PRSA and public relations

I wrote last week about the Public Relations Society of America. Bill Sledzik in his ToughSledding blog started the discussion about a news release concerning Jeff Julin, the newly named chair of that organization. Others like Jack O’Dwyer and Les Potter then joined in a conversation about PRSA in general.

On Monday I sent an e-mail to Joseph DeRupo, PRSA’s associate director of public relations and the media contact for the announcement. I asked some general questions that would be pretty typical of any evaluation process.

I didn’t really expect to get a reply. And as of today, I haven’t been disappointed. After all, if PRSA refuses, as it often does, to talk to Jack O’Dwyer, who has a national audience, the organization isn’t going to reply to me.

Or should Mr. DeRupo or someone from PRSA reply?

Let’s see. I’ve been a member of PRSA for about 20 years. I’m an Accredited member. I teach public relations at Kent State University. And I wanted to share the information provided by PRSA to readers of this blog and to students in the classroom.

OK. PRSA isn’t going to respond to me because I’m writing a blog. I seriously doubt that most organizations these days take the time to respond to bloggers, unless it’s a high-visibility forum with a large following. Clearly that isn’t the case here. Over time organizations will have to rethink that strategy. But it isn’t going to happen today.

But then there is the bigger issue: developing and maintaining relationships. I don’t warrant any special treatment from PRSA because I’ve been a member for 20 years. Every member should be treated the same – with respect, care and with some understanding that relationships really do matter.

When I was at BFGoodrich – a much larger organization than PRSA – someone would have responded to any shareholder, employee, customer or member of the community who asked a question or raised a concern. And that wasn’t just the responsibility of the public relations staff. Organizations, particularly large corporations, apply some fancy titles to that: customer relations, shareholder/investor relations, employee relations, community relations, etc.

But looking at it from the standpoint of public relations – how about doing it just because it is the right thing to do?

I was going to keep mentioning in this blog how many days it has been without a reply from PRSA. But as I was running this morning I concluded that doing that would be a colossal waste of everyone’s time. Organizations either get it – or they don’t.


3 responses to “PRSA and public relations

  1. Rob,

    Unlike you, I haven’t asked for a response from PRSA, nor do I expect one. But I hope we’ve given them something to think about — assuming they’re reading any of this.

    Should PRSA respond to a couple of blogging troublemakers in Ohio? This would be a great question to pose to a classroom — a good strategic exercise, dontcha think?

    It’s true than I am a 25-year PRSA veteran and a member of the College of Fellows, so maybe they owe me. It’s also true that I’m a disgruntled member who happens to be a blogger, and that can be trouble, but it’s not likely.

    I have a following but not much of one. Even if we both were to ratchet up our criticism, PRSA’s best PR strategy may be to say nothing and let it die. It may be the best way to minimize damage, thus be best PR strategy.

    I’m trying to envision the conversation between a top PRSA exec and his PR guy. I think it would go like this:

    PR guy: Hey boss. Some bomb-throwing bloggers in Ohio are really ramming us a new one over the Julin release. I tried to tell you that release was total crap, but you wouldn’t listen. Now I think it’s best we ignore these guys.

    Boss: What kind of circulation do these bloggers have?

    PR guy: Well, they don’t measure blog readership by circulation, but the one guy, Sledzik, has a Technorati rating of 72 and averages about 6,000 visits a month to his blog. That’s pretty small potatoes. And this Jewell character is a total newbie who thinks up his blog posts while jogging at 5 in the morning. Go figure.

    Boss: Hold on. What’s Technorati, and what exactly is a “visit”? If it’s anything like circulation, that sure is small potatoes. Geez, 6,000 visits a month? My hometown weekly in Idaho has that many readers and trust me, nobody listens to those idiots. You’re right, who cares what these guys think?

    PR Guy: That’s our position boss. Also, if they’re like most bloggers, half their readers are other bloggers. These folks tend to talk to themselves a lot. It’s a big echo chamber. Both these bloggers are longtime PRSA members, but if we lose ’em we’re only out about $500. Big deal? Maybe as nonmembers they’ll leave us alone.

    Boss: Yeah, we’ll shut them up by pretending they don’t exist. They’ll go away. Works for me. Sometimes it’s the best way to deal with the wackos on the fringe.

    PR Guy: Yeah. Where’s Tony Soprano when you really need him, eh boss?

  2. Bill,

    Wait a minute. You get 6,000 visits a month? That might give you the best-read publication in the Akron area, print or online. Is it just my imagination or did the Akron Beacon Journal have fewer pages on Tuesday than a typical issue of the Daily Kent Stater? I know. I’m getting bad in my dotage.

    Should PRSA, or other organizations, reply to lonely bloggers in the heartland, or elsewhere? That is a good topic for a class. And maybe a PRSA webinar. (Want to bet there is one?) If I were actually working these days I might agree that the answer should be no.

    But we are members. And at some level just common sense says send a rely. I’m sure no one at PRSA is reading this conversation. But I know my e-mail works. Like you, I get hundreds of messages some days.

    So here’s my view of the conversation:

    Boss: What you doing today?

    PR Guy: Not much.

    Boss: Good. Let’s try and keep it that way.


  3. Principles of common sense and common courtesy would dictate a response, to be sure — an email, a phone call. You have been very reasonable, Rob, so PRSA should reciprocate.

    The Society may feel I violated the “common courtesy” principle when I likened the release to Bulls&*@ Bingo. But I call ’em as I see ’em.

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