PR Society of America has posted the specs for a VP-PR to replace Arthur Yann, who died suddenly at 48 in that post on June 13.
President and COO Bill Murray has written that Yann had "one of the toughest jobs in PR."
The specs say that the new VP-PR will work "at the direction of the President and COO and in collaboration with senior staff . . ."
They add that the post will also act as "senior PR counsel to the President and COO." At another point they say that the post "is accountable to the President and COO."
That runs counter to a main goal of PR practitioners who seek a direct report to the CEO.
Candidates should insist they report to current CEO Mickey Nall of Ogilvy PR and 2014 CEO Joe Cohen of MWW Group.
Cohen, who works in the New York office of MWW, is the best hope members have for a return to sanity by this organization. Nall has shown acceptance of staff domination.
He and his firm are under obligation to the Society, which just gave Ogilvy client DuPont its "Anvil of Anvils" for its "Food Security" PR program. Ogilvy/DuPont bested 143 other finalists and an initial 846 other contestants. "Food Security" means the public should accept genetically-modified foods and organisms and not demand that such foods be labeled. It is a controversial topic. The new VP-PR will have to contend with the view that the client of the chair of an organization should not win its top prize.
The job specs place on the shoulders of Murray full responsibility for the five-year campaign of Yann to block O'Dwyer access to Society events and discredit this writer.
Any candidate for this job, which paid Yann a package of $186K in 2011, must take that into consideration.
They must also note the obsession of staff with what is "legal" as opposed to what is right and wrong. Pay packages of $100K+ for eight staffers are withheld until late in the year because the law allows it. As of mid-2013, members still don't know what is in the three-year contract of Murray that started in January 2012. Society legal bills for the eight latest available years totaled $558,264. The latest hire for PR is Stephanie Cegielski, a 2006 law grad of the University of Denver, who joined last August.
Hiding From Press, Members Must Stop
The new VP-PR can't possibly do PR for either the Society or the industry by being holed up downtown at 33 Maiden Lane.
He or she should face the PR press which is based in midtown at least once a month. There should be a press lunch or press conference. Murray should be present for half of these meetings. There is no such thing as a real "president" who shields himself from grillings by the press. Murray has never spoken to the membership of any New York group in open session in his 6.5 years in office.
Candidates for VP-PR should contact the more than eight staffers who have left it since 1996. Steve Erickson quit that year right in front of the national conference and Richard George did the same in 1999. They were fed up with being used as shields/spears. Other "grads" include Joseph DeRupo, Janet Troy, Cedric Bess, Libby Roberge, Keith Trivitt and Diane Gomez.
Candidates should also visit the O'Dwyer offices for a chat with this writer and a tour of the new O'Dwyer's PR Library, world's biggest collection of PR written and online materials on PR.
Issues, Scandals Face New VP-PR
Candidates, since the Society considers itself the voice and conscience of the entire industry worldwide, must consider some of the issues facing it.
One is the claim by the Centre for Corporate Public Affairs, Melbourne, that "PR Is Dead," a claim buttressed by five pages of arguments.
The Society should have answered that. Not a peep emerged.
Instead, this website studied the five pages and concluded that CCPA was talking about corporate/institutional PR. We agree that is just about dead. We showed, however that agency PR is thriving.
CCPA complained that PR no longer satisfies corporate "socio-political goals." Of course not. It's supposed to satisfy goals of the public as represented by the press. PR is supposed to answer questions by others who have their own set of goals.
The O'Dwyer Co. served as the trade assn. for PR in this instance. Our library serves the same purpose. The Society closed its library decades ago.
Observer Examination Is Key
Another issue for the new VP-PR is dealing with a comprehensive look at the industry by the New York Observer.
Mike Kaminer, longtime PR practitioner who now says he is a full-time journalist, promises an in-depth look at New York PR which will be published in October.
The Observer is owned by Jared Kushner, son of New Jersey developer Charles Kushner and husband of Ivanka Trump, daughter of Donald Trump.
