Chilling With PR Peers: Skyline Awards & DePaul Graduate Showcase

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

Last week culminated in two outstanding events that featured some of the smartest, most engaging and fascinating people I know (or got to know).  At both events, I refreshed relationships with old colleagues and nurtured relationships with new ones.

I’m referring, as you may ascertain, to gatherings of fellow public relations professionals.

The similarities continue.

Both were held in cool venues, both had excellent food and beverage and both reinforced to me something about public relations and those of us who are in this business.  Want to know more?

Here are capsulized reports.

PRSA Chicago 2014 Skyline Awards.

The evening of Tuesday June 10 was a rainy one in Chicago. But that didn’t damper the enthusiasm of the more than 250 attendees at this annual awards gala and dinner. From the Grand Army of the Republic hall at the historic Chicago Cultural Center, the Chicago PR community met to recognize excellence, network and socialize. prsa chicago

My big takeaway: Collectively, PR professionals know how to work together and execute a tremendous event driven by volunteer time, energy and spirit.  (As a member of the PRSA Chicago Board, I played a small role in the event: I provided music for the Cocktail Hour.  No, not me on guitar and vocals, but cool modern and traditional jazz via CDs.)  A round of applause to all who made the evening a success, especially event co-chairs Lauren Brush and Sarah Siewert, who worked very hard and speaking of cool, were just that under pressure — even during those last minutes before the crowds arrived.

DePaul University Graduate e-Portfolio Showcase.

DePaulTwo days later, I was honored to attend the Graduate e-Portfolio Showcase sponsored by the DePaul University College of Communication.  Held on the rooftop deck of a vintage building that once housed a department store on State Street, the event provided an opportunity for 19 graduate students from the University’s Public Relations and Advertising program to present their creative work and projects in an informal setting to senior PR professionals.   For the record, I would have attended even if the agenda did not include hors d’oeuvres and an open bar because the invitation to participate came from Ron Culp, professional director of the program and a titan in Chicago’s public relations community.  (Full disclosure: Ron has re-posted a few PRDude blogs on his awesome Culpwrit blog, an outstanding resource for PR careers.)

My big takeaway: As a guest, I was invited to meet with the graduates and view their online portfolios. Clearly, by the talent and work presented, academic institutions are developing people who clearly are ready to lead the communications industry in the future.  I met with eight young professionals who demonstrated the knowledge, skills and abilities demanded to excel and sculpt communications programs in our digitally-driven world.  Frankly, I’m glad I won’t have to compete with these men and women in the future.  Wish I had time to meet them all.

Tomorr0w, I’ll join Chapter Board members for a rare afternoon meeting. APR 50thI’ll learn about how well the Chapter did financially from the Skyline Awards, hear reports from committees and provide an update on the training program I’m leading to help members earn the Accredited in Public Relations credential.

If you haven’t guessed by now, I really enjoy the public relations profession and the people who are part of it.

 

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Once a Upon a Time: Three Things I Learned on Storytelling

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

On May 28, my friends and colleagues at PRSA Chicago hosted an interesting breakfast workshop that addressed one of the oldest forms of communication — storytelling.

storyOur speaker, Rob Biesenbach, certainly had the credentials, boasting an impressive big agency background and successful career as an author and consultant.

Along with more coffee than I should drink in a day and a huge breakfast panini, here’s what I learned about storytelling  following this excellent presentation.

  1.  Follow the KISS Principle: To craft and deliver an effective story, keep it simple.  (But drop the second “S” and don’t call your audience “stupid.”) Mr. Bisenbach noted that storytelling “is not as complicated as you think.”  I wholeheartedly agree and wonder why so many organizations have a trouble telling a simple story. Probably because of the lawyers.
  2. A Definition: Mr. Bisenbach noted that a true story has these three elements:  Character, goal and challenge/obstacle.  True in some respects, especially in the verbal sense; but the English major in me recalls that a story — or better yet,  a modern short story — has these elements: Conflict, plot, rising action, falling action, conclusion. I know this for a fact because, as noted, I was an English major.
  3. Passion is No Ordinary Word: That’s true. It’s the title of a song by British rocker Graham Parker and applies to effective storytelling.  Demonstrate passion by  “looking inside yourself and stepping outside your comfort zone when delivering a story,” Mr. Bisenbach said.

Stories can be spoken (the original format, I believe) written (the format that came next) and recorded (the way many of us today absorb them).  But they’re at the heart of all communications.

Too often today, those of us who are in communications disciplines lose sight of that fact.

Now that I got your attention, did you hear the one about the PR blogger who had childhood aspirations of being a baseball player, astronaut or secret agent but couldn’t run, throw, hit or field very well?  And was afraid of heights and didn’t look good in a tuxedo?

Ah, that’s a story for another time.

So, what’s your story?

Shameless Self-Promotion: A Post on Accreditation Published by PRSA Chicago

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

This post most assuredly will be short.

