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.

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

One Image, One Question: June 6, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Again, I was impressed.

Now to the Question:

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

I enthusiastically say they do. Your thoughts are welcomed.

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

 

A Perspective on Public Relations and Leadership During a Tech Conference

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

Photo credit: Edward M. Bury, APR.

The opportunity to keep learning is one of the benefits of working for a major university. That’s why I was excited to participate in an IT-centered conference yesterday at the great institution of higher learning where I am employed: The day-long event provided breakout sessions that focused on available tech tools and project management resources, along with presentations on shall we say “softer” subjects.

One session that stood out for me was titled: “Leadership Through Collaboration, Communication and Cooperation.”

I and those in the room gained insight into the nature of what makes a good leader today and learned there are four genres:

  • Transformative
  • Democratic
  • Laissez Faire
  • Autocratic

(For the record, my perceptions on leadership were more on the cut and dry side: Those who were effective and forthright, and those who were worthless and duplicitous.)

The session leader, a former Navy officer who earned a doctorate after leaving the service, was engaging and shared other perceptions on leadership, including this one: Good leaders know how to balance hard and soft skills.

I wholeheartedly agree.

But what captured my attention came during an analysis of the “communications” segment of the talk.  Our leader said, and I paraphrase somewhat: “Clear communication is the key to establishing and maintaining relationships.”

Sound familiar?

Perhaps some echoes from this definition of public relations presented in 2012 by the Public Relations Society of America?

I think so.  What I take away from this portion of the 45-minute presentation is that the very essence of modern public relations — effective communications — also should be among the foundation of good leadership characteristics.

Hopefully, leaders across all spectrums of society today will agree with me and adhere.

 

What the LinkedIn Workforce Report for May 2019 Reveals to Me

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

According to my profile, I have 1,085 connections on LinkedIn, which I believe is pretty good. In the interests of full disclosure, I really haven’t met, collaborated on a project. or communicated in person with a sizeable number of these connections.

Image courtesy of LinkedIn.

Regardless, LinkedIn is a platform I visit daily to monitor visits to my profile, participate in groups and to learn.

One more factor behind why I appreciate LinkedIn: It’s generally void (at least during my visits) of troll-centered, profanity-laced, celebrity-driven, mean-spirited and outright idiotic posts and messages often found on Facebook and Twitter.

Last week, I learned the folks at LinkedIn produce a monthly Workforce Report, covering the U.S., the U.K. and India.

After scanning the May 2019 U.S. report, which I found to be an excellent compendium of analysis and insight and today’s workforce, I focused on Table 1. Here, the data presented was on hiring shifts — or from another perspective, job growth by industry.

These three industries recorded the “most notable hiring shifts” in April when analyzing non-seasonably adjusted year-over-year statistics:  Hardware & Networking (15.3% higher); Corporate Services (14.9% higher); and Public Administration (14% higher).

But in “fifth place” and among the five categories — and with a double-digit increase — was Media & Communications, which saw an increase of 10.1%. (For the record, Wellness & Fitness nudged out the aforementioned with an 11% increase.)

So, what’s my interpretation of this impressive showing by Media & Communications — which according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics includes jobs in public relations?

1. Businesses, governmental bodies and non-profit organizations continue to recognize the value skilled (and I hope ethical) communicators bring to modern society.

2. Job growth in this sector should remain robust and competition will be strong to recruit and retain solid performers.

3. Ongoing education will be needed to keep new communicators (and more “seasoned” ones like me) up to date on new developments in the years ahead.

At this time of year, those who have earned degrees in public relations, advertising, marketing, journalism or some integrated communications discipline should be positive about job prospects. My advice:

  • Follow your passions and your interests if possible when seeking a place to work.
  • Pursue jobs with agencies and in the corporate sector, but also consider non-profit and associations.

Finally, a note to the folks in the Wellness & Fitness industry: Watch out because we communicators ain’t far behind.

 

 

 

 

Suggestion for Mayor-Elect Lori Lightfoot: Add An APR (Or Perhaps Several) to Communications Team

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

The recent Chicago mayoral election, which led to the election of attorney and prescribed reformer Lori Lightfoot, would have been an ideal opportunity for this avowed real Chicago guy to share thoughts in this space.

But, for some reason — actually several reasons, including school, work and spring break — I did not publish any commentary.

Flash forward: A column published today by Chicago Tribune commentator Eric Zorn provided inspiration.

Sound communications counsel will prove invaluable to Mayor-Elect Lori Lightfoot in the years ahead. Photo courtesy of Chicago Tribune.

The focus of Zorn’s piece, “A lesson for Lori Lightfoot in the lingering Jussie Smollett controversy,” centers on communications, and the value and importance of sound media relations practices in helping Mayor-Elect Lightfoot advance her agenda and remain focused during what certainly will be challenging and contentious months ahead.

Navigating the next development in the Smollett controversy is the most top-of-mind issue, given the international coverage the story has received and the local divisiveness it has caused. But Chicago’s unrelenting street crime, reforming City Hall, pension shortfalls, neighborhood gentrification and an increasing lack of affordable housing also will require that Ms. Lightfoot and her team respond to many, many other media and public inquiries.

Open and honest communications from the Lightfoot administration will prove critical to the success during her years as mayor, and to Chicago, to its citizens, organizations and businesses, and to the way the city is perceived around the world.

Mr. Zorn advises the Mayor-Elect to “Hire the best communications team you can find.” He sagely goes on to state: “They will serve as strategists, not just mouthpieces, and will be unafraid to tell you when you deserve the brickbats.”

Should Ms. Lightfoot or her transition team read this post, I offer this suggestion on one criteria that should be considered in making selections on communicators: Consider professionals who hold the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credential.

Okay. Some regular readers may have anticipated my recommendation.  And, yes, I am an Accredited professional, have served on the Universal Accreditation Board and currently am the Accreditation Chair for PRSA Chicago.

With the disclosure out of the way, let me share this one thought about the value of Accreditation. As Mr. Zorn noted, modern communicators must think strategically and not dispense knee-jerk counsel.

Those who earn the APR demonstrate through their personal study, during the Panel Presentation process and when taking the Comprehensive Examination that they can provide counsel based on strategies rather than “no comment.”

Should Mayor-Elect Lightfoot or her transition team need recommendations on who to consider, please respond to this post. And, for the record: This Accredited member would respectfully decline any position offered for the simple reason that I have no real experience in the political arena, aside from be a voter.