Questions in Search of Answers in 2019

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

Will the Mueller investigation lead to more indictments? What will happen in the Middle East once the U.S. pulls out armed forces? Does the recent volatility of the financial markets mean another recession is on the horizon?

Heady questions, yes. So, I’ll let people who are a lot smarter offer projections.

Here, in this final PRDude post of 2018, I pose questions of a much more pedestrian nature. Dull and trivial perhaps to many, but the following topics have been on my mind recently.

Brim Backward Hat Wearing. Initially, I thought the practice of wearing a baseball-style cap or other headgear backwards was a fad. I even addressed the topic in a 2014 post and include a poll seeking answers as to why someone would adhere to this (in my opinion) silly concept.  An online source offers a tangible reason for the occasional reverse-brim option: To keep the brim out of the way while performing a task. Yet, based on anecdotal evidence and regular day-to-day perceptions, the trend continues unabated virtually everywhere and by anyone.

Question: Why the heck do people continue to wear caps backward, especially those with the plastic adjustable device that resembles a racing stripe across one’s forehead? And, furthermore: Why is this “cool?”

“Thank you” to canacopegdl.com for use of this image. It was “no problem” to download.

“No Problem.” No, “You’re Welcome.” Assuredly you’ve been responded to with the colloquial phrase, “No problem,” during interactions with retail clerks or just during everyday conversation. I find this phrase maddening, because it’s eclipsing the proper and more sincere, “You’re welcome.” Through a quick online search, I found a linguistics blog that attempts to address the origin of “no problem,” and I found references of disdain for the phrase’s use going back to 2013.  Plus, it’s equated to the Millennial demographic.  A personal occurrence: Last weekend I called a restaurant to make a dinner reservation. I asked for 7:30 p.m. The lady on the other end of the phone replied, “No problem!”  Why not just say, “Yes, we can seat you at 7:30 p.m.”  Exclamation points!

Question: What factor(s) led to the preponderance of the phrase, “No problem,” in society today?  And, furthermore: When will it stop?

Vape, Vape, Vape That… More than 70 years ago, a country and western novelty song addressed the bad stuff that can happen by smoking cigarettes.  Yes, people still smoke ciggies and cigars today — but use of vaping pens and vapor devices made by companies like Juul Labs (rechargeable via a USB port, I learned) has grown exponentially in the past five or so years. Perhaps you wonder why grown adults (and reportedly lots of kids) inhale from what looks like a thumb drive, then exhale a cloud that would rival that of a dragon.

Question: Will vaping replace cigarette smoking in the immediate future? Furthermore: Who will produce the first pop song that expounds on the joys (or dangers) of vaping?

There.

I eagerly will monitor developments on these three issues in the 365 days ahead.  Your thoughts are welcomed and encouraged.  And now, with 2019 some eight-plus hours away, I’ll have no problem adjusting my baseball cap backwards while I step outside to enjoy a few moments to contemplate and vape.

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“And Who’s Gonna Pay For It?”

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

“And who’s gonna pay for it?”

That rhetorical question helped define the 2016 presidential election.  As often uttered by then candidate Donald Trump, the throngs at his rallies shouted in unison: “Mexico!”

This overflowing trash can embodies much of the impact felt by the current government shutdown. Photo courtesy of the New York Times.

Well, as it turned out, our neighbors to the south have no intention of ponying up the estimated $5 billion to pay for the subject of that question — a wall designed to halt illegal entrance to the United States, curb criminal activity and eradicate the import of narcotics.

Today, the 2018 government shutdown driven by now President Trump’s refusal to sign a spending package needed to fund many federal departments and agencies enters its fifth day.  And, there’s no projected end in sight.

The issue behind the shutdown, of course, centers on the wall that Mexico was supposed to pay for — a flimsy campaign promise unsubstantiated by any facts or agreements.

But the compelling question has prompted me to ponder the following:

  • Who’s gonna pay for the damaged lives that assuredly will follow should this impasse drag on for days and days? As noted in this report from Time magazine, furloughed federal workers don’t know how they’ll pay rent, medical bills and car payments.
  • Who’s gonna pay to restore the pride and dignity of members of the federal workforce who are on furlough? Those sent home may now view their once stable jobs with tremendous uncertainty. Will they seek new opportunities?
  • Who’s gonna pay to rebuild the nation’s standing on the world stage if the shutdown continues well into the new year? To our allies and adversaries, the United States is a nation divided.
  • Who’s gonna pay for the shattered vacation plans made by travelers who planned to visit national parks and monuments, now closed because of the government shutdown?

