FAST 5: Q&A with PRSA Chair Mark McClennan, APR
Public relations must do more than simply ‘occupy’ a seat at the C-suite table says longtime chapter member and past-president Mark McClennan, APR.
Mark (@McClennan), who is senior vice president, social media services for MSLGroup in Waltham, recently began his term as Chair of the PRSA national Board of Directors, having been elected by chapter delegates of the 22,000 member organization. Among his priorities are ensuring that PR professionals have the resources and professional development to remain trusted advisers to the C-suite so they can hold their spot at leadership’s table.
His term year has arrived with a bang: a recent New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) advisory opinion that will expand the definition of ‘lobbyist’ and implications that public relations practitioners would incur new regulatory compliance as a result. He is quoted in a recent PRSA release on this issue HERE.
We caught up with Mark for a FAST 5 to ask him to reflect on the importance of PR, his priorities for PRSA in 2016, and the increasingly important role Boston is playing in the PR universe, with a visit by PRSA CEO Joe Truncale later this month and hosting the PRSA Northeast District Conference (PRXNE16, @prsane #prxne) in June.
#1 – Where is PR today?
PR is more important today than it has ever been. When I first joined the mantra was, “PR needs a seat at the table.” Today, for the most part we have a seat at the table. But having a seat at the table isn’t enough. We all know the dinner guest who just eats the food and is not invited back. Today the challenge is consistently reinforcing PR as a lead discipline and trusted counselor at the table. If we are not advancing sage counsel in every interaction, we are hurting ourselves, and we have enough detractors that we can’t afford to do that.
#2 – Why PRSA?
This is the question I get the most from non-members, and I love it. PRSA is the best and deepest resource for you to engage with to advance yourself as a professional and to help advance your career. We have 22,000 members in more than 110 chapters, and another 11,000 students and great intern candidates across 334 student chapters. This is the recruitment pipeline of our future. Within our membership we have 14 dedicated professional-interest sections that instantly connect you to professionals who are facing the same challenges you are.
But when people ask me about the cost, I have a simple answer. The true cost of PRSA is two to four hours a month. If you are willing to invest that by getting involved and not just coming to meetings, the rewards will blow away any dues amount. And if you are not willing to invest that much time in your career, then others who are will pass you by.
I credit PRSA with playing a huge role in advancing my career. Ann Getman taught me so much about PR research that she made a hard-charging AE seem really smart to his managers in the 1990s. Kirk Hazlett has been a mentor and friend for almost 20 years. But that is just the beginning. The more you get involved the better it gets. I have had the pleasure of being active on the local, district, section and national level. Every time I volunteer, I find the opportunities and awards more than I ever expected.
#3 – What PRSA events are you looking forward to the most in 2016?
The great thing about PRSA is there are so many outstanding events – and there is always one for your specific need. Locally, the PRSA Northeast District Conference (PRXNE16) in June is shaping up to be a dynamite event. We have Joe Truncale, CEO of PRSA (and a closet Red Sox fan), who visited us last week for our March Board Meeting and March Madness Mixer then attended our 3rd annual APR St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast the next day. He’s also going to be speaking at PRXNE16.
The International Conference in Indianapolis in October is going to be outstanding. If you have never been, this is the year to go. Three days of information-packed professional development and more than 1,500 PR pros. Finally, I love the PRSA Counselors Academy Spring Conference in May. It is a multi-day session designed for senior agency executives and agency owners.
#4 – What are some of your key priorities during your 2016 tenure as National Chair?
My top priority is serving our members and working to increase the value that PRSA provides to them that is actionable in their daily career lives. That includes a number of initiatives, including growing the section communities (PRSA’s professional interest groups), working to improve the way we leverage technology to deliver programming and information, supporting the opportunities and development of new professionals, executing campaigns that have a positive impact on diversity and seeing where we can improve our governance model.
Like any good PR pro, I realize that while I have my plans, outside circumstances may cause some recalibration, as the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) did with its recent ruling. This could have a significant impact on many of our members and needs to be addressed.
#5 – What is your PR pet peeve?
Too often PR people are cutting themselves off at the knees when they are advising the C-suite by saying, “I went into PR because I hate math.”
I think it’s more accurate that PR professionals want to make our society a better place. We arrive understanding that language and communications can advance a myriad of experiences that make our lives better, simply because we foster understanding, acceptance and consideration of innovative ideas and new perspectives. I can have a 20-minute debate with almost any PR person about the pros and cons of the Oxford comma or “over” vs. “more than.” But too many forget the language of business is numbers. If the C-suite hears you saying “I hate math,” it undermines your ability to act as a trusted, strategic adviser. This is a self-inflicted wound, and PR people need to stop saying it.
About Mark McClennan
Mark McClennan, APR, (@McClennan) is Chair of the PRSA National Board of Directors, the leading membership governance authority for the Association. Mark is senior vice president, social media services for MSLGROUP, based in Waltham, Mass. In his more than 18 years at MSLGROUP, Mark has led teams in a variety of industries, including consumer technology, financial services and gaming. He regularly advises clients on social media strategies and crisis management. His teams have been recognized with more than 45 awards for excellence in public relations, including five Silver Anvils. Mark has a B.A. in public relations and political science from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. He is past chair of the Northeast District of PRSA and a former president of PRSA Boston.
About FAST 5
This is an interview feature of PRSA Boston’s Hot Topics blog page. The expert subject is someone who is clearly in demand, on the go, and nailing them down for a conversation is about as easy as … winning Powerball at $1.5 billion! But we know leaders like to share, so check back for insights, wisdom, author’s books about to hit the stands and other valuable tips. @prsaboston #prsabos
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This post was originally posted on PRSA Boston on March 20, 2016