Association/Nonprofit PR


Glamorizations of public relations usually show a chic woman in a big city, working one-on-one with clients. She attends swanky parties and always gets her clients the right attention without much more effort than snapping her fingers.

That’s what I thought would be in store for me with a career in PR when I first started studying. I daydreamed about working at an agency, managing client accounts and pitching new ideas in meetings and stories to media, mainly because that was the only real path that was discussed at length. PR people work for agencies, serving clients, right?

Wrong. There are so many other paths, so many other adventures you can go on. A quick look at PRSA’s website shows 14 different professional interest sections, representing just a handful of specialization options out there for pros to find the best fit for their skills and interests. As it turns out, nonprofit/association communications was the best fit for me.

Working for a nonprofit or association is a great way to get experience in a lot of different areas. Most nonprofits operate with limited resources, meaning an organization’s communications department may literally be a one- or two-man shop. It can be a little frightening to step in and be responsible for so many moving parts – social media, media relations, content development, creation, management and marketing, event planning, stakeholder relations, fundraising…the list could go on and on – but its equally as exciting.

Including internships, I’m currently at my fourth nonprofit/association and no two days have been identical yet. Since nonprofits and associations are typically topic- or issue-oriented, there’s a diverse array of organizations to choose from.

Here are five things I’ve found exciting about working at a nonprofit and three lessons I’ve learned along the way.

Five things I love about nonprofit/association communications:

  1. Room to take on new responsibilities
    Since most nonprofits and associations have smaller staffs with limited resources, there’s often an opportunity to take on more responsibilities than initially assigned – and you should! Communications roles in particular tend to have pretty general position descriptions focusing on the day-to-day and tactical. And while everyone does have to pitch in on the administrative work, there’s no reason you can’t set your sights higher and on something to boost your own career. Want to get more experience with the media? Suggest pitching in with the pitching. Is your organization lacking a clear communications strategy? Take the lead and volunteer to lead a couple brainstorming sessions before taking the first crack at a comprehensive strategy to define SMART goals and deliver results. When you find an opportunity to enhance your skills in a way that will ultimately benefit your organization, speak up about how you think you can help.
  2. Room for innovation
    With limited resources and budgets, there’s a lot of room for trying new things. There’s no monopoly on who can come up with great ideas, so flex your muscles and make sure you’re making time to brainstorm and keeping track of your ideas for when they might be useful. Those ideas are great to pull out of your back pocket when issues arise – true no matter the industry you’re in, but the smaller the organization, the more open they tend to be to trying new, sometimes exciting, ideas.
  3. No two organizations are the same
    While many nonprofits or associations share similarities – small in size, low operating budgets, limited resources – no two are identical. Some are issue-based, some are industry-specific and others are more general. Working in the nonprofit space doesn’t mean that your organization’s issue has to be your most passionate cause, but it’s important to care about the work you’re doing. Going in with an open mind and an interest in what you’ll be focusing on will go a long way, but understand that your experience may differ from organization to organization.
  4. You can learn a little about everything
    In my experience, there are plenty of opportunities to help with other organization functions outside of communications. No matter the organization or industry, communications touches all other departments in some way, shape or form. Whether you’re working together on projects or crossing disciplines entirely, there’s plenty of room to learn a little about everything your organization does – from operations all the way down.
  5. Flexibility
    Since there’s usually not much wiggle room as far as salary goes, there’s sometimes a bit of room to negotiate on other things. Remote work, comp time and professional development opportunities are just a few of the things you may be able to more easily ask for. In a past job, my responsibilities often included work outside of the normal 8-to-4, meaning I was working and not getting paid for it. As a way to accommodate the need to work at odd hours sometimes, I was able to negotiate flexible hours that allowed me to leave earlier in the afternoon and work later in the evening, when things would often come up.

