A Guide to PR 101 … And Then Some

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

Those of us who contribute to the blogosphere certainly appreciate getting recognized for our contributions.

I certainly do.

techfunction1That’s why I was honored to receive an email from business writer Phoebe Parlade, inspired to reach out after reading a 2016 PRDude post.  Phoebe, who writes for the U.K. magazine TechFunction, thought I would be interested in reviewing an online report designed to guide business owners on how to incorporate strategic public relations.

Well, I am the PRDude and I was flattered that my humble blog inspired this inquiry. And, I sort of covered this topic in a post from March of this year.

The report, “What Is Public Relations?,” is a very cool and valuable digital resource that provides insight and information to business owners — or anyone who wants to better comprehend public relations.  (And, for the record, the resource is produced by TechFunction.)

Visitors to the site will learn an accurate definition of the practice and some relevant history dating from ancient times to today. The section on relevant modern PR quotes features tweets from leading practitioners and thought leaders, including my amazing Chicago friend and colleague Gini Dietrich, profiled in this space in 2015.  And, the content that addresses public relations in the digital age provides a solid analysis of the impact of digital in shaping and controlling the modern conversation.

And, as one would anticipate, there’s a large amount of content that addresses strategies and tactics.  I concur with much of what is presented, but wouldn’t advise business owners to follow the link to the press release template and follow the advice presented.  My advice is to hire a seasoned public relations professional for this task. Drafting a compelling news story/release is not a paint-by-numbers exercise.

But what struck home for me was this: Throughout the report, the authors drive home the fact that public relations is a strategic process and “more aligned with the management of all relationships and communication between an organization and the public.”

Well said, indeed.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Part II: What Are the Top (Fill in a Number) Public Relations Blogs? The PRDude Finds Out

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

Due to the overwhelming response (well, at least by the standards of this blog) to last week’s post, I’ve done some further analysis into the leading blogs that center on all — or some — things public relations.

So, what did my days (okay, I spent around two hours) of subsequent primary research reveal?

shift-communications-logo-dkThe Most Impressive. There has to be a “winner” of sorts in this PR blog analysis, right? I pick The Shift Blog, published by Shift Communications, an established communications firm that concentrates in consumer, B2B and healthcare. Some reasons why: The blog is clean, well-designed and easy to navigate. There’s a good balance of topical posts (social media and content marketing strategies) on relevant subjects balanced by common sense commentary (communicate face-to-face and career advice for first-year professionals.) And, the Shift team offers opinions and occasionally shifts (could not resist) to the lighter side, as evidenced by this post on the agency’s “virtual employee.”

No Defense, Lots of Offense. Let me explain. In my cursory analysis, I found many posts that addressed the value of public relations and those who work in the profession; but I did not find blogs that tackled the frequent misrepresentation of public relations, which to the uneducated is “just like advertising” or purely publicity.  This blog even incorporates a somewhat derogatory and unflattering term for PR professionals in its name.  Come on, fellow public relations bloggers! Rise up against those misinformed members of the media and general public that equate public relations with propaganda.

You Call This a “Blog?” Part II. With no disrespect to a leading industry publication, but how can they publish a report that aggregates tweets on a major national issue — the wage discrepancy between men and women — and call it a blog?  I trust a savvy person with a Twitter account could get the same results by entering #EqualPayDay in the Search Twitter window. As I understand the process, blogs are supposed to offer insight, commentary, opinions, news. It’s supposed to require some work.

This exercise has also revealed public relations remains an always-evolving communications practice. The men and women who provide communications counsel and convey thoughts via blogs contribute to the dialogue needed to identify best practices, address issues involving business and ethics and keep public relations moving forward. That’s positive, and it’s necessary.

Here at the PRDude, I’ve attempted to do contribute to the public relations conversation, and tackle other stuff, too.

 

 

 

 

What Are the Top (Fill in a Number) Public Relations Blogs? The PRDude Finds Out

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

In my unquenchable thirst for keeping in step with the ever-evolving practice of public relations, I initiated some primary research. Specifically, a short analysis of the “top” public relations blogs.

prn-logo-color

Well, PR Newswire — more precisely an article by the company, not a blog — ranked third in my google search.

