Exploring the Southern roots of public relations, Part 2

Ivy Ledbetter LeeAs I mentioned Monday, Ivy Ledbetter Lee is not a role model and he’s far from perfect. But the Georgia native did play an influential role in establishing the field of public relations. And he created some of the PR tactics still used today.

Lee, the son of a Methodist minister, began his studies at Emory College here in Atlanta. He graduated from Princeton and worked as a stringer for several New York newspapers, including the New York Times.

Lee started his public relations career in 1903. He was hired by the Citizens’ Union as a publicity manager. The title sounds very contemporary but the job then was much different than what you would imagine today. At the time, a publicity manager would be a low-level position with little power or influence. Almost immediately, Lee developed an unusual report with his bosses and news reporters.

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Exploring the Southern roots of public relations, Part 1

Historic Marker, Cedartown Georgia

Public Relations has deep roots in the Deep South.

Not many people remember the Georgia native who helped give birth to the modern era of PR. And many of the people who do remember the legend of Ivy Ledbetter Lee prefer not to talk about him.

I’ll break that silence today.

Hopefully Lee’s career will provide lessons that are still relevant today.

I need to immediately address some of the baggage that Lee carries. The first is that after a long career as the best in his field, Lee died in disgrace.

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Stainless Steel Sharpie

Stainless Steel Sharpie

This amazing Stainless Steel Sharpie has found its way into my top desk drawer. This is the newest addition to Sharpie’s line of permanent markers. And why shouldn’t the pen be as permanent as the ink?

The Stainless Steel Sharpie has a nice heft to it, writes well and looks like I’m serious about making my mark.

FAIL: PR Breakfast Club resolution

Self Portrait

A look in the mirror: Building Brand You

One of my favorite blogs is PRBreakfastClub.com, a website spun from Twitter chatter.

But last week one of the contributors wrote a list of PR Resolutions for 2011 that includes a suggestion that simply stinks:

Screw Your Brand – … 2010 was the year of the personal brand.  Maybe I am just naïve or worked in sports for too long, but I firmly believe in the saying that you play for the name on the crest, not the name on the back.  Unless you are the head of your firm, your job as a PR pro is to make your company or client look good.  Everyone knows that your job today will likely not be your last, but you shouldn’t use your current role to gain yourself notoriety.  If you want to build something up that is Brand U, do it 5-9 not on the company dime.  I predict that we’ll see more companies cracking down on this kind of self-promotional behavior.

I’ve spent a great deal of my free time in 2010 working on Brand U, so maybe I’m a bit sensitive to the suggestion that my personal brand has no value. I shudder thinking the author believes spending time on your personal brand comes at the expense of your company and clients.


Building Brand U, helps your company and your clients. Build, build, build. [Read more…]

Most Improved

Mr. BillI won a Mr. Bill bobble-head doll at Jackson Spalding’s monthly staff meeting yesterday.

Why did I win it? For being the Most Improved Biller for 2010.

The wobbler is an award for doing such a poor job filing my invoices and activity reports on time in 2009 but meeting the minimal standards this year.

Honestly, I’m very thankful that the accounting department has seen some improvement in my administrative skills this year. The award will receive a place of honor next to my “Most Valuable Editor” award from the Crimson White and the lava lamp I won at a conference in Austin, Texas.

My awards shelf is starting to get full.

‘Just PR’ is more than you think

Over the past several weeks, 27 fellow Rotarians have visited my office to pick up dictionaries to deliver to Atlanta Public School third graders. While in the office, a surprising number have asked “So, Jackson Spalding does just PR?”

Just PR. I’m not even certain how to define “just PR” these days.

Perhaps 10 years ago there was “just PR” in the sense of media relations. Clients could ask for help reaching the editorial side of TV, news and radio. But anyone today who is seeking only traditional media relations is due for a shock.

The world has changed. And so has PR. [Read more…]

Mr. Long goes to Washington

Rep. John Lewis and Bryan LongWords cannot describe how honored and humbled I am to have dined with Rep. John Lewis and tour his offices in Washington, D.C. yesterday.

As I described earlier this week, I was invited — on what may have been a whim — by Rep. Lewis to visit him in D.C. I wasn’t certain at the time that the lunch offer would result in a real lunch.

It proved to be much more than I could have expected or asked for.

Rep. Lewis spent more than three hours entertaining Alex and I during a very busy day for the House of Representatives.

We arrived 30 minutes early for lunch and spent much of that time walking the halls of Cannon House on what turned out to be moving day. Alex accurately described the scene as reminiscent of a college dorm on the first day of class. Furniture was stacked high in every hallway as some members of Congress left their posts while others moved in.

When we returned to Rep. Lewis’ office just before noon we were told that the Congressman may be late. We were promptly introduced to a staff member who would join us for lunch. At 12:20, disappointment began to mildly set in as we walked toward the Capitol with no sign of the Congressman. [Read more…]

Heading to DC

John Lewis, American civil rights activist and...
Image via Wikipedia

I’m heading to Washington, D.C. today for a quick trip that was planned around a single lunch. I’ve been invited to dine with Rep. John Lewis in the Congressional dining room.

I met Rep. Lewis at a Democratic fundraiser just before the November election. After saying how I honored I was to meet him I mentioned that we share a mutual hometown: Troy, Ala. His eyes lit up and he launched into a series of stories about his memories of Troy. He told one story about trying to hold down a relative’s house as a tornado blew through. He also said he frequently returns to Troy and owns farmland there.

By the end of the conversation he asked if I visited D.C. often. I told him that I rarely visit D.C. but I love the city.

I thought we were still making idle chit-chat but instead he invited me to join him for lunch. I doubt I’m alone in receiving such an invitation but I’m certainly honored and excited about the opportunity to spend time with one of our nation’s heroes.

In early 2011, Rep. Lewis will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Rep. Lewis was a Civil Rights leader, a Freedom Rider and the youngest person to speak at the 1963 March on Washington.

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Georgia Meth Project: Giving that makes a difference

Meth LogoCongratulations to Thomas Siebel and The Meth Project for landing in the third spot of Barron’s annual ranking of philanthropies.

And congratulations to my clients, Lee Shaw and Jim Langford, for their hard work bringing The Meth Project to Georgia. It’s been an incredible first year working with the Georgia Meth Project and next year looks even better.

The ranking announcement was made in Barron’s cover story this week, “The 25 Best Givers.” This is the second year in a row the Meth Project has been named to the magazine’s list; it was ranked number five in 2009.

In awarding the Meth Project its number three spot, Barron’s said: [Read more…]