I Shook Hands with a PR Industry Titan, and a Strategy to Re-Launch the APR

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

The title of this post is quite long.  So, I’ll be relatively brief.

Al Golin

Al Golin, Founder and Chair of Golin Harris.

On November 21, I had the honor to shake the hand of one of the undisputed titans in public relations: Al Golin, founder and chairman of international communications firm Golin Harris, identified graphically by its lower case “gh” logo.

Mr. Golin was being honored by PRSA Chicago, along with Bridget Coffing, SVP and Chief Communications Officer for McDonald’s Corporation, at the Chapter’s annual fall Senior Leaders recognition reception.  The gathering, which attracted perhaps 70 of my town’s foremost PR practitioners, was held at the prestigious Racquet Club 0f Chicago, an old-line business and social club headquartered in the Gold Coast neighborhood.  That meant I had to don and jacket and tie, and be on my best behavior.

Not a problem, as I have colorful ties and sport jackets to last decades; and, I revisited guidelines for proper conduct at tony venues.  (For the record, I own a tennis racquet, but don’t think I could afford Racquet Club dues.)  Back to reality.

After some comments and a well-produced video about the 57-year-old relationship between GH  (or is it “gh?”) and the fast-food giant, I had an opportunity to meet Mr. Golin and shake his hand. He was very gracious, listening to my tenure in the agency world 20-plus years prior;  I noted my big take-away from his comments was that even after 57 years of outstanding service to an iconic global brand like McDonald’s, the GH team has to earn the client’s continued business every day.

I wish all of us in the industry would take these words to heart.  Every day.


Hey agency people: Wouldn’t this look good after your name?

Onto a few thoughts on the Accreditation in Public Relations credential.  Noted in this recent post following the 2013 PRSA Assembly, the APR is in need of an overhaul — a major one, in fact.

Leadership at the Public Relations Society of America is asking Society members and anyone who’d like to speak their mind to offer ways to revitalize the APR, which turns 50 next year.  Here’s my strategic contribution: Make a concentrated effort to promote Accreditation to the segment of the public relations business with the largest concentration of potential candidates — public relations agencies.

Makes sense, doesn’t it? During my six years on the Universal Accreditation Board, I took special notice of the business affiliation of newly Accredited professionals. The large majority were not from the agency arena, but from non-profit organizations, government, education and healthcare companies.

As an incentive to champion Accreditation, offer agency pros — or any organization or group for that matter — a “group discount” on the cost of the examination if, say, five or more employees enter the process at the same time.  To do their part, agencies could allow APR candidates two hours each week to study and prepare for the three-step process.

Need more?  Here are three benefits for each side:


1. Account team members who have demonstrated the knowledge, skills and abilities required for modern strategic public relations.

2. Employees who will be committed to lifelong learning.

3. Perhaps lower turnover, as employees might want to hang around an agency that nurtures Accreditation.

Account Staff:

1. Earn a credential that lets one evolve from strategist to tactician.

2. Join the ranks of thousands of PR professionals from all disciplines who are Accredited.

3. Hold the credential needed to participate as an elected officer within PRSA.

Okay, this wasn’t a “relatively brief” post, but one more thought.  If I have the opportunity to meet Mr. Golin again, I’ll ask his advice on how to re-energize Accreditation.

Five Reasons Why I Transitioned From Public Relations: Q& A With R.J. Sirois

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

Once a public relations professional, always a public relations professional?

Not always.

Here’s what I envision will be the first of a series of Q and A posts on friends and colleagues who have moved on from public relations to other industries.

R.J. Sirois, Broker.

R.J. Sirois, Broker.

Today let me introduce you to R.J. Sirois, now a real estate broker here in Chicago with Baird & Warner.   For more than two decades prior, Mr. Sirois held public relations positions that spanned the cycle of agency, corporate and association.

And, let’s get the “full-disclosure” statement out of the way:  Mr. Sirois and I worked together on two occasions, at the now-gone Dragonette, Inc., a boutique firm that represented many real estate concerns, and at CCIM Institute, a commercial real estate association.  We remain friends today.

Here’s R.J.’s written replies to my five questions.

1.  The first, biggest and most obvious question: Why, after nearly three decades in publishing and public relations, did you decide to shift careers and go into real estate brokerage?

The time was right.  In Chicago, the median price of a single-family home has increased 25% since 2012 , while condominiums are up 14%.  Average market time, or days on the market, is down 30% to only 48 days. And interest rates remain healthy in the mid-4% range.  I’ve essentially transitioned from institutional marketing communications in the real estate industry to property marketing and sales.  It’s a natural transition.

2. Transferring skills from one arena to the next is vital to success.  What communication skills and strategies will help you in your career representing buyers and sellers of residential properties?

Residential real estate brokers are independent contractors and thus personal branding is important.  I spent years building brands for others, so I understand the process.  Your reputation in the marketplace, name recognition, longevity in the industry, the quality of your product and service, the companies you choose to affiliate with and, of course, client satisfaction all play a role in building your brand.  It’s very visceral.  And affiliating with a venerable Chicago real estate company certainly helps.

