In the three years since I joined the society, CPRS has unexpectedly touched both my professional and personal life. As a new practitioner, I was awarded CPRS Vancouver’s 2016 Student Scholarship, and have met many new friends and mentors. As the fortunate draw prize winner of a couple’s getaway, I even relived my scandalous(ish) elopement in Victoria with my husband, who is also a PR pro. My heartfelt thanks once again to Harbour Air and John KaGeorge for an unforgettable weekend.
While these treasured experiences were unexpected – wildly so, in some cases – here are three things I wish I’d known when I first joined CPRS:
1. CPRS can be a lifeline for solo practitioners
Out of 25 staff in my organization, I'm the only one in a communications and PR role. Although I welcomed the increased responsibility and accountability, bouts of imposter syndrome still tail me and keep me second-guessing.
I’m not the only one in this situation. In-house PR work can mean working in isolation from other PR people. Mentorship isn’t always readily available on online forums, social media or your existing networks.
Through CPRS, you will meet experienced and accredited professionals, many of whom are kind enough to affirm or walk you through situations or scenarios you may feel uncertain about. I’ve heard questions ranging from, “Is this volume of evening or weekend hours common in our field?” to, “What should I track for a performance review when the rest of the organization may not fully understand our job?” and, “How do I push back on a PR tactic or directive from someone much more senior, or even a client?”
I’ve also heard reassuring and satisfactory answers, while receiving support I hadn’t even realised I wanted.
2. CPRS exposes you to diverse angles and trends of the profession
We all know public relations is a broad field. In a single week, a practitioner may work on social media, government relations, media relations, public engagement, marketing, speechwriting, policy development, event planning and copy editing.
Through webinars, events and conferences, CPRS exposes you to specialists in each of those fields. Simply by subscribing to the newsletter and glancing at the events series and blog columns once in a while, you’ll encounter gaps in your knowledge and training you never even realised existed – and get the opportunity to fill them. You can get started today with Deborah Folka’s No Good Deed column on the CPRS blog.
For PR practitioners looking for professional development opportunities in self or group-study settings, both the Public Relations Knowledge exam (PRK) and CPRS’s year-long accreditation process (APR) are great opportunities to test, flex and challenge practitioners at varying stages of their careers.
3. You will be among people working to improve both their skills and the profession
Over the last three years I’ve been a member of CPRS, my perception of the organization and its work has changed because my goals have evolved. As a new graduate, my primary objective was employment security. Today, having shouldered most of the day-to-day communications planning and execution for several years, I’m ready and eager for different challenges: becoming a better practitioner, doing what I can to help the local society, and exploring a more cerebral approach to PR.
Membership Month is at its end – but you can join at any time of the year.
I’m renewing my membership this year because I’ve seen that CPRS exists to improve the wellbeing of the public relations community by connecting practitioners and supporting the future of the profession. I’ve found the society and my local chapter’s engaged Board of Directors accessible and happy to help.
If you’re ambitious and principled and love your work as a public relations practitioner, but you’re not certain you’ll want to apply for membership right away, begin by coming out to a few events or subscribing to the newsletter. It’s been my experience that if you give the society a little time and attention, you’re certain to get something in return.
Ingrid Valou is a writing and PR professional with special interests in local and sustainable business, emerging technologies, and LGBTQ issues. She holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and creative writing from the University of British Columbia, is a graduate of Simon Fraser University’s public relations certificate, and was awarded the CPRS Vancouver Student Scholarship in 2016. She runs a jewellery design business out of her studio in East Vancouver.