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.


Hey Virginia Heffernan: What You Apparently Don’t Know About Public Relations

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

Sometimes, I have to gaze up at the ceiling, so to say, to find the subject for a PRDude post. And, other times, the topic surfaces in an expected place and figuratively bashes me across the forehead.

The subject of today’s post lies squarely on the latter.

Photo of Ms. Heffernan courtesy of Wikipedia. Not sure of the name of the four-legged friend.

While reading my print edition of the Chicago Tribune during lunch today, I found an opinion piece that focused on Hope Hicks — the current White House communications director — and offered a commentary on public relations.  You can read the digital version of the article, “Who Exactly is Hope Hicks?, posted on the Tribune’s website and dated February 5.

The commentary, written by  Virginia Heffernan, opens with an account of President Donald Trump’s reported affinity for women models — from his current wife Melania and daughter Ivanka to other women who are currently part of his administration and staff. Then the focus moves to Ms. Hicks, specifically her experience as a fashion model and position managing communications for The Trump Organization.

What follows the introductory paragraphs provided the fuel for this post. Frankly, the piece is an example of myopic, uninformed and outright erroneous interpretations of the public relations practice and an assault on the professionals who adhere to established standards of ethical and strategic communications.

Rather than dissect the editorial paragraph-by-paragraph to unveil all I believe is wrong, fictitious and plain idiotic, here are a few “gems” of sorts that demonstrate Ms. Heffernan’s preconceived perceptions of public relations and the people who work in the industry:

  • “Modeling is not, however, Hicks’ chief qualification for her job with Trump. She’s a publicist to the bone.” Just what the heck does being “a publicist to the bone” mean in this case? That Ms. Hicks is serious about generating or managing publicity, a component of public relations? And, so what if she modeled before switching careers.
  • “Hicks didn’t just drift into her first PR job as some in the sheath set are known to do. Instead, she’s to the manner born, third generation in a family of special-forces flacks.” First, what comprises the “sheath set?” And, this is a new one to me: “Special-forces flacks.” Are they given commando attire, too, when engaging in a strategic communications exercise? Fiunally, so what if her grandfather and father worked in public relations.  I trust this never happens in journalism.
  • “PR at that level takes moral flexibility, callousness and charm.” This nugget was in reference to previous paragraphs stating that Ms. Hicks’ father “ran publicity” for the National Football League and now works for a communications firm that “specializes in — among other things — crisis management and ‘Complex Situations.'” And, Ms. Hicks “was trained by the best: Matthew Hilztzik,” the so-called chief publicist for Harvey Weinstein and Miramax. The take away here, according to Ms. Heffernan:  Public relations professionals shouldn’t develop crisis communications programs or represent professional sports franchises or media companies.
  • “But as Hope Hicks knows — and as her father and her father’s father knew — lying to the media is traditionally called PR.”  This, the final sentence in this garbage of slanted commentary bashes an entire profession and the people who work in it.  My response to Ms. Heffernan: So, I trust that the work published in the New York Times — where Ms. Heffernan worked as a staff writer — by Jayson Blair was credible journalism?

This outright pillaging of all things public relations and equating the profession as detrimental to society and our democracy needs to stop.  Yes, there are “flacks” in the public relations profession.  But as a former reporter, I know  there are “hacks” in the news business and perhaps every profession.

Left unchecked, this type of uninformed commentary propagates total misconceptions about the work of serious, honest public relations professionals.

In an effort to provide some guidance to Ms. Heffernan, perhaps she should visit the Press Contacts page published by the New York Times. There are eight communications professionals listed.

Perhaps one of these colleagues could share some accurate insight on public relations. Otherwise, Ms. Heffernan could visit this page hosted by the Public Relations Society of America.

Edelman 2018 Trust Barometer Results: If There Ever Was a Need for Ethical, Effective Public Relations, It’s Now

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

One great advancement of modern society is the ability to develop a methodology that let’s us gather and analyze data in order to provide a perspective or determine a direction on a specific topic or issue

Image courtesy of the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer web site.

These take shape as research reports and survey findings; but even today’s weather report and the Dow Jones Industrial Average are aggregations of data that help us make decisions and illuminate what’s happening around us.  In the case of the former example just noted, we might be propelled to buy or sell securities, and in the case of the latter, we gain the insight to perhaps bring an umbrella when venturing outside.

The other day, I decided to explore another data yardstick, one that addresses the very foundation of the public relations profession — and certainly many others — as well as the more encompassing concept of moral behavior.

The medium is the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, the annual report designed to gauge trust and credibility. Published by a division of the global communications firm, key findings from the recently-released report are beyond sobering, unquestionably alarming and frankly depressing.

Trust in the United States, the Barometer reported, has plummeted among the general population surveyed, pushing the nation down to the lower quarter of the 28 nations included in the study. Among those polled who ranked among the informed population, the findings were even more bleak: The United States ranked the lowest of nations surveyed.

Media organizations — for decades the standard for trust and accuracy — were battered, too.  According to the 2018 Barometer, the media for the first time in the 18 years of the report was listed as “the least trusted institution globally.”

This news story published by Edelman provides more details.  And, Edleman President and CEO Richard Edleman encapsulates the 2018 Barometer findings in this poignant comment from the Executive Summary.  “As we begin 2018, we find the world in a new phase in the loss of trust: the unwillingness to believe information, even from those closest to us.”

So, what can the public relations industry and those of us who practice and promote ethical, honest communications do in the face of the decline of trust in our nation and the media?


Here’s a start:

  • Adhere to established standards for ethical communication. If you need a place to learn, refresh or get started, the PRSA Code of Ethics offers a solid foundation.
  • Call out instances of erroneous or malicious communications. Remaining on the sidelines enables those bent on disseminating lies, conjecture and “fake news.”
  • Enlist others to lobby for responsible communications practices. Inspire debate among colleagues, family and friends.
  • Forward this post to everyone within your network and subscribe to future PRDude posts.

Well, kidding about the last item.  (Sort of.) For an alternative, forward a link to the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer.

Feel free to share your thoughts, of course, on strategies and tactics the public relations industry can initiate to reverse the decline of trust today.











Who Are These New PRDude “Followers?”

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

Let’s face it, the PRDude blog I’ve published since September 4 of 2009 is the epitome of a labor of love, along with an equal amount of blood, sweat and sometimes tears.

Hello Word Press! Can you shed any light on these new “followers” to my blog and personal website?

Like many who write about public relations and other topics that certainly lack appeal to the vast masses of readers today, there are no financial remunerations through subscriptions, sponsored content or tile ads.

Well, not yet at least; as I noted in this 2013 post, the blog is for sale for the right price.

The impetus behind this site is the freedom to share my thoughts on public relations, politics, popular culture and more; hopefully readers find value, and hopefully some even subscribe.

Which brings me to the subject of this post. Over the past several days, I’ve received email notices from the nice folks at WordPress about new followers.  Yea!  Someone out there appreciates my prose and ideas.

But upon an examination of the email addresses for the handful of new recent followers, I became suspicious.  Here are two examples, one for the PRDude blog, one for my personal website: just started following you at They will receive an email every time you publish a post. Congratulations. just started following you at They will receive an email every time you publish a post. Congratulations.

Note the “name” before the @ symbol in both addresses.

Who or what the hell are these “followers?” Why the hell do they want to follow my blog and site? Should I be concerned?  Should I try to remove them?

I attempted to bring this to the attention of WordPress but am not sure if my message to the help desk was received.

So, I leave it up to you, kind readers: What should I do?

A shout out to — — and other new “followers” who will get this post: Take note of the questions above.