Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Tiger Inc.

Seems like lots of commentators are piling up on Tiger for his mishandling of the crisis communications around his car crash and subsequent fall from grace.

I'm not sure I agree with them.

Yes, silence is typically not a good thing when faced with a pressing issue, however, this article from The Wall Street Journal makes some good counter-points about why he may be shutting up.

Basically, it seems that Tiger's people are trying to make sure any more of his extra-marital lovers keep their mouths shut. And, Tiger has the money to make that happen.

A PR pro typically wants to make sure his client is communicating the correct messages. Sometimes, though, there is nothing to say that will be helpful.

If I had to make a prediction, I'd say everything will go back to "normal" before long in Tigerland, assuming he gets back on the golf course and does what he does so well. In the end, that will allow endorsers to keep making their money and that's all that really matters.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Twitter Stalling?

Interesting article on Twitter usage. The number of tweets is way up, but number of users is down.

All is not gloomy, however:

On an annual basis, Twitter is still going gangbusters with 1,271 percent growth from 1.4 million visitors in October, 2008. And on a global basis, it still seems to be chugging away with 58.4 million visitors in September. But a hypergrowth company like Twitter cannot afford to slow down in its home market.

Here's what I think this means: People sign up and then realize it's all a bit overwhelming. A smaller core actually use it actively. Plus, with Facebook and LinkedIn offering pretty much the same thing as Twitter...well, I think Twitter needs to evolve, a bit.

A while ago, I posted about a Harvard study on Twitter that showed most people on Twitter follow a pretty small number of posters. I recently waded back into Twitter on behalf of a client and found countless accounts with one or two tweets that were months old.

What does this have to do with communication? I think communicating in 140-character bursts isn't conducive to true conversation. It's more broadcasting thoughts that may, or may not, be interesting to others.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

You know how I hate definitive lists...

Well, here's one that I think is a bit over-eager. The writer points out, with apparent glee, that press releases, press kits, faxes, press conferences and trade shows are all "dead" PR tactics.

It's easy to understand her enthusiasm; she's selling expertise in social media and, therefore, relies much on claiming that everything older than right now is, by definition, outdated.

Remember when there was brief moment in time when profits didn't seem to matter? But I digress...

Allow me to share my thoughts on each of the aforementioned "tactics:"

Press Releases - Definitely not dead. In some instances, they are changing. But there is (are?) a whole slew of media folk, top to bottom, who still like to receive their information that way. A press release, by the way, is not a tactic. It's a tool.

Press Kits - If you believe that content has any value, how can you claim "press kits" are dead? What I think she's talking about is "over-produced and over-priced" press kit packaging. Fact of the matter is, people - journalists included - still need wacky information such as company backgrounders, bios, fact sheets, and YES, press releases. Press kits, by the way, aren't tactics. They are also communications tools.

Faxes - A fax machine isn't a tactic. It's a method of communicating. As the first comment to the posting points out, there are still areas of the globe where fax is a relied-upon method of communication.

Press Conferences - I agree here, that for the most part, press conferences aren't worth the time and effort. You really need something big to pull that off successfully.

Trade Shows - From a PR perspective, there are shows that work. Then again, some don't. Again, trade shows aren't really "tactics" but part of a larger strategy. And, I'd stay away from a blanket pronouncement that leveraging trade show presence is a useless (dead) strategy.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

PR vs Advertising

Came across this interesting post from Tom Trush. A PR expert, he's not. But there are some interesting ideas to ponder if you're a small biz and considering how to spend your dollars.

This is what makes America great.

"Let's get ready to rumble."

I may owe Michael Buffer some money right now.

Watch this video and enjoy.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Message is king.

Here's a nice post from Richard Miles on the importance of the message and distinguishing between the message and the medium.

Breaking news from Brazil. Student wears mini dress and gets expelled from school!

In doing some research on the Charlotte media market, I came across this article on WSOC-TV's website. A young female student was expelled from college for wearing a mini-dress and causing such a ruckus that she had to be escorted off the campus.

Arruda made headlines after the Oct. 22 incident, in which she had to be escorted away by police after wearing the mini-dress to class. She put on a professor's white coat and left amid a hail of insults and curses.

This in the country that brings us an annual fete of skimpy clothing and promiscuity.

So, naturally, I had to search for video. I found the following. Now, I don't speak the language, but one doesn't need to when reveling in the following: the female anchor's dress, that the clip is six minutes long, and it's only Part 1.

Congratulations to Geisy Arruda for milking her 15 minutes.

Twitter Tail Wagging the Corporate Dog

OK, it's not my headline, but I liked it so much, I stole it!

Paul Oestreicher, a PR pro by any measure, offered up this interesting post about Comcast. Apparently, CEO Brian Roberts publicly noted that his company's culture had changed because of Twitter and other social media.

Read the post and you'll see what he may be placing the cart before the horse (or pick your own, perhaps better, analogy).

Sunday, November 8, 2009

PR is about what you do...

This is hard to believe, but the Russian government is looking for a PR firm to help overhaul Stalin's legacy.

Can't wait to see who wins this business.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

And here, I thought I was done...

I recently came across this post from Salon.com, mentioning the connection between the Susan G. Komen organization and Hadassah Lieberman, wife of the senator from Connecticut:

Compared with Bayh's lucre from Wellpoint and the other corporations whose boards she graces, the earnings of Hadassah Lieberman appear paltry. Yet even though she has retired, for now, from counseling the pharma and insurance industries, the devotion to public health she has long proclaimed is still tinged with hypocrisy. Upon leaving Hill & Knowlton, Hadassah joined Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the world’s largest breast cancer charity, as a paid "ambassador." Again, it isn't clear what she does besides posing for photo ops in places from Brazil to Israel, but as a Komen advocate she is supposed to be trying to prevent women from losing their lives.

Not one to believe everything I read on the Internet, I found this claim to be true. Mrs. Lieberman is in Israel right now "for a series of meetings with government officials, grantees, NGOs, partners, advocates and survivors to review Susan G. Komen for the Cure-funded work in Israel and to begin plans for future events highlighting breast cancer, tobacco control and health diplomacy."

That should make everything better.

Monday, October 26, 2009

It's not just Komen

So, I've set up a Google Alert for "Komen Israel" just to see who's saying what. Lots of bloggers - Jewish and otherwise - have picked up on the story of Egypt's blatant racism and Komen's tepid response.

Here's an interesting post from Political Mavens.

Who knew anti-Semitism was so en vogue and some great Americans are, at best, turning a blind eye?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Komen responds. Again.

I received the following additional response from the Komen PR department:

Thank you for contacting Susan G. Komen for the Cure. We have new information from our founder, Nancy Goodman Brinker, on this situation.

