The Outlook of Hyperlocal News After the Demise of DNA Info

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

The digital dust, so to say, has settled on the abrupt closing earlier this month of a no-cost online news source that provided subscribers with the little stories often not covered by the more established print and broadcast outlets, as well as many of the big stories.

The question now is: “What, if any, media source will fill the void created?”

Of course, I’m referring to DNA Info and Gothamist, the so-called hyperlocal news organizations covering Chicago and New York.

As a subscriber the Chicago edition, I often enjoyed reading the content researched and written by the current breed of  journalists.  Although, at times I passed over reading stories about the new watering hole in Logan Square featuring an acclaimed mixologist or the hip deli offering house made pickles. Also, the comments section that accompanied reports often was populated by real trolls who thrived on posting unsavory thoughts that prompted distasteful back-and-forth comments rather than adding to a rational discourse.

But, as a former newsman who began his career when Chicago still had three daily papers, I was saddened that dozens of staff reporters and freelance contributors are out of work.

Many have commented on the shutdown of the news site, including former columnist Mark Konkol, who wrote a compelling opinion piece about the big impact little stories can have in a city of neighborhoods like Chicago.

Clearly the business model behind the organizations — totally supported by advertising — didn’t work in this era of seemingly unlimited free online content, images and video. (After all, there’s no charge to read The PRDude, but I would accept a beer as an honorarium should you find value or enjoyment in reading this blog.)

But from another perspective, DNA Info really was not delivering a novel product. Community newspapers, which still exist in print and online formats, cover the small stories — the community meetings, the business openings, the stories of human interest.

So where will former DNA Info readers go for hyperlocal news?

Honestly, I’m not sure. But one option is to seek out relevant and accurate information disseminated through online sites maintained by established neighborhood associations or organizations, elected officials and local chambers of commerce.

Another is to reach out to neighbors and share news. The concept actually is ancient and known as vox populi, or voice of the people.

In theory, it means the people always are correct. But then again, theories need to be proven.

 

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What Happens When You Put 24 PR Agency Leaders Together in One Room?

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

Well, to answer the question posed in the title of this post, let me provide some background.

Yesterday, long before Halloween trick or treating started for most, I and some 100 other public relations professionals attended the 6th Annual Agency Leaders Breakfast Roundtable hosted by the Chicago Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).

This popular fall gathering allowed participants and senior members of many of Chicago’s foremost global and local PR shops an opportunity to launch conversations in a round robin format.

I’m sure many at the Agency Leaders Roundtable were mesmerized by the view.

The event was sponsored by Find Your Influence, an influencer marketing technology platform, and held in a glorious old cathedral-like room at the University Club of Chicago. The views overlooking Millennium Park and Chicago’s lakefront were sublime, the trees alive with fall colors; but the overall focus was on all things public relations related.

As a member of the PRSA Chicago Board, I was charged with helping to stimulate conversation at table #9. Like most in attendance, I was fueled by coffee and the desire to engage with the many industry colleagues assembled.

Here are abbreviated and paraphrased take aways from the six agency representatives who conversed with myself and two other attendees. Three dominant topics surfaced: The growth of employing influencers, the expansion of multiculturalism, and the resounding need to support ethical public relations practices.

Amy Littleton, Senior Vice President, KemperLesnik: People are getting smarter about recognizing fake news, and people eventually will return to traditional news. Young people digest lots of content on multiple platforms, and they might not be concerned about accuracy. So, we may someday see legislation related to fake news. The public may be making decisions regarding fake news at the ballot box.

Aaron Schoenherr, Founding Partner, Greentarget Global Group: Before the emergence of influencer marketing, public relations campaigns would piggy back on the built-in reputation of the endorser. We’ve determined that some B2B clients are not interested in influencer marketing.  But there is without question a rise in digital: Subscriptions to the New York Times digital edition are up, and Reuters has found that digital use is up. Plus, there’s not as much trust in traditional outlets today.

Stimulating conversation flowed during the 90-minute morning event.

Amy Kennedy, Executive Director, Golin: The question is: Who will own the relationship with influencers today?  PR firms? If so, public relations practices have to be ethical and must include multiculturalism. At Golin, we support multiculturalism and determine ways to find inclusion.  We determine, “How should we talk about that product or service?” It’s the personal responsibility of the influencer to be inclusive.

Christina Steed, Executive Vice President, Flowers Communications Group: Flowers has practiced multicultural communications before it was a well-used term. We would reach out to pastors at local churches to convey messages related to the community, or reach out to the Chicago Urban League regarding economic development. They would help us get the message out.  Some large clients, like McDonald’s, have been slow to catch on with influencers. Current influencers need to put trust in the trust bank.

Maxine Winer, Senior Partner and General Manager, FleishmanHillard: FleishmanHillard has always provided ethics training for our staff. Our policy is, “If you see something that appears to be unethical, say something, even if you’re not sure why it may be unethical.”  We rely on colleagues to be ethical, and we want them to feel comfortable raising any issue.  Multiculturalism is part and parcel in everything we do.

Daniel Pooley, Managing Partner, Finn Partners: Influencer marketing is a craft that has its own heritage. Public relations always has had influencer marketing because it’s another way to create brand connections. There’s a shifting DNA on influencer marketing that demands it to be more scientific with scalable results that are better measured. Bold, smart strategies are needed.

A side note: I have met and worked with some of the leaders on the agenda, but was thrilled to meet new fellow professionals committed to ethical public relations.

Looking forward to next year’s Roundtable. And, if it happens to fall again on Halloween, perhaps costumes should be required.

My Turn: Thoughts About Amazon and Chicago

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

For the past several weeks, one story has dominated business news here: Chicago’s efforts to lure online retail behemoth Amazon to build its “second headquarters” on a site in the city.

Led by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Governor Bruce Rauner and local business and civic leaders, Chicago has offered Amazon 10 potential sites — eight in the city and two in the suburbs — to consider for the proposed complex. Marketing messages have highlighted the city’s strong points, like central location with two international airports, world-class cultural and educational institutions, strong (well most of the time) infrastructure, vibrant neighborhoods (well, many but certainly not all), dynamic business community and many others.

Thankfully, I have not read any nonsense about the attraction of real deep dish pizza or Chicago style (hold the ketchup) hot dogs.

Although, I anticipate a continued barrage of business stories about the Amazon bid well into 2018, when Chicago will learn where it ranks among the 238 North American cities bidding for HQ2 and its proposed 50,000 employees.

A few weeks ago, the former CEO of the city’s chamber of commerce published a rather compelling “open letter” to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, offering several reasons why Chicago should land this so-called “once-in-a-generation” corporate and economic plum.

And, a few days ago, the Chicago Tribune published a news story announcing proposed plans by Chicago real estate concern Sterling Bay to offer Amazon naming for a stadium within the newly-designated Lincoln Works property on the North Side. Great idea, but I’m not sure what team would play games at the stadium since the city’s professional franchises already have homes.

So, now it’s this life-long Chicago resident’s opportunity to share some thoughts behind making Chicago Amazon’s HQ2.

Retail Legacy. Without question, Chicago can boast a retail history unparalleled in the nation. The mail-order industry, led by Sears & Roebuck and Montgomery Ward, was founded here and thrived for a century.  On a related note, the meatpacking industry was born and thrived here for decades. Chicago knows how to host groundbreaking commerce and industry.

Non-Profit Powerhouse. This fact often is lost when listing metropolitan Chicago’s economic and civic strengths: The size and scope of its non-profit and association organizations, some of the largest in the nation. As noted from this page on the Chicago Association Forum’s website, the region’s associations — some 1,600 total — contribute billions to the economy. Associations also function as advocates for culture and commerce, generate research and stimulate dialogue. This is a benefit other cities simply can’t match.

It’s Been Done Here Before. I won’t tread on that quote about dispensing with minuscule ideas. Yet its message rings true here in Chicago, which gave the world the first true skyscraper, which hosted an international exhibition two decades after a devastating fire, which nurtured and lost and rebuilt great industries, which emerged from many catastrophes still strong and ready to take on new challenges.

Amazon and other online retailers may be (and deservedly so) blamed for putting bricks and mortar retailers out of business. Montgomery Ward no longer exists, and Sears is facing challenges to remain profitable.

Should Mr. Bezos decide on Chicago as the next step for the online empire he created, I maintain the city would rise up to the challenge.  And, by the way, along with pizza and hot dogs, we have are home to Italian beef.

 

 

 

What Needs to be Done for the Chicago Cubs to Win the 2017 NLCS

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

The four-hour-plus National League Division Championship deciding game October 12 between the Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals will long be remembered as one of the most bizarre, event-filled, exciting, error-prone and entertaining games ever played in recent times.

Yes, Bill Murray is a funny, funny guy and true Cubs fan. But what about the rest of us? Image courtesy of CNN.com.

One game in the same league: The November 2, 2016 World Series clinching game between the Cubs and the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field.

As a life-long Cubs fan, I’m glad the Cubs won both contests.

Today, the North Siders (is that name still used?) will begin the 2017 National League Championship Series against the very powerful Los Angeles Dodgers at that mid-century ballpark located in a neighborhood called Chavez Ravine.

Cub fans world wide are rooting for a repeat of this scene November 2, 2016 in Cleveland. Image courtesy of CNN.com.

If you are a Cubs fan, you probably are thinking about what the team needs to do to win what should be another engaging series. I mean, besides score more runs than the Dodgers, throw more shutout innings and commit fewer errors.

To help my beloved Cubs, I offer these three directives.

