PRSA/New York, the Society Foundation, Council of PR Firms and the New York University PRSSA chapter are sponsoring a “Career Forum” April 2 that is expected to draw 300 students to the Kimmel Center in New York's Greenwich Village.

sealNYU's Kimmel Center
It’s shaping up as a near-duplicate of the flawed career day held by the Georgia chapter in Atlanta Feb. 22.

Reporters will be banned and any publisher who wants to display directories, books, magazines, etc., will have to pay $1,000 to do so. 

That would put a crimp in any literature table. No such table at all was allowed in Atlanta.

Louis Capozzi, adjunct professor at NYU and retired chair of MSL Group, is president of the Foundation.

Shira Palka, who has had internships at M Booth and Peppercom, is president of the chapter. She is associated with Muck Rack, where journalists and sources connect, hosted by Sawhorse Media, which operates web portals.

sealPalka
Brandi Boatner of the IBM PR staff, is the Foundation board liaison to the career forum. Cedric Bess, ex-PR manager at the Society and now with the New York Yankees as guest relations ambassador, is an advisor to the NYU chapter.

Both Boatner and Bess are former presidents of the Student Society.

“Diversity” Pushed by Foundation

sealBoatner
Capozzi and the board have made seeking a more diverse PR workforce its chief priority as explained in an essay by Capozzi (http://tinyurl.com/bd67uwo). 

Initial plan was to have the career forum chaired by Donna Renella, human resources specialist who has been working with Foundation director Rochelle Ford, Ph.D., of Howard University, Washington, D.C. '

However, when we discussed the flaws that showed up in the Georgia career day and noted they were apt to be repeated in the NYU career day, she withdrew saying she did not realize how much time would be involved. A new chair is being sought.

The NYU PR career day will give special emphasis to recruitment of minorities to PR but New York counselor Mike Paul has pointed out few minorities go into PR because only a few top PR/ad jobs are held by minorities. Role models are almost non-existent.

Lawyer Cyrus Mehri and others associated with The Madison Avenue Project have made lots of noise about this situation but there has been little change.

The Society closed its Multicultural section at the end of 2009 (http://tinyurl.com/a954sgj) without even clearing it with the section. Protests were voiced to no avail. A 2008 survey of members found they placed “a very low priority on diversity issues.”

Del Galloway, 2004 president, championed diversity, inviting the PR trade press to Society offices in January 2004 to push the program. There was little result in terms of minorities joining the Society or gaining top PR jobs.
Ethics, Credibility of PR People are Issues

There should be no recruitment of minorities to PR or anyone for that matter until the PR industry as represented by the Society faces the twin problems of ethics and credibility.

Prof. Kathy Fitzpatrick of Quinnipiac University, in 45 pages, has described surveys showing that half of the Society’s members say they are under “extraordinary pressure” to do unethical things.

Although 90% of the members wanted continuance of an enforceable Code, the board voted against that and removed all teeth.

Credibility is another problem for PR. The Foundation’s own 1999 survey, (http://bit.ly/xxApwc) which cost it and the Rockefeller Foundation $75,000 each and was conducted over a five-year period, found “PR specialist” to rank 43rd in believability on a list of 45 sources of information.

Rather than face this finding, the Foundation suppressed it. No press conference was held nor was any press release distributed. No Society publication or website ever printed the entire table which is in the link above. The Society’s only PR staffer, Richard George, quit shortly after the O’Dwyer Co. learned about the study and started writing about it.

Georgia: the Blind Lead the Blind

Although reporters were banned from the Georgia career day, students covered for us.

The panel on “PR Reality, PR Niches, PR Myths,” whose members were Mike Neumeier of the Arketi Group, Jacqueline Petty of Kellen, Patty Gregory of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Karlie Lahm of Moe’s Southwest Grill, asked students if they read physical newspapers.

Only a few hands went up causing panelists to erupt in a chorus of “wows!”

The fact that few PR students read newspapers and even fewer read the PR trade press or even know what comprises the PR trade press, means students at the Georgia career day were ill-informed. No wonder they were ready to pay $80 to the Society’s richest chapter ($317,000 in cash in a non-interest bearing account) to find out very little about getting jobs or internships and nothing at all about being freelancers, their most likely future.

A coincidence in New York is the annual conference April 26-27 of theAmerican Society of Journalists and Authors, 1,300 non-fiction freelancers. It helps newcomers as well as veterans to sell articles. That’s where some of the New York PR students should go.

Why No Mention of Trade Press

The fact that the panelists had a chance to mention the PR trade press but failed to do so tells a lot not only about the Georgia career day but PR itself.

Students, besides reading PR texts and listening to their professors, should be reading O’Dwyer’s media and those of PR Week/U.S., PR News, Bulldog Reporter, Ragan’s, PR Newser and blogs by Jane Genova, David Reich, and the weekly podcast of Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson, to mention some of the sources.

Textbooks are far behind the fast-changing world of communications. Professors find the PR trade press competition to what they are teaching. Students exhibited sheep-like behavior in Georgia and we expect more of the same in New York.

PR Trade Press Table Proposed

There should be a PR trade press table at the NYU career day and a panel of trade editors. This reporter, for one, would stick around the whole day to answer questions.

We would display not only our own Directory of PR Firms, but theContact directory of PR Week/U.S., the printed members’ directory of the Society (1,000-page listing of members that was a marvelous job-hunting tool and was last published in 2005), and hard-hitting PR books such as "Army of Entrepreneurs," which describes the go-go life of PR agency staffers; "Always Live Better Than Your Clients," which describes the “night club” that Benjamin Sonnenberg ran in his 12-story New York townhouse that often entertained 200 clients, media and agency people at once with dinner and entertainment, the entire operation bankrolled by client money; "Deadly Spin" by Wendell Potter that describes 20 years of corporate PR life, and "The Tylenol Mafia," which is 719 pages of evidence that the poisoning of Tylenol capsules in 1982 happened while the ingredients were under the control of Johnson & Johnson.

We have asked Palka, Boatner and others to come to our offices to examine the above and other materials.
Education is the pursuit of knowledge, not the flight from it. The highest officials at NYU should be aware of this situation.

“Real PR”: Secrecy, Spying

PR grads who land jobs are going to find the industry is enamored of secrecy.

Membership lists of the Society (21,000), Arthur W. Page Society (400 mostly blue chip corporate executives), and (PR) Seminar (about 150 corporate executives most of them also in Page) are all barred to non-members including the press.

Reporters cannot see any of the financial reports of the Society until more than a year later when they are posted on GuideStar or Foundation 990 Finder.

Lahm of Moe’s Southwest Grill said a jobseeker came to her knowing what competitor Chipotle Mexican Grill was doing and that was something that Moe’s could use “to its advantage.”

Lahm also said newspapers could be used as a “tool to spy on the competition.”

Information-gathering, including monitoring what customers and employees are saying on countless blogs and websites, has become a main activity of both agency and corporate PR.