Give the gift of your time to share your public relations skills with others

It’s the holiday season, and that can create ethical questions for public relations professionals when it comes gift-giving. Where do you start? Where do you stop? What’s appropriate and what’s not when it comes to giving gifts?

One place to start to look for answers is your organization’s employee handbook. Some organizations have specific gift-giving requirements setting dollar limits or spelling out when it is or is not to provide gifts for co-workers, or those outside your organization. Understand your organization’s rules and practices when it comes to gift-giving.

If your business has a zero tolerance for alcohol in the workplace, skip the wine basket and consider other options. Understand your organization’s specific requirements, and ask your manager or HR department if you have questions.

What are you to do if your business has a strict policy on accepting gifts and someone gives you a gift that doesn’t align with your company’s policy? Consult your employee handbook or manager for tips on how your organization asks you to handle it. You may need to simply say, “Thank you, but no thank you, I can’t accept this under our company’s guidelines which don’t allow us to accept gifts.” Acknowledge the gesture, thank them for their thoughtfulness, and help them understand why you may not be able to accept a gift if it violates your employment guidelines.

If you’re able to accept a gift, be sure to acknowledge it to the gift-giver. Take the time to write a hand-written thank you note. In today’s fast-paced digital world, receiving a personal note is a pleasant surprise. If sending a hand-written note simply isn't your style, thank the person with a phone call, an email, or in conversation the next time you see him or her.

During this season, it’s important to keep the spirit of giving in mind, rather than placing emphasis on the gift itself. Think about the gifts you offer as a public relations professional. What are your strengths? Consider the ways you can share of your time and talent to help others through your volunteer leadership, or how you can give back to your profession by sharing your public relations expertise.

Wondering what you could do or where to start? Establish a mentorship with a person starting or studying to pursue a career in public relations. Consider supporting our PRSA chapter support of public relations students at area colleges or universities. Volunteer as a speaker for a PR class at an area college, university or high school. Arrange for a student to job shadow your work in PR as they’re on their winter break to get a feel for what it’s like to work in public relations today. Donate your time to help a non-profit with their public relations planning or special event. Offer to get more involved in our PRSA chapter by volunteering for a committee or special project. When it comes to volunteering, there’s no shortage of opportunities in our profession.

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