Public Relations Maven Judi Schindler Transitions to the Stage

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

In its essence, public relations is a communications discipline, right? In public relations, we communicate with a target audience to build awareness, acceptance and ultimately action for a product, cause or service.

For decades, Judi Schindler excelled in the public relations profession as founder/owner of a namesake boutique agency and stalwart businesswoman. A few years ago, Judi partially retired from public relations to pursue a different profession — acting.  (Hey, actors also are communicators who interact with a target audience, but in a more controlled environment.)

Now for the disclosure: From 1988 to the early 1990s, I had the honor of working with Judi as a member of her account team. We developed and managed public relations programs for some leading Chicago real estate companies and great B2B clients. I learned a great deal about public relations, as well as new-business generation and account management.

What follows are Judi’s responses to questions sent via email.

In her new career as an actress,, Judi Schindler effectively demonstrates there is life after a long, successful career in public relations.

1. You built your successful career and business in public relations, then transitioned to another field. (More on that in a moment.) What inspired you to initially pursue public relations as a career?

When I was a journalism student at the University of Illinois, I dreamed of being a police reporter so I could follow in the footsteps of my two role models: Lois Lane and Brenda Starr.  It was not to be, however.  The only job I could get was at Jobber Topics, “The Bible of the Automotive Aftermarket.”  My job consisted primarily of rewriting press releases.  Somewhere between the manifolds and ignition systems, I decided I’d rather write the press releases than rewrite them.

From there I had jobs with a public relations agency, a major fund raising campaign, a real estate developer and a small telecommunications firm. Eventually I turned the latter into a client and began building my firm, first as Schindler Public Relations, and later as Schindler Communications.

2. Digital communications, of course, has changed — forever — the way we communicate. Do you keep current on digital strategies and practices today?

Can anyone keep current?  The landscape shifts every time Google changes its algorithm.  In February, I resigned my last client, The GO Group, an international consortium of airport transportation companies.  For the last several years, I oversaw their social media strategy as well as their pay-per-click campaign and web marketing.  I had worked with this client for 10 years and with the Chicago partner company for more than 30 years.  One of the reasons I resigned is that I didn’t feel I was bringing new technology driven tactics to the table.

Aside from technology, the underlying practice of public relations is unchanged.  We use our client’s knowledge, experience and history to create content.  How we deliver that content is the only thing that changed.

3. While you managed Schindler Communications, you also were a strong advocate for women in business. What advice do you have for women entrepreneurs today?

I still maintain my affiliation with the Chicago Area Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), which I helped found.  For the most part, I think today’s women entrepreneurs are more sophisticated that we were.  While most of us started businesses as a means of self-employment, many of the women I meet today are starting companies as investments, hoping to build equity and sell out.  I know several who could be called serial entrepreneurs.  I would advise any women starting a business today is to find a supportive network of peers, like NAWBO.  Women are extremely generous with each other and are a great resource.

There are owners manuals for just about everything. So, why not one for husbands?

4. Now to the question regarding your current career: How did your decades in public relations contribute to the skills and challenges required for success in your new career as an actress?

Running an agency taught me not to take rejection too seriously.  Casting agents say the same thing as clients, “we decided to go in a different direction.”

I started taking acting classes after I merged my business with Sally Hodge (operating as Hodge Schindler for five years.)  No longer the “boss,” I felt I needed another outlet, and acting was something I enjoyed as a kid. Classes eventually led to auditioning and doing plays.  When I no longer worked full time, I got an agent. In the last several years I’ve done several plays, local commercials, voice-overs, short films, museum exhibits and one Onion video.

A few year ago, the entrepreneur in me took over and I decided to write a performance piece that could be delivered as entertainment at women’s groups, bridal showers and entertainment venues.  Titled “Husbands: An Owner’s Manual,” it’s based on my 50-plus years of marriage.  I explain how to select a husband and how to maintain him in good working order including such topics as warranties, exchanges and replacement parts.

I am currently working on the book of the same title.

5. Let’s finish up with some questions on the book. What inspired you to take on this project? And, has your husband, Jack, read it yet?

People who’ve seen the show have been encouraging me for years to turn it into a book.  My original intention was to use the book as a way to monetize and promote the show.  But it’s taken on a life of its own.  Right now, it is in the hands of a designer who is creating fun, colorful pages that contribute to the humor and viewpoint of the text.  I hope to go to press by the end of October and have copies by the end of November.

