Like me, Jack O'Dwyer, who has been writing about the PR business for some 40 years or more, is not a big fan of PRSA, now called PRS (Public Relations Society).
I was a member of PRSA many years ago and found it to be useless, for me at least. But over the years, mainly from reading Jack's newsletter and from people I know who've been involved in PRSA, the group has become even more irrelevant than it was years ago. For me, as a small PR practitioner, the organization seems to offer nothing. It seems to be dominated by folks from the giant agencies, and it has little connection anymore to New York City, which is home to a huge segment of our industry.
I've been writing here for years about how PRS should undertake a real effort to help improve the PR profession's image by explaining what we do and by leading an effort to promote PR education at agencies and in business schools. The recent PRS effort to define PR did bring some attention to our business, but the definition that came out of the process falls short and is woefully inadequate. In fact, many in PR have mocked the final outcome.
With that said, so you know a bit about how and why I feel about PRS, let's move on to what Jack O'Dwyer has been saying over the past few days. He's raised two issues that are current.
First, as the election of a new chair of PRS is coming soon, Jack writes that he has a real problem with the board's apparent designee, Joe Cohen of MWW Group here in New York. I don't know Joe; in fact, I had never heard of him until Jack mentioned him to me last week. You can read in Jack's newsletter (link is at the start of the paragraph) why he feels Joe would not be a good chairperson and -- worse yet -- why Jack feels the whole nomination process is corrupt. At this point, I know very little about PRS and its politics, but I do trust Jack. He's been a watchdog, and if he feels there's a problem at PRS, I would tend to believe him. Check out Jack's column on the PRS elections.
Jack also raises the issue of PRS' APR accreditations. In a message he sent me yesterday, he notes that PRS just released results of the first nine years of its new Accreditationb program that shows participation by PRS members is half of what it used to be. An average of 136 new APRs have been given in the past nine years, compared to an average of 274 in the previous ten years of the APR program.
To me, it shows the value (or lack of value) people in our business place on the APR. Jack says, no wonder! The new test, he says, is multiple choice questions on a computer, done after a "readiness review" that involves no writing. Previously, the test involved 5-1/2 hours of writing and was graded by an outside service.Tying it back to PRS elections, Jack says the Society still does not allow non-APRs to run for national office, which means more than 80 percent of PRS members are not able to run.
Honestly, I don't what to make of all this. It just doesn't smell right.
Thanks, Jack, for keeping an eye on this and for trying to keep PRS honest and open, for the benefit of us all.