Member and press-avoiding PRSA COO Bill Murray will speak to a breakfast of the Minnesota chapter of the Society Thursday, June 23 and so far the board is letting him escape press coverage.

Although normally chapter meetings are open to non-members and the press, this one is for members only.

brooke worden
I hope the chapter board, headed by Brooke Worden of Weber Shandwick, will throw open the doors to the press and non-members and direct Murray to answer any and all questions.

He bears the title of “president” but has not lived up to it. Presidents do not duck the press or members. The “buck” stops at the president’s desk.

Murray affects a contemptuous attitude to members by refusing to divulge his current pay. The last figure we have is total compensation of $373,618 in 2009. He and the board simply refuse to divulge his 2010-11 contract terms or whether he has a new contract to extend the one expiring Jan. 22, 2012, or is about to get one.

There is no sign of a search committee to replace him.

Members are supposed to know his pay but a loophole in the law (the 990 IRS return can be filed as late as Nov. 15 the next year), lets him and the board conceal it for nearly two years.

While refusing to divulge his pay, Murray is also spearheading the drive for a $30 dues hike for the 21,000 members.

Staff Pay/Fringes at Record $5.5M

He and elected leaders claim $1.5 million has been cut from operating expenses but staff pay/fringes actually rose 3% in 2010 to a record $5,529,699 in 2010.

Staff/fringes in Q1 this year rose 8% to $1,390,314 or 57% of revenues of $2,249,824.

Members give us such figures since the press is barred from seeing any Society financial reports.

Do the math. Average pay for the 50 or so staffers is more than $100K. If the $1.3M+ for the top eight staffers is removed, the rest average more than $90,000 which is far more than what 95% of PR pros earn.

The board’s 1987 decision to keep h.q. in New York (defying the wishes of the Assembly), has cost it many millions not only in staff costs but occupancy.

Such costs in 2009 (latest figure available) were $755,982 for 22,000 sq. ft. or $34 per sq. ft.

For comparison, the price for prime office space in downtown Minneapolis is $12 per sq. ft at the International Centre and $16 at Renaissance Square.

Besides paying sky-high for staff and rent, the APRs who control the Society spent $2.9M more than income received on the APR process from 1984-2002. The APR concept has been overwhelmingly rejected by the membership since it was started in 1965—45 years ago. Only 19% of members are APR.

Leaders/Staff Hide From Members

As is usual, leaders/staff are conducting a debate on the dues purely through electronic means and avoiding face-to-face. This is how an entire bylaws rewrite was conducted in 2009. No leader ever faced a member until the Assembly.

Chair Rosanna Fiske has told members (in a web posting) to “comment on a blog post” or seek out their Assembly delegates.

There is no provision for Fiske, Murray or any leaders to confront members face-to-face on the dues hike.

Fiske in nearly six months in office, has only addressed one chapter to our knowledge—Miami on Feb. 15.

She addressed the “Hispanicize 2011 Conference” in Los Angeles April 7 and referred to “the rising power of the Hispanic market.” On Jan. 31 she announced that the PR Society is “expanding its affiliation with the Hispanic PR Assn.” and will work on “a broad range of member and industry initiatives.”

Chapter Visits Are Rare

Reclusive Murray in 4.5 years has addressed only two chapters that we know of—Washington, D.C., on May 2, 2007 (there were no questions from the audience of 60), and a previous visit to Minnesota.

mccormick murray
Gary McCormick, 2010 PRSA president, with COO Bill Murray at the O'Dwyer's offices last year.
He has not addressed the New York chapter nor any New York group that we know of. The last press conference of the national board was in 1993 in Orlando at the annual conference.

He and 2010 president Gary McCormick came to my office March 19 last year to tell me that the Society has “chosen not to deal with you.”

I listened to that position repeated over and over for nearly an hour with amazement and amusement.

First of all, neither has any right to speak for “the Society.” Murray is a hired hand and McCormick headed an all-APR board that is unrepresentative of the 81% of members who are non-APR.

They were only interested in their position and not mine. They refused to look at the box of articles illegally copied and sold by the Society from 1980-94 when I exposed this practice and stopped it cold (PDF).

I can be ducked but not the facts I present. I asked four Fellows of the Society to present the same questions to Murray and McCormick and they ducked the Fellows also.

McCormick only spoke to seven of the 110 chapters last year. Jeff Julin, 2006 chair, did not address a chapter until August of his year in office. Members refer to their “stealth” chairs and presidents.

Fiske Reamed out Non-Members

It is contradictory now for anyone from the Society to claim rights of privacy after Fiske just got through publicly reaming out by name the two Burson-Marsteller PR pros who leaked negative items about Facebook—John Mercurio and Jim Goldman.

Since the Society Code only applies to members, Fiske should have bashed the only PRSA member on B-M New York’s 500 staff—founder Harold Burson. That she didn’t do.

PRSA publicized worldwide Fiske’s criticism of an organization (although the Code only applies to individuals) as well as two non-members.

It is inconsistent for the Minn. chapter to claim it is “a private membership organization” and the meeting “is not open to the public,” which it has done in an e-mail to me.

Practically every piece of literature circulated by PRSA says it represents not only members but the entire industry worldwide.
Minn. a Hotbed of APR

The Minnesota chapter, once one of the ten largest, is a hotbed of APR—only APRs may serve on the board.
APR has virtually no standing in New York where only 47 of the 677 members are APR.

Minnesota once had more than 400 members but only has 330 now, of which 87 (26%) are APR. The chapter is suffering, along with other chapters, from the high cost of the Society’s New York h.q. and the millions lost trying to boost the APR program.

I call on the board to rethink providing a secretive platform for Murray. Hold his feet to the fire. Let the press cover and let anyone ask any questions. Act consistently and in line with the Society Code that promises “advancing the free flow of accurate and truthful information” which is “essential” for “informed decision-making in a democratic society.

The meeting will take place at Padilla Speer Beardsley and we hope CEO Lynn Casey will get involved in this decision.

The Minn. directors include Pat Effenberger of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, which should be covering this meeting, and ethics officer David Kostik, who has his own firm.

Other directors are VP Brant Skogrand; treasurer Tracy Carlson of PSB; secretary Anna Long of the Minn. Dept. of Veterans Affairs; immediate past president Candee Wolf of Metro Dentalcare; Melanie Becker of her own firm; Kelli Harms of Winnebago Industries; Linda Kohl of Minn. State Colleges and Universities; Leah Otto of her own firm, and Jason Sprenger of FICO (credit scores).