Mickey G. Nall, APR, Fellow PRSA, on His Year Ahead as Chair and CEO

January 3, 2013

“I believe in ‘One PRSA,’" says Mickey G. Nall, APR, Fellow PRSA. “Regardless of where you are, there’s a real sense of community within PRSA.”

And the Society’s 2013 chair and CEO aims to focus on conveying the value of membership this year.

“I want us to deliver on the third year of our Strategic Plan,” says Nall, the Atlanta-based managing director of Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide. “I also want to make sure that we’re looking at additional or better benefits for members.”

Nall is a member of Ogilvy PR’s global management committee. He has served in The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy as the on-site liaison between Ogilvy & Mather and the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, which was the nation’s largest social marketing campaign.

Prior to Ogilvy, Nall was director of communications for the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Before this, he was president of The Nall II Agency Inc., a Florida-based consulting firm. He has also been named as a distinguished alumnus of the University of Florida’s College of Journalism & Communications.

Here, Nall discusses moving into his new leadership role at PRSA, as well as his hopes for the Society and the profession in the New Year.

What are the top challenges that PRSA faces in 2013?

Delivering member value is an ongoing challenge. How a member defines his or her value in a professional group shifts over time. We need to be on top of that. We need to make sure that we’re delivering value and, at the same time, anticipating trends and other needs that members may want after that.

In addition, strategic planning will be a challenge. We’re on the last year of our 2011-2013 Strategic Plan.  That’s all part of delivering on member values.

Advocating for the profession also remains a challenge.  We’ve made huge inroads with our advocacy program in the past four to five years.  A lot of it has to do with the great chairs we’ve had, as well as the senior professional staff led by Arthur Yann,  APR, who has been spearheading our outreach program.  The advocacy work that enhances the value of public relations is key in making sure we’re doing that in a way that excites members.

Diversity is also a huge issue facing PRSA, as well as the profession. We’re making progress, but why aren’t we more inclusive? While it’s still about growing a more diverse membership, it’s now about what are we doing once we’ve attracted the diverse professional — what are we doing to include them in all that we do in membership?

Overall, PRSA has to stay on the cutting edge.  The profession continues to expand, channels continue to expand and the expectations from the C-suite continue to expand. Our value depends on constantly answering this question to the affirmative:  “Are we meeting member needs?”

What are some of the significant issues facing the PR profession?

The first one, and I experience it every day in my work, is the integration of the marketing mix. We used to complain that the PR function didn’t have a seat at the table. We have a seat at the table.  We’re central.  And in most organizations, if you put it in the framework of reputation, then we’re core to what’s going on.

But at the same time, I feel that we’re explaining [the role of public relations] a lot to our marketing colleagues internally. Public relations and marketing continue to merge, and the monetary aspect of marketing and the core competencies continue to be an issue.  There are still challenges with good writing. Some people say,  “Well, in the age of texting, does it matter?” Heck yeah, it matters.

You have to do it right.  You have to know what you’re attempting to communicate.

You have the chance to speak with a lot of PRSA members. What concerns do they often raise? What seems to be top of mind now?

If I talk to the individual member, then it’s usually about growing in his or her job. “Am I valued, and am I being compensated?”  We’re coming off a big election year — everyone was talking about jobs. Every indicator shows that there are more jobs in public relations.

But from what people tell me, it’s still difficult to find a job. So on an individual level, it’s still about their personal journey in the profession and how to grow.

On the whole, the ethical integrity of the profession is always at the forefront of our members’ minds.  Advocating ethical behavior consistently ranks high among members.

Speaking of membership, we hear people discuss local versus national in terms of PRSA. Do you see a distinction?

I believe in “One PRSA.” I don’t buy into national versus local. I like the publications and the website — I find a lot of value there. I find so much value at the International Conference.  The Jobcenter is phenomenal, and everybody loves it. I feel as if your Chapter is your home, and PRSA National is your country. Regardless of where you are, there’s a real sense of community within PRSA.

What initially inspired you to join PRSA, and what has kept you motivated to continue your membership through the years?

Early on in our careers, many of us are joiners. There’s that aspect of it. In addition, a PRSA membership was a great opportunity for me to get ongoing professional development and to be with people who did the same job that I did.

