This interview was conducted by current Ball State University public relations graduate student Claire Morrell. The following article is based on that interview with Matt Kelly.

Crisis communication has become an integral skill for public relations professionals. Matt Kelly, the deputy market leader at BCW and a graduate of Ball State University’s master’s in public relations, laid out lessons from his most successful crisis communication cases.

It’s more about a crisis manager’s mindset than tactics itself – “Enraged to Engaged”

Matt Kelly has worked on many high-profile crisis cases throughout his career. Most recognizably, Kelly provided his professional assistance in cases such as the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in 2010. When asked how a professional communicator could best manage and orchestrate crisis communication efforts in the ever-changing digital and social media environment, Mr. Kelly took a personal approach. He shared an antidote from his experience working with BP during this crisis.

When working on this particularly challenging crisis, Kelly reminded himself that the people on the other side of the screen were just that: people. They each have different lives that they lead and different passions and aspirations. The same could be said for the corporation members on the other end of the crisis. Even with everything they were facing, their career is just one aspect of their identity. In this situation, Kelly took a page from Apple TV character Ted Lasso’s book. He created a motto that he and his team of community managers could use as a goal through the crisis, “Enraged to Engaged.”

He acknowledged that it was going to be nearly impossible to change the public’s mind about the corporation he was working with. Instead, they needed to focus their efforts on creating an environment with people who have constructive or positive insights to contribute. His team would create a welcoming environment to encourage dialogue rather than an argument. By doing this, they were gaining back control over the crisis and were able to start repairing the relationship between the corporation and the public. Mr. Kelly emphasized that it is important as communicators to remember that the job of a public relations expert is to be the conscience of the client while providing sufficient information to all parties involved to make a more educated, controlled decision.

During Matt Kelly’s time at Ball State, he was well prepared for the atmosphere of crisis communication where critical thinking, research, and problem-solving are demanded. He mentioned that he benefited most from Ball State’s public relations graduate program that focuses on strategic communications, market research, project planning, and development. Kelly’s experience with Ball State’s master’s in public relations master’s gave him a glimpse into the public relations practitioner’s lifestyle and helped to better prepare him for the rigors of the career environment.

More about the Interviewee: Matt Kelly is a digital/social leader and connections strategist. He has worked with top brands like State Farm, McDonald’s, VF Corporation, Discover Card, BP, Dow Chemical, SC Johnson, Conagra Brands, and others to improve their reputation and advance business objectives through smart strategy and creativity. He bridges the gap between creativity and strategy to ensure the brief doesn’t only produce content but moves people toward an objective. He’s a design thinker, brainstorm leader, connections strategist, and channel planner.

More about Ball State’s master’s in public relations: If you are looking to further your education and gain experience on the topic, consider pursuing your master’s degree. Ball State University’s public relations graduate program is entirely online, allowing you to further your education while simultaneously continuing your professional experience. During your time at Ball State, you will gain valuable knowledge that can actively be applied in your career environment. If you are interested in Ball State’s public relations master’s program, you can apply today.

My Tips for a Dramatic Career Change: Part 2

This is the continuation of a three-part series. If you’d like to read my first entry, start here

Welcome back! I hope my first set of tips was helpful. Now we’re going to dig into a smaller but more technical bit of the process, learning the skills for your new field and revamping your resume.

Learn, Learn, Learn!

Time to hit the books! Look for courses and books on the subject you want to learn. My tools of choice are LinkedIn and Coursera. However, there are many more MOOCs that exist besides the two. Taking the time to acquire a new skill set will show that you are qualified when the time comes. It will also familiarize you with jargon and methodical approaches that someone in your chosen field would know, which helps when you want to be seen as a professional. Search the job title and variations of it online. Pick a handful of job openings and study the job descriptions. Similar phrases will give you direction on where to start finding what to study. For example, you type in communication specialist, the terms you frequently see are media monitoring, campaign strategy, adobe suite. That is where your curriculum starts. Whether it is hard or soft skills, you will most likely find it in an online course.

