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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.