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.

 

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.

Words from PRSA Member – Kate Virden

Author: Kate Virden

I recently moved back to Oregon after pursuing a Master’s in Public Relations and Corporate Communications at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. It was an incredible program and experience, but I was more than ready to be reunited with the Pacific Northwest and friendly people again. The friendliest people I have ever met are part of PRSA Oregon.

In graduate school, PRSA membership was a revered aspect that led to job opportunities and professional growth. I knew I wanted to be a member of the national and local chapter as soon as I had the chance.

My chance came when I started working at University of Western States, an integrated health care university in NE Portland as the Content Strategist. The university paid for both memberships just one day before my 24th birthday, which was a better present than I had dreamed of and a great way to kick off my new job.

Since becoming a member, I have had the opportunity to hone my social media skills by running the PRSA accounts at the Spotlight Awards last year. I was asked to be the Volunteer Coordinator for this year to help recruit new volunteers and get them just as excited about PRSA-Oregon as I am. This group of individuals are some of the nicest and hard-working individuals I have ever met with a strong dedication to service.

As a new professional in Portland, this is a group you do not want to miss out on. Hope to meet you soon!

Kate Virden

Transition Steering Committee Report: January – February

Author: Julie Williams, APR, MA

PRSA Oregon Merger in Full Swing

If you’ve ever worked at a startup or started a family, you know that the first year is mostly about learning and making decisions to build a foundation for the future.

As of Jan. 1, 2017, the three local PRSA chapters in Oregon and Southwest Washington merged to form the PRSA Oregon Chapter, known nationally as the “Greater Oregon Chapter,” for the time being. Now we are busy creating a new and truly unified 501c6 nonprofit organization that serves the needs of all its members.

Steering Decisions and Direction

To get work under way, a 12-member Transition Steering Committee was appointed to develop an action plan. Led by 2018 PRSA Oregon President-Elect Julie Williams (me!), the committee includes board members with oversight of transition-related activities along with representatives who have institutional knowledge. Most important, this group also reflects the diversity of the combined chapters’ membership, both in terms of geography and the stages of their careers. A number of volunteers have also stepped up to help. (If you want to get involved, drop a line to volunteer@prsaoregon.org.)

Transition Team

The Transition Steering Committee includes:

  • Treasurer Dave Thompson, APR, who oversees chapter finances and accounting;
  • Secretary Tracey Lam, APR,  who handles operations, including policies and procedures;
  • Communications Director Beverly Brooks, who is in charge of rebranding and communications channels;
  • Web Strategist David Pan, who is guiding the new website; and,
  • Membership Director Siobhan Taylor, who leads member outreach including the upcoming Becoming PRSA Oregon listening tour.

Joining them on the team are the three chapters’ Immediate-Past Presidents, Jill Peters, Loralyn Spiro and Mark Mohammadpour, APR; John Mitchell, APR, Fellow, as a representative from last year’s Statewide Governance Committee (and 2017 Assembly Delegate); University of Oregon PRSSA President Maritza Rendon; and Student Affairs Director Megan Donaldson (2016 New Professional Award of Excellence recipient) to represent the transition from college to the profession.

transition-plan

The 2017 Transition Steering Committee meets monthly to discuss topics and provide guidance on transition-related activities as outlined in the Transition action plan.

First Quarter Momentum

In January and February, the team began rebranding our social channels, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, as well as this newsletter. It outlined an interim Policies & Procedures manual, designed a listening tour to hear from current members (kicking off March 14 in Portland), started building the new website (hopefully fully launched by the Communicators Conference in May) and initiated 2016 tax preparation (for three organizations – yikes!). And that’s just a few of the many projects in progress that are important to the 2017 board’s overarching goals of streamlining operations, supporting recent college graduates and retaining our members.

Ensuring a smooth transition is also a priority for the board, but we’re realistic that some unexpected stuff will likely come up. We appreciate everyone’s patience as we get organized and hope to hear from you in person at a listening tour event.

Stay in the Loop

We promise to keep you up to date on progress through the newsletter and blog. And, we encourage you to keep us in the loop! Please email us at listening@prsaoregon.org with questions or any kinks you discover. We may take a few days to respond while we determine who can help, but we so appreciate the extra eyes and ears!

Yours,
Julie

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

PR Working for You

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

This month we highlight C+C’s Better Buildings Challenge campaign, which won the 2016 Spotlight Award for video program.

Energy Efficiency Meets Reality Television with Better Buildings Challenge SWAP

It’s been called must-watch TV for the energy efficiency world—the Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge SWAP which takes energy management teams from two organizations and makes a swap, looking for ways to improve each other’s energy usage and practices. And, it’s all documented for a reality-TV style YouTube series that’s garnered thousands of views.

DOE worked together with C+C, a Portland/Seattle social marketing and PR firm dedicated to environmental and social cause work, to create the campaign and won a 2015 PRSA Spotlight Award.

Objective: The team wanted to provide a unique, first‐hand look into the increasingly important roles that energy management teams play for both energy efficiency peers and the mainstream business audience—even though energy management isn’t necessarily the most exciting topic.

Strategy: The key was to reach people where they are most engaged—according to Brightcove, social video generates 1200% more shares than text and images combined. All video content was leveraged through multiple platforms: a dedicated campaign landing page, participant websites and social media. C+C also executed a nationwide media outreach effort, generating coverage from national media outlets.

Budget: The campaign budget was approximately $300,000 for the planning, travel, production and promotion of the video series. The team remained within budget through completion of the project.

Outcome: SWAP exceed all campaign goals. The series has more than 45 million total media impressions, and drove a 2,700 percent increase in YouTube followers. The series has also gained national media coverage from top-tier outlets like Bloomberg, Politico, The Guardian and more. In an article about SWAP season two, Fast Company called the series “great television” and “easily the DOE’s most effective vehicle in years.”

Tune into SWAP here: https://betterbuildingssolutioncenter.energy.gov/swap

Our Ethical Obligations as PR Professionals

Author: Kathy Hubbell, APR, M.S., Fellow in PRSA

“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.

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