Why PRSA Matters to Communications Professionals

⌛ By Kaylin R. Staten ⌛

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) means more to me than just a fancy organization on my résumé and CV. I have been involved with PRSA since my college days at Marshall University. Then, I delved into the world of public relations in my campaigns class, but being involved in the student-led PRSSA Chapter introduced me to what it’s like to belong to a professional organization that prides itself on networking, career opportunities, learning new skills and building a career that invokes pride and purpose.

Now, eight years later, I’m the President of the PRSA-River Cities Chapter, which is, in many ways, surreal. As a founding member, I have loved seeing this Chapter grow. As the Secretary and Treasurer, I learned more about how to manage Board minutes and how to properly file taxes when you’re a Chapter of PRSA (as well as so many other things). As I prepare to take the captain’s chair on the U.S.S. PRSA-River Cities, I’m reminded that we have an amazing Board of Directors with decades of combined expertise and experience. Our members are some of the most coveted professionals in our area. 

This is what it means to be part of the Public Relations Society of America. 

My first job out of college was a dream job of sorts. It built upon the work I helped with during my undergraduate public relations campaign, and as an ecstatic, less jaded, workaholic, 22-year-old version of myself, I was on top of the PR world in 2010. Or so I thought. Fast forward to nearly two months into the position. I sat at my metal desk, my hands shaking, knowing I needed to make a decision — and fast. I couldn’t remain with an organization with a leader I didn’t believe in at the helm. Through my own observations, both in-person and from online articles, I realized ethics were not prime real estate at this organization. 

I learned about the PRSA Code of Ethics in my very first Introduction to Public Relations class and had printed them out for use on the job. I didn’t anticipate having to use them, but I wanted to be prepared. I’m glad I had that proactive notion because using them helped with my decision making. I took the pledge to be truthful, accurate, fair and maintain responsibility to the public.

The realization hit me that I couldn’t represent the publics the organization served while under the current leadership. I felt like I was lying in the messaging, and I just couldn’t do that. I handed in my resignation letter -- effective immediately -- signed, sealed and delivered to my manager. As I boxed up my items (mostly just Sharpie pens, notebooks and my lunch for the day), I spread out the PRSA Code of Ethics on my desk. I left them there as I walked out of the building for the last time. (Note: Thankfully, this organization is doing MUCH better these days under new leadership, and I would fully recommend people donate to them again.)

This is one of the reasons why the Public Relations Society of America is important to professionals, not just those in the PR industry but anyone in any communications industry. All of us have “rules” to follow, from our bosses to our clients to our self-imposed morals and judgments. PRSA gives us professional boundaries so we don’t have to figure out things on our own, especially when situations get tough. 

Whether you’re a new professional or a seasoned PR pro, joining the National and a local Chapter of PRSA has myriad benefits: 

You will connect with a network of like-minded pros in the trenches with you.

Are you struggling to get colleagues to understand what you do? Are you unsure how to measure your efforts but know you have to do so to establish credibility and ROI? 

PRSA is full of your people. All of us handle the same issues you do, and if we haven’t, chances are, we can help you through it. We’ll play devil’s advocate and be real with you. We’ll be your shoulders to cry on and just listen to your issues. We’ll be your cheerleaders and congratulate you on your successes. We’ll do all of that and more.

PRSA-River Cities has two years of programming under its belt. On a local basis, the new Chapter provides conferences, panels, tours of facilities, speakers’ series, mixers and more for members and prospective members. We work toward enhancing the profession in the River Cities of West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio. One of the most unique aspects of our Chapter is that we go to the membership by visiting their locations while also maintaining our headquarters in Ashland, Ky. The ability to connect with local communications professionals could land you a new client, get you in the door at a certain company, help you find a new job, continue to build your skills and so much more. 

In addition, the online MyPRSA hub allows you to connect with PRSA members across the country. If you have a question about the industry or something happening in your Chapter, use the online forum! I have had to do this several times, especially while serving as Treasurer. Let’s just say I know about the IRS requirements now, thanks to members’ responses! Our regional chair also outreached to me using the platform, which allowed me to get further answers I needed to take back to the Board of Directors. 

You will always learn something new.

Part of the PRSA Code of Ethics states that members will enhance the profession by:

  • To build respect and credibility with the public for the profession of public relations.
  • To improve, adapt and expand professional practices.

