Posts Tagged ‘Public Relations Society of America’

As a former board member of the Public Relations Society of America (2008-09), and having been involved with PRSA for over 20 years, I am thrilled to see the rebuttal to Jack O’Dwyer from last Friday:     http://media.prsa.org/article_display.cfm?article_id=2181  and to see the rebuttal quoted in both Ad Age:   http://adage.com/article/agency-news/pr-group-accuses-writer-phone-hacking/228801/    and Ragan’s PR Daily:   http://prdaily.com/Main/Articles/8965.aspx      .  The beginning of PRSA’s rebuttal reads thus:

“Mr. O’Dwyer, while a free press is essential to our country, principles and profession, not everything—or everyone—wrapped in the mantle of “journalism” is right or ethical, as the News of the World scandal demonstrates. But then again, it would appear that your organization condones such practices, given that records from our teleconferencing vendor show that telephone numbers registered to the J.R. O’Dwyer Company connected to PRSA teleconference calls without PRSA’s permission five times between May 22, 2007, and May 12, 2009.

“You’ve now repeated the lie that PRSA’s auditors “quit” so often that you’ve clearly come to believe it’s true. Yet, when Gary McCormick and Bill Murray met with you last Spring, they answered this allegation. They explained to you that PRSA routinely seeks competitive bids for professional services, including audit services, to manage costs. They also explained that it’s common for organizations to change auditors periodically as a way of maintaining the auditor’s independence.

I well remember some of those phone calls.  We were asked several times if we knew of someone who was on the call but had not announced themselves; we were told that it was suspected that someone might have leaked information about confidential board discussions.  I don’t know that the latter ever actually happened — but it should come as no surprise to anyone that sometimes boards need to be able to discuss things in private.  Board members need to be free to examine any number of angles to any given topic or issue put in front of them.  Certainly personnel discussions have to be private, by law.   I had then, and still have now,  tremendous respect and admiration for my fellow board members. I didn’t suspect anyone, and didn’t want to have to suspect anyone.  Apparently – allegedly – it might have been Mr. O’Dwyer all along, a man (just using the generic term here) with a life-long compulsion to tear down PRSA.

Before I even took my position on the board, he called me to ask if I really knew what I was doing.  Later, he wrote that I must be more involved in advertising than public relations, because the name of my company was AdScripts – and that’s all he knew about my company.  He never asked me, nor did he do any homework, to find out that I’ve long specialized in public relations (and now teach it) but just never bothered to change the name of my company because it was too entrenched.

I was far from the only person contacted.    PRSA has kept a dignified silence about many of O’Dwyer’s activities, preferring to work behind the scenes to try to resolve things.

There is no resolving them.  We are simply dealing with someone who holds a lifetime grudge and makes money by doing so.  He is not the first person to make money in this way, but he certainly adds a whole new level of sleaze to the deal.

I’m glad that I’m no longer on the board in this instance, because it feels lovely to feel free to speak out in greater defense of PRSA.  Mr. O’Dwyer, you pander to the lowest levels of human thought and behavior; PRSA, on the other hand, not only follows the rules – as required by law – but works to bring out and develop the best in the 22,000 professionals it serves.   Quite a difference in focus, I’d say.

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I have a question: are we so involved in the minutia of our lives and others’ lives through the massive amounts of updating we’re doing on social media sites, that we’re losing sight of the big picture?  Do we even have the ability to stand back and look at the big picture anymore?  Isn’t there a massive disconnect going on here?

I ask because I’ve been privileged to spend the last 20 months serving on the national board for the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), and one of our favorite sayings as board members is “Don’t get down into the weeds.”  By that, we mean our role is to provide vision and leadership for the larger picture of the organization; we’re to be some of the thought leaders our profession needs.  Being on the board definitely takes  a commitment of time; but the real commitment is that of being willing and able to think through the issues and problems set before us.  What does this decision or this wording mean to our members?  What are the consequences if we do this?  What are the consequences if we don’t?  Who will be affected, and how?  What does this mean for the future of the organization?  How do we communicate this issue to our members?

Then I come home from New York – or from whatever city we’re in – and suddenly I’m immersed into details of lives and careers, into multiple conversations, and into the need to update my own information as I “join the conversation” too, and there are times when I, as with most people I know. feel overwhelmed with the need to have my voice count, to be able to contribute.

Then I have to step back and ask, “At what price?  When do I carve out time for more contemplative thinking?  When do I carve out time for genuine strategic analysis and for stepping back and seeing an issue, a client, or a cause through a much larger framework?”

I’m of the Baby Boom generation, so I like to think I still know how to do this, even though my time seems filled up these days. But the younger generations – the Xs, Ys, and the Millenianals – are immersed in this “talk all the time in multiple venues” mode.  A report that came out today said that when these folks are multi-tasking, they’re really not doing any one thing that well, because they have trouble managing their time and sorting out their priorities; and it takes them a long time to change tasks.  It’s no wonder.  How do we emphasize the need for quiet thought?  How do we help them learn how to prioritize?  How do we teach them time management under these circumstances?

Sounds likewe need to bring back the corporate retreat but on a number of different levels; and that we should demand that people be unplugged. No cell phone, no BlackBerry, no laptops, no ipods, etc. etc.  My kids are going to laugh when they read this, because I’m the worst BlackBerry addict they know.  But I am perfectly capable of walking for long hours in the woods or on the beach, in blissful solitude and quiet; and it’s amazing how, when I do, all the chattering inside my head quiets down and certain things float to the top.  Those things which surface often surface with suggested solutions, too. 

Contemplative thought is good for a lot more than problem solving, though.  It’s also great for those of us working in creative professions.  If you need the great tag line for a business; the best ad, a great radio or TV commerical, or something witty to say online – then get up and walk away from your desk and out of the building if need be.  Let your brain go into other areas.  You’ve already programmed it for the  task at hand; now let your subconscous work for you. It will.

A lot of people know this principle, and understand it’s why great ideas can come in the shower, in your sleep, on a walk – your brain has been working for you the whole time.  

But if you’re always plugged in; if, even when you wake briefly in the middle if the night, your BlackBerry is blinking next to you, and so is your clock radio, then you’re not really getting a break.  Your brain isn’t being allowed to relax into its best, most creative, most strategic state.

And if this is all you know, and you’ve never learned to manage your time or set your priorities – you’re going to have nothing but trouble going to school or focusing on the job.  Maybe we need to create two new professional positions – one for the person who knows how to “get down into the weeds” and handle it; and the other for the person who’s going to arrange the quiet, contemplative retreat for everyone else!

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The following note which PRSA Chair/CEO Jeff Julin sent to NBC last night is beautifully expressed:

Dear Mr.  Capus,

The leaders of PRSA are deeply saddened to hear of Tim Russert’s passing. We extend our sincerest condolences to the Russert family and to his extended family at NBC and in households across the nation.  

During the 2007 PRSA International Conference, he shared his unique wisdom and insight into political discourse, the nation and our responsibility as citizens. It was a high point of Conference history, and an experience all will treasure.

Tim Russert was a standard bearer of communications excellence and integrity, as well as a great man who clearly loved his family, his country and his craft. He was a trusted source and interpreter of current events who embodied the best traditions of journalism. He became a symbol of all that American news can be by demonstrating his sincerity, honesty, professionalism and wit. Sunday mornings will never be the same.

With sympathy,

Jeffrey Julin, APR

Chair & CEO

Public Relations Society of America


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