Last week, my colleague, Tressa Robbins, reviewed some ideas for PR resolutions. She referenced a post by Charlotte Schaff, who is looking to get more involved in her local PRSA, which made me wonder why people take the time to join a professional organization? My own personal thoughts aside, I queried my network on why they join professional organizations, and what are the advantages. Considering the economy, why are they paying their dues? (Full disclosure, I am a member of several organizations, and the current president of Washington Women in Public Relations.)
The top advantage cited by everyone was networking. Lauren Lawson, Goodwill Industries, met her future boss at an accreditation event. Lawson told her of her goal to work at a nonprofit. They kept in touch, and her goal came true. You need to look at networking as building relationships. Lawson’s advice, “It helps to be persistent (without being annoying), look for likeminded individuals or people you’d like to achieve to be and also offer help when you can to that person. You never know what inside knowledge you have that might be helpful to someone else.”
Anne Lasseign Tiedt, APR, Momentum Public Relations writes, “I joined the Austin AWC professional chapter my senior year in college. The instant connections and access to networking opportunities helped me land my first job.”
For anyone who travels or has moved cities, a professional organization can be a life-line, offering activities and a network of people with similar interests. I experienced this when BurrellesLuce first moved me to Washington, D.C. a number of years ago. Some of my best friends were found at professional development seminars.
In the video below, Robin Lane, ZComm, explains why being a part of a professional organization is important.
Enhance Business and Learn About the Industry
Networking can lead to new business opportunities as well. Beth Keller Legate, Image Base, joined IABC over 12 years ago to drive new business, and she has remained a member because it worked.
Organizations give members an opportunity to learn more about the industry and relevant topics through panels, speakers, events and conferences. Melissa Chang, APR, has found PRSA’s Travel and Tourism Conference to be helpful, and she especially enjoyed a “lightening round” pitching session one year.
Opportunities to volunteer run ramped. Independent writer and editor Richard Buse says, “I think the greatest benefits I’ve gained have come from volunteering. There are lots of great workshops and seminars out there, but I find that I learn much more through the hands-on experience I get from volunteering for various chapter functions.”
Meghan Sager, New Media Strategies, explains how membership in a professional organization recently helped her career:
Your needs may change as you progress through your career. Jeff Ghannam, Biotechnology Institute, commented, “Ten years later (after joining PRSA), the chapter now offers me something totally different. It gives me the opportunity to explore and enhance my leadership abilities… This service on the board has allowed me to enhance my people management skills, public speaking ability, and my ability to organize and delegate, just to name a few benefits.”
- Resources and publications.
- Learning new relevant information and tactics
- Meet potential partners
- Network of resources for questions
- Job boards
- Mentoring programs
While there are many benefits to joining a professional organization, you may wish to exercise caution and do some research before committing to a membership. Consultant Robin Smothers says, “One thing to keep in mind is to make sure the organization will meet your needs: I wanted to expand into a new industry a few years ago, so I plopped down $200 to join a organization I thought was a good fit. Turns out that although the people were nice, they did not have the power to hire or even offer recommendations to those who did hire.”
And Meredith Mobley, marketing communications coordinator and PRSA Hampton Roads board member, reminds us that “with any membership, it is what you make of it.” Simply attending events, is not enough, you need to get involved.
Why have you joined a professional organization? Please share your thoughts on making the most of membership.