Coming Soon From Dick Wolf: Chicago PR?

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

Fans of the Chicago-centric evening television dramas aired on NBC have had to opt for other entertainment sources the past few days; that’s because the network gained the rights to broadcast the many kinds of athletic endeavors taking place on snow and ice halfway around the world during the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.

Who knows? Perhaps Mr. Wolf was using this downtime to conceive a new program set in Chicago. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

So those of us (me included) who enjoy hour-long programs like Chicago Fire, Chicago PD and Chicago Med — all developed by the indefatigable executive producer Dick Wolf — now must focus on ice dancing, curling and the luge competition during the 9 to 10 p.m. hour or switch to one of the hundreds of other viewing options available to cable subscribers these days.

This entertainment quandary prompted these questions: What’s Mr. Wolf and his team doing during this hiatus of his very popular and successful Chicago dramas?  Perhaps plotting a new “Chicago” program, one with an ensemble cast and plot lines that are “torn from the pages” of real news happenings, with our fine city as a backdrop?  If so, what would be the focus, the industry, the profession?

I have a suggestion: Chicago PR!

Yes, an hour-long perspective into the lives of the men and women who craft strategies and manage communications for companies, businesses, governmental agencies and associations across our great metropolitan area.

Think about this for a moment.  The name, Chicago PR is succinct, memorable and easily recognizable, like the names of the other dramas produced by the team at Wolf Films.

In terms of worthy characters, I’ve known plenty of public relations professionals who would serve as models for a fictional Chicago PR agency: The stalwart and decisive founder and leader, the old-school senior VP who’s grappling with the ever-changing digital arena, the progressive young account supervisor who just earned in integrated marketing communications degree from a leading university.

Granted, Chicago PR plots won’t involve catching bad guys, rescuing people from burning buildings or saving the life of an accident victim; but anyone who’s worked in the high-pressure public relations business knows there’s always the potential for drama to be found inside the office and outside of it.

Anyone who’s been part of a new business RFP could certainly relate to the drama that usually unfolds.

And, in the full disclosure department, this blog has addressed public relations as depicted in Chicago Fire. As I noted in my final post of 2017, the profession was grossly misrepresented in an episode involving a lead character from Firehouse 51.

So, should Mr. Wolf read this commentary, please consider the program suggestion just noted; but if you do, please confer with real public relations professionals from the onset. Get it right this time.

As for me, I’m switching on the Olympics coverage. Linsey Vonn is going for gold. The balance of the evening, I trust, will be all downhill.

 

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Hey Virginia Heffernan: What You Apparently Don’t Know About Public Relations

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

Sometimes, I have to gaze up at the ceiling, so to say, to find the subject for a PRDude post. And, other times, the topic surfaces in an expected place and figuratively bashes me across the forehead.

The subject of today’s post lies squarely on the latter.

Photo of Ms. Heffernan courtesy of Wikipedia. Not sure of the name of the four-legged friend.

While reading my print edition of the Chicago Tribune during lunch today, I found an opinion piece that focused on Hope Hicks — the current White House communications director — and offered a commentary on public relations.  You can read the digital version of the article, “Who Exactly is Hope Hicks?, posted on the Tribune’s website and dated February 5.

The commentary, written by  Virginia Heffernan, opens with an account of President Donald Trump’s reported affinity for women models — from his current wife Melania and daughter Ivanka to other women who are currently part of his administration and staff. Then the focus moves to Ms. Hicks, specifically her experience as a fashion model and position managing communications for The Trump Organization.

What follows the introductory paragraphs provided the fuel for this post. Frankly, the piece is an example of myopic, uninformed and outright erroneous interpretations of the public relations practice and an assault on the professionals who adhere to established standards of ethical and strategic communications.

Rather than dissect the editorial paragraph-by-paragraph to unveil all I believe is wrong, fictitious and plain idiotic, here are a few “gems” of sorts that demonstrate Ms. Heffernan’s preconceived perceptions of public relations and the people who work in the industry:

  • “Modeling is not, however, Hicks’ chief qualification for her job with Trump. She’s a publicist to the bone.” Just what the heck does being “a publicist to the bone” mean in this case? That Ms. Hicks is serious about generating or managing publicity, a component of public relations? And, so what if she modeled before switching careers.
  • “Hicks didn’t just drift into her first PR job as some in the sheath set are known to do. Instead, she’s to the manner born, third generation in a family of special-forces flacks.” First, what comprises the “sheath set?” And, this is a new one to me: “Special-forces flacks.” Are they given commando attire, too, when engaging in a strategic communications exercise? Fiunally, so what if her grandfather and father worked in public relations.  I trust this never happens in journalism.
  • “PR at that level takes moral flexibility, callousness and charm.” This nugget was in reference to previous paragraphs stating that Ms. Hicks’ father “ran publicity” for the National Football League and now works for a communications firm that “specializes in — among other things — crisis management and ‘Complex Situations.'” And, Ms. Hicks “was trained by the best: Matthew Hilztzik,” the so-called chief publicist for Harvey Weinstein and Miramax. The take away here, according to Ms. Heffernan:  Public relations professionals shouldn’t develop crisis communications programs or represent professional sports franchises or media companies.
  • “But as Hope Hicks knows — and as her father and her father’s father knew — lying to the media is traditionally called PR.”  This, the final sentence in this garbage of slanted commentary bashes an entire profession and the people who work in it.  My response to Ms. Heffernan: So, I trust that the work published in the New York Times — where Ms. Heffernan worked as a staff writer — by Jayson Blair was credible journalism?

This outright pillaging of all things public relations and equating the profession as detrimental to society and our democracy needs to stop.  Yes, there are “flacks” in the public relations profession.  But as a former reporter, I know  there are “hacks” in the news business and perhaps every profession.

Left unchecked, this type of uninformed commentary propagates total misconceptions about the work of serious, honest public relations professionals.

In an effort to provide some guidance to Ms. Heffernan, perhaps she should visit the Press Contacts page published by the New York Times. There are eight communications professionals listed.

Perhaps one of these colleagues could share some accurate insight on public relations. Otherwise, Ms. Heffernan could visit this page hosted by the Public Relations Society of America.

Edelman 2018 Trust Barometer Results: If There Ever Was a Need for Ethical, Effective Public Relations, It’s Now

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

One great advancement of modern society is the ability to develop a methodology that let’s us gather and analyze data in order to provide a perspective or determine a direction on a specific topic or issue

Image courtesy of the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer web site.

These take shape as research reports and survey findings; but even today’s weather report and the Dow Jones Industrial Average are aggregations of data that help us make decisions and illuminate what’s happening around us.  In the case of the former example just noted, we might be propelled to buy or sell securities, and in the case of the latter, we gain the insight to perhaps bring an umbrella when venturing outside.

The other day, I decided to explore another data yardstick, one that addresses the very foundation of the public relations profession — and certainly many others — as well as the more encompassing concept of moral behavior.

The medium is the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, the annual report designed to gauge trust and credibility. Published by a division of the global communications firm, key findings from the recently-released report are beyond sobering, unquestionably alarming and frankly depressing.

Trust in the United States, the Barometer reported, has plummeted among the general population surveyed, pushing the nation down to the lower quarter of the 28 nations included in the study. Among those polled who ranked among the informed population, the findings were even more bleak: The United States ranked the lowest of nations surveyed.

Media organizations — for decades the standard for trust and accuracy — were battered, too.  According to the 2018 Barometer, the media for the first time in the 18 years of the report was listed as “the least trusted institution globally.”

This news story published by Edelman provides more details.  And, Edleman President and CEO Richard Edleman encapsulates the 2018 Barometer findings in this poignant comment from the Executive Summary.  “As we begin 2018, we find the world in a new phase in the loss of trust: the unwillingness to believe information, even from those closest to us.”

So, what can the public relations industry and those of us who practice and promote ethical, honest communications do in the face of the decline of trust in our nation and the media?

Plenty.

Here’s a start:

  • Adhere to established standards for ethical communication. If you need a place to learn, refresh or get started, the PRSA Code of Ethics offers a solid foundation.
  • Call out instances of erroneous or malicious communications. Remaining on the sidelines enables those bent on disseminating lies, conjecture and “fake news.”
  • Enlist others to lobby for responsible communications practices. Inspire debate among colleagues, family and friends.
  • Forward this post to everyone within your network and subscribe to future PRDude posts.

Well, kidding about the last item.  (Sort of.) For an alternative, forward a link to the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer.

Feel free to share your thoughts, of course, on strategies and tactics the public relations industry can initiate to reverse the decline of trust today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who Are These New PRDude “Followers?”

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

Let’s face it, the PRDude blog I’ve published since September 4 of 2009 is the epitome of a labor of love, along with an equal amount of blood, sweat and sometimes tears.