Overhaul your resume

Today your resume is obsolete. This is the time to rewrite it from scratch. Think of all the jobs you’ve had in your life so far. That’s a plethora of skills you can use to your advantage. I worked a series of jobs to pay rent. Housekeeper, retail worker, car parts courier, bench technician, armored vehicle specialist, etc. You get the idea. Every job I’ve ever had had something to teach me, whether it was how to deal with disgruntled customers or how to tin wires with solder. It’s valuable. You can go two routes:

  • Only include the positions somewhat relevant to the job you want.
  • Keep what you already have and tweak the language.

By that, I don’t mean lie. I mean, highlight your accomplishments, the numbers you helped produce. For example, As a retail team lead, your team surpassed their monthly quota by 20% under your supervision. Not only that, depending on the job you’re applying for, look for keywords you could add to your resume to pass the dreaded ATS. Keep it if you see the same language on multiple job descriptions for this job title.

This section may take you a while, but it’s the meat getting you where you want to go. In our last lesson, I will share tips on handling job interviews, especially when they don’t go your way.

About: Mikayla Pryor was born and bred in Charleston, SC. She currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia working for Berlin Rosen on the New York Public Affairs Advocacy team. She is also the Blog Chair for the PRSA National New Pros Committee. Her hobbies include studying aerial hoop, watching anime, and feeding her beagle mix too many treats.

My Tips for a Dramatic Career Change: A Three-Part Series

What did you want to be when you were in grade school?

As a high schooler, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I was a timid student, but my teachers took notice of my voice and tone in my assignments. I read music blogs voraciously. I thought I would become a music journalist after college. Long story short, I didn’t become one. I joined the military. An officer in my squadron persuaded me to go back to school and finish my degree. There were a lot of ups and downs in my working life. Then the pandemic left me at a crossroads. I had to figure out fast what my next move would be. At the end of 2021, I scored the opportunity of a lifetime, a paid position at one of the top public relations firms in the country, working in their advocacy department.

Now that I’m a PR professional, I am excited to share the first three tips I’ve learned during my journey.

Pick Your Target Before anything else, this must be done. If you want to be somewhere else, this is the beacon to guide you there. Knowing precisely what you want and where you’re going will keep you focused and motivated to persevere. Find some free time and create a list of your hobbies, anything you enjoy. Think about what you’re good at. Have you always been excellent at providing customer service or managing money? This is the time to acknowledge it—research what job titles or industries would likely fit the items on your list. For example, if you like gardening, you could be a copywriter at a company that produces plants and seeds or write for a gardening magazine. When I created my list, something that stuck out to me was that I enjoyed helping others. So working for a nonprofit was a no-brainer for me.  

Know Your Story I picked up an excellent tip from the book U-Turn by Ashley Stahl. In a networking chapter, she talked about an encounter where a guest speaker at her college asked her peers who came up to him after class, “What’s your story?” One by one, she noticed how other students stumbled with this question until another student quickly gave her motivations for pursuing a particular career and why. She realized how vital it is to have a story or even a personal mission statement. Find a way to mention your strengths. 

I usually state this:

I was in the Air Force reserves for six years; although I worked as a maintainer, I grew an interest in the work of public affairs personnel on my base. While in school, I worked as a technical writer for two companies. I learned how to deal with fast deadlines but found out the field wasn’t a good fit. The pandemic happened, and I had to reassess what I wanted with my life. I knew I had an interest in helping others, which led me to work for an agency on their public affairs advocacy team. 

How would you introduce yourself at a networking event or to a potential employer? You never know who could help you along the way, so be prepared. 

Become a Volunteer Now that you know what you want to be, you need the opportunities to emulate it. The best way to gain familiarity in your chosen field is to make yourself available. You’d be surprised at the amount of organizations and entrepreneurs out there needing creative or administrative help. I was lucky enough to find an internship with a respected national nonprofit. It did not pay, but it confirmed the industry was for me, and I secured recommendations from my coworkers. Of course, bills come first, but if you can set aside some time for something like that or even a short-term project, It’s well worth it.

