A Public Relations Resolution for Practitioners in 2018

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

In researching this post, the final of 2017 (a momentous year from a global perspective, but hey, aren’t they all “momentous” these days?), a quick Google search led to an online report from two years ago.

My subject: New Year’s resolutions.

Image courtesy of Wonderopolis.

What my search revealed: According to this article, “The History of New Year’s Resolutions,” the concept of committing to a practice or initiative in the upcoming 365 days  may have roots with the ancient Babylonians way, way back 4,000 or so years ago.  And, two millennia later, Julius Caesar somewhat formalized the practice when he established January 1 as the start of the new year.

Well, public relations (you knew I’d get to this eventually) is not quite 4,000 years old, but I recall learning that the Roman concept of vox populi, Latin for “voice of the people,” may have cemented the foundations of what’s known today as “public relations.”

In the centuries before books and eventually newspapers or almanacs, public discourse in the town square served as a way to share opinions and information. Broadcast, and later, digital forms of disseminating information changed public relations and society significantly and forever. (Well, seemingly on that last point.)

Today, regardless of how effectively the practice of public relations is defined, it’s all too frequently mislabeled.  From the most egregious perspective, what’s clearly propaganda (think jihadist online messages originated by ISIS) has been inaccurately labeled as “public relations.” And, from a less erroneous viewpoint, “public relations” is equated purely with publicity and press agentry.

And, then there’s the often blatant total misrepresentation of the profession. Here’s an example.  The October 2 episode of the popular NBC drama “Chicago Fire,” featured this scenario: Firefighter Stella Kidd (portrayed by actress Miranda Rae Mayo) receives a suspicious transfer from Firehouse 51 to the Chicago Fire Department’s “public relations department.” After reporting to said department, Kidd — who apparently has no formal communications experience — meets her new colleagues, is shown her small work station, then is immediately thrust into a “media event” of sorts, complete with inquisitive reporters and TV cameras.  All this action takes place in around 90 seconds.

Quite an absurd portrayal? Certainly, even for fictionalized television drama.  But it’s an example of how public relations is bantered about unfairly and inaccurately as a catch phrase.

Two more thoughts about the “Chicago Fire” portrayal of public relations:

1. Visit this organizational chart, and you’ll see the CFD has a department that addresses Media Affairs/Public Education/Special Events, but not “public relations.” Perhaps the show writers could have had Kidd moved over to “media affairs.”

2. And, the title of the episode in question is “Down is Better.” From my perspective, dumbing down the public relations profession is bad, bad, bad.

So, as the hours left in the year 2017 continue to expire, I make this resolution — and I encourage fellow public relations professionals to do the same:

I (name) resolve to address instances where the practice of “public relations” is misinterpreted, misidentified or misconstrued online, in print or broadcast, or during interpersonal communications. Furthermore, I resolve to correct  misconceptions through firm and measured discourse.

There, I feel better already.

Strategic, ethical public relations contributes to and helps guide modern society by fostering the free flow of news and information; I’m convinced the role of public relations will continue to expand in these digitally-driven times. Those of us who practice public relations need to be diligent and commit to rectifying blatantly wrong references or portrayals.

Let’s make 2018 will be the year public relations gets acknowledged fairly and accurately.

And, a shout out to the producers of “Chicago Fire,” a show we watch regularly: Should you incorporate public relations into future episodes, I would gladly offer my counsel to ensure accuracy and fairness.

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Random Thoughts, as Minutes Tick Away on 2014

By Edward M. Bury, (aka The PRDude)

Back in the early days, The PRDude occasionally posted “random thoughts” blogs because:

1. None of the “thoughts” merited a complete, self-contained blog.

2. I was still learning the nuances of being a blogger/online commentator.

3. At the time, it was seemingly a cool thing to do.

Now, with around three hours left in the day and the year 2014, here are some, well, random thoughts:

Highlights from 2014. Thanks to the cool people at WordPress, here’s a summary of traffic and other interesting facts generated this year by The PRDude blog. I published 41 new posts, some on public relations and communications, others on the “other stuff” that caught my attention.

What I find remarkable: That some posts from years ago continue to generate interest, and that people from 63 nations took the time to read my digital thoughts. And, I like to publish on Wednesdays.

Jay CutlerA “PR Plan” for the Bears Jay Cutler? With no snowfall to date this season and a lack of indictments of elected officials, Chicago media turned its attention to the plight of the hapless 2014 Chicago Bears.  Along with the ouster of the head coach, general manager and other staff, sports pundits and others shared thoughts on what to do with the Bears’ $126 million dollar man — quarterback Jay Cutler, whose popularity rating equals the team’s 5-11 record.

One radio talk show host offered this suggestion: “Cutler should do some good PR, like volunteer in a soup kitchen.”  Really? Here’s another silly example of how “good PR” will fix anything. No, Ms. Talk Show Host: Mr. Cutler needs to demonstrate leadership, throw touchdown passes and stop acting like a spoiled brat.

Is There Anything New in Food News? Here in Chicago (and I’m sure where ever there’s some level of a hipster population,)  restaurants boast menus and concepts based on proximity and small carbon footprints. Here’s what an online news source wrote about a soon-to-open sandwich shop in the Pilsen neighborhood: “(the restaurant) will feature fresh sandwiches on house-baked bread made with locally sourced ingredients, homemade potato chips, coffee and other lunch offerings.”

Haven’t you read this kind of description before? Perhaps a few times?  Last time I checked, Subway and Jimmy Johns baked their own bread.

There’s an App for That? Really, There Is.  Yes, there’s an Appapp these days for just about everything. And why do we need them? To make our lives better, easier, faster, stronger, etc. And, to give us time to download more apps.  I read about a local company that developed an app that let you scan your grocery receipt to determine when products would expire.  Last time I checked, wilting lettuce meant it was past its prime.

This post describes 15 useless apps.  I trust there are many, many more some (aside from the developers) would consider useless.  But apparently, people today find these digital benefits useful and perhaps necessary. But do these little pieces of software really make our lives better?

Finally, it’s time to wish all who read this blog — and everyone — a safe and happy New Year.  If you have random thoughts, please share them … this year or next.