|August 9, 2010|
|Corbett, PRSA Candidate, Ducks Questions|
|By Jack O'Dwyer|
|The Code of the PR Society proclaims its dedication to a "democratic society." But in such a society candidates for office present themselves to fellow members and/or the public and press for questioning.|
In the topsy-turvy world of PRSA, the candidates literally disappear.
Bios and statements of beliefs of all those nominated for office last week were removed from the Society website even though they still can be challenged until Sept. 16.
Members who might want a closer look at the beliefs of chair-elect candidate Gerry Corbett or treasurer candidate Phil Tate (running to succeed himself) or others are out of luck.
Society tradition is for nominees to button their lips and hope for no challenges.
We asked Corbett and Tate to call us for an interview or better yet, come to New York and face members and the press in open session. That would constitute PRSA living up to the “A” in its title.
Corbett replied to a questionnaire sent him by three Fellows of PRS* in June but his answers showed a profound lack of understanding of the Assembly.
'Up to the Assembly' Not an Answer
He answered seven of the questions with, "Up to the Assembly" including whether APR should be required for national office; whether Assembly transcripts should be published; whether a PDF of the members’ list should be provided; whether more PR pros should be hired at h.q.; whether chapter-only members should be considered, and if most h.q. operations should be shifted out-of-town.
Society lawyers have lectured Assembly delegates that they must never, ever try to tell the board what to do.
The Assembly can only elect board and officers, set dues, and make bylaw changes.
Similar bodies at the legal, medical and accounting professions tell their boards what to do. Their meetings are run by their own elected officers and no one from the board.
An attempt to give the Assembly the same power in 2006 was defeated with no chapters supporting Central Michigan.
The reason the proposal lost is that national blocked any communication or discussion of it to members for five months. It had been proposed in April.
An informed 2006 Assembly would have put the Society’s governance on a par with the ABA, AMA and AICPA.
The Committee to Promote Democracy in PRSA (new name) is similarly being blocked from communicating with members. It can’t get use of the 21,000-member e-mail list or win any mention of its aims in the online or printed PR Tactics.
It can’t even e-mail the 300 or so Assembly delegates because PRSA national refuses to compile such a list. A debate about the CDP’s proposal to open board/officer posts to non-APRs is taking place in special e-groups where only a few members see it.
A national vote is possible on this via individual votes at each chapter after members get all the facts, positive and negative on APR. There’s more than two months until the Oct. 16 Assembly, plenty of time to do this.
Have Free Elections Now
If Corbett is refusing to answer questions now when he is just a candidate, think of how unavailable he will be if he is legally chair.
Recent chairs including 2010 chair Gary McCormick have just appeared before a half dozen or so of the 110 chapters and such visits are never publicized on the PRS* website.
Reformers should run interested members against Cobett and the other reclusive candidates.
Bylaws about APR, 60-day notices for amendments, etc., should simply be disregarded.
Society leaders don’t hesitate to break all sorts of rules and promises when it suits their purpose.
At least five major Robert’s Rules are ignored including its main one: proxy votes are forbidden in a deliberative body.
PRS* does the exact opposite of what its code says including:
--“Advance the free flow of accurate and truthful information…in a democratic society.”
--“Be honest and accurate in all communications.”
--“Reveal all information needed for responsible decision making.”
--“Deal fairly with clients, employers, competitors, peers, vendors, the media and the general public.” (Notice “the media” and “public” are last on this list).
--“Preserve the free flow of unprejudiced information…”
Cronyism, Hypocricy Mar Nominations
The nominees put forth by the nomcom headed by Jeff Julin show cronyism, racial discrimination and increased influence of academics.
Candidates pledged their devotion to “diversity” but the Julin nomcom rejected the sole African-American seeking to join the board—Regina Lewis of The Potter’s House non-denominational church of Dallas.
Director-at-large instead went to prof. Susan Walton of Brigham Young University, a school whose 32,955 students includes 165 blacks.
Ofield Dukes, who sought an at-large post last year, was rejected by the nomcom headed by Rhoda Weiss which picked Barbara Whitman of Hawaii, where Weiss has a major client.
Lewis Responded to Questions
Lewis was one of the six candidates (out of 19) who responded to questions sent to her by three Fellows of the Society in June.
She supplied the most answers of any of the six, saying she was in favor of removing any requirement for board/officer service except being a paid up member.
She favors audiocasting the Assembly; publishing transcripts of the Assembly; converting the printed Tactics and Strategist to PDFs; adding PR pros to h.q. staff, and restoring the single list of chapter presidents (which was replaced with links to 110 separate chapters).
She gave the most and best answers and would make a good reform candidate. We hope she will consider it.
Cronies Tate and Grant Get Nod
Examples of cronyism are the nominations of Tate to succeed himself as treasurer, a first for an officer position, and Nation Education Assn.’s Steve Grant taking a second straight two-year term and bouncing sole Mid-Atlantic candidate Linda Burkley of Harrisburg, Pa.
Grant will now be on the board four years in a row as a director as the NEA looks the other way while its name is dragged through the PRS* mud.
Society founders had Grant in mind when they ruled that “directors many not succeed themselves.”
Gail Liebl of blue chip Travelers, seeking treasurer, was bounced from the board so Tate could stay in a holding pattern. Another corporate person, Debra DeCourcy of Fifth Third Bancorp., was ditched in favor of Prof. Stephen Iseman of Ohio Northern University, advisor to the Student Society.
Corporate members are also miffed that another educator will be on the board—Prof. Kirk Hazlett of Curry College, a 2,000-student school in Belmont, Mass.
Business Members Dislike Academics
Some corporate members are aghast at the prospect of four academics on the board (Grant, Iseman, Hazlett and Walton).
Our view of academics is that they are least in touch with the realities of PR, dealing mostly with 18-22 year-olds and other academics, and are the most likely to “play politics,” i.e., refuse to stick their necks out on anything.
When academics dominate, as in the Institute for PR, reality takes flight.
We have been trying to interest IPR CEO Bob Grupp in new takes and evidence on PR’s No. 1 success story, J&J’s handling of the Tylenol crisis in 1982.
It has taken a professor from Australia, Tony Jaques, to punch holes in Tylenol myths (link, sub req'd).
The biggest holes include J&J’ insistence in marketing a product known to be fatally flawed and then offering a paltry $100,000 reward for information on the murders when it should have offered $10 million.
Scott Bartz, a nine-year employee of J&J who knows its distribution channels inside and out, is convinced the tamperings took place within J&J and has written a book detailing his charges. Lots of information was withheld from the public.
The IPR, which says it shows the “science beneath PR,” is silent so far. Ray Jordan of J&J is on its board.
Real scientists, confronted with even a particle of new evidence or new interpretations on something in their fields, would descend like locusts on whatever had turned up.
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