3.  There are similarities in real estate sales and public relations.  Aren’t there?  Please confirm, elaborate and expound.B&W Logo 3c

Public relations is not a sales function as many believe.  It’s purely a management function.  However, real estate sales is similar to PR in that market research and analysis is critical in a transaction, from property valuation and setting competitive price points to managing the myriad levels of the sale through to closing.  A good broker will then evaluate the deal and often use that intelligence in the next transaction.

4. You work for a legendary, well-respected real estate company that’s been around for 156 years.  Do the Baird & Warner PR staff ever reach out to you for advice or direction, given your experience in the industry?

The Baird & Warner corporate communications staff certainly understands that public relations plays a central role in the marketing function.  It also understands that while yesterday’s marketing was solely the role of the marketing department, marketing today is the responsibility of everyone, from the CEO to the managing brokers and agents.  Everyone is involved in building the Baird & Warner brand and its reputation management.

5. Do you miss public relations?  The planning, the execution of strategic communications, providing counsel?

At times, yes.  It’s something I did for many years.  But there truly are many parallels.

# # #

Do you know of a PR professional who moved on to another career?  How about yourself?

Phive Things I Phound Phab in Philly

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

Last month, I had the honor and pleasure to represent PRSA Chicago as a delegate at the 2013 Public Relations Society of America Leadership Assembly in Philadelphia.  My overview of the Assembly was chronicled in this post published October 28.  That was the “business” component of my three-day visit to one of the most historic cities in America.

What follows is an account of the “pleasure” side of the trip, in words and pictures.  Had I time for a longer visit, I might be able to cite more than “phive,” I mean “five,” aspects of the city that caught my attention.  A reason, perhaps, to return to this very cool, undeniably American metropolis.

Spoiler alert: I did not have a cheese steak sandwich during my stay, but I did sample some awesome food. Here goes, in no particular order:

  1. Philadelphia is a “Real” City. Like my home town of Chicago, Philadelphia is a city built on a grid system with streets and alleys laid out in a manner that new visitors can get acclimated in a relatively short time.  There’s a mixture of well-preserved old architecture and some stunning new structures.  And, the terrain is relatively flat, making it a lot easier to traverse from river to river — from the Schuykill to the Delaware — when on foot. Plus, Philly has an impressive public transportation system, which served me well as my ride to and from the airport was just $8 each way.
  2. Tranquility at Independence National Historic Park. This blocks-long park-like mall houses Independence Hall — where some pretty important documents relative to our nation were adopted — the Liberty Bell, and other cool preserved structures.  My favorite: Carpenter’s Hall, which had tools displayed by 18th Century craftsmen.  (Not a saws-all in sight. )  I visited on a flawless fall morning and found tranquility within the historic pathways and streets.
  3. The Awesomeness of City Hall. Yes, you’ve probably see that film from a few decades back where a fledgling boxer runs up the steps of this massive structure and jumps around.  Dramatic on film, but you have to stroll around the grounds and through the arcade and courtyard to really appreciate this building — its masonry construction, its grandeur, its clock tower topped off by a statue of the man who founded the Pennsylvania colony.  (I heard a guide tell a group of visitors you could drive an auto around William Penn’s hat.  Now that would be a cool thrill ride.)
  4. A Real Chinatown. Bustling, noisy, gritty and packed with restaurants, the Philadelphia Chinatown offered two things I expect from a Chinatown: A glimpse into another world and culture, and some really great food at moderate prices.  I was not disappointed, as I strolled along Race Street in search of a place for lunch.  My selection, Wong Wong, met two criteria: Mostly Asian patrons and ducks hanging from the window.  My lunch of won-ton soup and a seafood entree was massive, delicious and only $23.
  5. The Sophistication of Rittenhouse Square. My hotel, the Club Quarters on Chestnut Street, was in the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood. But I had to visit the actual square, one of the five original parks planned by William Penn. Mr. Penn knew what he was doing from a planning perspective because the park retains its charm and still serves as a bucolic escape from the city grid. I observed young parents with young kids enjoying the afternoon, as well as a group of costumed 20-somethings celebrating Halloween.

Want more? Here’s a short photo gallery.  Then, it’s your turn: What do you like about Philadelphia?

There's a lot of culture in Philadelphia, and a lot of cool statues.

There’s a lot of culture in Philadelphia, and a lot of cool statues, like this one of a solider named Barry.

Come on: No trip to this city would be complete without a visit to the Liberty Bell. Hey, it's free to see.

Come on: No trip to this city would be complete without a visit to the Liberty Bell. Hey, it’s free to see.

Independence Hall is cool, but I enjoyed this nearby building --  Carpenter's Hall -- a little more.

Independence Hall is cool, but I enjoyed this nearby building,
Carpenter’s Hall, a little more.

Not as famous as William Penn, but this guy really made his mark on the city.

Not as famous as William Penn, but this guy really made his mark on the city.

Without question, the coolest City Hall in American -- maybe anywhere.

Without question, the coolest City Hall in American — maybe anywhere.