Advocacy PRSA News

Off and Running

This year’s first quarterly meeting of PRSA’s Board of Directors—my first, as Chair—was held Jan. 22 – 24, at PRSA headquarters in New York. We welcomed nine new Directors, whose energy and enthusiasm were immediately apparent from the spirited discussions of the Society’s 2009 policies, operations, and major initiatives that took place over the three days.

The meeting kicked-off—somewhat uncharacteristically—with a “Pulse of the Profession” roundtable discussion, which focused on three main areas: the major issues of concern currently confronting our industry, the economic downturn’s impact on our industry, and the best ways to measure and communicate public relations’ value. Leslie Backus, Deb Silverman, and Gail Winslow-Pine represented the PRSA Board, while executives from Text100, MasterCard International, and Siemens Corp. provided their own unique external perspectives. Look for the roundtable to be featured in the Spring issue of The Public Relations Strategist, and discussed further in future posts here.

The Board next turned its attention to four major initiatives that will characterize 2009, the first of which is a revision of PRSA’s Bylaws. The Board heard from the Bylaws Rewrite Task Force, which proposed a series of changes in keeping with modern governance theories and current best practices in association management. The Board voted to accept most of the Task Force’s recommendations, and requested additional information before rendering a decision on the balance. A final decision on which Bylaw revisions will be recommended to the Assembly in November will be made on our February Board of Directors call. We will be communicating with our members regarding the proposed changes throughout the year, so please watch for those communications and let us know your thoughts.

Another major initiative the Board discussed is a survey of PRSA Chapters. Member research shows that Chapters lend value to PRSA as an organization, and that members’ experiences at the Chapter level are an important indicator of their overall satisfaction. A broad survey of Members about their Chapter experiences will enable PRSA to identify best practices by Chapter and set benchmarks that will help all our Chapters excel.

A third initiative moving forward is something we’re calling, “The Business Case for Public Relations.” This advocacy project is intended to provide a focused platform that will help build global demand for the practice of public relations by explaining its roles, outcomes and value, and by enhancing its image among important constituencies. As this is a new concept, a task force is being formed to help develop the idea and create an overall project plan.

Finally, the Board was updated on the status of the redesign of PRSA’s Web site, which we know our Members are anxious to see come to fruition. Phase I of the project—establishing the graphic design and top-level navigation—is nearly complete, with Phase II—designing the technical specifications and building the infrastructure, about to commence.

The meeting closed with each Board Member sharing his or her personal vision for PRSA, consistently sounding themes of working to serve our members and their needs during these challenging times, better connecting our Members with the Society overall, and amplifying PRSA’s voice as an industry thought leader. All in all, it was a great way to start the year, with exciting initiatives and passionate and involved Board Members. There’s a lot more to say on these and other issues, and I’m looking forward to discussing all of it with you in the weeks and months ahead.

Michael Cherenson, APR, is the 2009 Chair & CEO of PRSA.

About the author

Michael Cherenson, APR, Fellow PRSA


  • Michael:

    Sounds like an enthusiastic first meeting. We’ll be looking for great progress in this “Year of Change.” Regarding the “Business Case” initiative, action speaks louder than words. Perhaps PRSAY can be a forum illustrating the action Pro’s have taken on behalf of their respective organizations.

    All the best,

    Gerry Corbett

  • Hello Michael and the Society Board:

    Congratulations on this new forum. I hope the members will ask questions and that most of the input you will receive will be allowed on the forum. I notice you have a number of rules governing content. Some members have told me that it’s easy to comment on a subject but initiating a new subject might be more difficult. Is that true?

    Thus far I have not seen much participation in the first couple of weeks but hopefully that will change if some interesting topics are posted.


    Jack O’Dwyer

    • Hi Jack:

      Thanks for your post. Our advice for communications professionals would be that they have a clear policy for users and postings on all blogs they help create, and ours is pretty typical in that respect. We’ll be using that policy to guide us as to what comments are posted. Just as you’ve rejected some of the comments we’ve submitted for posting on your site, we too will use our judgment to avoid posts that defame or harass or are completely off topic, irrelevant or inappropriate for the purposes of this blog. A key aspect of our blog policy, though, is that unlike on your site, we will not allow anonymous postings, as we think it raises the level of discourse when readers submit comments for attribution, in line with the goal of transparency in communications.

      Mike Cherenson

  • Congratulations on attempting to communicate. Will the minutes be available to the membership so all the missing (and important to us) details will be provided?

    Richard Newman, APR, Fellow PRSA

    • Richard – Minutes of all board meetings have been available to members (online) since last year. After they are compiled and approved the January meeting, minutes also will be made available. Thanks for your interest.

  • Hello again, Michael:

    I welcome your encouraging news about updated bylaws and website redesign progress.

