PRSA Half-Year Update: Exciting Things to Come

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It might be a bit of an understatement to say that 2016 has been an interesting year – and we are only a bit more than halfway through. Between a divisive election cycle, world events and the rise of augmented and virtual reality in several forms – most notably Pokemon Go – for communicators, there has been no shortage of topics to discuss.

PRSA has been very busy rolling out new services to provide value to our members – and updating the technology infrastructure to let us do even more. Members have new ways to keep informed and to connect thanks to our daily Smart Brief newsletter and our new members-only community portal MyPRSA.

On the advocacy front, PRSA has taken a stand on a number of important issues. Most notably, we helped lead the formation of an industry coalition to overturn the JCOPE ruling that could have had a chilling effect on communications professionals.

August is diversity month and this is an issue on which our industry must make more progress. Diversity is a reality, not a policy. We are working to engage new audiences with our message and call to action – including a proposed panel at SxSW (vote here) and some great speakers at the International Conference, such as Derreck Kayongo,Global Soap Project Founder, CEO of the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta and a Business Visionary .

Our sections are going strong, with record-breaking attendance and satisfaction at their conferences. Our new website will be rolling out in Q4 this year, with significantly enhanced functionality and navigation.

Our finances are strong and we are seeing particularly strong growth with group membership.

Speaking not only as board chair, but also as a PRSA member, I am extremely optimistic and proud of all we have done so far. Volunteer and staff leadership teams are firing on all cylinders and the new regional reps are helping bring PRSA National even closer to our members. I have had the pleasure of speaking at more than a dozen chapter and district events and hope to meet as many people as possible to discuss how PRSA can continue to help you.  As we enter the second half of the year and lead into the 2016 International Conference (ICON) in Indianapolis, we don’t intend to slow our pace.

The conference has an exciting roster of keynote speakers including Pioneering U.S. Astronaut and Navy Test Pilot Scott Kelly, Former White House Chief Information Officer (CIO) Theresa Payton and many others. In addition to our world-class professional development and training sessions, events will kick off with our Annual Diversity Mixer (Oct. 22), Opening Night Gala (Oct. 23) and closing ceremony keynote (Oct. 24). We’re excited to be joined by professionals from throughout the country and world in Indianapolis and also excited to share more wonderful news while there.

We received a record number of leadership applications for PRSA board positions, and the Nominating Committee has put together outstanding recommendations for the 2017 Board of Directors. I am looking forward to meeting our incoming volunteer leaders and Leadership Assembly delegates in Indianapolis.

During Leadership Assembly, delegates will have the opportunity to elect new Board members and officers and vote on three proposed bylaw amendments that are being proposed to help make PRSA more nimble, streamline operations and better serve our members.

As part of our strategic planning process, for more than a year, the PRSA board, CEO and executive staff have worked with association expert Harrison Coerver and also reviewed PRSA’s practices and current bylaws against the best practices of other associations of similar size and scope. We went into this process with a few questions and a simple goal: How can we make PRSA more nimble so we can better serve our members? What can we learn from other associations? As a result of this audit, it was determined that PRSA should implement changes to its bylaws that are in line with association best practices, and allow for greater agility and growth.

Our efforts resulted in three conclusions to our questions and the following bylaw proposals unanimously recommended by the PRSA board:

Enable Remote Voting by Assembly Delegates – to do so we will need to clarify wording in our current bylaws to make sure that we have the flexibility to hold virtual meetings if needed, due to unforeseen complications such as a hurricane. More than 80 percent of professional associations do this; it is overdue for us to use technology to make things more efficient when needed.

Allow the Board of Directors to recommend Officers to the Leadership Assembly –  by allowing the board to interview officer-level candidates, it permits the Board to build the most cohesive and effective executive team and allows those with the best knowledge of the activities of the candidates to make the recommendations to the Leadership Assembly, which would still have responsibility for final elections. This will also allow our nominating committee to focus more on reviewing and recommending Director candidates and recruiting a diverse slate of candidates to build a robust pipeline.

Permit the Board to Revise Bylaws – Over the past few years, the Leadership Assembly has clearly indicated they want to focus less on bylaws and more on providing strategic guidance and input about the direction of the Society. This change will enable PRSA to be a more nimble organization and transform Leadership Assembly into a Leadership Summit that enables Chapter, Section, District and other leadership to discuss trends that could impact the profession and what they are seeing in their specific region.  The proposed change still preserve the authority of the Assembly to reject any changes it does not like and bring PRSA into compliance with most associations.

These are complex issues and we will discuss them in greater detail in the Assembly Delegate forum and in conference calls leading to the Assembly meeting. We will provide more information regarding the proposed amendments as we approach ICON. I also look forward to sharing more news and member benefits in the coming months.

Thank you for being a member of PRSA. Thanks to all those that volunteer and make PRSA what it is. Together, I am confident we will accomplish even more in the coming months.

Mark W. McClennan, APR, PRSA 2016 National Board Chair has been stationed at MSLGROUP for more than 20 years, where he has led teams in a variety of industries including consumer technology and healthcare technology. His teams throughout the years have been recognized with more than 45 awards for excellence in public relations, including five Silver Anvils. Follow Mark on Twitter.

About the author

Mark W. McClennan, APR, Fellow PRSA

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