About five years ago, I made the tough decision to not renew my PRSA membership.
It was purely a business decision. I was on the board of directors at the time. I was on the executive track, in fact. But, I was starting my business at the time, and felt my time would be better spent on getting my new business off the ground.
So, I told the board I was stepping down–and why. And, I let my PRSA membership–and my APR designation–lapse.
I focused on starting and running my business.
I focused on my young family.
And, a couple years ago, I re-inserted myself in a different professional organization in town: MIMA.
This was not a spur-of-the-moment decision–but one I made with a lot of careful thought.
For me, MIMA just made sense–for a number of different reasons:
1–Learning. I’m working more and more in the digital marketing space. MIMA has this programming market completely cornered locally. No one comes close. Ask anyone.
2–Networking. After almost 10 years as a PRSA member, I felt like I knew a lot of the PR people in town. Not all, obviously–but a decent number of folks. But, anytime I went to a MIMA event, I came away thinking–wow, I hardly knew anyone in this world. That needed to change. Big time. Especially as more of my business is referred through social/digital marketing folks.
3–More opportunity to affect change. One thing that drew me to MIMA big-time: The opportunity to affect change. It’s almost a requirement at the board level. And, I’ve already had plenty of opportunities to do just that just a year-and-a-half into my board stint. As an organization, MIMA has been very willing to try new ideas. To explore new avenues. To think differently. I love that about MIMA.
A year-and-a-half later, and things have worked out pretty well. I’m getting smarter about digital marketing. I’m meeting a ton of new people. And I’ve had a big chance to impact change, helping start a whole new series of MIMA programming dubbed “MIMA Meet Ups” and helping build a new committee to help the organization with marketing.
But I still have a lot of love for PRSA.
Despite what some people may think, I’m still a big PRSA supporter–even though I’m not a member.
But wait–If I’m not a member, can I still be a supporter?
I say “yes.”
If I’m not a member, am I considered “disloyal” to PRSA?
I say “I’m offended you even thought that.”
Let’s tackle that first one.
Without my membership, over the last five years, I’ve been every bit the PRSA supporter I was when I was on the board and on committees.
I speak to PR classes and students all over the state–advocating they get involved with their student PRSSA chapter, and then join as associate PRSA members.
I’ve blogged about PRSA a number of times in the past. And contrary to popular belief, it’s usually in support of the org and its beliefs, like this SOA post I wrote a couple years ago. Now, I know not every post I’ve written about PRSA has been well-received, but my heart was always in the right spot. I love PRSA and everything they’ve done for me and my career. I want others to have those same opportunities.
I’ve worked for and with prominent PRSA board members including Melanie Boulay-Becker, Candee Wolf (former president) and Susan Beatty.
I’ve also featured multiple PRSA leaders and members on this blog in the past including Betsy Anderson (long-time friend), Laura Jollie, Christina Milanowski, Kelly Groehler (former president) and LeeAnn Fahl and Sarah Reckard (former and current clients).
And, I attend the PRSA Classics Awards program as regularly as I can (missed this year–darn it). I do it to support my friends. I do it to support the industry. And I do it because it’s a damn good time (even though, to be fair, I’ve been critical in the past).
Now, let’s address that second point: loyalty.
Let’s start by looking back at exactly what I gave to PRSA from roughly 2002-2009 during the time I was a member:
* I joined my first committee in 2002–the student relations committee and was an active member for two years (working with Tracy Carlson, former PRSA president).
* I then was asked to co-chair the programming committee by my friend, and former PRSA president, Candee Wolf. This turned out to be a fantastic move for me, as I got to know great people like Brooke Worden (former president), Dave Folkens and Anna Liewicki-Long (former president) as a result.
* I then pursued my APR and was accredited in 2005.
* In 2006, I joined the board. In 2008, I accepted a position as secretary on the executive leadership team.
