Will Public Relations Score on the Legal Weed Boom in Illinois?

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

New Year’s Day 2020 was a day highly anticipated by many of my fellow Illinoisans. A definite, palatable buzz permeated across the Land of Lincoln. In fact, when the smoke cleared, there was outright euphoria among segments of the population.

Okay, enough with the silly puns and intended hyperbole.

Mild temperatures and bright sunshine greeted the scores of cannabis customers New Year’s Day at a dispensary on Milwaukee Avenue in the Logan Square neighborhood.

You know what I’m referring to: On January 1, Illinois became the 11th state to allow the sale and recreational use of cannabis to people 21 years and older.  Leading up to legal weed day, there was the expected media frenzy of stories regarding the impact of state-sanctioned sale of a product that remains illegal on a federal level. Would cannabis vendors run out of product? Would a rush by recreational weed patrons result in a diminished supply of medical cannabis? How much revenue will legal weed bring to the state? Where can pot possessors puff legally? Would there be a mad rush to stock up?

As noted in the image at left, on January 1 marijuana connoisseurs of all types waited in long lines at dispensaries across the state to score flower, edibles and tincture without fear of prosecution.  And, the rush for the green stuff has continued in the ensuing days. The result: the projected shortfall of product has happened.

And, in the “this just in” department, this recent Chicago Tribune story reports city has set up “cannabis amnesty boxes” at our two major airports for passengers who want to discard weed products before boarding to avoid the prospect of violating federal law.  My advice: Get high before you fly!

So many questions, so much uncertainty, so much still to unfold surrounding the debut of recreational marijuana; but I have a question of my own.

Back in November of last year, I published a post asking fellow public relations professionals if they would provide counsel to e-cigarette manufacturers, companies that produce another legal smoking product. Given the landmark events of last week, let me follow up with a new query:

Would you represent a cannabis company as public relations counsel?

If first-week sales statewide is an indication, legal cannabis is on track to reach major highs … I mean heights.  Cannabis shops sold nearly $11 million worth of product over the past seven days, a figure that assuredly would have soared had there been more product available and more dispensaries open.  So, the industry is legitimate, at least from a financial perspective.

It would be prudent for PR firms now representing cannabis companies to jointly share strategies and tactics. It blows my mind (figuratively, of course) to contemplate how account teams learn more about the product.

So please: Don’t bogart your comments and pass opinions and insight. Or, whatever.

Questions! I Have Questions to Ponder in the Year Ahead

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

“As we pull back the curtain on 2019 …” No, that’s contrived, outright hokey.

“With another decade on the horizon …” Been done, a cliche.

“The countdown to a new year begins!  So let’s reflect …” Perhaps appropriate for a television program.

Okay, enough.  I’ll dispense with trying to deliver a clever, inspiring and provocative lead to this post.  What follows are three questions I hope to have answers for in 2020.

Will Public Relations Continue to Remain Vital in Society?

To offer an answer based on my personal perspective, a resounding “Yes!” However, there are, of course, caveats to posting such a declarative response. The public relations profession, in my opinion, needs to continue to define itself as the source of ethical, strategic communications counsel to help build brands and minimize threats in the increasingly digitally-driven landscape. And, as I’ve tried to champion over the last few years, it’s the responsibility of those of us in  public relations to challenge misrepresentations of the profession.

This 2018 LinkedIn article presents my perspectives. Just google “2020 PR trends,” and the results will reveal lots of articles and prognostications.  But take note: My search included this 2015 Inc. magazine article on 10 “bold” projections on public and advertising for the year 2020. The author swung and missed on a few selections, especially the first prediction.

This parcel on Diversey at Francisco avenue once housed a row of modest storefronts. Now, it’s slated for what assuredly will be branded as “luxury” condos.

Will Upscale Real Estate Development Continue Unchecked?

Real estate development is a sign that a market is vital and ready to accommodate growth. But will the preponderance of new apartment, office and mixed-use projects now under development, planned or under consideration in metropolitan Chicago meet market needs or result in over-building?

According to this cool interactive report from Curbed Chicago, there are 33 high-rise projects being built in the city.  Think about that: 33 new “luxury” projects in a city that’s struggling to maintain population, in a city that’s becoming increasingly expensive. The site doesn’t include the more modest projects out in the neighborhoods. Let me conclude this segment by noting, that according to the U.S. Census Bureau, my state of Illinois has lost people for the sixth consecutive year.

Will The Actions of Some People Continue to Leave Me Baffled?

Why, why, why do some people ignore collecting U.S. mail?

Now, something on the less serious side. For a perspective on this question, please note the image showing mailboxes — the old-fashioned kind, the kind that holds the original means of mass communication.  This trio of mailboxes is located at a home just north of where we live. It’s been this way for days, possibly weeks. Who knows: Maybe months. Why don’t the occupants retrieve their mail!

