Networking is an important part of any PRSSA Chapter. Networking can take shape in many forms from internal events to attending National Conference. How can you be sure to maximize these opportunities for your members? Make sure to stay organized, follow the guidelines below and utilize the resources already available to you. These resources include alumni, past speakers, connections made at past events and your Chapter members’ networks. Starting with your members, internal networking is a great way to strengthen personal and professional relationships.
An invaluable aspect of internal networking is making sure you take the time to really get to know your Chapter members. This can be achieved by having a Chapter retreat at the beginning of each semester or year. The retreat can be a casual meeting with team building, goal setting and other related activities. Throughout the semester, it’s also important to schedule socials outside of regular meetings to give members time to get to know one another.
Beyond your Chapter members, professional advisers are a built-in group of people to assist your Chapter, and are often underutilized. Take the time to make sure their information is available to members through a Google document and by inviting them to speak at meetings.
The ultimate way to build your internal network is through mentorship programs within your Chapter and with PRSA professionals. Create a short questionnaire that allows members to highlight their personality and career goals, ensuring matches who are compatible on all levels. Once everyone is matched in the student mentor/mentee program, host a suspenseful reveal that will get people excited. This year, the vice president of member relations of the Scripps PRSSA Chapter created a reveal where each mentee received a balloon with their mentor’s name on the inside, making them pop the balloon to figure out whom it was. When all professional mentors and mentees are matched, reach out to all pairs and take the time to share their similar interests so they can easily start conversation and build their relationship.
Networking trips are an opportunity to get your members off campus and into real agencies and companies. As an added bonus, going on a group trip can be a great opportunity for your members to bond.
The Scripps PRSSA Chapter goes on two trips each year — one local trip to a place within an hour or two drive, and one regional trip to a larger city like New York or Chicago. To select our cities (Phase One) we send a survey to all members so everyone can go on a trip that is beneficial to them. After selecting the city, we utilize LinkedIn to find alumni in the area.
Next, it’s important to create a schedule (Phase One). Consider which companies are closest to each other and arrange accordingly to cut down on travel time. Also, be sure to leave time for lunch and travel, and plan a networking dinner at the end of the day.
After the behind-the-scenes planning is done (Phase Two) hold information sessions and start asking members to sign up for the trip. Our Chapter likes to give precedence to dues-paying members as an added reward for their dedication and involvement. In addition, (Phase Three) give your members information packets covering topics such as networking etiquette, what to wear and the company websites. Having well-prepared members will make them confident networkers and will reflect well on your Chapter. Of course, when all is said and done, take the time to send thank you cards to each agency you visited.
Regional and National Networking
Internal networking and planning your own networking opportunities are important, but it’s also a great idea to take advantage of the regional and national networking opportunities PRSSA already provides. Each year, PRSSA has multiple Regional Conferences in locations across the country. Your Chapter will more than likely have the opportunity to attend a Regional Conference that’s within driving distance from your campus. In addition to Regional Conferences, create a strong relationship with your local PRSA Chapter. Most Chapters have events throughout the year to give students the opportunity to network with professionals as well as other students in their area.
PRSSA National offers even more opportunities to help members become confident and successful in their careers. However, many people don’t know just how many opportunities there are. One way to ensure that your Chapter knows what’s going on nationally is to create a calendar at the beginning of the year that highlights all national events, including Twitter chats and Regional Conferences. In addition to this calendar, your Chapter can hold information sessions and workshops to show your members some of the other opportunities available, such as the Career Resources Manual, the Internship Center or a session explaining who the National Committee is and how they can help.
Overall, planning a networking event is a fantastic way to increase your members’ growth and strengthen their relationships within the Chapter and outside of it. It is also important to think outside of the box when you are planning these events, as this can lead to fun, fresh ideas.
Networking regionally and nationally will help your Chapter become noticed by other Chapters, make connections with people across the nation, develop new ideas and strategies, and most importantly, help your members make the most of their time in PRSSA.
This article was written by executive board members of the Scripps PRSSA Chapter. These members include Chapter President Jess Carnprobst, Vice President of External Relations Gentry Bennett, Vice President of Member Relations Sam Miller and Vice President of Visual Communication Kaylee Powers. Learn more about this Chapter by visiting their website and connecting with them on Twitter @ScrippsPRSSA.