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PRSA Houston Board Meeting Minutes For February 2004

PRSA Houston Board of Director Meeting

February 18, 2004

Houston City Club, Greenway Plaza



Paula Ruth; Terri Larson; Petri Darby; Kelli Newman; Aaron Woods; Julie B. Fix; Holly Hutchins; Dan Keeney; Angela M. Young; Cindy Suggs; Kelly Papinchak; Wendy Burkeen; Larry Springer; Ben Wheatley; Kelli Newman; Mark Hayden; Susan Schmaeling.


Excused Absences

Kris Taylor; Julie Gorling; Jean Gonsoulin.


Dan opened the meeting at 10:30 a.m. by asking Paula Ruth to give her update regarding Administrative duties for the chapter.


Paula Ruth – Administrator

Paula distributed a one-page summary about her activity for the chapter over the past month.  Notably she has secured a sponsor for the April luncheon, Biz 360, a national company with a metric product targeted to PR.  In the future she will not offer sponsors an exclusive deal as a way to garner more support for the luncheons and the chapter.


Dan distributed a card which details the Luncheon Sponsorship opportunities.  Each board member is encouraged to solicit their business or related businesses if applicable for luncheon sponsorship.


Taste of PRSA National Membership program

Angela Young, Membership chair stated that the chapter gained four reinstated members.  While Paula noted that we had dropped below 400 members, Angela said that possibly National’s tallies were lagging behind the actual count.  Dan noted that the membership rolls ebb and flow and that the chapter should stay above 400 members as a rule.


Dan also added that there is a payment option for membership and one can stagger their payments throughout the year. 


Paula noted that there are several Web problems related to software issues that she is working through with Schipul Technology.  She also noted that if you have specific chapter responsibilities and life intrudes on these please contact Paula immediately – she can and will pick up the project in your area and run with it.  Unfortunately communication about the February luncheon was delayed due to a committee member’s family issue. 


Petri noted that the February newsletter is not on the PRSA Houston Web site.  Only the October newsletter is currently on the site.


Prospective volunteers can be transferred to Emily Mir Thompson of Reliant Energy; she is the Volunteer coordinator for the chapter and can assign them to a needy committee member.


There are 60 reservations for the luncheon meeting this afternoon.


Susan Schmaeling – January Minutes

There was no discussion of the January minutes.  Julie Fix made a motion to approve the minutes as stated, Angela Young seconded the motion; all present voted to approve.



Holly Hutchins – Treasurer  

Holly distributed the 2003 PRSA Budget actual to everyone for review.  The books have been closed on last year’s fiscal activities.  The chapter received additional income at the end of the fiscal year.  Holly noted the two key numbers on the statement the shortfall of $10, 342.41 related to the lackluster revenue production of the chapter’s special event in 2003; and the fact that the chapter also reigned in spending on activities for a total of $8, 289.55.  To cover the revenue shortfall the chapter borrowed from the PRSA cash reserves. 


Holly distributed the 2004 Budget to date as of February 18, 2004.  Currently the chapter has a rosy financial picture – dues are coming in and the Job Bank and general sponsorships are generating revenue.


On page 2 of the 2004 Budget Holly noted that the chapter is ahead by $6,088.81.  The chapter has not returned the $2,500 borrowed from the cash reserves in late 2003; the monies will be returned to the Money Market Fund to boost the account back to its previous level.


Angela made a motion to approve the Treasurer’s Report, and Julie seconded the motion.  All present voted aye.


Committee Chairs

Julie noted that Ann Peebles is doing a whale of a job as the Excalibur Co-Chair.  Dan noted that splitting the position in two may be a model that should be followed in the future with the award ceremony.


Dan noted some positive outcomes for the chapter over the past two months.  Currently there are 14 new job listings on the PRSA Houston web site; Dan feels that this activity illustrates that there is vibrancy in our field.  He has spoken to a reporter at the Houston Business Journal about the activity and a story may be generated for these conversations.


Two luncheon sponsors have been secured to date; this is 2/3 of the way to achieve the chapter goal; the chapter may exceed the budgeted goal this year and create a regular flow of sponsorship dollars.


The Accreditation mixer at the Houstonian Hotel, Club and Spa on February 5 was a success under the leadership of Aaron Woods and Amy Kaiser.  Potentially 15 people will take the review course this spring.


PRSA’s recent alliance with the Greater Houston Partnership was a success.  Dan wants all Committee Chairs to think about their replacements for 2005 – mid-year President-Elect Cindy Suggs will be actively recruiting members of her team for the following year.  This will ensure a smooth transition.


Presentation by Committee Chairs


Cindy Suggs, APR, Special Committee on PRSA Houston Luncheon

Cindy, Mark Hayden, Amy DeMasi and Angela Young have been reviewing the viability and effectiveness of the chapter luncheons.  The three key issues appear to be venue, programs and communications.  These are also issue that the chapter can control and address. 


Cindy distributed the survey results conducted during the January meeting.  Out of 87 members, 47 completed the survey.  51% came for the speaker/program and overall rated Terry Sailor as a very good speaker.  The most frequent comments were:  I come for the speaker, presentation; continued education is the motivator; and networking.   Areas cited for improvement include: hand-outs to share with other colleagues; more notice; and location issues.


A telephone survey of people who had attended PRSA Houston luncheon meetings regularly in the past, but now have lapsed revealed that the overall factor was time.  Location was cited, but was not an overriding concern.  It was noted that the program must force the individual to take the time to come to the meeting.  While the survey was only of 4 individuals all agreed that the results can be considered as a targeted focus group. 


