Sandra Ericson|Dec 30, 2013

The end of 2013 also marks the final days of my tenure as president of Public Relations Society of America’s Miami Chapter.

In addition to the valuable professional development opportunities that both the national PRSA organization and local Miami membership have afforded me, I have also gained several insights during my time in the leadership role that I extend to anyone considering getting involved in any civic or charitable organization.

Volunteering your time for any organization is certainly a commitment, but with the right perspective it’s an investment that will pay you back many times over.

By representing rbb within our local South Florida PR community as PRSA Miami president, I learned quite a few things this year.

1. Take the temperature on your organization’s reputation

When you get to know industry colleagues, you can better gauge how your company is regarded within your field and business community. Do you get the sense people know of and respect your firm and the people within in? Do you receive a lot of inquiries about job openings? If not, these might be signals that more can be done to improve your organization’s presence in the community.

Throughout my presidency, I was humbled by the positive feedback I received about rbb and appreciative of our leaders who paved the way over the years for us to be proud to work here.

2. Journalists want and need to hear from PR professionals

Despite what you hear on the other end of the line when you catch a reporter on a deadline or bad day, journalists are eager to hear from us. They understand the mutually beneficial PR relationship.

This year alone, we heard from Greg Allen at NPR, John Zarrella at CNN, Hirania Luzardo at HuffPost Voces, Rick Hirsch at The Miami Herald and Josė Diaz-Balart at Telemundo – all respected veteran journalists who happily volunteered their time to meet with PRSA members to discuss how to better work together. These face-to-face encounters create excellent opportunities to build lasting relationships on both sides.

3. Networking works

I had been a member of PRSA for many years, but my presidency really encouraged me to make the time to go to more meetings and use the networking time to introduce myself and get to know our members.

Networking can be tough for many and doesn’t always come naturally. My advice? Don’t force it. Find an organization or cause that you like and get involved; get to know people as people and the rest will come. Above all, don’t be nervous about to introducing yourself. Everyone is there for the same reason.

4. Be inspired by others

One of the best assets available to PRSA members is the vault of Silver Anvil-winning case studies on Last year, I also had the opportunity to judge the Silver Anvils for the first time and found it to be a tremendous learning experience. They say imitation is the best form of flattery. One idea can easily spark another or be tweaked and customized for your organization or clients. Plus, these award-winning campaigns are tested and PR professional approved.

5. Use professional development to learn but also pat yourself on the back

I’ve now attended three PRSA International Conferences and have come back with so many takeaways that it’s hard to even know where to start. (I hear a similar sentiment from my colleagues who attended SXSW Interactive as well.)

I’ve learned not to become overwhelmed using a simple technique: I try to take time to recognize where my organization is leading the charge (which, if you’ll allow me to take my own advice and pat ourselves on the back, is a lot, I think). This allows you to better digest where you can learn and improve and focus your energies, while validating what you already do well.

6. Leave your comfort zone

As PRSA Miami president, I had the opportunity to attend several events I wouldn’t necessarily have chosen to with a more limited schedule. Some of these, like our annual Hispanic Market event at Telemundo, were even more interesting because they were outside of my normal area of expertise. It’s great to hone a specialty, but make an effort to know a little about everything.

7. Enjoy uncovering the talents of your colleagues

Sometimes we can all get a little “inside baseball” within our own organizations. Whether because of the fast pace of PR agencies, the red tape sometimes encountered in a larger corporations, or the jargon often found in financial and science-based institutions, we can all start to become cogs in the machine. Working with others who come from different work styles and industries is a great way to “tear down the wall” and improve your ability to work with others – a skill that can certainly be taken back to your organizations for the benefit of all.

I knew serving as PRSA Miami president would be time-intensive, but I was happy to serve my local professional community. What pleasantly surprised me was how much it served me too.


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