Upfront Q&A with Col. Ann Knabe, PhD, APR

Col. Ann Peru Knabe, PhD, APR

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

Reaching the apex of success in one aspect of communications is highly impressive. My friend and colleague Ann Knabe, PhD, APR reached that pinnacle three times. As noted in this first public relations professional profile of 2021, Ann — who I met some 10 years ago while serving on the Universal Accreditation Board — delves into the decision that launched her three-decade career, shares insight on working at the Pentagon, expounds upon the state of modern public relations and much more.

1. You have had a remarkable career that spans military service, instruction at the university level, and more recently, work in the private sector. What inspired you to pursue communications?

I followed my heart! When I started out as an undergrad at Marquette, I was originally pre-law, majoring in history and political science, thinking about a big corporate paycheck. To pay the bills during college, I was a DJ at a night club (with real vinyl records, I might add), and my boss suggested I go into “PR” because he thought I was good a good communicator and knew how to work with the media. So I switched my major and never looked back. After I changed majors, I also switched my part-time role in the Air Force Reserve, from medic to a public affairs role. That’s when I really started getting involved in strategic communication. I now have more than 30 years in Air Force public affairs, and 25 years in PR, including consulting for businesses, teaching public relations at a university, and volunteering in the veterans and public relations communities. The common thread among all of these is building relationships between key stakeholders, and working towards mutual understanding, whether it’s during crisis or a long-term strategic communications campaign. Today my favorite part of PR is strategic planning with an emphasis on research and meaningful evaluation.

2.  You’re the first professional profiled here who has experience in military public affairs. Please share insight on key responsibilities and an anecdote.

When I first started in public affairs with an Air Force Reserve unit in Milwaukee, we broke our work into 4 broad areas: internal communications, community relations, media relations and congressional relations. I was primarily a writer, but also “jill of all trades.” In 1997, one of our planes crashed while attempting to land at Tegucigalpa Airport in Honduras. Three members of our wing were killed in the accident. It was tragic. The crash and resulting public affairs response helped me gain great appreciation of the power of media, the power of words, the importance of media relations, and the importance of being ready for crisis. This would shape my interests in the years to come. After more than 20 years at the local wing, I found my way to the Pentagon, and worked in public affairs for the Secretary of the Air Force. In this role, I participated in more complex strategic communications, including messaging about the nuclear triad, acquisition, personnel and other tough issues. As a Reservist who would fly into D.C. for duty during the summer months (when I wasn’t teaching), it seemed daunting at first, but the military does an excellent job growing their officers and instilling confidence. And, of course, there were many deployments along the way – including several tours in the Middle East, a six-month tour when I served as the Guantanamo War Court’s Pentagon spokesperson, and a tour at U.S. Central Command in Florida where I did public affairs planning for the Middle East and Afghanistan. In every role, I faced new challenges, but added valuable lessons and skills to my strategic communications toolbox. More recently, I’ve parlayed these skills into an emergency preparedness liaison role focused on preparation for disaster within the United States. 

3. Okay, now let’s turn to modern public relations. What are two key ways the profession has evolved since you began? If you’d like to add a third, please do.

The field of public relations continues to mature and become more strategic in nature. When I started out more than 30 years ago, we were largely focused on tactics. In the last 20 years, I have seen both military senior leaders and C-suite executives seek more meaningful, measurable results from their communication teams. And I’m not talking about numbers of press release sent out, instead, measurable effects on target audiences (how much the audience understands, or how their attitudes or behavior have changed as a result of public relations).

Another change — Within the last decade, we’ve witnessed the exponential growth of social media. I recall back in 2009, I put together the first social media conference at the where I taught, and PR practitioners were just starting to  think about the power of social media. I remember one of my students challenging me in class, saying Facebook was just a fad, and I was wasting class time talking about it. Today, social media is included in the vast majority of PR plans.

