Earn Your APR in 2024: Everything You Need to Know to Start Now!


Ready to take the next step of professional development in your communications career? Wishing you were more strategic? Think APR!

Join us for a webinar that covers what Accreditation in Public Relations is, how it can help you develop a strategic communications mindset, and how you can start your own APR journey.

Christine Brainerd, MPA, APR, Sonja Dosti, APR, Heather Engel, APR, and Heather McGowan, MA, APR, will explain how the three letters “APR” sets you apart from your peers, the key steps to earning the credential and share their recent experience earning their APR, with tips to jump start your own Accreditation journey as a government communicator or public relations professional.

Date: April 16
Time: 1 to 2 p.m.

Cost: CAPIO members and nonmembers: Free




Christine Brainerd, MPA, APR

Christine is a seasoned, award-winning communications professional with nearly 20 years of experience in government communications, public relations, and journalism. As communications director, she manages the city’s comprehensive communications program, including news media relations, public information, and community relations.

Christine joined the City of Folsom in 2015. She previously served the City of Elk Grove for nearly nine years as the public affairs manager and public information officer. She also worked at two Sacramento-based public relations firms, where she managed national and statewide public relations and marketing campaigns. Christine’s career started in journalism. She has written for a weekly newspaper and worked as an assignment editor at KTXL-TV FOX-40 News.

A communications graduate from California State University at Sacramento, Christine earned the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) credential from the Public Relations Society of America and the Universal Accreditation Board in 2012. She holds a master’s degree in public administration from Golden Gate University.

Christine is the past president and current education and development chair of the California Association of Public Information Officials (CAPIO) and she serves on the Universal Accreditation Board (UAB), the national board that oversees the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) credential. She has received more than 60 national, statewide, and regional awards for communications and public relations projects through well-respected organizations, including CAPIO, the Public Relations Society of America, and the League of California Cities. In 2016, she was honored with the 40 Under 40 Award by the Sacramento Business Journal, which recognizes young professionals for their accomplishments in their respective industries and for their contributions to the community at large.

Sonja Dosti, APR

Sonja Dosti, APR is the Communications Director for the County of Fresno – County Administrative Office, which serves over one million residents.  She has eight years of experience in public sector communications and PR, having served as the head of communications at Central Unified School District before moving to the County of Fresno. Prior to working in communications and PR, she worked in the film and TV industry in Los Angeles as a production, studio, and network executive.

She’s passionate about sharing positive, informative, and compelling stories. Her years of working with Academy and Emmy Award-winning directors and writers have contributed to the work she does as a communications and public relations practitioner.  While at Central Unified, her communications team won the National School Public Relations Association’s (NSPRA) 2020 Award of Excellence for a video PSA titled, The Dangers of Sexting, and the 2020 Award of Merit for the video PSA, Hoax Threats. Her communications team at Fresno County recently won two awards at the 2023 California Association of Public Information Officials (CAPIO) Annual Conference. The Fentanyl Awareness Campaign specifically won the Epic Award from CAPIO and an Achievement Award from the National Association of Counties (NACo). She also serves CAPIO as the Central California Regional and Membership Chair. 

Heather Engel, APR

Heather Engel, APR, is an experienced communications professional with nearly 20 years of public information experience. As the Director of Communications for the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA), the nation’s largest statewide coalition of public water agencies, Heather leads a talented team to oversee the association’s comprehensive communications program, including keeping members informed about critical legislative and regulatory issues, developing customizable communication tools for customer and stakeholder outreach, media relations, and public education.

Prior to joining ACWA, she held several positions at the Coachella Valley Water District, including Director of Communication and Conservation. In that role, she was the district’s primary Public Information Officer and oversaw all internal and external communications programs, legislative efforts and conservation programs.

Heather is a member of the California Association of Public Information Officials (CAPIO) and earned her Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) in 2021. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from Humboldt State University and enjoyed a successful career as a newspaper reporter and editor before transitioning to public affairs.

Heather McGowan, MA, APR

Heather has nearly 30 years of experience executing successful communications and marketing strategies for elected officials, education, and non-profit organizations, and for the past 15 years, she has owned and operated Sounding Board Marketing & Communications. With a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership and Accreditation in Public Relations (APR), Heather is passionate about advancing public education through proactive, creative, and strategic marketing and communications. She has served as a K-12 school district Public Information Officer, and is a member of the California School Public Relations Association, where she serves as the APR Chair, and the National School Public Relations Association. Her awards include CalSPRA’s Excellence in Communications Award and the Center for Digital Education’s Excellence in Digital Communications award. Heather resides in Folsom with her husband, Chad, a high school teacher, and her three children.