Tuesday, July 31, 2007

PRS "A" Copyright Violation

Public Relations
PRS Abuse of


Raises Ethical Questions

by Jack O’Dwyer, Publisher, O'Dwyer Pub.

Those who buy single-user access codes
to websites should not abuse them. Two
Abusers are connected to the PR Society,
Director Gerard Corbett of Hitachi
and Christina Darnowski,
PRS Resource Center.

Tues., July 31


Copyright violation is an easy matter on the web where stories can be downloaded and copied and buyers of single user access codes can share them with friends and business associates.

However, depriving a paid website of revenues in this way is unethical. Those who purchase access codes, including codes to this website, agree to keep those codes to themselves. They are responsible for the security on those codes.

Abusers are readily identified by the number of times a site is visited and we have come across two connected with the PR Society—director Gerard Corbett of Hitachi and Christina Darnowski, manager of the professional resource center of the Society.

Corbett’s codes, on one $295 subscription, turned out to be the fifth most frequently used codes for the period July 1-18. The 10,510 “hits” via his codes were the second highest on the list, surpassing companies paying thousands of dollars for site licenses to odwyerpr.com.

The only codes used more than Corbett’s were the free sample user name and password that we give out so people can sample the website.

Corbett says he has no idea how his codes came to be used so much and says he never gave them to anyone.

PRS Caught Again—Red Handed

Also popping up on the list of abusers is someone from PRS h.q.—Christina Darnowski, manager of the Professional Resource Center (library).

Usage of her codes is in the top 25 and far above usage for a single subscriber.

This is the second time we have caught PRS at this. In early 2005, the web tracking system found that PRS h.q., on one subscription, was accessing odwyerpr.com as much as those paying $5,000 a year.

Rather than file a copyright violation claim, we brought this to the attention of COO Catherine Bolton and suggested h.q. purchase a site license for $3,000 yearly so all 55 staffers could access the site without limit.

This offer was turned down. PRS purchased one additional subscription.

Hitachi is $84 Billion Company

With Corbett, we suspect fellow PRS directors might have gotten the code somehow since they’re probably interested in the stories and editorials we’ve been running about the nominations.

Only two of the 16 other directors subscribes to any O’Dwyer product, a tradition of board members. They’d rather give up their APRs than buy anything from us.

Also suspects are fellow PR people at Hitachi, a worldwide company with $84 billion in sales and 350,000 employees. There are probably many hundreds and even thousands of PR staffers at Hitachi.

Where Are Ethics Board, Fellows?

Ripping off media is an ethical violation in our opinion and we’d like to know where the Ethics Board and College of Fellows stand on this issue.

Linda Cohen of the Caliber Group, Tucson, chair of the Ethics Board, said she is not allowed to speak to us because of a boycott against us by the national board.

How’s that for ethics?

There is not only a communications boycott against us, but members. CEO Rhoda Weiss has yet to appear before a chapter and answer questions of members and COO Bill Murray has appeared before only one chapter, National Capital. He did not invite questions and none were asked. PRS is still withholding the transcripts of the 2005 and 2006 Assemblies from members who have sought them.

Rick French of French/West/Vaughan has quit the 12-member EB but doesn’t want to say anything critical about it. He said pressure of his business and private life is the sole reason for quitting although he “personally wishes the EB had more authority to effect changes within the organization, but that is simply my opinion.” He would not expand on that statement.

Fellows Are Silent

The College of Fellows, consisting of about 300 of the most senior and experienced members and currently headed by 1997 PRS president Debra Miller, is silent on this issue and, indeed, all issues.

PRS h.q., without a single senior PR person on staff, is desperately in need of good PR counsel and it should come from the Fellows. PRS has been unable to hire a replacement for PR manager Cedric Bess who left in March.

We seriously ask what reputable PR person would join the Society under the current conditions? VP-PR Janet Troy, who joined in 2004, was not a member of PRS and told the Bergen Record she was “clueless” about it.

The tradition of the “Fellows” is that it is an honorific that goes on the resumes and biographies and is always attached to their names but it carries no responsibilities whatever.

It’s possible that the Fellows, having spent lifetimes working for institutions, are so “institutionalized” that they can’t possibly say anything against an institution and particularly their own professional institution.
Maybe this will change because problems at PRS h.q. have reached a critical mass.

Fourth PRS Ripoff

The two instances of abuses of the odwyerpr.com codes described above are the third and fourth instances of ripoffs of the O’Dwyer Co. by PRS.

The first was the copying and sale of our works (and those of many other authors) from 1977-94. Gross profits approached $60K yearly, according to financial records distributed to the Assemblies and press. None of the authors ever got a nickel from PRS.

Another instance was the theft of an entire day of notes from our open PRS conference bag while we were talking to Corbett at the 2003 Assembly in New Orleans. This crime sabotaged a reporter in performance of his duties. Even worse was that PRS leaders and staff showed no interest in our problem, refusing to give us an audiotape of the session which was readily available. A battery of technicians recorded the Assembly.

PRS Is Tight-Fisted with Press

One would think that having made so much money from the unauthorized sale of works of writers, PRS would be generous with them.

Also, PRS is supposed to win the good will of reporters, not their ill will. But the opposite is true. It charged them the full price for attending sessions with meals at the 2003 and 2004 annual conferences.

We were blocked from attending the 2003Assembly lunch because we had not purchased a $35 ticket. The press room at the conference is typically without food while PRS staff has a full boat of pastries, fruit, fruit drinks, etc.

The press room at the 2004 conference did not even have coffee when we used it on Monday. There was no food in the press room on the Sunday of the conference in Salt Lake City last year. After complaining, a small dish of pastries was delivered. The press center, which used to be placed near registration, a hub of activity, in recent years has been placed as far as possible from that. In 2002, PRS gave out 150 copies of its members’ Blue Book to the press. Current policy bars reporters from the online directory.

Companies marketing to blogs and social networking sites are “devoting more of their budgets to PR rather than ad agencies,” says an article in the July 23 Crain’s New York Business by Matthew Flamm…Marcia Silverman of Ogilvy PR Worldwide, chair of the Council of PR Firms, has yet to comment to us on the CPRF’s report (7/25 NL) that (astoundingly) said ad agencies as well as PR firms could be the best at dealing with blogs, social media, etc. What is the CPRF doing promoting ad agencies?! Silverman has not talked to us for at least five years. Almost no executives from PR firms owned by WPP Group headed by Martin Sorrell are available for comment to the press.

Mark Weiner, head of research at Ketchum, sparked many replies to odwyerpr.com when he wrote that PR returns $6 for every dollar invested while ads return about $1.20. Therefore, he says, companies should shift money out of ads and into PR. Some marketers are now favoring PR and direct response ads and are killing their “image” ads since the latter don’t produce tangible results like actual sales or inquiries. But how are the media supposed to exist with few or no ads from these freeloading marketers!?

Also, a reader pointed out to Weiner that PR is often a negative—stopping a story, blocking information flow, preventing a crisis. How can that be measured, the reader asked? PR can also be institutions cooperating with each other to frustrate some action. For instance, the authors who were ripped off by PRS (see above) found none of their publishers would help them. The publisher “institutions” stuck with another institution—PRS. When PRS/Central Michigan sought greater power for the Assembly last year, not one of the other 109 chapters supported it. The chapters (institutions) stuck with PRS. Institutions, especially when cooperating with each other, can trample on the rights of individuals.

An unfortunate result of the estrangement of PRS from the press is that there is no national publicity on the Society’s 60th anniversary. Celebration was to have started July 1.

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