Food and Wine Overload: Remembering the 2010 Chicago Gourmet Festival

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

This past weekend (September 25-26), I had the great fortune of attending the third — and what I’m sure will be an annual event — Chicago Gourmet Festival, “a celebration of food and wine.”  Add beer and spirits to the tag line.

A kid-in-a-candy store event for grownups, the festival reinforces my fair city’s position as one of the top, most progressive markets in the world for innovative food and drink.  I’ll get the public relations-related perspective out of the way now, so I can comment on what I ate, drank and saw.

Events like this — held in our spectacular Millennium Park and framed by a breathtaking skyline — are “good PR” for Chicago, just like the celebration for the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago BlackHawks, which I blogged about in June.  It demonstrated that lots of people can get together for a common purpose, enjoy themselves and not cause any problems.   Well, unlike the BlackHawks party, which was free and reportedly drew 2 million, the Gourmet Festival cost $150 per day, or $250 for both days.  And, there was a Grand Cue event that cost more.

Apparently the organizers did something right: Both days were sold out.

My experience was from two perspectives: A volunteer on the first day, and an unabashed, no-holds-barred consumer of food and red wine (only) the second day.  My volunteer morning earned me the blue wristband that got me in on Sunday.

There are lots of other source for “how to” maximize participation — make that not be shut out of the good stuff — at the festival.  The Gaper’s Block blog addressed the event from a tactics and strategies perspective. And, the Chicago Tribune food critic Phil Vettel wrote a fine overview piece from a critic’s perspective.

S0 here are some random thoughts from a guy who takes his food and drink seriously.

  • The lines waiting to enter Saturday stretched from the entrance across from the Cloud Gate sculpture (otherwise known as “The Bean” to nearly Randolph Street.  Perhaps next year they can have two entrances.
  • My favorite sampling was a fork tender short ribs served with mashed potatoes from Tavern on Rush.  It was meat-and-potatoes elevated.
  • I sampled some excellent reds from vineyards I knew of and many that were new to me. But the best and most surprising wine was a Portuguese table wine served by a supplier hawking mostly, well, ports.  It was dry, with black fruit and some spice, medium-bodied and priced well at $12 per bottle.
  • As expected, there were lines, especially at the five main serving areas. But I struck up some great conversations with people; a sort of “community” was formed.
  • An event like this opens itself up to waste. But I didn’t see much food wasted; in fact, some chefs ran out of food — a good thing in some ways.  Rest assure, no one went home hungry.
  • Most of the spotlight was shown on the high-profile (I don’t like the word “celebrity”) chefs. But I was pleased to visit a separate tent featuring gourmet food products for sale from local producers.   These entrepreneurs give us amateurs the ability to cook almost like the pros.

As for next year, I plan to repeat the process — volunteer one day, enjoy the next.  Just thought of one more thing: I did not have to cook all weekend.

Open Letter to BP: Hire Me as New Chief PR Guy

By Edward M. Bury, APR, aka The PRDude

A recent story from the The Telegraph, one of the UK’s finest and most respected newspapers, prompted this post.  The piece, which was published September 22, pointed out that oil giant BP has an opening in its public relations department.

As loyal followers of this blog know, I’m seeking that next great position in public relations.

The job at BP is for “a new head of global communications, according to the Telegraph.  The reason: BP wants “to restore its tarnished reputation after the massive oil spill from its Macondo oil well in the Gulf of Mexico.”  You remember that disaster, don’t you?

If not, here’s an image the Telegraph ran with the online post:

Protestors in the Gulf made their viewpoints known during the months following the massive oil spill at the BP Deepwater Horizon rig.

So, I’m officially throwing my proverbial hat into the ring for this tremendous opportunity.  To the HR folks at BP, here are my qualifications.

1. Experience: I have 20 years of experience in the public relations arena.  Frankly, none of it is in the oil or energy business.  But that shouldn’t matter, because the public relations team in place during the Gulf spill apparently didn’t have much experience in the oil business either; otherwise, they would have been better prepared to communicate during the ensuing crisis.

2. Card-Carrying Member: No kidding: I’ve held a BP (before that Amoco) credit card and been a member of their motor club since 1981. That has to count for something, right?

3. No Language Barrier: This job is headquartered in London, where the official language is English. I’ve spoken and written in English all my life.  There would be a very sooth transition, however, I’m keeping our home in Chicago, just in case.

4. Familiar With Key Issues: Within days following the tragic, fatal explosion that caused the spill off the Louisiana coast, the PRDude began blogging about the subject — from a public relations perspective, of course — back in May with his first of three posts.

5. I’ve Got Credibility — And I Can Prove It: Future PR textbooks will point out that BP mishandled the Gulf Oil spill crisis in a monumental way.  To take one perspective, whoever BP put in front of the media to communicate their story lacked credibility.  Well, I have it.  In fact, I’m one of 5,000 public relations professionals from around the world who hold the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) credential, and I serve on the Universal Accreditation Board, which grants and administers the APR.  We APRs are bound to practice with high ethical standards, which include transparency, protecting the free flow of communications and avoiding conflicts of interest.  We have to be credible!

The Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) credential is held by just 5,000 professionals worldwide.

The Telegraph piece did not offer much more information on the job search, except that a man named Bob Dudley, who is slated to replace disgraced CEO Tony Hayward, will be involved.  Anyone know Mr. Dudley?

I visited the BP online career page, but the job is not posted there.   But, if Mr. Dudley or anyone in the HR department at BP is interested in learning more about me, they can visit my website.

Social Media Grows Up: Its Got Ethics Now

By Edward M. Bury, APR, aka The PRDude

A long, long time ago — say around the early part of 2009 — the social media landscape was much like the American Wild West of the late 19th century:  An unregulated place full of digital desperadoes who answered to no one.  Okay, enough with the hyperbole.

But last December, the Federal Trade Commission published new guidelines governing the use of endorsements and testimonials in advertisements, including those involving blogs.   Here’s what stood out to me from the FTC announcement:

“The revised Guides specify that while decisions will be reached on a case-by-case basis, the post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement. Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service.”

This topic, and others involving ethical practices in social media and the blogosphere, were brought to light during a luncheon panel discussion September 14 hosted by the Chicago Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.  Since this is a discussion of ethics and open disclosure, I’ll get this out of the way now: I’m an appointed member to the PRSA Chicago Board of Directors.

The panel was comprised of three really smart, digitally-savvy people:

  • Phil Gomes, SVP of Digital for Edelman in Chicago.
  • Bill Bonner, Senior Director of External Relations for Office Max.
  • Sherri Maxson, Director of Digital Marketing for DeVry University.

David Kamerer, PhD, Assistant Professor a the Loyola University School of Communications, moderated the discussion.

There.  I provided attribution for what’s next.  I posted links to the people above based on what I found in a Google search.  Here are a few thoughts shared by the group, in no particular order of importance.  I didn’t record the conversation, so please accept by paraphrase.

On Ethics in Social Media:

Sherri:  Journalists are now bloggers, but not all bloggers were journalists.
Phil: One blogger presented a “contract” that was required in exchange for product coverage.
Bill: I hope that some day someone establishes a “Blogger Accreditation Council.”

Regarding Online Tracking of Internet Use:

Sherri: It’s needed to help sort through all of the content that’s available online.
Phil:  When you sit in front of a computer, that’s the world in a window. It’s a personalized experience.

What’s in the Future:

Sheri:  Groupon is becoming more relevant to location.  If you use Foursquare, be smart about revealing too much information.
Phil:  All companies will take social media more seriously. Domino’s did not have a Twitter acc0unt during the 2009 YouTube fiasco. They had to start one.
Bill: Layar, a “Beautiful, fun augmented reality app that shows you things you can’t see,” will be the next hot development.

There were a few other great topics of interest, but I ran out of room on sheet of paper I was using for notes; and, I wanted to finish my tiramisu. Now, my thoughts on the issue of ethics in social media.

  1. The 2009 FTC improved guidelines are just what’s needed; but is there the means in place to enforce them?
  2. When I studied journalism, I was taught to understand and report news accurately and without bias.  Are colleges teaching ethical practices that pertain to social media?
  3. Bloggers have a lot more power over how a brand is perceived than many people believe.  Are brand managers strategically targeting bloggers with messages that are different from messages sent through the “mainstream” media?

As an ethical blogger, I must disclose that the three questions above were made up by me.  Honest.

Richard M. Daley, Chicago and Public Relations

By Edward M. Bury, APR, aka The PRDude

Now that the professional pundits and prognosticators have had their say, it’s time for the PRDude, a real Chicago Guy, to offer some thoughts on yesterday’s news bombshell: Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley’s announcement that he will not run for another term in 2011.

For those of you not familiar with Chicago and our history, this is big news.  Really big news.  And, Daley’s decision to not seek a record seventh term will have profound effects on my city — its economy, its culture and its perception here and abroad — for decades to come.

Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley

How pivotal is this development?  Let’s put it in this perspective: I’ve been alive for 55 years. There have been Daleys in office for 42 of those years.   The current mayor followed in the political footsteps of his legendary father, Richard J. Daley, who held the office from 1955 until his death 1976.

Both Daleys were brash, at times crude, in public situations and reportedly downright cruel and vindictive behind closed doors.  Both were masters in the political arena, wielding almost unlimited power.  Both operated administrations that often were embroiled in charges and claims of corruption and favoritism.  Both accomplished tremendous public works projects that made other cities bitter with envy.

