Earlier this month, I sent my oldest daughter to elementary school for the first time. It’s been many years since I’ve had to face the realities of “back to school,” and it brought back memories of the nerves, excitement, expectations, and sometimes harsh realities that come with a new experience.
It’s been awhile since I was the “newbie” at school, but I did have a chance to join an organization this past year as a new member. Just like my daughter’s experience, which is sure to be fraught with uncertainties amidst the pandemic, I found being a new member during COVID-19 to be difficult. Truly learning the value of the organization and its offerings, feeling comfortable joining virtual learning opportunities, and meeting other members became a monumental task. This isn’t meant as a criticism; the fact is that most organizations that thrive on networking and instruction simply were not prepared for how to handle the realities of this past year.
Unfortunately, PPRS is not immune to those challenges. I’ve been thinking a lot about how we can improve our networking and education with PPRS as we continue a mix of hybrid, in-person, and virtual events amidst a changing environment:
- Welcoming New Members:
- Welcome Call – In addition to welcoming our new members during our monthly meetings, the Membership Committee and/or member of the Executive Committee should commit to setting up a quick 15-minute call with each new member to discuss the benefits of membership and opportunities for involvement. Sometimes a quick, personalized welcome can go a long way!
- Quarterly “New Member” Roundup – Each quarter, PPRS should bring together new members with a group of seasoned members to introduce them to each other as well as the organization. Where possible/safe to do so, these meetings should be held in person.
- Volunteering Opportunities – We need to do a better job of filling the pipeline for volunteerism by offering at least three volunteerism roles to new members each year.
- Education: We need to continue to diversify our speakers in all ways, thinking outside of our regular pool in the Harrisburg area, bringing in new voices, and identifying up-and-coming topics of wide interest. And while we’re virtual, $5 for members for a great educational program is a steal – tell all your friends! We should be targeting early career PR professionals and students during this time to build our future membership pipeline.
- Networking: When a challenge comes up at work, we need to rely on our PPRS network to provide mentorship. When your company has the need for a consultant, we need to look to our PPRS network first. When we haven’t spoken to a fellow member in over a year, we need to pick up the phone or drop them an email and just say “hello.” We need to use PPRS to advertise our open positions, for free! And, more than anything, we need to lift each other up (hint, hint, nudge, nudge – please nominate a peer for this!)
And, last but not least, we need to continue to encourage a strong feedback loop. If you’re a new member, please remember that this is YOUR organization as much as it is that of the most seasoned members. We want to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org. How can we make you feel more welcomed?
If you’ve been a member for awhile, your input is important, too! Here’s a little back-to-school challenge: How can we re-engage you this coming year? What are you willing to contribute to help us continue to grow as an organization? What will you commit to this year to ensure PPRS remains a vibrant and successful organization?
Let’s all set some goals to improve the “newbie” experience and renew our recruitment efforts. September is the last meeting where we’ll vote on new members this year, so you have plenty of time to dust off the digital Rolodex and start thinking ahead for 2022!
2021 PPRS President