Home » Chapter Chat » April 2019

President’s Report

Martha GastonHappy APRil!

Each April, PRSA celebrates APR month to build awareness of this prestigious certification and to educate potential candidates about the Universal Accreditation Board and the process. PRSA is the only public relations organization that offers the Accreditation in Public Relations, which is just one of the many reasons to be a proud member of this organization.

The two-step APR process can seem intimidating to potential candidates. When I decided to strive for accreditation, I put in long hours studying, creating my case study and practicing for the Readiness Review panel. Although it was satisfying to pass the test and achieve that mark of distinction (I admit to a bit of a competitive streak), I gained invaluable knowledge and skills that have made me a more strategic communicator and planner. Communications professionals are often asked to “justify” their budgets and resources, and there is no better way to do that than to develop plans with objectives that can be measured – skills I had begun developing at agency where I worked at the time, but were really honed while studying for the APR.

While going for accreditation requires dedicating time and resources, no one has to go through the process alone. PRSA Philly has a great APR Chair, Jake Farbman, Ed.D., APR, who can help connect interested candidates with mentors or study buddies as well as prepare candidates through workshops. Interested in learning more about the APR? I invite you to chat with me and other chapter APRs at our PR & Pints networking event on April 29.

Our chapter has one more thing to celebrate this month: a newly refreshed website! Philly.org has a new look and feel with easier navigation and other features. I hope you will take time to check it out this month. While you’re there, go ahead and register for our April program!

Martha A. Gaston, APR

Welcome New Members

Please join us in welcoming our newest chapter members!

Ashley Boucher
Corporate Communications Manager
Sallie Mae 

Cheryl Halpern

Alexis Miller

Judimarie Thomas

Marco Winkler
Director, Corporate Communications
Amicus Therapeutics

Meet the Board: Jake Farbman, Ed.D., APR, APR Accreditation Chair

By Michele Besso, Public Relations Director at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and PRSA Philly Communications Committee member

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Elmer, Salem County, deep in South Jersey. I currently reside in Langhorne, PA.

What is your educational background?
I have an Associate’s degree in communication/journalism from Salem Community College, a Bachelor’s degree in communication from Rowan University, a Master’s degree in corporate public relations, also from Rowan, and a Doctorate in education from Rowan.

What is your current place of employment? Give a brief synopsis of your work history.
Currently, I serve two roles at the New Jersey Council of County Colleges, the state association that strengthens and supports New Jersey’s network of 19 community colleges, in Trenton. I am the Executive Director of the New Jersey Center for Student Success, which assists the state’s community colleges’ efforts to improve student outcomes, strengthen services to students, and serves as a statewide resource for innovation and best practices. I am also the director of communications, where I serve as the strategic communications counselor to the NJCCC’s leadership and executive board. I have also been an adjunct faculty member at The College of New Jersey in nearby Ewing since January 2001, where I teach a strategic public relations case studies and planning course each semester.

What do you like most about your job?
Being a community college graduate myself, I know first-hand the struggles students grapple with to complete their education. Knowing that the work that I do every day improves the lives of over 325,000 students at community colleges in the state is extremely rewarding. And teaching at the college level keeps me current in strategic communication best practices.

What or who inspired you to want to teach and what have you gained from the experience?
My mentor in graduate school, Dr. Don Bagin, was an amazing human being. He was a man of class, dignity, integrity, and honor. He set an example that many people have tried to follow, myself included. I’ve found that teaching PR at the college level is in a way giving back to him… continuing to advance our profession with the next generation of public relations professionals.

How long have you been involved in PRSA and in what capacity? Why made you want to join PRSA and get involved on the board level?
I joined PRSA as soon as I graduated from college with my master’s degree 20 years ago. I was involved with teaching in the PRSA Institute for 10 years, and have been helping John Moscatelli, APR, Fellow PRSA with the chapter’s APR program for several years. I’m honored that my colleagues thought highly enough of me to appoint me as APR Chair. Two very good colleagues and friends – Suzanne FitzGerald and Asi Schoenstein – have done a wonderful job serving in this capacity before me. I very much hope I can build on the strong foundation they have created.