Hello Word Press! Can you shed any light on these new “followers” to my blog and personal website?

Like many who write about public relations and other topics that certainly lack appeal to the vast masses of readers today, there are no financial remunerations through subscriptions, sponsored content or tile ads.

Well, not yet at least; as I noted in this 2013 post, the blog is for sale for the right price.

The impetus behind this site is the freedom to share my thoughts on public relations, politics, popular culture and more; hopefully readers find value, and hopefully some even subscribe.

Which brings me to the subject of this post. Over the past several days, I’ve received email notices from the nice folks at WordPress about new followers.  Yea!  Someone out there appreciates my prose and ideas.

But upon an examination of the email addresses for the handful of new recent followers, I became suspicious.  Here are two examples, one for the PRDude blog, one for my personal website:

sancheznuzricardoof@outlook.com just started following you at https://prdude.wordpress.com. They will receive an email every time you publish a post. Congratulations.

guillenqsmjacquelineuf@outlook.com just started following you at http://edwardmbury.com. They will receive an email every time you publish a post. Congratulations.

Note the “name” before the @ symbol in both addresses.

Who or what the hell are these “followers?” Why the hell do they want to follow my blog and site? Should I be concerned?  Should I try to remove them?

I attempted to bring this to the attention of WordPress but am not sure if my message to the help desk was received.

So, I leave it up to you, kind readers: What should I do?

A shout out to — sancheznuzricardoof@outlook.com — and other new “followers” who will get this post: Take note of the questions above.

 

 

Washington D.C. Revisited, at the Onset of 2018

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

The woman was deliberate, methodical and efficient. Her task was to shuttle three shopping carts, presumably containing all her worldly possessions, one after the other a short distance uphill north on 21st Street NW in the DuPont Circle neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

Where the woman was headed along the streets lined with embassies, row houses and hotels, I don’t know.  But I admired her diligence and perseverance on that day, Tuesday January 9, a day when the temperatures finally warmed up to the mid-40s following the cold snap that impacted much of eastern half of the nation since 2018 began.

The encounter with the woman took place on my final day of a two-day visit to the nation’s capitol to participate in the 2018 Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting, a five-day conference that draws some 14,000 transportation professionals and scholars from around the world.

So, why recount this brief episode?

For me, the woman somewhat encapsulates and embodies the nation today in the second year of a new administration: Steadfastly trying to move forward but unsure of what’s the right direction to take.

Regardless of your party affiliation (should you have one), personal perspectives on the state of the union or observations on America at the dawn of the New Year, the past year unquestionably was unprecedented in many ways.  Yet, in light of charges, investigations, allegations and non-stop news gathering and reporting, the republic endured.

Back to my 48 or so hours in Washington. During recent visits over the past five years, I found many things I’ve grown to like and admire about the city.  Below is a short perspective through images and captions.

Looking south on 16th Street NW. The architecture is a blend of classic and modern, the scale human and walkable. Although misty during my morning stroll, this road leads to Lafayette Square and the White House.

 

Washington may be set in its ways from a political perspective, but the city is home to a relatively new transportation option: Dockless bike share. I found dockless bikes throughout the city.

 

Yes, Washington has cutting-edge restaurants. But they also have excellent long-standing places like Cafe Tomate on Connecticut Avenue. I felt welcomed while enjoying a nightcap.

 

Looking like a disheveled rec room, The Big Hunt attracts locals and visitors for conversation and good beer. A haunt that’s rough around the edges in all the right places.

 

During a break, I strolled to the National Portrait Gallery, where visitors can take in new exhibits (Marlene Dietrich: Dressed for the Image, The Sweat of Their Face: Portraying American Workers) or view portraits of the men who have led our nation for the past 242 years.

Perhaps you’re wondering why I did not include an image of the lady noted at the onset of this post.  That would be demeaning and unfair, and an affront to her integrity.

However, I do hope the lady found a safe place and will remain safe through the balance of this year; same sentiment for our nation.

 

 

A Public Relations Resolution for Practitioners in 2018

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

In researching this post, the final of 2017 (a momentous year from a global perspective, but hey, aren’t they all “momentous” these days?), a quick Google search led to an online report from two years ago.

My subject: New Year’s resolutions.

Image courtesy of Wonderopolis.

What my search revealed: According to this article, “The History of New Year’s Resolutions,” the concept of committing to a practice or initiative in the upcoming 365 days  may have roots with the ancient Babylonians way, way back 4,000 or so years ago.  And, two millennia later, Julius Caesar somewhat formalized the practice when he established January 1 as the start of the new year.

