The lines are blurring in the marketing, communications, creative and PR worlds.
More so now than ever before.
PR people are playing in the advertising sandbox. Advertising people are adding PR to their resumes. Interactive folks get involved with content. I mean, let’s be honest, the lines aren’t even there anymore. Screw blurring–they’ve completely disappeared!
So, when it comes to choosing a professional organization to be a part of–PRSA, AdFed, AMA, MIMA, IABC–how do you even begin to decide which is the best suited for you?
That specific question was posed to me by a friend this week. And, it’s a good one for the reason laid out above.
It’s a question I’ve struggled with, too. I was active in PRSA circles for YEARS. I was on committees, chaired committees, sat the board, and was even on the executive committee here locally in MSP before I decided to take a step back to start my business.
These days, I’m involved with MIMA (Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association), again sitting on the board.
But, it wasn’t an easy decision. In fact, I’m still thinking about joining PRSA and becoming a two-organization member.
But let’s get back to the question at hand: What’s the best professional org for YOU? How do you make the decision?
I thought I’d share with you the factors that went into my decision-making process. They certainly won’t be the same for everyone–but I thought they might help as you make your decision.
Think about your future
Where do you want to go in 5 years? 10 years? Which organization will help you get there? Which offers you the chance to meet the people that will best shape your future?
Think about your skill set–and the gaps you want to address
Earlier in my career, I worked more in the marketing communications side. I wrote brochures. Worked on web copy. That kind of thing. But, after a little soul-searching, I discovered I wanted to learn more about and get into the world of PR. Enter PRSA. PRSA offered me a chance to learn something I wasn’t getting in my day job. Think about what you want to learn that you can’t get at work–and find an organization that offers that opportunity. Remember, your day job isn’t everything. You can certainly create learning opportunities for yourself outside your 9-5.
Think about the people you want to meet–and be associated with
When I was considering joining MIMA a few years ago, I got to thinking: Who do I know in town? Predominantly, the answer to that question was “PR folks” thanks to my time with PRSA. I know a lot of PR people in town. Not all, but a decent amount. But, you know who I didn’t (and, to a large extent, still don’t) know? Interactive types. Developers. Project managers. Interactive VPs. Content strategists even. All those people–didn’t know too many of them. But, I knew where they hung out: MIMA. That organization was the one spot where all these people gathered–at monthly meetings, at Summit, at the holiday party. I wanted to get to know these people (mostly for business purposes, I’ll admit), and MIMA seemed like the most likely way to do just that. So, think about who you want to meet. The people who will, somehow, shape your career and professional life. Then, find out what professional org they’re a part of and find out if and how often they show up.
Don’t get hung up on price, value prop
This is a mistake I’ve made in the past. I put too much stock in the price tag associated with membership. Whether it was $375 (PRSA’s price tag) or the $230 I pay to MIMA each year, I was putting too much stock in the annual cost of membership. Why would I say that? Dollars and cents matter, Arik! Sure, I would agree. But, compared with the benefit you’ll get on the skills and networking sides of the equation, what is $300? Plus, add in the fact that your employer is probably covering all or some of the cost. For those that ARE picking up the entire cost, think about it this way. What’s that next job worth to you? What about that promotion? A new client? All over the above EASILY exceed that $300 threshold. So, cost just shouldn’t be a consideration. At least not if you’re looking at the big picture.
So, I hope some of this discussion helps. I know this is a decision many are grappling with these days.
What do you think? How are you making decisions about which professional organization you join?
Today’s guest post comes from Lauren Gray, a young woman I met via Twitter/my blog a year or so ago. As some of you probably know, I’m pretty involved with younger professionals, speaking at local colleges and universities from time to time (I’m speaking at my alma mater here in a few weeks) and heading up HAPPO. And while I haven’t met Lauren in person, she seems like the kind of young professional I tend to gravitate toward. Hard-working. Not afraid to speak her mind. Passionate. Let’s hear from Lauren about how PRSSA has played a key role in her development–and making her the woman she is today.
