This Labor Day: Advice for Those Who Remain “In Transition”

By Edward M. Bury, APR, aka The PRDude

Yesterday, I learned that Labor Day, which is today here in the United States, was born from controversy, hard times and labor unrest.   An historical piece in yesterday’s Chicago Tribune pointed out that the first Monday in September, a day devoted to the American worker, was made a national holiday in 1894 under order from President Grover Cleveland.  Earlier that year, things were not so rosy.

Many of us who fire up our grills and bid good-bye to the “official” end of summer may not know that the first Labor Day took place at a time when the nation was in a depression and federal troops were sent to a quash a strike in June of 1894 at the Pullman railroad car plant in Chicago.

Well, back then Pullman was the town industrialist George Pullman created  for his thriving business; it’s now part of Chicago.  He owned the town, the plant and the houses his railroad workers were forced to live in.  He cut workers’ pay but not the cost of rent, leading to a strike, violence and ultimately a blow to the unions.  Of, Pullman was forced to divest his industrial fifedom and sell off the town.

Of course, there’s labor strife today, mostly felt among the 9.1 percent of Americans who can’t find a job.

You loyal readers know The PRDude was inspired to join the ranks of bloggerdom (I just made that word up) when he was thrust into “transition.”  That nice three-syllable  word is really a euphemism for being unemployed.  Or underemployed.  Or to many Americans, in dire straits.

My outcome was positive.  I’m approaching my 11th month in a tremendous position where I manage public relations, marketing communications and lots of other stuff for a great real estate association here in Chicago.

My search took 13 months. On this Labor Day, I offer this advice for those who remain in the hunt.

  1. Think Not Outside the Box.  Thankfully, that silly cliche –“think outside the box” — has faded from our lexicon.  It basically means, “try something different.” I don’t think that’s good advice for job seekers.  Focus on your strengths. Concentrate in the industry and fields where you have experience.  Why “reinvent” yourself if your old self worked.
  2. Ask For Help. It’s Out There. Too many unemployed people fail to ask for assistance, referrals or advice. You’d be surprised.  Friends, former co-workers, the guy at the coffee shop more than likely are willing to help.  Ask.  But remember, there people have lives and other stuff to do.  Don’t expect to be top of mind to your network all the time; just stay within range.
  3. Have a Routine, But Make Time to Follow a Different Path. During my transition period, you know, when I was still seeking that next great job in public relations, I kept up my ritual of starting my day with a brisk stroll through the neighborhood.  I got exercise and an opportunity to think.  Some days, I would return and get right back to work.  Other days, I’d (figuratively) keep walking.  It helped because I did not feel each day was the same; not just another day of being “in transition.”  NOTE: Watching television all day but switching channels doesn’t count.

Of course, those seeking work should continue to network, remain positive, volunteer if possible and remain diligent.  Hopefully, on this 117th Labor Day, the three thoughts above will provide some additional insight and inspiration.

Do you have similar thoughts to share?  Are you “in transition?”  Hit the comment button and make your thoughts known.

Wishing all a safe and tranquil Labor Day.  Wishing all who’s labor is finding that next great position much success.  You can do it.  Just ask the PRDude.

Random Thoughts on a Friday: PR & More

By Edward M. Bury, APR, aka the PRDude

Here are some thoughts and observations on public relations and other stuff of interest.

