The importance of ethical communications and what’s ahead for PRSA

When last we spoke with Michelle Egan, she had just been named the 2022 PRSA Chair-Elect. Over a year later, she joined us again for another episode of PR Profiles, this time as 2023 PRSA Chair. Chatting with host Richard Carufel, Michelle offered her thoughtful reflection on the past three years and a glimpse ahead for PRSA and the PR industry. 

“As chair-elect, it was my job to run the strategic planning committee and reflect on where we’ve been and then also, where we’re going,” says Michelle. “We looked back at the 2020-2022 plan and found that there were a lot of things that worked well. That plan had a theme, Moving PRSA Forward, and while we’ve continued to do that—with COVID disrupting our lives, with racial injustice, polarization—a lot of the plans and opportunities that we had were put on hold as we struggled to stay well, stay focused, and stay optimistic. But there are a lot of things that were built into that plan that really helped us be nimble.” 

Michelle shared several examples of how the 2020-2022 plan allowed them to face the difficult times head on, such as its commitment to improving PRSA’s technology which helped them provide resources and connectivity to members through remote learning; and the companion Diversity, Equity and Inclusion plan which gave PRSA members quick access to DEI perspectives and information following George Floyd’s murder in 2020.  

In developing the next three-year plan, Michelle and her group of board members and volunteers “spent a great deal of time collecting information, doing our research, and talking to members and non-members alike.” Their process included interviews with stakeholders and industry influencers, focus groups, member satisfaction surveys, and innovation sessions. “What we learned from our stakeholders is the important role PRSA plays in preparing students and young professionals and people through all stages of their careers,” says Michelle. “We also heard about the value of our code of ethics and how important it is to our members and non-members, and also how important it is for us to be part of the conversation about what ethical communications looks like.”  

PRSA took these important findings and distilled them into its new North Star. “And that North Star for us is we are a community of ethical communications professionals building for tomorrow today,” says Michelle. The new strategic plan has three pillars which Michelle broke down for us. The first is Build, and that is about investing in establishing the next generation of ethical, diverse, and highly skilled communications professionals. The second pillar is Influence. We publicly champion ethical practices and professional standards in public relations by leading and convening commentary, discussion, and debate on issues including DEI, disinformation, and civil discourse. And then finally, the third pillar is Evolve. And that’s about, again, providing modern tools, content, and opportunities so we can advance the mission of PRSA and be here to serve our members for another 75 years*.” 

Michelle is excited for the rest of the year. “We’re off to a great start. My priorities for the year include listening to what our members want and working diligently to meet those needs. Amplifying our code of ethics is absolutely at the top of my list as you can guess…I want to make sure that we have a voice in how communications is practiced and how our work should align with the code of ethics, even when the issues are really complicated.” 

The full interview with Michelle is available as a podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcast, and other major platforms or you can watch the video interview on YouTube 

* Last year, PRSA celebrated its 75th anniversary with a special commemorative volume: 75 Years of Impact and Influence: People, Places & Moments in Public Relations History. You can read or listen to our PR Profiles episode with Immediate Past Chair, Dr. Felicia Blow, APR, to learn more.