A moment of soberness before the Philadelphia kermesse?

What is possibly the world’s most populated public relations kermesse of the year is planned to be staged in Philadelphia (USA) from October 20 to 23.

Under the theme PR EVOLUTION the Public Relations Society of America, largest national association of our profession in the world, is holding its annual international conference to celebrate its 60th anniversary.
Amongst keynote speakers will be US Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes, Actress and humanitarian activist Mia Farrow, political strategist Donna Brazile and meet the press moderator Tim Russert.

More than 100 professional development sessions, 10 pre-conference seminars, 16 industry specific dinners and many other events, all designed to titillate thousands of society members and their guests, will inevitably impede any serious attempt to debate the future of our profession, the major challenges it is facing and, more specifically, the role that associations should be developing in this delicate transition towards a new relevance of the profession, in an increasingly hostile social environment.

I have always been a good friend of Jack O’Dwyer and I have often criticized his harsh and unilateral criticisms of what he decided to call PRS (deliberately deleting the term America).
Specifically I have criticized that he never gave the new leadership of this organization the chance to settle in and instead began bombing it from day one with an incredible series of accusations which, even if they were (and probably are) true, are mostly attributable to leaders of the past and not those running the association today.
In any case, as Jack enumerates all of his gripes in a recent editorial.doc it seems to me relevant that, before being swamped and drowned by Philadelphia’s huge bouquet of special attractions, some thought be given to his arguments.

If I were amongst the leaders of the association, I would propose the beau jest of inviting Jack to the opening session and awarding him with the special honour of the greatest sour grape of the new century, together with the promise that the association’s leadership accepts to sit around the table and work out with patience the controversial issues. Personally I am sure he is right on some and wrong on others.
This beau jest would be a tremendous public relations tool for the association and very much appreciated, I am sure, by all those members which have not yet come under Jack’s journalistic sarcasm, which in any case is the large majority.
I don’t believe Jack could afford to refuse.
Why care so much about Jack?
Many reasons.
The most important one, however, is that he is a savvy, old, passionate, intelligent, stubborn, unilateral advocate of public relations, and there are very few left of that stature.

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13 Replies to “A moment of soberness before the Philadelphia kermesse?

  1. In response to Jean Valin’s comments, I’m glad to see he is in favor of “openness” and “total transparency” that the Group of 50 leaders of the PR Society is espousing. Their manifesto should be on the Society’s website for all to see but it isn’t. That is the problem. The 109 chapters of the Society have to take control of the website. This is a power struggle between the board and the chapters. We must talk about actual people. Mike Cherenson, the chair-elect nominee and it’s too late to oppose him, is no match for the person the nominating committee rejected, namely Tony D’Angelo of United Technologies, one of the biggest companies in the U.S. Tony is treasurer and according to long tradition should be chair-elect. Cherenson, a PR person at a small New Jersey ad agency, is jumping from secretary to chair-elect without serving as treasurer. He has no logical business being the chair-elect except politics. One other element is that almost no volunteer has sufficient time to devote to the Society. But h.q. staff won’t let senior PR people work there. Only two of the 50 staff people are even members of the Society. This is a hospital with no doctors.

  2. I have read Jack’s detailed accounts of what is brewing and can’t resist a comment. In my twenty five years of active volunteer work within CPRS and the Global Alliance, I never cease to be amazed at the amount of politics that goes on within PRSA. I know most of the players mentioned in either the list of 50 or current board members- some more than others and to a person I can’t fault their passion for the profession and for doing the right thing. No matter what position they argue, I could always find merit in the substance of the position expressed by these individuals. I may not always agree but I could see the point.
    What concerns me, and this is from a distant observer, is that the political jockeying that goes on within PRSA is dysfunctional and almost always personnal. It doesn’t matter what tactic or approach the board takes, there will be opponents who see a nefarious purpose behind it and blame a particular individual. I suppose that coems with the territory and you need a thick skin to be a PRSA leader. I am not taking position one way or the other, I am just quite simply amazed at the amount of negative energy on both sides. I suppose if it concludes at the end of the debate as a healthy discussion where one feels that they have had a chance to explain their position and that everyone leaves happy, it woudl be a good thing. Alas, I predict that whoever looses the argument will only fuel more venom and more dysfuntion for the year to come.
    Assemblies cannot make new policy but they can make recomendations to the board. That is the same with CPRS and with the GA. Amendments can be made to proposed policy or programs submitted to the assembly. Unless I have missed something, PRSA operates with the same rules.
    One cannot be against openess and transparency. It is at the root of sucessful democratic processes. Does the board also need time to prepare itself to answer questions? You bet. Can this be done simultaneously? i.e. to the board and posted somewhere for others to scrutinize. Possibly.
    One thing is clear from all this and I guess it is a positive. There are many people who care about PRSA. It is an important organisation. For sure it is not perfect, but the stewards who have been elected throughout the years operate according to their own conscience and in my opinion do so with the best interests of the entire memebership in mind. Of course they also need the support of their board and that takes us back to politics and alliances. Oh well, it makes for an interesting assembly I guess. As long as it does not detract from the real work that advances the profession and serves members, it adds color to what is -at least in CPRS and GA- fairly predictatble and civilised meetings of our respective assemblies.

