They’re Back! More Fake Followers Follies for the PRDude

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

Hope my new followers are inspired by these words of wisdom from 19th century poet Thomas Moore. Courtesy of Good Morning Quote.com

Without question, fake news is a big topic these days, one addressed seemingly daily in print news articles, broadcast commentaries and presidential tweets.

And, to share my perspective, the PRDude issued a manifesto of sorts on fake news in a January 2017 post.

Rest assured, fake news more than likely won’t pass from the national lexicon any time soon. Well, I’ve had a similar perspective about what I’m referring to as “fake followers.”

As noted in this post from January of this year, I started receiving messages from WordPress announcing new followers — but followers with ponderously long and nonsensical email addresses.

Well, they’re back.

Over the past week, I’ve learned that these “people” now follow this blog:

  • creeduogeorgiannecf@outlook.com
  • thiesnylaquandae@outlook.com
  • montenegroiphungki@outlook.com
  • carlyleoshenikak@outlook.com

Visits to Google to ascertain something — anything — about the origins of these Outlook account holders yielded no rational results.

Since January, I’ve made no dramatic changes to the PRDude in terms of the subject of posts or frequency. And, none of these newly minted fans have commented on my thoughts.  (Well, not yet.)

So, why do I continue to get these alerts announcing obviously fake followers?

I have a theory: Russian hackers.

Yes, Russian hackers. Why? Well, because we tend to blame lots of stuff on these scurrilous scoundrels halfway around the world, so perhaps they are behind this covert scheme to pad my follower roster with bogus names.

Read this Fortune magazine article published today and you’ll learn that the U.S., U.K. and Australia issued new claims that the Russians are behind a new wave of massive online espionage and sabotage.

So, comrade, or whatever name you prefer: I’m on to you.

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A Post on Pinterest and Its Potential for PR

By Edward M. Bury, APR, aka The PRDude

Last week, The PRDude opened the door to you, kind followers, to a new online platform called Pinterest.   For the record, I learned about this resource, a place to “pin” images from websites or your browser and encourage dialogue, the old fashioned way: From a print newspaper article.

Much to my satisfaction, my request to become a Pinterest subscriber was approved.  I’m now an official Pinner, as we’re known.  I trust calling users “Pinheads” had too many derogatory connotations; plus, there’s a great song by The Ramones with the same name.

Don’t think too many fans of that seminal punk band are Pinners, but these days you never know. And, only one of the original Ramones is still with us,  and I have no way to reach him.  Perhaps I could pin a few  Ramones images and gauge the reaction.

Pinterest does have a Film, Music & Books category.  And, a fellow Pinner posted a picture of the Monkees, so there’s some precedent.  (Although, I don’t believe the Ramones copied any Monkees’ songs.)

But I digress.  Remember:  This blog is supposed to cover public relations.  So, I’ll concentrate future pins on that subject, the one that inspired this blog way back in September of 2009.

In my last post I posted a few generic “public relations”  images I found through a Google search: Two charts, a slogan on a T-shirt and a pair of dice with the headline: “Don’t leave your public relations to chance.” Of course, there’s lots more.

Don’t think these images will generate many comments or “likes,” especially since Pinterest does not yet have a Public Relations, Marketing or Communications category.  There is an Other category that has everything from a picture of an Almond Joy bar to one of a brown eyed man.

So the dilemma: What visually depicts public relations — a profession and a practice, one driven by strategy, built on research and effective communications, bound by adherence to ethics and so often totally misunderstood by the vast majority of people, including many who claim to be practitioners?

Does the Accredited in Public Relations logo fit the bill?  (Disclosure: I hold the APR and served for six years on the Universal Accreditation Board, the body that grants, administers and markets Accreditation.)

Or perhaps an image from  Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), like the Job Center  logo?  (One more disclosure: I’m a long-time PRSA member and retain membership in PRSA Chicago, my local chapter.)

I’ll try and report on any comments from my fellow Pinners. And, you, those reading this post: What are your thoughts? What images depict the public relations profession and practice?  Please partake at your pleasure.

