PRSA Retires Multicultural Section; Will Be Folded Into Diversity Committee


The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) will fold its “Multicultural Communications Section,” merging it into the organization’s Diversity Committee, PRNewser has learned.

In a terse statement, Kerri Allen, Co-Chair of Executive Committee for the Multicultural Communications Section said, “On the eve of 2010, what organization would scrap their multicultural initiatives? What’s next on the chopping block? That silly social media thingy?” Allen also said the decision was not discussed in advance and that her committee received written notice on December 17th.

William R. Murray, president and COO, PRSA told PRNewser the move is part of a multi-year plan to re-evaluate objectives within PRSA, one that members of the section were well aware of. “The multicultural section has been struggling for a long time,” he said. “There are 73 people in this section,” out of 22,000 national PRSA members. He said members of the section were aware they had to meet a 200 person headcount to stay viable, a figure Allen disputes.

Murray also said other sections have merged in the last year, including the Food and Beverage and Travel and Tourism sections. In terms of communicating the news, he said, “I regret that leaders of the multicultural section felt that there was some sort of communication breakdown.”

A key issue for Allen, is that the diversity committee means “less influence within the organization” as committee’s appoint leaders ad-hoc — as opposed to voting, which happens with sections. Also, committees have no voting power within the organization.

“If their social media section was down a couple of members, would they tell them the day before their office was closed for two weeks for the holiday, after 26 years of involvement?” Allen asked. “It’s like moving the voting location the day before the election.”

After the jump, competing statements from both Allen and the PRSA.

Statement from Keri Allen:

After 26 years, the Public Relations Society of America has disbanded its Multicultural Communications Section. This, as the 2010 Census is poised to reveal the most multicultural society in U.S. history.

The section executive committee leaders received only written communications on December 17 from the PRSA staff that effective January 1, the Section would be dismantled. No prior discussion had taken place, including at the organization’s International Conference in October.

PRSA is known as the nation’s oldest industry association-are they trying to prove that point? On the eve of 2010, what organization would scrap their multicultural initiatives? What’s next on the chopping block? That silly social media thingy?

The Multicultural Communications Section is responsible for recruiting, promoting and support national industry leaders including

Lori George Billingsley- former Section Chair, and Director, Community & Multicultural Communications, Coca-Cola North America
Debi Miller, the 1st African-American President of PRSA
Cheryl Proctor Rodgers, National President of PRSA
Denise Grady Felder, 1st African-American President of the PRSA Foundation
Ruby Miller, 1st African-American female Board Member of PRSA

Statement from PRSA:

Statement on Merger of PRSA’s Multicultural and Diversity Sections

December 22, 2009

The following comments with regard to the merger of PRSA’s Multicultural and Diversity Sections may be attributed to William R. Murray, president and COO, PRSA:

Two years ago, PRSA developed a business model for its Professional Interest Sections, which defines and measures success based upon stated criteria, such as member satisfaction, benefits offered and financial performance. Those sections that fail to meet the stated criteria are subject to being sunset.

After carefully reviewing the performance of all our Sections – including the Multicultural Section – against these established metrics, the PRSA Board of Directors approved several changes in our Sections Community for 2010.

Among them, our Multicultural Section will be integrated into our Diversity Committee. The PRSA Board of Directors has spent a considerable amount of time this year examining the issue of diversity within PRSA and the profession. The combined expertise of our Multicultural Section and Diversity Committee will serve all PRSA members, and help PRSA initiate a more comprehensive approach that embraces not only racial, ethnic and cultural diversity, but also the LGBT community and individuals with physical disabilities – all of whom can be better accommodated and served under a single umbrella.

To be clear, the Multicultural Section is not being disbanded. Rather, it is being merged into our Diversity Committee because – as a standalone section the Multicultural Section simply was unable to meet the established metrics for member satisfaction, member benefit and financial performance for the past two years running.

Additionally, our Travel and Tourism and Food and Beverage Sections will also merge. The leaders of these Sections concluded that their missions shared much in common, and that a single, larger Section would be stronger and more robust than two smaller ones.

Finally, our Corporate Social Responsibility Section will now become a Council of Experts, a new concept for PRSA. The knowledge and content created by the Council will be available free to all PRSA members, eliminating payment of a Section membership fee.

Each of these changes is intended to strengthen our community of Professional Interest Sections and enhance the level of satisfaction and benefits our members receive by virtue of being part of them.