PRSA’s Reputation Crumbles – Faces Crisis of Integrity

by / Newsroom Ink on 10/25/2011

by Ed Lallo, Newsroom Ink’s Founder

The national organization that sponsors seminars, speakers, publications and webinars on the topic of crisis communications has failed to place trust in its own “best practices.” The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) has for years had a long running disagreement  that has tested their relationship with veteran reporter Jack O’Dwyer, publisher and editor-in-chief of Jack O’Dwyer’s Newsletter. PRSA has decided that the best way to handle a “testy” reporter is to block access to coverage.

Jack O'Dwyer, Pulisher and Editor-In-Chief of Jack O'Dwyer's Newsletter.

For more than 20 years O’Dwyer has raised criticism of PRSA’s national staff and board. His scrutiny of PRSA’s finances has been a thorn in the organization’s side, making negative editorial comments about expenses, staff and the board.

Last year PRSA singled O’Dwyer out by charging full attendance fees at the international convention while other journalists were invited free of charge. This year in Orlando, he was barred from attending altogether.

The nature and content of these disagreements is of great concern to both PRSA and Mr. O’Dwyer. What is disheartening is the solution chosen by PRSA; banning a reporter critical of their organization from coverage – something even a raw rookie in crisis communications realizes as a basic “NO-NO.”

By banning O’Dwyer, PRSA has lost credibility as an organization that can effectively speak for its members.

Lucy Siegel, CEO of of Bridge Global Strategies.

“I’m embarrassed by the totally unprofessional, unethical and childish behavior of the so-called leaders of my profession, the board and staff of the Public Relations Society of America,” said Lucy Siegel, CEO of Bridge Global Strategies, in a recent blog post. “The organization has been all over industry news because of its discrimination against one industry journalist, Jack O’Dwyer.”

In a response to Siegel’s post, Quentin Langley, Senior Lecturer at the University of Bedfordshire, UK and International Delegate at Large for PRSA, sees little wrong with O’Dwyer being barred from the conference. “’Discrimination’ implies you think there is something wrong with extending invitations to a selection of journalists but not to all. To me, this seems like one of the basic skills of any PR professional. The claim that it is ‘unethical’ seems bizarre in the extreme.”

Emotions run high on both sides. PRSA, an organization touting its leadership in the field of PR, has failed to find a way to adequately deal with a respected voice in the PR community, turn down the noise and change the conversation to a higher level. It has failed on initiating even the basic first step in a crisis – provide a credible voice for the organization.

Siegel is not alone with her concerns over PRSA’s actions.

Mark Hamrick, President of the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

In a recent press release, Mark Hamrick, President of the National Press Club in Washington, DC, expressed deep concerns over “the solution chosen by PRSA, which was to ban a reporter who will write stories that may be critical of their organization.”

PRSA was asked by the National Press Club to reconsider its position and to allow Mr. O’Dwyer to cover the event, “We suggested that if he behaved in a disruptive way he should be removed.” PRSA failed to act upon the suggestion, thus further damaging their integrity and reputation.

Twenty years of fighting will not be resolved overnight. It is time for an organization that prides itself on being the voice for public relation communicators worldwide, to step up to the plate and provide a credible voice for the organization.

Writing in a recent Harvard Business Review Op-Ed on the problems faced by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, PRSA Chair and CEO Rosanna M. Fiske, APR said “throwing half-hearted apologies at an issue will just exacerbate a festering problem — and people will view it as an obvious and empty attempt to quiet the masses.”

She added that when faced with a crisis, CEOs should “aim to clearly communicate the issue, and what is being done to rectify it.”

PRSA Chair and CEO Rosanna M. Fiske, APR

It is time to “walk the walk”, not “talk the talk.”

If the international organization that represents PR professionals cannot handle one critical reporter, how does it expect to give guidance to the IBM’s, Fleishman Hillard’s, Intel’s and Burson Marsteller’s of the world – not to mention the sole practitioner?

“On the surface, PRSA’s “its us vs. Jack O’Dwyer,” seems to violate its own code of ethics and certainly sets no professional example for current or future members,” said Perry Bishop, Associate Professor of Public Relations at the University of Maryland Graduate School of Management & Technology, on LinkedIn’s Corporate Communications Executive Network, “and, by extension brings “embarrassment” to the entire profession regardless of membership in any professional organization. The sad part is that over the years, the PRSA staff (and Board) don’t appear to want to accept any personal or professional responsibility for its actions.

“Newsroom Ink hereby offers its services to help PRSA establish a dynamic online newsroom as a first step in regaining a credible voice for PR professionals – to change the conversation to a higher level, ” said Springfield Lewsis, Newsroom Ink’s VP of Strategic Communication. “In a crisis the dynamic online newsroom has proven an effective tool for Imperial Sugar and the Louisiana Seafood Board, to turn down the noise and establish a credible conversation with their many audiences.”

It is time for PRSA to shake the dust off of the crisis communications manuals, and to read in earnest how to start a new conversation with O’Dwyer, its chapters and members – before it starts to lose credibility and membership faster than “Netflix”.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  PRSA was contacted before publication of this article and asked for corrections or comments – No Response Was Given.

Lucy Siegel’s blog article.

National Press Club Press Release.

O’DwyerPR.com article.

PRSA Response.

Comments From LinkedIn Groups

Group: PRSA-NY (PRSA New York Chapter)
Discussion: Controversy over PRSA’s Banning of Journalist Jack O’Dwyer

Arthur Yann, APR, Vice President, Public Relations at Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)

What’s telling about Mr. Lallo’s post, in which rehashes most of the article that appears on his “news” site, is his willfull omission of a very instructive paragraph, which is this:

“‘Newsroom Ink hereby offers its services to help PRSA establish a dynamic online newsroom as a first step in regaining a credible voice for PR professionals – to change the conversation to a higher level,’ said Springfield Lewsis, Newsroom Ink’s VP of Strategic Communication. ‘In a crisis the dynamic online newsroom has proven an effective tool for Imperial Sugar and the Louisiana Seafood Board, to turn down the noise and establish a credible conversation with their many audiences.’”

The readers of this forum can decide for themselves Mr. Lallo’s true motivations in attacking PRSA.

Group: PRSA-NY (PRSA New York Chapter)
Discussion: Controversy over PRSA’s Banning of Journalist Jack O’Dwyer

Ed Lallo, Founder, Newsroom Ink

Arthur: Thank you for your comment. I did not willfully omit anything. As you know LinkedIn only allows so many words for comments. That is why I posted the link to the full article.

Newsroom Ink believes that the first criteria of PR needs to be “credibility.”

If you cannot be part of the solution, then you are part of the problem.

That is why Newsroom Ink does offer its services (if you would read the comments on Newsroom Ink) to PRSA – free of charge. It is important that the PR community have trusted professional voices, both with PRSA and IABC. If you would like to help Newsroom Ink with it’s proposal to establish a dynamic online newsroom – we would love to have your expertise.