Yes, this is anecdotal, but I’ve observed receptacles full with U.S. mail in other buildings around the neighborhood. I also wonder why so many people these days don’t wear gloves in the winter time, or why some fellow passengers on my morning Blue Line commute think it’s acceptable to stand in the entrance to the el car (on their handhelds, naturally) rather than move into the car.

Perhaps in 2020, which arrives here in a few hours beyond a full day, I’ll learn the answers to these three questions; and hopefully, many, many more.

 

Was Martin Luther Among the World’s First “Publicists?”

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

To provide some background into the question noted in the title to this post, let me share thoughts on the latest course I completed in my scholarly pursuit of a Master’s degree in English.

Was this guy really a “publicist?”

Since late August, I and a dozen or so colleagues focused studies on British literature from the early seventeenth-century, a period fraught with a civil war between royalist and republican forces and a half-century following one of the most divisive and explosive movements in western civilization — the Protestant Reformation.

We read primary texts (mainly poetry, epic poems and longer prose works) written by some of the English language’s foremost writers and poets like John Milton and John Donne, along with works by writers new to me.

And, there were the assigned secondary texts, scholarly essays and chapters from books and journals that center on philology and hermeneutics.  Big words, I know. Look them up if you need to.

For my first required paper, I wrote an essay that focused on the writings of the architect of the Reformation — Martin Luther. (You can read the essay here, but I must point out that this version has excellent comments and notes provided by my professor.)

My thesis centered on elements of propaganda in the crude and banal pamphlets Luther wrote and had published early in his role as a stalwart opponent of the Catholic church, which I contrasted with the more elegant, refined and — in my opinion — biased introduction to a collection of the scholar’s Latin works, a relatively short document laden with self-deprecating prose that chronicles his “Reformation breakthrough.”

The point I attempted to make: With the introduction of the printing press in around 1450, Luther and others who believed in the Reformation and its principles were able to disseminate printed messages across much of Western Europe. He started with cheap and simple pamphlets featuring with wood carved images that put the Pope and Catholicism in a negative perspective; this allowed the message to be presented to the common folk, many being illiterate. A few decades later, Luther elevated the message through his scholarly prose geared to the learned class.

In both cases, he followed a sound strategy: Craft compelling, definitive messages targeted to a specific audience and employ an effective communications medium. The same strategy is used by strategic communicators today, of course, but the medium includes broadcast and digital.

Now, back to my initial question. One of the sources I referenced for the paper is an excellent book, Printing, Propaganda and Martin Luther, by Mark U. Edwards, Jr. In this scholarly work, Edwards defined the printed works that promoted the Reformation cause as the world’s “first large-scale ‘media campaign,” and Luther as the the most prominent “publicist.”

My perspective: The Reformation was not a media campaign because the sources of the communications were not media companies; nor was Luther a publicist because the messages he and other Reformists (by the way, the Catholics issued their own anti-Luther/Reformation messages) shared in in the sixteenth century were clearly propaganda in nature.

As I maintain, a legitimate and honest media organization is predicated on ethical standards; and, the role of a publicist — which falls under modern public relations practices as media relations — is to generate positive media coverage for the client.

So, to summarize, the communications practices followed Martin Luther and others more than four centuries ago don’t equate to publicity, and those who originated the messages were not publicists. But the plans and courses of actions put into motion back then clearly have relevance today.

Okay: Your thoughts.

 

 

 

 

Thankful This Thanksgiving Towards These

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

With the big family celebration out of town, Susan and I “improvised” yesterday for our official Thanksgiving meal.

Served hot with hot red peppers and a spicy dipping sauce, Japanese Style Fried Turkey was a standout during our meal. The New Zealand sauvignon blanc made it all the better.

We enjoyed a three-course “Thanksgiving Tasting Menu” offered by Roka Akor, a Japanese-themed restaurant with stores around the country. Our meal took place at the store in the Westfield Old Orchard shopping mall in Skokie.

And, along with the Hamachi Serrano Chili Maki, Salmon Teriyaki with House-Pickled Cucumbers and other delicious offerings, we had turkey two ways: Japanese Style Fried Turkey and Braised Turkey Rice Hot Pot with Mountain Greens.

Of course, we missed the traditional holiday fare and gathering with family; but we were thankful for the opportunity to enjoy a delicious meal with others who did not or could not participate in the Thanksgiving feast depicted in the famous Norman Rockwell painting.

And, while I’m on the subject, here are few other things I’m thankful for:

  • Living in a nation that — despite the challenges faced on a national scale with the impeachment proceedings and unbridled partisanship — is still a pretty good place to reside.
  • Completing another course in my journey toward earning my Master’s degree in English. This semester’s subject matter — seventeenth century British literature — was new to me, but I gained a better understanding of the Reformation and the process of researching and drafting scholarly papers.
  • Modern public relations practices and the positive impact those of us in the profession can and will have in making society a better place.

Oh, and one more thing: I’m thankful for this platform and the ability to share my thoughts, opinions and images in this space. And, of course, I’m thankful to everyone who reads what I have to say.

 

 

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.