Posted At: October 31, 2011 12:35 PM
by Alex Reichenbach
The establishment of PRSSA is attributed to three individuals, two of whom have earned postgraduate certificates in public relations (APR) — Chris Teahan, Jon Riffel and J. Carroll Bateman — along with Betsy Plank, considered PRSSA’s godmother. They created the organization in November 1967 at the PRSA Assembly in Philadelphia, after an 18-year battle of convincing students and professionals the importance of this “student-driven society.”
PRSSA has grown dramatically in the years since its establishment. Not only has membership reached the tens of thousands, but the organization itself has evolved into a professional network with countless opportunities.
Personal success stories
Members who take advantage of the leadership positions, professional events and endless networking possibilities can effectively use PRSSA as a key into the competitive field of public relations. Former PRSSA National President Nick Lucido serves as a perfect example of an individual who utilized PRSSA toward his professional goals.
“I owe my career to the mentors, colleagues and fellow PRSSA members who have helped me find my passion and cultivate that into an incredibly dynamic and rewarding career,” Lucido said.
Lucido is currently an account executive of Edelman Digital in Chicago, the leading independent Global PR firm. Prior to holding this position, he was very active in the National Committee of PRSSA and the Michigan Chapter. Lucido chose to become involved in PRSSA the day he started his college career at Michigan State University, which marked the beginning of his life in public relations.
“My freshman year I earned a position on our Regional Conference Planning Committee and then became the sophomore chair the following year,” Lucido said when asked about his involvement. “Finally my junior year I became chapter president and was able to lead an incredible executive board to help build one of the strongest chapters in the country.”
Lucido took advantage of the leadership opportunities that his PRSSA chapter offered and ultimately made a name for himself nationally across chapters. This accomplishment caught the attention of Edelman Digital. He was made intern in May 2009 and has continued his career there ever since.
“One of the most important skills new professionals can have in the workplace is a strong sense of collaboration and acumen for working with others,” Lucido said. “Working with a committee within National PRSSA that was located from Boston to Hawaii and everywhere in between, I took advantage of that opportunity and developed my collaboration and leadership skills.”
These professional skills had a direct and extremely positive impact on Lucido’s career. Without taking the initiative to actively contribute to his college’s chapter, he may not have the flourishing career he has today.
The Leadership Rally provides PRSSA chapter leaders with training and advice for chapter success through workshops, a keynote speaker and a meeting with the PRSSA National Board. The goal of the weekend is to educate the committed chapter presidents on success strategies that not only strengthen specific chapters, but also prepare individuals for an aspiring career following graduation.
The National Conference differs from the Leadership Rally because it invites all young professionals, not solely chapter presidents, to network and learn more about the public relations industry.
Chicago Cubs Public Relations and Marketing Specialist Kevin Saghy first attended the National Conference his sophomore year of college.
“As soon as I left home and went to Ohio Northern for college, I knew I wanted to study public relations,” said Saghy. “My sophomore year I attended the National Conference and decided to run for treasurer of the Ohio Northern Chapter.”
Saghy’s commitment to PRSSA didn’t stop there. The workshops and speeches made by acclaimed professionals at the conference inspired Saghy to run for PRSSA national vice president of chapter development and ultimately, national president in 2006.
“As president, I was responsible for speaking on behalf of a 10,000-member organization,” Saghy said. “The conferences helped me meet so many professionals and allowed me to show that I was thinking strategically and working hard. The connections I met at these conferences have built my network professionally to this day.”
PRSSA forced Saghy to concentrate on his career early, and since then, his professional career has continued to grow. Following college, Saghy started at Ketchum as part of a corporate team, and then moved to the Chicago Cubs where he is currently responsible for communications for off-field initiatives. This includes marketing, ticketing, press releases, planning events at the ballpark and all aspects of the Cubs’ social media.
“The organization taught me how competitive our field is,” Saghy said. “It really set me apart and I wouldn’t be where I am today without it.”
PRSSA goes global
The manager of brand experience at Digitas Global, Jessica Randazza, was the 2006-2007 PRSSA national vice president. Randazza, along with the other members of the National Committee that year, made very drastic changes to the scope of PRSSA.
In 2007, the Public Relations Student International Coalition (PRSIC) came into effect. That year, the National Committee understood the importance of expanding awareness of public relations worldwide and took the initiative to pursue international communication.
Lisa Travnik, 2006-2007 PRSSA national VP of advocacy, played a large role in the international development.
“As the first national VP of advocacy in the history of PRSSA, I was able to contribute to the initial outreach to other countries and to the diversification of PRSSA as a whole,” Travnik said.
PRSIC continues to educate students in the organization of important elements in global public relations. The students who take advantage of the international connections the coalition offers can gain understanding about public relations on a global level.
“PRSSA gave me the determination to strive for goals that seemed unreachable,” Randazza said. “It gave me the friends and connections that I will have for the rest of my life and the confidence to be the best PR professional I can be.”
PRSSA is not simply a student-run organization. It is the beginning of a public relations career.