Belonging to SPJ holds a different meaning for each member. One in particular has dedicated her time to making sure every member has a sense of belonging and a meaningful experience with the organization.
Since fifth grade, Robyn Davis Sekula knew she wanted to be a writer. She discovered her interest in journalism while at James Madison University and says it was the fast-paced nature of the profession that drew her in.
She joined the campus SPJ chapter, which helped her journalism education and increased her enthusiasm for a career in the field. The Virginia Pro chapter awarded her two scholarships for her work as a student, and she also won two Mark of Excellence Awards. She completed three internships in college and then went to work for newspapers in Virginia, North Carolina, Missouri and Kentucky.
Sekula now lives in New Albany, Ind., working as a freelance writer and social media consultant. While she isn’t working day-to-day as a full-time journalist, she uses the storytelling skills she learned in her earlier journalism work to help her clients share their stories and increase their public profiles. She counts among her clients the Presbyterian Mission Agency, a law firm in Kentucky and other non-profit organizations. She says she’s a strong supporter of journalists and the First Amendment.
Sekula’s involvement with SPJ has extended into her professional membership. She is the president of the Louisville Pro chapter and is SPJ’s national Membership Committee chair. The committee follows membership trends and recommends recruitment drives to the national board and executive director. It is called upon to review chapter requirements, dues, organizational structure and other quality-of-life issues affecting the membership.
Past president Dana Neuts asked Sekula to be membership chair at the beginning of her presidency in 2014. Sekula thought that her background helping run an SPJ chapter and working with non-profit organizations on strategic planning would be helpful in running the membership committee.
Sekula accepted the role, in part, because she wanted to use her strong marketing background as a recruitment tool, and she immediately got to work developing and utilizing a membership strategy.
She has big plans for SPJ and its membership. Her first goal is to help increase the number of SPJ members, including increasing the number of members who aren’t practicing journalists but support freedom of the press. SPJ assists working journalists and other communications professionals through programs, resources and other important services. SPJ also advocates for the First Amendment, which Sekula believes anyone can get behind.
“If you support freedom of the press, you belong in SPJ,” she said. “I support SPJ not because I’m a working journalist, but because I highly value the free press, freedom of speech and open information.”
In addition to increasing awareness of SPJ and increasing the number of members, part of Sekula’s plan in her role is to optimize membership experience. This includes making sure members are aware of the numerous membership benefits, especially the ones relevant to them, and recognizing members for their achievements. The Membership Committee recognizes accomplishments by featuring an extraordinary individual each month in a member spotlight. Susan Stevens, who works with Sekula on the committee, helps with the member spotlight.
“Almost every professional organization wages an uphill fight to attract and retain members. SPJ is no exception,” Stevens said. “Robyn is a persistent leader in this battle for us. She constantly looks for new ways to boost our numbers, while continuing with efforts that have been successful in the past. She is a great listener when committee members have new ideas — indeed, welcomes those ideas. She leads a diverse Membership Committee of longtime SPJ members as well as enthusiastic newcomers who work in jobs across the media landscape.”
Whether she’s freelancing marketing work, speaking on social media or supporting free press, Sekula shares her passion for journalism through her involvement in SPJ.
“SPJ keeps me tuned in to free speech issues, news events and my first career love: journalism.”
Tagged under: Freelancing