Effective Mentorship and Becoming an Impactful Leader: Advice from Ray Day

This past April, a number of leaders from PRSSA Chapters around the country and also some international Chapters came together for the 2023 Leadership Assembly. Throughout the weekend, student leaders heard from a variety of speakers. One of the events the students attended was a leadership training session featuring Ray Day. 

Day is the vice chair at Stagwell. Before coming to Stagwell he was IBM’s chief communications officer and earlier worked as group vice president of communications for Ford. 

Day’s workshop focused on mentorship and leadership. He explained what mentorship is, why having mentors is important, how one can use mentorship to move forward in a career, and how to be an impactful, effective leader. 

In defining mentorship, Day said mentoring consists of four things: support, advice, guidance and encouragement. He added that mentorship starts with a relationship and the mentoring can grow naturally out of that already built relationship.

Mentorship is a two-way street that requires effort and action from both the mentor and the mentee. 

“The teacher will appear when the student is ready,” Day said. As he spoke, Day continually emphasized that mentoring can often come naturally and that those trying to move forward in their careers should always be prepared to receive mentoring. 

Day also explained why one should have a mentor and emphasized what a mentor can provide to a student or someone working on building their career. He said mentors can be helpful because they have been where you want to go, they have already been through the path of developing a career and they can help guide you through that path. 

Mentors also have connections and networks that can help you along your path, they are people who can advocate for you with others. 

Alongside connections, mentors can provide unbiased feedback, help with motivation and push you to learn and grow. 

Day added that an essential part of mentorships is growing confidence in the mentee. 

“Confidence is not about age, confidence is about having the courage to go out there and handle the situation and then you will grow,” he said. 

He also focused on what it means to be a mentor and a leader. Day shared two roles of leaders: to deal with reality and not hide it, and to paint a picture of hope for the future. 

Another point made during the presentation is that anyone who wants to be a leader needs to pay attention to how they are spending their days. Day emphasized that leaders should not be spending all their time putting out fires or managing, but rather transforming those around them. 

It is important for leaders and mentors to be present and active. 

At the end of the presentation, Day shared ten pieces of advice for future PR leaders.

  1. If you don’t love what you do, leave. 
  2. Be of the news, not in the news.
  3. The two roles of people in PR are to create stories and to tell them (in that order).
  4. Being able to write is essential. 
  5. Compete with the competition, not with your colleagues. 
  6. The only thing that is certain is that things will change.
  7. Never stop learning and remain curious. 
  8. Stand up for ethics and integrity.
  9. Have people know you by your name, not by your title.
  10. Pass the baton on to future generations.

Throughout his presentation, Day emphasized that it is important to always look at where you’re going and what the future can bring instead of dwelling on what’s behind you. It is important to stay active and aware in developing your career. 

“Always stay in the driver’s seat of your career,” Day said.

Caitlin Keith is the vice president of the Utah State University Chapter of PRSSA. She is from Utah and is going into her senior year studying print journalism with minors in organization communications, and German. She loves learning, pop culture, talking with new people and sharing stories.

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