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?

Think You Got a Grasp on PR Ethics? Take This Pop Quiz

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

Just like a structure is built upon a foundation, the practice of public relations is built upon a foundation, too.

It’s called ethics.

And, anyone who purports to provide public relations counsel should have a solid grasp of established ethical standards and guidelines.  What’s more, serious PR professionals should identify and call out those who violate the rules.

After all, without adherence to sound ethical principles, public relations devolves into hucksterism, or worse, propaganda.

PRSA_RGB_234781_altSo, how well do you know what’s within the boundaries of ethics in public relations today?  In recognition of PRSA Ethics Month, spend a few minutes taking this pop quiz courtesy of the PRDude.

I’ll provide the answers later. Or write a comment and share your thoughts.

If you need a refresher, read the current PRSA State of Professional Values and Provisions of Conduct.

And, for the record: I am a member of the Public Relations Society of America and a member of the Board of Directors of PRSA Chicago.  (What Provision does this statement fall under?)

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 ethics?  If so, which provision?

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?

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.

Does the PRSA provision of safeguarding confidences apply here?

These should be fairly easy for most of us in the industry, and it should be noted I figuratively pulled these scenarios out of thin air.

Want some more challenging ethics-themed questions? Take this challenging test prepared earlier this year by the Detroit PRSA Chapter.  And, another full disclosure: I didn’t get all 10 questions correct.

Want more on ethics?

Read this post from earlier this year on the question of ethics involving generations.

 

 

 

The Accreditation in Public Relations Credential: Still Has Value A Decade Later

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

Ten years ago this month, I returned from a wonderful Canadian fishing trip to find a large envelope on my desk at home.  It was confirmation that I satisfied the requirements to say I was among the best public relations practitioners in the nation.

Sounds lofty, perhaps haughty. But to me, it holds true.

APR certificateI’m referring to receiving my Certificate of Accreditation and a nice letter stating that I had passed the Comprehensive Examination, the last step before being granted the Accredited in Public Relations credential.

In the ensuing decade since that day in July of 2004, I’ve championed the APR every chance I can.  Next to getting the APR logo tattooed on my shoulder, I can’t think of what else I could do to promote the value behind earning Accreditation.

Over the past 10 years I’ve:

  • Served on the Universal Accreditation  Board for two six-year terms.
  • Helped develop and facilitate APR training courses as a Board member at PRSA Chicago.
  • Published many, many blogs — through this forum and others — promoting the positive impact Accreditation had on my career.
  • Participated in a 2006 podcast on Accreditation.
  • Promoted the credential at PRSA Chicago Chapter meetings.
  • Contributed to many online forums on the subject of Accreditation.
  • Bent the ear of just about anyone who would listen to this statement: “After I earned the APR, I transitioned from a tactician to a strategist.”

A key word in the items above is “earned.” Having the right to put those three letters after my name took a lot of effort, study, time and dedication.  At times I was frustrated — hey, I failed the Exam twice — with the process.

But I maintained a decade ago that earning Accreditation was the best professional achievement of my career.  I feel the same way today, a decade later.  I pursued Accreditation not because it was easy, but because it was hard.

I anticipate I’ll feel the same way a decade from now.

 

For Chrissake! It Was Holden Caulfield Who Created the Baseball Cap Worn Backwards Craze

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

As an Accredited public relations professional, I certainly understand the value of research — both primary and secondary.

So later, I will post a short survey to develop some primary research on a subject that has been screaming for analysis: Why do people (mostly young men, I believe) wear baseball caps backwards?

Yes, in all seriousness, I have pondered this question for decades.  I want to know who initiated this practice and why people continue to support it.

After all, a baseball cap has a nice brim designed to keep the sun out of your eyes. Why turn it backwards, especially if the cap has that unsightly adjustable strip on the back, making the “backwards” practice unattractive to the wearer?

Catcher oneBut I stumbled upon evidence that provided some insight.

Look at the depiction of anti-hero Holden Caulfield from the cover of J.D. Salinger’s American classic novel,  “The Catcher in the Rye.”  This Signet paperback book — which has a original price of 50 cents — features an artist’s interpretation of Holden, suitcase in hand on some street in The Village, wearing his red cap — with the brim turned backwards.

As Holden notes in Chapter 3, “I took off my coat and my tie and unbuttoned my shirt collar, and then I put on this hat that I’d bought in New York that morning.  It was a red hunting hat, with one of those very, very long peaks.  I saw it in the window of this sports sore when we got out to the subway, just after I noticed I’d lost all the goddam foils.  It only cost me a buck. The way I wore it, I swung the old peak way around to the back — very corny, I’ll admit but I liked it that way, I looked good in it that way.”Catcher two

Eureka! Some evidence, and from the disturbed mind of a fictional 16-year-old privileged kid from the Upper East Side.  Granted, Holden’s garment was a “hunting” hat and not a baseball cap.

Still the correlation makes sense: It had a brim and he wore it in an unconventional manner.

Now to the survey; please take a moment to complete what I maintain is the first and perhaps only survey regarding the “backwards” baseball cap practice.

