Rosanna Fiske, incoming chair of PR Society of America, told PR Newser of Mediabistro on Dec. 7 that there would be a “big focus” on ethics during her term and that diversity would also be a “key issue.”

This almost knocked us over since about a dozen unethical practices of PRSA come to mind, including blocking members from knowing who is in its Assembly, what they say and how they vote, and impeding press coverage of the 2010 Assembly by forbidding, for the first time, recording or taking pictures of the Assembly.

While professing to follow Robert’s Rules, PRSA breaks at least five of them including the rule that if there is an assembly like the Society has, it must “sit over” the board. Proxies were again used in 2010 although this breaks one of the bedrock rules in Robert’s.

Financial reporting by the Society is third-rate and is either unethical or close to it.

IRS Form 990, showing staff salaries and much other information not in the audit, was again withheld from the Assembly. It is still not posted on GuideStar where members could readily examine it. Were it there, this blog would supply a link to it.

Independent Sector, whose members are 800 non-profits, urges them to post their 990s and audits prominently on their websites early in the year and to stop asking for deferrals.

For almost two decades PRSA has been booking a year’s dues as cash which bloats its net assets figure. ABA, AMA, AICPA, ASAE, IABC and other major associations do not do this. PRSA members get a false picture of the group’s finances.

This practice flies in the face of the Society's promise to “adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth.”

Leaders Hide from Members, Press

Leaders have ducked members and press for nearly ten years, usually speaking to no more than a half dozen chapters.

Jeff Julin, 2007 chair, did not address a chapter until August of that year.

No Society president has addressed the New York chapter in more than 20 years, although previous tradition was for the elected head to address the last chapter meeting in June before the summer break.

The last press conference of the board was at the annual conference in 1993.

This habitual evasion of members and press amounts to a violation of the Society’s own Code which says “Ethical practice is the most important obligation of a Society member.”

“Ethics” or “Ethical” appears 11 times on the first page of the Code. The word “politics” could be substituted for each of these.
Politics is the supreme force in PRS meaning whatever faction has the most votes in the Assembly gets its way. What is right or wrong or fair is irrelevant.

The crushing of the Committee for a Democratic PRSA by the three-quarters APR 2010 Assembly shows where the power is.

An unethical practice is keeping secret the dates and places of the few chapter visits that an elected head might make. This blocks us from arranging coverage of such appearances.

We hope Fiske will publish her speaking schedule early in the year.

Diversity Is a No-Brainer

How Fiske can talk of the Society and “diversity” in the same breath is a mystery to us.

The nominating committee, for the second year in a row, rejected a qualified African-American who sought a place on the board, making the 2011 board all-white for the fourth year in a row.

Only two African-American women have served full terms on the board in the 63-year history of the Society. No black male has served a full term. Ron Owens served five months in 2006 and quit.

Rejected this year was Regina Lewis, head of communications for the Potter’s House mega-church in Dallas, a 25-year member.

The at-large board seat went instead to Susan Walton, associate teaching professor at Brigham Young and a member only since 2001.

Ofield Dukes, African-American who was awarded the Gold Anvil in 2001, was rejected for the at-large seat in 2009.

Fiske should listen to 2011 board member Marisa Vallbona, who said on her application that the Society “is dominated by a specific type of member and I can count on two hands the number of Hispanic members I’ve met in the past 20 years.”

Gary McCormick, 2010 chair, spent the whole year ducking us and our questions and we hope Fiske will not do the same.
As an educator (associate professor at Florida International University), she knows that a chief duty of a teacher is answering questions.

The original promise of PR was made by Ivy Lee in 1906 when he said his new firm would answer “all press questions most cheerfully.”