WIIFM v. Paying It Forward

No One Succeeds Alone

Show of hands: If we were to rename our profession today, would you still call it “public relations” or would you call it “relationship management”?

You can put your hands down.

We are in the business of managing relationships through a variety of tools and mediums that have evolved from those we could touch, see or hear, to those that are digital and, eventually, virtual. It’s a tricky profession charged with understanding the behavior of individuals as well as groups and preparing employers and clients to act in the best interests of stakeholders as well as themselves.

Regardless of the tools, we continually advocate for the destruction of siloed thinking and actions and more interactive, two-way processes, right?

That’s why I’m a PRSA member and have been for more than 20 years.

Early Career Enrichment

Defining My Roles, Responsibilities

Early in my career, PRSA membership was an opportunity to meet colleagues in my field, where I formed lifetime friendships with trusted allies, commiserated confidentially and advanced my professional skills.

One colleague invited me to speak to his college class. What surprised me is we were at organizations that might be considered in opposition, but he thought I could add to his students’ education. I’ve always loved speaking with students, so I rarely pass up those opportunities. I’m still in contact with a pro I met at the PRSSA speech I gave on the Bloomington campus. She now has a corporate leadership position with a major company in Indianapolis.

At PRSA, I tested my leadership skills by organizing a state conference the chapter valued, and the caliber of speakers at the national conferences have always been worth the cost of attending.

Watching, learning and interacting with my colleagues helped me define my role and responsibilities. I grew by collaborating with them on projects. I found firms I trusted to hire when I needed additional help. I knew about their work because of recognition they won at Pinnacle ceremonies.

Mid-Career Advantages and Generous Acts

Sustain Yourself Through the Peaks and Valleys

I’ve been laid off or downsized twice in my career despite excellent job performance. At PRSA, I found sympathy and job leads. The National office even temporarily waived my membership dues during one particularly disastrous national economic dive. I hope you never face a time like 2009 – 2010. PRSA earned my loyalty for life after that generous act.

I even won a Pinnacle award once! That boosted my self-confidence. My pride was never higher than having impartial evaluators review that work product, see the achievements and rate it as quality.

Returning the Favors

Helping Others Succeed

I leaped into self-employment last year, which is a path I’ve dreamed of for more than 20 years. I’m learning how to run a profitable business helping others succeed with their communications goals.

I finally have time to take advantage of more PRSA benefits. The free webinars. The online community forums. The meetups with other Independent Practitioners. I joined a section for the first time in 20+ years of membership.

I try to share what I’ve learned over the years. A donor told me once, “No one succeeds alone.”

At least privately, if I trust you, I’ll even share the mistakes I’ve made.

I was not as generous with my time early in my career. I regret that. I feel a debt to the profession that served me so well over the years. This is my chance to help others. Too many “experienced” professionals think only WIIFM and not enough about, “How can I return the generosity shown me early in my career?”

Organizations, like individuals, grow and change. Don’t dismiss what we all still have to learn about working together to continue to bring value to each other and our profession. There are still too many PR people who reflect poorly on the profession. Wear your membership as a badge of honor. Of professionalism.

I know you are busy. What will you gain? Friendships. Integrity. Pride in your profession. The intangibles that will sustain you for a lifetime.

By Theresa M. Browning, CFRE, President, Browning Business Strategies LLC

PRSA is offering promotional deals for new or returning members. Join by the end of February 2020 and enjoy a FREE Chapter PLUS waived initiation or reinstatement fee (up to a $165 value) or join in March 2020 and enjoy a FREE Section PLUS waived initiation or reinstatement fee (up to a $130 value). Ask about quarterly payments if annual dues are a burden. Join now at:  https://www.prsa.org/membership/join-or-renew.