What to Get for the Public Relations Professional This Holiday Season

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

These days, there’s many options to find that perfect gift for everyone on your holiday shopping list.

No doubt that some PR professionals have mustaches and imbibe in spirits. But the Whisker Dam may not be the right gift this holiday season.

No doubt that some PR professionals have mustaches and imbibe in spirits. But the Whisker Dam may not be the right gift this holiday season.

For example, the Redeye tabloid published here in Chicago recently featured a Holiday Gift Guide that included:

  • Handmade copper mustache guard: As described, this so-called Whisker Dam “fits over a pint glass, highball or mug to keep facial hair dry.” Since I no longer have a mustache, it’s not an item I expect to find under the Christmas tree this year.
  • LuMee case: A lighting device for your cell phone to “help your selfie-loving friend make like a Kardashian.” Well, my utilitarian Samsung Avant works just fine as is and I don’t know what it means to “make like a Kardashian,” nor do I care to learn.
  • Mobil Foodie Survival Kit: What gourmand wouldn’t love “this stack of 13 portable spices including sea salt, cayenne, curry and dill.” Personally, I prefer to have the chef season my meal when dining out.

But this blog is about public relations (well, most of the time) and I maintain that public relations professionals are perhaps better suited to more practical stuff, especially in these times of “false news” reports that lead to bad stuff happening to innocent people.

So in the spirit of giving, the PRDude offers these directives to fellow communicators. Think of the following as “holiday gifts” of sort.

Commitment. Stay committed to the public relations profession and make that known to the world. Proactively share accomplishments to demonstrate the value public relations has in today’s increasingly complex world.

Inspire. Help nurture the next generation of communicators by adhering to the highest standards of professionalism and conduct, like those noted in the PRSA Code of Ethics. Volunteer to serve on a PRSA or other industry organization.

Contest. Challenge and call out instances where the profession is bashed, demeaned unnecessarily or misinterpreted. Need an example? Here’s one: Make it clear that terrorist organizations practice propaganda, not public relations, in their communications.

Believe. Well, in Santa Claus, of course. But believe in the power of public relations to help contribute to the national dialogue, build relationships and improve society through honest, effective communications.

Hope these prove valuable “holiday gifts.”

If not, perhaps that Whisker Dam ain’t such a bad gift after all.

 

 

 

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On This Last Day of April, Thoughts on Participation on the Universal Accreditation Board

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

Cold, bleak and rainy here in Chicago, this last day of April. Perfect conditions to take on lots of productive tasks indoors, like publishing a post.

But what topic?

Ah, April is Accreditation month, the 30 days when many in the profession charge forward to promote the value behind the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credential.

Well, The PRDude has commented on Accreditation quite extensively, including in past Aprils, as noted in this post from April of 2014.

tactics_large_bannerAnd, I had an article published in PRSA Tactics in April of 2010 on APR mentoring best practices from Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) chapters around the nation.

But, this space hasn’t shared enough thoughts on the board that administers, markets and confers the APR, the APR+M for military public affairs officers and the new Certificate for Principles in Public Relations for college graduates.

I’m referring to the Universal Accreditation Board (UAB), the appointed body of Accredited members from eight public relations organizations, including PRSA, of which I’m a member.

Source: The Universal Accreditation Board web site.

Source: The Universal Accreditation Board web site.

From 2006 to 2011, I served as a member of the UAB. To say is was an honor is an understatement. The same goes for how my experience on the UAB elevated me personally and professionally.

All self-deprecation aside, I was kind of  a PR mutt when I was appointed to the UAB. I earned Accreditation in 2004, and had served on the newly formed PRSA Accreditation Marketing Committee (of which I later chaired.) During my many years at agencies and with an association, I had not been and active participant — much less a volunteer — in the public relations profession.

For the record, I was not a “joiner,” unless one would count being a Chicago Cubs fan and beer aficionado.

Serving on the UAB elevated me as a business communicator because I got to actively participate and make decisions on something I cared about and something I believed in. At each meeting, I had to hold my own with a body comprised of smart, experienced PR strategists from academic, agency, military and non-profit disciplines.

