Our third conversation in our continuing celebration of the Association Volunteer (read more here) is with Chris Carbone, a volunteer with the Public Relations Society of America-Maryland Chapter (PRSA-MD). Chris joined PRSA-MD for the networking; however, he soon discovered an association community that values its profession and its members, and offers support and encouragement to all.
It’s just been a great opportunity for me to get to know leaders in the PR community here in Baltimore, to be part of the discussion, and to actually contribute to the discussion bringing forth my own ideas about what we can do with the events, the newsletter, and what we can do to strengthen the organization.
Chris first joined PRSA-MD in 1995 strictly as a place to network. He was relatively new to Baltimore, a student in the MFA in Creative Writing and Publishing Arts program at the University of Baltimore, and actively looking for a job. He found that job as a graphic designer with the engineering firm KCI. Recognizing the value of professional organization from the networking standpoint, Chris continued to make periodical appearances at PRSA meetings but, other than playing for the softball team, never became seriously involved.
That changed when his job at KCI changed. Although his initial responsibilities were graphic design, he was soon named the Director of Corporate Communications. The problem? He worked with engineers and scientists so there was no one else at KCI doing the same things he was.
I felt I was working in a vacuum and I really needed to reach out to a professional community where I could get ideas, bounce ideas off people, and stay abreast of what was going on in communications, technology and such.
In other words, he needed a place not only to network but to learn about his new profession. Remembering his prior experiences with PRSA, he renewed his membership in 2006, and started going to meetings again.
But Chris was still only attending meetings. Sure, he’d meet new people, learn interesting things, and take back fresh ideas, but he still felt he needed more. So in 2008, he talked with then PRSA-MD president, Erica Murray and expressed his interest in volunteering. Within a few days, Erica asked him to be the secretary for the 2009 board, and Chris hasn’t looked back since. In fact, not only is he serving his second term as secretary, at the invitation of the current president Laura LaChapelle, president of LaChapelle Communications, Chris also serves as chair for the PRSA-MD e-letter WebNotes, and is active in planning and running the monthly events.
And of course, there is the networking. Chris has been able to reach out to a number of people especially now as he is in a new phase of his professional life. No longer employed at KCI, and currently working as a freelancer, Chris has found a network of friends who are extremely supportive in his endeavors as he navigates into this next phase. He counts David Curley, vice president, Sandy Hillman Communications; Ken Smith APR, senior manager of Internal Communications, The Boeing Company; and Peggy Hoffman CAE, president of Mariner Management & Marketing LLC as just a few who have helped him along the way.
When he isn’t working or volunteering for PRSA-MD, Chris uses his talents to help his neighborhood association – Radnor-Winston Improvement Association – with updates on their website and their communications initiatives. Always the communicator.
Chris has come to realize not only the importance of being part of an association, but also the enrichment one gains by personally contributing to something of professional value. In his view, working as a volunteer for a professional association such as PRSA-MD is a “reciprocal relationship.” He has gotten as much from the association as he has given.
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