Well, public relations (you knew I’d get to this eventually) is not quite 4,000 years old, but I recall learning that the Roman concept of vox populi, Latin for “voice of the people,” may have cemented the foundations of what’s known today as “public relations.”

In the centuries before books and eventually newspapers or almanacs, public discourse in the town square served as a way to share opinions and information. Broadcast, and later, digital forms of disseminating information changed public relations and society significantly and forever. (Well, seemingly on that last point.)

Today, regardless of how effectively the practice of public relations is defined, it’s all too frequently mislabeled.  From the most egregious perspective, what’s clearly propaganda (think jihadist online messages originated by ISIS) has been inaccurately labeled as “public relations.” And, from a less erroneous viewpoint, “public relations” is equated purely with publicity and press agentry.

And, then there’s the often blatant total misrepresentation of the profession. Here’s an example.  The October 2 episode of the popular NBC drama “Chicago Fire,” featured this scenario: Firefighter Stella Kidd (portrayed by actress Miranda Rae Mayo) receives a suspicious transfer from Firehouse 51 to the Chicago Fire Department’s “public relations department.” After reporting to said department, Kidd — who apparently has no formal communications experience — meets her new colleagues, is shown her small work station, then is immediately thrust into a “media event” of sorts, complete with inquisitive reporters and TV cameras.  All this action takes place in around 90 seconds.

Quite an absurd portrayal? Certainly, even for fictionalized television drama.  But it’s an example of how public relations is bantered about unfairly and inaccurately as a catch phrase.

Two more thoughts about the “Chicago Fire” portrayal of public relations:

1. Visit this organizational chart, and you’ll see the CFD has a department that addresses Media Affairs/Public Education/Special Events, but not “public relations.” Perhaps the show writers could have had Kidd moved over to “media affairs.”

2. And, the title of the episode in question is “Down is Better.” From my perspective, dumbing down the public relations profession is bad, bad, bad.

So, as the hours left in the year 2017 continue to expire, I make this resolution — and I encourage fellow public relations professionals to do the same:

I (name) resolve to address instances where the practice of “public relations” is misinterpreted, misidentified or misconstrued online, in print or broadcast, or during interpersonal communications. Furthermore, I resolve to correct  misconceptions through firm and measured discourse.

There, I feel better already.

Strategic, ethical public relations contributes to and helps guide modern society by fostering the free flow of news and information; I’m convinced the role of public relations will continue to expand in these digitally-driven times. Those of us who practice public relations need to be diligent and commit to rectifying blatantly wrong references or portrayals.

Let’s make 2018 will be the year public relations gets acknowledged fairly and accurately.

And, a shout out to the producers of “Chicago Fire,” a show we watch regularly: Should you incorporate public relations into future episodes, I would gladly offer my counsel to ensure accuracy and fairness.

Building on My Foundation in Non-Fiction Writing: Fall Master’s Class Remembered

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

Another semester. Another class. Another step closer to achieving a milestone in life.

Our little piece of mortgaged America located in Avondale, the focus of my essay.

That summarizes an important part of what took place this fall of 2017. Specifically, I completed another graduate-level class, one more academic chess piece so to say toward earning my Master’s degree in English at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

This fall, I joined 11 other student scholars in the “Non-Fiction Writing Workshop,” a course that allowed participants to submit essays, memoirs, journal contributions and other written works as part of the required assignments.  Each class, two works were presented, analyzed and read aloud in segments or entirely.

The professor, himself a very successful author of non-fiction, novels and short stories, encouraged discussion and criticism — but primarily the constructive kind.

My classmates presented poignant, compelling stories of growing up in parts of the nation and under familial dynamics much, much different than mine. Some revealed much more about themselves, their lives and personal relationships than I ever would, except perhaps in fiction.

I respected everyone and their abilities, and I believe I grew as a writer after absorbing the works presented each Monday night.  A community of sorts evolved: Writers charged with keeping the craft and art of the written word advancing through compositions centered on our own experiences and abilities, beliefs and perspectives.

My essay contributions were driven by what I know best: Chicago.

The second and more substantial of the two essays is titled The “Greening” of Avondale, a perspective on the Chicago neighborhood we’ve lived in for 17 years.

Your thoughts on this work are welcomed. And, if you want to read more of my “scholarly” works, please visit my website.

By the way, I earned an A this semester!