A 31-minute teleconference yesterday for PR Society of America Assembly delegates was told that giving president and COO Bill Murray the single title of CEO is no change whatever because that is the role in which he has been functioning.
The purpose in giving him the single title of "CEO" and the elected head of the Society the title of "chair" is to simplify matters, the 30 so delegates on the call were told by chair-elect Joe Cohen, SVP of the MWW Group. He conducted the meeting with the assistance of Christina Darnowski, who was promoted to VP-membership of the Society in March.
The announcement noted she recently attained Certified Assn. Executive status at the American Society of Assn. Executives.
Cohen told the teleconference that because the only items before the Assembly are the bylaw changes for the CEO, COO, chair and president titles, the Assembly would end at 1 p.m. "You will have a chance to enjoy Philadelphia," he said.
One delegate wondered why there was any Assembly meeting at all when there was so little business to transact? Neither Cohen nor Darnowski gave a direct answer to that question.
Delegates for years have asked that the numerous presentations that take up the morning session be e-mailed to them in advance, thus providing more time for discussion by the delegates.
Such pleas have always been ignored.
Delegate Asks Why Any Meeting?
Having the meeting on a Saturday instead of during the conference, which is the practice at other groups including the Int'l Assn. of Business Communicators, forces most delegates to spend two extra nights in a hotel.
A chorus of protests could be heard at one point in the call which prompted Cohen and Darnowski to put the participating delegates on "mute." Lea-Ann Germinder, New York chapter president, broke into the call to demand that "Everyone must put their phone on mute!"
A recorded announcement came on saying that "This conference is now in lecture mode," meaning that only the voices of Cohen and Darnowski could be heard.
After a few moments, another announcement came on saying, "This conference is no longer in lecture mode."
Last year's Assembly, which had no bylaws at all to consider and which was "dis-assembled" for the afternoon into about 15 "chat groups," was called "the most useless ever" by senior members.
Cohen said there will be reports about the finances of the Society although it has withheld IRS Form 990 from the past three Assemblies and it looks like the 2013 Assembly will be the fourth instance of that being done.
The new Strategic Plan will be revealed, a report on the state of the Society will be given, a report on reviving APR will be given by consultant Laura Freebairn-Smith and there will be a "town hall" around 11:30, Cohen said.
Half of Call on Procedures
Cohen and Darnowski took the first 15 minutes of the call to explain housekeeping details such as the date and time of the Assembly; the meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. the night before the Assembly; the five steps delegates need to access the private delegate area of the Society website (instructions given numerous times); Twitter handle that has been set up; voting by proxy (send two completed proxies prior to meeting); provision for a continental breakfast before the Assembly; need for delegates to print out all forms needed for the Assembly; when voting devices will be available; the deadline for opposing official candidates, and the fact that although the 60-day advance notice for bylaw amendments has passed, proposals can still be brought up on the floor of the Assembly.
Cohen, a 1999 graduate of Syracuse University's S.I., Newhouse School of Public Communications, who joined the Society in 2003, told the teleconference that giving Murray the CEO title involves no change in duties because Murray has been functioning in that role.
The four titles (CEO, COO, chair and president) were creating "confusion," he said. Having just two titles will "simplify" matters, he said.
"There are no changes in duties, just changes in titles," he added.
Some members said words do have meaning and saying otherwise is illogical. They noted that the Society will no longer have a "president," which puts it at odds with groups operated by doctors, lawyers and CPAs and most other groups. Such groups have staffs headed by one of their own professionals. Murray is an association professional.
Stephanie Cegielski, spokesperson for the Society, was asked today for a copy of the amendments and the accompanying frequently-asked questions so that we could accurately report on them.
She refused, saying "At this point in time the bylaw amendments and FAQs have only been made available to the board, Assembly delegates and staff."
She is also refusing to answer questions such as will any reporters be allowed in this year's Assembly; will the Assembly get IRS Form 990 in advance; will O'Dwyer reporters be allowed at anything in connection with the 2013 conference, and does the Society still intend to enforce a new rule that each PR news medium will be allowed to cover only one day of the four-day conference?
Hotel guards evicted this reporter from the Marriott in San Francisco last year with orders not to come back. We were told to station ourselves across the street.