  3. PRS Reformers Continue on Warpath
    Petition by 50 leaders is criticism of “regime” of Rhoda Weiss and the selection of Mike Cherenson over Tony D’Angelo, say members. The “50” (47 of them APR) are so mad they may vote “No” Saturday when asked to approve the slate.
    Thurs., Oct. 18; odwyerpr.com; winter/best

    Members of the “Group of 50” are demanding “openness” and “transparency” at the PR Society but these are “code words” for criticism of the administration of Rhoda Weiss and the nominating committee’s selection of Mike Cherenson as chair-elect over Tony D’Angelo, say those who are close to the group.
    They’re “furious” at Cherenson skipping from secretary to chair-elect without first serving as treasurer and bouncing Tony D’Angelo, who was treasurer, from the chair-elect nomination, say these sources.
    Weiss and her administration are under fire for being too control-conscious (skimpy delegates’ binder, failure to face big chapters, tight control of PRS website, private e-group for delegates, lack of governance reform, appointment of Ray Crockett to board without an announcement, transcripts 2005-06 Assemblies denied to members, etc.).
    Angering a number of ex-presidents is the refusal of Weiss to attend the presidents’ dinner Oct. 22 when the current president traditionally is “roasted.” She has told the 20 or so presidents expected at the dinner that she will visit all the section dinners (there are 19 sections) that evening and may stop by for dessert. She has also told them she does not want to be “roasted,” sources say.
    The worst offense, they say, is the plan by Weiss and chair-elect Jeff Julin to take up the morning session of the Assembly with leader speeches and then force the delegates to sit in designated seats rather than where they want to sit and force them to discuss the “Strategic Plan” for an hour and a half.
    Weiss, who moved the Assembly lunch up to noon from 12:30, told a delegate teleconference Oct. 9, “I will make it happen” (discussion of Strategic Plan).
    Nomcom Tradition Violated
    Not only was tradition trampled on by the nomcom, say members of the “50” (all APR except for three), but the Society could be headed by another “obscure” PR person from a small or one-person firm instead of D’Angelo, who has a PR post at a division of one of the biggest companies, United Technologies.
    The dissidents are so mad at the nomcom’s other choices, including Rosanna Fiske as treasurer (and in line to be chair-elect), Mary Barber for secretary, and Kathy Hubbell for N. Pacific director, that they may scuttle the election of anyone this Saturday, sources say.
    They note that only five of the 20 nomcom members signed the petition for transparency/openness and that none of the current board members signed it.
    “50” Have Power
    Powerful members of the “50” include eight former presidents—Del Galloway, Kathy Lewton, John Beardsley, Joe Epley, Jerry Dalton, Jack Felton, Judith Bogart and Barbara Hunter.
    Some of the “50” are also angry at such staff appointments as Bill Murray as COO, who had no PR background and who has appeared before only one chapter; Phil Bonaventura, CFO who is not allowed to use “CPA” after his name because he has not taken the required 35 hours of CPA courses annually, and Joseph DeRupo as associate PR director, who was not only not APR but wasn’t even a member of the Society.
    Lawyers Gut Proposal of “50”
    Also angering the “50” is the virtual “gutting” by PRS lawyers of their resolution to encourage the development of qualified leaders and to encourage more “openness” and “transparency” at PRS.
    The PRS law firm, Venable, a 600-member firm based in Washington, D.C., that has replaced Moses & Singer of New York, told the “50” to make 19 changes in the resolution or it would be ruled out of order when presented to the Assembly.
