Skip links


Top Five Reasons to Know About The Plank Center

Posted: March 13, 2014, 9:25 p.m.
by Myreete Wolford.

I have a present for you, a treasure you may have yet to discover. The public relations nerd in you should be squealing with excitement because I am about to fill you in on a resource you will never want to forget: The Plank Center.

The Plank Center is a resource for leadership in public relations. Globally known and locally based, the center is headquartered at The University of Alabama but reaches far beyond. To explain its reach, I asked The Plank Center’s esteemed board of advisors to share reasons why you should know about The Plank Center — five reasons at that.


1. The First Lady, herself

Not long ago, Betsy Plank was taking on the public relations world. Her legacy as the godmother of PRSSA, the “First Lady” of public relations and the namesake of The Plank Center is still creating the path for many young professionals’ passion.

Plank passed away in 2010, but her work remains forever relevant. Diana Martinelli, board member and associate dean of P.I. Reed School of Journalism at West Virginia University, sat on several committees with Plank and remembers her accomplishments well.

“She began Champions for PRSSA, was a trailblazer for women in the PR profession, served as an Edelman executive, owned her own successful agency and led PRSA as its first woman president in the early 1970s,” Martinelli said. “She didn’t just talk the talk; she lived it, continuing to think of creative ways to support students, PRSSA and PR education.”

Plank’s résumé contains so much more, but the takeaway is not just what she did; it’s the person she was. If you are looking for an individual to aspire to be in the public relations world — it is Betsy Plank.

2. An awe-worthy board of advisors

The Plank Center’s board of advisors began with Betsy Plank’s handpicking it herself. Currently, the board includes CEOs, CCOs, presidents, and agency partner and communications directors of internationally known businesses and universities, including Brunswick Group, Chicago Cubs, Chick-fil-A, Scripps Networks, DePaul University, Edelman, Heyman Associates, IBM Global and Syracuse University.

“Its board includes great leaders and excellent speakers,” Bruce Berger, Plank Center research director, said about his fellow advisors.

The Plank Center’s board oversees all operations and helps to produce some of the industry’s most important research. The work they complete affects the future of public relations and leadership.

Rick White, chief communications officer for Wisconsin Energy Corporation, agreed with Berger and explained the importance of the board members’ participation.

“The board is amazing,” White said. “We really care, and we have terrific reach within the profession. This is especially important for students and educators.”

Talk about the networking opportunities, there!

3. Public relations nerd alert!

NERD ALERT! If you just read the last point from Rick White (“… This is especially important for students and educators.”), then your PR nerd alert should be sounding! By knowing about The Plank Center, you know about leadership in public relations. White continued by explaining how and why The Plank Center matters to you and vice versa.

“It’s neat to see how bright the ‘young people’ we get to deal with are,” White said. “It’s also pretty cool to get older professionals engaged with our mission, with educators and, of course, with students.”

The Plank Center has what you need to succeed in this profession. Vice President of Public Relations for Chick-fil-A Carrie Kurlander agreed that The Plank Center is doused with mentors, information and engagement.

“[The Plank Center is] a resource to students, academics and practitioners,” Kurlander said. “It is a place for constructive dialogue that advances the profession, and it is a beacon for understanding who and what represents ‘success’ in the field of public relations.”

Now your PR nerd alert is screaming, “Where have you been all my life?!”

4. Resources on resources on resources

Beyond what The Plank Center is, you should know what it can do for you. One word: resources.

“[The Plank Center has] numerous videos and resources accumulated from industry leaders that are priceless for the generations of students who come after,” adds Gary McCormick, director of partnership development for Scripps Networks. “This is a resource for students just starting and building on their careers.”

Need a list? The center currently houses some of the most impressive PR research in the world. Along with that, scholarly papers, scholarships, videos, dialogue and leadership opportunities are available to anyone who needs the information.

5. Want to know your future? Research.

Diana Martinelli gave a nod to the most important resource The Plank Center offers that will really affect your future and the future of public relations by noting, “The center is a leader in international scholarship regarding the profession.”

Every year, The Plank Center provides grants for global research that offers insights into the future of leadership in public relations. The research is presented at The Leadership Summit and then made available to anyone needing it. Basically, if you want to know your PR future, then you have the information right in front of you.

Now that you have been in awe of Betsy Plank and the Plank Center board, had a nerd alert and learned about everything the center has to offer, what’s next?

Tweet at @PlankCenterPR and give the staff and directors a big ‘thank you’ for the work that they do to improve your future.

Do you wish you knew more about Plank? #AskBetsyPlank any industry question and the board members will answer it as Betsy Plank would have. Also, join in the #BetsyDay conversation on April 3, 2014. That night, a Betsy Day panel hosted by The Plank Center will be live-streamed from 6:30 to 8 p.m. (CST). Until then, you are welcome.


  1. Post comment

    Myreete, this article is amazing! Your enthusiasm for the Plank Center is very evident throughout the article. I believe this article was very effective in engaging students to want to know more information regarding the Plank Center. Out of the five reasons you wrote about why the Plank Center is so important, two of them stood out to me most. The first reason really caught my attention. I think in any profession it is a challenge for women to be leaders in the business world. While Betsy Plank is an inspiration to many people, I believe she is especially a great role model for women in the business world. The details you gave about her career inspire me to be more motivated about my future. The second reason that stood out to me was the third reason you listed. The quote from Rick White regarding the mix of younger and older professionals was awesome. I think it is so true how mixing both age groups provides a better range of ideas. The business world is changing constantly and younger professionals are keeping up with that. However, I believe that certain traditions should stay, and that the older professionals can help provide that balance. Myreete, I have seen the commitment you have made to the Plank Center, and it is very inspiring. Wonderful article!


Comments are closed.

Return to top of page