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PR's Don Quixote :: Tilting at PRSA Windmills

Jack O'Dwyer

Meet the Don Quixote of PR.  Jack O’Dwyer.

O’Dwyer has been tilting at the PRSA windmill since 1994.  He mounts Rozinate for regular jousts with the PR association.

Recently, Jack O’Dwyer was visited by what O’Dwyer might call demons. He’s called them a lot of other things.

Gary McCormick & Bill Murray

His visitors were from the PRSA.  Meet “chair Gary McCormick and president Bill Murray.”

They went round and round, as usual, and likely all fell down.  Does it bring to mind images of the Black Death?

Well, the visit actually seemed to bring great joy to Jack, as he was able to embark upon another joust to Close the PRSA Kangaroo Court!

OK, I’ll cut to the chase and bottle the egg. (Had to work those in, ya’ know.)

Perhaps it is time for Jack O’Dwyer to let this quest go.   His quest for Dulcinea’s embrace and defending the best practices of PR, in this instance an apology and reparation from PRSA, was once a truly noble quest.  Today, if it hasn’t turned into a foolish and ignoble one … it is most surely a fantasy.   It may well be akin to the madness of Don Quixote’s quests.  Jack, come on.  It ain’t gonna happen!

We are all (eh, maybe just most of us) Sancho Panza in this version of the story.  Yes, I’ve surely been inclined to watch and cheer for Jack.   At times, I may have even wandered into his world of PR transparency (fantasy) when it comes to the whole ordeal he’s faced.

Perhaps it is time we called upon the Knight of the White Moon to help Jack out.   Who would that be?  Is there a White Knight in PR that can step forward and help a friend?

The knight stepped in to aide his friend step away from his futile journey and return to the settled life he once enjoyed.

“My name is Samson Carrasco,” said the knight, “and I am a friend and near neighbor of Don Quixote. All that I wished in this combat was not to harm my friend, but to make him promise to return home. I think that if he can be induced to rest there quietly for a year, this madness about knight-errantry will be cured.” (Source)

To be true, it may not be madness, lest we forget that…

…Don Quixote suddenly declares himself sane at the end of the novel, we wonder at his ability to shake off his madness so quickly and ask whether he has at least partly feigned this madness. On the other hand, we can read Don Quixote’s character as a warning that even the most intelligent and otherwise practically minded person can fall victim to his own foolishness. Furthermore, we may see Don Quixote’s adventures as a warning that chivalry—or any other outmoded set of values—can both produce positive and negative outcomes. (Source)

Please, someone step forward and blow the clarion horn to bring the White Knight to the rescue.  I just can’t bear to watch this anymore.  So,  who are we going to call?

OK, go ahead … beat me up for using cliff notes.  Hey, it made it easy to share the context. ;o)

By the way, check out the Don Quixote Virtual Museum for more fun.



One comment

  1. Hi Robert: Thanks for bringing up this subject. It’s a good lesson in power politics that I hope all your students will read.

    This is not just a battle between the PR Society and us but between PRS, PR Week/U.S. and the Council of PR Firms and us. They’re all allies and they all give us short shrift.

    This is just normal cut-throat business which your students will find once they enter the business world. I don’t think there is any more ethics in PR than there is in any other business.

    It’s competition, pure and simple–a rough and tough business.
    PRS robbed us of lots of money because our NL in the early 1990s was $175 a year and PRS info packet volume was 3,800. If all 3,800 purchased our NL instead of reading us via PRS we would have had $665,000 more in income each year.

    So the Society, angered at our very public fight against their copying practices, went to the U.K. twice (president John Beardsley and COO Ray Gaulke) to urge Haymarket, U.K.’s biggest publisher, to come here and start PRW/U.S. (which it did in 1998).

    The first year or so of circulation of PRW/U.S. was PRS’s membership list. How’s that for interference in the free market? Steven Pisinksi, 2000 PRS president, castigated Gaulke for doing that but Gaulke brushed him off like a fly at a picnic. Staff runs PRS!

    Surprise, surprise, in 1998 the ad/PR conglomerates and a few independent PR firms started the Council of PR Firms.

    The Council served as a conduit for funds from the congloms to PRW/U.S., putting at least $150,000 in ads in PRW/U.S. while in the same period it gave our magazine one $700 ad.

    Nasty, nasty! Bald favoritism by a tax-free assn. that was supposed to support its entire industry.

    When we demanded some equal treatment by the Council (which currently has $822,000 in cash/savings–latest Form 990), it said it had no more marketing money and stopped ads in PRW rather than give us any.

    Talk about lying? What was that.

    So PRS is in bed with PRW which is in bed with the Council of PR Firms which is an asset of the five big ad congloms (which give more than half the dues to the Council).

    This is what’s going on. Those three PR institutions just don’t like a free press like us and do everything all the time to damage us.

    PRW “dumped” thousands of directories of PR firms on the market up until last year, severely hurting sales of our Dir. of PR Firms.

    It gave away its $249 directory as part of a $198 sub to PRW, breaking the USPS rule that a premium may be no more than 70% of the cover price of the periodical being sold.

    I brought a bunch of documentation to the USPS which audited PRW/U.S. and forced it to take the $249 price off the directory. This is one big reason PRW/U.S. went monthly last June.

    Cut-throat and even illegal practices are the norm in business and I don’t see much difference in the PR industry although the PR Society says ethical practice is the most important duty of members.