I had the chance to go to the International Conference early on. I was blown away by it. It was this great three-day experience that introduced me to new things and broader issues than I was experiencing at that point in my career. It was inspirational, and I loved it.

And then, there was Accreditation. I took the examination when I was first eligible at the five-year mark. I have a graduate degree in public relations, so I didn’t do Accreditation for a credential as much as I did it for me.  Accreditation, to me, is personal.

Eventually, during my mid years in PRSA, my membership became more about networking. I loved it for the networking. I judged Silver Anvils, and for many years, I was an Assembly delegate for the National Capital Chapter. I liked that because I had a small part in the policy oversight of PRSA.

PRSA has helped validate my professional career. It served as an outlet for my creativity and provided me with professional development. PRSA has complemented every step of my career.

Why did you decide to pursue a role in PRSA’s leadership?

I began to see how I could have a positive influence on the Society.  I could be part of a group of people who wanted to do things with PRSA that mattered to me and to the profession. Several leaders said, “You should be doing this. Why aren’t you doing this?”

I later became involved in the PRSA Foundation

In 2010, my mentor Marcia Silverman, who was retiring as chair of Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, became the second recipient of the Foundation’s Paladin Award

At the Foundation’s Paladin Dinner, Gary McCormick, APR, Fellow PRSA, PRSA’s 2010 chair and CEO, was there for the presentation.  And Marcia looked at me and said, “Why don’t you do that?” [Laughs.] I said, “Well, it is a commitment.” [Laughs.] She said, “Absolutely.  We want you to do that. We’d love for you to be the first Ogilvy PRSA chair and CEO.” And I was like, “I would love that.”

After she retired, Chris Graves, our global chair, wrote me a lovely letter of endorsement when I was up for the chair-elect position.  That meant so much to me.  The company I work for values the commitment to leadership and values what PRSA stands for, particularly around advocacy, ethics and diversity for the profession. We advocate for our profession every single day at Ogilvy.  We’re earning our clients’ trust and working hard to keep it. So it did fall in line with my work.

What is the outlook like for the soon-to-be PR graduates or those practitioners who have just entered the profession?

It’s a tough market out there, and only the best of the best get the jobs. I truly believe that we’ve got some great talent coming up. But at the same time, being great almost isn’t enough anymore. 

At Ogilvy, I receive so many résumés for every position. I look at their résumés, and I’m seeing two and three internships.  That’s what I’m looking for to start — just to get the pile down to a manageable number to begin the selection process.

On the one hand, I know we’ve got great students coming up and great professionals for right now, today, at the junior level. However, five to 10 years from now, I worry that the pace of the profession won’t be able to keep up with the number of graduates.

What will be some of the first items of business for you as chair and CEO?

I want us to deliver on the third year of our Strategic Plan. I also want to make sure that we’re looking at additional or better benefits for members. Last year, the 2012 Membership Engagement Committee, led by Margaret Ann Hennen,  APR, Fellow PRSA, and B.J. Whitman,  APR, Fellow PRSA, explored how PRSA can better deliver value to our members.

During the January Board of Directors meeting, we’ll discuss their findings and come up with several priorities. How can we translate that into an actionable, operational item for our members and then deliver on it?

I want to make sure then that we deliver on those during these next 12 months. 

So rather than being a mile wide and an inch deep, I [want to] come away at the end of the year with five or six things that we can all say made a difference, and I want to be able to do that under this inclusive “One PRSA.”

Editor-in-Chief  John Elsasser interviewed Mickey G. Nall,  APR, Fellow PRSA,  for this month’s member profile.

Getting to Know Mickey G. Nall, APR, Fellow PRSA

3 dinner guests — past or present?
Thomas Jefferson, Nancy Reagan and Robert Kennedy — but then, I was thinking Meryl Streep, who would be a joy talking with. I could get her to do Julia Child and other characters, so that would be more people. I like a big table.

Favorite films?
I saw “Fiddler on the Roof” as a kid and loved it. I love epics like “Ben Hur.”  And it wouldn’t be Easter without “The Ten Commandments” every year.

Favorite food?
Macaroni and cheese — every kind. It could be out of a box or a high-end version with lobster. I love them all.


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