PRSA Thrived, Not Just Survived, in 2009

“We don’t accomplish anything in this world alone … and whatever happens is the result of the whole tapestry of one’s life and all the weavings of individual threads from one to another that creates something.”
Sandra Day O’Connor

Many of us are eagerly looking forward to 2010 and hoping for better things in the days and months to come. Before we rush into next year, though, it’s important to recognize everyone who helped PRSA introduce new programs and maintain ongoing initiatives — in spite of the challenging economic conditions.

While Members make PRSA possible, it’s volunteers who make us successful.  This year, nearly 2,000 volunteer Board Members, Chapter and Section leaders , Committee and Task Force Chairs and other individuals stepped forward to serve PRSA and the public relations profession by contributing their guidance, thought leadership and vision. They facilitated meetings, advocated for the profession, rewrote Bylaws, participated in focus groups, tested the Beta version of our new Web site and responded to surveys about PRSA’s products and services.  They donated their time and talent, even as one of the toughest economic years in recent memory was demanding their attention elsewhere.  We owe them all a debt of thanks.

Understanding the unique demands that are placed on our volunteers — especially our Chapter and Section leaders — PRSA is constantly looking at ways we can make their jobs easier. For example, we invite each year’s incoming Chapter and Section Chairs to attend our annual Leadership Rally, where they can exchange information and learn from their peers. We’re also connecting thriving Chapters with aspiring Chapters, using the results of our unprecedented Chapter survey conducted earlier this year, to encourage the exchange of best practices and development of mentor relationships that will help to surface the keys to Chapter success.

Next month, we’ll be conducting a quick survey to identify other ways that we can assist and serve our volunteer leaders, and incorporating some of the resulting ideas into our day-to-day operations.  Finally, we have pulled together various leadership resources, which members can access through their “MyPRSA” accounts, and created new Web pages that celebrate our volunteers — all to make it easier and more rewarding for those who contribute and lead.

In addition, we’re continuing to strengthen our Sections, using the Section business model we developed more than two years. That model defines and measures success based upon stated criteria, such as member satisfaction, benefits offered and financial performance, and now includes regular status reports, so leaders can understand exactly how well their Sections are faring.

After carefully reviewing the performance of all our Sections against these established metrics, the PRSA Board of Directors approved several changes in our Sections Community for 2010.

First, our Travel and Tourism and Food and Beverage Sections will merge. The leaders of these Sections concluded that their missions shared much in common, and that a single, larger Section would be stronger and more robust than two smaller ones.

Next, our Corporate Social Responsibility Section will now become a Council of Experts, a new concept for PRSA. The knowledge and content created by the Council will be available free to all PRSA members, eliminating payment of a Section membership fee.

Finally, our Multicultural Section will be integrated into our Diversity Committee.  Our Board has spent a considerable amount of time this year examining the issue of diversity within PRSA and the profession. The combined expertise of our Multicultural Section and Diversity Committee will help PRSA initiate a more comprehensive approach that embraces not only racial, ethnic and cultural diversity, but also the LGBT community and individuals with physical disabilities — all of  whom can be better accommodated and served under a single umbrella.

In addition to our Members and volunteer leaders, I would be remiss if I didn’t thank our staff here at PRSA’s national headquarters. They were asked this year to do more with less — as many of you were.  They met this challenge with energy and creativity, and helped make it possible for PRSA to deliver long-term projects and introduce new benefits to Members. You’ll  be hearing more about the year’s accomplishments very soon, as Mike Cherenson, APR, our 2009 Chair, publishes his year-end, “State of the Society” message.

So as 2009 draws to a close, I’d like to thank our entire PRSA community for making a year in which we not only survived, but thrived.  Thank you.

William M. Murray, CAE, is COO of PRSA.

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William Murray

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