Yes, there certainly are many, many other “who’s gonna pay” type of questions that can be pondered.

One answer to them all: It ain’t gonna be Mexico.

So This Is How We Celebrate Christmas Today: Pop Up Bars?

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

Let me guess: The folks in this image from a place called Elf’d Up were sort of formally coached (and professionally dressed up and made up) to demonstrate the holiday spirit.

Let it not be said that The PRDude is a curmudgeonly Grinch when it comes to sharing thoughts and memories related to the Christmas holiday.

After all, this space has published a plethora of sorts of Christmas-focused posts over the years. Here are six:

  • A 2016 perspective based on the long-running Christmas Extravaganza gig put on by me and my mates from Chicago cover band Love House. (Free December 22? We’re playing Fitzgerald’s Side Bar.)
  • A video featuring an original Christmas song performed by — me on Christmas Eve 2014 — was my gift to you four years ago.  (Please excuse the questionable audio/visual quality; hope to re-record some day.)
  • In 2012, I grappled with the question: “What’s new this Christmas? Learn what I found in this post. (And, yes, I’m still looking for more answers.)
  • Once upon a time, there were no blogs and no one had personal computers; but we found reason for joy at Christmas.  I recall a favorite memory in a 2011 retrospective. (The story presented — very much true — still resonates.)
  • During my search for “that next great job in public relations,” I wrote what I hope was an inspirational commentary in 2010. (Sometimes we should be thankful for more than physical stuff.)
  • And, in this 2009 post, I injected some humor (it’s there, trust me) in an argument that Santa Claus is supported by sound public relations counsel.  (Okay, maybe I had a holiday glass of wine or two while writing this one.)

Each of these six posts — some corny, some serious, all heartfelt — have kind of a traditional scope (friendship, memories, thankfulness), and hopefully will resonate over the years.

That’s why I was somewhat taken aback by an online article I read this week on Block Club Chicago, an excellent locally-focused digital news source. The subject of the piece published December 5: Pop up holiday bars.

Yes, pop up — meaning not designed for permanence — establishments where you can ring in the Christmas holidays in a “fully curated” (my interpretation) environment, but one that will vanish and be recreated to celebrate the next holiday, possibly featuring all things Super Bowl Sunday or Groundhog Day.

Hey, I enjoy bars, restaurants or any business establishment that makes a concerted effort to decorate for the holidays and provide a festive environment.  But, I find it somewhat disconcerting that a business would market itself as a “holiday destination” — then get discarded like spent wrapping paper.  Where’s the permanence? How could these places build tradition, inspire memories, knowing they’ll be gone in January?

Wishing the pop up businesses success this season; they are businesses, and businesses are designed to make a profit.  Just call me old-fashioned, but please don’t call me the Grinch-that-wants-to pull the plug on-Christmas-pop up-bars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grasping For An Answer On Why The Media Misrepresents Public Relations

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

The venue was outstanding: A cool, modern private club in downtown Chicago.

The event attracted a dynamic crowd: Public relations leaders from across the metropolitan region.

To me, the perfect combination to gain insight into a question that has been a nagging issue for years. First, some background.

The Arts Club of Chicago, shown here in a warmer time of the year.

Last evening, I joined public relations professionals at the PRSA Chicago 2018 reception to honor the Distinguished Leader of the year. The event was held at the Arts Club of Chicago just off North Michigan Avenue. For 2018, the chapter honored Jon Harris, the highly-respected Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer of Conagra Brands.

It would be an opportunity to visit Chapter friends I’ve known over the years, and of course, meet new members of the profession.

But, I had an ulterior “alternative” motive, of sorts: Seek insight from the senior public relations professionals assembled as to what the industry could do to address the misrepresentation of “public relations” by the media.

Navigating between samples of passed hors ‘doeuvres and glasses of red wine, I saw an opportunity to chat with a distinguished man sitting alone. After introductions, the man said he manages the Chicago office of a well-known agency and entered the profession following years as a newspaper reporter.

Outstanding, I thought: This man can bring a perspective from both sides of the equation.

So, sensing the awards ceremony was about to commence, I presented my question, citing a recent example of media misrepresentation, one that was glaring, obvious and to me, stunningly stupid.  He paused for a moment and appeared slightly taken aback.

“Well, you know,” he said, “Sometime we work to keep our clients out of the media.”

I nodded.

The ceremony began.

My question remained unanswered. Rest assured, I will keep searching, keep asking.

What the Calendar Tells Me This Thanksgiving Eve

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

Along with celebratory events, there are a couple of academic-related and a dental appointment on my December schedule.

