Professional Development

2019 QuickStart Registration |Open Now through August 30

The East Central District of PRSA is offering its annual QuickStart Leadership Conference Friday, September 13 – Saturday, September 14 in Columbus, Ohio at the offices of Fahlgren Mortine. QuickStart is a one-day conference that gives ECD chapter leaders an opportunity to ask questions and learn from each other before assuming leadership positions in upcoming years. In an effort to help develop our student leaders, we will also be inviting ECD PRSSA chapter presidents to this event to show a clear line to leadership roles within PRSA. This year’s theme: Future Facing is a nod to developing future leaders of PRSA through both PRSA chapter leadership and PRSSA chapter leadership. 

If you are already familiar with QuickStart and want to skip straight to the registration details here they are – if you need a little more convincing then please read on – we have some good stuff below: 

Registration and Payment Deadline: August 30, 2019

Location: Fahlgren Mortine ▪ 4030 Easton Station, Suite 300 ▪ Columbus, OH

Hotel: Courtyard Columbus Easton ▪ 3900 Morse Crossing ▪ Columbus, OH

Conference Schedule/Social Sharing:

Conference Registration:

More Fabulous Details: 

QuickStart is FREE to ONE chapter leader (the first 10 registrants *one offer per chapter* will receive a $150 travel scholarship, which can help offset hotel or gas costs) – after that, the cost is just $50 per PRSA member, $40 per PRSSA member (hotel and travel separate). Registration link is here: 

The 2019 conference, will feature the topics of: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; How to Build, Train, Manage, and Maintain an Inclusive Board; Being Deliberate: Diversity & Inclusion in PRSA Chapters; The State of Advocacy Organizations; Diversity and Inclusion Efforts at PRSSA Level: Recruiting and Maintaining Millennial & Gen Z; and What if we created a PR, social media, influencer relations and executive thought leadership program for our PRSA Chapters?

In addition to being able to engage with leaders from our district’s 17 PRSA chapters, we have the honor of hosting prominent guests from PRSA national in the areas of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Educators Academy, Membership, and more! Our full schedule can be found at:  – don’t forget to share our FB event!!

Still not convinced?? 

We start with happy hour!! The fun begins with a cash bar happy hour networking event at Bar Louie on Friday, September 13, from 5:30 p.m.- 8 p.m – heavy apps co-hosted by our friends from the Central Ohio Chapter. On Saturday, the one-day conference kicks off at 7:30 a.m. with a continental breakfast. We’ll wrap up and have you on your way no later than 4 p.m. 

You can get those APR credits!! APRs can claim two (2) maintenance credits for participation in the conference. Always a bonus!

This is totally walkable! All events are held in the Easton Town Center in Columbus. Hotel reservations can be made through our room block at the Courtyard Columbus Easton either online here, or by calling the hotel directly at: 614-416-8000; or if you prefer, contact Marriott Reservations at 1-888-236-2427 directly. 

The nitty gritty: 

Please note: it is important to make your hotel reservations before September 6, 2019. After this date, the hotel cannot guarantee availability of rooms in our block. Courtyard Columbus Easton is conveniently located within walking distance of Bar Louie and Fahlgren Mortine office, where the QuickStart conference will be held. Please check the room policies for all matters hotel related.

Register and remit QuickStart payment by Friday, August 30, 2019. Late registrations will be considered on an individual basis based on venue capacity. This is a great opportunity to prepare you and your chapter for a successful 2020!  If you know who your chapter president is for 2020 or have other chapter leaders who may be interested, please forward this email to them.

Please message Adrienne Wallace, 2019 QuickStart chair at: with any questions, comments, or concerns. We look forward to seeing you there!


Why spend thousands of hours a year mentoring young people?

By Adrienne Wallace, Ph.D.

When I was just a little seedling in undergraduate studies, I recall writing a thank you note to a professional after she spoke to my fundamentals of public relations class. What was so shocking about that note was that I actually got a note back! However, to my horror, instead of being inspiring or challenging, it was openly hostile and threatening. In this note, she called me “overly emotional” and “saccharine,” essentially calling me a kiss ass! I was afraid I blew it by simply extending gratitude to her for taking time to visit my class.

