PRSA’s new practice of conducting “teleconferences” in “listen-only mode” stands the definition of “conference” on its head.
It mirrors what is the general current practice in PR.
Almost all organizations insist on e-mail-only contact with reporters in which the “dialogue” can be recorded and subjected to vetting by legal and other departments.
Free-wheeling conversations with reporters whether at lunch or on the telephone have largely gone the way of the Dodo bird.
The Society’s adoption of “listen-only” mode puts it in sync with general corporate PR practice.
Reporters going to organizational websites mostly find the only way to pose a question is in a box addressed to the PR staff in general.
In those instances where names of PR staff are given, assistants answer the phone and subject the reporter to grilling.
The response from a PR pro, if any, will almost certainly come in the form of an e-mail. The name of the head of the department is usually nowhere among the “press contacts.”
Ten Questions Fiske et al Don’t Want to Hear
A delegate who asked Fiske about the “O’Dwyer allegations about executive pay” on a teleconference precipitated the new PRS policy. PRS leaders can no longer trust questions that might be asked by their most loyal members.
Here are ten questions leaders/staff will not permit to be asked:
1. What are the pay/benefits of COO Bill Murray in 2010-11 and in his new 2012-14 contract?
2. Why is it taking so long to publish IRS Form 990 for 2010 that has pay/benefits and other information not in the audit? (Originally due May 15 and withheld from the last two Assemblies).
3. Why isn’t Murray, the president and chief spokesperson for the Society, constantly making speeches promoting the Society’s “Business Case for PR?”
4. Leaders talk about a “pay freeze” but pay/fringes rose in 2010 and in Q1 of 2011 (up 3% in 2010 to $5.5M and up 8% in Q1 to $1.3M or 57% of revenues).
5. How can you justify having only one national conference in New York in 23 years when New York has the biggest potential audience and travel, room & board for up to 35 staffers is not needed? How can you go to Philadelphia twice in this period (2007 and 2013)?
6. Why can’t we know who is on the staff of about 55? All but seven names have been removed.
7. Why can’t members who want it have a PDF of the full membership list since no printing or postage would be needed and it would be fully up-to-date? Members have enough of things to look up on the web without having to do that for fellow members.
8. How can nearly 300 people have a teleconference which you say may replace the in-person Assembly?
9. Why don’t you use the secure Cornell e-mail voting system to poll the members? You blast e-mail them twice a day but have never mentioned the dues increase. You champion “democracy” but neither national nor any chapter will conduct such a vote (www.cs.cornell.edu/andru/civs.html).
10. Why don’t you emulate the major professional groups such as ABA, AMA, and AICPA whose “assemblies” meet twice a year, run their own meetings, and tell their boards what to do; whose balance sheets have large amounts of deferred dues, and who wouldn’t dream of blocking or interfering with press coverage?
Talkative Fiske Condemns “Persecution of Journalists”
More than 100 media pickups of Fiske’s remarks are on the PRS website, including statements on alleged ethical misbehavior of PR people, letters-to-the-editor of publications, interviews with selected media, and awards won (Hispanic PR Assn. names her “PR Professional of the Year”).
She has only appeared before two chapters in person based on the public record (Miami and Atlanta).
Fiske condemned on Feb. 4 “the persecution of journalists and their basic freedoms of the press in response to the unprecedented physical attacks on journalists and the detention of reporters by the Egyptian government…”
She has forgotten that this writer is under verbal and written threat of being beaten “to a pulp” by an Assembly delegate. PRS refuses to investigate this although at least one national director knows who the assailant is.
Below is the letter we received after a large, blonde male rushed up to us and screamed obscenities a couple of inches from our face while we were standing in front of the Washington Hilton on Oct. 16 last year. [Our offense? We air-kissed new director Marisa Vallbona when she passed in front of us in the hotel lobby. She had been a “friend,” trading 47 e-mails with us in the months before the conference.]
