(We All Should Wake Up) When September Ends and …

By Edward M. Bury, APR aka The PRDude

educate ourselves on which candidates to vote for in the November 6 election — surely one of the most significant of our life time.

Before I get into the real content of this post, let me assure you — my loyal readers — that I will refrain for a while from naming posts after popular songs.  This one is inspired in name only by a great song from American Idiot, Green Day’s rock opera from 2004.  Recently, I’ve borrowed songs made famous by U2 and a gem sung by the “countrypolitan” genius of Glen Campbell.

I’ll stop.  For a while.  Onto the serious stuff.

On this last day of September, every American who is eligible to vote — as well as every American of sound mind and possessing a conscious — needs to commit to making a difference in shaping the national agenda in the weeks to come.  I assure you, it won’t take all that much time; yes, you’ll have plenty of time to watch football, rake leaves and accomplish all the regular stuff done in fall.

Here’s how:

Visit both.  Read and absorb where the candidates stand (at least as of  today) on key issues facing our nation.  Determine what will drive your decision on November 6.  It could be energy or education, taxes or overseas trade policies.  Everyone’s concerned and immediately impacted by jobs, the economy and healthcare, so make sure you know where the candidate’s stand on these three issues.

Talk to friends and family about the upcoming elections and the discuss the background, records, history and accomplishments of the two men running for President of the United States.  Listen to those who have differing opinions.

Pay some attention to the professional pundits, the vast majority who are clearly partisan red or partisan blue. And, it’s probably best to hit the remote button when a television ad — and there will be lots and lots of them — bashes one guy but fails to offer anything positive about their guy. Understand that political campaigns do incorporate “public relations” in crafting communications strategies and tactics, but attack ads don’t qualify as effective public relations.  I’m sure there are a lot of people who’ll debate me on the this contention.

Watch the televised presidential and vice presidential debates.  The first one is Wednesday, October 4.  Fact: There’s a body called the Commission on Presidential Debates that organizes these things.  Read your local newspaper and visit politically-oriented websites and blogs for their opinions on the candidates.

Take this new-found insight, make a decision and please vote November 6.

Employ the above to also become familiar with the congressional and other elections in your state, county and municipality.  Google will help you find local election information.

The Green Day song that inspired the title to this post was part of a body of songs that based on a period in the life of an anti-hero named Jesus of Suburbia. Critics, of course, have dissected the meaning of the work, and like all good art it’s open to interpretation.

The same goes for what you’ll learn about candidates running for office this fall: Everything is open to interpretation. So wake up, because September ends in just a few hours.

Thoughts From the Corner Office: The 2012 PRSA Chicago Agency Big Shot Lunch Remembered

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

Football. Trees changing color. Pumpkins.  Brisk temperatures.  Shorter days.

These shout out the arrival of fall.  (Or autumn, if you prefer a more “robust” word.)  So does the annual fall luncheon hosted by PRSA Chicago that features a panel of local agency leaders.  Yesterday, these six leading public relations professionals offered thoughts and projections on the state of the public relations profession.

  • Rick Murray, President, Edelman
  • Patti Temple Rocks, Managing Director, GolinHarris
  • Bill Zucker, Midwest Director, Ketchum
  • Susan Howe, President, Weber Shandwick
  • Maxine Winer, Senior Partner and General Manager, Fleishman-Hillard
  • Erica Swerdlow, Midwest Market Leader / Managing Director at Burson Marsteller
  • Claire Koeneman, Executive Vice President, Hill+Knowlton Strategies

The task of keeping these folks engaged fell to moderator Jack Monson, Vice President of  a company appropriately called Engage121.  My friend and colleague Mr. Monson moderated last year’s panel discussion.  Read my post from the 2011 luncheon when you have a moment.

Without further ado, here’s what the Agency Big Shots had to say.  (Disclosure: I’m aggregating these thoughts into bullet points below because I simply did not take good enough notes to provide attribution. My apologies. All six panelists shared valuable insight.)

  • State of the Industry: Change — due mostly to technology — will take place even faster than before and require new skill sets.  Agencies now look for those culinary and visual skills, for example, along with knowledge of strategy and communications.   The lines between advertising and public relations continue to blur.
  • Social Media is Here to Stay: One panelist said the agency social media team presents a new development to the entire shop each week, over beers of course. Social media is paramount to mitigate a crisis; this includes new platforms like Instagram.  Public relations counselors should demand that clients have written social media policies in place for employees — and make employees sign agreements.
  • If You’re Seeking a Job: Candidates will rise to the top if they demonstrate curiosity,  resourcefulness and the willingness to “get out of your comfort zone and take on more responsibilities.” Younger account managers need to learn how to “embrace a spreadsheet.” Fortunately, solid writing and presentation skills still count.  Former journalists continue to be considered for agency positions.
  • Where the Business Comes From: Some agencies are experiencing more “organic growth” rather than keeping the lights on via new business pitches. When new pitches are made, the entire account team — from VPs to AEs — participate.  That means younger team members are being trained more on how to sell.
  • A Big Trend to Watch: Expect a greater “convergence” of paid, owned and earned media. The “live” events hosted by the Chicago Tribune serve as an example, so do some of the segments aired on “Ellen.”   This trend represents ethical public relations — providing there’s full disclosure of who’s paying for the campaign.

