The 15 year history shared by Judy Bricker, one of the Gulf Coast Chapter’s Founding Presidents.
How did PRSA start in the Southwest Florida community?
We originally established an FPRA – Collier County Chapter in the early to mid-90’s to serve as a professional resource to the public relations and marketing practitioners of the area. This filled a void in our area, as the Public Relations profession was growing as Collier County grew, but we didn’t have an officially recognized resource at the time. As the years passed, we realized that our member demographic consisted of many individual practitioners, as well as corporate professionals whose responsibilities or clientele stretched beyond the borders of Florida. Most had regional, national or even global reach. For that reason, we considered switching to PRSA, which should increase our ability to grow our membership and meet our target audiences’ needs.
What was your main role in founding the PRSA Gulf Coast Chapter?
At the time, I was president of our FPRA Collier County Chapter. The current board, our president elect, Lisa Boet and I facilitated key round tables and surveyed our membership to discuss the possibility of establishing a PRSA chapter in Southwest Florida. If most or all agreed, we would plan to transition to PRSA in the next calendar year with our new president and board of directors. It was positively decided and the transition began. Detailed communications were sent to the members, new memberships were established with PRSA and we moved forward.
What did you hope to gain in starting the Gulf Coast Chapter and what have you gained in the past 15 years being an active member of the chapter?
PRSA offered global connections and resources to our members. The organization’s continuing education, professional conferences, expert advice, commentary and speakers were a wealth of information. PRSA also had the college level program – PRSSA for students perusing the profession and created a natural pipeline of new members to local chapters, and immediate mentors to young professionals.
We’ve grown our APR member count, which reflects very positively on the expertise of our membership. We’ve cultivated the next generation of young professionals into the “one’s in charge” of our chapter as board members. This elevates career growth, and nurtures confidence and leadership skills. This is proven in the number of members who have taken up the responsibility of serving on the board through the years and even elevate to the State or National committees and boards. PRSA gives our members the opportunity to advance, and that looks great to an employer or private clientele.
How has PRSA benefited the Southwest Florida community in the past 15 years?
In addition to professional development, the Chapter reached out to the community and established itself as a resource to Southwest Florida small business owners and nonprofit organizations. Since we are a small chapter in a non-metropolitan market, our growth must also come from beyond the profession. We welcome and encourage small business and nonprofits to join the chapter and attend our luncheon presentations whenever possible. We rotate in programming specifically for them, since many of them are wearing multiple hats – including serving as their own publicity experts. They are regularly encouraged to call us for expert advice or direction.
Where do you see the future of our chapter?
I understand from our president-elect that we will broaden our committees to appeal and support specific market segments and expertise. The past presidents plan to play a larger supportive role, as well. More to come on that. I see real roots established in our small but mighty chapter and it will continue to grow with the community. I cannot express how incredibly grateful and honored I am to have been involved in the birth of this chapter along with the talented team who brought it to life. Our current board is dedicated to sustaining it and launching it into the future. PRSA Gulf Coast Chapter is in good hands! If you’re not already a member – come ahead!