By Jill Stewart
2017 marks the 40th anniversary of my arrival in Chicago. My four decades here track with my career path in public relations. During that time the Publicity Club of Chicago has been an integral part of my professional development.
This is my thank you note to PCC.
I. Making acquaintances
Then as now, PCC brought together the movers and the shakers in the Chicago PR world through both monthly luncheons and the Professional Development Seminar. Thanks for showcasing terrific speakers and news makers including Illinois Gov. Jim Thompson and Mayor Harold Washington as well as countless editors and reporters from TV, radio, newspapers and magazines, and more recently online reporters. Coming to the luncheons always made me feel part of the Chicago PR scene. I learned a lot, made great media contacts, and met many members who have become life-long friends.
II. Getting involved
As my confidence grew, I knew I wanted to become more involved with the Club. Participating in committees enabled me to work with other Club members and see how the organization functioned. My first stop was the Membership Committee where I got a good idea how applicants were vetted.
Next I helped organize special seminars on creativity, bringing in Susan Prather, APR, then of Cramer-Krasselt, WGN’s Kathy O’Malley, and the late Charlie Farley of Burson-Marsteller, to share their tips and insights for applying creativity to solving clients’ problems.
As a Golden Trumpet judge for many years, I had a chance to evaluate the best work that Chicago PR firms, local corporations and nonprofits produce. Aside from national awards, everyone in Chicago knows the honor of picking up that gold [or silver] trumpet at the annual awards ceremony.
But my favorite experience was chairing the Program Committee in the late ‘90s. We moved the meetings to Maggiano’s Chicago and immediately saw a boost in attendance. I drew on a robust group of engaged members who had great ideas and even better media connections for stimulating program topics and enticing monthly guests.
III. Having a leadership role
From committee work, it was a natural progression to join the board. Being on the board was both a privilege and a responsibility. Board members volunteer their time to look out for the Club’s finances and governance. Jonathan Lehrer and I shared the president’s job in 2003-2004. We made a good team with our complementary skills [and our ability to make each other laugh].
Looking back, committee work and board service with a fulltime job and a young family kept me quite busy. Now more than ever, I appreciate the commitment of today’s board, officers and committee members who keep the Club functioning and vibrant.
IV. Mentoring the next generation
After many years of running a small PR firm, I shifted careers and joined DePaul University’s new College of Communication teaching Introduction to Public Relations and Writing for PR classes. Right away as a teacher I knew I wanted to bring DePaul students to PCC so they could experience the networking, professional development and advantages of Publicity Club involvement.
Each quarter since 2008 my classes have participated in the monthly luncheons, giving students a taste of not only Maggiano’s terrific food, but also the professional PR scene in Chicago. In addition to seeing old friends, I often run into former students who are now successfully employed at Chicago-area PR firms, corporations and nonprofit organizations. They are also, by the way, now PCC members, too.
My experience with PCC provides a valuable template of professional development for young PR people just entering their productive career years: from learning to leading to mentoring.
PCC has been and continues to be an integral part of my professional life and development throughout my career. I hope young PR pros in the Chicago area see the advantage of embracing this dynamic and vital organization today and in the future.
Jill O’Mahony Stewart is a professional lecturer at DePaul University’s College of Communication. For more than 20 years she ran Stewart Communications, Ltd., a boutique PR firm focused on “issues that matter.”