Gaining and Retaining Members

With the new school year kicking off, you’re likely planning out how you want this year to look for your Chapter. Maybe your Chapter is already thriving, or maybe it has dwindled down to a few remaining members. Either way, there’s always room for improvement to make your Chapter the best it can be. 

At the PRSSA Leadership Assembly in April, I got the opportunity to talk with a few other PRSSA members. We brainstormed ways to increase membership and involvement within the Chapter. Right after the Assembly ended, I sent an email to my Chapter president and Faculty Adviser, knowing these ideas were too good not to implement. Maybe you’ll find a few to be useful, too.

Choose consistent and considerate meeting times.

There are a lot more factors to people’s schedules than are often considered when planning an event: meals, classes, the times commuters drive home, and more. Attendance for meetings and events will always be low if the times don’t work with students’ schedules or they don’t know when to meet. Sending out a survey to ask students the best times may result in the best turnouts. Additionally, keeping that time consistent throughout the year is beneficial so that students can plan their calendars around the meeting.

Get to know the students on your campus. 

Set up a table at a popular location on campus and chat with students to show them the sense of community and professional development they can expect within PRSSA. Your Adviser likely has the ability to send out an invitation to all PR students to initially get students to stop by the table. You can also promote your table’s location, date, and time on social media. Remember, since PRSSA members do not need to be PR majors, you can call out to any passing students and strike up a conversation. If you want to ensure that people visit your table, including snacks or swag items typically attract students.

Find out what events and activities members are interested in. 

Asking goes a long way. Members may have different ideas for meetings and events than you have, so polling your Chapter may be the best way to access those ideas. Additionally, doing the activities your members suggest is a sure way to keep your members interested and involved. However, if you still want to preplan a few events, we do have a few suggestions below. 

Incorporate alumni mentorship.

Your alumni are a built-in network for students, the only problem is that students often don’t know how to connect with alumni. Setting up an opportunity for students to develop relationships with alumni — especially alumni in fields similar to the ones students are interested in —will give them a space to learn more about public relations and build confidence in themselves. Relationships like these leave a lasting impact on students, and I think you’ll find that many alumni are excited to help young professionals, especially those of their alma mater. 

Collaborate with a variety of organizations.

Getting industry professionals to share their insights with students or collaborate on a project with your Chapter can often get students excited about their careers. Additionally, establishing a relationship between your Chapter and a variety of organizations can show students the versatility of PR and give them a better idea of which sector of the industry they are interested in. PRSA Sponsor Chapters may also be good groups to gain resources from or collaborate with. 

Create a points system.

If the professional development and connections students were gaining from attending meetings and events weren’t enough, give them an additional reason to get involved with your Chapter. Creating a system where you keep track of how many events and meetings each member attends and then giving some sort of award at the end of the semester gives the stereotypical overachieving PR student extra incentive to make PRSSA a priority. Awards can be anything from graduation tassels to a giftcard to a simple certificate of recognition. 

Celebrate your members.

The foundation of public relations is building relationships with others, and that’s exactly what PRSSA members are interested in. Part of having a community is being able to celebrate each other’s achievements together. One fun way to do this is by having a banquet where members get to dress up, enjoy each other’s company, and celebrate the hard work of their fellow Chapter members.

While these were some ideas that have been successful for other PRSSA Chapters, also remember that not every Chapter is the same. Find what works for your unique Chapter and its members. As you experiment, let us know what worked for you. We’d love to hear, because maybe that idea is what another Chapter is looking for. 

Nicole Steele, PRSSA 2022-2023 National Vice President of Brand Engagement, is a junior at Biola University majoring in public relations with a double minor in communication studies and biblical & theological studies. She found her passion for public relations by volunteering in a branch of the Boy Scouts of America known as Venturing, where she currently serves as the founder and editor in chief of their national publication. She has also practiced PR in a variety of other positions, including as the communications intern at Benchmark and the account executive at her school’s PRSSA Nationally-Affiliated Student-run Firm. If you’re interested in writing a future Progressions article or simply want to connect with Nicole, feel free to reach out via email or LinkedIn.

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