Jack O'Dwyer has been hounding me for several days to give him information I have on IABC, to help him find someone to cover the Annual General Meeting at IABC's World Conference today in Toronto, to join him in pressuring IABC to hold a press conference, fork over financials and admit that they're the ones behind the disapperance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. "We should be working together on this stuff since you complained to the AGM last year that no one returns your calls or will speak to you on the phone," he wrote in an email. "It’s easy to crush an individual but more difficult if there is a group."
O'Dwyer finally tracked down longtime IABC critic Brian Kilgore and asked him to cover the AGM. The Toronto native quickly agreed, asked IABC for a press pass, and went on IABC's LinkedIn page to share the fact that all he intended to do was repeat the little old questions Julie Freeman posted here at Writing Boots last week.
Well, that, and maybe just one other question: "My own question—one I've asked for decades, it seems—is whether the new 'elected' chair would over his term of office explain the importance of business communications (and related communications) to external, important audiences, either as speeches to national and international business organizations, or to major business media such as The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Post and The Globe and Mail Report on Business, and even Bloomberg Television, which broadcasts every day from San Francisco."
Then IABC's PR chief Melissa Dark announced, also on the LinkedIn group, that neither Kilgore nor any other O'Dwyer correspondent, would be issued press credentials for the AGM, because of
the unethical and unprofessional approach by O’Dwyer when covering the association. We will do O’Dwyer the courtesy of not detailing his harassment and abuse of IABC staff and volunteers, but the IABC board and senior management have decided that we will no longer accept it.
We are not the only organisation to make this call. The PRSA has also cut their relationship with O’Dwyer’s PR in 2011 after a similar campaign of harassment. (Find out more about that here: http://media.prsa.org/article_display.cfm?article_id=2318 )
We’re working with journalists at other news outlets in an effort to generate coverage of IABC’s present situation and future strategy. IABC is, of course, always happy to engage with professional journalists. Unfortunately, we feel unable to regard Mr O’Dwyer as being in this category.
Now Kilgore writes me and cc's O'Dwyer, presumably hoping I'll weigh in on their behalf. And O'Dwyer writes to tell me of his plans to compare IABC "on our website and in our [newsletter] and magazine to Hitler, Osama Bin Laden, Mussolini and all the other grand and petty dictators who squashed individuals. A lot of Americans died defending rights that IABC is trampling on."
As I said: Jesus!
Here's my open letter, to Brian and Jack, cc Melissa Dark:
To be honest, I'm not at all surprised Melissa banned Jack, who has only ever expressed an interest in IABC when it's been on the ropes. You do not know or care much about IABC, you have few if any sources inside IABC and your coverage has been both scant and tone-deaf. (I haven't been close to your coverage of PRSA in recent years but from here it smells like gangrene.)
As for Brian, you've been occasionally incisive but more often a broken record on this hobbyhorse of yours, about the head of IABC needing to promote the importance of corporate communication publicly.
That idea has been ignored either A) because the "PR for PR" scheme is dumb, and unlikely to make any difference in the natural order of things, or B) because no one in IABC's recent history has understood how brilliant it is.
In either case, it's not a crime for IABC to ignore this idea, any more than it's sinister of them not to print their conference name tags in the way you think they ought to be printed—a reference to your second most-frequently-expressed idea.
What does piss me off, and it angers me almost as much at you two as it does at IABC, is the lumping in of me with you as an unreasonable gadfly.
I have occasionally editorialized playfully about IABC, but I have for two decades covered the organization's peaks as well as its valleys. More than once, I've written state-of-the-association stories under the headline, "IABC: Healthy, wealthy and wise."
Lately IABC hasn't been any of those things, and I've covered that too: Carefully and in as much context as I could find and with on-the-record perspectives from some of IABC's most respected and prominent members.
You guys can't claim any of the above—Jack, because IABC has never been your meat and you don't know its culture any better than I know the culture of the Car Wash Managers' Society of Tennessee. You operate under the assumption that if evil is to be found in this world, it is to be found in the offices of associations of professional public relations people. You're entitled to that opinion, of course. And you can have it all to yourself.
Brian, you know IABC better than Jack does, but your problem is that you come at all this not journalist but as a guy with a large and ecclectic Opinion Collection that you always want to show off to people who don't much care.
Of course, a larger-minded, more self-confident association could deal with gadflies like you guys. Hell, some of the most uptight, controlling Fortune 100 corporations allow activist investor rabble-rousers to hold forth at their annual meetings.
But then, those organizations also have relationships with responsible reporters, against whose more balanced accounts people can judge the veracity of the chronic critics.
IABC, on the other hand, has no such relationships.
As for Melissa Dark's claim that she's working with other media outlets, I'd also like to know who they are, because although she and I have been acquaintances—we had a happy meeting some years ago on a visit to Melbourne; she's a really warm person and a classic IABCer—she hasn't reached out to me in the months since she's come to the States to become IABC's PR director. Incoming chair Russell Grossman did use the comments section on my blog to answer Julie Freeman's post there, which was good; perhaps that's what Melissa means when she says IABC is "working with other journalists."
Or maybe she's talking to someone at Ragan? I don't know; they've generally found that their readers care little about IABC's sturm und drang, and their coverage has been pretty sparse. So far the extent of their reporting on IABC lately was a reposting of the Freeman guest post here, last week.
But frankly, it's not terribly remarkable that IABC didn't give you guys a press pass. What is remarkable is that, after having near-annual sit-downs with IABC brass—the last one coming in 2012 with new executive director Chris Sorek and incoming chair Kerby Meyers—I have been mostly ignored by IABC, like some troll.
No one has covered IABC as consistently over the years as I have … and now ever since the shit hit the fan, my calls to IABC leaders have gone unreturned for long enough that I have stopped making them. (And I didn't attend the conference this year because I had too much else happening … but after being not-so-obliquely compared last year by chair Robin McCasland to a little dog humping a Great Dane, I didn't mind missing it.)
I still do have a phone, however, just in case. And I will answer it for Melissa Dark, Russell Grossman, Carlos Fulcher or anyone else in IABC leadership or its membership who wants to talk about the organization, whose members do seem to come to Writing Boots for information and perspective.
And if they don't call, I'll just keep doing what I've been doing despite silence from San Francisco: listening to what my sources tell me about IABC, and trying to sort it out the best I can.
You know: reporting.