My Routine Routine

Could it be more than a week between posts? That’s not good. A good blog should have a couple of posts a week — if not more.

I resolve to be more productive and allocate time to this blog. I resolve to make it part of my routine.

When I was in the “regular” work day world, I thrived on my routine: Up, breakfast and dressed, a walk to the el (subway to non Chicagoans), ride and read the Chicago Tribune, walk to work, work until 12:30, lunch, a 20-minute walk listening to the iPod, more work. Well, you get the picture. I enjoyed the structure because it made me more productive. It “compartmentalized” my day.

Now, while allocating many hours to a job search, I still keep up a routine. Only, it’s not as structured. I’ve found these past four weeks that I get more done — networking calls, searching for opportunities online and through referrals, research — if I keep to some sort of routine. That’s why I take a walk before starting my day. It’s invigorating, let’s me think and helps me understand that being in a job search is not a setback or something that’s shameful. It’s part of life, and it’s a challenge I must accept and meet head on.

Those of us who practice public relations also adhere to routines of some sort. We must regularly monitor the progress of programs in place to ensure that tactics meet objectives, objectives are in line with strategies, and strategies direct toward reaching goals. At the end of the day, a routine let’s us know where we’ve been, and where we have to go.

APR Is More Than Alphabet Soup

In 2004, I reach a milestone in terms of my public relations career: I earned the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) accreditation. It’s a personal accomplishment, and I’m proud that I earned it after some starts and stops — setbacks that might have prompted others to give up.

The process simply made me smarter and a better professional because I advanced from being a tactician to a strategist. It became clear that I advanced from knowing “how” to knowing “why” or “why not.”

I’ll stop to disclose this: I’m a current member of the Universal Accreditation Board, which oversees and grants Accreditation, and I’ve played roles promoting the APR through PRSA nationally and here in Chicago. As you can ascertain my support of Accreditation is not without foundation.

What’s your perspective on Accreditation? Are you fully aware of the process? The benefits to you and the profession? Tell me. Or better yet, click on the link below. It’s the easiest of all surveys — one question — on the value of Accreditation.

As you’ve just read, I maintain Accreditation is more than just alphabet soup. Now it’s your turn.

Applying the Four-Step Process

Those who take public relations seriously (beyond the media relations and special events tactics) should follow the classic four-step process when executing a concerted, true program.  For the uninitiated:

1. Define the threat or opportunity.
2. Conduct research.
3. Execute the plan — communicate.
4. Evaluate and make revisions.

It’s logical.  It’s straightforward.  It works.  (Well, some of the time; but that’s for another post.)

Now in a search for a full-time position back in public relations, I’m applying this process.

1.  The threat is starvation and/or eviction if I don’t generate revenue in the future.  The opportunity is that I have total confidence in my knowledge, skills and abilities.
2.  Each day I identify people I know who can help me, organizations I might want to work for/would benefit from my experience and ways to drive home the message that I’m available.
3.  I rely on the traditional (telephone calls and in-person meetings) and  the new (emails, social media, this blog) to communicate.
4.  As often as possible, I try to make revisions to my resume and cover letters, explore new opportunities and learn.

This process works.  It will work for me.

A Chicago Guy’s Thoughts On New York

Just returned from a whirlwind visit to New York.  City, that is.  My key purpose was to participate in the third quarter meetings for the Universal Accreditation Board, the body that oversees the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) accreditation process.

Full disclosure:  I am a UAB board member and am proud to say I earned the APR in 2004 under the current computer based exam process.

But back to New York.  A lifelong Chicago guy, I’m used to big cities.  But there’s something about New York that fascinates and intrigues me each time I visit.

It’s the juxtaposition of old and new and very rich and very poor, the always frantic pace of everyone and seemingly everything (especially taxis), the great cheap food sold on the streets, the views from Battery Park,  the subways, the earthy smells, the polyglot of people, the enormity of it all.   Yes, the city can be menacing to some.   But I walked the urban canyons Downtown and felt a sense of,  believe it or not, tranquility.

Earlier today, the President spoke at Federal Hall, just steps from the hotel I stayed at on William Street, steps from Wall (the street).   On the narrow and crooked thoroughfares, barricades were put up and the presence of authority was everywhere.  The President  scolded Wall Street for the mess it created though its greed and told the bankers that taxpayers would not bail them out again.    Later, he, well went to lunch.   Just so happens he lunch date was Bill Clinton, and they dined at Il Milano, one of the storied Italian restaurants in the city.

Some may bash the appearance as a “PR photo op,” all for the sake of cameras.  But sound public relations is based on reaching long-range strategic goals.  The Obama administration took advantage of the historic venue — the place where Washington took the oath of office — to drive home a message to Wall Street.  It was a strategic decision.   As for the restaurant choice, that probably did more to add to the mystique of an already famous restaurant.  I’m sure the food is good.

