Chapter Chat: April M. Phillips, APR

“You can’t spell April without APR.”

That’s how a coworker has signed off on his messages to April M. Phillips, APR ever since she earned accreditation in public relations.

Obtaining her APR in 2018 strengthened Phillips’ knowledge and skills in a way that made an immediate impact on her role as a national communications director for the American Red Cross Biomedical Services.

It gave her confidence to speak with authority at the leadership table. It bolstered her resolve to advocate for thoughtful, strategic public relations programs.

Accreditation stands out as a career highlight, so far, for Phillips, and is a direct result of her involvement with PRSA Georgia. She has been an active volunteer with the nonprofit SIG and currently serves on the membership committee. In 2019, she was also inducted in the Chapter’s inaugural Forty Under 40 class.

From getting her start helping a friend promote concerts at small clubs and music venues to rising through the ranks in a variety of communications roles with the American Red Cross, there is no doubt about it: Phillips is a PR rock star.

PRSA designates April as APR Month, so this fourth installment of Chapter Chat, a member focused profile series offering industry insights intertwined with candid commentary, features one of the Chapter’s most passionate supporters of the accreditation process.

Let’s get to know April M. Phillips, APR, in her own words. After all, “you can’t spell April without APR.”

Question: What do you do at your day job?
Answer: I’m a national communications director for the American Red Cross Biomedical Services. In my role, I develop public relations plans for national campaigns and partnerships that are implemented and executed by our field communications team. From crises such as blood shortages and the impacts of COVID-19 on our organization to campaigns like last year’s “Bleed for the Throne” campaign with HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” every day is a little different, which keeps it fresh and exciting.

Q: What are your hopes for PRSA Georgia in 2020?
A: Our Chapter is full of wonderful people from diverse backgrounds. It’s my hope that we all continue to learn from each other’s experiences and become more engaged members along the way. It’s your chapter, and what you make of it is totally up to you!

Q: Why did you choose public relations as your profession?
A: I took a few semesters off from college to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. During that time, I started helping a friend promote concerts at small clubs and music venues – developing flyers, writing news releases, pitching media. Eventually, I realized what I was doing had a name, and that I could make a career out of it. That was almost 20 years ago, and I haven’t looked back!

Q: Where do you find creativity and inspiration?
A: Inspiration tends to strike when I least expect it – in traffic, at the grocery store, at 2:45 a.m. when I’d really rather be sleeping. I get recharged by disconnecting from, well, everything. Camping trips in the middle of nowhere with no cellular reception or electricity are pretty much heaven.

Q: How has the communications industry changed since you joined the profession?
A: When I entered the industry, we were still sending faxes, had pagers and even MySpace didn’t exist yet. The PR landscape has evolved so rapidly – the constantly changing digital landscape, the shift to social as a primary communication channel, the rise of citizen journalists thanks to the iPhone and smartphone technology, a need to be concerned about “fake news,” shrinking traditional media newsrooms, the list goes on. It’s exciting to be on the ground floor with some of these fundamental shifts in how we communicate as a society and know that, as communicators, we’ve played a role in that.

Q: Since you mentioned it, in light of “fake news” and so-called “alternative facts, how do you keep it real as a PR professional?
A: In an increasingly post-truth society, it’s more important than ever for PR professionals to understand we are guardians of the public trust. Good reputations are built on openness, honesty and integrity. We must model those characteristics because they carry over into our work and our businesses as well.

Q: How do you spend your time outside of the office?
A: I spend most of my downtime with my boyfriend of 14 years and our two dogs – a neurotic Border collie and a totally-chill Aussie. We are avid couch potatoes who love binge-watching TV but also love getting out to do some off-road camping when we can.

Q: What is the best book you have ever read, and why would you recommend it?
A: My all-time favorite book is probably To Kill A Mockingbird. I didn’t fully appreciate it until I reread it as an adult. It is a beautifully written novel with themes that are so relevant today, despite being set in the 1930s. It shows the complexities of family, integrity and justice while revealing many of the failures of society – racism, prejudice and cruelty toward those we’ve “othered.”