Category Archives: Public Relations

What the heck is public relations?

What the heck is public relations?Most of us in public relations have been asked many times by family and friends, “So what do you do for a living?” This can be tough to answer in under a few minutes, as PR is a multi-faceted profession, constantly evolving, and admittedly not always easy to nail down. Many people believe it is “like advertising” or “a way to get good press.” One of my kids once said, “My dad goes to lunch for a living.” And one former boss likened PR to “walking behind the animals in a parade and shoveling up their mess.”

True, PR is vital to establishing and/or maintaining the good reputation of a person or a company. Most people get that to some degree. Increasingly, it’s an important part of the marketing mix for most brands (more on that later). Still, people in business differ in their understanding of public relations, much less agree upon a common definition. Continue reading

Networking and its importance to you

Don't miss your shot: John Bailey presents during a public relations networking event in Detroit, 2013.

Don’t miss your shot: John Bailey presents during a public relations networking event in Detroit, 2013.

When I started John Bailey & Associates Public Relations in 1996, I knew that my network of people in business, comprised of persons I of course liked and kept in touch with during my (then) 30-year career, would be important.

I had been a successful PR professional and knew hundreds of people in business, media, government and the community in general. I was confident these people would be willing to help me as I opened my new business.

However, as I opened the doors to JB&A, I quickly found that I had underestimated just how important my network would be to my success. I didn’t just happen to know these people. They upheld my very reputation in the community. Former clients, colleagues and such spoke about “John Bailey” and “John’s new agency” to others, which helped to land new contacts (and eventually, contracts). This continued for years. I became known as a person who said what I meant and did what I said. Continue reading

Detroit: A great place to build a career and a business

Detroit Skyline

With all negative news Detroit has received (and really, since 1967!) it is a wonder how any of us could have built a career or a business here in the Motor City. But we did.  

Yes, Detroit has been a victim of the “kick-a-city-when-it’s-down” syndrome, and it may feel like bad things happen all the time here. But bad things happen to cities, communities and citizens everywhere. And they all generally survive, as I firmly believe will Detroit.

I began my working career around the time Detroit’s issue gained widespread attention in the late 1960s. Based on all the negative news the city and region received then and continue to now, to be a success, perhaps I should have moved to another city. Continue reading

When working hard and being ‘liked’ isn’t enough

I was laid off four times in my career. It was the threat of a fifth firing that made me take ownership of my career once and for all. Which, in turn, led me to start a business.

Many of you can relate to the pain and promise that comes with leaving a job. In my book “The Power of Ownership,” I recount how each time I was let go from a job, I went on to work for someone bigger and better. Someone new to pay me and take care of me.  I thought that if I had a job, did okay, and was liked, that “they” would keep giving me more responsibility and money, enough to retire.

So, that’s how it was for years. With every new job, I worked harder to exceed expectations of my clients and those around me. I kept challenging myself to be better, to be the best, at what I did. My responsibilities grew and I busted my butt to always do better than was expected.

Still, I worked for someone else. They made the decisions about my future, not me. In 1996, I was  the executive vice president at Shandwick-Detroit, formerly Casey Communications. You’d think as some high-ranking VP, my seniority would protect me, like tenure does for a professor. It didn’t. It never does. Like every place before, I was this hard working dude, very successful at my job and I knew I was invaluable to the company. Sure enough, I was not in my employer’s future plans. I decided not to be let go. Not this time, and certainly not a fifth time.

Careful, considerate planning and some well-placed phone calls came into play, as I recount in chapter eleven of the book. I resigned from Shandwick-Detroit, hung out my own shingle, and called it John Bailey & Associates Public Relations. Now my ownership was complete. I owned my career and a business.  Within two years, my new company was larger than the one that was not going to promote me. (Shandwick-Detroit was shut down in 2000. It wasn’t so much vindication as it was validation that I absolutely made the right decision.)

You can see the details of this career-path in my book, The Power of Ownership: How to Build a Career and a Business (paperback or Kindle). You can learn the things I learned that will help you avoid other people making decisions about your future. Even if people like you and you work hard, you may face being let go or other job circumstances out of your control. Don’t let that happen. Take control of the situation, and ownership of your career and yourself.

The Stroh Detroit Plant Closing

The following is a portion of Chapter 6, “My Stroh Years,” from my book. Stroh remains an iconic name in Detroit, and I had the good fortune to counsel the brand during its growth years. I highlight this particular selection as I feel it is important that, as a public relations professional, you must stand by your client and the community it serves through thick and thin. For many of you, this will be a revealing look into a lively tale of Detroit’s economic legacy, as well as the “why” and “how” of communicating news on behalf of a company in a responsible manner.

In 1985 the company closed its iconic Stroh brewing facility located in downtown Detroit near Interstate I-75 and Gratiot Avenue. This was a huge blow to the local economy and image of the Detroit community. The old brewing facility built in 1912 with some of the earliest buildings on the site dating to the 1860s was the most expensive brewing facility to operate in the country and was land-locked and could not expand. Our challenges at AMF, Inc. were:

  • To deliver the message that Stroh was not leaving Detroit or Michigan and would remain a major player and employer in Detroit for years to come, even though the plant was closing. The plant had been there since 1912 but the first cellars were located on the site in the early 1850s though the first Stroh brewery, then named Lion, was not completed until 1867 on the site. The brewery had been expanded many times over the years. But the facility had become the least efficient brewing plant of all brewing companies in the country. And the Stroh acquisitions had given them several newer and more efficient brewing facilities and lower production costs.
  • To minimize negative responses from business and government leaders and if possible, have these leaders say something positive about Stroh.
  • To communicate that The Stroh Brewery Company would do everything in its power to help workers find new career paths, if not another job.

In one planning meeting regarding the details of the plant closing, about twenty of us were sitting in the huge boardroom at Stroh with company officers, lawyers, investment counselors, and other senior consultants. I was the least important person in the room—I know I made the least money. They were talking about closing the plant on February 14, 1985. I got up my nerve to say… you can’t close it that day. They all looked at me like I was from outer space. What could this lowly public relations idiot be thinking… we are in charge… I could read this on their faces.

Why? They demanded.

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