During yesterday’s Plank Center board meeting, I realized I was sitting across the table from three generations of PRSA leadership–Betsy Plank, founder of PRSSA Champions and first woman to chair PRSA; Gary McCormick, chair-elect of PRSA, and Rebecca Timms, national president, PRSSA.
During a break, I told them that when I speak to PR classes I always ask how many students belong to PRSSA, and how surprised I am when only a few hands go into the air.
When resumes are so hard to build, this $50 investment seems like a no brainer. Therefore, I couldn’t resist asking Rebecca why she got involved and why others should join. Betsy and Gary chimed in with their endorsements as well. Here are their responses:
REBECCA TIMMS, National President, PRSSA
My reasons for joining PRSSA are different from most – but then again, so is my history with the organization. Partway through my senior year of high school, I was prepared to settle on Rowan University and its public relations program. As I’ll explain in greater detail for my Platform article, I wasn’t initially keen on the college. The PRSSA faculty advisor – also a family friend – invited me to attend the Chapter’s Regional Activity. I went, loved it – and, by association, Rowan – and knew I’d be an active member throughout my undergraduate studies.
What I didn’t realize was how far that first step would take me. At the event, I met and/or roomed with the three girls who’d later make up Rowan’s half of the PRSSA 2007 National Conference Committee (we co-hosted with Howard University). From there, my career in PRSSA quickly progressed from Conference Committee member to the National Committee to my current post as national president. I made that first commitment to PRSSA and met the right people. Add hard work, long hours, a bit of healthy ambition and plenty of luck, and you’ve got my story.
At the Regional Activity, I finally found a group with which I identified – people who enjoyed writing, public speaking, strategic thinking, etc., just like me. (Not sure if I would have articulated it that way back then, but those were the main factors that drew me into PRSSA.) Were I joining today, I’d need more concrete reasons. Here are the ones we generally use for prospective members:
- Networking with professionals and peers
- Hands-on learning
- Leadership opportunities at all levels of the organization
- Hundreds of internship and job listings
- Local, regional and national events
- Scholarships, awards and competitions for individuals and Chapters
- Access to industry and leadership publications produced by PRSA and PRSSA
Gary McCormick, Chair-elect, PRSA
My college chartered its PRSSA chapter when I was a senior. I was too busy graduating and getting a job to join. A decade later, my boss took me to a PRSA meeting and I realized the mistake that cost me ten years of networking and who knows how much money in salary. Don’t make that same mistake.
PRSSA is the star in PRSA’s crown. No other professional organization in our field has anything like it. PRSSA provides a great bridge between classrooms and the workplace. It gives students a chance to rehearse and practice leadership in their early years and to connect with active leaders of the profession. This is a rare opportunity. It also provides senior leaders a chance to connect with the younger generation, which they always find inspiring.
I later asked communications recruiter Bill Heyman the same question. Bill said, “It’s never too early to start building a professional network, so being part of of PRSSA is a great way to start, to say nothing of the opportunity to learn.”