  1. PR Specialty: Street Gangs. Earlier this week, the print and broadcast media reported on a recent “secret” meeting between Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis and reputed street gang leaders.  The purpose: Weis said gang leaders must stop the rash of drug-related shootings and violence that has plagued parts of the city.  Otherwise, authorities would use federal racketeering laws to the fullest to prosecute the leaders and seize their homes, cars and valuables.The reputed gang leaders responded with a news conference yesterday that was covered by Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass. According to Kass, the news conference “was somewhat disorganized, with conflicting messages, a lot of emotion, but no focus.”   What intrigued me about the “news conference” centered on the fact that the coalition of gangs on Chicago’s West and South sides employed the services of a local public relations firm to announce the event.  Really? There are PR firms that would take on business from clients who reportedly sell illegal drugs, terrorize neighborhoods, incite violence and commit other heinous acts?One underlying value and purpose of the public relations profession and those who practice it is this:  Public relations efforts should have some redeeming social value.  Helping to spread the word about a reputed gang leader news conference has no redeeming social value whatsoever.
  2. PRSA NomCom Revisited. Around a month ago, I had the honor and privilege of serving on the national Public Relations Society of America Nominating Committee, which met here in Chicago to select the slate of officers and delegates for the National Assembly.  An “emergency”  fill-in delegate representing the PRSA Midwest District, I sat shoulder-to-shoulder with PRSA leaders from across the nation.  At the table were past presidents, long-time national officers, section leaders and other PR professionals from virtually every discipline within the industry.  To keep the debate on track and according to established rules, PRSA employed a parliamentarian.By no means was I intimidated by this cadre of peers; but I was very impressed with their dedication to the nomination process.  Of course, I can’t discuss any particulars, but let’s put it this way:  The debate was quite spirited.   My take away was a much better understanding of the process of electing PRSA leadership and a greater respect for those volunteers who do, indeed promote the theme:  “Advance the Profession and the Professional.”Special thanks to my friends and colleagues at PRSA Chicago, for recognizing my participation on the Chapter website home page.
  3. 365 Day Later.  Today marks the one-year anniversary since I launched the PRDude blog.  Yes, it’s been 365 days since my position as Senior Director of Public Relations was eliminated.A note of heartfelt thanks to those who have read this blog and to those who have offered comments.  I remain totally committed to the profession and resilient in my search for that next great job in public relations.  Since last fall, I’ve gone on several face-to-face interviews, participated in phone screens and completed online questionnaires.  I’ve joined business social networks and posted my credentials on several online job boards.  I’ve targeted companies and made cold calls. I’ve attended dozens of networking events, participated in numerous webinars and continue to read up on latest the technology and best practices.  My volunteer participation with PRSA Chicago and the Universal Accreditation Board remains high.  And, I continue to complete writing and consulting assignments for clients in the real estate and other B2B industries.And, of course, I’ve maintained this blog.

    People have told me:  “You’re doing all the right things.”  Understood, yet my search continues — and it will continue.  I’ve learned that when life presents challenges, you must muster the necessary resources and succeed.

    On this Labor Day weekend, I wish all a safe and pleasant holiday.  Special words of support to the 15 million Americans who are searching for work: Your next job is out there.   I conclude with this bit of optimism:  As I write this — mid afternoon on  Friday, September 3 — the Dow is up more than 100 points, due to better-than-anticipated news on the employment front.

Edward M. Bury, APR — aka The PRDude’s — 50th Post

Welcome to the the 50th or “golden anniversary” blog post from me, Edward M. Bury, APR, otherwise known as the PRDude.

I launched this blog last fall, my intention was to have a forum to share ideas and thoughts on public relations and my search for a new permanent position in the industry.  My goal was not to offer education or “how-to” advice; there’s lots of great informative blogs written by public relations professionals.  My goal was to blog about whatever crossed my mind — as long as I could tie the online conversation back to public relations and/or the job search.

Over the months, I’ve addressed current events like politics and politicians (former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich offered lots of great opportunities), PR blunders (the Tiger Woods saga and Toyota recall mess), tragedies (the earthquake in Haiti and Ft. Hood massacre) and local Chicago issues (like loosing the 2016 Olympics bid).   I even called out the Chicago Tribune for what I maintained was misleading and erroneous reporting that put public relations in a negative light.

I’ve used this blog to promote effective, ethical public relations practices and the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR), which I am proud to hold.   Must disclose the fact I am a current member of the Universal Accreditation Board, which grants, oversees and promotes Accreditation.

