I have been to a number of PRSA National Assemblies, and none have left me as inspired, energized and frustrated as this Assembly. The people I met were outstanding, consummate PR pros with passion and drive. When we were provided opportunities for input, there were great ideas. Many (like me) spent hundreds of dollars of their own money to go and work to help advance our profession.
Yet this year a portion of the PRSA Assembly fundamentally failed (in my opinion). For years I have heard Assembly Delegates (myself included) say we want to play a bigger role in society governance. Well this year, we took a step back from our stated desires and abrogated the precious responsibilities our chapters have bestowed upon us. We agreed to the duty. We should execute it to the best of our ability. This year, we did not.
What has me so riled up?
The Assembly started at 8:00 a.m. 5:00 p.m. rolled around. There was at least one resolution being written, the UAB had not given their report (and throughout the day, an overarching theme I heard was the importance of doing more with the APR and a desire to discuss it), there were other items still to be discussed, plus a chance to ask the National Board questions.
The chair asked for a motion to extend the meeting beyond the set 5:00 p.m. stop time.
Yet, fully half the delegates voted to adjourn. We needed a 2/3rd majority to extend the meeting even 30 minutes, and we couldn’t get that. The meeting ended abruptly.
I am stunned and dismayed by this. An Assembly Delegates’ main role is to represent their chapters at PRSA National Assembly. That’s it for the year. Some chapters spend $500+ of Chapter dues to send each delegate to Assembly.
Yet half the delegates present weren’t willing to commit more than 9 hours (which included a lunch and multiple breaks). I don’t know about you, but for me, nine hours is an easy day.
I was talking to delegates afterwards and the reasons they gave for voting not to extend the Assembly were varied – the meeting wasn’t run efficiently, they had dinners planned, they didn’t think anything else of substance was left.
Yes, I think there are ways to improve the running of the meeting. There always are and there always will be. (I was tweeting my concerns about that throughout the day). There is always room for improvement. But it went pretty well for a body that meets once a year.
The amazing thing is, this year was a pretty “easy” assembly. Next year will be the Mother of All Assemblies – where we potentially debate and vote on a complete rewrite of the PRSA Bylaws. Trying to get that done in 9 hours, plus reports, elections and other issues will be a Herculean task.
At a minimum I would suggest the National Board plan for the meeting to go longer, and realistically, we all plan for a two-day session to provide the time needed to adequately discuss, debate and act of the issues facing our profession and the bylaws rewrite.
There is nothing that can be done about this year and this is not an attack on all delegates or the national board. I have no idea who voted to extend the time and who did not. Many, many delegates gave selflessly of their time and were willing to stay as long as it took.
But this situation is something that needed to be brought to light.
In closing, I would like to ask all Chapter offers to consider asking your 2009 Assembly delegates to make the commitment to stay until business is done. This is too important a responsibility. I know I will ask Boston and all the Chapters in the Northeast to do so.