    The resolution and the 19 changes were presented to the delegates in their private e-group.
    Wherever there is an instance of the Assembly trying to act on its own, the Venable lawyers demanded that the wording be removed or changed.
    “The core issue,” said “50” members Blake Lewis and Debbie Mason, “is that the Assembly cannot create, designate or take actions; the Assembly can only recommend to the board.”
    Crossed out under orders from Venable were such words as “create,” “designate,” “lead,” and “empower.”
    The initial resolution, for instance, said, “Be it resolved that the 2007 Assembly hereby creates a delegate-led process to study PRS’s national leadership development continuum…”
    Venable lawyers told the “50” to change it to: “The Assembly recommends to the PRS board of directors…” or the resolution would be immediately ruled out of order and no discussion allowed at the Assembly.
    Makes APR Look Bad
    Members of the “50” have told friends that the actions of the current PRS administration, made up exclusively of APRs, makes APR itself look bad.
    Among the signers are Marisa Vallbona, 2007 chair of the Universal Accreditation Board, and Mary Graybill, 2006 UAB chair.
    Significant, say observers, is that only five of the 20 members of the 2007 nomcom are among the “50.”
    They are Deanna Pelfrey, past director; John Beardsley, past president; Maria Russell, past treasurer and secretary; Gail Winslow-Pine, co-chair, section council, and Gary McCormick, past national director (he resigned from the board in mid-term in 2006).
    Nomcom members not signing the petition are Cheryl Procter-Rogers (2006 president serving in an ex-officio capacity); Judith Phair, 2005 president and nomcom chair; Bob Frause, representing the College of Fellows; Debra Miller, chair of the Fellows and ex-president; Sue Bohle, L.A.,; Michelle Lantz, Grand Ledge, Mich.; Robin Chapman, Norfolk, Va.; Gail Liebl, St. Paul, Minn.; Kevin Kane, Rochester, N.Y.; Cary Greenwood, Lincoln City, Ore.; Wendy Kurtz, Orlando, Fla.; Karen Halvorson, Oklahoma City, Okla.; Anita Saunders, Middletown, Conn., and Jane Dvorak, Lakewood, Colo.
    Dissident PRS members conjectured that when the nomcom picked Cherenson over D’Angelo for chair-elect, that Cherenson would not have accepted that nomination (skipping over the treasurer’s post) unless he had assurances that he would win that nomination. Otherwise, he would have to have left the board.
    Mark Schilansky, the parliamentarian for PRS from 2004-2006, was an ex-officio member of the 2007 nomcom.
    He was unable to be present at the 2006 Assembly because of an illness. He said he is completely recovered and working on numerous assignments but has no current assignments from PRS.
    Lawyer Beth Caseman of Venable will serve as this year’s parliamentarian, the Oct. 9 teleconference was told by Weiss. “We are thrilled to have her as part of our team,” she told the teleconference.
    Veteran PRS members said this is the first time PRS has not had a local parliamentarian and that the use of Caseman constitutes a conflict of interest and is further evidence of the Weiss administration’s attempts at control of the Assembly.
    Signers Listed
    Signers of the “Resolution in Support of PRS Leadership Development” also include Joe Trahan, Patrick Pollino, Steve Shivinsky, Katie Foster, Kara Ford (not APR), Ofield Dukes, Judy Turk, Dave Meeker, Mary Beth West, Tom Vitelli, Isobel Parke Jackson, Mike McDermott, Steve Seekins, Elizabeth Toth, Michael Bardin, Robin Schell, Mike Jackson, Brenda Wrigley, Linda Hadlen (not APR), Dave Simon, Gary Grates (not APR), Dean Kruckeberg, Jim McCall, Donna Stein, Richard Toth, Laurie Wilson, Aileen Katcher, Merrie Kershaw, and Marty Campanello.

