I was honored to convene the first 2010 meeting of PRSA’s Board of Directors this past Friday and Saturday. We took stock of our organization, participated in engaging discussions and planned for the coming year. I think I speak for the entire Board in saying that we left PRSA’s headquarters energized, excited and enthused about the year ahead, both for the Society and our profession.
We began the meeting by discussing the top-level trends impacting our members. To prepare for this discussion, I had asked the Board to canvass PRSA members and other public relations practitioners in their geographic areas to determine how the economy is affecting them, the biggest challenges they are facing and how they measure success in their places of employment. The findings from this informal, “Pulse of the Profession” research, our third such study, will be the subject of a future blog post.
We then reflected on PRSA’s achievements and financial performance over the past year. While PRSA was not immune to the effects of the recession, we were able to add member programs and benefits and invest in our infrastructure by significantly cutting our annual expenses.
In 2009, we selected 13 new speakers with cutting-edge content who helped us bring 21 new teleseminars to market; launched a hardship program that offers heavily discounted dues to members who are unemployed or facing financial hardships; introduced special promotions, such as free Chapter or Section memberships and an expanded quarterly payment plan; and offered 12 free webinars through the support of corporate partner, Thomson Reuters.
PRSA also delivered an award-winning redesign of our Web site, which presents information in fresh and easily accessible ways and offers an individually customizable “MyPRSA” feature; introduced “The Business Case for Public Relations,®” an industry advocacy campaign intended to drive awareness and adoption of public relations services; upgraded our Jobcenter Web site with added features and increased functionality; rewrote PRSA’s Bylaws, which had not been thoroughly updated since their adoption; and conducted a survey to identify Chapter best practices.
Despite delivering these and other exciting new products and services, PRSA still was able to cut its annual expenses by more than $1.1 million. As a result, we expect to break even for the year, not an insignificant accomplishment in an economy that was melting down.
As we look ahead to 2010, I’ve focused our Board’s attention on five key areas, which can be easily remembered with the mnemonic device “A, B, C, D, E”:
Advocacy: Along with refining our approach to Advocacy, we’ll be introducing exciting new tools and resources for our Chapters in 2010. We’re also working on the framework for our first-ever “Leadership Assembly,” and very shortly will begin the process of engaging our delegates in a dialogue about the future of our profession.
Business Case: Plans are well underway to expand this initiative, which was extremely well received by the public relations industry in 2009. Look for several new projects, as well as the involvement of additional industry thought leaders.
Communities: We’re examining how we can continue to strengthen, connect and involve our micro communities, which lie at the heart of what we are as a Society. Members rank networking as a top value, and we’re focused on delivering stronger and increased opportunities for connections.
Diversity: A new video encouraging racially and ethnically diverse individuals to consider careers in public relations is just the beginning of a refocused plan to increase our activities and outreach in the critical areas of diversity and multicultural communications.
Education: Education is one of the most important ways that PRSA serves public relations professionals and students. In 2010, we’re planning to take a more holistic view of our educational programs – from developing a new PRSSA Web site to increasing mentoring opportunities to offering new professional development opportunities for senior members. These efforts will help to ensure that we maintain our leading position in public relations industry education.
In addition, PRSA’s three-year Strategic Plan will be updated in 2010, and we hope to engage many of you in our strategic planning process.
Minutes of the Board meeting will be posted to “MyPRSA” when they become available. The next meeting of the Board will be held in Atlanta July 15 – 17, 2010.
Gary McCormick is the 2010 Chair and CEO of PRSA.