I am currently working on my PR/marketing plan for the book launch, which includes my blog, “The Toilet Seat Must Go Down,” where I answer such vital questions as “why men can’t find the pickles behind the mayonnaise.”

And to answer your question: No, Jack Schindler has never read the book or seen the performance, even though everyone tells him that it’s an homage.  It does keep him on his toes, however. He’s afraid everything he says or does will turn into a new chapter.

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The Value of Communications in Times of Emergency: Harvey and Irma

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

This image of Irma is somewhat surreal. A beautiful kaleidoscope of colors, yet what further devastation will be in the wake of this storm.

Outside today, it’s overcast and cool for early September in Chicago. The skies are not threatening, the winds placid.

Wish the same could be said for parts of the Caribbean and the state of Florida.

Okay, you know where this is going: Commentary on the massive Hurricane Irma as it approaches the continental United States and the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey in late August.

Well, let’s let the experts, the pundits, the forecasters and the government officials provide analysis on subjects like:

  • The potential for lives lost and property destroyed.
  • The exact course of this latest Category 5 storm.
  • The exodus of people seeking safety via highways and air.
  • The analysis of how continued development along coastal areas will exacerbate damage from the storm.
  • And, the role of global warming in these storms and others to follow.

Here, I’ll share a thought on the value of communications — and those responsible for accurate, timely and ethical communications — in helping to mitigate what’s to follow from Irma when it reaches Florida later this weekend.

In researching this post, I googled “Hurricane Irma and public relations advice.”  Yes, the search yielded a lot, as there were more than 150,000 findings.

In reading some of the results, I found links to reports on how to prepare for the hurricane (from the Federal Trade Commission), travel insurance claims advice from a company called Squaremouth, and a USA Today article on how to prepare your smartphone for a catastrophe.

Of course, there were many more articles and links to websites offering direction and insight that perhaps has little value to the tens of thousands who may be displaced over the next few days.

Or suffer more substantial losses.

The point here: These messages were drafted and distributed by communicators — public relations consultants, marketing professionals, content experts. They were playing a role in disseminating potentially valuable information in a time of need.

These messages won’t stop the winds and the rain from making landfall. But in times like these, communications on how to lessen or avoid the impact of a potential tragedy do count.

Expect more hurricane-related communications to come, as Hurricane Jose  was building strength, becoming a Category 4 storm, in the Atlantic Ocean.  The good news: Forecasters predict Jose may head north and may not reach land.

Let’s hope.

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As a true weather wonk, The PRDude has addressed weather and natural disasters before. Here are two posts:

 

 

 

With September on the Horizon, A Time to Savor What’s Left of Summer

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

It’s true.

The three months of summer — purported to be a reflective time to relax, regroup and recharge — does go by fast.

As of this writing, September is three weeks away, prompting the question: Did you get the most out of the summer of 2017?

After all, the fall back-to-school messages will soon become as prominent and prevalent as those get-out-and-enjoy summer messages communicated in May.

Yes, that’s me, second from left, during the PRSA Chicago YPN panel discussion on continuing education.

Now that the topic of schooling is on the table, let me share a recent event on the subject. Earlier this week, I had the honor of participating as a panelist during a PRSA Chicago Young Professionals Network after-work gathering on “Exploring Continuing Education in PR.”

My fellow panelists addressed the challenges faced by working professionals who make the decision to pursue master’s degrees in business administration and communications, along with the long-term professional career benefits of an advanced degree.

As you would expect from the PRDude,  I promoted the value behind earning the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credential and how it made a measurable impact by elevating me to a strategist.

And, I subtly noted that I also was in pursuit of my master’s degree in English, although reaching that goal is a good three years away.

What ensued was an often lively and informative exchange between the panelists and the YPN members in attendance. I learned how my fellow panelists balanced work, school, play and other aspects of life in their quest for a master’s degree, and realized:

  • I’m on my 13th year as an Accredited professional; regardless, the continued evolution of public relations will require that I continue to evolve, too. That means continuing to learn.
  • Earning an advanced degree means more these days than in generations past. The era of the publicist driven by placements has been eclipsed by a professional who can comprehend and strategically employ the PESO model.
  • And, yikes! Summer was waning and I would have to start school again soon. Actually, my next class — “Non-Fiction Writing Workshop” — starts August 28.

With that note, I’ll conclude this post and step outside with a glass of wine to enjoy the balance of this early August evening.

