By Gerry Corbett

In this age when knowledge and information are king and social infrastructure platforms are de rigueur professional membership organizations are becoming even more essential to the progress and professional development of public relations and communications professionals. With credit to American Express, membership does have its privileges and rewards and these days membership organizations are a quick means to building a network.

I joined PRSA as a student (PRSSA) at San Jose State University in 1974 and became a full member of the Peninsula Chapter (PRSA SV predecessor) in 1977.  I have served in many leadership positions in the organization at the chapter, district, section and national levels becoming Chair of the Board and Chief Executive Officer in 2012.   I am accredited, a member of the PRSA College of Fellows and have served as a mentor since 1982.  I can say without a doubt that my membership with the organization has allowed me to assemble a large and impressive network of PR professionals and importantly amass a long career in the PR field.

The fact is the network is the currency of today’s knowledge and wisdom society. A strong network has many benefits that span career advancement, benchmarking, job performance, effective crisis management, on the job problem solving and a myriad of other factors where it pays to have a broad and wide network of people with whom to collaborate and knowledge share.

One other interesting fact to consider, in today’s job market, roughly 80% of people who are landing jobs are doing so as a result of their networks. So it is both wise and prudent to have and maintain a network. My recommendation to mentees and mentors has long been to look at joining organizations that reflect your professional interests and aspirations. By joining, you have reason and rationale to stay in touch. Here are some thoughts to consider regarding membership organizations for young and old alike.

-Membership organizations are one of the best means of developing and building a network.For example, the Public Relations Society of America, with some 22,000 members, is the world’s largest organization of public relations professionals. Being a member of PRSA National and the Silicon Valley Chapter is tantamount to an instant network. And as you engage and get involved with the organization you build networking capital that contributes to awareness of you and your capabilities. Membership also affords the ability to share your vision, career aspirations, professional affiliations and interests.

-Institutionalize your network.  Use today’s social media platforms like Linkedin,  Facebook and Snapchat, among others, to “hard wire” your network and engage those you meet in your membership associations like PRSA SV. Employing such platforms is efficient. You never (or rarely) will need to track down the whereabouts of a friend or former colleague. The platform typically is self-regulating and updating. No need to comb the web to find your contact’s latest gig or place in time. Another benefit is the capability to unobtrusively and instantly communicate your presence and needs.

-Networking means both connecting and collaborating with people in person as well as through other channels like the phone. To insure that folks get to know you well, it is important to meet face to face and not merely Facebook to Facebook. Seeing the “cut of your jib” is an essential means to get folks to know and understand you, witness your character and appreciate what are your abilities and personality. So get out there and meet and greet your fellow members at chapter meetings, meetups, networking events and everything offered by PRSA and PRSA SV and PRSA San Francisco and show them who you are.

-Invite every person with whom you come in contact to join your network on your preferred platforms. Even if you only met the person once through a meeting or casual encounter, you never know when that one spark will flare up with a remembrance of you, particularly as a potential job candidate.

-Reach out and help someone. Networking is a two way street. Networks operate effectively if in fact you use them to help others as well as to ask for help. Remember the old adage, “It is better give than receive.” There is significant wisdom in that axiom. You just never know when a good deed will be come back to help you.

-Go pro bono. If you have time on your hands, use them to help and become a member of a local non-profit. And there likely are several non-profits in your town that could benefit from your experience and abilities. Volunteering is also a great way to build your network and shine a spotlight on the good works of PRSA SV.

Gerard (Gerry) F. Corbett is Founder, Chair and CEO of Redphlag LLC , a strategic branding, PR and communications services and counseling firm. Gerry also is an Instructor on Personal Branding at UC Berkeley, Extension. Gerry has more than four decades of technology, PR and marketing experience in several Fortune 200 firms, is past chair and CEO and 40 year member of the Public Relations Society of America and an avid photographer, career coach and blogger.  Reach him at gerard.corbett@redphlag.comand @gerardcorbett.  

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