PRSSA History

A Legacy of Leadership

PRSSA has a rich legacy of leadership and growth due to the work of the visionary professionals and students who have lead the Society. This legacy is described below and is detailed in full in, “Public Relations Society of America: A Brief History” (PDF).

How We Started

PRSSA owes its existence to the influence of three exceptional advocates — Chris Teahan, Jon Riffel, APR and J. Carroll Bateman, APR — who lead an 18-year struggle by educators, students and practitioners to form a student Society. They reached their triumph in November 1967 at the PRSA Assembly in Philadelphia, where delegates voted unanimously to establish PRSSA.

The PRSA Board of Directors created the first PRSSA Chapters on April 4, 1968, at nine qualified schools: University of Florida, University of Houston, University of Maryland, Ohio State University, San Jose State University, University of Southern California, University of Texas at Austin, Utica College and West Virginia University. PRSSA had 196 members.

Three additional Chapters — Central Missouri, North Dakota and Syracuse universities — were approved on June 28. Kent State University received its charter on Sept. 13 and Northern Illinois University on Nov. 17.

Since those days, PRSSA has progressed through the leadership of its past National Committees and the support of leaders like the Champions for PRSSA, the PRSA Foundation and Betsy Plank, APR, Fellow PRSA.


The Society’s mission is to serve our members by enhancing their knowledge of public relations and providing access to professional development opportunities; and to serve the public relations profession by helping to develop highly qualified, well-prepared professionals.


The PRSSA vision explains how we have become and will remain the premier pre-professional organization for students in public relations.

  • Growth — Becoming the largest, most respected and widely recognized organization for pre-professional students with an interest in public relations.
  • Education — Enhancing the future professional through classroom preparation, leadership and experience.
  • Advancement — Moving the public relations profession forward through public awareness, meaningful ethics and diverse representation.
  • Relationships — Aligning with PRSA and forming a free interchange of ideas through professional relationships, practical training and mentoring.
  • Students — Providing members with national, regional and local opportunities to network, share ideas and grow professionally.


PRSSA now serves more than 11,000 students at 300 plus Chapters in the United States and one in Argentina. Some milestones in PRSSA’s development include the following:

  • 1969 — PRSA creates a membership category exclusively for PRSSA alumni. The first six-page, two-color issue of FORUM® is published in the spring.
  • 1973 — A national dues structure is adopted, at the students’ request, to make the Society more self-supporting. Through the initiative of students and student advocate Betsy Plank, governance of the Society is transferred from PRSA to the students, and the Bateman Competition is established as the Society’s most prestigious competition.
  • October 1976 — The first PRSSA National Conference convenes, attracting more than 300 students and professionals.
  • 1981 — Friends of PRSSA (now Champions for PRSSA) is formed as an ongoing professional support for the Society, reinforcing productive relationships between professionals and students. 
  • November 1988 — PRSSA adopts a five public relations course requirement as the standard to charter schools.
  • 1989 — The Certification for Education in Public Relations (CEPR) program is established to offer colleges and universities the opportunity for outside evaluation, review and endorsement of its public relations education programs. 
  • 1996 — Member services expand with the restructuring of district directors to national vice presidents and district conferences to Regional Activities.
  • 2006 — The PRSSA Affiliate Program is established, offering students who attend unchartered schools the opportunity for affiliate status and involvement.
  • 2007 — First international Chapter chartered at the Universidad Argentina De La Empresa.