- Posted by Kali Hammond
- On July 31, 2020
- community involvement, FPRA, leadership
The Florida Publication Relations Association (FPRA) offers a leadership program, LeadershipFPRA, that consists of five sessions to network, interact, learn and grow. LeadershipFPRA personally gave me the chance to connect with public relations professionals throughout the state of Florida working in a variety of industries, from health care, education and nonprofits, to municipal services, food and beverage, and more. Through this experience, I interacted with colleagues who are just starting out in their careers along with seasoned professionals as LeadershipFPRA Class IV to learn leadership skills that will last my entire career.
When we started this journey, 21 individuals met in Tampa, Fla. to get to know each other through unique team building activities. Over the past year, we grew to become more than just those 21 individuals; we have become a team, supporting and encouraging each other’s personal and professional development every step of the way.
Leading and Managing. We started our journey meeting at the University of Central Florida in November 2019 to discuss the differences between leading and managing. Prior to the session, each participant filled out a strengths profile and scheduled a debrief session where we each met with a member of The Maue Center to go over our results. We focused on how to become a more effective leader by identifying our leadership strengths, tips to use our influence effectively, and key barriers to our success and strategies to address them.
Class members participated in an activity to create their own leadership “breakthrough” experience by overcoming self-imposed limitations and breaking boards with their bare hands. This experience translated into breaking through real-world barriers.
Government, Law and Ethics. In January 2020, we went to Tallahassee for a trip to the state’s capital to get a behind-the-scenes look into how the state manages crisis communications at the Emergency Operations Center, and also visited to the Florida Supreme Court and Senate Chambers. We joined members of the FPRA Capital Chapter to listen to a panel of journalists who communicate legislative issues ahead of the beginning of session to learn about government news coverage, the changing industry and tips to pitch.
Counselor’s Network Winter Symposium. As a class, we also had the opportunity to attend this year’s annual symposium where we got a behind-the-scenes look at how theme parks embrace communications challenges and opportunities within the themed-entertainment industry. Additionally, we joined senior-level practitioners to learn from Leigh Woisard, senior vice president of public affairs at Cox Communications, on how her team advises professionals throughout their organization to go beyond brand communications to fully encourage brand adoption when interacting with their customers.
“Think ground up rather than top down,” she explained. She highlighted the importance of instilling employee confidence in times of uncertainty, focusing on the “what” and the “why” of change and embracing true brand adoption.
Cross-Functional Business Strategies. These sessions turned virtual in May, which was on par with the rest of the world adapting to our new normal of the COVID-19 pandemic. The session covered all aspects of organizations, including finance, legal and HR. Understandably, the conversation transitioned to what we are learning from COVID-19 and the value of employee communications. Dick Finnegan, chief operating officer at C-Suite Analytics, spoke on employee engagement and discussed how companies have had to adjust expectations for their employees while they are juggling remote work, family commitments and more. He also shared that during these unprecedented times, employee engagement is more important now than ever.
“We can’t afford to lose the people we need the most,” explained Finnegan. “It is important for employers to find ways to connect with and trust their employees who are still working remotely.”
Economic Development and Higher Education. The last session started with an overview of economic development and higher education by Jay Galbraith, vice president of public affairs & marketing at Valencia College. He shared the college’s response to COVID-19 and the importance of internal communications at the onset of the crisis. When they approached their communication strategy, he mentioned that they quickly identified that their first responsibility was to their team, which included employees and students alike.
“Shutdowns happened quickly; rebuilding will take time,” explained Galbraith.
Although this program did not turn out the way we had expected due to the COVID-19 pandemic, like great PR pros we pivoted and were flexible in order to complete the program. Having the chance to represent the Orlando Area Chapter of FPRA as a member of Class IV has truly benefited me both personally and professionally. Over the past year, I have grown as a professional and can attribute that to the lessons learned and people I have interacted with through this program. With this experience under my belt, I also feel more prepared to take on whatever challenges we may face as public relations practitioners.
Kali Hammond is an account supervisor at Poston Communications.