professional development…Mentorship: What New Pros Have to Offer by Sommer Caraway

Throughout my life, I’ve been advised that I should always have a mentor and be a mentor.  When I first joined PRSA, a mentor program is something I searched for but found was nonexistent.  Shortly thereafter, I became a Phoenix PRSA New Pros leader and about a year ago, we divided our responsibilities into two keys areas: events and mentorship.  A passionate advocate of the latter, I was tasked with developing a mentor program, in which we New Pros would mentor others.

We developed the first mentor program between the PRSSA students at Arizona State University with the goal to simply bridge the gap between the academic and professional worlds.

We set small goals, knowing that we could build on them later. The PRSSA liaison (a PRSA member) and I decided to pair up New Pros group leaders with the student leaders.  We would try it for a semester and if it worked, we hoped word-of-mouth would yield greater participation the next semester.

So I sent out mentor and mentee interest forms to the most active New Pros and to the PRSSA president. To our surprise, 14 students signed up to be mentees the first semester!

We designed the mentor program to be informal so that people wouldn’t feel the time commitment was unattainable. For one semester, every other month, pairs were to meet one-on-one; on the off months, all pairs would meet as a group.

Because of the commitment of the PRSSA leaders and the gracious mentors, the program has been a success, and we look forward to implementing it again this year!

Thinking of starting a New Pros/PRSSA Mentor group? Here are five ideas for group meetings to get you started:

  1. Plan a kick-off happy hour (with options for students under 21, of course!) to discuss the importance of mentoring, expectations and topics students care about.
  2. Schedule a volunteer group event in lieu of a happy hour so mentors and mentees get to know one another outside of work.
  3. Pair up with the local Master’s SIG for a “speed mentoring” event that includes students, New Pros and seasoned pros.
  4. Offer a Shadow Day so students can see PR in action at local agencies and corporations. Encourage mentors to schedule a group lunch the same day so mentees can discuss what they learned.
  5. Plan a holiday, spring or graduation party to conclude the semester of mentoring. Host at someone’s house for a casual, fun celebration!

Sommer Caraway is a public relations professional in Arizona and a New Pros Committee Leader in Phoenix PRSA.  She may be reached at

your pr career… 10 Steps to Starting a Local New Pros PR Group by Crystal Olig

Our first years in public relations can vary from enlightening and fun to intimidating and tough. Our peers in PR quickly become our best resources, providing a relationship-based connection to the industry.

By starting a New Pros group for your local PRSA Chapter, you’ll be able to share your passion for PR, be a leader in the chapter, and grow your personal network of connected, smart, and helpful peers—who won’t mind if you occasionally geek out about AP style, social media, or the coolest new blogger in the city.

Starting a local New Pros group takes some work, but it is not as hard as it sounds. This 10-step roadmap spells out exactly how you can get there.

Find New Professionals in Your Area

1. Build a base of new PR professionals.

Associate members, recent graduates, and current internship programs are rife with new PR pros eager to build professional skills and connections. Get email addresses, Twitter handles, phone numbers, and LinkedIn or Facebook info and connect with new pros in multiple ways.

2. Expand your base of new PR professionals through referrals.

Build an active referral program. At every live event, ask new pros for connections to their peers. Challenge each attendee to bring a friend or industry peer. Engage new pros on Twitter; then use your network to create a “re-tweet” trail for event postings and resource links. Use Facebook to actively invite others to events, engaging them pre- and post-event. Use word-of-mouth to help bring in new people.

Reach Out

3. Create a consistent outreach plan.

Choose a primary New Pros communication tool, such as a list-serv or Facebook page. Train new pros where to go first for group information, and stay in front of busy professionals by using secondary resources like an online chapter calendar, weekly e-blasts, and oral announcements before other PRSA events. Reminders are key. Follow this schedule and contact members one month, then one week, and then one day out.

4.  Don’t assume—Ask what new professionals in your area need.

You can discover what your members are interested in using a short and sweet questionnaire. A quick Survey Monkey quiz can do the trick also. For example, you can ask new pros to rank interests, such as these:
•    Career building advice
•    Connection to a mentor figure
•    Gen Y workplace issues/generational differences
•    Hard skill development, i.e. pitching practice, social media strategy
•    Informal socializing
•    Meeting the media
•    Networking with more seasoned pros
•    Sharing experiences in comfortable peer-to-peer environment
•    Soft skill development, i.e. time or information management

Plan and Engage

5. Plan hybrid new professionals events.

Many young pros want to socialize, but need an academic incentive to compete against a crowded social calendar. In Phoenix, we created the “Happy Hour+” program, hosting informal education opportunities for the first 15-20 minutes of the event, followed by networking. Examples include a “Top 10” tips presentation on focused topics, roundtables on hot button issues, or quick Q&A sessions with PRSA board members or notable leaders.

6. Initiate a matching program.

Many times both seasoned and new professionals are unwilling or unable to commit to a formal mentoring program, though it’s a frequently-mentioned need. A matching mechanism during the RSVP process for chapter-wide events allows new and seasoned professionals to be paired up for a one-time-only mentorship opportunity. If individuals make a great personal connection, it can develop into a more consistent mentorship relationship.

7. Deliver variety in programming.

Deliver events and topics that are varied. Don’t be afraid to crowd-source the next topic. Shifting physical locations for events, from local agencies to downtown pubs to suburban restaurants, helps spread the burden of drive time obstacles.

Keep this Advice in Mind

8. New professionals leaders must be visible and accessible.

Send at least two New Pros members to the regular PRSA events and host a New Pros table. Invite new professionals to join the table. This way the new pros will will have someone to sit with, ask questions of, and network with. As an added bonus, New Pros committee chairs get valuable visibility within the larger PRSA chapter.

9. Be time- and cost-conscious.

New pros encounter common barriers to developing a consistent tie with professional associations: Time and money. As an entry-level or junior employee, it’s hard for a new pro to request time off to attend daytime PRSA events. Plan events outside of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Events such as weekend brunches, happy hours, or coffee meet-ups might work better than lunch meetings. Many organizations are unable to assist with membership fees for junior pros, and entry level salaries don’t cover many extras. Be open to non-member attendance, and try to keep events free or under $5 (unless the fee covers the cost of food or drink).

10. Create a super committee.

To launch a New Pros group, you need a solid, diverse, and enthusiastic committee to share the workload. Start with four to five new pros from different areas of PR, including corporate, non-profit, and agency. The New Pros committee leader should have a strong tie to chapter leadership, whether through a designated board member contact, within a professional development cluster, or via the membership committee. Meet monthly in person or via conference call. Maintain a strong committee by respecting each person’s time, requiring accountability and responsiveness and consistently incorporating committee members’ input or ideas.

CRYSTAL OLIG is the former Phoenix PRSA New Pros Committee Chair and is a current Central Ohio PRSA University Liaison committee member. She can be reached at crystal.a.olig[at] or through @sparklegem on Twitter,, or the whY genY blog.