The PR Society nominating committee has the welcoming mat out, inviting “members” and “other interested individuals” to make comments (PDF) to it on candidates including chair-elect candidates Kathy Barbour and Joe Cohen.
The nomcom has to invite everyone because Society literature says PRS speaks for the entire industry worldwide and sets ethical standards worldwide.
The comment period is extremely short -- this week and the next (which will be the July 4 holiday period).
But before anyone can comment on Barbour or Cohen, they have to know how each stands on key issues facing the Society. The candidates should speak publicly or be branded as hypocrites because Cohen promises “open dialogue, two-way communications and ever-increasing transparency” and Barbour promises “transparent, two-way communication.”
Cohen is especially asking for it right between the eyes because he says, “I’m not afraid to make bold decisions or take a stand on the issues that matter.”
Neither Barbour nor Cohen take a stand on any of ten vital Society issues listed below. Far from it. Their publicly available pitches answer powder-puff questions with powder-puff answers.
Questions this year are more syrupy than ever and include “Tell us how you’ve worked as part of a leadership team…” (i.e., tell us how great you are), and “What do you believe are the strongest components of the Society’s current strategic plan” (i.e., tell us how great PRS is).
Below are questions that readers should e-mail to Barbour at firstname.lastname@example.org and Cohen at email@example.com.
Reader questions and comments to the nomcom are confidential but Barbour and Cohen have the right to publicly answer the questions. They haven’t given up their right of free speech just to run for PRS office.
Ten Questions for Barbour, Cohen
1. Should the Society again provide a transcript and audiotape of the Assembly, which it did until 2005? How about a live audiocast as is done by the Canadian PR Society?
2. Should the full list of Assembly delegates, last seen in 2005, be posted throughout the year?
3. Should the press be allowed in the Assembly? All reporters were barred last year and ditto is expected this year.
4. Do you favor eliminating proxy votes in the Assembly since use of them makes any actions open to perpetual challenge under Robert’s Rules?
5. Do you favor making the list of all members available on a PDF, duplicating the printed directory which also had employer and geographical indexes? Members have been demanding this for years.
6. Do you favor New York as a conference site at least every three years, as recommended by New York member Art Stevens? Current policy eliminates New York as a site. The last conference in New York (2004) had record attendance of 4,000 and saved staff travel.
7. Do you favor removing APR as a requirement for national office, which was urged by the 1999 Strategic Planning Committee?
8. Do you favor warning member prospects that they can’t hold national office nor serve on the Ethics Board until they become APR?
9. Do you favor letting press join the Society since most press groups allow PR members? Only members have access to PRS financials, impeding press coverage.
10. Do you favor restoring the list of 110 chapter presidents and the list of Society h.q. staffers (only seven are now listed)? Do you favor more PR professionals on staff?
Send Comments to Nomcom and Members
Barbour and Cohen should e-mail their answers to those who have sent the questions and to this website so all can see how they stand on these key issues.
Comments on the candidates should then be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org as well as some of the 19 nomcom members.
This includes Stevens, (email@example.com) one of the three leaders of the 2010 “Committee for a Democratic PRS,” and Peggy Bendel, (firstname.lastname@example.org) former SVP of Development Counsellors Int’l who is now based in Catalina, Ariz.
Bendel in 2010 blasted PRS as being “patently unfair” in blocking non-APRs from running for office. She said 91.5% of the 600 members of the Travel Section are non-APR and are thus ineligible for service on the national board, which she called a colossal waste of talent and experience.
E-mail comments should also be sent to some of the other nomcom members including Marlene Neill of Baylor University (email@example.com); Tom Vitelli, Intermountain Healthcare (firstname.lastname@example.org), and Karen Stiffler of St. Mary’s of Michigan Foundation (email@example.com).
It’s time for PRS to close the smoke-filled back room method of picking leaders of the “world’s biggest association of PR professionals.” It’s something from the 1950s.
Comment e-mails must be less than 300 words and must refer to only one of the candidates. Otherwise, they will be declared “invalid and returned to the sender,” say the rules.
Nomcom Is Unrepresentative
The 19-member nomcom, were it representative of the PRS membership, which is 82% non-APR, would have at most, four APRs. However, 15 of the members are APR.
It is also geographically unbalanced, having eight members from the South and five from the West. Although New York is the largest city chapter, with more than 700 members, only one New Yorker is on the nomcom, Stevens. Bigger chapters are National Capital, which draws members from D.C., Northern Virginia and Maryland, and Georgia, which covers the entire state.
This two-week period is the one time of the year that PRS leaders can be approached. Candidate pitches will be taken down July 9 and candidates will go into seclusion, waiting until Sept. 13, the last day they can be challenged from the floor of the Assembly. If past practice holds, the chair-elect and chair will be permanently unreachable by rank-and-file members.
Current chair Gerry Corbett, according to the PRS website, has yet to face a single chapter membership, an even worse potential record than that of Rosanna Fiske who faced only two of the 110 chapter memberships last year. Huddling with chapter boards does not count.
Gary McCormick, 2010 chair and chair of the 2012 nomcom, faced seven chapters and 2008 chair Jeff Julin did not face a chapter until August of his term.
The 2009 bylaws rewrite and 2011 $30 dues increase were conducted by leaders who never once faced members in person.
Turnout Is Sparse; Members Hopeless
Only five candidates showed up this year for five district director seats, a pitiful turnout. No one at all showed up from the Northeast district so another at-large seat will be created. Three at-large seats were added last year when no one came from the Southeast, Southwest or North Pacific Districts. Felicia Blow and Tracy Schario are competing to represent Mid-Atlantic.
Staff and board have been preaching for years that all directors should be at-large. The directors are supposed to think only what is good for the Society in general and not what is good for any one geographic area (such as New York).
One reason for the scarcity of candidates is that the APR rule eliminates 82% of members. Also, very few of the APRs themselves want to get involved with HQ.
Members are exhibiting signs of “learned helplessness,” a psychological condition described by the May 16 New York Times. They have been defeated so many times by the lawyers, association careerists, financial types, APRs and parliamentarians (who are now on retainer instead of being hired for the day) that they have given up.
Assembly delegates led by Mark McClennan expressed outrage in 2008 that the 2007 Assembly minutes, Q3 financials and final Assembly agenda were not provided until the day of the 2008 Assembly. It passed a resolution demanding the 2008 minutes and got them within a month. The 2011 Assembly minutes have yet to be published but there isn’t a peep out of anyone.
Ex-officio members of the nomcom are COO Bill Murray and parliamentarian Barry Glazer.