What I didn’t understand exactly then, but now understand, was that I was looking for a mentor in this woman. I was trying to express gratitude for her time in an attempt to develop a relationship with her, but boy was I barking up the wrong tree. She was conveying to me that my gratitude was a “weakness,” and I frankly couldn’t disagree more. I knew in my heart and my bones that this “professional” was wrong on so many levels. This interaction made me first cry, but then it made me angry, and then I became determined to do better for others than this woman did for me.

So why do I do it? Why spend thousands of hours a year mentoring young people?

Gratitude drives me to mentor others.

Despite people sometimes believing the contrary, no one “makes it” in this life without the help of others. I feel that if I can demonstrate gratitude and inspire gratitude in others in the early stages of young pro careers, and that personal interactions, even the early or beginning ones (like the kind needed for networking) can be less intimidating and, dare I say it, even fun. By creating an environment where kindness chokes out the darkness, the playing field can be somewhat leveled to the point where we can all engage in meaningful, thoughtful and mutually beneficial ways. We shouldn’t be cutting each other down (and women know how to cut the deepest, don’t they?). The truth is we need each other, and if you cannot mentor positive interactions and coach sound professional development, then get out of the way. The rest of us have a world to inspire.

Maintaining relevancy drives me to mentor others.

Nothing keeps you as fresh in a profession than having meaningful dialogue with folks who are different from you. The longer I’m a professor the further away from the current college-going generation I get (for the most part). In order to be a better practitioner I need to know what’s coming down the pipe. In order to be a better connector in the classroom, I need to know what drives, moves or scares my students. In order to help fight injustice in the workplace, I need to understand how other people think. And so on. My thoughts are a result of my personal experiences, and they are not the only experiences. Exposing myself to the issues of others helps me becomes a more empathetic professor and professional.

Building and maintaining a network drives me to mentor others.

A mentor/mentee relationship should not be quid pro quo; however it does work both ways. I’m not so naive that I cannot wrap my mind around the possibility of working for professionals a generation or two younger than me. The people I mentor have connected me to their own networks, recommended me for positions, and informed me of new opportunities. While I have not as of yet capitalized on this information for myself, this network has helped me pass along opportunities to others. Since I work with young professionals so often, I typically get job postings and internship opportunities before they are posted public. This is very valuable to my mentees and advisees. Just today, I had a former intern send me a job description about a week before it becomes public, so she is using her network to connect to my network in order to pre-screen qualified graduating seniors for an entry-level job. That’s plain smart. I’m happy to help move this information through the system. You can’t beat the networked approach to hiring.

The future of my profession drives me to mentor others.

I didn’t have a strong female mentor early in my career. I fumbled and stumbled through the first five years of my career. The future of equality and quality depends on professionals mentoring the next generation of pros. If I (we – all of us really) don’t help the up-and-coming generation get their foundation solid now, who in the world will we be forced to collaborate with later? There are a lot of haters out there that like to complain about how this generation can’t do this or that, or complain that they do certain things and not others, but you know what…we’re part of this problem. Their perceived or actual failings and deficiencies are actually OUR failings and deficiencies. Gen Y/millennials are STARVING for our attention, they want to be helped and mentored toward success. They are eager to learn and have so much to teach us if only we would just pay attention to the signs. To maintain ethics, professionalism, sound tactical implementation, creativity, strategy and problem-solving in public relations means I have to demonstrate to the next generation of practitioners how to do it well and how to not screw it up. Then they are able to add their personal style to this tribal knowledge and be better than us/me/we. We can’t start them out at a deficiency just because it bothers us. We have to be better than that.

The secret to mentorship that often goes overlooked is that it’s not a one-way street. It’s not just the mentee that benefits; the mentor also benefits. Being entrusted as a mentor has grown my own career and added a richness to my own life that I honestly didn’t even know I was missing until I started mentoring young people. Very early in my career I stumbled upon this Hindu proverb and it struck a chord within me: “They who give have all things; they who withhold have nothing.” You could say I embraced it as my personal mantra. I do believe that I have all things.

If I can do it, you can too. Can you imagine the power of mentorship if we each mentor one that mentors one that mentors one? Help me build a mentor army, won’t you?

Author’s note: A version of this blog first appeared in a print edition of West Michigan Woman Magazine, it has been since been modified and edited.


Why PRSA Still Matters to Me

By Dr. Steve Iseman APR, Fellow PRSA

The “What’s in it for me” question drives the world – and that’s human nature.

