Skilled, Savvy Communicator Debbie Harvey Charges Ahead with New Integrated Marketing Agency

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

The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in the modern business world today, and that includes the integrated marketing communications arena. Our subject for today’s Q&A post is a prime example. Debbie Harvey, MS, APR, recently decided to transition from a senior position with the American Medical Association to form a boutique Chicago-headquartered business, DHW Executive Consulting, LLC. In this engaging conversation, Debbie shares thoughts on what prompted her decision to launch a new company, the state of communications in 2018 and a subject dear to her heart — domestic and international travel.  For the record: I have known and worked with Debbie for nearly a decade through our volunteer participation in PRSA Chicago.

Entrepreneur and savvy communicator Debbie Harvey.

1. The first and most pressing question: What were the factor(s) that compelled you to leave the association management world to start your own business?

After nearly 20 years leading brand strategy and corporate communications both in-house and on the agency side in healthcare, I founded DHW Executive Consulting LLC based on the concept that businesses and brands need smart, experienced integrated marketing and communications executive support often without the hassle and expense of big agency commitments. At DHW Executive Consulting LLC, you’ll get breakthrough integrated marketing communications solutions through executive level insights. I have the savvy know how and creative chops to help build brands winning strategies – and then make them happen!

My focus is on brand/rebranding strategy and campaigns, marketing and communications planning, executive/leadership communications, event marketing, internal communications, product launches, and corporate communications.

I’m building a company that is dynamic, thoughtful, experienced…and fun! That’s what an ideal partner brings to the table, and that’s what you’ll get if you partner with me. So, let’s pull up some chairs to this proverbial table and chat!

2. You have an impressive curriculum vitae, including leadership positions with a global public relations firm and marketing leadership at the largest national physician association. How will you transfer skills and experience cultivated in these larger environments to the new consultancy? 

Currently I’m helping select organizations with leveling up their brand strategy and storytelling, and others with their integrated marketing and communications planning, both in the healthcare space and beyond. Launching a consultancy is something that has been intriguing, exciting and scary all at the same time. But, as Eleanor Roosevelt once said: “Do something that scares you every day.”

My background is in integrated marketing communications, which, for the early to mid-2000s, this kind of approach felt like screaming into a hurricane. There were so many silos among communications and marketing ownership, really to a client’s detriment. Times are finally evolving, and it’s critical for successful C-suite executives to bring a holistic perspective to the marcom landscape. I believe successful integrated marketing communications professionals can help pull back the lens on brand planning and ensure channels work more seamlessly together for greater impact and success.

3. Now, let’s explore the state of public relations and communications. What are the greatest challenges facing the profession today, given the continual claims of “fake news,” unceasing amount of uncontrolled and unregulated digital messages, and gradual decline of traditional news sources? 

You’ve hit the nail on the head with some of the biggest challenges in the communications world today. With an attack on the entire public relations profession given today’s political environment, to an attack on data security and how people engage with social media given the Cambridge Analytica crisis, PR/comms professionals face an uphill battle in effecting positive change – for themselves and the brands they represent. That said, it is still an exciting time for those professionals who commit to this profession – and commit to doing it well. A recent Sprout Social study revealed that two-thirds of consumers now expect brands to have a stance on political and social issues, making it all the more critical for communications professionals to guide and develop a brand and/or corporation’s story and how it shows up, where it shows up and what it means to its stakeholders.

4. We met through our involvement with the Chicago Chapter of PRSA, where you served as President in 2012. How did your participation in PRSA (and other volunteer activities) contribute to your growth and development as a modern communications professional?

I have been a member of PRSA and its Chicago Chapter for more than a decade, and was first attracted to joining the Chicago Chapter board due to its board members’ passion and dedication to advancing the profession and helping local practitioners. I began as the sponsorship chair, and after increasing sponsorship revenue for the chapter 25 percent in a year, became the president elect and subsequently, the president. During my tenure, I had the privilege of leading both seasoned and mid-career professionals and together we developed and launched the first-ever PRSA Midwest Conference, which included 13 regions.

The PRSA experience gave me a platform to hone my leadership skills, business acumen, and energy and drive to “get things done efficiently.” There’s a great Forbes article on entrepreneurship and increasing productivity.

This experience catapulted the progression of both my career and confidence to launch a business, and I am thrilled that many of my former PRSA colleagues and friends have reached out. It is a true community.

5. Okay, time to lighten things up. You and your husband are avid travelers. (Note: I appreciate your sage insight on Charleston, SC.) What destinations are on the proverbial horizon for 2018 and beyond?

I get the travel bug fairly often, whether it be jaunts to our favorite U.S. city (Charleston) or back to my hometown in NYC, but we also look to have an international adventure once a year. Traveling to new places is a great reminder that life is more than your job and your city (or country) – it’s important to continuously learn about other cultures, history and customs to be a well-rounded person.

I’m heading to the Amalfi Coast and Montenegro to celebrate a milestone birthday in a few weeks, and excited about experiencing each country’s personality…and food, of course! Beyond this year, I’ve been reading more and more about Latvia and its fascinating culture. Latvia is known as “the singing nation,” singing being the country’s most unifying force. As a lover of music (and food), it’s climbing higher and higher on my “must do” near term list.

But for now, arrivederci!

 

 

Advertisements

Another Kind of “Memorial” on Memorial Day 2018

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

On this Memorial Day 2018, with weather in Chicago much more suited to Independence Day, I struggled for a relevant commentary, for some poignant message to communicate in this space appropriate for this national holiday.

I have experience in this subject.

Is the owner of this cart, photographed along the 2900 block of North Milwaukee Avenue, a veteran? Really, does it matter?

Last year, I wrote about a small monument in the Logan Square neighborhood, a community in the midst of revitalization and change now best defined as gentrification. And, in 2015, the PRDude reported on a memorial to Polish service men from St. Hyacinth parish in Avondale.

One thread between those two posts and this one: Milwaukee Avenue, my favorite street in the world.

Here’s why: Yesterday, I came across the shopping cart noted in the image above on the 2900 block of North Milwaukee Avenue, an arterial thoroughfare that connects Logan Square to Avondale and beyond. I have no idea who controls this rag-tag device, filled with aluminum cans and personal possessions.

Could this be the belongings of a U.S. serviceman?  Or a servicewoman?

Today, I read a news article that reported servicemen and women who get discharged for non-serious offenses are discriminated against when trying to return to the workforce.

That led me to search for some insight on those U.S. veterans who — despite serving their country — have not been able to land meaningful employment, find a place to live and assimilate into civilian life and society.  On the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans site, I learned staggering statistics on the plight of too many veterans today.

That led to this thought: On this day when we honor the men and women who served in our armed forces to let us live in a free land — one facing challenges, but fundamentally free — too many veterans are discarded and compelled to homelessness.

Perhaps some maintain their possessions in a shopping cart along a stretch of some  street in America, like Milwaukee Avenue.

So, on Memorial Day 2018, I offer thoughts of honor to those veterans who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. But I also think we should do more — much more — to honor those veterans searching for the road that leads to the America they fought for.

 

 

 

Halfway to My MA: Reflecting on Post Modern Literature Studies

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

Comments made by an Illinois State University creative writing professor more than four decades ago truly resonated recently.

Darn if I can remember the lady’s name, but she noted something to the effect that completing a truly challenging writing task — one filled with doubt, driven by despair and desperation, fraught with indecision and frustration — can be among the most magical and rewarding accomplishments in life.

That’s how I felt after wrapping up the final paper for my most recent English course, another step toward earning my Master’s degree. I’ve reached a milestone of sorts: The credits earned from this fourth course means I’m statistically halfway to the 32 credits required.

Wonder what Walt Whitman, considered a pioneer of modern poetry, would think about some of the works I had to read this semester.

The course focused on modern, post modern and contemporary poetry and prose, but rest assured: The assigned writing last semester did not include works by Stephen King, James Patterson or any of the popular juggernaut novelists who produce fantasy and action-prone works that get made into movies and TV series. The subject of works analyzed were void of supernatural spirits and superheroes.

We studied writers of “Language poetry,” an avant garde movement that arose in the hippie era as a backlash against more traditional forms of poetry. We debated topics like alienation, the fragmentation of modern life and poetry’s place in society today. And, we learned that some modern writers employ results from Google searches to create “poems.”