And, it all happened today in New York.   Tomorrow, the corner of William and Wall will return to the bankers and foreign tourists who are just as fascinated as me about this place rarely sleeps and never ceases to amaze.

The Reinvention of a Media Company

Yesterday, I attended a reception sponsored by the Chicago Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.   The venue was one few Chicagoans have experienced, at least in recent years:  The 28th floor terrace at the Chicago Tribune Tower on North Michigan Avenue.  (From a geographic perspective, it’s a stone’s throw from where Oprah Winfrey held her “street festival” to kick off her 24th season.)

The views from behind the Gothic arches were spectacular; but the public relations practitioners on hand got more than a bird’s eye perspective of the Magnificent Mile, some nice wine and coconut shrimp.  They got to hear from the publisher and editor of the Chicago Tribune how the company has reinvented itself from being a major newspaper that owned broadcast outlets, to a media company poised to be successful in a very changing media environment.

We heard about how advertisers were now offered packages for print, broadcast and online, rather than being offered these as separate media buys.  We learned about, a Trib sponsored “blog for locals.”  We learned about the new breed of journalist, one skilled in online and video communications, rather than just news gathering.

But the most poignant note was how the Tribune, which once billed itself as “The World’s Greatest Newspaper,” recognized that it had to change.  The world is a lot different, and the company had to do things differently to survive and eventually thrive.   The changes had to come from the men and women in the corporate suite to the maintenance crew.

A newspaper is a relatively modern invention.  Online communications is even newer.  Public relations, a modern discipline itself, should take note:  We provide strategic guidance and counsel, but we must recognize that tried and true tactics will not always prove successful in reaching client goals.

Public relations must take a leadership role in shaping the way business communicates.

Labor Days Passed

Today is dedicated to those who work.  In respect to the American worker, I will keep this short:  My goal is to return to full-time work in a responsible position within public relations as soon as possible.

In my most recent position, it was pride and accomplishment that drove me most days.  Dogging it?  Rarely.

Yesterday, I spent time reaching out to those who can help me find work.  That’s work in itself.   I have much respect for those who equal my ethic, little for those who do not.

My mantra: Don’t say, “I don’t know how.”  Say, “I want to learn how.”

Day two, and the sun’s still shining

Today is the second day since I was relieved of my duties as the PR guy.   I woke up, and the sun was still shining.  Still, there remain feelings of betrayal, disillusionment and of course, anger.

Yesterday, I did some of the requisite stuff:  Applied for unemployment compensation (and online and not that difficult), reached out by phone to some friends, took some encouraging in-bound calls.   Public relations really is communicating and building relationships.  So I reached out to let people know what had happened and that I was available for work.

And, I went back to the office, where three former colleagues were waiting with long faces to load four boxes of personal stuff into the back seat of my car.  (Now I’ll have to find new places for several plants.)

But I started my day with a long walk. This is how my “work” day would begin: A six-block walk to catch the subway to work.

It’s exercise and therapeutic.  I get to think and plan my day.  I will continue with a walk before I sit down to work.

Routines are good.  They help bring a balance to life.  Expectations get met.

When You Know Something Is Wrong

As I walked toward the subway this morning, I felt something was wrong. Ah yes: Forgot to wear a belt. Not a big deal. I’d be late if I walked home, so I trudged on. My trousers would not fall down.

A few minutes before 11 a.m., the boss asked me to come into the “corner office.” The HR lady was there, and her eyes were turned toward the floor. The door was shut, and in a terse manner I was told my position in public relations was being eliminated. My duties were being reassigned to people who already might had too much to do. I handed in my company ID card. There was a comment that I would receive a glowing recommendation as I pursued other employment.

Shocked? Not entirely. Relieved? Some what. The organization had severe revenue shortfalls and long range projections for revenue growth were guarded at best. Nearly two dozen colleagues were laid off over the past four months. Perhaps it’s all for the best. The severance terms were fair, I suppose.

This was not new. I’ve been fired or laid off before. It’s never easy, but one has to look at it very pragmatically: One door closed, now it’s up to me to open others that should lead to something better.

The HR lady and a colleague helped me pack up my personal stuff: Plants (they really help freshen up a room), photos, paintings, little wooden boxes. I like my office to be a personal space. Now it’s an empty space that someone else will probably occupy. You could see the outlines on the wall where paintings and framed stuff hung.

These days, of course, much of your personal life is replicated in digital files. So, the HR lady watched while I deleted some personal images stored on my computer and sent a few personal files to my personal email address. Even with advancements in social networking, there are some things digital that I still consider personal.

We filled four boxes, which could be sent via messenger or I could retrieve. I’ll come back the next day rather than have some stranger handle stuff I’ve felt were reflections of me – my work, my environment, my style.

I was escorted down the elevator and to the door. The HR lady gave me a hug, and I walked out into a street filled with passersby and visitors. The sky was azure and cloudless.

Now I have time. To think, write, relax and not worry about being the next one to be let go. This is my first blog post. I will write about my search, public relations and communications in general.