In This Era of Fake News, Let’s Remember the Impact of Fake PR

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

Long before the idea of “fake news” — otherwise known as “lies,” “falsehoods,” “misinformation” or “conjecture” — became part of the national lexicon, there was a mistrust by some regarding information disseminated by traditional print and broadcast media sources.

Lots of things, including public relations practices, are “fake” these days. Image courtesy of Slate.

Now, of course, with digital communications fully ensconced in modern society and the national conversion embroiled in mistrust of who’s ever on the other side, “fake news” is part of the new normal and more than likely will be forever.

This prompted me to ponder communications from another perspective, that being, communications originating from public relations professionals. And, in this case, I employ the “professionals” qualifier with trepidation related to some.

Perhaps it’s time to address the “fake” premise in another way — that being “fake PR.”

Actually, there’s a communications company based in Berlin, Germany named Fake PR.  Not sure why this name was selected, but according to the company’s website, it maintains an impressive client base and lists 14 services under the public relations category.

And, in researching this post, I found a few articles on the subject, including this well-crafted piece published earlier this year by Forbes.

So, what exactly constitutes providers of “fake PR” services? Here, in totally random order, are some qualifiers to consider:

  • Void of strategic direction and use of research.
  • Reliant on vanity metrics for demonstrating progress or success.
  • Failure to recognize the evolution and growth of strategic public relations in the 21st century.
  • Focused primarily or entirely on media relations and publicity.
  • Violation of or lack of awareness for established ethical standards.
  • Absence of any formal or voluntary education in public relations or communications within the account team.
  • Not comprehending the difference between public relations and marketing or advertising.
  • Distribution of news releases, social media posts and web content that lack news value or are erroneous.
  • Failure to recognize that public relations professionals provide strategic counsel that transcends the perfunctory, specifically media relations.
  • And, equating public relations with propaganda.

These thoughts hopefully will inspire others to comprehend the idea of “fake PR” and continue the dialogue.

Now, it’s your turn: What can you add to this discussion?

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The PRDude has tackled this subject before. Here are a few posts to revisit:

 

 

 

Rob Goldstone, Ethics and Public Relations

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

Updates continue from news sources world wide regarding the recent disclosure regarding Donald Trump, Jr. and his meeting in June of 2016 with an attorney reportedly tied to the Kremlin.

This report published earlier today from Reuters provides the President’s comments on this (as it’s known in the industry) “developing story.”

We’ll let the global news organizations continue their respective investigation.

Rob Goldstone. Photo courtesy of dailyentertainmentnews.com

In this space, we’ll put some analysis toward the actions of Rob Goldstone, the celebrity publicist who initiated the meeting between Mr. Trump, Jr., his brother in law Jared Kushner, and one-time Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

A July 11 report from the New York Times provides an account of the email exchange, which Mr. Trump, Jr. shared with the world yesterday.

Upon reading the initial email message from Mr. Goldstone, those of us dedicated to the practice of ethical public relations had to share a collective “what the hell is he doing?” thought.

This passage from the June 3, 2016 email sent by Mr. Goldstone violates values and standards of conduct established to elevate public relations beyond propaganda and hucksterism:

“The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.”

Read this part again: “…official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary…”

Poor grammar and run-on sentence aside, this sinister communication is plain wrong for the founder of a New York-based communications firm and a person one would think would be removed from this kind of unsubstantiated messaging.

Mr. Goldstone opened the door violations of perhaps four Provisions of Conduct set by the Public Relations Society of America:

  • Disclosure of Information
  • Safeguarding Confidences
  • Conflicts of Interest
  • Enhancing the Profession

Review these PRSA provisions and share your thoughts on Mr. Goldstone’s communications practices — practices that may have had an impact on the 2016 presidential election.

And, if you’d like to pose a question or offer a comment to Mr. Goldstone about his actions, his firm’s website includes his contact information.

 

Recollection of a Man Who Knew What It Was Like Not to Have Freedom

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

A poignant and compelling commentary read in today’s print issue of the Chicago Tribune inspired this Independence Day 2017 post.

The opinion piece by Chicago attorney William Choslovsky ran under the headline, “We the people have a democracy to celebrate.”

Take a moment to read the thoughts from Mr. Choslovsky.

Done?

Okay back to my thoughts on this day, our nation’s 241st birthday.

Image of Stan Borys, a true freedom fighter, courtesy of his website.

Mr. Cholovsky notes how he gained a newfound perspective on America and the democracy the Founding Fathers created during a trip to the Middle East. There, a shopkeeper noted that in many nations, even those thought to be “democracies,” freedom — as guaranteed by our Constitution — really does not exist.

That thought brought back memories of my old friend Stan Borys, a Polish-born musician and actor I knew way back in the 1980s and 1990s when he lived in Chicago.

As a freelance writer for the Illinois Entertainer and other local periodicals, I got to interview some fascinating (and some not-so-fascinating) musicians for feature articles and profiles. Stan was one the most memorable and engaging.

