Strong words from PRSA veteran over leadership restrictions

Art_Stevens_-_Pat_Jackson_Award(4)

Art Stevens

Longtime PRSA leader Art Stevens doesn’t mince words in a scathing editorial posted today at Bulldog Reporter. It is a must-read for all PRSA members. (Special thanks to Judy Gombita for the quick link.)

Stevens’ wrath is directed at the 2009 PRSA Assembly, which last week rejected a bylaw change that would have opened the ranks of PRSA leadership to many more of its members.

Some excerpts from his editorial:

The PRSA Assembly has literally closed the doors to the best minds in our profession. How did the Assembly pull off this art of self-destruction? By requiring that all national officers and board members be accredited.

For the past forty years or so, only APRs could be elected to the national board. Now, this would be fine if PRSA accreditation were universally embraced. But the fact is that it’s not. Less than 20 percent of the 21,000 PRSA members have chosen to become accredited. And that pattern hasn’t changed in years.

Instead of seizing the opportunity for PRSA to represent the entire PR profession, the Assembly chose to remain exclusionary. This was a defining moment for PRSA. And it failed the test.

Stevens, himself an APR and member of PRSA’s College of Fellows, voices strong support for the APR as a tool for promoting professionalism and competence. His editorial even offers suggestions for how PRSA could redirect marketing of the APR, aiming it as more junior-level practitioners.

I don’t talk much about accreditation in public relations. I earned the APR in 1986 and have always believed the preparation process made me a better professional. At the same time, the APR did nothing to improve my leadership skills or potential, nor were any of my clients impressed when I added those letters to my business card.

When an industry leader like Art Stevens’ speaks so passionately, we should all listen carefully. When the Assembly gathers in Washington next year, let’s hope they vote to open the clubhouse.

The APR is a wonderful benefit of PRSA membership. It should not be a prerequisite to participation in the national leadership ranks. It’s time to let that go.

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2 Responses to Strong words from PRSA veteran over leadership restrictions

  1. Bill Sledzik says:

    Comments following Stevens’ piece at Bulldog Reporter are running heavily in his favor. But his opposition (and let’s remember — their side won the day)offers some passionate arguments of their own. Worth a look if the “inside baseball” of PRSA interests you.

    Some folks, it seems, felt the Bylaws Task Force promised on thing and delivered another — that the bylaws changes were promoted in one-way fashion,not negotiated in a symmetrical forum.

    I’m not taking sides on the fine point of the proposal. Hell, I haven’t even read them all. I’m just agreeing with Art about the arcane practice of restricting leadership positions to only those members who hold the APR. The rule creates two classes of PRSA members, and that’s a bad idea. It also, as Art points out, discourages mid-career professionals from lending their maturity and their leadership skills to the Society.

  2. [...] you follow PRSA politics, you know that Stevens published a strongly worded editorial on this topic last fall, soon after the National Assembly voted down a move to dump the APR [...]

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