Minute and declining participation in APR, absence of writing/creativity in the test, and letting 2,800 APRs escape maintenance are three strikes against this program.

Joe Cohen of MWW Group, a 1999 college grad who only joined the PR Society in 2003, has the nomination for chair-elect because close to 100% of PRS members have been blocked from running. He’s a desperation candidate who should not allow leadership/staff to use him and MWW this way.

A bylaw change in 2009 restricts offices to APRs who have already been on the board. This is a very small pool numbering in the dozens. Previously, members could run for officer posts if they had voted in an Assembly or headed a chapter, section, district or national committee.

Cohen is a bone being thrown to the Northeast by the Southern APR aristocracy.

In a break with PRS tradition, he is supposed to jump from board member to chair-elect without seasoning as secretary or treasurer.

Kathy Barbour, 2012 treasurer should be the 2013 chair-elect. But that was ruled out because PRS would then be headed by four Southerners in five years (Barbour, Mickey Nall, Rosanna Fiske and Gary McCormick).

The bizarre solution was to demote Barbour from treasurer to secretary, a first. Blake Lewis from the Southwest (Dallas) is the treasurer nominee.

The 2012 executive committee, empowered by a 2005 bylaw change to have the authority of the full board, had four of its five members from the South. The 2013 execom, as proposed, will have three Southerners—Nall, Barbour and Lewis plus Gerard Corbett and Cohen.

Cohen would be no match for the resolute PR staff and weak elected leadership. He has already accepted wearing the muzzle that goes on PRS leaders.

Cohen Has Had One Employer

A1999 graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, Cohen only joined PRS in 2003.

He has worked at one place since graduation, MWW Group, seventh largest independent PR firm with fees of $38.6 million in 2011. He is not listed among MWW’s executive staff nor is he head of MWW’s New York office, where he is based. David Herrick heads that office as executive VP.

Cohen has hoisted himself on his own petard by pledging (PDF) that he is “not afraid to make bold decisions or take a stand on the issues that matter.” He also believes in “open dialogue, two-way communications and ever-increasing transparency.” How does that square with his ducking members and the press on vital issues like the APR rule? Why hasn’t he put himself in front of the New York chapter?

Cohen should quit the race and insist that PRS open it up to the entire membership including non-APRs. He is on the bad end of a business deal, giving PRS the prestige of MWW and his own reputation while getting no concessions or reforms from PRS.

There’s plenty of time until Sept. 13 when nominations are supposed to close. More than 500 leaders including Assembly delegates are invited to a teleconference Aug. 29 and can easily erase the undemocratic bylaws that have strangled its governance. The 2009 bylaws re-write allows teleconference meetings.

This is the first teleconference of chair Gerry Corbett and we hope it’s not in “listen-only” mode, an abusive practice that 2011 chair Rosanna Fiske started last year when a delegate asked about the high pay of h.q. staffers. Women members, if they work together, can effect these changes since they are the majority of the PRS board and 70% of PRS’s membership. It’s about time PRS faced the National Press Club’s criticism of its press-blocking ways.

We hope some PR leaders (not necessarily PRS members) will write to Cohen and talk sense to him. He’s at 304 Park Ave. South, NY 10010.

Top PR People Once Headed PRS

Top PR executives with clout once headed the Society—George Hammond of Carl Byoir & Assocs., second largest PR firm (1969); Donald McCammond, PR head of American Can (1970); Jon Riffel, PR head of Pacific Gas & Electric (1971); Kalman Druck, head of Harshe-Rotman & Druck, one of the five biggest PR firms (1972); Frank Wylie, Chrysler PR executive (1978), Kerryn King, Texaco PR head (1979), and Joseph Vecchione, VP-PR, Prudential Insurance (1994).

Vecchione was the last major corporate PR executive to head PRS. Only two heads of major firms headed PRS after Patrick Jackson of Exeter, N.H., gained the presidency in 1980—Barbara Hunter of Dudley-Anderson-Yutzy, now Hunter PR, president in 1984, and John Beardsley of Padilla Speer Beardsley, president in 1995.

The APR rule, in effect since the mid-1970s, has chased away the top talent in PR.

Appointment Shows Legal Drift

The recent appointment of 2006 legal grad Stephanie Cegielski of Colorado as associate director of PR highlights PRS h.q.’s infatuation with legal.

This was a missed opportunity for a PR heavyweight to join the staff.

Oddly, Cegielski has a reputation as a crusader. As head of the Colorado Government Accountability Project, she complained that Senate Majority Leader John Morse, a democrat, cheated the state in 2009 by billing it $99 for 206 of 239 off-session days.

The complaint was dismissed by the same ethics committee that turned down a complaint against minority leader Joe Stengel, a Republican, in 2006. He had charged the state for 240 out of 246 non-session days.

We wonder if Cegielski was really hired to do legal research for PRS and help cut down on its huge legal bills ($400,465 in the five latest available years which is over-the-top by any standards). Legal costs for the Int’l Assn. of Business Communicators, which is two-thirds the size of PRS, were $24,603 in 2010, the latest available year.

PRS members get a diet of legal instructions pertaining to release of any documents sent to them by the Society, including financial reports, or which appear in secure areas of the PRS website.

Where Is VP-PR Arthur Yann?

PRS VP-PR Arthur Yann at about this time last year was conducting a campaign criticizing this reporter on the Society’s blog and at least five other blogs. Among charges he placed was that I was “flat-out liar.” He has been quiet lately because there is no rebutting any of this website’s recent articles on PRS including the decline in APR participation.

Neither Yann nor any of the candidates or elected national officers or any of the chapter presidents is available to discuss key issues such as the APR rule, withholding of IRS Form 990, lack of a list of Assembly delegates, use of proxies in the Assembly, lack of Assembly transcripts, COO Bill Murray’s new three-year contract, where is the Q2 financial report, what are the national conference sites after San Francisco and Philadelphia? etc.

Although the PR dept. cost members $593,134 in 2011, including $400,093 in pay/fringes, only silence escapes from it. Staff pay of $5.4M is 51% of revenues of $10.6M. PRS is ignore modern communications devices. It could easily and cheaply have a slightly delayed videocast of the Assembly and major speakers at the 2012 conference, which is what the Investigative Reporters & Editors supplied to members and the public in June. Included was an address by New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson. The Canadian PR Society covers its annual conference and general meeting this way.

UAB Has Non-Participating “Members”

I'm wondering how the Agricultural Relations Council can claim to be a member of the Universal Accreditation Board when none of its members has taken the test in nine years. Robert Giblin of Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health is the ARC UAB director.

A close second in non-participation is the Religion Communicators Council which has sent two candidates in nine years, both of whom flunked. Not much better is the PR Assn. of Puerto Rico which has two passes and four fails in nine years. The Texas PR Assn., which folded last year, had six passes and four fails in nine years. The Maine PR Council has 17 passes and six fails. The National School PR Assn., which has thousands of members, has 57 passes and 18 fails. UAB board members are silent when asked about this.

The independence of the UAB is a fiction since PR Society members control the board. Only PRS, Florida PR Assn. and Southern PR Federation can be considered active members.

No one at the UAB including chair Janet Kacskos of Millersville University will discuss the steep decline in participation in APR. The main user of APR, the PR Society, accredited an average of 136 members in the latest nine years vs. 274 yearly in the previous ten years.