Creating Sustainable Systems: Leadership Manuals and Your Board

How can you help onboard your board and provide the resources they need for the year? Central Ohio PRSA has created a comprehensive leadership manual and Chapter President Katie Thomas was the guide at the Oct. 28 ECD Board Meeting Best Practice presentation.

Jared introduced Katie Thomas, APR, Central Ohio PRSA chapter president and manager of population health marketing at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. She talked about the chapter’s comprehensive leadership manual

Katie said chapter leaders talked to the members and ask asked a wide-open question: “What were their gaps in knowledge?” The gaps turned out to be chasms and the answers were enough to fill a book – or in this case, the Central Ohio Chapter Leadership Manual.

Even experience leaders admitted to gaps. “If they had been on the board, what were they still fuzzy about?” said Katie. A lot, she said, because there simply wasn’t enough time in group orientations to cover all the material. She said they “needed to pack in a lot of nitty gritty details into the board retreat meeting,” and just didn’t have enough time.

Katie said when John Palmer was chapter president, board members received a leadership manual packed with multiple details. She asked John for it and used it as a basis for meeting leadership needs for the next year.

Katie gathered feedback from board members and found common questions. “They wanted to know about committee responsibilities, what programming had taken place in the last year, what is a board report – what goes in it? Survey Monkey. How do you set up a program? Who is in charge of that?” she said. “We wanted a place where you could go for all that information.”

The manual isn’t just a textbook.  To make it practical they packed it with forms, guides and samples.

“One question was: What does an agenda look like? We included an example of that as well. We included a copy of the strategic plan, results of our mid-year survey, our content calendar. We included forms so people could see what budget looks like. We broke it down on committee level, how do you get into Survey Monkey, what’s everything you need to know if you are planning program. As a board member, what are my responsibilities? We added additional content around that. We listed our communication channels and logins.

“The idea is you don’t have to recreate the wheel – there are templates available. We included a board agenda and John put committee report together for specific committees.  How many people attended an event? What were survey results? Even from a nitty gritty tactical level: ‘Oh – I’m supposed to be doing X, Y and Z!’

“It was also a way to make sure things don’t fall through cracks for next year.

“The content calendar was (intentionally) vague – to let the committee decide content.  One thing we get a lot of questions about: What have we done? So, we made sure we had historical data for last five years – what (events, programming) we’ve done, and how many people attended.”

Call it the Chapter (and Verse) Bible, the Encyclopedia PRitannica, or the DIY for PR wonks. The Leadership Manual is the one-stop shop, chock-full-of-stuff, go-to, ‘Google it’ reference guide. It’s built on hard-earned, blood-sweat-and-tears” experience so others can follow your paved path instead of having to bulldoze their own.

“I tell everyone,” said Katie, “Get your favorite beverage, sit back and relax and have a great time reading this! You can get all your information in one place.”

Kim Skeltis asked: When do you get the manual? Katie said the Leadership retreat is at the beginning of the year; as soon as it is over, the manual is in the Google drive. References to it are in multiple board communications.

About Katie:

Katie Thomas, APR, has more than 16 years’ experience across the spectrum of the marketing and communications field. Katie is the manager of population health marketing at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, where she focuses on community wellness and population health initiatives and leads content strategy and development for the On Our Sleeves movement to transform children’s mental health.

[email protected]

Katie’s long history with PRSA began in college where she was an active member of PRSSA. Since then, she has remained dedicated to PRSA by serving on the liaison and programs committees, national PRSA Young Professional Mentor Program, on the board of directors and now as president. For her commitment, in 2018, she received the Walt Seifert Award for Outstanding Service.

Her work has been recognized locally and nationally by the Ohio Society of Association Executives, PRSA Central Ohio, American Marketing Association – Columbus Chapter, Pensions and Investments Eddy Awards, Addy Awards and the National Intramural Recreational Sports Association.

Katie received her bachelor’s degree from Otterbein University and her master’s degree from The Ohio State University. She is also a certified Spinning instructor and mentors students at South High School and Ohio State.