IABC's Nov. 30 sacking of 16 staffers including two senior VPs and two VPs, which amounts to half the staff of 32, has put the group on the verge of a crisis that will invite broad media coverage, IABC veterans Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson said on their FIR podcast today.
They noted that hundreds of comments have been posted on LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media sites and that many of them are negative.
If IABCers take a look at two other PR groups, the PR Society and the International PR Assn., they will see staff and salary cuts that top staffers escape and criticism from members. Six board members of IPRA quit to protest the dissolution of the Council, governing body of IPRA, and the way elections were conducted.
A list of the 16 staffers who remain at IABC indicates that those fired include senior VPs Christopher Hall and Lee Ann Snedeker, and VPs Paige Wesley (marketing & communications) and Michele Cushnie (professional development). Their names are not on the list.
Typical comments in social media are that IABC's handling of the staff cuts would get "zero" if entered for a Gold Quill Award and that dropping such a bombshell on a Friday was rank amateurism.
Lack of Interaction 'Alarming'
Hobson said the "alarming thing" was that chair Kerby Meyers and executive director Christopher Sorek said in their message that members could contact them but should keep an eye out for "further developments after the New Year."
This means there will be nothing further from them until next year, said Hobson, noting there has been no interaction between leaders and members about the momentous staff changes.
Although some social media comments are that IABC needs a crisis consultant right now, including one by Debra Salem, Holtz and Hobson said the firings have not yet hit general media.
They mentioned the odwyerpr.com stories on the staff cuts three times and worried that this could attract the mainstream press.
Hobson said in a LinkedIn posting that there was "astonishing detail" about IABC staff salaries in the odwyerpr.com stories and this was information "I wish I did not have to see."
Staff Pay/Benefits Public Record
Such a remark brings attention to the naivete of many IABC as well as PR Society members who don't know they have the legal right to see the pay/benefits of up to eight staff members.
Sorek, an American who had been working in Europe the past 11 years and who joined IABC in July as executive director, refuses to give details of his contract as does PR Society COO William Murray, who got a new three-year contract in January.
Many members said they learned of the IABC cuts on LinkedIn and similar media and not from IABC. IABC officers and staffers were faulted for failing to practice the rudiments of organizational PR.
Hobson said on LinkedIn that the staff cuts was "an atrocious example of poor leadership, never mind communication, where someone actually decided to say nothing to anyone else outside that [leadership] narrow niche."
Hobson, along with many others, feels there is a "lack of explanation" as to why half the staff is being cashiered.
A posting by an IABC leader gave the names of the staffers who survived the blitz and said readers could figure out who got the ax. Another posting said IABC "is in great shape financially" but gave no details.
Sorek has been e-mailed requests for a nine-month financial report as well as other questions including what general consultant and what digital consultant have been hired.