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: May

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

Our Ethical Obligations as PR Professionals

“Truth is the foundation of all effective communications.” That’s the opening sentence of PRSA’s excellent rebuke of the term “alternative facts.” As professional communicators, none of us would question that. In these challenging times, it’s worth reviewing a few other basic premises in the PRSA Code of Ethics that guides our profession.

  1. Preserve and protect the free flow of communication. In the code, there is specific reference to giving or receiving gifts and entertaining government officials as possible violations here. However, this section also emphasizes honesty and accuracy in all your communications, and the obligation to correct any erroneous information immediately. a. The “Expertise” part of the code recognizes the need for continued professional development, research and education. It is through your research and thorough knowledge of the organization and the issue at hand that you will be able to achieve accuracy in your communication. It is through your education and professional development that you will understand the best channels, strategies and methods for accurately conveying information.  b. Being honest is, of course, assumed. It is our job to speak truth to those who supervise us and employ us, and then to carry that honesty through in all our public communication. If people begin to suspect that you and your organization are deliberately misleading them, then credibility will be difficult, if not impossible, to rebuild. The old saying that it takes a lifetime to build a reputation and five minutes to destroy it remains as true as ever.
  2. Avoid real, potential, and perceived conflicts of interest. The points of this is “to build trust with the public by avoiding or ending situations that put one’s personal or professional interests in conflict with society’s interests.” I have a personal story to tell here. Some years ago, I worked on an EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) project for the Montana Air National Guard, which of course was under the auspices of the U.S. Air Force, and thus the Pentagon. At the same time, I had started fighting the Pentagon tooth and nail over its mandatory, experimental and dangerous anthrax vaccine. I formed a web site, formed a national group, and even twice walked the halls of Congress. It was obvious that I had better inform the supervising officer of the EIS project what I was doing in my personal life, so I did. She took my written information and forwarded it to the appropriate attorneys in the Pentagon.I waited. A couple of weeks went by, and finally the answer came back down: “Tell her it’s fine – just to keep the two projects entirely separate.” What would I have done if the answer was negative? I would have had to resign from the project or stopped my anthrax work. At that time, the anthrax work would probably have won out, because my own son had received some of those shots and I had gotten to know several veterans whose health was permanently compromised by the shots. But I’m glad it never came to that. The Montana Air National Guard and the Air Force did an incredible job on the project, and it was a privilege to be part of it.
  3. The independence and loyalty statements in the code can be difficult in practice. They are:
    INDEPENDENCE: We provide objective counsel to those we represent. We are accountable for our actions.
    LOYALTY: We are faithful to those we represent, while honoring our obligation to serve the public interest.The independence statement harkens back to speaking truth to power. We are obligated to provide objective, honest facts and truth to those who employ us. We are not “yes” people. I used to explain this to my clients within the scope of our first one or two meetings, and everybody would say yes, they understood. Well – they didn’t always. When a company hires an employee or an outside contractor, the assumption is that the person hired will do as told. We are in the position of being sure we do what’s right first. I overheard a hilarious conversation between a nurse and a doctor this weekend, who had just met at a gathering, and were laughing when the doctor said “Nurses are critical – they save your butt!” The nurse told the story of overriding a physician’s orders at one point, because those orders would have killed the patient. She wrote up her own orders, which could have gotten her fired, but the physician later thanked her for her foresight.We’re not quite in that position, thankfully. But any amount of time we spend training the management team about what’s ethical and legal, and explaining the possible ramifications of any given situation is time well spent.This of course feeds into the loyalty statement: we are faithful to those we represent, but at the same time we have an obligation to serve the public interest. If a chemical has leached into the ground from a company’s operations, it’s in the public interest to be informed of any danger that chemical poses to the public. Whether or not the company wants to release the information is not the point. This kind of situation plays out across the country nearly every day. However, if the public interest is endangered, it’s my belief that the public interest takes first priority and the public relations counsel must work to ensure the company understands and takes the appropriate action.

To echo an excellent speech by NBC news anchor Lester Holt, the best thing we can do in these challenging times is continue to do our jobs. Do your homework. Be honest. Be accurate. Build good mutual relationships. Build trust. Tell your story. Be fair. Be loyal. Advocate for our profession. And serve the public interest as well as those we represent.

Kathy Hubbell

Kathy Hubbell, APR, M.S., Fellow in PRSA, is the 2014 William W. Marsh Lifetime Achievement Award winner. She founded the Montana Chapter of PRSA, has served as the Pacific Northwest District Chair and has served on PRSA’s national board of directors. She is a co-author of the 2016 PRSA Career Guide with Aaron Sewell, and serves the Oregon Chapter by working on the mentorship program and providing guidance on ethical matters. Kathy has a 35-year career in public relations, and enjoys teaching PR whenever possible and working with private clients.