|July 31, 2010|
|PRSA Board Won't Buck Chapters|
|By Jack O'Dwyer|
|The PR Society board, recalling how it was slapped down by the 2009 Assembly, has decided not to buck the powerful chapter presidents who dominate the Assembly.|
The board is turning a deaf ear to presentations made July 16 in Atlanta by Richard Edelman and Bill Doescher for removal of the APR rule for board/officer service, sources say.
Both the national board and chapter presidents are excluding rank-and-file members from this crucial decision—providing stark proof of the almost complete lack of democracy in the Society.
None of the 110 chapters will take a binding vote on this issue among members. The vote would almost certainly be in favor of ditching the APR rule since only 20% of members are APR.
Only two of the 110 chapter presidents favor removal of the rule — Los Angeles and New York.
The national board is still smarting from seeing practically every recommendation for the bylaws voted down by the Assembly last year.
It fears that removing the APR rule and putting in its place a demand that candidates show 20 or more years in PR “with increasing levels of responsibility” would lose again. It was defeated last year 141 to111.
Minimal Aims of CDP Disappoint
We’re disappointed to learn that the Committee for a Democratic PRSA is proposing the same bylaw change as last year.
Democracy would be allowing any dues-paying member to run for national office based on stands on issues like publishing names of Assembly delegates, chapter-only membership, audiocasting the Assembly and supplying transcripts of it, direct student membership, moving much of the offices from New York, supplying a PDF of the membership list to members, etc.
The board and chapter presidents are locked in a power struggle much like that in the 1980s. The board won that one and cut the Assembly in half—ditching the spring Assembly.
Assembly Wanted to Move from New York
The 1985 Assembly was enraged that the board turned down its demand that h.q. be moved from expensive New York.
It voted 126-20 to ask the board to reconsider its action. Seven chapters had compiled research a foot and a half high showing how much money could be saved by a move from New York. They had been asked to do such research and felt their efforts were a waste of time.
Delegates were angered by the board’s failure to follow the Assembly’s wishes and failure to come up with projected costs of staying in New York.
What’s needed is something the near catatonic board will not allow—communications.
It should allow the Committee for a Democratic PRSA to make its case to the 21,000 members via the blast e-mail capability that staff uses constantly to sell seminars/webinars to members.
It should allow the CDP to use Tactics online and in print to carry all the arguments for ending the disenfranchisement of 80% of members that has gone on for 45 years—driving away virtually all of the leading PR executives.
The e-mail list belongs to the members, not the Society.
So the board is throwing its hands up in despair at ending APR rule but at the same time refusing to allow the communications that would put heat on the chapter presidents.
APR Process Must Be Criticized
The CDP is trying to lessen the influence of APRs in the Society without criticizing the APR process.
This is like a surgeon trying to remove a diseased appendix without drawing blood.
The APR process, rejected overwhelmingly by members for 45 years, deserves the severest of criticisms.
It’s a process that tests neither creative nor writing skills. A key element, the “Readiness Review,” is conducted at the chapter level without national standards by fellow chapter members and is subject to local politics. This “Review” consists of a candidate supplying materials that the candidate allegedly worked on.
Chapters should conduct a binding vote on the APR rule for national office after allowing extensive pros and cons on the issue to be published on chapter websites.
Board Lost Big in 2009
Among board proposals that were defeated last November were those that would take away the Assembly’s power to elect board and officers and that would further “pack” the Assembly with about 30 national committee heads.
There are already about 43 national leaders who don’t belong in the Assembly since they are voting on their own proposals—the 17 directors, ten district heads and 16 section heads.
The rebellious Assembly last year finally threw off national’s dictum that delegates can serve no more than three years in a row.
National has no business telling the delegates what to do. The opposite, which is standard in all the major professional groups like the ABA, AMA and AICPA, is what should be the case. The board should take its orders from the Assembly.
If the Assembly is truly rebellious, it will elect its own officers this year and conduct the meeting itself.
Otherwise, national leaders will come up with a schedule of speeches, presentations and an hour-and-a-half lunch that will leave little time for discussion.
There hasn’t been a “town hall” at an Assembly for four years.
Staff Has Big Influence
Not to be ignored in this situation is the influence of the staff, which is far from neutral on APR and other issues.
Staff likes elected leaders who are far from New York and who are in their own firms or minor jobs and have little time to ride herd on the staff.
This has resulted in decisions that speak to the staff’s interests such as moving h.q. downtown and far away from New Yorkers who might want to use the facilities or bother them in some way, and blocking members from using or even seeing the general membership list which is the exclusive preserve of the staff for pitching webinars and seminars.
Staff also doesn’t like national conferences in New York because advance trips are not needed and there is no need for 35 or so staffers to travel to a distant city and live on the Society’s tab for seven or more days.
Thus Philadelphia is picked twice (2007 and 2014) and New York (where the biggest conference ever was held in 2004) is skipped over.
Staff pay/benefits in 2009 were $5.36M or 53.9% of revenues when the percentage should be about 35%.
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