Group: PR News Group
Discussion: PRSA’s Reputation Crumbles – Faces Crisis of Integrity

I’m disappointed that this is the route they chose to take.
Posted by Lee

Group: PRSA Houston
Discussion: PRSA’s Reputation Crumbles – Faces Crisis of Integrity

I have never understood this approach. There are some very good PR counselors who have been in leadership with PRSA and have had an opportunity to do something different, so I assume Jack is just over-the-top outrageously abusive. We all have to deal with people who fit that mold — investors come to mind. Sometimes I wish I could just black list people like PRSA has, but I really don’t think it is an effective approach.
Posted by Dan

Group: IABC/DC Metro
Discussion: PRSA’s Reputation Crumbles – Faces Crisis of Integrity

Thank you for bringing this up. PRSA not only has blocked O’Dwyer from its meetings but is now trying to say that the Society for Professional Journalists (SPJ) has taken action against him over this issue, which is absolutely not the case. SPJ just declined to get involved in the matter on O’Dwyer’s behalf. It all makes me wonder what PRSA has to hide.
Posted by Ruth E.

Group: PR News Group
Discussion: PRSA’s Reputation Crumbles – Faces Crisis of Integrity

I support PRSA’s actions. I’ve been personally subjected to Jack’s brand of activism (he’s not a journalist) against PRSA, a product of a long-standing grudge of his. I’ve found great value in my PRSA affiliation and little to value in Jack’s slanted coverage of PRSA. Knowing first-hand the real stories about PRSA and seeing Jack’s coverage of those issues and events makes it impossible for me to trust anything else he writes or says.
Posted by Doug

Group: Public Relations and Communications Professionals
Discussion: PRSA’s Reputation Crumbles – Faces Crisis of Integrity
Interesting article and comments. I am not a member but do believe the organization should meet with and respond to its critics.
Posted by Jenny

Group: B2B Publishers
Discussion: PRSA’s Reputation Crumbles – Faces Crisis of Integrity
I’ve never had any love for PRSA. To me, it’s just a bunch of New Yorkers who like to give Silver Anvils to each other. We lost out on a Silver Anvil for a fantasitc press event…the winner was a NYC agency who dressed up a clown on April 15th and handed out candy in front of an IRS office. To me, that’s a promotion. We went on to win a B/PAA Gold, beating out press events by IBM and Exxon. The clown didn’t enter that one. I haven’t had anything to do with PRSA since. And that was 20 years ago.
Posted by Rich

Group: B2B Publishers
Discussion: PRSA’s Reputation Crumbles – Faces Crisis of Integrity

Rich, sorry to hear that you had a negative experience with PRSA. We’re really very geographically diverse, with 114 Chapters across the country (including in Alaska and Hawaii). And, great agencies and programs lose out on Silver Anvils all the time, but I’m glad to hear the B/PAA gave you the recognition you feel you deserved.

With regard to Mr. Lallo’s post (and I question why he is so aggressively supporting an activist with ethics as questionable as Mr. O’Dwyer’s), I’d like to offer our organizational response, for anyone who is interested in hearing PRSA’s side. You’ll find it here: http://ow.ly/7bTP7 .
Posted by Arthur

Group: B2B Publishers
Discussion: PRSA’s Reputation Crumbles – Faces Crisis of Integrity

Authur and Rich:
I am sorry Aurthur thinks “I am on Mr. O’Dwyer’s side.” In the comments, that I know Authur has been made aware of, when Mr. O’Dwyer thanked Newsroom Ink for being on “his side”, I clearly stated I don’t have a horse in that race. I am on the side of neither.

The reason I have felt that this is a topic of utmost importance for all professional communicators, whether a member of PRSA, IABC or unaffiliated, is the profession can be adversely affected.

Both PRSA and Jack O’Dywer have issues that have been left unsettled for more than 20-years, who is right and who is wrong is not place to say. My concern is that one of the two professional organizations that helps set the principles that guide public relations and communication professionals fails to follow their own best practices.

My wife Adrienne and I are both lifetime members of IABC. But early in her career she worked hard to obtain her APR from PRSA.

In those day’s I spent the evenings minding our young son as she went off to study groups that prepared her for the test. It is the same for those who scarifice their time and hard-earned money to become ABC’s from IABC. The reason both organizations have these outstanding programs is to prepare communicators to meet the tough challenges faced by the profession.

If the organization that charges hundreds of dollars and requires hour upon hour of studying, fails to follow the standards it sets for others: then it is as unacceptable as the pastor who preaches against sin on a Sunday morning and spends Sunday night cavorting in a whorehouse.

What is at risk is not just the reputation of PRSA, but also IABC and public relations in general. Professional communicators need both PRSA and IABC to be strong, credible voices for our profession. As much as they might not like to admit it, both are bonded together by the professional they represent.

My offer to help PRSA start on open conversation with its chapters, members, and other communication professionals (and even Mr. O’Dwyer) by establishing a dynamic online newsroom at no cost to the organization, and give PRSA a credible voice for all to hear – still stands.
Posted by Ed

Group: PRSA Houston
Discussion: PRSA’s Reputation Crumbles – Faces Crisis of Integrity
I was not aware that PRSA had barred O’Dwyer from attending the Orlando Conference but now, because of LinkedIn and other social media outlets, this thorny issue is catching the attention of rank-and-file PRSA members and others on a larger scale—probably not an outcome anticipated by PRSA. Instead of silencing a critic, the organization has given voice to the opposition. “No comment” won’t work for PRSA now. We’ve heard one side now. Let’s hear from PRSA.
Posted by Mike

Group: IABC Tampa Bay
Discussion: PRSA’s Reputation Crumbles – Faces Crisis of Integrity

I’m not sure why Ed Lallo decided that the IABC Tampa Bay LinkedIn group was an appropriate place to place a link about the recent controversy plaguing PRSA, another professional organization for communicators. Yes, the two organizations do “compete” for members, but I also feel we are supportive of each others’ goals to provide professional networking and education for those in our industry. I’m curious, Ed, if you were hoping for comments to pile on against PRSA, an overall excellent organization, for some reason? Or are you just looking to have this LinkedIn group’s participants link back to your business? I may be taking this the wrong way, but sharing this link here and your intentions are just a bit sketchy to me. (Disclosure: I am not a member of PRSA. I am a member of IABC.)
Posted by Diane

Group: IABC Tampa Bay
Discussion: PRSA’s Reputation Crumbles – Faces Crisis of Integrity

Diane:
The reason I have felt that this is a topic of utmost importance for all professional communicators, whether a member of PRSA, IABC or unaffiliated, is the PR profession as a whole can be adversely affected.

