Public Relations Maven Judi Schindler Transitions to the Stage

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

In its essence, public relations is a communications discipline, right? In public relations, we communicate with a target audience to build awareness, acceptance and ultimately action for a product, cause or service.

For decades, Judi Schindler excelled in the public relations profession as founder/owner of a namesake boutique agency and stalwart businesswoman. A few years ago, Judi partially retired from public relations to pursue a different profession — acting.  (Hey, actors also are communicators who interact with a target audience, but in a more controlled environment.)

Now for the disclosure: From 1988 to the early 1990s, I had the honor of working with Judi as a member of her account team. We developed and managed public relations programs for some leading Chicago real estate companies and great B2B clients. I learned a great deal about public relations, as well as new-business generation and account management.

What follows are Judi’s responses to questions sent via email.

In her new career as an actress,, Judi Schindler effectively demonstrates there is life after a long, successful career in public relations.

1. You built your successful career and business in public relations, then transitioned to another field. (More on that in a moment.) What inspired you to initially pursue public relations as a career?

When I was a journalism student at the University of Illinois, I dreamed of being a police reporter so I could follow in the footsteps of my two role models: Lois Lane and Brenda Starr.  It was not to be, however.  The only job I could get was at Jobber Topics, “The Bible of the Automotive Aftermarket.”  My job consisted primarily of rewriting press releases.  Somewhere between the manifolds and ignition systems, I decided I’d rather write the press releases than rewrite them.

From there I had jobs with a public relations agency, a major fund raising campaign, a real estate developer and a small telecommunications firm. Eventually I turned the latter into a client and began building my firm, first as Schindler Public Relations, and later as Schindler Communications.

2. Digital communications, of course, has changed — forever — the way we communicate. Do you keep current on digital strategies and practices today?

Can anyone keep current?  The landscape shifts every time Google changes its algorithm.  In February, I resigned my last client, The GO Group, an international consortium of airport transportation companies.  For the last several years, I oversaw their social media strategy as well as their pay-per-click campaign and web marketing.  I had worked with this client for 10 years and with the Chicago partner company for more than 30 years.  One of the reasons I resigned is that I didn’t feel I was bringing new technology driven tactics to the table.

Aside from technology, the underlying practice of public relations is unchanged.  We use our client’s knowledge, experience and history to create content.  How we deliver that content is the only thing that changed.

3. While you managed Schindler Communications, you also were a strong advocate for women in business. What advice do you have for women entrepreneurs today?

I still maintain my affiliation with the Chicago Area Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), which I helped found.  For the most part, I think today’s women entrepreneurs are more sophisticated that we were.  While most of us started businesses as a means of self-employment, many of the women I meet today are starting companies as investments, hoping to build equity and sell out.  I know several who could be called serial entrepreneurs.  I would advise any women starting a business today is to find a supportive network of peers, like NAWBO.  Women are extremely generous with each other and are a great resource.

There are owners manuals for just about everything. So, why not one for husbands?

4. Now to the question regarding your current career: How did your decades in public relations contribute to the skills and challenges required for success in your new career as an actress?

Running an agency taught me not to take rejection too seriously.  Casting agents say the same thing as clients, “we decided to go in a different direction.”

I started taking acting classes after I merged my business with Sally Hodge (operating as Hodge Schindler for five years.)  No longer the “boss,” I felt I needed another outlet, and acting was something I enjoyed as a kid. Classes eventually led to auditioning and doing plays.  When I no longer worked full time, I got an agent. In the last several years I’ve done several plays, local commercials, voice-overs, short films, museum exhibits and one Onion video.

A few year ago, the entrepreneur in me took over and I decided to write a performance piece that could be delivered as entertainment at women’s groups, bridal showers and entertainment venues.  Titled “Husbands: An Owner’s Manual,” it’s based on my 50-plus years of marriage.  I explain how to select a husband and how to maintain him in good working order including such topics as warranties, exchanges and replacement parts.

I am currently working on the book of the same title.

5. Let’s finish up with some questions on the book. What inspired you to take on this project? And, has your husband, Jack, read it yet?

People who’ve seen the show have been encouraging me for years to turn it into a book.  My original intention was to use the book as a way to monetize and promote the show.  But it’s taken on a life of its own.  Right now, it is in the hands of a designer who is creating fun, colorful pages that contribute to the humor and viewpoint of the text.  I hope to go to press by the end of October and have copies by the end of November.

I am currently working on my PR/marketing plan for the book launch, which includes my blog, “The Toilet Seat Must Go Down,” where I answer such vital questions as “why men can’t find the pickles behind the mayonnaise.”

