Have you considered joining the Association for Astrological Networking? How about the World Association of Detectives? The International Association of Youth Hypnotists, perhaps? Or the American Association of Candy Technologists?
These organizations are real and draw their membership from very specific groups of professionals. They’re known as trade associations and each one of them share a similar mission: to bring professional development, educational and networking opportunities to people with similar careers and interests.
There’s tremendous value in belonging to such organizations and public relations practitioners are no exception. There are countless international, national and local PR associations providing a myriad of services and programs for their members. These groups provide connections to job opportunities and mentoring, and offer resources for professionals to keep up with changes in their industries. As PR people know, few industries are changing as quickly as public relations.
Of course, the largest trade organization for PR professionals is the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). Its members number more than 22,000 public relations and communications professionals and more than 10,000 students through the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). Although annual membership fees are a bit pricey (but much less for PRSSA members transitioning from college), the access its members have to information, advice and networking is invaluable.
As you seek the benefits of a PR trade group, you should also look locally. You can find dozens of such associations listed, for example, at odwyerpr.com. Wherever you are there’s likely to be a PR or communication-related organization you can join, including the Public Relations Professionals of Long Island (PRPLI), a group with which I’ve been involved since 1990. The huge advantage to local organizations is they’re filled with people who work where you work and can connect you with nearby opportunities you’ll likely use. Through relationships I made with fellow PRPLI members I’ve gotten jobs, consulting work, enhanced my skills, and made lifelong friends.
Whether you’re a student graduating or a professional in search of connections, do yourself and your career a big favor — join a PR trade association. Will you? The benefits can be profound. Your thoughts?
More to come: Another important professional group: AEJMC’s PR Division
Sometimes the sighs and the eye rolling are palpable. It happens on the first day of class as I review the syllabus and reveal that my students will be required to attend a full-day conference–and on a Saturday! Heavens!
However, when we return to class after the conference, there’s usually praise for the experience and a “thank you” from students grateful that they were “forced” to go.
Our profession’s leading trade organization, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), was founded in 1947 to “provide professional development, set standards of excellence and uphold principles of ethics for its members.” In addition to representing 22,000 members, PRSA has 10,000 student members through the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). Each year, PRSSA selects just nine chapters to host regional conferences, and this year the Hofstra University chapter of PRSSA was chosen.
The conference, titled “Start Spreading the News,” will focus on the professional advantages Hofstra students have because of the campus’ proximity to New York City, the media and PR capital of the world. On March 18-19, students from Hofstra and other schools in the region will join three dozen PR specialists, communicators, journalists, and educators who will serve as moderators and panelists in eight different workshops. Workshops will be comprised of New York-based professionals in industries including entertainment, travel, nonprofit, technology, international relations, fashion, corporate, and journalism. They’ll also have the chance to meet and network with these practitioners throughout the event.
The conference begins this Friday with a tour of the Museum of Public Relations at Baruch College in Manhattan and a networking reception with working professionals–most whom are Hofstra alumni–at the Heartland Brewery in the Empire State Building . The workshops all take place on campus on Saturday and includes a keynote address from Ashley Trager Chauvin of Edelman, one of the world’s largest PR firms, plus resume reviews, professional head shots, lunch, and more networking.
Students can register online or visit the Hofstra PRSSA table in the Student Center atrium. And on March 20, I believe the excitement, growth and learning from the experience will be palpable. Your thoughts?
There we were: 10 public relations practitioners with about 400 years of experience among us, celebrating the life of Howard Blankman, the consummate PR professional. Glenn Goldberg of Parallel Communications Group, freelancer Don Miller, Astoria Bank’s Wendy O’Neill, Louise Cassano of LuCas Communications, Rich Torrenzano of The Torrenzano Group, consultant Bert Cunningham, Gary Lewi of Rubenstein PR, plus Rivkin Radler’s Laurie Bloom and Ken Young of Molloy College (both adjunct Hofstra PR professors) and I paid tribute to the man on his 90th birthday. We shared stories, some very humorous and some poignant, about how much this one individual helped us become PR professionals, too.