I’ll share results soon.

By the way, on eBay, my vintage edition of “Catcher in the Rye” — the one featuring Holden wearing his “old peak way around to the back” hat — is worth $5.99!

To me, it’s priceless.

Before the beatniks, before the hippies, a fictional renegade named Holden Caulfield lived life — well 48 hours of it — his own way.  Including his preference of head gear.

Lessons Learned: One Year Later

By Edward M. Bury (aka The PRDude)

Tomorrow will be more than Monday, July 7, the start of the work week after the long Independence Day holiday.

At least for me.

Learning TwoIt’s the anniversary of my first year in my terrific new position handling public affairs for a major research university here in Chicago.  Working at an institution of higher learning, you might not be surprised to learn that I’ve learned quite a lot.

Here’s what stands out:

1. We Are Bound by the Quest for Knowledge. Chicago can certainly hold its own as a truly global city. The same goes for the university where I work.  Around one-third of the student body and faculty speak English as a second language.  Regardless, the focus on our campus is on learning, progressing and growing.  The atmosphere is supportive. The opportunities bound only by our drive and energies.  Language and customs so far haven’t come into play.

2. There are Nice, Cool People from Every Part of the World. Over Learningthe past year, I’ve made friends with smart people named Havan, Takanori and Moyin. They came to Chicago from parts of the world I’ve read about or gained insight from television, movies and online sources.  Their goal is to learn and experience life in the United States, in the City of Chicago. I’m proud to call them my friends, and I’m eager to share what I know about the city.

3.  I’ve Seen the Future of Communications and My Role In It.
And, frankly, the future is looking pretty good.  My role within our research unit involves around eight specific responsibilities.  Some skills, like website content development, social media management and how to plan large-scale event , I learned relatively recently. Others, like public relations strategies, project management and how to write effective, provocative copy, are skills I’ve built up over decades.  Collectively, my skill set is an ideal fit for our research unit or any small to medium-sized company or organization.  There will always be a market for communications professionals who can do a lot of things well.

What awaits in the next 12 months?

Watch this space and find out. As an Accredited PR professional, I’m bound to keep pace with the industry and learn.  And, I couldn’t think of a better place to do that than the place I’m at now.

Chilling With PR Peers: Skyline Awards & DePaul Graduate Showcase

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

Last week culminated in two outstanding events that featured some of the smartest, most engaging and fascinating people I know (or got to know).  At both events, I refreshed relationships with old colleagues and nurtured relationships with new ones.

I’m referring, as you may ascertain, to gatherings of fellow public relations professionals.

The similarities continue.

Both were held in cool venues, both had excellent food and beverage and both reinforced to me something about public relations and those of us who are in this business.  Want to know more?

Here are capsulized reports.

PRSA Chicago 2014 Skyline Awards.

The evening of Tuesday June 10 was a rainy one in Chicago. But that didn’t damper the enthusiasm of the more than 250 attendees at this annual awards gala and dinner. From the Grand Army of the Republic hall at the historic Chicago Cultural Center, the Chicago PR community met to recognize excellence, network and socialize. prsa chicago

My big takeaway: Collectively, PR professionals know how to work together and execute a tremendous event driven by volunteer time, energy and spirit.  (As a member of the PRSA Chicago Board, I played a small role in the event: I provided music for the Cocktail Hour.  No, not me on guitar and vocals, but cool modern and traditional jazz via CDs.)  A round of applause to all who made the evening a success, especially event co-chairs Lauren Brush and Sarah Siewert, who worked very hard and speaking of cool, were just that under pressure — even during those last minutes before the crowds arrived.

DePaul University Graduate e-Portfolio Showcase.

DePaulTwo days later, I was honored to attend the Graduate e-Portfolio Showcase sponsored by the DePaul University College of Communication.  Held on the rooftop deck of a vintage building that once housed a department store on State Street, the event provided an opportunity for 19 graduate students from the University’s Public Relations and Advertising program to present their creative work and projects in an informal setting to senior PR professionals.   For the record, I would have attended even if the agenda did not include hors d’oeuvres and an open bar because the invitation to participate came from Ron Culp, professional director of the program and a titan in Chicago’s public relations community.  (Full disclosure: Ron has re-posted a few PRDude blogs on his awesome Culpwrit blog, an outstanding resource for PR careers.)

My big takeaway: As a guest, I was invited to meet with the graduates and view their online portfolios. Clearly, by the talent and work presented, academic institutions are developing people who clearly are ready to lead the communications industry in the future.  I met with eight young professionals who demonstrated the knowledge, skills and abilities demanded to excel and sculpt communications programs in our digitally-driven world.  Frankly, I’m glad I won’t have to compete with these men and women in the future.  Wish I had time to meet them all.

Tomorr0w, I’ll join Chapter Board members for a rare afternoon meeting. APR 50thI’ll learn about how well the Chapter did financially from the Skyline Awards, hear reports from committees and provide an update on the training program I’m leading to help members earn the Accredited in Public Relations credential.

If you haven’t guessed by now, I really enjoy the public relations profession and the people who are part of it.