Complete History

Contrast the reports in the 2001 Hoosier Chapter PRSA newsletter with those of 1965: Today about 80 members regularly attend the monthly meetings of the chapter, which with 320 members is one of the largest among 113 nationwide. In 1965 it numbered 44 and thought 15 was a great meeting turnout.

The chapter was founded in 1957, ten years after the national organization was formed by merging the American Public Relations Association and the National Association of Public Relations Counselors.

In the early 1970s, when membership rose to about 80 (including introductory members, no longer a classification), accreditation was strongly encouraged. PRSA had initiated it nationally in 1964 and the 1970 chapter president, Bill Spencer, received his APR while working in New York. Some of the first to participate in the process drove to Dayton for testing. By 1972, 22 of 84 members were accredited.

In 1980, the chapter hosted the East Central District conference at the former Stouffer Hotel. It also hosted District conferences in 1984 (when the "Father of Public Relations" Edward Bernays, APR, spoke) and in 1995.

In the '80s, membership climbed into the low 100s. The chapter tested the waters with public service projects. An early approach was to provide counsel to not-for-profit agencies without public relations staff. In 1985, the Hoosier chapter sponsored public relations skill classes for the United Way's Volunteer Action Center. In 1988, this project took the form of a Public Relations Seminar. Community service expanded in 1986 to co-sponsor a conference on science and public relations. The chapter also began work on cultural awareness projects in connection with the Pan American Games scheduled for 1987.

During the 1985-86 meeting year, the chapter took an active role in efforts to move PRSA national headquarters from New York to the Midwest. PRSA decided to stay in NYC.

The Joanne Dring Collegiate Awards were launched in the 1987 as a memorial to a chapter past-president who died that year. In recent years, raising funds for this scholarship program with a cyber auction has been taken on by the New Professionals.

The Indiana Public Relations Conference held at Ball State University since 1982 moved to Indianapolis in 1988 with the Hoosier Chapter and the Indianapolis Chapter of International Association of Business Communicators joining in sponsorship. This partnership continues today -- the 2001 conference is planned for this Spring. The theme: "Virtual Reality: Connecting with your customers in a high tech world." Probably not what our founder expected in 1957. Two hundred attended the 2000 conference.

During the same meeting year, the job bank was launched and soon discussions began to consolidate it with that of other communications chapters. That finally happened in 1995 with the joint PRSA-IABC job reference bureau.

The Hoosier Chapter won a national chapter membership incentive award in 1988-89 with 147 members - in ten years that number would double and more national membership awards would come in 1996 and '97. As an effort to increase awareness of PRSA's accreditation program, the chapter congratulated the new APRs and listed all the members who had earned that designation. In the next meeting year, the chapter ranked 12th in number of accredited members in its membership bracket.

The 1989-90 meeting year saw the formalization of the Half-Day with a Pro for the state's university public relations student. The format has been continued.

A period of transition began in 1990 to convert the Hoosier Chapter's meeting year to the calendar year. Officers elected then served 18 months until the end of 1991. National held one of its professional development programs in Indianapolis (on speech writing) and the chapter planned after-hours workshops for members. The latter have evolved into free-to-members brown-bag-lunch professional development programs.

Long-range planning was launched in 1992 with a research instrument that led to the development of six goals: increase membership, provide membership training, promote ethical standards, improve cooperation among public relations professionals, further awareness and acceptance of the public relations profession, and expand the Hoosier Chapter's leadership role in the profession. Among activities that year toward reaching those goals were developing a speakers' bureau and taking responsibility for the East Central District Awards program. Three additional chapter members were named Fellows of PRSA: Charlene Hillman, Dave Richards and Bill Spencer who joined Dr. Mel Sharpe, named a fellow the previous year.

Additional activities launched the next two years in keeping with the long-range plan: development of a chapter competition of professional work, establishment of chapter international and multicultural affairs committees, and initiation of chapter service awards.

To meet the challenge of keeping monthly meetings affordable enough for regular attendance by all members, in 1994 the chapter began soliciting meeting sponsorships of $200 (now $250). This also was the year that the New Professionals were organized. The chapter was cited for placing fourth among PRSA chapters with over 201 members for membership retention (88%) and new members (63).

In addition to hosting another East Central District conference, 1995's accomplishments include raising the membership retention rate to 91%, the number of APRs to over 50, and average meeting attendance to close to 100. The chapter fine-tuned its awards program into the Keystone Awards, offered classes in public relations through the continuing education program at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, experimented with an Indiana Achievement in Communications Award and began serving members and prospects with a Voice Mail system.

At the national PRSA conference in 1996, the chapter came home with two awards: the top one among all chapters for management and the chapter excellence award for professional development among chapters of over 201. The chapter began serving as a clearinghouse for requests for public relations volunteers by non-profits as well as sponsoring an occasional chapter service program. The successful APR accreditation preparation program expanded to include a pilot program for undergraduate APR testing at Ball State, one of 13 schools participating in the pilot.

In 1997, the chapter celebrated its 40th anniversary and added a Senior Professionals Dinner with a distinguished speaker to its list of projects and activities. Ball State University honored the chapter with a Citation in Journalism for its support of the school's public relations education.

Mileposts in 1998 include seeing a member (Bob Schultz for the American Camping Association) receive a PRSA Silver Anvil award. It had been 22 years since an Anvil was awarded to a Hoosier Chapter member - to Polly Jontz for The Children's Museum - and almost as many years since Frank Wemhoff's for Cosco. Dr. Mel Sharpe was named PRSA's National Educator of the Year. The chapter, with 286 the 17th largest among 117 nationwide, was chosen as one of five for a pilot partnership with Drug Free America.

1999 was the year chapter membership topped the 300 mark. With 320 members and a growing list of programs to meet members' needs, the chapter reorganized its administrative structure. To serve members and other public relations practitioners - and raise funds - a media guide was published. The chapter web site was launched and New Professionals used it to conduct a cyber silent auction to raise scholarship money.

Kids for a Drug Free Society was underway in 2000. The chapter had recruited 17 companies to participate - a record among the pilot program participants. Public service also was the theme of the chapter's joint holiday meeting with IABC. Non-profit agencies were invited to send representatives for round-table counseling over lunch. The chapter took time out for itself by developing its first marketing brochure.      (top)

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