What to Get for the Public Relations Professional This Holiday Season

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

These days, there’s many options to find that perfect gift for everyone on your holiday shopping list.

No doubt that some PR professionals have mustaches and imbibe in spirits. But the Whisker Dam may not be the right gift this holiday season.

No doubt that some PR professionals have mustaches and imbibe in spirits. But the Whisker Dam may not be the right gift this holiday season.

For example, the Redeye tabloid published here in Chicago recently featured a Holiday Gift Guide that included:

  • Handmade copper mustache guard: As described, this so-called Whisker Dam “fits over a pint glass, highball or mug to keep facial hair dry.” Since I no longer have a mustache, it’s not an item I expect to find under the Christmas tree this year.
  • LuMee case: A lighting device for your cell phone to “help your selfie-loving friend make like a Kardashian.” Well, my utilitarian Samsung Avant works just fine as is and I don’t know what it means to “make like a Kardashian,” nor do I care to learn.
  • Mobil Foodie Survival Kit: What gourmand wouldn’t love “this stack of 13 portable spices including sea salt, cayenne, curry and dill.” Personally, I prefer to have the chef season my meal when dining out.

But this blog is about public relations (well, most of the time) and I maintain that public relations professionals are perhaps better suited to more practical stuff, especially in these times of “false news” reports that lead to bad stuff happening to innocent people.

So in the spirit of giving, the PRDude offers these directives to fellow communicators. Think of the following as “holiday gifts” of sort.

Commitment. Stay committed to the public relations profession and make that known to the world. Proactively share accomplishments to demonstrate the value public relations has in today’s increasingly complex world.

Inspire. Help nurture the next generation of communicators by adhering to the highest standards of professionalism and conduct, like those noted in the PRSA Code of Ethics. Volunteer to serve on a PRSA or other industry organization.

Contest. Challenge and call out instances where the profession is bashed, demeaned unnecessarily or misinterpreted. Need an example? Here’s one: Make it clear that terrorist organizations practice propaganda, not public relations, in their communications.

Believe. Well, in Santa Claus, of course. But believe in the power of public relations to help contribute to the national dialogue, build relationships and improve society through honest, effective communications.

Hope these prove valuable “holiday gifts.”

If not, perhaps that Whisker Dam ain’t such a bad gift after all.




Yes, There Will Be a Holiday Party This Year

This Christmas — okay “holiday season” — will be the first time in my professional career that I will not attend an office/company party.  Well, in retrospect, I could throw myself a party, which is a pretty good idea after all.

No buffet lines. No sitting next to someone I don’t like or doesn’t like me. No disappointment at the paltry year-end bonus. No less-than-inspiring speech from the boss.

Let’s face it: Many holiday parties (or at least many I’ve attended) were long on food and drink, but short on spirit, giving, fellowship and camaraderie.  You know, the “real” reasons behind Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

Reflecting back to a simpler time in my life, there was one holiday party that stands out.  Not for lavish food and drink at a tony restaurant or spectacular entertainment. This party had food, drink and entertainment; but it also had spirit, giving, fellowship and camaraderie.

Here’s the situation. In the mid 1990s, I worked as the marketing and public relations guy for a re-manufacturer of office furniture here in Chicago. It was an interesting concept: Take used systems furniture (the components of an office cubicle) and give the stuff a second lease on life through new paint and fabric. I did it all, from media relations to direct mail.  Even sold a few file cabinets and systems.

The company was based in a rambling old brick factory building just south of downtown.  Around 90 people worked there: the office staff — sales reps and administration, and the factory staff — the installers, painters and upholsterers. This was primarily a blue-collar bunch, especially the factory staff, which was mainly Black and Hispanic.

The company ran on thin margins, and there was little in the budget for extravagances like a holiday party. But I had a secret fund that let us hold a party that year, one that I believe really did make things a little better for the staff.

My holiday fund was built not on cash, but on barter scrip.  Through our affiliation with a reciprocal trade association (better known as a barter exchange) we traded furniture for scrip and built an account. I used it to get us a banquet room at a moderate, casual restaurant west of the factory.  They provided decent food and drink, and a DJ — also secured with “barter bucks” — provided the entertainment.

For a few hours that December evening, the staff ate, drank, laughed and danced, engulfed in as true a holiday spirit as I’ve experienced. Inhibitions were broken down.  These people didn’t “mingle,” they engaged each other, more so than at any office party I attended before or since.   There was honest, unbridled joy in the room. True laughter. Even the crotchety boss looked like he had a good time.

Many of my co-workers at this company didn’t expect much more than a job.  Hopefully that Christmas, they got a little something besides a paycheck.  Hopefully, they came away feeling as fulfilled as I did.