All Public Relations Professionals Should Read This Post

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

Have plans for this weekend? Want something fascinating — but sobering — to read?

Let me suggest the 2019 IPR Disinformation in Society Report.  

Image courtesy of the Institute for Public Relations.

Certainly, this study, published by the Institute for Public Relations, is not a traditional page-turner or as compelling as a work of fiction or a celebrity biography.  But, if you’re a public relations professional, or if you care about the state and direction of modern American society, you should allocate time to read this provocative document.

Full disclosure: I have not read the full Report, but I will.  I did read the nine key findings presented and gained validation from some for what I have perceived to be significant problems today: Misinformation is detrimental to the nation; President Donald Trump is the leading proponent of spreading lies; false social media are the prime culprits for erroneous communication.

But I did advance personal understanding in a few other areas: A high percentage of Americans seek out other sources to confirm truth and accuracy; and family, cohorts and friends are the most trusted sources of information.

The Public Relations Society of America, of which I am a long-standing member, acknowledged the IRP report in this statement.  I wholeheartedly concur with PRSA. Dissemination of accurate and truthful information is the foundation of modern public relations, and it’s the ethical responsibility of PRSA members to adhere to this practice.

In this space, I’ve addressed disinformation/misinformation/false truth/lies/fabrication/fake news (or what ever term is appropriate or popular) frequently. Regarding President Trump, I’ve addressed his penchant for lying and fabricating facts and beliefs in a post published in May of 2016 and in another post published two days after his November 2016 election victory.

Want to gain a better perspective? The Washington Post maintains this database of “false or misleading” claims made by the President.

Back to the IPR report. The study does not offer solutions on how to end or even curtail the unfettered propagation of false information. But it keeps the conversation alive and at the forefront of conversation today.

That’s where it should be.

 

 

 

One Image, One Question: June 6, 2019

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

The conversation at the DePaul PRAD showcase was spirited as guests intermingled with the master’s students who effectively presented their work and themselves.

The challenge: Which of the 30 members of the cohort group should I speak to during the showcase and networking event.

The potential impediments: There was a time factor — just an hour or so. There were people I knew, other Chicago public relations professionals, who I had to engage with. And, this being early evening, there was that great buffet table, its contents the antidote to my hunger. Consequently, my time had to be allocated strategically.

Now for the situation: I was a guest at the DePaul University Future Leaders Graduate ePortfolio and Networking Event, held yesterday at an the Chicago Connectory, an appropriately-named co-working space on the fifth floor or the Merchandise Mart.

This now annual event provided a showcase for those who recently earned the Master’s in Public Relations and Advertising.  The recent graduates were billed as “future leaders,” but I maintain they are today’s leaders.  I visited with six, but would have welcomed the opportunity to meet them all.

I was impressed by their poise, understanding of communications and creativity — and not just because some shared gummy bears and chocolates.  They were practiced and straightforward, savvy and skilled in conversation, even when I posed a challenging question.

One graduate was balancing a few job offers, another maintained social media platforms for a lifestyle company as a freelance account. And, one participant highlighted her athletic prowess in her presentation, while another graduate showcased photography skills.

Again, I was impressed.

Now to the Question:

Will these skilled modern communicators have the right stuff to help keep communications advancing, to navigate the unceasing era of negativity, “fake news” and whatever modern society and technology ushers forward?

I enthusiastically say they do. Your thoughts are welcomed.

Aside: A shout out to my friend Ron Culp, PRAD Professional in Residence and a truly iconic figure in public relations, for inviting me to the showcase.

 

Grasping For An Answer On Why The Media Misrepresents Public Relations

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

The venue was outstanding: A cool, modern private club in downtown Chicago.

The event attracted a dynamic crowd: Public relations leaders from across the metropolitan region.

To me, the perfect combination to gain insight into a question that has been a nagging issue for years. First, some background.

The Arts Club of Chicago, shown here in a warmer time of the year.

Last evening, I joined public relations professionals at the PRSA Chicago 2018 reception to honor the Distinguished Leader of the year. The event was held at the Arts Club of Chicago just off North Michigan Avenue. For 2018, the chapter honored Jon Harris, the highly-respected Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer of Conagra Brands.

It would be an opportunity to visit Chapter friends I’ve known over the years, and of course, meet new members of the profession.

But, I had an ulterior “alternative” motive, of sorts: Seek insight from the senior public relations professionals assembled as to what the industry could do to address the misrepresentation of “public relations” by the media.

Navigating between samples of passed hors ‘doeuvres and glasses of red wine, I saw an opportunity to chat with a distinguished man sitting alone. After introductions, the man said he manages the Chicago office of a well-known agency and entered the profession following years as a newspaper reporter.

Outstanding, I thought: This man can bring a perspective from both sides of the equation.

So, sensing the awards ceremony was about to commence, I presented my question, citing a recent example of media misrepresentation, one that was glaring, obvious and to me, stunningly stupid.  He paused for a moment and appeared slightly taken aback.

“Well, you know,” he said, “Sometime we work to keep our clients out of the media.”

I nodded.

The ceremony began.

My question remained unanswered. Rest assured, I will keep searching, keep asking.

Okay Fast Company: Time to Slow Down and Listen

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

One general component of a public relations plan is some kind of “call to action.”

Image courtesy of truconversion.com.

Well, I maintain the public relations profession should rally to voice strong opposition to a recent article that claimed public relations was “failing.”

As you can ascertain, I found the piece, “Here’s What the PR Industry Is Failing,” to be inaccurate and totally void of any compelling reason to be published.

But the article was published May 1 by Fast Company and written by Bill Hankes, noted in copy below the article as “a longtime public relations veteran” and now founder of a startup “that helps journalists find the information they need to develop stories, some of which comes from PR professionals, but most of which doesn’t.”

(A question: How much is “most of which” as noted above?)

The crux of Mr. Hankes’ thesis here: Services used to disseminate communications initiated by public relations professionals are “outdated” and “facilitate bad behavior.”

Rather than attempt to bash Mr. Hankes and Fast Company for spreading erroneous and unsubstantiated commentary, I’ll take the high road of sorts.

(To step off the high road for a short time, Mr. Hankes: Refers to all of us in the profession as “publicists;” neglects to note that ethical, effective public relations is driven by sound strategies; and, champions incorporation of unproven “newer technology” to replace what many in the industry use regularly.  I could go on, but will stop here.)

On to the high road. This kind of commentary only perpetuates the erroneous belief that public relations is purely publicity, or to use the old-school term, “press agentry.” Yes, there are publicists out there and perhaps some press agents, but those disciplines do not reflect modern public relations counsel.

Back to the call to action, I would encourage all serious PR professionals to take every relevant opportunity to educate clients, friends, the person sitting next to you at the coffee bar, about the full scope of services we provide.

I’d be glad to discuss with Mr. Hankes, should he be interested.

* * *

Full Disclosure: I learned of this article from a Facebook post made by Gerry Corbett, APR, a “major PR dude” featured in this space back in January of 2013. Thanks, Gerry.

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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.