It all starts in earnest today.

Thanksgiving Eve metaphorically ushers in the “holiday season,” a bittersweet time from some perspectives. (Although “holiday” focused advertisements and other promotional messages have blanketed print, broadcast and digital mediums for several weeks.)

For those who could count their blessings through health and prosperity, family and friends, it’s indeed “the most wonderful time of the year.”

But for those who are sick and in need of food and shelter, alone or cast aside, it’s just another five-plus weeks of despair, sadness and uncertainty.

I count myself in the former group, blessed and thankful, although concerned that in this world we’ve inherited and nurtured that more of us are not included among those who have reason to be thankful.

The image of the calendar that accompanies this post reveals (if you can decipher my somewhat shoddy penmanship) notations of holiday-based parties and events slated for the month ahead — and that’s what I have scheduled as of today.

If history is an accurate barometer, assuredly there will be more appointments to note.

For the fact I was invited to share this time of year with others, I am, indeed thankful. There will be merriment, laughter, spirited conversation, food and libations.

From another perspective, I’m thankful for this time — right now — as I share these thoughts from my quiet office. It’s during these solitary times I find truth and beauty.

The Armistice on This Day in History

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

This image of the poppy is courtesy of the Guardian.

On this day, November 11, 100 years ago, an armistice was signed to end the “War to End All Wars.” Today, the world remembered.

Obviously, this lofty objective for mankind didn’t happen.

And, based on what’s taking place in some parts of the world, unfortunately, the end of war won’t happen — at least not any time soon.

But to put the armistice ending World War I to perspective, here’s a short account of wars the United States has been involved in since 1918, and when the fighting stopped:

  • World War II — The Axis powers surrendered on May 8, 1945.  The surrender of Imperial Japan was announced on August 15 and formally signed on September 2, 1945.
  • Korean War — Fighting ended on July 27, 1953, with an armistice that approximately restored the original boundaries between North and South Korea.
  • Vietnam War — On January 15, 1972, all U.S. combat activities were suspended. Unfortunately, the fighting continued until April 1975 when Saigon fell to the communists.
  • Gulf War — With the code name of Operation Desert Shield, this war in Iraq ended January 17, 1991.
  • War in Afghanistan — The U.S. involvement started in 1999. The U.S. still has armed forces in this war-ravaged nation.

Of course, there are many, many other wars that took place since the armistice was signed a century ago — and some were undeclared conflicts like the Cold War.  (Is that conflict really over?)

Regardless, I just hope the powers of the world can revisit what led to the start of World War I and want led to its end. Perhaps it will take less than 100 years to mark the end of a war that really means the end of all war.

Questions on “Ghosting” This Halloween Night

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

Note the subtle “shadowing” around the image — my effort to add a little “ghostly” drama.

To get started, the topic of this post on what’s purported to be the “scariest night of the year,” has nothing to do with the celebration of Halloween.  Rather, my focus here is on a new addition to the modern lexicon: Ghosting.

As noted in this headline from an editorial published in today’s Chicago Tribune, the word “ghost” and its present participle form, “ghosting,” take on a particular meaning these days. The Urban Dictionary listed a definition for “ghosting” from 2016, which I’ll summarize: Halting communications without notice.  According to further research, the word is often used in personal relationships (ignoring a text from a person you have dated) and in the job market (failing to show up for a job you accepted).

Now, to my questions:

  1. How did “ghost” evolve from a noun for “spirit” into verb?  Who initiated the re-interpretation of the word?
  2. Why does modern society accept this ongoing bastardization of the language? (See this 2015 post on “doxing” for a somewhat related example.) Because it’s cool? Edgy? Modern?
  3. Why did the Chicago Tribune resort to what many may consider a colloquialism in an editorial?  And, in the headline, no less! Also, I dispute the use of “ghost” in the headline because Chicago Public School kids are not purposefully or intentionally causing the enrollment decline.
  4. What’s the next common word to get reinterpreted due to unforeseen and unfathomable justification?
  5. Can “ghosting” still be used should someone want to practice being a ghost?  Example: “I will complete a stringent ghosting regimen this week to prepare for Halloween.”
  6. What are the perspectives and insights from real ghosts on this dictionary-centered phenomenon?

Okay, I don’t anticipate a response to #6, although replies are welcomed; but please feel free to share thoughts to the other questions noted above.

But, in the spirit of Halloween, I’ll leave you with a link to a 2010 post, where I outlined public relations strategies and tactics for the holiday, one once primarily celebrated by kids. Speaking of kids, I better head home now. Don’t want to ghost neighborhood trick or treaters.