What I Took Away from PRSA 2018 Assembly

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

DATELINE: AUSTIN, TX.

Thought I would incorporate that now bygone phrase and practice as a way to provide a “newscast” kind of perspective to the following, a post about what I learned and observed as a delegate at the 2018 PRSA Assembly on October 6.

Like any organization comprised of passionate, strong-willed individuals, there was often spirited debate during the 2018 PRSA Assembly.

The gathering of Public Relations Society of America leadership, staff and members earlier this month is the Society’s one day to have delegates present thoughts and cast ballots on how PRSA is governed. As this was only my second time as a delegate, I took my responsibility seriously.

(A disclaimer: Please excuse the delay in sharing this post as three things got in the way: Work, school and life.)

Without precedence, here are a few thoughts I scribbled during my time at the Assembly.

Ready, Set, Debate: From a parliamentary perspective, the Assembly opened with a debate on how to debate: Specifically, the time allowed for delegates to address the big issues on the agenda — proposed Bylaw changes.  (More coming up.) Some found this a poor use of time; I found it a reflection of the passion some members have for PRSA and its future.

State of the Society: In his remarks, 2018 PRSA Chair Anthony D’Angelo, APR, Fellow PRSA, cited accomplishments made by the Society, including growth in diversity and advocacy issues; but he cautioned that the profession itself was “losing market share” in the communications arena due to factors like apathy and “free stuff” — digital resources. Millennials, he noted, find some forms of governance (like PRSA) irrelevant.

The Bylaw Debate: Prior to the Assembly, five proposals were made to amend existing Bylaws; learn more from this report published in June, but the focus was on ethics. I’ll refrain from much commentary. I had to depart to catch my flight home and missed some of the debate on the Bylaw proposals; however, I provided my proxy decisions to colleagues from PRSA Chicago. Two of the five amendments passed. During his remarks, Mr. D’Angelo noted that the issues were not relevant to the challenges facing the Society. But from this perspective, I’m glad PRSA gives members the opportunity to undertake changes to the way the Society is governed.

APR “Self-Improvement” Project: Of course, I had to comment on news shared that relates to the Accredited in Public Relations credential. What I learned is that there are plans to institute modules in the APR program, award “badges” to candidates, allow for online Panel Presentations and launch an online mentor match benefit. Good — no great — news.  More needs to be done to encourage professionals to seek Accreditation; more needs to be done to keep the credential a vital factor in the growth and development of public relations professionals today.

Other things learned: PRSA has developed a Speakers Bureau database, the Society is on good financial standing, membership (21,550 as of this month) has been static but is trending upwards, and there’s a new Strategic Plan being crafted.  I look forward to following these and other developments in the months to come.

But a final thought on the Assembly: PRSA will only be as vital to public relations as its members contribute to the way the Society functions and the profession is perceived in society.  After leaving Austin, I’m encouraged by the future.

 

 

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Remembering the Reinvention of The Tribune Company

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

Shortly after this blog was launched, The PRDude had the honor of attending a reception hosted high above the Chicago city streets  in a tower where for decades great men and women sought the truth and then shared that information through the earliest form of mass communication — the newspaper.

That September gathering was held on the outdoor patio at the top of the iconic Tribune Tower.

That September gathering was held on the outdoor patio at the top of the iconic Tribune Tower.

As reported in this post from September of 2009, I learned about the “reinvention” as I called it of the storied Tribune Company, producer of The Chicago Tribuneits namesake daily newspaper — as well as other major market dailies, television and radio stations and other communications companies.   The event was sponsored by the Chicago Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America and held in the upper floor outdoor patio at the Tribune Tower, 435 North Michigan Avenue, an address every public relations professional from Chicago should know by heart.

At the time, the Tribune Company was going through a reorganization after being taken over in a complex leveraged buyout led by a very famous real estate tycoon from Chicago named Sam Zell.  The Tribune executives at that September event offered a fresh perspective on what was to come, how the company would embrace digital communications and be relevant and competitive in a rapidly changing media landscape.

Well, the company filed for Chapter 11 federal bankruptcy around a year later.  That stuff happens when any type of corporation changes hands, I guess.  (I’ll let analyzing multi-billion-dollar corporate sales to some other blogger, maybe someone called The FinanceDude.  Actually, there is a FinanceDude blogger. No relation.)

What’s prompting this post are some revelations stemming from what unfolded since that warm evening in September some three years ago.  Starting on Sunday January 13, the Chicago Tribune has published an outstanding series that chronicles its proposed “reinvention.”  As a print subscriber, I read the first three reports the old fashioned way:  In the broadsheet edition that gets delivered to our home each day.

The January 15 story, written by Steve Mills and Michael Oneal, addressed the new “corporate culture” ushered in by Mr. Zell and those he brought in to run various Tribune

Were these guys running the "reinvented" Tribune Company?

Were these guys running the “reinvented” Tribune Company?

divisions. It includes several passages that startled me.  One states that a “news release” distributed to announce the head of the Tribune Interactive Division listed these credentials, among others:

  • “president of buying crap” at eBay.
  • “senior executive vice president of technology and stuff” at Microsoft.

Yes, it sounds like the guys from the Delta frat in the “Animal House” film were running the company, not businessmen. Read the full piece to get a better perspective of the alleged nonsense that took place.  As an ethical public relations professional, I’m insulted that this kind of juvenile garbage was distributed as a personnel news announcement.  As a former journalist and long-time subscriber and reader of The Chicago Tribune, I’m thrilled the editors decided to publish such a compelling and necessary series. As someone who embraces open communications, I hope lessons learned from the Tribune Company sale debacle will prompt others to follow a different path.