What Happens When You Put 24 PR Agency Leaders Together in One Room?

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

Well, to answer the question posed in the title of this post, let me provide some background.

Yesterday, long before Halloween trick or treating started for most, I and some 100 other public relations professionals attended the 6th Annual Agency Leaders Breakfast Roundtable hosted by the Chicago Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).

This popular fall gathering allowed participants and senior members of many of Chicago’s foremost global and local PR shops an opportunity to launch conversations in a round robin format.

I’m sure many at the Agency Leaders Roundtable were mesmerized by the view.

The event was sponsored by Find Your Influence, an influencer marketing technology platform, and held in a glorious old cathedral-like room at the University Club of Chicago. The views overlooking Millennium Park and Chicago’s lakefront were sublime, the trees alive with fall colors; but the overall focus was on all things public relations related.

As a member of the PRSA Chicago Board, I was charged with helping to stimulate conversation at table #9. Like most in attendance, I was fueled by coffee and the desire to engage with the many industry colleagues assembled.

Here are abbreviated and paraphrased take aways from the six agency representatives who conversed with myself and two other attendees. Three dominant topics surfaced: The growth of employing influencers, the expansion of multiculturalism, and the resounding need to support ethical public relations practices.

Amy Littleton, Senior Vice President, KemperLesnik: People are getting smarter about recognizing fake news, and people eventually will return to traditional news. Young people digest lots of content on multiple platforms, and they might not be concerned about accuracy. So, we may someday see legislation related to fake news. The public may be making decisions regarding fake news at the ballot box.

Aaron Schoenherr, Founding Partner, Greentarget Global Group: Before the emergence of influencer marketing, public relations campaigns would piggy back on the built-in reputation of the endorser. We’ve determined that some B2B clients are not interested in influencer marketing.  But there is without question a rise in digital: Subscriptions to the New York Times digital edition are up, and Reuters has found that digital use is up. Plus, there’s not as much trust in traditional outlets today.

Stimulating conversation flowed during the 90-minute morning event.

Amy Kennedy, Executive Director, Golin: The question is: Who will own the relationship with influencers today?  PR firms? If so, public relations practices have to be ethical and must include multiculturalism. At Golin, we support multiculturalism and determine ways to find inclusion.  We determine, “How should we talk about that product or service?” It’s the personal responsibility of the influencer to be inclusive.

Christina Steed, Executive Vice President, Flowers Communications Group: Flowers has practiced multicultural communications before it was a well-used term. We would reach out to pastors at local churches to convey messages related to the community, or reach out to the Chicago Urban League regarding economic development. They would help us get the message out.  Some large clients, like McDonald’s, have been slow to catch on with influencers. Current influencers need to put trust in the trust bank.

Maxine Winer, Senior Partner and General Manager, FleishmanHillard: FleishmanHillard has always provided ethics training for our staff. Our policy is, “If you see something that appears to be unethical, say something, even if you’re not sure why it may be unethical.”  We rely on colleagues to be ethical, and we want them to feel comfortable raising any issue.  Multiculturalism is part and parcel in everything we do.

Daniel Pooley, Managing Partner, Finn Partners: Influencer marketing is a craft that has its own heritage. Public relations always has had influencer marketing because it’s another way to create brand connections. There’s a shifting DNA on influencer marketing that demands it to be more scientific with scalable results that are better measured. Bold, smart strategies are needed.

A side note: I have met and worked with some of the leaders on the agenda, but was thrilled to meet new fellow professionals committed to ethical public relations.

Looking forward to next year’s Roundtable. And, if it happens to fall again on Halloween, perhaps costumes should be required.

Advertisements

April is APR Month, So What Should I Do?

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

Certainly, it’s appropriate that April is APR Month. After all, April is a time of awakening, a time to invigorate, a time to take on new personal challenges — an ideal time to showcase the leading public relations voluntary mark of distinction.

(From another perspective, as a student of English literature — and with no disrespect to T.S. Eliot — I never accepted the claim that April is the cruelest month.)

The message here is one I wholeheartedly support.

Back to APR Month, the 30 days when an emphasis is placed on the value behind the Accredited in Public Relations credential. Loyal followers of the PRDude blog certainly are aware of my dedication to Accreditation and the impact its made on my practice of public relations.

