Homelessness: The True Image of a National Emergency

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

The concept of a “national emergency” dominated media coverage in recent weeks, driven by President Donald Trump’s decision earlier this month to demand federal funding to build the wall on the nation’s southern border.

This controversial use of presidential power certainly raised questions, primarily:

  • Is there, indeed, a crisis along our border with Mexico in terms of illegal entry, drug smuggling and other criminal activity?
  • Does this president, or any president, have the constitutional authority to declare a national emergency and demand federal funds without Congressional approval?

Perhaps there have been true national emergencies taking place here in the United States for a prolonged time in our history; but, they just don’t make headlines.

Note the image within this post. This lady shared a CTA Blue Line car with me, other Chicagoans and visitors one morning this week.  Most passengers on this train probably were headed to work, school, an appointment or home.

From what’s depicted here, this lady was probably going to none of the above.

Look closely, she’s there, behind the glass partition, wearing a brown jacket and maneuvering a cart loaded with sacks containing what’s likely her worldly possessions.

As she was about to exit at the Jackson station platform, I handed her some cash, about what I would spend on two beers these days, minus tip.

She paused, smiled, said thank you and put the bill in her pocket. I sensed dignity in this lady by the way she looked at me, responded to my offer and effectively moved her cart and belongings off the el car and onto the platform.

I hope the President or someone within his administration recognizes that homelessness is a true national emergency, and it’s taking place in many, many other cities and towns across the nation. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, more than 550,000 in this nation are homeless.  Here in Illinois, more than 10,000 experience homelessness.

After my encounter with the lady, I continued on with my work day, then I headed home.

My regret is that I all I did was give this lady some money. My hope is that she finds a true home someday soon.

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Does Anyone Else Question Why Jussie Smolette Hired a Public Relations Firm?

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

As of this writing, the afternoon of February 15, the story involving the reported attack here in Chicago on actor and vocalist Jussie Smolette has taken almost as many twists and turns as the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Image of Jussie Smolette courtesy of Wikipedia.

If you’re interested in following the story, this report from CNN chronicles what’s taken place to date.

Let’s let the media and Twittersphere follow the story and provide the next update. What I want to shed light to another aspect: The hiring by Mr. Smolette of public relations firm Sunshine Sachs.

(An aside: Sunshine Sachs has perhaps the most spare, unassuming and uncluttered website of any communications firm on the planet.  Must say, the site certainly is easy to navigate.)

When I learned of this development, my initial reaction was straightforward and driven by my experience in public relations: Why does the victim of a crime — albeit a celebrity who told police he was attacked by two men who hurled racial slurs, put a noose around his neck and poured a substance on him — need public relations counsel?

Public relations support, as I comprehend the practice, helps take advantage of an opportunity or mitigate a threat.

One could argue that in the days following the reported attack, Mr. Smolette’s account of what took place that night in the Streeterville neighborhood was challenged and therefore he needed the advice and guidance of public relations professionals to help counter media inquiries and preserve his reputation.

And, from the other perspective, Mr. Smolette and his story was grabbing headlines and media coverage — especially here in Chicago — and he retained counsel to respond effectively to what assuredly was a deluge of interview requests.

A quick Google search of the decision to hire Sunshine Sachs revealed digital reports that shouted “Jussie Smolette Victim? He Hired Harvey Weinstein’s PR Firm” and “Best Drama: Jussie Smolette Hires Harvey Weinstein’s PR Team.”

Now, my perspective.  Mr. Smolette certainly had the right and I trust the dollars to hire a national firm like Sunshine Sachs.

However, I remain concerned that news regarding the enlistment of public relations support was brought into the unfolding story may prove damaging to the profession and practice. Note the reference to alleged serial sexual abuser Weinstein in the examples noted above.

What I read into this: Public relations, which should be based on truth and adherence to established ethical standards, is becoming more equated with pop culture and tabloid headlines.

Would welcome your thoughts.

 

 

 

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.

If Michael Cohen Practices PR, Can I Practice Law?

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

Well, it was about time, and frankly, I’m not surprised.

President Donald Trump spoke to Fox News from the White House.

The issue? The proclamation yesterday by President Donald Trump that Michael Cohen, his former attorney, actually spent more billable hours practicing strategic communications than law.

So, again, the practice of public relations gets communicated as a non-sequitur, again gets tossed into the national spotlight, again gets misrepresented — this time during a televised conversation with the President of the United States, who actually was doing his best to distance himself from his long-time attorney.

Yes, the President made that statement in an interview Thursday with Fox News broadcaster Harris Faulkner. It comes up early in the conversation, shortly after Faulkner raised a question about the President’s professional relationship with Cohen — who as you may know, was sentenced Wednesday to 36 months in prison after pleading guilty to campaign finance laws.

Here’s the full statement by the President:

“He did very low-level work. He did more public relations than he did law. You would see him on television, and he was OK on television.”

Yes, participating in media interviews can be part of a public relations program, but I really don’t think that’s what the President intended.

A quick check of Cohen’s background reveals lots of work as a barrister, businessman and so-called “fixer,” but I could not find any references to his “public relations” capabilities.

In researching this post, I had hoped to find other public relations professionals concerned about the President’s Thursday comment and misrepresentation of the profession, but none surfaced.

Yet.

I did find this CNN report on the “29 most surreal lines” uttered by the President in the Fox News Faulkner interview.  You guessed it: There was no specific reference to the Cohen practicing public relations comment.

Sigh.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.