Very short.

The reason: I want you to read this post, one published last week as the debut to Insights, a blog hosted by my friends and colleagues at PRSA Chicago.

APR 50thIn the post, “Get Serious About Public Relations and Your Career: Earn the APR Because You Want To,” I make a case for earning the credential and cite some personal thoughts and insight.

Accredited PR professionals — and I’m sure many, many other communicators — understand and support the concept of open disclosure in the ethical practice of public relations.  Here goes:  I’m the 2014 Chapter Accreditation Chair and hopefully my thoughts will inspire others.

So please read the post — the one noted above, I mean.  The post is relevant now because the APR turns 50 this year, and PRSA christened April at Accreditation Month.  But I hope all serious practitioners will consider Accreditation at some point in their careers.

If you’re Accredited, share why you pursued the APR.

If you’d like to read more of my musings on Accreditation, here are some other posts to consider:

 

APR Training Year Two: Guiding the Next Generation

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

Aside from getting a permanent tattoo of the APR logo, I can’t think of a better way to demonstrate my commitment to the Accreditation in Public Relations program and the public relations profession than by helping fellow public relations professionals earn the credential.

APR_logoStarting next week, I’ll have that opportunity through my position as Accreditation chair and board member at PRSA Chicago.  Yes, I’ll be co-teaching a six-session program designed to nurture, inspire, cajole — hey, threaten if I have to (kidding, of course) — local colleagues who plan to take on the challenge of the APR program this year — the 50th year of Accreditation.

One may ask, “Why?”  Why allocate time and energy to the APR? Well, regular readers of The PRDude have read often about my passion for the credential and my unwavering belief in its value to elevate a practitioner from a tactician who knows how to a true strategist, a valued counselor who knows why.

Now, here’s perhaps a better question: Why would anyone with right mind want to pursue public relations as a career?Stress

According to this article from a leading industry publication, “public relations executive” ranks as the sixth most stressful job in America.  This is purported to be a statistically valid report, but I don’t see underwater welder or long-haul trucker anywhere in the top 10 list. ( As far as I know, no one in PR is submerged and clutching a torch while working or has to motor mile upon mile in a vehicle that’s 50 feet long with up to 18 speeds.)

But, for certain, working in public relations for a few decades can result in a few grey hairs and facial wrinkles.

I won’t ask the four candidates why they’re in the profession.  I will ask if they understand the challenges ahead, and if they’re prepared to work hard to earn the APR.  Without question, I will point out that Accreditation was the best thing this former journalist did career wise.

And, I have the grey hairs and wrinkles to prove it.

Want more from The PRDude on Accreditation?

A Resolution for 2014: One More Great Thing

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

At dinner one Saturday earlier this month, a friend talked of plans for the future.  She’s contemplating closing the successful, boutique public relations firm she founded decades ago and relocating within the next few years to someplace warmer and much different than Chicago.

images

What one great thing will you try to accomplish in 2014? Or, perhaps you’ll take on more than one?

The place she has in mind is an historic colonial town in Mexico located far from the tourist trail and populated by a healthy number of ex-patriot American artists.   (And, it’s probably a lot warmer than Chicago, where it’s 7 degrees as I write this.)

There, she would pursue her passion for painting abstracts and landscapes.

“I want to do one more great thing with my life,” our friend said.  One more great thing is a very achievable goal for a highly respected public relations professional, great business woman and very accomplished visual artist.  And, there’s not a doubt that our friend will accomplish this and other great things in her life — whether here, in Mexico or someplace else.

Future

Your future is in that direction. Set a goal, follow it and accomplish one great thing.

As the minutes of 2013 tick away, I’m inspired to look back on some noteworthy accomplishments and set sights on great things I plan to pursue.  First, here are four fairly great things I accomplished:

1. Landed a terrific new career in the academic arena.

2. Gained a renewed interest in exercise; I’ve been running regularly since summer.

3. Maintained a robust publishing schedule for The PRDude blog; today’s final post of 2013 marks 48 for the year.

4. And, as you might expect, demonstrated my continued passion for public relations and the Accredited in Public Relations credential.  I attended my first PRSA National Assembly and will again help members of PRSA Chicago interested in earning the APR credential.

As for 2014, I plan to begin earning my Master’s degree in English. That one great thing will take a few years, but it’s achievable.

What direction will your future take?  Pursue one great thing in 2014 and find out.

I Shook Hands with a PR Industry Titan, and a Strategy to Re-Launch the APR

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

The title of this post is quite long.  So, I’ll be relatively brief.

Al Golin

Al Golin, Founder and Chair of Golin Harris.

On November 21, I had the honor to shake the hand of one of the undisputed titans in public relations: Al Golin, founder and chairman of international communications firm Golin Harris, identified graphically by its lower case “gh” logo.

Mr. Golin was being honored by PRSA Chicago, along with Bridget Coffing, SVP and Chief Communications Officer for McDonald’s Corporation, at the Chapter’s annual fall Senior Leaders recognition reception.  The gathering, which attracted perhaps 70 of my town’s foremost PR practitioners, was held at the prestigious Racquet Club 0f Chicago, an old-line business and social club headquartered in the Gold Coast neighborhood.  That meant I had to don and jacket and tie, and be on my best behavior.

Not a problem, as I have colorful ties and sport jackets to last decades; and, I revisited guidelines for proper conduct at tony venues.  (For the record, I own a tennis racquet, but don’t think I could afford Racquet Club dues.)  Back to reality.

After some comments and a well-produced video about the 57-year-old relationship between GH  (or is it “gh?”) and the fast-food giant, I had an opportunity to meet Mr. Golin and shake his hand. He was very gracious, listening to my tenure in the agency world 20-plus years prior;  I noted my big take-away from his comments was that even after 57 years of outstanding service to an iconic global brand like McDonald’s, the GH team has to earn the client’s continued business every day.

I wish all of us in the industry would take these words to heart.  Every day.

APR_logo

Hey agency people: Wouldn’t this look good after your name?

Onto a few thoughts on the Accreditation in Public Relations credential.  Noted in this recent post following the 2013 PRSA Assembly, the APR is in need of an overhaul — a major one, in fact.

Leadership at the Public Relations Society of America is asking Society members and anyone who’d like to speak their mind to offer ways to revitalize the APR, which turns 50 next year.  Here’s my strategic contribution: Make a concentrated effort to promote Accreditation to the segment of the public relations business with the largest concentration of potential candidates — public relations agencies.

Makes sense, doesn’t it? During my six years on the Universal Accreditation Board, I took special notice of the business affiliation of newly Accredited professionals. The large majority were not from the agency arena, but from non-profit organizations, government, education and healthcare companies.

As an incentive to champion Accreditation, offer agency pros — or any organization or group for that matter — a “group discount” on the cost of the examination if, say, five or more employees enter the process at the same time.  To do their part, agencies could allow APR candidates two hours each week to study and prepare for the three-step process.

Need more?  Here are three benefits for each side:

Agencies:

1. Account team members who have demonstrated the knowledge, skills and abilities required for modern strategic public relations.

2. Employees who will be committed to lifelong learning.

3. Perhaps lower turnover, as employees might want to hang around an agency that nurtures Accreditation.

Account Staff:

1. Earn a credential that lets one evolve from strategist to tactician.

2. Join the ranks of thousands of PR professionals from all disciplines who are Accredited.

3. Hold the credential needed to participate as an elected officer within PRSA.

Okay, this wasn’t a “relatively brief” post, but one more thought.  If I have the opportunity to meet Mr. Golin again, I’ll ask his advice on how to re-energize Accreditation.

A Few Things I Will Miss Doing Each Morning Since …

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

This summer has been delightful here in Chicago, especially from a weather perspective.  That makes for ideal conditions to take advantage of all things relaxing and outdoors.

These past few weeks, I’ve started my day on the front porch, lounging on the wicker furniture Susan restored.  I leisurely enjoy my coffee and can read as many articles as I want from the Chicago Tribune, which we still have delivered.

Here's a street in Avondale. It's not the street I live on, but it's representative of our neighborhood.

Here’s a street in Avondale. It’s not the street I live on, but it’s representative of our neighborhood.

I’m accompanied by birds — cardinals, robins and sparrows — and am serenaded by their calls.  The morning sun, filtered by the linden trees to the east, is warm and inviting.  From our front porch, I greet neighbors — retired folks like Joanne, long-standing friends like Bree, Hispanic kids, hipsters sporting tattoos and straw fedoras — heading to work, off to school or walking their dogs.

In essence, I see the neighborhood come alive; it’s peaceful and tranquil, and a reflection of how Avondale has evolved from one sometimes plagued by gang punks, loud cars and graffiti to one of tolerance, quiet and normalcy.

This is the view from outside the office building where I now work. Can you guess where it is?

This is the view from outside the office building where I now work. Can you guess where it is?

Well, my cherished morning routine is over.  Now, I’ve joined my neighbors. I now have someplace to go.  I landed a new full-time position.

Thrilled to be back in another great public relations position? Without question.  Excited about the challenges ahead?  Bring them on. Looking forward to continue growing and learning?  As my friends from Wisconsin would say, “You betcha!”

To those who offered support during my search, sincere thanks.  (A special shout out to my friends at PRSA Chicago for the opportunity to stay active in the profession through my volunteer work coaching APR candidates.)  To those who are searching for the next career opportunity, I offer this advice:

  • Always preserve your integrity.
  • Always remember you have value in today’s job market.

And, as for my coffee-and-newspaper routine: There’s still Saturday and Sunday, and there’s half of summer left.