  4. Hello PRconversation:

    Here’s news of a revolt by more than 50 senior members of the PR Society (based in the U.S.). They’re fed up with all the secrecy. They want “openness” and “transparency” and feel the board has too much power. We’ll see who wins this on Saturday of this week (Oct. 20). Stay tuned. Free user pass to our site are winter & best.

    Revolt at PR Society. Petition for
    “Openness” Signed by 50+ (Oct. 16 story).
    A demand for “openness, total transparency” has been sent to the PRS board by 50+ leaders. Treasurer Tony D’Angelo again says no Q3 financials until Assembly Saturday a.m.

    A demand for “openness, total transparency” has been sent to the board of the PR Society by more than 50 members including many Assembly delegates and past national and local office-holders.
    The initial demand, in the form of a resolution directing the board to take action, resulted in a threat by the board to rule the motion “out of order” at the Assembly.
    “The core issue,” said a memo to the reform group yesterday by Blake Lewis of Dallas, chair of the Southwest district, “was that the Assembly cannot create, designate or take actions; the Assembly can only recommend to the board.”
    This contradicted the board’s position last year when the Central Michigan chapter proposed a bylaw that would have made the Assembly “the ultimate policy-making body” of the Society.
    The board argued that the Assembly already had this power and there was no need for the CM bylaw.
    D’Angelo Again Says “No”
    PRS treasurer Tony D’Angelo, in a posting to the e-group of the Assembly delegates yesterday, reiterated his position of Sept. 23 on the e-group that delegates will not get any third quarter financials until the morning of the meeting this Saturday.
    The lengthy posting discussed first half financials, which have been on the PRS website for several months.
    Said D’Angelo yesterday:
    “The Q3 financial statements will be distributed at the Assembly, hot off the press, because the quarter just ended. Special thanks to CFO Phil Bonaventura, controller Wai Cheung and the entire finance dept. for really cranking to make that happen.”
    Many of America’s biggest companies have reported their Q3 financials. The Q3 PRS financials have been completed, but they first have to be reviewed by the board, which meets Thursday.
    Reform Group Re-writes Proposal
    The reform group, which is backing the “Leadership Development Resolution,” said the board rejected its first proposal, threatening to rule it out of order if it was proposed on the floor of the Assembly.
    The group then re-wrote it to be in conformity with New York State laws and it was then accepted by the board. It is now in the form of a recommendation to the board rather than a demand.
    A task force is to be formed that will be at least half composed of Assembly delegates.
    Reformers are not sure that the board will follow the recommendations.
    Said Lewis and Debbie Mason, past national director, in an Assembly e-group posting Monday:
    “We remain concerned that once the resolution is passed (which we hope it will be) that the board will follow all of the recommendations, including the implementation of provisions that are a critical part of the resolution: transparency, openness, involving delegates and a diverse and representative group of other PRS leaders, and ensuring that Assembly members are fully involved in the leadership of the study and review process.”
    Past Presidents Sign Resolution
    Among more than 50 signers are past presidents Jerry Dalton, John Beardsley, Joe Epley, Kathy Lewton, Del Galloway, Barbara Hunter, Jack Felton, and Dwayne Summar.
    Other signers include past national directors Steve Shivinsky, Patrick Pollino, Deanna Pelfrey, Gary McCormick, Maria Russell, Mary Beth West, Tom Vitelli, Isobel Parke Jackson, Michael McDermott, Steve Seekins and educators including Elizabeth Toth, Judy Turk, Dean Kruckeberg, Laurie Wilson, and Joe Trahan.

    Public Relations:
    PR Society Needs New
    Form of Government
    by Jack O’Dwyer
    Assembly needs to be replaced by a new Chapter Council or Chapter House of Delegates that speaks to the needs and pocketbooks of members.
    Tues. Oct. 16

