2019: Letters and reflections from a PRSA president

“You want me to serve as your president-elect?”

I remember stammering this on the phone when asked by the incoming president of the Public Relations Society of America’s Volunteer Chapter. I was honored and terrified. Could I, this introverted nerd, move into a leadership role in a communications organization? With a trembling voice and racing heart, I accepted the challenge.

Serving as president was a rewarding experience. I gained confidence in myself and formed a meaningful bond with my leadership board that I still hold dear to my heart. The Volunteer Chapter allowed me to gain knowledge in event planning, navigating membership issues, public speaking, writing and more. I’m grateful for stepping out of my comfort zone and pushing myself to try something different.

Below are the letters I wrote in 2019 as president to the PRSA Volunteer Chapter membership. I’m sure you’ll notice a theme: growth.

January 2019

Wow. Another new year.

In 2018, I had the pleasure of meeting new PR professionals eager to contribute their knowledge. Each person on our past board encouraged new ideas and pushed the chapter to embrace change. I see that same excitement and devotion in my board this year.

As I reflect back on all the opportunities and challenges, I’m left with a heart full of gratitude and hope. Let’s work together to make 2019 the year that we invest in each other, professionally and personally.

Erin Simpson
2019 PRSA Volunteer Chapter President

February 2019

Last month, I asked for us to consider investing in others this year, personally and professionally. While still important, I’m now asking you to also invest in yourself.

We cannot grow if we choose to remain where we are. You don’t have to be the best. You just have to keep striving to be better than you were.

There are several ways we can work on ourselves. Aside from expanding your knowledge and skills, you can build up your confidence, make happiness a priority, set new goals, update your financials, check on your creativity, read a riveting book, network, and take care of your health (it is American Heart Month after all).

The best project you’ll ever work on is you. And trust me, you’re worth it.

Erin Simpson
2019 PRSA Volunteer Chapter President

March 2019

March is a time of growth. As the winter weather begins to give way to the warmth of a new season, we begin to see life spring forth. It’s a beautiful, healing month (aside from the allergies).

It’s a perfect time to come out of hibernation and put your heart into new things. Maybe you’ve been looking to remodel your home or you’ve decided you want to pursue your APR. Maybe you’ve been thinking about that family beach vacation or you’ve been wanting to go to a Volunteer Chapter monthly event for the first time. Take action!

Since March comes in like a lion, let’s all show some courage this month and give it our loudest roar.

Erin Simpson
2019 PRSA Volunteer Chapter President

April 2019

Did you know that April is APR month?

The Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) is a credential earned by public relations and communications practitioners who commit to the profession through ethical practices and sound judgment, strategic perspectives, knowledge of best practices and the use of the research/planning/implementation/evaluation (RPIE) process. An APR shows your employer that you have the understanding and commitment to planning at a strategic level and upholding a Code of Ethics.

If you’re interested in learning more about the APR, spend an evening with some of the APRs in our chapter at an information session on Thursday, April 11 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Farragut Town Hall. If you can’t make it out there, just know that you can always email Jeff Gary, our APR Chair, at [email protected] with all of your APR-related questions.


Erin Simpson
2019 PRSA Volunteer Chapter President

May 2019

May is often seen as a time of closing chapters. The last full month of Spring. The epic conclusion of the Avengers. The completion of a hard-earned degree. The last battle for the Iron Throne. Endings can be difficult challenges, but they can also lead to new adventures.

Take a few moments this month to take your endings and turn them into positive beginnings. End of your favorite TV show series? Try a new hobby with your additional free time. Complete a project or finish your degree? Utilize your fresh skills in a new career or on a personal endeavor. Many endings are opportunities to show off your success.

Even if you don’t give a snap about Thanos, it’s important to remember your mental health during trials in your personal and professional life. So keep moving forward and remember to breathe. But not too deeply. The pollen is thick!

Erin Simpson
2019 PRSA Volunteer Chapter President

June 2019

June is finally upon us, and that means we’re halfway through 2019. As a person who deals in analytics, I love measurements and milestones. It’s often encouraging to see where you started and how much progress you’ve made.

T.S. Eliot said J. Alfred Prufrock measured out his life with coffee spoons. The cast of Rent calculated 525,600 minutes in a year. You’re either counting those moments away or making them count.

How will you measure your 2019? Accomplishments? Embraces? Laughter? Relationships? Money? Likes on Instagram?

I challenge you this month to look back at the year so far and find the positive strides you’ve made towards your personal and professional goals. It may feel like 2019 is flying by, but there’s so much we can celebrate together already – so let’s do it!

Congratulations, friends!

Erin Simpson
2019 PRSA Volunteer Chapter President

July 2019

Did you know that July is National Ice Cream month?

This tasty treat comes in a variety of flavors, styles, and toppings to satisfy anyone needing a cool, refreshing snack in the summer.

In many ways, PR professionals are a lot like ice cream. We are equipped with lots of tools and strategies (toppings – sprinkles of brilliance) to move towards success. We also adapt to different needs and circumstances throughout the process (styles – we can be gelato or sorbet when the need arises). After all, the word “stressed” flipped around is “desserts,” and that’s what we do when we help navigate crises or manage communications for our clients or company.

