With September on the Horizon, A Time to Savor What’s Left of Summer

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

It’s true.

The three months of summer — purported to be a reflective time to relax, regroup and recharge — does go by fast.

As of this writing, September is three weeks away, prompting the question: Did you get the most out of the summer of 2017?

After all, the fall back-to-school messages will soon become as prominent and prevalent as those get-out-and-enjoy summer messages communicated in May.

Yes, that’s me, second from left, during the PRSA Chicago YPN panel discussion on continuing education.

Now that the topic of schooling is on the table, let me share a recent event on the subject. Earlier this week, I had the honor of participating as a panelist during a PRSA Chicago Young Professionals Network after-work gathering on “Exploring Continuing Education in PR.”

My fellow panelists addressed the challenges faced by working professionals who make the decision to pursue master’s degrees in business administration and communications, along with the long-term professional career benefits of an advanced degree.

As you would expect from the PRDude,  I promoted the value behind earning the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credential and how it made a measurable impact by elevating me to a strategist.

And, I subtly noted that I also was in pursuit of my master’s degree in English, although reaching that goal is a good three years away.

What ensued was an often lively and informative exchange between the panelists and the YPN members in attendance. I learned how my fellow panelists balanced work, school, play and other aspects of life in their quest for a master’s degree, and realized:

  • I’m on my 13th year as an Accredited professional; regardless, the continued evolution of public relations will require that I continue to evolve, too. That means continuing to learn.
  • Earning an advanced degree means more these days than in generations past. The era of the publicist driven by placements has been eclipsed by a professional who can comprehend and strategically employ the PESO model.
  • And, yikes! Summer was waning and I would have to start school again soon. Actually, my next class — “Non-Fiction Writing Workshop” — starts August 28.

With that note, I’ll conclude this post and step outside with a glass of wine to enjoy the balance of this early August evening.

After all, the two ladies on the panel with me both stressed that it’s imperative to maximize time spent outside the classroom and away from the books.

I wholeheartedly concur.

 

 

 

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Hey Chicago Tribune: Let’s Clarify What Defines a “PR Nightmare”

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

Or on second thought, perhaps the subject of this post should be: “Hey Chicago Tribune: Please Comprehend the Difference Between Public Relations and Media Exposure Generated by News Reports of Bad Things Happening to People, Companies or Brands.”

Chicago_Tribune_LogoWell, this alternative is a trifle wordy and probably would not rank too well with the search engines. So, I’ll stick to the title above.

Here’s the crux behind today’s commentary: The lead story of the Sunday, December 27, Chicago Tribune Business section centered on news from 2015 that led to negative publicity for some of the largest and most recognizable companies and individuals in America.

The story headline: “2015’s PR Nightmares.”

I beg to differ.  The 12 examples cited chronicles news reports of bad things that happened to businesses and people, not examples of poor execution of strategies or tactics by public relations counsel during a crisis or disruption of business.

PR NighmareYou’re probably familiar with stories cited: Findings that Volkswagen engineers developed software to cheat emission standards, the arrest of longtime Subway spokesperson Jared Fogel on child pornography charges, reports of an unsavory work environment at online retail giant Amazon, and the nine others.

Note: Three of the 12 examples put the spotlight on Chicago — Blackhawks star Patrick Kane (who was embroiled in rape allegations), Mayor Rahm Emanuel, (who’s facing continued scrutiny resulting from the Laquan McDonald shooting by police) and Wrigley Field (where promised facility improvements were not delivered on opening day).

Yes, these stories caused significant damage to reputations and possibly changed perceptions. But they were not the result of lousy public relations work, which is how many readers might interpret the article. From another perspective, effective public relations counsel could not prevent — in most cases — these “nightmares” from happening.

(An aside: One of the year’s “dirty PR dozen” examples is Martin Shkreli, the recently arrested pharmaceutical executive featured in this PRDude post from September 29 on the practice of doxing.)

It should be pointed out that the introduction to the Tribune article, written by Greg Trotter, states “there were some clear winners and losers among the worst PR disasters of 2015.” I’ll interpret that as meaning strategists were successful on some occasions on helping to mitigate the fallout of a crisis.

Another point of contention centers on the research used to compile this “survey of the worst of the worst in this year’s brand name fails,” as stated in the article sub headline.

The chief source for Mr. Trotter’s report was Tim Caulkins, clinical professor of marketing at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.  I’m not questioning Professor Caulkins’ credentials, but perhaps an academic professional who teaches public relations would have been a better choice. And, it would have been prudent to seek more than one opinion in order to have a true “survey.”