Now, what’s “top” certainly is up for debate; and I maintain that both quantitative (like visits and comments) and qualitative (like whether the blogger can craft a lucid, meaningful post) findings should be measured.

For the record, my research was quite rudimentary: I googled “top public relations blogs in 2016” and reviewed the results.

The top three results were, in order:

  1. The Top 50 Public Relations Blogs, a June 28, 2013 post from the nice people at Cision.
  2. 60 of the best Public Relations blogs in the world, published by InkyBee.com.
  3. 2016 Public Relations Trends: Are You Ready for What #PRisNow?, a January 14, 2016 post from PRNewswire.

Okay, so I’ll exclude #3, although the article was well-written and informative, and add another submission from my findings: The Top 10 Public Relations Blogs, a post from a site called Blogworld.com.

spinsucks51

Since it was launched, this blog continually ranks among the “top” public relations blogs.

Before I share some thoughts, I must disclose the following about two blogs that surfaced in my research:

So, I’ll withhold any comments on these two fine online sources geared to us communicators. But here are four very, very general thoughts on the others I visited.

Vehicles for Big Agencies. Not a surprise, but the PR behemoths publish some very impressive blogs that provide a platform to share views, comment on the state of the profession, and of course, help grow the client base. In fact, this agency, which needs no introduction, manages 10 blogs!

I'll bet back in the day, lots of PR pros enjoyed a martini (or two) at lunch.

I’ll bet back in the day, lots of PR pros enjoyed a martini (or two) at lunch.

Whimsical Names. Some PR bloggers thought up attention-grabbing monikers for their sites, something I certainly can relate to. (For the uninitiated, the PRDude is not the pen name for some surfer/slacker named Chad who lives in a shack in the hills above Malibu.) An example is this blog, a mash up of the profession and a famous cocktail.

You Call This a “Blog?” As I understand it, blogs are original content published by the person/organization hosting the site or by a contributor.  Yet, sites like this one — simply an aggregation of posts published by a recruiting company — got rated among the top 50 blogs.

Straightforward PR Blog. To borrow a classic phrase shared in the advertising business, some PR blogs cut through the clutter to provide no-nonsense commentary on the profession.  Visit this site to see what I mean.

Given more time — and I may publish a “part two” analysis — I could analyze much more in the fascinating world of public relations blogging. But I’ll conclude stating that this site is my favorite PR blog at the moment.

New Year, Same PRDude, Still Public Relations

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

Leave the resolutions and predictions to the other bloggers, prognosticators and pundits.

2016On this first post for 2016, I’ve decided to dispense with the expected “forecast” post. You can google to find out what other public relations professionals think will be the top stories or developments for the balance of the year.

I’m going to continue to publish posts that:

  • Support effective, ethical public relations practices.
  • Challenge those in the media and elsewhere who equate public relations with unfortunate business decisions or propaganda.
  • Seek insight from public relations leaders.
  • Focus on news related to jobs and the employment market.
  • Address news taking place in and around Chicago.
  • Chronicle my (relatively limited, but hopefully increasing) travels to interesting places close and far.
  • And of course, comment on lots of “other stuff” that sparks my interest.

Too often, commentators — in the media, public relations and certainly many other professions — get trapped in a cycle of predictability.

You know how it goes: Start the new year with thoughts on what’s ahead, end the year with “best of” reports.

We know that politics will continue to drive the 2016 news cycle because we’re in a presidential election year. We know that terrorist organizations will continue to slaughter, spread havoc and incorporate sophisticated social media tactics to spread propaganda. We know technology will continue to evolve and greatly impact our lives and the world around us.

So, I’ll dispense with trying to share projections and stick to what’s gotten me this far since the fall of 2009.

I’ll comment on what takes place now.

 

Is The 24-Hour News Cycle A Barrier to Earning Accreditation in Public Relations?

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

A few years ago, I asked a friend — a successful and very accomplished public relations agency vice president — why she hasn’t pursued earning the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credential.

In the agency world, is public relations really a 24-hour business?

In the agency world, is public relations really a 24-hour business?

“There’s just not enough time,” she said. “It’s not like the days when you were in the agency business. Clients expect us to be available any time of the day … and night.”

Ah, the agency business.

