Could It Really Be 40 Years?

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

That’s not a misprint.

Yes, I’ve been part of the communications industry in Chicago for 40 years this month.

I’ll spare the melancholy and pathos about “where did all the time go?” Like everyone on this earth, I live and breathe 24 hours each day, arguably some days spent more productively than others.

So where did it all begin?

city-news-bureauIf memory serves me correctly, on one day in late February of 1977 I reported to the City News Bureau of Chicago for my first day as a reporter. The job meant covering homicides, assaults, thefts, fires and other bad stuff taking place in the city back then. Unfortunately, lots of bad stuff continues to happen here.

It was my first job after graduating from Illinois State University with a degree in English and minor in Journalism. I wanted to be a reporter — and now I was a reporter!

Couldn't find an image from 1977, so this one, taken last year, will have to suffice.

Couldn’t find an image from 1977, so this one, taken last year, will have to suffice.

My first day, I recall, was spent with a more seasoned journalist at the old 18th District Chicago Police Department station on West Chicago Avenue, where we followed up on pending investigations. We also did some reporting related to the aftermath of the horrible CTA elevated train wreck that took place February 4 of that year; 11 people were killed.

In the 14,600 days (give or take a few) since my introduction to the real world I’ve held a few other positions; well, actually quite a few other positions.

I left journalism in the early 1980s to pursue an in-house communications position with a community college, my first exposure to the public relations arena. Although I consider myself a newsman at heart and relished those opportunities to cover a breaking story, my path for the remainder of my professional career has centered on public relations.

And that’s where it will stay.

But perhaps not for another 40 years.

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Going Back to School: What I Learned During Loyola University’s Career Week

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

One tangible benefit of my new position with a university here in Chicago is this: I’m surrounded by people — faculty, staff and students — and in an environment dedicated to learning.  In fact, I plan to apply for graduate school soon; but that’s the subject of another post, whether I’m accepted or not!

The subject of this post centers on education of sorts, more precisely my participation in sharing thoughts and insight with young people who will lead the communications industry in the decades to come. And, most importantly for this discussion, what I took away.

Primary_3colorOn Wednesday, I participated in a workshop of sorts called “Resumes that Pop & Interviews That Wow,” hosted by the Loyola University School of Communication. It was part of a Career Week initiative organized by the university, something I would have welcomed 30-plus years ago when I was finishing my education at Illinois State University.

(Hey, I have only good things to say about ISU, as noted in this two-part “travelogue” from July of 2014: Read part one. Read part two.)

The late afternoon event brought together public relations, advertising, marketing and other communications professionals and Loyola students for a resume review and informal mock job interview.

My one-on-one conversations were with two guys who hailed from metropolitan Chicago, and young ladies from places farther away: San Diego, Northern Ireland and China.  Each encounter was rewarding for me, and hopefully for the students.

I trust by the time we concluded, the students got a better understanding on how to craft a resume and pursue employment post-graduation.  So what did I learn?

Here are three takeaways:

1. Journalism as a Course of Study is Alive and Well. One of the students I met wanted to work as a journalist upon graduation, specifically in community journalism. Others had Loyolasome experience writing and editing collegiate and other print or online publications.  This was refreshing because society needs and should value the work of trained, impartial journalists. I’m gladdened to know the profession is still part of the curriculum at Loyola.

2. Industry Professionals Gladly Share the Wealth. It was refreshing and gratifying to be part of a contingent of some 25 communicators of varying degrees of experience — all willing to give two hours of their time to give future communicators advice on navigating the often challenging job market.  The eagerness to share reminded me of the ISU motto: “Gladly we learn and teach.”

3. The Future of Communications is Looking Pretty Good. All five of my student visitors were poised, smart and accomplished. All were receptive to my critiques and resume suggestions: Use a sans serif font, include a summary paragraph, cite measurable and quantifiable results. And, perhaps most importantly, all expressed a strong desire to someday soon make their respective mark as communicators.