Now that we’ve finished talking about where to start, come back next month, when I’ll share with you the meat of the process, gaining the knowledge, and revamping your resume.

About: Mikayla Pryor was born and bred in Charleston, SC. She currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia working for Berlin Rosen on the New York Public Affairs Advocacy team. She is also the Blog Chair for the PRSA National New Pros Committee. Her hobbies include studying aerial hoop, watching anime, and feeding her beagle mix too many treats.

Roche Communications Specialist Kelsey Jones Talks Ball State University, Healthcare PR & Internal Communications

Kelsey Jones is a communications specialist for Roche’s Diabetes Care division and a Ball State University alumna. She graduated in 2011 with her bachelor’s in hospitality and food management and once again in 2017 with her master’s in public relations.

Today, she shares advice for new communications professionals.

Q: What are your job responsibilities as a communications specialist in the healthcare and medical device industry?

A: At Roche, I drive integrated strategies based on best practices for employee communications, internal events, and programs. I draft content for various internal communications channels such as email, video, digital signage, newsletters, and social media. What I do ultimately impacts business results, as I help decide what employees need to know and when they need to know it to drive engagement and productivity.

I also facilitate Diabetes Care collaborations with patient advocacy organizations like the American Diabetes Association, College Diabetes Network, and Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation to reduce health and racial disparities in our communities. Through this work, I build meaningful, mutually beneficial nonprofit partnerships.

Additionally, I manage Roche Gives Back, our internal employee giving program, as a portal administrator. The company matches employee donations and volunteer time in the community, and I review all match requests. I also plan and execute engaging volunteer events for more than 4,500 Indianapolis-based employees. Our most notable event is our annual Day of Service with Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, where we identify an Indianapolis neighborhood or park to beautify.

“Storytelling is a large part of my role when communicating what Roche and our employees are doing in the local community, how we give back, and how we contribute to important causes.”

Q: What advice do you have for students wanting to pursue a communications career in the medical industry?

A: Initially, I had no desire to work in the healthcare and medical device industry — I generally perceived healthcare and large corporations as very stuffy and uninviting. Roche completely changed my perception. Roche is very welcoming and inclusive and provides fantastic benefits for employees. Plus, some of my closest friends are my colleagues.

If a student is interested in pursuing a communications career in healthcare or another large corporate environment, I highly recommend job shadowing. Spending a day with a current corporate communications professional will provide insights into their role and help students see if it aligns with their interests.

I also recommend taking a business course or two. Having basic business knowledge is extremely important in the corporate setting.

Q: What valuable lessons about the communication field have you learned throughout the pandemic?

A: I would definitely say to meet employees where they are. The pandemic has created so many additional challenges for our employees: at-home schooling, childcare, illnesses, and even the death of loved ones due to COVID-19. It is crucial with internal communications that you convey empathy and meet employees where they are.

Q: In what ways did Ball State’s master’s in public relations prepare you for the role you currently have?

A: Ball State’s master’s in public relations prepared me to be a critical thinker in a corporate environment. It equipped me with the issues management skills needed to succeed in a large, matrix organization. The program provided strong relationship-building lessons that are critical to any industry’s communications or public relations role. It challenged us to work in new ways while utilizing strategic communications and encouraging collaboration.

Q: Why would you recommend Ball State’s public relations program to new professionals?

A: Ball State provides a personal, hands-on approach to public relations. Graduate students receive regular one-on-one sessions with their graduate advisor and esteemed professors. In addition, on-campus graduate students have the opportunity to work at the student-run strategic communications and public relations agency. Coming from a non-public relations background to graduate school, this experience was invaluable to my learning experience.

The public relations graduate program is continually ranked as one of the best in the nation and one of the only programs accredited by the Public Relations Society of America. The individualized, entrepreneurial learning and award-winning curriculum made Ball State’s program my number one choice.

The program is also available entirely online for working professionals who can’t come to campus. The online courses are asynchronous, meaning you can complete them whenever they fit into your daily schedule. The same faculty who teach on-campus also teach online, so there is no difference in curriculum or course quality.