But in terms of our professional organizations and affiliations I think as people age, both in their lives and in their careers, the question gradually shifts from “What’s in it for me?” to “What’s in it for others?” And that’s certainly been the case during my years of involvement with the Public Relations Society of America.

In the early days folks value most what they can learn from participating in PRSA that would benefit their careers. At first they are looking for programming that will help improve their skills. Later PRSA often becomes the source for the connections and the network they need to advance their careers. And later on the focus frequently shifts to seeking information about becoming better strategic thinkers, planners and managers. And all of these are great benefits of a professional organization like PRSA.

This was certainly the case with me, but as I became better at all of those things I realized, as many folks do, that public relations is more than just telling our stories, persuading our publics or building our brands. Public relations with its emphasis on open, honest, ethical communication really does provide the best hope for, 1) Cosmic Balance, 2) Universal Harmony and, 3) Preservation of Life in the Free World as we Know it Today.

I recognize that I’ve been lucky to work in a field that does so much good for so many. But with that recognition comes responsibility. And to me that responsibility has always been to find ways to stay involved with PRSA – advising students, counseling others, mentoring colleagues and working to strengthen public relations education. I’m happiest when I’m doing things to help others improve their skills, develop their networks, become better strategic thinkers and understand the critical role that public relations has in our world – in short to be able to live the same rewarding life focusing on the “What’s in it for others?” question that I’ve enjoyed so much for so many years.

Dr. Steve Iseman APR, Fellow PRSA, is Professor Emeritus at Ohio Northern University.


New president, new opportunities, new challenges

Mary Hemlepp, APR, Senior Communication Strategist
Kentucky Community and Technical College System

A new president brings a great deal of excitement to an organization, along with opportunities and challenges to its public relations professionals. When the Kentucky Community and Technical College System’s (KCTCS) new president took the reins nearly four years ago, one of the first steps our Marketing and Communications Department took was to develop a plan to introduce him to internal and external audiences. Then, we worked with him to determine the voice and tone of his writing.

A little history of KCTCS, which has 16 colleges across Kentucky. We have just turned 20-years-old, and for the first 16 years, we had only one president. When he retired and Dr. Jay Box took the position, we knew we had to rethink our communications to fit his style.

Dr. Box had been the system chancellor, president of one of our colleges and served in other leadership roles with KCTCS. This was a plus because we knew him and his speaking style. Another plus was he served on several state and national boards and committees, so he already was well-known in some circles. He also was a community college graduate and had been a faculty member, which gave us some messaging opportunities internally as well as externally.

One of the first things he did was to give a vision speech to internal audiences. He wrote it, so that provided us some insights into how he writes and speaks. Dr. Box is a Texan. His style is down-to-earth and approachable, so we used that as a starting point.

We wanted to create a voice that not only shows his open style, but also his depth of knowledge without sounding authoritative or condescending. We wanted to make sure his voice was relatable to students, business leaders and the public.

After some deliberation and several tweaks, we all agreed on these voice characteristics:

  • Approachable
  • Conversational
  • Empathetic
  • Knowledgeable
  • Authentic

In addition to his voice characteristics, we’ve been working on his visibility throughout Kentucky and the U.S. Some of our best opportunities for Dr. Box come from public radio and public television, which reach statewide audiences. Additionally, a statewide business publication and most media markets are amenable to interviews and op-eds. He has a blog, but so far, the number of followers is low. Twitter followers, however, continue to grow.

We send newsletters from the president to several thousand stakeholders who’ve opted in, and we are working on a new, more targeted version of that for key influencers. He has a website, which we are in process of upgrading and incorporating into our new content management system.

Nationally, our president is called on by higher ed publications for interviews or quotes about issues affecting community colleges or higher ed in general. These are the types of opportunities we want to expand, and we continue to try to build relationships with those outlets.

Internally, one of the first branding steps we took was a college tour. He visited our 16 colleges where he had town hall meetings with faculty, staff and students. He also met separately with local business leaders, elected officials and media. This was the first time many people had met him, so the town hall format and small group meetings showcased his personality well.

Other internally focused branding includes quarterly KCTCS News videos in which we pair Dr. Box with a former television anchor who hosts the program. Dr. Box does other videos throughout the year, including a yearly holiday message.

