Chapter membership provides numerous opportunities to grow and develop – both professionally and personally – something I learned first-hand when I joined PRSA Hampton Roads in 2009 with only two years’ experience in public relations. My goal was simple; I wanted to build a professional network and have the opportunity to learn from senior PR practitioners in the local market. Little did I know I would gain so much more through my chapter membership.
I’ve served on numerous committees and the chapter’s Board of Directors, earned my APR and currently serve as chapter president. But after eight years of experience in the public relations field and several PRSA chapter leadership roles, I had my first media interview this August when a business reporter asked to cover our PRSA event. You may be thinking – how does one work in Public Relations for that long and not work with a reporter? It’s fairly easy! My expertise and experience is focused on internal communications.
That is one of the great benefits of chapter membership; members have the opportunity to gain experiences and hone new skills by volunteering to serve on committees outside of their specialty. Although the committees vary by chapter, all offer opportunities to get involved. Here are few examples of new experiences that can be gained by volunteering with a chapter:
- Professional Development & Awards Committees – Gain experience with event planning, how to solicit sponsorships and manage a budget
- Social Media Committee – Learn how to develop and maintain a social media strategy for a professional organization
- APR Committee – Improve coaching and mentoring skills by guiding candidates through the accreditation process
Volunteering in areas outside of my specialty exposed me to areas of public relations that I hadn’t experienced and provided me an opportunity to develop as a well-rounded communications professional. As PRSA Chapter officer, I’ve gained management skills early on that will help propel my career to the next level:
- Leadership – how to provide direction to a group of communications professionals
- Delegation and Accountability – how to trust and encourage others to take ownership of their responsibilities
- Strategic Thinking – how to execute a big-picture strategy with measurable objectives
- Management – how to analyze events for profitability and general understanding of business operations for an organization
Although not everyone aspires to be a chapter leader, it’s important to remember that you get what you put into your membership. If you don’t attend meetings or volunteer, you’re missing an opportunity to cultivate a network and learn from industry leaders and your peers. If I had to do it all over, the only thing I would change is to get involved at the chapter level sooner. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a mentor and make great friends while you’re at it – just like I did. With the current summer promotion, your local chapter membership is free when you join PRSA National. What are your waiting for? It’s never been a better time to join your local chapter!
Courtney Anderson, APR is Senior Communications Specialist at Ferguson Enterprises, the largest wholesale distributor of residential and commercial plumbing supplies and pipe, valves and fittings in the U.S. She is responsible for developing and executing the internal communications strategy for 700 plus associates in the Finance department. Courtney is currently president of the Hampton Roads Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. Find her on LinkedIn.