Cultivating a thriving PRSSA Chapter culture, especially during a pandemic, is not easy. That being said, there are many ways that PRSSA Chapters can reignite their membership. Here are some of the steps that GVPRSSA has taken to ensure our members gain valuable experience that gets them connected within their industry, promotes their professional growth, enhances their surrounding community and pushes them to take advantage of all the opportunities PRSSA has to offer.
While making programming engaging on a virtual platform is challenging, there are ways to make it more enticing to your members. In 2021, we partnered with other passionate Chapters to create PR Reimagined — a joint programming effort that allowed speakers to join virtually from across the nation. We were able to connect our members with professionals they might not have otherwise had the opportunity to meet. Don’t let distancing get you down. There are still ways to make your programming stand out, so get creative!
To promote the overall success of PRSSA members, academic success needs to be prioritized. To meet this need, GVPRSSA has organized weekly study tables where our members are able to tutor underclassmen in our program. Not only is this a great opportunity for us to apply what we have learned in previous years, but also a way to generate interest in GVPRSSA from students in our program.
It is important to support members as they begin planning their post-graduate careers. To help out, we have made it a practice to organize regular agency tours. By showing interest in local firms, we are able to have meaningful interactions with our community of PR professionals and connect with future employers.
For members who are ready to gain more hands-on PR experience, the next step is to create a Student-run Firm. Operating since 2007, GrandPR has been the pride of GVPRSSA and our program here at GVSU. We have worked with clients and participated in competitions on local and national levels, gaining recognition from our program, Grand Valley State University, PRSSA National and various media outlets. Our Student-run Firm has been a great way to bring together student professionals with diverse internship, educational and personal experiences to produce quality work for clients.
There are many opportunities to make connections in PRSA beyond the scope of your university’s Chapter. Making the effort to participate on a larger scale easily sets Chapters apart. Chapter members can join their local PRSA Chapter committees, serve as PRSSA District Ambassadors or run for a PRSSA National Committee position. In GVPRSSA, we strongly encourage all of our board members to support West Michigan PRSA (WMPRSA) by joining a WMPRSA committee or serving as a PRSSA District Ambassador. Not only does this uplift the individual students who choose to volunteer but increases visibility for our Chapter as a whole.
Creating a Chapter podcast is a great way to promote learning outside the classroom. Our Chapter runs the award-winning podcast, PR Hangover. This gives our Chapter an opportunity to have a voice on industry topics and build connections with prominent PR professionals. Running a podcast is incredibly rewarding — all you need is a microphone.
Make your Chapter shine. If you have made special efforts, they deserve to be recognized. Apply for awards from your university, PRSA awards or PRSSA National awards such as the Star Chapter award and Pacesetter Chapter Recognition. Additionally, consider competing in PRSSA’s own Bateman Case Study Competition to see how your skills rank against other PRSSA Chapters.
It is important to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of stand-out members in Chapters. For example, our board chooses a Member of the Month to be spotlighted in our newsletter and socials. Give credit where credit is due.
These steps are just some of the ways you can make your Chapter a magnetic student organization at your university. I hope that all Chapters take pride in the value they provide to their members and continue to challenge the expectations for student professionals by striving for excellence.
Jesse Schmitt serves on GVPRSSA’s eboard as the CEO of GVSU’s Student-run Firm, GrandPR. In May of 2022, Jesse will be graduating from GVSU with a B.S. in Advertising & Public Relations and a minor in Studio Art.
Jesse is currently working as an Applied Research + Consulting Student Associate at Steelcase. Additionally, she is a proud member of the National Millenial + Gen Z Community and serves on the programming committee for WMPRSA.
In her free time, you can find Jesse making her way through book and movie recommendations, rock climbing with her friends, scouring LinkedIn, or planning her next trip.