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 Hankes’ thesis here: Services used to disseminate communications initiated by public relations professionals are “outdated” and “facilitate bad behavior.”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

Wrapping Up 2016: Words and Predictions from Edward M. Bury, APR

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

One of my favorite type of post for the PRDude blog is a Q&A with industry leaders and up-and-coming public relations professionals. Expect more in 2017, as it’s always pleasurable and insightful to tap in to the minds of PR practitioners.


I call this image my “academic profile.” Note the serious eye ware.

As we approach the final hours of 2016, it dawned on me: I’ve not offered the Q&A opportunity to the one professional I know best: Myself, Edward M. Bury, APR.  Featuring my thoughts in this format is somewhat self-serving, I suppose. But, hey, it’s my blog and frankly I wanted to file one more post before midnight.

So, with as much fanfare as I can muster before starting our decidedly quiet New Year’s Eve celebration, here are words and predictions.

1. Let’s start by keeping the focus on public relations. Where is the profession heading and what key developments will surface in 2017?

Without question, public relations counsel will remain very much needed and in demand by businesses, organizations and governments. The seemingly unending expansion of the digital arena and 24-hour news cycle requires constant monitoring of what’s being said, and having the resources in place to take advantage of opportunities or mitigate threats. Efforts need to be accentuated to promote the value of strategic communications practices and point out the difference between public relations, pure publicity and propaganda.

This PESO graphic is courtesy of Arment Dietrich.

This PESO graphic is courtesy of Arment Dietrich.

Regarding the second part of this question, I predict there will be continued integration between public relations, marketing and advertising. The PESO model of communications will only get more widely accepted and practiced. Given this, expect the public relations industry to push harder for measurement standards, and for clients to demand results.

2. That is a good transition into thoughts on the PRDude blog. What can fans, followers and fanatics expect next year?

More of the same: An “eclectic” (in light of a better word) blend of commentary on public relations practices and developments, balanced by observations and remarks on some topics close to home, including Chicago, the media, culture and politics.

I hope to offer more posts that address the value behind effective, strategic public relations and its vital role in modern society. And, I will continue to “defend” public relations as a strategic management communications practice and call out instances where instances of “public relations” or “PR” are mislabeled and misinterpreted.

3. The year 2016 was quite a memorable one in a lot of ways — the national elections perhaps being the most monumental and unexpected. What were memorable moments for you?

This is relatively easy to determine. In fact, I’ll share links for those who want to get more insight.

  • The four days spent in Washington, D.C. this March, my only visit to the nation’s capital for pure pleasure.
  • Our July visit to Green Lake, Wisconsin, where we relaxed, got away from the city and learned firsthand about the value of small town life and the people who live outside a place as big as Chicago.
  • My thoughts on the passing in September of our mother, Sophie V. Bury, a truly remarkable woman and friend to many.
  • The dream that came true for me and millions and millions of Chicago Cubs fans. The Cubs won the World Series in November.
  • And, this just in: I completed my first required course for earning a graduate degree in English at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Proud to say I earned an A!  Get educated yourself and read my final paper on affect criticism.

4. When you look out your window, what do you see? Metaphorically, of course.

This retail store on Milwaukee Avenue is becoming an increasingly rare breed in 2016.

This retail store on Milwaukee Avenue is becoming an increasingly rare breed in 2016.

Here in Chicago, I see continued heartbreak driven by the unceasing and uncontrolled violence plaguing many neighborhoods. I wonder why greater awareness of this violence and the general acceptance among many that it’s wrong and crippling to society has not led to more decisive action to stop the shootings.

From another perspective, here in our rapidly gentrifying Avondale/Logan Square neighborhood, I see dramatic changes to the community fabric driven by new (and increasingly expensive) housing, restaurants/bars and retail replacing long-standing businesses. I know this is “progress” and the result of market demands and economic and social developments, but I wonder if the community has lost its true character.

And, looking at the bigger picture, I see the potential for grave circumstances ahead unless we can effectively address the growth of “fake news” designed to disguise the truth.

