|June 1, 2010|
|This is PR’s “Fat Cats” Weekend|
|By Jack O'Dwyer|
|The “Fat Cats” of PR will take good care of themselves this weekend—corporate biggies spending nearly $1 million on themselves at the Ritz-Carlton at Dove Mountain, Ariz., and 136 PRSA “leaders” descending on New York with h.q. giving each $550 plus breakfast and lunch June 4-5 and a state dinner Friday night.|
Cost is $74,800 just for the “stipends.”
Worst of all is that not a word will escape from either meeting.
Both confabs are hush-hush, confidential, private, etc., and no peons allowed (such as reporters).
Neither group will respond to a single question about their activities and that in itself is a story. They’re supposed to be experts at press relations.
A member of Seminar is Kathleen Matthews, XVP-global communications of Marriott Int’l, who is the wife of Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC’s “Hardball.”
Kathleen joined Marriott in 2006 after 25 years of covering news in D.C. She was co-anchor of ABC 7 News (WJLA-TV). She and Chris were married in 1980.
Attempts are being made to reach her by phone and e-mail.
Seminarians Abhor “PR”
The corporate group, made up of PR people who call themselves anything but that, is ignoring a substantial body of consumer protests against Arizona’s new law aimed at cutting down on illegal immigration. (full list of cities and organizations boycotting Arizona)
We still refer to this group of about 200 corporate PR executives as “PR Seminar” although they now only want to be known as “The Seminar.”
Members are in charge of press and public relations although they have a laundry list of other activities that they hide behind. But if they’re not in charge of the press at their companies, who is?
We remind them that “false fronts” are against PR’s ethical codes.
Seminar chair Johanna Schneider of the Business Roundtable was reached by phone but would only say “no comment” when asked if the Arizona situation should or would affect attendance.
Joan Wainwright of Tyco Electronics, program chair, did not return a phone call or e-mail.
Seminarians, reacting to an avalanche of criticism of corporate meetings at plush resorts (e.g., AIG), bumped their meeting to June for the first time in their 58-year history in order to get cheaper off-season rates.
They’re paying only $249 a room rather than the in-season rate of $409. But the registration fee of $3,350 per couple (almost everyone brings a spouse or companion) totals $569,000 assuming 170 couples will be present and another $400,000+ is spent on travel, meals and recreation including golf at the Jack Nicklaus-designed on-site course.
Leading government officials, corporate CEOs, academics, and editors of major media speak but only for the benefit of the cats.
SourceWatch.com has carried a list of 22 editors of major media that this website found on the programs of PRS.
John Budd, former executive at Carl Byoir & Assocs. and Emhart Group and a 15-year member of PRS, says Seminarians are out-of-step with the transparency promised by their employers.
The meeting should be in a big city rather than a resort and be totally on the record, he says.
A number of consumer groups are demanding a boycott of travel to Arizona if the new law is not rescinded and the execs at PRS could incur the wrath of such groups if they attend this year. Even worse, they could incur the wrath of their CEOs.
Blue chip corporate PR jobs are notoriously fragile with PRS inducting a record 46 new members last year. That means that 46 previous members lost their jobs because members are booted from PRS if they’re fired.
Fenton Communications is handling a drive to persuade baseball to pull its 2011 All-Star Game from Phoenix.
PRSA Leaders Splurge on Selves
The so-called “Leadership Rally” of PRSA this weekend is a case of Society insiders splurging on themselves at a time when the Society can’t even afford its spring board meeting.
The “Rally,” instituted in 1998 as a training session for chapter presidents-elect, now also includes 16 section chairs and 10 district chairs for a total of 136 people. Each gets $550 to help with expenses and at least five meals.
Insiders are treating themselves royally although revenues were down 14% in 2009 to $9.9 million and they were down another 10.6% in the first quarter to $2.39M.
The meeting could easily double as an Assembly that would wipe out the undemocratic and unfair monopoly that APRs have had on governance since the 1970s.
APRs, who make up 72% of the Assembly and about the same percentage at the “Rally,” would never allow that unless heavy pressure is brought by the non-APRs.
Efforts to bring about this by the “Committee for a Democratic PRSA” have fizzled.
After three weeks, the CDP has obtained only 148 signatures towards its goal of 5,000 and some of those are not even “signatures” but anonymous postings. Some people apparently don’t know the meaning of “signature.”
A lively debate on the Society’s PRSAY discussion room, with most participants condemning the CDP, petered out with the last entry being on May 14.
Members Need PR Magna Carta
The CDP is a political party without a platform. It doesn’t say what it would do if it got control of the Society (which will take many years if it follows the script laid down by the APRs).
What it needs is a Magna Carta of PR that would spell out rights of members that should be given to them right now.
1. The right of members to have the contact points of all the other members in convenient form. This was taken from them in 2005 and could be rectified by a PDF of the membership list. The CDP should be able to e-mail this list just like the staff does almost every day.
2. The right of members to know who all the Assembly delegates are throughout the year. This was taken from them in 2006. The 300 or so delegates should be reachable by a single e-mail.
3. The right of members to know what goes on in the Assembly. The last transcript was published in 2004.
4. The right of any member to publish his or her viewpoints prominently on Society media including the web, Tactics, Strategist and chapter websites. The CDP should be able to present its full platform and philosophy throughout the Society and we don’t mean in private “E-groups.”
5. The right of any member to run for board and officer posts this summer based on stands on key issues. The board could easily and cheaply do this by calling an Assembly on the one issue of membership equality and using proxy votes.
6. Substantive issues that need discussing include chapter-only membership; ending the “Leadership Rally” in June and turning it into the spring Assembly which the Society had until 1986; moving most offices to another city while retaining a midtown New York info center; saving money by making Tactics & Strategists PDFs; requiring board minutes to be published within two weeks after a meeting; requiring the CEO and COO of the Society to face a press conference at least twice a year; audiocasting the Assembly; providing more timely and detailed financial reports with leaders and staff answering questions by members and press, and publishing IRS Form 990 by the initial May 15 deadline (instead of withholding this until October or November).
RFP Sought on Cracking Barriers
This can be considered a Request for Proposal from PR firms that seeks ways to crack the communications barriers at the Society. Unless they are demolished, the CDP’s initiative is going nowhere.
It’s possible that a sizable sum could be raised for this purpose and the PR firm could be paid.
Ads might be taken on national and chapter websites. Leading PR figures could speak out. Stories could be placed in major media. Assistance could be sought from other groups that have been able to oust entrenched cliques.
We’re sure many association memberships have been victimized by excessive cronyism and have fought winning battles against it.
Interested PR firms should send proposals in confidence to email@example.com.
Who knows, this campaign could win a Silver Anvil of the Society. The goal is only too clear—bounce the APRs and the sooner the better.
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