|November 12, 2012|
|Error-Ridden WP Entry on PRSA Needs Repair|
|By Jack O'Dwyer|
|Counselor James Murphy, speaking at the Institute for PR dinner last Thursday upon receiving the group's highest honor, the Alexander Hamilton medal for outstanding lifetime service to PR, made an eloquent plea for PR – in this age of spin – to stand for the truth. |
There is so much spin these days, particularly in politics, that we are all getting dizzy, he said. "What wins the day is how well the story is spun, regardless of where the truth actually lies," he added.
Too much advocacy "can leave the truth behind," he said, giving this excellent definition of PR: "Truth well told."
There is an urgent need now for a truthful history of the PR Society and it’s a job that IPR and the Arthur W. Page Society should take up as well as individual PR practitioners. Page’s main principle is “Tell the truth” and IPR says it represents “the science beneath the art of PR.” Scientists go to the ends of the earth of truth.
Wikipedia is currently posting 3,774 words on the PR Society’s history (2,108 in text and 1,666 in references) after having cut this from 4,697 words including 82 references on Nov. 1.
WP editor Phil Bridger (probably not his real name) complained on the “Talk” page associated with the Society entry that there was “excessive detail” in an earlier essay.
That boggles our mind since one definition of journalism is “details, details, details.”
We are mystified as to how a 65-year history of an organization can be helped by cutting almost a quarter of the original text.
Errors of Omission and Commission Abound
The WP posting, which came only a couple of weeks ago after years of a 290-word entry on the Society, needs sharp, knowledgeable sets of eyes. This would be a good project for graduate students.
A problem for the O’Dwyer Co. is that we are not allowed to make any inputs because WP does not accept us as an “independent, reliable” source (even though we have attended some 40 all-day sessions of its annual Assembly and stories on the Society on this website number in the thousands).
The WP entry fails to say that only accredited members of the Society have been able to hold national office since the mid-1970s. It says the O'Dwyer Co. sued the PR Society for copyright infringement when no such suit was ever launched. Nearly half of the 74 references have no links or go to places that are of superficial relevance or require purchases.
Readily available key documents are missing such as the rule of the Financial Accounting Standards Board that requires groups to book dues over the period involved. There is a reference to the 1999 Society study that found PR specialist to rank No. 43 on a list of 45 believable sources but the full list is not provided.
WP uses only materials that grant copyright permission worldwide. We are in touch with WP administrators who are helping us to use the Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 3.0 Unported License and the GNU Free Documentation License.
PR People Are “Not Professionals”
The WP entry on the Society, while deficient in many respects, has done a job of digging up some documents we did not know about.
One of them is a 3,320-word article from the October 2001 PR Quarterly in which lawyer and retired Texas Tech PR professor Michael Parkinson argues convincingly that PR people are not professionals and the Society's Code of Ethics is invalid.
His starting point was the 2001 Code that replaced the previous Code that had enforcement provisions. Such provisions were removed from the new Code.
PR people, according to Parkinson, have no business saying they will work for the "public interest" when no one knows what that is. Lawyers fight for what is fair or not fair in a court of law and PR people must do the same in the court of public opinion, he feels. All PR people can do is push their clients' interests and viewpoints as hard as they can, he contends.
Another point he made is that PR people should not call themselves professionals because they do not have the public recognition of licensing which is given to lawyers, physicians and ordained ministers.
Law is concerned with something a government can enforce. The PR Society focuses on what is strictly legal as indicated by its legal bills of $528,423 over the past seven available years. Citing the law, the Society is withholding IRS Form 990 for 2011 to the last possible deadline--Nov. 15. First deadline for releasing the figures was May 15.
While Parkinson says lawyers argue in real court and PR people argue in the court of public opinion, he neglects to point out that neither the public nor the press has subpoena powers and cannot compel PR people to show up in the court of public opinion. Silence and refusal to deal are common PR practices in today’s world.
PR must rid itself of use of the word “professional” until it deals with what Parkinson has to say. Shakespeare’s advice is relevant: “To thine own self be true…then thou canst not be false to any man.”
Page Chair Iwata Close to PR Society
Current Page chair Jon Iwata of IBM has been especially close to the Society in recent years, receiving the Paladin Award of the Society Foundation in 2011 and the PR Professional of the Year award at the 2012 conference in San Francisco.
IBM’s Centennial Celebration won the this year’s Best of Silver Anvil Award of the Society, beating out 142 other contenders.
Iwata, after having drunk so deeply from the Society’s awards well, even though he is not a member of the Society, should come to its aid now.
Adding to Page’s responsibility is the fact that Page Member
Diane Gage-Lofgren is on the board of the Society and conducted the afternoon “unconference” of the Assembly Oct. 13. There is still no report from Gage-Lofgren on what went on during the three hours of supposedly unbridled discussion that she supervised. So far the only description of what went on is the report on O’Dwyer media by several senior members who said the 2012 Assembly was the “most useless” ever, the a.m. session being 11 separate speeches by leaders and the afternoon consisting of the Assembly being broken up into small pieces.
IPR Works with Society
IPR has long had a close relationship with the Society.
Many of its 45 directors and honorary trustees are members of the Society and many have had or continue to have prominent roles in it. Ketchum CEO Rob Flaherty was co-chair of the Society’s 2012 national conference. Donald Wright, Ph.D., is the most prominent educator member of the Society, heading its online PR Journal. Page directors who are also directors of IPR include Paul Argenti, Dartmouth College; Angela Buonocore, Xylem; Peter Debreceny, Gagen MacDonald; Ray Jordan, Amgen; Margery Kraus, APCO Worldwide; Maril MacDonald; Gary Sheffer, General Electric; Don Stacks, University of Miami, and Wright.
Society’s Murray Skipped IPR Dinner
Numerous major PR executives and PR group staff heads were at the Institute dinner including IPR president/CEO Frank Ovaitt; Page president/COO Roger Bolton; IABC COO Christopher Sorek, and Kathy Cripps, president, Council of PR Firms.
The only staff head of a major PR association not present, although a nameplate was ready for him indicating he had reserved, was Bill Murray, president/COO of the PR Society.
Murray also skipped the April 26 Society Foundation dinner this year.
Both absences are inexcusable and indicate an unwillingness of Murray to face his peers.
The Society’s anti-press policies, including barring all reporters from its Assembly in the past two years and having this reporter ejected from the San Francisco Marriott Marquis after we had the nerve to talk to another reporter in the hotel’s lobby, have brought shame and disrepute not only on the Society but its members and all of PR.
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