Susan G. Komen for the Cure Pleased to Announce Egyptian Events to Welcome All Advocates, Including those from Israel

Statement from Nancy Goodman Brinker, Founder, Susan G. Komen for the Cure

Breast cancer advocates from the United States and across the Middle East are meeting in Egypt from October 21-27 for breast cancer awareness events. There have been reports that some of the invited participants would not be allowed to attend these events. Susan G. Komen for the Cure has now received confirmation that all advocates, regardless of their country of origin, are invited to fully participate in events to bring breast cancer to the forefront of public discussion in the Middle East.

After we received the initial report on the situation, we launched a diplomatic effort to ensure they would be able to participate. I am pleased to report that our efforts led to confirmation that all advocates would be welcome to participate in the events.

Susan G. Komen for the Cure remains steadfast in our mission to save lives and end breast cancer forever.

Again, technically, it's a good response. Assuming you need to carefully balance many political considerations. In my opinion, it is embarrassingly weak.

This was my reply:

Thank you for the note however this is hardly helpful as (1) the conference has already started and (2) getting from Israel to Egypt isn’t the easiest thing to do at the last minute.

The statement is weak and ineffective. Saying “some of the invited participants would not be allowed to attend” is offensive to those who were shut out because of religion and/or nationality. It is weak. The organization should be making a much stronger statement along the lines of “breast cancer is blind to religion, race and nationality and any effort to deny experts and advocates the right to participate on those grounds is deplorable.”

Instead of effectively handling the situation, the Susan G. Komen organization has clearly shown the Jewish community that it supports racism and anti-Semitism. This is not a fringe-group opinion.

What the organization needs to do right away is reach out to the Jewish community and assure them that (1) it deplores the actions of Egyptian officials, (2) it regrets not taking a stronger and more effective stand, and (3) it will ensure this does not happen again and, if it does, the Komen name and participation will be immediately pulled from any such event.

Thank you.

It will be interesting to see if they get around to doing the right thing.

Susan G. Komen Responds

I received this response earlier from Susan G. Komen:

Thanks for reaching out. Sorry it has taken me a bit to respond about the breast cancer awareness events advocates from the United States and across the Middle East are attending Oct. 21-27 in Egypt. There have been reports that some of the invited participants would not be allowed to attend these events. Susan G. Komen for the Cure has now received clarification that all are invited to fully participate in events to bring breast cancer to the forefront of public discussion in the Middle East. I can tell you that Susan G. Komen for the Cure remains steadfast in our mission to save lives and end breast cancer forever everywhere.

This response, while technically well-written, is simply inadequate. What does it mean that "all are fully invited to participate?" The conference is going on now and traveling from Israel to Egypt isn't exactly like getting from NYC to Las Vegas.

What the organization should have said is something along the lines of, "We deplore such actions and will not tolerate our good name to be smeared by such prejudice and hatred. Breast cancer is a global problem that ignores race, religion and nationality, as does Susan G. Komen. As a result, we will no longer directly participate in this event."

Instead, the official line is tepid, at best.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What are they thinking at Susan G. Komen?

Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure is a great organization. They do important work and in a short period of time have changed the way we talk about breast cancer.

But as of right now, they are in the throes of a serious public relations misstep.

Earlier today, it came to my attention that Komen is collaborating on a regional breast cancer conference with Egypt. Of course, it makes sense that Israeli doctors and breast cancer advocates attend, given Egypt and Israel are neighbors at peace.

They were supposed to and, until yesterday, had all the required paperwork in place. Then, Egyptian officials decided having Israelis attend wasn't such a good idea.

Now, Susan G. Komen has quite the PR and communications infrastructure. They employ several PR firms. One would expect a statement from the organization about how breast cancer affects all, differences should be put aside, let's cooperate for the good of humanity, etc. and so on.

Their response?

Deafening silence. Where Komen should have put its foot down and threatened to walk out of the conference, founder Nancy Brinker is still scheduled to speak. Komen CEO is quoted as saying:

“In the midst of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, this collaboration in Alexandria begins a week of listening, learning, sharing…and breaking the silence,” said Hala Moddelmog, president and CEO of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. “We must break the silence because it saves women’s lives. Raising awareness about breast cancer teaches women and their families that there is hope and possibility after diagnosis. When breast cancer is discovered early, the chances for survival are very good.”

Apparently, listening, learning and sharing doesn't include Israelis, perhaps the most research-minded population on the planet today. And, if I had to bet, the source of whatever the next great breakthrough is against this

Monday, October 12, 2009

I Agree with Hamas

That President Obama has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize is stunning. According to various reports, Hamas says he is not yet deserving of such an honor because he has yet to accomplish anything in terms of peace.

From a public relations perspective, he should have said, "Thanks, but no thanks." (Or, at least, "Not yet.")

How, pray tell, can anyone take this seriously? You can read plenty online - in all sorts of media outlets whether left, right or center - about how laughable and embarrassing it is to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize before actually doing anything. Even the President's most ardent supporters are slightly confused.

I'd argue that accepting this honor does more to tarnish his incredible reputation than bolster it.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Lady Mondegreen is reunited with her Knight

William Safire, the unofficial arbiter of the English language, died last week. You can read appreciations here and here.

The first Safire column I remember reading was his January 23, 1994 column, "Return of the Modegreens." Read the whole thing; it will make you laugh.

Here's one he missed: Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Bad Moon Rising." The next time you hear the song, pay attention to the chorus: "Don't go around tonight,/Well, it's bound to take your life,/There's a bad moon on the rise." Now you tell me, isn't he really singing: "There's a bathroom on the right?"

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Twitter = $1,000,000,000?

According to The Wall Street Journal, Twitter is close to securing almost $100 million in funding. The deal values the company at about one billion dollars.

This scares me. Why? It feels a lot - A LOT! - like the turn of the century. Twitter is cool, but it has yet to generate any money or make known, in any concrete way, what its plan for revenue-generation is.

Am I the only one who feels this way?

Monday, September 21, 2009

I have a bunch of Google alerts. One of them is for any blog that mentions "public relations." Much of what I see is useless for one reason or another. But this one caught my eye because it mentions a PR icon and former employer.

It doesn't really matter what your position on climate change is. The point Jim Hogan is making is one I've said many times before in this space - public relations is about what you do and NOT about what you say.

If Hogan's reporting is accurate, I'm shocked that Edelman said what he said. After all, it was while at his firm that my supervisor first shared the aforementioned tidbit about PR.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Power of Iconography

A friend sent me this video. It's long, but interesting, and most definitely worth the eight minutes, or so. Clearly, he's anti-Obama, but that's not what I find gripping about it.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The perils of 24 hour news "reporting"

On Friday morning last week, CNN began to report what it thought was an incident on the Potomac River. They reported "shots fired" by the Coast Guard and other developments that - even if not the anniversary of the September 11 attacks from 2001 - would make anyone raise at least an eyebrow.

