Some notes about ethics, during ethics month

by Kathy Hubbell, APR, Fellow PRSA

September is ethics month, and as with most of you, I feel a bit overwhelmed by the ethical problems we are seeing all around us. I wasn’t sure where to begin with an article about our ethical challenges and responsibilities as public relations professionals. Talking about the small challenges we face each day – Should I fudge on my time sheet to look better? Should I score points with the client by saying yes, I can pretty well guarantee this social media campaign will work? – seemed a little like rehashing old territory. We’re people who have signed onto our PRSA Code of Ethics. We’re supposed to know this stuff.

But what happens when you become aware of wrongdoing in your own organization or in a client’s organization? Should we blow the whistle, and if so, how and when? What will be the consequences to us personally?

Two good friends and colleagues, Dr. Cary Greenwood, APR, Fellow PRSA, and Mary Beth West, APR, Fellow PRSA, have written about what it is to be a whistleblower, and when to quit the battle.  Greenwood conducted a study titled “Whistleblowing in the Fortune 1000: What practitioners told us about wrongdoing in corporations in a pilot study” which appeared in the Public Relations Review (Volume 41, Issue 4, November 2015, Pages 490-500). She found that just under half, about 44 percent, of the respondents knew about some kind of wrongdoing, and of those, about two-thirds had reported it. The greater majority, 81 percent, said that reporting wrongdoing was not part of their job.  Nearly a third of those who reported and were identified suffered some form of retaliation.

West wrote on her blog, just this week, about her own experience as a whistleblower. In “What is your Whistleblower Threshold?” she described her experience in an unexpected role herself that she self-describes as investigative journalist and activist. I remember following her tale earlier in the year on her Facebook posts. She was, as always, clear and articulate, but had a seemingly intractable foe. She ended her post saying, “Survival mentality dictates that you cut your losses when you finally decide you’ve stopped caring – or the thing you cared so much about which prompted your whistleblowing is no longer worth caring about to the extent of the pain being inflicted by those who feel threatened by your challenges to their actions, over an organization that they – after all – largely control.”

Because her battle caused her enormous personal and professional pain, I can understand that last paragraph.  There comes a time when you wonder if the battle is still worth it.

There are also some battles that go on for years.  Since 2000, I’ve been involved in a whistleblowing effort as part of a protest against the military’s mandatory, experimental anthrax vaccine. I got involved when my son, then in the Air Force, was required to take the first three shots in the series, saying back then that they’d “just done that to the wrong mother’s son.” During the first few hours that I researched the vaccine online, I wasn’t alarmed. There were lots of reassurances that it was both safe and effective. Eventually, however, the truth began to surface. The Pentagon had asked the manufacturer of the vaccine which veterinarians use for cows and sheep – called the cutaneous or “of the skin” anthrax vaccine – to reconfigure it so that it could be used against aerosolized, or air-borne anthrax. The manufacturer did. The Pentagon used the new vaccine – without researching it, although in all fairness you can’t exactly spray people with anthrax and hope the vaccine works – and without testing or licensing it. It was experimental, and mandatory. To make matters worse, the manufacturer falsified the expiration dates on some lots of the vaccine; used vaccine that had become contaminated; and changed it once again without notifying the FDA.

I went to D.C. to hear testimonies before Congress from service members and veterans. With the help of the pilots leading the effort and many professionals lending their services pro bono, I formed a national group. I went back to D.C. twice to walk the halls of Congress, educating any staffer who would listen about the dangers of the anthrax vaccine. I wrote a “friend of the court” brief for a lawsuit. For a time, the vaccine was declared illegal. That lasted about two years. Then the FDA declared it to be legal, and that was that. These days, the number of shots has been reduced, the vaccine is supposedly safer, and I’m not aware of the same number of complaints. I’m mostly aware of people wanting to know how they can refuse the vaccine (if ordered to take it, they can’t.).

