From PRSA: Dues Increase Rationale

September 14, 2011

As promised, here are the PRSA talking points about the proposed dues increase:

• Last year was a challenging one financially for PRSA. We realized only a modest net surplus from operations.

• We anticipate an even smaller net surplus this year; basically, around the “break-even” point. This will inhibit investments in new products, services and member benefits, and virtually eliminate PRSA’s ability to cover any unanticipated expenses or losses on PRSA’s product and service offerings.
o For context … The total PRSA operational budget is $11.5 million.
o For context … PRSA’s operating margin is .4 percent (four-tenths of one percent), as compared to average operating margins in the range of 14 percent for public relations firms.

• The national Board of Directors, as you may know, engaged a Task Force to suggest ways to maintain the Society’s financial health in future years. The Task Force recommended that PRSA increase its member dues by $25 to $50. The Board of Directors felt that an increase on the lower end of that scale would help mitigate the financial impact on members, while still allowing PRSA to achieve its financial goals in 2012 and possibly beyond. For this reason, $30 is the amount of the increase being proposed.

• The Task Force’s rationale in making its recommendation was fairly straightforward:
o PRSA has not increased the cost of its membership dues in 10 years, even though the cost of doing business has risen over that time.
o Membership dues, which account for approximately 50 percent of PRSA’s revenue, have remained steady, but other revenue streams, such as professional development and Jobcenter, have declined.
o Over that same 10-year span, PRSA has increased the scope and number of benefits it delivers, and member satisfaction is high.
o PRSA also has been diligent about finding new ways to diversify its non-member revenue sources, and already has cut $1.5 million in operating expenses from its budget.
o An increase in the cost of membership is now vital to our continued reinvestment in the Society.

• If the Leadership Assembly does not pass a motion to increase PRSA’s membership dues, current financial projections show that PRSA will incur annual losses on operations beginning in 2012. Such losses cannot be sustained over the long term and will lead to cuts in products, services and member benefits.

• To help anyone who may be struggling financially, Members will have an opportunity to renew for one year at the current rate, assuming they do so by Dec. 31 of this year. PRSA also offers a Quarterly Payment Program that allows current members to pay their National and Professional Interest Section dues in four quarterly payments.

September already?

August 29, 2011

Is it just me, or does time pass faster nowadays?  It’s hard to believe that autumn is close upon us.  As summer comes to a close, a brief update:

The Northeast District chapters are all alive and well. While all have been affected in some way by the economic uncertainties of the past few years, the creative and innovative approaches of our chapter leaders have enabled membership to hold steady — and even grow in a few cases! — and also have resulted in programming that provides great value to members and non-member guests alike.

We all are pressed for time, at work and at home. It is gratifying to know that so many professionals in the Northeast District are willing to give their time and talent to ensuring the vitality of our PRSA chapters, and the District itself.

Ultimately, membership in PRSA or any other professional organization is a value proposition. We must continually prove that membership is worth the investment of limited resources – both time and money. I believe we have been able to provide value, particularly at the chapter level, and at the district level through leadership development and our annual district conference.

The value proposition is a perpetual challenge for PRSA at both the local and national level. That conversation has been renewed with the recent proposal by the PRSA Board to propose a dues increase for the first time in a decade.

PRSA Board member BJ Whitman, APR, Fellow PRSA (our Northeast District liaison to the Board), has provided background information about this proposal, which I will post as a separate blog entry. The proposal will be on the 2012 Leadership Assembly agenda.

Please provide feedback about this proposal to BJ or other PRSA leaders in advance of the Assembly, or offer your thoughts via the PRSA web site at


My New Year’s Wish: Realizing the Full Potential of PRSA’s Leadership Assembly

December 22, 2010

In October 2010, the PRSA Leadership Assembly met in Washington, D.C. We discussed and debated a number of important issues. We spent the afternoon session discussing the future of public relations. These were important topics, but they cannot be fully explored by a gathering of more than 250 people in just a few hours. There is so much more that we could do.

In 2009, PRSA re-wrote its national bylaws. One of the major changes was the elimination of the “Assembly” and the creation of the “Leadership Assembly” with the job to “advise the board and the profession regarding issues of concern to the profession of public relations. To this end, the Leadership Assembly shall identify, discuss and address issues of concern to the public relations profession, and serve as a liaison between the board and the Chapters, Districts, Sections and membership.” The goal was to create a body that would be engaged at some level year-round. Fixing commas in bylaws would not be our main purpose.

I proposed a resolution at this year’s Assembly year calling on the PRSA National Board to engage the Leadership Assembly more throughout the year. It failed, in large part due to the belief of other delegates that it is not the Board’s responsibility to engage the Assembly – but it is a two-way street and the Assembly needs to engage the Board as well.

Since the Assembly, we have been quiet. There has been little to no engagement. That is to be expected as people catch their breath. But I wanted to take this time to write an open blog post to all Chapters. The Leadership Assembly can only be effective if we have active, engaged delegates throughout the year.

Just as important – PRSA National needs to know who the Leadership Assembly Delegates are. The role of the Assembly Delegate has changed. No longer do we listen to a few calls in the summer and early fall and go for a one-day meeting prior to the International Conference. There is a Leadership Assembly Delegate E-Group that is maintained throughout the year, but if you chart the posts it looks like this:

2010 PRSA Leadership Assembly Engagement

That is not the sign of a body that is active and engaged throughout the year.
I believe it is time for the PRSA members and Chapters to change this. So please:

1)    When electing your chapter officers and board for 2011, make sure all your Leadership Assembly delegate slots are full.

2)    Please let PRSA National know by January 31, 2011, who your delegates are. Many times PRSA National doesn’t know until a few weeks before the Annual meeting. That is too late, and cuts your chapter out of any discussion that may happen throughout the year.

3)    Hold your delegates’ feet to the fire. Have us give monthly updates at the Chapter Board meeting. If we have nothing to say or report, then something is broken and we are not doing what we should.

Note, I applaud the work all delegates do. I know PRSA National appreciates all the time delegates give. This does not reflect the work they do at their chapters, and many do quite a lot. I have worked with many, many passionate, caring, intelligent and committed delegates. But over the past decades we have set a baseline; now with the bylaw change, we raised the bar. I believe its time for us to step up and give even more.

It’s up to us, the PRSA Members and PRSA Chapter leaders, to make the Leadership Assembly a thriving, dynamic and important element of the Society throughout the year. As a delegate from Boston I promise to give it my all.

Others will be making their New Year’s wishes for peace, happiness, success, and death of the AVE. I will simply wish that the PRSA Leadership Assembly reach its full potential in 2011.

I invite you to join me in making it happen.

Mark W. McClennan, APR is a senior vice president at Schwartz Communications. He is the immediate past-chair of the PRSA Northeast District and a Leadership Assembly Delegate for PRSA Boston. He can be reached at mmcclennan @ or

A Job Well Done!

November 18, 2010

Thanks to all those who attended the recently concluded 2010 PRSA Northeast District Conference, held Nov. 4 in Troy, NY and hosted by the Capital Region Chapter. It was especially gratifying to see so many practitioners and students at the daylong event. The district board expresses its great appreciation to the Capital Region Chapter members who contributed so much to the success of the conference. It is difficult to believe that the chapter was hosting the annual conference for the first time. To help relive the event, the chapter has provided a link to some of the speaker presentations and a photo gallery.

See you in Rochester, NY for the 2011 Northeast District Conference.

Kudos for PRSA Rochester Chapter

October 20, 2010

The Rochester chapter is one of two chapters nationwide honored Oct. 16 during the PRSA Leadership Assembly Luncheon in Washington D.C. with the organization’s national chapter diversity award. It was quite a pleasure seeing a Northeast District chapter recognized with such a prestigious honor. Obviously, it’s a testament to the great work undertaken by the chapter’s members and leadership. Accepting on behalf of the PRSA Rochester Chapter was Assembly Delegate Christopher Veronda, APR. Here’s an excerpt from the PRSA news release issued after the award presentation:

Christopher Veronda, left, poses with
Northeast District Chair J.B. McCampbell.

“It is an honor to be recognized by the PRSA Diversity Committee for our Chapter’s efforts to raise awareness about the importance of diversity,” said Kathy Phelps, public relations manager, Dixon Schwabl, and PRSA Rochester Chapter president.

The PRSA Rochester Chapter spent the past year focusing their efforts on inclusion, while building a platform for conversation and increasing awareness in their community and Chapter. To accomplish this, they planned three distinct programs that engaged business leaders and students. Through various panel discussions, participants learned how to create more inclusive work environments, educated university students about the importance of diversity, and provided tips to communicate the value of diversity to both management and employees.

“We are always looking for new opportunities and fresh approaches to sharing information about the value of diversity and inclusion within the public relations profession and the Rochester community,” said Karen S. Olson, APR, assistant professor, Communication Department, The College at Brockport, State University of New York, and chair of the Rochester PRSA Diversity Committee.

Congratulations again to our Rochester chapter.

APR in PRSA Governance Debate: Pro and Con Voices

September 9, 2010

The most significant bylaw discussion to occur at the 2010 PRSA National Assembly in October revolves around the role of APR in PRSA Governance at a national level. There is a proposal before the Assembly to eliminate the requirement that candidates for national office and the national board of directors be APRs (all other requirements will remain and the nomination and election process will not change).

The PRSA Northeast District Board firmly believes that an informed member base is the best member base. This is an issue that impacts all members of PRSA. Not just Assembly Delegates or those considering running for national office.

We wanted to make sure all PR pros in the Northeast District have a chance to hear both sides of the issue. Therefore, we invited two of the most passionate and visible people to make their case (ideally in 500 words or less) which we would then post without any editing.

As of now, the PRSA Northeast District Board of Directors has not yet taken a position on this issue. We want to hear from you about what you think. Chapter presidents and leaders, please feel free to share this with your membership to find out what they think. Members, please let your delegates know how you would like them to vote.

Without further ado:

For Removal:
Expanding the Path to PRSA Leadership

One of the hallmarks of the Public Relations Society of America is the broad inclusion of communications professionals. Our more than 21,000 members represent a staggering range of institutions, corporations, non-profits, agencies of all sizes, government entities, associations, regulatory bodies, the military and educational institutions. And because there is no single defined path to enter our profession – such as mandated licensing for law or medicine – our members have a rich array of backgrounds and experiences.

As PRSA prepares for the upcoming International Conference in October, a very important decision will be made at the Leadership Assembly. Delegates will vote on a bylaw amendment that will expand the paths to leadership in our society.

Currently, there is one path to PRSA leadership at the national level. To serve on the national board, members are required to have their Accredited Public Relations (APR) certification. While other factors then come into play – such as length of involvement in our profession, service to the Society, leadership skills, etc – the APR is the sole standard for national service. Approximately 4,000 PRSA members have earned this certification.

We support a bylaw amendment that will create three paths to leadership in our society.  Support for this bylaw in no way diminishes the value of APR in our profession. Indeed, every member of our society should respect and applaud the PRSA members who have taken the time to earn this professional distinction.

By the same token, we ask those who have earned the APR to value the leadership skills, industry qualifications and desire to serve that exist among the 80 percent of our members who have chosen not to pursue the APR certification. APR is a hallmark for professional improvement, but not a standard for good governance.

Earning an APR is a professional distinction, and it is strong enough to stand on its own merits. It should not be the sole gatekeeper for those who seek to serve PRSA. All members of PRSA – regardless of which type of organization they represent, the path they took to enter our profession or what voluntary certification they chose to pursue – should have an equal opportunity to serve on the national board.

Certainly, there must still be high standards for those seeking a national board position. The proposed bylaw upholds those high standards by requiring that a nominee for the national board is a member in good standing and have at least one of the following qualifications:

– A previous leadership role in the Society, including, but not limited to, served as a member of a Chapter, District or Section board of directors, chaired a national or local committee or task force, or served as an Assembly delegate.
– At least 20 years of service as a public relations professional, with increasing levels of responsibility.

Under this amendment, the value and stature of APR is preserved while the value and stature of other forms of leadership are recognized. The Nominating Committee will continue to vet all candidates to ensure the very strongest leaders will be brought before the Assembly each year. With this amendment the pool of potential leaders will be broadened. In recent years, there have been many board positions that have only had one candidate to be considered by the nominating committee.

As each PRSA chapter prepares to send its delegates to Washington, D.C. for the Leadership Assembly, we ask that they discuss, evaluate and support this critical bylaw amendment. Making this change will require a two thirds vote of the Assembly, and it continues the discussion that was held last year on this important issue. The changing of bylaws should not be taken lightly. But we strongly believe that the long-term health and viability of PRSA is dependent upon having a broad, diverse and committed stable of leaders who may, or may not, have earned a voluntary professional certification.

Sandra Fathi
Bill Doescher
Deborah Radman, APR, Fellow PRSA
Rene Henry, Fellow PRSA
Eric Moses
Dave Rickey, APR
Art Stevens, APR, Fellow PRSA
Monty Hagler, APR

Against Removal

Why I am opposed to dropping the APR requirement for national PRSA leadership
By Steven L. Lubetkin, MBA, APR, Fellow, PRSA
Managing Partner, Lubetkin Communications LLC/Professional Podcasts LLC
Past PRSA National Board Member, 2003-2005
Past Member, Universal Accreditation Board, 1997-2003

With great respect for the leaders of the proposal to decouple the APR credential as a requirement for national leadership of PRSA, I still disagree strongly with their contention that they are not devaluing the APR credential with their amendment.

I think if these “deep in their career” professionals who don’t have the APR truly want to lead our Society, they would demonstrate their commitment to professionalism and leadership, and leading by example, would study for and obtain the APR, to show other, junior members of the Society that they value credentialling as a way to preserve professional standards.

If they truly want to be leaders of the Society, they would not be seeking a shortcut to the leadership chair, they would gladly submit themselves to this demonstration of their knowledge and ability.

The message that’s sent by the amendment is that if you want to be in charge of something but you don’t meet the requirements, change the institution and remake it to your own liking.

That approach, rejecting and attempting to circumvent a standard that we dislike, reinforces some of the baser elements of the PR profession today. It’s manipulative, hypocritical, and damaging to professional development goals.

I don’t think that’s in PRSA’s best interests, and I don’t think our membership believes that either.

Requiring APR for PRSA leadership is not about proving their competence. It’s about individuals who wish to lead the organization making a tangible, personal sacrifice and public commitment to the credential that says, “Being credentialed by the organization where I want to be a leader is important. It shows my commitment to professional development for myself, and shows that I am personally willing to put my neck out there and take the time to prepare for an examination to test my abilities as a PR practitioner.”

All major professional organizations with credentialling programs require their leaders to be — at the very least — minimally involved in the organization’s credentialling programs.

Why do the leaders of this amendment drive think that PRSA leadership should be disconnected from its own credential? What’s the big deal about earning it?

The leaders of this amendment will argue that this is a debate over democracy. They will say that the APR requirement prevents 16,000 members from running for national office. I suggest that it gives them a challenge to demonstrate their own commitment to professional development if they want to lead.

The supporters of the amendment claim there are “world class” agency presidents unable to serve as leaders of PRSA because they don’t have the APR. I’ve never seen one of those people actually raise their hands and say “I want to be a PRSA national leader.” It’s all based on rumor and supposition.

I challenge the supporters of this amendment to publically explain why they prefer to do away with the requirement for APR.

I challenge them to say to our younger members of our organization, “You know, APR is a good thing to have, it’s really a mark that distinguishes someone who is willing to keep learning about PR from those who slime the ethics of our profession, and I am taking the exam to show younger practitioners that this is a way for them to stand out and create a positive reputation for themselves.”

The bottom line for me is this: If we as a Society that claims to value professional development don’t full-throatedly support our OWN credential for people who want to lead at the very top of our profession, how can we ever expect anyone else to take it seriously?

Congratulations to Kirk Hazlett, APR, Fellow PRSA

August 3, 2010

Please join me in congratulating Kirk Hazlett, APR, Fellow PRSA, who was nominated by the PRSA National Nominating Committee this past weekend to be the official candidate to take over for Gail Winslow-Pine, APR on the PRSA National Board when her term ends this year.

Anyone who has been active in the Northeast District for the past decade likely knows Kirk. He has been an active leader in PRSA Boston and the Northeast District and has served as a PRSA liaison for more than a dozen Massachusetts colleges.

If you do not know him, Kirk has practiced nonprofit and government public relations and marketing for more than 35 years in the US as well as Asia. Before moving into education, Kirk managed communication programs for healthcare and member services organizations as well as the US Army and US Air Force in Vietnam, the Philippines and the United States, and he has provided consulting services for both the Manila and the Singapore Red Cross.

Accredited by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), Kirk has held leadership positions with PRSA Northeast District and with the Boston and Hawaii PRSA chapters. He is Director-at-Large for PRSA’s Educators Academy and serves as a judge for PRSA’s nationally-acclaimed “Silver Anvil Awards” and the Publicity Club of New England’s “Bellringer Awards.” He is currently an Assistant Professor of Communication at Curry College.

The nominees will stand for election by a vote of the PRSA Leadership Assembly on Oct. 16 at the PRSA International Conference in Washington, D.C.


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