We still have plenty of work to do even though we’re four years into his presidency. At the top of our list is to continue building relationships with legislators and business leaders throughout Kentucky. Right behind that is more national exposure. His involvement in Rebuilding America’s Middle Class and the American Association of Community Colleges give us a leg up, but we continue to look for additional opportunities to brand our president. The next thing on our list is a podcast.

If you have tactics that worked for you, I’d love to hear about them. Email me at

Mary Hemlepp, APR, is a member of the Thoroughbred Chapter in Lexington, Ky.


Yesterday’s Sage Advice, Today’s Work Hacks

Nancy Wiser, APR, Fellow, PRSA, President, Wiser Strategies

Most careers move through several stages. My informal breakdown includes the exciting “Newbie Stage,” the more profitable “Advancing Pro Stage,” and finally, the astonishing “I’ve Been Around Forever Stage.”

I’m in the middle of the third phase. I must admit, it’s a little scary sometimes when I do the math and realize just how long I’ve been in the working world. Recently I was in the car traveling with a couple of team members and before I could stop myself, I calculated my tenure and blurted the number out. Then I quickly said, “Don’t tell anyone I’ve been working that long!”

It’s passed quickly, perhaps because of the variety of roles I’ve been fortunate to experience. My professional career began in therapeutic recreation. Four years later, I was given the opportunity to become director of community relations with Eastern State Hospital. While in high school and college I was a lifeguard and swimming instructor for six years.

So, after 40+ years of full- and part-time employment (please swear you won’t tell anyone!), I’ve gathered many tips about working. Or, using today’s vernacular, I know a lot of “work hacks.” Some of them came from the excellent bosses I’m fortunate to have had and other mentors who took the time to help me.

Here is a sampling of sage advice I value most:

  • “If you don’t have anything to do, pick up a broom and sweep the floor.” That was advice from my first boss, my dad, to my older brother. But, I include it here because it was said for me to hear as well. Dad established a screen printing business before screen printing was cool and we hung out there and helped him when he had large jobs. I learned a great deal from him and attribute my work ethic to his industriousness. Without his example, I may not have taken the risk of starting my own business.
  • “Don’t answer questions you aren’t asked and keep your answers brief.” This came from Butch, my boss when I was a recreation therapist at the state psychiatric hospital. Officials were conducting a periodic review and I thought I was being loyal when I offered information about how Butch made sure we always had adequate staff for our programs. Little did I know he’d been telling them how understaffed we were. Oops. Indirectly, his advice is always a part of media training programs we conduct.
  • “Remember that people who appear to be talking to themselves are actually having a very normal reaction to stimuli that’s very real to them. Their response is rational considering what they are experiencing.” This reminder was shared by a psychologist who talked with visiting groups about the mentally ill people we cared for. I’ve remembered that often when I thought someone was way off base.
  • “The role of the public relations professional is behind the scenes, not in the forefront,” said Lance, a consummate professional. At the time, I thought this was a little strange, especially because I was such an exuberant and outgoing person and bursting to be in the middle of things. But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized it is usually true. Even when we are the spokesperson or leading a program, we are representing our organization, not ourselves.
  • “I don’t know if you’ve ever thought of looking for a different job, but this would be a good time to start a search. “ A personnel director spoke these words to me in kindness. Public relations and marketing positions often are highly political and it’s easy to be a victim of people in high places coveting your job for themselves or their friends. This was the case in one of my positions and Leonard gave me the heads up. It wasn’t a shock to me because I’d already figured out the situation, but the advice coming from him motivated me to take job hunting seriously. Fortunately, I was able to find my next dream position before the ax dropped. The moral to this story is to cultivate relationships wherever you work so someone will tell you what you need to hear even if it’s hard.
  • “They haven’t hit rock bottom yet. When they do, they will be ready to listen more closely and implement the strategies we are outlining.” My firm represented an insurance company in a fight with the state attorney who had sued the company. The client’s public policy advisor was one of the most strategic thinkers I’ve ever worked with. It’s often hard for companies to take aggressive positions to defend themselves until there are no other alternatives. Eventually, they were ready to listen.
  • Speaking of strategic thinkers, Tom Preston, APR, Fellow, PRSA, once said, “Elected officials are not your friends. They can be your allies, but they are not your friends however they like to position themselves.” In other words, don’t rely on them to do what’s in your best interest or even to follow through on what they may have expressed as their position on an issue. They will always do what is in their best interest or that of their constituents.
  • “People just need an excuse to do what you want them to do.” This is my saying, and, indeed, my advice. If you want people to act in certain ways, give them the excuse they need. Why do thousands of people flock to Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington (or others around the country) to watch “horse racing as it was meant to be”? They do it because it’s an excuse each spring and fall to pull together the latest fashion, gather with friends, drink adult beverages and enjoy a beautiful day in the Bluegrass watching majestic Thoroughbreds run. The vast majority of attendees don’t follow racing and many don’t even bet. But, they don’t miss Keeneland because it’s a ritual and they want to be a part of this iconic seasonal event.

