New York PR people are currently sending about $350K each year to PR Society of America and the Int’l Assn. of Business Communicators -- two groups whose policies do not serve New Yorkers and which bring discredit to PR rather than improve its image. 

Both groups are marred by a lack of democratic practices in their governance; poor, late and even illegal financial reporting, and an inability to deal with the press -- supposedly the chief duty of PR people.

“Libbey,
Libbey, Feintuch
Members of the New York chapters should be allowed to take secure votes on seceding from their national associations.

Henry Feintuch of Feintuch Communications is president of the PRS chapter and Bob Libbey, head of digital and social communications of Pfizer, is president of the IABC chapter.

National dues of the PR Society are $255. Combined national/local dues for a New York member of IABC are $329. PRS New York members also pay $90 to the chapter. PRS chapter members total 798 but there are at least 100 others in the area that don’t belong to the chapter.

New York Has Unique Problems

New Yorkers face unique problems that are not addressed by PRS or IABC.

The income disparity that is nationwide is far more pronounced in New York where a 550-sq. ft. studio apartment can be $2,700 a month plus utilities.

Most New York office workers, including PR/ad employees, have been reduced to eating lunch at their desks.

The mega-rich titans who control Omnicom, WPP Group, Interpublic and Publicis, do not welcome working ad/PR people or the press to their eating or country clubs (like a previous generation of heads of such companies). They have de-funded nearly 25 PR clubs that thrived in New York in the 1960s an 70s. De-funding also killed seven PR publications.  Advertising Age is switching to bi-weekly.

PRS/New York members should not be sending money to the downtown h.q. of the Society whose APR-obsessed culture is opposite to that of New Yorkers. Only about 40 New York members are APR.  IABC/NY members should not be sending about $100K to the San Francisco h.q.

Last year was the “most tumultuous” in the history of IABC, wrote Dave Murray in his writing boots blog.

The year started off with the completion of a reduction of 16 of the staff of 32, a mass “Friday night” firing that longtime member Roger D’Aprix said violated “every known principle of internal communications.”

COO Christopher Sorek, who with the board implemented that carnage, was gone by mid-2013 but the damage remains.

IABC also switched its eight-times-a-year magazine to online only and permanently suspended its Accredited Business Communicator program. “Certificates” will be awarded in the future but it will take years to get the ISO supervised program going. ABC’s will not be grandfathered into the new designation.

IABC chair Robin McCandless, addressing the 2013 annual meeting, likened Murray and other critics to “dogs humping in the park.” 

Although, unlike PRS, IABC allows journalists to join, a lot of good it does us. Only one financial report a year escapes from IABC and then only at the last minute. PRS allows members to see e-mails and phones of other members but not IABC. A member seeking to reach another IABC member must send the message to IABC which forwards it. Member contact points are cloaked.

NYWICI, IPR Ditched National Groups

Two New York PR entities have chucked the bonds of national groups and have prospered -- New York Women in Communications, which split from the Association of Women in Communications in 1998 and has 2,100 members, and the Institute for PR, which split from the PR Society in 1989 and had revenues of $611,994 in 2012.

NYWICI had revenues of $621,153 in 2012. It has an extensive slate of programs for media as well as PR people at all stages of their careers. More than 1,000 attend its annual Matrix Awards banquet in the Waldorf-Astoria. Net assets are $320,444.

AWC’s revenues of $272,542 in 2012 are less than half the revenues of NYWICI. Liabilities of $86,015 of AWC exceeded assets of $72,132.

The Foundation of the PR Society, created after IPR broke away over the issue of mandatory APR for board members, had revenues of $186,413 in 2012, which is less than a third of the revenues of IPR. Net assets of the Foundation were $574,907 at the end of 2012. This is too large a sum for the Foundation to be "hoarding" when it could be put to useful purposes such as a mid New York facility for PR and press. The PR Society itself is also guilty of hoarding. Its cash, savings and investments totaled $5,624,643 at the end of 2012. It is much larger now because its $2.4 million in stock enjoyed a substantial rise.

Independence has been good for both NYWICI and IPR.

New Yorkers Should Vote on Secession

This issue of whether New York chapter members should split from national should be put to a secure e-mail vote conducted via Condorcet or a similar e-mail voting service.