5. So, some last words on 2016.

Besides, “Happy New Year 2017,” I hope there’s a renewed effort to return to civility in today’s society. Despite our advancements in science and technology, we are stepping backwards if we can’t treat each other with courtesy and respect.

What to Get for the Public Relations Professional This Holiday Season

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

These days, there’s many options to find that perfect gift for everyone on your holiday shopping list.

No doubt that some PR professionals have mustaches and imbibe in spirits. But the Whisker Dam may not be the right gift this holiday season.

No doubt that some PR professionals have mustaches and imbibe in spirits. But the Whisker Dam may not be the right gift this holiday season.

For example, the Redeye tabloid published here in Chicago recently featured a Holiday Gift Guide that included:

  • Handmade copper mustache guard: As described, this so-called Whisker Dam “fits over a pint glass, highball or mug to keep facial hair dry.” Since I no longer have a mustache, it’s not an item I expect to find under the Christmas tree this year.
  • LuMee case: A lighting device for your cell phone to “help your selfie-loving friend make like a Kardashian.” Well, my utilitarian Samsung Avant works just fine as is and I don’t know what it means to “make like a Kardashian,” nor do I care to learn.
  • Mobil Foodie Survival Kit: What gourmand wouldn’t love “this stack of 13 portable spices including sea salt, cayenne, curry and dill.” Personally, I prefer to have the chef season my meal when dining out.

But this blog is about public relations (well, most of the time) and I maintain that public relations professionals are perhaps better suited to more practical stuff, especially in these times of “false news” reports that lead to bad stuff happening to innocent people.

So in the spirit of giving, the PRDude offers these directives to fellow communicators. Think of the following as “holiday gifts” of sort.

Commitment. Stay committed to the public relations profession and make that known to the world. Proactively share accomplishments to demonstrate the value public relations has in today’s increasingly complex world.

Inspire. Help nurture the next generation of communicators by adhering to the highest standards of professionalism and conduct, like those noted in the PRSA Code of Ethics. Volunteer to serve on a PRSA or other industry organization.

Contest. Challenge and call out instances where the profession is bashed, demeaned unnecessarily or misinterpreted. Need an example? Here’s one: Make it clear that terrorist organizations practice propaganda, not public relations, in their communications.

Believe. Well, in Santa Claus, of course. But believe in the power of public relations to help contribute to the national dialogue, build relationships and improve society through honest, effective communications.

Hope these prove valuable “holiday gifts.”

If not, perhaps that Whisker Dam ain’t such a bad gift after all.




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.




D.C. PR Pro Joe Kovacs, APR Shares Thoughts on Accreditation, the Profession, D.C.

How cool is this: A few years ago, a fellow public relations professional who was planning to pursue the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) credential reached out for advice.  He was living in Denver at the time, and he learned about my passion for the credential by reading some articles I wrote that was published in PRSA Tactics, perhaps this one.

I was, of course, flattered, and of course, I offered my assistance. The guy in question, Joe Kovacs, APR, is the subject of this question and answer post from the PRDude.  Since our initial  communication via phone, Joe and I have met in person during business meetings I’ve attended in Washington, D.C., most recently chronicled in this recent “travelogue.”

Here’s what Joe — Director of Marketing for a Bethesda, Maryland-based CPA firm — had to say about his career, Accreditation and what’s taking place on the national political scene and his burgeoning career as a fiction writer.

Joe Kovacs, APR

Joe Kovacs, APR

1. What are the biggest challenges you face when managing communications for Gelman, Rosenberg & Freedman, CPAs, which has a large, diverse client base?

You have to do the best job possible segmenting your communications. That’s a huge challenge. You can send ANY client helpful information about personal taxes, since everyone has to pay Uncle Sam. But business owners won’t benefit or even find interesting the same material as nonprofit executives. So you really do need to dig deep into the demographics of EACH of these distinct audiences, think about what matters to them and develop customized messages for distribution that will help them find solutions to their problems or build on success they already enjoy.

