|August 4, 2010|
|N.Y. PR Principles Trump Barcelona's|
|By Jack O'Dwyer|
|Four PR groups met in Barcelona, Spain June 10-18 and came up with the lofty "Barcelona Declaration of Measurement Principles."|
1. Importance of goal setting and measurement.
2. Measuring outcomes is preferred to measuring outputs.
3. Effect on business results can and should be measured.
4. Media measurement requires quantity and quality.
5. Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE) is not the value of PR.
6. Social media can and should be measured.
7. Transparency and replicability are paramount to sound measurement.
In opposition to this line of thinking, we came up with the “New York Declaration of PR Principles” as follows:
1. Goal of PR is increased public understanding via truth telling and fact providing, answering press questions.
2. "Outcomes" (sales or whatever) depend mostly on quality and price of product involved.
3. Ditto for "Business results."
4. Ads/PR bring customers to store; product does selling
5. Editorial mentions are gold to advertising's brass.
6. Expert websites and bloggers should be tracked and engaged.
7. All media, big or small, should be treated equally.
Barcelona Sees PR as Marketing
The “Barcelona Principles” position PR as marketing when that is only one aspect of PR.
The most telling of the seven “principles” crafted by the participants is No. 5: “Advertising Value Equivalency is not the value of PR.”Participants could only define “PR” in the negative. This begs the question, “What is the value of PR?”
We like the definition given by Prof. Tim Penning in PRSA’s Tactics of September, 2008 (link, sub req'd): “dialogue, negotiation and mediation.” PR pros, in order to “contribute to informed decision making in a democratic society, must seek opposing views for the good of the public,” he wrote.
Significantly, the PR Society refuses to put the Penning essay on its website although other essays by him are there.
PR Society Practices Stonewalling
How the Society, in the form of chair Gary McCormick, could get involved in anything dealing with “research” is beyond us.
The Society’s information-blocking, anti-democratic practices have reached such an extent that there is a full-blown revolt against them by the “Committee for a Democratic PRSA.”
It has garnered 350 signatures on a petition including those of nine PR professors and nine Society Fellows, one of them a Gold Anvil winner.
The Society won’t allow the Committee to post its arguments on the Society website; won’t cover the subject in its online news report; won’t provide to the Committee or anyone a list of the 300 or so 2010 Assembly delegates (who were elected Jan. 1); won’t let the Committee e-mail the 21,000 members; stopped publishing the transcript of the Assembly in 2005; and refuses to audiocast the annual Assembly meetings when it would be cheap and easy to do so.
The Society’s press policy is to be as nasty, dismissive, and unhelpful as possible.
For instance, for the first time in its history, there was no “press room” at the 2009 national conference—only a table in a hallway staffed by local volunteers who couldn’t answer any questions.
This reporter three times asked for assistance in hearing the proceedings and was turned down each time, breaking the Americans with Disabilities Act. McCormick has promised us that the Society will obey the law this year.
What the Barcelona attendees should be studying is how secrecy and information-blocking are affecting the PR industry and the public it is supposed to be serving. Attendees forgot that “public” is the first word in the name of their industry.
Institute for PR Was Hijacked
Another participant in Barcelona was the Institute for PR, which broke away from the PR Society in 1989 because of demands that all its directors be APR.
The breakaway was a good thing. But IPR went too far—all the way to Gainesville, Fla., where it is housed at the University of Florida. It is a minor factor in the PR world, a captive of ivory tower-dwelling academic interests.
It should have stayed in New York to serve the huge communications industry there. It could easily afford such a facility now.
IPR, whose staff is headed by Bob Grupp, (pictured at right) says it provides “the science beneath the art of PR” but we’d like to know what is the science that blocks information flow and relishes secrecy? Such activities are the opposite of science.
IPR’s board is headed by Michael Fernandez of State Farm Insurance, a member of highly secretive PR Seminar and also its offshoot, the Arthur W. Page Society.
Seminarians comprise about two-thirds of Page’s 30-member board.
About 30 of the 45 trustees of IPR are either Page members or both Page and PR Seminar members. Among those belonging to both are Angela Buonocore of ITT; Ray Jordan, Johnson & Johnson; Maril MacDonald, Page president in 2009, and Gary Sheffer, General Electric.
PR Seminar Has Huge Turnover
The PR Society and IPR should be researching the decline in influence of PR which is under heavy pressure from corporate financial, legal and marketing departments.
One result is high PR job turnover and job loss. PR Seminar inducted 43 new members in 2010 after taking on 47 new members in 2009. Fewer than ten new members were inducted yearly in the 1970s and 80s.
Since Seminar limits its membership and ousts anyone after one year who loses a job, this means that about 90 members lost their jobs. Declining attendance also means Seminar has to work hard to attract members. Blue chips are clamping down on expensive conferences at plush resorts.
Page members tell us that about 40 members are job-searching and were miffed when the $200K presidency of Page went last month to a non-member—Julia Hood of PR Week—when so many of them were in need of such a job.
Page reportedly looked at 200 resumes and conducted interviews but some members feel Hood was a lock from Day One.
Hostility to Media Apparent
The Barcelona materials reflect the attitude that media are there for one purpose—promote client aims.
There is no interest in what is good for the community or democracy, only what is good for the client and often in the short term.
This attitude is one reason for the destruction of large parts of the U.S. press. About half the journalists working in 2001 have lost their jobs because of declining ads and circulation.
This means a smaller news hole for press releases and a deluge of at least 50,000 reporters mostly seeking “PR” jobs. PR has become a very insecure industry in which to work.
Job Market Needs Addressing
Media and PR job shrinkage should be the prime concerns of the PR trade groups, not whether press release pickup sold product or not.
Katie Paine, who is known as “the Queen of Measurement,” has told us that measurers want to find out what is not working so that changes can be made.
How about calling up editors and reporters and asking them how well PR is serving them?!
We’re hopeful of a further dialogue with her that excludes any sort of personal attacks or references. “Ad hominem” arguments are not allowed in a debate.
Is there anyone at the end of the release who can answer questions? Is the CEO available for interview or for press conferences?
It is a rare corporate website that lists the names of any PR pros. Mostly, reporters are provided with an e-mail box where they can leave a question and hope for an answer.
Kraft describes its PR department (it calls it “corporate affairs”) as its “secret weapon.” PR is seen as the “war department” and reporters as “the enemy.”
Viacom has a 48-page PDF that sets up its PR unit as corporate “gestapo” ready to pounce on anyone remotely connected with the company who utters a negative word about Viacom. The Village Voice described it as “corporate terrorism.”
Organizational PR pros are under the tightest controls ever, their every word and e-mail recorded for study by their superiors.
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