And to answer your question: No, Jack Schindler has never read the book or seen the performance, even though everyone tells him that it’s an homage.  It does keep him on his toes, however. He’s afraid everything he says or does will turn into a new chapter.

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The Value of Communications in Times of Emergency: Harvey and Irma

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

This image of Irma is somewhat surreal. A beautiful kaleidoscope of colors, yet what further devastation will be in the wake of this storm.

Outside today, it’s overcast and cool for early September in Chicago. The skies are not threatening, the winds placid.

Wish the same could be said for parts of the Caribbean and the state of Florida.

Okay, you know where this is going: Commentary on the massive Hurricane Irma as it approaches the continental United States and the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey in late August.

Well, let’s let the experts, the pundits, the forecasters and the government officials provide analysis on subjects like:

  • The potential for lives lost and property destroyed.
  • The exact course of this latest Category 5 storm.
  • The exodus of people seeking safety via highways and air.
  • The analysis of how continued development along coastal areas will exacerbate damage from the storm.
  • And, the role of global warming in these storms and others to follow.

Here, I’ll share a thought on the value of communications — and those responsible for accurate, timely and ethical communications — in helping to mitigate what’s to follow from Irma when it reaches Florida later this weekend.

In researching this post, I googled “Hurricane Irma and public relations advice.”  Yes, the search yielded a lot, as there were more than 150,000 findings.

In reading some of the results, I found links to reports on how to prepare for the hurricane (from the Federal Trade Commission), travel insurance claims advice from a company called Squaremouth, and a USA Today article on how to prepare your smartphone for a catastrophe.

Of course, there were many more articles and links to websites offering direction and insight that perhaps has little value to the tens of thousands who may be displaced over the next few days.

Or suffer more substantial losses.

The point here: These messages were drafted and distributed by communicators — public relations consultants, marketing professionals, content experts. They were playing a role in disseminating potentially valuable information in a time of need.

These messages won’t stop the winds and the rain from making landfall. But in times like these, communications on how to lessen or avoid the impact of a potential tragedy do count.

Expect more hurricane-related communications to come, as Hurricane Jose  was building strength, becoming a Category 4 storm, in the Atlantic Ocean.  The good news: Forecasters predict Jose may head north and may not reach land.

Let’s hope.

* * *

As a true weather wonk, The PRDude has addressed weather and natural disasters before. Here are two posts:

 

 

 

Loving and Learning a Lot from Lisbon — The Travelogue

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

Naturally, when one visits a captivating place like Lisbon, Portugal, it’s appropriate to capture the people and places in beautiful digital images. So, as proclaimed in yesterday’s narrative post on Lisbon, what follows is a visual account of our wonderful trip.

Note: The images below represent a “curated” version of the scores of images shot with my trusty little red Nikon Cookpix digital camera.

Please enjoy this visual trip to Lisbon and parts nearby.

Like many great capital cities, Lisbon is marked by many striking monuments to leaders and causes. Not sure who this guy is, but like a lot of leaders of the era, he’s got a pet lion.

Wouldn’t you like to have a Moorish castle in your neighborhood? This one has held up fairly well, having survived wars and an earthquake.

But wait, there’s another castle! This one, the Castelo dos Mouros, can be found in nearby Sintra.

A couple of cool things about the beach town of Cascais: A great street for strolling, excellent people watching, fine food and drink, and minutes from the Atlantic Ocean.

I did dip my feet into the ocean, and yes it was cold. The beach at Cascais was delightful.

On our only foggy day of the visit, I took this image from the Elevador Santa Justa, a 19th Century lift in the Baixa district.

Yes, I asked for permission before taking this image. Wouldn’t you? Look at that sword.

Fado is the beautiful, mournful music of Portugal. We took in a performance on my birthday, but couldn’t take photos. This sculpture near the Rossio train station must suffice.

Hamming it up in the Museu Nacional do Azulejo. Colorful tiles adorn castles, modest homes and Metro stations.

A highlight for me was riding the famous #28 electric tram. Part amusement park ride, part public transit. Way cool.

And from another transit perspective, Lisbon has funiculars. The exterior artwork provided by the locals.

Break away from the castles, plazas and trams and take the ferry to Cacilhas. Like Lisbon, but more quaint. And, the ride was only three Euros — round trip.

A Western-inspired bit of street art along the waterfront in Cacilhas. Who knew the Portuguese liked cowboys.

The view from the balcony of our excellent base of operations, the BessaHotel Liberdade. Somewhat surreal to see modern construction within 19th Century structures.

A stunning 19th century building, just one of so many we observed throughout much of greater Lisbon.

Even a Chicago hot dog fan like me didn’t bite for this Lisbon version on the wiener on a bun. Bacon and mayo on a hot dog?