Another huge challenge is bridging internal communications gaps. Every professional in a fast-paced work environment tends to focus on their personal work and goals, and may not sufficiently consider the importance of sharing information internally among various stakeholders for a project. This can lead to a lot of hurt feelings and tension. I see one of my jobs as keeping an eye out for those gaps and providing communications to stakeholders whom no one thought to contact about some new item of interest to our firm. It’s a small thing, but when you can keep everyone on the same page, it really does work miracles.

2. How has earning the APR and what you learned during the process contributed to crafting strategies to meet the firm’s communications goals?
One book I read when I was studying for my APR was Strategic Planning for Public Relations by Ron Smith. I think that book, more than any other, pushed me from being a tactician to a strategist. It really broke down all the different roles of communications professionals within an organization, which gave me a vivid sense of the different between someone who just does something and someone who thinks about what is the right thing to do. I wouldn’t have read this book if I hadn’t studied for my APR.

The other factor that turned me into a strategist for my firm is the APR test itself. It was an amazing test. Anyone who is going the route of accreditation should prepare themselves for the reality that it isn’t about rote memorization. You have to absorb knowledge and learn to think like a strategist because the APR test essentially gives you various fictional scenarios and it’s the “thinking” you developed during the study process that will serve you when you choose your answers. Really, I can’t say enough about the resources that PRSA encourages you to study or the intelligence behind the testing format, which helped me grow into a strategist.

Earning the APR credential helped elevate Joe Kovacs, APR, to become a strategist.

Earning the APR credential helped elevate Joe Kovacs, APR, to become a strategist.

3. Speaking of Accreditation, we became acquainted when you reached out for guidance on the APR process after reading article I wrote for the PRSA Tactics magazine. Have you inspired others in your market to pursue the APR?

I don’t know that I have directly inspired anyone to say okay, yes, I’m going to go for it. But I have had some friends who decided to pursue Accreditation and one of the first things they told me they did was reach out to me for advice because they knew I had already gone through the process. I will say, though, that I think any communications victories you achieve on your employer will reflect on the value of the APR.

Not long after I became Accredited, I joined the public relations committee of a membership association. The following year, I was asked to be chair. The year after that, I was asked to be on the organization’s board of directors. That was an incredibly flattering experience, and I attribute whatever success people think I may have had, to my accreditation training. When the board launched a strategic communication committee late last year, guess who was selected to be the board liaison to that committee? And we have had some successes in media relations since then that I know have got some people excited. I regularly list the APR after my name (including on my LinkedIn profile) so whenever people look at how I’ve become more involved in the association, I hope they also notice the APR and think…hey, I wonder if that can help me out, too. I would be excited if anyone did that and ended up pursuing accreditation.

The U.S. Capitol, the symbol of D.C. to many. Photo Credit: jointblog.com.

The U.S. Capitol, the symbol of D.C. to many. Photo Credit: jointblog.com.

4. You work in metropolitan Washington, D.C. — the center of the national debate on all things taking place in the nation. Do you get very involved in the conversation? And, who do you plan to vote for in November?

Yeah, you know, this city doesn’t have the best reputation. Washingtonians are often considered rude, short and ambitious, and they’re only interested in you if you can help them get where they want to go professionally. I wish I could say that’s completely untrue, but there is some truth to it. With that said, though, a lot of the fiery personalities are individuals with big hearts pursuing some fantastic causes. D.C. is a nonprofit mecca simply because with Congress here, you have a lot of groups that send their government relations people up to Capitol Hill to advocate for this and that. I did that; I worked for several nonprofits, including once as the media relations coordinator on the government relations team of an educational nonprofit. The other side of that coin then is that you may have some cold, ambitious people, but many of them are committed to making the world a better place, and that’s the side of D.C. that people should consider more often, in my humble opinion. As for who I would vote for, I don’t feel comfortable sharing personal politics. But two candidate who are NOT running who it would have been interesting to see are Joe Biden on the left and Paul Ryan on the right.

5. And, when we visited last you shared some insight into your fiction writing. Would you care to share some further insight about you chief character and why you’re taking on this “second career?