As noted earlier, I plan to go back to being a student myself (part time, of course) one day soon. Rest assured, I’ll gladly learn … and teach if asked to do so.

 

It’s About Time I Got Back to Normal (Illinois, That Is), Part 1

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

Forty-one years ago this month, my life was changed forever just by taking a drive 130 miles south of Chicago.  The destination: Normal, Illinois, home of Illinois State University.

I had not been back to my alma mater in decades. So a few days ago, Susan and I packed up the Camry and visited ISU, downtown Normal, and the bigger town next door, Bloomington.

What follows is a photographic account of our two-plus days in and around the I-State campus in flat, but still beautiful, Central Illinois.  I’ll follow up soon with some thoughts and insight on my three and a half years in a place much different than Chicago.

Relaxing on the site of the old Walker Hall, my first address after leaving Chicago. There's a state-of-the-art health facility on the site now, and it even has a climbing wall. We never had a climbing wall!

Relaxing on the site of the old Walker Hall, my first address after leaving Chicago. There’s a state-of-the-art health facility on the site now, and it even has a climbing wall. We never had a climbing wall!

 

On the north end of the ISU quad, a way-cool green space that looked just as good as the last time I visited. I remembered all of the buildings, and even some of the trees. Glad to see the Bone Hand of Friendship was still there.

On the north end of the ISU quad, a way-cool green space that looked just as good as the last time I visited. I remembered all of the buildings, and even some of the trees. Glad to see the Bone Hand of Friendship was still there.

 

 

Downtown -- no, they call it Uptown now -- Normal has changed for the better. And the old theater is still there.

Downtown — no, they call it Uptown now — Normal has changed for the better. Planners installed a neat traffic circle and opened up areas to encourage pedestrian access.  And the old theater is still there.

 

One mainstay during my day was Mother Murphy's a real "head shop,' man. Never got to meet Mother, though.

One mainstay during my day was Mother Murphy’s, a real “head shop,’ man. I recall having visited once or twice. Never got to meet Mother, though.

 

Watterson Towers, the Darth Vader of dormitories. I spent two semester in one of those rooms. Reportedly, it's the tallest structure between Chicago and St. Louis.

Watterson Towers, the Darth Vader of dormitories. I spent two semester in one of those rooms. Reportedly, it’s the tallest structure between Chicago and St. Louis.

 

Downtown Bloomington, looking north. Much of the town looked pretty good, but one of my old haunts, Miller's Metropole was gone.

Downtown Bloomington, looking north. Much of the town looked pretty good, but one of my old haunts, Miller’s Metropole was gone.

 

Surprise! This new bike path, once a railroad right of way, was a welcomed diversion. We learned the bridge was called a "camelback" in order to provide clearance for locomotives.

Surprise! This new bike path, once a railroad right of way, was a welcomed diversion. We learned the bridge was called a “camelback” in order to provide clearance for locomotives.

 

So what the heck is this? It's a grain elevator, and it was across from our hotel. My first time seeing one up close.

So what the heck is this? It’s a grain elevator, and it was across from our hotel. My first time seeing one up close. But they’re all around ISU.

 

Couldn't resist this: I'll bet they have friends like Jim and jimmy, Tom and Tommy, Joe and Joey. You get the picture.

Couldn’t resist this: I’ll bet they have friends like Jim and Jimmy, Tom and Tommy, Joe and Joey. You get the picture.

 

As you can see, the corn crop is looking pretty good. When I went to ISU, I could ride my bike for 10 minutes and be in corn fields.

As you can see, the corn crop is looking pretty good. When I went to ISU, I could ride my bike for 10 minutes and be in corn fields.

What Happens When You Google People You Used to Know

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

We’ve all done it.

Surely you have at some time.  Right?

I’m referring to typing your name into that Google (or Yahoo, or Bing) search window and striking — perhaps with some consternation — the Enter key.

