Memorial Day History, Thoughts and Songs of Reflection

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

On this dreary and cool Memorial Day 2013, it just doesn’t seem proper to get out the grill, cook some burgers, sit in the yard and enjoy this first “official” weekend of summer 2013.  After all, the forecast calls for rain and the temperatures here in Chicago won’t budge much beyond 60 degrees.

So let The PRude share some history, put forth a few thoughts about Memorial Day and recommend some songs to reflect on.

Not only was Gen. Logan a great man, he sported a way cool mustache.

Not only was Gen. Logan a great man, he sported a way cool mustache.

A Little History. A native son of Illinois is credited with the idea to recognize those brave Americans who fought and died for their country.  I’m referring to John A. Logan, who commanded Union troops as a General during the Civil War and had a distinguished career in state and national politics.

Here in my hometown, we’ve recognized Gen. Logan in two ways:  By naming a neighborhood and Square after him, and through a monument in Grant Park.  We live six blocks from the Logan Square roundabout, and I’ve blogged about the neighborhood, now one of the most desirable in Chicago.   Believe me, it’s a special place to live and visit.  As for the monument, which depicts the dashing General on a horse, it captured worldwide attention August 27, 1968 when protestors during the Democratic National Convention surrounded the statue and later clashed with Chicago Police.

My Memorial Day Thoughts.  Born in the 1950s, I grew up in the 1960s and had to register for the draft in the 1970s.  In fact, I was among the last age groups of men that had to register for Selective Service while this nation still had troops fighting in Vietnam.  I remember driving one day in September of 1973 to a Selective Service office with a friend from Illinois State University, Phil Walsh, to register at some office in Bloomington.  We both shared the same birthday.vietnam memorial

Those years — the late 1960s to early 1970s — led to things ugly and beautiful for the nation.  Ugly in the way our right to assemble turned violent here and elsewhere, largely over U.S. involvement in Vietnam.  Beautiful in the way people of all races, creeds and colors banded together for what they thought was right.  Ugly in the way returning Vietnam veterans were ostracized from much of society.  Beautiful in the way those veterans — and our returning heroes from the current wars — are remembered today.

Some Songs to Ponder. And now, as Memorial Day 2013 winds down, Doorsconsider these musical selections.  All were written around the time of the Vietnam War.  All tell different sides of the war.  I think all are poignant today.

  1. Sam Stone, written and performed by John Prine.  This sad lament about a drug-addicted Vietnam veteran includes the line, “There’s a hole in Daddy’s arm where all the money goes.”
  2. Ruby Don’t Take Your Love to Town, by Kenny Rogers.  Here, a veteran who sustained a crippling injury contemplates shooting his wife who no longer loves “a man whose legs are bent and paralyzed.”
  3. The Unknown Soldier, written and performed by The Doors.  Vietnam was the first war covered by television news reports.  The song includes this couplet:  “Breakfast where the news is read,
    Television children fed.”

Please share your thoughts on Memorial Day.  Or, at least take a moment to contemplate on the sacrifices made by the men and women of our armed forces.

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New Advice for PR Graduates This May

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

One of the most visited of the 167 posts published by The PRDude graced the blagosphere around this time last year.  In the post, I offered graduates of college public relations programs some advice on how to establish themselves in the profession.images advice

Offered were goals, strategies, objectives and tactics — thoughts structured within classic components of an effective public relations plan.

And, I even made this offer:  Reach out if you wanted any advice or direction.  (For the record, I’m still waiting; but the offer stands.)

A year later, I’m a little older and hopefully a lot wiser.  And, since I also am images dad advicesearching for that next great job in public relations, I’ve had time to think.  Here are a few other thoughts, wisdom I’m passing down to public relations colleagues-to-be.

  1. Learn the Definition of “Public Relations.” You’d be surprised at how many people out there in this great world — some who claim to be “public relations professionals” — still maintain that public relations is publicity.  Or, “just like marketing.”  After all, it’s easy to “get good PR.”  Right?  This profession keeps evolving, largely through continual new directions on the digital front.  But the fundamental purpose of public relations as a strategic means to communicate and build relationships has not changed.  Learn more from PRSA.
  2. Learn to Write (Beyond Tweets, Posts & Blogs).  It’s been a long images advice chairstime (hey, more than a long time) since I enrolled and completed a for-credit college course.  So, I’m not sure if students today are required to take a semester of English Composition 101 or some other fundamental writing course.  My 101 instructor was a guy named Professor Brosnahan, a very strict proponent of the written word.  He would scrawl a big red “F” on your composition for any error — spelling, grammar, punctuation, syntax, logic.   In this era of tweets, IMs and posts, the true public relations professional will have solid writing skills that transcend 140 characters.
  3. PR = Business Practice = Not Free.  As a public relations professional, you’ll be required to manage event budgets, approve vendor expenses, price out media distribution services and many other tasks that require money.  That’s part of business, and public relations is a business.  Furthermore, businesses are in business to make a profit; and, even non-profit associations with public relations departments run them like a business.  Learn the business side of the industry and how to manage a spreadsheet.

One more thing: As noted, I’ve had an open door policy for those who want direction on public relations careers and opportunities.  In the past year, I’ve fielded emails and a few calls.  Only one guy actually followed up on the offer to meet. There’s lots to be said about the desire to get out of the house.

Your thoughts?