Both PRSA and Jack O’Dywer have issues that have been left unsettled for more than 20 years, who is right and who is wrong is not my argument at the table. My concern is that one of the two professional organizations that helps set the principles that guide public relations and communication professionals fails to follow their own best practices.

My wife Adrienne and I are both lifetime members of IABC. Early in her career she worked hard to obtain her APR from PRSA. In those day’s I spent the evening minding our son as she went off to study groups that prepared her for the test. It is the same for those who spend time and money to become ABC’s from IABC. The reason both organizations have these outstanding programs is to prepare communicators to meet the tough challenges faced by communicators.

If the organization that charges hundreds of dollars and require hour upon hour of studying, fails to follow the standards it sets for others: then it is as unacceptable as the pastor who preaches against sin on a Sunday morning and spends Sunday night cavorting in a whorehouse.

What is at risk is not just the reputation of PRSA, but also IABC and public relations in general. Professional communicators need both PRSA and IABC to be strong and credible voices for our profession. As much as they might not like to admit it, both are bonded together by the professional they represent.
Posted by Ed

Group: IABC Tampa Bay
Discussion: PRSA’s Reputation Crumbles – Faces Crisis of Integrity

Good point, Ed, about professional reputations being at risk across the communications spectrum. I do hope our national IABC leaders have used the PRSA situation as a reason to revisit its media practices, and I hope communicators at all organizations — whether non-profit, corporate, etc. — take away lessons about how to deal with members of the media, including bloggers, who are not necessarily “friendlies.”
Posted by Diane

Group: PRSA San Francisco Chapter
Discussion: PRSA’s Reputation Crumbles – Faces Crisis of Integrity

I’ve been watching this slow-motion train wreck with horrified fascination. I keep thinking, “They are PR pros, surely they will wake up any moment and realize their mistakes!” And yet it just keeps getting worse.
I have been a PRSA member for more than 30 years, was accepted into the College of Fellows and earned the APR designation. I’m not sure I can continue to support this organization, which is so flagrantly breaking the most basic tenets of good public relations practice. I always thought the first commandment was “Thou shalt not declare war on the news media…”
Posted by Elisabeth

Group: Public Relations and Communications Professionals
Discussion: PRSA’s Reputation Crumbles – Faces Crisis of Integrity

I have read the articles I could access and believe you have valid concerns. Although I don’t agree with Mr. O’Dwyer’s methods, I believe he may have some valid concerns as well. I would suggest, having been in a somewhat similar situation — but not nearly for so long — that you do your best to remain firm, cordial and as objective as possible. The organization and its credibility is what’s most important.
Posted by Jenny

Group: Public Relations and Communications Professionals
Discussion: PRSA’s Reputation Crumbles – Faces Crisis of Integrity

Hi Jenny, that’s of course a good suggestion when dealing with proper journalists who are professional, ethical and unbiased. I’d like to invite you to view our organizational response ( http://ow.ly/7aZdz ), and see if it changes your opinion on the matter. Thanks for keeping an open mind.
Posted by Arthur

Group: PR News Group
Discussion: PRSA’s Reputation Crumbles – Faces Crisis of Integrity

I largely ignore PRSA’s views about O’Dwyer and O’Dwyer’s views about PRSA. My guess is there is a little bit of truth as well as at least a fair amount of bias in the comments and actions of both. I appreciate the professional insights that are available to me, but this feud is like a bee buzzing a picnic – you swat it away almost without thinking, while keeping your focus on the food.
Posted by Christi

Group: PR News Group
Discussion: PRSA’s Reputation Crumbles – Faces Crisis of Integrity
There is usually two sides to any story, and clearly PRSA has its proponents as does Mr. O’Dwyer. I personally find value in my affiliation with PRSA and also read O’Dwyer’s regularly. Do I really have to choose? There seems to be plenty of room in the PR industry for both of them, but it seems unlikely that the acrimony between the two will ever end.
Posted by Christi

Group: IABC Nashville for Communicators
Discussion: PRSA’s Reputation Crumbles – Faces Crisis of Integrity

What a joke….. That is exactly what mass communications is about, reporting on stories regardless if the audience agrees with them…
How silly!
Posted by Paige

Group: PR News Group
Discussion: PRSA’s Reputation Crumbles – Faces Crisis of Integrity

This is a sad story. It is inconceivable and inexcusable that the organization that represents itself as the official agency for accreditation, continuing education and networking for the public relations profession has stooped so low, violating good PR as taught in PR 101. I never found it necessary to belong to PRSA. Now I know why. 

This is not about censorship. PRSA can accredit whatever press they want to cover a private event. No one is censoring what O’Dwyer can say. It’s about stupidity and best practices. There is only one side to this story in terms of the action taken, regardless of who is right or wrong in the dispute between O’Dwyer and PRSA.
Posted by David

Group: PR News Group
Discussion: PRSA’s Reputation Crumbles – Faces Crisis of Integrity

I agree with Doug. As a former newspaper reporter and copyeditor who holds an M.A. in journalism, I can say with absolute certainty that Jack O’Dwyer is NOT a journalist. Journalist are called to seek and report the truth objectively. The exception would be a columnist who is charged with studying an issue and formulating a well-articulated opinioin. However, editorial pages are clearly separated from the news pages and the better newspapers provide a balance of opposing opinions in the editorial section. In the news sections, copyeditors are supposed to edit out biased reporting or even kill stories that don’t provide a balanced news report.
Posted by Beverly

Group: PR News Group
Discussion: PRSA’s Reputation Crumbles – Faces Crisis of Integrity

Journalists come in many sizes, shapes and styles, especially in today social media, blogosphere, and entertainment-as-news world. Journalists, including those employed by major media outlets like Fox, can and often do have points of view. Nothing new about that. From 10 years of experience as a journalist, I learned that the textbook definition of journalists as objective reporters of truth is an ideal that often falls short in practice. Some might say it’s a myth.

Anyhow, the issue raised by this incident is not whether O’Dwyer is a journalist (which I believe he is). It’s whether or not he’s a journalist, did it make sense from a public relations standpoint to bar him from covering a PRSA event. From my perspective the clear answer is no.
Posted by David

Group: PR News Group
Discussion: PRSA’s Reputation Crumbles – Faces Crisis of Integrity

David, I disagree that anyone who simply declares himself or herself to be a journalist should automatically assume the same rights traditionally afforded to someone who seriously studied for that career, paid his dues and who genuinely deserves that mantle. I doubt that during your 10 years of experince as a journalist you never were chastized by a senior editor for not filing a sufficiently balanced story, or never had descriptive adjectives edited out of your raw copy. People who follow certain bloggers, listen to Rush Limbaugh, or watch Fox “News,” clearly are not interested in obtaining truthful, objective news, but rather simply reinforcing their preconceived point of view. That is not journalism, it’s advocacy. 

It’s clear that Jack O’Dwyer has a huge bone to pick with PRSA and his only objective to to advance his malicious, personal vendetta against the organization and its supporters. He is incapable of reporting objectively about anything the organization does. If he had an ounce of journalistic integrity, O’Dwyer would publish PRSA’s letter to him in his own newsletter. Newspapers (those run by genuine journalists) routinely publish letters that are critical of their news coverage and editorial point of view.
Posted by Beverly

Group: PR News Group
Discussion: PRSA’s Reputation Crumbles – Faces Crisis of Integrity

Beverly, it seems to me you are clinging to a particular genre of journalism and not embracing long-standing other forms of journalism, including advocacy journalism, which I recall studying during my graduate work in journalism at BU many years ago. Advocacy journalism is not new. It was known as muckraking back in the early 1900s. It’s taken on some new meaning and prominence in the social media era, but it’s practiced as well by respected mainstream journalists like Ann Curry, Diane Sawyer, and Bob Woodruff. (See USA Today article: http://tinyurl.com/4yf8h6c ). 

Many magazines, journals and blogs published by respected groups that are dedicated to reporting that promotes causes or points of view. The reporting strives to be factual but makes no pretense of being balanced or even objective. The International Encyclopedia of Communication ( http://tinyurl.com/3p9m6n7 ) puts it this way: “The term advocacy journalism describes the use of journalism techniques to promote a specific political or social cause. The term is potentially meaningful only in opposition to a category of journalism that does not engage in advocacy, so-called objective journalism.”

Jack O’Dwyer has published a widely read newsletter focused on public relations for many years along with various directories that are widely used. As I understand it, he was admitted as a journalist to prior PRSA events over the years. Now, suddenly, he’s not a journalist any more. It doesn’t pass the sniff test, and even if it did,barring him was a bad PR move.
Posted by David

Group: PR News Group
Discussion: PRSA’s Reputation Crumbles – Faces Crisis of Integrity

Ms. Payton, anyone can call themselves a journalist. You have no right to tell someone they are not simply because they don’t fit your personal criteria. If you are saying you have to have a degree and be accredited in order to assume the title is just flat out wrong. People reading the stories will vote on whether he is a journalist by either reading him or deleting him. 

In the new media of journalism today there are many more journalists that have taken on the mantle. They may not have a degree, but to say they are not a journalist simply because they have not done the things that you have done, is a bit out of sorts. If you want to hold to that your opinion on journalism is the right way you will be left behind in this new wave of social media.

Just because someone has a bone to pick doesn’t lessen their credibility any more than a whistle-blower breaking open a story of prejudice. In fact, while I didn’t have skin in this game with Mr. O’Dwyer, in reading and studying the issue, its clearly and blatantly wrong to lock him out. Its quite possible in the end he may be proven correct, like a lot of whistle-blowers. I, for one, will be reading even more of his information to see how this is going to be handled by PRSA. 

I wonder how many journalist are reading this that do not have a degree similar to Ms. Payton. How would you classify a “Genuine Journalist”?
Posted by Lee

Group: PR News Group
Discussion: PRSA’s Reputation Crumbles – Faces Crisis of Integrity

Well put, Lee.

On a less lofty note, PRSA, in its Code of Ethics, states one of its “core values” as follows: ”Work to strengthen the public’s trust in the [public relations] profession.” 

Barring O’Dwyer did the opposite.
Posted by David

Group: PR News Group
Discussion: PRSA’s Reputation Crumbles – Faces Crisis of Integrity

Well said, David. The PRSA should not have banned O’Dwyer. They should in fact, give him an “honorary” title from one of its official programs.
Posted by Greg

Group: PR News Group
Discussion: PRSA’s Reputation Crumbles – Faces Crisis of Integrity

Lee, you mentioned that you’d like to be able to remove your detractors from your meetings. But, I imagine the Douglas County meetings are subject to open record/Sunshine Laws and Freedom of Information requests, which is why you can’t. PRSA is a private member organization and our national Leadership Assembly is a private meeting of our members. We’re well within our rights to bar any and all reporters from attending.
Posted by Arthur

Group: The Chief Communications Officer (CCO)(TGL)
Discussion: PRSA’s Reputation Crumbles – Faces Crisis of Integrity

Ed – It’s a bit presumptuous to state that this issue alone has caused a “crisis of integrity” with PRSA, which is far from accurate. While I don’t agree with how the organization has handled the dispute with Jack O’Dwyer (or with how Jack has handled himself), you’ve made one hell of a leap with this post.
Posted by Michael


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  1. Jack O'Dwyer says:

    Hi Newsroom Ink:

    Thanks for your support. All the arguments of PRSA supporters are undercut by one thing: none of the national officers or board members and none of the staff will meet with me. New York counselor Mike Paul and others have tried to set up such meetings for years to no avail.

    They won’t even get on the phone with me. They won’t talk to their own members. Starting on July 28, they wouldn’t let delegates question chair Rosanna Fiske on so-called “teleconferences.” I have never seen PRSA leadership and staff so isolated from the membership. Rosanna has addressed only two of the 110 chapters and COO Bill Murray has compiled the same record in four years and nine months. He has a new three-year contract starting in January but neither he nor the board will reveal the terms.

    Below are 20 documented abuses of PRSA.

    1. Failure to warn prospective members they won’t be eligible for national Society office until they become Accredited. Non-APRs can’t serve on the Ethics Board nor hold office in some chapters.

    2. Providing late and substandard financial reports. IRS Form 990 withheld from the 2009-10 Assemblies. The 2010 return is not yet available (as of Oct. 24, 2011). Booking dues as cash violates FASB Section 958-605-21-1 which says dues must be booked month-by-month over the dues year.

    The Society claims it’s “acceptable.” It should show the balance sheet both ways at a minimum. The major professional groups (ABA, AMA, AICPA, etc.) all defer large amounts of dues. Also, the Society frequently refers to “best practices” for PR pros and never to “acceptable practices.”

    Not-for-Proft Budgeting & Financial Management, by CPA Edward McMillan, says a “common, major accounting error” of associations is “failing to use the deferral method for dues income” since dues represent “an entire year’s worth of membership.” Booking dues as cash results in financial statements that are “overstated and misleading,” he writes.

    3. Blocking press coverage of the Assembly by forbidding, since 2010, any photographs or recording of the Assembly by reporters.

    Irrationally, the Society allowed reporter Jack O’Dwyer to cover the 2010 Assembly but refused to give him “credentials” to the conference itself. The Society wouldn’t give him or any O’Dwyer reporter or any O’Dwyer “assign” the “credentials” to either for 2011, sending him 23 pages of complaints about his coverage but refusing to face him in person. Refusal to face him in person obliterates any charges against him.

    Freedom of the press is a right granted by the First Amendment to the Constitution and in America an accused person has the right to face his or her accusers.

    4. Withholding transcripts of the Assembly since 2005 and refusal to provide transcripts of teleconferences. These are like the “slow-motion” replays that are common in sports journalism that give fans needed details.

    5. Blocking PR reporters from accessing the audit or quarterly reports. They are in the members’ area and reporters are not allowed to join the Society. No reason is given for this. Reporters are members of PR groups including IABC and IPRA.

    6. Professing “commitment” to Sarbanes-Oxley but failing to have outsiders on the national board and failure to have an audit chair on the board who is a financial expert.
    Leaders Don’t Face Members in-Person

    7. Refusal of leaders including chair Rosanna Fiske and COO Bill Murray to regularly face members in person. Fiske, while spearheading a drive to increase dues by $30 to $255, has only appeared before two chapters, her home chapter of Miami, and the Georgia chapter in Atlanta. VP-PR Arthur Yann does not dispute that statement. Murray has only addressed two chapter memberships in four years and nearly ten months—Washington, D.C., and Minnesota. Yann does not dispute that statement. No in-person, face-to-face discussions of the dues increase took place. Since July 28, “teleconferences” conducted by Fiske have been in “listen-only mode.” Callers cannot talk online but must submit questions by e-mail or a special website.

    8. Refusal to have a year-round list of the 270 or so Assembly delegates. They have until Aug. 15 each year to post their names. Also lacking is a transcript of what they say and a delegate-by-delegate record of how they vote. Insiders have this since the delegates vote by numbered electronic devices.

    9. Blockage of news of key member initiatives such as the 2006 move by Central Michigan to give the Assembly power over the board, copying ABA and AMA. No other chapter supported CM whose bid lost by a 261-19 vote. CM called the Assembly “a rubber stamp.” PR Society news media carried no mention of the proposal made in April 2006.

    10. Leaders defend the $140,000 “Leadership Rally” that brings chapter presidents-elect to New York each June, compromising their independence, even though budget cuts are needed and national seeks a $30 dues hike. The Assembly is mostly chapter presidents and presidents-elect. Attendees at the “Rally” get a $550 stipend plus five free meals.

    11. Removal of the single list of the 110 chapter presidents from the Society website forces anyone who wants such as list, including the presidents themselves, to download all the sites. This website has done that and makes the list available to anyone who wants it.

    12. Removal of the names and contact points of about 47 h.q. staffers, leaving only seven names. This loss of information makes it impossible to track staff turnover.

    13. Society made huge decisions without any input from the Assembly including the move downtown in 2004 for 13 years, eliminating use by the New York chapter, and cancellation of the printed members’ directory. Leaders refuse to discuss having a PDF which involve no printing or mailing costs by national.
    Threats to Reporter Ignored

    14. Refusal to investigate or disavow threats of physical violence made in person and in a letter to Jack O’Dwyer by an Assembly delegate following the 2010 Assembly. Yann e-mailed O’Dwyer that a national director witnessed this incident.

    15. Refusing to compensate numerous authors after selling hundreds of thousands of copies of their articles from 1980-94. An expose by O’Dwyer’s ended the practice which was netting PRSA about $60,000 a year.

    16. The costly re-write of the bylaws at the 2009 Assembly violated major tenets of Robert’s Rules that forbid use of proxies and that demand that all articles in a revision be presented to the Assembly. Other advice ignored included not trying to do a revision at a regular meeting and having a large committee with all elements represented. Ten of the 11 committee members were APR when APRs are only 18% of the membership. Legal costs and bills from law firm Venable totaled $299,793 from 2007-09, an average far above previous years.

    17. Further tightening insiders’ grip on governance by restricting officer nominations to those who have served on the board. The 2009 revision, turning its back on the wisdom of the founders who barred directors from returning to the board, provides that directors can serve two, two-year terms in a row and can come back indefinitely after skipping one year.

    18. Not allowing members to work at their own h.q. since about 1980, although the major professional groups such as ABA, AMA, AICPA and ASAE have large numbers of their own professionals on staff. Only three of the 50+ Society staffers are members and they are under tight control of management.

    19. Failure to discuss the unusually high percentage of Society income devoted to staff pay/fringes–$5,529,699 in 2010 or 52.5% of revenues of $10,513,366. Average percentage of similar-sized groups is close to the 40% or lower range. Many groups have kept a New York h.q. but put “back office” operations in much cheaper locales.

    20. Avoidance of New York as the site of the national conference (only once in the current 23-year period) has cost the Society millions because New York has by far the biggest audience. The 4,000 record for attendance was achieved at the 2004 conference in New York. Oddly, Philadelphia was the conference site in 2007 and will be again in 2013 while no New York conference is currently scheduled.
    Posted by Jack O’Dwyer

    • Ed Lallo says:

      Jack:

      It is not the intention of Newsroom Ink to offer support to either you or PRSA. Newsroom Ink is distressed that the organization promoting itself as the voice of public relation professionals, fails as a leader when it comes to following established “best practices” it promotes daily in publications, interviews, speakers and online.

      As professional brand journalists, Newsroom Ink prides itself in following the high standards of working journalists offering a credible service that tells our clients stories from their unique perspective. Newsroom Ink is offering its services free of charge to PRSA to help jumpstart a new conversation not only with you but its chapters and members.

      The Harvard Review Op-Ed by PRSA Chair and CEO Rosanna M. Fiske, APR, now raises questions on whether she is qualified to offer a credible comment on the failure by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings to adequately handle his company’s PR crisis – is like “the thief shouting robber.”

      Fiske needs to heed her own advice, “CEOs should aim to clearly communicate the issue, and what is being done to rectify it.”

      Jack, it is your job to continue to ask tough, but fair questions. To follow all leads thoroughly and, within the law, investigate wherever a story may take you – that is the job of all good journalists.

      It is the job of all professionally trained public relation professionals to give journalists access and answer questions to the best of their ability without compromising client or company – all PR professionals need to rise above petty differences that may arise with journalists.

      PR professionals, especially those specializing in crisis communications, need to have the tools and the skills to effectively steer the conversation to a higher level – the jury is still out on whether current staff and board of PRSA have those qualities.

      Ed Lallo

  2. Jack O'Dwyer says:

    Ed:

    Thanks for your comments. This is a situation that is very harmful to the entire PR industry. I’m willing to go anywhere, anytime to face the elected leaders and staff of the PR Society. They refuse to do this or even talk to me on the telephone.

    The net nut is that the Society owes me and other authors a lot of money for selling hundreds of thousands of copies of our articles without our permission. Rather than face this, the Society embarks on a campaign to discredit me and the O’Dwyer Co.

    Our reputation is solid with the PR industry and employers of PR because our Directory of PR Firms, now in its 41st year, has helped to bring billions of dollars of business to PR Firms. Currently listed are 1,700 firms. Same for our PR Buyer’s Guide that lists 1,000 PR products and services in 60 categories, now in its 21st year. It’s a catalyst for business activity.