 

 

 

My Burson-Marsteller Experience, Long Before “Googlegate”

By Edward M. Bury, APR, aka the PRDude

Most professions have some kind of licensing system, an accepted credential or prescribed checks and balances in place for fairly obvious reasons:  Being a “professional” in a particular discipline means you have the knowledge, skills, abilities and experience to do the job right.

This holds true for the medical professional who treats your skin rash, the auto mechanic professional who fixes your transmission, the culinary professional who prepares your $40 entree.

Same goes for the public relations professional who develops and executes communications programs that are based on research and driven by proven strategies to deliver measurable results.  Those who bill themselves as “public relations professionals” are expected to be experts in the practice of public relations.  There’s no licensing or prerequisites of any kind.

Last week, one of the world’s foremost public relations agencies — Burson-Marsteller — was charged with violating a few of the guiding, defining principles of public relations.   By now you’ve probably read the story: B-M was contracted by the folks at Facebook to take on one of its rivals for global online domination — Google — through a so-called “smear” campaign concerning user privacy issues.

In short: The agency reportedly pitched negative and erroneous stories about Google to big shot bloggers and traditional media, and they even offered to draft copy!  The effort is totally contrary to what many of us in public relations identify as being “professional” because the B-M team did not disclose the name of their client and true public relations is not structured around lies.

There are broad lapses, no, avoidance of ethical standards here.  And, the plot just thickened with news that B-M censored comments on the so-called “Googlegate” by removing negative posts on its Facebook page.

Disclaimer time: I hold the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR), am a member of the Universal Accreditation Board (the body that grants and administers the APR) and a member of the Public Relations Society of America.  I am aware of and steadfastly follow accepted ethical guidelines I learned through the APR program and are required by PRSA.

The Accreditation in Public Relations

B-M’s actions last week are a violent kick-in-the-shins to the public relations profession and the industry.  I’d ask, “What were they thinking?” but really don’t want to know the answer.

Now, to my B-M experience.

In the early 1980s, I lost my position in the public relations department at a local community college.  It was my first job in the industry, as I came out of journalism.  I answered a help wanted notice for an account position with the Chicago office of Burson-Marsteller, and was invited to interview; my mentor told me B-M was a top-notch national firm and to go out and sell myself.

This was truly a great opportunity, and I prepared my portfolio, dressed in my best dark suit and confidently dove head-first into the process.  First, I met with a nice man who was a vice president.  We met over lunch, where I did my best to point out my background at the legendary City News Bureau of Chicago and avoid doing something clumsy with a fork.

A few days later, I was invited to meet with other members of the account team.  Lots of other members of the account team.   Six, in fact.  All on one day.

I dutifully went from office to office, recounting my experience, asking relevant questions and responding to questions posed.  None of the interviews were confrontational, I recall.  I felt good, but tired and ready to go home.  But, there was one more person to speak to:  Another vice president, an attractive blond woman with impeccable grooming and a warm personality.

The lady executive and I exchanged questions and answers, and all was going well until she asked this:  “So how are you spending your day?”  “Well, I’m taking on some freelance writing assignments, and of course, I’m actively pursuing another full-time position. And, one more thing: I’ve been playing lots of guitar and trying to figure out Jimi Hendrix licks!  Just can’t grasp how he’s getting that tone,” I said.

She muttered something about “it must have been the drugs,” and I immediately ascertained that I perhaps should have withheld that last comment. Hey, I was being honest.  And, I was tired.  We concluded the interview.

A few days later, I called and learned that the position was offered to someone else.  B-M probably made the right decision by taking a pass on me. I had no agency experience and probably was too cavalier for big-time corporate PR back then. To me, “public relations” was writing news releases and pitching stories.  But, I did have a firm grasp of the truth and ethical behavior in communications.

The account managers who were behind “Googlegate” also were originally from the news industry:  An anchor from CNBC and one-time  political columnist.  Perhaps they didn’t know they were violating the rules, but I don’t think so.

One more thing: I still haven’t mastered Jimi Hendrix’s passionate playing, but really neither have too many other guitarists.  But I have both hands around the ethical practice of public relations.