Will Public Relations Score on the Legal Weed Boom in Illinois?

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

New Year’s Day 2020 was a day highly anticipated by many of my fellow Illinoisans. A definite, palatable buzz permeated across the Land of Lincoln. In fact, when the smoke cleared, there was outright euphoria among segments of the population.

Okay, enough with the silly puns and intended hyperbole.

Mild temperatures and bright sunshine greeted the scores of cannabis customers New Year’s Day at a dispensary on Milwaukee Avenue in the Logan Square neighborhood.

You know what I’m referring to: On January 1, Illinois became the 11th state to allow the sale and recreational use of cannabis to people 21 years and older.  Leading up to legal weed day, there was the expected media frenzy of stories regarding the impact of state-sanctioned sale of a product that remains illegal on a federal level. Would cannabis vendors run out of product? Would a rush by recreational weed patrons result in a diminished supply of medical cannabis? How much revenue will legal weed bring to the state? Where can pot possessors puff legally? Would there be a mad rush to stock up?

As noted in the image at left, on January 1 marijuana connoisseurs of all types waited in long lines at dispensaries across the state to score flower, edibles and tincture without fear of prosecution.  And, the rush for the green stuff has continued in the ensuing days. The result: the projected shortfall of product has happened.

And, in the “this just in” department, this recent Chicago Tribune story reports city has set up “cannabis amnesty boxes” at our two major airports for passengers who want to discard weed products before boarding to avoid the prospect of violating federal law.  My advice: Get high before you fly!

So many questions, so much uncertainty, so much still to unfold surrounding the debut of recreational marijuana; but I have a question of my own.

Back in November of last year, I published a post asking fellow public relations professionals if they would provide counsel to e-cigarette manufacturers, companies that produce another legal smoking product. Given the landmark events of last week, let me follow up with a new query:

Would you represent a cannabis company as public relations counsel?

If first-week sales statewide is an indication, legal cannabis is on track to reach major highs … I mean heights.  Cannabis shops sold nearly $11 million worth of product over the past seven days, a figure that assuredly would have soared had there been more product available and more dispensaries open.  So, the industry is legitimate, at least from a financial perspective.

It would be prudent for PR firms now representing cannabis companies to jointly share strategies and tactics. It blows my mind (figuratively, of course) to contemplate how account teams learn more about the product.

So please: Don’t bogart your comments and pass opinions and insight. Or, whatever.

Thirty Days Have September, April, June … And Illinois (Finally) Has a Budget!

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

Well, I think so.

As of this writing, late afternoon on June 30, 2016, both houses of the Illinois legislature have agreed to a “stopgap” budget to fund education, transportation and human services here in my home state for the next six months. Now it needs the governor’s signature.

All is well in Springfield, Illinois, the seat of power in the Land of Lincoln, now that a half budget has been approved.

All is well in Springfield, Illinois, the seat of power in the Land of Lincoln, now that a half budget has been approved.

In case you haven’t been following this monumental story, the elected legislators of Illinois were supposed to have a budget passed on June 30 — of 2015.  As one could imagine, this lack of fiduciary responsibility has led to lots of challenges for the people who live and work here and the companies who do business here.

I’ll reserve any commentary on the factors behind this momentous lack of prudent governance. Other commentators have blasted first-term Governor Bruce Rauner and the leaders of the General Assembly for, in light of a better phrase, playing politics to an extreme perhaps never realized in modern governmental history.

I will comment and offer some public relations counsel on what needs to — or better yet, should — happen next.  As a service to the people of Illinois, let me propose this framework of a plan using the classic four-step public relations program concept.

  1. Define the Threat or Opportunity: Most plans address one or the other. Illinois today faces both. Threat: Continued loss of stature, reputation, people, businesses and revenues. Opportunity: To demonstrate to the nation and world that even dysfunctional governments can change.
  2. Conduct Research: This should be fairly straightforward: Calculate how much the state has lost over the past 365 days (note topics in “threat” from #1 above) and what value can be gained through sound governance.
  3. Communicate: Issue regular — perhaps daily — messages on how the government is working to do what it’s supposed to do: Exercise executive authority fairly and justly to the benefit of all its citizens.
  4. Evaluate and Make Revisions: One target date to consider is November 8. That’s Election Day in Illinois and nationwide. You know what I’m referring to.

Yes, this is simplistic, and I strongly doubt that the elected officials across the state will take notice.

But Illinois has only one direction to go. And, hey, legislators are half-way to the finish line.

NOTE: As a disclosure, I work for a state university; I wrote this post on my own time. My comments are my own.

The Service of Self Alone: A Song for the Times

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

Yesterday, the citizens of Illinois (including this citizen) voted in a primary election for important statewide offices, including the office of governor.  I won’t comment on the nominees from the two major parties, an incumbent populist who has a long career in public service and a political newcomer who made a fortune in the venture capital business.

I trust both have good intentions, and I believe both want to do what they Illinoisbelieve is needed to help Illinois rebound.

In listening to acceptance speeches last night, this was a common thread: Illinois needs jobs. The unemployment rate here, currently at above 8 percent, is among the highest in the nation and the highest in the Midwest.

As regular followers know, The PRDude blog was started in 2009 as way to chronicle my search for “that next great job in public relations.”  Along with commenting on “the lighter side of public relations, marketing, communications and other stuff,” I frequently comment on the employment market and what it’s like to seek work during these challenging economic times.

