Bryan Campbell, president of the 150-member North Florida chapter of PRSA and vocal supporter of the APR process, has lambasted 2001 Society chair Kathy Lewton on the Society’s e-group, causing her to withdraw from the debate.
Lewton has posted more than 30 comments totaling at least 5,000 words in the e-group, saying the Society lies to prospective members by not warning them about the “two-tier” membership system (only APRs can hold national office).
She also says APR dates back to 1964 when there were few undergraduate and post-graduate PR degrees and certificates available and that more than 80% of members have rejected the APR designation for 46 years.
Lewton fought constant complaints of the APRs that this topic had already been beaten to death and was being considered “over and over” and “repeatedly.” That was the Big Lie of the APR camp
Only once before, in 2009, had decoupling hit the floor of the Assembly.
Such postings have angered the more than 30 pro-APR members whose comments dominate the debate. Only three APR reformers are regularly on the debate (Lewton, Art Stevens and Monty Hagler).
Missing are any 2010 Society candidates including chair-elect candidate Gerry Corbett whose stance is, “Let the Assembly decide.”
Campbell, who told an Aug. 18 teleconference that he was “very upset” that ditching the APR rule was even being discussed, said Lewton has made so many postings in the e-group that it should be named after her.
“Would it be possible to rename this thread?” he asked on Sept. 23.
“Perhaps call it the Assembly Amendment Sounding Board, moderated by Kathleen Larey Lewton, APR, Fellow PRSA,” he added, saying “It would give a more accurate description of the content and context.”
Post Is Called “Mean-Spirited”
Monty Hagler of the Committee for a Democratic PRSA accused Campbell of making a “mean-spirited post.” Lewton said the “unpleasant comment” has caused her to “refrain from adding any additional information, even when misinformation is posted here.”
Campbell retorted that the e-group was supposed to be “a discussion, not a platform” and that “when one person dominates the conversation, that discussion becomes a promotional platform. That is not the intent of a Society e-group.”
Campbell then said, having made four posts, “That is too many and I will cease to post on this thread.”
Another APR supporter, Thomas Duke of Copley, Ohio, said Campbell “hit the nail on the head with his comments.”
“This has become a promotional forum for proponents of the amendment to drop APR for officers and board members,” he said.
“This overselling has done more to crystallize opposition against the amendment than reasonable discourse would have,” he added.
Duke then said that, “Like Bryan, I won’t post any more messages.”
Members Should Only See This
The Society’s virulent non-communication policy blocks nearly 100% of members from seeing this debate.
There’s no doubt truth and fairness are on the side of the APR reformers and lies and politics are on the other side.
Blane Withers, who quit as information head of the Society in 1999, told Association Trends he was fed up with the “unusually high selfish and special interest behavior” on the part of the insiders who were in pursuit of “personal agendas.”
APR fans naively keep demanding to know why the Society doesn’t do more to promote APR.
The American Society of Assn. Executives, hired by both PRS and IABC in the 1980s to look at their accreditation programs, warned that any promotion of such programs opened each group to legal claims.
The same advice was given at an ASAE meeting Dec. 5-7, 1999 in Indianapolis.
Robert Portman, of the law firm of Jenner & Block, gave a 21-page paper saying groups that “accredit, certify or credential” members or non-members face a “host of legal issues.”
The certifying group can be liable when a client “suffers harm at the hands of a certified professional,” he said.
It’s about time Society staff and leaders told the members this and put a stop to the incessant clamor for more promotion of APR. The die-hards believe the APR program is in the doldrums (participation rate is less than half of what it was in the 1980s and 1990s) only because it is not promoted enough.
They need to be disabused of this false notion.
Association Offices Open to All
Another mistaken notion of the APRs is that other groups insist on certification of some type for their officers and board.
Sam Waltz posted in the e-group on Sept. 1 that “It’s not unusual in such professional societies as PRSA for the volunteer leader’s function and contribution to include aspirational values for the profession and the industry. It’s clear in this dialogue that many PRSA members regard such aspirational values as professional development via APR.”
The “Leadership Briefing” on the Society website Feb. 20, 2009 said, “Most associations allow any voting member in good standing to run for their boards.” The Society had done a survey on this.
Pro-APRs Ignore Own Poll
Pro-APRs ignore their own “Governance Study” of 750 members in 2008 that found that 84% of members say “Any member in good standing can run for board.”
The “elephant in the room” is the APR exam process itself.
The APR Study Guide says that anyone who studies this 150-page booklet or 21 chapters of two college textbooks will pass the exam.
What experienced PR pro wants to study college textbooks and then pay $385 to sit in front of a computer for three-and-a-half hours answering multiple choice questions?
Anyone who peruses the Study Guide (PDF) will see how rudimentary the exam materials are. It’s free on praccreditation.org.
The “Readiness Review” process consists of PR people showing work they supposedly did to fellow chapter members who may be bosses, employees, co-workers or longtime friends.
No experience at all is required to take the test. There used to be a five-year floor.
APR supporters speak of the designation in awed terms and denigrate those who don’t show the “commitment” needed to take it.
We applaud the more than 80% of members who refuse to undergo this expensive, humiliating exercise.
A huge weakness in the camp of the APR reformers is its leader, Art Stevens.
He keeps pulling the rug out from under the reformers by praising the APR process when it should be condemned.
“APR is a hallmark for professional improvement” is one of his numerous pro-APR quotes. He tried to light the candle at both ends but burned his own Committee.
Behavior of APRs Has Been Deplorable
Judge the APRs by their actions, not what they say, is our view. They presided over the massive theft of intellectual property that went on from 1980-94 via sale of information packets loaded with illegally copied authors’ materials.
They have presided over two press boycotts (one started in 1999 by the Sam Waltz board and the current one described to us in our offices in March by chair Gary McCormick and COO Bill Murray).
The APR’s disdain of the press is illustrated by the “Media Center” at the 2009 conference. It was an empty table in a hallway.
Society leaders are now trying to block our coverage of the 2010 conference by charging us $1,275 for admittance (while letting other PR trade press in free).
We’re not paying because plenty of members will take notes for us on speakers at any of the major sessions. In any case, the real news will be in the Assembly and the hallways and bars.
Illogical is VP-PR Art Yann’s threatened barring of assistant editor/publisher John O’Dwyer from the Assembly on the ground that he sells ads. As editor/publisher, so do we.
We remind Yann that McCormick is an ad salesman for Scripps HGTV. He is not listed in the company’s PR dept. He gave a 40-minute spiel for HGTV at the Atlanta chapter’s meeting July 14. http://www.odwyerpr.com/blog/index.php?/archives/1028-Partnership-Development-Is-Ad-Sales.html
APRs blew $3.1 million of Society funds on the APR exam from 1986-2002. Their intransigence has driven away top corporate, agency and IR pros. Membership of about 20,000 is now back to where it was in 1998.