Was Martin Luther Among the World’s First “Publicists?”

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

To provide some background into the question noted in the title to this post, let me share thoughts on the latest course I completed in my scholarly pursuit of a Master’s degree in English.

Was this guy really a “publicist?”

Since late August, I and a dozen or so colleagues focused studies on British literature from the early seventeenth-century, a period fraught with a civil war between royalist and republican forces and a half-century following one of the most divisive and explosive movements in western civilization — the Protestant Reformation.

We read primary texts (mainly poetry, epic poems and longer prose works) written by some of the English language’s foremost writers and poets like John Milton and John Donne, along with works by writers new to me.

And, there were the assigned secondary texts, scholarly essays and chapters from books and journals that center on philology and hermeneutics.  Big words, I know. Look them up if you need to.

For my first required paper, I wrote an essay that focused on the writings of the architect of the Reformation — Martin Luther. (You can read the essay here, but I must point out that this version has excellent comments and notes provided by my professor.)

My thesis centered on elements of propaganda in the crude and banal pamphlets Luther wrote and had published early in his role as a stalwart opponent of the Catholic church, which I contrasted with the more elegant, refined and — in my opinion — biased introduction to a collection of the scholar’s Latin works, a relatively short document laden with self-deprecating prose that chronicles his “Reformation breakthrough.”

The point I attempted to make: With the introduction of the printing press in around 1450, Luther and others who believed in the Reformation and its principles were able to disseminate printed messages across much of Western Europe. He started with cheap and simple pamphlets featuring with wood carved images that put the Pope and Catholicism in a negative perspective; this allowed the message to be presented to the common folk, many being illiterate. A few decades later, Luther elevated the message through his scholarly prose geared to the learned class.

In both cases, he followed a sound strategy: Craft compelling, definitive messages targeted to a specific audience and employ an effective communications medium. The same strategy is used by strategic communicators today, of course, but the medium includes broadcast and digital.

Now, back to my initial question. One of the sources I referenced for the paper is an excellent book, Printing, Propaganda and Martin Luther, by Mark U. Edwards, Jr. In this scholarly work, Edwards defined the printed works that promoted the Reformation cause as the world’s “first large-scale ‘media campaign,” and Luther as the the most prominent “publicist.”

My perspective: The Reformation was not a media campaign because the sources of the communications were not media companies; nor was Luther a publicist because the messages he and other Reformists (by the way, the Catholics issued their own anti-Luther/Reformation messages) shared in in the sixteenth century were clearly propaganda in nature.

As I maintain, a legitimate and honest media organization is predicated on ethical standards; and, the role of a publicist — which falls under modern public relations practices as media relations — is to generate positive media coverage for the client.

So, to summarize, the communications practices followed Martin Luther and others more than four centuries ago don’t equate to publicity, and those who originated the messages were not publicists. But the plans and courses of actions put into motion back then clearly have relevance today.

Okay: Your thoughts.

 

 

 

 

Thankful This Thanksgiving Towards These

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

With the big family celebration out of town, Susan and I “improvised” yesterday for our official Thanksgiving meal.

Served hot with hot red peppers and a spicy dipping sauce, Japanese Style Fried Turkey was a standout during our meal. The New Zealand sauvignon blanc made it all the better.

We enjoyed a three-course “Thanksgiving Tasting Menu” offered by Roka Akor, a Japanese-themed restaurant with stores around the country. Our meal took place at the store in the Westfield Old Orchard shopping mall in Skokie.

And, along with the Hamachi Serrano Chili Maki, Salmon Teriyaki with House-Pickled Cucumbers and other delicious offerings, we had turkey two ways: Japanese Style Fried Turkey and Braised Turkey Rice Hot Pot with Mountain Greens.

Of course, we missed the traditional holiday fare and gathering with family; but we were thankful for the opportunity to enjoy a delicious meal with others who did not or could not participate in the Thanksgiving feast depicted in the famous Norman Rockwell painting.

And, while I’m on the subject, here are few other things I’m thankful for:

  • Living in a nation that — despite the challenges faced on a national scale with the impeachment proceedings and unbridled partisanship — is still a pretty good place to reside.
  • Completing another course in my journey toward earning my Master’s degree in English. This semester’s subject matter — seventeenth century British literature — was new to me, but I gained a better understanding of the Reformation and the process of researching and drafting scholarly papers.
  • Modern public relations practices and the positive impact those of us in the profession can and will have in making society a better place.

