PRESS-DODGING, PINCH-PENNY WAYS MAR PR
By Jack O’Dwyer
Several problems confront the PR industry but they are not being attacked by the PR trade associations.
The Edelman Trust Barometer released earlier this year showed the U.S. was the only country with a decline in trust in all institutions in 2011—government, business, media and non-governmental organizations.
The Edelman survey does not target PR’s institutions but we’re sure that they would rate low with PR people.
They are, in order of size, the PR Society, Arthur W. Page Society, (PR) Seminar, the Council of PR Firms, and the Institute for PR.
Seminar dropped the “PR” from its name in 2007 when Jon Iwata of IBM was its chair. Iwata is the current Page chair. Several members of the Page executive committee are Seminarians including vice chairs Ray Kotcher of Ketchum and Ray Jordan of Johnson & Johnson. Margaritis of FedEx, immediate past chair of Page, is a Seminarian.
Seminar, formed by PR heads of major companies at the annual meeting of the National Assn. of Mfrs., met first under the PR Seminar name in 1952.
Seminarians and others created the Page Society in 1983 and won its tax status as a 501/c/3 “charity” which allows companies to make tax-free contributions to it.
Media Are Shrinking
No. 1 problem that the above groups should address is the shrinkage of media. Dealing with media was the reason PR depts. were created in the first place.
Newspaper ad revenues hit $20 billion in 2011, down from $49 billion as recently as 2006. Revenues were $63B in 2000 adjusted for inflation. Circulation has dipped from 62 million in the 1990s to 45 million. More than 700 magazines a year folded from 2007-2009 according to www.mediafinder.com.
The current generation, accustomed to getting news and information free on the web, rarely subscribes to anything. One way of funding media would be for companies to purchase site licenses for their employees.
Blocking and Tackling, Stonewalling, Etc.
Another problem is the pullback of PR from media relations.
Every so often someone at a major media launches a blast at PR that none of the above groups ever answers.
Examples are the Washington Post’s Gene Weingarten in 2007 calling PR people “pathetic dill weeds,”Andrew Cohen of CBS-TV who said in 2009 that PR people make “racehorses out of milk cows,” and more recently (Jan. 29, 2012) New York Times columnist David Carr writing Jan. 29 that “The modern CEO lives behind a wall of communications operatives, many of whom ladle out slop meant to obscure rather than reveal.”
Someone from the five groups (or all of them) should visit Carr and find out what’s on his mind.
Candidates Sought by PRS
The boards of Page and the IPR have so many people them (37 on Page and 44 on IPR) that they are actually resume-building exercises more than governing bodies. Selection is strictly by insiders.