Here's the problem: the whole thing was a training exercise. So "low-level" in fact, no one seemed to care.

Except CNN.

And then AP. And Fox.

Read this posting from Poynter about the whole thing, as well as some questions producers might want to ask themselves before convulsing with ecstasy from the possibility they're reporting the next 9/11.

Friday, September 11, 2009

No message, just some thoughts

I'm sure there will be many, many postings today talking about the events of eight years ago. Some will argue we're safer, others, not so much.

The truth is, I have no clue.

I was in my car, waiting to enter a parking lot in midtown Manhattan, listening to Howard Stern on 92.3 FM. Robin interrupted the bit and reported that an airplane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers. There was speculation: was it a small plane? an accident?

I walked the few blocks to the office and spent most of the morning doing no work at all. Some people immediately left work. Others, like me, stuck around to see what would happen. Reports were unclear as to whether or not I'd be able to even drive out of the city.

We all huddled around televisions, watching the extraordinary jobs the local news reporters were doing reporting the story that would define a generation. It's worth remembering that, for many hours, the real, on-scene reporting wasn't coming from the network stars. It was the local stations - both radio and television - that carried the day. Even on music radio stations, formats immediately changed to all talk with no interruption. Howard stayed on the air for much of the day, if I recall correctly, and my other favorite station, 104.3 FM, also opened the phone lines, cut the commercials, and went to a surreal mix of call-in, reportage and talk.

Later I would learn of two people I knew who were killed that day. Suria Clarke, a former Edelman coworker who had just moved to eSpeed (part of Cantor Fitzgerald), and Danny Lewin, a former client, who was on American flight #11. (Some believe Danny was the "businessman" who, according to one flight attendant who was on the phone with someone on the ground, tried in vain to intervene.)

I suppose I ought to have a brilliant and memorable thought to close this. But I don't. And, perhaps that, in itself, is the message.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

"I may not agree with what you say..."

If you know who said that - without Googling it - you win a prize.

Interesting happening last night during the President' speech. He was heckled. No one can seem to recall the last time a President was yelled at during an address to a joint session of Congress.

A couple of questions, though. (1) Was this a planned move by Joe Wilson, Republican of South Carolina, or spur-of-the-moment? (2) Should we care about the outburst?

First, I don't think this was a planned event. The New York Times reports that Wilson immediately bolted from the room when the President finished. Further, such outbursts, in such high-profile events, are always seen as, well, loopy. By all estimates, Wilson did nothing to advance the Republican Party cause.

Second, yes, we should care about such a breach of protocol, but perhaps not for the reason you think. Protocol exists to maintain order, to ensure no one offends anyone else, and so on. (Is anyone else thinking of Goldie Hawn right now?) But, times are changing. The rules of communication are changing. Conversations don't take place any more; shouting matches do. If you don't believe me, take a look at what passes for "news" these days: two talking heads talking over each other with a smirking host who adds nothing.

So, yes, we should care about the outburst, in my opinion, because I think it's a harbinger of more change coming to Washington, the country and the world, in the way we communicate with one another.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

"The __ Rules you Need to Follow to Succeed at _____"

I get a lot of email, partly because I subscribe to email lists and newsletters, or because I'm in several LinkedIn groups. On the whole, much of what I get is plain annoying, but every once in a while, I find a nugget that is helpful to me, either by clearly demonstrating what to do or, in some cases, what NOT to do.

Today, it's the latter.

As a PR pro, I often use the tactic of having a client draw up a list of 10, seven or five items that can be pushed to media as a "tip sheet." It usually helps generate some publicity in a needed outlet and everyone is happy.

Here's what I never do: send out a list that says something like: "Ten tips that ensure Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn/SEO Success." Or, what I find personally offensive: "All you Need to Know to Succeed in PR for your Company."

Simply put, there aren't five or 10 tips that ensure success in anything. If there were, people like me - or the publishers of such lists - wouldn't be in business. If it was THAT easy, everyone would be enjoying success. (What would be more honest would be to entitle the list, "Here are 10 important points to know about _____ and what I'm really hoping is that you will be impressed by my knowledge and call me."

Sure, there are certain general rules one ought to follow. In PR, for example, one must know the outlet before pitching. One must know how to write properly in whatever language it is s/he is operating. One must understand how various media outlets operate, when they are on deadline and what constitutes relevant news for that outlet.

But every client is different. Every one is in a slightly different position. I don't think my clients would want me to take a cookie-cutter approach and simply swap their name for the previous client's.

Moral of the story: be wary of lists that over-simplify. Read with a critical eye and take advice from people you trust.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Funny Phone Number

I often get a kick out of products and services that are named in a funny way, especially when so much money and time are invested in hiring experts, etc.

But what about phone numbers?

Well, when I switched to the current toll-free number, I had a list to choose from and, in the end, went with the current 888-771-1515. I examined the keypad to try and figure out if the number spells any obscenities. (Go ahead. I know you want to check for yourself. I'll wait.) Other than that, I was good to go.

Last week, I was accessing my voice mail and, instead of the 888 prefix, I used 800. (Old habits die hard.) I was surprised when, instead of hearing the usual greeting, I heard a man promising me that I could speak to women from all over the country, if I hung up and dialed another. (Go ahead. I know you want to check for yourself. I'll wait.)

No lesson here that I can think of. I just think it's funny.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Jon Stewart Let me Down

I'm a big fan of The Daily Show. Or, more accurately, I should say that I enjoy watching it. The show is smart, funny and often addresses issues far better than any of the "legitimate" news programs.

A few weeks ago, Stewart had Bill Kristol, a well-known conservative, on. If you watch the video of the interview, you'll note that after the 7:00 mark, Stewart goes from interviewer to grandstander and attacker. Of course, Kristol could have - and should have - stopped him with a simple, "Jon, you asked me a good question. Please let me answer it without constant interruption."

Here's the interview:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Bill Kristol
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorSpinal Tap Performance

Kristol's a smart guy, but he needs media training.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Talking off-the-cuff. Not such a good idea.

It's been a while since I posted. Maybe you see that as a lack of commitment. In fact, I recently read a posting about just that. Something along the lines of, if you don't post regularly, it shows lack of commitment. People who read you are then led to think, "What else is he not committed to?"

I don't see it that way. In fact, my feeling is just the opposite.