YOU DUMBASS. THE GUY YELLED AT YOU, NOT ‘US’ AS IN A MORE THAN ONE PERSON. YOU’RE PATHETIC AND YOU’RE LUCKY YOU’RE NOT BEING SUED FOR ASSAULT, DUE TO YOUR GROSS CONTACT WITH HER.
IF YOU HAD PUT YOUR HANDS ON MY WIFE, OR EVEN DARED TO KISS HER…I’D BEAT YOU TO A PULP. COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS THIS DELEGATE LET YOU OFF WITH A FEW CHOICE WORDS.
LOL, ATTACKED BY FLASHMOB? THOSE [pens] WERE GIVEN TO YOU AND THEY [DELEGATES] DID NOT FLEE. THEY WALKED AWAY.
LASTLY, YOUR PHOTO IS A JOKE. GROW UP YOU PANSY ALCOHOLIC!!
The “Flash Mob” refers to the 20 delegates who interrupted our interview with Art Stevens at the Assembly to give us hotel pens signifying that we were psychotic like John Nash as portrayed by Russell Crowe in “A Beautiful Mind.”
PRS refuses to investigate that incident, either. The “mob” urged everyone at the conference to harass us by giving us their hotel pens.
PRS Supporters Spew Venom
Fiske, since she sees “freedom of the press as a vital component to building and sustaining democratic societies” and says that reporters should not be “intimidated,” ought to look at some of the names this writer is being called (in writing) by PRS leaders, members and staff.
E-mails to Advertising Age, Ragan’s PR Daily and blog sites, commenting on the false charges that we had “hacked” into PRS teleconferences, called us “unethical,” “a pig,” “have a lifelong compulsion to tear down the Society,” “is positively unhinged where the Society is concerned,” “publishes outright lies,” “publisher of false and defamatory statements,” “a scoundrel,” “exhibits reprehensible behavior,” “reports twisted version of the news without truth entering the equation,” “makes up things he reports,” a “noisemaker and not a journalist,” and “constantly acts upon warped, false and misleading information.”
This is what they write. One can imagine what they say.
PRS Sold O’Dwyer Articles
Such critics seem to forget that PRS made hundreds of thousands of dollars selling authoritative O’Dwyer articles and those of other authors without permission (PDF).
The backbone of the “info pack” service was O’Dwyer articles which made up to a third of some of the packets. Fifty-two O’Dwyer articles totaling 100 pages were found in 11 packets that were purchased from PRS. Second most copied was PR Quarterly (19 articles totaling 50 pages). Packet volume was 3,800 yearly generating about $60K in profits. The O’Dwyer expose of this massive theft of intellectual property stopped it cold.
None of those making the comments above will meet us in person or even talk to us on the telephone. Fiske and other leaders now won’t even take live questions from the most trusted insiders.
Stockholm Accords Advocate Dialogue
The “Stockholm Accords,” created in June 2010 (PDF) by members of the World PR Forum and the Global Alliance in Stockholm, created an extensive rationale for the practice of PR. One of its main points is that “stakeholder groups” should engage in “direct dialogue and conversation on specific issues in order to find mutually beneficial outcomes.”
Dialogue is defined by dictionaries as a “conversation between two or more persons” and conversation is defined as “an informal talking together.”
PRS member Prof. Tim Penning wrote in Tactics in the September (link, sub req'd), 2008 “Ethics” issue that PR “enables voices to speak in open democratic dialogue.”
He praised Prof. Jim Grunig’s belief that the “two-way symmetrical model” of communications is the best.
Also quoted by Penning was philosopher John Milton saying that “truth and falsehood should grapple” and that democracies are characterized by “open deliberation.”
Penning, quoting Milton, also deplored “censorship” which is exactly what is going on when PRS blocks any “live” questioning of leaders on its “teleconferences.”
List of Chapter Presidents Provided
The list of 105 chapter presidents, removed from the Society website two years ago, has been re-assembled here for use by the presidents who need to organize and members who may want to express their views to the presidents, who make up more than a third of the Assembly.
Brigitte W. Johnson, APR
President, National Capital
American Forest Foundation
Brandon D. Wilson