And, both epitomized Chicago, in all its beauty and ugliness, its successes and failings, its glory and shame.

It’s a safe statement to proclaim that the decision by Richard M. Daley means there never will be another major American city that will be ruled for decades by one man or woman.  It’s unfathomable to believe another Daley type of leader will surface again on the urban political landscape.

Public relations, of course, is the practice of building mutually beneficial relationships.  Richard Daley built lots of relationships during his more than two decades holding down the mayoral office in Chicago — some that were toxic, like with the Chicago Police Department and the local media, others that were beneficial, like with the business community and cultural institutions.

Much of what the rest of the nation and the world perceived about Chicago as a place to live, work and play was shaped in some part by the actions of the Mayor.  An argument could be made that Daley, given his remarkable tenure and prominence on the national and international landscape, performed a public relations function for Chicago.

Daley helped epitomize Chicago for the world-class center of business and culture that it is today, much like Al Capone and other gangsters cultivated a perception of lawlessness nearly a decade ago.  The city often was referred to as “Daley’s Chicago”  during the administration of the first Mayor Daley; I maintain the same could be said for the current Mayor Daley.

Who will be elected Chicago’s next mayor? There are no front runners, but lots of hopefuls.  Whoever that person is, he or she more than likely will never scale the heights, from a perception perspective, of either of the Daleys.

Random Thoughts on a Friday: PR & More

By Edward M. Bury, APR, aka the PRDude

Here are some thoughts and observations on public relations and other stuff of interest.

  1. PR Specialty: Street Gangs. Earlier this week, the print and broadcast media reported on a recent “secret” meeting between Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis and reputed street gang leaders.  The purpose: Weis said gang leaders must stop the rash of drug-related shootings and violence that has plagued parts of the city.  Otherwise, authorities would use federal racketeering laws to the fullest to prosecute the leaders and seize their homes, cars and valuables.The reputed gang leaders responded with a news conference yesterday that was covered by Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass. According to Kass, the news conference “was somewhat disorganized, with conflicting messages, a lot of emotion, but no focus.”   What intrigued me about the “news conference” centered on the fact that the coalition of gangs on Chicago’s West and South sides employed the services of a local public relations firm to announce the event.  Really? There are PR firms that would take on business from clients who reportedly sell illegal drugs, terrorize neighborhoods, incite violence and commit other heinous acts?One underlying value and purpose of the public relations profession and those who practice it is this:  Public relations efforts should have some redeeming social value.  Helping to spread the word about a reputed gang leader news conference has no redeeming social value whatsoever.
  2. PRSA NomCom Revisited. Around a month ago, I had the honor and privilege of serving on the national Public Relations Society of America Nominating Committee, which met here in Chicago to select the slate of officers and delegates for the National Assembly.  An “emergency”  fill-in delegate representing the PRSA Midwest District, I sat shoulder-to-shoulder with PRSA leaders from across the nation.  At the table were past presidents, long-time national officers, section leaders and other PR professionals from virtually every discipline within the industry.  To keep the debate on track and according to established rules, PRSA employed a parliamentarian.By no means was I intimidated by this cadre of peers; but I was very impressed with their dedication to the nomination process.  Of course, I can’t discuss any particulars, but let’s put it this way:  The debate was quite spirited.   My take away was a much better understanding of the process of electing PRSA leadership and a greater respect for those volunteers who do, indeed promote the theme:  “Advance the Profession and the Professional.”Special thanks to my friends and colleagues at PRSA Chicago, for recognizing my participation on the Chapter website home page.
  3. 365 Day Later.  Today marks the one-year anniversary since I launched the PRDude blog.  Yes, it’s been 365 days since my position as Senior Director of Public Relations was eliminated.A note of heartfelt thanks to those who have read this blog and to those who have offered comments.  I remain totally committed to the profession and resilient in my search for that next great job in public relations.  Since last fall, I’ve gone on several face-to-face interviews, participated in phone screens and completed online questionnaires.  I’ve joined business social networks and posted my credentials on several online job boards.  I’ve targeted companies and made cold calls. I’ve attended dozens of networking events, participated in numerous webinars and continue to read up on latest the technology and best practices.  My volunteer participation with PRSA Chicago and the Universal Accreditation Board remains high.  And, I continue to complete writing and consulting assignments for clients in the real estate and other B2B industries.And, of course, I’ve maintained this blog.

    People have told me:  “You’re doing all the right things.”  Understood, yet my search continues — and it will continue.  I’ve learned that when life presents challenges, you must muster the necessary resources and succeed.

    On this Labor Day weekend, I wish all a safe and pleasant holiday.  Special words of support to the 15 million Americans who are searching for work: Your next job is out there.   I conclude with this bit of optimism:  As I write this — mid afternoon on  Friday, September 3 — the Dow is up more than 100 points, due to better-than-anticipated news on the employment front.