Gerry CorbettPR Society’s 2012 chair Gerry Corbett has listed “accomplishments” of PRS during his tenure in a year-end e-mail to members.

However, some members and this website take issue with his tally including claims that ethics is a “critical and central focus.”

How can that be when PRS has a formal boycott against the O’Dwyer Co. that has been condemned by the National Press Club, New York State Senator Liz Krueger, the PR Watch website that tracks PR abuses, a column by U.K. blogger Alex Singleton that urges PRS to apologize to the O’Dwyer Co., ( and numerous U.S. websites and blogs?

Not only O’Dwyer staffers, but all reporters have been barred from the last two Assemblies despite a resolution passed by the 1984 Assembly saying Assemblies would always be open to the press (after a Denver Post reporter had been ousted from the 1984 Assembly).

O’Dwyer staffers were barred from all events at the 2012 annual conference in San Francisco even though PRS VP-PR Arthur Yann had posted on PRnewser ( March 14 that the Society “does not maintain a boycott against the O’Dwyer organization or any other media outlet.”

Corbett hit the low spot of his tour when he told the Aug. 29 teleconference of leaders that they were not to deal with Jack O'Dwyer. This was a violation of Federal anti-trust laws that forbid trade groups from urging members not to deal with someone. Refusal to deal is illegal collusive behavior on a par with price-fixing.

Corbett told the beginning of the a.m. call that delegates should not have any dealings with this reporter because that would "only add fodder to his commentary." (

Corbett on Society Ethics

Wrote Corbett to PRS members: “Ethics remains a critical and central focus for PRSA. Survey after survey of our members has shown that the emphasis that we place on ethics is one of our most important and most appreciated member benefits. Our focus is on helping practitioners learn how to be ethical and how to detect, deter and avoid unethical behavior.

”We do this by commenting on relevant ethics-related issues through a variety of forums, including op-eds, letters to the editor and blog posts and commentary. Fake product reviews, non-disclosure of interests represented, plagiarism, unpaid internships and standards for aggregation and ethics in blogging are just a few of the topics we took on this year.”

Advocating, Webinars, MBA Program

Other “accomplishments” cited by Corbett included advocating for the industry, creating a new definition of PR, providing free webinars for members, proposing a pilot PR course for MBA programs, and encouraging diversity among members and the industry-at-large.

Not mentioned is that senior members derided the 2012 Assembly as the “most useless ever” ( because no bylaws were up for discussion, delegates were chopped up into numerous “chat groups” for three hours, and no report was ever issued about what they discussed.

PRS members don’t know who is in their Assembly, what they say or how they vote. No progress was made toward loosening the iron grip that APRs have on the Assembly (although APRs are only 18% of the membership they comprise 70% of the Assembly).

Also not mentioned was that PRS continues to lose money ($357,498 for the nine months) despite a $30 dues increase. Receivables ballooned 49% to $663,443 indicating a substantial portion of the dues have not been paid although members have been billed. In the accrual accounting method, invoices sent out are booked as “revenues.”

Corbett also did not mention that for the third year in a row PRS withheld from the delegates IRS Form 990, ( which shows the pay/benefits of top staffers. Hefty raises went to VP-PR Arthur Yann and CFO Phil Bonaventura while $500K was cut from overall pay/benefits.

PRS Speaks Out, Says Corbett

The Society’s voice, said Corbett, “was frequently heard on the value of public relations, communication ethics and diversity, the growing use of social media, the importance of reputation, crisis communication, measurement best practices and other important topics of the day. PRS spoke out on a wide variety of topics — from the ‘fake’ consumer product reviews to fraudulent blogging to Penn State’s crisis management — in a diverse range of business and trade publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, USA Today, PRWeek and Advertising Age.”

Quit Office and Go on the Road

Some members said that besides commenting on occasional stories in the press, PRS should have a proactive program of public engagement that would include addressing the National Press Club, Business Roundtable, the Young Presidents, the Conference Board, 4As, Sloane Institute, etc.

“Where are the YouTube feeds, the videos, the power point presentations, the speaker’s bureau program,” said the members.

We would add why doesn’t someone from national leadership or h.q. address the New York chapter, the single biggest city chapter. D.C. is bigger but it also includes Northern Virginia and parts of Maryland while Georgia encompasses the entire state. New York is by far the richest market for potential members but is neglected by h.q.

6,500 Members Attend Webinars

Corbett reported that by the end of the year 6,500+ members will have taken one or more of the 63 free webinars that covered topics such building effective crises plans, developing a strategic mindset, demonstrating the value of their work, and creating a social media plan. The webinars remain online for the convenience of members who can fit them into their work schedules, he noted.

A criticism voiced by some members was that webinars tend to be so rushed as to be cursory. Members want more time at the end for Q&A. They would also like a master schedule of the webinars so attending them can be planned better. They wonder why PRS is not seeking members with expertise in certain areas to conduct the webinars. “Insiders” should not have a lock on the sessions, they said.

MBA Pilot Program Launched

The Society’s MBA Initiative Committee announced that five schools would pilot a turn-key PR course during the 2012-2013 academic year--Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, Quinnipiac University School of Business and the University of Texas at El Paso’s College of Business Administration.

Members wanted a detailed description of the “turn-key” course and where it would fit in an MBA curriculum. Is it a one-shot overview or several classes during a semester, will it be free and will it count towards an MBA? Who will teach this, they further asked.

PRServing America Continued

The Society continued its “PRServing America™” program that draws attention to the philanthropic efforts of members. The Westchester-Fairfield Chapter won first place for publicizing “Hands for Life® Stamford 2012,” a program that taught more than 5,000 adults “hands-only” cardio-pulmonary resuscitation and the use of automated electronic defibrillators. Also recognized for similar programs were chapters in Los Angeles, Cleveland, and Pikes Peak, member Amy Sufak and her firm Red Energy PR, and the PRSSA Syracuse University Chapter.

Diversity Efforts Described

Corbett said the Society “welcomes” PR people of all races, genders, ages, ethnicities and sexual orientation and that its “diversity of thought and as an organization runs deep.” He said the Society “continues to encourage more ethnically and culturally diverse individuals to pursue careers in PR” and to increase “diversity within the ranks of Society members.”

However, some senior members said PR is “probably the least diverse profession in the world, certainly among all the communications functions such as advertising and fund-raising.” Corbett was advised to check with the Lagrant Foundation, African-Americans and Hispanics studying PR and to look at the make-up of corporate PR depts.

Definition of PR Was Tackled

Corbett talked about the job he had finishing up the definition of PR quest that was started by his predecessor, Rosanna Fiske, in November of 2011.

This chore occupied at least the first three months of his tenure and resulted in the following after mulling nearly 1,500 suggestions: “PR is a strategic communications process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and its publics.”

Critics pointed out that building “mutually beneficial relationships” is what PR tries to do. Whether it accomplishes that is another question. PR confessing in public that it does not know what it is doing was an embarrassing moment for the industry and resulted in far more negative than positive comments.

Seniors said the new definition reads like that circulated for decades by Denny Griswold of PR News.

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