Oh, and one more thing: I’m thankful for this platform and the ability to share my thoughts, opinions and images in this space. And, of course, I’m thankful to everyone who reads what I have to say.

 

 

Would You Represent an E-Cigarette Manufacturer as PR Counsel?

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

Several years ago, a friend and I were discussing our careers. My friend held creative positions in advertising and back in the 1970s worked on a major cigarette brand.  A non-smoker, I asked my friend whether she faced any personal issues by helping to sell a product that caused serious ailments and death for generations.

“Well,” my friend said, “It’s still legal to manufacturer and sell cigarettes.”

Two images of vaping today: The outcome for some, and the “cool factor” embodied in a cloud. Image courtesy of Metro UK.

Fast forward to today, and the focus is on another kind of legal smoking product — e-cigarettes.  Over the past several months, the manufacturers of e-cigarettes have been embroiled in controversy regarding their products and the impact on people.

This recent news story reports about lab tests that revealed toxins were found in people sickened by vaping; nationally, the grisly fallout from vaping is sobering: More than 2,000 sickened and at least 39 killed.

Manufacturers of vaping products claim e-cigarettes help adult tobacco smokers quit cigarettes, which on the surface has merits. Yet, given the now regular news coverage of the harmful fallout vaping has created for some users, perhaps that contention is way, way misguided.

For this post, I wanted to learn more; so, I visited the American Vaping Association for insight on the health concerns related to vaping.  I found an article on the “facts” related to illness and death, which cites statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that cite a high percentage of those who got sick used illegal THC vaping products.

There is a Contact page for the AVA, but it’s a little challenging to find because the link is within a drop-down menu accessed by three small horizontal bars to the right of the masthead.  And, the AVA site does have pages devoted to news, testimonials, how to donate and more, all accessed from the somewhat hidden drop-down.

The question to the AVA: Why almost disguise the way viewers reach critical pages on your site?

Back to the anecdote that started this post: Vaping remains legal in the United States. So, to colleagues in the public relations and other communications mediums:

Would you represent the AVA or a vaping products manufacturer as a client?

I’ll start: No.

Public relations should be predicated on doing something beneficial for society. I don’t agree with the vaping industry’s altruistic mantra that their products help adult smokers kick the tobacco habit.

Your thoughts are highly encouraged.

 

 

 

What Will Follow This Week’s Outlandish, Bizarre, Disturbing, Incomprehensible Tweet

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

It’s still early in the third week of October in the year 2019, and already a significant amount of news coverage and analysis is focused on the person who posted a tweet that compares a truly ghastly aspect of American history with a current Congressional investigation.

Read about it here, if you want to know what I’m referring to.  But, I think you do. And, I think you know the author of the tweet in question.

Please push out a tweet that offers a glimmer of hope for the future of the United States of America.

Speaking of questions:

What was the focus of last week’s outlandish, bizarre, disturbing and incomprehensible tweet from this person? I don’t recall. There probably were several similarly malicious tweets that sparked dialogue across all communication channels.

What will be the subject of tomorrow’s outlandish, bizarre, disturbing and incomprehensible tweet from this person?  Who knows. But assuredly, the media and so-called Twittersphere will chronicle the fallout.

Since the first tweet was sent in 2006, a seemingly modest way to send out seemingly innocuous, personal messages — first within a 180-character limit, then doubled to 360 characters — has evolved into a communications medium with the power to command the national and even global spotlight — often with messages of despair, deceit and destruction of the American way of life.

Think about it: What amounts to a couple of sentences can drive what’s deemed important and newsworthy.

That’s why I implore all who read this post to ignore the kind of calculated, often despicable tweets like the one referenced here. Go to your laptop or handheld device and tweet out a positive message about our nation, its people and its stature on the world stage.

Perhaps more messages of positivism will overshadow those of unfounded negativity.

 

 

 

If Your Mother Says She Loves You, Check It Out

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

For those wondering about the title of this post, I’ll get to that shortly. But the crowd of current and former news men and women who gathered last night at a quirky downtown Chicago restaurant certainly know what the phrase embodies.

