Could It Really Be 40 Years?

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

That’s not a misprint.

Yes, I’ve been part of the communications industry in Chicago for 40 years this month.

I’ll spare the melancholy and pathos about “where did all the time go?” Like everyone on this earth, I live and breathe 24 hours each day, arguably some days spent more productively than others.

So where did it all begin?

city-news-bureauIf memory serves me correctly, on one day in late February of 1977 I reported to the City News Bureau of Chicago for my first day as a reporter. The job meant covering homicides, assaults, thefts, fires and other bad stuff taking place in the city back then. Unfortunately, lots of bad stuff continues to happen here.

It was my first job after graduating from Illinois State University with a degree in English and minor in Journalism. I wanted to be a reporter — and now I was a reporter!

Couldn't find an image from 1977, so this one, taken last year, will have to suffice.

Couldn’t find an image from 1977, so this one, taken last year, will have to suffice.

My first day, I recall, was spent with a more seasoned journalist at the old 18th District Chicago Police Department station on West Chicago Avenue, where we followed up on pending investigations. We also did some reporting related to the aftermath of the horrible CTA elevated train wreck that took place February 4 of that year; 11 people were killed.

In the 14,600 days (give or take a few) since my introduction to the real world I’ve held a few other positions; well, actually quite a few other positions.

I left journalism in the early 1980s to pursue an in-house communications position with a community college, my first exposure to the public relations arena. Although I consider myself a newsman at heart and relished those opportunities to cover a breaking story, my path for the remainder of my professional career has centered on public relations.

And that’s where it will stay.

But perhaps not for another 40 years.

Remembering Ruth L Ratny: A True Chicago Iconoclast

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

Earlier this week, I learned the sad news regarding the passing of Ruth L Ratny.

Note there is no period after the “L” in the name above.

That’s not an error, it was the way Ruth spelled her name. I’m not sure why, but I can ascertain that the minor punctuation issue was another reflection of just who Ruth was: A person who grabbed life by the lapels and decided to live it according to her rules.

First, some background.

For some reason, I've kept this March 21, 1994 issue of Screen. Perhaps because the focus was music and I had four articles published.

For some reason, I’ve kept this March 21, 1994 issue of Screen. Perhaps because the focus was music and I had four articles published.

From the mid 1980s until the mid 1990s, I contributed to Screen magazine, a then weekly print publication that covered Chicago’s film and audio/visual production industry.  (I trust “audio/visual,” also known as “A/V,” is a somewhat antiquated term in these digital days.) Ruth founded the publication and ran it out of her “penthouse” apartment on Wabash Avenue on the Near North Side.

I think there’s a highrise multifamily building on the site today, but back in the day that part of downtown was still sort of edgy.

Back to Ruth and my work for Screen. 

I got the opportunity to write for the publication after pitching Ruth a story regarding a client that retained the public relations firm I worked for at the time. I don’t recall the nature of the pitch, nor the client for that matter; but I do remember that Ruth referred to me as “that publicist” and invited me to contribute to Screen.

This E. M. Bury piece centers on the opening of a new recording studio in Wicker Park, identified as "one of the trendiest parts of town."

This E. M. Bury piece centers on the opening of a new recording studio in Wicker Park, identified as “one of the trendiest parts of town.”

To somewhat distance myself from my agency career, we decided to use “E.M. Bury” as my byline; that suited me because lots of famous writers incorporated initials for their first and middle names, but mostly I appreciated the opportunity to get some freelance assignments and earn extra money.

My beat was music, and that led to opportunities to meet and interview musicians, commercial music producers, studio owners and other creative people who comprised the then thriving A/V commercial production industry in Chicago.

Over the years, I came to know Ruth as someone who was always tough and challenging as an editor, but fair and generous as a person.

But what struck me most was Ruth’s tenacity, her work ethic and her dedication to championing the Chicago film and production industry. Without question, she clashed with stalwarts from the film community, the advertising agencies and production houses, and with her staff and writers, me included.

(Why did she change my copy that read, “commercial music producer” to read “jingleer” on occasion?”)

Yet, I never encountered a situation where Ruth demonstrated mean-spirited actions or duplicity. At least not during our working relationship, and I contributed dozens of pieces over the years.

Ruth L Ratny came from humble beginnings and built a thriving business that chronicled and perhaps contributed to the growth of an industry.

As I noted in this 2014 post, Chicago, and I trust much of the nation if not the world, is losing those willing to chart their own way, a path that circumvents the rules. We’re losing the unique, the characters, the people like Ruth.

Rest in peace Ruth.

