“Getting Involved in PRSA” from a New Pro

Getting fully involved in PRSA may seem like a scary thing – joining a new organization, let alone trying to be active in it isn’t always easy. If you’re anything like me, you may not feel like you should interject because you’re a new young professional and don’t feel like you have enough experience to be involved with practitioners of 15+ years. I am here to tell you that PRSA at the local, district, and national level are ready to welcome you with open arms! They are always looking for young professionals to be involved, because young professionals are the future of the profession and the organization.

If you’re interested in starting to do more than just attend meetings or follow PRSA social media channels, here’s how you can start!


Local Level

The first and probably most impactful way to get involved is to start with your local chapter. As a member of the Oklahoma City chapter and committee chair, my involvement got started when I moved to Oklahoma City in 2017. After attending a couple meetings, I decided I wanted to help serve the chapter. If you already have a connection with someone on the board, reach out to them and ask if there is somewhere you can serve. If you don’t know anyone (like I did), contact the chapter president. They’ll know exactly where the chapter needs the most help and will be willing to get you connected with the right people. Also, don’t forget to attend as many meetings/events as possible so you become a recognizable figure in your area!


District Level

Every PRSA chapter belongs to a district. Here in OKC, we belong to the Southwest District. When we’re able to attend in-person events again, keep an eye out for or ask your chapter leadership about district conferences. Most of the districts hold them annually, and it’s a great way to meet PR professionals in your area and get connected with all sorts of people. Because of my attendance at the last few Southwest District conferences, I am currently serving as the Treasurer of the Southwest District and am presenting at ICON with one of the connections I made!


National Level

There are many ways you can serve at the national level. Although it’s usually best to have some experience serving at lower levels, it never hurts to reach out to someone at the national level. For example, we are always looking for people to write for this newsletter and write for our blog. You may even want to submit something to Strategies & Tactics (PRSA’s national publication). If you’re interested in serving on the National New Pros Committee (I am the 2020 Membership Chair), reach out to one of us! We’ll be happy to point you in the right direction. Eventually you may even have the opportunity to serve on the National Executive Board.

As you can see, there are many ways to be involved in PRSA. It all starts with just asking! I highly suggest you attend as many meetings, conferences, and events as possible; especially ICON. If you’re not sure you can afford membership or conferences, check with your local chapter or district about scholarships. Also, ask your employer about paying for your membership – I promise you it’s a great investment and offers a multitude of professional development opportunities. The worst anyone can say is ‘no’ and you’ll never know until you ask!

How do you plan to get involved? Comment below or connect on LinkedIn to share your thoughts.

Landis Tindell

 

Landis Tindell is currently the Communications Coordinator for the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education in Oklahoma City, OK. He serves as the Professional Development Day committee chair for PRSA-OKC, the treasurer for the PRSA Southwest District, and as the Membership Chair for the National New Pros Committee.

Landis holds a Bachelor in Public Relations from Harding University and is pursuing a Masters Degree in Strategic Communication from Texas Tech University. Landis was named a 2019 PRNEWS 30 Under 30 Rising Star and the 2018 Young Professional of the Year by PRSA-OKC.

LinkedIn: Landis Tindell

 

“Development, Reflection and Union” from a New Pro

In these uncertain times, we should support each other. This current situation we find ourselves faced with has forced us to change our way of thinking. While for some of us this change was big, it was not so for others. Even so, it may yet affect your future. I personally believe there are three main factors that are essential to consider if it does: development, reflection and union.

In this post, I will analyze each of these separately so that you may call upon them as we all navigate the unique challenges our new normal creates.

  1. Development

Using the time that we previously did not have, or simply could not use efficiently, is currently possible as interactions turn virtual and work becomes remote. Being able to learn new things through online courses, webinars, reading or really any type of education is something very beneficial with the additional time you may suddenly have on your hands.

As a Public Relations professional, your career may concern many high-stress, quickly changing and even competitive elements. We should take advantage of every learning tool we can to develop our skills during these times of quiet to make a difference in our field when things inevitably speed back up.

