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
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
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
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
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
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
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)