Transition Steering Committee Report: April

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.

 

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

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.