They’re Back! More Fake Followers Follies for the PRDude

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Hope my new followers are inspired by these words of wisdom from 19th century poet Thomas Moore. Courtesy of Good Morning Quote.com

Without question, fake news is a big topic these days, one addressed seemingly daily in print news articles, broadcast commentaries and presidential tweets.

And, to share my perspective, the PRDude issued a manifesto of sorts on fake news in a January 2017 post.

Rest assured, fake news more than likely won’t pass from the national lexicon any time soon. Well, I’ve had a similar perspective about what I’m referring to as “fake followers.”

As noted in this post from January of this year, I started receiving messages from WordPress announcing new followers — but followers with ponderously long and nonsensical email addresses.

Well, they’re back.

Over the past week, I’ve learned that these “people” now follow this blog:

  • creeduogeorgiannecf@outlook.com
  • thiesnylaquandae@outlook.com
  • montenegroiphungki@outlook.com
  • carlyleoshenikak@outlook.com

Visits to Google to ascertain something — anything — about the origins of these Outlook account holders yielded no rational results.

Since January, I’ve made no dramatic changes to the PRDude in terms of the subject of posts or frequency. And, none of these newly minted fans have commented on my thoughts.  (Well, not yet.)

So, why do I continue to get these alerts announcing obviously fake followers?

I have a theory: Russian hackers.

Yes, Russian hackers. Why? Well, because we tend to blame lots of stuff on these scurrilous scoundrels halfway around the world, so perhaps they are behind this covert scheme to pad my follower roster with bogus names.

Read this Fortune magazine article published today and you’ll learn that the U.S., U.K. and Australia issued new claims that the Russians are behind a new wave of massive online espionage and sabotage.

So, comrade, or whatever name you prefer: I’m on to you.

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Perhaps Facebook Could Do (A Lot) More

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Tomorrow, the world’s largest social media site will share a bit of important news with subscribers.

Yes, the folks at Facebook will let users, like me, know if our profile data was passed on to data consulting firm Cambridge Analytica.

One of the “feel good” messages from Facebook, as shown on a monitor in the CTA Logan Square Blue Line station.

As noted in this April 4 New York Times article, up to 87 million users of the platform may have had data shared with Cambridge, now brought into the international spotlight for connections with the Trump 2016 presidential campaign.

I’ll leave the political discussion of this ongoing story to other commentators. What intrigues me is the total collapse of effective crisis management by Facebook since news broke of the data breach.

Want to get a perspective on how the crisis has unfolded over the past three-plus weeks?  This PR Week report offers a play-by-play recap right up to March 27, when the number of impacted users was just 50 million.

Coming up: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will be testifying before Congress Tuesday.

For an organization built on letting users share ideas, news, images and videos — purportedly all for “free” — Facebook has lost the trust of subscribers and failed miserably at managing the sustained crisis that’s embroiled the company over the reported misuse of member info.

Note the image above. That message — and others from Facebook — was on a monitor in the CTA Logan Square Blue Line station, which I visit each weekday to travel to and from work. Other similar digital and print billboards can be found at other CTA stations.

Frankly, these communications, which I just noticed recently, are weak, an after thought of sorts to mitigate the collapse of confidence experienced by many of Facebook’s 2.2 billion users.

Following these developments, the questions that surface with me: Is this the “new normal” in crisis management? Are companies becoming too large to effectively anticipate and mitigate threats? Are CEOs like Zuckerberg unable to effectively lead and regain trust?

Tomorrow, I’ll learn if I’m about the 87 million Facebook users who had personal data shared without my agreement or knowledge. But to borrow from a popular 1980s song, I don’t know if I’ll like the next Monday.

 

Charleston: Charming, Cultured, Cultivated (And Fortunately, Not Curated). A Travelogue

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Quick: What do you know about Charleston, South Carolina, that is.

Well, we didn’t know much about this colonial coastal city until we spent five days there earlier this month. We knew there would be lots of history, great food and Southern heritage in this Low Country town known as “The Holy City.”

