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.

 

 

 

 

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Three Places Vladimir Putin Should Visit in Washington, DC

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

Russian President Vladimir Putin at an informal summit of CIS heads of state at the Novo Ogaryovo residence. (Credit Image: © Sharifulin Valery/TASS via ZUMA Press)

In a presidency fraught with seismic announcements, actions and adventures, the proposed invitation made last week by President Donald Trump to meet in the nation’s capital with Russian President Vladimir Putin was certainly among the most noteworthy.Hey

After all, relations between the two nations has not at all been rosy, so to say, given charges of meddling related to the 2016 general election. And, it’s been reported that Mr. Putin often resorts to very, very hardball tactics to combat political challenges.

But then, hometown meetings between the leaders of these two world powers has happened before. In 1972, President Richard Nixon joined a summit soiree with General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev of the Communist Party of the then Soviet Union.

So, perhaps the U.S. is due to invite a Russian leader to the White House.

Plans for the Putin visit this fall are still being finalized, and it’s certainly speculative that the visit will materialize. Should he commit to the trip, I offer suggestions on three places to visit while in Washington — should time allow between formal dinners, closed-door meetings and other “regular” agenda items.

  1. The International Spy Museum: Okay, this is a no-brainer.  During our 2016 vacation, Susan and I included a stop at this multi-level building on F Street containing “the largest collection of international espionage artifacts ever placed on public display.” Who knows: Perhaps Mr. Putin, a 16-year KGB employee, already has visited the museum.  Better yet, maybe some of the stuff on display was even used by Mr. Putin. Maybe he’ll even add personal stuff to the collection.
  2.  The Lincoln Memorial: Yes, there are lots and lots of compelling monuments, memorials and bronzed men on horseback on public display throughout Washington. But I would highly recommend that Mr. Putin stop by the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall and read these words above the gigantic seated marble figure of the 16th president. “In this temple, as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the Union, the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever.” In case Mr. Putin is not a student of history, the United States remains a union and a democracy. It will remain one forever, even if foreign powers attempt to surreptitiously alter elections.
  3.  The Big Hunt: International travel and formal meetings can take their toll. Mr. Putin may want to chill out with an adult beverage after the rounds of ceremony, news conferences and pomp and circumstance.  My suggestion: Stop by The Big Hunt, an unabashed dive bar and restaurant on Connecticut Avenue in DuPont Circle. I visit this establishment whenever I’m in the District because the Big Hunt is raucous and real, beers are plentiful and cheap and the conversation among patrons stimulating. I’m sure the locals would welcome a discussion with Mr. Putin over a glass of vodka. Hey, maybe he’d even buy a round!

Assuredly, I’m not an expert on all the most memorable, fascinating and cool places to visit in the District — although I have visited there at least 10 times over my lifetime. In fact, I published a retrospective piece inspired during my visit in January of this year and this travelogue post from the spring of 2016.

My plans call for a return visit to Washington in January of 2019. Wonder if the town — or the nation or the world — will change should the Russian leader, indeed, arrive this fall and leave his mark on Washington.

Now, it’s your turn: What venues in the District would you recommend?

 

 

 

 

 

Rob Goldstone, Ethics and Public Relations

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

Updates continue from news sources world wide regarding the recent disclosure regarding Donald Trump, Jr. and his meeting in June of 2016 with an attorney reportedly tied to the Kremlin.

This report published earlier today from Reuters provides the President’s comments on this (as it’s known in the industry) “developing story.”

We’ll let the global news organizations continue their respective investigation.

Rob Goldstone. Photo courtesy of dailyentertainmentnews.com

In this space, we’ll put some analysis toward the actions of Rob Goldstone, the celebrity publicist who initiated the meeting between Mr. Trump, Jr., his brother in law Jared Kushner, and one-time Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

A July 11 report from the New York Times provides an account of the email exchange, which Mr. Trump, Jr. shared with the world yesterday.

Upon reading the initial email message from Mr. Goldstone, those of us dedicated to the practice of ethical public relations had to share a collective “what the hell is he doing?” thought.

This passage from the June 3, 2016 email sent by Mr. Goldstone violates values and standards of conduct established to elevate public relations beyond propaganda and hucksterism:

“The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.”