Two immense fortunes are involved here. The Observer is known for its independence and feisty approach to news. Donald Trump will no doubt be watching this. He addressed the Society’s last conference in New York in 2004. He will not be pleased with the Society’s elimination of New York as a conference city until at least 2019.
In the 2004 speech, laced with blunt terms that shocked some in the PRSA audience, he urged businesspeople to be paranoid, not trust anyone and to hire the best people but watch them. He said that if anyone crosses you, get even by "hitting them back 15 times harder."
"The harder you work, the luckier you get," he said. He called Wall Streeters "scum." The Donald later toured the country giving much the same speech and charging $499. One occasion was May 1, 2005, when 46,000 heard him, including a live audience of 15,000 in L.A., the New York Post’s Cindy Adams reported.
NYT Has Fumbled the PR Ball
The Observer could do for PR what the New York Times has failed to do for decades -- cover it.
Ad columnist Stuart Elliott's two recent forays into PR have just scratched its surface. One was on 2012 PR Society chair Rosanna Fiske's quest for a definition of PR that ran Nov. 30, 2011, and the latest was on April 29, 2013 when Elliott described the re-branding of FleishmanHillard.
The O'Dwyer Co. handed NYT a major PR/media story in 1993 when we covered Dean Rotbart’s speech to the 1993 conference of the Society in which he described the influence of ads and news tips on reporters. He also had many negative things to say about media in general and mentioned several reporters by name.
The Society used two video cameras to tape the speech and was going to make it the feature of its new video PR library.
However, after we pointed out that using anything but facts themselves in pitching stories was unethical under the Society Code, the Society decided not to sell the tape.
Rotbart sued the O'Dwyer Co. for $21 million on copyright violation and other charges.
NYT, which had been so interested in the story that it sent a photographer to Rotbart's home in New Jersey, never wrote a word about the lawsuit nor the O'Dwyer victory that was the lead story in the New York Law Journal.
NYT Skipped 'Tylenol Mafia,' Wittels
NYT has ignored The Tylenol Mafia, 736-pages of evidence that the poisoning of Tylenol capsules took place in Johnson & Johnson distributional and packaging channels and was not the work of someone going from store to store.
Rape charges in 2011 against baseball star Garrett Wittels of Florida Int'l University and two other students were mostly ignored by NYT, although it had written tens of thousands of words when three Duke athletes were accused of rape in 2006. Bahamian prosecutors, citing lack of evidence, dropped the charges against the three in June, 2011. The rapes allegedly took place at the Atlantis resort Dec. 20, 2010. Charges were also dropped against the three Duke students before a trial could take place.
Wittels, devoutly religious, knelt on the field before each baseball game. He was the most famous college athlete that year because he had a 54-game hitting streak. He failed to extend it and left the school. NYT only carried two AP graphs as the story played out over several months, winning major coverage from numerous Miami and national media.
Ethics Study, APR Are also Issues
Also issues for the new VP-PR are the 2000-01 study of Society ethics by the Ethics Resource Center for which it paid $50,554. ERC itself and polled members urged the Society to keep enforcement in the Code but were ignored.
VP-PR candidates should ask for a copy of the study. One of those who has it is Kathy Fitzpatrick, a PR professor at Quinnipiac University, Hamden, Conn. Fitzpatrick, a member of the Board of Ethics who helped re-write the Code, wrote 46 pages about the history and revision of the Code for the Journal of Mass Media Ethics.
She should also give a copy to Laura Freebairn-Smith of the Organizational Performance Group, also of Hamden, which has been retained to help refurbish the accreditation program on its 50th anniversary next year.
The Universal Accreditation Board, a body dominated by the Society, has yet to put out statistics for the first ten years of the new multiple-choice exam that were completed June 30.
Its latest news release only gives stats for the first quarter of 2013 and does not break out APRs by its seven member groups.
Susan Barnes of Belmont University, Nashville, UAB chair, has not responded to phone calls and e-mails for further information.
A current PR issue for the Society, although not one a new VP-PR could give advice on but which he or she should know about, is the Society’s apparent intention to name Kathy Barbour of Baptist Health South Florida as its 2014 national chair-elect.
That would put a hospital and religion in favor of Society policies and practices.