My First Time

No, not that first time.  This is a blog about public relations and my quest to get back into the profession on a full-time basis.  I’m sure you could find a lot of commentary to the “that first time” topic many, many other places online.

I’m referring to the first time I ever got paid to communicate.  Here’s what happened.

In the summer of 1973, I learned of an opportunity to receive a $100 grant that would be awarded to a high school graduate who wrote the most compelling essay on some subject relating to higher education.  I honestly don’t recall the exact theme.  I do recall putting a lot of effort into the essay, then typing and retyping it on my trusty Smith Corona manual portable typewriter.  The word count was probably less than 500 words.

The organization granting this (at the time) quite princely sum was a Chicago chapter of the Polish Legion of American Veterans Ladies Auxiliary, of which my Aunt Stella was an officer.  Aunt Stella encouraged me to contribute an essay, as I had aspirations of becoming a journalist.

I could do this.  I was editor of my high school newspaper, the Holy Trinity Gold and Blue, after all!  And, for the first five or so years of my professional career, I was a newsman, including three years with the legendary City News Bureau of Chicago.   (My City News years should be the subject for a future post or posts; there are lots of memories.)

Anyway, my essay won.  I made myself and my family proud, especially Aunt Stella who always encouraged me to read and study; and it was Stella’s ancient manual typewriter that I first typed on.

The Ladies Auxiliary recognized me at an event, at which time I was awarded the $100 check.  I was featured  in an item in the group’s newsletter — my first exposure to personal publicity.

Since then, I’ve been paid quite a few times for communicating. In fact, being a professional communicator has let me live a rewarding, fulfilling and comfortable life.  No mansions or fleet of exotic cars yet. That will happen after Hollywood buys the rights to  my still-under-development novel and gets Damon or DeCaprio to star in the film version.

It’s a privilege and honor to have the skills, resources and drive to compile thoughts and ideas and deliver them in an effective, persuasive way.  And, I remain steadfast in my belief that society today really needs skilled public relations professionals to deliver ideas and invite discourse.

The Public Relations Society of America drives home this contention in the Business Case for Public Relations, its current advocacy campaign:  “Public relations is more vital than ever before, given the explosion of consumer engagement through new and social media, the collapse of reputation and trust in major institutions and the evolving needs and concerns of corporate CEOs.”  Let me augment this statement to include “the evolving needs of every business, organization and government entity.”

Good public relations transcends the so-called C-suite; it’s needed by the line manager, the non-profit professional and local bureaucrat.

I had no concept of public relations when I wrote that winning essay on a manual typewriter a long time ago. A lot certainly has changed — for me and society — since then.  But good written communications had value then, and it has value now.

Do you recall your “first time?”  If so, please feel free to share.  Just keep your thoughts to the subject of this blog, please.

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More Than Just Random Thoughts on PR & Other Stuff

As the (digital) clock on my monitor clicks down on another year and another decade, here are some thoughts on public relations and observations on the world around me.

PR’s Goal for 2010 and Beyond. Every man and woman who works in our profession should make a conscious effort to deliver the message that public relations is a modern practice built upon strategic, measurable communications.  It’s not marketing, it’s not “spin” and it’s not purely publicity.  It is based on truth, accuracy and full disclosure, and its results should have some redeeming factors to people, animals and/or plants.  Those who think otherwise are practicing something else.

I applaud the Public Relations Society of America for launching The Business Case for Public Relations. Take time to become familiar with this campaign.  And, for the record, I am a member of PRSA.

We’re Not Flacks, Spin Doctors or Propogandists. Or simply publicists for that matter. With all due respect to our friends and colleagues in the media, what’s so difficult about identifying a public relations professional as a public relations professional?  Journalists strive for accuracy, yet they sometimes put forth inaccurate definitions of those of us in this industry.

This is Not Your Father’s PR Industry Anymore. Perhaps I’m showing my age through this reference to a pretty good automotive campaign for a brand no longer on the road — Oldsmobile. But beneath it all, public relations is about communicating.  And the way we communicated a decade ago — heck, even 365 days ago — has changed dramatically and will change as new technology emerges and topples the status quo. Those of us who will thrive will embrace new ways of communicating, but without abandoning such fundamentals as adhering to ethical standards, accuracy, open disclosure and free exchange of ideas.

Hey, We’re Not Miracle Workers. When big, scandalous news stories break — like Tiger Woods reported and purported dalliances off the golf course — there are the occasional references to “bad PR.” Yes, that’s true: The public perception of the subject usually takes a whallop. But scandalous behavior usually is not written into a public relations plan, at least none that I’ve researched, written and presented to a client. Let’s be clear on what PR can do, and what it can’t do.  PR can’t stop people from doing dumb things.

They Like Me! They Really Like Me! Okay. Enough with the references to popular culture (this one from an Oscar-winning film star; you tell me who it was).  Since entering the consulting arena, I’ve found that there is a significant market for my services.  I’ve taken on projects that range from copywriting and research to providing strategic direction and counsel, the stuff I really want to do. This leads me to proclaim that there is and always will  be a market and demand for PR professionals who can deliver good work on time and within budget.

I Hope Tomorrow You’ll Find Better Things*. Wishing all who read this blog a safe and prosperous 2010. I thank you for providing substance to my thoughts and observations. My goal for 2010 remains to secure a new full-time position where I can apply my skills, learn and advance.  Until then, I will continue to seek opportunities through project work, volunteer to make things around me better and write this blog.

*A line from “Better Things,” written by Ray Davies and performed by one of my favorite bands of all time, The Kinks.