Is PR really a profession? And does it really matter?

May 23, 2010

Ray Simon

I met legendary PR professor Ray Simon in 1987. He came to Buffalo, at my invitation, to address the PRSA chapter there, and he discussed the questions you see in today’s headline.

Ray began teaching PR at Utica College in 1949. I used his book, “PR Concepts and Practices,” when I taught my first PR class at the University of Buffalo in 1985, and have always held Ray in the highest regard.

Ray’s key messages about “PR as profession” became part of my own lessons for the next 23 years. But since I can’t locate the  script he gave me that day, you’ll have to trust my notes and my memory. Read the rest of this entry »

PR pros and triggering events: anticipate, create

May 3, 2010

Forgive me, but I’m feeling academic today.

Photo courtesy of BP

There’s a good chance President Obama’s plan to expand offshore drilling won’t go smoothly. You all know why.

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a classic triggering event, and not a welcome one if your future is staked to the oil business. People are certain to change their views about offshore drilling as a result of this incident. Read the rest of this entry »

Student news releases offer more fluff than a marshmallow factory: This week’s teachable moment

February 14, 2010

I’ve decided to pick on the students in my “Media Relations and Publicity” class this week. I know they’ll be good sports about it, and I won’t call them out by name.

The problem: I’m unhappy with some of the news releases they’ve been writing this semester. It’s not the writing quality or mechanics that bothers me. The target of my ire is fluff — the fluff that oozes into their work in the form of vacuous, self-serving quotes.

Take last week’s assignment as an example. Students were asked to write a news release to draw local food writers to a story about a restaurant opening. While the story is one I made up for the assignment, it’s based on a real place. Read the rest of this entry »

Groundswell of opposition greets company’s support for animal-rights group

February 7, 2010

Unless we’re friendz on Facebook, you probably didn’t notice the recent dustup involving Yellow Tail wine. It emerged a few weeks back when the Humane Society of the United States announced a Yellow Tail promotion designed to generate $100,000 for the Washington-based animal-rights group.

I should tell you now that I don’t care for Yellow Tail wine, but sometimes serve it at parties after my guests get into the 3rd or 4th bottle. At that point, who can tell the difference? I should also tell you I don’t care for the Humane Society of the United States much, either.

How can I dislike folks who rescue homeless cats and dogs? I don’t. And they don’t. Like many of you, I long believed the HSUS and my local humane society were one in the same. Turns out, we were victims of brand confusion. Read the rest of this entry »

The world is getting dumber, or there’s something in the water in Northeast Ohio

February 4, 2010

If Jim Traficant wins a seat in Congress this fall, I may have to move. How could I live in a state of collective stupidity? That we’re even discussing “candidate” Traficant is downright crazy, and it has me wondering what’s happened to critical thinking.

Jim Traficant

You remember Jimbo, don’t you? He’s the former congressman from Ohio’s 17th District who spent the past 7 years in federal lockup, convicted of bribery and racketeering. He’s back, and a cadre of loyalists want to send him back to Washington. Read the rest of this entry »

‘Ethics’ and ‘trust’ are driving readers to my blog. There’s an SEO lesson here, I just know it!

January 26, 2010

I’ve come to a fork in the road in my blogging life. Should I optimize this site, or should I just focus on content and let growth come organically?

When you come to a fork in the road, blog about it!

Why ask this 3.5 years into the game? Check out the Top 4 search terms that brought people to ToughSledding in the past 12 months: Read the rest of this entry »

Our PR classrooms need a few more grizzly bears

January 23, 2010

On Twitter last week:

Me: Is gender balance coming to PR? 5 of 20 in my PR Case Studies class are male. 75/25 is way better than the 90/10 we’ve been seeing.

Rebecca (current student): The question is: How many men will remain after you return their first assignment?

Jackie (former student): I just don’t think the guys could stand the criticism. And we all know you have no problem shredding crappy writing. 🙂

Me: Are you saying I’m not nuturing? 🙂

Jackie: Baha! You’re as nuturing as a grizzly 😉

*      *      * Read the rest of this entry »

Can you recommend some books on social media? Advice for the late adopters

January 20, 2010

While some of us are  a little tired of discussing “the conversation” about the conversation, others are just now beginning to examine potential of social media. For example, a former student called last week asking me to recommend social-media books that would get her up to speed. “Jessie” graduated before SM made it to our classrooms and was busy starting a family while the phenomenon was unfolding

I chuckled at first, remembering this tweet from Paul Baker. Ain’t it the truth? But late adopters are a sizable group, and as I told Jessie, books are a good place to begin the catch-up process.

Because I’m an educator, people pose the cursed “book question” all the time. It sucks, because it means I have to read a lot of books that do little to expand my knowledge base or worldview. But reading the literature, for me, is sort of an occupational hazard. Read the rest of this entry »

Stating the obvious? Professional communicators need business skills

January 13, 2010

I’m not part of the online debate about who is or is not a “social-media expert.” I leave that topic to the leaders of the echo chamber. I real life, no one really cares.

What clients and employers care about is how we use the tools of communication to make their organizations more successful. Clients and employers expect us to understand the business proposition. The C-level folks look to us to help change attitudes and behaviors, because that’s what drives the bottom line. Read the rest of this entry »

PRSA’s “he said/she said” controversy has me looking for answers

December 28, 2009

Color me troubled over a conflicting story emerging from the Public Relations Society of America in this holiday season. I’m not ready to take sides in this battle, but I’m also not sure whom to believe.

It started with this story from Joe Ciarallo at PRNewser, a story announcing PRSA’s decision to shut down its Multicultural Communications Section (MCS) and make it part of the society’s standing Diversity Committee. Read the rest of this entry »