Work hard, even when there’s not much to do. Don’t over communicate. Plan for the worst but be prepared for people to resist. Realize that not all promises will be kept. Listen to friends’ warnings of rough seas ahead. Understand what motivates people and you can give them an excuse to do what you want them to do.

These are just a few of the lessons I’ve learned and tried to apply. What are some of your favorite work hacks?


Don’t Be Slow to Register for QuickStart!

By Jennifer Flowers-Kolf, APR, PRSA ECD Chair-elect; QuickStart Chair

Did you know 48 percent of Americans live within 600 miles of Columbus – making it less than a day’s drive away for almost half of the country? It’s certainly a convenient meeting spot for most of our 17 East Central District (ECD) chapter leaders and a great location for the PRSA ECD’s annual QuickStart conference on Sept. 14-15, 2018.

PRSA’s ECD is one of 10 PRSA districts in the U.S., and represents more than 2,700 members in 17 chapters in six states. The QuickStart conference is the only opportunity the district currently has during the year to bring chapter and district leaders together in one place.

Registration for ECD QuickStart is currently open to all ECD chapter leaders. The first 10 registrants will receive a $150 travel scholarship this year, which can offset hotel or gas costs (one per chapter). ECD chapter and district leaders can register here by Saturday, Sept. 8. Reservations at PRSA ECD’s hotel room block for QuickStart can be made by Wednesday, Sept. 5 via this link.

But, QuickStart isn’t all learning and business. We also have a little fun with a special kick-off welcome reception at Bar Louie on Friday, Sept. 14 – the night before the conference – at 5:30 p.m.

So, if you’re taking on a chapter leadership position in a PRSA chapter within one of these ECD district chapters, then we want to see your smiling face in Columbus Sept. 14-15:

  • Bluegrass Chapter
  • Central Michigan Chapter
  • Central Ohio Chapter
  • Cincinnati Chapter
  • Dayton Area Chapter
  • Detroit Chapter
  • Greater Cleveland Chapter
  • Hoosier Chapter
  • Northwest Ohio Chapter
  • Northwestern Pennsylvania Chapter
  • Pittsburgh Chapter
  • River City Chapter
  • Thoroughbred Chapter
  • West Michigan Chapter
  • West Virginia Chapter
  • White Pine Chapter

Contact me at if you have any questions and we will see you in Columbus soon!


Twenty-Two Years Later, My APR Continues to Pay Dividends

By Richard J. Batyko, APR, Fellow PRSA

© Keith Berr Productions, Inc.

Public relations professionals who do not have their APR and do not intend to get the credential are often as passionate arguing against the need for it as those who have attained accreditation argue for it. These are not new positions in our field. Way back in 1995, when I decided to get my accreditation, such arguments were raging around me. Twenty-two years later, I am as pleased with my decision to earn the credential as I was the day I passed the tests.

One can be successful in our field without an APR, or a master’s degree, or even a degree in the academic disciplines most associated with the practice of public relations. I suppose there can be equally strong arguments for and against getting those credentials. My decision was not based on who had the better argument. I consider myself a lifelong learner because I want to be the best I can be in my profession. Any opportunity to enhance my skillset interests me, whether I can definitively prove a pocketbook ROI for my time and money.

Making the case more powerful for me was that an APR is not simply another professional development workshop or a one-time training program. An APR is a commitment to our profession and is distinguished from many other one-time learning opportunities because once the credential is earned, it must be maintained. I also wanted a competitive differentiator to give potential employers a tipping point to pick me over another candidate.