Why post if you have nothing to say? Posting for posting's sake is kind of like that annoying kid in class who would ask a question just to insert him/herself further up the teacher's butt. Or, the annoying bigger kid in a meeting who will speak but add nothing other than an over-complicated summary of what everyone else just said...

So, I don't post for posting's sake.

Shifting gears, sort of...

Question: When does it make sense for the President of the United States (Yes, always capitalized.) to comment on a local police matter?

Answer: Never.

I was shocked that President Obama found it necessary to comment at all about the arrest of Harvard Professor Louis Henry Gates. (Capitalized because it's a title, as opposed to Louis Henry Gates, a Harvard professor.) To me, it seemed like the President acted stupidly. Perhaps, because Gates is Obama's friend, the President wanted to stick up for him. Nonetheless, one would think the President would have the wherewithal to say something like, "I'm not sure of all the facts and I have every confidence the Boston PD will work it out. Next question." But he didn't. And now, there's another thing on the President's plate that will take him away from real work he should be doing.

In public relations it's equally important to know when to keep your mouth shut.

Monday, July 6, 2009

More on naming

For me, the name "Bing" will forever be associated with the last column in Fortune magazine. Microsoft chose that name for its new search engine.

As reported in a recent issue of BusinessWeek, the amount of effort that went into the naming process notwithstanding, the good folks in Redmond could have done more vetting.

What does all this mean? No matter how much prep you do, at some point you're going to have to hold your breath and jump right in.

Same holds true for public relations. By its very nature, it's impossible to guarantee anything. We plan, strategize and consider and, eventually, we just go to it. And, no matter how much we plan, there's always an unforeseen outcome.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Obscenity in the News

Last Thursday, at 6:25, Brian Williams broke in five minutes before the start of The Nightly News with a story so humongous he couldn't possibly wait the extra five minutes. The world had just learned of the death of Farrah Fawcett and now, Brian was telling us, Michael Jackson was dead.

The coverage since has been non-stop. We're hearing from people in the music business, people who knew Michael growing up, people who were closest to him, people who loved him, people who once bought his album, people whose lives were changed when they saw the Thriller video, people who lost their virginity to his music.

Why is no one talking about the fact that he was a child molester?

Am I alone in thinking the coverage is obscene?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Kudos to PETA

Apparently, while taping an interview with CNBC, President Obama swatted a fly.

Breaking news? Hardly. But it's funny to see.

Our friends at PETA, however, get the Opportunistic PR Award for the following item. They believe in the protection of ALL animals, regardless of size or how annoying they are.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Of Definitions - and Unnecessary Complication

When I present on the subject of public relations, I usually like to begin by asking the audience to define PR for me. Not surprisingly, people have a hard time defining it. Usually, I get something like, "I know it when I see it."

When I first started in public relations, the definition I was taught was pretty straightforward - PR is about influencing your target audiences by leveraging the credibility of a third party. Basically, PR was media relations.

About 10 years later, I was introduced to the "Rose Analogy," which is a elegant way of verbally painting a picture about how PR works. The essence, though, remains the same.

Apparently, for some in the PR world, this is no longer sufficient. I'm hearing definitions that go on and on, seemingly making what is moderately complex downright incomprehensible. The Canadian Public Relations Society has now come up with:

Public relations is the strategic management of relationships between an organization and its diverse publics, through the use of communication, to achieve mutual understanding, realize organizational goals, and serve the public interest.

I don't agree with the definition. I think it's overly complicated. (Is "publics" a word? Does PR "serve the public interest?")

Lest anyone think this definition was hacked out by a couple of yahoos in no time at all, the process apparently began almost one year ago. You can read a bit about the process here.

Point is: PR was and always will be about getting the help of a credible third party in broadcasting your message to your audience.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Vendor Client Relationship

If you're a service provider, you simply must invest the 2:19 in watching this.

Diplomatic Learnings of Borat for Make Benefit Public Relations of Glorious Nation

There's an old joke about the US president (the era doesn't matter), Russian president and Israeli prime minister who are all sitting around talking shop.

The Russian says, "I have the hardest job as I am responsible for almost 200 million people, most of whom do not have enough food on their tables."

"That's nothing," says the American. "I have the hardest job leading a country of 300 million and the entire free world."

"You both have it easy," says the Israeli PM. "I'm the leader 7,000,000 presidents, all of whom know better than me!"

Today, an Israeli Foreign Ministry official likened Israel's public relations plight to that of Kazakhstan as a result of the fictional Borat. (You can read articles here and here.)

The official, who is responsible for the Brand Israel project, laments the false perception many have of Israelis.

The challenge of perception and public relations is finally coming to light within the higher echelons of Israeli government. I maintain, however, that almost all efforts are destined to fail unless certain basic truths are taken to heart. Here are three:

1. Speak with one voice.
2. Elect - and stand behind - a strong leader.
3. Recognize that not everyone needs to be convinced and "converted."

Friday, June 5, 2009

Here's something I love.

This is a blog that usually makes me laugh.

His most recent post just serves to remind us that one can never do too much research when launching a new product or company.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Master Communicator

President Obama just spoke in Cairo. I caught some of it live on tv.

I'll say up-front that I didn't like some of what he said, but there's no denying the man's an orator. His cadence is hypnotic; his tone alluring.

I guess I was wrong. Sometimes, the message isn't as important as the style because if people were really listening to the content of his message, they'd be a bit less in love.

What is Twitter, really?

What is Twitter? Interesting article from the good folks at Harvard B-School.

To hear the evangelists tell it, everyone's on Twitter and they're all talking to one another. Quick! Jump in now or risk being labeled a dinosaur.

Not so fast. Turns out everyone's following a very, very small number of users.

What does this mean from a public relations perspective? Not much. Companies should still explore how to use it - some are doing so very well.

But it's time everyone calmed down a bit.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Hugging in an Era of Overcommunication

Your kids, like mine, probably communicate with their friends mostly through the written word - email, text, etc. Interesting, though, that The New York Times recently ran a piece about hugging in school.

One of the conclusions was that perhaps kids hug more now because most of their communication, otherwise, is through a computer screen of some sort.

Interesting. What does this mean for us as communicators? Maybe it means that as companies continue to communicate through a variety of media and even though they are "always on," those with whom we are communicating still crave real interaction.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Could it be true?

The May 24 issue of Business Week asks the question: “TV commercials. Who needs them?” The piece goes on to talk about how companies – Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Kimberly-Clark and Microsoft are all shunning the venerable 30-second spot for other forms of advertising when launching new products. They’re doing it because in buying 30 seconds, companies are also throwing away tons of money.

What are these forms of mass communication, you ask? Well, online ads seem to be popular – more people watch videos online these days – as do other forms of advertising. However, the example author Burt Helm chose to call out didn’t seem to fit any description of advertising.