The view from Parque Eduardo VII toward the city center. No, not named after me, but for some British king who visited a long time ago.

Thanks for joining me on this little adventure to Lisbon and its surrounding environs.

If I could encapsulate Lisbon in a single thought: A colorful, proud, real urban place that has not lost its place in the world, poised to reinvent itself — but at its own pace and according to its own rules.

 

 

 

 

 

Loving and Learning a Lot from Trip to Lisbon — The Narrative

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

Must say it was a challenge to get back into the home-school-work routine this week.

The view from Sao Jorge Castle encapsulates the old and new. The Ponte 25 de Abril Bridge is in the distance.

That’s because Susan and I recently returned home from seven wonderful days and nights in Lisbon. So, what was the draw to visit Portugal’s biggest city and the western-most capital on the European continent?

Well, the reasons are many:

  1. We’ve never been to Lisbon.
  2. We read there were lots of cool things to see and do.
  3. We wanted memories we could not get by visiting anyplace in the continental U.S.
  4. We were told Portugal offers great value for your visitor dollar.
  5. And, we needed and deserved a vacation.

So, here’s the first of a two-part report: A narrative of what we loved and learned from the excursion to a city and nation steeped in history, culture and charm.

Loved This About Lisbon

  • Seamless Merger of Old and New.  Founded in pre-Roman times, Lisbon still retains its character and heart while embracing the 21st Century. The often hilly cobblestone streets are maddeningly

    Somehow, Lisbon has kept its soul while embracing the modern world.

    confusing; grand buildings and modest homes are decorated with tiles, or azulejos.  The Moorish San Jorge Castle can be seen from many parts of town. Yet, from our hotel room, I could counted eight construction cranes — all on the site of a reconstruction project, not a modern development.  Yes, there are modern office towers and malls, but they’re far from the city center. And, yes, they have Starbucks. And, on the streets of hip places like Barrio Alto and Baixa, we encountered elderly natives who were still part of the urban fabric.

  • Genuine Warmth of the People. Following our arrival at the Lisbon airport, our shuttle driver navigated the “scenic route” past iconic landmarks (the Campo Pequeno Bullfighting Arena, for example) and exuded friendliness and pride in his city. Upon entering our modern hotel, the BessaHotel Liberdade, Filippe the doorman greeted us as if we were long-standing friends.  Maria, a waitress at the Bambu Feed Your Spirit kiosk, engaged me in a lively conversation about pending gentrification. We encountered this kind of graciousness from the Lisbon people throughout our visit.
  • The Continental Atmosphere. Here’s something you can’t find in American cities: Kiosks on boulevards and in squares selling delicious sandwiches, salads, cappuccino, jamon and melon, fresh pastries, beer, gin and tonics and of course, wine. People linger at these outdoor gathering places in a genteel fashion; there’s no rush, no sales push to buy more or move on.  I could have spent an entire afternoon at one and not be bored.

Learned This About Lisbon

  • Pride in City and Culture. “I’m Portuguese,” Filippe proclaimed during a conversation. Other natives we encountered in restaurants, on public transportation or at places of interestdemonstrated that same sometimes quiet, always unequivocal sense of pride. Another point of reference: Virtually everyone (except for one rather gruff policeman) spoke English and were more than willing to offer directions, which we needed frequently.  (Our Portuguese was limited to “hello” and “thank you.”)
  • Overlooked by Americans. Clearly, Lisbon is an

    Wish there were places like this in my Chicago neighborhood.

    international city that attracts visitors from many European nations and other parts of the world. But from a clearly anecdotal perspective, I don’t think many Americans visit the city. The only Americans we encountered were a group of Texans near the beach on our day trip to Cascais, a delightful town a 45-mnute train ride way. We heard people speaking Spanish, French, Italian and (naturally) Portuguese, and British-sounding English. But American accents were rare.

  • Transit That Works. As a transit guy, I was especially anxious to ride Lisbon’s modern Metro, ride the famous trams and even venture up a hill on a funicular. I engaged in all these public transit modes, plus road the bus and ventured across the Tagus River on the ferry. In short, all modes were modern, efficient and cheap. Even the famous electric trams, which precipitously navigate narrow thoroughfares, were retrofitted with a digital fare card reader.

Now, this is what I consider a “food court!” It’s the Time Out Market, full of great food and wine, as well as a market for seafood and produce.

And, one more thought: The food — especially the fresh seafood — and wine — both reds and whites — were delicious and reasonably priced and available in cafes and kiosks on busy thoroughfares and tucked away in the city’s historic and always fascinating side streets that seemed to defy logic yet kept us always taking steps further up steep hills and around corners to see more.