In all seven solid years of volunteering and donating my time to PRSA. And, I’d say 13 years and counting of advocating for the organization.
So, PRSA friends, I want to say this to you: I love you. I really do. Just because I’m not a member, doesn’t mean I don’t feel the same way I did when I chaired those committees. Or, when I was on the board. I still feel a lot of pride and admiration for everyone involved with Minnesota PRSA.
That hasn’t changed one bit.
And, I dare say, it never will.
In my case, my business took precedence six years ago. And today, I would say I’m at a different point in my career. A PRSA membership doesn’t do the same things it did for me 13 years ago. It just doesn’t. People evolve. Situations change. And, that’s exactly what’s happened here.
It’s not you–it’s me. But, I will always have a soft spot in my heart for you, Minnesota PRSA.
You can always count on that.
Last Saturday, I had the honor or presenting at one of the annual PRSA APR study sessions thanks to my friends Betsy Anderson and Julie Eastling. I opened up my presentation by saying I had sat in the exact chair these folks had been sitting in 10 years ago as an APR student. I had been a PRSA member for years. I had been on the PRSA board. I had been involved with PRSA for a long time.
And then I stopped. I needed a break.
And now, I’m on the board of directors for the Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association (the oldest interactive marketing association in the country!).
And now, I’m thinking about rejoining PRSA, too. I will be a dual-membership professional.
And, I think we may start to see this trend grow in the years ago.
We all know jobs in the creative space have been melding for years. Ad folks are being asked to do PR work. PR folks are being asked to do interactive work. Interactive folks are being asked to do PR work. Our jobs are all melding together just a bit.
So, there’s a definite need to learn about more than just one discipline, right?
Meanwhile, the list of professional organizations and groups catering to these disciplines continues to swell. Let’s look at the list just in the Twin Cities:
* MN Search
* Social Media Breakfast
I mean, I could keep going. There are more.
But, I think I’ve made my point. There are so many trade organizations and groups now you can join. More competition than ever.
But do you need to be a member of just ONE of these groups?
I say no.
I say it may make sense to be a member of MORE than one group, depending on your job, role and interest.
If you work in interactive, but specialize in social, wouldn’t it make sense to be a member of MIMA AND Social Media Breakfast?
If you work in PR but have a keen interest in all things digital (this sounds like me!), wouldn’t you want to be a member of PRSA AND MIMA?
If you worked in the ad space, but also wanted to learn more about social, should be you be a member of AdFed and also attend SMB events regularly?
I know, I know, the cost. And yeah, there is additional cost. But many of the membership fees to these organizations is minimal compared with the benefit. Take MIMA, for example. Annual membership is just $230 a year. But, for that fee, you get access to all the monthly events for FREE. So, if you attend six events a year, the membership pays for itself.
And that’s just one example. Cost shouldn’t be an issue, folks.
I’ve written about this before. The benefit easily outweighs the cost when you think about the long-term implications for your career.
So, is this a new trend just waiting to happen? Will we see more people taking on two professional memberships in the months/years ahead?
Minnesota PRSA 2012 Young Professional Award winner. New (relatively) social media director at Maccabee PR in Minneapolis. Master’s degree pursuer. What is Christina Milanowski NOT doing these days? That’s the question. And, I aim to find out the answers. My PR Rock Stars interview today focuses on a young PR pro here in the Twin Cities I’ve noticed rising the ranks for a while now. Let’s hear what she has to say about her work in PR, PRSA and life as a new homeowner.
You recently won the MN PRSA 2012 Young Professional Award given to a young pro with “an extraordinary contribution to the professional’s organization, the public relations profession and local community.” Tell us a little bit about why you won that award (your work, your contributions to the community, etc.)–and what it’s meant to you.
It was such an honor to win the Young Professional Award, and I have to thank my colleague Abra Williams for drafting up a stellar nomination (she’s good!). Receiving the award at the Classics banquet was magical. It’s a humbling experience that reminds me hard work pays off!