During one conversation, I recall Stan noting that — and I paraphrase — “American musicians sing about not having freedom. I know what it’s like to not have freedom.”

What he was referring to, of course, was having lived in the Poland of the Cold War era, the years before the Solidarity trade union (or Solidarnosc in the Polish language) set the wheels in motion to break free from the Soviet bloc.

Stan made his thoughts about living under a Communist government known in his music, which as noted in this online report, often got him into trouble.

(Another recollection: Stan said he played Ray Charles music over the camp audio network one morning while completing required service in the military; yes, that got him into trouble.)

Like the shopkeeper remembered by Mr. Choslovsky, Stan’s comment about freedom will make me cherish the freedoms we enjoy as citizens of the United States of America — especially on this day.

Given the mammoth challenges we the people face in the years ahead, it’s our right to freedom that will ensure the nation can celebrate its 242nd birthday.

One Image, One Question: Muskogee, OK

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

Before there were interstate highways, there were main streets —  gateways to business and commerce and culture.

A solitary scene on what once was a vibrant, thriving small-town downtown.

Every small and medium-sized town across America had a main street; but, many communities haven’t been the same since the four-lane, limited access highways were built 60 or so years ago.

This image of Broadway Street, in Muskogee, Oklahoma — the town’s main street, although there is a Main Street — was taken Saturday, June 17. We were in this community in the northeast part of the Sooner State for a memorial service, and I decided to go for a stroll downtown.

The time, around 11 a.m.  The compelling thought: The absence, aside from myself, of people and traffic on a Saturday morning. There were a few open businesses operating in still impressive and preserved brick storefronts, but patrons were scarce.

I learned downtown Muskogee once had a Sears department store and an independent retailer named Anthony’s. The pedestrian and vehicular traffic certainly would have been robust on a Saturday morning 30 or 40 years ago, not absent as during my visit.

Lots of commerce could be found, however, along the highways surrounding Muskogee. Motels, healthcare centers, big box retailers, fast food restaurants and auto dealerships abound. These businesses were thriving, and workers were completing a new restaurant/bar — I Don’t Care Bar and Grill.

The same can be said, of course, to many small towns and even suburban communities outside Chicago and other cities: Call it development, call it sprawl, but when new business interests and the local economy spreads from the initial urban core, the result is devastating to the fabric of main streets.

Now to the question:

What can small towns like Muskogee, Oklahoma, and many others across the nation do to revitalize its main street?

One obvious strategy: Give people a reason to head downtown again, to make it a destination.

One strategy that should be considered: “Pop up” stores that could occupy vacant or underutilized retail spaces for a day or extended period.

Your thoughts?

Continuing the Conversation with Young Entrepreneur and Marketing Dude Garry Howell

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

In this space, I’ve been a stalwart supporter of the value behind networking.

The real kind.

You know, the activity that requires you to unplug electronic devices (well, figuratively, I suppose) and travel to a gathering where you’re compelled to meet people — people you don’t know, people you only get to know well through interpersonal contact.

That’s what I did a few days back; the outcome was meeting Garry Howell, the founder and president of SOGO Marketing, a way cool agency based in the west Chicago suburbs.

We immediately struck a few responsive chords: We liked talking about the communications industry, many things Chicago-focused, and the Chicago Cubs.  So, I felt Garry would be an excellent participant for a Q&A post.

Here’s Garry’s responses to my questions.

1. From our conversation, you launched SOGO Marketing shortly after graduation from the University of West Virginia. What prompted/inspired you to become an entrepreneur?

Entrepreneur and Chicago Cubs fan Garry Howell.

I was that typical college graduate, leaving college with a $140,000 piece of paper and no idea what I was going to do with it. SOGO was born shortly after graduating because I was fortunate enough to make an amazing connection with a great company that was seeking help with marketing and communications. I was offered a salary position, but I negotiated to get the work contracted, and from there SOGO was born. I have entrepreneurial blood. I had always dreamed of owning my own company after growing up in a family restaurant. Those adolescent daydreams eventually translated to my adult life, when I recognized I had the willingness and ambition to start a marketing agency.

2. I also recall that you began your college career focused on civil engineering then changed to Multi-Disciplinary Studies – Communications, Business Administration, and Public Relations. What inspired you to make the switch?

It seemed like as the courses went on, I found it harder and harder to discover my identity in the industry. I realized that after a year with the City of Morgantown as their civil engineer intern that this wasn’t for me. Again, I was that typical student that really hadn’t identified a career path. Engineering sounded good at 17 years old, but I honestly hadn’t given that career much thought then, I just knew my parents would like it. The pivot point came during my third year at West Virginia. I had one of those “ah ha” moments, when I realized what my true interests were. It was one of those moments when the stars aligned. Happy to say, I’ve never looked back, and it was the best decision I’ve ever made.

