By: Kathleen Taylor, APR

The 2009-2010 term for our chapter draws to a close, but we are surely no where near the end of our journey. While this is my final President’s Word, I continue to be supportive and proud of the work we are doing together for the public relations profession. Below are selections from our annual meeting report.

It was a year following major chapter administrative change and a sharp decline in the local economy. We  adopted the theme “Building Bridges,” and found strength by reaching out to members, to the community, to related professions and to our chapter’s future success. Also, it was our chapter’s 25th anniversary year, so we made time to celebrate!

It was the second year operating with a more “corporate” structured leadership team, with an executive board and extended chair positions reporting to VPs. Our local economy was one of the hardest hit by the economic downturn, and many of our members were feeling the pinch in lost clients or cut positions. Competition was heating up in the broader field of communications, in part because of increasing demand from clients who were looking to do more with less and expecting public relations professionals to deliver marketing results and advertising professionals to affect positive public relations results and so on. Member research and qualitative findings from communications colleagues in other disciplines revealed that FPRA continued to enjoy a positive reputation for delivering sound professional development opportunities and increasingly congenial networking experiences. The Leadership Team made its primary goal to build and strengthen connections within the chapter, business, personal and community arenas.

The first “bridge” connected our planning to the frustrations our members were facing at work. Layoffs and company downsizing loomed as a threat and damaged morale, budget cuts eliminated professional development spending, and repeat guests delayed decisions to join for undetermined reasons. We scheduled programs of undeniable professional development value, budgeted for membership scholarships to solve financial burdens of dedicated members and planned a special “members-only” event to enhance the urgency and reason for fellow professionals to join. The Southwest Florida Chapter carried out our strategies through tools such as membership kits, a flyer of all upcoming scheduled programs, personal phone calls and social media technology communications. As a result, meeting attendance stayed high, seasoned professionals at risk of letting their membership lapse renewed for another year, and several new members joined our chapter as dedicated volunteers. Membership applications increased following each major event and announcement of a coveted members-only program opportunity.

Bridges to our community underwent renovations this year as our second annual PR Pro Bono day expanded to include advertising and graphic design. By including this additional subject matter, we met an observed need of nonprofit communications professionals to be more adept in fields related to public relations. Several of our regular monthly programs were geared specifically toward nonprofits and issues in the news. Our program on PR in politics, for example, attracted a stronger representation from public information officers and government relations professionals; connecting us to a few current and past members we hadn’t seen in a while.

We reopened bridges to our local American Advertising Federation chapter. As specialized communications professionals, we each noted that we are facing similar work-related challenges. Upon meeting with their leaders, we learned that they were eager to reconnect with us as well. We cross-promoted programs this year, and together, we hosted a special joint networking event that was well-attended by members of both organizations. Plans are underway for continuing our efforts next year.

To our chapter’s future and in connection with our chapter’s past, we built bridges. One way we did this is to ensure a bit of financial security by socking away a year’s worth of operating costs in a Money Market account.

Congratulations all go to you, the members of this chapter, for another grand year on the books. 

See you next “year!”