Long-time city editor Paul Zimbrakos (left) was still engaging, still in control, still a dominant presence as he was in the CNB news room.

The event was a reunion of reporters and editors who worked at the legendary City News Bureau of Chicago.  The adjective “legendary” gets tossed around a lot, but in this case it’s appropriate.

We gathered to help preserve the impact this now-gone local news wire service had on Chicago and the lives of those — like me — who had the opportunity to learn the hard news business in an environment that was always fascinating and hardly ever forgiving.

There were stories and memories recounted: The years worked at City News, surviving the midnight shift, how experience there led to the next job in the news business, and that seminal or most compelling story covered. The atmosphere was loud and embracing, with strangers becoming friends over a drink and conversation about the impact City News had on their lives.

A high-point came when Paul Zimbrakos, the long-time (and I mean decades-long)

The reunion at its zenith. The conversation flowed, the memories recalled.

city editor arrived. I waited my turn to greet Paul, who at first didn’t recognize me. After I gave my name, he noted without hesitation that I once called in sick due to a bee sting.  How did he remember that instance, which took place 40 years ago!  (For the record, I was stung in the neck by a wasp and swelled up like a side-show attraction.)

In conversations, I met people who moved on from City News to work in broadcast journalism and public affairs, or like me, leave the news business for public relations or another communications discipline.

I conversed over the din with one outstanding reporter who worked during my era — 1977 to 1979 — and we shared thoughts on our biggest, most memorable stories: His was going door-to-door in Bridgeport to get perspectives on the death in December of 1976 of Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, mine was covering the exhuming of bodies from the home of convicted mass murder John Wayne Gacy in December of 1978.

As I rode the Blue Line home later that night, I felt proud and honored to have been a small cog in the news organization that nurtured true journalism.  I look forward to the next reunion and the stories and memories they will bring.

Now, to the title. The message behind this phrase is simple and direct: Investigate, seek confirmation, gathering what’s believed to be the truth. If you don’t believe me, check it out.

 

 

 

Career Advice for Joe Maddon and a Suggestion for the Chicago Cubs

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

Having been in his position before — actually a few times before — I can relate to what Cubs manager and prototypical anti-establishment but successful leader Joe Maddon is experiencing now that the all-but-inevitable decision regarding his future with the franchise was announced just before yesterday’s final regular season game with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Wish it wasn’t so, Joe. But hey, that’s baseball. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

In case you missed it, the Chicago Cubs did not offer Maddon a new contract.

“Okay: What the heck do I do now?” Maddon might be thinking. “What do I do after I get up, brush my teeth and have that first cup of coffee?”

All lightheartedness aside, Maddon assuredly will have some weeks ahead where he can cruise the Florida Gulf Coast in his famous RV and field inquiries on another manager position or something else in baseball — or something else in life.

Regardless of his decision, I offer Joe Maddon — and anyone who reads this post and needs to pursue employment — these two kernels of advice:

1. Always remember that you have value in today’s marketplace. If you don’t believe that, how can you convince someone to hire you?

2. Never compromise your integrity. Your reputation follows you forever, especially in today’s digitally-driven age.

Simplistic, I know. But advice everyone from a World Series winning manager with more of a decade of experience at the Major League level or someone starting out in the real world should consider. And, hopefully benefit from.  Full disclosure: I’ve shared these two thoughts frequently, especially two those pursuing public relations and and communications positions.

Now, as for who should be considered to lead the Chicago Cubs to their next World Series:  My advice to Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein is to consider candidates with no previous affiliation with the bricks and ivy of Wrigley Field.  Cast the net broad and wide.

Yes, former Cubs catcher and current media personality David Ross officially is on the short list to replace Maddon, as noted in this report from earlier today.  Tremendous guy, that David Ross, with 14 years in the Majors as a player, but none as a manager. Plus, he’s too close to former teammates and too ingrained with the 2016 champions.

No, Theo, look beyond for another iconoclast. Look what happened when Joe Maddon brought his wacky road trip themes, clever sayings, media savvy, knowledge and love of the game to the North Side.  To paraphrase Maddon: Respect the unconventional.

