Today’s Mentees, Tomorrow’s Leaders


While looking through Betsy Plank‘s archives, which are housed at The Plank Center on The University of Alabama campus, we came across a 1998 survey Betsy answered on the future of public relations. It was for an association she was a member of and those questions sparked an idea to ask our “thought leaders,” better known as our Board of Advisors, to share their insight on the future.

What top ways can you identify and mentor PR’s best and brightest right now so they will be prepared to assume leadership positions in the future?

  • Develop cultural and emotional intelligence; communicate effectively across multiple platforms (including face to face); and empower those around us.” – Dr. Nilanjana Bardhan
  • Train your mind and prioritize your time to stay intellectually curious about the changes in the communications profession; develop the power of influence so your leadership can be optimized; and realize and tap into your strengths and fully understand your weaknesses. – Tony Cervone
  • Especially for those early in their careers, attitude is even more important than hard skills. First, you want to encourage and reward generosity. A mentee who learns how to pay things forward will have an easier time navigating a complex organization and being successful within it. Second, self-awareness, the ability to examine your own shortcomings in an honest way (and ask for help), is a key to success that needs to be cultivated. Third, people deserve opportunities to move beyond their comfort zones and permission to fail. Those learning experiences build character. – Bill Heyman
  • Allow mentees to shadow you in meetings where strategic decisions are being made of decided; allow them to lead projects with your input and counsel; and provide open, honest, constructive feedback that allows them to reflect and improve. – Dr. Diana Martinelli
  • Engagement with our universities and PRSSA will help to identify the best and brightest students that are pursuing our profession. That means being in the classroom as adjunct faculty and guest lecturers, as well as being accessible and approachable outside the classroom. Actively connecting on social media and attending student activities will make you more accessible and known as a resource. Then you must “champion” the best among those with whom you interact. Their success will lead to the success of others and pay it forward to the profession and students who follow. – Gary McCormick
  • To present and future staff: support and encourage continuing education – in public relations, research and business disciplines—and mentor its progress; and provide opportunities for work experience within the company to broaden perspective and knowledge to connect with corporate peers. To future staff: support programs of public relations education, including mentoring, internships, educator fellowships/research within the corporate public relations department, and corporate contributions to establish chairs/lectureships/visiting professorships. – Betsy Plank (answered in 1998)
  • Go to the students – don’t expect them to find you! In an age of increased technology, students are less comfortable calling or writing to set up an informational interview. You can make an impact by visiting classes, PRSSA meetings and conferences. Create internships and then invest time and effort to develop the student in that role. Provide stretch opportunities. Junior staff won’t develop without being afforded chances to take on more strategy work, with honest, constructive feedback. – Kevin Saghy
  • I’m taking a multi-faceted approach: I’m starting to speak to those in high school (to introduce them to the field) and college students still trying to determine their major;  I attend trade association events in Atlanta and watch the rising stars at awards programs and reach out to engage them; and I have a number of mentees that I’m currently working with and I continue to encourage them to mentor the next generation of practitioners. – Alicia Thompson
  • I find that the most proactive students make for the most proactive professionals, but sometimes it takes some encouragement to see this proactivity become a habit and generate personal fulfillment for them. Helping talented students become active leaders gives them better awareness of their capabilities and the responsibility to use it in a way to build a better society.” – Flávia Vígio
  • “Commit to being available and ready when they seek you, be generationally and culturally aware and commit a percentage of your time to spend with young pros. – Rick White