It’s an incredible time to be a communicator.
That’s the chief message of the new CEO for the Public Relations Society of America, as she enters her new role leading the organization in what might be a turning point for the history of modern communications. In the throes of the worst public health crisis in a generation and days after a deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol building, Linda Thomas Brooks sees the role of the communicator as an essential, even sacred duty.
How communication grows and is handled is an important societal issue, she says. In her view, the PR industry is “positioned to have an outsized impact” on the events of the coming years. It’s something that she sees as a reason to be excited about the future of PRSA and the communications industry at large.
“I’m very focused on media literacy and the impacts of mis/dis information; staying on top of that will take constant innovation and will be critical to the healthy evolution of the communications community,” she said in press release. “The work and output of PR and communications professionals can quite literally be life changing. I consider it an enormous challenge and privilege to work with the industry’s leaders on this and other critical issues.”
She also looks at the challenges posed by the ongoing pandemic that are affecting every industry—but are especially challenging for a people-centric industry like PR. Questions that will have to be asked in the coming days include how to adapt workplaces to serve remote and hybrid workforces, how to offer networking to industry members without being in-person and defining what the future of work should look like.
Brooks brings decades of experience in media and community building to PRSA. Some highlights include a four-year term as president and CEO of the Association of Magazine Media, as well as having been the executive vice president and managing director of General Motors Mediaworks, a media strategy unit that served all the divisions and brands with General Motors.
In her view of the future, Brooks points to the unique challenges facing organizations like PRSA, including expanding membership and offering educational and career growth opportunities to a diverse community that hasn’t been able to gather in person for months. However, the past year hasn’t been a complete negative. And Brooks looks to the innovators to show the way for the future of the industry and her organization.
“An unintended positive of 2020 is that a lot of the things we thought couldn’t be done another way, we discovered they can be,” she says.
She foresees a hybrid model that might allow people who can’t travel to increase participation in industry events and conversations. “It’s an iterative process,” she says, agreeing that there will be trial and error as everyone learns how to make things better for members.
What gives her hope?
“Going through the process, meeting all the people, seeing the staff commitment to this industry… especially the board,” she says. “These people have busy day jobs and still commit so much time to this community,” she says of her colleagues’ enthusiasm and love for PR people.
However, what really gets her moving in the morning is the realization that she is working on something essential, momentous and profound. “To be a part of something that is so fundamental,” she says—in her view, it makes every difference.