The Meaning of Service

Sheila Tartaglia, Director & Membership Co-Chair, PRSA NJ

President & CEO, Tartaglia Communications

I had the honor of receiving the 2017 PRSA NJ Chapter Service Award at the 28th Annual Pyramid Awards Banquet in June.  This honor is awarded to a chapter board or committee member “who provides value above and beyond the call of duty for PRSA NJ members.”

The PRSA NJ Hall of Fame section published in the Pyramid Awards journal lists, among other awardees, winners of the Chapter Service Award from the year 2000, when Dave Bressen, APR, was the first to receive it.  In fact, five friends and fellow board members with whom I currently serve have also received this award: Ilana Zalika, Vice President & Newsletter Editor (2016) [editor’s note: thanks for the shout out, Sheila!]; Ken Jacobs, Director at Large & Senior Professionals Co-Chair (2014); Ken Hunter, APR, Director & Membership Co-Chair (2009); Loren Waldron, President (2008); and Joan Bosisio, Director, Website, Social Media & PRSSA Chair (2005).  

I am proud that my name will now be part of this “Hall of Fame” for years to come.  What does this honor mean to me, and how does it motivate me to continue to serve?

Years ago, I read a compelling book about “servant leadership” given to me by a business leader who emulated this concept.  It described a leader as someone who serves the greater needs of others, thereby fulfilling the primary goal of leadership.  Robert K. Greenleaf (1904-1990) articulated this ancient concept for our time. He wrote in his seminal essay, “The Servant as Leader,” that, “the best leaders were servants first, and the key tools for a servant leader included listening, persuasion, access to intuition and foresight, use of language, and pragmatic measurements of outcomes.”  

As a public relations practitioner, we all use these five key tools in our work.  I also use these tools in my service as our chapter’s Director and Membership Co-Chair. The following is my interpretation of these tools, and how I apply them in my work.  I am sure these descriptions will sound familiar to you:

Listening:  I subscribe to the adage, “You learn more by listening than you do by talking.”  When I ask a client, “What are your desired outcomes?”, I listen carefully to their response, as it will inform my plans, strategies and tactics.  In my volunteer leadership role, I listen to what my fellow board and chapter members share, in order to help us continually provide excellent networking, meet-the-media events, professional development, mentoring, Pyramid Award recognition, career advancement opportunities, and much more!

(Ethical) Persuasion:  It is integral in communication and public relations to have the ability to ethically persuade, or influence, others. For instance, when I pitch a story, I need to be able to convey that my client’s message or story has merit, is verifiable and is worthy of attention.  Appreciating the perspectives of our board and members helps me to champion our chapter’s goals and initiatives.

Intuition and Foresight:  My favorite Yogi Berra quote is, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” It makes me smile, reminds me to trust my instincts, and take a good, long look ahead prior to moving forward on an important decision. Which also brings to mind one of my favorite Robert Frost poems, “The Road Not Taken.” Choosing a path in life—or even more than one path, which may take the form of a second career, or an adventurous journey—requires keen intuition and foresight.  Along with my professional training, trusting my instincts and looking ahead enables me to suggest the best path going forward for my clients, and our dynamic chapter members as well.

Use of Language:  I’m a lover of language, voracious reader, and published writer.  Each of us paints a picture of who we are by the language we use to express ourselves. In public relations, it’s critical that we write and speak well, and have the ability to inspire, educate, and engage others with our words (see “Persuasion”). My clients depend on me to tell their stories so that their target audiences immediately pay attention, get drawn in, and increase their levels of engagement and loyalty.

Pragmatic Measurements of Outcomes: All public relations practitioners need to provide measurement and evaluation in order to validate the results of our work, and demonstrate how we provide good business outcomes for our clients. This also means that we must provide benchmarks against which we measure our work, each step along the way.  One size doesn’t fit all, however:  It’s important to clearly understand the client’s objectives up front, so that measurement reflects our success at achieving them.  

My deepest thanks go to PRSA NJ for honoring me with the Chapter Service Award, and to our great membership, for continuing to inspire me to persevere in my work as a servant leader for our chapter.  I also extend my warmest thanks to my mentors (you know who you are!), who by your examples motivate me to keep striving and moving forward in my career.


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