|January 18, 2010|
|PRSA Is National Assn. of Not-Availables|
|By Jack O'Dwyer|
|It is fitting, on Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, that we baptize the PR Society of America with a new name that more accurately describes its leaders and practices — National Association of Not-Availables.|
The Society has forfeited its right to use either "public relations" or "America."
One of the current inexcusable actions of NANA is appointing African-American leader Ofield Dukes to its board as a non-voting member after he sought to be a voting member. He would have been the only black member of the board, but such a concept evaded the nominating committee headed by 2007 chair Rhoda Weiss.
Mike Cherenson, 2009 chair, had pleaded on the NANA website Feb. 10, 2009 for minority candidates, specifically mentioning “industry legend Ofield Dukes, APR, Fellow.” Cherenson had noted that “The election of Barack Obama as the country’s first black president has put the issue of diversity under increased public scrutiny.”
He praised Dukes for leading the group’s “first official National Diversity Initiative” in 2000. Cherenson urged all members to “reach out on our behalf, offer your encouragement and support” to minority candidates for the national board and posts at the chapter, section or district level.
We think a call to chair Gary McCormick from the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the Rev. Al Sharpton or President Obama himself is in order. This editorial has been sent to Sharpton's office.
Another unforgivable insult to the black and minority communities is the dissolution of the Multicultural Section just before year-end.
In thinking up a new name for the Society it occurred to us that what chiefly marks it is its rampant unavailability.
--The full membership list is unavailable to members although it used to be. Providing it as a PDF would be cheap and easy. Staff wants it for its own use to push seminars/webinars and other purposes.
--The names of Assembly delegates are unavailable except to delegates (who have to ask for it).
--The transcript or audiotape of the 2009 and most important Assembly in NANA’s history are not available to members or delegates.
--The Assembly could easily and cheaply have been audiocast live but it was not available.
--Still unavailable more than two months after the Assembly are the minutes of the meeting.
--Bylaws re-write committee members were never available throughout 2009 for face-to-face meetings with any of the 109 chapters.
--The committee wanted direct elections by the entire membership but rules for this were unavailable.
--The 2008 IRS Form 990 with much financial info was not available to the Nov. 7 Assembly although it was filed on Sept. 15.
--National leaders have not been available to us for interviews for many years. Membership in NANA is unavailable to us as well as ad space in NANA media with no reason given for this.
Podium Mikes Not Available to Delegates
Assembly delegates on Nov. 7 underwent their usual annual humiliation at the hands of the board.
The delegates, facing the momentous task of rewriting the entire bylaws, sat inert while “leaders” opened the meeting with an hour and a half of procedural minutiae and sales pitches.
Worst was none other than chair-elect Gary McCormick who provided 17 minutes of flapdoodle.
The delegates, who did not see a list of fellow delegates until the week before the Assembly (and some delegates refused to be on the list), would only get to discuss and vote on about half the 15 articles in the new bylaws. The others were not made available.
This group can't even obey the most basic rules of Robert’s although citing Robert’s as its "parliamentary authority." Proxy voting is barred by Robert’s and all articles in a revision must be presented for voting and discussion. Fifty-six proxy votes were allowed.
“Leaders” Talk Down to Delegates
While “leaders” on stage faced the delegates and spoke loud and clear, the nearly 100 delegates who rose to comment on the new bylaws had to face the stage and turn their backs to much of the audience.
About half of what they said could not be heard even by delegates with normal hearing.
Had the delegates even a suspicion of their rights, they would have demanded equal access to the stage mike so that they were looking at fellow delegates who, after all, were the ones doing the voting.
The worst rap we have on them is that they refuse to take up their responsibility which is setting policy for NANA.
NANA constantly talks about “profession” and “professionalism” (mentioned 15 times in McCormick’s opening essay to members) but the Assembly refuses to do what similar bodies do for the “real” professions-- lawyers, doctors, CPAs and psychologists.
Such bodies set policy. Their boards report to the houses of delegates and not vice-versa as at NANA.
Insult Added to Injury
Not only was the 2009 Assembly treated in the usual demeaning, contemptuous way, but the McCormick board now refuses, for the first time in memory, to prepare a word-for-word transcript of the Assembly. Cost would only be about $1,000.
The specious claim is made that the transcript (withheld since the 2005 board) only serves to help prepare the minutes. No transcript is needed to prepare minutes since minutes are only a record of actions taken. A layperson can easily take such notes by hand.
Worse yet is that the historic Assembly could have been audiocast live for several hundred dollars. NANA leaders howl all the time about the need for “member involvement” but skipped this golden chance.
No Change Expected in NANA Policies
McCormick has given no indication he will attempt to change the toxic policies of NANA.
These include late, non-existent and misleading financial reporting at a time when poor financial reporting and hidden transactions have caused immense suffering in the nation.
There was no six-month financial report last year. It was folded into the nine-month report which, in effect, hid the poor Q3 results (down 45%).
Improved IRS Form 990, which now shows salaries and other payments to the top six officers and stock trades, was filed Sept. 15 but withheld from the membership and the delegates.
It showed an investment loss of $415,000 in 2008 and legal costs of $110,000. All of this should have been available to the delegates but it wasn’t.
Harassment Practices to Continue
We expect NANA’s policy of petty harassment of us to continue. Neither this editor nor any O’Dwyer staffer will be allowed to join, forcing us to obtain information from members.
The three full-time “PR” staffers at h.q. will not be allowed to help us in any way nor respond to any e-mails or other communications.
NANA will not allow us any rebuttal space in PR Tactics which attacked us in a full page ad in the Sept. 2008 issue.
The O’Dwyer Co. will not be allowed to advertise any of its five informational products on NANA media although the assocation made much money from selling more than 50,000 copies of our articles. No reason will be given for this boycott.
NANA not only tramples on us and ignores financial reporting standards, but is engaged in competition with private, tax-paying companies when we believe its IRS status as a non-profit corporation prohibits that.
It has a “Social Media Boot Camp” Jan. 27-28 in Washington, D.C., for $899 for members and $999 for non-members.
We’d like someone from the group to explain to us how it can conduct such sessions which are in competition with the $195 "Social Media" conference of the Business Development Institute Jan. 13 in New York; the $1,195 "Social Media" conference in Atlanta Feb. 22-24 sponsored by Coca-Cola, Ragan Communications and NANA, and the $1,800 "Social Media World Forum" in London March 15.
(Image credit: Keep Out, Sharpton)
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