Summer in academia is one of two things — a great time to attend conferences and conduct research or a great time to do some traveling and reading. For me, this summer was about spending some time with and learning from some of the brightest minds in public relations.
As part of PRSA’s strategic planning process that takes place every three years, the chair-elect (yours truly) leads the effort that sets the vision for the organization’s business plans for the next few years. In this case, we’re crafting the 2011-2013 Strategic Plan.
Given tight budgets and a not-so-loving recession, we didn’t wait for anyone to travel to us. Instead, we took what a former client would have referred to as the “scrappy and simple” route that actually turned out to be one of more exciting experiences I’ve had in PRSA leadership.
We crammed a strategic planning session into other PRSA events taking place in different cities. That yielded five very different strategic planning sessions — with five very different and diverse groups of participants — in Miami, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta.
If you’re wondering who was there, for the sake of confidentiality, I’ll give you some hints:
- Managing directors of top-10 multinational agencies? Check.
- Senior vice presidents of the world’s top tourism and hospitality companies? Check.
- Heads of communications for leading health care companies? Check.
- Leading researchers and educators from highly-respected universities? Check.
- Chief public information officers of governmental agencies? Check.
- Presidents of award-winning boutique agencies? Check.
- Executive vice presidents of the nation’s top financial services companies? Check.
- Extensively read and followed bloggers? Check.
- Experienced crisis communicators? Check.
- Twitter-happy, social media enthusiasts? Check.
- Seasoned multicultural communications practitioners? Check.
- Silver Anvil and Gold Anvil award winners? Check.
These individuals gave their time and brainpower to focus on five thematic pillars introduced last year by PRSA CEO and Chair Gary McCormick, APR, Fellow PRSA. The five pillars are: Advocacy, Business Case for Public Relations, Communities, Diversity and Education.
These building blocks found strong support for their continuance among our senior-level members. Here are some excerpts from the sessions.
On Advocacy, an Atlanta participant said:
“PRSA should go outside of the profession to talk about issues without pointing fingers. PRSA should be the provider of cultivated analysis by respected authorities, and should talk about trends and grow thought-leadership in public relations by going outside of public relations.”
On Communities, a New York participant said:
“I don’t have time to do as much networking as I probably should be doing. It becomes almost a surgical decision. What event is worth my time? And, the decision is based on a shared experience, where it’s most interesting and authentic to learn from peers and where I can have a great time as well — both the personal and the professional connection.”
On Education, a Miami participant said:
“The biggest issue I see with recent graduates is that they don’t have a clear understanding of where their academic education meets with the practicality of experience, let alone the fact that very few have an understanding of business and management principles. If you’re in public relations in the 21st century, you have to understand business and finance.”
The results of these strategic planning sessions, in addition to our national research conducted in the last few years, the board of directors’ input and a comprehensive environmental scan provided focus for key initiatives in developing a draft strategic plan. Thus, we found reason for going to our leadership for affirmation of the findings.
Last week, our leaders around the country were asked to affirm, via an online questionnaire, whether the input provided by so many members is on track for PRSA’s future. The information, statements and options provided in the questionnaire came directly from the work highlighted here.
The questionnaire will be available until Oct. 31, 2010, allowing for leaders to participate up to two weeks after the Leadership Assembly meets. At that time, we will review the responses and present a plan to the board for approval. Our goal is to have the 2011-2013 Strategic Plan finalized by November.
Along the way, I’ve encountered many of you who have not been shy about giving me thoughtful input. More importantly, many of you have also offered great support for this new, progressive and exciting plan.
I thank you on behalf of the board of directors and our dedicated staff; I can’t wait to see the results to which so many in our PRSA community have contributed.