Three lessons I’ve learned

  1. Learning how to prioritize and balance everything
    Nonprofits often have a lot going on and sometimes it can feel like you’re expected to be a jack-of-all-trades – or a court jester with all the things you’re juggling. Learning how to prioritize can be tough. Sometimes it’s difficult because there are just not enough hours in the day. Sometimes it’s because everything becomes an emergency when there wasn’t enough time or energy put into planning. Or maybe you’ve just been too busy putting out fires that something just fell to the wayside. Whatever the reason, learning to keep track of where everything that you’re responsible for stands and a method for prioritizing responsibilities in a way that works for you can go a long way in easing the stress.
  2. Making sure professional development is still a focus
    Building right of of learning to prioritize and manage your responsibilities, it’s just as important to make sure that you’re continuing to grow and learn. This can be difficult at a nonprofit, or any smaller organization really, because time and money are often both limited. Not all employers will pay for memberships in professional organizations like PRSA or for professional development opportunities like courses and conferences. If continuing to grow professionally is important to you – and it should be – you may have to take it into your own hands and make time for it outside of or around work. This isn’t always an easy thing to do and it can be frustrating to feel like your organization doesn’t support you (which it may feel like sometimes), but the connections you make at events and the opportunities that may be open to you with every new skill you learn or fine-tune will be worth the time and energy.
  3. Professional growth and knowing when it’s time to go
    If you’re continuing to grow professionally, there may come a time when your organization is no longer the best fit for you. It can often be difficult to grow within a small organization because there are a limited number of positions to fill and the only role to aspire to may be your boss’s. If you’re ready to take on more responsibilities, it’s worth having a conversation with your organization’s leadership about what you’d like to be doing and why you think you’re ready for it. There may be room to adjust, maybe a new position can be created for you and an intern or new employee can be hired to pick up some of the slack. If that’s not the case, and you feel like there isn’t room for you to continue to grow, it may be time to look for new opportunities. This shouldn’t be something done sneakily if you’ve had these conversations about being ready for more. There are plenty of tactful ways to leave for a new opportunity without feeling like you’re abandoning ship.


Image uploaded from iOSIn her third year on PRSA’s New Professionals Section’s executive committee, Robyn serves as 2018 chair-elect. 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!

What Every New Pro Should Know: As Shared by Edelman Immersion Program Employees and Graduates

Editor/Guest post note: The Edelman Immersion Program is a highly competitive program where participants spend 18 months rotating across different Edelman departments to learn the business and determine long-term career goals. 

Are you a new PR pro looking to succeed in this fast-paced and ever-changing environment? Graduates and current participants of the Edelman Immersion Program have gathered their wisdom to share with PRSA New Pros. Take a look at what members from all three of the company’s Immersion classes had to share from their unique experiences.   


Herschel Kissinger, Class of 2015 – Currently in Program

A piece of advice that I often need to remind myself of: nobody is a mind reader. Colleagues and mentors are willing to help you achieve your goals—if they know what those goals actually are. Don’t be afraid to start those conversations yourself.

From working across five different practices at Edelman, I’ve learned that we have an expert or specialist for nearly everything. If you’re starting a new project in an unfamiliar space, the good first question to ask is “Have any of my colleagues done this before?” Often a 15-minute conversation with a subject matter expert gets you a lot more information than an hour of Googling

Molly Shaheen, Class of 2015 – Currently in Program

Allow yourself to think of your role as you thought of college. In a communications agency, your clients and projects are your curriculum and each is an opportunity to gain knowledge on new things.

During your career, you’re going to have those core accounts that you always work on, much like the core classes for your degree. If you navigate things right, you’ll have room to take a couple electives down the line. Keep your eyes open and raise your hand for projects that pique your interest and are outside of your day-to-day role.

Don’t forget what your professors preached – participation! Speak up in meetings, bring interesting research or insights to the table and ask your teammates thoughtful questions along the way. It will help make you stand out.

Lissa Pavluk, Class of 2013

Don’t underestimate the value of a mentor. Find someone a few levels above you who is willing to help you navigate complex situations, give sage advice based on their own experiences and help you understand how to best grow your career. Your HR department should be able to help you facilitate this if you have trouble identifying someone on your own. The best part? You may end up with not only a mentor, but a good friend!

Jenna Wollemann, Class of 2011

One of the most important things I learned my first year working was the importance of managing up (or simply put, making the lives of your managers easier). Entry level employees are expected to be one step ahead, paying close attention to project timelines and various tasks for the team. When I joined Edelman, I quickly learned that you sometimes have to over-communicate with managers and team leaders so they know what the status of your projects are and when they can expect various deliverables. Over-communicating and managing up can be tough at first, but managers have no way of knowing what’s going on unless you tell them.

Additionally, be resourceful and don’t be afraid to ask questions! These traits go a long way. It’s always better to raise your hand to your manager before diving into a task if you’re unsure about something. Also, don’t underestimate the power of your peers. Other colleagues at your level can be fantastic resources if you have questions or ideas, considering it’s likely they have encountered similar experiences or issues.

Interested in applying for Edelman’s Immersion Program? More information can be found here.

March 2015 #NPPRSA Twitter Chat Highlights: Preparing for a Crisis

Twitter Chat 3-18 SquareWe’d like to thank everyone who participated in the March #NPPRSA Twitter chat as we discussed crisis communications–how to prepare and how to react.  We would especially like to thank Jonathan Bernstein, President of Bernstein Crisis Management.

