PRSA: What’s In It For You?

By Samantha Villegas, SaviPR

Villegas-Samantha-copy-427x424This year, I began my first term as a director on PRSA’s National Board. I was voted into the position by the Leadership Assembly last fall, having run from the floor during the meeting. The speech I gave, I was told afterward by many of the delegates, was what won them over. Board Chair Jane Dvorak told me that it was the fact that I mentioned the gratitude I felt for PRSA that earned her vote, and that of other board members in the room.
It’s true, too, as anyone who knows me will tell you, I often say that I owe my career to PRSA, and I mean that literally. While I landed my first PR job on my own more than 20 years ago, it was the mentor I met there that introduced me to the organization. Once a member of PRSA, it was the APR that gave this gal with no PR in my academic background, the knowledge, confidence and credibility I needed to excel at my work and advance in my positions. Then it was the network of colleagues I met at events and on committees who, whenever I needed advice or was looking for a new opportunity, answered with amazing counsel or recommendations or referrals.

So, when a mentor called me last summer to ask if I would consider running for the National Board, of course I jumped at the chance to lend my time and attention to the organization and the people who had lent so much of their time and attention to me. The value I have derived from my membership did not happen extemporaneously. Our behavior, as members, has a direct and substantial influence over the value we derive from PRSA. Here are a few behaviors that I have found greatly enhance the value and overall experience.

  1. Treat your PRSA membership like a gym membership. It’s the same thing. You don’t magically receive value just by joining. You pay the membership fee for the opportunity to work out. Just like you must go the gym to work out to get fit, you must come to events and get involved to realize the true benefit of membership. So, go to prsa-ncc.org and review the list of committees. Pick the one you are most interested in and join them. Flex your PR muscle for us and you will be rewarded with additional experience for your resume, and a close-knit group of local professionals who will offer you counsel and referral when needed.
  2. Be Humble. There’s a lot of ego in our field, which I think, collectively, does us all a big disservice, because that arrogance tricks us into thinking we have nothing left to learn. It stunts our growth and drives people away. When you acknowledge your weaknesses, and believe you have more to learn, you not only open yourself up to further professional and personal growth, you open yourself up to others, which is something we need to do in an industry based on relationships.
  3. Invest Because You Are Worth It. Times are tight. I get it. But the worst possible thing you can do is not join PRSA or attend a professional development class because your employer won’t pay for you. It’s not your employer’s job to look out for your future, it’s yours. So, invest your own money if they won’t. Take advantage of the quarterly credit card payment option (around $65 every three months) and just make sure you set aside $22/month to cover it. It’s doable. Then, avail yourself to the dozens of free webinars and get the membership rate at events. Trust me, no one in my position after 20 years says, wow, I regret spending that money on my career.
  4. Pay it Forward. I am where I am in my career today because dozens of people gave back in some way to help me get here. Now it’s my turn. I share what I know, share opportunities, share failures, whatever I’ve learned, the value grows exponentially when shared.  So, take what you need from PRSA, then turn around and give some of yourself back to it.
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