Director Ruth Slottag says “A dues increase will without a doubt kill the chapter. We are now losing members due to the high cost of membership dues with little value to members…many businesses and organizations are downsizing PR jobs and have discontinued paying membership dues…”
The chapter, with about 50 members, is probably No. 1 in terms of officers holding advanced degrees. Chapter president is Brian Sowa, Ph.D., of Eastern Illinois University.
Secretary is Peter Smudde, Ph.D., Illinois State University, and treasurer is Jeff Brand, Ph.D., Millikin University. Ethics chair is Jeff Courtright, Ph.D., Illinois State. Director Terri Johnson of Eastern Illinois is past chair of the Educators Academy.
With so much brainpower on the chapter board, we thought its members would be fascinated by the New Yorker’s 11-page write-up of Elizabeth Badinter, a leading French intellectual and majority owner of Publicis, third largest ad/PR conglomerate.
Normally neither chapter officers nor directors respond to us, but we thought this might be an exception.
The PRS Assembly is so disciplined by national that it is more of a co-conspirator than a legislative body.
The 2006 Central Michigan proposal to give the Assembly power over the board, modeling PRS after governance practices at the American Bar Assn. and American Medical Assn., did not receive support from any of the other 109 chapters (link, sub req'd).
Only one chapter—Los Angeles—publicly supported last year’s drive to let non-APRs run for the board (link, sub req'd).
Chapter presidents are under heavy influence of the “Leadership Rally” held each spring in New York.
“Blackball” Bill Murray, COO of the Society, spoke highly of the meeting during a July 27 teleconference, saying it was a “discrete” budget item and is well-liked by the attendees. We bet it is. Who wouldn’t like a free weekend in New York in June whose cost to national is upwards of $150,000?
Chapter presidents are also basking in their titles (contact points for all the chapters are the presidents themselves) and don’t want to do anything that detracts from national or sounds like disloyalty.
Counselors Academy promotional materials note that the “No. 1 question” received by national each month is “Where can I find the right PR firm?” No doubt chapters get the same question since PR is seen by many businesses as a much cheaper way to publicize themselves than advertising.
A member identified only as “L Tucker” says a dues hike at this point “is just flat out unthinkable.”
The writer, a professional in local government, says his or her employer, since 2008, has not only stopped paying dues but has eliminated training, travel and educational expenses for all professional employees. Merit increases have stopped and all employees have taken a one day per month furlough (costing him $3,800 a year).
PRS members can pay quarterly but the Society charges a fee for that and on top of this is the $50 chapter fee, says the writer.
Rosanna Fiske and other national leaders argue that costs have gone up in many places and for many other trade and professional associations and that the $30 dues hike is only about one Starbucks coffee per month or 72 cents a day for the new $255 rate (posted by chair-elect Gerry Corbett).
Nancy Andrews, past president of the Connecticut Valley chapter, Hartford, said PR pros “constantly ask to join our chapter without joining national—because they can’t afford the national dues.”
Andrews, who is with the Connecticut Business & Industry Assn., Hartford, said the chapter keeps fees low, sometimes offering free programming, “and because of this we have had great success in our programming attendance over the past few years.”
National leaders have also argued that while chapters think they are initiating local programs, the actual content is often from national or otherwise springs from national.
Chapter members are enjoying national benefits without realizing it, they argue.