What are your responsibilities as APR chair?
I see this role as identifying, recruiting, and supporting interested strategic communicators with successfully completing the APR process. It is something we have talked about as a PRSA Philly board, and I am very fortunate to have the support and enthusiasm of the board to promote the Chapter’s APR program.

You yourself are APR accredited. What made you decide to get the accreditation? Why should people consider the accreditation?
There are a few reasons I wanted to earn the APR. At the time, I was toying with going back to school to earn a doctorate. I wanted to attempt the APR to see if I could dedicate the time and energy to accomplishing a professional credential while committed to two jobs. At the same time, very few strategic communicators nationally who represented community colleges held the APR. I saw this as an opportunity to strengthen my reputation in the community college sector.

Are there any upcoming APR boot camps or activities to promote involving APR?
Yes! April is APR Month! PRSA national has just launched a new professional development opportunity called the Executive Communication Online Series, designed to teach and empower communication professionals who want to elevate their skills. The program offers topics consistent with many of the knowledge, skills and abilities APR candidates will need mastery in to pass the APR readiness review and exam. More information can be found here.

What advice/tips would you give to young professionals just entering the PR industry?
The best single piece of advice I can offer to young PR pros is to find a good mentor. I’ve been very fortunate in life to have several. I tell my students that they will learn more from a mentor than they will in any college class. Mentors can help you strengthen both your professional and soft skills. And, they can help open doors for you to advance your career, in more ways than one.

Why is PRSA an important organization to be involved with?
PRSA has given me the opportunity to grow and strengthen my professional network. I have been able to help dozens of students land internships and entry-level jobs because of my connections through PRSA. I’ve also been able to contribute to the field through the PR Institute and APR program. PRSA has offered programming that has contributed to my professional development. It is a great organization that helps its members in several ways.

What do you like to do in your free time?
I enjoy playing guitar, bass and piano. I also am an amateur luthier. I’ve built 10 electric guitars over the past five years.

Are you involved with any other organizations/groups?
I am also a member of the Philadelphia Public Relations Association.


Attend the PRSA International Conference for Free

Want to attend the PRSA International Conference for FREE? Your chance for a complimentary registration is only three answers away!

PRSA Philly is offering members a scholarship worth $1,395 to this year’s conference focusing on the convergence of media and technology in San Diego, CA on October 20-22.

To be considered for the scholarship, you need to answer three questions. In 250 words or fewer per answer, please tell us:

  1. How did you get started in the profession of public relations?
  2. Why do you want to attend the International Conference?
  3. What new information can you bring back to benefit PRSA Philly?

Submit your entry to conference@philly.org  by June 14, 2019. Each entry will be reviewed by the Membership Committee and the PRSA Philly Board. One winning entry will be selected by July 1, 2019. The winner will be asked to develop a brief article for the PRSA Philly newsletter about their conference experience and will be expected to serve on one PRSA Philly committee for at least one year beginning in January 2020.

The International Conference is the premier event to expand your network and improve your PR capabilities. Attending is among the most inspirational activities for any member of PRSA and there is great value in learning what peers around the globe are doing in the PR profession. So tell us a little about what you do, why you want to go, and how attending can benefit the Philly chapter!

Questions can be sent to conference@philly.org for a personal reply.

Meet the Media: Steve Keeley

By Mellany Armstrong, Associate Director of Communications, Moore College of Art & Design and PRSA Philly Communications Committee member

You’ve most likely seen the clip that made Fox 29 morning news reporter Steve Keeley famous – where he almost got run over by a snow plow in March 2014 while doing a live report. Keeley, who is in his twenty-fourth year of reporting for the station, talks about getting buried in snow as well as what time his alarm goes off.

Were you always interested in being a TV reporter?
I always wanted to be a reporter since I was a kid, but was discouraged from it by high school teachers who did not let me work on the high school newspaper and said I didn’t have the skills for it. I was dirt poor growing up in Camden. I had no money and no guidance from school authorities or parents, so I just started in a rundown building at Glassboro State College (now Rowan University). I was a Law/Justice major. I had no idea you could go to college and study broadcasting. I just happened to see it looking for electives to finish out my degree credit hours after I had taken all the law courses. I got hired at a daytime radio station in Hammonton, NJ, as I finished college. It was 5 a.m. to noon, six days a week, $3.35 an hour to start. I worked way past noon to get local news covering Hammonton Town Council and other local government meetings at night on my own time. I bought a folding lawn recliner to sleep on in my little news studio so I would have local news content for the morning. I now realize those lessons stay with me to this day about how to find news. I soon got hired for $200 a week at an Atlantic City station with a seven-person news operation. I moved on to Rochester, NY, then worked my way back home from Buffalo and Cleveland.