He describes how P&G chose to launch its pricy new toothbrush. The company sponsored a fashion show, had a model carry one on the runway and got the thing featured on a television show. The result? “The gimmick paid off, generating press on fashion and style blogs – and in mainstream newspapers.”

Funny, sounds to me like public relations.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Exceeding Expectations

I recently had the opportunity to fly Turkish Airlines. Granted, the airline was not my first choice, but the price was right, so I decided to give it a whirl.

After enduring all kinds of jokes from family and friends, I decided not to check any luggage – I was making a connection in Istanbul – and fly as light as possible. Since I was traveling alone, I figured I didn’t have much to lose and, so what if the planes were a bit older?

I was pleasantly surprised. The cabin crew couldn’t do enough to ensure my comfort and, almost to a fault, kept offering drinks on the long haul.

Compare Turkish, about which I knew nothing, to Continental (where I enjoy Elite Platinum status) which practically screams how great they are. On Continental, I get the feeling the crew is doing me a favor by taking my money.

What’s the PR lesson? Manage expectations. Granted, there are times clients need to hear your bravado, but, to paraphrase a motivational speaker I once heard: Under-promise and over-deliver.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Is Twittering the same as communicating?

Is Twitter changing the way public relations and communications are practiced? Should it?

Both The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times recently ran articles outlining some of the challenges Twitter is facing. The company is growing by leaps and bounds and in addition to enjoying all that success, it’s experiencing some growing pains.

I still haven’t made up my mind about Twitter. Sure, if you’re in the communications biz and don’t get excited when people start holding forth on the miracles and wonders of Twitter, you risk being labeled “old school.” Yes, Twitter is cool if that whole Facebook page is too much for you to consume and you want to know what I’m doing right now (writing this post) or need to know your best friend’s status (stressing over her upcoming history test).

Yes, Twitter is cool. But I’m not sure what the value is to communications pros (other than keeping tabs on journalists).

I can’t help but get that old “2001: An Internet Crash Odyssey feeling.” I can’t help but be reminded of colleagues who looked me earnestly in the eye and said things like “This is the New Economy; profits don’t matter anymore.” Or, “The company represents a paradigm shift away from the old way of thinking.” Or, “It’s all about eyeballs and content is king.” Or, my favorite from Razorfish founder Jeff Dachis, “We've…re-contextualized what it is to be a business-services.”

What’s the point? At the risk of sounding older and grumpier than I am, I’m not sure that compressing communications into 140 characters is a good idea. While “brevity is the soul of wit” and “heard melodies are sweet” continues to ring true, real communication still requires development of thought and appreciation of the process.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Two Great American Pastimes - Baseball and Criticism

Readers of this space will know I'm not a huge baseball fan. I certainly enjoy watching an occasional game and, when I'm offered tickets, I usually say yes. So, last summer, when a friend offered me four seats to a Yankees game that were so-close-to-the-action-you-could-see-the-sweat, I couldn't turn it down. Plus, it was close to the end of the last season the team would be playing in The House that Ruth Built.

What amazed me, though, was that there are people who actually buy those seats!

What I failed to comprehend, was how the Yankees organization could possibly think it would fill a new stadium with even more expensive seats.

Turns out, just about everything that can go wrong continues to go wrong. Here's a piece that carefully outlines why the new stadium is a PR disaster. Granted, it's written by a Red Sox fan, but I'm not sure how one defends the Yankees organization in this case. What's gone right with the new stadium?

So, what can management do to right the wrongs? It's obvious and will require a top-down approach to regaining the public's trust and admiration. What I hope is that when management wakes up, their plan will involve something a little more substantial than a pathetic "Fan Appreciation Day" (which always make me wonder, isn't every day Fan Appreciation Day?).

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

When "friendly" customer service isn't

It's always a pleasure to deal with a company that understands customer service. Their representatives are courteous, professional and polite. For example, when I brought my car in to the dealer for service, the manager listened carefully to everything I asked for and addressed each one of my concerns. He asked if there was anything else and then moved on to the next customer.

There are times, though, that companies go just a bit too far. And two of those times happened to me within the past week.

First, I called my PC vendor to address an issue. The rep logged into my laptop remotely and downloaded the drivers I needed; it took about 10 minutes. I was sitting quietly doing some work and he wouldn't stop asking me inane questions related to the weather.

Second, I called my cell phone company - which I've been with for a while - for some quick answers to a couple of questions. At first (after getting through endless voice-recognition prompts that apparently don't work too well), it was nice to hear how much they value my loyal service but, after the fifth time, it was a bit much. Then, the rep didn't stop with absolutely irrelevant questions about my travel plans which (1) were none of his business and (2) were absolutely the last thing on my mind.

My brother-in-law had an idea. Companies ought to offer, in their automated menu prompts, an option of mindless banter or not. Good idea.

Anyway, what's the point? I can think of two. First, make sure to value your customers' time more than your own. Second, there's such a thing as too much of a good thing.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

What's in a name?

Last week, the World Health Organization announced it would stop referring to Swine Flu as "Swine Flu." Instead, the WHO is going with the even-catchier "H1N1 influenza A."

Why? To protect the pork industry and pig farmers.

Too late. Consumers already equate the influenza strain with pigs and, in Egypt, 300,000 pigs were killed for absolutely no reason. (I wonder why there are so many pigs in Egypt as Islamic law forbids pork - I think.)

Renaming Swine Flu to its more accurate, technical name will be an exercise in rebranding that the WHO certainly will not want to get into. Perhaps the pork industry will.

But one thing's for sure: simply changing its name will about as effective as (ahem) putting lipstick on a pig.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Milestones - 100 Days

I've always wondered why presidents seem fixated on their "first 100 days." I don't have an answer why 100 is a magic number, other than the fact that it's a nice, round, somewhat big number.

Why not 30 days? Or 90? That would make sense; it's a quarter - a measure used in business.

When I start working with a new client, I often get asked, "How long until we see results?" My advice never wavers. When it comes to a public relations campaign, you'll know if it's working within the first 60 - 90 days. If, in that time, there's no movement in terms of media interest, you're either (1) doing something wrong or (2) there's just no story.

At all costs, I avoid guaranteeing anything in terms of media coverage. My feeling is that any PR pro who guarantees hits is up to no good. You can have an incredible story, seemingly perfectly timed, with every piece in place, but then something bigger breaks and you're toast.

Just ask President Obama. His 100th day is tomorrow and, in all likelihood it will be overshadowed by swine flu.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Great PR Challenge - Telling your story in the face of tragedy

I use an online backup service called Mozy. Every once in a while, my files are automatically backed up and I don't ever have to think of it. This service was incredibly helpful when I upgraded to a new laptop and had to migrate tons of files.

