The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) has run into a PR problem. PRSA appears to have singled out industry journalist Jack O’Dwyer for special treatment, raising the ire of some in the industry, including the National Press Club. Last year O’Dwyer was charged full attendance fees at PRSA’s national convention, while other journalists were invited free of charge. This year he was barred from attending altogether.
Those in the public relations industry are likely aware of the long standing feud between O’Dwyer and PRSA. O’Dwyer has covered PRSA, and the industry as a whole, with a critical eye in O’Dwyer Public Relations, the influential trade newsletter he’s been publishing for 40 years. PRSA and O’Dwyer have traded barbs for many years. The tensions escalated in 1994, when O’Dwyer unsuccessfully attempted a copyright-related lawsuit against PRSA.
PRSA has in turn accused O’Dwyer of phone hacking and O’Dywer’s made some very negative editorial comments about PRSA’s expenses, staff and board, even making accusations of racism.
PRSA’s VP of PR Arthur Yann said in a statement on the Society’s website that the organization will continue to bar O’Dwyer and staffers because it “cannot tolerate and accept unethical behavior on the part of a representative of the media.” It added that Jack O’Dwyer, who did stay at the hotel during the recent conference, “initiated a number of unwanted, unwarranted and uncomfortable interactions with conference attendees, presenters and exhibitors.”
Aaron Perlut’s post on Forbes Marketshare does a good job of chronicling the back and forth of the feud up until just before this most recent incident. Perlut ends with a call to bury the hatchet that, in light of recent events, clearly went unheeded by both sides.
In terms of public relations in the era of social media, did PRSA make the wrong call in barring O’Dwyer from the conference in Florida? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.