International Assembly Update

Cohen to lead PRSA in 2014 with new strategic plan

By Assembly Delegate Ann Peru Knabe, APR+M

The Public Relations Society of America held its annual assembly in Philadelphia on Oct. 26. Hundreds of delegates from around the country voted on numerous issues and a slate of officers. The Southeastern Wisconsin PRSA chapter had 3 votes (based on chapter membership numbers).

This year’s assembly was a little unusual because there weren’t any highly controversial issues.

On the bright side, PRSA is fiscally healthy. This means no dues increase (yeh!). There were also some new initiatives unveiled, to include free webinars for members and other opportunities.

At the end of the assembly, there was a town-hall meeting where people could say what’s on their minds, but nothing stood out as extraordinary, except the recurring discussion of PR Accreditation. The nominating team’s slate of officers, which go through a thorough vetting and in-person interviews in late summer, was unanimously also approved during the assembly. As part of this slate of board members, Joe Cohen is the new chair-elect for PRSA. He is a senior vice president at MWW, a consumer marketing firm based in the New York City area.

Joe Cohen, PRSA chair-elect

Joe Cohen, PRSA chair-elect

On a personal note, I found Cohen a strong listener and visionary. I have met him twice now (at PRSA and the Universal Accreditation Board), and both times I was impressed with his reflective thought-process and listening skills. 

Cohen will lead us into the new PRSA Strategic Plan which paces great emphasis on two goals: Championing the strategic value of ethical PR and the role of PR as a lead discipline in driving organizational strategy, and creating virtual and face-to-face communities where members build relationships to learn, network, and mentor. These goals were discussed in-depth at the assembly, and delegates were asked to give written feedback after breaking into teams. With these new initiatives, PRSA is working to meet the needs of its members and public relations professionals in the ever-changing industry by delivering relevant, lifelong learning opportunities.

The assembly also received a briefing from a research group called OPG. PRSA hired OPG to evaluate the “APR” brand, and identify its strengths and weaknesses, and offer recommendations to increase the “value of APR” in the years to come. This is particularly timely since Accreditation hits its 50 year anniversary in 2014.

A final conference update, more close to home, is that Brian Lee of our sister chapter in Madison is heading up PRSA’s Midwest District. I have known Brian for years since meeting him at a PRSA leadership rally. The Midwest District is planning a regional PRSA conference in June 2014 in Springfield, Mo. The conference might be a more affordable option for Wisconsin members to attend.

In closing, it’s always interesting to get the view from the top-level leaders in PRSA. I am confident they are steering the profession in the right direction, and eager to see Cohen’s strategic plan implemented in 2014.