Now if you think we’re all the same, you are so wrong! We have many similar skill sets (base ingredients, right?), but we also have individual experiences, perspectives, and personalities to bring to the table. That uniqueness makes us an asset to our profession, community, and world. Aren’t you glad we’re not just vanilla PR people?

Stay cool and enjoy, my friends!

Erin Simpson
2019 PRSA Volunteer Chapter President

August 2019

These summer months have been hot, and so far, August has been no exception.

I am not built for this weather. My curly hair fuzzes up in the humidity and just standing outside causes me to perspire. It does, however, make me appreciate those chilly autumn breezes even more when they roll in.

As much as I hate it, sweating is beneficial. Physically, it’s our body’s way of keeping us from overheating, and it can be a response to stressful or mentally taxing situations. It’s a good reminder that while we may feel the pressures of life weighing us down, the winds often change and blow in our favor. Just crank up the air conditioning and keep up the good, sweaty fight.

So go have a gulp of ice water and don’t sweat the small stuff.

Erin Simpson
2019 PRSA Volunteer Chapter President

September 2019

Did you know September is Ethics Month?

In case you’ve been living under a rock, there are ethical dilemmas flooding the news on a daily basis. In our jobs as PR professionals, we often encounter choices that require us to reflect and analyze in an ethical mindset. It can be scary to navigate through those issues, but there are ways to incorporate sound ethical decision-making every day.

Ethics require a great responsibility on our part. After all, we have the power to do harm or good with information. Choose to move with transparency and honesty in mind. The PRSA Code of Ethics and ethics resources can help you better understand what you can do to advocate truth, accuracy, and fairness both personally and professionally. Let’s be the ethical leaders we would want to follow.

Be sure to check out some of the Ethics Month events hosted by PRSA in our newsletter and register for our September 19 meeting at TVA where we’ll discuss how to provide an ethical voice in challenging times (awesome tour included).

Erin Simpson
2019 PRSA Volunteer Chapter President

October 2019

We’ve finally reached my favorite time of the year: Autumn. I love to see the leaves on the trees transform into a sea of warm colors and feel that cool breeze dance around me outside.

Another reason I love this fall season is because we’re in party mode within the Volunteer Chapter. We’ve been honoring local PR professionals at our annual V Awards ceremony for over 46 years and this year, we’ll be combining the ceremony with a half-day professional development conference at the Regas Building on Friday, October 25. It’s a great opportunity to grow your skills and recognize the impact our Volunteer Chapter members have on both the local community and the public relations field.

So grab your Pumpkin Spice Lattes and join us. We’ve got a lot to be thankful for, and we’re looking forward to celebrating you!

Erin Simpson
2019 PRSA Volunteer Chapter President

November 2019

“Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.” – Zig Ziglar

With Thanksgiving around the corner, many people have put on their attitude of gratitude for the holiday season. However, we can always find a reason to be thankful.

This year, I’ve made a conscious effort to notice people and moments that I am grateful for and write them down in a gratitude journal. I’ve acknowledged clear skies while traveling, receiving an email with praise and everything in between. You may be asking, “Why all that effort?”

Gratitude actually has a lot of physical, psychological and social benefits. According to numerous studies, grateful people are more stress resistant and tend to recover more quickly from negative life events. As professionals in the demanding field of public relations, less anxiety is especially invaluable. 

Gratitude not only benefits each of us, it also transforms the lives of others. As we become more helpful and express more empathy, we remind people that there is hope and goodness in the world. Saying “thank you” can motivate employees, strengthen relationships, and more. Essentially, we connect more with others when we express our gratitude.

So, let’s count our blessings. It’s good for our health.

Erin Simpson
2019 PRSA Volunteer Chapter President

December 2019

3 females stand together in front of PRSA V Awards sign

December often represents a time of endings. It’s the end of a decade, the end of 2019, the end of the latest Star Wars trilogy and the end of my term as the PRSA Volunteer Chapter president. Not all endings are sad, however.

This year, I had the opportunity to lead in PRSA. If I’m being honest with you, I went into this presidency feeling completely unqualified to lead professionals who could run circles around me in the public relations field. Even though this position was something completely out of my comfort zone, I was determined to give it my best.

I also discovered new talents (or rekindled old ones). Believe it or not, I was convinced I was a terrible writer. I’m not sure where it happened but along the way, someone made me believe I was a failure at composition. The challenge of writing a president’s letter each month started off as a daunting task that filled me with excruciating anxiety. The whole time I worried that I’d come across as some imposter to my fellow PR colleagues or even embarrass the chapter. Each month, however, I had members in the chapter that I respect go out of their way to email or message me words of praise for those letters.

I’m leaving on a high note. I’m grateful for each of you and the positive impact our chapter has made on the profession and local community. We grew attendance at our meetings, created a new PR certification and celebrated success at our V Awards. If you thought 2019 in PRSA was great, 2020 is going to be even better! I look forward to seeing our chapter continue its impact into the new year with our incoming president, Caitlin Darras, at the helm. I’m honored to have served with her and my amazing board of directors.

Thanks for the memories (and confidence), friends.

Erin Simpson
2019 PRSA Volunteer Chapter President

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