After all, the two ladies on the panel with me both stressed that it’s imperative to maximize time spent outside the classroom and away from the books.

I wholeheartedly concur.

 

 

 

Communications Advice For Anthony Scaramucci

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

By the time Publish button is pushed to share these thoughts with the world, who knows what new development will have taken place within the Trump Administration.

New (but for how long?) White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

So, I’ll be brief and get tot he focal point of this post: Communications advice for recently named White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci.

Last week, Mr. Scaramucci burst on the national scene in what then was the latest shake up within the current executive branch.

A Wall Street guy, Mr. Scaramucci (to my understanding) does not have any formal communications experience.

So in an effort to usher in a less caustic national conversation, here’s some advice and best practices for Mr. Scaramucci to consider:

  1. Learn to mitigate threats. In essence, public relations initiatives take advantage of opportunities and mitigate threats.  It’s highly advisable that Mr. Scaramucci take the latter very seriously while doing his utmost to advance the former.
  2. Watch the language. Perhaps you’ve read about Mr. Scaramucci’s expletive-filled rank to a reporter last week.  In a tweet, he deemed the frequent f-bombs as being “colorful language.” From my experience, straightforward, “black and white” communications are much more effective because the crux of the message stays front and center.
  3. The media is not an enemy. As clearly stated in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the media has a right to exist. Men and women who cover the news aren’t going away. Being combative will only lead to more intensive scrutiny.

Mr. Scaramucci, should you read this and want to discuss further, please reach out; I promise to respond promptly.

And, I ask nothing in return, except that you perform your duties effectively and honestly.

I trust the American people would ask the same.

In This Era of Fake News, Let’s Remember the Impact of Fake PR

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

Long before the idea of “fake news” — otherwise known as “lies,” “falsehoods,” “misinformation” or “conjecture” — became part of the national lexicon, there was a mistrust by some regarding information disseminated by traditional print and broadcast media sources.

Lots of things, including public relations practices, are “fake” these days. Image courtesy of Slate.

Now, of course, with digital communications fully ensconced in modern society and the national conversion embroiled in mistrust of who’s ever on the other side, “fake news” is part of the new normal and more than likely will be forever.

This prompted me to ponder communications from another perspective, that being, communications originating from public relations professionals. And, in this case, I employ the “professionals” qualifier with trepidation related to some.

Perhaps it’s time to address the “fake” premise in another way — that being “fake PR.”

Actually, there’s a communications company based in Berlin, Germany named Fake PR.  Not sure why this name was selected, but according to the company’s website, it maintains an impressive client base and lists 14 services under the public relations category.

And, in researching this post, I found a few articles on the subject, including this well-crafted piece published earlier this year by Forbes.

So, what exactly constitutes providers of “fake PR” services? Here, in totally random order, are some qualifiers to consider:

  • Void of strategic direction and use of research.
  • Reliant on vanity metrics for demonstrating progress or success.
  • Failure to recognize the evolution and growth of strategic public relations in the 21st century.
  • Focused primarily or entirely on media relations and publicity.
  • Violation of or lack of awareness for established ethical standards.
  • Absence of any formal or voluntary education in public relations or communications within the account team.
  • Not comprehending the difference between public relations and marketing or advertising.
  • Distribution of news releases, social media posts and web content that lack news value or are erroneous.
  • Failure to recognize that public relations professionals provide strategic counsel that transcends the perfunctory, specifically media relations.
  • And, equating public relations with propaganda.

These thoughts hopefully will inspire others to comprehend the idea of “fake PR” and continue the dialogue.

Now, it’s your turn: What can you add to this discussion?

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The PRDude has tackled this subject before. Here are a few posts to revisit:

 

 

 

Rob Goldstone, Ethics and Public Relations

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

Updates continue from news sources world wide regarding the recent disclosure regarding Donald Trump, Jr. and his meeting in June of 2016 with an attorney reportedly tied to the Kremlin.

This report published earlier today from Reuters provides the President’s comments on this (as it’s known in the industry) “developing story.”

We’ll let the global news organizations continue their respective investigation.

Rob Goldstone. Photo courtesy of dailyentertainmentnews.com

In this space, we’ll put some analysis toward the actions of Rob Goldstone, the celebrity publicist who initiated the meeting between Mr. Trump, Jr., his brother in law Jared Kushner, and one-time Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

A July 11 report from the New York Times provides an account of the email exchange, which Mr. Trump, Jr. shared with the world yesterday.

