Why did you join PRSA? What is one of your favorite benefits of being a member?
If you claim to practice a profession, you
should take three actions. First, join its professional organization. Second,
advocate for best practices. Third, mentor up-and-coming practitioners. I
joined PRSA in 1993 in support of the first action. Since then, I’ve done the
other two. I speak, coach, and mentor at the chapter, district, section, and
The hard work of dedicated of volunteers makes
possible professional organizations like PRSA. Yes, paid staff members offer
indispensable support. But practitioners don’t step forward, all the staff
support in the world won’t matter. The organization will wither away and die.
That’s why I'm inspired by the tireless, dedicated volunteers who lead PRSA.
They enable chapters like the one I belong to in the San Francisco Bay Area to
persist through good times and bad.
You have been in public relations for over
two decades. Share a few ways it has changed over the years and where you see
I landed my first agency job in 1988 and chose
to become self-employed in 1992. Few professionals were working for themselves
then. And many of us who chose this route often had our sanity questioned! We
had to figure things out on our own. There were few role models. Today,
self-employment and entrepreneurship are much more common. Clients and
prospective clients consider us legitimate!
Media has democratized, thanks to the
Internet, social media, and related technologies. The competition for
information increases. With
it comes a lack of tolerance for poor quality information that's sloppily presented. This development raises the
bar for our work as public relations practitioners. We have to continue to
strive to improve our skills. Otherwise, our services may become dispensable. Non-public relations
professionals at consulting and other firms will benefit. Untrained individuals
with limited understanding of effective communications will as well.
Finally, lines between public relations,
advertising, and marketing will continue to blur. Throw in concepts du jour
like “strategic communication” and it’s harder to figure out who does what.
And in the eyes of the client
it may not make much difference.Still, we cannot become complacent about our skills, insight, and ability to contribute. I’m frustrated when public relations professionals turn a blind eye to this
issue. I recall a conversation with an agency principal about 20 years ago. The
discussion turned to defining public relations. He responded flippantly, “I don’t care what they call it
as long as they pay my bill.” We must care deeply about making the case for what we do every day. We must proclaim the value we
deliver to our clients and organizations. We must act with all due speed lest
our profession fade into oblivion.
Tell us about one of your most memorable
experiences during your career.
I've been a public relations practitioner,
educator and professional development consultant. I’ve been on the front lines.
I've helped clients to generate awareness, change behavior, and/or achieve
other goals. I’ve provided education and training to professionals charged with
Above all, I relish opportunities to facilitate groups that are creating innovative public
relations campaigns. That might be in the classroom as an academic exercise. Or
in the conference room as they grapple with their latest client assignment. The
quality of the work they’ve delivered has been amazing. I often get more
excited about their success than they do!
What’s your best advice to the new
generation of public relations professionals?
Success in public relations requires an
insatiable curiosity about the world around you. To this end, I urge
practitioners to cultivate intellectual interests outside the field. Let's say
you majored in history, as I did. You can explore the history of time periods, disciplines, or geographic regions. Or you find any other subject to explore. Such immersion changes your perspective for the better.
You’ll gain new, exciting insight. You’ll see old problems in new ways. Your horizons will expand by leaps and bounds.
Most important, this ongoing effort will help you improve the quality of your
work. Besides, broad, deep interests make you interesting to others.