Tomorrow I'll do something I never thought I would do: I will let my membership in the Public Relations Society of America lapse.
When I realized that the time for renewing my membership was coming up, I started debating whether or not to even ask my boss if I General Motors would be paying for it this year. I started to think really hard about what my membership in PRSA gave back to GM, and I was having a hard time coming up with much. In the end, our Communications leadership told our entire function that the company would not be picking up the costs for any professional memberships in 2009, and so, today is my last day as a member of PRSA.
PRSA, and most especially, the Public Relations Student Society of America have really helped me in my career path. In fact, had I not been involved in planning the PRSSA 2006 National Conference, I would not have been recruited by GM for their internship program, and would not be in my current job at the company. My time in PRSSA was extremely valuable, and I encourage every PR student join their school’s chapter if there is one. Because of PRSSA, I was able to meet a variety of professionals – many of whom I still keep in contact with – and learned about what it’s like to work in the profession. I’ll always be grateful to what PRSSA helped me accomplish.
When I moved to Detroit for the internship with GM, I joined PRSA, and our local chapter, PRSA-Detroit. I was blown away with the quality of the Detroit chapter and all the activities they have for members. Furthermore, I was fortunate enough to be here in time to assist with the planning of the PRSA 2008 International Conference in Detroit. The PRSA-Detroit chapter is extremely well run and has many, many amazing people in its ranks.
With this in mind, however, I’m not sure how valuable my national membership was to me. With the exception of Tactics and The Strategist (two publications I really enjoyed reading) as well as the daily “PRSA Issues & Trends” e-mail, there wasn’t much value to be had with my national membership unless I was willing to pay for all the conferences and teleseminars they put on. Someone on Twitter remarked to me that joining PRSA for them only meant paying membership dues up front, and then having to pay more money to get the most out of your membership. I think that is an excellent point, and frankly, I feel the same way.
In that same Twitter conversation, the aforementioned individual said she had a better experience in her local chapter than she did with National. I, too, noticed that. She thinks PRSA ought to offer members the chance to join only their national chapter. I think that’s a stellar idea, but recognize there are inherent problems with it. But for me, aside from the Conferences which still costs a great deal of money, all the value I gained in PRSA and PRSSA was from my involvement in my campus and local chapters. That’s where I was able to network with people I’m more likely to come in contact with, and where I got to learn about topics most applicable to my geographical area.
With PRSA offering members the chance to pay their membership dues in installments this year, I think they recognize the impact the economy is going have on their members. This is a smart move, but I think other big changes need to happen to make sure members are getting their money’s worth with their membership. Paying $300 a year, and then having to spend around $150 to participate in a teleseminar seems like a hard sell. Could they not offer a few more things that would be included in the membership?
This should not be seen as an attack on PRSA or PRSSA. I believe in PRSA’s mission of advancing the profession and the professional, but I think radical changes need to be implemented so that this mission can actually be achieved. Hey, if everyone reading this blog goes out and buys a new GM car or truck this year (preferably a Chevy), and tells their friends to do the same, maybe next year I’ll be able to renew my membership. For now, I’ll have to content myself with reading my old textbooks and PR articles online to enhance my skills and learn new ones.