But we didn’t expect to be somewhat overwhelmed by just how charming, cultured and cultivated we found Charleston.  So what follows is a stream-of-consciousness account (in modern poetics this could be considered “lyric poetry” — I am in the graduate program for English, you know) of our trip to Charleston, followed by some original images.

From the steps of our hotel, I counted four church steeples, some with spires rising majestically to the heavens
in the distance I view three construction cranes, all a safe distance outward.

The first morning; a walk along Calhoun Street to the Fort Sumter National Monument
a dozen or so people wished me “good morning.” I didn’t have to ask.

A decidedly human scale with 18th and 19th century structures not repelled by the modern,
harmony between the Guilded Age and the digital.

Low Country cuisine, honest and unadorned, subtly delicious,
no places named for false royalty or known by AU/curved symmetrical structures.

Within the peninsula, a sense of decorum, unhurried,
thoroughfares like Zig Zag Alley leading nowhere and everywhere.

Flora, subtle but majestic at times, in full bloom,
emerges to buffer the persistent breezes.

The honest greeting of an honest server,
proud to share history on the restaurant that once was a church for longshoremen.

Designer names equitably share King Street
with Asian noodle shops and a haphazard liquor store.

Stately and elegant, woven into the quiet fabric,
College of Charleston, seat of learning and culture.

The muscular side, cargo vessels in the harbor,
honor the colonial heritage.

Solemnity, most of the time,
broken by church bells, seemingly from all directions.

(Okay, had enough? Enjoy the images below. Visit Charleston soon. There’s a lack of pretense, but an abundance of reality.)

 

Handsome buildings like this one are everywhere.

Many private homes have impeccable small gardens.

A view of the quad at the College of Charleston, voted as one of the most beautiful campuses in the nation. I would agree.

Charleston Bay is an active port.

This classic structure was completed in 1879 and is still in use.

The world’s biggest pineapple? No, a very cool fountain in Waterfront Park along the east bay.

Read closely, and you’ll learn that Charleston was once one of the busiest ports in the colonies.

Why is Charleston called the Holy City? Yes, there are a lot of cool, well-maintained churches. But also, the peninsula was a bastion of freedom for many religions.

Just outside of Charleston, one can get a glimpse of the country life. This image was shot at the Magnolia Plantation.

Yes, the azaleas were in bloom during our visit. We found these everywhere.

Yes, right there on the grounds of many churches; final resting places for Charlestonians.

The view from the Fort Sumter National Monument.

One Question, One Image March 18, 2018

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka the PRDude)

This headline from last week certainly jumped off the page, so to say, for me and perhaps a million or so other Chicagoans who care about the future of the city:

Amazon HQ2 search team visiting Chicago March 21-22

As noted in the accompanying article published by Crain’s Chicago Business, Chicago city officials are keeping the visit somewhat hush-hush, as requested by the folks from Amazon, who are considering my fair city along with 19 others for its “second headquarters.”

The under-construction Academic and Residential complex on the UIC campus.

As noted in this post from November of last year, I’m a solid supporter of Chicago gaining this once-in-a-generation corporate prize. I even liked the Chicago is all in Facebook page dedicated to helping communicate civic boosterism towards the HQ2 competition. (And, for the record, I shared the above post from last year, but it has yet to be included.)

Given the projected number of permanent jobs (50,000), high salaries for new Amazon employees (average of $100,000), and residual economic benefits (who knows for sure, but it will be a lot), there’s no question winning the Amazon prize would be tremendous for Chicago. (Although many claim the purported $2.25 billion incentive package is way too steep.)

So on to today’s question. The image above reveals progress made on the new Academic and Residential Complex at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  (Full disclosure: I work at UIC.)

This $100 million development, which I observe daily when exiting the CTA Blue Line UIC/Halsted station, is rising at remarkable speed. It’s a tangible example what Chicago does very well: Build stuff.

Since its inception and evolution in the late 19th Century into a truly world-class city, Chicago has built more than just iconic structures. Chicago has built industries — food processing and manufacturing, transportation, supply chain logistics and others — that rival those any place on earth.