One of my fondest memories is from a radio interview I gave shortly after 9/11. If you’ll recall, there were post office workers in D.C. who received anthrax spores in the mail, and thanks partly to some members of our group, they had the sense to refuse the vaccine and insist on antibiotics instead (Cipro was the recommended drug at the time.). The radio station was somewhere in Ohio, and the announcer asked me if I wouldn’t want to take the vaccine if there were a threat of aerosolized anthrax. “No,” I said.  “You can actually recover from anthrax, but you can’t recover from the effects of the anthrax vaccine.” First time I’ve ever heard “dead air” for about a full minute on the radio.

My son is long since out of the military, and is just fine. He’s a pilot now, flying cargo for a company in Utah. As for me, I run a website at http://mvrd.wordpress.com , which is being redone. I discovered I can’t emotionally handle talking every day to the veterans whose health has been severely compromised or even destroyed by the vaccine. I was constantly crying for their suffering and for their country’s betrayal (this also happened in Australia and Great Britain, just FYI). But because a lot of those men and women became good friends, and because I’ve watched these last 17 years as they’ve sometimes made progress, and sometime just endured, I keep the website going.

Three of the major things I’ve learned from my own activist years are these:

  1. If you repeat something often enough and long enough, people really do believe it. No one checks the source documents anymore. The fight against half-truths, lies, alternative facts and fake news can never be dropped.
  2. If something affects people personally, they will speak out and often take action. It was because of my son that I got involved. It was because of her own battle that Mary Beth West spoke out this week. It was because she had been a whistleblower and suffered retaliation herself that Cary Greenwood changed the course of her career and became a nationally renown researcher and instructor in the field.
  3. Even if you don’t have a job at stake, which I didn’t, there can still be negative consequences to your activism. I had stepped out as a leader on the national stage concerning the anthrax issue, and as such was subjected to both intense criticism and conspiracy theories concerning my involvement – even from members of my own group. There was an incredibly painful transition when I stepped down. A lot of people who were furious that the group was disbanding had no interest in helping to run it or to contribute financially. Others were sure I had some evil intent, and spread lies all over the internet. The pain lingered for some time. Still, years later when the FDA (or someone) floated a proposal to test the anthrax vaccine on civilian children, there was a tremendous outcry and the attempt was shut down. I like to think we had something to do with that.

It is tempting and easy to turn a blind eye and say, “whistleblowing isn’t part of my job.” I’m sorry, but it is. If we are to be leaders in our profession — and I would submit that every single member of PRSA is a leader precisely because of our Code of Ethics — then we must speak out about ethics, and speak out constantly, all the time. A fear of retaliation is a genuine fear: we can’t afford to lose a job, to risk not supporting our family, to see our own reputations trashed. But sometimes we must take up the battle. If we turn a blind eye, we are part of the problem. Be authentic; be fair; be accurate; be transparent. And most of all, be ethical.

Transition Steering Committee Report: July-August

Building A Foundation For 2018

July and August were milestone months for PRSA Oregon’s transition to a regional chapter.

We launched a service draft to fill board and committee positions for 2018 after all members were invited to volunteer for a role. With this input, the Nominating Committee, including all current board members,  gathered and selected nominees starting in July.

Part two of the service draft will include all nominees for incoming board positions as additional Nominating Committee members, to weigh in and help build their teams. Our goal was to ensure next year’s leaders represent the chapter’s geographic diversity and that the new team has plenty of time for onboarding folks from all over.

This new system was prototyped by last year’s Service Committee and validated by  feedback from this year’s Listening Tour. Its benefits include leadership succession planning for the continued growth and sustainability of the merged chapter.

Also in July, the Transition Steering Committee published a full report on feedback from the Listening Tour and mailed a summary to all members in late August.

In creating the report, we saw that the Becoming PRSA Oregon Communications Plan, which included Listening Tour activities, can serve as a model for engaging membership and supporting organizational change in any chapter.

We continued the Listening Tour sessions in Portland in June and in Salem during the member welcome brunch in August. It was fun to reconnect with members and report out what we learned and how we’re adapting already. We also eagerly collected input on chapter programming for next year.