Frankly, during my first block of meetings held at PRSA headquarters on Maiden Lane in New York, I was a little intimidated. Hey, I was the new guy and lacked the pedigree of most — okay, perhaps all — of my colleagues!

Soon I became acclimated to procedures, and after a while, understood the acronyms that often surfaced in Board meetings. (KSAs — yes, the knowledge, skills and abilities tested in the CBE, the Computer Based Exam.) And, I contributed, first conducting an audit of the old UAB website, then co-chairing the MarCom (marketing communications) work group.

Perhaps the most lasting reward from my UAB service: The bonds and friendships I forged with many colleagues, many who remain my friends still.

From another perspective, that’s what public relations is all about: Building mutually beneficial relationships.

 

 

 

 

September is PRSA Ethics Month, But There’s More

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

Given the fact this blog is about public relations (well, most of the time) and published by a guy who holds the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credential and writes under the PRDude moniker, I’ll bet you think the focus of today’s post (given the title) is on PRSA Ethics Month.

Well, you’re right.

Sort of.

prsa_logoThat’s because other organizations have joined the Public Relations Society of America in dedicating a month to focus the spotlight on ethics.

Want some examples? Here’s what a quick Google search revealed.

  • The Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM) has designated September as Ethics Awareness Month, and its leadership encourages its 92 chapters to promote adherence to established standards for commercial property management.
  • The International City/County Management Association gets a head start on the ethics front, dedicating March Ethics Awareness Month for its membership, comprised of professional city, town, and county managers.
  • And, as reported in this English language newspaper fr0m the state of Jharkhand, India, the Tata Steel company celebrates ethics in July to commemorate the ethical standards of its founder.

    The team at Tata Steel.

    The team at Tata Steel holds an ethics celebration in July to honor its founder and the standards he established.

I’m sure a more aggressive search would reveal many other examples of organizations and companies that recognize the value of ethics today.

But in the spirit of PRSA Ethics Month, I challenge these entities to uphold to ethical standards all year round:

  • Elected Officials. Just think think of how much better our lives would be if every man and woman elected by voters to office would make decisions based on honesty and the public good, versus decisions driven by campaign contributions, party affiliation and political ideology.
  • Wall Street. Yes, banks, exchanges and brokerages are in the business of making money. As evidenced over the years, sometimes ethical standards are tossed out the window like confetti, and greed and more greed drives financial practices that bash the little person.
  • Everyone Online. That’s right. Every man, woman and child who communicates digitally should do so ethically and not cowardly, like the growing army of internet trolls masked by user name disguises.

Who or what organization/company/body would you add to this list?

Let me conclude this ethics-themed post with a link to the PRSA webpage that details accepted ethical standards for public relations professionals and a link to an Ethics Month Survey being undertaken by Marlene Neill, APR, PhD, a professor at Baylor University and a former colleague of mine on the Universal Accreditation Board.

Want more on ethics? Then visit this 2014 post featuring a “pop quiz” on ethics in public relations, then follow up with a companion post where the questions are “deconstructed.”

 

 

 

 

“Digital PR?” I Don’t Think So

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

Like many of us in the public relations profession, I subscribe to Help a Reporter Out (HARO), the online resource that provides those in the news media with a platform to enlist expert sources for their stories.

haro_90x78My goal: To identify media members seeking commentary on issues involving transportation, because that’s industry I work in at the moment. (An aside: Haven’t read any transportation-centered inquiries yet, but I’ll keep an eye out.)

Earlier this week, there was a public relations-related HARO message — one that caught my attention. The reporter was seeking insight on the use of “digital PR.”

That stopped me right in my tracks, and as an Accredited public relations professional who takes the profession seriously, I felt compelled to respond.

My message stated that there is no such thing as “digital PR.” There’s public relations — the communications practice — and there’s the use of digital resources as part of a strategic public relations program.

Apparently, there are practitioners who disagree with me, as I easily found online reports about “digital PR.” This commentary offered a definition:

Digital PR is all about combining traditional PR with content marketing, social media and search.

