|March 21, 2010|
|Plenty of $$ Available for PR Library|
|By Jack O'Dwyer|
|A majority of those voting on this website on the need for a PR library are in favor of it.|
The vote started out with nearly two-thirds of those voting favoring the library.
Of course! Who could be against a library? The PR Establishment, that’s who.
They can’t stand the thought of the lower echelons of PR having access to a lot of information and having a regular place where they can meet and actually engage in F2F (face-to-face conversation).
Next thing you know, such people will be criticizing The Establishment. That’s their fear.
PR groups can work together if they want to.
Sixteen of them got together on Jan. 13-14, 2003 in Madison, N.J., to tackle the problem of the decline in trust in corporations and business institutions. (link, sub req'd)
The cash/savings of 13 PR groups listed at the end of this blog total $13,783,945 so there’s plenty of money available.
Significantly, the group with the lowest amount of money is the Black PR Society of America ($16,324).
Companies like FedEx, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Prudential Financial and UPS are making tax-deductible donations to the Arthur Page Society of $10,000+ and/or buying $14,245 sponsorships at the PR Week/U.S. banquet but have little or no money for the Black PR Society.
Typical is NANA (nee PRSA) which disbanded its Multicultural Section in December 2009 because it cost too much in staff time and then appointed two blacks to non-voting posts on its board. One had unsuccessfully sought a voting post but was rejected. The 17-member board remains all white.
Public Loves Libraries
Public libraries are "beloved institutions" and "more essential than ever before," found a study by Public Agenda, 30-year-old public service group headed by famed researcher Daniel Yankelovich.
Libraries are important for those with few resources of their own both for seeking knowledge and as a place to meet, the study found.
We're perplexed by the fact that PR, the so-called communications industry, is so hostile to a touch-and-feel library. We don't want something that exists in the ether or what is being called the "cloud." Politics is the reason.
Some PR groups will ask what’s in it for their members. That's the wrong question. As tax-free entities, they're supposed to serve their industries and not just their members.
PR Once Had a Library
The New York PR community once at a free public library at the NANA (nee PRSA) h.q. at 51st st. and Third ave.
We used it many times when starting this company in 1968. Librarian Mary Smith was most helpful to us and anyone.
But NANA got over-run in 1980 by members from the north, south and west who ousted all New York PR pros from h.q.
Patrick Jackson of N.H. led the charge, becoming president in 1980. His attitude towards the press was direct: "Duck 'em and screw 'em" (said on videotape to Morley Safer of "60 Minutes").
His very first action in January 1980 was ousting XPV Rea Smith from h.q., where she was ordered never to return.
Jackson et al gave the 22-year veteran of NANA a post at the group’s Foundation with offices on upper Madison ave.
Kovacs Replaced Veteran Rea Smith
Association pro Betsy Kovacs joined in January as Smith's replacement. Jackson's philosophy was that with one or two exceptions, all those at h.q. should be association professionals. Previously, about half the staff were PR pros.
Smith, whose husband Shirley, a PR pro who also worked at h.q., had recently died, was found dead in the bathroom of her New York apartment on May 17, 1981. Friends said they were unaware of any illness the 63-year-old Smith had. Some theorized that she committed suicide. The cause of death was never revealed.
The OOT-dominated Assembly (which added scores of chapters with as few as ten members but one full vote in the Assembly) voted twice in 1986-87 to move h.q. from New York.
Board members and staff successfully fought the move, punishing the Assembly by permanently canceling the spring Assembly on the ground of lack of money.
The library was closed in the 1990s, shortly after it was discovered that NANA was selling tens of thousands of authors’ articles without their permission (PDF of article).
Instead of a library, NANA started offering a wide range of seminars, webinars and workshops as "professional development" with fees attached to each.
Libraries Need Philanthropy
Public Agenda says libraries need “a high level of private philanthropic funding” and we agree.
It’s about time the rich in PR helped the poor.
We have accessed the IRS Form 990s of 13 PR groups to show just how rich the rich are.
Prior to the web, where such forms are now accessible via the Foundation Center 990 Finder http://foundationcenter.org/findfunders/990finder/ this was a task that would have taken months because many of the groups bitterly resent our poring over their returns.
We often had to threaten some of the groups with turning them over to the IRS.
