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Rhoda Weiss: National PRSA Chair and CEO

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Rhoda Weiss, CEO and chair of the National Public Relations Society of America, has high expectations for herself and her field. On a personal and professional level, she often approaches situations with a comprehensive perspective and an eye on ascertaining how best to help others.

She elaborates, “My favorite prophet, Hillel, said, ‘If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am not for others, who am I? And if not now, when?’ Now is the time for all of us to use our gifts as communicators to make a difference.”

Weiss, who earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Michigan State University, earned a master’s from Antioch University, and is currently working on her Ph.D. at Antioch, got her start like many public relations professionals as a journalist. Intrigued by their ability to communicate and utilize their writing skills in several different capacities in both the communications and journalism fields, Weiss eventually decided to join them. Her first job in the public relations industry was as publications editor of a large multi-hospital integrated health delivery system. She quickly ascended through the ranks, eventually serving as chief executive at a healthcare corporation, as well as founding her own consulting firm.

Having worked in the health field for much of her career, Weiss has seen firsthand that it “is a field where communications efforts can make a difference in the health, wellness, and well-being of communities.”

She adds, “Our strategies and solutions can indeed improve our nation’s health through thoughtful, understandable targeted techniques.”

This has resulted in her involvement in such diverse activities as promoting screenings to stamp out disease and showing people how they should engage in healthy habits, all to promote the cause.

According to Weiss, working in a healthcare setting means that every day there are new lessons to be learned and new experiences to be had. While these experiences and lessons invariably change, interacting with people during the greatest challenges of their lives and helping them in whatever capacity possible is always an honorable and worthwhile task — one that she takes pride in because she knows she has been able to make a difference in the lives of individuals who are in need.

“I believed then [at the start of her career] and do now that public relations is a profession where we have the opportunity to engage, interact, and help lead every aspect of an organization…We can use our skills as communicators and strategic thinkers and our role as the organization’s corporate conscience to take that organization places it has never been before,” she states.

Today, Weiss applies her humanitarian outlook gained during her time in the healthcare field to her position and activities associated with serving as head of the PRSA. In this capacity she helps to enhance the vision of the organization, as well as develop goals and liaise with the media. To a large degree she has strived to harness the power of the organization in order to make a difference, further advance the profession, and impact matters that are tied to worthwhile issues such as advocacy and diversity.

Throughout her time in the public relations field, Weiss has been able to develop a unique and all-inclusive view of the industry and the manner in which it should be approached. She understands that the field as a whole has changed dramatically over the years and has evolved to account for many different activities, expanding to include responsibilities that do not lie solely in the media relations, publications, and publicity spheres.

And while she understands the role that public relations plays in business, for instance, and what it means to every company’s success, she also, expectedly, sees it in a larger context:

“Public relations professionals can be change agents for organizations…we have a fundamental sense of responsibility for bettering our communities and the world because of our ability to communicate strategically.”

And Weiss recognizes that there are several factors that are now necessary to communicate strategically and effectively and thrive in the field. Overall, she believes that professionals must understand the vitality of networking and the importance of being detail-oriented, as well as possess the drive to continually learn and the ability to follow their dreams while still being practical, among other qualities. All of these factors work in tandem to ensure one’s success in the industry, in addition to providing the tools to positively influence people’s lives.

Weiss concludes, “Those of us with the gift of communications have an obligation to use that gift to further humanity and make a difference.”

Which is exactly what she will continue to do.
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 CEO  techniques  journalism  organizations  Public Relations Society of America  lessons  expectations  Ph.D.  public relations  Michigan State University

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