And, I found an agency that has “digital PR” in its name. However, I really can’t ascertain exactly what services this firm provides, because the content is in Italian.

Digital PR logoFinally, I identified a Florida marketing agency that has branded “digital PR” services. (NOTE: If the folks from this agency read my post, please check your website because the content under the “Born Digital” headline is clashing with the image of the hand holding the tablet.)

I could go on with examples, but here’s my concluding thoughts:

  • The public relations profession, which is based on building relationships through effective, ethical communications, will only get marginalized if those of us in the industry allow phrases like “digital PR” to become part of the lexicon.
  • Clients who enlist public relations professionals should be made aware that yes, digital communications has dramatically changed the playing field; but digital communications practices should be guided by the same principles and standards that guide “traditional” public relations.

Now it’s your turn: Is “digital PR” a separate management communications practice?

 

 

Is The 24-Hour News Cycle A Barrier to Earning Accreditation in Public Relations?

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

A few years ago, I asked a friend — a successful and very accomplished public relations agency vice president — why she hasn’t pursued earning the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credential.

In the agency world, is public relations really a 24-hour business?

In the agency world, is public relations really a 24-hour business?

“There’s just not enough time,” she said. “It’s not like the days when you were in the agency business. Clients expect us to be available any time of the day … and night.”

Ah, the agency business.

I left my last agency position in 1998. Public relations professionals (and the rest of the world) communicated through email and maintained web sites back then. But cell phones were just taking hold, social media as we know it wasn’t invented, and Google hadn’t even been launched.

If a client failed to reach you during business hours, the question or issue often had to wait until the next business day. As noted by my friend, that’s apparently not the case today, and indeed, it might be a road block to Accreditation for some.

In late December, 2014 PRSA President Joe Cohen, APR, published a post that outlined steps to strengthen the APR. One measure on the table:  A proposal to grant the credential to PR professionals who have 20 or more years of experience and “who have demonstrated a record of commitment to lifelong learning, and adherence to practicing the enduring principles of public relations.”

Glad this concept wasn't as big back when I was an agency guy.

Glad this concept wasn’t as big back when I was an agency guy.

These 20-year-plus professionals — from the agency arena, private sector or association/non-profit — would not have to take and pass the online Comprehensive Examination.

That’s a game-changer to me and the hundreds of other public relations practitioners who earned the credential since 2003. We had to go present and defend a PR plan based on the four-step process, complete the Readiness Review and ultimately, pass the Comprehensive Examination.

I trust an underlying factor to the proposal is to allow those who might not have the time to commit to the months of study the opportunity to join those Accredited members who are committed to the ethical practice of public relations, the profession and lifelong learning.

Clearly, something needs to be done to boost the numbers of professionals earning Accreditation and the status of the credential in today’s business communications landscape.  But I am not convinced that this proposal is the answer.

Will those who are “granted”Accreditation actually respect and recognize the value of the APR as much as those of us who earned it? Will they be champions and promote Accreditation to their peers? Is there even any research that shows there’s a demand by senior-level professionals to become Accredited?

Fortunately, the PRSA National Board of Directors drafted and approved these realistic, attainable measures to bolster the APR. The “20-year” proposal is just one of many suggested directives. I trust the debate will continue well into 2015, as it should.

Finally, a shout out (note the modern language) to my agency friend: I trust you’re billing clients for all of those after hours and weekend client tasks.

Certificate Great Step Forward for Public Relations Profession

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

In October, I received a letter offering some truly welcomed news for those of us who are serious about advancing the public relations profession.

College students can now complete a program that may offer advantages when seeking out that first job after graduation. That’s tremendous, but I’m hoping the program provides the inspiration for students to go even further in the study of public relations.

The Certificate in Principles of Public Relations was just initiated by the Universal Accreditation Board (UAB), the consortium of public relations organizations that confers the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) and the APR+M for military public affairs personnel.

Let me get the disclosure stuff out of the way: I served on the UAB, was on the Board during the early planning stages for the Certificate program (and the APR+M for that matter) and donated a few bucks to a fund needed to get the program started.

