Longtime IABC member Roger D’Aprix, hailed as one of the “most influential thinkers in communications” by the group, has rapped the group’s Nov. 30 firing of 26 of the 32 h.q. staffers in a posting on a LinkedIn group.


“I have literally spent a career fighting the sort of Friday afternoon massacre carried out by new IABC executive director Christopher Sorek,” he posted.

D'Aprix, author of six books on employee communications who has worked for scores of “Fortune 500” companies, said he joins Shel Holtz, Brian Kilgore and Tudor Williams in “condemning the way this has been handled. Smart CEOs spend some time learning the lay of the land before they launch massive change. They also prepare their constituencies and offer compelling rationales. Aside from a few platitudes about ‘exciting change,’ what is the persuasive rational for such drastic action. The membership should demand accountability and candid explanations for why these actions are being taken.”

“Strategic” Direction Is Clear

Although Sorek and chair Kerby Meyers were hazy on exactly what new directions IABC will take, being accused of speaking in “jargon” and referring to “business judgment,” the directions are obvious in IABC’s appointment of consultants in digital communications and accreditation.

It’s possible that hundreds of thousands of dollars will be spent on such outside “experts” while staffers with scores of years of experience have been sent packing.

Neither Meyers nor Sorek are giving any financial details including the how much the staff cuts are saving; how much will be saved by switching to a digital Communications World; what severance costs are involved, and what are the lengths and costs of the contracts that have been signed with Extractable and Hamm.

Consultants Feasted on IABC in 2000

High-priced consultants that were building the $1 million+ website called “TalkingBusinessNow” for IABC in 2000 almost bankrupted the organization.

As an O’Dwyer NL story notes below, IABC had spent the million but was seeking another $400,000 in order to launch the service whose goal was to compete with major media in covering business news. It was a foolish aim driven by outside “experts.”

IABC’s infatuation with digital and more credentialing are two wrong and costly directions for it to take. Instead of hiring consultants in those areas, it should retain a PR firm with strong media relations credentials. It is in a crisis and does not even know it.

This same advice applies to the PR Society which itself has been taken to the financial and ethical cleaners by outside legal counsel.

PRS has spent $558,264 on legal counsel in the past eight years or an average of $69,783 yearly, most of this with the 500-member law firm Venable of Washington, D.C. What has it got to show for all this legal advice? A severe tongue-lashing not only by the National Press Club, New York State Senator Liz Krueger and numerous PR blogs, but a dressing down this week by veteran U.K. newsman turned PR pro Alex Singleton who says it’s about time PRS admitted how wrong it is to boycott the O’Dwyer Co. and apologized for it.

FIR To Discuss Firings Dec. 31

ForImmediateRelease, the weekly podcast conducted by Holtz and Neville Hobson, which devoted 18 minutes to the IABC action Dec. 10, will again take up the subject at its Monday, Dec. 31 session.

Holtz said the podcast takes place every Monday no matter what holiday might be involved. Both he and Hobson have been critical not only of the mass layoff but the way it was revealed.

Below is a reprint of coverage in the O’Dwyer NL of the cancelling of the printed members’ directory of IABC in 2000 and problems encountered by TalkingBusinessNow.

IABC Cancels Printed Members’ Directory From O’Dwyer’s Newsletter, Nov. 15, 2000

Librarians and directory publishers have questioned the wisdom of IABC’s decision to cease publishing its printed World Book of members.

An electronic version of the directory, accessible only to members, has been on IABC's website for years. The print version, also only available to members, last year had 735 pages.

The 13,500-member group said most of its members have access to the web and that "the print edition is out of date almost as soon as it comes off the press" because of job changing and new members.

But library consultant Barry Lee said annual printed directories are mostly accurate even toward the end of their years. He called the IABC statement about being out-of-date "an exaggeration." Lee is a board member of the Directory Publishers Forum and Network, a group of 120 directory publishers, and president of Research & Reference Services, consulting firm. Members of the Forum that were reached by this NL knew of only one print directory (Nathan's Legal Market directory) that had shifted completely from print to electronic form.

Electronic & Print Versions Most Common

Port City Press, Baltimore, one of the largest printers of directories in the U.S., said publishers today are commonly adding CD and online versions while continuing their print versions. It said print press runs are down by 50% because of the shift. Corporate and PR firm librarians and "knowledge" officers expressed strong disapproval of electronic-only directories.

Publishers are shifting to the much cheaper electronic-only directories but charging the same amount, said one librarian. Another said print can never be replaced by online directories because the latter do not allow for side-by-side comparison of different years. "Journalists love to browse in print directories because of the serendipitous knowledge that might be picked up," said one.

Another said it's much quicker to check a name or address in a print directory than to access a website, punch in a user name and password, and describe the information being sought. On the other hand, they point out, an online directory that is searchable by categories can do an amazing amount of research in a short time. Mass e-mailings and label printing are among many options.

PRSA Exploring CD Version

PR Society of America, which has delayed publication of its own membership directory until January because of financial reasons, said it has no intention of dropping the print version but is exploring electronic and CD versions.

IABC lost $341,605 last year after a loss of $107,116 the previous year. Net assets were $519,150 as of Dec. 31, 1999. It renewed 1,161 fewer members than expected in the six months to March 31 (loss of $203,175 in income).

It has spent $1 million on an e-business (TalkingBusinessNow.com ) and is seeking to raise $400,000 more to fully implement it. World Book and Communication World (IABC magazine published eight times a year) took in $34,000 and cost $623,440 in 1999. The audit did not break out the revenues/cost of World Book.