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.
 

Questions for PR Professionals Offering Counsel in Wake of #MeToo

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

One service performed by strategic public relations professionals centers on counsel mitigating a potential threat to the client or organization.

It’s better known as crisis communications preparation, and every senior practitioner today should have the skills needed to craft a strategic program and initiate tactics should a crisis arise in this era of digitally-driven, non-stop news.

Of course, the true value in managing a crisis lies in having the plan in place before it’s needed.

Image courtesy of YourStory.com

Over the past several weeks, we’ve been in the wake of a seemingly ongoing cycle of men in high places being accused of abusive actions to girls and women, as well boys and young men.

You know where I’m going — the evolution of the #MeToo Movement. And, of course, the fallout it has created.

Movie moguls, actors, newsmen, elected officials and men from other industries have been charged with alleged misgivings and even crimes that took place recently and in the distant past.  By the time this post is published, there’s the strong possibility that a new story on this topic will surface.

This has prompted me to ponder what advice and counsel I would provide to a client who was the subject of allegations related to sexual and other abuse.  Frankly, the foundation of crisis mitigation centers on addressing the issue immediately, honestly and tactfully.  This is the general advice I would provide.

But what about a different scenario: The client informs you that he (or perhaps she) did, indeed, abuse an underling, employee or colleague.  The client charges you with preparing a strategy and plan.

What advice do you offer?  Do you advise the client to come forward and admit to conduct that may be career-ending or even criminal in nature? Or, do you develop a plan to execute should the charges surface?

Frankly, I’m at a quandary.

The PRSA Code of Ethics cites Provisions of Conduct that include open disclosure of information and a free flow of information; but from another perspective, ethical public relations professionals should safeguard confidences, avoid conflicts of interests and enhance the profession.

The national conversation on the sexual abuse topic, and its long-range implications, is just beginning to take hold in the nation’s consciousness. Earlier today, Time Magazine published its annual Person of the Year issue.  The subject: The Silence Breakers — The Voices That Launched a Movement.

There’s no question that in the days and weeks to com, more women — and assuredly men, too — will step forward and recount allegations of being abused by someone who held power.

The question I have: Are ethical public relations professionals prepared to render sound counsel?

 

 

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:

 

 

 

A Guide to PR 101 … And Then Some

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

Those of us who contribute to the blogosphere certainly appreciate getting recognized for our contributions.

I certainly do.

techfunction1That’s why I was honored to receive an email from business writer Phoebe Parlade, inspired to reach out after reading a 2016 PRDude post.  Phoebe, who writes for the U.K. magazine TechFunction, thought I would be interested in reviewing an online report designed to guide business owners on how to incorporate strategic public relations.

Well, I am the PRDude and I was flattered that my humble blog inspired this inquiry. And, I sort of covered this topic in a post from March of this year.

The report, “What Is Public Relations?,” is a very cool and valuable digital resource that provides insight and information to business owners — or anyone who wants to better comprehend public relations.  (And, for the record, the resource is produced by TechFunction.)

Visitors to the site will learn an accurate definition of the practice and some relevant history dating from ancient times to today. The section on relevant modern PR quotes features tweets from leading practitioners and thought leaders, including my amazing Chicago friend and colleague Gini Dietrich, profiled in this space in 2015.  And, the content that addresses public relations in the digital age provides a solid analysis of the impact of digital in shaping and controlling the modern conversation.

And, as one would anticipate, there’s a large amount of content that addresses strategies and tactics.  I concur with much of what is presented, but wouldn’t advise business owners to follow the link to the press release template and follow the advice presented.  My advice is to hire a seasoned public relations professional for this task. Drafting a compelling news story/release is not a paint-by-numbers exercise.

But what struck home for me was this: Throughout the report, the authors drive home the fact that public relations is a strategic process and “more aligned with the management of all relationships and communication between an organization and the public.”

Well said, indeed.

 

Crowdsourcing for Help on Public Relations Job Search Stragegic Plan

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

Visit my web site (for Edward M. Bury, APR, not The PRDude) and read my personal “tag line” of sorts:  “A Modern Strategic Communicator Steeped in Old-School Traditions.” The two key words from that passage to focus on for this post are “modern” and “strategic.”

My plan to secure that next great job in public relations is based on sound strategies and will incorporate modern forms of communications when appropriate.

crowdsourcing-525x350Crowdsourcing is one of those new online ways that’s pretty simple in concept. And, apparently, it has worked.  So, I’m trying it.  For the uninitiated, here’s a great definition of the concept:

“Simply defined, crowdsourcing represents the act of a company or institution taking a function once performed by employees and outsourcing it to an undefined (and generally large) network of people in the form of an open call. This can take the form of peer-production (when the job is performed collaboratively), but is also often undertaken by sole individuals. The crucial prerequisite is the use of the open call format and the large network of potential laborers.”  (Source: article by Jeff Howe, 2006 Wired Magazine.)

So, here’s what I have in mind:  Below is an outline for my plan to to land a new job in public relations.  I’d like crowdsourcing-cartoonto “crowdsource” replies and feedback from the blagosphere, and beyond should any alien beings have insight to share.

Without further ado, my plan.

Goal: Secure a senior-level position in Chicago with a progressive company, agency or association where I’ll be challenged to use my strategic public relations, communications and management skills to help realize a mission and build revenues.

Strategies: Leverage my knowledge, skills and abilities in the B2B arena, with a concentration in the real estate industry.  Accentuate my dedication to the public relations profession through volunteer work on behalf of PRSA Chicago and by one of 5,000 practitioners to hold the Accreditation in Public Relations credential.  Showcase my outstanding oral and written communication skills.

images crowdObjectives: Secure at least five job or informational interviews monthly with decision-makers.  Grow referral base to add at least two new sources monthly.  Receive at least three job offers by August, 2013.

As for specific tactics, I’ll hold off on sharing those until after I get some feedback from you.  And, I know: that third objective is quite optimistic.  But, hey, what’s the alternative?  To be pessimistic?  That’s not happening because I remain very confident that I have value in today’s market.

Now it’s your turn in this experiment.  Let the crowdsourcing begin.