The PRSA International Conference was held this past week in San Diego, Calif. It’s a time that many PR professionals look forward to because of the pre-conference seminars, keynote speakers, networking and general sessions. By the way, the weather, food and entertainment only add to the excitement.
Of the nearly 25,000 PRSA members, a select group of us (about 325) have the opportunity to represent our local chapters as Assembly Delegates in the National Assembly – a day-long event akin to a session of congress. This marathon day typically entails review of PRSA bylaws, including amendments and resolutions to enhance the structure of our society.
But this year was different. We were tasked with reviewing and finalizing a complete rewrite of the society bylaws, which would constitute the most significant change in the PRSA since its inception in 1947.
Many thought it would be impossible to achieve such a feat. But after about 10 hours of laboring, conversing, amending, compromising and sometimes arguing, we made it happen.
At about 6 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 7, a majority vote of two-thirds was reached.
What changes were made to the bylaws?
The Assembly made vast changes, but a few major ones should be mentioned. I will touch on them without going into too much detail since they are still in legal review.
The first major change that was debated for quite some time was the APR accreditation among membership and the National Board of Directors. According to a 2009 Membership Satisfaction Survey, 63 percent of the respondents stated that the APR was one of the most important programs offered by PRSA. With that said, the Assembly moved to require that any candidate for National Board have an APR to be eligible.
This amendment makes a critical statement to the profession. It says that we, as PR pros, must work to achieve a higher standard of excellence by attaining an APR status. The APR sends a strong message that PR is a true profession, and that we hold a stake in all levels of communication and at the management table.
I’d like to add that it’s not all about using your APR accreditation as a sales tool or getting a job. It’s about grounding yourself in the theory and practice of public relations, as well as the confidence you gain.
The other main issue discussed at length was how we, as a society, can increase PRSA’s value among the profession. There are approximately 250,000 people practicing PR in the United States, and only about 10 percent, or 25,000 of them, are PRSA members. Additional terminology was added within the language of the criteria that would have allowed other related professions to become members. After much debate, we as an Assembly voted to keep the language focused on public relations professionals as the membership target.
We have worked, since the start of the PRSA, to make our society the pre-eminent organization for PR pros. And to make sure that PR is taken seriously among others, we agreed that targeting our efforts on the other 90 percent of practicing PR practitioners would be best, and only strengthen our society and profession.
So, many members and PR pros asked why bylaw changes were made and how it would benefit them. Dave Rickey, APR, chair of the Bylaws Rewrite Task Force said:
The primary objective of the bylaws rewrite is to enable a flexible, nimble governance structure to support the best possible PRSA for members, leaders and the profession.
I believe that the rewrite will allow all of us to have a greater voice in decision-making and the direction we take PR and the society. It’s about inclusion, and we are in an age of both traditional and non-traditional communication, which makes this change both critical and timely.
We all have a voice in our society and profession, and need to come together to enhance PR’s reputation and understanding among the masses. Only then will we be appreciated and valued like we should be.