By: Elizabeth Frenaye

To start off my June, I was sent to Scottsdale, Arizona to attend the PRSSA Leadership rally. This rally is meant for chapter Presidents and Firm Directors across the nation. The leadership rally started with me being a leader on my own. This was the first time I was flying cross-country alone. With attending a conference comes some responsibilities. Between keynote speakers and breakout sessions, let’s break down leadership.

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Cheryl Procter-Rogers APR, Fellow PRSA

Cheryl started her speech, and kicked off the rally, with a few main points.

  1.     Respect each other, ideas, and diversity.
  2.     Never burn any bridges.
  3.     Absorb everything- have a desire to learn.
  4.     Build your network everywhere you go.

After giving a Sparknote version of her speech, Cheryl broke down the three major subsets of leaders. These are transactional, turn around, and transformational.  Transactional leaders see incremental improvements. They require high performance and like to see the end goal. Turnaround leaders have clear and quick goals. They like to see action quickly and work from the strengths within the organization. Transformational leaders inspire positive changes in those who follow. They are able to connect with people on a more personal level and transform the existing system into something new and more efficient. She said that people have a mix of all three leaders in them, but should strive for transformational.


“Leadership is more than influence. It is about reminding people of what it is we are trying to build-  and why it matters. It is about painting a picture of a better future.” –Michael Collins

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Jane Dvorak, APR, Fellow PRSA

Jane Dvorak is the PRSA chair and welcomed us all to the event. She made it a strong point to remind us that we aren’t perfect. We should let guilt and failure be our best friends. As leaders, we are the role models today for the PR of the future. It is important to build a foundation; the legacy is for the people who follow you. After taking some questions, Jane offered some advice based on chapters issues. The main issue chapters faced was the lack of participation in meetings. Jane’s advice was broken down into three key points. We need to connect with our local PRSA chapter to start. We also need to remind ourselves to help people find their strengths and weaknesses and utilize those. Last but not least, being busy means nothing. Everyone is busy. Priority means everything.

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Dvorak takes a selfie with the PRSSA leadership rally attendees.


Gary McCormick, APR, Fellow PRSA

Gary made us all realized that no one is born a leader. Leadership is an acquired attribute. It’s 20% knowledge and 80% behavior.  Gary asked the audience what we thought some examples of leaders were. When one attendee said “my boss is a leader”, Gary responded by saying that managers/bosses and leaders are different. Managers do things right, leaders do the right thing. After talking about leaders, Gary gave us some general PRSSA tips on how to give the ever-famous (or ever-dreaded) elevator speech. It’s as simple as the ABCDE of PRSSA.  This stands for Advocacy with the profession, Business case of PRSSA, Community and connections, Diversity, and Education. Leadership and PR are all about truthfulness and authenticity, it is important to embrace who you are, and have a truth teller around you.


“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others” – Jack Welch

Breakout Sessions

Our breakout sessions were based on your leadership role and chapter size. Our mentors talked specifically about our personal journey and problems, but there were some overall takeaways.

  1.     No work is ever free.
  2.     What does success look like to you? Have a measurable objective.
  3.     Pick one thing and get it done!


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Thanks to UberEats and Michelle Olson for the coffee to inspire PR leaders

Brandi Boatner, IBM

Brandi talked to us about something a little less positive- failure. But hey, failure happens and we need to get used to it. Failure happens to everyone- even Brandi shared her personal story about recently failing her APR test. According to the dictionary, failure is the omission of expected or required action. You need to fail to have success- and just remember, being willing to fail, and failing, are different. You are your biggest critic and you are what’s holding yourself back. Stop listening to the voice in your head saying that you are not good enough. Embrace failure. Being focused and strategic is what makes money and clients happy. Make sure to have a road map, the destination should not be permanent but have some idea of how to get there. Take the PR temperature of a company or a city- do not go into anything blind. Set goals and always be willing to change them. PR is fluid.


“Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” –Jack Canfield

“Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” –Napoleon Hill

Michelle Olson, APR, PRSA Board Liaison

To continue with Brandi’s lesson of having a road map. Michelle opened up with the advice to always stay on track. Continue your journey and your trip, even if it’s bumpy. As the board liaison, Michelle talked a lot about PRSA. The most important part (and handout) that was given were the foundational values of PRSA. PRSSA needs to follow these as well and leaders start that.

  1.     Respect for the Individual
  2.     Courage
  3.     Honesty/Integrity
  4.     Servant’s Heart
  5.     Innovation/Creativity/Risk-taking
  6.     Commitment to Personal and Professional Growth
  7.     Achievement

But don’t worry everyone, the conference at this point may be over, but the learning is not. Andrew Cook, National Vice President of Advocacy, provided us all with a handbook. While I had to run through TSA in heels, the handbook made it on the flight with me. Leadership never stops, no matter how high in the air you are. With this conference, I made a lifelong connection, but also friends. I gained so much insight and passion for my position and am excited to see what we can do for the future semester. See you all in the fall!