    This is our last editorial before the once-a-year meeting of the Assembly of the PR Society.
    This body, which meets Saturday in Philadelphia, is supposed to represent the interests of the members.
    We don’t think it does. It represents the interests of the leaders and h.q. staff.
    We would like this to be a serious meeting that takes up serious topics like local-only chapter membership, sending Tactics and Strategist by e-mail (saving at least $400,000), moving most of h.q. to a city far from New York thus saving more money (like the AICPA and others have done), returning to members their beloved Blue Book of members which was their phone book and which contained lots of other materials, to name a few topics.
    But the Assembly will be delirious if the 250 chapter delegates let themselves be hornswoggled into discussing the “Strategic Plan” for an hour and a half (with monitors patrolling the aisles to make sure they don’t discuss anything else).
    The current SP is a cloud of soaring aspirations and goals with about as much substance as a real cloud.
    It can easily be shown that it has failed in its main goals so why craft another one? Leaders want to shift the attention of the delegates to the future and away from the painful truths of the present. Another such dodge this year is the threat to re-write the entire bylaws. Delegates will have to worry about that one, too. We recall the adage: “The future is the playground of fools.” PR people should not practice bad PR on each other.
    Old Strategic Plan Was a Failure
    For openers, the 2004-07 SP said that PRS is a “member-driven organization” when it emphatically is not. Members are typically kept in the dark about big decisions like killing the directory, the code, and signing a 13-year lease downtown.
    There is no PRS blog for members and they’re barred from seeing what their “elected” delegates say in a private e-mail group. As it turns out very little is being said in this e-group. Most of the participants are leaders.
    What participants have learned is that they’re not getting the third quarter financials until the day of the Assembly. They’re ready but the board, which meets this Thursday, has to see them first. We don’t think the board is more important than the Assembly.
    A chief goal of the SP was making PRS “the profession’s leading voice on important industry, societal and global issues.” We haven’t seen a single speech all year from either CEO Rhoda Weiss or COO Bill Murray, both of whom have ducked all but three of the 15 biggest chapters. How can leaders have a voice when they’re in hiding?! Weiss has only spoken to two of the top 15 chapters and none of the five largest.
    Foundation Is Much Smaller than IPR
    Another big goal was to “identify the PRS Foundation as the leader in research and education that advances the profession.”
    This is preposterous because the Institute for PR, which broke away from PRS in 1989 over the APR issue, had revenues of $845,485 in 2006 vs. the Foundation’s $259,840 in 2006. IPR is three times as big as the Foundation and we don’t see the latter catching up. Actually, it should never have been created. PRS should have accepted an independent foundation back in 1989.
    Leadership Development Failed
    Another unrealized 2004-07 SP goal was to “create a leadership institute to develop promising mid-careerists to service the Society…”
    What a laugh! On the Oct. 9 delegate teleconference, S.E. district chair Blake Lewis bemoaned the failure of even one acceptable candidate to show up for a district board position. One had to be recruited by petition. “No organization should have to go through that,” he complained. Obviously this SP initiative failed. Only nine candidates showed up for seven board and officer positions this year. Chapters also have difficulty in attracting volunteers.
    APR Is in the Doldrums
    Another goal, equally laughable, was “increase the number of accredited members through a targeted marketing plan.” New PRS APRs have been at an all-time low for three years running—totaling 391 in three years or an average of 130 yearly. This program, which attracts only a trace of the 18,000+ eligibles, would be very difficult to revive after being in a moribund state for so long.
    Leaders have to accept this and other unpleasant facts instead of feeding themselves fluff.
    Gold Anvil Winners Absent
    Yet another main objective of the SP was “gain recognition” for PRS leaders such as Gold Anvil winners. Where are Debra Miller, 2006 Gold winner, and all the other Gold winners? Are there any speeches or leadership activities coming from them? No. What have they got to say about the secret e-mail group of the delegates, the false financials that understate conference payroll costs, the lack of a blog on the PRS website, etc.? Nothing. Equally silent are the past presidents, who self-mockingly call themselves “The Dead Presidents Society.”
    Plan Was Meaningful in 1999
    The Strategic Plan was more meaningful when it was created in 1999 as a “check and balance” against rule by the board.
    It was meant to gather the opinions of a broad spectrum of members.
    The 1999 SP demanded that APR be removed as a qualification for national office or the Assembly or membership on the nominating committee. What happened was that the board removed the SP of its independence. The 1999 board led by Sam Waltz rejected the APR advice in the strongest terms and said it would fight any such changes in the bylaws.
    The board now dominates the SP. The SP is no longer a “check and balance” on the board and neither are the Ethics Board, which refuses to make any criticisms of the national board; the audit committee, which rubber stamps the audit by Sobel & Co.; the College of Fellows, which is silent; the ex-presidents, also silent, and the Gold Anvil winners, even more silent. All these possible “checks and balances” are no match for the board and its arsenal of lawyers, accountants and association executives. The Assembly is the last possible “check and balance” but its overwhelming rejection of the Central Michigan proposal last year (which would have made the Assembly the chief policy-making body of the Society) shows the board is in almost complete control of it.
    SP Loaded with Positive Spin
    The SP is loaded with positive words like “strategy,” “critical,” “vision,” “ethical,” “strengths,” etc. How many zeros make one? If the delegates spend one minute on creating a new string of superlatives for PRS, they will show how politicized they have become.
    If they want to win a lot of brownie points with the national leadership, that is the way to do it. The Assembly is the one day in the year when PRS volunteers and staff must operate in the open. It is too big to be hidden. Its actions will be duly recorded for all to see.
    What is needed is for the chapters to create their own governing body, at last providing some balance to the out-of-control national board and staff that has abandoned the democratic principles on which the U.S. is founded.

