President’s Column – September 2013

Chris Smith, Greater Fort Worth PRSA President

ChrisSmithPortraitLRBecause change is the only constant, we must keep abreast of the latest trends and best practices in our profession, but how many of us have a systematic way of doing this?

Someone on Facebook recently shared an article that listed 20 Things the Rich Do Every Day. Not that the rich have all of the answers to life’s questions, but a majority do tend to maintain good habits and a fairly systemic way of keeping current. Who knows?

Perhaps there is a correlation between these rituals and their success. Among those habits and beliefs listed, relevant for our purposes were: listening to audio books during their daily commute; writing down their goals; reading 30 minutes or more each day for education or career reasons; networking five hours or more each month; and believing in lifelong educational improvement.

Correspondingly, in his book “The Power of Habit,” Charles Duhigg says that experts now know “why habits emerge, how they change, and the science behind their mechanics.” He adds that we know “how to make people eat less, exercise more, work more efficiently, and live healthier lives.” Certainly, he acknowledges that changing habits isn’t easy, quick or simple, but that it is indeed possible.

Given the premise that it’s wise to have certain habits and integrating these into our overall routines can help lead us to success, the question I pose to you now is, “What’s your system for continual professional improvement?”
If you don’t have one, PRSA has the tools to get you started. Each month we offer one or more events for networking and continuing education. Our membership benefits include subscriptions to informative publications and daily emails with news links to keep us on top of current events in our field. Our APR certification provides you with a professional, attainable goal. This didn’t start out as a PRSA sales pitch, but if it works . . .

President’s Column – August 2013

Chris Smith, Greater Fort Worth PRSA President

ChrisSmithPortraitLRIf you haven’t heard the big news, our chapter recently added yet another member to the esteemed national PRSA College of Fellows.

PRSA announced July 17 that Greater Fort Worth Chapter’s Gigi Westerman, APR, was approved for recommendation to this prestigious community. With her October formal induction, that will make six Fellows from our chapter. Truly, this is a huge accomplishment.

Consider just some of the membership criteria for becoming a Fellow: current PRSA membership; minimum of 20 years’ public relations experience; accredited in Public Relations (APR); demonstrated superior professional capability in the practice/teaching of public relations; contribution to the profession through service and leadership, and more.

Then there’s the arduous task of completing the application. It’s a rigorous process that requires six letters of recommendation and an in-depth summary of one’s career. The applicant also must give five examples for each of the following criterion: Superior Professional Capability, Advancement of the Profession, Leadership and Service, and Role Modeling. When possible, the applicant must provide contact information for those involved in these examples. Gigi verified that indeed, these contacts are called.

All of this seemed to me a bit overwhelming. However, when I asked Gigi about the application process and the many hours it took to get there, she replied, “Like anything worth doing, this requires a great deal of thoughtful effort. Essentially, a candidate is demonstrating a career of strategic thinking and outcome-oriented work. It is a recognition of the value provided to clients, employers and others in our profession. The process is very difficult and time consuming, but it is also a powerful retrospective. “

Congratulations Gigi on this most impressive accomplishment, and thanks for the contributions you have made to our profession and to our chapter. Well done! Thanks also to our other Fellows for their many ongoing contributions:

  • Carolyn Bobo, APR, Fellow PRSA (Class of 2001)
  • Mary Dulle, APR, Fellow PRSA (Class of 2004)
  • William M. Lawrence, APR, Fellow PRSA (Class of 2005)
  • Douglas Ann Newsom, PhD, APR, Fellow PRSA (Class of 1990)
  • Dr. Amiso George, APR, Fellow PRSA (Class of 2010)

Finally, one of our former presidents, Kristie Aylett, APR, was also named to the College of Fellows. Congratulations to Kristie and to all of our chapter members throughout history who played a part in all of our success.

President’s Column – July 2013

Chris Smith, Greater Fort Worth PRSA President

ChrisSmithPortraitLRWe’re Taking July Off!
Our regularly scheduled monthly program resumes August 14. Stay tuned for details. ‘Til then, hope you get a chance to enjoy some time off or a nice, long summer vacation.

Speaking of summer vacation, a new poll shows that 54 percent of U.S. adults are expected by their bosses to “stay connected” during their time away from the workplace, though 51 percent would prefer a root canal.

