More than a dozen PR groups worldwide are in a three-month quest to define PR but New York Times columnist David Carr on Jan. 29 came up with a one-word definition that will save them a lot of trouble: “slop.”

Corbett, Carr
Corbett, Carr
The Farlex Free Dictionary defines slop as “waste food used to feed pigs or other animals” and as “repulsively effusive writing or speech; drivel,” among other things.

Let’s see what the $620K PR dept. of the PR Society will do about that one.

Carr wrote that “The modern chief executive lives behind a wall of communications operatives, many of whom ladle out slop meant to obscure rather than reveal.”

CEOs, he says, are less visible than ever and reporters “have to work their way past background conversations with underlings, written statements that say nothing, and that increasingly hardy perennial: the ‘no comment.’”

Fiske Blasted Crudele

Rosanna Fiske, 2011 PRS chair, chastised New York Post columnist John Crudele after he wrote July 19, 2011that PR’s job is to “make bad news sound not so bad” and that a PR person would try to make the earnings of energy and materials companies sound better by not allowing for inflation.

fiske, crudele
Fiske, Crudele
Fiske, whose letter was published by NYP, said Crudele’s definition of PR “couldn’t be further from reality” and that PR people are the ones who will give Americans “a realistic view of the state of affairs in America.”

Will 2012 PRS chair Gerry Corbett now claim that PR is not “slop,” that CEOs do not “live behind a wall of communications operatives,” and that reporters are not confined to dealing with “underlings?”

One reason for the shyness of CEOs is their larger-than-life paychecks—up 1,200% from $1M in 1970 to $13M in 2010 while U.S. median income only rose 308% to $49K.

Newsweek Jan. 23 ran the stats in discussing "Coming Apart" by Charles Murray, who advocates dumping welfare programs and ensuring that everyone has a basic income.

Corporate, Agency PR Split

Carr condemns all of PR but if he takes a further look he will see that PR has split into two camps—corporate and agency.

Corporate/institutional has become almost completely defensive, as illustrated by the Viacom directive that sets up PR as the “gestapo” of the company, ready to pounce on anyone, including suppliers, who breathes a negative word about Viacom to the press.

Another illustration of an institutional “shut up” press policy is the PR Society, where no one can speak about PRS to the press without the permission of COO Bill Murray or VP-PR Art Yann.

PRS, by a written directive, banned this reporter from covering the 2011 Assembly after providing us with hearing assistance at the 2010 Assembly as required by law.

Such a block, after 40 years of letting us cover the Assembly, constituted “retaliation” as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Our complaint with the U.S. Justice Dept. is still under consideration. Severe penalties are provided for retaliation against a handicapped person who applies for assistance at a meeting in a public area.

Caught in this bind, Yann announced in a posting on the website that not only this reporter but all reporters are banned from covering the Assembly.

This is an attempt to tell Justice that the ban-the-press policy was not just aimed this reporter. Justice doesn’t seem to be buying that argument and we’re hoping for a decision on this any day now that will find PRS guilty of retaliation.

While looking at the PRS muzzle-the-members policy we hope Carr will look at the National Press Club’s condemnation of PRS’s boycott of any O’Dwyer employee.

So far PRS is ignoring NPC but it also ignored the FTC in 1976 when FTC demanded the removal two anti-competitive articles in the PRS “ethics” code. PRS was then hit with a formal FTC order.

Agency PR Different from Corp. PR

What Carr should look at is the vast difference between corporate/institutional PR and agency PR, where PR people actually talk to the press.

He is correct in saying that reporters who call corporate PR depts. usually get to deal only with junior staffers. The VP-PR is almost never available for press questions and in most instances will not even be identified on the company website.

Discourteous and even rude treatment may greet a reporter who asks too many questions. This is the norm at the PR Society and even among most of its members since they are aware of Society policies and say nothing.

PR firms in the past 20 years have built up deep wells of knowledge in at least a dozen specific areas such as healthcare, tech, financial, food/beverages and beauty/fashion.

Creativity has fled to the firms just like it did in the ad business where large corporate ad depts. were folded in the 1950s and 1960s. Creativity flourishes in an open competitive environment where there are a variety of assignments and independence from the dictums of a single employer.

Wikipedia has only a barebones description of the O’Dwyer Co. but it does recognize one thing—our specialty rankings.

WP says the O’Dwyer company publishes rankings of U.S. PR firms including those in 12 categories and that documents such as top pages of corporate tax returns and W-3s are required in order to qualify for the rankings. WP would like someone to expand this “stub” entry but we are banned from doing so because WP only recognizes independent “third parties.”

PRS Recognized Specialties in 2007

PRS recognized the importance of specialty practices in 2007 when Seattle counselor Bob Frause headed a 15-member “blue ribbon task force” studying a new designation to go along with APR—“certification” in areas such as healthcare, utility PR and government relations.

Providing “certificates of expertise in various industries” is worth studying, said Frause, asking for input from the 19 sections and 115 chapters.

Six months of study were planned. Committee members included 2007 chair Rhoda Weiss; 2008 chair Jeff Julin; 2012 chair Gerard Corbett; counselor Patrice Tanaka and Mary Graybill, 2006 chair of the Universal APR Board.

Frause was called on the phone by us Aug. 3, 2007 but he hung up. So there’s not much point in asking him what happened to his blue ribbon task force. One specialty was recognized—military. Now there is an APR-M designation.

Job Numbers Show WP Flaws

The Feb. 3 jobs report hailed by most of the press and which boosted the market was blasted by Crudele who said the Labor Dept. reported a loss of 2,689,000 jobs in January which was better than the loss of 2,858,000 jobs in the previous January resulting in the “seasonally adjusted” claim of 243,000 new jobs.

Crudele, however, said the adjusted number shouldn't be changed because continuity from year to year is important for comparisons. "But people should be alerted when seasonal adjustments are screwing with the numbers," he wrote.

The Wikipedia entry on employment statistics does not mention the Crudele point of view on this when it should.

We don’t find any mention of Crudele at all in Wikipedia, perhaps because he’s deemed to be “too conservative.”

WP’s 10,000 volunteer editors are mostly liberal and youthful. There are probably a number of them from the “Occupy Wall Street” movement which extends throughout the U.S. and abroad.