A third change  —  which is not so good  —  is the rise of disinformation. Americans need to really think about where their information is coming from, and whether or not it is true. In the last 5 years, we have increasingly seen more individuals with nefarious intent deliberately distribute and publish deceptive information.  This is counter to public relations and our Code of Ethics.

4. Your recent leadership role on the Universal Accreditation Board is admirable. How did your service benefit you professionally, and what challenges are ahead for Accreditation?

Serving on the Universal Accreditation Board has always been an honor, and to chair the UAB for one year was amazing. From a professional perspective, I learned how to be an even more agile leader. COVID threw us a curve ball, and, like all of America, we had to quickly learn how to adapt. Within a short amount of time, we had the entire Accreditation process available online, including computer-based testing in a proctored environment. I am also honored to have led the recent efforts to secure an agreement between the Department of Defense and the UAB concerning their commitment and involvement to the credential. But, perhaps most importantly, despite limited travel and pressure from so many directions, we were able to continue our mission uninterrupted — the maintenance and granting of Accreditation. I was blessed to work with and lead a talented team of professionals from across the nation during one of our most challenging years to date.

5. And, as customary, we conclude with an entertaining type of question. My research indicates you are a Wisconsin native — and more than likely — a Green Bay Packers fan. How can I convince you to switch allegiance to another NFL team? The Chicago Bears perhaps?

Great question, Ed! Full transparency (that’s what we like in PR!) — I am married to a Packers fan, and we have raised two Packers fans. I look at the football games as a time for me to focus on myself and let them enjoy the victory (or defeat) while I give myself a little personal time reading, shopping or getting a massage.

Perhaps more concerning to you, we are a bunch of Milwaukee Brewers fans! We consider Christian Yelich part of our extended family. We are really hoping this summer lets us get back to games at the ballpark in person, even if we have to sit with big gaps to remain socially distant. Apologies if you and your readers are a Cubs or White Sox fans, Brewers will dominate in 2021!

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An aside: As noted in this space on many occasions, I am — and will always remain — a Chicago Cubs fan. That will not jeopardize my friendship with Ann, even after the Cubs win the World Series this season. You read it here first.


Golin’s Scott Farrell Addresses The State of Public Relations, Running and the Badgers

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

There have been profound changes in many industries since the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, now in its seventh month. Without question, those who practice public relations have altered the way they serve clients during this period of uncertainty that shows no immediate signs of coming to a conclusion.

To get insight on the current state of public relations, I reached out to Scott Farrell, President, Global Corporate Communications at Golin. As noted below, I’ve known Scott for several years and have found him to be open, personable and approachable.

Below are his thoughts on public relations and two other passions: His dedication to running and support of an outstanding charity, and his beloved alma mater.

1. We met way back in the early 2000s, when you were president of PRSA Chicago and I served on the Board. In one sentence, how has the public relations profession evolved since then?

More than anything, the infusion of data and analytics has had a profound impact on every aspect of the work we do, from informing strategy and creative, to targeting stakeholders and measuring impact.

Scott Farrell, Golin President, Global Corporate Communications.

2. In your role as President, Global Corporate Communications at Golin, what are your key responsibilities?

First, ensure that we have the proper plans and resources in place to accomplish the short- and long-term goals we set for the practice and the agency. Second, to see that our clients are served by the very best people and teams Golin has to offer, regardless of office location or sometimes even a particular practice. I have the benefit of being able to have a view across the agency and using that view to provide a best-teams approach to each client’s needs. And finally – the favorite part of my job – working directly with clients as part of a team that is focused on creating bottom-line results.

3. Had to get to this question: What are three ways account teams at Golin have modified strategies and tactics in serving clients since the COVID-19 outbreak?

