More Random Thoughts on Public Relations & Life

Periodically, I like to just let the thoughts flow.  This is one of those days.

What’s a Placement Worth These Days?  Don’t Lie to Me.

There’s been some “spirited” discussion on two public relations LinkedIn groups.

One discussion centers on a “formula” for a contractual “pay-for-placement” publicity program.  It was initiated by a practitioner who operates a web-based service that is “the nation’s premier provider of copyright free content.”  The discussion has been going on for 14 days and to date has generated 145 replies, many by the originator and many over the top in terms of tone.  (Don’t these people have anything else to do? Why do they have to use all caps and multiple exclamation points?)  My perspective?  Any communications program built around media placements is “publicity” only and is not a strategic public relations program.  Pay-for- placement as a concept is ludicrous and an assault on the profession because it addresses only one aspect of public relations.  Advertising is pay-for-placement.

The other discussion topic centered on public relations and lying.  It included a brief survey.  This one did not generate nearly as many replies and the exchange was more reserved and scholarly.  Still, I found the general topic distasteful.  Lying violates ethical standards I support.  Even a “white lie” is a lie. It has no business in public relations.  Period.

Vox Populi is Alive and Well.

Those of us who studied Latin know the translation of vox populi:  “Voice of the people.”  Its origins are from Imperial Rome, I gather, but today it’s more akin to a man-on-the-street interview.  But back when the Empire was flourishing, it was a form of mass communication.  Often, news and information was posted in a public place for the citizens to absorb.

While strolling my Avondale/Logan Square neighborhood on this sunny, yet frosty, January day, I noticed several paper signs affixed to utility poles and adorning the windows of our hipster caffeine center, The New Wave Coffee Shop.  The messages promoted apartments for rent, guitar lessons from a local rocker, the January line up at local rock clubs and more.  One that really stood out: An area resident offered round-trip $5 rides for the auto-deprived to the local Trader Joe’s grocery.  (I applaud this person for their industriousness.)

It’s heartening to know that even in this era of Craigslist, social media and message boards, the most basic form of mass communication — a paper sign in a public place — still has believers.

Something Dim Beneath the Dim Job News.

Like all of us job-seekers, I was hoping for better news on the employment front. But Friday, Washington announced the economy shed 85,000 jobs in December.  This comes after relatively encouraging updated news that we added 4,000 jobs in November — a month when we reportedly lost 11,000 positions.

Continued job losses and minimal to no new job creation is disheartening.  What’s perhaps more disheartening is this projection:  More and more people have dropped out of the labor force and stopped looking for work.  In essence, they’ve given up. This is a sad development.

Since my job was eliminated just more than four months ago, I been busier than ever.  My days center on finding another great public relations position and include:

1. Networking, networking and more networking.
2. Taking on project assignments.
3. Learning more about social media and Web 2.0 applications.
4. Meeting colleagues and contacts for coffee.

This is a time of opportunity for me.  It’s a time for me to reinvent myself and be poised to charge ahead and make a difference.  Yes, it’s been tough. We’ve curtailed many expenses, and I haven’t had a real vacation since April.

Yet, I’m thriving. I’m energized. I’m ready for the next challenge in my life and my career.  If you’re listening: Bring it on!  If I can offer any advice or direction, please reply.  I will respond.

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An Average Day: Learning & Enlightenment

Today was a day filled with learning and enlightenment, encapsulated by two events that got me out of the home office and back to downtown Chicago.

The Morning.  A prominent online career company and prominent online educational institution hosted a career fair at a prominent downtown hotel.  I’ve never attended a career event of this type for a key reason:  Decision-makers in the public relations arena more than likely find talent through networking or very specific job postings.

Most of the exhibiting companies offered banking, sales or security jobs; not my industry. But, a very, very prominent Chicago-based advertising agency was listed as an exhibitor, which intrigued me.  And, the event was no-cost and an opportunity to network and learn.

Upon arrival, I encountered people of all types:  Those in tailored suits who clearly had been successful in the business world, and those in denims and sweatshirts, those still searching for a career path.  The mood was relatively upbeat, the organizers encouraging and supportive.

Learning the very, very prominent agency did not send representatives, I sat in on some eduction sessions.  At one entitled, “Building a Wardrobe That Works,” the moderator, an image consultant, asked me to the front to comment on my ensemble: Navy sport coat, dark khaki slacks, brown loafers, blue shirt and red and blue tie with a simple pattern. “What kind of work do you do?” she asked.  “I’m a public relations professional,” I answered.  “You’re dressed very appropriately for an interview in that industry,” she remarked. I liked here immediately.

I felt proud, and somewhat relieved.  Image is everything, to quote a popular campaign, and I’m glad my dress that day hit the mark.  Learned one more important fact from this nice lady: Always wait until the interviewer invites you to sit down before sitting down.  Makes sense.

The Afternoon. In my lifetime living in Chicago, I never stepped into the City Council chambers in City Hall. Today, I not only went inside, I got to speak!

The situation: I spoke before the Community Development Commission in favor of a local development company that bid on redeveloping a landmark manufacturing building in my Avondale/Logan Square neighborhood into apartments and an arts center.  Other members of the community — from those involved with local business groups to artists — spoke in favor of the request by the developer.

The issue will be voted on my the full City Council some day, and hopefully our community will have a prominent — but vastly under-utilized building put to productive use.

This request was one of 10 key agenda items this afternoon.   Champions for these other causes also had their respective turns at the microphone. I felt enlightened that the issue involving my community and nine others within Chicago generated so much passion and support. People took time out of their lives to spend a few hours making their voices heard.