3. SOGO clearly is a modern communications firm. What sets you and your team apart in terms of the services you provide?

By definition, SOGO means brotherhood, unity, and cooperation. This not only reflects the culture of our agency, but also defines the relationships we have with our partners.

4. SOGO boasts a fairly diversified client roster. What advice could you offer other entrepreneurs who plan to open their own shop?

I think an individual who wants to open an agency needs to have professional will and personal humility. You need to set the standard of greatness early on and settle for nothing less.

5. Now, let’s lighten things up. You’re a Chicago Cubs fan and own a dog named Wrigley. A two-part question: a) What did you learn as a professional from the way the Cubs organization managed its brand last year? b) what do the 2017 Cubs need to do to get back on the winning track?

Ricketts and Epstein are a dynamic duo. From a business standpoint, you can learn a lot from what they have done to revitalize the Cubs. Their formula was right for 2016. We’ll see how they adapt for the 2017 season. I have no doubt in Joe Maddon and his supporting cast. It’s hard for a club to replicate a groundbreaking season like last year but you got to have hope! Go Cubs!

Recent Labor Statistics and the Impact of Public Relations

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

Lost or overshadowed amidst recent disturbing news related to horrible accounts of terrorism, regular North Korean missile launches, climate change predictions and of course — some news-making presidential tweets– was some pretty good news.

Image courtesy of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

On June 2, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released favorable numbers regarding employment: Some 138,000 jobs were created in May, and the unemployment rate remained at 4.3%. To most Americans, especially those of us who are still in the workforce (like me), this is encouraging news, a reflection of a robust and somewhat stable economy.

(Although, I trust there are doubters and detractors to last month’s positive employment statistics, those who maintain the stats are inaccurate and fail to account people who just gave up looking for a job. My perspective: If you have another way to analyze how many people are working or not working, please share.)

Now, let’s turn the clock way back to September of 2009, and the numbers project a much more sobering perspective on the national job front. That month, in the days of the Great Recession, U.S. businesses shed 263,000 jobs and the unemployment rate was 9.8%.  I certainly can relate because I lost a great public relations position on September 4, 2009, a somewhat life-changing personal event that compelled me to start the PRDude blog.

Hey, you probably wouldn’t be reading this if I got to keep the management position I held for 12 years! Without question, ultimately a positive outcome for me and the wonderful people who read my words.

Now, back to the focus of this post.

Through a little more research, I learned more about the impact of public relations professionals on the U.S. employment market.

Clearly, public relations professionals are a factor in the job market and economy.  But from another perspective, public relations will probably never rank up with industries like healthcare, retail, construction and accounting — industries that the government maintains are forecast to have the highest percentage of job growth.

And on a somewhat related note, those entering the profession may want to read a recent report claiming public relations ranks eight in terms of the most stressful jobs in the nation today — right above taxi drivers, but below corporate executives.

Not sure if I totally agree with the job stress stat; but I’m not about to worry and will remain steadfastly bullish on the value and need for sound, ethical public relations for many years to come.

 

 

 

Memorial Day 2017: A Perspective From a Changing Logan Sqaure

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

Memorial Day 2017 dawned gloriously a few hours ago in Chicago, prompting a short excursion on foot through the somewhat deserted streets of our neighborhood.

This monument to fallen Logan Square heroes stands out amidst a changing neighborhood — and symbols of commerce.

Some advice: Take advantage of quiet times during holidays, especially those in the warm weather months, by strolling or biking in places familiar or new. You’d be surprised what may come to light in the hours you can claim as your own.

My walk today took me to the monument pictured in these images. It’s on Fullerton Avenue at Fransisco Avenue in Logan Square, and it honors those who lost their lives in “the great global war.”

There are 45 names on the now weathered bronze plaque at the base of the flag pole, which bears the U.S. stars and stripes and a flag honoring POWs.  Five red geraniums offer a little natural beauty, and someone later added a “V” for victory marker.

All of the names listed are men, save one, a woman (I presume) named La Donna.  All were residents of Logan Square around the turn of the 20th century, and all gave their lives in World War I.  All lived in a very different Logan Square.

Look close and you might be able to read all 45 names on this plaque.

Within steps of the monument, one can readily ascertain how the neighborhood has changed: A new cannabis dispensary, a hip coffee shop, a ramen noodle restaurant, art galleries and bars designed look like someone’s hideout.

In a sense, these American heroes — and the many who were killed over the decades while on duty — helped preserve the democracy that allows a neighborhood like Logan Square and others in Chicago and elsewhere to evolve and nurture these new business enterprises.

To some, bars that sell $8 glasses of beer and restaurants offering $14 bowls of soup are examples of gentrification; but from another perspective, it’s an example of the free-market economy we, as Americans, enjoy.

I hope others visit this little Logan Square monument this Memorial Day, even for a few minutes.  Then, patronize the local establishments, those made possible through the unselfish valor of others who lived here long ago.

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The PRDude has addressed Memorial Day in other posts: