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.