PR is more than producing newsletters, press releases, presentations and talking to the media. It’s about looking at the big picture and strategically planning how to impact that big picture in a positive way for those we represent.
To do this, we must get in the habit of asking key questions:
• What are the problems we’re trying to solve?
• What are we trying to accomplish? What is the ultimate vision?
• What does success look like? How can we measure that success?
• How far are we today from our vision of the future?
Once we know what success looks like, we aim for it with a well-developed plan.
We, as PR practitioners, already know all of this. But do our companies, or executives and our coworkers? Does the world around us? Or do they see us as speechwriters and party planners.
Affiliating with one or more professional public relations organizations has many benefits, including adding credibility to our profession – building up those who follow ethical practices and take the time to develop their skills.
Here are some other benefits:
Networking – Through building relationships with our peers, we learn best practices, learn from a vast amount of collective experiences, share our knowledge with others and have people willing to assist us.
Research – Our profession’s credibility is built on research. Without it, we’re all guessing or “going with our guts” – not a good way to build a professional reputation. So I’ll say it again, research, research, research! The Southern Public Relations Federation (SPRF) and the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) both do research, help you get your hands on the research that aligns with your project and offer those networking connections to companies that can help you develop research programs.
Recognition – Another way to take advantage of the professional organizations is to enter awards programs. IABC offers the Gold Quill Awards. The Public Relations Association of Louisiana (PRAL) offers the Cypress Awards as a precursor to SPRF’s Lantern Awards. But don’t think it’s just about winning a shiny trophy and thanking the “academy.” It’s another invaluable learning opportunity. As you prepare your public relations plan to undergo any project or to enter any of these competitions, you take the time to think strategically about your goals and objectives. That’s the first step in making good decisions and bringing credibility to what you do daily in PR.
Education – This is one of my favorite things about SPRF and IABC. These organizations give you access to case studies, award-winning plans, Webinars, conferences, workshops and, of course, monthly meetings with educational speakers. The IABC World Conference was my first real step into the public relations world and it was amazing. SPRF has an incredible yearly conference (This year in Alabama Oct. 2-4) that rivals the quality of larger PR gatherings – with nationally recognized expert speakers and connection opportunities – all within driving distance and at an easy to afford cost.
Accreditation – I struggled as to whether this should go under recognition or education. It’s so important, I decided it needed its own category. As a current candidate for accreditation, I’m learning just how educational this process is. As I study for the tests, I learn more and more ways to be effective in this profession. As I prepare my portfolio, I take the time to review the work I’ve done and see where I can improve in the future. Honestly, I wouldn’t trade my time in this process for anything.
There are two main types of accreditation.
- APR – Accredited in Public Relations – This is offered by the UAB or Universal Accreditation Board. The UAB is made up of representatives from different PR organizations including SPRF and the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). So if you become an APR through SPRF or PRSA, you receive the same accreditation. The process includes a readiness review and test. Get more information, as well as practice tests at www.praccreditation.org.
- ABC – Accredited Business Communicator designation is offered by IABC. It requires acceptance into the program, an extensive portfolio including two well documented, strategically planned public relations processes and a 4.5 hour test during which you’re pulled out to handle a crisis. Be prepared to prove you understand strategic communication planning, implementation, measurement and ethics. Find more information on this process at www.IABC.com.
Leadership Opportunities – While many organizations offer opportunities to develop leadership skills and experience, SPRF does an incredible job building up its members at the local, state and district levels. If you’re a member of an SPRF organization, jump in. Join your local club’s board, help with the yearly SPRF conference. Find where you fit in and you’ll quickly see how much your assistance is valued. This organization doesn’t just hold meetings, and present educational opportunities, it builds leaders. I encourage you to get involved today.