Read this part again: “…official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary…”

Poor grammar and run-on sentence aside, this sinister communication is plain wrong for the founder of a New York-based communications firm and a person one would think would be removed from this kind of unsubstantiated messaging.

Mr. Goldstone opened the door violations of perhaps four Provisions of Conduct set by the Public Relations Society of America:

  • Disclosure of Information
  • Safeguarding Confidences
  • Conflicts of Interest
  • Enhancing the Profession

Review these PRSA provisions and share your thoughts on Mr. Goldstone’s communications practices — practices that may have had an impact on the 2016 presidential election.

And, if you’d like to pose a question or offer a comment to Mr. Goldstone about his actions, his firm’s website includes his contact information.

 

“Build-A-Wall Burger” Fiasco Perhaps Opening Salvo on What’s to Come

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

Let’s face it: It’s challenging to keep up with national news today, even with the ability for anyone with new technology (think smart phone, tablet) or even old technology (television, radio) to absorb and comprehend what’s happening in this increasingly crazy world of 2017.

And, for this conversation, I’m referring to “real news,” not the so-called “fake news,” which I addressed in a post earlier this month, or the newfangled type of communication based on “alternative facts.

build-wall-burger

This image, courtesy of the Channel 7 online report, provides a graphic depiction of the menu item in question and written description of how patrons could order the now-gone “Build-A-Wall” burger.

Last week, while driving in my now vintage Toyota Camry, I head a report on the radio, a decidedly old form of communication, about a northwest suburban Chicago restaurant/night club that generated negative exposure by doing something totally uncalled for, insensitive and plain stupid.

And, you guessed it: The news was related to something happening that has an impact on our nation.

As detailed in this ABC Channel 7 television story, Durty Nellie’s in the Chicago suburbs of Palatine offered patrons the option to purchase a “Build-A-Wall Burger,” clearly a not-so-clever marketing initiative designed to play off the Trump administration’s proposal to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

Along with stacking 4 ounce hamburger patties, patrons could top off the sandwich with “some amazing Mexican ingredients!”

Really?

Not sure if this menu option — now dropped — was a hit with the folks who patronize Durty Nellie’s. I am sure that this calculated attempt to sell hamburgers through a correlation to an exceptionally polarizing international issue is representative of something wrong with society today: Take advantage of what makes headlines in order to make a profit, regardless of who might be affected.

My point here: If a modest, but quite successful local establishment (Durty Nellies has been in existence for several years according to my memory) made news with a lamebrained promotion, what kind of morally and politically incorrect messages can we expect in the future from other businesses across this great nation?

 

 

Donald Trump and Public Relations

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

Now that many people in this great nation have collectively has taken a deep breath, we can collectively accept the fact that Donald J. Trump was elected president of the United States on November 8, 2016, in what will be remembered as one of the truly astonishing election upsets in the nation’s history.

trump-website-image

Credit: Photo was borrowed from the official website for the Trump campaign. This blog sincerely appreciates the opportunity to include this graphic in today’s post.

Still, many of us will find it hard — perhaps excruciatingly hard — to come to the realization of a Trump administration. But, the democratic process was followed, and Mr. Trump will be inaugurated on January 20, 2017.

Another thing is certain: Prognosticators, pundits and pollsters will grapple for the unforeseeable future about how candidate Trump, a political neophyte and billionaire businessman catapulted to stardom via reality television, beat an opponent with some 40 years of political savvy, including terms as a U.S. Senator and Secretary of State.

(Okay, we will not address the misgivings and faults regarding Hillary Clinton, perceived or substantiated, in this post as that subject is not germane to subject at hand.)

But here’s one theory I would like to quash and address right now: Mr. Trump did not win the presidency due to a masterful “public relations strategy,” as some in the media have asserted.

As stated in this September 2015 article published by Forbes, the author proclaims Mr. Trump’s campaign at the time had delivered “the proper public relations note” to reach its core audience. (For the record, I have no idea what defines a “public relations note.”)  And, others in public relations have contributed to the discussion by offering examples of the value behind some of Mr. Trump’s public relations tactics.

