The Plan B I Hope Never Gets Implemented

Like any true practitioner of public relations, I am conducting my job search according to a plan built upon objectives, strategies and tactics that lead to a goal: A full-time position with a progressive organization where I can grow professionally and contribute to the company’s goals. And, I’d like to get paid for what I do, too.

As a result, I’ve set aside parts of my week networking online, meeting with colleagues/friends for coffee, volunteering, researching companies I’d like to work for, and — yes — applying for positions posted on the growing number of online job sites. (I had no idea there were so many other there, and wonder just how they all can make money.) I also take advice from anyone who will give it.

My business is public relations and my experience falls into the association management industry and real estate arena. Seemingly, the opportunities are boundless as there are a lot of associations/non-profits in Chicago and a lot of real estate companies.

But there may come a time when I’ll need to cross that line in the sand, when I’ll have to search in fields outside of public relations or marketing or writing. Where will this Plan B lead me? Here are some options I might have to consider:

1. Wal-Mart Greeter. Public relations really is all about communication, and what better venue than the front door of a mega-retail outlet. The company has a great brand and is expanding.

2. Fast food drive through rep. You’re the first line of communication to customers who can’t/don’t want to get our of their cars. It’s fast-paced and exciting. And, you get to wear a nifty headset.

3. Bartender. A good bartender is a problem-solver, pseudo psychiatrist and front-line representative of the establishment. They communicate constantly, often with deafening music/noise in the background.

Seriously, and with no disrespect to the people who perform the jobs above and others, I remain very confident “the right” job will come my way. I always will consider myself a public relations professional, even if I am compelled to move to another industry.

Must go now and continue on making Plan A a reality.

“Public Relations” Skills. Really?

One interesting aspect of searching for a new public relations position centers on the type of help wanted notices that result from online searches.  As we all have encountered, keyword searches — whether it’s on Google, Bing or the next big online thing — frequently turn up unintended results.

In my enthusiastic, all encompassing, leave-no-stone-unturned, networking-driven quest for a new full-time position in public relations, I’ve come to this realization:  Hiring authorities (or whoever writes help wanted notices) apparently mistake  “public relations” with other disciplines.

Will someone please provide some insight as to how “public relations” relates to jobs that require one to:

1. Distribute samples of an energy drink.
2. Sell auto/home/life/property insurance.
3. Field requests at an inbound call center.

Call me cynical.  It’s just that I, along with thousands of other serious professionals here and abroad, practice true public relations, or at least provide some level of service based on this paraphrased textbook definition:  “The management practice designed to build mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and its publics.”*

We provide strategic direction (at least, we should), identify threats to the organization, recognize opportunities, conduct research, and yes, distribute news announcements.   Back to keywords, the key word here is strategy.  Good public relations programs should support strategic initiatives.  Period. Stripped to its essence, public relations is all about communicating.

One may argue that helping to drive sales for consumer products and services or effectively answering a telephone inquiry is, indeed, communicating.  No question that’s true.  It’s just not “public relations.”

*With respect to Cutlip, Center and Broom, authors of “Effective Public Relations.”

A Tale of Two Entrepreneurs

Some people are born entrepreneurs, and some are made. Let me explain.

Across from our home, a classic neighborhood corner store — like the thousands that once anchored neighborhoods throughout Chicago and elsewhere — is now open after being shuttered a year ago. Our neighbor now operates the establishment, having held a “soft” opening last week. A “grand” opening is planned for November. Our neighbor has been through this before. She operated a successful breakfast/lunch restaurant for almost six years, with some catering jobs on the side. Fourteen hour days and the economy prompted her to shut the doors and seek a new way to earn a living. Opening the store — literally across from her home — was a natural progression for this lady, who has been her own boss and tasted success as an entrepreneur.

Her life is now less complicated, and her commute reduced to a 30-second walk. She has devoted time, resources and lots of energy to the store. It’s a long-term commitment, an entrepreneurial endeavor. Her goal is to run a successful neighborhood grocery and offer customers fresh food options, not just pre-packaged food. It’s a great concept, and we wish her all the best.

(In fact, I’m donating my time gratis to help generate awareness.)

Switch gears to me. My goal is to secure another full-time position in public relations, a profession I take very seriously. I uphold ethical standards and provide sound counsel.

But until that tremendous job offer is made, I’ve reached out to contacts and generated others to take on project work. I really don’t want to be an entrepreneur. Being part of an in-place team appeals to me.

Entrepreneurs have to cope with incorporation, licenses, letterhead, etc. — stuff I don’t want to address. But, I’m being totally realistic: It more than likely will take a while — into 2010 — before a position is offered and I accept. Until then, I will continue to network, complete paid assignments, learn and progress.

I plan to be a reluctant entrepreneur for as short a time as possible.

So Just What Do We “Public Relate?”

Several years ago, my cousin’s wife asked me what I did to make money. I told her I was a public relations professional.

“So, what do you public relate?” she asked. I never heard the practice called that before or used as a verb. The phrase stuck with me. But as I think about her question further, I’ve come to the realization that public relations is, indeed, one of the most misunderstood professions in the modern world, aside perhaps from the masterminds who create investment tools like financial derivatives, which are only known to a handful of very rich Wall Street types. The classic definition — building mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and its publics — often gets lost or very distorted, especially by those who equate “good PR” with color photos in “People” and coverage on TMZ. To pure publicists out there, your job is to get clients covered in the media, and it’s an honorable pursuit; but it doesn’t encompass — in most cases — a long-term strategy.

In my current job search, I’m doing the perfunctory: Networking with everyone from long-term friends/colleagues to the mail lady. Opportunities will surface through expanding my existing network and taking advantage of who knows whom. But I’ve also registered for various online job sites, because, who knows: Somebody gets jobs posted.

It’s humorous and somewhat disturbing to see “public relations” show up on keyword searches for positions involving fielding inbound calls or selling insurance. True, these jobs and others do involve dealing with the “public” on a regular basis. But they do not fit the definition of a public relations professional. Wonder when the world will relate?

Will There be a Roar over 2016?

In approximately two hours, the world will learn whether Chicago (or Rio, Tokyo or Madrid) will win the bid to host the 2016 Olympic Summer Games. Yesterday, I was in the Loop and strolled through the Daley Center (our “town square”) and observed the plaza being set up for the public to watch the results on some kind of jumbotron.

Frankly, there was no sense of excitement, perhaps because the Daley Center hosts a Thursday Farmer’s Market and people were more interested in securing what may be the last good sweet corn of the season. But workers were out in full force, setting up barricades and moving in equipment, seating and other stuff. The decision to put my fair city on the world stage seven or so years from now didn’t interfere with what can be considered regular daily life activities.

Regardless of the outcome — and I hope the city gets the bid — the Olympic bid process generated tremendous awareness for what my home town is all about. Yes, we have political corruption, potholes, losing baseball teams (2005 Sox are an exception) and some nasty winter weather. But Chicagoans and the city itself are resilient, adaptable and progressive. We are steady. From a public relations perspective, the city 2016 team minimized and mitigated Chicago’s faults and accentuated its merits.

The explosion of media coverage surrounding the Olympic bid enhanced our reputation as a place where big things can get done, and done well. By now, the Daley Center is probably filling up, office workers are preparing to huddle around the break room TV and many other people here and elsewhere will be watching at home.

One criticism over Chicago’s bid centers on whether there was enough support from the citizenry. Perhaps not, but then, this is a city of neighborhoods where the concern of the week is a backed up sewer. Chicagoans will rally if we get the bid.

I’m hoping there will be a collective roar across the city later this morning.