Joining any organization is exactly what you make it and you get out of it what you put in it. As the current Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) National President, I’ve put a lot into this incredible organization and, in return, I have gotten a lot out of it. It has not always been the easiest journey, but it is been worth it.
From a student perspective, PRSSA helped me develop my leadership skills and my leadership style by leading my Chapter at a local level and now leading the whole Society on a national level.
When you are on a National Committee of ten students and five professionals scattered across every time zone in the United States, communication can be a little tricky. Our biggest tool we use is Google Groups communication. Email is huge and we hold ourselves to a 24-48 hour response rule.
Conference calls are important for us too. Not everyone will be able to make every single call, so it’s important to remember that and schedule the best time where the most people can meet. It’s also important to stay in touch with each other. We don’t all talk every single day, but we all know what is going on with each other and have a secret Facebook Group for internal communication too.
One of the first things I learned about leading students, not everyone is the same type of leader as you and everyone handles conflicts differently. For PRSSA, we have encouraged leaders to do a “leadership assessment” of your fellow executive board members. This assessment helped me to better understand who I was working with, how they deal with stressful situations and how to deal with them when a conflict arose.
For me, I’m an expressive! I’m very assertive, direct and responsive. I show a lot of emotions and I’m always involved. I’m persuasive, enthusiastic and spontaneous. I like to be reassured in decisions, so my leadership style is to ask for a lot of feedback. For my fellow Committee members, learning how their different leadership styles and how to best communicate with them has helped us succeed as a whole.
We might not always agree on every single issue we face, but we’re all on the same team working toward the betterment of our Society – that is what is important.
Being a leader can be hard, especially when everything falls on you. Not everyone is going to like you and conflicts always arise. I’ve done my best to work around conflicts and work through conflicts.
I’ve let a few conflicts consume me and that was not the best thing to do. I dealt with a two-year conflict that seems so ridiculous now. I had to learn to move past things, not let the small things get to me and move toward the overall big picture. It is hard moving past a situation, but I think everyone is better in the end when you just learn to let things go.
I still have people rooting for me to fail every single day, but it is not them I focus on. I focus on PRSSA, my strengths, my successes, my friendships, my connections, my relationship and my future. It does no good to dwell on the past, but I certainly learned from it.
One of the best things about PRSSA is our huge network! I have gotten internship and job leads through PRSA and PRSSA connections and conferences. I got my current, paid internship by going to a local PRSA Georgia conference and handing out my resume to Trevelino Keller. You don’t think people at career fairs look through resumes, but they actually do. I also have received internship and job recommendations to other top companies and firms through PRSSA connections from people I helped, met or influenced as they moved through their college career. Some PRSA members have also recommended me to various jobs as well.
Connections and job leads aren’t everything though. Most of my closest friends are in PRSSA. I can honestly say Amy Bishop, the FORUM Editor in Chief for the 2011-2012 year, is my closest friend. We originally met on Twitter in 2010, became friends, served on last year’s National Committee and worked together very well. She’s my closest friend and I call her about everything.
One of my other closest friends, Tara Rosenbaum, I met at the 2010 National Conference and we’re still close. Vanessa Perkins, Haley Higgs, Chris Bailey, Catherine Koonce, Ian Crumm and Drew Mitchell are also some of my closest friends. I talk to them all on a regular basis and we’re all in PRSSA together. These incredible friendships make me who I am.
Even though I may only get to see these people 1-3 times a year at various conferences, events or when I travel, they’re still my closest friends and we would do anything for each other and I owe them a lot.
I wouldn’t be where I am today without PRSSA. PRSSA really advanced me as a student, as a friend and, as a future life-long PRSA member, I know PRSA will help advance my career.
Lauren K. Gray currently serves as the PRSSA National President for the 2012-2013 year and as an intern with Trevelino Keller Communication Group in Atlanta, Ga. She is a senior public relations major at Western Carolina University and will graduate in December. Outside of work, Lauren spends free time with her friends, making regular Starbucks trips, attending local events and enjoying Atlanta.