|August 12, 2010|
|PRSA Chair Thinks PR is Ads; Staff Withholds Votes|
|By Jack O'Dwyer|
|Gary McCormick, chair of the PR Society of America, who is an ad salesperson for HGTV (home/garden), defined "PR" in terms of advertising and marketing at his speech Aug. 10 to the Lexington, Ky., chapter of the Society.|
He said the focus of PR pros should be on "outcomes rather than output, change instead of publicity clips."
PR's purpose is to "generate revenue, sales, profit," he told an audience 30 in a 35-minute presentation.
Our question to McCormick is, "What is there about the word 'public' that you don’t understand?!"
Gary McCormick in Atlanta last month. Photo: Nancy Spraker
[Bulletin: The Society, after urging by this website, put candidates’ bios and position statements on the main page of its website. We urge members and non-members to read their “Position Statements I and II” where they will find an absence of discussion of any concrete topics and a deluge of abstract, noble aspirations. ]
PR is the one department in a company that is supposed to educate and inform the public and be responsive to reporters when they ask questions.
PR's chief mission, as repeated over and over in the Society’s code, is increasing public understanding of something.
The bona fide "measurement" of PR is how much detailed information is supplied on a subject, how thorough and widely disseminated the articles or broadcast programs are, and how open to questioning are the leaders of an organization. Articles in media, instead of being derided as "publicity clips," should be examined for their depth and completeness.
McCormick repeated almost word for word the mantra of those who attended the "measurement" meeting in Barcelona, Spain for eight days in June—"outcomes" rather than "output" should be measured.
This group could only define PR in the negative—"ad value equivalency is not the value of PR."
McCormick Defines His Job
McCormick, who is not on the PR staff of HGTV nor listed as one of its executives, defined his job as "co-branding" HGTV with such companies as Bed, Bath & Beyond, Whole Foods and Disney. Such companies buy ads on HGTV, of which there are more than 20 for each half-hour segment, and are able to say in their stores and media that they have advertised on HGTV.
"We get to their audience and they now feel the same thing about our brand…(co-branding) can increase customers quickly," McCormick said.
HGTV not only sells an ad, it gets the companies to give it free publicity!
McCormick urged those in the audience to try to do the same.
Lacks Knowledge of 'Race' and 'Ethnicity'
McCormick's answers to a reporter at the meeting show he does not know the difference between "race" and "ethnicity."
The former is something that can't be changed while the latter is a group of behaviors and beliefs that can be changed. The two are "separate and distinct entities," says the U.S. Census Bureau.
The PRS candidate form focuses on candidates' commitment to "diversity" and this is said to include "race."
The Society has a big PR problem on this issue because it has only had two black women on its board in 63 years and no black men (one served for four months and quit).
For the second year in a row has rejected a highly-qualified black candidate. This year it was Regina Lewis, 25-year PR veteran who has worked for about ten PR firms and companies (including Kodak, Fleishman-Hillard, Shandwick and MS&L), and who presently heads communications for The Potter’s House of Dallas, a large “mega-church” serving hundreds of thousands.
McCormick, asked about this Tuesday, defined Lewis in terms of her “ethnicity,” saying Lewis, while “a great candidate,” would not want to be on the board solely because of her “ethnicity.”
Get thee to a dictionary, we say to McCormick.
Lewis was no doubt sold on being a PRS candidate by Wynona Ryder, president of the National Black PR Assn., who is a non-voting member of the board of PRS.
Lewis is the parliamentarian of NBPRS and we wonder what she thinks of the Assembly allowing voting by proxy. No parliamentarian worth his or her salt would allow this.
Society Staff Stonewalls
A big culprit in the information freeze at the Society is the staff.
A staffer told a delegate in an e-mail last year that the identity of the 300 or so delegates would not be provided even to delegates until the delegates "sat down" at the Assembly.
Rank-and-file members are not allowed to see such a list even when it’s made available to the delegates. This has been the policy since 2006.
The staffer relented after stong protests and allowed delegates to see the list but only if they personally requested it.
Staff would then have the names of anyone requesting the list and could pursue him or her if the list got circulated to the press.
We asked ten delegates to get the list on behalf of us and the general membership and all refused. They were afraid of being tagged as the leaker.
Staff Withholds Voting Records
A subject rarely mentioned but decisive is that staff and leaders have the voting records of Assembly delegates since 1999 when electronic voting devices were first used.
The voting devices are numbered and generate an electronic record with each vote.
Voting devices at the 2009 PRSA Assembly.
This is invaluable political information, telling staff and leaders what chapters are the most loyal to national aims and what chapters might be critical of governance and/or services provided to the chapters.
The Committee to Promote Democracy in PRSA (CPDP) should have access to all this information.
Thus far it has obtained 352 signatures on its petition to remove the APR requirement from board/officer service including those of nine Fellows and nine PR professors.
Withholding such information is only the tip of the iceberg of such stonewalling activities at h.q.
Leaders/staff, in yet another violation of Robert’s Rules, did not supply in the minutes the actual vote totals of the more than 50 votes that were taken at the 2009 Assembly.
The minutes of a meeting, as defined by Robert’s and others, are a record of any actions taken and this includes the vote totals that were flashed on the screen after each Assembly vote last year.
Leaders and staff combine on numerous other information-withholding and delaying activities (besides withholding delegate names and Assembly vote totals):
--Refusal to supply a complete list of members in PDF or any form since 2005. The 21,000 list can be printed out 50 names at a time. Staff/leaders refuse to discuss this topic.
--Refusal to supply a transcript or recording of the Assembly since 2005.
--Refusal to allow the Assembly to be audiocast although it would be cheap and easy.
--Refusal to carry the speaking schedule of chairs such as McCormick on the Society website.
--Removal of the printed list of attendees from the packets given to registrants at the annual conference. Attendees must make a special request for such a list.
-- Staff removed all but seven of their names from the Society website this year. There are more than 50 staffers at PRSA.
-- Staff removed the single list of 110 chapter presidents, forcing members to check individual chapter websites, one by one, for the information.
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