Questions a Week Following the Aurora, Colorado Carnage

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)
The images, the videos, the 911 calls and the tweets following the mass murders in an Aurora Colorado movie theater July 20 may have faded from our memories by now, a week after the carnage.  Well, sort of.

How could any rational human being not be shaken to their very core, dumfounded and angered over the deranged actions of a very disturbed man. These days, like with wars, terrorist attacks and natural disasters, we don’t read about it or learn what happened after the fact.  We grasp it in real time.

These questions have been on my mind since I learned of the shootings just over a week ago.

1.  What can effective public relations — for gun control or at least reforms to current laws — do to help prevent this from happening again?  Within this blog, I’ve posed that question following tragedies like the earthquake in Haiti in 2010 and the tsunami in Japan last year.  Not sure of the answer, but I remain steadfast in my beliefs that only through open disclosure of information, dialogue and an exchange of ideas can we begin to find the answer.

2.  Why do major media outlets seek comments from sources who have no experience or credentials in law enforcement or criminal justice following horrific events like the Aurora murders?  The case in point was an interview with Ted Nugent, a man who name for himself playing rock music (and not very good or memorable music, in my opinion).  Nugent has been on camera many times before to espouse his beliefs that every law-abiding American has the right to carry and use a concealed weapon; he maintains the loss of life and injuries would have been less if a movie-goer had and used a loaded weapon.  This kind of journalism is pandering; it should be halted, especially in the wake of mass murder.

3.  Are we becoming somewhat desensitized when we learn of murders like those that took place in Colorado due to the fact technology allows us to virtually witness many details, sometimes right when they happen? Before the 24-hour news cycle, “citizen journalism” and social media platforms, we had to switch on the radio, wait for the TV evening news or read the morning newspaper to get an account of what took place.  No more; we get the news — warts and all — any time we want it.

Your thoughts on the three questions above are most welcomed.  Do you have answers or opinions?

PRSA Midwest Conference 2012 Remembered … In Bullet Points

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

It’s all over. And, there was no shouting to speak of.  Just a lot of tremendous and insightful seminars, commentary, discussion and camaraderie from the 150 public relations professionals from the Midwest and beyond who attended and/or presented June 19-20  at the 2012 PRSA Midwest Conference held here in Chicago and hosted by my colleagues from PRSA Chicago.

The short report: Everyone, from those more senior practitioners like this blogger to those preparing to establish themselves in the profession should have gained a lot from the 1.5-day event.  The accolades: To the organizing team from PRSA Chicago, our hosts at the Loyola University Water Tower Campus and the men and women who took time away from work and business to be part of the dialogue.

Here are a few bullet point thoughts:

  • Companies and organizations should “build up a repository of good will in case you need it during a crisis.” That was one of the comments from opening keynote speaker Al Golin, founder of GolinHarris. Sound words for sure, and a strategy I think can that can be supported through blogs, social media and an up-to-date web site. With all due respect — and there’s a lot of it for Mr. Golin — I did not totally agree with his thought that a public relations professional’s gut instinct usually is on target when providing the client counsel regarding a challenge or threat.  I think direction should be built entirely on strategy based on research, with a little “gut” thrown in.
  • “The world is changing at a pace previously unseen,” was a take-away from the lunchtime presentation from Antonio Hernandez of ComEd Communications as he addressed the power company’s “The Power of Campaign” communications plan and strategy.  There’s no debate from me on that subject; and, the impact of change driven by technology was a common thread addressed by virtually every other presenter.
  • Following hurricane Katrina, insurance giant Allstate was bashed for reportedly being slow to react to policyholders in need, even though they were the first insurance company on site in New Orleans. The company’s “When Good Hands People Give Back” campaign, as detailed by Victoria Dinges, VP of Public Social Responsibility and Enterprise Communications, demonstrated the good things to reverse the negative perception. Plus, I learned a new acronym:  ROR (return on reputation).
  • David Grossman, ABC, APR, Fellow PRSA, has cultivated a national reputation as a leader in internal communications. At his presentation Friday, Mr. Grossman presented 10 principles and lots of other great insight.  Here are two thoughts that resonated with me.  (Disclosure: Mr. Grossman and I served on the Universal Accreditation Board for one year.)  1) Leaders today need to advance a vision with an “artifact,” which could be something as simple as an FAQ page. 2) Middle managers are overloaded with work, don’t get enough training and often are led by superiors who are less qualified.

There’s lots more I could report. But I’m sure you could visit the chapter website soon to download presentations from the above and dozen or so other great speakers and panels.  Personally, I’m proud of the work done by PRSA colleagues here, and honored to have played a small role in organizing this conference, the first ever hosted in my town. And, I’m energized and looking forward to incorporating some of what I learned into what I do every day.

Finally, I didn’t add any conference images to this post.  You’ve seen people giving presentations before. But right after Friday’s concluding session, I dashed off for an overnight visit with a friend in Southern Wisconsin, a place I blogged about last December. Needed fresh air and a change of pace.  Here’s what I saw.

A trail at the Bristol Woods preserve off county highway MB. I walked the entire 2.8 mile route. One benefit of the drought: No mosquitoes.

Ah, a visit to Wisconsin would not be right without a stop for a brew at a family-run tavern. This one was at Highway 45 and Route 142. Stimulating discussion, and the Old Styles were just $1.75.

There goes the diet. This was a breakfast croissant sandwich. Enough for two. Maybe three.

My “secret” place to park and just watch this tranquil creek. Where is it? Reply to this post and I’ll tell you.

Did you attend the PRSA Midwest District conference last week?  Share your insight.

Greetings on a Firecracker Hot Independence Day

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

On this blistering hot Independence Day — the mercury just hit the 100-degree mark here in Chicago and across much of the nation — there’s not much to do. Except stay cool, that is.  Wish we had friends who owned a pool.

So with an iced drink in hand, I decided to offer a few thoughts about our nation’s birthday:

We’re a Little Late, Sort of.  According to this post from Wikipedia, the 13 original colonies actually voted to break away from Great Britain on July 2, 1776.  The Declaration of Independence, was signed two days later.  So, perhaps we really need a three-day national holiday — from July 2 through 4!   And why not:  We’ve cheapened and bastardized just about every other holiday.  Or do you really enjoy hearing Christmas carols minutes after the leftover Thanksgiving turkey is put away?

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary…”

Are There Any Independence Day Songs? Besides Those from Sousa? Think about it: Have there been any American composers, or foreigners for goodness sake, that have penned music that shouts “Independence Day” from the mountaintop, other than John Philip Sousa?   Listen to Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever,” and your patriotic zeal will boil.  And, on a day like today, it won’t take long for anything to boil.  So, come on American musicians — be you a rocker or a rapper, a folkie or a jazz cat — write a song about July 4th.  (Note: Must include references to fireworks, parades, hot dogs and beer.)

Don’t you want to join John Philip Sousa as a composer linked to Independence Day?

Do We Really Need to Celebrate with Fireworks? Call me a spoil sport, but I just don’t see the value — or allure — of fireworks, especially around Independence Day. In the hands of kids or idiots, they become very dangerous weapons.  They leave reside in the form of spent bottle rockets and shredded paper, and I trust I’m not the only one who finds the scent of sulfur to be quite unappetizing. And, really, do you enjoy being startled at all hours from an exploding cherry bomb?

That’s my take on Independence Day 2012, the nation’s 236th birthday.  Stay safe out there, and if you have a moment, share your thoughts on what the holiday means to you.




Maybe with the Washington Monument in the background, but otherwise fireworks are not a fun way to spend Independence Day.