Perhaps Ad Age Should Stick to Covering Advertising

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

On this last day of September, the month that the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) makes a concerted effort to promote ethical practices among members, I was inspired by an article that was published online by Ad Age, a leading industry publication that (you guessed it) primarily covers the advertising business.

Here’s what drove me, a long-standing member of PRSA, to share the following thoughts.

The article, “PR Implosions: How Four Marketers Answered Calamity,” certainly has merits.  Four authors each address a recent product or service crisis and offer analysis on how the crisis was managed.

Image courtesy of the Public Relations Society of America.

You’re probably familiar with each crisis, as the companies profiled are global brands and the resulting breakdown from each crisis generated lots of news coverage and commentary; so there’s no need for an extensive recap.

What stood out to me was — and I’ve addressed this topic before — how “public relations” was given the focus of the “crisis” problem. This is exemplified in the headline and in lines like “the onslaught of PR disasters” and “Talk about a PR blunder.”

Shout out to the Ad Age copy editor and the authors whose writing I just referenced: “Public relations” practices did not initiate these crisis situations!  “Public relations” did not cause electronic devises to malfunction, and “pubic relations” did not forcibly remove a man from an airliner. These were design and manufacturing errors, human and management blunders.  When will those who write about public relations get that concept right?

Okay, where does ethics enter the discussion here?

One principle of the PRSA Code Provisions of Conduct is Enhancing the Profession.  Under the list of guidelines for this principle is this:

  • Acknowledge that there is an obligation to protect and enhance the profession.

So, as a public relations professional who takes what I do seriously, it’s my ethical responsibility to call out situations where the practice of public relations is wrongly equated with failures in manufacturing, service, production or operations.

There, I feel better.

From October 8 to 10, PRSA will hold its 2017 International Conference in Boston. Unfortunately, I can’t attend. But I hope those in attendance debate the topic addressed here.

 

One Image, One Question: September 24, 2017

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

As this post is about to be published, the temperature outside here in Chicago this Sunday in September, the first official weekend of autumn, is 88 degrees.

Yes, 88 degrees this late in the season.

Do you have a favorite spot to observe the changes around you?

Hey, that’s a bit less July-like than the record breaking mid-90 degree temperatures recorded here and around the Midwest the past few days.

But enough weather talk.

The image above was taken on our front porch, where Susan and I sit often during the warm months to read, drink coffee (and sometimes wine or beer) and watch activity in the neighborhood.

By this time of year, opportunities to enjoy the outside on the porch dwindle.  But, not today.

From this perch, we’ve observed many somewhat subtle but significant changes to Avondale. Most specifically — the people.

Avondale’s proximity to downtown Chicago and public transportation, great housing stock and relative affordability has attracted families and a younger demographic.

Okay, the neighborhood is becoming gentrified.

We observe this in three quantifiable ways:

  • Rising prices for housing, meaning less affordability for many, including long-standing residents.
  • A reduction in gang-related activity, which was prevalent when we moved to Avondale 17 years ago.
  • An increase in people walking dogs! (I’m not kidding; being on a corner, we are at the dog walking crossroads.)

So on today’s question:

Where and how do you observe changes within your community?

Time to get back outside to continue this research. Real autumn weather will be here. Someday.

 

 

Public Relations Maven Judi Schindler Transitions to the Stage

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

In its essence, public relations is a communications discipline, right? In public relations, we communicate with a target audience to build awareness, acceptance and ultimately action for a product, cause or service.

For decades, Judi Schindler excelled in the public relations profession as founder/owner of a namesake boutique agency and stalwart businesswoman. A few years ago, Judi partially retired from public relations to pursue a different profession — acting.  (Hey, actors also are communicators who interact with a target audience, but in a more controlled environment.)

Now for the disclosure: From 1988 to the early 1990s, I had the honor of working with Judi as a member of her account team. We developed and managed public relations programs for some leading Chicago real estate companies and great B2B clients. I learned a great deal about public relations, as well as new-business generation and account management.

What follows are Judi’s responses to questions sent via email.

In her new career as an actress,, Judi Schindler effectively demonstrates there is life after a long, successful career in public relations.

1. You built your successful career and business in public relations, then transitioned to another field. (More on that in a moment.) What inspired you to initially pursue public relations as a career?

When I was a journalism student at the University of Illinois, I dreamed of being a police reporter so I could follow in the footsteps of my two role models: Lois Lane and Brenda Starr.  It was not to be, however.  The only job I could get was at Jobber Topics, “The Bible of the Automotive Aftermarket.”  My job consisted primarily of rewriting press releases.  Somewhere between the manifolds and ignition systems, I decided I’d rather write the press releases than rewrite them.

From there I had jobs with a public relations agency, a major fund raising campaign, a real estate developer and a small telecommunications firm. Eventually I turned the latter into a client and began building my firm, first as Schindler Public Relations, and later as Schindler Communications.

2. Digital communications, of course, has changed — forever — the way we communicate. Do you keep current on digital strategies and practices today?

