Professional Associations Offer Emerging Leaders Valuable Opportunities

Professional associations offer opportunities to not only network with colleagues and keep up on trends in your field, but also offer opportunities to grow and evolve as a leader. The Florida Public Relations Association (FPRA) was founded as the Osceola Chapter in 1968  The chapter’s early beginnings included PR professionals from both the Ocala and Gainesville areas. The ever-growing membership divided into two in 1981, and the Gainesville Chapter of FPRA was born. Celebrating its 50th anniversary during the 2017-2018 board year, the Gainesville Chapter boasts one of the largest memberships in the state and has won FPRA Chapter of the Year seven times.

Each year, the presidential role transfers to the newest leader and this summer, Allison Downey, APR, CPRC, will hand the reins to Lindsey Robertson, APR. Both of these women have worked tirelessly in creating a chapter that continues to create opportunity for public relations professionals in Gainesville. We’ve spent some time with them to learn how involvement in a local, professional organization has shaped their careers and catalyzed their roles as leaders in Gainesville.     

How did you get involved in FPRA? How has being involved in FPRA helped you evolve as a leader?

Lindsey: I got involved through my first job at Haven Hospice. It’s the best decision I have made in my professional career. I’ve had the opportunity to serve on the board of directors for several years as well as several committees. Through these experiences, I have learned incredibly valuable lessons about team building, communication and creativity. The best part about FPRA is feeling like you’re a part of something greater than yourself. I’m very proud of earning my Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) in 2010. It demonstrates dedication to my field and shows that I have the professional acumen to succeed in this industry.

Allison: When I began getting involved as a student, FPRA Gainesville members fostered my development, and it has shaped who I am today. The FPRA family has been a second home for me, and I am so proud to be a part of this incredible network of public relations professionals. I never thought I’d serve as Gainesville Chapter President, but through a combination of professional development opportunities offered by the chapter and my experiences serving in the association, I was inspired to lead and gained the confidence to do so.

What have you accomplished as president OR what are you looking to accomplish as president?

Lindsey: Starting September 2018, I will continue to grow the Gainesville Chapter’s membership while ensuring we are providing the highest value to our members. I’m excited to continue to do my part in enhancing the public relations field while leading our local FPRA chapter!

Allison: As I entered our chapter’s 50th year as president, it was my goal to not only celebrate the last five decades of our organization but also to pave the way for the future. This year, six of our chapter’s members earned their CPRC (Certified Public Relations Counselor)– a one-of-a-kind credential that was developed to recognize the professional growth and achievement of senior FPRA members who have already earned the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) designation. These six individuals with at least 10 years of public relations experience have invested in their future and committed to becoming leaders in Gainesville.

What is the best and worst decision you’ve ever made?

Allison: The best decision I ever made was staying in Gainesville after college and continuing my membership in FPRA. While many students come and go in our community, it was evident to me that the opportunity for growth as well as personal and professional development was right here in Gainesville. However, for a few years after college, I was convinced that if I wasn’t in the office for 10 or 12-hour days that I wasn’t proving myself and earning my paycheck. I forgot to travel, spend time with my family, grab drinks with girlfriends or use PTO just for a “me” day. I still have to remind myself to slow down and enjoy those things every once and a while, because nothing is more important than a work-life balance.

Lindsey: The best professional decision I have made is joining the Florida Public Relations Association. I truly mean that. I have met so many wonderful professionals and been able to give back to my community at the same time. I’ve certainly made decisions that I’ve looked back on and had second thoughts about, but I’ve learned from every experience. I don’t believe in having regrets.

What woman inspires you and why?

Lindsey: Gabriele (Gabe) Grunewald inspires me tremendously. She is a professional runner and has had four cancer diagnoses in eight years — and she’s still running. She started a foundation called Brave Like Gabe to raise money for rare cancer research. Gabe is active on social media and is honest, motivating and inspiring despite her diagnosis. This brief overview does not give her justice, so Google her! #BraveLikeGabe

Allison: While it may be cliché, my mom is the woman who most inspires me. She is the practice director of a large cardiology group in Ft. Myers and is the reason I wanted to work in healthcare. She’s shown me time and time again how a woman can hold her own in a male-dominant industry and become someone her peers and colleagues, men and women alike, can count on for guidance and counsel.

What are the most significant barriers to female leadership in the business world?

Allison: Self-doubt. There is absolutely nothing holding us back in this world but ourselves. We’re shattering the glass ceiling and opening up opportunities that generations of women before us didn’t have. At this point, the only thing that can be limiting is our mind set. If we trust ourselves and our instincts and have confidence in our abilities, we can conquer anything.

Lindsey: Much of the workplace today is not structured to support the new ways in which Generation Y as a whole wants to work with regard to flexibility and technology. Specifically, women still face stalled progress in garnering leadership roles, lack of equal pay, and are dealing with organizational structures and work practices that do not reflect the social changes that have occurred over the past few decades.

Allison Downey, APR, CPRC – FPRA Gainesville President 2017-2018

Allison is the marketing communications manager for Exactech, Inc., a surgeon-founded orthopedic implant manufacturer headquartered in Gainesville. She joined FPRA in 2008 as a student member and by 2011, began serving as a member of the FPRA Gainesville Board of Directors. Allison holds a master’s degree from the University of Florida in Mass Communications.

Lindsey Robertson, APR – FPRA Gainesville President-Elect 2018-2019

Lindsey is the marketing and communications manager at Foresight Construction Group, a full-service construction firm providing services for government, institutional, healthcare and commercial clients throughout the Southeast United States and the Caribbean, offering general contracting, construction management and design-build services across a wide range of project types. She joined FPRA in 2007 and has held a variety of FPRA Gainesville board positions. Lindsey holds a master’s degree from the University of Florida in Mass Communications.

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