  1. Reflection

Regardless of how we use our time, there is something we’ve been given in this situation: a pause.

This pause can be long or short depending on the situation. In my opinion, this is the ideal time to reflect. Try to perceive those things that maybe you didn’t see before.

As you reflect, it’s inevitable that one of those thoughts will be about your health. Indeed, health is the most important thing; it’s essential. In regards to this, I believe that we — as communicators — should use our talents to help represent the essential things in life, rather than the superficial. That we should go beyond what people expect from us, and rise above the typical.

More than anything, reflect on the priorities in your own life. Consider what really matters.

  1. Union

Thirdly, there must be union. Teamwork. Collaboration.

Is it easy? No. And yet teamwork is what solves most of our problems. Consider your own relationships, especially during this particular crisis. You’ve probably had to become very flexible, and maybe pitch — or listen to — more unconventional ideas while trying to navigate the unprecedented restraints we all find ourselves under.

In my opinion, your attitude is the best solution. And by the time this whole crisis is over, it’ll continue to be. Because in the end, an inclusive behavior toward others is always the best solution.

To conclude, I believe that we should remember that self-development, a little reflection on life and some good old fashioned teamwork are three essential aspects to consider — today, and in the future.

Do you agree? Comment below or connect on LinkedIn to share your thoughts.

Facundo Luque is a Young PR Professional from PRSA Argentina on the Communications Sub-Committee in the PRSA Diversity & Inclusion National Committee. He is currently working in an Argentinean public relations agency.

LinkedIn: Facundo Luque

3 International Communications Lessons from a New Pro

Somehow, I was blessed to secure a global marketing communications role right out of college (okay, I worked at Panera for a few months beforehand, but, hey, it worked out). After being immersed in the literal world of communications for a few years, here are three things I learned as an international communicator.

  1. Non-traditional hours: the good and the bad

Whether it’s a call with China at 9pm (your time) or a 4am webinar with the Netherlands, some days and weeks will bring the strangest hours you’ve ever worked. There are plenty of pros to this weirdness, namely the excitement and flexibility that come with a non-traditional schedule. Working the nine to five grind can get repetitive; it’s nice to shake things up a little. Plus there’s a satisfying sense of intrigue when you can say you started the day by meeting with Europe. But be warned: while you may feel like 007 when you’re first starting out, you may also learn just how unrealistic Mr. Bond’s lifestyle is.

The obvious downers to odd hours include irregular sleep schedules, meetings at odd times, and a general lack of routine. The less obvious involve the quality and quantity of your work – tiredness and an unstable schedule can easily affect your productivity.

In addition to how you handle a non-traditional work schedule, be wary of your employers’ approach. Make sure any odd hours you log taking calls or traveling are accounted for as what they are – work time. If you’re putting in 40 hours at the office AND taking early morning calls or flying 20 hours in the same week, you might want to reevaluate your company’s culture around work-life balance. Having an international work schedule is fun and fine as long as it doesn’t quietly take over your personal time.

  1. The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is here (and kind of a good idea)

Personal time is important, and so is personal information. That’s why the GDPR exists and came to be fully enforced last year. In case you aren’t familiar, the basic premise of GDPR requires a new level of transparency and consent for marketers using consumer data. For example, if a customer registers for a newsletter by submitting their email, GDPR mandates the email address can only be used to send the newsletter. Unless the consumer explicitly opts into other communications, their information can’t be used for other tactics. Many companies in the US have already adopted this trend of opting-in, but this has been an optional courtesy rather than a legal requirement.

You’re probably wondering: how could a policy that cuts communications be good for marketers? In my opinion, these regulations lead to a better understanding of our audiences. By requiring consent, the ball is placed in the audience’s court. A GDPR set-up could make consumers more transparent because an audience’s decision to opt in or out of certain communications could say more than vague email open rates or website impressions. Plus, marketers operating under these types of policies might be forced to think more outside the box to reach their targets, and innovation is never a bad thing.

Even if you don’t agree about these possible positives, I learned there’s a real potential for more consumer-focused restrictions like GDPR to come into play, worldwide. It’s an important topic for new pros to be aware of as we enter the workforce and adapt our educations to the real world.