 

 

Patti Temple Rocks Talks About Public Relations and Lots More

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

The subject of today’s post, public relations leader and author Patti Temple Rocks, certainly is well-traveled — in a lot of ways.

As you’ll learn shortly, Patti has held top management positions on the agency and corporate side of public relations. She’s written a well-received book about an increasingly widespread practice in modern business and society.

And, Patti is passionate about visits to exotic locales — but finds true solace much closer to home in Chicago.

Want to learn more?  Please read this dialogue.

1. You’ve held senior communications positions at iconic companies — Golin, Leo Burnett and Dow Chemical. What was the one principle that guided how you managed communications programs?

Yes, there’s a humorous side to Patti Temple Rocks.

I learned a great deal from the late, great Al Golin; but one of my most important lessons of all from Al was the importance of trust — in every single thing we do.  I wanted my clients, my bosses and my teams to always, ALWAYS, know that they could count on me to do what I believed was the right and best thing.  And to know that I  would never, EVER intentionally hurt someone for my own gain.  Trust — that’s what it’s all about.

2. Why did you pursue a career in public relations? Did you envision working in communications during college?  Was there a mentor who inspired you to pursue public relations?

I started my college years thinking I wanted to go into retail merchandising, but a semester working the sales floor at Marshall Fields convinced me otherwise.  I learned that about myself early enough that I was able to change my major. I actually majored in public relations in college — even though it wasn’t an official major where I went to school (Albion College).  Albion offered a program called Individually Designed Major, and if you could convince two professors and the Academic Dean that the course of study you put together actually made sense, it was likely to be approved.  In my case, I had a concentration of communications classes, business, English and took two advertising classes at Michigan State University — which was about an hour away. I guess you could say by the time I graduated from college I was quite sure what I wanted to do!

3. Okay, let’s move on. In January of this year you published, “I’m Not Done,” a well-received book on ageism in the workplace. What compelled you to write the book?

I felt strongly that ageism in the workplace was a topic that needed to be raised and talked about.  It is often said that ageism is the last socially acceptable form of discrimination and I have definitely seen  — and even felt — plenty of it in my almost four decades in the business.  But as sure as I am that ageism in the business world is a problem, I am just as sure that much of the ageist things people say and do come from a place of unconscious bias, rather than an intention to inflect harm.  In many ways I am an eternal optimist, so I hoped that by writing my book I could both start and stoke a healthy discussion about ageism — something that has for too long been ignored.

4. In March, it was announced that you’ve been appointed head of client impact at ICF Next, a global marketing agency based in Chicago. Please describe your roll with the agency. How has your four-decade career prepared you for this position?

My role as Head of Client Impact (basically a Chief Client Officer) at ICF Next means that it is my job to make sure that all of our clients are getting our very best.  Our very best people, our best ideas, our best quality and our best service.  In order to be effective at doing that, I need to first make sure that our people have the resources and coaching that they need to be successful.  I also need to know what good work looks like so I can build the relationships with all of our specialist talent to ensure that we deliver amazing work to our clients every single time.  And finally, I think it is vital to being successful in this role that I know the world that the client lives in — and I do, because I’ve been one.  I think my four decades has completely prepared me for this role because I have both been a big client, and served big clients; and having worked on both the PR and advertising side of the business, I think I am well positioned to understand the new world of agencies — which is neither traditional PR nor traditional advertising.  I like to tell young people that they are entering this business at the perfect time — they will be able to help us figure out what we call this new genre of agencies!

5. We’ll finish on the lighter side. The image of you on your LinkedIn profile shows you in an exotic locale. (Santorini?) What’s your favorite travel destination and why?

That is like asking a parent to pick his or her favorite child!  I simply cannot do it. The picture was indeed of me in Santorini, and I joke that the beauty of that island makes everyone look like a movie star.  Santorini is both classically beautiful and thriving. This summer, I was in Vietnam and Cambodia with my son, and I cannot get the people of Cambodia out of my head or my heart.  Cambodia is the polar opposite of Santorini from an economic health standpoint, but I loved them both for different reasons.  But if you really must ask me to chose one — it has to be Glen Arbor, Michigan, which is, and has been, the gathering place for my family for almost 50 years.  It is where my stress melts away and my happy memories accumulate.