Are you ready to rally? 5 key takeaways from PRSA's Leadership Rally

By Meghann Craig, Cincinnati PRSA president elect

Call me nostalgic.

As I traveled to the Big Apple for PRSA’s annual Leadership Rally, I couldn’t help but reminisce about my college days as a young and ambitious PRSSA member. I fondly remember the first PRSA networking event I ever attended. I happily volunteered to represent my class at an evening panel in Detroit. I remember being captivated by the speakers, impressed at how the agency ladies dressed and left feeling inspired by all the possibilities within public relations. I was certain this was the profession I was meant to be in and I couldn’t wait to get started.

Meghann Craig is senior producer of Word of Mouth Marketing at  Powerhouse Factories.

Meghann Craig is senior producer of Word of Mouth Marketing at Powerhouse Factories.

Luckily, I had the advantage of experiencing the launch of Facebook as a college student and have been immersed in social media for my whole career. My day-to-day work has obviously been pretty different than what my textbooks previewed. Terms such as tweet, pin or Snapchat didn’t exist yet. Needless to say, it’s made for a very exciting and ever-changing career path.  

Fast forward eight years and I’ve had the great pleasure of working across three well-respected integrated marketing agencies and have been an active PRSA member. I can honestly say that this organization has been instrumental in my professional growth. I’ve met amazing mentors, had access to life-changing job opportunities and learned a lot about what I want in life (personally and professionally). So when approached to take the very honorable role as president of Cincinnati PRSA, it seemed like a natural next step and a chance to give back to a community that has given so much to me.

Evolve, excite and engage

To prepare for my presidency I had the wonderful opportunity to attend PRSA’s annual leadership rally June 5-6 in New York City. Truth be told, I had to do some rallying of my own to leave behind my 5-month-old daughter … especially since I had traveled the previous weekend for work. As promised by previous attendees, the leadership rally was a “can’t miss” type of event. So with all of these rave reviews (and a little encouragement from my dear mother and gracious husband), I rallied and embraced the madness of a crazy travel week. And I’m so glad I did. This program by far exceeded all expectations.

The theme of the conference was around evolving as an industry (and an organization) as well as exciting and engaging PRSA members. If you were to ask me what the five main takeaways were I’d tell you: 

1. Michael Smart, principal at MichaelSMARTPR taught us that less is more

Michael gave an outstanding opening keynote presentation. The main takeaway here was to focus on fewer, more meaningful projects and tasks to have more impact and achieve higher goals. This industry tends to attract people-pleasers and over-achievers. Shocking, I know. You can say yes to every request and allow yourself to get pulled in a million directions. In doing so, you spread yourself too thin and dilute your end result. Focus and prioritize.

Michael reminded us that it’s easier to say “no” when you have a deeper “yes.” Maybe that “yes” is tending to a family member, personal goal or a work deadline. For me, as I prepare for my presidency I must remember that I can’t do it all. I’ll admit that I left NYC feeling so inspired and wanted to achieve a laundry list of goals in 2016. Then I took what Michael said to heart and narrowed down my list to my top three (stay tuned!) and reminded myself that I have an amazingly talented and dedicated team of board members to help bring this all to life. I can hear Michael whispering in my ear: “delegate, delegate and delegate!” This is something we all need to embrace more in our day to day lives.

2. PR is still extremely effective!

During one of the presentations, this quotes was shared from Sir Richard Branson and it was also noted that Steve Jobs once said that if he only had $1 left he’d spend it on PR. There is no doubt that the role of PR is evolving in the overall marketing landscape and taking on various job titles (social media managers, reputation managers, word-of-mouth producers, etc.). PR may come in many shapes, forms and job titles, but you can’t argue with the fact that people will love and trust a good story more than a paid advertisement.

3. PR pros ARE good at numbers

Jane Dvorak, APR, led the financial management session and reminded us that we need to have a little bit more faith in our capabilities. Not only are finances important for PRSA, but PR professionals have truly earned a seat at the table because they’re able to share measurable results and how it impacts a business. She encouraged us to stop saying things like, “I’m a communications guru not a math guru!” 

4. PR pros aren’t grammar pros

I know. Crazy right? This is supposed to be our bread and butter. However, the closing keynote presented by Darryl Salerno, president at Second Quadrant Solutions, Inc., taught us that we (and the general public) commonly mispronounce words and use them improperly. As a fun exercise we took several quizzes that proved his point. We live in the social era where we tend to lean on acronyms and short cuts to communicate, but that doesn’t mean we should forget English 101. I also learned that an afternoon luncheon can be humorous, interactive and informative. It helps when your speaker was previously featured on Last Comic Standing. 

5. Community and inspiration are what make PRSA great

Meghann Craig, second from right, with colleagues from the East Central District.

Meghann Craig, second from right, with colleagues from the East Central District.

We talked a lot about the competition out there and how our organization has to evolve. Like everything else, we’re a work in progress. I am proud that Cincinnati is one of the largest and most active chapters within PRSA. We’ve reaped the benefits of having several passionate and smart past presidents and board members to thank for laying the foundation for this success. I’m eager to hear what our current members are most hungry for and what’s holding non-members back from joining. I believe that the most valuable PRSA offerings include community building and inspiration.Meghann Craig is senior producer for Word of Mouth Marketing at Powerhouse Factories.

We’ve all experienced burnout at one point or another, but there’s nothing like an inspirational case study or prestigious panel to pull you out of your rut. We are an intelligent group of problem-solvers, storytellers and thought leaders that all learn a lot from each other and are there to support one another. I look forward to amplifying this even more over the next year with the help of all of our members.