Aspire Higher: Consider Becoming a Member of the College of Fellows in 2019

The end of the year is, perhaps, the best time to reflect as well as set new goals to help you aspire higher, both personally and professionally.

For those of you who are Accredited and have at least 240 months (20 years) of PR or communication experience, there is one goal I’d like you to consider: becoming a member of the College of Fellows in 2019. You may have thought about applying in the past but didn’t have the time with everything else going on in your career or life. Maybe 2019 is the right time.

The application process is both challenging and rewarding. It is a special personal journey through the years you have worked and accomplished extraordinary things. It involves:

  • Writing an eight-page narrative with 20 different case-study-like examples, including measurable outcomes, from throughout your career.
  • Identifying individuals who can speak to your specific examples and career accomplishments.
  • Securing a total of six letters of support including four PR or communication professionals, one non-PR professional and your Chapter, Section or District.

You do not have to take this journey alone. There are abundant resources to help you achieve your goal.

  • We offer a GoodFellows mentor program — a group of trained Fellows assigned to each candidate as an impartial coach to guide candidates through the process. GoodFellows do not write your application for you nor can they guarantee success, but they can help you get to the heart of the application.
  • In addition, application materials and resources are on the PRSA website. I invite you to attend the free “How to Apply” webinar on Jan. 15 at 11 a.m. EST. Keep an eye out for an email for registration information.

Some of the best advice, though, comes from a recent Fellow, Denise Blackburn-Gay, APR, Fellow PRSA, who was among the 11 members of our 2018 College of Fellows induction class officially welcomed in Austin. She offers excellent tips for candidates who apply — perhaps you?

“The application process for the College of Fellows (COF) was probably one of the most meaningful events in my 30 years in public relations. We seem to glide through our careers without thinking about the impact our work has had on the businesses we represent, our communities, or even us, for that matter. This provided an occasion to reflect on those moments. It was extremely challenging to synthesize 30 years of work into eight pages. Here’s what the process taught me:

  • Be proud of your work. Your accomplishments are your badge of success.
  • Don’t ever underestimate the power of public relations. It builds brands, restores reputations and impacts many. What you did years ago is the foundation of projects and communities that continue to evolve.
  • Treat yourself as a ‘client.’ Make time to promote your brand. The COF application process is intense. During your busy days, it is essential to carve out time to work on each criterion.
  • Your clients are appreciative of your expertise and recognize your ability. The letters of recommendation were opportunities to reconnect and reflect, and are evidence of that appreciation.
  • Write succinctly. Condense your thoughts. Present the most important points and eliminate the unnecessary. I believe that in developing the criteria, I became a better writer.
  • Appreciate those who proofread. As a content developer, I often ask people to proofread my work. This time, it was personal. Several sets of eyes identified different areas for correction/improvement. Never underestimate the value of proofreaders. We write. They read.
  • Understand this is your personal goal, not that of your spouse or family. While they are supportive, it is important to make time for them as well. My husband deserves a medal. For at least three months, the application was my main topic of conversation. He was my sounding board, one of my proofreaders and my most trusted adviser. The application process brought me closer to my Chapter of PRSA and has broadened the impact of our state organization. I will be hosting a meeting of local public relations professionals in the upcoming months, making it easier for practitioners to engage at the state, and even national, levels.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for advice, and more importantly, listen to what is being said. I could not have completed the COF application without the assistance of my GoodFellow, Janet Oppenheimer, APR, Fellow PRSA.
  • Pay it forward. Now that I have been inducted as a Fellow, I want to assist another candidate by becoming a GoodFellow.
  • My best advice: Start early. The COF application process is time-consuming and can be rather intimidating. There will be ‘writes’ and ‘re-writes.’ Don’t give up! If it’s important to you, it is well worth your time and energy.”

The 350 active Fellows and I look forward to welcoming you as a member of the College of Fellows Class of 2019 on Oct. 19 in San Diego.

Geri Evans, APR, Fellow PRSA, is the 2019 chair of the College of Fellows.


About the author

Geri Evans, APR, Fellow PRSA

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