A Juicy Q&A with the PRSSA 2020–2022 National Professional Adviser

Editor’s Note:

The PRSSA National Professional Adviser is a two-year position held by an accredited public relations professional. The role serves on the PRSSA National Committee.

PRSSA 2018-2020 National Professional Adviser Ben Butler, APR interviews his successor — Michael Cherenson, APR, Fellow PRSA — who will take the baton on June 1, 2020.

Michael Cherenson, APR, Fellow PRSA

I want to enact one last tradition before my term concludes (besides Tequila Sunrises in Scottsdale): the outgoing National professional Adviser interviewing the position’s successor.

Mike’s bio — especially in terms of PRSA/PRSSA accomplishments —  is one of the most impressive I’ve ever read.

  • He’s served as the Executive Vice President of the Success Communications Group for nearly 14 years.
  • In 2018, he was selected to participate in the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference (JCOC), the oldest and most prestigious U.S. Department of Defense public liaison program
  • To date, he’s held 31 positions with PRSA/PRSSA — both locally and nationally — not to mention PRSA’s Chair and CEO in 2009.

But let’s go beyond the resume and get to know Mike a bit better.

For anyone reading this who has no clue what the PRSSA National Professional Adviser does, what’s your elevator pitch?

The National PRSSA Professional adviser is an important bridge between PRSA and PRSSA, and serves as a counselor to the PRSSA board and all PRSSA professional advisers.

Like all PRSSA Professional Advisers, the national adviser is a link between the profession today and tomorrow. Serving as a professional adviser is the ideal opportunity to give back, shape the future, share a love of the profession, at the same time re-energize and replenish the emotional tank by connecting professionals with passionate students and insightful educators.

Roles like this really have room to adapt to someone’s professional style. What would you say your style is and how do you anticipate it influencing your next two years?

My style is that of a bridge-building, collaborating, go-getter from Jersey with a touch of ADD.

I’m a twin who played and coached sports all my life so I’m a team player from birth. My hope is to empower others and work with a team, helping create an environment where everyone can thrive.

Speaking of style …

Coffee or Tea? (there is a right answer here)


Favorite Coffee?

I’m a simple guy from Jersey. I’m ok with Diner coffee. More important than what’s in the cup is who I’m drinking it with.

Beer, wine, or cocktails? All of the above is an option.

Bourbon, but open to all except tequila. And again, who I’m with is more important than what’s in the cup.

Favorite Bourbon?

I’ve been on a Bulleit kick.

Within many PRSSA Chapters, the Professional Adviser role seems to be a consistent weakness. Either the role isn’t filled, or they’ve never met the person.

What are your tips and tricks to help Chapters locate and secure a Professional Adviser?

Find someone with an emotional connection to the program or a burning desire to give back to the profession. Finding the ideal Adviser should go well beyond the professional’s job title or resume. Seek energy and passion not simply someone with a great title or cool company.

The key to the process is connecting and engaging with the sponsoring PRSA chapter and nearby alumni. Identify opportunities to invite and include PRSA members at PRSSA events, at the same time, find ways your Chapter can be “of service” to the PRSA chapter. Students can be a valuable resource to the professional chapter; simply ask how you can help.

And more importantly, how can they keep them engaged year-to-year, especially with the rate of student leadership turnover?

It’s like all strong and meaningful relationships…  the student/adviser relationship should be mutually beneficial. Both parties should walk away from meetings feeling like they have gained something.  In the end, it’s a dance, find a great partner.

The PRSSA/PRSA relationship should be institutionalized by creating annual events and happenings that fuel the relationship. From annual shared board meetings, social events, awards, fundraising and community activities and professional development.

As the new flag bearer of Professionalism for PRSSA —

What top mistakes do students and young professionals make? How can they avoid them?

Many students and young professionals don’t realize that THEY are their first client and brand. They should approach their career like it’s a client or brand and use all the strategies and tools they have learned over the years.

What’s the secret sauce to getting that first job?

Love. Find a way to marry your passion with your profession. Passion comes through.

With the abundance of awesome events — both Nationally and regionally — travel is part of the PRSSA DNA.

What are your professional travel hacks?

If possible, everything you pack should match, so if necessary, you can mix. And always leave a little extra time for yourself and for travel. Always have a plan B.

What’s the wildest travel story that comes to mind?

Lots of examples of travel delays, cancelations, twists and turns. While not wild, just a bit weird, is the 8-hour delay with a family of hula hoopers. You get more if you share a cup of coffee or a Bourbon.

We have to talk about your PRSA track record. You’ve really made your mark.

Take us all the way back to the beginning. Where did you go to school and what did you study?

Ithaca College, Ithaca NY. Major Politics, Minor Public Relations.

Were you active in a PRSSA Chapter, and did you transition directly into PRSA? If not, how’d you find PRSA?

No, my thought at that time was to run political campaigns. But as a second-generation public relations counselor I always had PR on the brain. When I graduated I ran a few campaigns and I realized my passion was PR, not necessarily politics.

When I started working with my father he said you need to join PRSA. At the time you needed two signatures from members to be accepted. He told me to call Joe Vecchione, then president of PRSA. Joe, along with my father, served as mentors throughout my career.

What are your top-ranked two PRSA experiences so far?

Working with my father who was a pioneer in the profession and serving as PRSA National Chair and CEO.

What have all of those roles revealed to you about our profession and our Society?

Our profession has so much to offer the world, yet we often sell ourselves short.  

And lastly, let’s get an inside look at life outside of public relations.

Where are you primarily located and what are your top compliments about that place?

New Jersey. I love living in New Jersey primarily because of proximity to family and friends, the beach, hiking and New York.

What are your interests and hobbies?

Outside work — when I’m not answering Ben’s questions — I’m either coaching or watching my kids play sports. I have three kids, two still play, one in college the other in high school. I’m also a beach bum who finds peace doing yoga or hiking.

Ben Butler, APR, is the PRSSA 2018–2020 National Professional Adviser. You can connect with him on LinkedIn and on Twitter @BenButlerPR.

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