How Mia Farrow is causing my divorce — from PRSA

I don’t pay much attention to anniversaries. Just ask my wife.

tactics-july05.gifBut when the August issue of Public Relations Tactics arrived in the mail, it reminded me that 2007 was my 25th year as a PRSA member. It also may be my last. You heard it here first.

I’ve been thinking about this break-up for 7 or 8 years now, but the triggering event was the announcement, on the cover of Tactics, that “acclaimed actress and mia-farrow.jpghumanitarian activist Mia Farrow” will be a keynote speaker at PRSA’s national conference this year.

I haven’t followed Mia’s career much since that creepy Woody-Soon Yee thing, but I had a wicked crush on her when she played the oh-so-hot Allison McKenzie in Peyton Place, back in the day. And could Frank Sinatra be wrong?

God bless Mia for her humanitarian work, whatever it is. But I’m not interested in hearing about it at my professional conference. Nor am I interested in having my registration fees pay for celebrity keynoters.

Before you say I’m overreacting, this isn’t really about Mia — she’s just given me the courage to finally propose the break-up. It’s time.

The love went out of my relationship with PRSA nearly a decade ago. Maybe it was burnout, after serving as chapter president in two cities and being part of the small core of worker bees for way too many years. Or maybe I lost interest when PRSA programs — locally and nationally — began to sound like what I teach in class, and often not as interesting or well-researched. (Yeah, I know how smug that sounds!)

Regardless of what drove us apart, the time has come for me to see other people in other organizations. We have four PRSA members on the Kent State faculty — all of us accredited. We also have an active and award-winning PRSSA chapter that’s well connected to local chapters in Akron and Cleveland.

Rest assured that Kent State will remain a fixture in PRSA circles, even if the College of Fellows calls for my medallion. I don’t recall where I stashed it, honest.

To be transparent, part of this comes down to money. I shell out over $400 a year in PRSA dues, well above the value I gain. And so long as those dues come out of my pocket and not my employer’s, the “value” question looms large. If someone (Yo, boss!) would pay my dues in multiple organizations, I’d gladly be a PR polygamist, since I have plenty of love to go around.

It’s been a good run, PRSA and me. When I had my own PR firm in Western New York, I estimated that 40% of all new business came via PRSA contacts and referrals. The networking was the reason I joined and the reason I stayed. Today, I’ve shifted the bulk of that networking to online channels. The local business lunches have become more burden than benefit.

Lest you think I’m becoming a recluse, I do plan to explore some new organizations to see what they have to offer. I’ll be looking at IABC, an excellent group that has no representation among Kent State faculty and staff — and it should.

I may even check out the AMA, provided they don’t make me read any Seth Godin books or sell my soul to the client.

PRSA was very, very good to me for a whole lotta years. So it may seem ungrateful that I’m considering this divorce — especially on the eve of our silver anniversary. But every once in a while it pays to shake things up — you know — to check out some new partners.

Just don’t tell my wife about this, OK?

22 Responses to How Mia Farrow is causing my divorce — from PRSA

  1. Allison says:

    I think anything regarding Woody and Soon-Yee pretty much overshadows anything Mia Farrow related. If we are going to listen to a humanitarian, what about Angelina Jolie?

  2. Bill Sledzik says:


    My boyhood crush on Mia could easily be transfered to Angela, but I suspect Brad would kick my ass. Regardless of which humanitarians we admire, I’m wondering why they’re speaking at PRSA and sucking up resources that could be used for more meaningful programming. Maybe Mia is working for free, but I somehow doubt it. Ditto for the big keynoter, Tim Russert, but at least his perspectives are relevant to our business.

  3. Breeze says:

    Ditto for the big keynoter, Tim Russert, but at least his perspectives are relevant to our business.

    Sure… you consider stories about his dad relevant.

    Or maybe he’ll have a lesson on how you too can avoid asking follow-up questions in interviews.

  4. Bill Sledzik says:


    You’re getting up way too early on Sunday morning. Try fishing. Beats the hell outta Meet the Press.

