The e-mail debate over dropping APR as a requirement for PRSA board service has descended to the level of a “bar room” brawl marred by “demagoguery, name-calling and cheap shots,” says one participant.
APR supporters are led by former national directors Steve Lubetkin and Michael Jackson, and Jim Lukaszewski, who conducts seminars on crises for the Society.
Lubetkin, Jackson, Lukaszewski
One of their main arguments is that members show “commitment” to the Society by going through the APR process.
Kathy Lewton, 2001 president, says that in general the APRs have not proven to be leaders since the 3,910 APR community “does not seem able to turn out even 12 candidates (two for each of six board seats”) in the past 20 years.
There are nearly 400 APRs in each of the ten districts and sometimes no one will run from a district which is why the APRs want to eliminate district representation on the board.
Lewton wonders why there is “such concern about protecting this ‘right’ when so few choose to exercise it.”
APR Leadership Participation is Miniscule
The 19 candidates who showed up this year represented less than one-half of one percent of the 3,910 APRs.
Any new member, including those with no experience at all in PR, can apply for the APR process. Previously, five years of experience was required.
The debate, in which the “ethics” of APR critics are called into question, resulting in spirited responses, is in a private “e-group” of the Society that is seen by only a handful of the 21,000 members.
The 21,000 figure includes an estimated 1,000 or more PR Student Society members who can join for $65 while still five months from graduation.
The Society website has yet to mention on its front page or in Tactics Online the existence of the Committee to Promote Democracy in PRSA. The Committee has been denied use of the 21,000 member e-mail list.
This writer believes APR is a blight on the Society that has driven away almost all the major figures in PR and caused a severe shortage of candidates for national board and offices It has resulted in the Society’s membership declining to about 20,000, which is where it was in 1998 (19,600).
APRs cling to power even though they are causing possibly fatal harm to the Society.
Open Letter to APR Supporters
Here’s our open letter to Lubetkin, Lukaszewski and Jackson:
Hello Steve, Jim and Michael:
Kathy Lewton, 2001 president, correctly points out that the APRs in general are anything but “leaders” since so few of them ever show up for national board or office posts.
The small clique of APRs who have taken control of the Society have sought unsuccessfully for years to do away with district directors because so few APRs show up for office. A major reason for lack of candidates is the noxious policies of the Society including having a secret list of Assembly delegates, cancelling the printed members’ directory but not supplying a PDF of it, and failing to conduct a “PR for PR” campaign.
The debate in the Society e-group fails to mention the huge decline in interest in APR in recent years. Only 904 new APRs of the Society have been created in the six years from July 1, 2003, when the computer-based test was introduced. The average was 150 yearly.
In the previous six years, 1,623 APRs were created (average of 270) and in the six years before that, 1,782 (average of 297). The decline is at least 50% because of smaller Society memberships. In the 1991-96 period, average membership was 15,703 vs. 21,000 in the latest six-year period. Also, five years of PR experience was required of APR candidates but no experience whatever has been required for at least five years.
Art Stevens defeats his own argument for non-APRs on the board by constantly saying APR is a "hallmark of professional accomplishment” when the overwhelming majority of members, by their avoidance of this test for 46 years, obviously believe no such thing.
His Committee’s proposal to allow non-APRs on the board if they have 20 or more years in PR jobs “with increasing levels of responsibility” is tantamount to keeping the APRs-only rule.
Test Skips Writing Skills, Creativity
The computer test doesn't cover writing skills or creativity while the Readiness Review consists of an applicant claiming to have created all sorts of things. Local chapters administer the RR so local politics is possible. Subjective judgments are made. There are no national standards for the RR, not when rules are administered by local members.
“APR” is outdated since the new titles that get jobs have digital, social media, corporate communications, corporate affairs, PA, etc., in them.
A study by Fellow Rene Henry found in 1999 that APR even back then had virtually no meaning in the PR job marketplace. Korn/Ferry said an APR hurt in the marketplace.
The main case against APR and APRs is the policies and practices of the APRs who have ruled the Society since the mid-1970s.
APRs Allowed Unethical Practices
The APRs from 1980 to 1994 allowed the sale of hundreds of thousands of copies of authors’ materials without their permission even though the Code says members must “preserve intellectual property rights in the marketplace.”
APRs wouldn’t speak to the authors, pay them a nickel or even offer free ads for their books. They allowed hundreds of Silver Anvil entries to be tossed in the 1980s for minor rule infractions (while keeping the entry fees).
APR subsidies cost the Society $2,926,080 from 1986-2002. Subsidy in 2000 was $1,794 per new APR (link, sub req'd).
Robert’s Rules Are Savaged
APRs disobey the most basic of Robert’s Rules which bar proxy voting and demand that any votes taken at a meeting be reflected in the minutes.
Fifty-six proxies were voted at the 2009 Assembly but only the leaders and staff know how these proxies were voted or who voted them. Proxies are again being solicited for the 2010 Assembly which leaders refuse to audiocast although it would be cheap and easy to do so.
APRs broke the basic Robert’s rule about bylaw revisions—that all articles be brought before the voting body. Robert's also says a revision should not be done at the regular annual meeting (which is what the Society did in 2009).
Another basic Robert's Rule is that the board of any association is "subordinate" to its assembly, a rule followed by lawyers, doctors, CPAs and psychologists. Page 9 of Robert's says "the board within an organized society is an instrumentality of the society's full assembly to which it is subordinate." At the Society, the opposite is true--the board rules and even conducts the Assembly.
Society Out of Step with other Groups
Despite the above, the bylaws of the Society cite Robert's as its "parliamentary authority" and say that Robert’s "shall govern the Assembly in all cases."
APRs break year after year accounting’s No. 1 rule—money is not booked until earned. They book a year’s dues as cash, thus providing misleading balance sheets.
APRs are again withholding the full list of Assembly delegates even from the delegates themselves. Any delegate who so wishes can withhold his or her name from the list. Only delegates who make a written request (new this year) to staffer Linda Darnowski can have the list of delegates who allow their names to be used.
APRs have picked Philadelphia twice for the national conference (2007 and 2013) while ignoring New York, where the Society had its biggest conference ever in 2004.
They created the “Business Case for PR” but neither president Bill Murray nor VP-PR Arthur Yann are out promoting this to business groups in New York or elsewhere.
IRS Form 990, showing the salaries of the top six staffers at the Society in 2009, is still unavailable. It was due May 15 and then Aug. 15 but can be put off till Nov. 15. APRs, breaking long Society tradition, now want to charge reporters $1,275 to cover the conference. I doubt any other assn. charges reporters to cover its conference.