Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Medill Name Change Inspires Mischief-Making

Me in my succinctly stated sweatshirt.
The journalism school where I studied at Northwestern University used to be known simply as the Medill School of Journalism. Often it has been referred to even more simply as "Medill."

With only a period after it. Or so my increasingly tattered sweatshirt declares.

That piece of punctuation proclaimed, "No further explanation needed. If you don't get it, then you're just out of it."

It has always struck me as a confident, borderline arrogant expression of self-edifying preeminence in the J-world.

Recently, however, the school's name changed to The Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications.

There's a new "The" to start things off, a few commas to keep the flow going, 65 characters in all (almost halfway to maxing out a Tweet!) and nary an "and" in sight. It's a rather windy name that has stirred some hand-wringing among alumni.

As for me, I refuse to wring my hands. I've opted to head straight toward mischief-making. With the creative genius of my wife backing me up, I have created T-shirt designs that poke fun at the new, exceedingly elongated name.

You can try these ones on for size: "Medill Blah Blah Blah" and "The Medill School of A Really, Really, Really Long Name That Won't Fit On This Shi"

Check 'em out here on a Zazzle page we set up.

Truthfully, it's all in good fun. I hold the institution and its faculty, staff and students in high regard. Almost all of Inside Edge PR's associates over the years have been students or graduates of Medill.

And there's also this matter of my own career path, moving from journalism to "public relations and media services" in 2005. That transition serves as a microcosm of the shifting business landscape that is part of what prompted Medill's name change.

So I'd feel almost (but not quite) hypocritical if I railed against this new, somewhat clunky description of my esteemed Medill.

But c'mon, maestros of Medill (School of this, that & the other thing): you couldn't spare an ampersand?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Spreading the PR Wealth: Be Alert to Media's Need and Be Willing to Share the Spotlight

The laurels keep coming for J.C. Restoration, which last week learned that it had received the Blue Ribbon Small Business Award from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

In the last year, the Rolling Meadows-based company and its president, Warner Cruz, have won at least four significant industry, regional and even national awards, including Cruz's selection as Second Runner-Up for the Small Business Administration's National Small Business Person of the Year.

This time around, as much as it would be tempting to focus solely on J.C. Restoration's return to the spotlight, I counseled the company to touch on the fact that it's one part of a larger story: there were 75 Blue Ribbon recipients nationally, including five others from Illinois (four in and around Chicago).

The news release, posted here at Triblocal.com, takes that "team player" approach.

Instead of trying to hog all the attention, this tack seeks to serve not only my client's desire to raise awareness of its success, but also the media's need for a stronger story.

In the short term, does adopting this spread-the-wealth mentality result in reduced media prominence? It's possible, though there has been strong media response thus far.

And regardless of any immediate impact, or lack thereof, this bigger-picture sensibility pays off over the long haul via increased media trust and respect for future story pitches that you make.


J.C. Restoration and the other Blue Ribbon winners, by the way, are all in the running for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's DREAM BIG Small Business of the Year Award and the Community Excellence Award. The latter honor flows from online voting through Friday, March 11.

You can check that out here.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

News Release on Five Seasons' Manny Velasco Caps Small-World Story-Telling Connection

If you stay at something long enough, fun interweavings come about.

The first story that I ever got paid to write, nearly 27 years ago, appeared in the Marshfield (Mass.) Mariner. It was a feature on Chris Lapriore, a star tennis player from my high school. A two-time state champion, Chris was about to enroll at the University of Illinois.

A few years ago, as I was doing some PR on Hall of Fame tennis player Monica Seles' visit to Five Seasons Family Sports Club in Northbrook, I chatted with the club's head tennis pro, Manny Velasco. In the course of our conversation, I discovered that Manny (pictured below, with Monica) had played with Chris at Illinois.

So it was especially satisfying, and with more than a little feeling of nostalgia, that I wrote my most recent tennis piece last week: a news release on Manny's receiving Coach of the Year honors in the USTA's Chicago District.

Makes me wonder what stories I might be telling in the year 2038.