Like most PR veterans, Howard took a serpentine route to a public relations career. A Jewish kid who grew up in Amish country, he was a young bandleader, a playwright, and later became a “Tonight Show” writer. He worked on Broadway, wrote and produced plays, and eventually opened a PR firm. Howard shared wonderful stories with fond detail about his fascinating career.
And how appropriate for this event to happen just before Father’s Day, Bert Cunningham noted. “In many respects, Howard has been the career father to a number of PR pros on Long Island,” Bert said. “He also fathered, in 1968, the concept of an independent, full-service PR firm that also used advertising and marketing techniques to support PR. At that time the vast majority of PR was done in-house. The independent outside PR consultant was a fairly new service on Long Island.”
Two decades ago, Howard Blankman was presented with Public Relations Professionals of Long Island‘s Lifetime Achievement Award. Notably, it was Howard who stepped up and fathered PRPLI after the Public Relations Society of America’s Long Island chapter had folded. Gary, Don, Bert, and I would later receive that same award because of Howard’s vision of an organization where Long Island PR pros could network and learn.
Always active, still writing, ever mentoring, still dispensing fatherly advice, Howard Blankman continues to be a vital and admired PR guy. Joining with my mentors and colleagues to celebrate his life was truly a privilege. Your thoughts?
“Eighty percent of life is showing up.” — Woody Allen
When students roll their eyes at the notion of attending PR-related events outside of class, I feel compelled to make the argument that it’s for their own good. And, to be sure, it is.
Countless students have found internships, gotten interviews and been offered jobs from those they met at PRSSA-sponsored events. They’ve also participated in professional development events held by organizations such as the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) or the Public Relations Professionals of Long Island (PRPLI) that sometimes charge a fee. I suggest the $10 or $20 cost is a small but very worthwhile investment in their futures. Some on- and off-campus networking events and professional programs are free, so the only investments needed are time and a personal commitment to create opportunities.
There are always good reasons NOT to show up at an event. We can all point to other obligations, from jobs to homework to family to going out with friends. But each time we don’t participate, we’ve missed a chance to meet people who can help us learn and grow professionally.
If you’re a student, some of your fellow classmates (and your future competition for jobs) get it. They understand the need to make an effort if they’re serious about a public relations career. They’re also the ones who get hired soon after or sometimes even before they graduate.
For 30 years, I was pretty much never hired after answering an ad. Just about every position I’ve held, client I’ve signed, and PR campaign I’ve conducted, began with a professional relationship I had made with someone who was later in a position to hire me. In fact, I got my first PR job when I was recruited by a former classmate who then held a corporate position. The moral of the story: You never know who’ll end up in a place of influence and importance.
So, make friends with the person sitting next to you. Come to on- and off-campus events. Participate, network and learn. Show up. Your thoughts?
When I attended my first Public Relations Society of America meeting 30 years ago, just four out of 40 attendees (including my boss) were women. Go to a meeting similar today and the gender ratios have flipped. When you attend Hofstra’s PRSSA (Public Relations Student Society of America) meetings or any PR class, it’s the same: a very high percentage of female versus male students.
This week, in a nymag.com article titled, “Why Do We Treat PR Like a Pink Ghetto?” reporter Ann Friedman writes that “73 to 85 percent of PR professionals are women,” and goes on to lament, “On a New York Observer list of fictional publicists in pop culture, every notable character since the mid-’80s is a woman — typically sharp-tongued but not supersmart.”
Friedman also notes that 80 percent of upper management PR positions are held by men. “It’s women, often young women, who are likely to be doing the grunt work of sending emails and writing tweets and cold-calling contacts,” she writes. In her article, Friedman correctly makes other cogent points about our respective professions, and questions whether journalists are judging these young professional women fairly.
