This month’s Chapter Spotlight shines on PRSA Akron and comes just as the chapter is preparing for its biggest event of the year, the March 13 YouToo Social Media Conference. We owe our thanks to Chapter President Jennifer Kramer for providing us all the insights into her home chapter.

If you attended the ECD 2019 QuickStart Conference, you got to see Jennifer take the stage to talk about YooToo in a presentation called, “Constructing and Maintaining an Award-Winning Partnership with Future Members.” Partnering on the presentation were Kent State PRSSA members Sophia Iannelli and Venessa Gresley.
The talk was about youth, and what that enthusiasm brings to YooToo. But it was also obvious how much pride and joy Jennifer and her chapter leaders take in the conference they founded and have watched grow. It truly is “their baby.”
If you caught Jennifer at the ECD happy hour before QuickStart, you also know that the Akron chapter has faced many of the same challenges we see in chapters across our district. Jennifer and others have shown tremendous loyalty, serving repeat terms in leadership to keep the chapter vibrant. You’ll see how she arrived at her “Secret to a Happy Chapter.”

Give us a brief history of your chapter:
The Akron Area Chapter of the Public Relations Society in 2019 celebrated its 50th anniversary.
The chapter officially began in 1969 when founding president, W. Thomas (Tom) Duke, APR, Fellow PRSA, and 30 other PR professionals from Akron, Canton, Youngstown, Kent and Wooster joined to form the fledgling group.
Over the years, the Akron Chapter has experienced many periods of growth. The chapter has 94 active members—more than twice the number of its 1969 founding year. The chapter was supported during its founding by Akron-based tire companies, a luxury it no longer has with the absorption of BFGoodrich by Michelin and Firestone by Bridgestone. The strength of today’s chapter comes from the health care industry, agencies, higher education and a host of other companies, non-profit and government organizations.
The Akron Area Chapter works with students majoring in public relations or communication at The University of Akron, Kent State University, Malone University, Walsh University, the University of Mount Union and Youngstown State University. It is the parent chapter of three student organizations—the Public Relations Student Society of America at The University of Akron, Kent State University and the University of Mount Union.

Who are your 2020 officers?
Past President: Jennifer Kramer, APR
President: Jennifer Kramer, APR
President-Elect: Joni Poorbaugh
Secretary: Christine Meeker Lange, APR
Treasurer: Ron Kirksey

Describe your membership:
Of the 94 Akron Area members, 41 have 12+ years’ experience, while 53 have 10 or less years’ experience in communication. Members represent professional communicators from corporations and business (27%), nonprofits (27%), academe (19%), agencies (13%), government (8%), independent practice (5%) and professional services (1%).

What is your biggest project of the year?
YouToo Social Media Conference on March 13.
It touches programming, communication, sponsorship, membership, student chapters, the executive board and is the responsibility of all board members, regardless of role, to make it a success!

What is your chapter’s proudest achievement? Why?
I think making it 50 years as a chapter is pretty impressive!

Did you set a specific goal you hope to achieve in 2020?  How is it progressing?

GOAL: Make the Akron Area Chapter a chapter for all members, not just primarily downtown Akron members, and seek diversity in all its phases through membership, recruitment and service.
Objective 1: Improve engagement among members living outside the Akron metro area by the end of 2020.
We established a Canton Area Committee with co-chairs serving as board members. They plan and host meetings and communicate with professionals in their service areas on behalf of the Akron Area Chapter. They have held two successful programs this year, re-attracting a group of professionals to the chapter who had previously disengaged.

Any “little known/fun facts” about your chapter to share?
Akron Area PRSA launched its website in 1998 under the leadership of then Immediate Past President Richard Batyko, APR, Fellow PRSA, and in 2009, then chapter Webmaster Michael Schwabe and then Vice President Gretchen Fri, APR, launched the chapter’s first chapter networking site on MySpace.

What’s your secret to a “happy chapter?”
“The secret to a happy chapter is to thank your volunteers genuinely and often.” – Jennifer Kramer, APR

Contact email in case other ECD chapters have a question for you: [email protected]