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.
Eearlier this week, I had the privilege and honor or keynoting a PRSA event for the Puget Sound Chapter in Seattle (I spoke about the PR pro of tomorrow). I say privilege because I don’t take these kind of speaking engagements lightly. After all, I’m not really a “professional” speaker. I’m just a guy who’s trying to run a small business—and speaking engagements like this are a big part of that mix in terms of new business and awareness.
But, speaking opportunities like this one, with a local PRSA chapter, are also a way for me to give back—and see a bit of the country at the same time.
So, I used the trip as an opportunity to see Seattle with my wife. We flew in Friday, June 8, and she stayed until Monday morning. Then, I stayed through Wednesday as I had two speaking gigs on Tuesday.
We couldn’t have loved Seattle more. Sure, the weather was a bit jarring (55 in June? C’mon Seattle!), but you get used to it. And, I was trying to appreciate the fact that it’s basically the same temperature the whole year round. In fact, really, it’s exactly like San Diego, just a bit cooler, with less sun and not right on the ocean.
Seattle is also a bit like San Francisco. How? Well, it’s more hilly than you think. Especially downtown where I stayed. You can barely find a block where you’re not walking uphill or downhill. Not what I expected. Also, similar to SF, you can travel a couple hours in one direction and be in a completely different ecosystem. For us, that meant traveling west to see the Olympic mountains, which were incredible. Go the other direction and you’re in the Cascades. Go south and you’re near Mount Rainer. Go a little further west and you’re at the ocean. That’s my kind of geography. I’ve always wanted to live near water and mountains—this city gives you both.
Our tour of Seattle included so much more than I could describe in words. So, I thought I’d share our travels via pics I took on Instagram along the way. Enjoy!
The weekend started with a visit to the Public Market–unbelievable fruit, flowers and fish.
We tried our first crumpet with peanut butter and raspberry jelly!
Which was followed by a trip to the original Starbucks.
After a short ferry ride across the sound, we enjoyed some wonderful wine tasting on Bainbridge Island.
Then, we headed back to Seattle for the Underground Tour. Very unique.
Finally, we found our way to the top of the historic Smith Tower. Cooler than I thought.
Day two started off with us picking up this car. We called it the Skittle car.
We drove over to the peninsula for a gander at this: The Olympic Mountains.
Next up: A visit to Lake Crescent and dinner at a quaint National Park Lodge right ont he lake.
Then, a short hike to this waterfall. Felt more like Hawaii than Washington.
And on the ferry back to Seattle, we finally caught a glimpse of Mount Rainier.
Monday morning, I made a pit stop at a Seattle institution.
I didn’t go up, but I had to get a close-up look at the Needle.
And while I didn’t make a game while I was in Seattle, I did take the tour. I was one of two people on it, which was pretty cool. It was like my own personal tour of Safeco.
Stayed at the Fairmont all week–fantastic place to stay if you’re in Seattle anytime soon.
And of course, the whole reason I was in Seattle: My PRSA keynote presentation. This isn’t me, but if you look closely you can see my ugly mug on the Powerpoint slide in the background.
Thursday night here in Minneapolis one of my favorite events of the year took place: The Alphabet Bash. It’s one gigantic networking party with folks from PRSA, IABC, AdFed, MIMA and a host of other professional organizations here in Minneapolis/St. Paul. It’s the one time of year when I reconnect with a lot of my PR colleagues around town. I love it.
This year, I had the honor and privilege of presenting at the pre-event networking seminar. My topic: How to network like a Rock Star. OK, I know, lame title. But, some of the advice I provided weren’t your “garden-variety” tips. Here’s the presentation (in Prezi). I plan to blow a few of these key points into larger posts in the weeks ahead. For now, I’d love your feedback on the presentation below.
It’s a common debate among folks in the PR world: What makes more sense: obtaining my APR or getting an MBA? Before we get into this discussion, note that I earned my APR a number of years ago. I do not have my MBA (although I took one class at the University of St. Thomas several years ago).
Before we go any further, let’s start by looking at the pros and cons of each:
* Opportunity to get a whole lot smarter about the business side of any organization–financial accounting, operations and how to read a balance sheet.
* On the corporate side, an MBA can often be an unofficial requirement for many senior-level positions.
* Like many advanced degrees, by attending class and sitting in various group meetings, the networking can be invaluable.
* Cost can be high. And, unless your company is footing the bill or chipping in, that can get spendy quickly.
* The process can be time-consuming. If you’re only taking one class at a time (which is all some people can take), an MBA can take as long as 4-5 years.
* Competition. Who doesn’t have an MBA these days? I mean, besides me 🙂 In all seriousness, it seems like more people are obtaining their MBA every day. Is it still a differentiator?
