Rosanna Fiske, 2011 chair of PR Society of America, who has led the Society in numerous information-withholding and press-blocking tactics this year, has pleaded for “all businesses, government agencies and financial bodies” to commit to “greater transparency.”

The view was expressed in a letter-to-the-editor of the New York Times that was published Monday, Dec. 12 in which she praised Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernake’s promise to increase transparency at the Fed.

Rosanna Fiske
Rosanna Fiske
“At a certain point, all businesses, government agencies and financial bodies must realize and accept that we are firmly in the digital age,” she wrote, adding that a “commitment to greater transparency” should be viewed as a “fundamental principle.”

Fiske and the PRS PR dept. have practiced “PR for PRS” this year by jumping on anyone accused of an ethical violation although the Society has committed some of the very infractions it is criticizing.

Denounced 'Blacklisting'

PR staffer Keith Trivitt on June 17 denounced the Redner Group for threatening to “blacklist” media that give bad reviews to client 2K’s “Duke Nukem Forever” game.

Blacklisting or threatening to blacklist media “because of negative reviews or commentary is most certainly not what comprises ethical PR practices,” he wrote.

However, Fiske was one of the two signers (along with COO Bill Murray) of the Sept. 1 e-mail to the O’Dwyer Co. saying no O’Dwyer employees or even an “assign” of the O’Dwyer Co. would be allowed to cover the 2011 Assembly or the national conference.

Murray himself, accompanied by 2010 chair Gary McCormick, came to this reporter’s office on March 19, 2010 to deliver a verbal boycott, saying PRS was a private organization with no mandate to reveal anything it did not want to reveal and that it would have no further dealings with the O’Dwyer Co. McCormick resigned from the board Oct. 4, 2011, giving no reasons except “personal and professional.”

Criticized Harold Burson

Fiske, in effect, criticized Burson-Marsteller founding chair Harold Burson in May when two B-M staffers were caught secretly leaking negative items about Google in behalf of Facebook.

The PRS Code only pertains to individuals so no one connected with PRS should be criticizing anything but individuals.

The only PRS member in the 500-person New York office of B-M is Burson.

Arthur Yann, PRS VP-PR, has questioned the ethics of the O’Dwyer Co., PR Watch, thegoodthebadthespin, Ed Lallo of Newsroom Ink and blogger Jane Genova in writing about the Society.

Ethics is not a subject PRS should be focusing on since it was forced to sign an FTC consent decree in 1977 that accused it of hindering price competition via its Ethics Code for “many years.”

New members currently are not told they will be unable to run for national office or serve on the Ethics Board until they pay another $410 to become APR.

APR is not supposed to be used for competitive purposes but PRS says this only applies to business situations and not to association offices. But anyone who becomes a PRS officer or director will use that in new business pitches and on his or her resume. Non-APRs are denied this competitive edge.

Info-Blocking Multiplied under Fiske

Information-blocking and withholding practices grew during Fiske’s year.

“Teleconferences” as of July 28 banned any live questions by participants as a “listen-only mode” was enforced (after a delegate asked Fiske about the high salaries of staff).

For the first time, the PRS website has none of the minutes of the four board meetings during the year. Also absent thus far are minutes of the 2011 Assembly.

Yann announced in a LinkedIn posting that no reporters would be allowed to cover the Assembly in the future. He said that what goes on at the Assembly is a lot of “inside baseball” stuff that is of concern only to the Society (which has as its motto, “upholding principles of ethics for the global PR profession”).

PRS members, since 2005, don’t have a national list of Assembly delegates, and don’t know how individual delegates vote. Publication of Assembly transcripts stopped in 2005 so members no longer know what is said in the Assembly.

Although required by law to tell members the pay of the top eight h.q. staffers, PRS uses a legal loophole to make members wait almost two years to find this out.
Unavailable are details of Murray’s new three-year contract that starts in January.

Fiske’s letter to the Times:

The commitment of the Federal Reserve chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, to increase the Fed’s transparency and improve its communications ( “For a More Open Fed,” Reuters Breakingviews, Business Day, Dec. 8 ) is a welcome move, given that the central bank performs such vital tasks on behalf of Americans and the global economy. For far too long, it has operated in an opaque and confusing manner.

Beyond disclosing how and why its decisions are made, the Fed’s revamped public relations strategy should help reduce the wild market swings that occur before and after Fed announcements, as investors try to guess what it will report and the effect of its actions.

We agree that Mr. Bernanke would get less criticism of his actions if he better managed the central bank’s message. But in light of a near institutional collapse in Americans’ faith in the financial sector after the Great Recession, the Fed has quite a challenge before it.

At a certain point, all businesses, government agencies and financial bodies must realize and accept that we are firmly in the digital age. A commitment to greater transparency should not be viewed as a nice-to-have strategy but as a foundational principle for how business and government operate and communicate with the public.

Chairwoman and Chief Executive
Public Relations Society of America
New York, Dec. 8, 2011