Results of Straw Poll on PR, My Turn and More

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

The results are in from last week’s “straw poll” on pressing issues facing public relations.

Straw Poll

If you vote in my straw poll, I promise to recycle the straws shown. Promise.

Sincere thanks to all — well both — loyal readers who cast votes in my simple barometer attempt on the state of the profession.  And, now for the results to the four questions posed:

  1. Better integration with other disciplines: 1 vote
  2. Improved/enhanced measurement: 1 vote
  3. Need for greater transparency: No votes
  4. Managing crisis in a digital world: No votes
  5. Other: No votes

Is my spirit broken at the poor results? Not at all.  Did I expect a huge response? Not really.

I understand that people are busy, and my little poll faces a lot of competition for attention and interest. But if you’d still like to cast a vote, the poll remains open:

(By the way, hundreds of public relations professionals met in Atlanta this month to learn and share ideas. Visit the PRSA website and scroll to the “What’s New” section at left to read reports from the 2015 national conference on presentations from industry thought leaders.)

Now, on to the topic I maintain is the most pressing and compelling issue before the public relations profession: The need for those of us in public relations to do a better job of defining the practice — what constitutes public relations and what does not.

A case in point happened Friday while I watched the local morning news. A history professor from a prestigious Chicago university was commenting on the murderous actions of the Islamic State, including the quality and effectiveness of videos and social media tactics used to recruit and spread  its warped message of hate and terror.

The professor ended the segment by stating that the group also known as ISIS has developed “a very good public relations department.”

No, no, no!

This type of communications has nothing to do with modern public relations.

This type of communications has nothing to do with modern public relations.

Professor, it’s called “propaganda.” What ISIS and other terrorist groups employ to communicate is diametrically the opposite of modern public relations, which is based on transparency, open disclosure and safeguarding confidences and rooted in doing something positive for society.

It’s this misconception of the practice of ethical, effective public relations that needs to be addressed by those of us in the  profession. We should not let this continue unabated. Given the horrific attacks in Paris last week, we can anticipate that there will be continued discussion regarding the videos, tweets and posts that originate from terrorist cells around the world. As a profession, public relations professionals should actively address situations such as the one mentioned above and offer clarification. Let’s collectively do what we do best: Communicate the truth.

To those practitioners who question the validity of my thoughts or wonder whether these suggestions have merit, let me offer this final thought: Do you want the communications work you conduct for clients to be equated with the type of communications presented by terrorists? I trust not.


How Would Chicago Cope With the Terrorism That Ravaged Boston?

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

As I draft this post the morning of Friday, April 19, much of the world is following the breaking news unfolding in and around Boston.  One suspect in the horrific terrorist bombings at the April 15 Boston Marathon is dead, and authorities are seeking the second suspect.  Authorities at this time believe the bombs were planted by brothers who immigrated here years ago and became part of American society.

I hope and pray that no other lives are lost.  I applaud the federal, state and local authorities who took control of the situation and quickly identified the suspects.  I am in awe of those first responders and ordinary citizens who rushed to help those stricken by the two blasts set off near the Marathon finish line.

NBC still image taken from video shows an explosion at the Boston MarathonI wish I could say, “This will never happen again.” But unfortunately, I believe there will be other attempts by cowardly monsters to cause harm and inflict terror for the sake of some sick ideology.  We still don’t know what led the two men to allegedly erupt bombs that killed and maimed; we do know that they used materials readily available to just about anyone.

And, I wonder: “How would my city cope if terrorists targeted Chicago?”  After all, Chicago is an international city of nearly 3 million people; it has iconic office towers, an extensive public transportation network, grand public spaces, major cultural facilities — places where a terrorist bomb would certainly cause injuries, damage and possibly death.

Like Boston — and cities and towns across our great country — Chicago has endured tragedy before and demonstrated resiliency to emerge stronger and more unified as Americans.  Should terrorists attack us again, here in Chicago or elsewhere, I remain confident we’d see the same level of rapid response from law enforcement officials, the same unbridled desire to help from first responders and the tremendous outpouring of support from around the nation.

Chicago would endure.

This past week I made four trips downtown using our public transportation subway system.  I had meetings in four office towers, including the 100-story Aon Center, in one hotel and in a major retail center in the heart of the North Michigan Avenue shopping district.  I did not — nor will I ever — let the prospect of madness stop me from traveling within my city and living in a free America.

One image from this horrible chapter of 2013 that stood out for me was the line of flags along the Marathon route.  These flags represented runners from nations competing in the race; they represented solidarity, freedom, sportsmanship and fairness. These flags stood tall as the carnage took place.  This is the image I will retain from this tragedy.

How will you remember the Boston Marathon bombing?

Three Thoughts Generated from the bin Laden “Operation”

By Edward M. Bury, APR, aka The PRDude

As I put these thoughts down, I struggled the past few minutes with the last word of the name for this post.   How does one describe what took place in Pakistan in the wee hours of  Sunday morning?

From a purely factual perspective: A terrorist monster who masterminded the slaughter of some 3,000 Americans and strained our collective emotional fiber to its core was killed in a military exercise approved by the President and carried out by U.S. commandos on foreign soil.

That’s the reason I put the word “operation” in quotes.  It was a concerted, planned military operation that took down Osama bin Laden.

Here are three thoughts, three take aways on the fourth day since the operation.

1. More Jaundiced Perceptions of Public Relations. According to our government, bin Laden was hiding in the compound in Abbottabad for around five years — figuratively under the noses of Pakistani government and military leaders at the nearby military academy.  Now, the leaders of Pakistan have to defend the nation (and themselves) against charges of collusion or incompetence.  I’ve read news commentary claiming the U.S. and Pakistan are engaged in some kind of “PR war.”

Bunk.  Public relations, as I and many others maintain, does not fall anywhere in this scenario.  What’s going on is “diplomatic relations,” pure and simple. Let’s hope and pray the surely strained relations we have with Pakistan do not lead to real war.

2. The Good and Bad of Social Media.  In the good old days — you know, five years ago, before Twitter and Facebook — the only way to get real time reports on the bin Laden operation were from two of the original sources of mass media for the masses — television and radio.  Today, everyone with a handheld, desktop or laptop and an online connection not only got the message, they were able to resend the message to friends and followers.

What’s more, they were able to offer their own perspective, add their own insight.  This is allows the conspiracy theorists, quacks and nutballs a forum to spread conjecture, lies and nonsense.  Thank the gods of technology for the delete key and ability to block inbound messages.

3.  Every News Story is Part of the Cycle.  Rest assured, we’ll be reading about, listening, tweeting, posting, talking and debating the bin Laden operation story for months to come — especially on every September 11.  And, if — and I pray this never happens — there’s another terrorist attack in the U.S. or in one of the nations that still consider us allies.

But over time, the fatal shooting of Osama bin Laden and some underlings in a place far from here will fade from the headlines, television reports and blogs.  Let’s hope the terrorist organization he masterfully created fades away, too.