Thursday, May 27, 2010

Two of my favorite things: writing and Glee

OK, saying the television show "Glee" is one of my favorite things is a bit of a stretch.  I've seen one complete episode (Madonna) and snippets of others.  But, I was thrilled when I saw in my inbox a posting from Poynter's Roy Peter Clark (who writes about writing), about why "Glee" is such a great show.

Here's the link.  Enjoy.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Truth in Advertising

I had "one of those moments" this weekend. 

My wife and I were talking about the challenge her employer is having attracting people to take advantage of the various services they provide.  My 11 year-old son pipes up and says, "Why don't you do what the commercial people do?"

Me: "What do you mean?"

Him: "Well, they should tell the people about all the good things that could happen if they go talk to Mommy."


Him: "You know, not all of it has to be true."

I was reminded at once of the 1990 movie, "Crazy People."  I wonder, though, was my son commenting on what he observes on television every day, or was he simply letting us know that lying is perfectly acceptable, a normal thing to do?

I'd like to think it's the former.

Lying - even stretching the truth - usually ends up coming back to bite us.  The most recent example I can think of is that of CT Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who is running for senator in Connecticut.  It's easy to understand why he was less-than-truthful.  It's amazing to think he thought he wouldn't get caught.

These days, anyone who speaks publicly anywhere and at any time, simply has to know there is never, ever such a thing as "off the record."

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Killer Success

Any PR pro will tell you that lack of a credible story will kill even the best PR program.  However, I maintain that most don't think about how success can kill a communications effort.

Oftentimes, clients - and even PR folk - can neglect to take into consideration what would happen if a company/product/offering and, by extension, the communications program, is wildly successful.  What happens if - for positive reasons - virtually no proactive, outbound effort is needed?

I've been lucky enough to be in that position a few times in my career with young client companies, and here's what I learned:

  • Most clients are not equipped to handle the flood of inbound inquires.  Appoint someone (internal PR person, agency, consultant) to manage all inbound traffic.  Keep lists with detailed notes.  Make sure everyone gets a timely response.
  • A bird in hand is not always worth two in the bush.  Granted, a great "opportunity" may present itself, but failing to keep in mind who the true target audience is and which outlets are best for reaching them, can cause a communications strategy to veer off-course.
  • Take the time to research the people who are calling.  If someone calls from Good Morning America, verify their contact info.  If they give you a cell number, ask for a direct dial.  Be cautious when it comes to private email addresses, if the contact is unknown.  You'd be surprised...
  • Be polite and courteous.  The media may love you now, but that will change.
This is not an exhaustive list.  It's just four observations based on personal experience.  In many ways, this approach resembles what to do when a crisis hits.  In many ways, unforeseen success can quickly turn from nirvana to disaster.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Importance of Doing SOMETHING

I was a Xerox salesman for six miserable months.  I sold five low-volume copiers in that time and, while there is much I'd like to forget about that period of my professional development, I learned one useful lesson: when in doubt of what to do next, do SOMETHING.  At Xerox, that meant "make calls."

We were given a list of "prospects" (in quotes because the list was more of a phone book that a collection of qualified leads) and told to reach out to a certain number every week.  Anyone who has ever done this sort of thing knows what I'm talking about.  For whatever reason, I was a loser at that particular numbers game, but the lesson shared by my manager has since served me well.

Put another way, a supervisor of mine at Edelman (the same one who taught me that "PR is about what you do and NOT what you say") confided in me that "It's easier to ask forgiveness than it is to ask permission."  Clients, media, supervisors - whomever - will likely be much quicker to forgive what you've done than to grant permission in the first place. 

What does this mean in a communications mindset?  Very often, it's tempting to wait until all storytelling elements are lined up and in tip-top shape.  Media kits, backgrounders, bios, press releases, photos, b-roll, research - you name it - can all stand in the way of getting the job done.

Hogwash, I say.  At some point, you just have to dive in.

The ONLY exception is that of message development.  Everything else can fall into line later.  But right now, the single most important piece of preparation is figuring out what you're going to say and how.  Once you do that, everything else will flow into place.

I guarantee it.