It’s hard to believe that 2013 is almost behind us. It has truly been an honor and privilege to serve as president of one of the finest PRSA chapters in the country.
This has been a banner year for PRSA Richmond! Embracing the theme “One PRSA Richmond: Professionally Fit Together” we set the goal of identifying and creating opportunities for our members to get involved in and benefit from our chapter. We’ve delivered on that theme in many ways. Here’s a recap of some of our major accomplishments in 2013:
New location - Our new meeting venue this year, The Jefferson Lakeside Country Club, is not only a central and lovely location with ample free parking, but it is more affordable than other locations so we did not have to raise dues for 2013 or 2014! I call that a win-win.
New Membership Plan – This year, under the leadership of Andrew Ryan, APR, the membership committee crafted a strong membership plan to ensure our already growing chapter continues to be fit now and for the future. It included the well received ‘lunch buddy’ program for new members, a mailed welcome letter to new members signed by the board, and a newsletter article highlighting a chapter member each month. Our chapter is one of the largest in the country and continues to grow at 327 members with more joining each month.
Online Awards – Our chapter is often trend-setting and our awards program is no exception. For the first time, entries and judging took place online, drastically streamlining the process and allowing entries to be submitted right up until the deadline. Rachel Beanland, APR, and her committee did a stellar job leading and managing this process. It culminated in a memorable evening at The Jefferson Hotel where we applauded the best PR work in Virginia at the 66th annual Virginia PR Awards dinner. Once again, it was the best party of the year!
Student Connections Week – Student Connections Week, which started six years ago as Diversity Days, continues to flourish. This year, we placed 65 students interested in careers in public relations with PR professionals in the Richmond region. Thank you to Linda McElroy, Cameron McPherson and Bill Farrar, APR, for their hard work organizing this. I’d also like to note that students from Longwood University reached out to us to create a first-time PRSSA chapter! We were more than happy to assist.
First-time Nonprofit Section – You asked, and we listened! This year, the board voted to create a new special interest section for members who work for nonprofit organizations and desire a way to share best practices and challenges unique to their work. “The first event we held was well attended and full of robust discussion. This is truly a needed benefit for our nonprofit members and we are off to a great start,” said chair Judi Crenshaw, APR.
Public Service –This year, The Giving Heart and the organization’s annual Community Thanksgiving Feast was chosen from among 37 applicants to receive PR assistance from the Public Service Committee. In addition, the committee held the second annual PR workshop for those nonprofits that weren’t selected. Representatives from those organizations enjoyed a morning of learning PR best practices, social media strategy and media relations tips. “I have been raving to everyone I meet about the wonderful training we received,” said one participant. “If I can volunteer at some event please call me because I don't know how to thank you for this great opportunity you have given us.” Many thanks to Glenn Birch for his leadership this year!
Networking – There were a myriad of opportunities for members to network. We enjoyed two fun happy hour events – one at Conch Republic and one at The Blue Goat, planned by Julia Salatino. Independent practitioners had events led by Windy Campbell, and senior practitioners (those with 15 years of PR experience or more) had events led by Judy Turk, APR.
Social Media – Another focus this year was being more deliberate about the chapter’s social media presence and using it as a way to engage current and potential members. Jennifer Guild did a tremendous job posting multiple articles each week, taking photos at all events, and developing strategies to best engage our audience. Our Facebook page ‘likes’ have spiked to more than 500!
Programs – The heart and soul of our chapter is our educational, informative and entertaining monthly programs that give members the opportunity to grow professionally fitter as well as network with one another. Catherine Gryp, program chair, worked hard to ensure this year would be nothing less than excellent. She created a new process for recruiting speakers and communicating our expectations. She attended the international PRSA conference to get ideas for speakers. It was a great year, and members enjoyed a diverse array of topics from social media to crisis management to branding.
Mentoring - Our chapter mentoring program, in which we match experienced PR professionals with Next Wave members, continues to thrive. Many thanks to Tom Morris, APR, for creating and leading this program, and to Megan Semmelman for growing the Next Wave group!
APR – Five PRSA Richmond members successfully earned their APR credentials this year – echoing last year’s record of five. Thank you to our Accreditation Committee led by Anne Buckley, APR, for your dedication!
Sponsors – Our programs wouldn’t be possible without sponsors or the hard work of sponsor chair Elia Imler and lunch sponsor chair Wendy Jenkins!
Student Scholarships – Once again, the Richmond PR Foundation will be awarding two $1,000 scholarships to deserving area college students interested in pursuing careers in public relations. Thank you to our members and local corporations for your contributions to the Foundation and to Linda Evans for leading this program.
Exceptional Board Leadership – And finally, I’d like to give my heartfelt thank you to our wonderful PRSA Richmond board. This group of dedicated volunteers has given their time and talents to make this an exceptional year. I had one fit board!
We couldn’t have had such a great year without our amazing members! Thank you for your support and engagement. Best wishes for a wonderful Thanksgiving and warm holiday season. I hope to see you at our final luncheon of the year – the always well-attended Past President’s luncheon – on Wednesday, November 20.