Several problems confront the PR industry but they are not being attacked by the PR trade associations.

The Edelman Trust Barometer released earlier this year showed the U.S. was the only country with a decline in trust in all institutions in 2011--government, business, media and non-governmental organizations.

There had been a “catastrophic” drop in trust in 2008 when the financial crisis hit and trust is not much higher now.

The Edelman survey does not target PR’s institutions but we’re sure that they would rate low with PR people.

They are, in order of size, the PR Society, Arthur W. Page Society, (PR) Seminar, the Council of PR Firms, and the Institute for PR.

Seminar dropped the “PR” from its name in 2007 when Jon Iwata of IBM was its chair. Iwata is the current Page chair. Several members of the Page executive committee are Seminarians including vice chairs Ray Kotcher of Ketchum and Ray Jordan of Johnson & Johnson. Margaritis of FedEx, immediate past chair of Page, is a Seminarian.

Seminar, formed by PR heads of major companies at the annual meeting of the National Assn. of Mfrs., met first under the PR Seminar name in 1952.

Seminarians and others created the Page Society in 1983 and won its tax status as a 501/c/3 “charity” which allows companies to make tax-free contributions to it.

Media Are Shrinking

No. 1 problem that the above groups should address is the shrinkage of media. Dealing with media was the reason PR depts. were created in the first place.

Newspaper ad revenues hit $20 billion in 2011, down from $49 billion as recently as 2006. Revenues were $63B in 2000 adjusted for inflation. Circulation has dipped from 62 million in the 1990s to 45 million. More than 700 magazines a year folded from 2007-2009 according to

The current generation, accustomed to getting news and information free on the web, rarely subscribes to anything. One way of funding media would be for companies to purchase site licenses for their employees.

Blocking and Tackling, Stonewalling, Etc.

Another problem is the pullback of PR from media relations.

Every so often someone at a major media launches a blast at PR that none of the above groups ever answers.

Examples are the Washington Post’s Gene Weingarten in 2007 calling PR people “pathetic dillweeds,” Andrew Cohen of CBS-TV who said in 2009 that PR people make “race horses out of milk cows,” and more recently (Jan. 29, 2012) New York Times columnist David Carr writing Jan. 29 that “The modern CEO lives behind a wall of communications operatives, many of whom ladle out slop meant to obscure rather than reveal.”

Someone from the five groups (or all of them) should visit Carr and find out what’s on his mind.

In a similar vein, 70% of reporters replying to a survey of the Society of Professional Journalists said PA staffers in government are imposing too many barriers on them.

Candidates Sought by PRS

The boards of Page and the IPR have so many people on them (37 on Page and 44 on IPR) that they are actually resume-building exercises more than governing bodies. Selection is strictly by insiders.

The one group that conducts open “elections,” although flawed, is the PR Society.

It has just started its annual quest for candidates.

Past abuses include board members trying to pick the new board members, which was condemned by the Jack Felton committee in 2004, and the rejection of qualified candidates for political reasons or to reward cronies.

An example is Marlene Neill of Waco, Texas, who was rejected as an at-large candidate in 2007 on the ground that she did not have enough “experience.”

That was nonsense because she had 14 years of news and PR jobs. The real reason was that she was a candidate for an M.A. in journalism at the Univ. of Missouri and could not logically take part in the boycott against the O’Dwyer Co. that was initiated in 2006 when Cheryl Procter-Rogers was chair. The at-large post went to Barbara Whitman of Hawaii.

Rejected in 2009 was Gold Anvil Winner Ofield Dukes, who would have been the second male African-American on the board in 62 years.

neill,lewis, dukes
Marlene Neill, Regina Lewis, Ofield Dukes
Rejected by the nomcom in 2010 was African-American Regina Lewis of the Potter’s House of Dallas, a 22-year veteran, Society member since 1992, and far more qualified than Susan Walton, an associate teaching professor at Brigham Young.

With such politics and cronyism at work, it’s no wonder PRS has a hard time coming up with candidates. No one could be found last year for the S.E., S.W. and North Pacific districts although 1,200 APRs were eligible.

The nomcom itself is flawed because 16 of its 19 members are APR when only 18% of the 21,000 members are. A non-APR majority might look for candidates who would overturn the APR rule for board posts.

The insiders tightened their grip on the top posts by getting the 2009 Assembly to pass a bylaw that restricts officer posts to those who have served on the board. That eliminates any “white knight” from coming in to clean house. No other profit or non-profit board would place such a limit on who can be CEO.

Noxious Policies Deter Candidates

Who wants to join a board whose members are condemned to a lifetime of silence no matter what the majority of the board decides? Directors must sign three promises of confidentiality.
Currently PRS is in defiance of the National Press Club and PR Watch which have urged it to drop the boycott against the O’Dwyer Co.

The boycott is so embarrassing that VP-PR Arthur Yann posted on PR Newser March 7 that no such boycott exists!

Not only was the boycott in writing, but it was also delivered to the O’Dwyer offices March 19, 2010 by chair Gary McCormick and COO Bill Murray.

On-Again, Off-Again McCormick Is Back

Perplexing is the return of McCormick as chair of the nomcom.

He quit the board on Oct. 1, 2011 and only gave what is no reason at all—“personal and professional reasons.” He quit the board once before, in 2006, citing additional duties at Scripps Emerging Networks. He was only the second sitting director in the history of PRS to quit. Shortly after McCormick quit, so did Ron Owens of Kaiser Permanente, the only African-American male ever to serve on the PRS board.