Wow. Second career may be too strong a word at this point. But yes, I did just publish a literary novel independently. My main character is a Border Patrol agent in Arizona. I intentionally chose someone very different from me–meaning, I’m not from Arizona and had little knowledge about the Southwest when I first started this project–so that the writing wouldn’t become derivative and end up as some barely disguised autobiography. I think I succeeded in that regard. I am well into the first draft of another novel that takes place in Wichita, Kansas in the early 1900s. Again, I think by choosing a different location and time period, I can focus on how to build a good story rather than by writing about myself. I have always had a vivid imagination. That hasn’t gone away with time and I enjoy being excited about a lot of things and being child-like occasionally. One should never lose one’s zest for life and personal creation is a great way to keep the fires burning.

That’s More Like It: Ten Replies to PR Straw Poll

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

What a difference a couple of days — and a little patience — makes.

I’m referring to my little “straw poll” issued earlier this month on the subject of the most pressing issue ahead for the public relations industry.

Public-RelationsIn my post from November 17, I announced that only two loyal readers cast votes. But on review this evening, the final day of November 2015, I’m pleased to announce there are 10 responses! Three visitors selected the “other” option and typed in short thoughts of their own.

To all who participated: Thank you.

You contributed to what should be an ongoing dialogue among public relations professionals on the state of the ever-evolving profession. We need to continually redefine the boundaries of what we do, need to tactfully address situations when “public relations” is misused and confused with some other form of communications.

Now, without further delay, the results:

1. Improved/enhanced measurement: 4 responses or 40%

2. Other: 3 responses or 30%

  • Actually doing PR, instead of just publicity
  • Better integration with the business world
  • Better PR for PR

3. Better integration with other communications disciplines: 2 responses or 20%

4. Need for greater transparency: 1 response or 10%

5. Managing a crisis in a digital world: no responses or 0%

Of course, I would have liked to have received 1,000 or even 100 responses to my poll. (An aside: If you would like to contribute to the conversation, please add a comment when you’re done reading this post.)

But these few answers do offer some very informal primary research on the state of public relations at year-end 2015.

And, of course, I can always revisit this topic next year. I trust there will be something relevant to discuss on the state of public relations.





So Long 2012, And Hopefully So Long to Some Other Stuff

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

By now, friend of The PRDude, you probably have read 10 or more “Top 10” lists.  These appear regularly online and in print and broadcast communications, but they’re especially prevalent now — as we count down the days and hours of another year.

Rest assured, you won’t read any “Top 10” or “Top (fill in the blank)” list in this space today. (You can get a way-cool summary and analysis of traffic from this blog courtesy of the way-cool people from WordPress.)   What I plan to do is to just offer some thoughts on public relations and “other stuff,” as keeping with the tag line and theme of this blog.  You might get 10, but probably less because I want to finish soon.  Full disclosure:  I’m writing this late Monday morning and looking forward to a nap so I can stay up to midnight.

Here goes.

top 10Let’s Put a “-30-” to Top 10 Lists.  Those of us how came out of the journalism business know that it was traditional to type “-30-” to denote the end of a story.  Why don’t we put a “-30-” to the preponderance of year-end lists, especially Top 10 lists.  Why not Top 9 or Top 11? .  Seriously, it’s kind of a communications cop out, often predictable and generally just takes up space.  Why not just follow topics of interest year-round?

Let’s Put More Focus on Defining “Public Relations” in the 21st Century. Earlier this prsa_logoyear, the Public Relations Society of America unveiled a new definition for “public relations.” The good folks at PRSA employed a modern communications tactic — crowdsourcing — and combined it with good old-fashioned research.  I participated in the effort, and I was thrilled that the new definition included the phrase “strategic communications process.” It’s strategy that separates true practitioners from the hucksters and incompetents.  But I think the definition needs to be augmented with references to the traditional (like media relations) and the always evolving (like social media) forms of communication.  The next Pinterest will change PR strategies and tactics for many of us.

snarkyLet’s Cease with Snarky-Themed PR/Communications Blogs. We’ve all read them, and many of us — The PRDude included — have contributed to posts or forums that have little to do but give the opportunity to share some mean-spirited thought under the guise of humor or adding to the general conversation.  Do we really benefit from your opinion or my opinion on what “buzzwords” to eliminate from our daily communications?  If I want to “think outside of the box” or “throw someone under the bus,” I will.  But please stop using “non uncommon” because “common” works better!