The early epicenter of the communications need was employees. Yes, companies and brands had important information to share with customers and other external stakeholders, but we put employees at the center of our work recognizing their role as the lifeblood of the organization. Second, we quickly saw that this was no ordinary crisis. For the first time in generations, the entire world shared a common social and cultural context. That meant that media were almost monolithic in their interests and coverage. We had to find innovative ways to do earned storytelling for our clients that found the sweet spot where what media wanted to cover intersected with what our clients had to say. And finally, the words and actions of every brand were under scrutiny as we saw skeptics and critics ready to weaponize social media and trigger a torrent of criticism that could inflict an immense amount of business and reputational damage in a short amount of time. We worked with clients to ensure that every decision about a brand’s words, actions and partnerships were truly authentic and had the brand’s DNA running through them.

4. For the past several years, you have run the Chicago Marathon and have raised lots of money to support Ronald McDonald House Charities. (Buy the way: Way to go!)  How do you balance training, work, life, and family?

I got into running mainly because it’s a fitness activity that fits so well into the other parts of your life. You can do it anytime and anywhere. All you really need is a great pair of running shoes. That really helps with the challenge of balance. Yes, it’s true that training for a marathon – particularly when Saturday runs are 15 – 20 miles long – can be a time suck. At that time of year, I’m fortunate to be blessed with an understanding wife who puts up with a bit of laziness after a long run. But the bottom line is I’ve seen the health benefits that have come from running and I think running makes me a better employee, a better leader and helps make sure I’ll be around longer for my family.

5. Okay, let’s move on in a totally different direction. You’re a proud University of Wisconsin alumni. In August, the Big 10 announced the cancellation of college football and fall sports due to the pandemic. How will you spend your Saturday afternoons?

I was crushed when the Big 10 announced the decision to cancel the season. There are few things I love more than spending a crisp autumn Saturday in Madison watching the Badgers. (Or watching them on TV from the couch as I recover from one of those long weekend training runs!) Some people have suggested that I “adopt” another team to follow this year, but I’m not sure I can do that. I’m sure there will be plenty of projects to do around the house. And there’s always hanging out with my grandkids. That’s a pretty darn good way to spend a Saturday afternoon, football or not.

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Note: I have been proud and honored to contribute to the Chicago Ronald McDonald House charity through the fundraising initiative launched by Scott during his Chicago Marathon runs.


Is Public Relations Ever Represented in Fiction?

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

Think bout it.

Many, many professions have been the subject of fiction — in print, on the screen and on radio — with some professions like detectives (and perhaps superheroes, I guess) having genres all to themselves.

What would you add to the above to give it a “public relations” element?Image courtesy of Slideshare.net.

But what about the public relations profession? Can you identify a short story, novel or film where the protagonist worked for a PR agency, corporate entity or non-profit? Or a work of fiction where the practice of public relations was significant to the plot?

A google search led to this list on Wikipedia, which references six novels that have some public relations component.  At least I think they do. For the record I am familiar with the author of one work cited and know Thank You For Not Smoking was made into a film.

Granted, working in public relations may not be as exciting or conducive to dramatic episodes as other communications profession like advertising or journalism. However, one can assuredly conclude that public relations is a lot more exciting than the accounting profession, yet not ranking in the kind of excitement that permeates a hospital emergency room.

Back in 2018, I proposed a TV series based on the profession and encouraged an icon of the medium to take on the project. Still no response.

Which brings me to the focus of this post: A personal contribution to what I hope will inspire future creative works.

In my studies toward completing my Master’s of Arts degree this spring, I wrote a short story set in Chicago (what would you expect?) that addresses the professional conflict faced by a public relations executive. And, from a more literary perspective, there’s another conflict borne by the unnamed protagonist.

Here’s a link to the story, “Where Went the Beggar Lady.” It’s only 2,145 words, so a quick read.

Would welcome commentary on both: The prospect of the profession captured in fiction, and of course, my fiction.

A Different View of the 2020 PRSA Chicago Skyline Awards

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

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot made her presence known at the virtual event, shown in an emphatic pose we’ve become familiar with over the past few months.

Yes, a lot was missing from events of the past (like the in-person aspect, talking about — what else — public relations, and enjoying a glass or two of wine with long-time friends), and the appointed time (high noon, the lunch hour for many) meant heading back to work at the conclusion.