The discussion sessions have exceeded our expectations. It’s encouraging to see such a high level of engagement – exactly what our members agreed was needed moving forward. All members are welcome to join the final session, which will be part of the member brunch in Eugene on Sept. 16.

During the summer, headway was also made on updating policies and procedures and developing a draft code of conduct, along with starting planning for the chapter’s leadership elections in November (date still to be determined).

The transition from three chapters to one regional organization has been time consuming, but  rewarding. It has required the Board of Directors and volunteers to spend way less time on direct programming and way more time on setting up operational systems and best practices. Short-term trade-offs for long-term benefits.

At a recent meeting, I asked the team: “What has been most rewarding for you this year?”

Some of the responses:

  • Seeing new members and prospective members be welcomed.
  • Watching #BecomingPRSAOregon (the communications plan) unfold and be embraced by members and watching them really getting it —and feeling excited about it!
  • Seeing the enthusiasm from members and volunteers about the new service draft process.
  • Experiencing the overall enthusiasm and support for transition at statewide level.

Thanks for sticking with us during this transition time.

Yours in Service,

Julie

Julie Williams, APR, MA
2018 PRSA Oregon President-Elect
Transition Steering Committee Chair
Outreach Task Force Co-Chair
Nominating Committee Co-Chair

Listening Tour Report to Membership

Authors:  Elisa Williams, Julie Williams and Siobhan Taylor 

PRSA Oregon embarked on a Listening Tour in the spring of 2017 throughout Oregon and SW Washington to meet members and hear their input and concerns about the new, merged chapter. Listening Tour sessions were held in Bend, EugenePortland and Salem.

Here’s a recap of the report findings or read the full 2017 Listening Tour Report.

Founded in 2017, PRSA Oregon is a 501(c)(6) nonprofit organization and a local chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). As we become PRSA Oregon, merging membership from around the state with the majority from the former Greater Oregon chapter in Eugene, the former Oregon Capitol chapter in Salem and the former Portland Metro chapter, we are defining a new era for professional communicators in Oregon and SW Washington.

What Members Said

Several common threads emerged in all of the discussion sessions.

  • To ensure geographic diversity we need new or refined operational systems so that programming remains profitable and reaches all members. And, leadership distribution represents all of Oregon and SW Washington, including a robust pipeline of new leaders to aid in succession planning.
  • A larger, more diverse chapter makes enhanced professional development and networking possible, including a mix of local and regional events. To ensure these benefits, there must be a high level of membership and service engagement chapter-wide.
  • Connections are important. When face-to-face meetings aren’t possible, technology makes professional development opportunities and events accessible to members regardless of location. Using the latest high-touch tools keeps members’ skills current and leaders in communications.

How We’re Already Adapting

Feedback received led to several changes in 2017:

  • Spotlight Awards Ceremony will be held in Canby. The central location and timing more easily accommodates travel.
  • In July and September, a Service Draft is ensuring leadership and committee positions reflect the entire region.
  • Additional input on programming was collected this summer, as well as at the upcoming sessions on Aug. 12 and on Sept. 16.
  • Expansion of Meet the Media events is being explored to include media markets throughout the region if there is local volunteer support to host the event. Please email events@prsaoregon.org if you’d like to help set one up.

Share Your Ideas for the Future

Join us for the final Listening Tour sessions during the membership orientation at 10 a.m., Saturday, Aug. 12, at Willamette University, and at 10 a.m., Saturday, Sept. 16, at the Valley River Inn, Eugene, Oregon.

For more information: Read the full 2017 Listening Tour Report or email listening@prsaoregon.org.

Transition Steering Committee Report: June

Change Creates Opportunities to Engage 

Summer has barely begun, but for PRSA Oregon leadership it’s time to shift our focus to plans for 2018.
Work planned for consolidating chapter operations in 2017 is nearing completion or well underway.

