More Blurred Lines of Communication?

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

Some big news surfaced yesterday on the communications front.  As detailed in this article originally published in Advertising Age, an iconic Chicago-based company known for creating some of the best-known equity characters in advertising history has teamed up with a relatively new but extremely influential digital aggregator and blogger of news and commentary.

What would the late Leo Burnett say about his company's partnership?

What would the late Leo Burnett say about his company’s partnership?

Their goal, as stated in the article is “to develop strategies and then produce content for the ad agency’s clients.”  (And, of course, to make lots of money in the process.)

The players: Leo Burnett and Huffington Post.

Or, in other words: The ad agency that created Tony the Tiger, Charlie the Tuna and the Marlboro Man now joins forces with writers from the top-ranked digital media empire to draft and distribute paid media messages.  Or in other words, write what used to be called “advertorials,” or articles that are paid for, just like TV, radio, digital, print, transit and other advertisements.

On HuffPo, as the site is known, and other online platforms, paid content is identified by a “sponsored link” disclaimer.

So what’s my take-away from this development?  Here are two thoughts:

1. Makes Sense. In this ever-increasing digital  age, competition is fierce for an audience’s time and attention.  I trust

Wouldn't you like to be the fly on the wall in a conversation between Ms. Huffington and Mr. Burnett?

Wouldn’t you like to be the fly on the wall in a conversation between Ms. Huffington and Mr. Burnett?

the HuffPo content writers have the skills to draft content that generates visits that lead to sales.  The creatives at Burnett know their clients and their products and services.

2.  Divide and Conquer. Both companies are businesses, and business should make a profit. So, why not consolidate forces to produce a better product?  After all, there are plenty of ways a company can spend money to influence the consumer or business audience.

But, I wonder if this partnership will prompt other communications firms — be they advertising, traditional or digital

media, and of course, public relations firms — to do the same. And, if so, will a company lose sight of its focus, its true mission?

Will lines of communication in regards to the originator become more blurred when disseminated to the target audience?

Stay tuned, but I’d like to put  the late, legendary Mr. Leo Burnett in a room with the very much alive Arianna Huffington and get their perspectives.







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?


Old Media? New Media? It’s Still Media

By Edward M. Bury, APR, aka The PRDude

For some reason, we need to make comparisons between old and new.

Since the end of the Civil War and to the present, we read about the emergence of the New South, embodied by progressive social, business, political and cultural movements and a transition from the way things were for decades.  In 1985, one of the world’s best-known brands was re-introduced as New Coke, a new formula for the iconic soft drink; it didn’t last, as consumers demanded the old stuff.

Earlier this week, PRSA Chicago hosted an excellent luncheon panel discussion on a topic that tackled the subject of old vs. new: “Making Old Media New Again.”  The excellent panel was moderated by Harlan  Teller, Of Counsel at FD, and was comprised of Joanie Bayhack, SVP Corporate Communications/Direct Marketing at WTTW-TV, Julian Posada, founder of Cafe Media and Joyce Winnecke, VP/Association Editor at the Chicago Tribune.

Before I give my thoughts on old vs. new media, here are a few bullet points that grabbed me by the proverbial collar:

  • In the media arena, it’s all about relevancy.  This holds true for a print piece, a broadcast expose or a Tweet.
  • And, from a similar perspective, media companies are in business to make a profit; new and old media enterprises are centered around monetary returns.
  • Expect the continued creation of partnerships between traditional media companies and other entities. For example, the Tribune collaborated with the Second City comedy troupe.
  • Old and new media will have to demonstrate even more transparency than ever before. “They have to put that stake firmly in the ground,” Posada said.
  • Web sites are becoming more irrelevant in a texting and hand held kind of w0rld.
  • There remains value in strong media brands at the local level.
  • The media can still deliver the same message, but it must be done in 10 different ways.

Outstanding insight, although I disagree with the projection that website are becoming passe.  (Where would those short links in Tweets link to?) Now it’s my turn.

The “old” media vs. “new” media debate really is not, well, a new issue.  In its essence, “media” has been in existence, one can argue, since 1453 when Gutenberg employed a printing press and movable type.

Mass production of books gave man the ability to communicate effectively to a wide audience. Books were followed by newspapers and periodicals, which were followed by radio, movies and television, which were followed by online/digital communications.

Each of these forms of communication have had to re-invent itself to survive, thrive, inspire, challenge and remain relevant.  Here’s an example during my lifetime.

I recall the launch of USA Today in 1982 by media powerhouse Gannett. The nation already had a tremendous national newspaper in the Wall Street Journal.  But the Journal clearly was speaking to the business audience; USA Today was speaking to everyone, and it pioneered the incorporation of color photos, banners and graphics — tactics used by all newspapers today, those precious few that still publish.

Research showed the people at Gannett that the nation would buy and read a national newspaper that covered breaking news, sports and features, as well as business news.  Technology allowed publication nationwide and use of color.

Back to the debate in question.  “Old” or “new,” media still remains the way we deliver a message to an audience beyond the person in front of you. It will continue to evolve based upon market demands and technology.

To paraphrase a Billy Joel song from three decades ago: “Everybody’s talking about the new kind of communications but it’s still media to me.”

It\’s Still Rock and Roll to Me

Two Months Later and The Sun is Shining

Two months ago, on a glorious, sunny late summer morning, I was unceremoniously relieved of my position as public relations director. Here are some random thoughts on what has happened since, what I’ve learned and where I see myself headed.

1. The sun still comes up. Every day. Yes, despite my little setback, life did go on, and quite well. I’ve made time between my search to reach out to old friends and make some new ones. I’ve made time to learn more about trends and developments in public relations, especially those related to online communications and measurement. I’ve reaffirmed that public relations is a passion and my profession.

2. Don’t believe everything you read, hear or download. Yes, the economy continues to sputter and there remains a lot of uncertainty as to when it will get better. But I’ve found opportunities are out there in the market for skilled communicators willing to apply for posted jobs or pound the proverbial pavement to put themselves in a position for a job. Nothing concrete yet, but progress is better than stagnation.

3. Time really does make things better. The days after I was shown the door, I was angry. I felt betrayed. “How could they have made this mistake?” I kept asking myself and anyone who would listen. Today, I still wonder what I could have done differently to retain my position. The answer: Nothing. “You were a valuable addition, you contributed, you were innovative and adaptable. Now it’s time to start another chapter,” I reasoned. I had the time to resolve some feelings.

4. Howdy neighbor! I’m around the house a lot more, even though I have a fairly active schedule of meetings away from home. I’ve become closer with the nice lady with the little dog, the neighbor who opened a nearby grocery store, the couple canvassing to get new candidates on the February ballot. These folks are now my friends because I interact with them more often than when I was at work five days a week.

5. Change is something to embrace, not avoid. I was a true creature of habit, and I loved it. Now, my days are less structured, which will make me stronger and more adaptable to wherever my career takes me. Not a bad thing for someone who never plans to really “retire.”

6. “Hello PR Department. We need you more than ever.” Plain and simple, companies, associations and governments need sound, strategic public relations now more than ever. A recent poll showed that nearly 80% of respondents search for information using new media sources, up by some 20% from a year ago. Any organization that ignores the fact that online resource have changed the communications landscape is in for a rude awakening.

Do I wish I was back in my old position? Without question. But life throws curve balls, meaning I have to learn how to lay off or go to the opposite field.

I remain steadfast: I will be back in the game, and soon.