“(They do) the very work that journalists, and the rest of us, are likely to see as fluffy,” she adds, “Even when women are doing promotional work at higher levels, they still struggle for respect.” She says in many cases, the lack of respect comes from misconceptions about the PR profession, and reporters’ resistance to the idea of promoting anyone.
Friedman writes that promotion and even the necessary self-promotion are core professional dilemmas for women publicists. “You’d think that in the social-media era, the rest of us would be able to relate… Perhaps it’s time for us all to recognize that walking it isn’t easy,” she wisely notes.
So how do PR women–and men–earn the respect they so highly deserve? They do it by being reliable and honest resources to journalists and colleagues. Today’s PR profession is indeed more pink than blue, and helpfulness and transparency are the keys to building respect. Your thoughts?
Back when Harold Burson teamed with William Marstellar to start a PR agency in 1953, radio was losing its status as the only form of communication by which millions of people could share information simultaneously. By then, seven million television sets had been sold in the U.S. and while TV was in its infancy, a massive shift began in the way audiences were entertained and informed. Plus, thousands of professionals who had provided content for radio programs moved to the new medium, leaving radio to re-invent itself in order to survive.
In a recent article in Tactics, PRSA‘s newspaper, Burson observed a fundamental truth about PR and another massive shift in media platforms. As a result, his company is re-inventing itself, moving to “a much closer integration between public relations and advertising, and promotion and direct marketing.”
In recent years, experts have called our deepening overlap of communication techniques “integrated marketing communication.” Last week at a Public Relations Professionals of Long Island event, Zimmerman/Edelson’s David Chauvin noted that his agency is shifting its focus to “integrated content.” Because audiences receive information from a burgeoning array of web- and mobile-based platforms, public relations practitioners will be increasingly called upon to become content providers. And we’re not just talking social media; PR people will create more and more content for broadcast and cable plus thousands of newspapers and niche magazines, each with their own web sites, blogs, podcasts and other media channels.
“The people in this business have known for generations that the most effective communication is word-of-mouth,” said Burson, whose company, Burson-Marstellar, is now the world’s largest PR firm. “I see word-of-mouth as the basis of today’s social media. The fact that you can multiply word of mouth by thousands, tens of thousands, millions, has made social media a very potent tool.”
The need for content heightens the demand for PR people who are top writers and producers, and presents exciting challenges for present and future professionals. It’s a fast-changing PR world, and like 92-year-old Harold Burson, we all must keep up. Your thoughts?
This past Friday I hosted a conference titled “PR on a Budget,” which provided valuable information to 35 participating nonprofit organizations on how to “do” PR using few resources. The conference was inspired by my annual survey of Long Island’s nonprofits, and I’m anticipating my 2013 survey will again show that these groups are hungry for public relations help. It’ll also strengthen the call for PR professionals, trade groups and academic institutions to provide pro bono assistance to under-resourced nonprofits who need it the most.
Surveys I’ve conducted in 2011 and 2012 prove what has been long understood: nonprofits realize the value of good PR, but few have the resources to create and implement public relations campaigns as well as they would like. They’re depending upon staff and volunteers who are multitasking, often combining PR responsibilities with others including marketing (69% in 2011; 70% in 2012), fundraising (69% in 2011; 58% in 2012), event planning (67% in 2011; 62% in 2012), advertising (60% in 2011 and 2012), and/or additional administrative duties (65% in 2011; 54% in 2012).
Of those surveyed, half responded in 2012 that they use volunteers for public relations tasks all or part of the time. Interns are brought on to handle some public relations duties; 21% of the nonprofits said they hired PR interns in 2011 and 18% in 2012. Most organizations devote very few resources to training, and little have any kind of planned PR strategy.
More PR professionals should offer pro bono services to nonprofit organizations to help them reach their publics, particularly their donors and supporters. There are already many PR agencies, corporations, consultants and academic programs donate time as advisors, mentors and volunteers to assist nonprofit organizations’ communication efforts. Trade organizations including the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) encourage such pro bono involvement through recognition programs and advocacy.