The final report notes that July is the month with the lowest attendance.  The chapter should consider offering members July as a “vacation” month from PRSA. 


Cindy also noted that attendance was down at the chapter meetings prior to the move to the Houston City Club.  Overall the program is the catalyst for attendance; the location does not appear initially to be a concern.


Cindy and team suggest to “tour” PRSA meetings twice a year to the Woodlands or to showcase a compelling venue.


Mark suggested a business card exchange around the table as a catalyst to conversation and networking.  Give table members five minutes or so to exchange information about themselves.  Perhaps invite guests and first timers to introduce themselves.


Kelli Newman said a board or committee member could introduce new members.

Ben noted that “table ambassadors” were implemented in the past and were successful.  He noted that these ideas seem to be forgotten and discarded over time.


The Board needs to decide which of these action steps to take and then implement them over the next several months.


Cindy noted that the conversation around the table indicated that we were in accordance with these suggestions.  Angela added that some of her telephone conversations revealed that members felt that PRSA was a bit “cliquish.”  A Board member needs to be placed at each table to facilitate conversation and give information about PRSA Houston.


As Mark suggested the simplest thing we can do is exchange business cards. 


Aaron suggested that we have a Resume Table in the back of the room.  It’s a more discreet way of allowing people to seek a new opportunity.


Conversation drifted back to having new members or visitors introduce themselves at the luncheon.  Traditionally the Membership Chair handled this function.  Angela recalled when Joe Dollar would walk around the Junior League ballroom with a mike on a boom and allow visitors to introduce themselves. 

Wendy suggested that possibly we ask all new members and visitors to stand and do a mass introduction.


Cindy suggested that the business card exchange could include a small prize.  Angela offered two PRSA coffee mugs that she has handy.


Cindy also addressed luncheon communications.  E-mail is the preferred option since the rate of return on postcards – which cost $700 to mail to the 400+ membership base – would need to be 1,000 luncheon guests to be cost-effective.  The committee has increased the e-communications to three solicitations – an early e-mail blast gives information about the speaker and topic; and then two more urgent e-mails follow closer to the luncheon date. 


A suggestion was made to put luncheon information on the Job Bank page since the number of people visiting that section of the site is so strong.


Venue was discussed and researched and was found to be a neutral consideration for attendance.


Larry shared that the Houston City Club wait staff needed to be enlarged to serve the luncheon guests.  In January the speaker was ten minutes into her presentation and the waiters were still serving Larry’s table their meal.  It was very distracting and disrespectful to the luncheon speaker.


Ben stated that we need to talk with the Houston City Club about getting out the food quicker.  It’s not a very coordinated effort to date.  It’s more professional to sit down to a seated lunch and it makes everyone around the table comfortable.


Wendy added that a seated lunch might be more efficient also.


Janie Dale is the special events manger for the Houston City Club.  We need to meet with her and share our concerns.


Holly stated that the luncheon location and logistics need to be placed on the March agenda to allow more time for discussion; and perhaps a formal relocation study.


Cindy suggested a flash e-mail poll of membership about that one issue.


Paula noted the traffic problems in this area.  Downtown is hard to get in and get out of.  It was decided to table the conversation for the March meeting.


Dan said that the business card exchange would be implemented today.  If we do the basics well – 3 announcements about the luncheon – update the calendar on the web site – these actions impact the success or failure of the chapter luncheon events.


Kelli Newman – Chair, Public Service Committee  

Kelli and her team have determined two important facts: 

1)     Currently, PRSA members are not eager to volunteer their time due to punishing workloads.

2)     Members need to see the practical value of volunteering for them.


Therefore the Public Service Committee is involved in a match-making process and would like to post volunteer opportunities on the chapter Web site.


Kelli, Jean Gonsoulin and Ed Schipul have discussed placing a drop down on the site with Public Service Opportunities; if everyone is in agreement Kelli will implement these ideas.


Julie feels this is a great idea. 


Dan has spoken to a few non-profits and they are excited about having the place to advertise their needs. 


Kelli said she will test it, and then announce the Web site addition at one of the upcoming PRSA meetings. 

She will also e-mail the opportunity to all of the Houston-area non-profits.  Julie added that her colleague Sherry McDonald has a directory of all non-profits that would be useful in developing a comprehensive list.



Following the lead of national Dan has written an Op Ed piece “PR’s Image Can Use a Good PR Program” which he distributed to all present.  He is running the piece past current national president Dell Galloway and the National leadership.  Once approved the chapter pr team will pitch the piece to Houston Business Journal.  In May, HBJ will have a special section on marketing.  Julie added that it should be sent to Tactics as well. 


Mark mentioned that the March speaker has left his position at American Airlines and now works at Wal-Mart.  He is currently working with American Airlines to generate a substitute speaker, but doesn’t have anyone firm to date.  Mayor Bill White was suggested as a potential speaker; Ben Wheatly has a contact that could reach the mayor. 


Julie made the motion to adjourn the meeting, Angela seconded it; the meeting concluded at 11:30 a.m.


Respectfully submitted by Susan Schmaeling, APR chapter secretary.

Daniel Keeney
(832) 467-2904
(832) 467-2909
Author: Daniel Keeney
Phone: (832) 467-2904
Fax: (832) 467-2909