Up next: The Lisbon Travelogue of photos and extended captions.

Here’s Who’s Winning Following Charlottesville

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

Developments from the horrific events that took place last week in what reportedly was a quiet, historic college town continue to unfold at a dizzying pace.

Image courtesy of the Washington Post.

So, I won’t go into any details or analysis, because the information monster created by digital technology assuredly will mean occurrences — whether reported by a traditional news source, and alternative news source or through a social media platform — will have changed by the time I finish this post.

But if you’re unfamiliar with what took place — the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia August 11 during a clash between two diametrically opposed forces — please visit this page to get up to date.  The source is the New York Times, a media source I wholeheartedly trust, and am not ashamed or reluctant to believe in.

Everyone in America is losing while we continue this highly toxic way of using our Constitutional right to assemble peacefully.

However, there are “winners” of sorts.

Superficially, the sign printers, the torch manufacturers and the florists will continue to gain business if those on the far right and those on the far left clash and leave bodies in their wake. There will always be a need for props, and there always will be memorials if someone is killed.

But realistically, the real winners are the sick individuals with myopic perspectives on what is “right” and what is “wrong,” those cowards who will never waver or even try to understand another perspective.

They will win as long as the rest of us allow them to.

 

 

With September on the Horizon, A Time to Savor What’s Left of Summer

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

It’s true.

The three months of summer — purported to be a reflective time to relax, regroup and recharge — does go by fast.

As of this writing, September is three weeks away, prompting the question: Did you get the most out of the summer of 2017?

After all, the fall back-to-school messages will soon become as prominent and prevalent as those get-out-and-enjoy summer messages communicated in May.

Yes, that’s me, second from left, during the PRSA Chicago YPN panel discussion on continuing education.

Now that the topic of schooling is on the table, let me share a recent event on the subject. Earlier this week, I had the honor of participating as a panelist during a PRSA Chicago Young Professionals Network after-work gathering on “Exploring Continuing Education in PR.”

My fellow panelists addressed the challenges faced by working professionals who make the decision to pursue master’s degrees in business administration and communications, along with the long-term professional career benefits of an advanced degree.

As you would expect from the PRDude,  I promoted the value behind earning the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credential and how it made a measurable impact by elevating me to a strategist.

And, I subtly noted that I also was in pursuit of my master’s degree in English, although reaching that goal is a good three years away.

What ensued was an often lively and informative exchange between the panelists and the YPN members in attendance. I learned how my fellow panelists balanced work, school, play and other aspects of life in their quest for a master’s degree, and realized:

  • I’m on my 13th year as an Accredited professional; regardless, the continued evolution of public relations will require that I continue to evolve, too. That means continuing to learn.
  • Earning an advanced degree means more these days than in generations past. The era of the publicist driven by placements has been eclipsed by a professional who can comprehend and strategically employ the PESO model.
  • And, yikes! Summer was waning and I would have to start school again soon. Actually, my next class — “Non-Fiction Writing Workshop” — starts August 28.

With that note, I’ll conclude this post and step outside with a glass of wine to enjoy the balance of this early August evening.

After all, the two ladies on the panel with me both stressed that it’s imperative to maximize time spent outside the classroom and away from the books.

I wholeheartedly concur.

 

 

 

Communications Advice For Anthony Scaramucci

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

By the time Publish button is pushed to share these thoughts with the world, who knows what new development will have taken place within the Trump Administration.

New (but for how long?) White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

So, I’ll be brief and get tot he focal point of this post: Communications advice for recently named White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci.

Last week, Mr. Scaramucci burst on the national scene in what then was the latest shake up within the current executive branch.

A Wall Street guy, Mr. Scaramucci (to my understanding) does not have any formal communications experience.

So in an effort to usher in a less caustic national conversation, here’s some advice and best practices for Mr. Scaramucci to consider:

  1. Learn to mitigate threats. In essence, public relations initiatives take advantage of opportunities and mitigate threats.  It’s highly advisable that Mr. Scaramucci take the latter very seriously while doing his utmost to advance the former.
  2. Watch the language. Perhaps you’ve read about Mr. Scaramucci’s expletive-filled rank to a reporter last week.  In a tweet, he deemed the frequent f-bombs as being “colorful language.” From my experience, straightforward, “black and white” communications are much more effective because the crux of the message stays front and center.
  3. The media is not an enemy. As clearly stated in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the media has a right to exist. Men and women who cover the news aren’t going away. Being combative will only lead to more intensive scrutiny.

Mr. Scaramucci, should you read this and want to discuss further, please reach out; I promise to respond promptly.

And, I ask nothing in return, except that you perform your duties effectively and honestly.

I trust the American people would ask the same.