PRNewser Interview: PRSA Chair Elect Michael Cherenson

Our first encounter with Michael Cherenson, Exec. VP of Success Communications Group and Chair Elect of PRSA impressed us, because he was the first to respond to a Twitter post of ours asking for more information on a PRSA job vacancy.

In this interview, Michael talks to PRNewser about the responsablities of the PRSA Chair Elect, his thoughts on PRSA criticism levied by Jack O’Dwyer and why he doesn’t support “pay for placement” PR.

For our readers not completely familiar with your position, what does being Chair Elect of PRSA entail?

In practice, you might say the Chair-Elect is the “planner-in-chief,” who plays an important role in strategic planning for the organization since it will be his or her responsibility to carry out the next year’s Action Plan in support of the longer term PRSA Strategic Plan.

According to the PRSA Bylaws, when the Chair & CEO is absent, the Chair-Elect steps in:

— to preside at all meetings of the Board of Directors and the Assembly

— to carry out any duties assigned by the Board or the Chair & CEO

The Chair-Elect is also a member of the Executive Committee, which:

— Serves with the Chair & CEO, Treasurer, Secretary and Immediate Past Chair & CEO, along with the President & COO who serves in an ex officio capacity without a vote

— You might say it’s the Board’s “SWAT team” – designed for efficiency and flexibility to step in when the needs of management call for a quicker response than is possible by having to convene the entire Board. Under the Bylaws, the Executive Committee is empowered to act on behalf of the full Board

— The Chair-Elect also continues to participate as an active member of the Board of Directors, with voting responsibility on all areas of operations. The Chair-Elect also continues to make contributions in his special areas of expertise and interest to foster organizational excellence.

What would you say to a recent college graduate or industry veteran who is considering joining PRSA?

The key to success in the marketplace is knowledge and network and PRSA provides both. It’s also the best job insurance you can buy.

PRSA is the world’s largest organization for public relations professionals. And, through its commitment to advancing the profession and the professional, PRSA is the go-to organization for public relations throughout one’s career. PRSA exists to serve public relations professionals – offering thought leadership, professional development, the profession’s largest conference, special interest sections and specialty conferences, award-winning publications, advocacy, and ethics.

While today’s graduates may understand today’s technology, they need to make a commitment to continually retool. Professional development has become a “must-do” rather than a “should-do.” You might say “PD” for public relations professionals, given the new environment, has become “professional delineation” rather than “professional development” – it’s an essential if you want to continue to offer best practices to your clients. For that reason, PRSA keeps PD on the cutting edge and gives members new tools they’ll need to be effective members of the profession.

Jack O’Dwyer has been an outspoken critic of PRSA. Saying the organization does not represent “democracy and open and free debate and discussion.” How would you respond to Mr. O’Dwyer?

PRSA is more than just a 501( c) 6 corporation, we’re a community. Through our face-to-face meetings at the chapter, district and national level, members have the opportunity to join, meet, share and discuss. We host several e-groups that facilitate online communication and we offer our Membernet section of that includes minutes, financials updates, agendas, survey data, etc. ALL members have direct access to board members and staffs, as all phone numbers and e-mail addressees are posted online. Board members speak regularly at chapter and industry meetings and leadership conference calls are held on a regular basis.

Unlike some other professional associations, PRSA has an Assembly composed of delegates – you might say they are the non-profit equivalent of shareholders – who convene for an annual meeting at which they vote on key governance proposals. In fact, the Assembly, which sets the meeting agenda, has ultimate authority to approve the roster of candidates for leadership positions within PRSA, including the Board of Directors. I’d say putting ultimate voting authority in the hands of Assembly delegates is the most democratic of all possible structures for association management. Under the PRSA Bylaws, the Assembly “shall have the power to elect the Directors and the Officers, amend [the] Bylaws, and exercise any other power conferred by law upon members.”

We also hold an annual Leadership Rally which is a gathering of chapter, district and section leaders. This event includes multiple open-sessions and Q&A sessions.

You were recently quoted in a NY Daily News story about PR in which “pay for placement” was discussed. What’s your take on pay for placement?

It’s certainly not a model I endorse or support. It undervalues our worth. Public relations should not be sold by the pound. Our true value is not the size of our Rolodex or clip book, but the perspective we provide.

What are some things you’re most looking forward to in your work with PRSA over the next year?

My vision is simple: create an environment where public relations professionals can thrive. From Hartford to Honolulu, Fairbanks to Fort Lauderdale and hundreds of cities in-between, PRSA is doing just that by helping PR thrive through professional development, education, advocacy, diversity, ethics, and our communities. With so many wonderful things going on, one of my goals is simply to foster collaboration, share knowledge and spark action that helps public relations professionals advance in their careers. Expect to see an expanded advocacy and influencer outreach programs, new technology, expanded professional development programs, and a continued commitment to our professional standards and ethics.