For 60 Years, Democratic Principles Guide Selection of PRSA Leaders

Earlier this week in Chicago, PRSA’s Nominating Committee selected a group of candidates to put before the National Assembly, for consideration and election as PRSA Officers, Directors and Assembly Delegates.

Twenty PRSA members from across the country and a certified professional parliamentarian comprised the Nominating Committee. They had a fantastic group of candidates this year from which to choose. One of the most challenging aspects of the nominating process is, in fact, that we have an abundance of well-qualified volunteers who come forward to serve PRSA and the public relations industry.

For that reason, the process of nominating individuals for PRSA leadership positions is both deliberate and rigorous.

Each year the process starts with a broadly issued call for nominees. PRSA encourages applicants who represent diversity not only in their gender, race, ethnic background and sexual orientation, but also in their thought, practice area, industry specialization, organizational setting and age. We also reached out directly to the National Black Public Relations Society (NBPRS) and Hispanic Public Relations Association (HPRA), and contacted prominent leaders of various PRSA communities, to solicit candidates.

The initial call for candidates is followed by a series of phone calls and other information-sharing opportunities, both for members of the Nominating Committee and for potential candidates. Candidates have an opportunity to learn more about PRSA and the roles and responsibilities of elected volunteers, and to interact with current PRSA leaders and staff. (The complete schedule, requirements and duties are available on the PRSA Web site.)

The Committee ultimately weighs a number of factors and criteria in making its selections. They include the candidates’ applications, education, leadership and work experience, recommendations, prior service to PRSA and formal presentation. Although the Nominating Committee recommends specific individuals to the National Assembly, any qualified member who seeks a Board position may present his or herself to the Assembly for consideration. The qualification to do so happens through a petition process.

Some aspects of the Nominating Committee’s deliberative process are rightly kept confidential, but the process is exceedingly transparent and fair. That’s not to say that we don’t continually work to make it better. At the end of the Nominating Committee’s deliberations, we conduct an anonymous survey of the candidates and Committee Members to learn about their experiences, identify areas for improvement and offer a channel to raise any issues that may need attention.

In addition, one of the areas looked at extensively as part of crafting our current Bylaws Rewrite proposals is the process of selecting PRSA’s leaders. PRSA members have been urged to learn more about these proposals and share their thoughts about how we might improve our governance generally, and specifically about how our Bylaws can best address leadership recruitment and selection.

There is always an intense focus on PRSA’s leadership nominations at this time of year. Those who are nominated are happy; those who are not are less so. This is something I personally understand. Nevertheless, each and every candidate for a leadership position deserves our utmost admiration and respect.

We are fortunate to have so many talented professionals who want to serve PRSA. I’m hopeful that those who were not nominated will agree to serve in one of the countless other leadership opportunities at PRSA that require their passion, vision and dedication to the profession.

For 60 years, the leaders of PRSA have been chosen in a process based upon democratic principles. While never perfect this process has nonetheless delivered leaders with the experience and foresight to see our organization through good times and bad. I applaud the PRSA members who voluntarily throw themselves into this process for the sole purpose of improving our profession, advancing our Society and bettering each and every member of PRSA.

Michael G. Cherenson, APR, is 2009 Chair and CEO of PRSA.

About the author

Michael Cherenson, APR, Fellow PRSA

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