That would take place after a full airing of both sides of this issue via all available venues including the O’Dwyer website.

We’re hopeful that the chapter will cooperate with this initiative and not throw roadblocks in its path as happened in 2010 when the New York-based Committee for a Democratic PRSA sought to strike the rule that bars non-accredited members from running for national office.

Gary McCormick, 2010 chair, immediately rejected the CDP’s request to e-mail the proposal to the Society’s 21,000 members.

He told this website in an e-mail May 11, 2010, the day after CDP announced its initiative:

“While we are aware of the group’s activities and have discussed with them about how they could best proceed in obtaining signatures for the petition, we have not seen any language for the amendment nor has it received the required signatures for consideration at Assembly at this time.”

Edelman, Stevens, Rickey Are Blown Off

The officious rejection was made to CDP leaders Richard Edelman, Art Stevens, Dave Rickey, Bill Doescher and 2009 chapter president Deborah Radman.

Barred from the Society’s e-mail list as well as any mention in the monthly Tactics or quarterly Strategist, CDP only obtained 354 signatures by Aug 23. Sandra Fathi, 2011 chapter president, complained to McCormick during an Assembly teleconference on that date that the CDP’s drive for signatures had stalled because of the Society’s refusal to tell members about the initiative.

Several delegates on the call denounced the CDP, saying Fathi had no proof that PR executives were avoiding the Society or leadership posts because of the APR rule.

McCormick halted discussion of the CDP after 16-minutes.

Impetus Must Come From Members

Only a popular uprising by member will have any effect on chapter leaders who have shown themselves to be subservient to national directives.

This was obvious April 2, 2013 when the chapter allowed noxious national policies to dominate its student forum day at New York University.

“Yann”
The late PRSA VP-PR Arthur Yann photographs O’Dwyer staffers locked outside of the PR Career Forum event last April. Photo: Sharlene Spingler

The late Society VP-PR Arthur Yann stationed himself by the door of the NYU building to make sure no O’Dwyer or other reporters gained entrance.

Yann, 48, died suddenly June 13 while on the train to his home in Fairfield, Conn. He had an arduous commute of about two hours each way because of the downtown location of PRS h.q.

An offer of free O’Dwyer’s Directory of PR Firms was made to the forum but chapter president Lea-Ann Germinder said O’Dwyer and other companies would have to pay $1,000 each to exhibit any products.

There was no literature table at all although trade directories and other informational products would have been of help to the students in seeking jobs.

Reporters were also banned from a career forum of the Georgia chapter of the Society on Feb. 22, 2013. Offers of free O’Dwyer’s directories were turned down by Georgia, the second largest Society chapter.

The Council of PR Firms, meanwhile, which staged similar student career forums at Boston University Oct. 3 and San Jose Nov. 5, allowed press coverage of each and raffled off O’Dwyer’s Directories at each.

Society Gerrymandered in the 1970s

The PR Society was gerrymandered in the 1970s when the APR faction passed bylaws allowing formation of chapters with as few as ten members but which would have one vote in the Assembly. Chapters got one vote for every 100 members or fraction thereof.

Control switched to the smaller chapters never to return to the larger ones. APR was more popular among the smaller chapter and chapters based in the South.

By the mid-1970s, bylaws were passed that blocked non-APRs from national office. Nominating committees became dominated by APRs even though the APRs made up 20% or less of the membership.

The 2013 nominating committee had 16 APRs on it when there should only have been three based on the APR proportion of the membership.

The New York chapter, which has fewer than 50 APR members, has little sway with national whose Assembly is about 70% APR. Press-averse delegates have blocked coverage of the last three Assemblies.

Logically, the Society’s annual conference should be in New York every year since so many PR, media, advertising, marketing and related industries are here.

Staff travel would be avoided as well as advance trips to spec out locations. Having it in other cities necessitates such trips and is one reason $1,310,189 has been spent on travel, meals and hotels in 2010-2012 ($433,593 in 2010, $413,355 in 2011, and $467,241 in 2012). How much of this is meals for the staff could be learned if a representative of the members were allowed to work at h.q. That has not been allowed since the early 1980s.