Sources covering the funeral last week of Arthur Yann, VP-PR of PR Society of America, who died suddenly June 13, were struck by the fact that no one from the Society made remarks either at the funeral home or the church.
The eulogy, given by fraternity brother John Redinger, did not mention the Society or that Yann enjoyed or loved his job or that he was grateful for an employer that paid him handsomely ($186,485 in 2011, a 25% raise).
The only mention of PR was a reference to Roberto Clemente, former star of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Redinger said that writing an obit for a PR person was like "pinch-hitting for Roberto Clemente."
Redinger was the only one who spoke.
This writer has attended numerous funerals of PR and other people and usually several people speak.
Yann, in order to earn his salary, had to do noxious things for nearly five years that no doubt weighed heavily on him and of which his family was aware.
Searching "Yann" on odwyerpr.com brings up 47 stories detailing his many attempts to discredit this writer. He placed negative comments not only on the Society website but on more than a half dozen others.
The Society website in October 2011, for instance, carried 3,100 words attacking this writer personally including 954 by Yann himself.
I was called a writer of "outright lies," "unethical," "a hacker," "a nuisance," "malicious" and guilty of "downright hateful tactics."
Press Blocked at Assembly
Yann became the "hit man" for the board and COO Bill Murray, the one out front doing their dirty work. The question now is who will be the new person to serve this purpose.
When I showed up at the 2012 conference in San Francisco, after Yann had posted on PRnewser that the Society had no boycott against any media, Yann immediately led me to a guard who escorted me up one escalator to another floor. When I greeted some people there while standing in back of a line, I was swarmed by more guards and ordered out of the hotel and told not to come back. Neither I nor any reporters were allowed to cover the Assembly.
The last action of Yann relative to the O'Dwyer Co. was failure to return an e-mail about admittance to the 2013 conference. Help had been sought from co-chair Patrice Tanaka on June 9 and she e-mailed back that Yann wanted me to contact him directly. I did but Yann did not return e-mail. He had at least three days to do this before he died.
Help was also sought from the other co-chair, Oscar Suris, XVP-CC of Wells Fargo, fourth largest bank. So far he is ignoring our request. He is not a member of the Society but apparently does not mind using the Society to publicize the bank.
Yann's nearly five years in the Society PR job was the longest since Donna Peltier's tour from 1984-94. Other PR department heads and assistants who couldn't take for long the role of being the foil for the board and senior staff were Steve Erickson, Richard George, Libby Roberge, Cedric Bess, Janet Troy, Joe DeRupo, and Keith Trivitt, among others.
Who Will Be New Stand-in For Board, Murray?
The death of Yann will not end the press avoidance practices of the Society.
It is time for PR leaders not on some kind of Society string to take action and replace Murray as staff head.
The board of the Int'l Assn. of Business Communicators, fed up with the antics of COO Christopher Sorek, bounced him in May. They should have done that last December right after he suddenly fired 16 of the 32 staffers.
Showing a lack of sensitivity, not to mention fairness, the PR Society on Thursday, June 20, in the middle of the observances of Yann's death, e-mailed a senior member who is a Fellow and an APR that his access to the Society website had been "revoked."
He found this out while attempting to access the Society site. The message was given to him by Eileen Lintao, senior manager, member services, when he asked an administrative e-mail address why he couldn't open the site. No reason was given.
Murray himself should have personally informed the member that his access had been revoked. An action of such gravity should not have been bucked to a staffer. Throughout civilized society, an accused person gets the right to face his or her accusers and know what the charges are. But not at the Society!
The Society is incensed that the O'Dwyer Co. somehow got the 2012 audit and is out to punish a member.
IABC, meanwhile, puts its audit in full on its website in the public area.
Yann's Death Mishandled
The fact of Yann's sudden death while headed home on Metro North Thursday, June 13, was mishandled.
This event should not have been kept from the members until Monday morning. It should have been disclosed Friday morning even though that would have put a damper on announcement of the Silver Anvil winners that day.
Murray posted on Sunday night June 16 that Yann had died suddenly on the evening of June 13 but offered no details. Most members do not access the site until Monday.
The Murray announcement did not even get the simple facts of Yann's career straight, even though Murray and PR staffers had three days to work on it.
Murray said Yann "first joined PRSA in 1999" and that before that he "led his own agency."
Yann never had his own agency. He spent the first 17 years of his career, from 1986-2003, with Betsy Nichol of Nichol & Co., New York, who now operates her own interior design firm.
When she sold the firm to Cramer-Krasselt Advertising, Chicago, in 2003, Yann became SVP and director of the office.
He stayed with CKPR until 2006 when he joined HealthStar PR as a SVP. He joined the Society in August, 2008.
Yann's death resulted in a number of calls to us to find out what happened. The SpinSucks website said Yann died "on a train" which led us to call MetroNorth.
PR staff there had the police record of Yann being stricken on the train.
Ogilvy/DuPont Award a No-Brainer
Another current pickle of the Society is how to explain that DuPont, a client of its elected chair, Mickey Nall of Ogilvy PR, and Ogilvy PR itself, took the grand prize of the Society’s Silver Anvils contest, besting 846 other initial entries and 143 other finalists.
Normally, elected leaders and other insiders of an association or company remove themselves from such contests so there won’t be any charges of cronyism.
Jim Roop of Roop & Co., Cleveland, Honors & Awards chair, posted on odwyerpr.com that our blog alleging conflict of interest was "full of baseless innuendo." There was no innuendo in the editorial. It had the flat opinion that the client of the elected head of an organization and the elected head's own firm should not get the grand prize of that organization.
Another lapse in professionalism was the Society's website showing a picture of eight people involved in the DuPont/Ogilvy win without supplying any identifications.
This writer had to call DuPont PR and obtain the names and titles of those in the picture.
Scores of pictures of unidentified people at the Anvil event were also on the Society website. This is just sheer laziness.
PR Equated with Ducking Questions
PR, whose original promise from Ivy Lee in 1986 was that all press questions would be answered "most cheerfully," is moving away from that role.
A feature on Yahoo!News June 21 by Rachel Hartman and Chris Wilson headlined: “The top 9,486 ways Jay Carney won’t answer your press questions.”
Yahoo!News analyzed 444 briefings by the White House press secretary from Feb. 16, 2011 through June 18, cataloguing "the way he dodges reporters’ questions."
He has used "I don’t have the answer" more than 1,900 times and in 1,383 cases bucked the question to someone else.
Readers can browse all 9,486 of Carney's most-used responses and verbal crutches.