National Capital Chapter

Leadership Is About Giving Back

By Danny Selnick

The National Capital Chapter of the Public Relations Society of American recently inducted me into its Hall of Fame (for 2019). It’s a lifetime achievement award for the work, volunteering and mentoring I did on behalf of the communication profession for more than 30 years.

I was deeply honored, and for the first time in my life, almost speechless. The truth is, however, there’s no award, prize or anything of the sort more meaningful than volunteering in support of an organization’s mission to help its members or giving time to people who can benefit by our experience or connections.

We all know that time is a very precious commodity, especially when work can be so consuming and home life equally demanding. But when we volunteer, we develop a greater connection to our industry and professional community — and it doesn’t have to be by taking on an officer position or committee assignment for an organization. It can be done, one person at a time.

But one thing to keep in mind — if you’re going to “give,” do it — and be committed to whatever you set your sights on. I can’t tell you how many people I seen over the years run for organizational positions, volunteer to be on committees, or offer help to people with whatever AND then they fall short. Of course, important things come up in life that get in the way, but communicate out as much as you can what’s going on. We understand. But don’t just disappear. It weakens everyone’s efforts.

Finding your place can be as easy as joining a professional organization like PRSA-NCC and looking for ways to get involved – even by just attending events and creating connections helps. Look at committees, where you can help out by suggesting panelists for a special event, or even just come up with ideas that help others with professional and/or personal development. NCC has 18 committees that need your help and each one should be active in putting on great programming.

Another way to give back is to mentor comms students who are not exactly sure which direction of study to take, or to help recent grads find job. For young academic professionals (as I call students), thinking about what to study and/or how to find a job are incredibly stressful considerations. Maybe some of us still remember how difficult it was to embark upon our careers. Don’t you wish there had been someone that could have guided you somehow along the way?

There are a handful of area colleges and universities with communication programs. You can reach out to the program directors and ask about mentoring opportunities. Reach out to local PRSSA chapters and offer to speak at one of their meetings.

To this day, I remember when I spoke to a group of students at George Mason University about finding their passion in PR and how to go about making contact with practitioners. It was a lively discussion, but afterwards, one student came up to me and asked if professionals would really talk to students like her. My answer was, “What, do you think I was born this way?”  Point is, young people are hungry for advice and a bit of leadership from practitioners. You can help one student at a time.  That’s not really a heavy lift, but it sure is life changing for that one person you help.

Oh, and for you young professionals reading this blog, don’t think that you can’t give back right now because you think you might be perceived as having limited experience in the field and that you’re not “seasoned” enough. Au contrare. Young professionals bring to the table new ideas and lots of energy that can re-invigorate organizations (and committees), and you can help mentor students with job searches and career advice. It can also be a great bonding experience since both can relate to each other’s recent experiences – having had to make career choices and the process of getting a job.

As an aside, I always tell students that they will get a job, but that it takes time and effort by also seeking out help of professionals. But that you have to make yourself known. Attend PRSA-NCC and other professional events and use online tools like LinkedIn to connect with others who have the jobs you think you might want to have.

How many of you attend events where other professionals introduce themselves and say they’re looking for job opportunities? We’ve all been there. So, take an interest in your professional brethren and offer whatever help you can, by introducing them to appropriate connections that will help them find job openings or create other connections that will lead them to a position.

So, what’s in it for me you might ask? The answer should be everything. Find what you can do and do what you can. Lead by example and along the way have fun, make contacts and life-long friends AND leave a legacy by helping others.

About the Author
Danny Selnick is a nationally recognized senior communications counselor, who built a successful career at two international commercial news wire services, and is best known for his gift as an industry connector and for his willingness to help colleagues and new practitioners.  Throughout his career, he has been dedicated to strategic marketing and communications efforts on behalf of his clients, including associations and nonprofits, advocacy groups, foundations, corporations, and government and political agencies, who focused on public policy and social change issues. He spearheaded marketing and oversaw successful programs, campaigns and projects that reached key audiences and targeted specific media, decision-makers, influencers and the public based on his in-depth knowledge of news gathering and reporting.  He’s a member of PRSA, PRSA-NCC and The National Press Club, where he is the chair of the Communicator Team and a member of the Club’s Board of Governors.  Connect with Danny on LinkedIn and on Twitter @dannyselnick and at