Still, I and assuredly the 100-plus virtual participants enjoyed and benefited from participating in the  2020 PRSA Chicago Skyline Awards held last week.

Live (sort of) and in living color (that phrase dates me for certain) the 2020 PRSA Chicago Skyline Awards!

In case you missed the July 17 presentation, visit this page to learn more about the categories and recipients.  My most sincere congratulations to the people, companies and organizations that earned Skyline Awards, and a shout out to Golin for its generous sponsorship.

I took in the event from my “home office” and can appreciate all of the tremendous work done by chapter members to plan and execute this annual event to recognize public relations excellence and the role it plays in modern society.

Jon Harris, SVP and Chief Communications Officer for Conagra Brands, delivered a passionate version of “Fly Me to the Moon.”

These aspects of the near hour-long event stood out:

  • I was impressed with the honesty and candor of the presenters, which included PRSA Chicago board members and members of the media.
  • The little audio enhancements — drum rolls and applause — provided a welcomed perception of drama. We even got a little musical entertainment.
  • The tribute to the late public relations icon Harold Burson gave me a much more solid perspective on this remarkable man and his role in shaping modern communications.
  • And, I was compelled to witness observe the venues speakers and presenters choose for their contributions to the Skyline Awards. The spectrum ranged from a home office or bedroom to a “real” office and the great outdoors.

    Dane Roth, 2020 President of PRSA Chicago, enjoyed the Skyline Awards in a “refreshing” way.

Loyal readers of this site (I know you are out there) know that I served on the PRSA Chicago Board of Directors off and on for some 15 years. I certainly would have attended the Skyline Awards reception and presentation had the pandemic not happened, had the world that we knew at the start of 2020 would have collapsed in too many directions to fully comprehend.

Here’s to safer, calmer and more productive times ahead; I look forward to joining public relations colleagues at the 2021 Skyline Awards — in person, hopefully.

Yes, along with accepting the now mostly virtual way of communicating, we still have hope.

























Looking Beyond the Scholarly in “The Fountainhead”

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

One benefit of completing my Master’s studies in English this May: I’ve gained new knowledge on how to appreciate and interpret works of literature.

After reading this mammoth work of literature, I’m looking forward to a novel that’s a bit more brief.

Along with simply following the plot or delving into the actions of the protagonist or other characters, my scholarly studies now allow me to analyze a novel, for example, in a myriad of ways.

What kind of ways? This site lists a dozen accepted genres of criticism for longer forms of fiction, and assuredly there are others, like transnational and affect criticism, which I learned about at the start of the Master’s program in Fall 2016.

The other day, I finally completed reading an acknowledged milestone of 20th Century fiction — Any Rand’s The Fountainhead, the voluminous tale of individuality versus conformity. The story is primarily set in New York and features a renegade genius architect, an evil and calculating intellectual, a once successful man deflated by his insecurities, a power-driven newspaper publisher, and an upper-crust woman who is the antithesis of an ingenue.

I’ll save any scholarly criticism or analysis for another time, although there are plenty of directions one could could take with Rand’s often pedantic, but certainly monumental, work of literature.  For example: Why do her main characters — from Howard Roark to Peter Keating to Gail Wynand — frequently traverse the streets of Manhattan without encountering many other New Yorkers?

That rarely was my experience, whether strolling through Midtown, the Village or Upper West Side. In Manhattan, there are people everywhere and at all times of the day and night. Why did Rand attempt to “shelter” these characters within the streets and avenues of a bustling metropolis?

Anyway, what resonated with me in The Fountainhead centered on the role the fictional Banner newspaper played in the development of the story, specifically the critiques by architecture critic (and creepy socialist/villain with a comical name) Ellsworth Monkton Toohey.  Mr. Toohey’s print commentary could vault an architect and his work to soaring heights, or crush a reputation and a career.