Those of us who have a robust digital footprint (or in other words online googlegeeks like me who publish and post stuff regularly) probably aren’t too surprised by the results.  And, for the record, I do check on the number of visits to this blog, reply to comments on my Facebook page, post retweets and monitor replies to LinkedIn posts.

But have you ever googled the name of a person you used to know?  Someone you haven’t had any connection with for years?  For decades?

Call it time wasting, call it curiosity, but I did that the other day.

ISU LogoI googled the names of two people I knew during my undergraduate years at Illinois State University.  I’ll keep their full names confidential, but here’s what I found:

1. Central Illinois Farm Guy: This fellow, who resided on the same dormitory floor as I did my freshman year, hailed from a farming community farther downstate and spent weekends at home.  We might have talked over a beer a few times, but we weren’t all that close.  Something about my hair and Chicago accent that might have rubbed him the wrong way.

The Google findings: He’s still living in the same town and, you guessed it, he’s a farmer — apparently a prosperous and successful one.  An online report noted he “raises corn and soybeans using minimum and no-till practices on his family farm,” and he’s involved with the Illinois Soybean Association Marketing Committee.

2. Girl From the Newspaper Staff:  Writing for the ISU Daily Vidette newspaper was one highlight of my years in college.  I took notice of one female colleague for two reasons:  She was smart and a good writer, and she was pretty damn good looking.  We talked at times about campus news and made small talk, but never dated.

The Google findings: Well, Newspaper Girl earned a Master’s degree from ISU then catapulted to success in academia. She earned a doctorate, served in top administration positions at several universities and “has extensive experience as a senior-level academic administrator and a national reputation in the area of higher education leadership.”  She’s now president of a college in the southeast and a blogger!

Chances are, I’ll never meet Farm Guy or Newspaper Girl face to face. But I’d like to.  I’d share a beer with Farm Guy and learn the strategies and tactics used to market agriculture.  I’d ask Newspaper Girl what prompted her to pursue academia and perhaps share blogging strategies.

Different people, different lives, but some things in common with me.  Like Farm Guy, I didn’t stray too far from home.  And, like Newspaper Girl, I found a way to make a living manipulating words and ideas.

Technology has, indeed, changed our lives, in some cases for the better.  Without technology, I’d probably never know the direction the lives of two people I knew long ago had taken.

Now, I wonder if they ever googled me?

 

How Would My Old Mustang Rate Against the 50th Anniversary Model?

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

A few months after graduating from Illinois State University, I made one of the biggest decisions of my life: The purchase of my first car.

Short on cash — well, more accurately, being a few dollars away from penniless and living with my parents — I fully realized my budget would only allow for the acquisition of a modest vehicle.  Very modest, as a matter of fact, since my weekly salary at the City News Bureau of Chicago (my first real post graduate job) was just $100 per week.

After a few months of commuting solely by public transit, I made the plunge in mid 1977 and purchased a yellow 1967 Ford Mustang from a guy in the old 64BRCH00_smallneighborhood. The price: $200.

It had some rust, the radio didn’t work, the tires were mismatched and it burned oil — lots of oil.  But it was mine, and after a rebuilt starter, some new used tires and an oil change, it ran fairly well, getting me to and from news assignments, visits to ISU and back home for more than a year.  I have no recall as to the number of miles the vehicle had.

Built to be an affordable sports coupe, the Mustang was a phenomenal success, selling more than 400,00 units in its first year.  It had a long, sloping hood, bucket seats, a floor shifter and a pretty spirited V-6 engine; it was  affordable and sexy, even for a poor young reporter.  My old ’67 gave me mobility, and in retrospect let me partake in history in some small way.  I drove it — rust, bad tires and no radio — for around a year, before I sold it to another guy in the old neighborhood for $100.

The 2015 Ford Mustang: Still sleek and sexy after all these years.

The 2015 Ford Mustang: Still sleek and sexy after all these years.