Required readings from mid and late-20th century and 21st century writers were balanced by essays from Gertrude Stein and Berthold Brecht, along with an excellent modern novel highly influenced by seminal works of Walt Whitman, considered a pioneer of the modern poetry movement. For a perspective, we even were assigned essays from Ralph Waldo Emerson, the 19th century philosopher and essayist, and John Stuart Mill, the British liberal thinker.

Full disclosure: I’ve not kept up with modern poetry and fiction; none of the works by contemporary authors we read were familiar to me. That’s why I was intrigued and looked forward to each week’s reading any the challenging writing assignments.

But frankly, I was taken aback by much of the poetry and literary criticism produced today. I found some works on our syllabus bizarre and incomprehensible, unfulfilling and trite, pretentious and directionless.

A quatrain of examples:

  1. One poem has same line repeated 49 times. (I won’t post the line because it contains a swear word; plus, the line is non-nonsensical to me.)
  2. One extended poetic work has one word — “red” — on a single page. (For the record, “red” was used on previous pages, too.)
  3. One essay focused retyping every word of an issue of the New York Times as a transcendental exercise. (The author also gave this retyping exercise as a class assignment.)
  4. A series of poems included one titled, “A Poem I Didn’t Write,” containing the contents of “The Tyger,” one of the most storied poems in the English language. (No doubt, true scholars of William Blake are not happy.)

Yet, to incorporate a cliche, there were literary diamonds among the rough stuff; and I gained a much, much better appreciation of and understanding for poetry.

One conclusion: Modern language, like all creative endeavors, needs to change and evolve; new men and women of letters (to borrow a well-used moniker) should have their turn, their time. For instance, a black poet transcended convention to make thoughts known with graphic-centered poems created using In Design software. (And, said poet’s work served as the basis for my final paper.)

So, if you’re interested the next step in my Master’s challenge, for fall 2018, I’m enrolled in Theory, Rhetoric and Aesthetics — Melville’s Modernity. (I trust we’ll be assigned to read a novel featuring a really big white fish.)

And, if you’re keeping track, I received an A in the course just completed. Read by final paper by visiting my “other” website.

In the Good News Department: Chicago Tribune Editorial Staff Goes Union

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

One of the first posts published in The PRDude centered on what was perhaps somewhat revolutionary and progressive way back in 2009.

The post, “The Reinvention of a Media Company,” reported on plans to transform the then Tribune Publishing into a modern player in the evolving communications industry.

Will a unionized Chicago Tribune editorial staff result in a better newspaper? I think so.

Well, the company that now publishes the Chicago Tribune, the newspaper I subscribe to and read each day, is taking another step forward.  In news announced yesterday, the Chicago-headquartered company named Tronc, current owner of the storied publication, will recognize members of the editorial staff as the Chicago Tribune Guild, thereby joining the dwindling number of U.S. print journalists now part of organized labor.

This news (not totally surprising, as other print news staffs have unionized recently) is refreshing to this former newsman, a tangible step to help preserve sound, honest and ethical reporting in a rapidly progressing era of digitally-driven drivel and unforthright fabrication of fact.

(How’s that for some nifty alliteration.)

Over the years, this site has blasted the Chicago Tribune for misrepresenting the practice of public relations, as noted in this 2014 post regarding plans for Wrigley Field renovation and a year-end 2015 manifesto contesting what constitutes a “PR nightmare.”

Five years ago I followed up the aforementioned “reinvention” post with an analysis of how new owners were systematically destroying the fabled newspaper. And, this blog has focused on or referenced the Chicago Tribune quite extensively in other ways: Enter “Chicago Tribune” into the PR Dude search window, and 30 posts show up.

So, I’ve contested articles and opinions published in a newspaper that for decades had the braggadocio to bill itself as “The World’s Greatest Newspaper,” while looking to the Chicago Tribune for insight into what’s happening in the world and for truth.

Wishing much success to the new unionized men and women who produce the newspaper I read on the Blue Line weekdays en route to work, and while relaxing at home on the weekends.

But rest assured Guild members: Misrepresent or bash the public relations profession, and “Chicago Tribune” search numbers for this blog will jump to 31 expeditiously.