And we have a clear list of transition activities to guide continued efforts in 2018, for instance completing all of our Policies & Procedures. We’re one of the first chapters in the district to commit to this operational necessity, so we’re figuring it out as we go.

As we fine-tune operations, we also started a second round of Listening Tour sessions to report what we heard. As promised, we’re coming back around to see you in person. To make sure everyone has access to the findings, the report will also be distributed digitally and through the mail.

We hosted a morning session with Portland-area members on June 20; additional sessions will be part of member orientation events in Salem on Aug. 12 and Eugene on Sept. 16. Mark your calendars!

Here’s how we’re already putting your great feedback to work:

  • Accommodating travel: This year’s Spotlight Awards will be on a weekend night, Friday, Oct. 20, to allow for travel time. The location, Willamette Valley Country Club in Canby, Ore., was selected because it is central to our region.
  • Geographic diversity: A Service Draft, designed to fill board and committee positions with PR pros from throughout Oregon and SW Washington, will launch on July 15.
  • Events throughout the region: With eager local volunteer support, Meet the Media events can be hosted in multiple cities. Email events@prsaoregon.org if you’d like to host one. Spotlight Awards and Listening Tour sessions provide event options throughout the region in the last half of 2017.
  • Enhanced programming: Members can provide input on a pilot PRSA Oregon “editorial calendar” of programs and activities during upcoming Listening Tour sessions.

We know that members get out of PRSA what they put into it. If you are feeling disconnected given all the changes taking shape, I urge you to learn more about service. As we work on the Service Draft, it will help to know how you’d like to be more involved, so please do reach out to service@prsaoregon.org or complete the form on our website.

We look forward to hearing how you’d like to take part in reaping the benefits of our regional chapter spanning from Vancouver to Medford to Bend to Baker City to Tri-Cities.

Yours in Service,

Julie

Julie Williams, APR, MA
2018 PRSA Oregon President-Elect
Transition Steering Committee Chair
Outreach Task Force Co-Chair

Call to Service

Author: Beverly Brooks

As we’re becoming PRSA Oregon this year, you’ve shared your excitement and ideas. For instance, that “we need to make sure that everyone has a voice at a table” with responsibilities that make a difference for anyone, anywhere. Now, it’s time to consider what you need from your membership next year and how we can help you grow.

We are looking at service differently in 2018.

How will you join in next year? Will you:

  • Volunteer at an event – great way for anyone in community to get to know chapter and our members
  • Offer “self-service” – opportunities for 75-100 people to give back by helping with awards judging or readiness review panels and more
  • Serve on a committee – 20-25 roles for members looking for meaningful networking and skill building
  • Lead the chapter – 12 leadership roles for members seeking strategic planning and management experience that yields significant results

Members say that serving the chapter has helped them get jobs, get connections and get training – and that now extends across all of Oregon and SW Washington.

To ensure all members are considered for service, we are piloting a new model for how we bring our volunteers on board: 1) this summer the Nominating Committee will include the entire board to “draft” their successors and dream teams (like in the NBA), co-chaired by President-Elect Julie Williams, APR, and then 2) this fall/winter everyone will be trained by the Service team, led by Taylor Long.

Reach out to service@prsaoregon.org by July 7 to express your interest in serving with us!

 

Drafting Our Dream Team

Author: Julie Williams, APR, 2018 President-Elect

As I was committing to the presidency last July I had to think about the whole experience: what the merger would be like, how 2018 fit into vision 2020, and especially who I’d work with on the board.

Back then my first thought was pretty typical – recruiting my friends.

As we started validating the Service Draft idea as a new recruitment model for the Nominating Committee and getting traction last fall, I knew we were heading in the right, new direction though the significance didn’t quite hit me yet.

The revelation has slowly revealed itself this year.

New Perspective

We default to our friends, to those who are well known to us, because there’s trust. There’s shared values. There’s accountability. There’s respect. There’s care.

All things that grow through relationship.

I used to think it was necessary to cultivate these relationships personally – one by one.