As with many learning experiences, I found the journey toward obtaining my APR a worthwhile ride. My study group was supportive (I am still in touch with many of them) and our professional advisor was encouraging. The test was challenging, but with the proper preparation, I found no surprises and passed on my first attempt. Had I not passed, I knew that supportive network that helped me prepare would be available to me for another attempt; that was reassuring.

I am a passionate member of PRSA, so in addition to the professional advantages I’ve experienced through my APR, I have also found the credential helpful as I ascended into various leadership roles in chapters, district and in national posts.

I am proud of my APR and encourage anyone considering earning the credential to go for it. I have never met anyone who regrets having taken this step.

Richard J. Batyko, APR, Fellow PRSA has been practicing public relations for 30 years in Fortune 500, nonprofit and philanthropic organizations. He is a member of PRSA’s Board of Directors and an adjunct professor in Kent State University’s Master of Public Relations program. Image credit: © Keith Berr Productions, Inc. – all rights reserved.


The value of PRSA Leadership

By Nancy Wiser, APR, Fellow PRSA

There I was, a youngish professional from a small city, sitting as an equal with some of the nation’s PR elites. It was an eye-opening experience to serve on the PRSA Board of Directors, the PRSA Foundation and related committees. Together we made decisions regarding policies, professional development requirements, future leadership and other issues of the day.

How did I get there? Was I connected or an extremely talented person? While I like to think so, the truth is I was there because I raised my hand and volunteered to play a leadership role in our association repeatedly through the years.

Service takes time, but it’s a worthwhile investment. I sometimes wonder about professionals who say they don’t have the time or money to be involved with a professional organization. I paid my own dues and monthly luncheon fees for the first 10 years that I was a member even though I worked for non-profits and didn’t make a lot of money. My first leadership position was chapter secretary. Step by step I progressed through every officer position in the chapter, then each East Central District position. Year after year I gained experience and contacts.

That’s when I received a call that PRSA needed to fill the unexpired term of Don Durocher. Don was a highly respected and beloved ECD member from Detroit, so these were big shoes to fill. Someone on the Board had recognized my service and nominated me for the seat. Fortunately, Tom Preston, APR, Fellow, PRSA, for whom I was then working, was all for it. He agreed to give me the time and pay the expenses for me to serve.

So, what’s the payoff of spending your personal and professional time this way? The benefits I experienced fit into several categories:

Gaining visibility: Had I wanted to move to a bigger market, I could easily leverage my relationships with renowned leaders such as Patrick Jackson, John Beardsley and John Paluszek. You may or may not recognize those names, but they were leaders worth knowing and emulating. John L. Paluszek continues to serve the profession as Senior Counsel at Ketchum.

Learning from peers: We tackled tough issues on the board and it was illuminating to see how others approached problem-solving and communication. In addition, I could get their input on issues I was grappling with.

Camaraderie: I grew very close to a few of the board members I served with. We had fun spending time in different cities where the meetings were held. It’s been many years, but I still have fond memories of them and the good meals and laughs we shared.

Having a say: As communicators, we want to have input into our professional association, so it can be meaningful to consider the challenges and opportunities, offer solutions and then work together for the best possible decision. Leadership gave me experience in doing this and made me value my membership more than those who have no idea what goes into association management.

Recognition is not something I usually seek, but I must admit it feels good when it comes along. The East Central District recently noted my years of service with the 2015 Platinum Award. It wasn’t until I looked at the completed nomination form that I realized how many roles I’d played over the past 36 years. Ironically, the award is given in honor of Don Durocher, whose seat on the national board I’d filled.

Hands down, leadership in PRSA has helped me grow as a professional and gain confidence. I know that there are thousands of my peers I can call on and many of them are my friends. What a great return on my small investment!

Nancy Wiser, APR, Fellow, PRSA, is president of Wiser Strategies in Lexington, Ky. Nancy is a member of the Thoroughbred Chapter and the Counselor’s Academy.


Strategic Planning: A Unified Roadmap to Future Success

By Darcy Schwass, APR

Serving on chapter leadership is exciting. Knowing where your chapter is going, or should go, and how it’s going to get there is reassuring and exciting as well.

The Cincinnati PRSA chapter has a term process that ensures consistency in leadership members from year-to-year, while recruiting new members and providing opportunities for them to rise through the ranks. This means our chapter has leadership pros with a firm grasp of our unique challenges and opportunities, as well as fresh voices and perspectives.