This means building upon skills you’ve learned during your undergraduate career, time on the job, through side projects and other ventures. None of us knows the answer to everything, and instead of spinning your wheels through your own research (which is great sometimes!), PRSA offers timely, industry-appropriate opportunities for you to grow in your skill sets.

The organization does this through the following methods:

  • Webinars: Most of these webinars are free for members, and if you’re not a member, each one costs $200 apiece. Learn something new or build upon what you already know, whether it’s learning how to use bots effectively and ethically in your public relations tactics or how to better engage the media in order to get your company’s stories out there. There’s no limit to how many webinars you can participate in, and if you can’t make a live webinar, a comprehensive directory allows you to listen to them on your own schedule. Plus, paid courses and other resources are available.
  • Printed publications that are delivered to your mailbox and MyPRSA. Public Relations Tactics is monthly and The Strategist is quarterly. Keep up-to-date on current issues and trends through the PRsay Blog and Strategies and Tactics daily emails. 
  • Conferences: Industry and specific interest sections host several conferences per year. PRSA National hosts the International Conference annually, and in 2018, it will be in Austin, Texas. In 2017, I attended the PRSA-East Central District QuickStart Conference in Columbus, Ohio, and it was one of the most beneficial conferences I have ever attended! 
  • Certifications: If you’re interested in continued education and certifications, the Universal Accreditation Board (UAB) offers the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) certification.
  • Awards: The Silver and Bronze Anvil Awards recognize the best PR campaigns and projects on a national scale. Chapters also host their own awards call for entries and ceremonies. (I’ve participated in PRSA-WV Crystal Awards for years now.) Awards give you credibility, both internally and to your colleagues and publics.
  • Specialized Professional Interest Sections, like New Professionals, Nonprofit/Association, Educators Academy and more.

The online job center can help you get one step closer to your dream job.

If you’re looking for a new public relations or related communications position, the PRSA JobCenter is right up your alley. It connects companies with talent that could potentially join their teams. It’s a members-only directory of more than 2,000 available positions across the nation. Browsing gives you an idea of what employers are looking for, even if you’re not currently looking to switch positions. If you’re an employer, you can also get ideas that strengthen your company. The best part is, you don’t have to wade through job sites, bypassing irrelevant positions. All of the positions are carefully curated from around the web to meet your needs.

This April 18 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., you can participate in the PRSA Virtual Career Fair to chat in real time with job recruiters from large to small companies. Learn more about other companies and tell them more a little more about yourself. This is perfect for those of us who are juggling multiple tasks at a time. You can chat with as many individuals as you want, right from the comfort of your own computer. (It’s like Facebook Messenger for the PR world, and you can glean a possible new position, ideas for new skills and more.)

You can save money on things you’re buying anyway.

I love being able to save money. As a small business owner, I greatly appreciate the Free Group Savings Program. When you’re a PRSA member, you can opt in to receive savings in-store and online. The one I use the most is Office Depot/Office Max. Recently, I printed the first draft of my 515-page novel at my local Office Depot. Normally, it would have cost $80 or so. With the savings, I only spent almost $14. I also use my Store Purchasing Card to buy ink and other office essentials. Some discounts are 75 percent off! 

You can also receive savings for FedEx shipping, rental cars, ADP payroll services, 4imprint marketing/promotional items and more. You can sign up for the savings you're interested in and get cards delivered directly to you. 

Click on the images above to learn more about the PRSA-River Cities Chapter. Visit www.prsa.org for more member benefits. 

Hear communication and public relations professionals say why they belong to PRSA: Christa Conte, Hotwire Al Chen, Cooperatize Shonali Burke, Shonali Burke Consulting Sam Sims, US Fleet Tracking

So many people tell me they can’t afford a membership, and trust me, I can completely empathize with that fact! Some employees may not pay for a membership, and you may not have the extra $300 annual dues fee lying around. I’ll wager that if you forgo at least one latte from Starbucks each week, you can save enough money for a membership. PR pros LOVE and NEED their coffee, but maybe make your favorite cup of joe at home once a week instead of hitting up your favorite coffeehouse. 

You can split the cost of dues into smaller quarterly chunks to make it more friendly to your personal or business budget. Plus, being part of a local chapter gives you ownership of the profession and allows you to give back. 

Invest in yourself and your career, and it will pay dividends. 

Copyright © MMXVIII Hourglass Omnimedia, LLC

Kaylin R. Staten is an award-winning public relations practitioner and writer. She owns Hourglass Omnimedia, a consulting company based in Huntington, WV. 

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