APR 50thThe letter I received regarding the Certificate — sent by my friend Susan Barnes, APR, Fellow PRSA, UAB Immediate Past Chair — stated that a “soft launch” proved successful. Of the 52 students who took the Certificate examination, 46 or 90%, passed.

A more robust effort is scheduled for fall of 2015.

But what’s truly exciting about the Certificate program is its potential to inspire future PR professionals to better grasp the foundations behind modern, strategic public relations and hopefully someday pursue the APR, the best post-graduate professional decision I ever made.

In this increasingly digitally-driven age, I’m concerned that young professionals may not get the same opportunities to develop into true strategists.

Not too many years ago, agency account staff and in-house communicators were basically generalists.  Everyone had to know how to craft messages, pitch stories, manage budgets and lots more.  Those dedicated to the profession eventually (well, hopefully) grasped the value behind public relations programs structured around sound strategies, research and measurable objectives.

Today, young professionals at large agencies are charged with a singular task, like monitoring Twitter feeds or handling media relations. I know: The decision to breed PR specialists may be necessary these days, especially in the big shops that represent global brands.

But is this practice good for the long-term growth and expansion of public relations and its practitioners? I think not.

* * *

Yes, The PRDude has written about the Universal Accreditation Board and Accreditation.

 

More Thoughts on Ethics and PR Pop Quiz Deconstructed

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

Don’t you wish all exams were this easy?

Well, hopefully, those who took last week’s quiz on ethics in public relations found my three questions to be within their grasp.  But before we get to the an analysis of the quiz, two thoughts on ethics.

Ethics_signTechnology — The Great Equalizer and Enabler

The ability to tweet, broadcast, post and publish in real time makes it easy and convenient to call out situations where ethics are breached. That goes for lapses in ethical standards in the public relations profession, as well as in just about every other industry. That’s good.

But from another perspective, the ability for anyone to tweet, broadcast, post and publish could create and certainly exacerbate situations where ethics are compromised.  The take away: An effective public relations program — including an up-to-date crisis communications plan — is essential to mitigate damage resulting from a breach of ethics.

Who’s in Charge of Managing Ethics?

The modern workplace is a much, much different place than it was not too long ago.  In the past, alleged ethics violations more than likely were handled by the boss or management team.  Today, some companies have employed an ethics officer, a senior staff person who becomes “the organization’s internal control point for ethics and improprieties allegations complaints and conflicts of interest,” according to the Society for Human Resource Management.

Conglomerates and publicly-traded entities can afford to pay — and certainly need — staff dedicated to ethics. But what about smaller businesses, local governments, start-up firms? Are there people with the right skill set who can “freelance” ethical counsel?

Now, back to last week’s questions:

1.  You’re the account manager for a new client landed by your agency.  During the first face-to-face meeting with the client, you want t0 capture everything that’s discussed; so you record the conversation — but don’t tell the client or your colleagues.

Is this a breach of PRSA ethics?  If so, which provision?

Answer: Yes, of course it is!  This surreptitious action violates open disclosure of information by being a deceptive practice.

2.  ABC Amalgamated is celebrating its 50th anniversary.  As the director of communications, one of your responsibilities is to order logo merchandise for use at anniversary events.  Your old friend, a fraternity brother, owns a promotional products company in town.  The friend offers your company a discount to get the order. You ask your superior if you could do business with your friend.

Are you violating any ethical standards?  If so, which one?

Answer: No. As long as the boss is aware of your relationship with the vendor, there’s nothing wrong with this type of transaction. There would be an issue if you got a kick back or gift.

3.  As head of business development, you’re asked by agency leaders to complete a new business RFP.  The prospective client is a manufacturer of an agricultural product that is under investigation by the EPA for being unsafe.  Before the RFP is due, you learn though a source at the EPA that the product will be approved.

Answer:  This is a tough one, but I say “yes.”  The way the information constitutes a potential conflict of interest and stifles open competition.

As this post is published, there’s just a few hours left in the month of September, PRSA Ethics Month.  Did you have to cope with any ethical challenges recently?