The Value of PR Associations in the Digital Age

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The public relations industry is complex and constantly being re-shaped by social media, digital platforms, and Artificial Intelligence (AI). To stay competitive, PR practitioners must pursue continuing education.

PR associations play a vital role in providing members with the skills and knowledge necessary for success in the digital age. Linda Thomas Brooks, CEO of PRSA, and Kim Sample, PR Council President, discuss how their organizations are addressing the needs of communication professionals in the digital age.

Adapting to the Digital Landscape

In the digital age, PR associations face significant challenges, such as staying updated on trends and knowledge, providing relevant resources and fostering a community that supports professionals in navigating the ever-changing landscape. Thomas Brooks stresses the importance of addressing these challenges.

"Our members encounter new professional challenges every day, and we continuously update our resources to offer them information, perspective, and the collective wisdom of the PRSA community."

Thomas Brooks also highlights the organization's history of presenting innovative programming that keeps pace with the evolving needs of its members and the communication community. She emphasizes that their commitment to digital programming has been steadfast in the digital age.

"The demands and expectations of the digital era are no different," she says. "We have consistently provided educational and practical digital resources for years."

This commitment encompasses integrating digital strategies and tactics into programming, facilitating connections between members and leading digital experts, and offering exclusive access to digital vendors and experts at their annual conferences.

To support its member agencies in the digital realm, the PR Council conducts a Stack Share Study every other year. This study tracks more than 800 digital tools used by member agencies for client work and agency operations. The last study provided valuable insights for PR agencies looking to optimize their digital strategies.

Supporting Professional Development

PR associations are continually refining their professional development resources to help professionals excel in today's digital landscape. Sample highlights their approach.

"PR agencies retain an 'earned first' approach but have built digital departments that include experts in digital strategy, production, creative, web dev, SEO, media planning, paid (digital) media, social, and influencer engagement."

For PRSA, this dedication to professional development includes specific initiatives, such as the creation of certificate programs tailored to the digital age.

"Five years ago, we created a Digital Communication Certificate Program to equip our members with what were then best practices within digital content strategy," Thomas Brooks says.

Recognizing the rapid evolution of digital communications, PRSA recently launched the Modern Digital Communications Certificate Program. This program reflects the changes taking place in the digital communication landscape and equips PR professionals with the latest strategies and skills needed to excel.

Associations do not limit their efforts to certificates alone. Both PRSA and the PR Council have developed AI guides to provide guidance on the ethical and effective use of AI in the field of public relations. The PRSA AI Insights page provides guidelines, tips, and best practices related to AI, ensuring that members are well-informed about the ethical considerations and practical applications of AI in PR. Similarly, the PR Council focuses on issuing guidance to help agencies deploy AI across their businesses in smart and ethical ways, emphasizing the importance of responsible and strategic AI integration in the PR industry.

Community and Networking in the Digital World

Beyond professional development, PR associations acknowledge the significance of community and networking. Sample emphasizes the importance of community-building within the PR Council.

"We provide a community for digital, social, and data and analytics leaders to connect these professionals with each other, to significant industry issues, and to the knowledge that helps them perform their jobs better and contribute to their agencies' growth," she says.

This sense of community not only fosters networking, but also enables PR professionals to draw upon the collective wisdom of their peers.

Thomas Brooks highlights the significance of the PRSA community, affirming that the value of PRSA membership extends beyond its programs and offerings.

"As a community of more than 25,000, members have access to unlimited resources, expertise and knowledge exchange," she says.

In an era where digital connectivity is a cornerstone of communication, PRSA fosters an environment in which members can lean on each other to solve problems and share ideas through online forums and discussions. PR professionals of all experience levels are part of a digital landscape that is constantly evolving. This interconnectedness between experienced professionals and digital-savvy newcomers helps to foster a vibrant and forward-thinking PR community.

To help members stay competitive, relevant and equipped to navigate the challenges of the digital age, these associations are dedicated to providing updated educational programs and in-depth research. Their commitment to ensuring members have the necessary skills benefits not only individuals, but also strengthens the PR industry as a whole, promoting its continued growth and adaptability in the ever-changing world of digital communication.

Tai Nichols is event content manager for PRNEWS. Follow her: @SathiyyahN