This month I start my term as president of the WMPRSA — West Michigan chapter of Public Relations Society of America. I know, it’s a mouthful. Not only is it a lot to say quickly, I also get the distinct impression that when I say this to most non-PR people they’re thinking, “Huh?” If a lawyer says they’re a member of the Bar Association, most people would get it (except for the few who would think they have a drinking problem). There’s an old saying about the cobbler’s kids having the worst shoes — PR people are too busy communicating about others and suffer from their own reputation/awareness problems.
I started my PR career 18 years and 6 days ago, leaving journalism for the world of corporate PR at Amway. Since then, I have been on a path of constant learning about what the public relations profession is all about. PRSA has played no small part in my education and professional development and for that I am incredibly thankful.
WMPRSA created a list of reasons that West Michigan PR professionals should join the local chapter. I can honestly say that I have personally benefitted in all 10 ways that are described. And in ways that have not been mentioned. It was several years after I had started my PR career that I joined WMPRSA, thanks to my enlightened management. They knew that what I learned through my PRSA involvement would benefit the quality of my work on their behalf.
My PRSA involvement included an educational process that led to Accreditation in Public Relations — a distinction that is not often enought sought out by prospective clients. Accreditation in Public Relations (as indicated by APR behind a professional’s name) means the PR practitioner has gone through a rigorous testing process to ensure professionalism, ethics, experience, and best practices. Through the APR process, the practitioner learns about the history of PR and why it even exists. Many of the ills of the PR profession are caused by those who don’t fully know what the PR profession is really about.
Another benefit of my involvement has been leadership development. Several years after joining PRSA and after going through the APR process I joined the WMPRSA board. A few years later, in 2003, I was elected president of the chapter. That’s right … 2010 is my second time around as WMPRSA president. I think that’s only happened once before. I just can’t say no! I loved working with a strong group of professionals seven years ago and learned so much from them. I’m learning just as much from the incredible group who are serving on the board this time around, too!
When I first became involved in PRSA, I didn’t think I’d need to worry about networking for the sake of a job or prospective clients. Well, here I am, starting off my own independent practice and thankful for all of the connections I’ve made over the years. Those connections have already led to a couple of clients and I have no doubt that more of my business will result from my PRSA involvement.
My primary goal for 2010 WMPRSA, which I shared with the board a few weeks ago, is to provide ways for more PRSA members to become involved in the chapter’s operations, by helping on a committee, by helping judge awards, by attending programs, by becoming a mentor to a PR student, by studying for the APR exam, by writing for the newsletter, by serving on the board. Being a member is only the start; you only get out of PRSA what you put into it.
I’m looking forward to a great year leading WMPRSA’s efforts and helping more people get involved in promoting and building the PR profession for the benefit of all.