Can anyone keep current?  The landscape shifts every time Google changes its algorithm.  In February, I resigned my last client, The GO Group, an international consortium of airport transportation companies.  For the last several years, I oversaw their social media strategy as well as their pay-per-click campaign and web marketing.  I had worked with this client for 10 years and with the Chicago partner company for more than 30 years.  One of the reasons I resigned is that I didn’t feel I was bringing new technology driven tactics to the table.

Aside from technology, the underlying practice of public relations is unchanged.  We use our client’s knowledge, experience and history to create content.  How we deliver that content is the only thing that changed.

3. While you managed Schindler Communications, you also were a strong advocate for women in business. What advice do you have for women entrepreneurs today?

I still maintain my affiliation with the Chicago Area Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), which I helped found.  For the most part, I think today’s women entrepreneurs are more sophisticated that we were.  While most of us started businesses as a means of self-employment, many of the women I meet today are starting companies as investments, hoping to build equity and sell out.  I know several who could be called serial entrepreneurs.  I would advise any women starting a business today is to find a supportive network of peers, like NAWBO.  Women are extremely generous with each other and are a great resource.

There are owners manuals for just about everything. So, why not one for husbands?

4. Now to the question regarding your current career: How did your decades in public relations contribute to the skills and challenges required for success in your new career as an actress?

Running an agency taught me not to take rejection too seriously.  Casting agents say the same thing as clients, “we decided to go in a different direction.”

I started taking acting classes after I merged my business with Sally Hodge (operating as Hodge Schindler for five years.)  No longer the “boss,” I felt I needed another outlet, and acting was something I enjoyed as a kid. Classes eventually led to auditioning and doing plays.  When I no longer worked full time, I got an agent. In the last several years I’ve done several plays, local commercials, voice-overs, short films, museum exhibits and one Onion video.

A few year ago, the entrepreneur in me took over and I decided to write a performance piece that could be delivered as entertainment at women’s groups, bridal showers and entertainment venues.  Titled “Husbands: An Owner’s Manual,” it’s based on my 50-plus years of marriage.  I explain how to select a husband and how to maintain him in good working order including such topics as warranties, exchanges and replacement parts.

I am currently working on the book of the same title.

5. Let’s finish up with some questions on the book. What inspired you to take on this project? And, has your husband, Jack, read it yet?

People who’ve seen the show have been encouraging me for years to turn it into a book.  My original intention was to use the book as a way to monetize and promote the show.  But it’s taken on a life of its own.  Right now, it is in the hands of a designer who is creating fun, colorful pages that contribute to the humor and viewpoint of the text.  I hope to go to press by the end of October and have copies by the end of November.

I am currently working on my PR/marketing plan for the book launch, which includes my blog, “The Toilet Seat Must Go Down,” where I answer such vital questions as “why men can’t find the pickles behind the mayonnaise.”

And to answer your question: No, Jack Schindler has never read the book or seen the performance, even though everyone tells him that it’s an homage.  It does keep him on his toes, however. He’s afraid everything he says or does will turn into a new chapter.

The Value of Communications in Times of Emergency: Harvey and Irma

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

This image of Irma is somewhat surreal. A beautiful kaleidoscope of colors, yet what further devastation will be in the wake of this storm.

Outside today, it’s overcast and cool for early September in Chicago. The skies are not threatening, the winds placid.

Wish the same could be said for parts of the Caribbean and the state of Florida.

Okay, you know where this is going: Commentary on the massive Hurricane Irma as it approaches the continental United States and the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey in late August.

Well, let’s let the experts, the pundits, the forecasters and the government officials provide analysis on subjects like:

  • The potential for lives lost and property destroyed.
  • The exact course of this latest Category 5 storm.
  • The exodus of people seeking safety via highways and air.
  • The analysis of how continued development along coastal areas will exacerbate damage from the storm.
  • And, the role of global warming in these storms and others to follow.

Here, I’ll share a thought on the value of communications — and those responsible for accurate, timely and ethical communications — in helping to mitigate what’s to follow from Irma when it reaches Florida later this weekend.

In researching this post, I googled “Hurricane Irma and public relations advice.”  Yes, the search yielded a lot, as there were more than 150,000 findings.

In reading some of the results, I found links to reports on how to prepare for the hurricane (from the Federal Trade Commission), travel insurance claims advice from a company called Squaremouth, and a USA Today article on how to prepare your smartphone for a catastrophe.

Of course, there were many more articles and links to websites offering direction and insight that perhaps has little value to the tens of thousands who may be displaced over the next few days.

Or suffer more substantial losses.

The point here: These messages were drafted and distributed by communicators — public relations consultants, marketing professionals, content experts. They were playing a role in disseminating potentially valuable information in a time of need.

These messages won’t stop the winds and the rain from making landfall. But in times like these, communications on how to lessen or avoid the impact of a potential tragedy do count.

Expect more hurricane-related communications to come, as Hurricane Jose  was building strength, becoming a Category 4 storm, in the Atlantic Ocean.  The good news: Forecasters predict Jose may head north and may not reach land.

Let’s hope.

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As a true weather wonk, The PRDude has addressed weather and natural disasters before. Here are two posts: