Three Salient Thoughts from Arthur W. Page Society President Roger Bolton

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

Without question, thoughts from the president of the leading international society for senior public relations professionals across the corporate, agency, non-profit and academic disciplines would prove noteworthy, enlightening and compelling — especially for those of us who remain passionate about the state of public relations today. Well, that accurately encapsulates the casual presentation made by Roger Bolton, president of the Arthur W. Page Society.

Bridget Coffing, Maril Gagen MacDonald and Roger Bolton at the PRSA Chicago Senior Leaders presentation June 26.

In Chicago June 26 at the invitation of PRSA Chicago (where I serve on the 2018 Board), Mr. Bolton shared insight on the direction modern public relations is heading, the results of studies on corporate CEOs and CCOs, the mounting impact of technology and much more.

(Shout out to the PRSA Chicago Senior Leaders committee for organizing the event, securing great sponsors and of course, locking in Mr. Bolton.)

Before a packed and attentive audience in a second-floor hall at the classic Women’s Athletic Club of Chicago, Mr. Bolton provided way, way too much to chronicle in its entirety in this space. So, here are three comments that were especially poignant to me.

  • On the role of communications professionals: Defining the organization and its mission is a key role of corporate communicators. Mr. Bolton followed that thought with this equally important comment: The communicator’s job responsibility is to “not burnish the image of a flawed client.” Bravo, bravo!  Learn more from “The Authentic Enterprise” report produced by the Page Society in 2007 based on C-Suite interviews and research.
  • On coping with disruption caused by modern society: A 2016 report, “The New CCO,”  addressed the dramatically evolving role of the men and women charged with directing and guiding corporate communications. All industries, Mr. Bolton said, experience disruption from technology and many other forces; to address this within a corporation, CCOs must navigate ways to change the corporate culture to adapt to the inevitable instances of severance from the norm.
  • On the impact of artificial intelligence in modern communications.  Mr. Bolton noted that the results of some political races are being covered by machines due to a lack of live reporters on the scene. Artificial intelligence is a reality, but communicators should not be dissuaded from employing technology “to make human lives better.” He augmented that thought by stating that communicators today need “to use digital technology in an authentic way.”

The discussion was moderated by Maril Gagen MacDonald, founder of the strategic Chicago communications firm that bears her name.  My colleague on PRSA Chicago, Bridget Coffing, gave the introductory remarks.  Following Mr. Bolton’s unscripted commentary — which he delivered standing up, rather than from the comfy chair provided — there was a robust Q&A session that addressed diversity, the changing corporate culture and the arrival of the Millennial generation within the profession.

Riveted by the conversation and dialogue from fellow communicators, I headed home that rainy evening energized and emboldened. Clearly, the public relations profession will continue to maintain its position as a critical component of modern society.  Watch out AI: We ain’t going away.

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Skilled, Savvy Communicator Debbie Harvey Charges Ahead with New Integrated Marketing Agency

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

The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in the modern business world today, and that includes the integrated marketing communications arena. Our subject for today’s Q&A post is a prime example. Debbie Harvey, MS, APR, recently decided to transition from a senior position with the American Medical Association to form a boutique Chicago-headquartered business, DHW Executive Consulting, LLC. In this engaging conversation, Debbie shares thoughts on what prompted her decision to launch a new company, the state of communications in 2018 and a subject dear to her heart — domestic and international travel.  For the record: I have known and worked with Debbie for nearly a decade through our volunteer participation in PRSA Chicago.

Entrepreneur and savvy communicator Debbie Harvey.

1. The first and most pressing question: What were the factor(s) that compelled you to leave the association management world to start your own business?

After nearly 20 years leading brand strategy and corporate communications both in-house and on the agency side in healthcare, I founded DHW Executive Consulting LLC based on the concept that businesses and brands need smart, experienced integrated marketing and communications executive support often without the hassle and expense of big agency commitments. At DHW Executive Consulting LLC, you’ll get breakthrough integrated marketing communications solutions through executive level insights. I have the savvy know how and creative chops to help build brands winning strategies – and then make them happen!

My focus is on brand/rebranding strategy and campaigns, marketing and communications planning, executive/leadership communications, event marketing, internal communications, product launches, and corporate communications.

I’m building a company that is dynamic, thoughtful, experienced…and fun! That’s what an ideal partner brings to the table, and that’s what you’ll get if you partner with me. So, let’s pull up some chairs to this proverbial table and chat!

2. You have an impressive curriculum vitae, including leadership positions with a global public relations firm and marketing leadership at the largest national physician association. How will you transfer skills and experience cultivated in these larger environments to the new consultancy? 

Currently I’m helping select organizations with leveling up their brand strategy and storytelling, and others with their integrated marketing and communications planning, both in the healthcare space and beyond. Launching a consultancy is something that has been intriguing, exciting and scary all at the same time. But, as Eleanor Roosevelt once said: “Do something that scares you every day.”

My background is in integrated marketing communications, which, for the early to mid-2000s, this kind of approach felt like screaming into a hurricane. There were so many silos among communications and marketing ownership, really to a client’s detriment. Times are finally evolving, and it’s critical for successful C-suite executives to bring a holistic perspective to the marcom landscape. I believe successful integrated marketing communications professionals can help pull back the lens on brand planning and ensure channels work more seamlessly together for greater impact and success.

3. Now, let’s explore the state of public relations and communications. What are the greatest challenges facing the profession today, given the continual claims of “fake news,” unceasing amount of uncontrolled and unregulated digital messages, and gradual decline of traditional news sources? 

You’ve hit the nail on the head with some of the biggest challenges in the communications world today. With an attack on the entire public relations profession given today’s political environment, to an attack on data security and how people engage with social media given the Cambridge Analytica crisis, PR/comms professionals face an uphill battle in effecting positive change – for themselves and the brands they represent. That said, it is still an exciting time for those professionals who commit to this profession – and commit to doing it well. A recent Sprout Social study revealed that two-thirds of consumers now expect brands to have a stance on political and social issues, making it all the more critical for communications professionals to guide and develop a brand and/or corporation’s story and how it shows up, where it shows up and what it means to its stakeholders.

4. We met through our involvement with the Chicago Chapter of PRSA, where you served as President in 2012. How did your participation in PRSA (and other volunteer activities) contribute to your growth and development as a modern communications professional?

I have been a member of PRSA and its Chicago Chapter for more than a decade, and was first attracted to joining the Chicago Chapter board due to its board members’ passion and dedication to advancing the profession and helping local practitioners. I began as the sponsorship chair, and after increasing sponsorship revenue for the chapter 25 percent in a year, became the president elect and subsequently, the president. During my tenure, I had the privilege of leading both seasoned and mid-career professionals and together we developed and launched the first-ever PRSA Midwest Conference, which included 13 regions.

The PRSA experience gave me a platform to hone my leadership skills, business acumen, and energy and drive to “get things done efficiently.” There’s a great Forbes article on entrepreneurship and increasing productivity.

This experience catapulted the progression of both my career and confidence to launch a business, and I am thrilled that many of my former PRSA colleagues and friends have reached out. It is a true community.

5. Okay, time to lighten things up. You and your husband are avid travelers. (Note: I appreciate your sage insight on Charleston, SC.) What destinations are on the proverbial horizon for 2018 and beyond?

I get the travel bug fairly often, whether it be jaunts to our favorite U.S. city (Charleston) or back to my hometown in NYC, but we also look to have an international adventure once a year. Traveling to new places is a great reminder that life is more than your job and your city (or country) – it’s important to continuously learn about other cultures, history and customs to be a well-rounded person.

I’m heading to the Amalfi Coast and Montenegro to celebrate a milestone birthday in a few weeks, and excited about experiencing each country’s personality…and food, of course! Beyond this year, I’ve been reading more and more about Latvia and its fascinating culture. Latvia is known as “the singing nation,” singing being the country’s most unifying force. As a lover of music (and food), it’s climbing higher and higher on my “must do” near term list.

But for now, arrivederci!

 

 

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.

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.