  1. Listening + asking questions = the secret sauce for international comm’s success

In my experience, American marketers move fast and feel they must be on the “cutting edge” 24/7. The success and adaptability our country’s communicators may lead you to believe Americans are fairly middle-of-the-road on a global scale, meaning we can work with foreign teams without much difficulty. This is only partially true at best.

I know from experience. My limited international experience and the company’s English-only policy resulted in my underestimation the effect cultural barriers can have on your communication skills. For example, I learned:

  • Just because some countries seem similar, doesn’t mean they are. Our colleagues in Italy and Spain stressed extremely different pain points after we introduced a global campaign to each office. Only after meeting with them one-on-one and taking the time to listen did we understand we couldn’t put Europe into a single bucket when developing a strategy.
  • “Cutting edge” is a fluid, global adjective. When our Thai colleagues shared a “cutting edge” social media strategy involving anime cartoon characters and egg-related recipes, my boss and I ended the call worried about the effect these tactics would have on our global campaign. After another call to question them, the Thai office graciously shared some amazing social engagement stats. We were floored and immediately learned to put more trust into foreign, “cutting edge” ideas.

I highly recommend The Culture Map by Erin Meyer to anyone interested in a global role – this book contains great data and personal insights as the author paints an experienced picture of how the world communicates.

If you’d like to share any lessons not included in this post, please comment or reach out to me. I always love discussing this topic.

Craig TierneyCraig Tierney is the Content Specialist for Kenzie Academy, an Indianapolis-based coding school + tech apprenticeship startup. He’s also a freelance Content Marketer through his business With It Communications. Craig’s international experience comes from a past role as Global Marketing Communications Specialist in the agricultural industry. Website: https://craigtierney.com/

 

One Mentor is Not Enough – Build a Board of Directors

There is no such thing as an ideal mentor.

That’s an idea it took me a long time to understand. Every person I had heard speak about mentoring spoke about their mentor as if he or she were a omniscient fairy godmother guiding them through life.

I tried finding that one person who would guide me through the ups and downs of my career, imagining teachers and professionals I admired as that go-to person, trying out formal mentoring programs to no avail.

Then I heard a take on mentoring that completely changed the way I looked at it – the idea that everyone should have their own personal board of directors filling that role of mentor and advisor.

It took a while for the ideas to stick, but when it did, it made so much sense. I don’t depend on just one person for advice in any other area of my life, why would I expect one person fill that need professionally?

Like an organization needs a board full of people from different backgrounds with varied experiences and perspectives, so too do professionals. No lone person will have had the same exact experiences you will, so having a pool of trusted advisors will help you grow and develop in a variety of situations.

For your board of directors to be effective, your group needs to be varied. Having two people whose careers and lives mirror each other won’t necessarily be the most helpful to your development. Look for people in your life and your network who fill roles like:

  • Someone who’s career you admire
  • Someone who’s experience is similar to yours
  • Someone who is in your field, industry or niche
  • Someone who is not in your field, industry or niche
  • Someone who is at your experience level
  • Someone just a couple steps ahead of you experience-wise
  • Someone with a lot of experience
  • Someone who will help connect you to others to grow your own network

You don’t need to fill out your board of directors all at once – that will happen over time. You do need to make sure there is variety in who you’re approaching for advice, though. It may seem like quite an undertaking to find people, but I’m sure if you take a good look at your own network, your board of directors will begin to take shape.

Looking amongst your own circles makes a lot of sense when you think about it. For a mentorship to be successful, there needs to be trust, common values and common interests. A mentor needs to be someone you respect and with whom you mesh, so looking to people you already have a connection with is a great place to start.

If you feel there’s little variety in your network, try casting your net just a bit wider to your PRSA chapter, your alma mater’s alumni network and your network’s network. Asking to connect with strangers becomes a bit easier when you already know you have something in common.

One-on-one coaching like a traditional mentoring relationship may work for some, but it’s not the only way. Like any other relationship, a mentorship should grow and change over time. Being mentored is an ongoing process, not an accomplishment or item to check off along your career path. It’s something that takes work, time and dedication. And much like other things in your life – your relationships, your professional development, your own well-being – you get out of it exactly what you put into it.

Looking to learn more about building a successful mentoring relationship? Join us as we partner with the College of Fellows for Supercharge your career: How finding or being a mentor can transform your professional development, a webinar to discuss the ins and outs of mentoring. Register now.

(P.S. The first draft of this post contained an ode to my own personal board of directors –  a zany group of professionals who have helped guide me through my career. While everyone should have their own board of directors, no two groups will ever be identical and I think it’s important for everyone to find what works for them. They know who they are and know how deeply I value them. However, the story of how our paths have crossed is one I’m always happy to tell to anyone who asks.)

Image uploaded from iOSIn her fourth year on PRSA’s New Professionals Section’s executive committee, Robyn serves as 2019 chair. She’s a native of southern New Jersey and currently resides in Washington, D.C., by way of Pittsburgh and South Carolina. Robyn currently works for Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA), a trade association representing North America’s airports, and holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Relations and a master’s degree in media arts and technology, with a focus on creative media practices, both from Duquesne University. She likes to spend her spare time cooking, reading, exploring, crocheting and spending time with her tail-less cat, Izzy. Learn more about her on her website or find her on Twitter & talk to her!

Meet the PRSA New Pros Section Founder: Mary Beth West

Q&A with PRSA New Pros Section Founder, Mary Beth West, APR, Fellow PRSA

PRSA’s New Professionals section is a diverse group of individuals in the first five years of their career, working in public relations and communications across industries. The New Pros section is one of PRSA’s 14 professional interest sections, or communities focused on a specific area of expertise. It makes sense now to cater programming to new pros, but that wasn’t always the case. Read on for a Q&A with our section’s founder, Mary Beth West, APR, Fellow PRSA, on the history of PRSA New Pros!

Tell us about yourself — Where did you go to school and how did you begin your career as a new professional?

A lifelong Tennessean, I attended the University of Tennessee – Knoxville, graduating in public relations in 1994. My career path actually began earlier with internships in public relations agencies starting when I was 18 years old and leading me to work opportunities while a student in Knoxville, Nashville and New York.  Being heavily involved in PRSSA provided my launching pad as well. I served as national public relations director for PRSSA in 1993-94 and developed so many close friendships and professional connections that continue to this day.

What is the history of the New Pros Section and what made you found the section for PRSA?

In 2001, when I was 29 years old, I was elected to a two-year term on the PRSA National Board. One of my friends who had served as PRSSA National President a few years after I graduated was Gail Liebl (now Gail Van Cleaf, APR).  Gail and I both enjoyed such a pleasant working relationship with the late Betsy Ann Plank, APR, Fellow PRSA – the first woman who ever served as president of PRSA and widely known as “the godmother of PRSSA.”

Gail and I had both voiced interest in creating a new community of professionals within PRSA to help PRSSA students bridge to PRSA membership more seamlessly – beyond just the Associate Member program, which was already in place. Based on ideas we had each voiced to her, Betsy encouraged Gail and me to work together. So we did.  We pitched the idea to the PRSA National Board (then chaired by Reed Byrum, APR, Fellow PRSA) of having a new stand-alone section called “New Professionals,” and it was accepted . . . initially not as a professional interest section of PRSA (which it is today), but as a “group,” during a sort of pilot program to make sure the initiative found an audience and gained momentum.

One of the aspects we insisted on right away was the name “New Professionals” as opposed to “Young Professionals.”  The latter name option seemed too restrictive, because we wanted the group to welcome anyone new to the profession, even if they were entering public relations mid-career or from a nontraditional path.

Once we received the green light from the National Board, we created a leadership structure, programming platform and content areas that would help position this new community with multiple member benefits. We helped build a content area on the PRSA national website for New Professionals to live online, and we directly recruited the membership team from graduating or recently graduated PRSSA students whom we knew.  With the help of staff leaders like Jeneen Garcia and others, the group launched around 2003, later achieving full section status, based on the fact that it had grown to one of the largest “groups” / sections within PRSA, in just a number of years.