Q: Any final words of advice about your experience or for new communication/PR professionals?

A: Keep an open mind regarding career opportunities and always take the initial interview. You never know; you may end up being surprised about the company or role like I was with Roche!

Lastly, always keep learning. Your education doesn’t stop when you are handed your diploma. Continue to network with industry professionals and like-minded individuals. Consider attending relevant conferences, taking additional classes, or completing a certificate program once you identify your communications and public relations interests.

If you’re interested in pursuing a master’s in public relations from Ball State, visit our website for more information or contact the program director Dr. YoungAh Lee.

Kelsey Jones is a communications and corporate social responsibility professional who enjoys keeping up with giving trends and connecting employees to causes important to them.

Not only is philanthropy part of her day job, but it’s also a part of who she is. Whether she’s planning events for the Indianapolis Cultural Trail or raising funds for various causes important to me, giving back is in her DNA.

LinkedIn: Kelsey Jones, M.A.

The Ins & Outs of Accreditation in Public Relations (APR)

On Thursday, September 16, the New Professionals Section of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) hosted A Conversation on the Ins & Outs of the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR). Dedicated to helping new professionals understand the value that APR can add to their career, PRSA Fellows Kathryn D. Hubbell, APR, M.S., and David Thompson, APR, shared their experiences and insights into accreditation.

For Hubble, owner of AdScripts, LLC, and with 37 years’ experience in public relations, marketing and advertising, the process wasn’t just about adding APR to the end of her name. “APR really changed what I was doing,” said Hubble. Being self-employed, the APR process for her meant that “I finally understood what it took to line up a PR program using research and strategy. After I got my APR I raised my prices, and no one said a word.”

Despite having a degree in journalism with a minor in Public Relations, Hubble explained that the APR process and what she learned elevated her professional career. “The study process alone is worth it,” said Hubble. While studying for her APR, she was working with a client and decided to plan out her work for the client according to the book. “I took a real-world situation that I was already involved in and brought it down to earth,” said Hubble.

Not only did it make a big difference on the quality of work, but it was, in her opinion, the best way to really learn the materials she was studying.

“It changed everything I was doing in PR. I wasn’t just giving my opinion to my clients anymore; it’s about using research to back up everything you’re saying and doing,” said Hubble.

Thompson added that his pathway into public relations wasn’t as direct, so the APR really helped develop him into a PR professional.

After earning a degree in mathematics and working in computer science, Thompson had a “midlife crisis early,” and decided to change directions. He worked in radio and ended up as a television reporter for 20 years, working news throughout the country, learning as he went. With success in television news, Thompson decided to move into public relations. 

“For me it was all on-the-job training. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I knew how to be a TV reporter, but they don’t do strategy. I thought PR was media relations; I didn’t know better… I worked hard to learn about what public relations is” said Thompson. “When it came time to think about the APR, it filled in gaps I didn’t know I had.”

He added that the APR preparation process helps you learn what strategic communications planning is. Thompson had signed up for weekly APR coaching classes through his local PRSA chapter. “After each class, I would go back to work with new techniques, knowledge, and inspiration. It made such a huge difference in my career.”

Thompson broke down the APR preparation process into three steps:

  1. Planning for the APR application and time commitment.
  2. Preparing for the readiness review, which includes a presentation on a PR campaign you’ve worked on.
  3. Preparing to take the exam, which tests your knowledge of the materials in the textbooks.

Hubble and Thompson both explained that while PRSA recommends five years of experience before applying for the APR, it’s really about people’s individual experiences working in public relations. For those that might not feel ready to start the APR application now, they recommended getting involved in PR campaigns, whether at work or volunteering for local PR professionals. 

Hubble added, “APR gave us more confidence” so moving forward with strategic communications, “we were following science rather than gut instincts. It was a wonderful process.”

For more information on pursuing your own APR, check out the resources below:

PRSA APR website

APR Candidate Process Chart

APR study guide

The AP Stylebook (Amazon)

Recommended study texts

Sample APR exam questions

Sample APR test