In a few short weeks, I will join many of you at the 2014 PRSA International Conference, an event that brings together thousands of our members for three days of education, networking and personal and professional growth. This year’s theme, “Leading the Way: Fearless Future for PR,” is designed to help teach our members how to succeed and thrive in today’s transformative business and media environment. Speakers include everyone from Good Morning America’s Amy Robach and NBC “Meet the Press” Moderator Chuck Todd to Best-Selling Author Walter Isaacson, Fast Company Co-Founder Polly LaBarre and United Negro Fund CEO Dr. Michael Lomax.
During Conference weekend, we will also convene our Leadership Assembly – PRSA’s annual meeting, and a time when we look at the state of the society and tackle the challenges facing our own organization. Just as the Conference theme speaks to fearlessly adapting to the changes reshaping our profession, we must also do the same when it comes to our Society. One of the critical items that we will discuss at this year’s assembly is a bylaw amendment that will allow qualified members without the APR credential to run for the two At-Large positions on the national board. Acting in consensus, the 2014 PRSA Board of Directors issued the amendment while incorporating language that will ensure that the remaining 15 District and Executive Committee/Officer positions will continue to require the APR credential.
This decision was reached following a review of three years of independent research by three separate groups — Kelton Research, Organizational Performance Group (OPG) and Ketchum. Each study found similar results when it came to Accreditation. The majority of our membership sees the APR as a mark of personal achievement but not a validation of leadership ability.
PRSA is a community and it is important that we provide all of our members — including the 82% of our membership who do not hold the APR — to have a voice and representation at the national level. With this one change, we are able to do so while still upholding the importance that we as a Society place on Accreditation.
I am pleased to report that the response to date has been very positive. At PRSA national, we’ve received many comments from both APRs and non-APRs, crediting the proposed bylaw as a fair and sensible approach that allows us to uphold the importance of APR while providing a voice to non-APRs and allowing PRSA to tap into the full leadership potential of our organization.
The amendment has also been greeted by support from third-party experts and leaders who have deep insight into PRSA:
“I completely support the proposed change, which would bring additional perspectives and experiences to the board while still respecting the right of the membership, through the Nominating Committee and Assembly, to make the final choice as to who will represent them as leaders. ” — Bill Murray, former PRSA CEO
“This proposed amendment is smart, strategic and supported by our research which shows that APR is not viewed as a validation of leadership and that there is clear frustration among non-APRs across the member populace that their voices are not being heard.” — Danielle King, Senior Director, Brand & Media Communications at Kelton Research (conducted PRSA Member Value Research Study in 2012)
“We’ve conducted PRSA’s Membership Study since 2008. This year, we focused specifically on how members view APR among other topics. The most important quality for a PRSA Board member in this survey is leadership experience at the chapter, section and district levels. In other words, proven leadership experience is what PRSA’s members are looking for in Board members, not a professional certification.” — David B. Rockland, Ph.D., Partner, Managing Director Global Research, CEO, Ketchum Change, Chairman, AMEC
While, to date, feedback from our members surrounding the proposed bylaw change has been very positive, some members have raised concerns that the Board will need to manage governance very carefully to ensure that the value of APR is not diminished. To this point, it is very important to emphasize that the proposed bylaw amendment has no bearing on PRSA’s ongoing work to strengthen the APR; the Board is currently in the process of evaluating the recommendations made by OPG and the Task Force to Strengthen APR.
A copy of the amendment and the accompanying FAQs has been placed within the MyPRSA section of our website. Should you have any questions, thoughts or concerns about the proposed amendments please do not hesitate to contact me or our VP of PR Stephanie Cegielski.
As we prepare for Leadership Assembly on Oct. 11, I hope you will join me in advocating for this bylaw change, as we continue to work together to help preserve a strong future for PRSA.
Joe Cohen, APR, is 2014 Chair of PRSA.