What were your biggest accomplishments for the section?

Birthing it! ? First, just Gail’s and my collaboration of creating something new from the ground-up . . . it felt rather entrepreneurial but also like we were helping meet a clear, discernible need – one that had been around for quite a long time within PRSA but had remained unmet.

As for myself, when I had started out as a new pro in 1994 – trying to attend local chapter meetings and developing a new local network (inclusive of many long-time professionals who had been in the business many years) – I didn’t always feel directly included or integrated with the chapter.  Everyone else already seemed to know each other, and I was the odd-girl-out. That’s a very common feeling to experience for any new professionals initially embarking on a career. So the biggest accomplishment for the section, in my view, was creating that community where everyone was in the same boat, all starting out fresh with their career path and needing some common advice, tools and resources to build confidence and a more positive launching point for their careers, with PRSA as a center point that could carry them through, long-term.

I understand you have many PRSSA/PRSA “friendships” — could you speak to the value of those connections as it relates to being a member of the Society?

There are practically no words equal to describing the value of these people in my life. My PRSSA alumni buddies and I – not just from UT but from PRSSA chapters across the country in the early 1990s – share a bond from starting out in the national student organization, with so many memories from going to conferences and regional events together and going through that time in our lives when everything was new, exciting, scary, hopeful, intimidating, overwhelming, thrilling, confusing . . . all those descriptors and more. My lifelong mentors like David Bicofsky, APR, Fellow PRSA, Dwayne Summar, APR, Fellow PRSA and Susan Hart, APR, Fellow PRSA, taught me about the type of grit, determination and brand of expertise required to become the professional I ultimately wanted to be (and that I’m still working on becoming . . . it’s a journey!).

What advice do you have for New Pros today?

I participated this year in the Leadership Knoxville program in my local community recently, and the foundation of its entire curriculum focuses on the concept of servant-leadership, immortalized in the book of the same name by Robert Greenleaf. As I look back on it, PRSSA was my first true experience in servant-leadership, and PRSA has been my ongoing, lifelong experience (and sometimes experiment) in it as well.  My advice for New Pros is to view their ladder of career progression through the lens of servant-leadership . . . that only by serving others and building the relationships that are inherent to acts of genuine contribution will we accomplish our highest callings and potential.

Any closing thoughts to share?

As you progress in your career and in life, bear in mind that doing the right thing in alignment with your professional values and those that PRSA espouses doesn’t necessarily mean that other people will always like you. In fact, buckle your seatbelt! The truth of the matter is that unwavering values present a direct threat to many people, particularly in disturbing a status-quo that many people build their worlds around and will fight tooth-and-nail to keep you from tinkering with it . . . even if the status-quo is ultimately providing detrimental to all concerned.  So with that said, true leadership isn’t a popularity contest, although it gets wrongly equated to that type of lowest-common-denominator thinking, quite frequently. Leadership makes the biggest impact with vision as its oxygen and principle as its unfaltering navigation. It’s not easy, and many times, it’s not fun; but the end results can yield a level of meaning to your life like no other.

CaptureMary Beth West, APR, Fellow PRSA, sold her public relations firm in January 2018 after 15 years in business working with such clients as Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Smoky Mountain Tourism Development Authority and a range culture-change initiatives to advance community-based educational achievement. She and her husband live in Maryville, Tennessee, located in the Greater Knoxville area, with their daughters Elizabeth, 15, Maggie, 13 and Rachel, 8. Connect with her on Twitter @marybethwest. Want to learn more from Mary Beth? Register now for the first-ever PRSA New Pros Summit, to be held in NYC on August 9, 2018 for access to her keynote, “Three Essential Cs of Public Relations Career Progression: Competence, Confidence and Clout.

This Q&A was compiled by Hanna Porterfield, 2018 Chair of PRSA’s New Professionals Section. Based in Chicago, but frequently on an airplane, she is an account manager at NYC-headquartered Development Counsellors International. Hanna is a graduate of Michigan State University. Connect with her on Twitter @citygirlhanna.