American Women in PR, launching its New York chapter June 9 at the Novotel Times Square, said it will stress that PR is “a profession” and not “an industry.”

Jennifer WitterJennefer Witter

Talia Beckett DavisTalia Davis

That note was sounded by Jennefer Witter, co-founder of The Boreland Group, New York, who was emcee for the launching.

“As PR practitioners, we are taught to practice with integrity, diligence, and a desire to learn, grow and become even better professionals,” she said.

Talia Davis, chairwoman and president of Women in PR Canada, which helped to found the U.S. group, said the aim of both is to create a network of women in PR who will “connect, motivate and inspire each other.” Chapters are being launched throughout the U.S. New York is the first official chapter. Networking events will be held quarterly.

More Women in PR than Nursing

Davis said there are more women in PR than there are women in nursing. But very few PR women are in leadership roles in large organizations, she said. “That is something we are working to change. In addition to highlighting the gender imbalance, we are going to be mentoring the generation of our next industry leaders, both women and men, as they progress in their careers.”

“Women still make up less than half of the executive committee roles at most large PR firms and only four women lead agencies with more than $100 million in global revenue in North America,” she said.

Membership is open to individuals ($25/month paid annually) and firms ($85/month paid annually) who work in PR. It is also extended to women and men working in communications, media, marketing and advertising. Memberships are reciprocal across the USA and Canada.

Rebekah IliffRebekah Iliff

PR Is “Hardest Job”

Rebekah Iliff, chief strategy officer, AirPR, San Francisco, said PR is “the hardest job.”

“From the technology side, we see so many trends happening now and how important the owned media portion of it is. It’s not just about editorial anymore; it’s really about how you tell a compelling story. It is important to be a writer, a communicator, and a relationship builder, but it is also important to take advantage of all the great technology and tools that you have at your fingertips and to commit yourself to being inspired as a PR professional and not just doing activities that your boss gives you.”

Deirdre BreakenridgeDeirdre Breakenridge

Judy Musa, Patrice Tanaka & Fay Shapiro(L to R) Judy Musa, Patrice Tanaka & Fay Shapiro

Davis said many women are launching their own firms and the new group will work to ensure they have the same resources they might have at a larger organization. The new group will be a strong advocate for the importance of continuing education. It is launching on-line courses so members can stay on top of PR trends.

A job board has been set up to help women find their next PR opportunity.

“The organization has big plans ahead. We are working to contribute to the USA’s reputation as a PR industry leader,” said Davis.

Breakenridge Hopes for Better Image of PR

Deirdre Breakenridge, CEO of Pure Performance PR, Marlboro, N.J., said, “I’m hoping that one day people will look at PR professionals and say those are the strategic communicators, the hands that shape the DNA of an organization and its communication, its reputation… they’re the truth seekers who remind us to be ethical.

“When you signed up for PR, you became helpers. In this profession, we are natural mentors. If you are on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, you‘re talking and having conversations you’re mentoring, and somebody is saying thank you for helping me.”

Other Advisory Council members present June 9 were Shonali Burke, Washington, DC, president and CEO of social PR consulting firm, Shonali Burke Consulting; Shannon Furey, Asbury Park, N.J., PR director, M studio, integrated marketing firm with offices in New Jersey and New York, and Natasha Kofiman, Toronto, president, NKPR Inc.