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 [email protected].