Friday, August 24, 2007

Questions Surround PRS Candidates

Aug. 24, 2007


Six candidates have been nominated for national PR Society board and officer posts – Mike Cherenson, chair-elect; Rosanna Fiske, treasurer; Mary Barber, secretary; Kathy Hubbell, N. Pacific director; Phil Tate, S.E. director, and Dave Imre, director-at-large.


They are merely nominated at this point and could be opposed by other members until Sept. 20.

The issues facing the candidates are of interest to all PR pros since the Society claims to represent the entire PR field and not just members.

Its "overall goal" is to be the "standard bearer for PR" and to position the Society "as the acknowledged brand of PR excellence."

Candidates thus far have only provided their biographies and general statements about PR. They have yet to answer questions about the issues of governance and disclosure that face the Society.


PRS policies appear to have alienated much of the corporate world since no corporate person is on the slate above. It is likely that only one corporate person will be on the 17-member 2008 board – Christopher Veronda of Eastman Kodak. The 11-member Society Ethics Board has no corporate representatives.

You can express your opinions on these issues by using the "Tell O'Dwyer's what you think" device at the end of this editorial or by voting yes or no on each question.

Questions for Nominees and all PR Pros:

1. National board and officer posts should be decoupled from accreditation and any APR requirements should be removed from the bylaws (including the nomcom).
( ) yes ( ) no

2. Again print the 1,000-page directory of members, PR services, bylaws, etc., or at least allow a discussion of this on the PRS website (which never took place).
( ) yes ( ) no

3. Bring back the previous Ethics Code (dropped without a vote of the membership) but put teeth in it such as requiring PR pros to reveal sources of communications.
( ) yes ( ) no

4. Put both the audit and IRS Form 990 on the PRS website in full text like many organizations do.
( ) yes ( ) no

5. Defer about six months of dues income to reflect its unearned nature (a practice of most organizations).
( ) yes ( ) no

6. Release the transcripts of the 2005-2006 Assemblies as was the previous policy.
( ) yes ( ) no

7. Release the names of the 19 Assembly delegates who voted for the 2006 Central Mich. governance proposal that would have given more power to the Assembly.
( ) yes ( ) no

8. Consider moving some h.q. operations out of New York in view of the $5.2M staff costs (46% of revenues).
( ) yes ( ) no

9. Use blast e-mail facility to sample member opinions on important issues.
( ) yes ( ) no

10. Release Assembly delegate list early in year with all delegates reachable by a single e-mail. Ask delegates to seek direction from members, not chapter leaders.
( ) yes ( ) no

Planning Committee Abolished

A brief history on these issues is that in 1998-99 a Strategic Planning Committee of two dozen leaders (only a couple allowed from the board) created the first five-year plan to end the practice of each new president setting his or her own agenda, discarding previous agendas.

The SPC urged that the APR rule be removed for board and Assembly posts since 80% of members were barred from running. But the 1999 board, headed by Sam Waltz, rejected the advice and voiced support for APR.

Thereafter, the SPC declined in importance and in 2005 it disappeared as a separate entity. The 2006 board, with Cheryl Procter-Rogers as president, said that henceforth the board itself would be the SPC. The concept of an SPC with representatives from throughout the Society and from various levels of PRS, was abandoned.

In other moves that consolidated power in the hands of a few, the 2004 board took on the role of also being the Foundation board and the 2005 board urged the Assembly to pass a bylaw that let the five-member executive committee of the board act in place of the full board (which was passed).

News item: Mary Barber, nominee for secretary of the PR Society, after seven years on her own, took a PR job at the Alaska Community Foundation, saying she wasn't looking for a change but the ACF was "the perfect combination of PR skills, giving back to the community, and providing my family some stability while my husband changes careers." Many other PRS leaders have recently made changes. Mike Cherenson, nominee for chair-elect, sold his father's PR firm in early 2006 to an ad agency; Rosanna Fiske, treasurer nominee, closed her firm to teach; Kathy Hubbell, N. Pacific nominee and owner of Adscripts, is moving from Montana to Oregon in search of a PR teaching job; Judith Phair, 2005 president, left her firm for the Graduate Mgmt. Admission Council; Cheryl Procter-Rogers, 2006 president, left HBO in mid-term for her own firm; the agency of 2004 president Del Galloway (Husk Jennings Galloway) was bought by On Ideas in 2005 and Galloway joined the Corp. for Public Broadcasting; Cathryn Harris, 2004 director who was dir. of comms., W. Va. American Water, went to her own firm after that job was eliminated; Steve Lubetkin, 2004 director, left Fleet Bank for his own firm after the bank merged; 2006 director Dave Rickey went from AmSouth Bank, now part of one of the ten largest bank holding companies after acquisition by Regions Financial, to Alfa Corp., Montgomery, Ala., insurance company; Art Stevens, 2003 secretary, went from CEO of Publicis Dialog New York to Stevens/Gould/Pincus, and Reed Byrum, 2003 president, went from Trilogy to his own firm. Only two of the past 12 presidents had significant jobs and stayed in them through and after the presidency–Mary Cusick (1998) of Bob Evans Farms and Kathy Lewton (2001) of Fleishman-Hillard and H&K. Others were in small firms, academia or nonprofit.

The rejection of Ray Crockett of Coca-Cola as S.E. director of PRS is symptomatic of PRS's alienation from corporate PR…PRS's bulging payroll of $5.28M (46.3% of revenues of $11.4M) contrasts with the payroll of the Council on Foundations ($6.6M or 36% of income of $18M). The ACF, which Mary Barber has joined, follows the guidelines for "transparency" of the Council. This includes putting the full audit and IRS Form 990 on the website. PRS does neither. Does ACF want its name associated with such practices? Still being withheld are the names of the 250 chapter Assembly delegates…Debbie Girard, now on PR for PRS under VP-PR Janet Troy, as a freelancer for PRS in 2004 authored "Tale of a Turnaround" for the magazine of ASAE/D.C. It said PRS was beset with "money woes, eroded credibility with members, low employee morale and a less-than-desirable working relationship with the board" but this was reversed by COO Catherine Bolton with the help of 2001 pres. Kathy Lewton and 2003 pres. Reed Byrum (2002 pres. Joann Killeen was not mentioned).

By Jack O'Dwyer