On December 5, Ford debuted the latest version of the so-called “pony” car, which now in its 50th year, can truly be called an American icon.

The new red  model in the picture here certainly has the same lines as my ’67 and still features the galloping mustang logo, still one of the coolest and most recognizable ever for car.

Don’t think my Mustang would be able to keep pace with this modern beauty, which might have the optional 5.0-liter V8, 420 horsepower engine.  Still, if you offered me the keys to one or the other, I probably would pick my old ’67.

There’s something about your first that sticks with you a long time. What was your first car?

My “Other” First Time

Two posts ago, I recounted a pivotal, make that breakthrough, occurrence in my life:  My debut experience earning money to communicate through writing.  (For the record, I got one hundred bucks from a veteran’s group for drafting an essay on something to do with attending college.  It’s a stretch, I know, but technically it’s accurate.)

Now, I’m going to chronicle my “other” first time:  My first “real” communications-related job after graduating college.  There’s a lesson here, one that especially holds true today — to me and lots of others in public relations and just about every other industry.  I’ll even provide a link to a post from a nationally-known public relations leader that puts it all into perspective.

But I digress.

After graduating from Illinois State University during the very cold winter of 1976-1977, I was stymied as to what to do.  I knew what I wanted to do: Become a reporter here in my native Chicago.   After all, I wrote columns and covered student government for the ISU student newspaper, the Vidette.  I was convinced I had the right stuff to be a reporter.  Chicago still had three daily newspapers at the time, the leading wire services maintained bureaus here and community newspapers were probably at their strongest.

There had to be a slot for me somewhere.  Attempts to break in with the dailies and community press proved futile, although I did secure an interview with the Associated Press, thanks to a referral from a guy who once worked there as a copy boy.  (Talk about a position that went the way of the horse and buggy! When did newspapers and wires stop using copy boys?)

Despondent, I scanned the help wanted ads for something — anything — related to communicating through words on paper.  I found an opportunity with one of the largest, best-know, most prestigious media companies in the world — Time-Life!  But, no, I was not given a staff editorial position with one of the magazines.  Didn’t even make it to the copy boy level.   I landed a part-time job making out-bound calls for Time-Life Libraries selling books like “Foilage Houseplants.”   To my credit, I sold two books.

However, an opportunity surfaced — thanks to a referral from the guy who was my scoutmaster.  He referred me to a man who staffed a small financial advertising agency office on LaSalle Street, our financial district.   That man could not hire me, but he reached out to a friend in the advertising department at the Chicago Tribune for advice.  The Trib guy recommended the City News Bureau of Chicago, the renowned local wire service.  I never heard of it, but I learned they hired kids with little to no journalism experience, worked you hard and paid $100 a week.

The Trib guy made a call, I secured an interview with the managing editor and flat out asked for the job — something my ad agency friend instructed me to do.  Imagine how I felt when I road the elevator down from the seventh floor of the 188 W. Randolph St. tower, knowing I got a job as a reporter.

I’ll save my City News stories — and there are a lot of them — for another day, another post.  The lesson, of course, was that I used my network to break into the news business.  When I thanked the ad guy and asked how I could repay his thoughtfulness, he replied: “Someday you’ll have the opportunity to help someone in the business world.  Repay the favor that way.”

I’ve kept that directive close to heart, and I hope I’ve done enough to help others get that proverbial foot in the door.   Last week, I read a post by Gerard Corbett, APR, Fellow PRSA,  the Secretary of the PRSA Board of Directors and CEO of Redphlag, a consulting firm in California.

Mr. Corbett pointed out that especially now, when jobs are scarce, public relations professionals should support each other through referrals and requests for advice and direction.  He states it very well in this blog posted on the PRSA blog site.

Let me conclude with this musical suggestion for any job seeker — whether it’s public relations or another industry — who’s feeling a little beat up.  It’s the gospel chestnut, “Keep on the Sunny Side,” performed by two titans of country music.