Perhaps Ad Age Should Stick to Covering Advertising

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

On this last day of September, the month that the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) makes a concerted effort to promote ethical practices among members, I was inspired by an article that was published online by Ad Age, a leading industry publication that (you guessed it) primarily covers the advertising business.

Here’s what drove me, a long-standing member of PRSA, to share the following thoughts.

The article, “PR Implosions: How Four Marketers Answered Calamity,” certainly has merits.  Four authors each address a recent product or service crisis and offer analysis on how the crisis was managed.

Image courtesy of the Public Relations Society of America.

You’re probably familiar with each crisis, as the companies profiled are global brands and the resulting breakdown from each crisis generated lots of news coverage and commentary; so there’s no need for an extensive recap.

What stood out to me was — and I’ve addressed this topic before — how “public relations” was given the focus of the “crisis” problem. This is exemplified in the headline and in lines like “the onslaught of PR disasters” and “Talk about a PR blunder.”

Shout out to the Ad Age copy editor and the authors whose writing I just referenced: “Public relations” practices did not initiate these crisis situations!  “Public relations” did not cause electronic devises to malfunction, and “pubic relations” did not forcibly remove a man from an airliner. These were design and manufacturing errors, human and management blunders.  When will those who write about public relations get that concept right?

Okay, where does ethics enter the discussion here?

One principle of the PRSA Code Provisions of Conduct is Enhancing the Profession.  Under the list of guidelines for this principle is this:

  • Acknowledge that there is an obligation to protect and enhance the profession.

So, as a public relations professional who takes what I do seriously, it’s my ethical responsibility to call out situations where the practice of public relations is wrongly equated with failures in manufacturing, service, production or operations.

There, I feel better.

From October 8 to 10, PRSA will hold its 2017 International Conference in Boston. Unfortunately, I can’t attend. But I hope those in attendance debate the topic addressed here.

 

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In This Era of Fake News, Let’s Remember the Impact of Fake PR

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

Long before the idea of “fake news” — otherwise known as “lies,” “falsehoods,” “misinformation” or “conjecture” — became part of the national lexicon, there was a mistrust by some regarding information disseminated by traditional print and broadcast media sources.

Lots of things, including public relations practices, are “fake” these days. Image courtesy of Slate.

Now, of course, with digital communications fully ensconced in modern society and the national conversion embroiled in mistrust of who’s ever on the other side, “fake news” is part of the new normal and more than likely will be forever.

This prompted me to ponder communications from another perspective, that being, communications originating from public relations professionals. And, in this case, I employ the “professionals” qualifier with trepidation related to some.

Perhaps it’s time to address the “fake” premise in another way — that being “fake PR.”

Actually, there’s a communications company based in Berlin, Germany named Fake PR.  Not sure why this name was selected, but according to the company’s website, it maintains an impressive client base and lists 14 services under the public relations category.

And, in researching this post, I found a few articles on the subject, including this well-crafted piece published earlier this year by Forbes.

So, what exactly constitutes providers of “fake PR” services? Here, in totally random order, are some qualifiers to consider:

  • Void of strategic direction and use of research.
  • Reliant on vanity metrics for demonstrating progress or success.
  • Failure to recognize the evolution and growth of strategic public relations in the 21st century.
  • Focused primarily or entirely on media relations and publicity.
  • Violation of or lack of awareness for established ethical standards.
  • Absence of any formal or voluntary education in public relations or communications within the account team.
  • Not comprehending the difference between public relations and marketing or advertising.
  • Distribution of news releases, social media posts and web content that lack news value or are erroneous.
  • Failure to recognize that public relations professionals provide strategic counsel that transcends the perfunctory, specifically media relations.
  • And, equating public relations with propaganda.

These thoughts hopefully will inspire others to comprehend the idea of “fake PR” and continue the dialogue.

Now, it’s your turn: What can you add to this discussion?

* * *

The PRDude has tackled this subject before. Here are a few posts to revisit:

 

 

 

Public Relations and the Sunday Comics: A Perspective

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

Sometimes inspiration comes from the most unlikely places. This is true in many disciplines — the creative and culinary arts, business, architecture.

So, today, let me present the inspiration for this post, one that’s quite unconventional: Between public relations and the Sunday comics.

Please direct your attention to the image below, the introductory panel taken from the “Mister Boffo” strip published in the color comics section of many fine newspapers across the nation. I read the strip in the August 28 edition of the Chicago Tribune.