That’s why I want to ask:

Does Chicago really need to win the Amazon HQ2 to maintain its position in the world today?

Regardless of the low profile hoped for during the meetings between the city and Amazon this week, I’m confident there will be many, many projections on where the bid stands.

 

 

Bravco Conjures Memories of the Old Rush Street

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Cities evolve and grow or fade into obscurity. But oftentimes, little parts of the urban fabric refuse to change, clinging to what made them special or memorable in the first place.

The Rush Street district on the Near North Side of Chicago has evolved and grown dramatically since I first was exposed to the area as a high school kid in the early 1970s.

The name, the two aisles, the fireplace, the ambiance, the permanence. Much the same as when I first arrived at Bravo as a high school stock boy in 1971.

The once bohemian quarter ran roughly from Chicago Avenue on the south to Division Street on the north and was home to cabarets and night clubs in the 1940s through the 1970s — legendary places like Mr. Kelly’s, Faces and Rush Up. In the decade or so that followed, Rush Street evolved to become Chicago’s disco scene — mirrored balls and lots of polyester included.

But there was more of a neighborhood back then. Along with the nightlife and denizens of party goers, Rush Street also housed small shops and restaurants, most decidedly Chicago in nature, and even modest apartments above the retailers.

Today, it’s a much different scene; the narrow streets are lined with soaring modern high-rise apartments and internationally-known designer stores, with just a few longstanding clubs and bars still in business.

And then, there’s the Bravco Beauty Centre at 43 E. Oak St.

The sweetest pension one could imagine.

I first walked into the unassuming two-aisle store one day in 1971, joining my neighborhood buddy, Steve, as a stock boy. It was my first real job, one I held after school and during the summer months for two years. Back then, the store was run by an engaging retailer named Milton Brav and his partner Jack Finley.

Working at Bravco put money in my pocket, and I got to experience the waning years of a now-gone pocket of Chicago history and culture.

Last week, while attending an awards reception at the Drake Hotel, another iconic presence on the North Side, I strolled into Bravco and met current owner Howard Gordon, who purchased the shop in 1980. Outwardly, not much has changed in the two-aisle store, shelves full of health and beauty aids.

“I used to work here!” I told Mr. Gordon, who commanded the cash register. “But that was in the early 1970s, when Mr. Brav owned the store.”

We engaged in a spirited conversation, waxing nostalgically about long-gone establishments like BurgerVille, the Acorn on Oak and even the scary-from-the-outside strip clubs on State Street; and I noted how I would try to flirt (mostly unsuccessfully) with the often stunning women customers seeking exotic hair and beauty products.

“I need to buy something,” I told Mr. Gordon, placing a package of Juicy Fruit gum on the counter. “This is on the house,” Mr. Gordon said. “Think of this as your pension.”

Now, one might wonder: How does this tiny specialty establishment remain in business in an upscale location during this era of online retail options and dominant national chains?

Through a quick Google search, I found a Crain’s Chicago Business article on Bravco from 2000 and learned the store’s continued success is the result of Mr. Gordon’s business savvy and selection of desirable beauty products. And, I’d like to think, Mr. Gordon’s personality and character. Why else would customers still patronize Bravco?

As I left the shop that Friday evening, I was proceeded by an elderly couple, both toting shopping bags branded by Treasure Island. I trust they had lived in the neighborhood for decades and been around when Rush Street was a thriving urban strip, less sanitized, more truly Chicago.

Like Bravco, the man and woman are still grasping to the remnants of what once was a truly singular part of the city.  I made my way east on Oak Street, quite happy at what I had discovered.

 

 

 

Questions and More Questions on the Impact of Social Media in 2018

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

The article hit home like a virtual thunderclap. Well, for me and perhaps the many others who communicate professionally and ethically.

In question is a piece, “2018’s Biggest Social Media Trends for Business,” published January 2 of this year by Forbes. (Yes, I’m a little behind in my reading.)

For a commentary on the growth of digital, there sure are a lot of “old-school” implements in this graphic. Image courtesy of Forbes.

