|March 30, 2010|
|PRSA Boards Bow To Non-PR COOs|
|By Jack O'Dwyer|
|The visit of PRSA COO Bill Murray to our offices last Friday, in which he stated numerous times that the Society will have nothing to do with us, was an abrogation of a duty that only the full board can perform.|
This blog is an open editorial to the 17-member board calling on it to exercise its power.
Only the board can declare such an all-encompassing boycott against anyone, much less a PR news medium.
This represents an intolerable situation for the O’Dwyer Co. We cannot sit idly by while a few people block our access to a market of 21,000 PR people—especially not in the current economic environment.
Society leadership is denying knowledge of our five products to its members. They are the losers in this power play.
Ignored is the statement made by 2009 chair Mike Cherenson that PR pros need every scrap of information about the industry that they can get their hands on.
Board Power at Low Point
The board has reached an historic low point in its power, allowing its spring meeting to be cancelled for the first time in history.
We’re calling on the board to hear our case and reject a decision that we feel has been made by only a few of its members.
Symptomatic of the bald censorship and withholding of information that goes on at PRSA is that there is no report on the meeting of Murray and chair Gary McCormick on the Society website.
We have made an attempt to post our March 22 blog about the meeting on PRSAY which seems to be moribund.
The last entry was on March 5 by 1997 president Debra Miller about Black History Month.
PRSAY started out more than a year ago as a forum for both non-members and members. It is closely “monitored,” blocking some previous attempts by this writer and members to place materials on it.
No Copying Scandal with PR Pros
Had PR pros been staff heads in the 1980s and 1990s, there would have been no copying scandal.
Rea Smith, executive VP and a 22-year veteran of h.q., would not have allowed the explosion of the copying service that resulted in information packets being offered on 1,000 topics including about 200 “Quick Service” packets that were available within 24 hours.
Smith, a lifelong PR pro, was summarily bounced in January 1980 by the regime headed by Pat Jackson that took office that month.
She was exiled to an office away from h.q. when there was no need to do this. The Society’s Foundation had always been at h.q. until it served as an isolation chamber for Smith.
About a year later she committed suicide, said a staffer who found her body in her bathtub with a plastic bag over her head.
Assn. Pro Kovacs Served from 1980-1992
Betsy Kovacs, association professional, was installed as staff head of the Society in January 1980 and lasted until December 1992.
1993 PRSA president Hal Warner, Betsy Kovacs and 1992 president Rosalee Roberts
photo: Jack O'Dwyer
She was the boss when the explosion in the copying service took place.
No doubt she and other staffers as well as elected leaders liked what appeared to be easy money—copying and selling the works of numerous authors and publications.
The 1992 Society budget projected income of $107,300 for the info center and a net of $61,300.
We put major responsibility for the growth of this service on the Society leaders who installed a non-PR pro as staff head as well as Kovacs herself.
Didn’t she know that it was wrong to sell copies of authors’ works without their permission?
Didn’t she know that combining various articles, whether originals or not, was anthologizing and forbidden? Where were the Society’s lawyers?
We’re attempting to reach Kovacs who is now director of external affairs of the African Medical and Research Foundation, 4 W. 43rd st., New York, a couple of blocks from our office. AMREF had income of $6.9 million in its latest reported year (2007). Cash/savings were $297,574.
Kovacs was president of the Assn. of Management Consulting Firms, 370 Lexington ave., from the mid-1990s until Jan. 2009 when she was replaced by John Furth. AMCF income was $797,172 in 2008. Cash/savings were $201,241. Her compensation for 2008 was $248,334.
Ad Exec Gaulke Succeeded Kovacs
Career ad exec Ray Gaulke, former president of Marsteller Advertising, was installed as executive VP of the Society in mid-1993.
The copying scandal burst in late 1994 when we exposed the practice.
The Society immediately removed all O’Dwyer articles and boosted the information pack prices from $20 to $41 for members and from $55 to $76 for non-members.
Society leaders, taking advice from law firm Moses & Singer, told the authors they would not get any payment whatsoever because the Society had done nothing wrong.
We think that a PR pro as head of the Society staff would not have gone along with that argument. He or she would have realized that the Society’s purpose was to create good will with the news media and not ill will.
The Society’s main legal argument—that it was only “loaning” the information packets and was not selling them, was illogical.
Information cannot be “loaned.” If you “loan” someone your computer access codes or the combination to your safe you cannot “get them back.” You gave them away (or sold them).
What was “loaned” was 60-70 pages of copied materials that could easily be put into an automatic copier and the originals returned to the Society.
These were sales of articles and not just “articles” but “professional development packets” with lots of usable information such as how to write a non-compete clause; how to insure employees won’t take confidential property; how to place stories in specialized media, etc.
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