PR Society of America, worried about stout opposition to its proposed $30 dues hike, on Aug. 17 promised that members who renew will have free access to more than 30 webinars in 2012.

The statement was made by chair Rosanna Fiske in the public PRSAY area of the Society website. It had appeared the previous day in the “delegates-only” e-group that is discussing the hike.

Opposition to the hike includes a posting by the Central Illinois chapter that said it will “kill” the chapter.

The webinars are usually $150 for members and $250 for non-members. Thirteen are scheduled between now and the end of the year.

Not involved in the offer are the Society’s seminars whose cost runs from $650 to $999 for members.

Confronted with declining attendance at the webinars because of increased competition, PRS has also been offering some of them free to members as well as non-members in a program sponsored by Thomson Reuters. Ten are currently scheduled.

The “free” PRS webinars (for its 21,000 members) could cut into the extensive webinar offerings of Ragan Communications, PR News and other companies in the PR webinar/seminar business.

Underpricing competition is a traditional and sometimes illegal maneuver that can drive weak players from a market. It was a favorite tool of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil.

PRW/U.S. Used Directory as Premium

PR Week/U.S., founded in 1998, in the early 2000’s started using its $249 Contact directory of PR firms and corporate PR depts. as a free premium in violation of US Postal Service rules that say a premium cannot be worth more than 70% of the cover price of the publication being offered. PRW/U.S. prices were below $200 (link sub, req'd).

This amounted to unfair competition to other PR publications and websites. Because of this and other factors, five of them ceased publication including PR Reporter and PR Quarterly in their 50th years in 2008.

Three Ragan publications were casualties—its weekly NL, monthly PR Intelligence Report and PR Journal.

The O’Dwyer Co. filed a complaint in 2008 with USPS which audited PRW/U.S. and forced it to take the price off its Contact directory. It is offered now as part of a package of PRW/U.S. services. PRW/U.S. went monthly in June 2009.

Ragan, PR Newswire Offer Webinars

A major part of Ragan’s business is webinars and webinar recordings, sold at $139 to non-members and $99 for members who pay $279 to join “Ragan Select.”

The Ragan website lists more than 100 such offerings.

PR News also has an extensive webinar business. A current offering profiles Google as it relates to PR pros and is priced at $329.

There has been no comment thus far from either Ragan or PR News on the PRS announcement.

Media trainers complained of unfair competition by the Society in the early 2000’s when it offered the services of one media trainer as part of its webinar/seminar series.

More than 17 letters on the dues hike are posted in the PRSAY area of the Society’s website which is open to the public.

Value of Webinars: $2,000

Fiske said the availability of the “entire catalogue of webinars to members for free starting in 2012” is worth “nearly $2,000 in annual savings for members who participate in one Society webinar per month.”

She said the new benefit will not only help in retaining members but in member recruitment.

The total cost of a membership is now competitive with the non-member cost to view a single Society webinar, she noted ($250).

The Society will also help chapters to develop webinars exclusively for chapter use in their training programs, she said.