A Conversation with Major PR Dude Gerry Corbett, APR, Fellow PRSA

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Back in the summer of 2010, The PRDude — actually, it was Edward M. Bury, APR –had the honor of serving on the Nominating Committee for the Public Relations Society of America. The NomCom group, as it’s called, meets in Chicago each August to approve candidates seeking elected leadership positions on PRSA.  I was a last-minute replacement from the Midwest District, but thrilled to have the opportunity to play a role in how the Society is governed and work with fellow APRs and industry leaders from across the nation.

Plus, I knew the food would be good, as well as the conversation.

218_redphlag_llc_largeOne of the candidates on the slate that year was Gerard F. Corbett, APR, Fellow PRSA.  Gerry, as he’s better known, went on to be elected Chair and CEO of the Society.  At the NomCom gathering, I recall that Gerry was engaging, outspoken and very passionate about the Society. With his year leading the world’s largest public relations organization in the rear view mirror, Gerry now has time to focus on Redphlag, LLC, the strategic consultancy he founded.

Last week Gerry and I spoke via phone.  He was at home in California doing what many Californians do: Driving.  I was here in Chicago.  Here’s an edited version of our conversation:

1. Reflecting on your term as CEO and Chair of PRSA, What the single greatest achievement accomplished for the membership?  The roll out of the MBA Initiative, followed by an extremely successful advocacy effort and a successful international conference.  And, let me add engagement with colleagues in Australia, China, Croatia, the Middle East, Philippines, Russia, Thailand and the UK.  I was invited several times to speak at PR events overseas.  I went to Moscow twice . On on trip, I helped the Russian Public Relations Association celebrate its 20th anniversary.  I participated in a two-and-a-half day conference where I spoke several times. I was pleasantly surprised by the many questions that were posed regarding ethics and integrity. 296_20100929a_gcorbett_024Small

2. What is PRSA doing to make sure it’s going to be relevant to the next generation of public relations professionals? PRSA has instituted programming that’s focused on social media through the free webinars available to members, and there’s a grassroots initiative to broaden the “young professional” movement at the Chapter level.  A good portion of PRSA’s 22,000 members are 25 to 45 years of age, so there’s a strong effort to help young professionals gain the skill sets they’ll need.

3. Can you share some results or achievements for The Business  Case for Public Relations? We’re starting to see that there’s a higher proportion of business professionals who have a better understanding of the value and impact public relations has to the business enterprise.  I’ve done a great deal of advocacy work regarding the importance of public relations to the enterprise.  The MBA initiative and advocacy work are part of the Business Case efforts.

4. Can you share thoughts on the future of the APR credential? PRSA members represent around 80 percent of those practitioners who earn the APR, and we still own the intellectual property.  The APR is critically important to PRSA and to those members who have earned it.  The UAB is working on an entry-level credential for college graduates that we envision will be a feeder program for the APR. I earned my APR back in 1982 when I was with the Chicago Chapter.

5. What will life be like for you, after a year as PRSA CEO and Chair? I’ll support my successor (Mickey G. Nall, APR, Fellow PRSA) in carrying our programs that support and add value to our members.  And, I’ll continue to mentor and coach and rebuild my consulting practice.  People may not realize that as chair and CEO of the organization,  I might have spent 40 to 60 percent of my time on PRSA business.  I probably traveled 200,000 miles last year to speak to chapters and around the world. I’ll still be active on the Board for another year, because there are still some things I want to accomplish.

Thanks, Gerry, for your time and candor. What questions would you like to offer Gerry Corbett?


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