As noted in this post from February, I’ve had the honor to get elected again to the Board of the PRSA Chicago Chapter as APR Chair. The challenge: Re-energize APR initiatives within the chapter by:

1) Building awareness for the importance of earning the credential.

2) Launching a structured training program later this year.

To gain insight, I participated in a conference call hosted by PRSA last month. APR chairs from various chapters shared thoughts on programs and initiatives underway. Here’s what I learned.

  • Word of mouth, blogs, and regular testimonials are invaluable.
  • Mentoring programs for APR candidates keep them engaged.
  • Cash scholarships are great incentives.
  • Generate acceptance for the credential by reaching out to top 50 employers.
  • Contact the local SHRM chapter and suggest they recommend “APR preferred” on help wanted notices.
  • Engage current APRs to contribute and point out that they can earn maintenance points through volunteer and leadership efforts.

Without question, very solid and rational ideas and directives.

So, now it’s your turn: What suggestions do you have to help PRSA Chicago jump start the APR program?

I welcome responses throughout April and the months to follow.

I’m Back! (Well, Sort Of)

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

On December 8 of last year, I had the privilege of attending the Senior Leaders reception hosted by PRSA Chicago.  (Hard to fathom that I’m a “senior” anything, but I trust the term is accurate.)

The annual event provides an opportunity to shine the spotlight on a local public relations professional who made a significant, positive and measurable impact on the profession through her or his work and within the community.

Michael Jordan I'm BackThe 2016 honoree was John LaSage, who for decades distinguished himself through his work at the Chicago office of Burson Marsteller. Read details on the reception in this report on the Chapter website.

During his outstanding comments, Mr. LaSage recalled momentous occurrences from his career, including one that basketball fans from Chicago and across the world will long remember: Michael Jordan’s return to the Chicago Bulls in March of 1995, some two years after the icon “retired” following three consecutive NBA championship seasons.

I recall Mr. LaSage recounting his participation in crafting the announcement. If memory serves correctly, a “formal” news release was prepared, but apparently Mr. Jordan opted for a message simple, compelling and memorable:

“I’m Back.”

Well, to borrow the phrase above, I’m back, too.

Specifically, I’ve been elected to the Board of Directors of PRSA Chicago, where I served for some 10 years.  My responsibility: Re-energize the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) program within the Chapter.

First, let me stipulate that my return to the Board does in no way equate with Michael Jordan’s return to the Chicago Bulls.  (And, not to sound snarky, but they should could use him this season.)  After all, Jordan-led teams won three more NBA championships.

My goals for 2017 are more modest:

  • Establish a viable program to nurture local public relations professionals through the APR process.
  • Nurture three or four colleagues on to earning Accreditation by early 2018, or sooner.

Some primary research revealed the vast majority of those earning Accreditation in recent years come from associations, healthcare, governmental organizations and the corporate world. Very few, if any, are from big agencies.

This was the same trend when I served on the Universal Accreditation Board from 2006-11.  So while our supportive efforts will be open to all, history has shown that we may not gain candidates from the marquee PR shops.

That’s okay. Because as noted, I’m back and ready to help anyone up to the Accreditation challenge.

 

 

Public Relations Pro, Blogger (and yes) Stand Up Comedian Andrea Cordts Takes Center Stage

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

One great satisfaction of working in public relations for a few decades is observing the ascent of younger professionals, those aspiring communicators dedicated to growing, learning and moving the industry and practice forward.

Andrea Cordts

Public relations pro and rising stand up comedy star Andrea Cordts.

Andrea Cordts certainly meets this criteria. We met through the PRSA Chicago Board of Directors, where we both served as volunteer leaders.  At the time, she worked in the communications department at Baird & Warner, a Chicago real estate firm with a 160-year history.  Always bright and energetic, Andrea demonstrated poise and professionalism at chapter meetings and events.

Not surprisingly, she’s moved on to a new company and new challenges.

Andrea now holds the position of Account Director with Fetch Public Relations, LLC, a seven-year-old Chicago communications company.  According to the agency’s website, Fetch is “a full service public relations firm specializing in publicity, content marketing, social media and branding.”

In the latest PRDude Q&A feature profile, Andrea shares thoughts on her new company, her successful blog and “show business” career.