What does this have to do with PR?

As a Mozy customer, I get the company newsletter, the most recent featured a piece about USAir flight 1549 that landed in the Hudson Rover. The newsletter briefly told the story of two passengers on the flight, one of whom backed up to thumb drives and the other to Mozy.

Both men had been backing up regularly. The difference is Jorgenson backed up online with Mozy, and Wiley backed up his two computers to thumb drives. Jorgensen retrieved his data back from Mozy, but Wiley lost 250 GB of his employer's information. The stories were detailed in USA Today and ComputerWorld.

Knowing how - and when - to tell your story is even more important than actually having a story to tell. Kudos to Mozy on doing it well.

The role of marketing during a recession

Nancy Koehn, a professor at Harvard Business School, says, "So [one lesson in downturns] is market, market. Don't cut back on marketing."

You can read the whole interview here.

Of course, I'm not going to disagree. I'll keep telling anyone who'll listen that they have to keep talking to their customers, prospects, employees, etc. Even when business is in the toilet. Maybe not every element of marketing is important, but the key is to communicate.

A colleague of mine pointed out that she's seen public relations budgets staying more or less the same with advertising plummeting. Why? The later costs a whole lot more.

Keep talking to the people you need to reach. Keep feeding them relevant information and they will reward you. Of that, I'm certain.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Waking Up Canadian

Think being Canadian is funny? It is.

The Canadian government has passed a law that says - on April 17 - citizens who were forced to renounce their Canadian citizenship when they became naturalized citizens of other countries, will automtically get their citizenship back.

Here's a brief announcement to help you understand the complexities of the law. And, because we're fair to all, here's another an additional explanation in a language you may better understand.

So, regardless of colour, race, creed, or neighbourhood in which you live, you're now Canadian, A to Zed.

(I am a bit curious about the homourous approach the government took. I mean, could it be that being Canadian simply means hockey, Mounties, moose and maple leaves? Maybe.)

PS - I'm Canadian, therefore I'm allowed to make fun.

PPS - No moose were harmed in the writing of this post.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Of Interviews - For Jobs and Media

With everyone looking for work these days, it seems like one thing there is no shortage of is advice on what to do to help you land a new job. Sure enough, yesterday's Wall Street Journal published an article on tips that will help you suceed if you are lucky enough to actually score an interview.

Some of the tips are patently obvious. ("Signal confidence by offering a firm handshake;" and "Show you've done your homework on the company.") As I read the piece, I couldn't help but think of the kind of advice we give to our clients as they prepare for media interviews. It struck me that, to a certain extent, preparing for a job interview is much like preparing for a media interview.

- Figure out what your key messages are and stick to them. In other words, know your story.
- Anticipate questions. If you have gaps in your resume, think about how you will explain them.
- Be ready to use concrete examples.
- There is definitely no such thing as "off the record."
- "Yes and no" answers will not serve you well, at all.
- "Flag" questions that you know you will answer well.

Anyone prepping for a job interview would be able to approach the experience with confidence, assuming they take the time to consider their key messages.

Just like in public relations.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Susan Boyle, Communications Expert

Today, like millions who watch all sorts of videos forwarded from friends and family, I was introduced to Susan Boyle.

Three seconds after she started to sing, the crowd went wild. Ten seconds later, they were on their feet.

What does this teach us about communications and public relations? I think we can draw a few conclusions, but I'll point to two I often repeat:

1. Public relations is about what you do and not about what you say. Susan said she was going to do well and no one in the theater believed her. But, her actions spoke louder than her words.

2. Conviction and belief in your messages is of paramount importance. Susan believed in what she came to do and, therefore, was admirably confident in her pre-performance delivery.

Do the right thing first and then make sure your messaging is correct. People can't ignore that.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

We're forgetting how to talk.

It turns out that people don't like voicemail anymore. Apparently, it takes up too much time and checking for messages is a complicated and arduous task.

Fascinating, but not really suprising in an era when Twitter is fast becoming a normal way to communicate. If you can't say it in 140 characters, then it's taking too long.

But, is that really communicating?

I think the challenge some people have with voicemail is that those who leave voice mail messages don't appreciate the importance of keeping messages succinct and to-the-point. Callers, somehow, are caught off-guard and aren't sure what to say or how to say it when they have to rely on the spoken word.

Here's my take: I think people are forgetting how to TALK to one another. Think about it. How many times do you get together with friends or family, only to have the people you're with texting, IMing or emailing throughout your conversation? I don't think people are too busy to talk or listen to voicemails, I just think people don't know how to relate to the spoken word, anymore.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

TMI - Three Mile Island or Too Much Information?

This weekend marks the 30th anniversary of the Three Mile Island meltdown. Without a doubt, people a whole lot smarter than I will be discussing and dissecting what happened and what should have happened from both a communications and operational point-of-view.

The meltdown led to several new "truths" in crisis communications and nuclear energy. Specifically, the world was taught the importance of preparing for the former and the hazards of the latter.

But is nuclear power dangerous? The common perception is that it is. (You can read an article from The Washington Post about the relative safety of nuclear power. You can also read about the critical hours of the meltdown here. ) In many ways, that's all that matters.

To be sure, the world of communications has changed drastically in the past 30 years and, while there is a lot to learn from the events of Three Mile Island, it's important to remember that at the time, there were no cell phones or Blackberrys; internet or email. Information could be released in a controlled, deliberate manner that I'm sure some communicators look back upon with envy.

I think the lesson for today's communications environment is attitudinal in nature. It's important to remember that companies and organizations much do what they can to prepare for a crisis situation. They must be ready to communicate effectively and avoid stonewalling. Information will always find a way out, either through deliberate or accidental action.

Take the steps you need to now by examing what your organization's exposure to risk is and determine how you can prepare to deal with a crisis when it happens.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

New Light on AIG Bonuses

If you didn't yet read The New York Times, there's a fascinating op-ed - a resignation letter from an AIG executive.

This is a smart public relations move by Jake DeSantis, the author. He is making his case in a clear and understandable manner and, in so doing, he is setting himself up, in a very public way, as a good guy.

The letter also serves to educate those who thought - myself included - that the bonuses recently paid were obscene. The case put forth by DeSantis is that AIG double-crossed its executives - overpaid as they may be - who had absolutely nothing to do with the unbearable collapse to which we are all bearing witness.

DeSantis points an accusatory finger at Edward Liddy, AIG's current CEO for speaking in one way and behaving in another.

Already, it seems the rhetoric in DC vis-a-vis the AIG bonuses is dying down. Why? Because of the dissonance between what people are saying and what actually took place. DeSantis, I think, wins points for consistency of word and deed.

