PR Society of America's promotion to service firms for its 2013 annual conference in Philadelphia Oct. 26-29 has been saying that such conferences have attracted "an average attendance of 3,000 PR professionals, with executive or senior level decision makers comprising more than one-third of attendees."

Such statements are a gross exaggeration not only of the number of PR practitioners at the conference but the level of their jobs.

A list of registrants given to attendees via a link just before last year's conference in San Francisco had about 1,650 names. Student attendees totaled about 1,000 and are not on the list.

There were no VPs among the 256 names on the first four pages. Forty-one "directors" and 37 "managers" were among the 256.

Told that the claimed "3,000 PR professionals" was an exaggeration of well over 50% because students were obviously included, associate PR director Stephanie Cegielski thanked us and said the Society "will consider re-wording the sentence containing the phrase 'public relations professionals' to better reflect the mix of professionals and students."

As of press time, the Society site still said "3,000 PR professionals."

Society Owes True Counts to Exhibitors

Cegielski and the Society owe current and potential sponsors and exhibitors a lot more than that.

Potential exhibitors at the 2013 conference should examine the list of registrants that was made available electronically to exhibitors and attendees just before the conference last year. Cegielski should send it to them.

For many years, a printed list of registrants was given to all attendees including press. Such a list is needed so attendees can look for friends.

Attendees should not have to search for and print out such a list.

Supposedly the Society is saving money on printing. How come it prints 31,000 copies of PR Tactics every month and 24,500 copies of Strategist every quarter?!

The Society's blurb for T&S talks about "3,000+ attendees" to its annual conference. Somehow this became "3,000 PR professionals" in the pitch to exhibitors/sponsors.

Cegielski, who has become the "front man, shield" or whatever behind whom staff and elected leaders hide, should now cough up what the Society used to provide: total number of attendees in 2012; number of full-package registrants; number of partial packages; number of Society staffers; number of service firm attendees; number of PR educators who pay a lower rate; number of students, and number of press.

The Society has a severe problem with providing facts and figures. However, service firms have the clout to squeeze such figures from the Society if they work together.

Society staff/leaders do not like that. They closed the exhibit hall from 1995-99 after 50 exhibitors organized the PR Services Council and sought better treatment and more conferences in New York where many of them are based. That killed the PR Services Council.

Murray & Staff "On Retreat"

An e-mail to president and COO Bill Murray drew the response that "I’m out of the office for a senior staff retreat, returning on the 18th, and will be checking e-mail remotely."

We don’t know what "checking e-mail remotely" means but in any case it was Cegielski who responded. Also ducking was chair Mickey Nall of Ogilvy PR.

Just who is on this "retreat" and where is it taking place are questions that members should get answered. Is it at some plush resort with golf, tennis and other amenities? No doubt it is on the Society’s tab even though the Society has just reported a loss for the first six months despite a $30 dues increase last year.    

We're not surprised that Cegielski is allowing herself to be used this way. She is a 2005 law grad of the University of Denver, went to high school in Denver, and apparently spent most of her life there.

Soon it will occur to her that she is the one being pushed out in front when something hits the fan. Her quotes and name are the ones being used and not those of Murray, Nall, et al. Numerous PR people have quit the Society after they discovered that.

Cegielski has done a flip-flop in now serving as the spokesperson for an organization with anti-press, anti-democratic, anti-information and anti-New York policies and practices.

She was executive director of the Colorado Government Accountability project that filed an ethics complaint in 2010 against state Senate majority leader John Morse, charging him with abusing his per diem expense account.

She went from consumer activist to apologist for the policies and practices of the PR Society.

Murray, in commenting on the sudden death of VP-PR Arthur Yann June 13 at the age of 48, said Yann had "one of the toughest jobs in PR." Murray made it that way. Yann reported to him and not to the board or CEO.

Exhibitors Need to Know Attendees

A key issue for exhibitors is whether they are reaching people who will buy their products. Are attendees in high enough posts to make buying decisions? Are the costly displays for four days followed by a bump in sales or even traffic? Just who are the people who pass by their exhibits?

An examination of the 1,650 names on the registration list gives some answers to the above questions.

If exhibitors study the first four pages, they will find 256 names but only nine blue chips—General Motors, Amway, Genentech, State Farm Insurance, Eli Lilly and Wells Fargo, Kaiser Permanente, ConocoPhillips, and Comcast.

There are no VPs among the nine. Bryan Byrd is director of communications at Comcast and Jenie Altruda is "head of PR" at Amway. There are 41 directors and 37 managers among the 256.

B-M Cancelled Party in 1970s

Burson-Marsteller, until the mid-1970s, hosted a giant party at each Society conference. It stopped doing that, explaining that there were not enough senior PR people in attendance to justify the expense.

The small minority (18%) of accredited members who have controlled the Society since the mid-1970s, barring non-APRs from running for national office or serving on the Ethics Board, have driven away PR executives from major companies and PR firms. They joined the Arthur W. Page Society, PR Seminar, the Council of PR Firms, and other groups.

Exhibitors will find 102 PR professors on the 2012 registration list and 71 directors of PR of educational institutions. They will find 51 staffers of service firms. How often does one service firm buy the products of another?

They will find 26 PR Society staffers including some whose names are unknown to members because all but seven names were removed from the Society website years ago.

PRS staffers listed are Thomas Albi, Candice Bellittera, Michael Benoit, Don Bill, Phil Bonaventura, John Bomier, Ann Caggiano, Stephanie Cegielski, Albert Chau, Robert Denbe, Christina Darnowski, John Elsasser, Wendy Gallo, John Gumbinger, Amy Jacques, Donna Jonas, Rosanne Mottola, Bill Murray, John Robinson, Colleen Seaver, Richard Spector, Judith Voss, Karla Voth, Art Yann and Nicole Zerillo.