Now I see that these relationship bonds do not rely on me personally, but can exist with the community. In this case, the PRSA Oregon community of members.

I trust the community. We have shared values. I feel accountable to the community. I respect the community. I care deeply about the community.

And I see now, that it doesn’t matter who I work with or whether I know them in order to do joyful, fulfilling, valuable work together that delivers results.

It’s not about who’s compatible with me, it’s about us all being compatible with what we’re trying to achieve.

If we all have matching levels of commitment, honor our needs, offer the best we can and share grace with each other, our work is achievable, mutually beneficial and fun.

Growing Community From Within

This new way is about building something together, not architecting it. Building teams that work, together.

We may be strangers to start and we might work very differently and we may occasionally get frustrated but we will grow into a team that takes care of us all.

Perhaps this is how everybody on our leadership team and in our committees already looks at their roles. My guess is many still see it the way I did – working with/for their friends and/or for themselves.

Heading into our Service Draft where we’ll draft 35 talented colleagues from our membership pool into roles that will help them grow professionally while helping our community and profession grow, the anticipation is ripe.

I expect that by the end of 2018, I’ll have a lot more friends in our community than I could have made on my own.

Now, I feel more eager than ever before to see who we’ll discover, who will lean in, who’s journey is in sync with ours as we grow PRSA Oregon into a fully engaged chapter for every member next year.

Transition Steering Committee Report: May

Author: Julie Williams, APR, MA

Big Accomplishments This Spring

Gathering with peers at the 2017 Communicators Conference was the perfect opportunity to reflect on how far we’ve come since the PRSA Oregon Chapter was formed in January.

As participants checked in and collected their conference materials, current members received pins recognizing their status as founders of PRSA Oregon. By the time the opening keynote session launched, the ballroom was filled with members from throughout Oregon and SW Washington wearing their new pins.

At lunch, PRSA Oregon President Colby Reade, APR, shared highlights from the transition communications plan developed to support the chapter during this crucial foundational year. Here are a few high points from the plan that we’ve accomplished so far, thanks to the dedication of many volunteers:

• On May 3, PRSA Oregon launched its website. PRSA member and web strategist David (Kuo-Hsuan) Pan and Beverly Brooks, PRSA Oregon Director of Communications – as well as too many others to mention − deserve to take a deep bow. Going forward, you’ll also see our social media channels evolve to reflect new PRSA Oregon branding and messaging.

• The first phase of the Listening Tour, which included events in Eugene, Portland and Salem, wrapped up in April. We’re now starting the process of sharing the feedback we received.

Less visible than communications, but absolutely essential, members of the Transition Steering Committee have made impressive progress in unifying administration of the three chapters that merged to form PRSA Oregon. You name it, it needed to be dealt with and consolidated: taxes, budgets, contracts, storage rooms, membership lists, bylaws and procedures, logos, filings with PRSA National and on and on. On May 15, our treasurer, Dave Thompson, submitted 990 taxes for all three chapters.

We are so fortunate that the leadership and volunteers from the former PRSA chapters in Eugene, Portland and Salem have a long history of service and a depth of expertise so we can get operations as one unified chapter running smoothly.

Now we’re focused on getting a new team in place in the coming year. We’re calling upon many contributors to help us conduct a wide-scale draft to find a strong mix of PR pros to serve in leadership and committee roles in 2018. In our May Transition Steering Committee meeting, we reviewed each role in detail and took a step back to ensure we have a structure that best supports where we’re heading.

I’m really excited about the difference our service draft is going to make. In all, our organizational chart now includes more than 50 lead roles and 150 opportunities for self-directed service contributions. I’m so proud of what that says about the potential for engagement. We’ll share more about the draft as the process unfolds.

As founding members, we can all take pride in what we’ve been accomplished together so far. We couldn’t be better positioned for new growth!