I could go on, but that’s it for now. If I could provide a summary to the above, and hopefully to all my commentary here, it’s this: Those of us who define ourselves as “public relations professionals” should adhere to high ethical standards, only communicate messages that offer some contribution to the public well-being, steadfastly practice open disclosure and continue to explore and promote new and more effective ways to communicate.  Want more? Read my October post on this subject.

The word count has just gone north of 500, so it’s time to call it a day and a year. Thanks again to all who digest my thoughts. What topics/issues should The PRDude address in 2013?

Thoughts From the Corner Office: The 2012 PRSA Chicago Agency Big Shot Lunch Remembered

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

Football. Trees changing color. Pumpkins.  Brisk temperatures.  Shorter days.

These shout out the arrival of fall.  (Or autumn, if you prefer a more “robust” word.)  So does the annual fall luncheon hosted by PRSA Chicago that features a panel of local agency leaders.  Yesterday, these six leading public relations professionals offered thoughts and projections on the state of the public relations profession.

  • Rick Murray, President, Edelman
  • Patti Temple Rocks, Managing Director, GolinHarris
  • Bill Zucker, Midwest Director, Ketchum
  • Susan Howe, President, Weber Shandwick
  • Maxine Winer, Senior Partner and General Manager, Fleishman-Hillard
  • Erica Swerdlow, Midwest Market Leader / Managing Director at Burson Marsteller
  • Claire Koeneman, Executive Vice President, Hill+Knowlton Strategies

The task of keeping these folks engaged fell to moderator Jack Monson, Vice President of  a company appropriately called Engage121.  My friend and colleague Mr. Monson moderated last year’s panel discussion.  Read my post from the 2011 luncheon when you have a moment.

Without further ado, here’s what the Agency Big Shots had to say.  (Disclosure: I’m aggregating these thoughts into bullet points below because I simply did not take good enough notes to provide attribution. My apologies. All six panelists shared valuable insight.)

  • State of the Industry: Change — due mostly to technology — will take place even faster than before and require new skill sets.  Agencies now look for those culinary and visual skills, for example, along with knowledge of strategy and communications.   The lines between advertising and public relations continue to blur.
  • Social Media is Here to Stay: One panelist said the agency social media team presents a new development to the entire shop each week, over beers of course. Social media is paramount to mitigate a crisis; this includes new platforms like Instagram.  Public relations counselors should demand that clients have written social media policies in place for employees — and make employees sign agreements.
  • If You’re Seeking a Job: Candidates will rise to the top if they demonstrate curiosity,  resourcefulness and the willingness to “get out of your comfort zone and take on more responsibilities.” Younger account managers need to learn how to “embrace a spreadsheet.” Fortunately, solid writing and presentation skills still count.  Former journalists continue to be considered for agency positions.
  • Where the Business Comes From: Some agencies are experiencing more “organic growth” rather than keeping the lights on via new business pitches. When new pitches are made, the entire account team — from VPs to AEs — participate.  That means younger team members are being trained more on how to sell.
  • A Big Trend to Watch: Expect a greater “convergence” of paid, owned and earned media. The “live” events hosted by the Chicago Tribune serve as an example, so do some of the segments aired on “Ellen.”   This trend represents ethical public relations — providing there’s full disclosure of who’s paying for the campaign.

Yes, there was lots more; but this is what I scribbled into my handy pocket notebook.  Now it’s your turn: Did you attend the PRSA Chicago luncheon September 18?  What did you learn from the six panelists and subsequent discussion?  Or, just share your thoughts on where public relations is headed in 2013 and beyond.