|October 6, 2011|
|Delegates Boycott PRSA Listen-only Calls|
|By Jack O'Dwyer|
|Only three questions were asked in teleconferences yesterday about the proposed $30 dues hike of PR Society of America.|
The 300 delegates and other “leaders” eligible to participate, a group of nearly 500, have refused to take part in alleged “teleconferences” where they cannot dialogue with the hosts, including in this case chair Rosanna Fiske, COO Bill Murray, and treasurer Phil Tate.
PRS teleconferences for many years included extended conversations with callers and often ran the full hour as advertised.
However, Fiske, who has only appeared before two of the 110 chapter memberships based on the public record (Miami and Georgia), has blocked any incoming “live” questions after the a.m. session July 28.
Laura Neff-Henderson on that session asked about the “O’Dwyer allegations” about staff pay and was told by Fiske that such reports involve “misinformation” and that she would discuss them off-line with the Neff-Henderson.
Thereafter, Fiske started each teleconference with the announcement that callers were in a “listen-only” mode and could not talk directly with either her or other leaders who were present. Questions had to be submitted on an accompanying website where they were read off by a PRS staffer. That was the kiss of death for the “teleconferences.”
There were only three questions on the two calls yesterday including two that appeared to be asked just so there wouldn’t be a complete shut out.
One was, “When does the dues increase become effective?” something that had just been discussed. A second was what effect would acceptance or rejection of the dues increase have on the PRS Foundation?
It was initially announced that there were 18 people on the a.m. call which was ended after 46 minutes. The p.m. call had about 20 callers and ended after 42 minutes.
Five “Hot” Discussion Topics Listed
Fiske reiterated her intention to break up the Assembly into about 30 groups of ten each.
Delegates, she said, have voted to concentrate on five “hot” topics—“Value of PR,” “Strategic Planning,” “Measurement and Evaluation,” “Social Media,” and “Integrated Marketing.”
Discussions are to start at each table of ten at the Assembly lunch. The delegates will then be sent to different parts of the hotel for further discussion and “reporters” are to prepare summaries of what it said for presentation to the re-assembled Assembly.
The 2011 Assembly sounds like it is shaping up like the tightly programmed 2008 meeting presided over by Jeff Julin.
Leader speeches and a two-hour “thought exercise” on the value of accreditation, licensing and certification ate up five hours and 42 minutes of the meeting. The lunch break was an hour and 42 minutes.
There was no time for a promised “Town Hall” since the agenda called for a “hard ending” at 5 p.m. and required a two-thirds vote to change. Only 53% of delegates voted to extend the meeting.
Chapters Need to Revolt
We have lots of advice for the chapters if they will take it. There is opposition to the dues hike and this may be the catalyst that leads to a revolt against the expensive, remote national staff and elected leadership (payroll of $5.529M means an average pay/benefits of $100K).
Fiske told the p.m. teleconference yesterday that the dues hike will cause “negligible member erosion.”
That’s not what we’re seeing on the PRSAY (public) part of the Society website where almost all of the postings by members are against the increase. There are only 19 postings in all, an indication that most members are not aware there will be a dues hike. The Society sends two blast e-mails a day to the 21,000 members (minus opt-outs) but has never done one on the dues hike.
If the hike goes through, almost all chapter members will be sending five times their local dues of about $50 on average to national which will get $255.
Dues at 48 chapters are in the $50-$60 bracket; 28 in the $30-$40 bracket, and 18 are below $30.
Members are saying that most of what they get from the Society is at the chapter level and there are many other cheaper PR groups and many other cheaper sources of PR webinars and seminars including those run by “social media ‘rockstars,’” as “Linda” posted on PRSAY a week ago.
Don’t Adopt Agenda or Allow Break-up
Our first advice to delegates is do not adopt an agenda. It will be a straight jacket that will be almost impossible to remove given that the Assembly is so packed with leaders who should not be voting at all (the 17 national directors, 14 section heads and 10 district heads).
Certain chapters are highly loyal to national and are in its “pocket”—National Capital, Georgia, Philadelphia (two-time winner of the national conference while New York is shut out), Minnesota, Puget Sound, Colorado, New Jersey, Detroit, and the Florida chapters, to name some of them.
Fiske talked yesterday about “speaker stipends” to chapters and we wonder who gets them.
Los Angeles, whose members sent 95 signatures to the “Committee for a Democratic PRSA” last year, is on the sidelines this year. It was the only chapter to publicly support the Committee last year.
Do not allow Fiske to bust up the Assembly on the one day of the year it meets. It barely meets even then because leaders use all sorts of methods to block discussion.
Delegates should mount the stage and address each other rather than speaking from the floor. They should stop the humiliating tactic of leaders who berate any delegate who addresses the other delegates with “Address the chair!” That’s nonsense. Robert’s Rules say delegates can address each other “through the chair.”
Here’s Our Five “Hot Topics”
The moldy, shopworn topics that Fiske says the delegates want to discuss should be replaced by real topics. The rap on PR is that it exists in “Cloud Nine” somewhere and can’t face reality.
Here’s some real topics.
-- COO Bill Murray, what is in your new three-year contract starting in January? What is in your current contract for 2010-11? Why won’t you tell us when Federal law demands that members of a group know what their eight highest staff members are making?
--Why are leaders/staff again delaying publication of IRS Form 990 which has salary information and also legal and rent costs? Why have leaders let legal costs skyrocket to $299,000 in the 2007-2009 period? They used to be well under $100,000 yearly and even below $50,000.
--Are delegates going to get the third quarter report before the Assembly?
--When are members going to be able to see the list of Assembly delegates and shouldn’t it be posted throughout the year? Why is this (voluntary) list restricted to delegates only who have to sign a form to get it? Can it be that members are not allowed to see the national list of delegates?
--How can Fiske and Murray justify never having a press conference when that activity is the hallmark of PR? Fiske now will not allow even “leaders” to question her directly on teleconferences.
--Since national blast e-mails members twice a day, why can’t it conduct an e-mail vote on almost any topic including the dues hike using the free and secure Cornell system?.
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