Public Relations Tactics

A New Strategic Vision: PRSA’s 2017 Chair Discusses the Framework for the Future

January 3, 2017

[albert chau]
[albert chau]

Jane Dvorak, APR, Fellow PRSA, is the Society’s 2017 chair.

Dvorak has coined herself a “consultalancer,” a term that reflects her ability to provide her clients with strategic planning, messaging and crisis communications, among other services. She launched her agency, the Lakewood, Colo.-based JKD & Company, in 1989.

Dvorak holds a bachelor’s degree from Colorado State University. She has previously served as a director on the PRSA National and PRSA Foundation boards, 2007 National PRSA delegate-at-large, 2006 PRSA Western District chair and 2003 president of the PRSA Colorado Chapter. PRSA inducted her into the College of Fellows in 2010.

In the New Year, Dvorak says that she is excited to get out on the road to spend time with Chapters and Districts across the country — an experience that she has enjoyed in the past.

“Each time I have made a visit, I leave energized with even more enthusiasm for PRSA and this profession,” she says. “I hope that I’ll be able to share the vision of the new strategic plan and how we can all work together to bring it to life in our local communities.”

Here, Dvorak talks more about the strategic plan and the growth opportunities ahead for PRSA.

PRSA has released its 2017–2019 strategic plan, “Framework for the Future.” What did the committee’s research for the plan tell you about the future of the profession?

That it is a very exciting time for public relations. Public relations has a very strategic role to play in business and it will become even more important in how we tell the stories of our companies, associations and organizations.

The tools we have to tell stories are changing and we must be poised to leverage those tools, capture opportunities and position businesses in a strategic way. These tools also enable us to engage and dialogue with stakeholders in ways we were not able to do in the past, which offers both challenges and new potential. We must be leaders at every level, as the work we do impacts industries and communities across the board.

Given the evolving nature of communications and the blurring lines among the disciplines of IT, marketing, etc., do you think the term “public relations” still captures what we do?

I do and I also believe we are filling broader roles. Our skill set gives practitioners the flexibility to flow from one discipline to another. It is our strategic foundation that has nurtured this mesh of talent. We are about the relationships in all of these areas, bringing technology together with sales and marketing along with the communication elements. When all of that works together you can have a dynamic impact. Businesses can build critical relationships on many fronts and PR professionals should drive that movement.

Can you discuss some of PRSA’s diversity initiatives in 2017 and beyond?

I am excited that PRSA/PRSSA will embark on a special initiative to increase awareness of our profession within historically black colleges. This focused effort will introduce public relations to many students when they’re considering making a degree choice. There are several other efforts through our Diversity & Inclusion Committee that will drive programs and engagement to reach and recruit prospective members as well.

Where do you see growth opportunities for PRSA? And what are some challenges ahead?

Our Section and District conferences are a real opportunity for PRSA to reach members with a variety of programming options at various price points. These regional offerings are targeted, providing our members with unique learning experiences in various areas of expertise and geographic areas.

We also have a huge opportunity to use technology to reach members in new ways. MyPRSA is just one example of how we can use technology to bring members together to share best practices, resources and provide peer-to-peer mentoring opportunities. The response to this tool has been overwhelming.

Likewise, the Learning Management System offers a chance to gain specialized knowledge on topics like management, hiring and finance. We will continue to increase both the number and variety of courses available through this system.

Every organization will have challenges and that’s a good thing. It fosters creative solutions and opens the door for new opportunities. That kind of innovative thinking will keep PRSA’s energy channeled in a positive direction, keeping the organization relevant for years to come.

What do you consider to be the main value(s) of a PRSA membership?

PRSA is the standard of excellence in our profession through ethics, advocacy and belonging to the organization, which demonstrates a commitment to professional growth. There is such an immense body of knowledge at your fingertips.

On a personal level, it is the network and leadership skills that are so valuable to me. PRSA has grown and supported my business for 27 years (only three clients haven’t come from a PRSA contact!) and I’ve learned so much in my leadership roles beginning with PRSSA. I’ve gained mentors, advisers and 22,000 experts I can tap at any time to discuss trends, tips, issues and opportunities. It’s worth every penny to be a member of this

organization. Hands down, no question, best investment value I have ever made. (I didn’t say that just because I am Chair!)

How does PRSA continue to stay relevant in today’s marketplace?

