Would You Represent an E-Cigarette Manufacturer as PR Counsel?

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

Several years ago, a friend and I were discussing our careers. My friend held creative positions in advertising and back in the 1970s worked on a major cigarette brand.  A non-smoker, I asked my friend whether she faced any personal issues by helping to sell a product that caused serious ailments and death for generations.

“Well,” my friend said, “It’s still legal to manufacturer and sell cigarettes.”

Two images of vaping today: The outcome for some, and the “cool factor” embodied in a cloud. Image courtesy of Metro UK.

Fast forward to today, and the focus is on another kind of legal smoking product — e-cigarettes.  Over the past several months, the manufacturers of e-cigarettes have been embroiled in controversy regarding their products and the impact on people.

This recent news story reports about lab tests that revealed toxins were found in people sickened by vaping; nationally, the grisly fallout from vaping is sobering: More than 2,000 sickened and at least 39 killed.

Manufacturers of vaping products claim e-cigarettes help adult tobacco smokers quit cigarettes, which on the surface has merits. Yet, given the now regular news coverage of the harmful fallout vaping has created for some users, perhaps that contention is way, way misguided.

For this post, I wanted to learn more; so, I visited the American Vaping Association for insight on the health concerns related to vaping.  I found an article on the “facts” related to illness and death, which cites statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that cite a high percentage of those who got sick used illegal THC vaping products.

There is a Contact page for the AVA, but it’s a little challenging to find because the link is within a drop-down menu accessed by three small horizontal bars to the right of the masthead.  And, the AVA site does have pages devoted to news, testimonials, how to donate and more, all accessed from the somewhat hidden drop-down.

The question to the AVA: Why almost disguise the way viewers reach critical pages on your site?

Back to the anecdote that started this post: Vaping remains legal in the United States. So, to colleagues in the public relations and other communications mediums:

Would you represent the AVA or a vaping products manufacturer as a client?

I’ll start: No.

Public relations should be predicated on doing something beneficial for society. I don’t agree with the vaping industry’s altruistic mantra that their products help adult smokers kick the tobacco habit.

Your thoughts are highly encouraged.

 

 

 

Career Advice for Joe Maddon and a Suggestion for the Chicago Cubs

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

Having been in his position before — actually a few times before — I can relate to what Cubs manager and prototypical anti-establishment but successful leader Joe Maddon is experiencing now that the all-but-inevitable decision regarding his future with the franchise was announced just before yesterday’s final regular season game with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Wish it wasn’t so, Joe. But hey, that’s baseball. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

In case you missed it, the Chicago Cubs did not offer Maddon a new contract.

“Okay: What the heck do I do now?” Maddon might be thinking. “What do I do after I get up, brush my teeth and have that first cup of coffee?”

All lightheartedness aside, Maddon assuredly will have some weeks ahead where he can cruise the Florida Gulf Coast in his famous RV and field inquiries on another manager position or something else in baseball — or something else in life.

Regardless of his decision, I offer Joe Maddon — and anyone who reads this post and needs to pursue employment — these two kernels of advice:

1. Always remember that you have value in today’s marketplace. If you don’t believe that, how can you convince someone to hire you?

2. Never compromise your integrity. Your reputation follows you forever, especially in today’s digitally-driven age.

Simplistic, I know. But advice everyone from a World Series winning manager with more of a decade of experience at the Major League level or someone starting out in the real world should consider. And, hopefully benefit from.  Full disclosure: I’ve shared these two thoughts frequently, especially two those pursuing public relations and and communications positions.

Now, as for who should be considered to lead the Chicago Cubs to their next World Series:  My advice to Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein is to consider candidates with no previous affiliation with the bricks and ivy of Wrigley Field.  Cast the net broad and wide.

Yes, former Cubs catcher and current media personality David Ross officially is on the short list to replace Maddon, as noted in this report from earlier today.  Tremendous guy, that David Ross, with 14 years in the Majors as a player, but none as a manager. Plus, he’s too close to former teammates and too ingrained with the 2016 champions.

No, Theo, look beyond for another iconoclast. Look what happened when Joe Maddon brought his wacky road trip themes, clever sayings, media savvy, knowledge and love of the game to the North Side.  To paraphrase Maddon: Respect the unconventional.

 

 

Patti Temple Rocks Talks About Public Relations and Lots More

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

The subject of today’s post, public relations leader and author Patti Temple Rocks, certainly is well-traveled — in a lot of ways.

As you’ll learn shortly, Patti has held top management positions on the agency and corporate side of public relations. She’s written a well-received book about an increasingly widespread practice in modern business and society.

And, Patti is passionate about visits to exotic locales — but finds true solace much closer to home in Chicago.

Want to learn more?  Please read this dialogue.

1. You’ve held senior communications positions at iconic companies — Golin, Leo Burnett and Dow Chemical. What was the one principle that guided how you managed communications programs?

Yes, there’s a humorous side to Patti Temple Rocks.