  5. Breeze says:

    Fishing? Don’t you have to be outside to do that? Have you any idea how hot it is–even on a Sunday morning?

  6. Bill Sledzik says:

    Reason Number 537 as to why I don’t live in Florida.

  7. Laura says:

    Hey Bill,

    Sorry to hear about the divorce, but don’t make IABC just a rebound. Look at it as potential for a great long-term relationship.

    Personally, I’m loving IABC. After being involved with Kent PRSSA and mingling with the PRSA Cleveland and Akron chapters, I came back to Pittsburgh to find a really lame PRSA Pittsburgh. They do maybe one program a year and an awards program. My mom had me involved with IABC Pittsburgh since I graduated and I owe my current job to a networking connection I made at my very first IABC event. Today, our IABC board is moving in an exciting direction. We’ve got several younger people (myself included) along with some seasoned veterans for guidance. We do one program per month, plus several happy hour networking events. IABC also has an extremely active community online at MyRagan, if you’re interested. My current intern is so impressed by IABC that she’s trying to start a student chapter at OU. I’d love to see one at Kent one day too.

  8. Breeze says:

    Sure… but we’ll see what you have to say around January.

  9. Leslie Backus says:

    If You Divorce PRSA, What About the Kids?
    Bill, your value to PRSA as a veteran professional is immeasurable. Sure, you don’t get as much from the monthly lunches as you used to. But your very presence is an inspiration to the younger generation. And when you help a chapter by staying involved, the rewards are deep. Different from when you were president, seeing membership grow and offering great PD. But there is nothing like watching the chapter that you led thrive because you remain a part of it.

    As a professor, you can enjoy the thrill of helping to mold the future of PR. But PRSA chapters take your educational foundation and help round out the professionals you have released into the working world.

    Before I forget, my disclaimer: I am a member of PRSA’s national board. This message comes from me personally, but I believe my sentiments are shared by others on the board. We have discussed many times the challenge of keeping senior members involved in our professional association – and some chapters are doing a great job at it.

    You may want to become involved in some senior level activities for a different type of challenge and stimulation. The College of Fellows is an esteemed group, and sure to welcome your ideas and energy. Perhaps you would find the Masters Program of the Central Ohio Chapter interesting. As an outdoorsman, you would love Alaska, and while there I’m sure you would be welcome at the chapter’s monthly meeting of former presidents, which is specifically geared for senior level professionals. Or you could contribute to the upcoming PRSA Journal, soon to be launched and looking for authors/articles.

    So, let’s go to counseling. (Sorry for the continued plays on your divorce theme.) Let’s patch things up. For the kids, the family. Twenty-five years is too valuable to cast aside for some “new blood.” What do you say we meet at the International Conference to go to some PD sessions, meet new professionals and put the spark back in our relationship?


  10. Stacy Wessels says:

    I agree completely with what you’re saying about speaker value. It’s rare that I attend a PRSA function and walk away with something truly useful. I find myself paying for membership because (1) it’s the thing to do and (2) I can write off the expense.

    I am very much a “value” consumer. If a product is worth $500, I’ll pay $500. If it’s worth $200 and the price tag is $500, maybe I’ll wait for it to go on sale. And I think value is very much a PR concept. It’s vague and taps into feelings as well as beliefs. Maybe Mia Farrow’s presentation will be about determining value of inconsequential speakers?

  11. Taylor Wessels says:

    Or Southwest Ohio — I just came from the tepid mountain breezes of Southern California to the balmy 100+ weather of Cincinnati. And I’m without air conditioning at school this year. Is it January yet?

  12. […] post of August 8, the one about my impending divorce from PRSA, caused a minor stir and triggered some solid […]

  13. The Burger. says:

    Did I Say Media? I Meant Press.