  5. Toni, To stay on the language discussion that ensued, it would be indeed a BEAU GESTE – to correct your French! but I doubt PRSA wants to have Jack anywhere near the stage- even with the toungue-in-cheek recognition you are proposing.

  6. As I didn’t have a clue what a “kermesse” was/is (this happens to me a lot with Toni, but generally in offline correspondence; it’s usually a delightful learning experience), I finally got around to looking it up on dictionary.com. It seems it is a French definition for a fête (which seems odd, considering fête is French). Considering the international nature of blog contributors (authors and visitors), I thought it would be fun to share the definition and versions in various languages, as per:

    fête [feit] noun
    an entertainment, especially in the open air, with competitions, displays, the selling of goods etc usually to raise money, especially for charity
    Example: We are holding a summer fete in aid of charity.

    (My only question is…if this definition is accurate, what “charity” is PR EVOLUTION in aid of?)

    Arabic: حَفْلَه خَيْرِيَّه
    Chinese (Simplified): 游园会
    Chinese (Traditional): 遊園會
    Dutch: bazaar
    Estonian: heategevuslaat
    Finnish: juhla
    French: kermesse
    German: das Fest
    Greek: φιλανθρωπική γιορτή
    Indonesian: pesta, jamuan
    Italian: festa
    Japanese: 園遊会
    Lithuanian: šventė, mugė
    Polish: festyn
    Portuguese (Brazil): quermesse
    Portuguese (Portugal): festival, quermesse, feira
    Russian: празднество на природе
    Spanish: feria
    Swedish: välgörenhetsfest, basar
    Turkish: yardım şenliği

    Wikipedia has more background on the word:

    Anyhow, bonne fête to PRSA in a few weeks…somehow I bet there will even be firecrackers…!

  7. Every once in a while a bad presentation gets recognized as such.

    The best story from last week involved a semi-client.. it gets complicated, but anyway…

    A marketing adviser at one of our clients hired a woman to teach presentation skills. The marketing adviser attended the teaching session, along with his clients.

    Part of her presentation about presentations included a section on why PoewerPoint was important, and why you needed big enough type to read.

    Her slides were unreadable, and the marketing adviser fired her, right there, part way through the meeting. Pack up, leave, go home…

    I thought it was a great story.

    As to why people go to certain courses… I think a lot of it depends on HR departments requiringpeople to take a certain umber of hours of training, so the peole being trained go to anything at all, or, even better, try to pick a session at a nice hotel or in a nice city.


  8. Picking up on Benita’s point about conferences, someone was telling me about attending a PR Week event on new media recently, where one of the presentations was from the London Olympic 2012 team, spinning the audience about the great online success the launch of its logo was.

    Apparently, it has universal recognition and huge online presence. He didn’t mention that most of this was from a critical perspective – and didn’t seem to realise that an audience of PR practitioners wouldn’t believe him.

    Why are so many PR people willing to pay hundreds of pounds to see practitioners present doubtful case studies rather than sign up to get a qualification where they’d analyse more robust examples of goog practice?

  9. I’m on Jack’s side, having been semi-scammed by so-called PR people at PRSA myself. Cedric Bess worked hard at not answering questions while looking like he was, and his departure is of benefit to our profession, whether a PRSA member or not.