While this volunteer activity can’t substitute for an in-house public relations staff or an expert PR agency or consultant, it could bridge the gap that nonprofits experience at least part of the time. So if you know a Long Island nonprofit, please send them the link to my survey. We can use the results to raise awareness among PR professionals that nonprofits need help, and lots of it! Your thoughts?
I was pleased with the coverage my survey of nonprofits received these last couple of weeks. Articles appeared in Newsday and Long Island Business News, and my ugly mug was even flashed on the Hofstra home page. The survey put numbers to what we already knew: when nonprofit organizations run PR campaigns, they mostly limp along using few resources, staff or training. This is further proven by how nonprofits, in increasing numbers, seek out pro bono help from college students through internships and volunteerism. I get a dozen requests from nonprofits every semester to work with Hofstra’s PR Campaigns classes in which students take on real world nonprofit clients and create campaigns.Given these organizations’ quiet desperation, public relations professionals should step up, too. I believe it’s the obligation of every experienced (and not-as-experienced) PR practitioner to share his or her skills with a nonprofit organization that’s struggling to effectively communicate with its publics.
Isn’t this what PR is supposed to be about? Look again at PRSA’s new definition of PR: “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” It’s accurate and functional, right? Add more depth to it, and its second half becomes “…builds mutually beneficial relationships and connects resources with needs between organizations and their publics.” Maybe it’s not as tidy, but you get the point. Experienced PR pros have the resources. They must take the time to create mutually beneficial relationships with nonprofit organizations who, quite obviously, can use all the help they can get. Your thoughts?
P.S. Register today for the Hofstra PRSSA chapter’s Back to Basics, a regional conference March 30-April 1. Every student planning a career in PR and communications should be there. The conference’s panel discussions will be an exploration and re-examination of the fundamentals of effective public relations, while not losing sight of the PR tools of the future. There will be expert guest speakers, helpful workshops and excellent networking opportunities. You’ll also have the opportunity to see How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying on Broadway. Join us for the best PR event ever put together by Hofstra’s terrific public relations students!
“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”
The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) announced its new definition of public relations last week (above). It replaces the definition PRSA came up with 30 years ago: “Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.” In my opinion, the 2012 version is perfect.
More than 46 percent of 1,447 voters selected the definition from three finalists, which had been whittled down from 927 suggestions. The other two were poor by comparison. They were: “Public relations is the management function of researching, communicating and collaborating with publics to build mutually beneficial relationships,” (where’s the strategy statement? And what answers the “w” question, “who?”) and “Public relations is the strategic process of engagement between organizations and publics to achieve mutual understanding and realize goals” (I thought the wording here was really awkward). I agree with PRSA’s own assessment of the new definition:
“Simple and straightforward, this definition focuses on the basic concept of public relations — as a communication process, one that is strategic in nature and emphasizing ‘mutually beneficial relationships.’ ‘Process’ is preferable to ‘management function,’ which can evoke ideas of control and top-down, one-way communications. ‘Relationships’ relates to public relations’ role in helping to bring together organizations and individuals with their key stakeholders. ‘Publics’ is preferable to ‘stakeholders,’ as the former relates to the very ‘public’ nature of public relations, whereas ‘stakeholders’ has connotations of publicly-traded companies.”
I have been critical of PRSA’s size and membership fees in the past. After its Long Island chapter folded in the late 1980’s, my colleagues and I formed Public Relations Professionals of Long Island (PRPLI). Just 22 years young, PRPLI has thrived as an alternative local organization. Now I’m faculty advisor to PRSSA, PRSA’s student wing, and I can see more clearly the value of belonging to a national group of PR professionals. I’ll never abandon my commitment to PRPLI (I happily remain on its board) but I like the work PRSA does, more so since they’ve successfully re-crafting the definition of what we do. Your thoughts?
P.S. Speaking of PRSSA, there’s only four weeks until the regional conference, hosted by Hofstra’s chapter. Register today!