PR Society of America leaders, faced with stiff opposition to a $30 dues hike and fearing loss of control of the Assembly, have proposed adding more than 30 ex-chairs/presidents as voting Assembly delegates.

They are currently non-voting delegates.

The ex-chairs/presidents could go as chapter delegates since delegates may be either “elected” or “appointed” under the new bylaws.

Few members know it but the ex-chairs/presidents get lifetime free admittance to the conference ($1,075 is current “early bird” rate) and lifetime free dues.

This largesse in effect makes them “employees” ready to do the bidding of leaders/staff.

Delegates Compromised by National $$

Also compromised are the presidents and presidents-elect of the 110 chapters who have enjoyed a stipend worth at least $750 each to attend the so-called “Leadership Rally” in June.

These are the same members who vote in the Assembly since the new bylaws call for the chapters to send their “presidents or presidents-elect” or their designees as delegates.

It would be a more obvious conflict of interest if the presidents/presidents-elect accepted such payments from national at the Assembly itself.

The chapters should be footing the bill and maintaining their independence. They’re supposed to hold the feet of the board to the fire, not serve as its lapdog.

Lack of independence is only too evident in the Assembly. None of the 109 chapters supported Central Michigan in 2006 when it wanted to model PRS governance after that of the ABA and AMA (i.e., Assembly tells the board what to do).

Ex-Chairs a Reactionary Force

The former elected heads of PRS, almost all of them solo practitioners or in small PR firms, have shown themselves to be a reactionary force in PRS politics.

Twenty-one of them banded together with PR professors in 2002 (link, sub req'd) to block discussion in the Assembly of a bid to let any PR student in the U.S. join the PR Student Society of PRS.

Membership is limited to the 300 colleges with PRS chapters, eliminating as members students at 3,700 other colleges. Only 10,000 of the hundreds of thousands of PR/communications/English majors can join.

The profs didn’t want more competition for the already scarce PR jobs. This proposal was never again brought up in the Assembly.

A “deal” reportedly was made with the APRs that they would allow non-APRs into the Assembly as long as the student “thing” was never brought up again.

PRS in 1977 had signed a Justice Dept. consent decree promising to stop any anti-competitive activities. Two bars to competition were removed from the PRS Code (that told members not to solicit the accounts of other members or charge contingency fees) (link, sub req'd).

The educator bloc replaced the Counselor bloc as the dominant force in PRS many years ago.

Fiske Dodges; the “Big Lie”

Chair Rosanna Fiske, asked again on PRSAY last week what benefits would be cut if the dues hike did not go through, said she just didn’t know and there was no way of knowing until the dues proposal passes or fails. She told the July 27 teleconference the same thing.

This is an evasive, disingenuous response.

The “Leadership Rally,” which has produced not a single white paper on anything in 11 years, could be cut, saving upwards of $150,000. It compromises the integrity of the chapter presidents/presidents-elect.

“Blackball” Bill Murray describes it as a “discrete” budget item but “indiscreet” would be a better term.

Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions have been left on the table because students can’t join from 3,700 colleges.

Millions could be saved over the years by publishing Tactics and Strategist online-only. PRS thinks it’s still the 1950’s when PR Journal was the only magazine in PR.

Millions have been left on the table by ignoring the huge New York market for national conferences. Only one in 23 years (and counting) has been scheduled while two have illogically been sited in Philadelphia). Some groups only have their annual conferences in New York.

PRS as of Dec. 31 had $1.1 million in member funds in common stocks, a use of funds not recommended for non-profits. The shaky market jeopardizes this much-needed money.

Big Lie Told to Member Prospects

PRS says it’s dedicated to truth-telling but its website fails to tell member prospects that they will be second-class citizens until they “make their bones” (i.e., take the APR test to show blind loyalty)

“Bones” are usually made in the mob by killing or injuring someone.

Not telling someone something important is just as big a lie as uttering an untruth.

Prospects don’t know they will be looked down upon until they fork over not only $225 plus $65 application fee but another $410 to start the APR process (getting back $110 if and when they complete it).

They are not told they can never run for national office without the APR nor can they serve on the Ethics Board.

The nominating committee, all-APR until a bylaw was changed, still had 14 APRs among its 19 members in 2011.

Non-APRs Lost Big in 2010 Assembly

The bid to let non-APRs run for the board was swamped by a 173-104 voted in the 2010 Assembly accompanied by demands that the subject never be brought up again.

The Assembly, which allowed non-APRs as members by a narrow five-vote margin in 2004, is still three-quarters APR.

Thirteen of the 25 biggest chapters are headed by APRs.

Ten of the 11 members of the 2009 bylaws re-write committee were APRs (when two should have been based on 18% of members being APR).
Some chapters are hotbeds of PR including the biggest, National Capital, where the top three officers are APR as are 11 of the 14 Assembly delegates.

One reason for the animus against New York is that only 47 of the 650 members are APR. The other 603 refuse to “make their bones.”
Central Illinois Leads Fight vs. Dues

Currently leading the fight against the dues hike is Central Illinois, which says the hike will “kill” the chapter.

This comment was made by chapter director Ruth Slottag in the public (PRSAY) area of the PRS website. She is with the SIU School of Medicine and is APR chair of the chapter.

However, when we used the quote in a story, Slottag sent us an e-mail demanding that we “stop using my name and comments in your communications pieces.” She said, “I wrote this message to the Society website but did not give you permission to use it in this manner.”

We have been waiting for such a comment from a PRS leader for years.

The O’Dwyer Co. did not give PRS permission to sell more than 50,000 copies of its articles. PRS made hundreds of thousands of dollars selling our pieces (PDF) and those of dozens of other illegally-copied authors.

All we and the other authors ever got from PRS were taunts to “sue us.”

The O’Dwyer Co. and others lost lots of money because 3,800 PRS members were able to read expensive media each year at low cost ($19 per packet of 60 and more pages of copied materials including entire chapters of books).

Chapter president is Brian Sowa, Ph, DS., PR prof at Eastern Illinois University.

Tidwell of EIU is Copyright Expert

James Tidwell
Especially catching our attention at EIU is that the head of the journalism dept. is James Tidwell, Ph.D., an expert in copyright.

We’re hoping Tidwell will take a look at the massive theft of authors’ materials by PRS from 1980-94 and tell us whether this was “fair use” as claimed by the Society.

He teaches communications law and journalism ethics and has authored articles such as “Utilizing Copyrighted Material” and “Sifting through the legal issues of Copyright.”

He has compiled a list of “Useful Websites on Copyright” including a “Checklist for Fair Use,” “Library and Classroom use of Copyrighted Videotapes and Computer Software.”

Johnson Is PRS National Leader

Past president of the CI chapter and chair of the Educators Academy of PRS from 2008-2010 is Terri Johnson, a teacher in the Journalism dept.

It’s hard for us to understand how a J teacher could be silent in the face of the PRS blackball against the O’Dwyer Co. (not to mention threats by an Assembly delegate to “beat you to a pulp”).

We also want Johnson to address the question of why journalists are barred from membership in PRS. Plenty of PR pros are in journalist and “communications” organizations including IABC, IPRA and the New York Financial Writers’ Assn.