A New Year, and a New Approach

By Sultana F. Ali, APR, PRSA-NCC President

s-aliAs 2015 wound to a close, I found myself logging the year’s pitfalls as well as accomplishments in my mind. We closed the year at PRSA-NCC successfully under the leadership of Mitch Marovitz, having the highest membership survey response in many years, laying the groundwork for a robust pro-bono PR effort in our community, growing our membership, and reaching our financial goals. And, we celebrated with a fabulous holiday party where I enjoyed meeting many of you in person.

Now, it’s time to look ahead to this year and the excitement and opportunity it brings. For PRSA-NCC, that will mean expanded programming, opportunities for mentorship, a recharged thought leadership platform, outreach to our community, and renewed vigor for strong board governance. As members, you have an opportunity to engage with your chapter as your leaders strive to serve you with the best professional development programs and events PRSA has to offer.

The New Year is also a time to consider what this year will mean for us as individuals in our careers. As PR professionals, we strive to remain aware of the ever-changing industries we work in and stay at the top of our game. In searching for these kinds of guidelines, I came upon an Inc. magazine article, “8 Career Moves to Master in 2016,” and one of these pointers was to update your reading ritual because “diversity of thought is the key to creativity.” By reading a wide range of material through your social media feeds and other subscriptions, you are consistently armed with strategies and tactics at your fingertips.

Another item to add to your list of goals is to register for and attend PRSA professional development workshops. We have events nearly every week in our chapter and many of them provide specific training techniques – from enhancing digital strategies to crisis communications to smart media pitching. At our workshops, you’ll learn from the best and brightest in the metropolitan DC area and walk away having met someone new and more empowered in your skills as a PR professional.

To these tips, I’ll add a simple word: connection. Have you ever encountered a PR conundrum, not known where to turn, and reached out to a colleague in PRSA? Having friends in PR to reach out to when faced with quandaries is a tremendous benefit of PRSA. Make this your year to engage and connect with a PR colleague, to volunteer for one of our many committees, or make a commitment to follow-up with someone you met at a PRSA-NCC event.

If you are a new member or looking for ways to leverage your membership, you’ll see our chapter leaders with a marked badge at our events; introduce yourself and they will help you to connect. Make sure to attend our Membership Rally on March 8 (new date) and you will have opportunities to meet committee leaders and engage more fully with your chapter.

Make 2016 your best year yet, and let us know how we can help you reach your PR goals for 2016!

From the Outgoing President: A Letter to Membership

Dear PRSA-NCC Member,

It’s hard to believe a whole year has passed since I became your president. It’s just gone by so fast. It has been a good year, though.

I’m happy to report we met the objectives I set forth at the beginning of the year:

  • Thanks to the great work of our committee chairs and members, and great member engagement, we hosted 52 events, affording members great and fun-filled networking opportunities and informative professional development sessions from industry leaders covering such topics as measurement, big data, writing, international communications, accreditation and making the change from tactician to strategist, among many others
  • We advanced our thought leadership effort by completing an operational plan which will go into effect next year
  • We remain the Society’s largest chapter and improved our already sound financial position, reaching our reserve requirement

mmorovitzAnd, because we achieved our reserve requirement, we are free now to reinvigorate our pro bono committee, which has developed a process to identify worthy organizations that we can help with public relations assistance.

Our vice presidents, Jenn Schleman, Lauren Lawson Zilai and Susan Apgood were extremely busy this year. They, and the rest of the executive committee, Sultana Ali, Robert Udowitz, Lisa Kiefer, and Rebecca Andersen, spent untold hours on projects that will affect chapter operations for years to come. They were always available and their counsel was invaluable to me.

  • Jenn and her team negotiated a new contract with our chapter manager, now our Chapter Executive Director, Sherri Core, and her company, Core Association Services
  • Lauren and her team planned, coordinated, conducted and analyzed the results of this year’s biannual chapter survey. The fact that we had the highest response rate in decades is testament to the quality of their work
  • And, Susan and her team researched, drafted, coordinated and secured approval for the 2016-2018 Chapter Strategic Plan. This document is a foundational statement of purpose that will guide chapter efforts for the next three years

I also want to thank the 2015 Board of Directors. It was only through their leadership, time and talent that we were able to identify, create, plan, coordinate, promote and execute world-class programs for you, our members. This group of senior professionals worked well together and gave freely of their time to insure meaningful programs were in place for us all to enjoy, learn from and be inspired by. Thank you all!

Our committee chairs and their committee members give new meaning to the words “leadership,” “dedication” and “volunteerism.” Our 18 committees were extremely creative in implementing those programs by providing high quality services and activities for you, our members. I could write forever about the work of each committee but that would just take up way too much space; I’m happy to meet with you at any time, however, to discuss their work. In many ways, our financial position is testament to the quality of their work and the value you, our members, place on their activities.

