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.