Yours in Service,
Julie

Julie Williams, APR, MA
2018 PRSA Oregon President-Elect
Transition Steering Committee Chair
Outreach Task Force Co-Chair

Transition Steering Committee Report: April

Author: Julie Williams, APR, MA

Member Outreach Connects Statewide  

Wahoo, we’ve finished the official information gathering phase of the Listening Tour throughout the state! Overall, we had positive experiences in respective communities with genuine interest, honest input and creative ideas.

The tour featured discussion sessions in Eugene, Portland and Salem with some members traveling from as far away as Lincoln City (thank you!). Due to the high level of engagement from 50+ members in this process (60 people if you include PRSSA members), the Transition Steering Committee has a wealth of feedback and ideas to synthesize and inform future planning.

At our April 25 Transition Steering Committee meeting we broke into small groups to sift through all the information, including dozens of pages of notes. We looked at the input through many different lenses, including what had we heard before, what was news to us, what was actionable and what should be further researched.

Member input is already informing decisions and resetting priorities for this year and for 2018. The next step is to report out on the findings so the entire chapter benefits from the insights. We’ll get that process under way starting with a coffee session in Portland on June 20.

The tour was designed in tandem with the membership committee’s new member orientations, the first of which was held at ODOT on April 22 for 17 Portland/Vancouver/Beaverton area members and prospects. We’ll be reporting listening tour findings to attendees of orientation sessions in Eugene and Salem.

Originally, we were planning to host those in June and we’ve postponed them until August and September to work on electronic and printed versions of our findings so that all members have access, no matter their ability to attend the tour session. For more details, keep an eye on the events page, chapter blog and the chapter newsletter.

After enduring a challenging winter in the Pacific Northwest, coupled with the daunting reality of long to-do lists to get our merger off to a strong start, it is so gratifying to see how far we’ve come. Signs of growth and renewal are all around us  inspiring new beginnings and fresh starts!

Yours in Service,

Julie

Julie Williams, APR, MA

2018 PRSA Oregon President-Elect

Transition Steering Committee Chair

Outreach Task Force Co-Chair

We’re All Ears: PRSA Statewide Listening Tour Visits Salem

Author:  Elisa Williams

How the new statewide PRSA Oregon Chapter could help members develop professional connections was the focal point of discussions during morning and evening Listening Tour sessions in Salem. These Listening Tour events, held at Willamette University in Salem on April 18 and 19, attracted members from Salem, Stayton and Lincoln City, in addition to including five past presidents of the former Oregon Capital Chapter.

Listening Tour hostesses Siobhan Taylor, PRSA Oregon membership director, and Julie Williams, APR, the chapter’s president-elect, shared their notes and experiences to ensure everybody is in the loop on how the conversation about the newly formed statewide chapter is developing.

The PRSA Oregon Chapter Transition Steering Committee launched the Listening Tour in March to give members a forum for sharing ideas and vetting concerns following the merger of the Portland-, Salem- and Eugene-area chapters in January 2017. Earlier Listening Tour sessions were held in Portland and in Eugene this spring.

Each of the Listening Tour sessions covered new ground, but also brought fresh perspectives to issues raised by members in other parts of the state.

Several themes emerged during the Salem discussions:

  • More connections, stronger network: Now that the chapter encompasses the entire state of Oregon as well as SW Washington, the potential for building new contacts through PRSA has expanded and that presents a new opportunity that members can leverage. Participants said they could take advantage of this benefit with something as simple as having access to a member list that makes it easy to reach out to a peer in another city or can be as deep as giving a member access to one-on-one mentoring with a seasoned pro.
  • High touch and high tech: Members’ discussed the need for technology to increase networking opportunities and to make it possible for members to virtually attend events that aren’t in their local communities. Specific ideas included past president Nicole Miller’s suggestion that PRSA Oregon consider adding a technology chair and past president Sherryll Hoar emphasized the need for helping members master new technical skills.
  • Actionable value: Participants in Salem said that if they need to travel for a chapter event in the future, they want to have a say in the timing and location. The event also has to deliver a concrete value for their careers. “It all comes back to usage of your time,” said Eric Johnson, who is willing to travel from his Lincoln City office for a PRSA Oregon event if it is relevant to his work. He drove for hours to attend a Meet the Media event where he was able to pitch a reporter who covered business on the Oregon Coast for the Portland Business Journal. “If I didn’t get any contacts out of it, or meet anyone, it wouldn’t be a good use of my time.”

