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.

 

Transition Steering Committee Report: March

Author: Julie Williams, APR, MA

Planning Hones in on 2017 Priorities

We have a unique opportunity to start fresh with PRSA Oregon in 2017and embrace changes that better reflect today’s career opportunities and challenges. Plus, there’s a unique challenge: maintain the former chapters’ legacy of extensive member services but expanded to 300 people as a new statewide chapter meanwhile forming the foundation of a new PRSA Oregon as we learn how the chapter best serves a region, not solely the city of Portland. Pretty daunting, huh?

With so much ahead of us, it’s now looking like some non-critical transition activities will shift to 2018 implementation.

The post-merger work is well under way at a rapid pace. I spoke to the president of a professional services firm specializing in association management recently and he said, “Pretty amazing that you’ve gotten this far [on your merger and startup process] on an all volunteer basis, so don’t forget to pat yourselves on the back!

Here is just a sample of what we’ve gotten done in Q1 and discussed in our March committee meeting:

  • Launch of the listening tour to collect feedback with a first session held in Portland, thanks to my co-chair Siobhan Taylor, our outreach team and lots of event volunteer support.
  • Completion of a social media plan by Allen Hall PR, which will be part of an overarching transition communications plan that is in development, along with rebranding efforts that are in the works, thanks to Communications Director Beverly Brooks and the communications team.
  • Outline for an interim Policies & Procedures manual, creating standard operating procedures for handling money, event registration refunds, job descriptions and onboarding volunteers and more, thanks to Secretary Tracey Lam and Service Director Taylor Long.
  • New bank accounts, chart of accounts and budget process, along with compilation work for submitting 990 tax forms on behalf of Greater Oregon, Oregon Capital and Portland Metro Chapters, thanks to Treasurer Dave Thompson, our bookkeeper and volunteer counsel.

Fine-Tuning Focus

To ensure transition efforts stay on track relative to this year’s guiding principles and focal points, along with a cost effective transition budget, we took a step back to reflect upon the big picture and asked ourselves a lot of questions.  Among them:

  • What is absolutely essential to accomplish this year?
  • What activities create the best member experience?
  • What are we really good at as a chapter, and, in turn, must remain committed to doing? For example, Meet the Media events, for example, differentiate us and the annual Communicators Conference has been going strong for 20 years.
  • And, finally, what is achievable this year? (After all, it’s already April!)

To get the conversation going, I posted sticky notes on the wall representing nearly 100 commitments (various tasks, programs, events etc.) already in the works within the chapter as a whole, including transition projects we aspired to tackle. Next, the four transition committee members present voted on what was essential for members, for operations and what’s really expensive. That way we could determine what requires too many resources to be feasible this year.

Quick to Reach Consensus

Each item was evaluated by the team using agreed upon criteria, including whether the project supports professional development and fills members’ needs. The committee quickly reached consensus on priority items including holding Meet the Media events throughout the state, development of the new chapter website and providing frequent communication to members through the newsletter and tour outreach.

As you can imagine, it was a lively (and long!) discussion and we ended up in a really strong place. I will be sharing the committee’s feedback with the board and other chapter leaders, so that it can be incorporated into broader planning and the budget process 2017 and 2018.
I’m so grateful for all the doers involved in PRSA Oregon and the transition committee! There are so many people who are “leaning in” this year – saying yes to new, unexpected responsibilities. Of course, these are also opportunities for their own growth, credibility and fulfillment.

With clear priorities and sound planning, we are well on our way to setting up PRSA Oregon with a strong foundation and legacy of operational best practices!

Yours in Service,
Julie

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

PR Working for You

For April e-news

Throughout the year, we will feature local campaigns to showcase the impact that PR has on business and the community.

This month, we highlight Quinn Thomas. The Northwest-based company won the 2016 Spotlight Award for Marketing Business to Business for its work in introducing a revolutionary product to the U.S. building community.

In 2015, Oregon-based D.R. Johnson Wood Innovations was preparing to announce the release of a new building material that had the potential to revolutionize America’s building and construction trades.

The product, Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT), is a wood building material that is stronger than steel and can be used to build skyscrapers. It has been used internationally for decades, yet was virtually unknown in the U.S. market.

The company was at the cusp of being the nation’s first certified manufacturer of CLT and was in search of a brand strategy to guide this effort. D.R. Johnson had no history of public relations or advertising outside of trade shows and trade publications. It enlisted Quinn Thomas to develop a marketing and communications strategy.

Quinn Thomas conducted market research and developed a communications strategy that established D.R. Johnson the lead expert and thought leader for this emerging technology—using earned media, public speaking opportunities, and policy advocacy to drive awareness of D.R. Johnson and generate leads for the company.

The resulting effort netted over $2.5 million in national and regional earned media coverage, elevated investment in CLT research as a policy objective in the Oregon Business Plan, and positioned D.R. Johnson as the convener or featured topic at events with state and regional business and policy leaders.

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

Author: Elisa Williams

Portland members participated in an energetic brainstorming session on March 14 to explore how PRSA Oregon should evolve now that it’s a statewide chapter.

The conversation, moderated by Outreach Committee Co-Chairs Julie Williams, APR, and Siobhan Taylor, focused on two big-picture questions: How are we better as a statewide organization?  What can be done to overcome geographic distance between members?

Collecting input on these and other questions is the goal of the PRSA Oregon Transition Steering Committee’s listening tour that will include discussions in Eugene and Salem in April. By opening up a statewide dialogue to share ideas and vet concerns, leadership will be better equipped to ensure the newly formed chapter is off to a strong start.

Three themes emerged from the Portland discussion:

  • More Access, Knowledge: A statewide chapter provides huge potential for members to be enriched by a more diverse professional network that also includes a presence on college campuses. As one participant put it, members throughout the state are likely dealing with different types of clients and issues that provide learning opportunities.   
  • Active Network: To fully reap the benefits of a statewide professional network, PRSA Oregon will need to create a mix of quality touch points for members to share ideas virtually as well as face-to-face. This discussion, in particular, generated a lot of energy. Participants said they want social events as well as problem-solving opportunities through online forums. There was widespread support for exploring how a pilot of PRSA Oregon leadership’s collaboration on Slack might be expanded to enable members to communicate.
  • Representative Leadership: Finally, there was consensus that members from all parts of Oregon and Southwest Washington, as well as all phases of career development, must continue to be represented in the chapter’s leadership. Ensuring diversity in decision-making has been a priority of the PRSA Oregon board, led by 2017 Chapter President Colby Reade. Reade also chaired the 2016 Nominating Committee which selected leaders to oversee the merger planning and execution.

While they won’t be attending future feedback sessions in person, Portland-area members who participated in the discussion were keen on hearing what others from around the state have to say. By learning from each other about new ways to work, we can “set new standards,” and “advance the profession,” one participant said.  To that end, PRSA Oregon can develop solutions that could be useful for chapters throughout the North Pacific District (spanning from southern California to Alaska) as well as throughout the country.

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