As we come to the end of PRSA/PRSSA Relationship Month, I think it’s appropriate to look at those factors that hinder a Chapters’ ability to establish and maintain a close relationship with its parent Chapters and offer some thoughts on how to overcome those factors. I don’t know if time is the most important variable in the PRSA/PRSSA relationship formula, but it seems to me it’s the one that most affects the relationship.
Just as professionals are busy with their day-to-day responsibilities, so are PRSSA members. Having to pay attention to homework, tests and projects for classes alone can distract students from other endeavors. Throw in Chapter operations, membership and fundraising drives, special projects and visits, arranging for speakers and traveling to National events and any remaining availability a PRSSA Chapter has to establish a relationship with their sponsoring PRSA Chapter gets sucked right up.
Fortunately, there are a couple of things a Chapter can do to solve the “overloaded” issue. One way is to include a formal networking opportunity in your Chapter programming. At the University of Oklahoma we host a speed networking event, which is a little like speed dating, but formed around building a professional relationship. Oklahoma City PRSA Chapter members join us to talk about what they do and dispense career advice. Each professional sits at a table, while students rotate every 10–15 minutes until everyone has met. It’s a great way to hone your “elevator speech” and glean professional advice.
Many Chapters reach out to their PRSA Chapter for speakers, either in person or via Skype or Google Hangout. The trick is to take that initial relationship to another level by staying in touch with the professional after the speaking engagement. A handwritten thank you note is a great start, followed by LinkedIn requests from PRSSA members (and don’t use the generic “I’d like to connect” note). Sharing Chapter updates with those professionals is important to continuing those relationships as well.
Finally, many PRSA Chapters offer a shadow day or half-day-with-a-pro, an opportunity for you to shadow a professional, usually followed by a PRSA Chapter meeting. Individually, this is a great way to network and build relationships. And if your Chapter routinely has even one or two members attend, you’ll get the reputation for being the “connected” or “active” Chapter, which opens a plethora of relationship opportunities for you and your Chapter.
Robert “Pritch” Pritchard, APR, Fellow PRSA is serving as the 2014–2015 PRSSA National Faculty Adviser. Follow him on Twitter @rspritchard.