Hogwash, if you ask me. And, if I wanted to get into the gutter like so many these days, I would offer another descriptive term, one that rhymes with “dimwit.”

No, Mr. Trump and those within his campaign did not propagate sound, ethical public relations strategies or offer many — if any — viable tactics for those of us in the profession to absorb and use. The key reasons why:

  1. At times during the campaign and primary race, his rhetoric was based on fabricated facts.
  2. There was little to no effort to disclose where some of the information disseminated came from.

Want an example? Read this Chicago Tribune story from August of 2016 regarding a reported meeting by Mr. Trump with a “high ranking” Chicago police official. The topic was how the city can curtail violent crime in one week through tougher policing.

I do agree that Mr. Trump and his team did employ marketing strategies and tactics to leverage the brand he built through his real estate endeavors, television show and other business interests.  Well, perhaps Trump University should be kept off the list for now.

So how did Mr. Trump win?

That question will be debated for a long time, probably until the next presidential election; but Tuesday’s victory was not driven by public relations, at least not the public relations I practice.

Will 100 Million People Really Be Watching Tonight?

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

Another Monday night. But of course, not just any Monday night in America, or the world for that matter.

tn_combomag_header_logo-jpgYou know what I’m referring to: Tonight’s presidential debate, which the smart people who know lots more about elections and the media say will draw something like 100 million viewers.

All to watch Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump communicating to the American people and the world why she or he should be voted into the most powerful job in the world.

By now, the smart people say, many voting Americans already have made up their respective minds on who they will vote for on November 8.

So, I must ask: Why watch the debate? We can learn the candidate’s positions by visiting their respective websites.  And, for your convenience, here they are:

As for the rationale behind why so many people will comprise this proposed Super Bowl-sized television audience?  I have two:

  • Crash and Burn. Those in strong opposition to either candidate want to “be there” when the opposition nominee says something stupid, loses their composure or gets caught in a lie. There’s something about seeing it all live.
  • Morbid Curiosity. Hey, let’s face it. This is reality TV without those good-looking castaways surviving on an island and lots of beer and automobile commercials. We HAVE to watch the debates for the entertainment value.

As for me, I’m not sure.  Heck, yes I’m going to watch the debates, which start in around 30 minutes.

But, if things get boring, I might just switch on the Cubs vs. Pirates game.

And you dear readers: Will you watch tonight’s debate? Why or why not?

 

One Image, One Question: August 9, 2016

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

Way back in August of 1979, a scion of one of the most powerful and successful political families of the 20th century demonstrated the need to be prepared when put on the stage in search of the highest office in the land.

The scion: Then U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy, (D-Massachusetts), brother of a president and brother of senator who was running for president– both, as you know — assassinated.

Trump

Mr. Donald Trump, Republican candidate for president, do I have a question for you.

The situation: The Senator was being interviewed by CBS News reporter Roger Mudd on what should have been Kennedy’s chance to demonstrate why he deserved the Democratic nomination for president in the 1980 national elections. The interview took place in a safe and controlled environment: The Kennedy compound at Hyannis Port.

The question: “Why do you want to be president?”

The result: Senator Kennedy delivered a remarkably rambling, decidedly disconnected and certainly confusing response to Mudd’s simple question.

The outcome: Kennedy’s campaign was sunk. Sitting President Jimmy Carter was granted the Democratic nomination, but was trounced by Ronald Reagan.

(Read more from this online report, or view this video posted on YouTube.)

The relationship to the 2016 presidential race: Republican nominee Donald Trump, as you know, has been asked many questions since the campaign began last year, and unquestionably, he’s delivered some rambling, disconnected and confusing answers. But I’m not sure if Mr. Trump has been asked perhaps the most poignant question for any candidate running for president.

And, now for the question — pretty obvious I trust — and subject of today’s post:

Mr. Trump, why do you want to be president?

Throughout this often bizarre and contentious campaign, Mr. Trump has been asked a lot of questions, but I’ve not heard an interviewer pose the simple one above. Given his proclivity for bluster and bombast, I would guess Mr. Trump would not shrink and retreat in the manner as Senator Kennedy.

And, in the interest of fairness, I would pose the same question to Democrat Hillary Clinton. But I think we know what her answer would be.