Through my part-time consultancy, I’ve represented Network Mortgage of Chicago, among other clients.  Social media news releases I’ve drafted for Network have been promoted through the blog.   Sometimes, I wrote “random thoughts” about general topics that crossed my mind.  Hey, I even drafted a manifesto against television producers planning a “Jersey Shore” type of program here in my native city.

And, I used the blog to post in four chapters my latest work of fiction,
Snapdragons in November .

These past several months have gone by fast.  Once I got past the anger, the uncertainty, the feelings of betrayal after having my job eliminated, I settled into a productive regimen of job search, volunteer work and paid writing and consulting assignments.   Sometimes, I even take a break to get out of town.

I’ve made a little money, but gained a tremendous amount of self-respect.   Perhaps the greatest experience has been meeting virtually, via phone and in person some impressive people in the real estate and business world.   These new-found friends and colleagues — along with the many people I worked with over the years — continue to offer support and guidance.

Note to Chicago companies seeking public relations support: I believe I’m a better qualified, smarter, better-connected public relations strategist today than I was in fall of 2009.  While many in public relations and other businesses have had to do more with less, I’ve used the past few months to learn, progress and ultimately succeed.

Below you’ll find my “casual” glamor shot and my resume. I welcome any interested feedback or interest in my services.

Looking forward to writing the next 50 blogs; thanks to all who’ve read the thoughts from Edward M. Bury, APR, blogging as the PRDude.

A casual profile image of Edward M. Bury, APR

Below is a link to my resume.

Public Relations Strategist Edward M. Bury, APR

And, to continue with a musical interlude on subject of employment, here’s a link to a song by pretty good band from the ’80s, Huey Lewis & the News. These guys didn’t break any new musical ground, but this song says a lot, especially today. Here’s a live version of  Working for a Living.

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.

A Little Victory

Yesterday I gained a little victory in my search for that next great public relations position.   I received word — via email — that I was not selected for a senior position for a prominent national company.  The job involved launching public relations and marketing initiatives for an online resource available to consumers.   I knew the industry, and I had all the qualifications, and then some.

How’s this a “victory,” even a little one?

For these reasons:

1.  I was one of the handful of candidates who received a face-to-face interview, and apparently I was a strong candidate. This means I’m in demand in today’s marketplace; just haven’t made the right connection yet.

2. I had less than two days to prepare for the interview. I used that time to analyze the site and identify ways to improve it.  At the interview, I presented the hiring authority with a printed list of suggestions.   He appeared to be impressed.  This gave me an opportunity to demonstrate and sharpen my analytical skills.

3.  During the interview, held on a Saturday afternoon, I was prepared. I had anticipated questions and prepared answers.  A good interview, I’m told, should be a 50-50 give-and-take between candidate and employer. This one met that criteria.  I was relaxed and confident.  (I think I looked pretty good, too, in my navy blue blazer, gray slacks and “sincere” tie.)  To demonstrate my writing skills, I presented a portfolio that showed the depth of my published works and media relations activities.  Every face-to-face interview offers an opportunity to take stock of yourself.  I’ll do even better on the next one.

4. The company is hiring for other communications positions. This one didn’t work out, but perhaps I’ll be considered for another.  The HR recruiter who set up the interview said I would be kept in consideration.

5. And, I reached out via email to the hiring authority, the person who made the decision to select someone else.   The hiring authority promptly responded to my message and even accepted my LinkedIn invitation.  Now, this person and I are connected online.  I’ll remain a presence — and a possible candidate for another position.

Life is full of opportunities to gain, advance and succeed.  In my search, I fail only if I stop trying and stop believing in myself.  This recent little victory only strengthens my belief in my abilities and my value within the marketplace.

Bring on the next challenge.

Friday Random Thoughts: SMRs, Jobs, Toyota

Has it been a full seven days since my last post?  Where does the time go?  Full disclosure: I’m not spending hours watching the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, although I find the short-track speed skating and snowboard cross exhilarating.

For the record, I’ve kept up my regimen of a morning stroll followed by job-search related research and client writing/consulting projects.  For this last Friday of February, here are some random thoughts.

