Mickey Nall, head of the Atlanta office of Ogilvy PR Worldwide, a major brand of the $15 billion ad/PR giant WPP Group, has been accepted as a candidate for chair-elect of PR Society of America, raising our hopes of fairness and rationality returning to the Society.

He has promised in his application (PDF) to “ask questions, play the devil’s advocate…I’m not with a go-with-the-flow guy.”

Well, the first question he can ask is whether COO Bill Murray has or is about to get a new two-year contract as of Jan. 22, 2012. He can also ask Murray’s pay package, last seen at $373K in 2009.

A new contract would mean a $2.1 million commitment to the top three h.q. staffers at a time when the Society is pleading poverty and seeking a $30 dues hike.

Murray’s two principal appointments, CFO Phil Bonaventura and VP-PR Art Yann, made $221K and $137K, respectively, in 2009 (total of $731K for all three execs).

Society practice is to give a year’s severance to departing executives.

Nall’s pitch for chair-elect (PDF) avoids concrete topics such as allowing non-APRs to run for office, providing a PDF of the members’ list, exploring the high cost of New York h.q., etc.

He can be opposed by other candidates who might take up real issues until Sept. 15.

Current Leadership is Worst Ever

The current PRSA leadership, including elected officers and the powerful staff, is the worst we have ever seen.

It blocks at almost every turn information flow in an age of information deluge.

Members can’t get the complete list of Assembly delegates and have lost the transcript of what delegates say since 2005. Their beloved members’ directory was taken from them in 2006 without a word to the Assembly. Ditto for New York h.q. which fled downtown in 2004, turning its back on midtown, where the communications industry is concentrated.

Members who participate in PRS e-groups are warned they face prosecution if they forward any e-mail or print more than one copy. The list of information blockages is almost endless and includes the removal of the single list of 110 chapter presidents.

What Has WPP Got to Gain?

We wonder what WPP CEO Martin Sorrell will think of Nall’s candidacy?

Why would WPP associate its name and that of its precious Ogilvy brand with a group that tramples on its own bylaws, Robert’s Rules, its own Code of Ethics and simple logic?

Gary McCormick (who had quit the 2006 board), took the 2010 chair partly to publicize HGTV. Rosanna Fiske, 2011 chair, is pursuing an “Hispanicize” agenda partly in behalf of Florida Int’l University, which is 65% Hispanic. She is on her fourth trip to the board and is the second PRS elected head from FIU (Debra Miller being the first in 1997).

WPP does not need any publicity that PRS could give it.

Ogilvy, which does about $300 million in PR via 65 worldwide offices (exact figures have been withheld for conglomerate units since 2001), is not only a leading PR brand of WPP but a leading advertising brand.

Hill & Knowton, Burson-Marsteller and the other PR brands of WPP grew 3.7% in 2010.

Sorrell’s publicly-owned company must adhere to strict financial accounting standards and practice full disclosure.

PRS for decades has flouted the FASB rule that demands that dues be booked over a year’s time as earned. This bloats its “net assets” figure.

I doubt Sorrell will approve of PRS blocking journalists from seeing the Society’s audit and quarterly reports and its refusal to answer questions about its finances.

McCormick, Fiske Were Disappointments

McCormick made a good start in 2009 by promising to put African-Americans and reporters on his Strategic Planning Committee. But he caved to board pressure and no such thing happened.

Defying a request by the 2009 Assembly to investigate e-mail voting, McCormick declared in mid-2010 that direct elections of board/officers was too difficult and too expensive (in spite of a Cornell University free and secure e-mail voting service that has been used 60,000 times by organizations).

Our opinion of him sank further when he and Murray delivered a blackball to the O’Dwyer Co. on March 19, 2010, in our offices. They came to deepen wounds, not to heal them.

Fiske disappoints in trying to push a dues increase without scheduling an appearance before any chapter membership. She has talked to only one chapter membership in her first six months (her own in Miami) based on available records.

2011 Nomcom Is Disaster

Also on Fiske’s head is the disastrous performance of the 2011 nomcom headed by 2009 chair Mike Cherenson. A member of the committee is Art Stevens, who spearheaded last year’s unsuccessful “Committee for a Democratic PR Society.”

Failing to round up candidates for three districts, the nomcom has decided to declare three new at-large seats.

This defies Section V of the bylaws which say, “Each district shall be represented by at least one director” (Article V, Section 1).

However, there is another part of the ill-conceived new bylaws (Article VII) that says the nomcom can convert a district director to an at-large director if no candidate shows up for the district.

Robin Perrin of the Pinkerton Academy, was named to represent the Northeast district in the 1990s when no one showed up for that district.