  1. Stop the Fan Trolling Nonsense. I’m referring to the low-class practice demonstrated by fans at the October 11 game against the Nationals — the wearing of surgical masks by some (including kids) as a way to mock the Nationals after Coach Dusty Baker said some players (including starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg) were ill due to mold reportedly present at the hotel housing the visitors.  How does this action demonstrate support for the Cubs? How does this promote sportsmanship? What this kind of garbage does is this: Gives the opposition an incentive to win, as demonstrated by Strasburg’s masterful shutout pitching performance in Game 4.
  2. Shut Out Excessive Celebrity Camera Shots and Interviews. Yes, we all know Bill Murray, Eddie Vedder and John Cusack are Cub fans. But so are millions of other people. Showing images of these millionaire celebrities in choice seats or a corporate skybox is kind of a slap in the face to those of us who aren’t on the A, B or C lists and lack the discretionary funds to purchase seats to every playoff or World Series game. Here’s a suggestion: Give me great tickets to the games at Wrigley Field next week. I’ll act funny like Murray, bring my guitar and play the National Anthem as Vedder might do, and stare and look cool like Cusack.
  3.  Find that Pivotal, Binding Experience. In 2016, it was the famous “rain delay” locker room speech by outfielder Jason Heyward during Game 7 in Cleveland. What will surface in this post-season? A walk-off homer? Dramatic come-from-behind extra-inning W?  Who knows. Actually, it might have already taken place. As noted in this Chicago Tribune column by David Haugh, the Cubs had to make an emergency landing in Albuquerque en route to Los Angeles, leading to a lengthy delay. Coach Joe Madden maintained the experience helped build camaraderie among the team.

Finally, a prediction: The Cubs in six.  Yes, six.

Another Possible Sickening Revelation Regarding the Harvey Weinstein Scandal

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

Like a festering wound, each day the world learns more regarding the allegations of sexual misconduct and even physical assault by entertainment mogul Harvey Weinstein.

This space will not offer any analysis or commentary on Mr. Weinstein or other key developments related to this national news story.

Harvey Weinstein. Image courtesy of CNN.com.

Just stayed tuned to the network broadcast stations and read reports from digital and print media; you’ll get access to lots of news related to Mr. Weinstein and his current treatment program, whether members of The Weinstein Company board of directors ignored allegations of abuse, legal and financial implications related to this scandal, and of course, comments from women who had unwelcomed encounters.

Here I plan to address a report that Mr. Weinstein ordered people working as public relations counsel to fabricate and promote unflattering and untrue news stories about actresses and models.

This news came to me while watching the WGN-TV Morning News today. In a segment aired around 7:30 a.m., reporter Lauren Jiggetts recounts reporting from journalist Ronan Farrow of The New Yorker: “Weinstein’s public relations team would plant smear stories on women who rejected him or complained about his behavior,” Ms. Jiggetts noted in the report.

My thoughts related to this element of the unfolding Weinstein story:

1. First, no honest, ethical public relations practitioner would purposefully engage in disseminating information designed to cause harm. This type of garbage communication practice falls under propaganda and defies the established standard of public relations contributing to the betterment of society.

2. If these allegations about “smear stories” are true, I wonder if the perpetrators of this nonsense could be identified and held accountable in some way.  What reputable company or organization would want to work with hacks who deliberately share lies designed to harm someone?

3. Rest assured, I’m fully aware that Hollywood (and government and other conglomerates) may operate on a very different level when it comes to values than other industries.

From one perspective, Hollywood and the entertainment business develops and markets products that are pure fantasy. However, the movie-makers, television show producers and concert promoters run businesses, and businesses must — or should — adhere to sound, accepted operational practices, not make believe ways of delivering a product or service, or coping with a crisis.

Employing purported “public relations” counsel (and in reference to this case I start to cringe) to cause damage is beyond fantasy.

It’s sickening to me, and hopefully to others who value honesty in communications today.

 

 

Las Vegas Massacre: How Fast We Learn News Today

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

The news of the horrific shootings Sunday night in Las Vegas first reached my ears while I was driving home from a wonderful weekend in Wisconsin.

Tomorrow’s edition will bring more news of the Las Vegas massacre; but when will we learn the answer on how to stop this madness?

Over a packed 48 hours, I road a horse, fished on the Wolf River, enjoy a beer or two, relaxed with friends and stared into a star-filled evening sky.

While driving home Monday morning, I first heard an anecdotal account on an FM station of “shootings” delivered by a woman who escaped harm. She said she served in the military for 10 years and knew she had to do something to protect her daughter — and herself.

Then, as I switched the radio to AM, I got the full story. You know what happened, so there’s no need to recount the death and injury toll.

As I listened to the grim details, I drove past a small country cemetery somewhere in Racine County east of Route 75.  It was somewhat surreal and certainly sobering. After a while, I switched to a music channel.

This morning, I read the Chicago Tribune on my way to work. The issue includes around 10 articles related to the massacre and about as many images.

I learned much more about the shootings, the monster who fired indiscriminately from the Mandalay Bay hotel, the heroism of average people and first responders, the names of some who died.

What I hope I’ll learn in tomorrow’s issue, is how we’re prepared to stop this from happening again.

 

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.