PR professors who belong to PR Society of America have twice blocked moves to let any student in the U.S. join the Society or its student wing. Only students in approved chapters in about 300 of the 4,000 colleges are allowed to join.
Students in such chapters are required to take a certain amount of PR courses, thus providing employment for the professors.
The two "at-large" student membership proposals, made in 2002 and 2007, would let students belong to PRSA without taking any PR courses at all. This the professors did not like.
It's an issue now because PR employers are telling us they are not satisfied with the quantity and quality of grads showing up at their doorsteps.
Two of the three biggest PR Society chapters, Georgia and New York, conducted "career forums" for college students this spring with the aim of attracting top candidates.
The New York forum, held at New York University, only attracted 150 candidates although a turnout of 300 was expected. Helping attendance was that the day-long program cost only $10 and included a substantial lunch.
Allowing non-PR or communications majors from any school the chance to join the Student Society and receive Tactics & Strategist plus have access to other learning opportunities could greatly increase the pool of qualified applicants.
"At-Large" Students Proposed in 2002
The first attempt at letting students from any college join the Society was made in 2002 by that year's president Joann Killeen and others.
It was met with fierce opposition by the educators who combined with 21 past presidents to block the motion from even getting to the floor of the Assembly for discussion.
Among educators signing the petition were James and Larissa Grunig, Dan Lattimore, Kathleen Kelly, Bonita Neff, Robert Pritchard (current Educator board member), Maria Russell, Melvin Sharpe, Don Stacks, Elizabeth Toth, Joe Trahan, Judy Turk and Laurie Wilson.
The Western district, headed by Casey DeLorme, made another stab at this in 2007, proposing that PRSSA chapters be allowed in colleges other than the 300. Such chapters would not have to be affiliated with "certified" chapters.
Joe Trahan, left, and Casey DeLorme at the 2007 PRSA Assembly.
DeLorme and Trahan stood at one of the microphones in the Assembly and both announced a "compromise" had been reached. There was to be further study and a new proposal made but it never happened.
Educators Block APR Reform
The driving force behind accreditation at the Society is the educational community. It values APR as a credential in an industry that has few credentials and no recognition as a "profession" by any government body.
Attempts to open national offices to non-APRs have been made unsuccessfully since 1999. Currently 82% of members are non-APR, a process that costs $410.
Most notable failure was in 2010 when the Committee for a Democratic Society, headed by Richard Edelman, Art Stevens and Dave Rickey, sought 1,000 signatures on a petition to let non-APRs run for office. It only obtained 450. Society leaders blocked mention of the movement in Society media until just before the Assembly and wouldn't let the group blast e-mail the membership.
Edelman heads the world's largest PR firm while Stevens was official candidate for chair-elect in 2000. Rickey was chair of the bylaws re-write committee in 2009 and national secretary in 2012.
Unpopular APR Lost $2.9M
We put responsibility for the APR logjam on the shoulders of the educators. APR lost $2.9 million from 1986-2002. Participation has been plummeting for many years.
New Society APRs created in the nine years ended June 30, 2012 averaged 136 yearly, a steep decline from the average of 274 Society APRs created in the ten years from 1993-2002. That is a 50% dip and is even more than that because there were fewer members in the 1993-2002 period.
The Society's own polls show that members feel any member should be able to run for national office.
O'Dwyer's Reaches out to Profs
The current 16-member executive committee of the Society's Educators Academy is headed by Tina McCorkindale, Ph.D., assistant professor at Appalachian University in Boone, N.C. (15,460 undergrads).
Other members are Marcia DiStaso, Penn State; Dean Kazoleas, Calif. State Univ./Fullerton; Elizabeth Kerns, Central Washington Univ.; Alisa Agozzino, Ohio Northern Univ.; Sandra Duhe, Southern Methodist Univ; Julie Henderson, Univ. of Wisconsin; James Lingwall, Clarion Univ.; Juan-Carlos Molleda, Univ. of Fla.; Bonita Neff, Valparaiso Univ; Robert Pritchard, Univ. of Oklahoma; Gemma Puglisi, American Univ.; Hilary Sisco, Quinnipiac Univ.; Maria Elena Villar, Fla. Int'l Univ.; Rhoda Weiss, Rhoda Weiss & Assocs., Santa Monica, Calif., and Donald Wright, Boston Univ.