I learned a great deal from the late, great Al Golin; but one of my most important lessons of all from Al was the importance of trust — in every single thing we do.  I wanted my clients, my bosses and my teams to always, ALWAYS, know that they could count on me to do what I believed was the right and best thing.  And to know that I  would never, EVER intentionally hurt someone for my own gain.  Trust — that’s what it’s all about.

2. Why did you pursue a career in public relations? Did you envision working in communications during college?  Was there a mentor who inspired you to pursue public relations?

I started my college years thinking I wanted to go into retail merchandising, but a semester working the sales floor at Marshall Fields convinced me otherwise.  I learned that about myself early enough that I was able to change my major. I actually majored in public relations in college — even though it wasn’t an official major where I went to school (Albion College).  Albion offered a program called Individually Designed Major, and if you could convince two professors and the Academic Dean that the course of study you put together actually made sense, it was likely to be approved.  In my case, I had a concentration of communications classes, business, English and took two advertising classes at Michigan State University — which was about an hour away. I guess you could say by the time I graduated from college I was quite sure what I wanted to do!

3. Okay, let’s move on. In January of this year you published, “I’m Not Done,” a well-received book on ageism in the workplace. What compelled you to write the book?

I felt strongly that ageism in the workplace was a topic that needed to be raised and talked about.  It is often said that ageism is the last socially acceptable form of discrimination and I have definitely seen  — and even felt — plenty of it in my almost four decades in the business.  But as sure as I am that ageism in the business world is a problem, I am just as sure that much of the ageist things people say and do come from a place of unconscious bias, rather than an intention to inflect harm.  In many ways I am an eternal optimist, so I hoped that by writing my book I could both start and stoke a healthy discussion about ageism — something that has for too long been ignored.

4. In March, it was announced that you’ve been appointed head of client impact at ICF Next, a global marketing agency based in Chicago. Please describe your roll with the agency. How has your four-decade career prepared you for this position?

My role as Head of Client Impact (basically a Chief Client Officer) at ICF Next means that it is my job to make sure that all of our clients are getting our very best.  Our very best people, our best ideas, our best quality and our best service.  In order to be effective at doing that, I need to first make sure that our people have the resources and coaching that they need to be successful.  I also need to know what good work looks like so I can build the relationships with all of our specialist talent to ensure that we deliver amazing work to our clients every single time.  And finally, I think it is vital to being successful in this role that I know the world that the client lives in — and I do, because I’ve been one.  I think my four decades has completely prepared me for this role because I have both been a big client, and served big clients; and having worked on both the PR and advertising side of the business, I think I am well positioned to understand the new world of agencies — which is neither traditional PR nor traditional advertising.  I like to tell young people that they are entering this business at the perfect time — they will be able to help us figure out what we call this new genre of agencies!

5. We’ll finish on the lighter side. The image of you on your LinkedIn profile shows you in an exotic locale. (Santorini?) What’s your favorite travel destination and why?

That is like asking a parent to pick his or her favorite child!  I simply cannot do it. The picture was indeed of me in Santorini, and I joke that the beauty of that island makes everyone look like a movie star.  Santorini is both classically beautiful and thriving. This summer, I was in Vietnam and Cambodia with my son, and I cannot get the people of Cambodia out of my head or my heart.  Cambodia is the polar opposite of Santorini from an economic health standpoint, but I loved them both for different reasons.  But if you really must ask me to chose one — it has to be Glen Arbor, Michigan, which is, and has been, the gathering place for my family for almost 50 years.  It is where my stress melts away and my happy memories accumulate.

 

A Decade of The PRDude. Really

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

The question many — including myself — may ponder is this: Why continue to publish the PRDude blog, now in its tenth year?

After 10 years and 432 posts, I sometimes ask that question of myself.

A simple answer includes these components:

  • Because I can.
  • Because I enjoy it.
  • Because I still have something to say.

Want more? Here are some general thoughts.

If my day gets off to a rocky start, sometimes I revisit one of the more than 400 posts offered by the PRDude over the past 10 years.

What I’ve Learned: The public relations profession has evolved dramatically from a media relations-focused practice to one that incorporates integrated communications. The change was mostly driven by technology. That’s not a revolutionary observation, but one that should continue to remain at the forefront. That means there’s lots to comment on.

A Personal Perspective: I have remained steadfast and passionate about the value and practice of sound, ethical public practice.  That will never waiver. Publishing this blog provides a medium to defend instances where the profession is misrepresented, often equated with propaganda.

Favorite Posts: Don’t have kids, but we have cats. I love them both the same; and, I have the same perspective about the posts published here over the past decade. But this post from 2010 about my “alter ego” still resonates just a little more. More recently, I’ve enjoyed sharing thoughts on my pursuit of my Master’s degree in English.

What’s Needed:  I plan to (someday) finish adding categories to past posts.  And, I might consider changing the theme, or finding a way to monetize The PRDude blog. Hey, back in 2013 I made an offer to sell out! (I would still entertain reasonable offers.)

To conclude, I thank all who have read, commented and shared my thoughts these past 10 years. Stick around for the next 10.