    Below are abuses of PRSA in approximate order of importance. (Oct. 25, 2011); by Jack O’Dwyer

    1. Failure to warn prospective members they won’t be eligible for national Society office until they become Accredited. Non-APRs can’t serve on the Ethics Board nor hold office in some chapters. Cost to become APR is $410. The process, including the “Readiness Review” (candidates submit materials they allegedly worked on) at no time involves either writing or creativity. Final exam is a computer-administered multiple choice test.

    2. Providing late and substandard financial reports. IRS Form 990 withheld from the 2009-10 Assemblies. The 2010 return is not yet available (as of Oct. 24, 2011). Booking dues as cash violates FASB Section 958-605-21-1 which says dues must be booked month-by-month over the dues year.

    The Society claims it’s “acceptable.” It should show the balance sheet both ways at a minimum. The major professional groups (ABA, AMA, AICPA, etc.) all defer large amounts of dues. Also, the Society frequently refers to “best practices” for PR pros and never to “acceptable practices.”

    Not-for-Proft Budgeting & Financial Management, by CPA Edward McMillan, says a “common, major accounting error” of associations is “failing to use the deferral method for dues income” since dues represent “an entire year’s worth of membership.” Booking dues as cash results in financial statements that are “overstated and misleading,” he writes.

    3. Blocking press coverage of the Assembly by forbidding, since 2010, any photographs or recording of the Assembly by reporters.

    Irrationally, the Society allowed reporter Jack O’Dwyer to cover the 2010 Assembly but refused to give him “credentials” to the conference itself. The Society wouldn’t give him or any O’Dwyer reporter or any O’Dwyer “assign” the “credentials” to either for 2011, sending him 23 pages of complaints about his coverage but refusing to face him in person. Refusal to face him in person obliterates any charges against him.

    Freedom of the press is a right granted by the First Amendment to the Constitution and in America an accused person has the right to face his or her accusers.

    4. Withholding transcripts of the Assembly since 2005 and refusal to provide transcripts of teleconferences. These are like the “slow-motion” replays that are common in sports journalism that give fans needed details.

    5. Blocking PR reporters from accessing the audit or quarterly reports. They are in the members’ area and reporters are not allowed to join the Society. No reason is given for this. Reporters are members of PR groups including IABC and IPRA.

    6. Professing “commitment” to Sarbanes-Oxley but failing to have outsiders on the national board and failure to have an audit chair on the board who is a financial expert.
    Leaders Don’t Face Members in-Person

    7. Refusal of leaders including chair Rosanna Fiske and COO Bill Murray to regularly face members in person. Fiske, while spearheading a drive to increase dues by $30 to $255, has only appeared before two chapters, her home chapter of Miami, and the Georgia chapter in Atlanta. VP-PR Arthur Yann does not dispute that statement. Murray has only addressed two chapter memberships in four years and nearly ten months—Washington, D.C., and Minnesota. Yann does not dispute that statement. No in-person, face-to-face discussions of the dues increase took place. Since July 28, “teleconferences” conducted by Fiske have been in “listen-only mode.” Callers cannot talk online but must submit questions by e-mail or a special website.

    8. Refusal to have a year-round list of the 270 or so Assembly delegates. They have until Aug. 15 each year to post their names. Also lacking is a transcript of what they say and a delegate-by-delegate record of how they vote. Insiders have this since the delegates vote by numbered electronic devices.

    9. Blockage of news of key member initiatives such as the 2006 move by Central Michigan to give the Assembly power over the board, copying ABA and AMA. No other chapter supported CM whose bid lost by a 261-19 vote. CM called the Assembly “a rubber stamp.” PR Society news media carried no mention of the proposal made in April 2006.

    10. Leaders defend the $140,000 “Leadership Rally” that brings chapter presidents-elect to New York each June, compromising their independence, even though budget cuts are needed and national seeks a $30 dues hike. The Assembly is mostly chapter presidents and presidents-elect. Attendees at the “Rally” get a $550 stipend plus five free meals.

    11. Removal of the single list of the 110 chapter presidents from the Society website forces anyone who wants such as list, including the presidents themselves, to download all the sites. This website has done that and makes the list available to anyone who wants it.

    12. Removal of the names and contact points of about 47 h.q. staffers, leaving only seven names. This loss of information makes it impossible to track staff turnover.

    13. Society made huge decisions without any input from the Assembly including the move downtown in 2004 for 13 years, eliminating use by the New York chapter, and cancellation of the printed members’ directory. Leaders refuse to discuss having a PDF which involve no printing or mailing costs by national.
    Threats to Reporter Ignored

    14. Refusal to investigate or disavow threats of physical violence made in person and in a letter to Jack O’Dwyer by an Assembly delegate following the 2010 Assembly. Yann e-mailed O’Dwyer that a national director witnessed this incident.

    15. Refusing to compensate numerous authors after selling hundreds of thousands of copies of their articles from 1980-94. An expose by O’Dwyer’s ended the practice which was netting PRSA about $60,000 a year.

    16. The costly re-write of the bylaws at the 2009 Assembly violated major tenets of Robert’s Rules that forbid use of proxies and that demand that all articles in a revision be presented to the Assembly. Other advice ignored included not trying to do a revision at a regular meeting and having a large committee with all elements represented. Ten of the 11 committee members were APR when APRs are only 18% of the membership. Legal costs and bills from law firm Venable totaled $299,793 from 2007-09, an average far above previous years.

    17. Further tightening insiders’ grip on governance by restricting officer nominations to those who have served on the board. The 2009 revision, turning its back on the wisdom of the founders who barred directors from returning to the board, provides that directors can serve two, two-year terms in a row and can come back indefinitely after skipping one year.

    18. Not allowing members to work at their own h.q. since about 1980, although the major professional groups such as ABA, AMA, AICPA and ASAE have large numbers of their own professionals on staff. Only three of the 50+ Society staffers are members and they are under tight control of management.

    19. Failure to discuss the unusually high percentage of Society income devoted to staff pay/fringes–$5,529,699 in 2010 or 52.5% of revenues of $10,513,366. Average percentage of similar-sized groups is close to the 40% or lower range. Many groups have kept a New York h.q. but put “back office” operations in much cheaper locales.

    20. Avoidance of New York as the site of the national conference (only once in the current 23-year period) has cost the Society millions because New York has by far the biggest audience. The 4,000 record for attendance was achieved at the 2004 conference in New York. Oddly, Philadelphia was the conference site in 2007 and will be again in 2013 while no New York conference is currently scheduled.
    Posted by Jack O’Dwyer

  3. Arthur Yann says:

    Here is PRSA’s organizational response, for those who are interested:

    ‘Aren’t You Tired Of It By Now Too?’

    That was the question posed by PRNewswer Editor Tonya Garcia in an article about what she called the “ongoing feud” between the J.R. O’Dwyer Company and PRSA.

