PRSSA Chapter presidents and Student-run Firm directors from across the country kicked off their terms for the 2017–2018 school year at the annual PRSSA Leadership Rally held in Scottsdale, Arizona. Students had the chance to listen to keynote speakers, network with peers and professionals and discuss plans for next year as well as challenges and triumphs that leaders in these roles face. I attended as the incoming president for Belmont University’s PRSSA Chapter and I found this weekend to be a great way to bond with other Chapter presidents and plan for the upcoming school year. It was an energizing and inspiring weekend.
The festivities for the weekend kicked off with Cheryl Procter-Rogers, APR, Fellow PRSA, giving the keynote session. She currently works as a public relations and business strategist at A Step Ahead in Chicago, where she has coached multiple Fortune 500 companies.
Procter-Rogers’ topic was “Leading Volunteer Boards as a Transformational Leader.” She discussed different leadership styles and how each one works in different situations. Her focus was on transformational leadership. Transformational leaders are always questioning the norms and trying to improve through new, innovative ways of thinking. Procter-Rogers encouraged all students in the room to strive to be transformational leaders.
Some of her tips for becoming a transformational leader are:
- Encourage creativity
- Challenge assumptions
- Show support for risk taking
- Remove barriers to change
- Personalize your message
- Use the talents in your team to go above and beyond
She gave many tidbits of advice throughout the presentation but the one that has stuck with me since I heard her speak: “Ignite that passion in yourself and let it always be lit.”
Day two kicked off with Jane Dvorak, APR, Fellow PRSA, PRSA National President, and everyone sitting down to baseball cards at their seats — talk about a good public relations move! Dvorak’s baseball cards gave us some information about her, including that she currently runs her own company, JKD Jane. Sticking with the baseball theme, she told the leaders that their job was, “…all about leading the team to a win.” She motivated students to not be afraid to ask for help and support while taking on this large leadership role. She also stressed the importance of succession planning and stated, “The legacy is about the foundation you leave for the people that come after you.”
Gary McCormick, APR, Fellow PRSA, who is the owner of his own firm, GMc Communications, spoke after Dvorak and also stressed the importance of succession planning. He provided an interactive activity for students to work on in groups to identify with the leadership style that would be used best to solve a problem that is common within executive boards.
Students then spent the afternoon in small groups to discuss different topics including Chapter difficulties, recruitment, working with Professional Advisers and more.
On the final day of Leadership Rally, students heard from Brandi Boatner of IBM. Boatner’s keynote address encouraged students to fail and to set lofty goals but also to learn from these failures. Her witty talk helped students open up about a topic that is difficult to talk about in a professional setting.
Leadership Rally was an amazing experience and I encourage all future PRSSA Chapter presidents and Student-run Firm directors to make the trek to Arizona for this motivational and educational weekend.
Cayli Allen is a public relations major at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, where she serves as the Chapter president of PRSSA. She also interns in the Radio Marketing Department of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. You can chat with her on Twitter: @Cayli_Allen.