The novel is set in the 1920s and 1930s, and the power of the Banner and its often sensationalist and perhaps manufactured news product echoes the “fake news” perpetrated today, only in print rather than digital.

And, then there were the references to the long-standing communications practice best known as press agentry.  As noted in Chapter 12 of Part 2:

“The opening of the Stoddard Temple was announced for the afternoon of November first.

“The press agent had done a good job. People talked about the event, about Howard Roark, about the architectural masterpiece which the city was to expect.”

Ah, the power of strategic and effective public relations … I mean press agentry! Rand’s omniscient narrator does not share any specific details on the communications generated by said press agent, yet the results were more than satisfactory, although perhaps not measurable by today’s standards.

Next on my reading list: This Side of Paradise, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s fist novel. So far, after reading 41 pages, no inclusion of newspapers or public relations in the story line. I might have to just read this somewhat breezy piece of fiction for what it represents — a peek into the Roaring Twenties, or as noted on the back of the book: “… an instant best-seller (that) established the image of seemingly carefree, party-mad young men and women out to create a new mortality for a new, postwar America.”

Of course, the Roaring Twenties followed the horrific Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 to 1919.  So, perhaps I’ll gain an understanding of what life will be like when the current COVID-19 pandemic becomes history.


Catching That Perfect Wave, And More With Marisa Vallbona, APR, Fellow PRSA

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

Since her “media debut” as a child decades ago, Marisa Vallabona, APR, Fellow PRSA has led an extraordinary life. To start, she speaks four languages! Decades ago Marisa founded CIM Inc PR, an award-winning public relations firm that continues to thrive in today’s challenging communications market.

She’s held national positions with the Public Relations Society of America and served on the Universal Accreditation Board, where we first met. A Californian, she engages in a challenging water sport popularized in the Golden State. And, Marisa battled and beat a foe that has altered society around the world.  Below are Marisa’s responses to questions in this latest PRDude profile of public relations leaders.

Marisa Vallabona, APR, Fellow PRSA

1.  Your website profile states you became enamored with communications as a child following a news story involving you frying an egg on the sidewalk. Can you please elaborate how this developed?

I was 12 years old and it was a super hot day in Houston to the point we could see steam rising from the asphalt. As kids usually do at that age, I was hanging around with my sister and a group of friends from the neighborhood. She had the idea to see if we could fry an egg on the sidewalk. We were surprised to see it actually fried, so we called the local newsrooms to tell them. One of the news stations sent out a crew and I went on camera. I fell in love with news from that moment forward. It was thrilling.

2. CIM Inc PR provides a wide range of services for a wide range of industries. How has client service changed over the years you’ve been in business? What has remained constant?

Service is the hallmark of any successful PR firm. We’ve been in business 30 years (since 1990) and client service has changed dramatically in the sense that so much more is done electronically and clients expect much more availability. The more business gravitates toward texting, email and Zoom, the more I make it a point to meet in person with my clients. I find that personal touch makes a massive difference in our relationship and success. Over the 30 years we’ve been in business, I’ve found that there are unrealistic expectations for delivery and there’s a lot more stress as a result. It’s also frustrating when some start ups think they can do their own PR because they found a do-it-yourself PR kit online; then they come running back asking for help because they realize it’s a lot harder than they thought. They don’t realize that established relationships make a significant difference in outcome. What has remained constant? Expectations of quality, consistency, news coverage, sound and strategic counsel, and creative ideas have remained constant. Key though is that while anyone can start a business in today’s electronic era, they’ll quickly fail if they don’t have solid and sound knowledge of the industry and if they don’t keep up with professional development. And, our industry is evolving so fast that keeping up requires constant effort and discipline.

3. We met way, way back in 2005 through our service on  the Universal Accreditation Board. Does the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credential hold the same value today?

