A Message from 2021 Chapter President Karen Cole

A Message from 2021 Chapter President Karen Cole

Hi, friends! Did you cheer a little harder on New Year’s Eve? Me too. Listen, the trauma of 2020 is heavy and real, but we’re still here. Let’s celebrate that.

As a proud 17-year PRSA Georgia member, I’m humbled and honored to be your next Chapter president! Looking ahead to 2021, I’ve been thinking a lot about the positives and feeling hopeful. But, what to say to this group of incredible professionals coming off a year that has challenged us so profoundly? I’ll start with a story.

Pain is temporary.
At the finish line of the Nike Women’s Marathon, having an ugly cry. Completing one of the toughest mental and physical experiences of my life taught me a lesson in resilience and purpose.

October 2010. “Pain is temporary…but pride is forever.” That’s the sign I saw a race volunteer holding at mile 21 as I hobbled alongside Lake Merced in San Francisco. Tears flooded my eyes. Neither the stabbing knee pain nor the sideways rain and wind from the previous 10 miles had let up. I was chilled-to-the-bone numb. Every emotion had roller-coastered through my water-logged body, from laughing deliriously to cursing with abandon.

Early that summer, I entered the Nike Women’s Marathon (my first) as a fundraiser for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to honor my best friend battling lymphoma. It was a scary commitment. I agreed to train for four months and raise thousands of dollars. So, there I was with only 5.2 miles to the finish, yet I wanted to quit with every fiber of my being. Injured, miserable and a good 45 minutes behind where I should have been, I felt like a failure. I was ready to jump on the race staff’s golf cart and let it whisk me away from the agony.

For months, I fundraised hard and trained relentlessly. Why did this feel like a letdown? Limping along that lake, my self-pity turned into fury, which slowly fueled my second wind. I refocused on my purpose – my friend fighting a horrible disease hadn’t quit, why should I? Come hell or huge puddles of water, I would cross that finish line, using my fingernails to pull me over if I had to. It wasn’t pretty, but I finally made it with fists thrusted upward in pure elation (fingernails intact). Excitement quickly turned into an ugly cry, as I became flooded with an enormous sense of pride and perseverance I’ll never forget.

2021: Winning the long game.

All signs point to 2021 being another unpredictable, marathon year, so how do we find the mental strength to get through the last mile? My marathon experience reminds me that making it to the other side of really hard things is universally true, and that we’re capable of it time and again.

If you think about it, we are communications athletes – the high performers with the skill and talent to forge ahead despite huge obstacles. People turn to us to not only get things across the finish line, but to devise the most effective race strategy, build the route and coach the team at the same time. Even so, we are still human. Sometimes we need a reminder of our purpose to set those second winds in motion. Tapping into our own critical experiences can be the spark to start up our backup generators.

What’s the outlook for PRSA Georgia?

With the pandemic, we’ve never had a greater impact on our Chapter since its inception in 1952, but I truly believe we will be the incredible Chapter we’ve always been throughout the decades. 2020 has just given us a sharper lens with which to focus.

We have a renewed opportunity to focus on what’s possible, try new things and make bold changes. As leaders, will we always get it right? No; but that’s ok. There’s an incoming team of amazing volunteers who are more committed than ever to deliver a great Chapter experience. Case in point: it’s the 15th anniversary of our Chapter’s highly anticipated Annual Conference! On February 24-26, we’ll virtually bring the expert speakers and networking experiences you know and love right to you! Don’t miss it and sign up now.

Our goal is to continue evolving PRSA Georgia into an even more forward-thinking, nimble, relevant organization that’s in tune with what our members need right now. There’s also a great opportunity for you to get more involved and engaged – PRSA is about getting out what you put in.

What are we focused on?

Our 2021 Strategic Plan provides deeper context and an actionable framework for continuing that evolution in the year ahead. I encourage you to read it. Our priorities will focus on boosting the relevancy of our offerings, increasing member engagement, strengthening our leadership pipeline and shoring up our financial outlook. At the same time, we must make progress in building a more diverse Chapter in every sense – not just for our Chapter’s sake, but for the profession as we commit to holding ourselves more accountable toward our goals.

Bottom line: we will commit to staying focused on our mission, prioritizing our most impactful opportunities and leveraging the passion of our members and volunteers as we move forward. Our commitment to excellence and our Code of Ethics remains at the core of everything we do, and together we can pave the road for an even stronger PRSA Georgia Chapter for years to come.

So, let’s lace up those sneaks – I can’t think of a better group of people to run alongside for this next leg of the race.