PR Firms and BBB Accreditation: Questions

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

Along with the usual main news, business, sports, and arts sections, the June 22 issue of our home delivered Chicago Tribune also included a tabloid publication.  No, not the rival Chicago Sun-Times, but a Consumer Resource Guide published by the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

BBB two

Think I’ll hold onto this publication; just in case.

The purpose of the insert was to celebrate the BBB’s 90th anniversary of providing service to people and businesses here in metropolitan Chicago. The contents contained BBB rated businesses, and a reasonable amount of display ads.  (Hey, print publication ain’t cheap.)

Let me offer my most sincere congratulations. I wholeheartedly support the work of this organization, which “sets high ethical standards for business conduct.” Learn more by scanning the BBB Business Partner Code of Conduct.

Now, on to the focus of this post. I scanned the 40-page report and learned that the mortgage broker we’ve used to finance and re-finance our home was listed, as was the company that replaced the roof on our garage last year.

BBB one

Note the two public relations firms, right between Public Opinion Analysts and Publishers.

But, what I found somewhat puzzling was the fact that there were only two public relations firms listed: GreenMark Public Relations, Inc., a firm headquartered in the north Chicago suburb of Mundelein, and FLEISHMANHILLARD, a global firm with offices in Chicago.  (Note: All caps with no space is how the firm was listed in the BBB report.)

For the record, the BBB report had 30 listings for Advertising/Marketing firms or Agencies/Counselors and five for Communications firms.  And, there were lots and lots of mortgage brokers and roofing companies

This prompted some questions:

  1. Most obvious, why are only two Chicago firms BBB Accredited?
  2. What value do public relations firms — companies that in theory are charged with strengthening client’s reputations — find in earning third-party endorsement, like from the BBB?
  3. Should organizations like the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) champion BBB Accreditation?

As a public relations professional who earned the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credential, I support and value voluntary initiatives that substantiate my ability to deliver sound, ethical communications counsel.  This, I maintain, is especially true for public relations, a profession not licensed in this country.

And, yes, I did check the BBB list for bloggers. Not a category they list just yet. But I’ll keep checking.




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.



An Obituary Leads to Discovery

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

A while back I read an obituary about a Chicago man who had quite an accomplished career, one similar to mine, at least in terms of the path he followed.

The gentleman, who’s name I’ll keep confidential, started in the news business in the mid-1940s making $35 per week.  For comparison, my first job out of college at the City News Bureau paid $100 per week to start; but that was in early 1977.

What's in a name? In a different era it defined a business.

What’s in a name? In a different era it defined a business.

The man later made the switch to public relations because it paid more money, which he needed to support his growing family.  I left journalism because I couldn’t get hired by a Chicago daily, and I was tired of covering school board and town council meetings for a suburban weekly.

One PR/advertising shop he worked at during his distinguished career was the New York-headquartered Albert Frank-Guenther Law, acknowledged as one of the first firms to specialize in financial communications.  The agency was founded in 1872, a few years after titans of advertising James Walter Thompson and Francis Wayland Ayer opened their shops.

Fittingly for this conversation, Albert Frank also was my first agency experience.  My boss, John Graham, and I served banks and bond houses by producing redemption notices called “tombstones.”  I was thrilled to get the opportunity to draft a news release and do some media relations.

Could not find the Albert Frank-Guenther Law logo, so this one will have to do.

Could not find the Albert Frank-Guenther Law logo, so this one will have to do.

In researching this post, I learned that Albert Frank now only exists in the memories of those who worked there and in news archives.  As noted in this New York Times article, a company called Citigate Group, Ltd. bought the firm and a sister agency in 1996 from what apparently what Albert Frank had become — a holding company.

Citigate, or rather Citigate Dewe Rogerson, still exists and apparently is thriving, with offices on three continents.

But the Albert Frank-Guenther Law name is gone.

Many service companies — like public relations and advertising agencies, accounting and law firms, and others — were named after the men and women who founded them.  When the business is sold, the name and in many cases, the history of the company is tossed aside, surfacing now and then in innocuous places like obituaries.

Albert Frank-Guenther Law was in business for 124 years, a remarkable history for any company.  I’m proud to say I played a small role in that history, just like the fellow newsman/PR guy whose obit inspired these thoughts.