I do believe the APR holds value because it tests and asserts that the professional who holds Accreditation has the necessary knowledge, skills and abilities for the profession. However, it’s not necessary. I know countless non APR PR professionals who are equally if not more qualified than some APRs. Earning the credential is a matter of personal preference and should be something one strives to achieve for their own mastery and self and career confidence. I did it for that reason and I used the opportunity to raise my consulting rates. It should not be seen or used as a reason to say one professional is better than another because that is simply not true.

4. Now, must get to a somewhat serious question. Over the past few weeks, you shared a video and commentary on battling a serious illness. Can you please elaborate and share insight and advice on how you coped?
My doctors diagnosed me with COVID-19 and it was horrible. I’ve never been sicker in my life, struggling with shortness of breath, dry cough and fever for over five weeks. I rarely left my bed and if it had not been for my boyfriend, who stayed by my side the entire time, I don’t know what I would have done. There were two instances where I choked and gasped for air and if it hadn’t been for the inhaler my doctor prescribed me at the onset of my difficulty breathing, I truly believe I would have choked to death. It’s been over 10 weeks and I am now left with Reactive Airway Disease. I just started surfing again a few days ago (with a rescue inhaler in a waterproof fanny pack) and my lungs are shot after an hour of surfing, which is something in the past I never would have thought possible. I used to be a marathon runner, have never smoked a cigarette in my life and rarely ever get sick. This has been a tremendous struggle and continues to haunt me daily. 
5. Okay, let’s conclude on a lighter note. You’re a surfer girl. You live in greater San Diego. What advice can you give a Chicago guy who has aspirations to surf the wilds of Lake Michigan?
Take a surf lesson before you try it and get ready to fall in love with the sport. Your life will never be the same in the best way you could ever imagine. I promise! 
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An aside: Way back in 1982 (or thereabouts), I visited some friends who moved to Southern California. Off on my own, I drove my rental car to LA, then took Highway 1 south, stopping in Newport Beach.  My objective was to surf!  Hey, man, I passed the lifeguard test and was an excellent swimmer.  I could do this.
Well reality took over as I encountered waves higher than the home I lived in and water that was really, really cold. I watched the surfers for a while, then headed south to San Diego.

Nineteen Questions Regarding COVID-19

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

We all have questions regarding some aspects of life as we know it. In fact, raising an occasional interrogative challenge is part of human nature. And, questions comprise the subject of this post.

Don’t know about you, but this graphic of the COVID-19 is plain creepy. Go away! (Image courtesy of the CDC.)

The COVID-19 pandemic, which has dominated lives around much of the world since March, without question prompts many people to utter statements verbally, in print or within their own mind and seek answers to the impacts made by this global development.

Below are 19 questions that have crossed my mind related to the pandemic.  Some questions are serious, some perhaps can be perceived as being silly. They are in no particular order of importance, however #19 is the most poignant, I think.

But for all, the answers have yet to be determined.

  1. Will people want to pursue careers in industries like hospitality, given the large number of chefs, servers, bartenders, hostesses and hotel employees now out of work?
  2. Will entrepreneurs – especially those in the creative fields – be reluctant to launch new ventures?
  3. How will the impact of the virus and pandemic influence the presidential and other elections this fall and in the years to come?
  4. Who will be viewed years from now as “heroes” and who will be viewed as “villains” once the pandemic is history?
  5. When will the pandemic be “glamorized” by Hollywood in a film?
  6. On a similar note, when will the first book be published on the pandemic?
  7. From a personal perspective, will barbers charge men more for cutting longer hair?
  8. What is the most significant aspect of coping with this pandemic that we have learned so far?
  9. Many, many people have lost savings and livelihoods from the pandemic, but who will benefit financially?
  10. When will we stop seeing the virus depicted as that creepy red sphere?
  11. Will the efforts to finding a vaccine demonstrate future cooperation between government and the private sector?
  12. Will selecting a mask in a particular color or print be part of one’s daily wardrobe decision?
  13. Will more people comprehend and appreciate the value of accurate, timely communications now that we receive daily updates on the virus?
  14. Will the phrase “social distance” be replaced with a less pragmatic phrase like, “Just stay the heck away from me!”?
  15. Given its value during this crisis, will the practice of ethical, strategic public relations — my profession — gain respect, stature and relevance in C-suites, boardrooms and conference rooms?
  16. Will trips on public transit trains and buses ever be standing-room-only again?
  17.  When will it be inappropriate to take a stroll or run down the middle of the street?
  18. Are people as productive working at home than from the office?
  19. And, of course, what can we do to prevent this horrific episode from happening again?

