by Jack O’Dwyer

304 Park Ave.
304 Park Ave. South, close to many PR/ad media
Joe Cohen, this year’s candidate for chair-elect of the PR Society, is uniquely vulnerable to an Assembly floor challenge on numerous counts.

--His duck-the-press-and-members behavior is the opposite of his claim to believe in “open dialogue, two-way communication and ever-increasing transparency.”

--Cohen is the first New Yorker to run for chair-elect since Art Stevens made a failed run in 2000. Cohen’s MWW Group office at 304 Park Ave. South (23rd st.), is within walking distance or a short cab ride for many PR/ad media including O’Dwyer’s (39th and Madison); PR Newser (31st and Park); PR Week (West 26th st. off Fifth ave.), and AdWeek (Broadway and 8th st.). PR News is downtown at 88 Pine st. but that’s only a short subway ride away. Bulldog Reporter has a reporter in Connecticut who said he would attend a Cohen press conference. Cohen should also face the New York chapter. Chair-elect candidates in recent years have been from California, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Colorado.

--Cohen’s platform does not touch upon a single concrete issue. He is a virtual candidate with a virtual platform.

Nomcom Doesn’t Reflect Membership

--Cohen obtained his nomination via a corrupt, undemocratic process that includes a nominating committee with 17 APR members and three non-APRs. The proportions should be the opposite since PRS’s membership is only 18% APR.

This website will do everything in its power to encourage someone to run against Cohen on a platform that addresses the crucial issues facing PRS and the PR industry. Cohen invites comment by non-members since his pitch says he speaks for “the profession.” Deadline for write-in candidates is not until Sept. 13. Signatures of only ten delegates are needed and they don’t have to be APR.

Advice of some of the finest minds in PR is that we need to conduct a campaign of articles in opposition to Cohen’s candidacy. Future blogs will explore his background; how he got the nomination; the bogus APR process that requires no creativity or writing; how an opponent can mount a campaign against Cohen, and who might be likely candidates.

Cohen is a candidate of the APR party of PRS, the only one it allows. APR is a political party and not some form of skills test. It’s about time the one-party rule of PRS was ended.

It can be if the 82% of members who are non-APR get organized. Under bylaws passed in 2009, members of a chapter can vote by phone to propose an end to APR rule and the Assembly can meet by teleconference to ratify that. APR could be ditched in a few days and well before the 2012 Assembly if enough political support is obtained.

A “Real” Candidate Is Needed

What’s needed is someone who is real and will advocate the following:

1. Remove the APR requirement for national office. This has placed governance in the hands of fewer than 20% of the members since the mid-1970s. The board and officers are unrepresentative of the members.

2. Release the national list of Assembly delegates, a list that has been withheld from the members since 2005. No other legislature in the world has a secret membership list.

3. Eliminate proxy votes in the Assembly. A double atrocity was committed in 2009 when 56 proxies were used to vote in the use of proxies which are banned by Robert’s Rules. All Assembly actions starting with those in 2009 are open to perpetual challenge under RR.

4. Warn prospective members they will be second class citizens, unable to hold national office, until they pay (besides dues and initiation fee) another $410 and take the APR multiple choice test.

5. Provide members who want it a PDF of the entire membership list as it was available for decades in the Blue Book until it was ditched in 2005 allegedly because of printing and mailing costs. A PDF would eliminate such costs. Members are heartbroken at the loss of this easy way to contact other members and do research. The decision was made without any input from the Assembly. PR contact info should be as available as editorial contact info.

6. Provide a transcript of the Assembly as was done for decades until 2005. Members don’t know who is in the Assembly, what the delegates say, or how they vote. Prospective new members, academics, reporters and members themselves have lost access to the most important day of the year at PRS.

7. Allow reporters to attend the 2012 Assembly and let them record anything and take pictures that don’t disturb the Assembly. Reporters should sit among the delegates as they did for decades until the 1990s. They should not be put to one side or in pens as though they were Untouchables.

8. Reveal terms of the new three-year contract of COO Bill Murray. Federal law says members must know what their highest-paid staffers are making and they shouldn’t have to wait two years to find out.

9. Again schedule New York as a national conference site. Eliminating New York (the site of one conference since 1992) snubs the city with far more communications people than any other city. It also socks the membership with a heavy travel bill for the more than 30 PRS staffers who attend a conference.

10. Allow reporters to join the Society. PR people are welcome in just about every journalistic group. IABC, a similar PR organization, allows reporters as members.

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