We have the tools and resources no matter at what point a member might join PRSA — fresh out of college, mid-level or senior professional — that’s relevance on many fronts.

Through our diverse membership and programs, PRSA can help you keep abreast of emerging trends, workplace issues and new technologies with insight from our membership, volunteer leaders and our talented staff. We are working to put the systems in place to ensure we can engage with our vast membership base in many ways, platforms to provide an experience that will help each member be better, smarter and more connected throughout their career.

What’s top of mind in the profession and what trends and issues are members and your peers discussing?

Content development and the shrinking media go hand-in-hand and will continue to be challenges and opportunities for our membership. While we have made progress, we are still striving to have a strong seat at the C-suite table. This is where leadership is essential for our members to demonstrate their strategic value to businesses. No matter the tools, we need to be strategists to have high-level impact.

What initially inspired you to volunteer with PRSA, and what has kept you motivated through the years to pursue leadership roles?

Volunteering for PRSA was a natural next step after serving as Colorado State University (Go Rams!) PRSSA president. I had the opportunity to work under some amazing leaders in Colorado and honestly, it was fun. I met some wonderful people, made friends and before I knew it I was on the board, expanding to District roles and finally to National board service.

I have learned more than I could have ever imagined in each successive leadership role I’ve held. I’m so fortunate to have had this opportunity and I’m grateful to those who have supported me.

Who were the mentors that helped you in PRSA? Did they impart any advice that you would share with new practitioners?

I am fortunate to have had many mentors along the way who have helped me reach this point. Some have mentored up; I learn from my interns all the time.

Advice: Patience. It takes time to gain experience and build networks. Give yourself the time to observe, listen and don’t be afraid to fail. There’s great learning in trying new things, pushing your comfort zone and trusting in your capabilities even if you’ve never done it before.

Finally, laugh. Life is far too short not to giggle. Laughter also gives you time to gain perspective, stimulate your creativity and create a productive environment. There’s no reason you can’t be professional and still have fun at what you do. That’s what the #CJRevolution is about. That’s my hashtag — for those moments that make you take pause, smile, laugh, enjoy. We must live life fully and laugh often. It’s my mantra.

Some of the key mentors over the years have been Kyla Thompson, APR, a former Colorado Chapter president, who continues to be a treasured friend and mentor today. Other key mentors include Tom Hoog, Fellow PRSA, Jeff Julin, APR, Fellow PRSA, Mickey Nall, APR, Fellow PRSA, Gary McCormick, APR, Fellow PRSA, Rhoda Weiss, APR, Fellow PRSA, Del Galloway, APR, Fellow PRSA, and a host of others, who have all shared nuggets of wisdom as I aspired to become Chair. I’m continually grateful PRSA gave me these relationships and many others.

What are some ways that PRSA can engage, retain and mentor millennials and other new pros?

The best way to engage, retain and mentor is to demonstrate PRSA’s value. To some that might mean quick mobile access to tools and resources; to others that might mean becoming immersed in a section; and for others it could be gaining additional skills. I’ll be doing my part to engage with a high level of participation of millennials (and all the other generations in our membership!) on National committees. We need to have these bright minds at the table to infuse their perspectives into our planning process. They are now the largest workforce and comprise more than 30 percent of PRSA’s membership.

We have already made a big step in retention by adding another Associate level of membership. This is the best way for new pros to really leverage PRSA. You have all the benefits, value and access at a reduced cost. PRSA needs to facilitate building their networks, aligning with affinity groups and tapping programming so they can shine as leaders throughout their career.

We need their energy. They are passionate, inspired and ready to rise to the task at hand. We can’t underestimate the contributions millennials can make to drive this Society forward.

What are you most looking forward to as PRSA’s chair in 2017?

Meeting as many Chapter, District, Section and PRSSA members as possible.

I hope our 22,000 members and 11,000 students recognize that the investment they make in themselves through PRSA is the best thing they can do to elevate each other as well as the impact public relations has on the business world. I hope to inspire our members to be leaders at every level.

John Elsasser

John Elsasser is the editor-in-chief of Tactics. He joined PRSA in 1994.


Edward M. Bury, APR says:

Hello: Sound thoughts and direction. Optimistic about the direction PRSA and the profession is headed. One thought: PRSA and its members should be more active in "defending" ethical public relations in this era of propaganda and so-called "fake news." We must continue to educate society today on modern public relations practices and challenge those who continue to describe it as "spin."

Jan. 16, 2017

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