PRSA ICON: Mastering the Art of Engagement

By Mary B. Haban, APR

It’s happened to me more times than I can count. I enter an ice cream shop, my mind firmly decided on that heaping scoop of salted caramel, and then it begins. My eyes wander aimlessly to the array of flavors next to it. I’m standing there, hands pressed against the cool glass display case, wondering which one to indulge in.

That’s the feeling I got heading into my second day of the PRSA International Conference in Boston. With so many appetizing sessions to choose from, it wasn’t easy deciding on a path to proceed down.

The morning offered a double scoop of keynotes, beginning with Entrepreneur Bea Arthur, who shared her secrets for success. Some of her most memorable takeaways included these bite-sized bits of advice:

  •        Have a single-minded obsession of seeing your vision in the world.
  •        The new PR is about psychology and relationships.
  •        There’s an art to getting what you want.
  •        Anybody can do it.
  •        What am I doing? Who am I doing it for and what does it get them
  •        The best part of going through hell is you come out on fire.

A contributor to, Arthur offered audience members the chance to pitch her right in the session, and the winner would be featured in an upcoming article.


Next up, Think Tank Facilitator, Amy K, whose passionate presentation on the way we think had the crowd invigorated. Some of Amy’s takeaways included: 

  •        Life is happening one conversation at a time.
  •        It’s our job as leaders to raise the quality of our conversations and the thinking inside our companies.
  •        We need engagement and buy-in for productivity to skyrocket.
  •        Your number one job as a leader is to set your people up for success.
  •        Take responsibility for raising the level of thinking for your team.


One of the highlights of Monday’s professional development lineup was the “How to Write for Mobile Reading” session with facilitator Ann Wylie. For the top tips from this workshop, see the live tweets on our PRSA Tampa Bay Twitter Page.


The interactive session with PRSA CEO Joseph Truncale, Ph.D., included having us break into groups to solve a challenge presented in a Harvard Business Review case study on leadership.


Mary Haban with the CEO of PRSA, Jospeh Truncale 

And for all you internal communicators, the session with Sean D. Williams, on Building Employee Engagement and Enhancing your Corporate Culture, provided solid solutions to creating an environment where everyone feels valued. Some takeaways included:

  •        People want to participate. Tell them what their role is.
  •        Define the purpose of your meetings up front.
  •        Ask people in meetings how they see the plan you’ve presented affecting them and their department.
  •        The key to the heart is through vision. People are inspired by vision.
  •        Confidence leads to trust. 


As I embark on my final day of learning, I’m still not sure if I’m in the mood for salted caramel, pistachio, chocolate chip or strawberry. What I do know is this -- as I set my gaze upon the glass case containing all the professional development that’s offered here, it’s more than enough to satisfy my hunger for the knowledge and skill building I came to find.

You can read Mary's thoughts from Day One of the conference here

Mary Haban with Jane Dvorak, APR - 2017 PRSA National Chair. 

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