Another Perspective on the Chicago Cubs’ “Public Relations Push”

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

Headlines that include “public relations” or “PR” usually grab my attention. When the headline includes a reference to public relations and the Chicago Cubs, it’s like someone grabbed me by the lapels and said, “Read, then offer some insight.”

That brings us to today’s post.  In the May 15 issue of The Chicago Tribune — which I read “old school” or in print form — I was drawn to a sidebar piece that referenced public relations.  The sidebar accompanied a larger story, part  of the newspaper’s ongoing coverage of efforts by the billionaire Ricketts family to raise money for two iconic assets: The Chicago Cubs Major League Baseball team, and the place they play baseball, the nearly century-old Wrigley Field.

An artist's rendering of proposed renovations to the venerable Wrigley Field.

An artist’s rendering of proposed renovations to the venerable Wrigley Field.

Back in 2010, the Ricketts were hoping to use state funds to help pay for $300 million in renovations to the Friendly Confines.   That development sparked another so-called “public relations” effort, one The PRDude chronicled in this post.

These days, the Ricketts are pushing for plans to fix up the old ballpark in large part by getting approval for much more advertising signage, a proposal that owners of nearby rooftop adult playgrounds claim is the same as a bean ball to their revenue streams.  Read more in this Trib article.

But it was the sidebar, the one with “PR effort” in the headline, that has prompted this discussion.

restore-wrigleyThe piece, written by business reporter Ameet Sachdev, states: “The Cubs have stepped up a public relations campaign to build support for Wrigley Field renovations …”   The renovations are need to preserve the venerable park and modernize it. The plan includes an online petition on this web site where fans (or anyone with a computer, I guess) can endorse renovation plans that will be realized by revenue from increased signage, as well as more night games and a 6,000 square-foot video screen.  The Cubs also enlisted “a consulting firm” (not identified) to conduct research from area residents to gauge their support for proposed renovations.

On the surface, I applaud the Ricketts family for the petition program, for initiating a survey and for hiring communications consultants.  This falls under primary research, and solid research drives all effective public relations programs — or any initiative that starts with a sound strategy.

But let’s not lose sight of what’s really happening here:  The Ricketts family made its fortune through smart business decisions.  A crumbling ball park with outdated amenities can only attract fans — even Cub fans — for so much longer.  The team is employing public relations strategies and tactics to help build awareness and acceptance for the need to get approval for its revenue-generating proposals.

Do you really think they’re number 1 goal is to preserve the league’s second oldest ballpark?  Or, to preserve the “Wrigley Field experience?”   I think it’s to make money.

There’s nothing wrong with making money.  And, there’s nothing wrong with employing sound, ethical public relations practices to realize that goal.

Reasons to be Cheerful, Parts 1, 2, 3 …

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

4, 5, 6.

And perhaps more reasons, many more.

As I continue with my next challenge — finding that next great job in public relations (and/or a similar communications position) — I decided to spend a few minutes on this glorious spring Sunday in Chicago taking stock of life as of today.

I was inspired by a song from the 1980s (remember that decade?) from a U.K. band called Ian Dury and The Blockheads.  The song in question is entitled Reasons to be Cheerful. It’s kind of a sing-song composition featuring a rapid-fire recitation by Mr. Dury of a few dozen, well, reasons to be cheerful.  One could make an argument that Mr. Dury may have had some influence on the many forms of rap and hip hop, but that’s the subject for another day and time.

The late Ian Dury, British band leader, artist and cultural icon.

The late Ian Dury, British band leader, artist and cultural icon.

Mr. Dury, who fronted the band, certainly lived life on his own terms.  This is illustrated by the image that accompanies this post.  The Blockheads are probably best known for a tune — Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll — that encapsulated reasons lots of people were cheerful in the 1980s, and probably are still today.

(NOTE: The PRDude is not endorsing or offering any commentary on sex, drugs or rock and roll at this time.  Remember: This is a blog about public relations and “other stuff.”)

Back to reasons to be cheerful, here are some to share:

1. Support from Friends: Since I began my current search for a new position, I’ve received dozens of messages and calls from old friends, new friends, online friends and family offering support and encouragement.

2. Project Work: In the past few weeks, I’ve landed some terrific writing assignments, including a major article on commercial real estate and assisting an organization develop and execute an effective social media strategy.

3. APR Training: Through my involvement with PRSA Chicago, I and a colleague are nurturing three local public relations colleagues on the process required to earn the Accreditation in Public Relations.  We’ve held four classes and our candidates are really grasping what strategic public relations is all about.

4. Blood Pressure Drop. With more time to focus on my future and relax, my blood pressure has dropped to a “normal” 120 over 80.  Plus, I’ve started to exercise more and cook healthy meals most nights for Susan and I.

5. New Web Site Project: You heard it here first:  I’m in the process of launching a new web site that will let me pursue two of my passions: Online communications and enjoying a particular beverage that will remain nameless at the moment. Work is underway, and I’m projecting a late June unveiling. Stay tuned.

6. The Future: I’m optimistic about my future, the future of my city and our nation’s future. (As for my beloved Chicago Cubs, I’d say “wait until next year AND the year after that.”)  The Labor Department just released a favorable jobs report. While Chicago still has many problems, I think we’re becoming more aware of ways to solve them.  And, I sense that the President and Congress are ignoring the extremist views from both the right and left and want to meet on common ground.

I could add more, but six is plenty for now.

As for reasons not to be cheerful, I can’t think of any. How about you?