In the essay below, a veteran PR Society member who is also an educator argues for the return of the printed One Source Directory of PRS which had about 800 pages of member listings and another 200 pages on Counselor Academy members, PR service companies, chapter, section and district leaders, bylaws, code of ethics, staff directory, newly accredited members, College of Fellows members, past presidents and chairs, official definition of PR, and chairs of more than 30 tasks forces, boards and committees.
The names of those entering the contest are being withheld for the time being until it can be determined there will be no retaliation in any form for those participating in this debate.
Deadline for entries is Friday, Aug. 8. Prizes of $500 each will be given to the best essays for or against resuming publication of the directory. Send entries to [email protected].
As a longtime PRSA member, I am very unhappy with the decision to eliminate the member Blue Book (aka One Source Directory), the decision-making process surrounding it, and the lack of communication regarding that decision.
- Members really weren’t part of this decision. The handling of this particular issue is not illustrative of the tenets our association holds dear: two-way symmetrical communication, transparency, building and maintaining good relationships.
- I don’t recall being asked about the member directory. Members are surveyed on so many things repeatedly that it is odd our attitudes weren’t measured on this. I recall no dialogue about it. Also, the change was not well communicated. I suspect it was officially announced somewhere, but I don’t recall hearing it.
- This change seems to have been kept under the radar. When I finally realized the Blue Book had been eliminated, I expressed my dismay to two individuals on the national board and got only bureaucratic responses essentially telling me to take it up with someone else.
- The Blue Book is a valuable benefit for members who pay steep annual dues. When I realized the association eliminated the directory, I considered dropping my membership.* The Blue Book is one of the single most important benefits to me. I suspect it is an important benefit to others as well.
- As long as a significant portion of the membership wants a hard-copy directory, the association should provide it. In this case, it shouldn’t require a majority. If 25% of the members want the Blue Book, it should be printed. What is significant? What is the magic number? What should the cutoff be at which time the association legitimately could do away with a hard-copy directory? Is 10% enough?
- I’d suggest the magic number is whatever percentage of the members that the association doesn’t mind risking losing. My own membership? The jury is still out. I’ll wait and see what happens with the Blue Book. The double whammy of losing the Blue Book and seeing educator conference rates skyrocket may be the straw that breaks this professor’s back in terms of deciding whether or not to continue my membership.
- The Blue Book is valuable to PRSSA members. The association pushes the benefit of networking with professionals to promote PRSSA membership. Eliminating the Blue Book greatly weakens that benefit.
- Many students join PRSSA for the networking value of PRSA. For example, if a student is going to a certain city after graduation, a professor can easily connect them with PRSA members in that area with the help of the Blue Book. Without the Blue Book, making those connections becomes tedious, thus the connections are virtually lost.
- The Blue Book is invaluable to educators. I referred to it all the time in locating experts to speak to classes or in advising PRSSA students about PR leaders in various cities they were headed. It is so valuable to me that I still find myself using the last hard-copy directory (2005), which is outrageous. The online directory will suffice only in some instances. I am sure professionals in each sector can attest to the importance of the Blue Book to what they do.
- It is valuable to chapter, district and section leadership. The Blue Book is valuable to help chapters, districts and sections communicate to members across chapters with various specific niches about professional development programs and events of interest to them. In my presidency of two chapters, it has been essential to me.
- The Blue Book aids communication and networking. Eliminating the print directory limits member networking and ability to communicate with one another in our own association—an association of professionals in the relationship and communication business!
- Not all members want to use online resources. In this in-between era of transition from print to digital, public relations professionals, more than most, know that this segment must be remembered and their desires respected.
- Without the Blue Book, members are out of sight and out of mind. Without the Blue Book (without having the full membership list in front of me), I interact less with others in the association. I’m much less likely to search the online database, I’m unlikely to make all of the various printouts I would need, and then I essentially don’t have access to the members within my association. It doesn’t make sense to eliminate something so important to member communication and networking.
- An autocratic system is out of place in an association of public relations professionals. It’s ludicrous to eliminate modes of communication and relationship building in an association of professional communicators who build relationships for a living. Eliminating the Blue Book without a legitimate rationale and while a sizable number of members want it and offering instead a segmented online directory that places limitations on use… dictates what members may and may not do regarding communication within their own association. I’m not comfortable with that type of organizational mentality. This association exists for the members. Let the members decide.