    To answer Ms. Garcia’s question, yes, I am tired of it. PRSA members also are tired of it, especially those who have been personally targeted by Publisher Jack O’Dwyer, but more on that later.

    The latest shotgun blast in this “feud” stems from PRSA’s decision not to extend press credentials to Mr. O’Dwyer, which would have allowed him to “report” on our Leadership Assembly meeting and International Conference, which took place Oct. 15-18, in Orlando, Fla.

    To be sure, this was an unprecedented step, and one we did not take lightly. We understood that we would face criticism from those who may not understand why an organization that represents public relations professionals would take an action that seems to fly in the face of established public relations tenets.

    For this reason, we explained our position in a statement, in an extended conversation with Bill McCarren, executive director of the National Press Club, and in a 23-page letter sent to Mr. O’Dwyer, which outlined our concerns with his professional conduct. (The letter was at the link provided at the time of this writing.)

    One of the many concerns we outlined is that Mr. O’Dwyer interferes with the employment and educational relationships of PRSA volunteers. Imagine, if you will, that you are the president of a PRSA Chapter, and you’re summoned to a meeting with your CEO and your organization’s legal counsel and HR director, and asked to explain who Jack O’Dwyer is, and why you shouldn’t be fired for volunteering your professional skills and time to an organization that’s as “unethical” as he claims. This happens routinely. And repeatedly.

    Mr. O’Dwyer also investigates personal details in the private lives of PRSA leaders, including seeking information on their personal finances and minor children; harasses college students who are part of PRSSA; and surreptitiously accesses PRSA’s proprietary information systems and conference calls without our prior knowledge or consent, of which we have proof.

    If your concern is that PRSA is picking and choosing which journalists can cover its events, that would be a fair criticism. We get it.

    By no conventional definition, however, is Mr. O’Dwyer a reporter. He is a publisher and a salesman and, in his behavior toward PRSA, an activist. And admission to PRSA events with reporters’ credentials is restricted to journalists only, and not handed out to just anyone claiming title to their access and privileges.

    Mr. O’Dwyer is, of course, free to write whatever he wants, much of which we consider to be biased and misleading, if not outright lies.

    For example, he alleged in an article that the partner of a PRSA President died of AIDS — a disease which (rightly or wrongly) carries a strong social stigma — despite having been told specifically that AIDS was not the cause of death. Is that ethical journalistic conduct? If he worked at The New York Times, would he still have a job? At News of the World … maybe.

    But let me be clear: This is not an issue of attempting to stifle negative coverage of PRSA. As noted above, Mr. O’Dwyer will write what he wants, and readers will judge for themselves the veracity of his claims and the integrity of his reporting. However, when he (or any journalist) actively harasses our members, or disrupts our events, or meddles in our business relationships, or violates established media policies that all other reporters willingly follow, one cannot reasonably excuse nor defend that behavior in the interest of protecting First Amendment rights.

    Mr. O’Dwyer is an activist, and he has the right to be one. But much like the author of the “Sprint Really Sucks” blog would not be invited to attend the annual meeting of Sprint shareholders, so, too, does PRSA have the right to deny access to an activist who harasses our employees, volunteers and business partners.

    Some of the comments on the PRSA-NY LinkedIn Group, where a discussion on this topic was initiated, appear to recognize this. “I’m not sure how excluding Jack is any different from any organization excluding muckrakers from its gathering. I’ve worked with Fortune 10 companies for years and we routinely exclude journalists from functions up to and including not sharing information with certain properties,” said one.

    Another asks what is wrong about “extending invitations to a selection of journalists but not to all?”

    These folks seem to recognize that the media environment has shifted dramatically. Not everyone who claims the mantle of journalist today is prepared to carry out the responsibilities associated with that title.

    It’s telling that the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) recently invited Mr. O’Dwyer to resign his membership in that organization which, like PRSA, emphasizes ethical conduct on the part of its members.

    In the face of Mr. O’Dwyer’s unrelenting attacks, PRSA occasionally will stop to set the record straight. But for the most part, he’s a “feud-er” without a willing “feud-ee.”

    The fact is, we moved on long ago to the real issues that matter to us and the profession, such as advocating for the business value of public relations, speaking out about ethical transgressions on the part of public relations practitioners, promoting greater ethnic and gender diversity in our profession, working with the FTC and FDA on issues of interest to public relations professionals, and pushing for greater corporate communications training in MBA programs.

    If the PRNewser article is any indication, the public relations profession is likewise ready to move on. So perhaps the better question for Ms. Garcia to ask is, why isn’t Mr. O’Dwyer?

    Arthur Yann, APR, is PRSA’s vice president, public relations.

  4. O’Dwyers has been a long and much valued supporter of the South Florida Public Relations Network (www.sfprn.com). They provide an outstanding professional resource. PRSA is also an outstanding organization. It’s difficult seeing two “best friends” at odds. Here’s hoping for an amicable resolution of differences.

    • Ed Lallo says:

      Linda:

      I agree with you. I hope that both sides realize the importance of resolving this issue for not only the integrity and credibility of PRSA, but also IABC and professional communicators worldwide.

      Ed

  5. Joseph Abreu, APR says:

    I base PRSA’s credibility and expertise on their level of professionalism and trustworthiness. I have been in the profession for 10 years and PRSA has been the ONLY organization of value to me. They have helped me grow as a respected leader in communications. While I do not agree with all their decisions and points of view, I wholeheartedly support the organization and Ms. Fiske’s actions when it comes to the “so-called journalist” O’Dwyer. As a former journalist, I’m surprised that any respected news organization would align themselves with his views. If NewsroomInk thinks their story wasn’t bias, they need to go back to “Writing for Mass Comm” and learn how to do objective reporting.

    I’m also appalled that anybody in PR would say PRSA needs to cater to this peasant. It’s unfortunate he has spent his later years criticizing PRSA instead of acting like a civilized citizen. He’s a disgrace, and he – or anybody who values his opinion – isn’t worth anybody’s time.

  6. Jack O’Dwyer is not a journalist. Journalists don’t have unwanted physical contact with their interview subjects. Journalists don’t fall asleep at meetings they’re covering. Journalists don’t have financial conflicts of interest with the subjects they are covering.

    PRSA humored O’Dwyer until he became a disruptive potential liability to the organization, which forced them to take action and bar him from attending the conference.

