National Capital Chapter

Reflections from National PRSA

By Sam Villegas, APR, MidAtlantic District Director, PRSA National Board

Though there’s roughly another month and change on the calendar year, it always feels like a downshift after ICON, as if we’re slowing around a curve before we accelerate into the straight away of the New Year. It’s a perfect time to reflect on accomplishments of the year and inventory what’s still on the to-do list.

Here’s a snapshot of those items from the National PRSA perspective:

2017-2019 Strategic Plan
2019 marks the third year and final year of the last Strategic Plan and work has been underway to develop the next iteration that will guide our activities for the next three years. Some measurable results of its three focus areas include:

  • Expanding our membership community: We experienced a steady increase over the last three years in member retention rate, currently at 78%; a steady increase in members over the last three years, now at 21,880, and an increase in conversion of PRSSA members to PRSA members, currently at 575.
  • Enhancing professional growth: Our workshops, webinars and certificate programs all continue to receive satisfaction ratings in the 90th percentile and higher, and participation (and therefore income) in all of them have steadily increased over the last three years.
  • Elevating knowledge through thought leadership: The last three years brought a more concerted effort to advocate for our profession, beginning with several key public statements made in 2017 by then Chair Jane Dvorak. This effort shifted into high gear with dozens of high-profile advocacy pieces in the trade and national press from Tony D’Angelo at the helm, and this work continues under Debra Peterson this year.

2020 – 2022 Strategic Plan
There is much work still to be done in membership and other areas. Work on the next three-year strategic plan began in January. A team of diverse volunteers and staff developed the new plan’s 8 areas of focus:

  1. Innovation and change
  2. Governance and Culture
  3. Discipline convergence
  4. Membership
  5. Diversity and Inclusion
  6. International Potential
  7. Advocacy
  8. Civility

Just to highlight a few places where we’ve already begun to accelerate activity:

Diversity and Inclusion – PRSA continues its efforts to increase diversity within the organization at all levels. This year we completed some very valuable research through a series of focus groups and a digital survey that garnered more than 4,000 complete responses. This information will be used to power strategies and tactics that help us build a more diverse organization for the future.

Innovation and Change – Three areas where we have innovated and begun the process of change to meet the changing expectations of our workforce include our APR, our professional development programming and the back-end technology that powers how members engage with each other and use the resources PRSA provides.

  • The significant technology investment we made over the last three years goes much deeper than the newly refreshed website launched last month. It provides for more seamless and sophisticated integration of services, greater automation, and a design that scales us for future growth.
  • Another area of steady transformation is the APR, our Society’s mark of distinction. We have been looking at everything, from how it is earned, how one renews it to what it’s called. Changes are coming to bring you a credential that better matches the member’s expectations and needs.
  • And, finally, professional development has been a major area of change and improvement in the last few years, with a new, very popular certificate program and a new speaker’s bureau, which invites training expertise from throughout our membership and beyond.

More to come these next few years with focus on civility, more advocacy, tapping into our international potential and capitalizing on industry convergence.

I look forward to my next and final year as the MidAtlantic director on PRSA’s national Board. It’s been one of the most enjoyable and rewarding experiences of my career – the chance to serve an organization that has meant so much to me, throughout my career.

I applaud everyone who has stepped up in any way at the chapter or district level to help move our mission forward and to anyone who hasn’t yet, I ask you, as you downshift into the holidays and plan your 2020, to consider how you might contribute to our collective success in the future.

I would be happy to discuss my experience with anyone in more detail, as well as some of PRSA’s past and planned successes, and I look forward to our continued work together. Peace!

About the Author
Sam Villegas, APR is a senior consultant with Raftelis ( and the MidAtlantic District Director on PRSA’s National Board.

She was the 2009 Chair of the Mid Atlantic District and the 2013 president of the National Capital Chapter.