 

I’m Back! (Well, Sort Of)

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

On December 8 of last year, I had the privilege of attending the Senior Leaders reception hosted by PRSA Chicago.  (Hard to fathom that I’m a “senior” anything, but I trust the term is accurate.)

The annual event provides an opportunity to shine the spotlight on a local public relations professional who made a significant, positive and measurable impact on the profession through her or his work and within the community.

Michael Jordan I'm BackThe 2016 honoree was John LaSage, who for decades distinguished himself through his work at the Chicago office of Burson Marsteller. Read details on the reception in this report on the Chapter website.

During his outstanding comments, Mr. LaSage recalled momentous occurrences from his career, including one that basketball fans from Chicago and across the world will long remember: Michael Jordan’s return to the Chicago Bulls in March of 1995, some two years after the icon “retired” following three consecutive NBA championship seasons.

I recall Mr. LaSage recounting his participation in crafting the announcement. If memory serves correctly, a “formal” news release was prepared, but apparently Mr. Jordan opted for a message simple, compelling and memorable:

“I’m Back.”

Well, to borrow the phrase above, I’m back, too.

Specifically, I’ve been elected to the Board of Directors of PRSA Chicago, where I served for some 10 years.  My responsibility: Re-energize the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) program within the Chapter.

First, let me stipulate that my return to the Board does in no way equate with Michael Jordan’s return to the Chicago Bulls.  (And, not to sound snarky, but they should could use him this season.)  After all, Jordan-led teams won three more NBA championships.

My goals for 2017 are more modest:

  • Establish a viable program to nurture local public relations professionals through the APR process.
  • Nurture three or four colleagues on to earning Accreditation by early 2018, or sooner.

Some primary research revealed the vast majority of those earning Accreditation in recent years come from associations, healthcare, governmental organizations and the corporate world. Very few, if any, are from big agencies.

This was the same trend when I served on the Universal Accreditation Board from 2006-11.  So while our supportive efforts will be open to all, history has shown that we may not gain candidates from the marquee PR shops.

That’s okay. Because as noted, I’m back and ready to help anyone up to the Accreditation challenge.

 

 

Did I Meet the Arment Dietrich Challenge?

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

Back in late December, I agreed to take on a new challenge. No, not announce that I’m in training for the 2017 Chicago Marathon, although I hope to build the stamina needed to run a 5K this year.

There's many graphic depictions of the PESO model. This one is courtesy of Mashable.

There’s many graphic depictions of the PESO model. This one is courtesy of Mashable.

As noted in this December 15 post, I accepted the 30-Day Communications Challenge hosted by Arment Dietrich.  The goal was to complete tasks daily in order to develop a PESO Communications Plan.

What an opportunity: Learn through a structured, online, at-my-own-pace program how to incorporate the PESO model — an acknowledged standard for modern public relations and marketing — into my work.

I was inspired! I was dedicated! I faithfully completed my assignments! I learned a lot!

Then, I got bogged down. Then, I got busy. Then, I made excuses.

One “legitimate” excuse of sorts: In mid January I did start a new

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Studies into works from Russian master Vladimir Nabokov occupied time this semester. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

literature course in my quest for a Master’s degree. Lots of reading — 10 novels this semester with the focus on works by Vladimir Nabokov.

By Day 14, halfway through the Challenge, I failed to do my daily “homework.” Yes, I did not complete the Challenge on time. But, I did revisit all the messages, found time to analyze the content and want to share the following thoughts and observations.

First, some parameters.

  1. The site I employed for the Challenge is this one — The PRDude blog. It’s not really a website, but a forum for my thoughts on public relations and other stuff.
  2. Consequently, some of the homework tasks were not applicable, although I did learn something valuable and may incorporate newfound knowledge in the future.

Now, as promised, three takeaways.

Strategy Drives Everything. Challenge content and tasks drove home the message that effective, modern public relations starts with a sound strategy. Wholeheartedly concur.

Tactics Within Reach. The homework from Day 9 inspired potential tactics that could help build the PESO plan. Yes, I can reach objectives of building more awareness and visits to The PRDude through simple tactics like visiting leading PR blogs more often to gain insight on the industry.

Grow That Content Hub. With 333 posts published since September 4, 2009, The PRDude is a repository of content related to public relations, politics, Chicago, popular culture and more. Perhaps I could strengthen the blog by adding categories.

Other lessons from the Challenge — analyzing the site’s domain authority through Moz and launching an email drip campaign — were fascinating and informative; but I think these lessons will have to wait until I complete my paper on Nabokov in May.

One more thing: If you read this, please don’t share with my friend — the one, the only Gini Dietrich.  Don’t want her mad at me.