  1. The big first question: You left the corporate world for the agency world. Congratulations! What prompted the move to Fetch Public Relations, LLC?

Thank you! I didn’t really look at it as a corporate-to-agency move, so much as an opportunity to become more involved in the overall strategy and development of public relations plans. I was also eager to gain more experience in mentoring junior staff and making a real impact in the day-to-day running of a company, both of which are a part of my new position.

  1. A review of the agency’s website reveals you’re representing hospitality, as well as some real estate accounts. How did your work at Baird and Warner prepare you for these new client challenges?

Real estate is all about customer service and experience, which translates very well to hospitality. This, paired with my early career experiences in the hospitality industry, made for a pretty seamless transition.

  1. We met a few years ago when we both were on the Board at PRSA Chicago. How have you grown as a public relations professional during that time? 

    Andrea left corporate PR to join this young PR agency.

    Andrea left corporate PR to join this progressive Chicago PR agency.

Being on the Board at PRSA Chicago was such an incredible learning experience, especially at that stage of my career. I learned a great deal about accountability and how to work with professionals at all levels in a learning, collaborative environment.

  1. My sources tell me – okay, you told me – that you’re a fellow blogger. What’s the status of the Chicago Quirk blog?

Ha ha, bloggers gotta stick together! However, I have moved on from Chicago Quirk. It’s still live, and since I utilized SEO tactics when writing my blogs, it still gets nearly 200 hits a day! My life changed immensely since I started it — job changes, had a kid, bought a house — and since it’s a Chicago Now blog, I wasn’t able to really re-brand. I’m actually working on another blog project that I hope to launch soon though. Stay tuned!

  1. My sources also told me – full disclosure: You told me – that you once had a career in the medieval-themed entertainment industry. And, your LinkedIn profile states you were a professional dancer and still do standup comedy. Do you incorporate these talents into your client work at Fetch?

I’m not sure my days as a wench at Medieval Times helps my current career, aside from the fact that I have unique stories to tell at cocktail parties! (Especially since my husband worked their too!) Yes, I was in a professional dance company until my late 20’s, and I did standup for several years until my daughter was born. Again, good stories to tell at parties, but it gave me invaluable presentation skills and the ability to think on my feet — no pun intended.

*  * *

This space has profiled other outstanding women in public relations.  Visit the links below to read Q&A profiles from:

  • Gini Dietrich, founder and president of Arment Dietrich and the amazingly popular Spin Sucks blog.
  • Chris Ruys, founder and president of Chris Ruys Communications, a long-standing, diversified Chicago firm.
  • Carolyn Grisko, founder and president of Grisko, a leader in transportation and public affairs communications.

On This Last Day of April, Thoughts on Participation on the Universal Accreditation Board

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

Cold, bleak and rainy here in Chicago, this last day of April. Perfect conditions to take on lots of productive tasks indoors, like publishing a post.

But what topic?

Ah, April is Accreditation month, the 30 days when many in the profession charge forward to promote the value behind the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credential.

Well, The PRDude has commented on Accreditation quite extensively, including in past Aprils, as noted in this post from April of 2014.

tactics_large_bannerAnd, I had an article published in PRSA Tactics in April of 2010 on APR mentoring best practices from Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) chapters around the nation.

But, this space hasn’t shared enough thoughts on the board that administers, markets and confers the APR, the APR+M for military public affairs officers and the new Certificate for Principles in Public Relations for college graduates.

I’m referring to the Universal Accreditation Board (UAB), the appointed body of Accredited members from eight public relations organizations, including PRSA, of which I’m a member.

Source: The Universal Accreditation Board web site.

Source: The Universal Accreditation Board web site.

From 2006 to 2011, I served as a member of the UAB. To say is was an honor is an understatement. The same goes for how my experience on the UAB elevated me personally and professionally.

All self-deprecation aside, I was kind of  a PR mutt when I was appointed to the UAB. I earned Accreditation in 2004, and had served on the newly formed PRSA Accreditation Marketing Committee (of which I later chaired.) During my many years at agencies and with an association, I had not been and active participant — much less a volunteer — in the public relations profession.

For the record, I was not a “joiner,” unless one would count being a Chicago Cubs fan and beer aficionado.