Finally, throughout the article (and in the headline), “public relations” is not mentioned, only “PR.” Shouldn’t a formal reference be made to the practice before using the abbreviation? I think so.

Public relations and marketing are both communications disciplines — but they clearly are different.  Please click on the respective links to learn the difference.

Finally some disclosures:

  1. We subscribe to the daily delivery of the Chicago Tribune print edition, and I relish my time reading the city’s broadsheet.
  2. I could not find a link on the newspaper’s website to the “PR Nightmare” article, so I included a link obtained through my subscription.

There. I feel better and will sleep well tonight. Not anticipating any nightmares — PR or otherwise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The PRDude Goes to PR (As in Puerto Rico) Part 2

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

With the memories of our recent trip to Isla del Encanto or the Island of Enchantment still fresh in my mind, I gladly deliver the second installment.  Last time, I chronicled my visit with my public relations friend  Carlos Rivera, APR. As promised, this post will be somewhat of a travelogue, including cell camera photos taken along with observations during our all-too-short vacation.

(Aren’t all vacations too short? Especially when you work so hard?)

Actually, The PRDude has used this space a few times before to present thoughts and pictures during travels.   Last December, I wrote about a nice weekend in Wisconsin visiting friends, reliving memories of my childhood and strolling the scenic resort town of Lake Geneva.  In September of 2011, I shared thoughts and insight on my second favorite city in the world, New York.  And, I provided a snapshot of my Chicago neighborhood, Logan Square, following a stroll through our farmer’s market and an art show during a hot Sunday last July.

Note to travel editors:  If you like what you see and read, I’m ready to talk, especially if you need a piece on Hawaii, Paris or Rio. Without further ado, some images and insight in and around San Juan, Puerto Rico.

On a cobblestone street in Old San Juan. We loved the pastel buildings tucked side-by-side in the narrow streets. The cobblestones have a cool bluish tint. One wonders how many horses, cars and people traversed these thoroughfares the past 400 or so years.

View of the harbor with cruise ships. San Juan was a natural place for the Spanish to fortify because of its deep natural harbor and towering bluffs. From one of the old forts, I took this shot showing the kind of ships that sail into the port today.

Me and a true artist. In the small plaza outside our hotel, Susan snapped this shot of me with an outstanding Puerto Rican musician. I've played guitar and harmonica and sang in bands for decades. Someday, I hope to be able to deliver a fraction of the soul and artistry this humble man delivered playing for tips.

A day at the beach. The Atlantic Ocean was a short cab ride from our hotel room. We spent a great afternoon sunning at a sister property and got to see modern San Juan. Lots of nice new hotels, some fine beaches and still lots of local character. Yes, there were T-shirt shops and tourist hang outs, but more restrained and colorful than we anticipated.

Keeping the faith. On our last night, we heard music coming from the old cathedral across from our hotel. Upon venturing out, we came across a procession of the faithful complete with musicians, the Knights of Columbus and men carrying a large statue of the Virgin Mary. The procession wound its way to various churches in Old San Juan. We were touched by the devotion displayed by these people.

Looking out to sea. I captured Susan on one of the old fortifications looking out over the water. Visiting the two forts, San Felipe del Morro and San Cristobal, is a must stop for visitors. These are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, cool beyond belief to tour and cost just $5!

El Convento. Our hotel was a true highlight of the trip. The building originally built as a convent, then expanded and converted to a boutique hotel 100 or so years ago. Lots of charm and character, quite terraces, great views of the harbor and a magnet to an international crowd. We felt we truly were away from home at the El Convento.

A few final thoughts.  You don’t hear much about Puerto Rico, at least not from a marketing perspective.  I recall TV spots and promotions years ago, but not recently. Some no-cost recommendations to those in charge of pr0moting Puerto Rico as a visitor destination:

  • Promote the fact that U.S. citizens can travel to a Caribbean island without a passport and without having to change money.
  • The Puerto Rican people are a cultural gumbo of the Spanish, Africans brought in slavery and native Taino peoples.  Communicate this in the same way New Orleans promotes its French Creole heritage.
  • Point out the lesser-known cities of Mayaguez and Ponce on the Caribbean side.  My friend Carlos said these cities are just as historic and cool as San Juan, only not as big.

Now it’s your turn: Have you visited Puerto Rico? Share your thoughts on this Caribbean commonwealth.