I have been very active in the MN PRSA community over the years as a member and currently as co-chair of the membership committee. I believe strongly that communicators must possess the foundational public relations skills upon which PRSA is founded. And, as demand increases for social media, those writing and strategic communications skills transfer. The “new age” of communication channels, so to speak, is where we’re headed, but we’re not going to shake the tried-and-true disciplines, such as internal communications, press releases (gasp!), tradeshows and events. Young professionals need a broad understanding of all of this.
You’ve been at Maccabee PR in Minneapolis for a few years. Before that, you worked on the corporate side. But you worked in social media in both roles. What are the challenges, as you’ve experienced them, on each side when it comes to social media consulting?
I think there are pros and cons to working in-house and agency and I encourage every counselor to strive to gain experience in both. While working in-house at a legal company, I was able to get my feet wet with SEO (working alongside TopRank), the legal blogosphere (I started a company blog) and the gratification that comes with building our social channels to support it all. I liked honing in on one brand and attaining the “client” perspective that now helps me on the agency side.
I’m coming up on four years at Maccabee later this summer and I’ve found the agency side to be very meaningful. I’ve never worked harder than I have now and I’ve learned that I need to be continually challenged. From a social standpoint, you can have a broader understanding of it as a consultant. Challenging has been the openness and acceptance of social media that varies significantly by client industry, type of company, and size of project. The fun is in prescribing the channels and strategies that are most relevant to each, unique client – and helping them bring it to life.
What’s the most interesting project you’re currently working on at Maccabee PR right now?
Right now, a great deal of my time is being willingly consumed by leading our agency’s inbound marketing efforts. What’s particularly interesting about inbound marketing (aka content marketing, lead generation, content strategy) is the implication for PR. At the epicenter is quality content and who better to manage that then practitioners schooled in journalistic standards? Delightfully, it marries social media, content writing, website and SEO strategies, and email marketing into one integrated strategy. The power!
Maccabee signed on to HubSpot about a year ago and has since explored all of the bells and whistles and strategies and tactics necessary for the inbound marketing model. We’ve seen the power first hand – site traffic is up, we’ve launched the MaccaPR blog, and we’re connecting with business prospects in new, engaging ways. Plus, this project has given me the hands-on experience to translate the strategy for clients.
You’re currently pursuing your Masters at the University of St. Thomas (good for you). My theory has always been that the MBA does much more for you on the corporate side than it does on the agency side (I’ve seen it first-hand). Why did you decide to get your MBA? And, what do you hope to achieve as a result?
Pursuing a masters in business communications (technically an MBC) has been one of the most impactful moves I’ve made in my life. The spark you get from sitting in a classroom and collaborating with your classmates (or finishing your homework just in time) is unmatched in the workplace setting. At St. Thomas, MBA and MBC students often share classes, allowing me to learn alongside and from working professionals much different than me – engineers, accountants, HR benefits managers and medical device sales reps.
As to what I want to achieve, more knowledge and to feed my drive to keep on learning. Still, I know there are practical implications for my work with clients. I’ve learned a solid understanding of what makes corporations tick – ultimately, the bottomline – and its invaluable from an agency or corporate side. Ultimately, I’d love to earn the respect of business owners and professionals by being seen as a business and PR counselor.
You’re also active in the local PRSA chapter. Why do you spend so much time with PRSA and how has it helped you in your career so far?
In addition to PRSA’s focus on core knowledge for communicators that I talked about early, I’ve most loved the networking. There’s a lot of opportunity to get to know fellow PR practitioners in our community through chapter events. Minnesota PRSA members are so welcoming and smart.
I also see you’re a new homeowner. And a Minneapolis homeowner, which I like to see (we live in the Hale/Page neighborhood in South Minneapolis). Why did you choose to live in the city and what have you enjoyed most so far about being a homeowner?
