President’s Update: The Power of Belonging

In 2014, my first year on the CPRS-VI Board of Directors as Membership Chair, I surveyed our membership, asking the question “why are you a CPRS member?”

The survey suggested the below as top three:

  1. To stay on top of public relations/communications best practices and research, educational opportunities, etc.,
  2. To connect with people within public relations/communications, e.g. network, share ideas, etc.
  3. To advance their career, e.g. access job opportunities, volunteer opportunities, enhance professional profile, etc.

Although I have no doubt that there is much truth to these results, over the past three years on the CPRS-VI board and countless engagements with past, present, and future members, I realize the question was inherently flawed in its design.

The survey responses were orientated to what members would want to give or to get.

Research shows that a sense of belonging can be extremely important when it comes to our sense of self-worth, comfort, security and well-being.

Now as president of Vancouver Island’s sole community of practice for public relations/communications practitioners, I land on a question of more relevance and power, “how do we encourage a greater sense of belonging?”.

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On a bright and sunny Saturday in September, nearly a dozen CPRS-VI volunteers joined together in Royal Roads’ Blue Heron House overlooking the Esquimalt Lagoon.

And so the idea of the first annual Blue Ocean Retreat was born, a place to identify our shared beliefs and values, from which we are able to best tailor CPRS-VI local programming and engagement with our members.

The day was expertly led by Dr. Virginia Mckendry and Dr. Julia Jahansoozi, Royal Roads communications faculty and public relations researchers (yes, the very same pros who gave us the November 2016 webinar, Surviving to thriving: How pioneering PR women achieved success on their own terms and presented at the 2017 national conference!).

While we sipped coffee and watched herons fish, we went through a morning inquiry process, where we asked each other the following question:

Looking at your entire experience, recall a time when you felt most alive, most involved, or most excited about your involvement. What made it an exciting experience? Who was involved? Describe the event in detail.

Then we formed two groups and shared each other’s stories, working together to identify common themes the emerged from our stories.

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Volunteers Michelle Harris, APR and Sonia Nicholson took advantage of the gorgeous weather and beautiful scenery during the appreciative interviews at Royal Roads University.

From this point, we identified our shared values, what we collectively believed in.

By the end, we agreed upon four shared values, one of which – not surprisingly – was “Belonging”.

Our Values

  • Belonging – the sense of belonging that our community of practice provides us.
  • Learning – growing in our careers and in ourselves.
  • Service – giving of ourselves within CPRS, our field, and our communities.
  • Professionalism – be credible, competent, and ethical in our practice, and to advocate as such within our field.

“An organization that knows and speaks its core values is uniquely able to craft a very positive, sustainable strategy for itself,” said Dr. Mckendry. “It’s exciting to witness CPRS-VI values emerging authentically from the stories of the members themselves.”

To have such evidence that belonging is a shared value allows us to strategically tailor our local events and programming, thereby enhancing individual member’s sense of belonging while contributing to a more inclusive and diverse community representative of the voices, views, and uniqueness of each member.

“We all share the need for belonging and to share experiences with others who understand them because they too live those experiences,” said CPRS National President and CPRS-VI past-president Sarah Hanel, APR. “These facilitated conversations offer us an opportunity to align the work we’re doing to further the association with the real drivers behind association membership – our values.”

By Peggy Kulmala APR

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