    As for not-the-real Bill Murray; it took him about an hour — there’s hyperbole here, but not much — to prove himslef a loser. Makes a promise to some students, and breaks it almost immediately.

    Those are paid-positionc omplaints. On the elected side, what a bunch of non-performers and hypocrites. Can any PR Conversation reader find one — count ’em — one! — good example of PRS leadership standing up and being counted on behalf of the profession, back to the days of loser-speeches at the Economic Club of Detroit, with Sam someone, and some woman I can’t remember, and both fo them were not much good, plus the speeches were promoted with all the style and flair of a quart of ice cream left in the trunk of a car in August in Georgia (either one.)

    PRS(A) is just like IABC; at the top level, it is nothing but a training company like Melcrum and Ragan, selling course to members and others, except, in contrast to Melcrum and Ragan, there are no shareholders tisking money, only members giving it away in memb ership dues.

    At the chapter level, some chapters are interesting, perhaps fun, perhaps valuable.

    Can any reader here start a list of good actions on behalf of the profession by PRS(A) and /or IABC at the headquarters level?


  10. Having visited the O’Dwyers site over the last few months, I have followed Jack’s criticisms of the PRSA with surprise since I knew nothing about these seemingly major issues. Of course we also criticise PRISA, the South African association, but it is nothing compared to what I have read on O’Dwyers and also on David’s Reich’s blog. The major problems here in SA focus on two issues: the first is that events, professional development seminars and conferences are too expensive, and prohibitive if one’s employer isn’t paying. The second is that many senior PR practitioners/ PR executives feel that PRISA is not offering them much — but then they are saying the same of the IABC.

    Senior PR practitioners often feel that they don’t take much away from PRISA conferences and have therefore stopped going. I remember occasions where I wasn’t exactly enthused by the content of the conference myself. I really am not into hugging all the participants in the rows in front and behind me, or doing exercises in my seat, or playing creativity games. We dish that up at 1st year level. I expect a little more of an international speaker, especially when I know what it cost to bring him out to SA, and what I have to pay to listen to him. I vividly remember a panel discussion on evaluation and measurement that was led by three practitioners. It was a disaster. There were at least 5 academics in the audience that could have led that panel with ease. I have often wondered why PRISA doesn’t use more academics as speakers, particularly since they don’t charge anything. Overseas speakers push up the conference fees tremendously and they don’t always add value. The perfect way to do it, in my opinion, would be to have a PR manager present a case study on a particular topic at a conference and then having an academic present theory on the same topic right after the practitioner. They could then handle the Q & A sessions together. Wouldn’t that be a win/win situation, where everybody will learn from one another?

    In picking up on Toni’s comment that the many events at the upcoming PRSA conference in Philadelphia inevitably impede “any serious attempt to debate the future of our profession, the major challenges it is facing and, more specifically, the role that associations should be developing”, I did attend a most valuable event organized by PRISA last year. It opened with a short panel discussion on current issues (led by an academic, consultant and practitioner), and then the floor was open for 90 minutes to the mixed audience of academics, consultants and practitioners to bring to the table whatever gripe they had with PRISA, or suggestions for them. More such opportunities for debate are sorely needed.

    In thinking of other positive things, PRISA is doing a stirling job on the entry and middle management levels. A great many PR practitioners have learnt their ropes through the PRISA Education Centre, me being one of them. The first time I ever heard about a communication plan was through a PRISA course. And the first time I ever heard about a corporate communication strategy was on the PRISA Management course, some 15 years ago. And that remains just about the only place of learning where I did ever hear about the latter (except for my own classes at the University of Pretoria and the Cape Peninsula University of Technology). All in all, I think we have very knowledgeable PR practitioners in South Africa and I think that PRISA has played a big role in achieving that. Contrary to what Jack (or was it David Reich on ‘My 2 Cents?) is saying about the APR designation in the US meaning nothing, in South Africa quite a few employers mention in their jobs ads that accredited status (APR) will be a recommendation. I think that says a lot for PRISA.

    So, all in all, the grass always appears greener on the other side of the fence/ ocean. I guess you don’t always know what you have until you hear other stories!

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