A # of ?s RE: “AOC”

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

A rebuttal to the headline and the article itself: It’s you, you, you the media that has elevated this freshman legislator to such exulted status!

Without question, abbreviations, grammatical shortcuts and emojis continue to find a strong and increasingly dominant place in today’s communications landscape, especially in the digital and broadcast mediums.

Based on the image at left, a photo capturing an article with photo I read in today’s Chicago Tribune, this practice of somewhat bastardizing the language clearly is fully ensconced in print.

The issue for me here: Since her meteoric rise on the national political scene, U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, (D-NY) is now better known by her initials.

Note the copy of the Tribune article displayed. The Congresswoman’s initials are in the headline, and they are used repeatedly throughout the piece!  As a former reporter, I have to scream: Just what the heck is going on here?  How is this being allowed in what I would label “serious” journalism?

Want more? Read the full story from reporter David Bauder, writing for the Associated Press.

As inferred in the headline to this post, I have questions — actually lots of questions — regarding this grammatical cultural phenomenon.

In no particular order, they are:

  • How did the “AOC” abbreviation originate? Who first coined it and perpetrated it?
  • Why is this practice accepted in journalism?
  • Why did Mr. Bauder refer to the Congresswoman as “AOC” multiple times in the article?
  • Why did Mr. Bauder’s editors allow this practice, clearly an assault to sound journalism practices?
  • Does the Congresswoman get preferential treatment because she’s embodied in initials?
  • Is this practice beneficial? Harmful?
  • Can anyone strategically craft a political campaign that results in being referenced primarily by initials or abbreviations?
  • If I’m re-branded as “EMB” or “TPRD,” will my life change for the better?

I wholeheartedly wish Representative Ocasio-Cortez much success in representing her district and serving the American people.  She’s the face of the so-called Green New Deal (or, perhaps GND?), and her future is promising, even if she’ll never be invited as a guest on Fox & Friends or Hannity.

To conclude, throughout our nation’s history, other politicians have been known by their initials — FDR, JFK and LBJ come to mind.  But the aforementioned were elected president, for gosh sake!  They earned it. As of this writing, AOC has held her post officially only since January 3 of this year. That’s a total of 70 days.

Opps. Read what I just wrote.

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Hey Virginia Heffernan: What You Apparently Don’t Know About Public Relations

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

Sometimes, I have to gaze up at the ceiling, so to say, to find the subject for a PRDude post. And, other times, the topic surfaces in an expected place and figuratively bashes me across the forehead.

The subject of today’s post lies squarely on the latter.

Photo of Ms. Heffernan courtesy of Wikipedia. Not sure of the name of the four-legged friend.

While reading my print edition of the Chicago Tribune during lunch today, I found an opinion piece that focused on Hope Hicks — the current White House communications director — and offered a commentary on public relations.  You can read the digital version of the article, “Who Exactly is Hope Hicks?, posted on the Tribune’s website and dated February 5.

The commentary, written by  Virginia Heffernan, opens with an account of President Donald Trump’s reported affinity for women models — from his current wife Melania and daughter Ivanka to other women who are currently part of his administration and staff. Then the focus moves to Ms. Hicks, specifically her experience as a fashion model and position managing communications for The Trump Organization.

What follows the introductory paragraphs provided the fuel for this post. Frankly, the piece is an example of myopic, uninformed and outright erroneous interpretations of the public relations practice and an assault on the professionals who adhere to established standards of ethical and strategic communications.

Rather than dissect the editorial paragraph-by-paragraph to unveil all I believe is wrong, fictitious and plain idiotic, here are a few “gems” of sorts that demonstrate Ms. Heffernan’s preconceived perceptions of public relations and the people who work in the industry:

  • “Modeling is not, however, Hicks’ chief qualification for her job with Trump. She’s a publicist to the bone.” Just what the heck does being “a publicist to the bone” mean in this case? That Ms. Hicks is serious about generating or managing publicity, a component of public relations? And, so what if she modeled before switching careers.
  • “Hicks didn’t just drift into her first PR job as some in the sheath set are known to do. Instead, she’s to the manner born, third generation in a family of special-forces flacks.” First, what comprises the “sheath set?” And, this is a new one to me: “Special-forces flacks.” Are they given commando attire, too, when engaging in a strategic communications exercise? Fiunally, so what if her grandfather and father worked in public relations.  I trust this never happens in journalism.
  • “PR at that level takes moral flexibility, callousness and charm.” This nugget was in reference to previous paragraphs stating that Ms. Hicks’ father “ran publicity” for the National Football League and now works for a communications firm that “specializes in — among other things — crisis management and ‘Complex Situations.'” And, Ms. Hicks “was trained by the best: Matthew Hilztzik,” the so-called chief publicist for Harvey Weinstein and Miramax. The take away here, according to Ms. Heffernan:  Public relations professionals shouldn’t develop crisis communications programs or represent professional sports franchises or media companies.
  • “But as Hope Hicks knows — and as her father and her father’s father knew — lying to the media is traditionally called PR.”  This, the final sentence in this garbage of slanted commentary bashes an entire profession and the people who work in it.  My response to Ms. Heffernan: So, I trust that the work published in the New York Times — where Ms. Heffernan worked as a staff writer — by Jayson Blair was credible journalism?

This outright pillaging of all things public relations and equating the profession as detrimental to society and our democracy needs to stop.  Yes, there are “flacks” in the public relations profession.  But as a former reporter, I know  there are “hacks” in the news business and perhaps every profession.

Left unchecked, this type of uninformed commentary propagates total misconceptions about the work of serious, honest public relations professionals.

In an effort to provide some guidance to Ms. Heffernan, perhaps she should visit the Press Contacts page published by the New York Times. There are eight communications professionals listed.

Perhaps one of these colleagues could share some accurate insight on public relations. Otherwise, Ms. Heffernan could visit this page hosted by the Public Relations Society of America.

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.