Again, public relations is about what you do and NOT about what you say.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Selling luxury these days

Most of us, it seems, are preoccupied with paying rent, mortgages and other basics. Why then - or more accurate, how - can a company such as Bugatti possibly sell any of its $1.5 million Veyrons?

I'm not a car guy but even I can appreciate a machine that can go a tad over 250mph. (The fastest I've ever gone was 100mph in a Datsun Stanza while pointing downhill on I-87 with the wind at my back. The car was shaking more than Chuck Yeager's "Glamorous Glennis" on October 14, 1947...) Practical it ain't. But that's not the point. The point is they're selling!

Forbes Life - it's amazing the publication even comes out at all - has a fascinating feature on how Bugatti does it. It is a case study in one-to-one marketing and worth reading. Here are the salient points:
  • You don't buy a Veyron; you apply for one;
  • Most of the marketing budget goes toward shipping a demo car to a prospect, along with a professional driver who will show what the machine is capable of doing;
  • The number of people in the world who might buy one is tiny and the company actively seeks them out to talk to them, one-on-one;
  • The car is constantly being watched, via satellite, where every parameter of the car is monitored.

Granted, most of us don't have products or services that are appropriate for such a tiny portion of the planet's population. Nonetheless, the artcile got me going because it points out some important marketing tips:

  • When you can, aim for exclusivity.
  • Demonstrate what it is you have to sell.
  • Determine your audience and speak to them directly.
  • Overservice and exceed expectations.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go hit the open road.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Dear Kind Friend. If you deposit $10,000 into my account in Nigeria...

My friend Aparna, a graphic designer, forwarded to me this wonderful Reuters piece about Nigeria rebranding itself.

The country, known for its emails and various other forms of online scammery, is hoping to shed its seamy image with some t-shirts and caps with the power to restore self-confidence.

I wonder if a US-based firm is helping and, if so, they were required to deposit some money into a third-party bank account, secure in the knowledge that a huge payday awaits.

Bill George is only half-right

According to Bill George, former CEO of Medtronic (NYSE: MDT) and now a professor at Harvard Business School, the worst thing a CEO of a company is crisis should do is "hire a PR firm and ask it to restore your image." (March 16 issue of Fortune)
Far be it from me to tell Mr. George he's wrong. But he's only half right.
Hiring a public relations firm can be the smartest move a CEO makes. A smart PR firm will work with its clients to figure out how to build their reputations in times of "peace." Diligently working to help spread the clients' gospel through all forms of media, speaking engagements and so on, is what a good public relations firm does.
Why? (1) To help grow and protect business and (2) so that in times of crisis you have a reputational leg upon which to stand as you make your case for what went wrong (or not) and how things will be changed moving forward (or not). If your company hasn't been making its PR investments, how could it possibly reap the benefits of any dividend?
The mistake so many managers make is assuming that hiring a PR firm can wait until a company is in crisis. I've said this is this space too many times to count: public relations is about what you do; it's not about what you say. If your company screwed up, you have to own up and demonstrate the way out of the mess.
Public relations professionals are not magicians and don't "spin it" for a living. PR pros help build well-deserved reputations and play a critical role in their defense.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Heeeeere's Barak!

Unless you've been hiding under a rock, you know that President Obama appeared last night on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. It was a big deal. A sitting president has never done that before. And, of course, everyone has an opinion.

Including me.

It wasn't a mistake for him to schedule the appearance and, in retrospect, it went well. The only gaffe came when the president compared his bowling ability to the Special Olympics.

So, does this mean that sitting presidents now have to do the late night circuit? No, and we can all learn a lesson. Every media appearance and speaking opportunity for any spokesperson or chief executive needs to be judged in terms of importance and weighed against the person's ability to handle the situation. Obama did well because he thinks on his feet and doesn't seem to have to rely on thoroughly canned talking points. Also, he's usually rather funny.

Imagine if President Bush had tried the same.

Bottom line: it went well and it was a positive experience. As my favorite television president says, "What's next?"

Thursday, March 19, 2009

NEWSFLASH - People are watching their money!

Old story - A number of years ago, I helped a furniture remanufacturer with key messaging. They thought they sold on value; turns out the "green" issue was their customers' hot button with value a close second.

They're in luck because, according to Mark Penn (about whom I've written before), "green" is no longer increasing heart rates; value is.

In an incredibly long-winded piece, Penn explains that consumers now are watching their pennies and, yeah, being green is still cool, but saving green is where it's at.

I guess that makes it official.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Everyone Knows Everything and No One Knows how to Shut Up

Well, we're finally here. Everyone knows everything all the time. And, aparently, a lot of people don't know when to keep their proverbial mouths closed.

Cases are ending in mistrials because jurors are blogging, twittering and otherwise talking about the cases for which they are seated. Everyone knows that jurors are not supposed to talk, yet talk they do, and in ways that are much, much more impactful than casually mentioning something over dinner. Jurors are broadcasting. What makes no sense is that judges surely tell jurors they may not talk, blog, email, research, etc., the cases they are to decide. Yet people do it anyway.

But can you blame the juror? He or she is a regular person who now lives in an online world. "Google" and "friend" have become verbs; Wikipedia is the most successful encyclopedia. (My 10-year-old can't be blamed for not knowing how to research something in the library; he has everything he needs at his fingertips.) Anyone - ahem - can have a blog.

Yes, I say, blame the juror. Having the ability to communicate is not the same as having the responsibility to communicate. In fact, successful, responsible communication often means saying nothing at all.

I'm reminded of an article I once read about SUVs during the height of their popularity in the U.S. Owning one, the writer suggested, wasn't about the need to drive off-road; it was about the ability to do so. After all, he said, how much off-roading does one do on the way to buy some milk?

Don't get me wrong: I think it's great that communication is no longer in the hands of those who have the ability to buy ink by the barrel. Mass communication has truly become accessible to all. But I think many people have yet to learn that having the means to do something does not necessarily mean they should.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Further evidence of the winds of change in DC

President Obama is doing what no president since Grover Cleveland has done: he is shunning the Gridiron Club's annual dinner. I'm not sure if it's a good thing or a bad thing.

But definitely IS a thing.

It's widely recognized that the election of President Obama marks a shift in the relationship between the establishment and the media. He is the first president to have made successful use of "new" media. The white house web site has been revamped and is being used in ways akin more to a startup than the executive branch of government. If I'm not mistaken, the first question in the first press conference given by the new preisdent was asked by a blogger.

Now, the Gridiron representatives say they are not effended and the president's people say none was meant. But one has to admit, the excuses offered are somewhat weak.