So there. Now it’s your turn. What questions do you have?

COVID-19 and the Role Played by Communicators: PRSA Chicago Webinar Recap

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

Controversy continues to surface regarding just about every aspect of the COVID-19 pandemic, and in these waning days of April, it’s readily apparent that controversy related to the virus and its impact on society and our way of life will continue for the foreseeable future.

From another perspective, one can argue that the virus has become the most talked about, most written about, most analyzed, most disputed topic in human history to date.

Regardless of the what takes place in the months ahead — whether we can resume what once were “normal” activities — this remains certain: We’ll need accurate and regular communications on what’s happening next week, next month and next year.

Yesterday, PRSA Chicago hosted a Zoom webinar, “Leading Through Crisis and Establishing a New Normal for Communicators After the Apex.” A long-standing member of the Chapter, I took in the presentation, which featured three senior communications professionals:

Chandler Goodman, Director at Gagen MacDonald, moderated the program and PRSA Chicago President Dane Roth provided welcoming and closing thoughts.

Here are summarized and bulleted recollections from the panelists:

  • Avoid being opportunistic when issuing communications.
  • Unlike other crisis situations, developments in the COVID-19 crisis often change hourly.
  • Communicators must update messages on a continual basis — both to internal and external audiences.
  • What was not considered newsworthy in the past may be newsworthy today.
  • Regularly try to demonstrate progress on communications to stakeholders.
  • Senior leaders should reach out to employees on a regular basis.
  • Maintain credibility, honesty and transparency when addressing a competing interest.
  • Listen to feedback from all audiences.
  • The virtual workplace will be in place for a long time; get accustomed to managing teams, media and internal communications remotely.
  • CEOs now have to respond to stakeholders and the media via Zoom or an online platform; this may require additional coaching.
  • Grasp how relationships with business partners have changed during the advent of the crisis.
  • Demonstrate the value of effective public relations during these unprecedented times.
  • Collaboration between other business or organizational units has been positive during the pandemic.
  • Recognize that a greater segment of society now recognizes the value of effective communications.
  • Some organizations now field many, many more media inquiries than prior to the pandemic — some up to 100 per day.  And, some organizations issue multiple news announcements daily.

One great feature of Zoom is the ability to pose a question. I’m proud to note that my question — “What have you learned during the pandemic that can be employed in the future?” — was the final query addressed. The responses:

Rodrigo: Communicate often and be as transparent as possible, both to internal and external audiences.

Heather: Be transparent and be human; let the world see you without wearing a tie.

Jim: You can’t over-communicate today. Be prepared to manage a long list of FAQs.

And, I’ll conclude with one other suggestion from a panelist: Communicators need a day off, which I wholeheartedly support.


Learning About and Some Concerns Related to the PESO Model 2.0 Certification Program

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

One constant in a progressive communications practice like public relations is this: Nothing is constant anymore. Not in this digitally-driven integrated communications landscape.

The PESO 2.0 image is shown courtesy of Spin Sucks, which holds the copyright. If you use this image, please share the above. You don’t want Gini Dietrich or her colleague Laura Petrolino coming after you.

That’s why I was excited and enthused to participate in the PESO Model Masterclass webinar held Wednesday, hosted by the team that publishes the Spin Sucks blog, offers online education and has been an integral force in advancing the public relations profession.

First, let me present this disclosure: Spin Sucks is the digital communications entity founded by my friend Gini Dietrich.

