History of PRSA in the Glass City
The Northwest Ohio Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America was founded September 5, 1951, with 15 members representing such major Toledo-area corporations as Libbey-Owens-Ford Co., Owens-Illinois, DeVilbiss, Toledo Edison and The Toledo Blade, among others.
Founding members of what was then called the Toledo Chapter included Paul W. Kieser (president/national director), Edward C. Ames (vice president), John H. Barker (secretary-treasurer), Edwin D. Dodd (director), George L. Schlosser (director), Marden R. Bishop, Benjamin C. Bowker, Daniel D. Degman, Lev Flourney, Philip S. Gibbs, M.S. “Chris” Hauser, APR, G. Wilfrid Hibbert, Arthur C. Kochendorfer, Harry R. Roberts and Edward B. Talty, APR.
The early years of chapter work were devoted to developing administrative guidelines and duties, in addition to building membership. Chapter dues were $5 and meetings rotated between The Toledo Club and the Commodore Perry Hotel.
In 1954, Ann Newmyer, public relations director of the Toledo Community Chest, became the first woman member of the chapter. Marge Conyers, partner at Edelstein and Conyers, was the first woman chapter officer elected to a director post in 1960, by which time membership had doubled to 34.
The complexion of chapter membership has changed over the years, with increased female membership, greater representation of small businesses and non-profit organizations. Membership has moved from possessing strictly a journalism education and experience to a range of education and experience in marketing and public relations.
Members of the chapter exemplify the standard of professional qualification, as nearly 30 percent have achieved accreditation in public relations (APR). Three members, Jim Little, Jim Richard and Dr. Jeanette Drake, have been elected to the prestigious College of Fellows. The chapter has had four members who have served the society on the national board: Chris Hauser and Reg Jackson served as National Secretary, Don Connell was on the board, and Jim Little served as president of the national PRSA. He has been one of only a few members from Ohio to lead the national organization as president.
Staying active in the community
Throughout the years, the chapter has consistently been active in local, regional and national issues. Chapter projects and programs paralleled timely concerns of American society, including developing an enemy attack survival plan for the area in the 1950s and programs addressing the civil rights movement in the 1960s.
More recently, the chapter developed the Metro Toledo Project in conjunction with the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority and the Toledo Area Chamber of Commerce. At the turn of the millennium, area practitioners braced for Y2K, mergers, takeovers and myriad other issues precipitated by globalization, including terrorism. In 2002, the chapter partnered with the American Red Cross in the national “Power of Two” post 9-11 campaign to provide on-call crisis communications assistance.
In 2004, the chapter went online when Jeanette Drake launched its first website. The site experienced heavy use and was subsequently re-designed in 2005 by Jim Little’s firm, First Communications Group, which continues to maintain the site for the chapter.
The chapter has been instrumental in organizing and supporting chapters of the Public Relations Student Society of America. Student chapters were founded in 1960 at The University of Toledo by R. Herbst and Raymond Levy; in 1970 at Bowling Green State University; in 1993 at Adrian College by Joanna Schultz; and in 2000 at The University of Findlay by Jeanette Drake, APR, Rebecca Shell, and Jim Little, APR, Fellow PRSA; and in 2010, at Goshen College, Ind. Educational and practical experience programs are offered, as well as support for students to attend the national PRSSA convention.
In 2005, the chapter added a Student Representative and a PRSSA Liaison position to the Board of Directors to help build stronger linkages. That year, it offered its first digital media program, on blogs and PR.
The chapter’s renaissance continued in 2007, when membership reached a then-high of 83. Interest in online media with two sessions, including the fall professional development program, titled “PR Gets Wired.” In an attempt to raise more funds for programming and student assistance, the chapter for the first time offered sponsorships that included a plug in the newsletter, space to display literature and an introduction during the meeting.
During 2008, the chapter established a diversity chair position and received a 50-percent response to a diversity survey that helped to determine the extent of diversity in the chapter by age, gender, specialty area and racial or ethnic group. Twenty-seven members attended the International Conference held in Detroit, where the chapter received an award for its growth in membership.
In September 2009, the chapter hosted Scott Monty, global digital and multimedia communications manager for Ford Motor Co. for the annual professional development seminar, with 55 attending and 75 watching online for the event, which also included a panel discussion and a Webinar on “Writing for Social Media” by Ann Wylie. Despite the regional economy’s troubles, chapter membership grew and approached the 100 mark before settling in the mid-80s.
During 2010, the chapter looked back over local PR history with a panel “From Mad Men to Twitter: 50 Years of PR in Toledo” in March and hosted nationally known health care PR specialist Kathleen Lewton, who discussed media relations, crisis communications and issues management best practices during the annual professional development seminar in November.
Reflecting the continuing rise of the importance of social media in PR, the chapter kicked off 2011 with a meeting on “The Ethics of Social Media” that drew 63 attendees, added a social media/PR chair who established a LinkedIn page and a Young Professionals Group, and hosted nationally known author and social media guru Richard Laermer, who presented copies of his book “Full Frontal PR” to PRSSA students attending the professional development seminar.
In 2012, the chapter wrote and adopted nationally-approved bylaws and overhauled the content of its website.
Today, local dues for the Northwest Ohio Chapter are $65. The chapter maintains about 85 members who, through affiliation with PRSA, nurture individual professional development and guide their organizations, our community and society toward regarding relationships with all their various publics and one another.
Special thanks to the late Reginald Jackson, APR, James Little, APR, Fellow PRSA, former member Jerry Mallicoat and several past presidents for their participation in preparing and updating this history.