It hardly seems as though a year has passed since I began my service as PRSA’s 2009 chair and CEO.
There’s no doubt that the past 12 months have been extremely challenging for many of us. At the same time, it’s been a period of tremendous personal fulfillment for me. As a second-generation public relations counselor who literally grew up in and around the public relations profession, my term as chair and CEO has been a unique and incredible opportunity to give back to both the profession and organization that have given me so much.
As my term draws to a close and our industry looks forward to brighter days ahead, it seems like an appropriate time to reflect on how PRSA has helped its members confront the challenges of the past year, and examine the benefits that we delivered in the process.
While the financial markets today seem poised for a recovery, it wasn’t too long ago that a stock market collapse, the eminent failure of several large financial institutions, and the implosion of General Motors and Chrysler came together in a perfect storm to produce what some called “the worst recession since the Great Depression.”
These tough times provided an impetus for PRSA to think creatively about ways to cut spending and achieve operational efficiencies. Having trimmed expenses by more than $1 million, we’re now forecasting a slight income surplus over expenses at year end and planning our regular contribution to PRSA’s “reserve” fund.
The economic malaise also encouraged us to think creatively about how to increase the value of PRSA membership. This has resulted in some new member benefits and the continuation of others, including programs to help those hit particularly hard by the recession. Our goal was to ensure that our members would have access to the learning, intelligence and networking opportunities they needed to thrive, not just survive.
Listed first among these is access to learning. The public relations profession is undergoing rapid and dramatic shifts, whether due to the continued evolution of social media, the changing role of traditional media or the erosion of reputation and trust in major institutions. We also continued to lead the industry in professional development, delivering the most sought-after speakers on the industry’s hottest topics.
Next is intelligence. Our redesigned Web site is making it much easier for users to find helpful industry news, information and data. In addition, “The Business Case for Public Relations™,” our industry advocacy campaign, is giving public relations professionals the resources they need to educate key audiences about public relations’ roles and outcomes, demonstrate its strategic value and enhance its reputation. It’s also taking aim at creating industry-standard measurement approaches.
PRSA also continued to be an industry thought leader in 2009. Our new blog PRSAY, Advocacy program and industry-leading publications, The Public Relations Strategist, Public Relations Tactics and Public Relations Journal, all helped our members stay on top of societal and industry shifts, interpret their meaning and adjust to them in the context of their clients and organizations.
Lastly is a network of professional contacts. In times of trouble, people lean on one another and draw on the collective resolve of the group. Accordingly, our members understood the impact that others can have on their professional success, and took advantage of opportunities to build their professional networks by becoming or remaining active in their District, Chapter and Section communities.
I hope you will take time to read our State of the Society report, for a more in-depth look at some of PRSA’s major initiatives and accomplishments over the past year. Not the least of these was an effort to update PRSA’s bylaws, in keeping with modern governance theories and current best practices in association management. In November, Delegates to PRSA’s Assembly overwhelmingly approved a new set of bylaws for the Society, by a final tally of 264 to 20.
A Bright Future for PRSA
While the chair and CEO of PRSA stands as the organization’s most visible representative, I must share credit for the accomplishments of the past year with my fellow Board members and volunteer leaders, as well as PRSA staff. Their collective enthusiasm, passion and commitment made these achievements possible, and I thank them for their dedication to the profession and fealty to our Society.
So as we head into 2010 and my time as chair and CEO comes to a close, I step aside with complete confidence in my successor, Gary McCormick, APR, and the understanding that PRSA is poised for even greater accomplishments in the months and years ahead.