    As we already see, your post provides a useful “forum for PRSA members and other public relations professionals to engage in a dialogue with PRSA leaders, exchange viewpoints, and share perspectives on issues of concern to the Society and the public relations industry as a whole” — just as it says up top.

    In that spirit, I share concern that heavy use of last-century jargon (, , ) undercuts our Society’s image and undermines a value proposition of our profession: Crisp, clear, effective writing.

    I’m not cherry-picking examples of reflexively used cliches. Your fifth paragraph begins with corp-speak I’d never present to a client:

    “A third initiative moving forward is something we’re calling, ‘The Business Case for Public Relations.’ This advocacy project is intended to provide a focused platform that will help build global demand for the practice of public relations by explaining its roles, outcomes and value, and by enhancing its image among important constituencies.”

    Besides recasting the 37-word second sentence, I’m confident most (OK, some) PRSA members would yank “moving forward.” (Safe to assume the initiative isn’t moving backward.)

    The post also is marred slightly by a punctuation slip of the type we all make, but which is ironic here (“. . . best ways to measure and communicate public relation’s value.”)

    My intent isn’t to play gotcha over a mini-gaffe ((let he who is without typos . . .) Rather, I believe one way to communicate public relations’ value is through original, vivid, creative language in public statements from the profession’s largest organization. That could eliminate at least one piece of ammunition for those who call PRSA “old-school.”

    Perhaps blog posts and press releases deserve an extra pre-publication review by a Digital Gen member of Arthur Yann’s staff or by or Ann Wylie, budget- and time-permitting.

    Just a suggestion from a Detroit member who wants us to look and sound as good as we are.

    [P.S.: I know from experience that “the input you will receive will be allowed on the forum,” so Jack can just . . . ahem, never mind.]

  • Congratulations on creating this forum! Brilliant to give members an opportunity for open conversations with PRSA leaders. Thank you for also providing us relevant and timely updates from the board meetings.

  • I think the PRSA is really a wonderful resource for its members. I also believe the PRSA has unlimited offerings for its members, but I struggle with the ‘pay to play’ mentality that comes with the overwhelming number of information sharing teleseminars/webinars offered through the Society. What is the percentage of free PRSA-sponsored teleseminars/webinars or ones that are offered at a cost the members would consider economical? I always thought memberships were designed to share information among its members and not to profit for this information exchange. Am I that misinformed?

    Would greatly appreciate leadership insights into why the ongoing extra costs associated with PRSA-sponsored information sharing programs (that are primarily web-based for member participation from remote sites)?

    Thank you

    • Hi Terry –

      You’ve asked a good question. The short and to-the-point answer is that two years ago, we didn’t have any free teleseminars or webinars. Last year, we decided to try something new and experiment with “free” sessions, and held four over the course of the year. Their popularity grew rapidly, and this year, we are planning to hold 12 free sessions, one a month, with the sessions being available for free playback by folks who can’t dial in directly. Free sessions are about 10 percent of our offerings; the next free session will be held this week, Wednesday, February 11.

      You’ve also asked about costs. Regardless of whether sessions are free or not, the same costs are associated with both types of sessions. First, we work hard to screen our presenters, check their credentials and ensure that our sessions are learning opportunities rather than selling opportunities. Second, both free and paid sessions have to be marketed — materials created and disseminated. Third, all our of sessions have costs related to the technology — paying for the registration and communications platform. Finally, to maintain our quality, we conduct surveys of participants and a post-session assessment to evaluate the program. Overall, this year we will do just over 100 fee-based sessions, so our “free” sessions this year will be roughly equal to about 10 percent of our total, up from zero two years ago. With respect to our fee-based sessions, these come at a variety of prices — $35 for New Professionals, $85 for Sections, $150 for members, $250 nonmembers, and our pricing is based upon a per site price in order to facilitate team learning. We see an average of four to 7 participants per site who register, which is an effective way for folks to lower the cost. Member dues pay for about 40 percent of the cost of PRSA, with the balance of PRSA’s costs provided through corporate sponsorships, partnerships, income from advertising and some fee-based programming, such as our Conference, and we work hard to provide a variety of options and pricing levels to better accommodate everyone.

      Ultimately, our goal is to provide a balance between those items that are provided on a pay-as-you-go basis, such as the majority of our teleseminars, and those benefits are fully covered by the cost of membership — things such as PRSA’s daily Issues and Trends newsletter, LinkedIn Group, ComPRehension learning Blog, award-winning Tactics and Strategist publications, Membership directory, e-Groups, RFP exchange, our research library with award-winning Silver Anvil Cases, or our PR Journal — something that is relatively new, but which is attracting increased attention.

      Thanks for your membership, and for taking the time to write.

      Bill Murray
      PRSA President & COO

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