Posted: February 19, 2015, 4:55 p.m.
by Katie Vette.
Graduation is quickly approaching for seniors across the nation. Communication majors have worked hard for four years (maybe more) doing everything from writing press releases to creating media kits to preparing campaigns for actual clients. Some communication students have even been members of their universities’ Public Relations Student Society of America. If you are graduating, you may be asking yourself: Should I transition my PRSSA membership to a PRSA membership?
There are pros and cons when becoming a member of any organization, especially when a person is fresh to the job market scene. However, most professionals involved with PRSA believe that the benefits of being a member are worth far more than the annual costs.
PRSSA is an organization established for students within the fields of communication. Claiming over 300 chapters, PRSSA has made an imprint on the lives of more than 11,000 students and advisory members. PRSSA’s mission is to enhance students’ education, broaden their network and ultimately launch their careers within the public relations industry. For details on your school’s PRSSA chapter and how to join visit the PRSSA website.
Since 1947 the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) has been the largest organization for public relations professionals in the world. The organization has over 21,000 communication and public relations professionals, and the number continues to grow every year. So, should students join PRSA upon graduation?
“It’s important to be a member of PRSA, regardless of your position, experience level or industry,” said Brian Lee, the director representing the PRSA Midwest District. “After all, it’s an organization committed to excellence and ethics, as well as advancing the profession and professional.”
In addition, he noted that every chapter includes a diverse mix of professionals, both new to the field and experienced.
A person right out of college may hesitate to take on another “bill.” This is where being a member of PRSSA pays off.
“All PRSSA members should know the Associate Membership is a great way to join PRSA, especially because of the discounted dues,” Lee said.
To join as an associate member, annual fees average from $115 to $150, but for a PRSSA member fees are cut significantly to a cost of $60.
In addition, some communication employers will pay for their employees’ PRSA memberships. Heather Harder, PRSSA national president, emphasizes how important it is that not only students take advantage of PRSA memberships, but that their future employers do as well.
“When looking for that future employer, it’s important that they care about developing their profession outside the work place. Being a member of PRSA shows that,” Harder said.
PRSA offers several professional development opportunities. The PRSA International Conference is held yearly in different locations across the U.S. from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. The communications field is constantly advancing; therefore, these conferences aim to educate members about the latest technologies, trends and proficiencies.
“The professions of public relations, marketing and advertising are constantly changing and evolving,” Lee said. “Thus, one of the main advantages with being a member of PRSA is getting the professional development needed to be a successful practitioner.”
A webinar is also a key career-developing tool used by PRSA professionals. Once a week, if not multiple times a week, a professional creates and produces a one-hour webinar on topics relevant to the PR industry. Topics range from an efficient crisis management response to tutorials on how to make journalists want to pick up a news release.
Being the youngest in the room can be intimidating, which makes the chances of networking less likely. However, PRSA has a program to help.
“In addition to professional development, PRSA offers networking and leadership development opportunities,” Lee said. For instance, the new professionals section focuses on career development and networking with peers, Lee said.
At a PRSA event, Harder explained, you are likely to meet someone who can help you enhance your personal or professional standings. Public relations practitioners also have the opportunity to gain contacts of future employers. But the networking does not end there; potential clients also surround you.
Janet Kacskos has been a member of PRSA for more than 20 years. She has been involved in several PRSA chapters over the years and is now the director representing the East Central District. Being a member of PRSA is similar to marrying into a family. There is a constant cycle of networking and career development because of the relationships built through this organization.
“Members have become my mentors, my friends and as I get older – I’ve become a mentor for some of the younger members,” Kacskos said.
Becoming an associate member of PRSA equips students with the tools they need to develop themselves and their careers. PRSA creates a lifelong learning and relationship-building pathway, which is vital to the success of public relation practitioners. Graduates, now it’s time for you to decide.