Here’s why: Author Ryan Holmes (also the CEO and founder of Hootsuite) maintains that there’s “a growing realization among businesses that social media is the single most effective way to reach audiences.” He cites factors like the development of paid platforms (so long free reach via Facebook), a continued growth of video (certainly not surprising) and the integration of prominent social media platforms with leading business software (perhaps Microsoft will own everything digital some day).

And, the article cites compelling statistics like the escalating number of Facebook users (lots and lots and lots), time each day teens spend online (around 540 minutes) and the growing dominance of sponsored video (more bucks spent than on that once dominate medium — television).

All this led me to ponder these questions about the future of social media:

1. All these developments are happening at lightening-fast speed. So  how do communicators measure results and effectively keep up?

2. And, given the preponderance of new digital platforms, how do communicators determine if what they recommend to clients is the most relevant one?

3. Not too many years ago, I recall reading that the public relations field “owned” social media. Is that still the case?

4. How do you effectively integrate rapid-fire digital with more traditional strategies and tactics?

5.  Will those of us not raised on digital (this writer included) continue to have a voice in modern communications?

In the conclusion to the article, Holmes offers this rationale: “For companies already fatigued by the onslaught of new technology and strategies, relief, unfortunately, is nowhere in sight. But for those that can keep up, social media may promise bigger audiences and more return on investment than ever.”

Not sure where I stand in that equation.

Now it’s your turn. Given the virtual communications whirlwind ahead, what questions do you have about the impact of social media on communicators?

 

 

 

Coming Soon From Dick Wolf: Chicago PR?

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Fans of the Chicago-centric evening television dramas aired on NBC have had to opt for other entertainment sources the past few days; that’s because the network gained the rights to broadcast the many kinds of athletic endeavors taking place on snow and ice halfway around the world during the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.

Who knows? Perhaps Mr. Wolf was using this downtime to conceive a new program set in Chicago. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

So those of us (me included) who enjoy hour-long programs like Chicago Fire, Chicago PD and Chicago Med — all developed by the indefatigable executive producer Dick Wolf — now must focus on ice dancing, curling and the luge competition during the 9 to 10 p.m. hour or switch to one of the hundreds of other viewing options available to cable subscribers these days.

This entertainment quandary prompted these questions: What’s Mr. Wolf and his team doing during this hiatus of his very popular and successful Chicago dramas?  Perhaps plotting a new “Chicago” program, one with an ensemble cast and plot lines that are “torn from the pages” of real news happenings, with our fine city as a backdrop?  If so, what would be the focus, the industry, the profession?

I have a suggestion: Chicago PR!

Yes, an hour-long perspective into the lives of the men and women who craft strategies and manage communications for companies, businesses, governmental agencies and associations across our great metropolitan area.

Think about this for a moment.  The name, Chicago PR is succinct, memorable and easily recognizable, like the names of the other dramas produced by the team at Wolf Films.

In terms of worthy characters, I’ve known plenty of public relations professionals who would serve as models for a fictional Chicago PR agency: The stalwart and decisive founder and leader, the old-school senior VP who’s grappling with the ever-changing digital arena, the progressive young account supervisor who just earned in integrated marketing communications degree from a leading university.

Granted, Chicago PR plots won’t involve catching bad guys, rescuing people from burning buildings or saving the life of an accident victim; but anyone who’s worked in the high-pressure public relations business knows there’s always the potential for drama to be found inside the office and outside of it.

Anyone who’s been part of a new business RFP could certainly relate to the drama that usually unfolds.

And, in the full disclosure department, this blog has addressed public relations as depicted in Chicago Fire. As I noted in my final post of 2017, the profession was grossly misrepresented in an episode involving a lead character from Firehouse 51.

So, should Mr. Wolf read this commentary, please consider the program suggestion just noted; but if you do, please confer with real public relations professionals from the onset. Get it right this time.

As for me, I’m switching on the Olympics coverage. Linsey Vonn is going for gold. The balance of the evening, I trust, will be all downhill.