  1. I’ve Seen the Future: SMRs — It’s hard to be a “social media expert” these days because to me the rules of the game keep changing. But one related resource has remained relatively constant and is relatively easy to comprehend and incorporate into communications programs.  I’m referring to the Social Media News Release or SMR.  Rather than go into a lot of details here, read the piece I just got published on Hispanic Marketing & PR.   Comments and feedback are most welcomed.
  2. Job Seeking or Phishing? — My job search is now into its sixth month. I’m doing all the “right” things, including networking, taking on projects, staying active in PRSA Chicago and, of course, responding to appropriate online help wanted notices.  I’ve noticed some companies have been recruiting for the same job for almost six months.  Does it really take that long to recruit the “right” person in this market? Or are some companies just “phishing” for information?
  3. Advice For the Automaker in Trouble — Decades from now, public relations students will read about the firestorm that has embroiled Toyota the past few weeks.  Talk about a textbook case of managing a communications crisis.  And, from what I’ve witnessed, Toyota is not doing the best job; the brand will be damaged for a long time, and Toyota’s public relations and marketing counsel — from the international to the local levels — will have a steep challenge.  So, here’s some advice to consider: Re-brand the the name.  Competitor Nissan did it in the early 1980s, emerging from the old Datsun name.  (Note: I owned a Datsun F-10.  It was red, had front-wheel drive, got great gas mileage but was the biggest lemon I’ve owned.) Perhaps call the new company “Atoyot.”
  4. One More Job Thought — These past six or so months have been challenging. But we’re doing fine. I’ve learned a lot about business and the public relations industry. I’ve had the option to reconnect with friends and colleagues, and make some new ones. I wrote a short story (people say it’s good, and it’s entered into the Nelson Algren Awards sponsored by the Chicago Tribune). And, I’ve penned a few new songs. A few days back, I came to this realization: I have knowledge, skills and talents that have value in the business arena.  I am prepared to take the human resource known as Edward M. Bury, APR, and put it to work for a company or organization that will provide challenges, opportunities and just compensation.  In short, I will not “settle” for “a job.”  I remain active, vital, confident and prepared.

Why Hire Edward M. Bury, APR

On Friday, February 19, I will participate in the first Help a PR Pro Out (HAPPO), an  online exercise to connect professionals seeking career opportunities with other professionals who are hiring or can provide leads, direction or insight.  This is a tremend0us endeavor, and I applaud Arik Hanson and Valerie Simon for initiating this forum.

My friend Gini Dietrich is one of the HAPPO “Champions” for Chicago, and she requested that we job seekers draft a blog post.  I’ve prepared my “elevator speech” before, and I attended an event and learned how to craft a “One Breath Strategy Statement.”   So, I remain confident that the following will persuade many to want to hire Edward M. Bury, APR.  Here are my Top 10 Reasons:

10. B2B senior public relations professional who most recently worked with top-level real estate professionals, providing sound counsel on communications strategies.

9. I’m diverse.  Career spans the agency, association and corporate arenas.

8. Introduced and managed successful marketing and public relations programs that embraced online, A/V, print and social media.

7. Managed a marketing team, developed many vendor relationships and coordinated dozens of special events and more than 50 trade shows.

6. Fearless (and successful) in pitching stories to media.

5. Tight with a dollar, especially if it’s not mine. I bring projects in on time, within budget.

4. Launched communications consultancy, Open Door Communications. Serving clients in real estate mortgage and destination management industries.

3. I’ve seen the future and harnessed it. It’s not Springsteen. It’s what keeps taking place on the monitor in front of me.

2. I’m a committed blogger, even though I’m not keen on the word.

1. I can write persuasive, intelligent copy, articles, presentations and content.  Faster and better than most.

Finally, I’ve demonstrated personal initiative by earning the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) designation and am Marketing Group co-Chair on the board that oversees and grants Accreditation.

Okay, that’s 11.  Math was not my best subject.  I’m industrious and show up for work on time, too.

Edward M. Bury, APR

773-463-9811 or 773-396-9773