Now is the Time for our Profession… Now is the Time for PRSA

As prescribed in our bylaws, every three years PRSA revisits its strategic plan and reevaluates the mission, vision and principles that guide our organization.

And while our values and priorities remain steadfast (the emphasis that we place on ethics, diversity, fostering communities, and advancing excellence within the profession), the environment surrounding us can change.  To put it mildly, the environment has changed quite a bit since 2010.

As we’ve all experienced, the roles and expectations for the PR function have shifted significantly over the past three years. Social media has revolutionized the media and business landscape, blurring the lines between what had been considered advertising, marketing and PR and softening the separation between editorial and brand/citizen-generated content.  The public has a more powerful voice, news travels faster than ever before, and greater transparency is expected from brands and organizations.  Organizational reputation has never been harder to build and protect and we continue to see that the reputation of once venerable brands can be tarnished in an instant.

The impact of these changes on our profession has been significant.  Much has been written and said about how PR is uniquely suited to lead in a media environment that is a two-way dialogue and where communication between an organization and its stakeholders is played out in full view of the general public.

And organizational leaders get it.  For years, many of us spoke of “getting a seat at the table” but this is no longer good enough – now it is about having a lead seat.

PRSA 2014-2016 Strategic Plan

PRSA’s new strategic plan reflects this thinking and is a natural step in an ongoing evolution as PRSA continues to help drive forward the profession.

Our new vision:  Public Relations is a lead discipline in driving strategic goals and achieving excellence in every organization.

  • What this means:  PR is no longer striving just to be at the table – PR now has an opportunity to be a lead discipline and often set strategy that other disciplines such as advertising and marketing will follow.

Our new mission:  As the preeminent association for public relations and communications professionals, PRSA empowers a diverse community of members at every stage of their career with the knowledge and resources to advocate for the profession, achieve ethical and professional excellence, and drive the strategic outcomes of their organizations.

  • What this means:  To bring our vision to life, PRSA must continually challenge itself to raise the bar and be a best-in-class member association – continually auditing and optimizing our offerings to achieve operational excellence, working relentlessly to empower leaders at every level of our organization and providing our members with the resources to thrive in the evolving marketplace

Another new theme in this year’s plan is growth.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the PR profession is growing at a time when many other job sectors are shrinking, or stagnant.  Job opportunities in the field of public relations are expected to grow by 21% between 2010 and 2020[1].

As our category shows the potential for significant expansion, we must challenge PRSA to grow in a strategic and thoughtful manner.  This will be achieved through the strengthening and expansion of our offerings as well as by attracting more of the best, more of the brightest and more diverse talent to the field.

Three Areas of Focus for 2014

During the 2013 PRSA Assembly, I delivered a presentation that spoke to some of the immediate steps we will take including three areas of focus for 2014:

– Advance “One PRSA” effort to increase solidarity and collaboration across the organization

  • Empower leaders via national roll out of “One PRSA” leadership guide

– Capitalize upon opportunities created by increased segmentation and emerging competencies and skill areas

  • Introduce premium level professional development
  • Heighten focus on growing and promoting Sections
  • Identify synergy opportunities with the effort to strengthen APR

– Introduce a national brand marketing initiative to promote PRSA and the profession

  • As a first step in this effort, we unveiled a promotional video for PRSA featuring a number of industry influencers

Open call for feedback

PRSA’s members are the lifeblood of our organization and our leadership team values your input a great deal.  I welcome any and all feedback and encourage you to email me direct at

In three short years, we have seen major shifts within the media and business landscape.  The opportunities for our profession are enormous – but if PRSA fails to evolve, then we risk irrelevance. As a profession and as professionals, it’s not enough to have a seat at the table – we’re here to lead.  Now is the time for our profession; now is the time for PRSA.


Joseph Cohen, APR, is a member of the 2013 PRSA Chair-Elect, and a senior vice president at MWW Group.

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Joe Cohen, APR

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