Serving on the UAB elevated me as a business communicator because I got to actively participate and make decisions on something I cared about and something I believed in. At each meeting, I had to hold my own with a body comprised of smart, experienced PR strategists from academic, agency, military and non-profit disciplines.

Frankly, during my first block of meetings held at PRSA headquarters on Maiden Lane in New York, I was a little intimidated. Hey, I was the new guy and lacked the pedigree of most — okay, perhaps all — of my colleagues!

Soon I became acclimated to procedures, and after a while, understood the acronyms that often surfaced in Board meetings. (KSAs — yes, the knowledge, skills and abilities tested in the CBE, the Computer Based Exam.) And, I contributed, first conducting an audit of the old UAB website, then co-chairing the MarCom (marketing communications) work group.

Perhaps the most lasting reward from my UAB service: The bonds and friendships I forged with many colleagues, many who remain my friends still.

From another perspective, that’s what public relations is all about: Building mutually beneficial relationships.

 

 

 

 

Antonio Hernandez: Providing a Global Voice in Modern Communications

Strategic communicators know that understanding and targeting your audience is one key element that leads to success in building a brand, mitigating a crisis or generating awareness for a product or service.

From a textbook public relations perspective, it’s called “defining your publics.” But that’s a subject for another day.

Antonio Hernandez.

Antonio Hernandez.

Today we’ll hear from an expert who manages communications programs for clients in the multicultural market. Our Q&A guest, Antonio Hernandez, is managing partner of Globovoz Communications, a Chicago consultancy that concentrates on communications for consumer products companies.

I’ll share that I served with Antonio on the PRSA Chicago Board of Directors, and he invited me to moderate a panel discussion in late April. I could share more about this outstanding professional, but I’ll let Antonio take it from here.

Below you’ll find Antonio’s responses to five questions.

1. Your bachelor’s degree is in business administration and psychology. Where did you turn the corner and start working as a public relations professional?

I remember that I was always interested in writing and the practice of public relations. I often found myself exploring PR as a professional career throughout my college years. While working on my undergraduate degree at the University of the Incarnate Word, I served as business editor for The Logos, our campus newspaper, and was named Outstanding Communicator by my graduating class. At some point, I was encouraged by one of my professors to apply for an internship with a local PR agency. From there, I completed another internship with the PR department at VIA Metropolitan Transit Authority, San Antonio’s public transit system. Upon receiving my bachelor’s degree, the company offered me my first professional PR job.

After my early start in PR, I was fortunate to have worked with three Fortune 100 companies: McDonald’s, Abbott and Exelon, before opening my own global business advisory firm, Globovoz, which is a Spanish-language expression for “global voice”.

Still today, I channel my studies in psychology and human relations when exploring barriers to effective communications and to come up with combined solutions for clients.

2. You have a tremendous resume in the corporate side of public relations, having provided counsel for household names like McDonald’s Corporation and Abbot Laboratories, among others. What insight can you offer practitioners representing clients of more modest size? What strategies, skills, experiences apply to both local and global clients?

When I lecture on multicultural public relations, I tell students that most companies today, regardless of their size, are focused on having a global reach with a local impact. To that end, what is most important for PR practitioners today is to know the business inside and out and to be diligent about building relationships across divisions, geographic areas and with key internal stakeholders.

I have seen the value corporate senior management places on strategic PR counsel evolve over the last couple of decades. This is why PR pros need to get up to speed on what’s going on in the business world that could negatively impact their brand or client. From what I have observed – skills and experiences aside, PR professionals flourish in their careers when they are viewed as trusted advisers and this outcome is built one relationship at a time.

3. Globovoz Communications provides communications GLOBOVOZ final logo-1for “multicultural consumer segments,” as noted on your website. Do you face the same challenges in the multicultural market as communicators representing clients in the “general public” market (if that even still exists)?

Based on my experience in the corporate sector and on now on the agency side, I believe there is still work to be done when it comes to prioritizing and allocating corporate budgets to support multicultural versus general market PR programs. Some brands are doing a great job at understanding where their greatest market growth will be and apply the necessary financial and management resources to their PR teams. Based on my consulting work today, these are companies that have a vested interest in building brand trust and external relationships with diverse and emerging consumer segments, such as Hispanic, LGBT and millennial.

