The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) in 2011/12 initiated a crowdsourcing campaign and public vote that produced the following modernized definition of public relations, the formal practice of which dates back to the early Twentieth Century:
“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”
For recent graduates now entering the public relations field equipped with rigorous academic experience, determination, and a fresh stack of resumes and business cards, navigating through your first PRSA event packed with professionals of all stripes—including seasoned leaders in the field—can be intimidating. Initially, you will want to make as many meaningful connections as possible, inquire about internships and job opportunities as you hand out your resume, exchange business cards, and of course, have fun sharing your experience on social media. Soon, you will be ready to take the next important step: getting involved with PRSA.
Becoming a member of PRSA and volunteering your talents and skills with a local Chapter will make you stand out in the public relations landscape. Joining a PRSA committee is exciting, and it shows that you are serious about your commitment to the public relations profession. You will make friends and valuable contacts that will enrich your life and career. Potential employees will see your participation in PRSA as a valuable asset – it shows that you are a team player, and someone who is eager to join forces with others in the field to serve, collaborate, learn and lead.
I have recently volunteered to serve the PRSA Diversity and Inclusion Committee by assuming the role of Secretary. This position entails collecting agenda items from other officers prior to our monthly conference call, and then emailing the agenda to our dynamic group of PRSA Committee members prior to our scheduled calls, which take place at noon on the first Thursday of each month. During the call, I participate in our discussion, and capture our call report through typed notes. These notes include calls to action for our upcoming Diversity Month activities happening in August; exciting new initiatives and projects introduced by members; the welcoming of new committee members; sharing of news and resources; and discussion of the 2015 PRSA International Conference, slated for November 8-10, in Atlanta, Georgia. We will host a Diversity & Inclusion Committee Mixer at the conference. Our committee members will have the opportunity to meet in person, socialize, network, and plan our future events.
Volunteering with the PRSA Diversity and Inclusion Committee is exciting and fulfilling, both personally and professionally. My involvement has taken my public relations experience to a whole new level, and has shown me the value of working alongside outstanding and committed professionals for a common cause: to enrich the public relations profession by addressing the need for more diversity and inclusion by reaching out to young professionals and making them aware of what our committee has to offer—and more importantly, what they have to offer in the field of public relations.
Take it from me, volunteering with PRSA early in your career will prepare you to one day assume leadership positions that will enhance your career. It is important to understand that volunteering, or leading, is less about glamour and title, and more about hard work and making a lasting impact. It involves service for the good of your committee and your group, which will lead to participating in exciting initiatives and projects, and expanding your knowledge base.
Essentially, once you learn to walk the talk, roll up your sleeves and get involved, the personal and professional payoff will be enormous and satisfying. Not only will you enhance the field of public relations and build lifelong professional contacts and friends, you will enhance your capabilities and strengthen your skills and abilities. In doing so, you will hold the PRSA torch high, lighting the way for others.
Sheila M. Tartaglia, MA, PRSA Diversity and Inclusion Committee Officer, is Chief Operating Officer of Tartaglia Communications, LLC, based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter @SheilaTartaglia.
I wish the Society and the profession would use the term “Professional public relations” in definitions to distinguish what practitioners do. I also wish we would keep the word “function” in our definitions. “Process” is only part of the game. My edit of the PRSA definition (edits in caps): “PROFESSIONAL public relations is a strategic communication FUNCTION AND process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”