The Cherenson committee just did not look hard enough. There are about 400 APRs in each district and one can be appointed in the absence of any candidates.

Staff Has Too Much Power

Doug Spong, co-chair of the 2011 conference, asked to assure that this reporter will be “credentialed” for the meeting, said, “It’s not my right or responsibility to grant press access.” His two other co-chairs, Andrea Finger of Walt Disney World and counselor Bonnie Upright of Orange Park, Fla., didn’t respond to our e-mails.

The same thing happened in 2010 when I asked co-chairs Torod Neptune of Verizon and Robert Hastings of Bell Helicopter to get me press admittance to the conference after Yann said I had to pay $1,275 (although other reporters went free).

Neptune and Hastings not only would not talk to me, they put blocks on any e-mails I tried to send them.

The 2009 Assembly, ignoring Robert’s Rules although citing RR as its “parliamentary authority,” used 56 proxies to vote in the use of proxies.
This is like a baseball team voting to score touchdowns or a football team seeking to score home runs.

The adoption of RR “automatically” satisfies any state demand for a specific rule about proxies, says RR. RR further says “proxy voting is incompatible with the essential characteristics of a deliberative body.”

Another major RR rule that was trashed is the one that says a board of a group is “subordinate” to an “assembly,” if such a body exists. PRS lawyers warn repeatedly that the Assembly must never tell the board what to do.

The 2009 Assembly broke the rule that all articles in a re-write must be presented one-by-one for discussion and vote. Only a few of them were as picked by the board.

RR also advises never doing a re-write at a regular annual meeting but doing that job in a series of special meetings. The 2009 Assembly took up the re-write at the annual Assembly and after leaders had wasted the first hour of the meeting on gratuitous speeches that should have been provided in hard copy a week before the meeting.

The 11-member APR committee -- 10 of the 11 members were APR and all of whom were volunteers -- violated RR’s advice that the committee be “large with many views represented.” Only 19% of members were APR in 2009, meaning the committee was unrepresentative of the vast majority of members.

Sharpe Quit in Protest

Committee member Cynthia Sharpe, former chair of the Sunshine district (seven Florida chapters), quit (link, sub req'd) because the bylaws discussion was being conducted “mostly via e-mails, phone calls and blog posts.” She said national political leaders would not “debate and decide laws mostly via electronic means of communication.”

Other attempted bylaw atrocities in 2009 were ridding the Assembly of its power to elect board/officers and replacing this with an undefined direct election process, and an attempt to further “pack” the Assembly by adding about 30 appointed committee chairs as voting delegates. The Assembly already has 44 leadership delegates who don’t belong there (17 national directors, 17 section chairs, ten district chairs).

A horror that did pass was allowing directors to serve four years in a row, skip a year and then come back for four more years. The stranglehold of the APRs on PRS was strengthened and the wisdom of the founders ignored. They had barred any director from coming back on the board.

Rickey Opposes Nall

Chairing the bylaws revision committee was none other than Dave Rickey, who is now vying with Nall for chair-elect.

Rickey and 2009 chair Mike Cherenson ran the debate on the bylaws revision for nearly nine-months without either of them ever facing a live in-person audience.

It was all done by e-mails and teleconferences and Rickey at one point admitted this was a “klunky” way to carry on a debate.

This same method is being used for the proposed $30 dues hike.

Conference calls for Assembly delegates will take place Wednesday, July 27 at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. EDT.

The general membership and the press are blocked out of these calls.

A 2009 group of about 50 members, calling themselves “The True Friends of the Society,” listed 11 objections (link, sub req'd) to the way the revision was being conducted and asked, “How can a member abide by the Society’s bylaws, policies and procedures when P&P are not made available to them?”

Nall Is “In Residence” at Univ. of Oregon

Nall has become the first “PR Executive in Residence” at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication, giving a talk May 4 titled “Tradigital is the Future of PR: Trends Tomorrow’s Professionals Need to Know Now.”

“Tradigital” refers to art including animation that combines traditional and computer-based techniques to implicate an image.” It’s related to digital art, new media art, interactive art and internet art.

The “PR Executive in Residence” could be something funded by Lorry Lokey, who founded BusinessWire with his wife Eva in 1961.

BW generated what Lokey called “obscene” profits. He set up a trust that gave away more than $433 million including $132M to UofO (link, sub req'd).

He was a 1949 graduate of Stanford University but included UofO in his gift-giving because George Turnbull, one of his Stanford profs, who was dean of the UofO J School from 1944-48, gave Lokey his first job with United Press.