Takeaways From PRSA-East Central District's QuickStart 2019 Conference

⌛ By Kaylin R. Staten ⌛

Serving on PRSA-East Central District’s Board of Directors is one of the most fulfilling parts of my career to date. I am able to work with esteemed colleagues across West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Michigan. On September 13 and 14, I traveled to Columbus, Ohio, to meet with my fellow board members and to attend the annual QuickStart conference hosted by PRSA-ECD. 

QuickStart is a one-day conference hosted in the fall to give ECD chapter leaders an opportunity to ask questions and learn from each other before assuming leadership positions in the new year. Student leaders within the PRSSA network also attend.

I always learn a wealth of knowledge to bring back to my Chapter and to use for Hourglass Media. This year, the conference focused on how we can improve our Chapters in myriad ways. 

Here are some nuggets I wanted to share with you: 

Diversity and inclusion just need to happen.

During our time at QuickStart, my tablemate and new colleague Hyacinth had an amazing way to describe diversity and inclusion. She referred to this quote from Diversity Advocate Vernā Myers:“Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.”

We learned about the 7/11 Rule on Perception. We were asked to guess family status, mode of transportation, favorite music genre, favorite ice cream flavor, favorite color, children and age. It was actually incredibly eye-opening to guess the answers about our partner and then read those answers to him or her. Then, the tables were turned, and we heard our partners’ own answers. My partner and I got half of the answers correct, but this was an eye-opening testament that perception is a guiding force in our lives.

It’s 2019. We need to be diverse and inclusive in all of our efforts. End of story.

We still need to better define public relations.

The official definition of public relations is: “A strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” -- PRSA

If you’re in the PR industry, how challenging is it to explain what you do? More often than not, the definition comes out in rambling word vomit, or we downplay what we do. “Oh, I handle social media” or “I manage communications for XYZ Company.” Every time I am in the room with a slew of public relations professionals, we reach the same idea: We need to better communicate about what we do. We do amazing work for our clients and organizations, but we have this complex about talking about ourselves. What we do is not linear. So, in order to practice what we preach, I challenge all of us to craft our own elevator pitches (short and longer versions). We add value. It’s time for us to stop being wallflowers and be proud of the grand-scale work we are doing. 

And just some numbers for your perusal:

  • 2018 Median Pay for PR Practitioners in Traditional Roles: $60,000/year or $28.85/hour 

  • Number of PR Jobs in 2018: 270,000

  • Job Outlook for 2018-2018: 6% (as fast as average)

  • Members in PRSA: Almost 22,000

Relationships still matter.

“The magic and the power to developing in your professional association is the relationships you make when you show up.” - Cynthia D-Amour, MBA, The Engineering Career Coach (@CynthiaDAmour) 

I’m going to say something that may ruffle some feathers: in many cases, individuals serve on boards or join professional organizations just to have that coveted title or information on their professional resume. Look, I know you cannot give 100 percent all of the time, but there has to be a responsible level of involvement to match that title on your resume. So, it’s vital to show up if you belong to a professional organization. Without the in-person component, you cannot build the same level of relationships that lead to opportunities, friendships and more. In our digital era, we long for human connection. So, don’t sell yourself short by not being involved in your professional organization or even that church group you sometimes go to. Show up and be willing to work to improve yourself, your company and your industry.

The bottom line is, relationships still matter, and the PRSA network is a no-brainer way to connect with others in PR and other communications industries. 

Thought leadership elevates your brand and company culture. 

If you’re not thinking about thought leadership, then you’re behind the curve. Whether you’re at the helm of your own company or Chapter or you’re managing your up-and-coming influencer account on Instagram, you want to be see as an expert. How can you add thought leadership to your overall behind-the-scenes practices? We learned about Connections, Credibility and Communication. First, you want to talk with your target audiences and establish an ongoing two-way feedback loop. You’ll look at your media landscape and also see what your competitors are doing. You’ll add credibility to your efforts by talking about your experiences, awards, campaigns and anything personally and professionally related to your efforts. Finally, you communicate by strategically sharing your area of expertise.

As a company or even an individual, you also want to use your values to create your company’s culture. Make sure that your values do actually reflect how you want to be perceived and then how you live, breathe and work in your company’s walls and beyond.

(For example: part of my company’s culture is telling the hearts of stories through dignity, authenticity and grace.)

You have to market to Millennials and Generation Z.

According to Fast Company and a presentation during QuickStart, 40 percent of consumers will be Gen Z by 2020. Guys. That is just three months from now. Seventy-five percent of millennials also share content online, according to CMO By Adibe, 

How can companies, brands and individuals ensure they are reaching these key core audiences?

  • Be real

  • Be inclusive

  • Be accessible

  • Be worth it 

Brainstorm some ideas on how you will target Millennials and Gen Z RIGHT NOW and in 2020. This is the future of PRSA, the PR industry and the world at large. By effectively communicating with them now, you will establish relationships that will last until the next generations are rising within the consumer ranks. 


Kaylin R. Staten, APR, is an award-winning public relations practitioner and writer based in Huntington, WV with nearly 16 years of professional communications experience. As CEO and founder of Hourglass Media, she uses her compassionate spirit and expertise to delve into the heart of clients’ stories. She is a recovering perfectionist, mental health advocate, wife, cat mom and Leia Organa aficionado. Connect with Kaylin on LinkedIn.