Join us again on April 15 for our next #NPPRSA chat and stay up-to-date with PRSA New Professionals on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.

Review highlights of the chat below. What did you learn from the March chat? How can you prepare for your brand’s vulnerabilities before a crisis? What can you do to minimize damage once a crisis hits?


You can receive FREE New Professionals Section membership for PRSA throughout March!

Lauren Headshot 1.3MBLauren Rosenbaum is the PRSA New Professionals Social Media Co-Chair and Co-Founder of Soversity, a public relations and digital marketing company. You can connect with her on Google+LinkedIn or Twitter.

Career Transitions Twitter Chat Highlights: Preparing for a Full-Time PR Career

We’d like to thank everyone who participated in the Transition Month #NPPRSA Twitter chat as we discussed ways new grads can plan and prepare for a full-time career in public relations.

May Twitter Chat Highlights PR Career

Specifically, we’d like to thank PRSA and Joe Cohen, APR. Joe is Chair of PRSA & senior vice president at MWW, a leading global independent public relations firm.

Join us again on June 5 for our next #NPPRSA chat and stay up-to-date with PRSA New Professionals on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.

Review highlights of the chat below.

How can you enhance your current role by building upon previous experiences? What are ways PRSA can serve you as a new professional? 

Learn more about PRSA and the PRSA New Pros Section at PRSSA members can receive free PRSA New Pros Section membership with promo code AM14 when you join PRSA as an associate member.

Lauren Rosenbaum soversity prsa new pros prssa


Lauren Rosenbaum is the PRSA New Professionals Social Media Co-Chair and Co-Founder of Soversity, a public relations and digital marketing company. You can connect with her on Google+, LinkedIn or Twitter.

Solo PR Life Isn’t Easy

open-4-bizDid that headline catch your attention? Good. If there is one thing that I appreciate in friends, colleagues, and experts, is honesty. Don’t sugar coat anything; tell me how hard something is going to be so I’m prepared.

This isn’t meant to scare you if you are looking to become a solo public relations professional. It is meant as an honest post to show that being your own boss can be great, but can also be very rough.

Being a solo PR pro is a ton of sweat and incredibly hard work. Don’t be fooled into thinking that you’ll have clients knocking down your door when you are solo. Just like working for an agency, you need to focus and put in long hours at times. At the end of the day, you’ll be wiped.

Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t be. While I’m being honest, there are strategies get you on the road to success in your solo career. Organization and balance are two of the more important things to have as a professional, solo or otherwise. You may have one, but not the other. It doesn’t happen in a day or month. It takes time. Since I became a solo PR pro, I’ve learned that balance is integral to your home and work success. Here is how I’m doing it.

1.      Create a comfortable work environment. We’ve all seen that Facebook post or Twitter pic of a messy desk. There’s no way you can be productive with your desk cluttered with papers, yesterday’s snack and the over abundance of photos of your dog. Take a moment to set up a desk that will allow productivity and inspiration. You want to feel as good as possible to work. I have my inbox, inspirational quotes and a notepad on mine.

2.      Start your week out by setting goals. At the beginning of each week, put your clients and the tasks you have for each. Then, look at the tasks that are “must do’s.” This will not only help keep you focused, but on point as well. No more of the “I have nothing to do!”

3.      Work is work, home is home. You do need that separation, especially when you are a solo pro. While I enjoy working on some projects after the kids go to bed, your mind needs to reboot. Don’t push the brain too much. Set a time to shut it down for the day and make a note where you need to pick up. You aren’t a robot, so take a break.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions. I’ve taken advice from many solo PR pros and asked questions about what to expect and how to handle my own business. This helped me in more ways than I can count. Don’t be afraid to hear “NO!” You’ll get hung up on or told a business isn’t interested. It’s not because you aren’t good at what you do. It is all about timing (and money). Sometimes it’s just not a fit. Lastly, You have to want it… badly. If you don’t like your job and think that being on your own will solve everything, you are going about it all wrong. Running my own business and the challenges that go along with it invigorates me. BUT, there’s been plenty of frustration and bumps. If you just go halfway, you are halfway to failing.

Ultimately, your chances at success are greater if you know the truth. I’m still learning… and don’t want to stop doing so. My current and future clients will be better for it. So will you.

Jason MollicaJason Mollica
 (@JasMollica) is the president of JRMComm, a public relations and social media marketing consultancy. He combines knowledge of the broadcast news industry, traditional public relations expertise and today’s new and innovative social media tools. Mollica operates his own blog and has guest blogged on several others, including the respected Ad Age-ranked PR Breakfast Club, and PRSSA’s Progressions.