THINKPIECE: PR needs to focus on the future in its current effortsto help the US heal from September 11

The massive human tragedy of September 11 compels me, as president

of the Foundation of Women Executives in Public Relations, to renew my

commitment to advocating education as it pertains to the future of our

industry. Recovery of this nation and the revitalization of its economy

will take place over the months, years, and decades ahead. But it won't

happen on its own, and it won't happen in a rational, convincing manner

without communications leaders and innovators.



Our immediate role as PR execs is to rebuild confidence through

communications programs that tell the stories of companies getting back

to business, philanthropic support for the recovery, and the many

efforts to restore investor, employee, and customer confidence. By its

very nature, what happened creates holes in that confidence.



Many of us have lived and worked through several national communications

crises, including the Kennedy/King assassinations, Vietnam, Watergate,

Columbine, and Oklahoma City, albeit none quite on the same level as the

World Trade Center horror. Throughout the previous crises,

communications training and leadership development opportunities were

plentiful. Paid internship programs, scholarships, and work-study

programs often covered most, if not all, tuition expenses and the growth

of corporate communications departments. While no one can dispute that

these educational areas are alive and well, the cost of entry into our

profession is getting higher, and the need to ensure that future leaders

have access to quality communications training is even greater.



The question now is what can we do:



Mentor young professionals. Sometimes the best learning happens

informally. Young professionals need to know that we care about them,

support their efforts, and believe in the future of our industry and our

country.



Identify future leaders inside and outside of your organization. We've

recently heard many question their career choice, and wonder why they

didn't go into one of the "helping professions" where they could have

been more "useful." We must assure future leaders about the validity of

their career choice, and show them how and why what we do makes a

difference.



Look ahead, and act with vision. Because of September 11, the

foundation carried on with our annual Awards for Social Responsibility

luncheon on October 24 at the Yale Club. Now more than ever, it's

important to honor and acknowledge the best of cause-related PR

campaigns, and to fund scholarships for college students interested in

pursuing PR careers.



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