Yes, there was lots more; but this is what I scribbled into my handy pocket notebook.  Now it’s your turn: Did you attend the PRSA Chicago luncheon September 18?  What did you learn from the six panelists and subsequent discussion?  Or, just share your thoughts on where public relations is headed in 2013 and beyond.

Galveston, Oh Galveston: A Travelogue

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

Here’s a statement that might strike many as being off-center, or just plain wrong: There are a lot of similarities between Galveston, Texas and my hometown of Chicago. Galveston you say?  Yes.

That’s where I spent a good part of the past Labor Day holiday, in Galveston in the company of my great friend, Butch West.  He’s a native Galvestonian, and he had great stories to tell about life in this Texas port city located on a 25-mile long island 50 miles east of Houston.  But first let me elaborate on the statement above.

Water. Galveston owes its existence to its location on the Gulf of Mexico. It’s one of the nation’s largest ports; tour the harbors and scan the horizon: You’ll see lots of commercial barges and tankers, cruise ships, shrimp boats and pleasure craft.  The wide, sandy beaches attract many for sun and surfing.  Chicago got its start due to its location on Lake Michigan at the mouth of the Chicago River.  We do a lot with the water around here, including drink it.

Architecture. Once Texas’ capital, modern Galveston was settled by European immigrants who built some pretty impressive stone buildings downtown, especially along the key commercial thoroughfare, The Strand.  Many late 19th Century structures — commercial buildings, homes and churches — still stand tall in the hot Texas sun.  It was cool to tour a building  (thankfully air conditioned) housing art galleries and learn it was built by a Scottish watchmaker.  You probably know Chicago is home to some buildings of note, many old and many new. The PRDude likes any town that preserves its past through its architecture.

The “Phoenix Effect.” No, I’m not talking about the city in Arizona, although I’ve visited there a few times.  I’m referring to how Galveston has rebuilt and rebounded from devastation, specifically the “unnamed” hurricane of 1900 and more recently, Hurricane Ike.  The 1900 hurricane, which struck on September 8 that year, was the nation’s deadliest natural disaster, taking an estimated 6,000 lives.  Ike hit on September 13, 2008.  According to Butch, “It’s not a matter of if, it’s when,” regarding the potential for hurricanes for those living on the Gulf.   We don’t get hurricanes in Chicago, but there was a pretty big fire here in 1871 that forever changed the city.

Okay. You might be thinking: “Hey, PRDude: Lots of cities are shaped by proximity to water, have a storied architectural history and rebuild following catastrophe.”  San Francisco and New Orleans are two that come to mind.  Well, I haven’t visited those cities recently, and by the way: This is my blog!  Enough narrative.   Below are some images taken during my three-plus days in Galveston.

Meet my friend Butch West. This image was taken aboard his boat, Therapy, during a cruise in the harbor.

A short drive outside town takes you to land that’s wet, flat and beautiful. This shot was taken close to Butch’s ancestral home. Birds and aquatic life still abound, even though new residential development continues.

Oil platforms and pleasure boats share the Galveston waterfront. I was amazed by the amount of wildlife that co-existed with commerce and industrial might.

One of the many outstanding late 19th Century buildings in downtown Galveston. Why hasn’t Hollywood used this place for a period film?

The Strand is worth an afternoon stroll. Note the train tracks, remnants of a bygone era. Did you know it’s legal to buy a beer and enjoy it while strolling The Strand?

The Port of Galveston is Texas’ only cruise port. It opens a gateway for visitors who take in the city’s fine attractions — shops, sand, surf, seafood and more.

This shrimper was working the waters right outside the cruise ship port. Butch and his late Dad, Chubby, used to go shrimping years ago. Many Galvestonians take advantage of the natural bounty on the island.

A few final thoughts about Galveston:

  • It’s got lots of big, sandy, accessible beaches.   South Beach it ain’t, and no one would confuse Galveston with Malibu.  But the water looked clean, although a little cloudy, and visitors and locals flocked to the water.
  • Food  — especially seafood — is really good and downright cheap.  According to Butch, it’s wise to stick with what’s in season.  Shrimp are always in season.
  • I sensed a “can-do” spirit in Galveston.  Vintage properties swamped by Ike were dried out and rebuilt.  New residential properties — from towering condos to 10,000-square-foot homes perched on stilts — dot parts of the waterfront and bayous.

One more thing: The title to this post is based on a popular song. Listen to it to get a better perspective on Galveston.  Now, it’s your turn: Do you have Galveston memories to share?