We have questions for Ketchum’s Ray Kotcher, permanent “senior counsel” to PRSA’s board and another indication of Omnicom/Ketchum’s influence on the Society.

Three Ketchum staffers are on the leader list of the New York chapter, the only organization represented by more than one person.

Ray KotcherRay Kotcher

The bio of Kotcher, holder of numerous PR awards and titles, says that “Perhaps most importantly (he) believes in the importance of character and integrity in our lives and in our work.”

It further notes that as chair of the PR Council “he worked to promulgate the highest standards of ethical practice,” and to ensure those standards, he asked “every member to sign the Council’s Statement of Principles, which all did—an industry first.” He is professor of the practice of PR at Boston University.

Why No Press Room at Conference?

We have a number of questions for Kotcher starting with why was there no press room at the 2017 national conference in Boston?

As of today, almost two weeks after the Oct. 7 Assembly, there is no report on in in the Society’s online “newsroom.”

We found out what happened from a posting on the Oregon chapter website. After “heated debate,” the Assembly approved the addition of “communications” to “PR” wherever “PR” appears in the bylaws. A bid to eliminate district reps was blocked and a bid to allow the national board to amend bylaws was withdrawn.

There was no coverage of the conference by the Boston Globe or Herald. Were they invited?

Why was press barred from the Assembly? An attempt by this reporter to get credentials was ignored.

$945 Spent on “Ethics”

You emphasize the importance of ethics for members and the PRSA Code of Ethics says ethics is the “most important obligation of a members.” Then why was only $945 spent in ethics in 2016 when total spending was $11.5M?

How can PRSA position itself as a “professional organization” when it lacks the hallmark of profession—an enforced ethics code? The Society abandoned its enforced Code in 1999.

PRCA Ousted Offender

The PR Consultants Assn. of the U.K. recently ousted member Bell Pottinger which had been accused of running a campaign that “inflamed racial discord” in South Africa.

The PR industry needs “advocates who can communicate with the media and general public,” said Francis Ingham, director general of the 20,000-member group.

BP went into "administration" (similar to bankruptcy) after a campaign that triggered client defections, resignation of CEO James Henderson, five-year expulsion from the PRCA, and failure of consultant BDO to find a buyer.

PRSA, Other Groups Called on to Act

Ingham aimed his message of PR’s duty to “engage with the public” specifically at “anybody representing our business” which would include PRSA, Int’l Assn. of Business Communicators, PR Council and other trade groups.

PRSA membership has stagnated since it dropped its enforced Code. Enrollment of 19,600 in 2000 grew to only 21,000 in 2017. Revenues in 2016 of $11.3M were below revenues of $11.4M in 2006. Membership has been declining in recent months.

Modern PR is much more than traditional media relations but “an antagonistic relationship with traditional media means our story seldom breaks through to the business community or general public,” added Ingham, who is celebrating his tenth year as director general.

PRCA’s suspension of BP shows that members “will be held to account by its ethical code,” said Ingham. He added that “Agencies that aren’t members need to be able to justify their position.”