I left my last agency position in 1998. Public relations professionals (and the rest of the world) communicated through email and maintained web sites back then. But cell phones were just taking hold, social media as we know it wasn’t invented, and Google hadn’t even been launched.

If a client failed to reach you during business hours, the question or issue often had to wait until the next business day. As noted by my friend, that’s apparently not the case today, and indeed, it might be a road block to Accreditation for some.

In late December, 2014 PRSA President Joe Cohen, APR, published a post that outlined steps to strengthen the APR. One measure on the table:  A proposal to grant the credential to PR professionals who have 20 or more years of experience and “who have demonstrated a record of commitment to lifelong learning, and adherence to practicing the enduring principles of public relations.”

Glad this concept wasn't as big back when I was an agency guy.

Glad this concept wasn’t as big back when I was an agency guy.

These 20-year-plus professionals — from the agency arena, private sector or association/non-profit — would not have to take and pass the online Comprehensive Examination.

That’s a game-changer to me and the hundreds of other public relations practitioners who earned the credential since 2003. We had to go present and defend a PR plan based on the four-step process, complete the Readiness Review and ultimately, pass the Comprehensive Examination.

I trust an underlying factor to the proposal is to allow those who might not have the time to commit to the months of study the opportunity to join those Accredited members who are committed to the ethical practice of public relations, the profession and lifelong learning.

Clearly, something needs to be done to boost the numbers of professionals earning Accreditation and the status of the credential in today’s business communications landscape.  But I am not convinced that this proposal is the answer.

Will those who are “granted”Accreditation actually respect and recognize the value of the APR as much as those of us who earned it? Will they be champions and promote Accreditation to their peers? Is there even any research that shows there’s a demand by senior-level professionals to become Accredited?

Fortunately, the PRSA National Board of Directors drafted and approved these realistic, attainable measures to bolster the APR. The “20-year” proposal is just one of many suggested directives. I trust the debate will continue well into 2015, as it should.

Finally, a shout out (note the modern language) to my agency friend: I trust you’re billing clients for all of those after hours and weekend client tasks.

More Blurred Lines of Communication?

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

Some big news surfaced yesterday on the communications front.  As detailed in this article originally published in Advertising Age, an iconic Chicago-based company known for creating some of the best-known equity characters in advertising history has teamed up with a relatively new but extremely influential digital aggregator and blogger of news and commentary.

What would the late Leo Burnett say about his company's partnership?

What would the late Leo Burnett say about his company’s partnership?

Their goal, as stated in the article is “to develop strategies and then produce content for the ad agency’s clients.”  (And, of course, to make lots of money in the process.)

The players: Leo Burnett and Huffington Post.

Or, in other words: The ad agency that created Tony the Tiger, Charlie the Tuna and the Marlboro Man now joins forces with writers from the top-ranked digital media empire to draft and distribute paid media messages.  Or in other words, write what used to be called “advertorials,” or articles that are paid for, just like TV, radio, digital, print, transit and other advertisements.

On HuffPo, as the site is known, and other online platforms, paid content is identified by a “sponsored link” disclaimer.

So what’s my take-away from this development?  Here are two thoughts:

1. Makes Sense. In this ever-increasing digital  age, competition is fierce for an audience’s time and attention.  I trust

Wouldn't you like to be the fly on the wall in a conversation between Ms. Huffington and Mr. Burnett?

Wouldn’t you like to be the fly on the wall in a conversation between Ms. Huffington and Mr. Burnett?

the HuffPo content writers have the skills to draft content that generates visits that lead to sales.  The creatives at Burnett know their clients and their products and services.

2.  Divide and Conquer. Both companies are businesses, and business should make a profit. So, why not consolidate forces to produce a better product?  After all, there are plenty of ways a company can spend money to influence the consumer or business audience.

But, I wonder if this partnership will prompt other communications firms — be they advertising, traditional or digital

media, and of course, public relations firms — to do the same. And, if so, will a company lose sight of its focus, its true mission?

Will lines of communication in regards to the originator become more blurred when disseminated to the target audience?

Stay tuned, but I’d like to put  the late, legendary Mr. Leo Burnett in a room with the very much alive Arianna Huffington and get their perspectives.