    This is not the behavior of a journalist:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QUAwedoEGo0

  7. Jack O'Dwyer says:

    Blue Ribbon Panel of Journalists and PR Pros needed on this. I have plenty of evidence and have never dodged a phone call or e-mail. –Jack O’Dwyer
    Blog:
    PR, J-Profs Should Explore PRSA Press Boycott—O’Dwyer
    Nov. 18, 2011

    This blog is an open letter to PR and journalism professors proposing that they form a Blue Ribbon Panel on Press Boycotts to study PR Society of America’s unprecedented formal boycott against the O’Dwyer Co., all its employees and any “assign” of the company.
    The National Press Club and PR Watch, two of the most credible sources among journalistic organizations, have both urged the Society to drop the boycott but they have been ignored.
    The Society continues to give its rejection of the NPC advice maximum publicity on its website.
    Since Oct. 19—nearly a month—the No. 1 item under “What’s New” on the opening page of the Society website has been the Society’s criticism of the NPC statement regarding the boycott. http://www.prsa.org/
    Headline is “PRSA Reacts to National Press Club Statement.”
    The statement by VP-PR Arthur Yann says “It strikes us as ironic that the NPC would question PRSA’s actions while at the same time excusing Mr. O’Dwyer’s.”
    NPC did not “question” the Society’s actions. It urged the Society to drop the boycott. NPC did not “excuse” any of the alleged wrongdoings of this reporter. It said that “While we find many of the points in the letter unfortunate and even highly disagreeable, we do not think they constitute a reason to ban a reporter who has been allowed access for 40 years.”
    NPC did not accept the truth of any of the Society charges. I spent quite a few minutes rebutting those charges and presenting documentation.
    Boycott Is of National Importance
    The Society has made at least 35 separate charges of wrongdoing against me in a 23-page document dated Sept. 1 and in postings on the Society website by Yann on Oct. 19 and Oct. 26. Links to these documents are below.
    The 23-page document was posted on the O’Dwyer website shortly after it was received. http://media.prsa.org/article_display.cfm?article_id=2318
    This issue should be of importance to PR, communications and journalism departments of colleges because it says a lot about the pressures on PR and journalism.
    Newspaper jobs are in short supply today because of the huge decline in ads. Ad revenues (print and online) fell from $49.4 billion in 2005 to $25.8B in 2010 according to the Newspaper Assn. of America. That’s a decline of nearly $25 billion and translates to the loss of lots of jobs and a lost opportunities for J grads.
    TV ads, meanwhile, grew from $52B in 2000 to $65B in 2010 and web ads from $7B to $35B.
    Journalists need to be stronger and not weaker in this climate or there will be further erosion.
    The PR portion of communications has been expanding and now totals more than 250,000 practicing PR pros. There are fewer than 50,000 practicing journalists.
    PR has shown its power with respect to the O’Dwyer Co. by publishing a formal, written boycott not only of me but any O’Dwyer employee or any “assign.”
    National Press Club Is Dismayed
    The National Press Club, which heard both my side and the PR Society’s side, issued a press release to 390 major media with bureaus in Washington, D.C., expressing “disappointment” with the boycott and urging the Society to end it.
    A similar request was made by PR Watch, http://www.prwatch.org/ which has exposed abuses in government and businesses since 1993 and has been supported by more than 40 sources including the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, Turner, Stern, Ettinger, Goldman and other foundations. http://www.prwatch.org/finances.html
    NPC and PRW are about as credible as any institutions can be in communications.
    But the Society criticized both.
    PR Watch Called “Unethical”
    PRW, which carried a posting by me, was told in a posting by Yann that its behavior, like my behavior, “falls well outside the ethical standards imposed by the SPJ.”
    The ethics of Robert Conrad, Ph.D., host of thegoodthebadthespin.com, were called into question by Yann after Conrad carried and O’Dwyer posting. http://thegoodthebadthespin.com/2011/09/15/what-prsa%e2%80%99s-survey-results-really-mean-part-2/
    Blogger Jane Genova, who has authored and co-authored many PR-related books and articles, was hit with this remark after posting an O’Dwyer comment: “So, if you’d like your clients to call into question your firm’s own ethics, you’re certainly welcome to side with Mr. O’Dwyer.” Genova had called the Society boycott “dumb as dirt.”
    Blogger Lucy Siegel, former officer of the Society’s New York chapter, who called the boycott “totally unprofessional, unethical and childish,” and who posted an O’Dwyer comment, was hit with this comment by Yann: “You seem to have missed my point. What Mr. O’Dwyer writes is biased, misleading and often, flat out lies.”
    Ed Lallo, former officer of the Austin chapter, who hosts newsroomink.com and who wrote that because of the boycott the Society “has lost credibility as an organization that can effectively speak for its members,” was accused by Yann of pitching the Society in “an extortion-like way,” which Lallo denied. http://newsroomink.com/6168/prsa%e2%80%99s-reputation-crumbles-%e2%80%93-faces-crisis-of-integrity/ Yann added: “As the saying goes, there’s honor among thieves. Or put another way, a disregard for professional ethics makes strange bedfellows.”
    Dozens of comments on the Society’s boycott, both for and against it, are on the newsroomink site.
    Yann Cuts Debate on Society Website
    While numerous Yann comments have been carried on the O’Dwyer website and many PR blogs, a discussion that followed the Oct. 26 Yann posting on the Society website and that drew 18 comments (16 of them negative to me) was closed on Tuesday, Nov. 1, before nine a.m. It had been up four days when usual web practice is to keep debates open indefinitely.
    This reporter had been able to post one correction of the dozens of false charges and miss-statements in the 23 pages and the Oct. 19 and Oct. 26 postings of Yann.
    Society’s Financial Reporting Criticized
    This essay will address the No. 1 complaint in the 23 pages—that I “Misrepresented” the Society’s financial condition and accounting practices.
    The Society quotes the “Federal Accounting Standards Board” when the correct name is the “Financial Accounting Standards Board.”
    There is an indirect quote that FASB says it is “acceptable to book nonrefundable revenues upon receipt.”
    There are no quote marks around this statement because it is not a word-for-word quote.
    The word-for-word quote from Section 5.46 of ASC 958-605-25-1 is that dues are to be “recognized over the period to which the dues relate.”
    This specifically refers to “dues” income, a detail that the indirect quote of the Society leaves out. All the major professional groups including the America Bar Assn., American Medical Assn., and the American Institute of CPAs defer large amounts of their dues.
    By booking about $4.5 million in dues as an “asset” rather than counting about half of this amount as a liability, the Society bloats its “net assets” figure by about $2.2 million.
    It claimed in the 23 pages that this practice is “acceptable,” which is an odd thing for it to claim since the Society frequently refers to “best practices” in PR and never to “acceptable” practices.
    At the very least, the Society should show its balance sheet both ways.
    Accounting professors Charles Mulford of Georgia Tech and Edward Ketz of Penn State, who were given a copy of one of the Society’s audits, both said that dues income should be booked as earned over the course of a year.
    Phil Wolitzer, who has given accounting classes to reporters for the New York AICPA, told us after examining the 2005 Society audit, that it did not meet the standards for “full, fair and adequate disclosure.” http://www.odwyerpr.com/site_images/051606CPA-Profs-Rap-PRSA-Financial-Report.pdf

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