    The more I read Ad Age, the more I love it. They recently featured an article referencing Jay Rosen’s blog, PressThink.  (Mr. Rosen is an associate professor at New York University, Department of Journalism.) So I went and checked it out. It im…

  14. Stacy Wessels says:

    I’m very happy to hear people are listening to what you’re saying about PRSA. And we didn’t even talk about the overpriced, badly prepared lunches that come along with those monthly meetings.

  15. paul says:

    well i can sympathize with your conundrum. A couple years ago I was fishing around for another professional organization to join. Madison has a relatively large and thriving PRSA chapter, and a smaller IABC chapter. I attended luncheon meetings at both organizations for a while, feeling them out. I felt more at home, and more welcomed, at IABC. That, and and encouragement from Shel Holtz, convinced me that was the way to go. IABC is for generalists, PRSA is for PR-shop specialists (so goes the common wisdom). So now, I too, shell out dues from my own pocket. Although there’s an active ‘campus communicators’ group here at UW-Madison, and although I hold an associate membership in the Education Writers Association, I still felt the need to belong to a business-related communicators group. If for no other reason, it’s because I enjoy stealing ideas from people.
    Paul Baker
    Education PR

  16. Steve says:

    I can certainly understand where you’re coming from. I first joined PRSA in 1974, but left a couple of years later because it offered nothing of value to one like me who was specializing in healthcare PR. I rejoined a few years ago to re-establish some contacts, but have been disillusioned by irrelevant topics and, sadly, some questionable ethics from some members who love to wear their APR on their sleeves, while spreading a lack of professionalism to all those who sit near them at those “wonderful” lunches. When some truly unprofessional people wear the APR “tag,” what does it say for the organization?

    So, after 38 years, this is one PR man who is ready to bolt, once and for all … and join the Business Marketing Association of Milwaukee.

  17. Bill Sledzik says:

    Thank you, Steve. I feel a need to reiterate a key point: PRSA has been very good to me. As a professional it was a great network for business. As an academic, it opens doors for my students day in and day out. Members of the Akron Chapter, in particular, bend over backwards to help us here at Kent, and we do the same to help the chapter. My colleague Jeanette Drake is the incoming chapter president. I served the same role in 1996. My colleague, Rob Jewell served many years on the board. Another colleague, Michele Ewing is active in Counselors Academy and a frequent contributor to PRSA professional development efforts.

    My frustrations with PRSA are at two levels. One is the organization’s seeming inability to lead the profession with cutting-edge programming. That goes for both the national and the chapter levels. The other is a national leadership that seems out of step with us “rank-and-file” members — unresponsive. I may be forced to write more about that later. Stay tuned.

  18. I’m not surprised that Mia Farrow as the keynote speaker at the PRSA Int’l Conf was the last straw for you. I’m at the Conference now, and let me tell you: her keynote was– though relevant to humanity– somewhat irrelevant to PR. (I posted on my blog about her keynote, if you’d like to read it.)

  19. Bill Sledzik says:

    Thanks for dropping by, Melody. I enjoyed your post, and almost wish I’d been there. No question that Mia is doing some important work, but I think about the content PRSA could present, using Mia’s fees to attract speakers with messages more aligned with a professional conference. (I should edit that sentence, but it’s been a long day.)

    I plan to return to your blog to read more. Thanks for pointing it out.

  20. pk says:

    [I think anything regarding Woody and Soon-Yee pretty much overshadows anything Mia Farrow related. If we are going to listen to a humanitarian, what about Angelina Jolie?]

    Ha Ha Ha Ha. People might say the same about Jolie.

    It confirms what I always strongly suspected. People who are interested in AJ for her humanitarian work as opposed to say Farrow, are people who don’t really care much about humanitarian work, one way or the other. Unless of course they are in the current glamour-media like Jolie.

  21. […] growth as a practitioner and it remains an important network for my graduates. Despite what I said here, I intend to renew my membership for a 27th year. I am an accredited member of the society and was […]

  22. […] you stop here regularly, you know that I’ve criticized PRSA now and again (here, here, here, here, here and here). So I understand if you see PRSA’s invitation as an olive […]

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