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.
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]gmail.com or through @sparklegem on Twitter, linkedin.com/in/crystalaolig, or the whY genY blog.