A final thought: I had planned to publish this post yesterday, September 11, 2019.  We all know the significance of that date and what took place. Out of respect I held off.  But my thoughts on 9/11 can be found in this post from September 11, 2011 — 10 years after the terrorist attacks. I hope and pray I don’t have to write about those memories again.

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.

 

 

 

And They’re Off! Strategies for Electric Scooters in Chicago

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

A five-month pilot program for an innovative transit mode debuted in Chicago June 15, with all the fanfare expected.  As a transportation guy of some renown (well, at least in my own mind) I believe this new option has the potential to truly be a game-changer and improve the way people get from here to there.

Yes, but for the program to work, the City must form a sound strategy to ensure this novel way of getting around is safe and equitable, and compliments the current transportation network.

A line of scooters parked on the plaza at the Logan Square CTA Blue Line station.

The subject at hand: The dockless electric scooter program, which allows riders the option to download an app and, well, scoot away for a ride, then park the device in a “proper” location that does not impede pedestrian traffic, provide a hazard to those in wheelchairs or block entry to homes and businesses.

This recent report from the online source Curbed Chicago states that some 60,000 electric scooter rides were taken during the first week. Obviously, there was a demand and interest.

Like with most things new, there have been challenges.  I’ve witnessed the following:

  • While strolling on Milwaukee Avenue last week, I observed a young woman scooter rider who apparently hit a pothole, causing her to fall.  She rose with a bloody nose, but was able to continue her ride.
  • On a quiet Sunday afternoon, I observed a quartet of spirited scooter riders engaged in a circular “catch me if you can” game at the intersection across from our home. They later sped away, traveling against traffic on a one-way street.
  • And, throughout my neighborhood, I’ve seen scooters parked inappropriately on sidewalks and lawns or left flat on the pavement. Reports have shown scooters propelled into trees or flung into park lagoons.

Other news sources report riders have sustained injuries that require medical attention.  Given the warm-weather weeks ahead, one can anticipate more scooter-related injuries, hopefully none serious.

In a laudable attempt to help my home city, I offer the following scooter-centered thoughts for the Mayor’s office to consider. These strategies, goals and objectives have roots in effective public relations practices.

Goals:

  • Make scooters a safe, accepted and affordable mode of transportation in Chicago.
  • Expand the scooter network to neighborhoods that could benefit from shared micro-transit options.

Strategies:

  • Explore scooter programs in other cities — U.S. and overseas — to learn what worked, and what did not.
  • Collaborate with transit service bureaus, associations and community groups for ways to incorporate scooters into existing transit options.

Objectives:

  • Build awareness for the value scooters can make in enhancing mobility and alleviating “last mile” issues.
  • Cultivate acceptance of scooters as a legitimate transit mode; address need for safety and improper scooter use.
  • Work toward making the pilot program permanent in 2020.

There are many tactics that could advance this plan, but that’s for another post.  Back to the above, what would you add?

Two final thoughts:

  1. The dockless program already has resulted in some chaos. For the program to work, there need to be docking stations, like Divvy bikes.
  2. Electric scooters can be “fun” to ride, I suppose. But scooters must have a higher purpose — reduce cars on the road, help people reach destinations not available by public transit, provide mobility for those who need assistance.

Okay. Now it’s time for me to scoot. Figuratively, of course.

 

 

 

 

Where in the World Do These Phrases Originate?

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

Logo courtesy of phrases.com.

Here’s a quick quiz.  Provide a definition for these two phrases:

1. Intentional parenting

2. Listening sessions

Are you done? Can you provide answers? Are you able to effectively, at least to yourself, determine just what the heck these two phrases mean?

Before planning and researching this post, I never heard of either. But, they are now part of our lexicon, I suppose.

The first phrase above was included in a business article that focused on career-building skills that can be absorbed from the practices of one’s parents — working hard, being responsible, demonstrating discipline, being trustworthy. This makes total sense to me. But what’s an “intentional” parent?

I didn’t know, so I googled the phrase and found this site that offered some direction. All I had to do to learn more was purchase some books, an intentional act of commerce. This also raised the question, can someone be an “unintentional parent?” I’m of the mindset that if you have children, you’re a parent.

And, on to the second phrase, presented to me by a friend who found it within an email seeking participants for a future “listening session.”  My first thought: Listen to whom regarding what?

Yes, reliable Google gave me a 173,000 potential answers from many, many sources, including prestigious universities and leading professional associations. In fact, I found an online article that shared multiple ways to host a listening session. The other question that surfaced to me: Isn’t a “listening session” similar to a “meeting” or a “discussion?”

Need more?

This website was built to amass and chronicle phrases in order to help writers. But neither provided what I believe to be an accurate description of intentional parenting or a listening session.

Had enough of my attempt at sarcasm?

Here’s my point.  Why can’t the phrases, words and ideas that have been used for decades or even centuries continue to work today? Why do we need new phrases or interpretations of the language? Besides, who’s in charge of “curating” this stuff, to coin a now-commonly-cited word?

As a public relations professional, I try to communicate effectively using language the reader can comprehend. To succeed, I steadfastly avoid jargon and refuse to employ flavor-of-the-month phrases.

If you concur, listen intentionally, then share your thoughts.