What time do you have to wake up for your job?
I get up at 12:38 a.m., then I work out at home with used commercial gym equipment I bought from a dealer. After I do a rigorous workout, no deadline will be able to stress me out. The rest of my day is downhill and I arrive at work energized, plus I think and I hope it has kept me healthy. I say that’s the key to my longevity and confidence. And I’m always learning new ways to do that and eat correctly, etc.

What is the most interesting/unusual/amazing news story you’ve covered?
The story that stands out with no close second is September 11th. We arrived before the second tower fell. I don’t think a day has passed where I haven’t thought about that day and those victims. Every day I have reminders of that day and the weeks that followed. I spent the next three weeks in New York and Washington covering that.

What advice would you give public relations professionals when it comes to working with you and the media?
Develop a relationship with those in the right positions in media. Don’t just send out email blasts. And if you want an event covered, you’ve got to make it interesting to the news managers or reporters making decisions on what to cover. Already having surveillance or phone video or pictures like mug shots bumps the chances way up that you can get stories on the air. Make it easy for us to find your content. Each event is different, but know what media is doing what kinds of stories and then target them.

It’s been five years since a snow plow came up behind you and buried you during a live report. How do you feel about that today?
Five years since that plow live shot and I just saw CBS Sunday Morning use it a couple of weeks ago in Jim Gaffigan’s commentary on how he loves the news. I do not mind people always mentioning it. At least I kept reporting despite being hit with tons of snow! My cameraman couldn’t breathe for a bit so I had to tend to him as soon as the live shot was over. Then, of course, I made David Letterman’s Top 10 list for ‘Thoughts Going Through This Reporter’s Mind at This Moment.’

Establishing a Daily Exercise Regimen

By Brittany Eifert, Account Coordinator at RPA and PRSA Philly Communications Committee member

Every December as the New Year approaches, many of us set goals to go to the gym more often, or to make time in our busy schedules for a daily exercise routine. As someone who tends to set these similar resolutions each year, I will admit that it takes me long after the first of the year to implement a solid exercise regimen into my daily lifestyle. There is no doubt that it takes a lot of will power and discipline to establish such a routine. According to the American Heart Association, adults should spend approximately two and a half hours per week completing physical activity. If you break it down, that is about 22 minutes of exercise per day that you could fit into your schedule for a healthier “you.”

The key to making exercise an enjoyable part of your routine is to avoid setting strict guidelines for yourself. For example, instead of saying “I need to do (blank), (blank), and (blank) exercises today in less than 30 minutes,” simply try saying “today I am going to make strides towards my achievable goal.” When you take the unnecessary pressure off, it allows you to be more motivated and passionate about improving your overall health.

Another key to a fun workout is to mix it up every day with your exercises, as to keep yourself intrigued and focused on your goal. Try going to the gym one day after work for at least 20 minutes to a half hour. The next day, complete an at-home workout whether it be going for a walk outside, following along to an exercise video online, or experimenting with any gym equipment you may have down your basement (i.e., treadmill, bike, weight bench).

In addition, check out your gym’s ongoing exercise class schedule where you can find anything from power yoga to kickboxing. Some facilities may typically offer these classes at set times, so that you can attend them whenever is most convenient for you and your schedule. Yet another approach to keeping your exercise regimen interesting is to purchase a fitness tracking device. Though a slightly more expensive option, fitness trackers continue to grow in popularity. According to Today.com, the following fitness trackers are among the best and can be found on Amazon: Fitbit Alta Fitness Tracker for $97, Letscom Fitness Tracker with Heart Rate Monitor for $30 and Garmin vivosmart HR Activity Tracker for $100.

Overall, your health is extremely important. While it may be difficult to get started on developing your daily exercise regimen, your body will thank you in the long run.