|August 8, 2011|
|Women Can Lead Reform at PRSA|
|By Jack O'Dwyer|
|Women are presidents of 40 of the 50 biggest chapters of PR Society of America including eight of the top ten. The 40 chapters have 180 votes in the Assembly, more than enough to control a body that has about 275 members.|
Women also comprise 70% of the current 21,000 members. They're outnumbered 10-7 on the board by men.
Question: then why do women allow the top four posts at h.q. to be in the hands of men, three of whom are doing awful jobs and who are overpaid (three-quarters of a million dollars yearly?!)
When a PRS executive had to walk the plank last year to cut payroll, it was a woman who was chosen -- VP membership marketing Jennifer Ian, a seven-year veteran who made $121K. It took her a year to get a new job.
PRSA chapter presidents Brigitte Johnson (National Capital), Karla Harvill (Georgia), and Sandra Fathi (New York).
If the women decide to organize and lead their chapters in the Assembly, they could bring about democratic practices including ending the monopoly the APRs have on the national board and could inject a host of other reforms including placing members at h.q. where they could monitor spending first hand.
Head 9 of 10 Top Chapters
Women are presidents of nine of the top ten chapters that have a total of 66 votes in the Assembly. The only male among the top ten is Brian O'Connor of the L.A. chapter.
Among the top 15, there is one other male -- Todd Bailey of Central Ohio.
Brigitte Johnson heads National Capital with 1,300+members in its area and 14 delegates; Karla Harvill heads Georgia with 900+ and 10 delegates, and Sandra Fathi heads New York with more than 900 members and ten delegates.
Other chapters in the top ten headed by women are Meredith Bagnulo, Colorado, six delegates; Brooke Worden, Minnesota, five delegates; Michelle McCormick, Houston, five delegates, Susan Ferraro, Detroit, four delegates, and Kathryn Reith, Puget Sound, four delegates.
COO, CFO, VP-PR Doing Bad Jobs
We have documented our complaints about the performances of Bill "Blackball" Murray, who carries the title of "president" but does not act presidential; VP-PR Art Yann whose PR practices are at the caveman level, and CFO Phil Bonaventura, whose financial reports are either late or lacking.
The fourth highest-paid PRS executive, VP-development John Robinson ($140K), we have no quarrel with.
Bonaventura, for instance, posted on Aug. 5 the Q2 report only it was hidden in the first half report. This is a cheap accounting trick.
The gambit concealed the fact that an operating profit of $157,685 in Q1 was wiped out in Q2 by a loss that totaled $312,797 resulting in a first half operating loss of $155,112. Members should not have to do the arithmetic.
We're leaving out for the moment $84,671 in what is mostly interest and dividends and is called "investment income," which was reported for the first half.
Salary, Other Data Withheld
Indefensible is the withholding of 2010 IRS Form 990 long after the audit was published. This document was withheld from both the 2009 and 2010 Assemblies.
Bonaventura allows staff and leaders to talk about the Society's "reserves" when corporations don't have reserves. They have net assets.
PRS's net assets are as phony as a three-dollar bill because they book dues as cash, a violation of FASB. Bonaventura should not allow this.
Even if PRS had the finest CPA on staff and finest outside CPA firm, they would be no substitute for members working at h.q. Only the most staff and leader-loyal PR pros have been allowed at h.q. since about 1980.
Flaws in Murray, Yann
Murray, protected by the board and Assembly, strikes a contemptuous pose towards member, refusing to reveal terms of his contract either old or new. Members don't get them in convenient electronic form until more than two years later.
Although improperly carrying the title of president (which belongs to someone who is "elected"), Murray is almost never seen or heard except by board members, Assembly delegates and leaders.
For $373K in pay/benefits (2009 figure) he should be out preaching the Society's "Business Case for PR." He has not addressed the New York chapter in 4.5 years nor any New York group that we know of.
He would have a problem appearing on TV or radio because of a speech defect. Doctors tell us it's spasmodic dysphonia which is incurable and may get worse.
PR People Don't Hide, They Talk
PR tradition would be for someone with such a condition to talk about it and perhaps end speculation and concern. The intensely private Murray prefers silence.
I call him "Blackball" Murray because he spent an hour in my office last year saying he had "chosen" not to deal with the O'Dwyer Co. He thinks press relations is dealing with reporters. It's dealing with the facts they dig up.
His stance is a violation of the Society Code.
Under Murray and predecessors, information-blocking practices have multiplied and include loss of the printed members' directory; loss of transcripts and audiotapes of Assembly; loss of national list of delegates (there is no list at all as of this writing); blocking press from seeing PRS financials; refusal of leaders to face members in-person on issues like the dues hike, bylaws re-write, and the bid to let non-APRs run for the national board.
Yann Is 'Czar of Silence'
Yann could be fried in his own words.
The media policy on the Society website says any member who receives a call from a reporter about PRS must report this to Yann or one of his staffers before responding to the reporter.
This includes elected officers and board members and even the chair of PRS. Plenty of members don't obey this ridiculous dictum.
Last year Yann "credentialed" us for the Assembly but not for the ensuing national conference that we had covered for about 40 years in a row. There is no rhyme or reason to such decisions.
Yann said we couldn't record or take pictures of the Assembly, which is blatant interference with press coverage. He wouldn't allow an O'Dwyer staffer to sit with me and help with notes.
He barred us from the Assembly lunch when we needed to interview delegates about the defeat of the bid to let non-APRs run for the board.
Only silence comes from Yann, chair Rosanna Fiske and other leaders when we ask them to investigate the delegate who threatened us with bodily harm while we waited for a ride in front of the Washington Hilton.
Yann says a national board member witnessed this. The assailant repeated his threats of bodily harm in a letter to us.
Fiske Wants Top Posts for Women
Fiske, in a PRS website posting Aug. 5, notes that 70% of Society members are women and women now dominate in numbers the PR industry. But she says not enough of them have the top posts.
She should ponder why the four highest paid posts in the Society are held by men including three whose performance is lacking.
What's needed is members with gumption who will put the Society's house in order.
Giving this dysfunctional organization more money in the form of a dues hike is not the answer.
Men made a mess of the Society that women could now clear up.
A leader could be Sande Smith, San Francisco president, who is director of communications of the Women's Foundation of California, a politically active organization that "makes change happen."
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