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Join the CPSM Club

In July 2001 I lost my job doing public relations (PR) for a high-tech company – just four months after my husband lost his job with a software company. In October of that same year I switched industries and joined Vanderweil Engineers as the Director of Corporate Communications. One of our engineers was presenting on sustainable design at a breakfast program organized by SMPS Boston and I tagged along. I was so impressed with the group that I joined SMPS and the SMPS Boston Communications Committee. Over the past 17 years I have served in numerous roles with SMPS Boston, including Chapter President, and SMPS has played a big role in my professional – and personal – life.

One of the things that struck me the most about the SMPS community was everyone’s willingness to help others, including people who worked for a competing firm. This never happened in the high-tech industry. I had a lot of questions when I started in the AEC industry and I could call a fellow member – even at a direct competitor – and he or she would take the time to help me. I have experienced and witnessed this sense of support and camaraderie repeatedly since joining SMPS in 2001.

In the high-tech industry, there are not professional accreditations like in the AEC industry, so I was always trying to understand the list of letters after everyone’s names. They all seemed to be for technical staff – AIA, PE, etc. – and then I learned about CPSM. I decided then and there that I would become a CPSM as soon as I had the required four years of industry experience.

Once I was qualified to take the exam I signed up for the study group in the fall of 2004 and began doing the assigned reading. In November 2004 I was laid off from my position as Director of Marketing and Business Development at Mount Vernon Architects and started my own company, Rhino PR. To make things even more stressful, I was also serving as one of the conference co-chairs of Northeast Regional Conference (NERC) in Northhampton, Mass. However, I stayed focused on my goal and passed the CPSM exam at the conference in May 2005. It felt good to add some initials – or as I like to say “alphabet soup” – after my own name. I felt that it gave me a leg up when I was pitching potential clients. I was demonstrating that I took professional services marketing seriously by earning my certification.

I am a strong supporter of SMPS and a firm believer in professional development. I encourage my employees to take the CPSM exam. Just like our clients, we need to remain current through continuing education.

SMPS Boston does a great job organizing and running the CPSM study groups and I highly recommend joining and attending the study sessions if you are pursuing your CPSM certification. Also, take a few practice tests so you have an idea of what to expect when you take the actual exam.

Once you have your CPSM certification, what’s next? The SMPS Fellows Program recognizes individuals who have made exceptional contributions to the profession of marketing and business development in the AEC industry and to the Society, and to encourage continued achievement and SMPS engagement by senior members. To be considered for elevation to Fellow you must have been an active member in SMPS for at least 10 of the previous 15 consecutive years; have 15 years of experience as a marketer and/or business developer in the AEC industry; and have held a current CPSM certification designation for a minimum of five years. I am proud to say that I was made a Fellow of SMPS in 2012. I came home and told my son that I had gotten an “F”. He thought I would be upset but I couldn’t have been happier.

Through networking, educational opportunities, and industry leading research, SMPS members gain a competitive advantage in positioning their firms successfully in the marketplace. If you are committed to a career in AEC marketing and/or business development, I strongly encourage you to pursue CPSM certification. Come join the club!

About the author
Susan Shelby, FSMPS, CPSM is the president and CEO of Rhino Public Relations, a full-service PR and marketing agency focused on meeting the unique needs of professional services firms. Rhino PR offers customized services based on each individual client’s goals and budget. Follow her @RhinoPRBoston or visit www.rhinopr.com for more information about how Rhino can help you take charge of your PR.

Susan Shelby, FSMPS, CPSM

Author

Susan Shelby, FSMPS, CPSM, is the president and CEO of Rhino Public Relations, a full-service PR and marketing agency focused on meeting the unique needs of professional services firms. Rhino PR offers customized services based on each individual client’s goals and budget. Susan received the 2016 SMPS Boston Marketing Professional of the Year Award, which honors marketing excellence in the A/E/C industry. Follow her @RhinoPRBoston or visit www.rhinopr.com for more information about how Rhino can help you take charge of your PR.

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