I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

And, of course, I would be totally remiss if I didn’t thank our great and dedicated sponsors. Without their help, we would not be able to provide the number and quality of events for you. Their support, monetary and in-kind, allows us to bring events to you at a reasonable price. So, speaking on behalf of the entire chapter, thank you!

And last, but certainly not least, to our members: You are the lifeblood of our organization. Without you, we have no purpose. Thanks for letting us know how we can best serve your professional needs…and for letting us do that. I know the 2016 board is anxious to dig into the results of our membership survey to devise new programs and fine tune existing ones to meet your needs as the nature of our profession continually changes.

As you can see, I have been fortunate to work with a superb group of leaders in our industry. Their ability to work together to create and deliver meaningful programs for you is awe inspiring. I look forward to working with our 2016 President, Sultana Ali, and the 2016 Board and know you will enjoy getting to know them and work with them as well.

Thank you for the privilege of being your 2015 president.

Sincerely,

Mitchell Marovitz, PhD, APR
PRSA-NCC President 2015

7 Skills That You Really Need to Make It in PR

I’ve met a lot of incredibly capable PR people who are not going to get very far in the PR world. That’s because in order to become a valued professional in today’s marketplace, PR pros need much more than the talent to communicate.

Feb 13 program

Today’s successful PR pro needs the “hard” business skills to become a valued business partner and not a mere tactician. PRSA-NCC’s annual “From PR Manager to PR Leader” half-day seminar on Feb. 13 will share some of these skills that PR people need to take their career to that next level. Here are just a few.

1) Become self-aware first 
A good manager looks in the mirror first. Do you really know your management strengths and weaknesses and are you willing to do the hard work to minimize your deficiencies? Do you know your personality type and management style and are you willing to accept constructive criticism? If you are willing to work hard to improve your management skills, then those you lead will do the same.

2) Manage “up”
Do you know how to work with the C-suite folks so they value and recognize your skills and the value you bring? Do you know their priorities and how to show them that you help address them? If you are not focused on managing this all-important relationship, you won’t even get a chance to take your career to the next level.

 3) Become budget savvy
Can you develop and manage a budget for your programs, campaigns, or accounts? You don’t do the PR profession any favors if you say, “I’m a PR person, I don’t need to know math” (yes, I’ve heard it.) To be taken seriously by the C-suite (see above) you need to show that you appreciate and understand the bottom line and can provide a return on investment for your PR activities.

4) Listen up
I’m not going to win a lot of friends by saying this but a lot of us PR people forget that communication is a two-way street. We are so focused on our elevator pitch and talking points that we sometimes forget that the best way to win people over is by listening (really) to their needs first and then demonstrating how we can meet those needs. Human interaction is never about you. It’s always about them.

5) Handle conflict with style
Can you manage irate clients, contractors, colleagues and other emotionally charged people? Every manager will encounter conflict at some point. Knowing how to calmly ratchet down emotions is the difference between a star manager and one who is not.

6) Put people first
Do you know how to motivate people and enhance team dynamics? We are only as good as the people around us. If we can get our teams to cohesively work together and smooth over the inevitable rough patches, we can keep moving forward.

7) Avoid burnout
The PR business can be a 24/7 grind so you need to manage the elusive work/life balance and learn tactics for getting organized, pacing yourself and delegating to others. Otherwise, you won’t be around long enough to make it far in the PR profession.

The above is only a starting point (feel free to add your own in the comments below) but if you learn these skills you will have a decided advantage as you advance in your career. Most of us learn these skills when we’re thrown in the management pool for the first time and told to “sink or swim.” But if we prepare ourselves with these managements skills ahead of time, we will be prepared to take that plunge with confidence.

About Jeff Ghannam
A former president of PRSA-NCC, Jeff Ghannam brings more than 20 years of experience in corporate and non-profit communications and journalism. He is president of Crystal Communications & Marketing, LLC, a consultancy serving the association and nonprofit community with integrated communications and marketing services and leadership training targeted at communications staff. The “From PR Manager to PR Leader” seminar on Feb. 13 will be the third such annual seminar he has delivered for PRSA-NCC.

Jeff was previously vice president of communications and marketing for the Biotechnology Institute in Arlington, Va. Jeff’s career experience includes news reporting, editing, and PR management, all of which led him to hone his management and leadership skills. Jeff has conducted leadership training workshops for organizations that want to maximize their human resources potential so they can better achieve their strategic objectives. He cites real-life PR management-based examples and scenarios and uses an engaging and interactive format that allows participants to address their specific management and leadership challenges.