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Associations in Public Relations

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One of the characteristics of a profession is that it has associations in which members discuss each other's problems, exchange information, and generally share in advancement of the profession.

The spread of such voluntary associations in public relations has marked the profession's growth. As early as the 1920s we made an attempt to organize a professional association of public relations practitioners, but the effort failed because of premature public visibility that created envy among prospective members. Today the U.S. boasts many voluntary public relations associations, general and specialized. The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), founded in 1947, has more than 8,000 members. It is the largest professional association in the field. The Public Relations Register of July, 1978, states that the Society's aims are to "advance the standards of the public relations profession and to provide a means for self-improvement through a series of continuing education activities, information exchange programs, and research projects conducted on a national as well as local level." Its activities include a grievance board, an accreditation program, the Public Relations Institute, and the Foundation for Public Relations Research and Education, Inc.

The PRSA has become a million-dollar organization. There are 72 chapters of the student society of the PRSA, approximately 5,000 organizational members, and 145 foreign members in 34 countries.

There are 22 special-interest groups, six of which are described below as an indication of their general approach.

The American Society for Hospital Public Relations was founded in 1964 as a subsidiary of the American Hospital Association. It has as its objectives: (1) to provide a systematic educational program for its members; (2) to assist the AHA on public relations projects; (3) to improve communication among the AHA and Society members; (4) to improve understanding of public relations among others in hospital management; (5) to attract more well-qualified people to the field; and (6) to facilitate information exchange between members. The Society has established an annual award for excellence in hospital public relations and sponsored a public relations article contest. It publishes a newsletter, Hospital Public Relations. Recent projects have included developing a procedural manual for the hospital public relations office, formulating statements on hospital advertising and principles of hospital public relations, developing a way to evaluate the hospital public relations function, and writing a guide to hospital economics for the hospital public relations practitioner.

The Society has approximately 1,000 members who pay annual dues of $35. All members must be eligible for personal membership in the AHA and must be in charge of or active in public relations programs of institutional members of the AHA or affiliated associations.

The Bank Marketing Association, which embraces public relations in its activities, was founded in 1915 as the Financial Advertising Foundation. A large portion of its membership is involved in public relations. Among its activities are training and motivating customer contact people to be more effective in customer relations, making citizens of the community aware that "your bank is the best place to go for all financial services," planning for publications, and providing for marketing planning workshops and information centers. It also holds courses in bank marketing and conferences. The Association distributes a 16 mm film strip on ideas for promotion, a monograph on how to identify a corporate identity program, and an information center library. Annual dues are $475.

The Baptist Public Relations Association, founded in 1953, has as its purposes to assist Southern Baptist public relations and communications personnel in professional growth and fulfillment; to share ideas and enable members to achieve superior public relations results; to provide fellowship for members and give recognition to outstanding professional achievements; to maintain the highest ethical and professional standards; and to increase understanding and appreciation of public relations among Southern Baptists. The organization holds a workshop meeting and a breakfast meeting during the Southern Baptist Convention sessions, cites outstanding exhibits during these sessions, maintains a close affinity with the Southern Baptist Press Association, provides joint in-service training opportunities for its members, sponsors its own annual awards competition, issues a monthly newsletter and other publications, and is currently planning more than 30 new services for its members. Membership is open to working and retired people whose professional responsibilities include public relations of a Southern Baptist organization. Annual dues are $15. Current membership is about 280.

The National Association of Government Communicators (NAGC) was founded in 1976 by the merger of the Federal Editors Association and the Government Information Organization. It is the national organization of government information professionals of all job skills. This includes public affairs, broadcast media, Congress press aides, directors of public affairs, editor/writers in print media, graphics, information officers, photographers, training officers, audiovisual, and speech writers. Some of its goals, as stated in its by-laws, are: to unite those engaged in creating and disseminating information concerning was founded in 1929 as the Religious Publicity Council. Its purposes are: to maintain high standards of religious public relations and communications; to develop fellowship among those engaged in public relations and related work for religious organizations; to develop a professional prestige for those working in religious public relations and communications; to present a united front and to speak with one voice on vital issues involving religious public relations and communications; to provide a clearinghouse for the exchange of ideas and the discussion of mutual problems; to pool information on media, contacts, new techniques, and research; and to encourage young people to select as a career public relations and communications in the field of religion. It seeks these goals by sponsoring and organizing local chapter meetings, an annual convention, professional workshops and institutes for in-service training, and research studies, by establishing the RPRC Award of Merit and other awards, and by publishing a membership directory, an official quarterly magazine, and the Religious Public Relations Handbook. It cooperates closely with other associations in the field of religious communications.
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