professional associations?  If so, what are they and what do you learn by being involved?

I’ve been a member of PRSA and the South Carolina chapter I think since I began my career. It’s been a great networking and educational resource for me throughout the years. I’ve developed some very strong professional relationships (as well as friendships) with colleagues throughout the state that I know I can call on for support and advice at any time. These relationships are invaluable.


o        What is the one piece of advice you would give students that are interested in pursuing a career in the public relations/investor relations industry?

Do an internship. Classes and class projects are great, but there’s nothing like real-life experience to help you fully understand the profession. Even if the internship is unpaid, it will be worth it in the long run. It will help you build relationships while letting you gain experience that you will be able to put on your resume.



o        Please describe your experience in obtaining your APR.  Was it different than you thought?  How has it made a difference in your professional career?

It was stressful, but empowering once it was over. I took the exam under the “old” process, so I had to go back and re-learn a lot of theory. The exam itself included case studies, so I was glad I could apply my practical, daily knowledge to the exam. Overall, I think as an independent practitioner, the APR has been a great self-marketing tool, helping me to establish my credibility right off the bat with new clients.



o        What is the best thing about your job?

The flexibility. Even though I have a fairly strict routine in getting my projects done and meeting client needs, I still have flexibility with my time when I need it. This allows me to spend more time with my family – especially my children.


o        What is the thing you like least about your job?

I could always use more time, but couldn’t we all?     


o        Are there any exciting announcements you’d like to tell us about (either with your own practice or one of your clients)?

      My biggest excitement right now is with my personal life – baby #3 is on the way this summer!


o        How do you balance your professional career with your personal life?

I learned the hard way when I started out that I have to keep both very, very separate if I want to do them well. When I’m at work, I’m there 100% with no personal distractions unless there is an emergency. When I’m with my kids, I’m with them 100% as well. I schedule my time accordingly and try to really stick to the schedule. I think this is the only way I can be fair to both my clients and my kids.



Palmetto PR Diva Dish – Amanda Brasier, APR, PR manager for CBM-US

Liza returns from the beach next week. Yay! I have missed our e-mails and phone calls throughout the week. Also, we might have the opportunity to work on a project together and I’m super excited about that – so I can’t wait to get an update from her when she returns!

This week’s Palmetto PR Diva Dish focuses on Amanda Brasier, APR, public relations manager for Christian Blind Mission – which is dedicated to improving the quality of life for the blind and disabled. Beth Thomason (who was featured last week) nominated Amanda Brasier, and we are happy to share her thoughts. I love that she gives props to her mentor and how that helped shape her professional path.

Read on to find about how she got started and her goals for the CBM’s future.

o Please provide title and a brief description of what you do:
I’m Public Relations Manager for CBM-US (an international humanitarian organization formerly known as Christian Blind Mission International).

CBM-US works in the poorest countries of the world helping to prevent disabilities and to treat them. My role is to begin to generate awareness for the organization, which is based in Greenville, S.C., and to create marketing tools that tell our story.

o How did you become interested in the public relations/advertising industry?
Like a lot of folks, I started out in journalism, newspapers specifically. I loved to talk with people and then turn it into a story. I really couldn’t believe I was getting paid to do it!

About 12 years ago, I moved to the coastal region of South Carolina (Myrtle Beach, to be exact) and landed a job at an advertising and public relations agency, LHWH Advertising and PR.

There, I met my mentor, Lei Gainer, who really took me under her wing and showed me how strategic communication can be. It really allowed me to take something I loved doing and focus my efforts. I felt as though I had found my niche. I got to the Upstate about eight years ago, after a brief pit stop at an agency in Knoxville.

o What changes have you seen in the industry that is the most interesting to you?
Well, the conversion from public relations from being seen as “media relations/publicity” to more of a total communication strategy. Many of the clients I worked with various agencies only engaged our services to generate press coverage.

Today, I think the line between marketing, advertising and public relations is less defined and more blended than it was when I started out. And, that’s a good thing.

o Are you involved in any professional associations? If so, what are they and what do you learn by being involved?
I’ve been a member of PRSA for a long time. I was involved when I lived in Knoxville and worked as the PR Manager for David Newman Payne Advertising and I got involved in the SC chapter when I moved to the Upstate eight years ago. I was one of the last groups to take the “paper” accreditation test (it’s since gone online), and got my APR in 2002.
I’ve also been a member of CHPRMS (Carolinas Healthcare and Marketing Society) during the five years I worked in healthcare marketing.

o What is the one piece of advice you would give students that are interested in pursuing a career in the public relations/investor relations/marketing industry?
Find a mentor. Get as many internships as possible. And surround yourself with talent. I’ve learned so much from the people I’ve worked with over the years (Beth Thomason, Jo Halmes, Adriana DiFranco, Amanda Dow, Bridgette Johnson, the aforementioned Lei Gainer, just to name a few.)

Also—sometimes what can seem like failure in the moment (downsizing or loss of a job) can be a blessing. I’ve learned through personal experience and through watching some of my friends that there is a huge demand for talented marketing and public relations professionals, so if you’re in that category, have confidence that you’ll find something else. And it will probably be better than what you were doing before.

o What is the best thing about your job?

I love the fact that I work for an organization that is helping society’s most disadvantaged people regain dignity and establish a quality of life. It’s hard for anyone who lives in the United States to imagine just how horrible living conditions are in a developing country. Add the burden of coping with life in a developing country with having a disability and you have the focus of CBM’s efforts.

o What is the thing you like least about your job?

There’s only one of me, and it’s not really enough to go around.

o Are there any exciting announcements you’d like to tell us about (either with your company or one of your clients)?

I believe that CBM-US is an organization that will blossom in the next 5 years. If you’re reading this column, you probably hadn’t heard of us before, but I believe that we will soon run in the same humanitarian circles as some other very credible NGOs, like World Vision and Samaritan’s Purse. I’m proud to be part of that effort.

o How do you balance your professional career with your personal life?
A lot better than I used to. Now that I have two small munchkins (16 months and 4), my work/life balance has to be saner than when I started out. The ankle-biters demand it, as does my husband. (And my neurotic cat.)

o Anything else you would like to add?
No—it’s been a pleasure. It’s always great to take a moment and reflect on why you do what you do and where you’ve been and your company along the way. Now I better get back to work!