Insiders have their hands on the army, the treasury, usually the press, and most importantly the flow of information.
A populace kept in the dark is a weak populace.
Some members of the PR Society of America staged their own revolt last year via the “Committee for a Democratic PRSA” (CDP).
The name said that the Society itself was not democratic (in spite of a Code that champions “democracy”).
The revolt against 35 years of a monopoly on Society leadership by APRs went nowhere. Only 305 signatures were obtained on a petition in spite of a six-month campaign.
It’s easy to see why. The PRSA board wouldn’t let the CDP e-mail the 21,000 members, a list reserved for pitches to members for seminars and webinars.
Tactics online never mentioned it. A story in printed Tactics finally appeared in September.
The board itself was noticeably cool on this, saying it only favored the APR proposal that had already been defeated in 2009.
The revolt against the APR monopoly is now 11 years old. The first Strategic Planning Committee in 1999 urged removal of APR throughout the bylaws. The 1999 board pledged a fight against any such change.
Following is a list of 20 abusive policies and practices of the Society that need reforming. Dogged adherence to them by Society leaders and staff damages the image of PR, the Society itself, and all APRs.
1. Refusal to listen to or dialogue with members including Fellows who send questions to the board.
2. Elected officers who spend the year dodging questions and speak to a half dozen or fewer of the 110 chapters and never to the New York chapter. Schedule of 2011 chair Rosanna Fiske is unavailable. No one is available to pitch the “Business Case for PR.”
3. Failure to post throughout the year the list of Assembly delegates with their e-mails (reachable by a single e-mail).
4. Refusal to audiocast the Assembly when it would be cheap and easy to do so.
5. Failure to supply a transcript of the Assembly since 2005 after doing so for many years.
6. Substandard and misleading financial reporting marred by booking dues as cash and providing late reports (IRS Form 990 not given to Assemblies).
7. Lack of financial information in the web press room. Financial reports available to members only.
8. Cronyism on the board now lets any member return indefinitely—negating the intent of the founders who barred returnees.
9. Making huge decisions such as canceling the printed members’ directory and moving to downtown New York without any input from the Assembly.
10. Refusal to discuss providing a PDF of the membership list which would be cheap and easy.
11. Failure to have a press conference. Last conference involving CEO and board was in 1993.
12. Interference with coverage of 2010 Assembly including barring photos or recording any part of the Assembly—new policies instituted in 2010.
13. Refusal to let the only reporter who has covered the Assembly for the past 15 years (Jack O’Dwyer) attend the 2010 Assembly lunch.
14. Refusal to give this reporter credentials to cover the 2010 conference although credentials were given to us for the Assembly (a contradictory policy that defies explanation).
15. Ignoring bedrock Robert’s Rules (that make the Assembly the “ultimate” authority and bar proxy voting) while pledging obedience to RR.
16. Ignoring the Assembly which asked for an investigation of e-mail elections (BigPulse would handle such votes for a few thousand dollars).
17. Wining and dining chapter presidents-elect, district and section chairs in New York each June at a cost of $100K-plus when this should be a Spring Assembly.
18. Refusal to settle with the authors it ripped off from 1980 to 1994, a practice that earned it hundreds of thousands of ill-gotten dollars.
19. Excessive costs of staff and the isolated downtown h.q. that requires airport-level security checks to enter. Staff of 50 or so has 22,000 sq. ft. to rattle around in. All but seven of staff names are now hidden.
20. Roadblocks put in way of member interaction including removal of the former single list of 110 chapter presidents. Visits to 110 websites needed to get such info.
There’s no question that the Society committed massive theft of the intellectual property of authors from 1980 to 1984.
Chief victim by far was the O’Dwyer Co. whose articles comprised up to a quarter of the materials in some of the 1,000 packets that were sold at prices up to $55.
To those Society members and leaders who ask us why don’t we also cover the positive aspects of the Society, we reply that if some neighbor stole something valuable from their house and wouldn’t return it, there would be nothing good to say about that neighbor.
The victim would not want to hear about how hard the head of the family works, nor how kind he or she is, nor what his or her charitable activities are.
The victim wants the property back or adequate compensation paid for it.
Lying and thieving at the national level is responsible for the three-year recession that has caused severe pain to many Americans and lesser pain to the rest.
The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission concluded that the meltdown was avoidable and not due to inexorable economic forces.
The cause was Bernard Madoff-type corruption in the banks and big Wall St. houses and complicity with government regulators who abandoned their responsibilities.
Banks gave mortgages to almost anyone because they could off-load them to Freddie and Fannie.
Greed and selfishness triumphed.
One duty of PR is to be a “corporate conscience.” It’s supposed to be more than just a tool of business. It’s not supposed to be “a secret weapon,” as treated by Kraft CEO Irene Rosenfeld.
PR’s largest group of PR people should be setting an example of openness, honesty and democracy.
The Society needs outside counsel but can’t have it because no PR firm would allow its name to be identified with such member and press-dodging and stonewalling.
None of the major CPA firms will work for it, either. Deloitte & Touche and Ernst & Young split more than ten years ago.
New leadership of this “revolt” is needed. Acting head Art Stevens says he and the CDP are on “winter break.”