Extensive Materials on Specialties Ignored
We're trying to interest the educators in sampling O'Dwyer products and especially the new O'Dwyer's PR Library which has more than 700 volumes.
McCorkindale, rejecting a visit to the library for the moment, said she will not be in New York until next year.
Symptomatically, none of the 16 directors is in New York. The nearest one is Hilary Sisco of Quinnipiac, Hamden, Conn.
We would like to contact Academy members in New York and invite them for a tour but non-members of the Society cannot access the membership list. Reporters are not allowed to join the Society. We have asked McCorkindal for a list of New York Educator members.
It's hard for us to imagine how PR educators would not be enthusiastic about O'Dwyer materials.
We have compiled since 1992 extensive data on 12 specialized areas of PR that are growing in size and influence and are the source of many if not most PR job openings.
More than 500 specialty rankings were received for the 2012 O'Dwyer rankings in which 127 firms participated. The rankings are in the 76-page May O'Dwyer's magazine which has been published.
Tech, Healthcare, Financial Grow
Ranked were 73 tech firms headed by Edelman whose tech billings soared 71% to $217,856,287.
Many other tech firms reported gains in double figures including Allison + Partners which grew 50% to $9,500,000. The nine biggest firms had billings of more than $10 million.
The healthcare category, headed by Edelman with $101,477,406 in such fees, again showed gains. The five biggest firms had fees of more than $18 million with W2O Group, San Francisco, in second place at $52,611,000.
Other major categories included financial, 47 firms; food & beverages, 51; professional services, 52; environmental/public affairs, 39, and entertainment/cultural, 34.
Each issue of O'Dwyer's monthly magazine carries the rankings of a specialty and profiles anywhere from 40 to 60 of the specialized practices.
PR firms are also ranked by size in a dozen cities including New York where 45 firms are ranked. The 15 largest in New York have more than $10 million in fees.
Jobseekers can see which cities have the most agency jobs.
It's possible some or all of the Educator board members are not aware of the formal boycott that the Society has against the O'Dwyer Co. and its staffers and any "assigns."
This editorial is a move to relieve them of this lack of knowledge.
NPC, Krueger, Others Support O'Dwyer's
Alex Singleton, who left after 15 years as a top writer with the Daily Telegraph of the U.K. and other media to open a PR firm, wrote on Dec. 18, 2012 that PRSA owes the O'Dwyer Co. an apology.
He said that "O'Dwyer's is a more important, higher profile voice of the American PR industry than PRSA." He says our criticism of PRSA, and especially its blocking of 82% of the members from running for national office, is "far from an unfair criticism." He notes Richard Edelman has campaigned for the change via the Committee for a Democratic PRSA. Singleton says "It is time for PRSA to be big enough to say they got it wrong, say sorry, and reverse its ban."
It is also time for the Educators Academy to urge the Society to end this boycott and acknowledge the contributions of the O'Dwyer Co. to the PR industry. Below are expressions of support for the O'Dwyer Co.'s right to cover the PR Society.
http://tinyrul.com/66esvga (newsroomink on boycott of O'Dwyer)
http://tinyurl.com/cqx22un (Prof. Bob Conrad on the boycott)
http://bit.ly/yBCKbN (Dan Hicks of Crisis Institute raps boycott)
http://bit.ly/r5VixX (blogger Jane Genova raps boycott)
http://tinyurl.com/bit.ly/yeQhwH (PR Newser raps boycott)
http://bit.ly/p0jJuj (National Press Cub raps boycott)
http://tinyurl.com/7dhdy3g (NY State Senator Liz Krueger rap boycott)
http://bit.ly/oQiF7a (Lucy Siegel, former officer, PRSA/NY, who called the Society boycott "totally unprofessional, unethical and childish."