I have conflicting thoughts on this. On the one hand, I loathe working while on vacation. It’s supposed to be down time, time for recreational diversion. Our hectic lifestyles and information-overloaded brains need rebooting time. Didn’t Newton’s theory on gravitation occur to him while taking a break and watching an apple fall from a tree?

On the other hand, crises could be averted and important questions answered. Huge missed opportunities could cause later regret, which is partly why I’ve set up two work meetings while on vacation this year. In my defense however, these are overseas meetings and rare opportunities to meet clients and colleagues face to face. Plus, it’s just two days out of 15, so no pity party needed.

Still, things used to be different. Vacation was down time and work was work time. But I suppose that was then and this is now. As a Forbes’ contributor once wrote: “Maybe we need to accept the fact that the sharp demarcation between work and home is a thing of the past, and that the new normal is a life that integrates home and work more seamlessly.” This concept is something we independent consultants know very well, having our own love-hate relationship with the ever-blurring dividing lines.

So, what is your policy? Do you read emails while on vacation? Do you take media calls? Why or why not? We’ll be asking this question on our Facebook page and look forward to hearing your responses.

Til August, carpe solem!

President’s Column – May 2013

Chris Smith, Greater Fort Worth PRSA President

ChrisSmithPortraitLRWith another successful Worthy Awards competition and gala behind us, our next focus will be on program evaluation.

Evaluation, often the most overlooked part of the strategic communications process, asks the big questions:

•    What worked?
•    What didn’t work?
•    How can we improve next time?

Of course, evaluation can be applied to much more than one public relations program. How about your current job: What’s working, what isn’t? Is there room for improvement? Apply that as well to your career: What worked well for you in the past year or decade? What have you learned from that didn’t work? How can you improve your current situation?

Here’s what I know about the Worthy Awards program. It worked well the first year, it worked even better the second year, and when our committee meets soon to document opportunities for improvement, I have no doubt next year’s committee will exceed expectations once again.

Admittedly, there were hiccups along the way – as there are with planning any kind of event. Already, for example, some committee members are suggesting ways of formalizing the process, now that we have two successful years under our belts. However, we learn from these hiccups and frankly, given feedback since this program began two years ago, we’ll simply be making a good thing even better when we apply all that we’ve learned.

Finally, never ever overlook a most important part of the evaluation process, which involves thanking all of those who contributed to the success of your program.

In this case, thanks goes to all of those who participated, deeming a local public relations competition valuable and “worthy” for continuation. A heartfelt thanks goes to the Worthy Committee members, who should be acknowledged once again for their tirelessness and outstanding execution: Margaret Ritsch, APR; Holly Ellman; Jahnae Stout; Megan Murphey; Liz Heck; Megan Force; Carolyn Bobo, APR, Fellow PRSA; Joe Stout; and Rita Parson.

President’s Column – April 2013

Chris Smith, Greater Fort Worth PRSA President

ChrisSmithPortraitLRThe Worthy Awards competition gained great momentum in just its second year, as Committee Chair and Board Director Margaret Ritsch, APR, shared the news post-deadline about the number of entries impressively surpassing established goals.

“It’s already clear that the Worthy Awards has become a very competitive contest,” Ritsch said. “Clearly, the market was ripe for a new awards program for public relations professionals in North Texas.”

Some communicators also attribute its early success to the 2011 folding of the Texas Public Relations Association, which also held an annual awards competition.

In any case, you won’t want to miss the presentation of these awards honoring Fort Worth’s most inspiring, influential and innovative communicators. Plan now to attend our Worthy Awards Gala held this year on April 25 at the Fort Worth Club. Tickets are going fast, so visit the website now to register.

In other news, do you know what APR stands for?
A. APR = April abbreviation per AP Style
B. APR = Annual Percentage Rate
C. APR = Accreditation in Public Relations
D. APR = American Poetry Review

Actually, APR stands for all of the above. However, if you work in the public relations field, then you know that “C” is the most relevant answer.

APR hails as a mark of distinction for public relations professionals who demonstrate broad knowledge, strategic perspective and sound personal judgment. Veterans say you become more marketable and earn higher pay with an APR. See if it’s so on April 10. Because our chapter wants to shine a light on the benefits of earning the prestigious credential, this month’s program will feature APR Committee Co-Chairs Sandra Brodnicki, APR, and Linda Jacobson, APR, plus others who have earned the APR or are currently going through the process.
Come hear what all the fuss is about and prepare to be enlightened – as always, right?