With this first round of tour stops complete, the Transition Steering Committee has heard from 50 members (60 people if PRSSA members and students are included) or about 20 percent of membership. In May, the Transition Steering Committee compiled all of the tour findings into a report which will be shared in future PRSA meetings. The tour continues in June to do follow-up visits, as promised.

To ensure the tour is successful, the goal is to attract a strong showing of Portland-area members to a coffee meeting planned for June 20 where the tour findings will be discussed and participants will be asked to engage in program planning for 2018. The tour will also return to Salem and Eugene. For details on those three events, keep an eye on the events calendar in the chapter’s new website.

While the in-person, information-gathering portion of the tour is over, it’s not too late for members to share what’s on their minds. The Listening Tour’s goal was to launch what will be ongoing discussions on how PRSA Oregon can best meet members’ needs. Members can continue to share ideas and feedback by sending an email to with listening@prsaoregon.org.

We’re All Ears: PRSA Statewide Listening Tour Visits Eugene

Author: Maritza Rendon

To facilitate the transition to PRSA Oregon, chapter officers are visiting the Eugene/Springfield and Salem communities to meet with current and prospective members to hear their needs, concerns and ideas.  

On April 4 and 5, Oregon Chapter President-Elect Julie Williams, APR, and Membership Director Siobhan Taylor visited Eugene for morning and evening listening tour sessions. A mix of current and prospective members attended the sessions, including several past presidents of the Greater Oregon Chapter, based out of Eugene.

Prospective members including myself as current PRSSA President (and also a PRSA Oregon Transition Steering Committee member) and many Univeristy of Oregon (UO)  PRSSA members, participated. We were joined by students from Allen Hall Public Relations (AHPR), the student-run agency at the UO School of Journalism and Communications. AHPR is also the current agency of record for PRSA Oregon and as part of its work for PRSA Oregon, the students provided social media coverage of the event.

In the evening session, a group of PR practitioners and aspiring professionals gathered at Falling Sky Brewery in Erb Memorial Student Union to discuss the merger, voice their concerns and ask questions. The next morning another group gathered, also on the University of Oregon campus, to offer more professionals and students an opportunity to be heard. The PRSA leaders asked for feedback on the same questions at all of the listening tour stops. There were especially engaged discussions on “what are the strengths and weaknesses of being a statewide organization?”

Several themes emerged from the Eugene discussion:

  • Accessibility Opportunities, Challenges: Janice Bohman, APR, commented that one benefit of a statewide chapter was “more opportunities for involvement, [such as] access to more resources like the Spotlight Awards to connect and participate.” However, Jim Barlow expressed that “it is going to be more challenging to connect at an individual level.” Recurring points raised in the discussion included the value and power of connections, with a desire to continue face-to-face interactions.
  • Experienced Guidance, Mentorship: Another topic of conversation mentioned by several attendees was mentorship and the value of mentorship programs. Jennifer Winters shared that when she was working to obtain her Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) several mentors helped her through the process. Similarly, Bohman mentioned that when she entered the world of public relations during a career change, the local chapter was important to her because it provided a way for her to relationships and take part in support groups. Soon-to-be UO grads mentioned that mentorship and a buddy system would be helpful in the transition to the professional world and would make attending PRSA events less intimidating and more inviting.

As a prospective PRSA member, I appreciated the warm, welcoming and invested culture that was set by chapter leaders. Knowing that, as a young professional, I will have access to resources that will aid my learning and growth was motivating. But, most importantly, seeing first-hand that the value of connections will only continue to grow in a professional setting through PRSA was inspiring.

To learn about future listening tour discussions, look for related posts on the PRSA Oregon blog. You may also share your feedback by contacting listening@prsaoregon.org.