|May 14, 2010|
|It’s Time for PR Pros to Show Speed|
|By Jack O'Dwyer|
|A crisis hit the PR Society Monday when a committee headed by three heavyweight members--Richard Edelman, Art Stevens and Dave Rickey--launched a drive to end rule of the Society by the small minority of accredited members.|
PR pros are always saying that speed is essential in any crisis situation. This is a chance for them to practice that in their own house.
Ideal place for them to start is the “Leadership Rally” of 110 presidents-elect on June 4-5 that will cost the Society about $100,000 (including $500 cash stipends to the chapter leaders).
This could easily be an Assembly and should be.
Bylaws say the board can call an Assembly meeting with ten days notice. There’s plenty of time.
If leaders wait until the Oct. 16 Assembly to allow non-APRs on the board, that means the 2011 board will be all-APR and it may take two or three years after that, as board vacancies occur, for the board to become a majority non-APR.
That’s far too long to wait.
The Society has been hit hard by the recession—revenues down 14% to $9.9M; seminars/webinars down 48% to $703K; publications down 48% to $331K, and sections off 25% to $683K.
The only thing not down? Salaries and fringes! They totaled $5,368,206 or an astounding 53.9% of income. The decline from 2008 was nominal—1.7%. Staff costs for a group with under $10M in revenues should be around 35% of revenues according to the American Society of Assn. Executives.
Staff costs at the Society were $3,159,512 in 1999 or 40.5% of revenues of $7,800,128.
It’s possible the revenue figures will not improve much in the future.
The 48% decline in seminars/webinars is worrisome because the Society has lots of competition in this area from the PR trades including Ragan Communications and PR News.
It shouldn’t be competing anyway with anything a private business does, according to our reading of the U.S tax code. A non-profit should not compete against tax-paying businesses.
There’s also plenty of competition for advertising from both printed and web PR news media. This is partly responsible for the 48% decline in publication income.
Major PR Figures Needed
What’s needed are major PR figures in the leadership who are strong enough to wrest control from the dictatorial staff that employs only a couple of PR professionals (and they are under lock and key).
Gary McCormick has proven to be a weak chair. None of his promises of African-Americans and journalists on the Strategic Planning Committee were kept.
He has allowed cancellation of the spring board meeting—something unheard of. He came to our office and supported the boycott against us while offering no rationale for this. Doing that flies in the face of the Scripps Ethics Code that promises “fairness” and “compassion,” among other things.
McCormick is simply not used to being a boss. His employer, Scripps Networks Interactive, lists 15 “leaders” and he is not among them. He is not even listed as one of the PR contacts for HGTV. They are Cindy McConkey, Jerilyn Bliss and Lee Hall.
Facts point to his just being a salesperson for HGTV whose mission at the PR Society is to get some publicity for it.
Waiting in the wings to be chair next year is Rosanna Fiske, an associate PR professor at Florida International University who is making her fourth trip to the board.
Treasurer this year and in line to be chair-elect is Philip Tate of the small Charlotte ad/PR firm of Luquire George Andrews.
We don’t doubt the above mean well but they don’t have the clout to deal with the h.q. staff.
Needed are leaders of the business world such as the Society used to have—George Hammond, head of the second largest PR firm; Don McCammond, VP-PR of American Can; Jon Riffel of Pacific Gas & Electric, and Kal Druck of Harshe-Rotman & Druck.
No one pushed them around. When they headed the Society, there were at least 10 experienced PR pros on the staff.
Open 2010 Nominations
With APR stricken from the bylaws, major figures in PR will again be able to run for office this summer.
Fiske should withdraw as chair-elect and let a prominent non-APR member head the Society next year.
Candidates should run on the basis of platforms.
Here’s some of what is needed:
--Establishment of a midtown New York library/information center so that h.q. again serves the huge PR community here.
--Making available in PDF form the members’ directory so that any member can have the entire list in convenient form.
--Audiocasting the 2010 Assembly so that any member can listen to it.
--Publishing the list of Assembly delegates early in the year so that members may express opinions to them throughout the year. E-mails of all should be accessible with one keystroke.
--Putting financial information (audit and Form 990) on the front page of the Society website early in the year and answering questions about the reports.
--Employing at least 10 senior PR pros at h.q. as staff vacancies occur.
--Restoring the names of all staffers to the Society website (only seven are now listed) and making the contact information for the 110 chapter presidents available with one keystroke. The revised website of the Society forces members to download one chapter at a time.
We could think of plenty of other reforms that would make the Society something that all PR people could be proud of.
APRs Again Fight Proposal
Based on comments on the PRSAY part of the Society website, the APRs are again fighting a governance change while pledging allegiance to democratic principles.
The six-members of the executive committee who make practically all the decisions are fighting it or otherwise they would let the reformers blast e-mail the 21,000 members.
The all-APR 17-member board should turn this matter over to a distinguished third party such as Howard Rubenstein who would make all the decisions on how the reformers present their case to the members.
The APRs are in a conflict of interest because they are being asked to assist in an assault on their most cherished beliefs.
They don’t accept the argument that cutting loose board posts from APR is not a criticism of APR. They feel such an action would spell the end of APR which is already in a lot of trouble.
Only an average of150 new Society APRs are being created yearly (about 900 in the six years to June 30).
In the ten years to 2002, the average was 274 new Society APRs yearly. In 1989 or 20 years ago when the Society only had 14,728 members, 320 new APRs were created.
Few want to pay $385 to take a multiple-choice test via a computer that involves no writing or creativity, the chief skills needed by a PR pro.
Return to Latest News