It’s a process that has proven successful. But inherent leadership transitions, especially the election of a new president every year, merited a unified plan that would ensure consistent, measurable objectives and goals even under new leadership each year.

We needed a strategic plan.

If you’re looking for ideas on how to start a strategic plan process for your chapter, then check out these six steps below to find out how we developed our five-year strategic plan for the Cincinnati Chapter.

Recruit several voices.

We convened a strategic planning task force, consisting of leadership and nonleadership team members; longtime members and new members; agency and in-house professionals; seasoned members and new pros. An eclectic and diverse group ensured well-rounded views of long-term chapter goals.

Look inward and ahead.

At a Saturday morning meeting, Erin Rolfes, APR, our then vice president for programming, who is now serving as current president-elect, guided the task force through a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis and a discussion about desired goals for one year, three years and five years. Erin captured everything on the whiteboards at the front of the room.

Draft the plan.

As then-president-elect, I reviewed the many notes from our session and drafted our plan. I took a step back and determined what the overall goals were and their measurable objectives. From there, I drafted the associated strategies and tactics. The plan also included a situation analysis and an annual evaluation process.

Edit, edit, edit.

I shared the initial plan with a couple of key leadership team members who served on the task force and incorporated their input before sharing with the larger group. After incorporating their edits, we had a solid strategic plan draft.


Our board needed to vote on the plan to make it effective. It passed unanimously.

Move forward.

It’s imperative for each year’s leadership team to ensure the plan is kept top-of-mind through annual transitions. It’s also incumbent upon each president to use the plan as a roadmap for the year and ensure the appropriate leadership team members assume responsibility for their objectives.

At the beginning of 2018, I was excited that we had a plan in place. We’re already tackling our objectives – especially those that need to be met by year’s end – and we have a good start on those that need to be met in the years ahead.

If you have questions or would like more insights about the Cincinnati chapter’s strategic planning process, feel free to contact me any time at Happy planning!

Darcy Schwass, APR, is president of the Cincinnati Chapter, PRSA, and senior account executive for Vehr Communications.


QuickStart 2017

Are you taking on a leadership position in your PRSA chapter in 2018? If so, mark your calendars for the annual QuickStart Leadership Conference, being held on Saturday, Sept. 30, in Columbus, Ohio at the Fahlgren Mortine offices in Easton Town Center.

For more information, click here.

Elevating the Profession
Location: Fahlgren Mortine ▪ 4030 Easton Station, Suite 300 ▪ Columbus, OH
Hotel: Courtyard Columbus Easton ▪ 3900 Morse Crossing ▪ Columbus, OH

FRIDAY, September 29
• 1 to 5 p.m.—ECD board meeting @ Fahlgren Mortine offices (ECD Board members only)

• 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
o Happy Hour: PRSA ECD QuickStart, hosted by PRSA Central Ohio (Everyone!)
 Bar Louie at Easton
 NOTE:  Heavy appetizers provided; all attendees on own for beverages

SATURDAY, September 30
o 7:30 to 8 a.m. Good morning! Continental breakfast open

o Welcome and Introductions
o Andrea Clark, APR, chair elect, ECD

o PRSA East Central District Overview
o Gretchen Fri, APR, chair, ECD

o PRSA National update and overview
o Jill Alexander, Fellow PRSA, PRSA Regional Representative

o Strategic Planning and Chapter Operations – Erin Rolfes, APR, Cincinnati

o The Evolution of PR, Jane Dvorak, APR, Fellow PRSA, Immediate Past Chair, PRSA

o Recruiting & Retaining Members PANEL DISCUSSION (over lunch)
PRSA ECD Facilitator: Andrea Clark, APR, President Elect-ECD
 Emily Kibling, Hoosier
 Erin Maggied, Central Ohio
 Ed Stevens, NW PA

o “Great Programming = A Strong Chapter”
 Holly Prather, Bluegrass – via Skype

o Leveraging Social to Engage Members & Elevate the Profession
 Tim Long, Pittsburg
 Angela Bennett, Akron

o Diversity & Ethics – Tom O’Connell, Detroit

o “Show Me the Money” – Chapter Sponsorships & Fundraising Roundtable Discussion, moderated by Jennifer Flowers-Kolf, APR, PRSA East Central District Board Member (Detroit chapter member)


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