* More journey–less destination. I always thought the APR process was much more about the process than it was putting those three letters after my name.
* The APR opens all sorts of doors on the PRSA side. So, if you want to sit on your local chapter board or have aspirations of sitting on the National board some day, this is the ticket in.
* Supporting the industry. By getting your APR, you are, in fact, stating your support for the PR industry. Not a huge personal benefit, but industry-wise, it is.
* It’s affordable. At just $410, the APR is a bargain when compared with an advanced degree like an MBA (apples to oranges, I know).
* The APR certification doesn’t have near the credibility of an MBA–especially on the corporate side of the fence.
* It’s organization-specific. You need to remain a PRSA member to keep your APR–it’s not organization agnostic. Not sure most would label this a “con”, but I am for the purposes of discussion here.
Next, I think you need to consider your current–and future–employment situation. Do you work on the agency side? Corporate? As an independent consultant? All have different angles when it comes to the APR vs. MBA discussion.
* Corporate side. MBA has a huge advantage here. In many larger, Fortune 500 organizations, an MBA is an unannounced requirement for senior-level positions (see above). On the client side, an MBA is really a form of advanced business training, whereas the APR is barely recognized by those outside PRSA circles.
* Agency side. The APR probably carries more weight here. Many agencies owners and leaders cut their teeth in agencies, so they’re very familiar with PRSA and the APR. And, the learning process you go through to obtain the APR, can be extremely valuable to the PR agency counselor. But, is it necessary? That’s the debate.
* Independent consultant. I’d probably give the slight edge to the APR here, too. Merely for credibility. Most clients still know little about the APR–but by listing those letters after your name, it’s really just a conversation starter. On the other hand, the MBA does little for the independent consultant, in my view. Similar to agencies, indie consultants get paid for ideas. They get paid for creativity. The MBA really doesn’t get at either of those. Sure, you’d better understand business (including how to run your own), but I’m not sure that really helps from a consulting point of view. And remember, getting an MBA is expensive and you’d be on the hook for the entire cost. In my view, it’s simply not worth the added cost and time commitment.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I earned my APR a number of years ago. It took me about a year to go through the APR process. I took a series of classes locally with about 10 other aspiring APR candidates. I met new friends. I met speakers who came in to talk with us about key areas of the test. For me, the APR was far more about the journey than it was adding those three letters after my name (beating a dead horse now).
But, it’s important to note, after earning my APR I didn’t see any noticeable professional differences. That is, I wasn’t treated any different by my boss. I didn’t have a legion of prospective employers barking down my door chomping at the bit to hire me. And it certainly didn’t make a difference in my pay.
However, as I alluded to before, from a PRSA standpoint, all sorts of doors started to open as a result of my new APR.
I was asked to co-chair the programming committee within MN PRSA.
I was later asked to sit on the board.
I was asked to judge the Willard Thompson scholarship candidates.
And, in the process, and as a result of much of this work, I met a number of wonderful colleagues I am proud to call friends. People I lean on for advice and ideas on a regular basis.
And, as it turned out, that’s what obtaining my APR was all about. Much more journey. Far less destination. And, I’m not sure there’s a price tag I can affix to that.
I can’t really speak to the MBA side since I’ve never really pursued it. Since I didn’t envision myself staying on the corporate side for the long haul, frankly, I didn’t see the value in it. But, in the business world, the MBA carries significant weight. In both larger corporate jobs I’ve had in my life, as I said above, the MBA was basically a unannounced prerequisite for senior-level positions.
And, I would argue the same “more journey, less destination” theorem also holds true for the MBA. Many folks I know that have earned their MBA met all sorts of wonderful colleagues along the way. And, maybe more importantly, they got really smart about the inner workings of a business. In other words, they learned how to better solve business problems—not just PR or marketing problems.
And that’s the big rub with the MBA. It’s your ticket into the corporate game. Tough to serve as a CMO when you don’t know how to read a financial report. And, from a business owner standpoint, it could make sense, too. After all, there’s a ton of value in learning more about how a business works. But, then again, you’d be on the hook for the full payment—whereas on the corporate side, many companies will pay for or chip in toward your degree. That price tag has to figure in when you’re talking about tens of thousands of dollars for some of the more prestigious schools. In fact, if it was me, I’d look long and hard at the “ROI” of that degree. Would I get enough out of it to warrant a $30,000-plus price tag?
So, back to my original question: Which makes more sense? I think it depends on a few different factors: your current and future employer(s), your level of patience and your financial situation.
Now, I want to kick it to you. Which do you think makes more sense in today’s world? Is the MBA dead for agency and solo consultants? Is APR irrelevant on the corporate side? Would love your thoughts.