My husband Nick and I chose to buy in South Minneapolis because we love the city. Minneapolis has a great vibe and it’s been awesome to both work and live here. Maccabee is in the Warehouse district, so I can easily bus in the winter, bike in the summer-like months, yet still drive and park on the street, if need be. I particularly love biking to work – all five days last week, woohoo! In Minneapolis it’s so accessible and oftentimes a far better option than driving. Since becoming homeowners two years ago, we’ve most enjoyed our own backyard, adopting a rescue puppy (Ayza!), and having easy access to the lakes, restaurants and great people in the city.
Last week, my great state celebrated its annual version of the Silver Anvil PRSA Awards–the Minnesota Classics. It’s a great event–I’ve been many times over the years. In fact, it’s widely regarded as THE PR industry event of the year. Not only do you have the opportunity to watch as colleagues are recognized for their outstanding work, it’s the one evening a year when the industry comes together. I see people at Classics I really don’t see all year long.
It’s a fantastic program and event.
Except for one thing: I think it could be even better.
I say this at the risk of being labeled a “contrarian”. But really, nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve been a PRSA member for 10-plus years up until just recently (and I may rejoin yet this year–the organization has done a few things in the last year that are making it more relevant again). I’ve sat on and chaired many committees. I’ve been on the board for three years (stepped off on my own volition a few years ago when I started my business). I’ve earned the right to share a few ideas.
But the fact remains: The Minnesota Classics event needs to get better. It’s too great of a program/event not to.
I also don’t mean this to be a criticism of all the great volunteers who donate HUNDREDS of hours to put on this event. I know people on that committee now–I’ve known people who have been on it in the past. It’s a great program/event. My suggestions are in no way a criticism of these folks–or the board, for that matter.
And keep in mind, I really like a few of the new ideas they’ve implemented in recent years. Namely the “Young Professional of the Year” award–great way to recognize tomorrow’s PR leaders (congrats to Christina Milanowski, by the way!).
These are merely ideas–meant to help a program/event I believe needs a little shake up.
So, here are 5 ideas to make the Minnesota Classics program/event even better:
This has been an issue for years, so it’s not necessarily new. But there are simply WAY too many categories. 40-plus in total. In fact, many years, a number of categories go either unfulfilled or with only a handful (or one) entry (who then wins by default–is that any way to win a Classics Award?). I say pare the awards down to 15-20 really solid categories and showcase the best of the best. The awards will be more meaningful–and MN PRSA will truly be highlighting the best Minnesota PR has to offer.
More digital marketing categories
I know, I just said to limit the categories. But, MN PRSA needs to beef up the digital piece of our awards just a bit. I mean, with all the focus on social/digital, it just makes sense doesn’t it? Now, I fully recognize that social/digital is just a piece of a successful PR program, but right now MN PRSA only has ONE element category around social/digital. With how much focus is put on digital/social these days, that simply does not make sense to me.
Opportunities for solo practitioners
I’ll admit, this one’s a bit selfish now that I’m a solo counselor. But the fact remains there is no attempt to give solo counselors any spotlight in the Classics. And, I thought that even before I started working for myself. We have so many great solos in this town–David Kostik, Peg Roessler, Melanie Boulay Becker, just to name a few. It’s a shame not to recognize some of their great work, too. Maybe it’s a Solo Counselor of the Year award. Maybe it’s a category just for a solo program. I just think there needs to be at least some semblance of recognition for solo counselors since we’re such a big part of the fabric of our industry locally.
Simplify the submission process
Wait, we’re still submitting BINDERS? Yep. It’s 2013, and we’re still submitting hard copy binders as awards entries. That in itself dates MN PRSA a bit. But, the truth is the submission process is just too laborious. Agency teams have entire teams dedicated to putting together Classics entires–and I’m sure long hours are put in. Now, that could be seen as a positive–making the submission process tougher weeds out the undesirables. But, it also limits participation. I’m sure many folks are put off by the time-consuming process–I know it limits the opportunities for smaller shops and solos (having worked in both scenarios recently). Make the process easier. Make it a simple one-pager you can upload electronically along with supporting documents. Get rid of the binders. It’s time.