NANA, for instance, would let us go to h.q. and examine its 990 as required by law. We would take notes since they refused to provide us copies.
So one year we bought a hand copying device and drew it across needed sections of the 990 to make our own copies.
Groups Have $13.7M in Cash/Savings
It’s no wonder the groups don’t want these forms examined. Cash/savings of the 13 groups (listed at the end of this article) total $13.7 million as of their latest 990 filings.
Eight of the groups have the most money (including NANA, NIRI, Council of PR Firms, Arthur Page Society, New York Women in Communications) while at the bottom are the Black PR Society of America ($16,324 cash/savings); Publicity Club of New York headed for many years by Peter Himler ($12,681); Overseas Press Club ($64,794), and Entertainment Publicists Prof. Assn. ($89,676).
The Arthur Page Society, headed by Bill Margaritis (pictured), corporate VP of global communications and IR of FedEx, sticks out like a sore thumb because it is a 501/c/3 charity, a status usually given to organizations like the Red Cross, United Fund, ballet companies and symphonies.
Only two others in the 13 are c/3’s—the Institute for PR which does not have individual members, and BPRS.
The other ten are c/6 trade groups with individual memberships just like Page but which cannot get gifts from corporations that are deductible by the corporations.
Corps. Give Big to Page
Corporations such as FedEx, Johnson & Johnson, Coca-Cola, Kraft, IBM and Staples give Page a total of more than $200,000 each year that can be written off. None of the other ten groups can have such benefactors.
Page tells us that it got c/3 status when it was founded in 1983 and it’s never been changed.
We think the c/3 status is indefensible and is unfair to the other groups.
Page is named after Arthur W. Page, the first VP of PR at ATT. A graduate of Harvard and member of the New York Yacht Club, he was an ardent foe of the “New Deal” policies of President Franklin Roosevelt.
He started out employing ex-newspeople in PR posts at ATT but soon switched to ATT employees.
PR pro Noel Griese authored a biography of Page in 2001 (link, sub req'd).
Page’s philosophy is “Tell the truth” and we hoped the truth about the group’s tax status will emerge via open discussion and examination.
Groups Are Poor Financial Reporters
None of the 13 groups lives up to the standard for financial reporting as set by the Independent Sector, the trade group for non-profits with about 800 members. IS itself is a c/6.
Proper reporting, which the IS itself provides, is making available to members and non-members both the latest Form 990 and the full audit on the first page of a group’s website.
IS is one of the richest trade groups. Cash/investments totaled $17,299,051 at the end of 2008. Yearly expenses are about $9M.
NY Groups Need Meeting Place
New York PR groups including NANA/NY are especially in need of a neutral place to meet.
Chapter events are often held at PR firms including Ketchum, Fleishman-Hillard, Ruder Finn and Gibbs & Soell.
Some PR firm CEOs tell us they would never send one of their people to a competing firm for a workshop.
We understand that because we would never send an O’Dwyer reporter to PR Week or PR News for a session on reporting techniques.
A logical contender as the place for a New York PR library is none other than the 23rd floor of 317 Madison ave. where Page and the Council of PR Firms share1,700 sq. ft. Vacant on that floor is 7,000 sq. ft. The building has 21 other vacant offices. With office vacancy rates high, now is a good time to sign a deal.
Below are the cash/savings of the groups as taken from their latest Form 990 filings. Also provided are their Federal I.D. numbers which facilitates searching for the documents.
--Council of PR Firms, $822,000 (ID: 13-4011840).
--Arthur Page Society, $581,000 (23-2290568).
--New York Women in Communications, $451,000 (13-6274650).
--Institute for PR, $305,071 (13-6161619)
--New York Financial Writers, $539,000 (13-6122376).
--NANA (PRSA national), $4,632,985 (13-1582190).
--NANA/NY (PRSA/NY chapter), $102,073 (23-7150122).
--Int'l Assn. of Bus. Comms., $1,440,488 (94-3046165).
--National Investor Rels. Inst., $4,715,854 (54-1758790).
--Black PR Society of America, $16,324 (58-0135149).
--Publicity Club of New York, $23,681 (13-1605248).
--Overseas Press Club, $64,794 (13-1140459).
--Entertainment Publicists Professional Society, $89,676 (95-4386512).
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