I also counsel clients that multicultural consumers will continue to grow and will demand a new set of engagement touch points when it comes to building market relationships in the future. In fact, research shows America of the 21st Century will be the most pluralistic, multicultural nation on earth with ethnic ties to every part of the globe, and by 2042, ethnic consumers will make up more than half of the U.S. population.

When it comes to multicultural PR, I also caution clients about the notion of a “total market” or “cross-cultural” approach when trying to connect with many different consumers with one full sweep. Successful marketers know that leveraging powerful cultural cues relevant to specific ethnic consumer groups can establish brand loyalty with multicultural consumers over many generations.

4. We’ve read about pioneers and innovators in mainstream public relations, advertising and other communications disciplines. Who would you rank as pioneers in the multicultural side of the industry?

One person who immediately comes to mind is John Echeveste, a true Hispanic PR pioneer and someone I have learned a great deal from. I met John when I was leading U.S. Hispanic public relations for McDonald’s and he was a partner with Valencia, Perez & Echeveste – the company’s national Hispanic agency of record.

More than 31 years ago, John also was a founding member of the Hispanic Public Relations Association (HPRA). Today, HPRA is the nation’s largest and premier national network of Hispanic public relations, marketing and advertising professionals with chapters in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Miami and Washington, D.C. I currently serve as National President-Elect for HPRA and look forward to expanding our association’s influence and outreach in the U.S. and globally.

John also received the Public Relations Society of America Pioneer Award in 1994, and was named one of the top 100 Corporate Influentials by Hispanic Business magazine in 2010. In 2003-2004, he served as president of the Public Relations Global Network, an association of 40 worldwide PR agencies.

5. What three issues — political, cultural, technological, etc. — will impact multicultural communications in the next five years?

Talent. Talent. Talent. Leading brands that want to build relationships in diverse and emerging markets around the world know it begins with recruiting, developing and retaining talent reflecting their client population. These companies know they can develop the most robust marketing plans, but at the end of the day, consumers want to trust and do business with companies who understand them from different economic, political and cultural perspectives.

I continue to counsel clients that they must define and market an employee experience that will resonate with new generations of workers whose opinions are shaped by globalization, cultural preferences, inclusion, social media and a brand’s corporate citizenship.

* * *

Did you enjoy this post? Want more insight from another outstanding professional?  Read this Q&A post from December of 2013 featuring Elena del Valle.

Network. Network. Network. Why I Keep Doing It

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

Even at this stage of my career — 30-plus years in public relations and other communications disciplines — I still find it necessary to expand my network.

(Note to self: Where has the time gone? Can I get some of it back? Can someone develop an app for that?)

Yes, that's me in the center of it all, in my role as moderator.

Yes, that’s me in the center of it all, in my role as moderator at recent panel discussion. Photo credit: NAHJ Chicago Chapter.

Given the opportunity and time, I attend events and activities hosted by PRSA Chicago and other organizations. My mantra: Every time you can interact, speak, present, lead or learn, you grow as a professional.

Here’s a case in point. In late April, I moderated a panel discussion hosted by the Chicago chapters of the Hispanic Public Relations Association and National Association of Hispanic Journalists.  The theme: “PR Pros and Journalists Working Together for the Good of the Story.”

The dialogue was spirited, from the panelists and those who attended. Photo credit: NAHJ Chicago Chapter.

The dialogue was spirited, from the panelists and those who attended. Photo credit: NAHJ Chicago Chapter.

The event was hosted at Edelman’s Chicago offices and featured outstanding panelists from local broadcast news, the corporate sector and the agency side of public relations.

You can read my thoughts in this post published on a great industry resource, Hispanic Marketing and PR, a site I’ve contributed to before.  And, visit this page to get a more extensive visual perspective of the afternoon.

So, what did I gain from this exercise:

1.  Better insight on working with the media.

2.  Greater understanding of people who comprise the Hispanic demographic.

3.  Another opportunity to hone my presentation skills.

4.  Promotion of myself and the university research unit where I now manage public affairs.

5.  And, the ability to network with fellow public relations professionals and members of the media and make new friends.

Digital communications has changed the world forever.  And, as I noted in this post from last year, I’ve nurtured some great virtual friendships.

Still, to me, interpersonal communications offer so much more. After all, it’s impossible to shake hands virtually. But I’ll bet someone’s working on an app for that.