PRSA Chair Debra Peterson, APR, on the Year Ahead

January 3, 2019

Debra Peterson, APR [albert chau]
Debra Peterson, APR [albert chau]

Name: Debra Peterson, APR

Current job title: Vice President — Corporate Communications, CenturyLink

Current location: New Century, Kan.

Favorite downtime activity: Exercise

3 dinner guests — past or present: My two kids and my dad; he died when they were both too young to know him.

Favorite book: “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey, because the principles it espouses — honesty, integrity and fairness — are key

Favorite news sources: Too many to name. I’m a news junkie.

Favorite words of wisdom: My dad would say, “Into each life a little humility must fall.” It’s a constant reminder that we’re all equal.

What initially inspired you to join PRSA?

I’m a big believer in lifelong learning and the power of engagement. I joined to take advantage of the professional development offerings, engage with and learn from others and to earn my Accreditation.

You’ve been an active volunteer at the Chapter, Section and National level. What attracted you to these leadership roles through the years?

I initially volunteered to become more involved with my chapter and stayed because I learned the power of engagement at the Chapter level and then at the District, Section and national levels.

What do you consider the biggest challenges ahead for the profession — and PRSA?

For our profession as well as for PRSA, we have several key challenges:

  • Navigating the impact of rapid technological change, disruption and innovation
  • Playing a leadership role in creating and sustaining respectful discourse in society at large
  • Ensuring our profession is viewed as key to organizational leadership and success
  • Keeping PR professionals and leaders from all sectors engaged at all levels of PRSA
  • Building on our diversity and inclusion efforts

As the nation’s largest professional organization serving the communications community, we can partner with other organizations to help address some of these challenges. In addition, PRSA can help its members not only stay abreast of myriad changes, but also provide learning and networking opportunities that help members in their daily work and future career growth.

Just as communications professionals need to understand financial, operational and leadership concepts, we must also understand how technology impacts our organizations. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain, virtual and augmented reality and big data are all examples of how technology and innovation are impacting us and will continue to do so even more in the future. It is critical PRSA stays ahead of every innovation and disruption and equips our members to thrive in this rapidly changing environment.

What are the main values of a PRSA membership? How do you plan to build on that value?

I’d highlight several areas:

  1. Continuing to demonstrate how our Code of Ethics is more than words; it is a living document that is highly integrated in our careers.
  2. Expanding Professional Development to make it even more top of mind and readily accessible.
  3. Enhancing the opportunities for networking and engagement for each member.
  4. Ensuring PRSA is considered indispensable to every professional engaged in the communications profession.

I would sum up my goal for 2019 in one word: growth. This includes membership growth, growth in our professional development opportunities, growth in our diversity and inclusion efforts, and growth in our members’ engagement with PRSA. These key topics are among those that will be discussed as we work in 2019 to develop our next three-year strategic plan.

PRSA offers its members extensive benefits, which makes membership an incredible value. I have found the most value from the people I’ve met through PRSA. We join PRSA because we want to learn, grow and connect. The more involved I became at PRSA, the more I enjoyed being a member and derived even more value from my membership. If you’re a member who hasn’t sought a volunteer opportunity with a Chapter, District, Section and/or national committee or task force, I encourage you to get involved.

We had a terrific International Conference in Austin, Texas, and I would like to build upon that success at our 2019 International Conference, to be held Oct. 20-22 in San Diego. Our committee has been hard at work for months, and we have exciting things planned.

Describe your leadership style.

It’s collaborative and results-oriented.

What are you most looking forward to in the year ahead?

Working with a terrific group of leaders and engaging more members to produce results that benefit the profession, the professional, the organizations we work with and our students as they transition into the profession.

John Elsasser

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



Lawrence Parnell says:

Well said - good to see a corporate PR pro at the helm! We (GW) are long time sponsors/exhibitors/panelists and are anxious to play a role in helping make SD a success. The folks at PRSA HQ know us - feel free to reach out!

Jan. 4, 2019

Michael F. Grimaldi says:

So very proud and excited that a leadership alumna of the Greater Kansas City Chapter is undertaking the challenge of leading the society in 2019. Our association is in great hands, and we confidently anticipate good things in the new year. Best wishes for every success, Debra.

Jan. 4, 2019

Edward Bury says:

Hello: Wishing Debra much success as PRSA Chair. Would hope the Society will would take a strong stand on the misrepresentation of public relations within the media, a phenomenon happening all too frequently these days.

Jan. 7, 2019

Matt Tidwell, Ph.D,, APR says:

Deb is a superior leader and will do great things for PRSA!

Jan. 15, 2019

Jo Ann S. LeSage Nelson, APR says:

We are very fortunate to have Debra serving as board chair this year. She is a true leader.

Jan. 15, 2019

Anthony W. D'Angelo, APR, Fellow PRSA says:

Our society is fortunate to have a leader of Debra's caliber at the helm, an outstanding professional and person!

Jan. 15, 2019

Anthony W. D'Angelo, APR, Fellow PRSA says:

Our society is fortunate to have a leader of Debra's caliber at the helm, an outstanding professional and person!

Jan. 15, 2019

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