Upon reading the initial email message from Mr. Goldstone, those of us dedicated to the practice of ethical public relations had to share a collective “what the hell is he doing?” thought.

This passage from the June 3, 2016 email sent by Mr. Goldstone violates values and standards of conduct established to elevate public relations beyond propaganda and hucksterism:

“The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.”

Read this part again: “…official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary…”

Poor grammar and run-on sentence aside, this sinister communication is plain wrong for the founder of a New York-based communications firm and a person one would think would be removed from this kind of unsubstantiated messaging.

Mr. Goldstone opened the door violations of perhaps four Provisions of Conduct set by the Public Relations Society of America:

  • Disclosure of Information
  • Safeguarding Confidences
  • Conflicts of Interest
  • Enhancing the Profession

Review these PRSA provisions and share your thoughts on Mr. Goldstone’s communications practices — practices that may have had an impact on the 2016 presidential election.

And, if you’d like to pose a question or offer a comment to Mr. Goldstone about his actions, his firm’s website includes his contact information.

 

Continuing the Conversation with Young Entrepreneur and Marketing Dude Garry Howell

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

In this space, I’ve been a stalwart supporter of the value behind networking.

The real kind.

You know, the activity that requires you to unplug electronic devices (well, figuratively, I suppose) and travel to a gathering where you’re compelled to meet people — people you don’t know, people you only get to know well through interpersonal contact.

That’s what I did a few days back; the outcome was meeting Garry Howell, the founder and president of SOGO Marketing, a way cool agency based in the west Chicago suburbs.

We immediately struck a few responsive chords: We liked talking about the communications industry, many things Chicago-focused, and the Chicago Cubs.  So, I felt Garry would be an excellent participant for a Q&A post.

Here’s Garry’s responses to my questions.

1. From our conversation, you launched SOGO Marketing shortly after graduation from the University of West Virginia. What prompted/inspired you to become an entrepreneur?

Entrepreneur and Chicago Cubs fan Garry Howell.

I was that typical college graduate, leaving college with a $140,000 piece of paper and no idea what I was going to do with it. SOGO was born shortly after graduating because I was fortunate enough to make an amazing connection with a great company that was seeking help with marketing and communications. I was offered a salary position, but I negotiated to get the work contracted, and from there SOGO was born. I have entrepreneurial blood. I had always dreamed of owning my own company after growing up in a family restaurant. Those adolescent daydreams eventually translated to my adult life, when I recognized I had the willingness and ambition to start a marketing agency.

2. I also recall that you began your college career focused on civil engineering then changed to Multi-Disciplinary Studies – Communications, Business Administration, and Public Relations. What inspired you to make the switch?

It seemed like as the courses went on, I found it harder and harder to discover my identity in the industry. I realized that after a year with the City of Morgantown as their civil engineer intern that this wasn’t for me. Again, I was that typical student that really hadn’t identified a career path. Engineering sounded good at 17 years old, but I honestly hadn’t given that career much thought then, I just knew my parents would like it. The pivot point came during my third year at West Virginia. I had one of those “ah ha” moments, when I realized what my true interests were. It was one of those moments when the stars aligned. Happy to say, I’ve never looked back, and it was the best decision I’ve ever made.

3. SOGO clearly is a modern communications firm. What sets you and your team apart in terms of the services you provide?

By definition, SOGO means brotherhood, unity, and cooperation. This not only reflects the culture of our agency, but also defines the relationships we have with our partners.

4. SOGO boasts a fairly diversified client roster. What advice could you offer other entrepreneurs who plan to open their own shop?

I think an individual who wants to open an agency needs to have professional will and personal humility. You need to set the standard of greatness early on and settle for nothing less.

5. Now, let’s lighten things up. You’re a Chicago Cubs fan and own a dog named Wrigley. A two-part question: a) What did you learn as a professional from the way the Cubs organization managed its brand last year? b) what do the 2017 Cubs need to do to get back on the winning track?

Ricketts and Epstein are a dynamic duo. From a business standpoint, you can learn a lot from what they have done to revitalize the Cubs. Their formula was right for 2016. We’ll see how they adapt for the 2017 season. I have no doubt in Joe Maddon and his supporting cast. It’s hard for a club to replicate a groundbreaking season like last year but you got to have hope! Go Cubs!