Mr Boffo

The source for the image above: “Mister Boffo,” produced by Joe Martin, a very talented artist and commentator on modern culture.

Of course, those of us who practice effective, ethical public relations don’t follow “rules,” per se. We adhere to principals and, if one is a member of the Public Relations Society of America, are bound a Code of Ethics.

But I am inspired by the thought on public relations presented by “Mister Boffo” creator Joe Martin, a talented artist and funny guy. (And, in full disclosure: I read “Mister Boffo” daily.)

The inspiration: Sometimes those of us in the public relations industry — and probably many others — take the profession way, way too seriously. In today’s world, sometimes it’s productive to step back and recognize that ideals that guide our profession can have a much lighter side to the public at large.

Frankly, I’m hoping comic strip hero Mister Boffo and his “wonder dog” Weederman offer future comments on public relations. Wonder what he has in mind for Rule Number 2?

A Q & A Conversation with Nick Kalm of Reputation Partners Public Relations

By Edward M. Bury, APR, aka The PRDude

Last month, The PRDude published a post that chronicled one of the highlights of his long (and hopefully influential and distinguished) career: Being featured in a question-and-answer blog published by a fellow blogger, public relations pro and best of all — fellow dude.

Here, I take the role as the guy — make that “dude” — posing the questions. My interview subject is Nick Kalm, founder and president of the Chicago-based Reputation Partners Public Relations, a boutique firm that, well, here’s what I harvested from their web site:  “At Reputation Partners, we are trusted corporate reputation consultants who earn our clients’ trust by providing effective counsel, delivering the highest quality work and generating meaningful results.”

The agency just celebrated its 10th anniversary, quite an accomplishment for any business in these ever-changing times. Here’s an edited version of my conversation with Mr. Kalm.pic-nick

1.  Public relations can be a stressful way to make a living and is not for everyone. What compelled you to pursue public relations as a career?

I kind of backed into it at first.  I was a political science major in college, and my career goal was to work in Washington for a Congressman or Senator. When I couldn’t find a job in Washington, I returned to the New York City area and found a job in public relations working in the pharmaceutical industry. There really are a lot of similarities between public relations and working for the government.  You have to reach a broad swath of the public and try to convince them to be in favor of something or against it.

2.  After a very successful career at the nation’s largest independent public relations firm (Edelman), you decided to launch your own firm. What three reasons (or more, or less) prompted that decision?

At Edelman, I had a great career working on behalf of some very large multi-national public and private firms.  I attended an event for entrepreneurs and was encouraged to start my own firm. I was 41 years old at the time, and said to myself, “If not now, when?”  I knew I could always go back to the agency or corporate world. But, so far it’s turned out great.

3.  Say I’m seeking PR counsel. Why would I select Reputation Partners over the firm down the street?

Clients go to big PR firms because they need strategic thinking and the depth and breath of experience those firms can offer.  You can get that from Reputation Partners, but at a much more cost-effective rate.  We provide the same level of services and are focused on delivering the same kind of results. We provide all of our clients with senior-level management attention.Reputation Partners

4.  The PRDude has been championing the practice of effective and ethical public relations. Do you believe our profession needs to do a better job of promoting good PR versus hucksterism?

It’s a great question. I think there are many different kinds of public relations practices.  Not to put what we do on a pedestal, but there are practitioners out there who aren’t as ethical or of the same level of quality.  There are a number of slippery characters in the business, and they’re dragging down the entire profession.  We’re not defense attorneys.  Companies don’t have a right to PR counsel.  There are some entities that should not be represented by public relations firms for ethical reasons. I see this happening at big and small firms alike: They tell the client what the want to hear and promise results they can’t deliver.

5.  Back in the day, there were lots of “PR legends,” men (and some women) who pioneered the practice. Who’s at the forefront of public relations today?

They really are few and far between.  Earlier you mentioned Edelman.  I think Richard Edelman is one of the few intellectuals running a major PR firm.  I can’t think of anyone else who comes close.  Ours is an industry that suffers from a big perception problem.  I think there are few programs on college campuses that focus on public relations. Some colleges, of course are doing a good job preparing students for careers in public relations.  We work in a very important profession that impacts people in their day-to-day lives in a very meaningful way.

Do you have questions for Mr. Kalm?  Or The PRDude?  Pose early and often.