So who’s Gini Dietrich? Read this PRDude post from 2015 for a profile. And, what’s the PESO model? Read this post from 2017 on participating in what then was called the Arment Dietrich Challenge.

Back to the Masterclass webinar, which you can download here.  The presentation included the unveiling of the updated PESO 2.0 model and an announcement of the PESO Model Certification, an online education program developed by Spin Sucks and the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.

In the conversation led by Gini, these two topics clearly resonated:

1. Effective PR is rooted in strategy. It was reinforced that effective modern public relations is based on sound strategies and measurable objectives.

2. Modern PR transcends media relations. Without question, there’s much more to the profession today than securing print, broadcast and digital placements.

The PESO Model 2.0 was unveiled (see image above), showing expanded definitions or examples of the four PESO categories — Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned.

So far, I was on board with what was being presented. But towards the end of the webinar, two elements of the segment on the PESO Certification struck me the wrong way.

It was stated that those who complete the education earn their “PESO Model PhD.” That’s more than a misnomer, that’s totally inaccurate, misleading and an affront to those who do pursue and receive what’s acknowledged as the high level of academic scholarship. Earning a doctoral degree is a very challenging, expensive and time consuming endeavor. For example, it takes six years of education and teaching to earn a PhD in English at the university where I work — plus you have to submit and defend a dissertation.

And, it was noted that the public relations profession is “notorious” for not offering certifications. Please note that the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credential, which I have held since 2004 and have lauded in this space frequently, was established in 1964. Furthermore, the International Association of Business Communicators, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, offered the Accredited Business Communicator credential from 1973 to 2013. It continues to offer online certification and certificates.

Wishing Spin Sucks and Syracuse much success with the PESO Certification. Will I engage in the program? Well, I’m two months away from completing my Master’s degree in English, so perhaps in the fall.

But I have a final question for the team: Is it pronounced “Pea-so” or “Pay-so” model? Perhaps that will be answered during the next webinar.


Seeking Inspiration For The Future of The PRDude

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

Okay, for clarification regarding the title of this post: I’m not referring to myself, but this blog — thoughts, observations and commentary I’ve published for more than a decade.

Over the years, I’ve addressed a lot of topics, public relations being the focus, of course. But this space also has tackled politics, Chicago, sports, the media, travel, holidays, the employment market, and what’s happening in the media.

Ideas for posts come from what I read or learn about in the world around me, from adventures in and around Chicago and abroad, from experiences and observations.

Looking north from a bridge in the Harms Woods Forest Preserve, I sought inspiration.

But lately, I’ve struggled. The passion and desire to dash out a provocative and compelling post remains, however, I’ve not been inspired as much as in the past.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve written mostly about public relations (misinterpretations of the profession and misrepresentation by the media), Chicago (the politics and the people), development in the media (the decline of print media) and the other categories noted above.

I need some new inspiration.

So, that’s why I pose this question to you, kind reader:

What subjects should the PRDude address in the months to come?

Yesterday, on a spectacularly sunny and mild mid-winter day, I sought inspiration through a morning hike in a local forest preserve. The image posted here, with the snow covered banks of the North Branch of the Chicago River, reminded me of a blues song I penned many years ago. So I felt it was fitting to share the lyrics below.

Back to my question: All suggestions are welcomed. Please reply to this post or send me an email: edwardmbury@yahoo.com.

Sun Shines on the River

Sun shines on the river
On a cold, cold winter morn
Sun shines on the river
On a cold, cold winter morn
I’ve been on this road for 13 miles
And I must keep travellin’ on

Me and my ole hound dog
We’re hungry and we’re tired
Me and my old hound dor
We’re hungry and we’re tired
I could use me a shot of whiskey
And, a warm, warm raging fire

Got thrown out by a woman
She really done me wrong
Got thrown out by a woman
She really done me wrong
So I guess I’ll just keep on keepin’
Keep on, keepin’ on.

Copyright Edward M. Bury, 2020