Below are lyrics for a song — you know I write songs, too, don’t you? — that was inspired by my most recent job search. The title is a line from The Book of Common Prayer.

The Service of Self Alone

Save me, save me St. Theresa
From the service of self alone
Guide me, guide me to fulfillment
Down the narrow pathway home

Righteousness and perseverance
Brought me to the place I’m at
Do you hear me St. Theresa?
Should I sound a trumpet blast?

Watch me, watch me St. Theresa
As I try another door
Help me, help me knock the loudest
Louder than the man before


Me and many, many others
Are forced through no fault of our own
To toil not for some wage or purpose
In the service of self alone
In the service of self alone

So help me, help me St. Theresa
The weeks have turned to months again
Give me give me hope and one good reason
To carry on and not pretend

Copyright Edward M. Bury 2014

Hopefully, this song, which has a ska beat, will resonate with those who are seeking work. Hopefully, I won’t be inspired to write a song like this again.

Cohen Quits “For the Good of the People.” Really?

Here’s a first: Two successive posts inspired by politics.   But, hey, we’re talking about Illinois politics here.  There’s always something or someone provocative to write about.  Make  that “blog” about.

It’s been three days — since Super Bowl Sunday — that a political newcomer named Scott Lee Cohen announced he was relinquishing his nomination as the Democratic standard bearer for Lieutenant Governor in the November 2010 general elections.  He did so during half time, while seated in a North Side bar, his fiancee and children beside him.  Oh, and why was this maverick pawnbroker-turned-politician dropping out?

Well, this is Illinois, after all, and there were allegations of steroid use, failure to pay child support and his one-time girlfriend at the time charged him with assault.  (By the way, the girlfriend was once arrested for prostitution.)

Enough background. Here’s my thoughts:

1.  Cohen spent $2 million on the campaign.  Most probably was spent in advertising, but some was spent to enlist PR counsel.  I know because I received emails with well-written, well-conceived announcements about the candidate’s efforts to promote jobs by organizing job fairs.    Hiring a public relations team is not novel, but I’m glad he did.

2.  The Chicago Tribune, in an editorial, took some of the “blame” for Cohen’s rise to the nomination.  The editors noted that the media in Illinois did not properly investigate Cohen, who’s only real political involvement was to launch a web site last year promoting the ousting of former Governor Rod Blagojevich.  Kudos to the Tribune on this one.  I wonder if the Trib, Sun-Times and other “serious” media would have vetted Cohen if they had the seasoned political reporters on staff from a few years ago.  You know, before social media and bloggers decimated journalism.

3.  As I noted in my most recent post, my state is in dire straits for a lot of reasons.  We’re morally bankrupt figuratively, and nearly bankrupt literally. Cohen’s rise, fall and departure only communicates to the rest of the nation and the world that lots of things are, indeed, very rotten in the Land of Lincoln.

Not sure what public relations could do to help my state out.  I welcome any and all comments.

No More Politics as Usual, Perhaps

Today, we’re steering slightly away from the two themes of this blog:  The noble practice of public relations, and my unending quest to secure a tremendous new full-time position as a practitioner in the profession.

That’s because today is Election Day in Illinois.  More precisely, it’s the primary for the general elections slated for November.   I know, it’s also Groundhog Day; perhaps that will be the subject for another blog next year.

Those loyal readers from Illinois or familiar with our politics know that the Land of Lincoln is in pretty bad shape from a lot of perspectives:  The state is going broke, ranking just above California in terms of having the lowest bond rating of the 50 states; one ex-governor is in jail and another will stand trial in federal court this year; our flagship university has a hiring freeze and mandatory staff furloughs;  job losses mount, and companies are fleeing to states with lower taxes and more business-friendly policies.

This is our status in these recessionary times, despite having just sent a guy from Illinois to the White House and being home to a world-class metropolis.

At this writing, the race for governor is too close to call for either party.  Voter turnout today, a cold and snowy day in Chicago, was thin.   I won’t know until tomorrow which two men will battle the next 10 or so months for the governorship.   There also were races for very important offices, like U.S. Senate and for president of the Cook County Board of Commissioners.

But it’s the governor race that hits home to me, speaking from a guy writing about public relations and seeking a new job.   Illinois can’t afford another governor who’s ill-equipped mentally and morally to take me and my 12.9 million fellow Illinoisans into the very challenging times ahead.  The nation and economy is on the rebound — I believe.  We need to be poised to take advantage of economic opportunities ahead.  We desperately need a leader with a strong vision, one who will not stand for the “business-as-usual” that has mired our economy for decades.

Side note:  In my lifetime, three Illinois governors have gone to jail; and, there’s a strong probability that a fourth will join that embarrassing cadre of failed, selfish, corrupt elected officials.

Here’s my offer: Whoever ends up with the nomination — from either the Democratic or Republican party — hire me to be part of your public relations team.  I promise to work hard, adhere to the ethical standards mandated by my membership in the Public Relations Society of America, provide sound strategic counsel and demonstrate an extremely high level of competency.

All I ask — along with being paid a salary commensurate with my experience — is that you run a campaign that’s transparent, ethical and based on the serious issues we face in this state.

A tall order, I know. But I can dream.