The most powerful comment on the PR Society’s blockage of O’Dwyer coverage of the 2011 conference in Orlando has come from an individual—Lucy Siegel of Bridge Global Strategies, New York.
Siegel is exercising what blogger Jane Genova calls “The Power of One” made possible by the internet and social media.
“I’m embarrassed at the totally unprofessional, unethical and childish behavior this week of the so-called leaders of my profession, the board and staff of the PR Society” in discriminating against O’Dwyer, Siegel said in a blog post.
Siegel, a member 10+ years and former New York chapter officer, said New York members get the most value from the chapter rather than national.
Downtown h.q. has “a ton of office space and a large staff” but dues are not being spent on “developing a positive image of the profession,” she said in a 541-word essay.
We applaud Siegel who is exercising her right to free speech and hope others will join her in doing this. Strong individual voices can carry the day here. Chapter presidents, national directors and other “leaders” have remained silent so far and we expect this to continue.
O’Dwyer Will Address Any Chapter
I offer to speak to any of the 110 Society chapters in person and will pay my own expenses. I’m also available for teleconferences with chapter members (not just their boards).
I offer to step in where Society leaders dare not tread. A $30 dues hike was just voted without any national leader ever confronting any chapter membership in person. Chair Rosanna Fiske as of July 28 converted Society “teleconferences” into a “listen-only mode,” a communications oxymoron. Rank-and-file members must make this request. I don’t expect officers and board to do this.
Neither national nor any chapter conducted a secure e-mail vote on the dues hike, ignoring the free Condorcet service that is available. The new dues of $255 are about five times average local dues.
The hike will make it harder still for chapters to keep and add members. Whether it will add to the PRS coffers remains to be seen since hundreds of thousands in income will be lost by providing all webinars free.
Key Document is National Press Club Release
Criticism of the governance and press policies of the Society skyrocketed Oct. 19 when the National Press Club sent a release criticizing such policies to 490 national and international media with bureaus in D.C.
For those not familiar with NPC, it draws more than 250,000 to its 2,000 events yearly which are televised live on C-Span. U.S. presidents and other notables speak at the Club. Current president Mark Hamrick, who authored the NPC release, is a 25-year veteran business and financial reporter now with the AP. He was sworn in by Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis. NPC is “committed to the promotion of free press worldwide.”
Executive director William McCarren said NPC is very interested in this topic because it does not like the nearly 3,000 attendees at the PRS conference coming away with the message that the way to handle “difficult” reporters is to refuse to deal with them and ban them from an organization’s activities.
The PR Newswire list includes the D.C. offices of the New York Times, Washington Post and the big city dailies of the U.S., plus magazines such as Time, Newsweek, National Journal, BusinessWeek and U.S. News & World Report, and services such as Dow Jones, Gannett, Fairchild, Knight-Ridder, Newhouse, Tribune Publishing Group, Hearst Newspapers, AP and UPI, Bloomberg, Scripps Howard, and Media General.
International media include Nikkei, Canadian Press, Japan Economic Review, Itar-Tass News Agency, Agence France Presse, Foreign Press Center, and Al Hayat Publishing (U.K.).
PR Trades Cover PRS/O’Dwyer
A lengthy article in PR Watch Oct. 10, 2011 said all PR pros and journalists should be concerned with PRS’s anti-media policies because “As the industry goes, so does its trade group.” PRS, it said, is reflecting widespread anti-media policies among organizations that are “harming this country in ways never seen before.”
PR Newswer of mediabistro.com, using the headlines, “Bad PR” and “PRS and O’Dwyer: Can’t We all Just Get Along?” said “Reporters should be given access even if they will be critical or reveal truths that subjects aren’t too pleased with.”
It thinks this a “petty dispute” that should be dropped. However, the theft and sale of hundreds of thousands of copies of authors’ articles without their permission is anything but petty.
Bulldogreporter.com on July 25 posted a 787-word essay giving “both sides” of the dispute although this writer feels there is no “other side” when one organization robs another. The robber should make recompense for the stolen property. Society VP-PR Arthur Yann told Bulldog that PRS is “private and non-profit” and that “a lot” of what goes on in the Society is “very inside-baseball stuff” and there’s “no reason to invite the press or for the press to be even interested.”
Well, the press will decide what it’s interested in and not PRS, especially when PRS says it speaks for the entire industry worldwide and sets the ethics of the industry. PRS is public because it must file a public tax return (IRS Form 990) that gives the pay of the top eight staffers. Private organizations do not file such documents. PRS continues to withhold the 990 for 2010.
Blogger Jane Genova posted Oct. 20 that “Now on O’Dwyer’s side is the National Press Club, “an influential bunch that sponsors its own impressive lunches featuring provocative personalities.” PRS “probably made a wrong call in barring this pilgrim to Florida,” she added. In today’s world where social media is so influential, the “Power of One” (person) is not to be ignored, she said.
Genova posted Oct. 23 that organizations should take the “high road” in a dispute and not resort to “dumb-as-dirt PR” like PRS did. She advises a “very public mea culpa” for the Society but we doubt it will come.
Yes, I went to the bar at the Marriott Grande Lakes Sunday night and sat next to 2009 chair Mike Cherenson.
I also talked to 2005 chair Judith Phair and her husband, Roland King, a member and a fellow, and 2012 chair Gerry Corbett. I asked Yann to buy me a beer as a gesture of good will but he declined. However, King promptly did so and I had a nice conversation with him.
Cherenson, after a few minutes of silence, said to me, “Jack, why don’t you just stop the bull sh--” in a voice louder than conversational level. He repeated this several times. I replied that I’m not a booster of anything but a reporter and there’s no way I can sugarcoat the $852,720 loss that the Society reported for the first nine months.
Corbett had traded many dozens of e-mails with me over the years. On one $295 subscription, he registered 10,510 “hits” via his codes for the July 1-18, 2007 period. This was the second highest total and it topped companies paying thousands of dollars for site licenses. He said he didn’t give out his codes to anyone. So he must have been a huge fan of the site.
Corbett Not Sure He’ll Respond
Asked whether he would talk to us and trade e-mails, which few of his predecessors did, Corbett said he wasn’t sure because we had not been “fair” to him in the past.
He answered “It’s up to the Assembly” to seven of the dozen questions I asked him including whether he favored non-APRs having the right to run for national office and whether a transcript of the Assembly should be published.
I told him at that time and repeated Oct. 16 that I wanted his opinion as a candidate and not the Assembly’s opinion.
Marriott Was Extra Gracious
Credit must be given to the staff of the Marriott Grande Lakes who were well aware of my ostracism by PRS leaders and whose graciousness was in stark contrast to the rudeness and discourtesy of the PRS people.
They had hearing equipment ready in case I got into one of the meetings.
They let me play two big grand pianos in the hallways each day for a total of about two hours. Usually hotel staff will slam the piano cover on your fingers if you touch one. Or it will be locked.
Many of the attendees heard me play and crowded around the piano. I played Billy Joel and Elton John for them and collected a bunch of cards of students and PRS members. They couldn't believe I was banned from all events of the conference.
I doubt there was anyone at the conference who was not aware of the boycott. At all times I wore a badge from a previous conference with a gold ribbon attached saying “PRESS.”