Some chapters of PR Society of America are rebelling over the $30 dues hike sought by national, saying if there’s any increase it should go to the chapters “where 90% of the services occur.”

These chapters are right. The $225 national dues rate is already a crushing burden on chapters that normally get far less than $100 yearly in dues but provide the invaluable local meetings and networking opportunities.

Chapters point out they are under intense competition from local PR and publicity clubs that charge as little as $25 a year.

Chapters are also saying that no one checked with them before the dues hike was proposed. That’s typical of national PRSA, which signed a 13-year, $6 million lease in downtown New York in 2004 and killed the printed members’ directory in 2005 without consulting even the Assembly.

New Contract for Murray?!

First thing chapters must do is find out if the executive committee of PRSA has given president and COO Bill Murray a new two or three-year contract.

He forfeited his right to be “president” when he came to my office March 19, 2010 and said he would refuse to deal with me—classic blackballing when he told the Minnesota chapter June 23 that blackballing a news medium is against the PRS Code.

The Society cannot have a “president” who is in violation of its own Code.

Since his pay/fringes was $373K in 2009 (he won’t tell us his 2010/11 pay) he is probably at the $400K level now, and a two-year contract would mean a commitment of $800K while three years would mean $1.2M.

This is a lot of money to pay a plain vanilla administrator when PRS h.q. is already overloaded with high-priced, career administrators—VP-corporate development John Robinson ($140K); VP-special events Karla Voth ($135K); VP-marketing Barbara McDonald ($126K); VP-membership Jennifer Ian $121K, and webinar/seminar director Judith Voss ($115K).

These are their 2009 paychecks. Members won’t find out 2010 salaries until the end of this year.

PRS made a big mistake in 1999 when it gave COO Ray Gaulke a five-year contract at $250K yearly. It bought him out after the first year at the cost of $250K besides the $250K he got for 2000.

Catherine Bolton, who succeeded him, got a $300,000 severance paycheck when she left as of the end of 2006.

No Rapport with Members

The fact that Murray drew only 19 to a free breakfast June 23 in Minneapolis shows how remote he has been from the membership. He has established no rapport with the rank-and-file but has concentrated on the APR “leaders.”

Despite claims of a pay freeze, PRS Q1 payroll rose 8% to $1,390,314 or a hefty 57% of revenues of $2,249,824.

It rose 3% in 2010 to $5,529,699 (average of $110K for the 50 or so staffers).

The gross payroll figures are in the 2010 audit while the salaries are in IRS Form 990 which PRS typically holds until the end of the year (after the Assembly). It’s supposed to be filed by May 15 each year.

No Dope, No Dough

Chapters have got to put their foot down. The worm has got to turn.

They must demand, besides Murray’s 2010-11 pay and whether he has a new contract, the following before there is any more talk of a dues hike:

--Return the full membership list and the geographical and corporate indexes forthwith in the form of a PDF and stop saying the online directory is just as easy to use. It’s not.

--Give members and non-members back the current full roster of the Assembly and stop telling members you don’t know who is in the Assembly until the delegates take their seats each year.

--Either broadcast live or tape the Assembly so members and non-members can hear every word said. Give members back the verbatim transcript of the Assembly, an item that costs about $1,000.

--Forget this dues hike unless chair Rosanna Fiske presents herself for questioning in person at open meetings of the ten largest chapters. Members are fed up with her and other “leaders” hiding behind e-mail barricades. She has only spoken to one chapter in her first six months based on available records—her own Miami chapter. She found time to keynote the “Hispanicize 2011” conference in Hollywood April 7.

--Stop illegal proxy voting in the Assembly. Robert’s Rules, which PRS has adopted, say adoption of RR satisfies any state demand for a specific rule against proxies. Can’t you read?! Stop following only those laws you feel like following.

--Stop violating Section 958-605-2-1 of the Financial Accounting Standards Board that says dues must be booked over the course of the dues year and not on receipt as PRS does. This bloats the Society’s “net assets” figure by $2.2M. Stop referring to your net assets (warped as they are) as “reserves.” Your “cash” includes $582,898 simply because you didn’t pay the first year’s rent at 33 Maiden lane. This item causes CPAs to LOL.

--Open PRS’s full finances to reporters so they can cover the Society. Confining financials to members violates PRS’s alleged commitment to the “free flow of information.”

--Hire a bunch of senior members to work at h.q. so they can find out what really goes on there. PR is the only trade assn. that bars its own members from working there (except for two or three staff members who are well under control). How much of the $433,593 in “travel” in 2010 (actually travel, meals and hotels) is meals for the staff?

--Emulate the major professional groups (ABA, AMA, AICPA, etc.) all of which have staff heads of their own profession (Murray is not a PR person nor a member of PRS). Such groups have assemblies that meet twice a year and boards that are “subordinate” to the assemblies (as called for in RR).

UAB Is an Ethical Backwater

The Universal Accreditation Board should enforce its “Usage Guidelines” that say APR must not be used for any competitive purposes.

Delegates Michael McDougall and Christopher Veronda told the 2010 Assembly that the Guidelines say APRs “cannot imply the lack of APR in any way affects a competing professionals competence” and that an APR can be “revoked” for APRs who disobey that.

McDougall and Veronda said the APRs who control PRS are violating this rule by barring non-APRs, who comprise more than 80% of the membership, from running for national office since the mid-1970s.

Anne DuBois, 2010 UAB chair, illogically argued that the “non-competition” rule does not apply to elective offices. When McDougall and Veronda disagreed with that she refused to change her position.

There is hot competition for those offices because they can be used to dress up resumes for many years and used in job-seeking and pitching accounts. The elected chair gets an almost unlimited expense account to travel the country. If he or she is a counselor, this can be a way of publicizing the firm and building contacts.

Founded in 1998, UAB has ignored for 13 years this flagrant violation of its Guidelines.

UAB’s ethics are no better than those of PRS which controls UAB and handles the income.

forde, rayburn
Forde, Rayburn
The 17-member UAB board, headed by co-chairs John Forde, comms. dept. head of Mississippi State University and Jay Rayburn, comms. prof at Florida State University, has nine members from PRS.

APR Is Expensive

One bar to members becoming APR is the expense--$385 plus a $25 application fee. Applicants have the option of making two $205 payments.

In addition, PRS members must pay $225 yearly to the Society or lose the right to say they are APR.

I think APRs like to have as few other APRs as possible since if everyone was APR the value of the designation would be watered down. Also, that would increase the competition for national offices.

The worst sin of all of the APRs was losing $2,926,080 on the program from 1986 to 2002. It cost a net of $1,794 for each of the 246 APRs in 2000 when total cost was $591,541 and net cost was $441,467.