Bone No. 1: It started last year with a simple request from the editor O’Dwyers Public Relations News. Jack wants PRSA to provide a PDF version of the society’s membership directory so members (and journalists) can share the resource.
Despite what I said here in Round 11, Jack has a great point. He says the directory should serve more than just PRSA members. It should serve the profession — and especially young professionals launching their PR careers.
PRSA stopped publishing the dead-tree version in 2006, citing high costs. The new online directory is a little 1995ish in look and design, but it is searchable and easy to update.
Jack will tell you that the old directory was a big help to journalists covering the business, so it makes sense to put one in every journalist’s hands. What I will tell you is that the directory helped PR professionals and students as well.
Prior to 2006, I often loaned my dead-tree directory to students seeking internships and jobs around the country. And pre-1992, before I took up teaching, I loaned it to coworkers seeking contacts with PR pros in other cities. I’m sure most PRSA members did the same.
With the directory now under digital lock and key, students and colleagues must visit my office if they want to see the PRSA list. Then I must log them onto my account to give them a peek. I hope that’s not a violation of the “terms of service”! While I appreciate PRSA’s desire to safeguard the list, I’m a little shocked the Society doesn’t trust me, a 27-year member, with a PDF copy of the membership roster.
Does this make sense to you?
Bone No. 2 is also a list-related issue — sort of. PRSA recently developed some new guidelines for researchers seeking access to the Society’s membership for survey purposes. O’Dwyer calls the proposal “draconian.” I call it “in need of adjustment.”
The proposed guidelines call for members of PRSA’s Academic Research Task Force to review all research proposals and decide whether the work is worthy of access to the treasured membership list. That’s fair. Otherwise PRSA members might be bombarded with survey requests from every marketer on the planet.
But here’s where I agree with Jack: The proposed guidelines insist that completed research projects must be submitted to PRSA’s online academic publication, and that PR Journal retains “first right of refusal” on every project that uses the membership list. In other words, you can’t shop your work to other journals until PRJ says it’s not interested.
That’s a bad idea. Some journals are simply a better fit for certain types of research. And some are more prestigious than the fledgling PRJ, which has yet to establish a reputation. I’m surprised that a committee of folks dedicated to academic freedom would propose such a restriction, and I’m hoping they’ll fix it when they next meet.
The research guidelines approved by PRSA’s Board of Directors appear on pages 5-6 of this PDF: prsaminutes
PRSA and the value proposition
I worry that PRSA is building walls when the communication world is tearing them down. And I worry that my professional home of the last 27 years is losing its value.
The society once was my primary source of information about the biz. I looked forward to chapter meetings and national conferences as a place to learn. I read PRSA publications cover to cover. Today I attend meetings only for networking.
Some evidence that PRSA has fallen behind:
The 1990s website. PRSA long-promised website renovation has yet to happen. The look, the content and the navigation of prsa.org are vintage Web 1.0. As the largest organization of communication professionals in the world, PRSA’s website should be on the leading edge with its Web presence.
Social networking. The world’s largest organization of communication professionals has never established an interactive online network, and it’s probably too late to do so now. Yes, PRSA has a couple of blogs — both established far too late to impact the conversation. I’m wondering: Where do PRSA members go for talk about the business issues and to share ideas?
Information resources. PRSA still produces printed versions of PR Tactics and Strategist. Both publications have value, but seldom break new ground. Read the leading bloggers and you’ll learn a lot more a lot more quickly. PRSA’s “Daily Issues and Trends” email alerts sometimes produce a useful nugget. But you’ll learn a more at PR Daily Newsfeed, Marketing Profs, or Online Media Daily — all available free.
I’m grateful for the support we at Kent State receive from PRSA members in Northeast Ohio. Also, the Public Relations Student Society of America helps our students connect to the profession. But what does the national organization contribute to the mix?
I’d survey the membership on that question, but I don’t have a copy of the list. Besides, I doubt the Research Task Force will approve my proposal.