PR Year in Review
So this one might seem like a stretch, but I think folks would love it. Create a “Minnesota PR Year in Review” slideshow and run it during some part of the event (maybe somewhere in the middle of the awards when things start to lull). Ask agencies for photos of their biggest events from the past year. Ask members for photos of their successful events and programs. Feature photos from PRSA events throughout the year. And set it all to music. It doesn’t have to be too long–5-8 minutes probably. And maybe they’ve done this before–I haven’t been to all that many Classics events. But, I think this would be pretty cool.
So, those are my ideas. Again, I want to be clear that these are not criticisms of the committee, the board or MN PRSA in general–just ideas to improve.
What about you? If you work in PR in Minnesota, what could we do to freshen up the Classics?
Note: Photo courtesy of Minnesota PRSA.
As I thought about my resolutions for the new year, the garden variety goals came to mind: exercise more, eat better, spend more quality time with the kids, etc. But, there are a few others I’ve been kicking around that don’t involve taking action. In fact, these five goals actually require a little different approach:
* I promise not to be “that guy”—Shannon Paul really put it best. As I continue to explore and engage in new social media tools online, I hope to build relationships within my preferred networks, be human (and hopefully, inspire a few laughs along the way), and promote others whenever possible. Not too tough, really.
* I won’t have an intimate relationship with my Twitter account. Sometimes it seems we’re all a little too close to our online activities. This was most evident to me over the long holiday weekend. Instead of spending quality time with the people that matter most to us, I noticed a number of folks active on Twitter, Facebook and other social networks online. Of course, I was out there, too (after all, how did I know the others were online?), so I’m just as guilty. But that’s where my resolution comes in. Using Twitter, Facebook and other tools to develop relationships is great, but I also plan to get out of the house more and meet up with the great PR/marketing/communications minds in the Twin Cities in 2009, too. Nothing replaces good, old-fashioned face time.
* I won’t do someting just because “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” This one applies not only to my professional life but my personal life. For example, I’m currently researching a way to listen to my music library throughout our home. Originally, I thought about the traditional approach and buying a new portable Bose Sounddock. But as I thought about it, what I really want is access to my expansive music collection in virtually every room of the house, without having to lug around the sounddock. I need a “wired” house–not a sounddock or a run-of-the-mill receiver and speakers. I’m guessing this is going to mean a fairly expensive trip to Best Buy in my near future. For business, this means not falling into the trap of taking the easy way out. I plan to challenge the status quo and never stop thinking of innovative solutions to my organization’s communications challenges.
* I promise not to talk too much. Another goal with multiple applications. I need to be a better listener with my clients, my wife, my kids, my friends and my extended family in 2009. Why? Because good listeners are better friends, better dads, better husbands and better communicators. David Mullen seems to agree. Organizations should also make this a priority–listen more intently to your customers next year. Whether it’s online through tools like Twitter or blogs or face-to-face through focus groups or personal one-on-one conversations, companies can learn a lot from their customers. Just ask Dell, Starbucks and Southwest Airlines.
* I will not go back to school. Ok that’s an odd thing to say, right? Yeah, well I don’t have an extra 15K lying around to pursue my MBA right now. Hey, you try it with two kids and 24K in annual daycare bills. What I will do, however, is passionately continue to learn. I hope to spend at least one hour online each night listening on Twitter, commenting on blogs I follow, developing my own blog content and discovering new tools. I plan to stay engaged in my local PRSA chapter as a board member where I’ve learned so much from so many smart people the last seven-plus years. And I plan to read feverishly. Books on my short list include Groundswell and Naked Conversations.
Those are my goals for 2009. What about you? What do you resolve not to do in the new year?