Monday, May 02, 2005

Thinking Like Groucho Marx

Groucho once said, "I would never join any club that would have me as a member." I know what he means. The public relations clubs I want to join won't let people like me in and those that will, well, let's just say I don't regret resigning from the Public Relations Society of America.

Now before folks like my friend Jack O'Dwyer get all excited about that last comment, let me explain what I mean and why I've been thinking like Groucho recently.

The PRSA played a significant role in my success in this business. I must have attended dozens of conferences on media relations and I know somewhere in my home office I have at least a half dozen audio tapes from conferences on everything from crisis management to why the media hates us so much. Hell, I even have my APR certificate hanging in my office and once thought it actually meant something (I'll write a separate post on that in a few days).

But you reach a point in your career where "meet the media" events aren't where you go to get to know the key reporters who cover your client. And if all an APR gets you is a chance to vote at an assembly meeting then what's the point?

So, you look for a higher plane like the Arthur Page Society. But they won't let you in if you are not the most senior communications executive in your organization - and I'm not.

What we have folks is a huge gap that needs to be filled. Sure, the Institute for Public Relations, Page and the Council of PR Firms have gotten together to create one of the best professional development opportunities out there in the Public Relations Executive Forum conferences that are led by Professor Donald Wright, but it's not enough.

We need to focus on who the future leaders of this profession are going to be. And we not only need to train them through rock solid professional development (like Professor Wright's seminars or the Masters in Communications Management that Newhouse offers), but we also need to give them a voice to help shape where this profession is going. We don't have that.

Groucho once sang "Hello, I must be going." We can't have our associations be a pit stop for professionals. The PRSA or something like it must emerge as something more like the American Bar Association for the public relations profession. Ethics will be the cornerstone of whatever association emerges.

So, like Groucho I say to the PRSA, "I'm glad I came, but just the same I must be going." Sadly, I'm not the only one and the profession's future may hang in the balance.