Jeri Matheney
Jeri Matheney
Jeri Matheney, one of 13 candidates for four at-large seats on the board of PR Society of America, is an oddity in that she is from a huge company (American Electric Power with $15 billion in revenues) and is four square in favor of organizations being “open, honest and complete in our communications.”

Furthermore, her “inclination and preference is to see all sides of an issue, to debate the issue and to come to a consensus within the group on the best course of action.”

The trend she sees in corporate communications is “transparency” although she admits “it goes against a corporate world where the legal department has to approve every word released to the public.”

This is our dream come true in a Society candidate.

Nine of the other 12 at-large candidates are either solo practitioners or in small firms.

The three from major firms are Diane Lofgren of Kaiser Permanente, the $45B health colossus in California; Elizabeth Pecsi of Unisys, El Cajon, Calif. ($4B), and Mark McClennan of Schwartz Comms., tenth biggest independent PR firm with $25M in fees.

Matheney is honest to a fault.

Asked on the candidate application how she has advanced the “state of the profession,” she answered, “Because I have not been involved in research or education, it would be a stretch to say I have advanced the profession in any broad way.”

If Matheney finds companies are tight with information and leery of public discussion, she will find the same and far worse at the Society should she get on the board.

She is already obeying the strict rule against any press contact that was enacted by PRS staff last year that gave it complete control over statements to or interactions with the press.

Below is from the Society “Media Policy” that is in the Newsroom. Arthur Yann is VP-PR.

Media Inquiries

All unsolicited telephone, e-mail and postal inquiries received from print, broadcast or electronic journalists should be directed to the vice president, associate director or manager of the Public Relations Department (in that order) at PRSA’s National Headquarters.

In the event that none of these individuals is available to field a telephone inquiry, the journalist’s name, media organization, phone number and deadline (if any) will be noted and conveyed as soon as possible and with the proper sense of urgency to the vice president of public relations.

The complete media policy is here: prsamediapolicy/

Candidates Silent This Year

Whereas a few question put to candidates by us and four Fellows were answered last year, only silence is taking place this year.

Among those not answering questions is chair-elect candidate Mickey Nall.

We have sent Matheney our blog on the Society’s financial reports that break a major rule of FASB and blogs on the governance abuses of the Society including barring 80% of the membership from national office for more than 35 years and withholding the lists of Assembly delegates from members as well as the transcripts of the Assemblies.

She probably was not aware that 450 PR people, including 12 former chapter presidents, signed the petition of the “Committee for a Democratic PRSA” last year because it was never mentioned in PR Tactics Online and only made an inside story in the September Tactics.

But she is now aware of that and many other things about the Society since we have sent these items to her.

AEP & PRS Bedmates?

American Electric Power logoMatheney is communications director of the Appalachian Power unit of AEP based in Charleston, West Va. With the company since 1996, she manages a $1 million PR budget and an ad budget that can go as high as $3.5M. Her staff has five pros.

Matheney is forbidden to deal with us but we don’t think that applies to Michael G. Morris, chairman and CEO.

We urge Morris to take a close look at the practices of the trade association that his company could be linked with for two or more years.

Michael Morris
Michael Morris
For openers, this writer is under formal threat by an Assembly delegate of being “beaten to a pulp,” a threat delivered by the delegate in person and repeated in a letter to us. PR Society leaders and staff know who this is but refuse to take action.

AEP has “American” in its name and it would be linked with the PR Society whose policies are profoundly un-American. They squelch debate and choke off the flow of information in numerous ways.

Robert’s Rules Disregarded

AEP should examine such inconsistent PRS practices as citing Robert’s Rules as its “parliamentary authority” but breaking bedrock RR rules including those against proxy voting and those that require a board to be “subordinate” to a representative assembly if such a body exists.

Individuals do not have rights in the Society. They cannot approach staff or elected leaders and get their questions answered.

The only answer they tend to get is along these lines: “Do any other members share these views?”

A rank-and-file member should be able to get basic questions answered such as whether COO Bill Murray has a new contract and what were his pay/fringes in 2010-11?

We’re sure that publicly-held AEP would never tolerate the flawed financial reporting and financial oversight policies of the Society. FASB rule 958-605-2-1, calling for deferring dues income, is disregarded year after year, giving members a false picture of the net assets.

No African-American Candidates

Another inconsistency of the Society is its oft-stated commitment to “diversity.” Only two African-Americans have served on the board in its 64-year history.

Nominating committees in 2009 and 2010 rejected two highly qualified African-American candidates, 2001 Gold Anvil recipient Ofield Dukes (rejected in 2009) and Regina Lewis, head of communications of The Potter’s House of Dallas, a large non-denominational church (rejected in 2010).

Ron Owens, senior communications specialist of Kaiser Permanente, the only African-American male ever elected to the board, quit after five months of a three-year term in 2006.

Does AEP need this?