No matter what your opinion - good or bad - you have to agree that this administration is doing everything it can to change the way news is reported in DC and around the world.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Discovering your key messages

What's the best way to figure out your key messages?

Many executives think long and hard about this. And, more often than not, they think about it in the wrong way. It's very tempting to say, "We offer Service X, therefore, our primary key message is that our company is a leading provider of Service X."

Maybe it is. But what about what the customer wants or needs from you? Your customer likely wants to hear about how you can HELP them achieve a certain goal. Sure, it may be implied within the message of being a leading provider of X. But why imply? Say it outright!

Put another way, your audience doesn't want to hear what YOU think is important; they want to hear about what THEY think is important.

Here's an example. I worked with a furniture remanufacturer on their corporate messaging. When I asked the president and the VP of sales why their customers buy from them, they both said, "price."

So we went to work talking about who their audiences are, what their concerns are and how the company addressed those concerns.

Know what? Price wasn't the primary reason customers were buying. It was environmental -- a "green" thing.

The first step in marketing communications always has to be about discovering the right messages. If time isn't taken to appropriately explore what your target audiences want to hear, they won't listen when you start talking.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Here's a little company that could use some help getting its messages out

One would assume that with all the money flowing from the US government to AIG, there'd be something in the budget for the communications department.

Apparently not.

The recently re-rescued company has found money to pay bonuses to some executives. AIG argued the bonuses "were promised last year before the crisis and cannot be legally canceled." Also, it's argued, the money is "retention" money. Maybe they need to pay out that money to retain talent. But, if they're so talented, why are they in this mess?

I've said it many times before and I'll continue: public relations is about what you do and not about what you say.

Dire economy? Innovation!

This piece from yesterday's New York Times is certainly heartening. Here is (not are) a handful of souls who, thanks to pink slips, all find themselves accidental entrepreneurs.

It is exactly for these folks - who will be driving the economy in the near future - that we've launched a new web site that helps young companies create their first PR materials. We also take it a step further with the Marketing Communications Starter Kit.

Sure, there's plenty of doom and gloom out there. (The Chinese prime minister just reported that he's worried about the money his country has lent the United States.) But if you look hard enough, you'll see people doing what people do when their backs are up against the wall: getting creative. If nothing else, it will be fun to see the next great thing that comes out of this depression.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Crafting versus Discovering

Yesterday I mentioned that I prefer to talk about "discovering" messages versus "crafting" them.

Here's why.

The word "crafting" implies that you're making something up. To me, at least, it means spinning something from nothing. ("Spinning" - there's another one!) The language I use is that of "discovery" - not in the legal sense, but in the literal sense.

My experience over the past 18 years has taught me that every single company, individual, organization, etc., has a story to tell. The challenge is to figure out what that story is, who needs to hear it and how you can get them to listen. True, sometimes it's difficult to earn publicity, but more often than not, that's not the challenge. The challenge is in figuring what to say and to whom.

At BCI, we talk about discovering key messages. For us, that's the first step in the PR process. Without dedicating the appropriate amount of time to ascertaining what it is clients have to say, everything else is for naught.

If you'd like to start that conversation, please let me know.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Of PR and "Flackiness"

I saw two interesting blog posts yesterday about the "flackiness" of PR and I thought that, together, they offered what to talk about.

First, Seth Godin held forth on the difference between public relations and publicity. His bottom line: PR is about discovering the story that will help drive publicity. (Actually, Godin says "crafting" the story, but to me that's a negative thing. More on that in a subsequent post.) Publicity is, well, publicity. The latter, according to Godin, is a lot easier than the former. Clients would do better to allow their PR firms to help frame the message as opposed to commanding them to go forth and publicize.

Second, was Gawker's not-so-veiled disappointment that Facebook co-founder and former Obama guy Chris Hughes has elected to join a DC PR firm. According to Owen Thomas, Hughes is now reduced to a "flack" - ranking possibly just above used car salesman.

Should Hughes be lambasted for simply joining a PR firm? How does Thomas already know what Hughes will be working on? Is it impossible to fathom that there are PR firms that work hard to counsel clients on the messages they will broadcast?

I don't know the firm Chris Hughes is going to. If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say he'll be the "social media expert" and be brought in on new business pitches. But, he could very well play a role in important future campaigns that will shape public discourse in the United States.

Godin says PR pros have to do a better job at showing clients that public relations is a lot more than just publicity. Owen Thomas says that all PR pros are flacks.

Apparently, the PR field can use a little PR counsel.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Church murderer may have been suffering from mental illness.

Yesterday, a gunman walked into a St. Louis area church and started shooting. Reports today suggest the gunman, Terry Joe Sedlacek, was suffering from mental illness due to lyme disease. The news comes from his family.

Since when are murderers sane?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Facebook continues its global takeover

Can anything stop Facebook? A recent issue of Fortune points out that Facebook is taking over our lives, "but is it a real business?" I don't know the answer to the question, but I can certainly agree with the statement.

I have yet to succumb to the sweet siren call of Facebook, but I imagine I won't be able to resist much longer. Both my wife and daughter are devotees and countless colleagues have invited me to become their friends. (I certainly hope they are still my friends, even if it is only in the real world and not online.)

A couple of weeks ago, Facebook was in the news for changing its terms of agreement. Naturally, privacy was the issue. Then, last week, my wife (the one on Facebook) sent me a link about some cops in Rockland County, NY, who were suspended for posting what can be called, at best, locker room humor about their town supervisor and President Obama.

So, the question is: Does posting offensive thoughts on Facebook deserve the protection of free speech, as suggested by one of the suspended cops as well as his chief. Uh, yes, as long as it's not inciting hatred or violence.

As far as I know, Facebook hasn't taken the postings down - I assume they would have to cross a certain threshold of indecency to do so - and I don't think they should. Then, again, I'm no legal expert.

But I do know a few things about communications and I feel that just about every time someone opens his or her mouth, literally or figuratively, there is something to be learned. In the case of the cops with bad attitudes, I think we can learn that - in addition to being juvenile and in all likelihood unfit to serve their community - when left to their own devices, some people have no clue how to communicate effectively and can sometimes end up humiliating themselves.

How do you avoid that? Think about what you want to say and what you want to accomplish by saying it.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

I should point out

I've moved my blog from http://bravermancommunications.bravejournal.com/

I'm trying to figure out how I can move my old postings from there to here. If you know, and can tell me how to do it and I do it successfully, you get a present.

You know it's a slow news day...

That The New York Times and Foxnews.com both have as their lead items the graying of President Obama can only mean one thing: it's a slow news day.

Given the current economy, wars and everything else, I guess it's good news that the most important item of the day is that the President has a stressful job.