Now You See Him, Now You Hear Him Too

August 24th, 2014 by Don Tanner

17212275_BG1It may well be unprecedented.  This week, it was announced that Fox-2 Weekend anchor Jay Towers would be replacing Alan Lee on the weekday Fox Morning News program. Lee left in recent days to pursue his passion for writing books.  And what of Towers’ morning show on WNIC?  Oh, he’ll be doing that too – simultaneously.  Unprecedented for sure and sure to be quite logistically interesting.

A radio talent broadcasting on television at the same time is certainly nothing new. Don Imus simulcasts his Cumulus Radio program over the Fox Business Network, much as he did his ABC radio show on MSNBC-TV before the Rutgers women’s basketball team controversy brought a temporary end to his dual medium diatribes. “Mike and Mike” have appeared in words and pictures on ESPN Radio and television for the better part of the past 16 years.  And, more recently, Dan Patrick’s Premiere Radio Network program has become a stable of the NBC television Sports Network. As for TV on the radio, just turn on Sirius XM to hear what is being broadcast on literally hundreds of television networks – including news outlets like CNN and MSNBC.

What is unique in the case of Fox-2 and WNIC, of course, is that Jay Towers will be anchoring two different shows at virtually the same time.  Can it be done? If anyone can do it, Towers and Clear Channel can.  With boundless energy, Towers has, for all intents and purposes, worked a 7-day week for years. Weekdays on 100.3 FM and weekends on WJBK-TV doesn’t allow for much time off or sleeping in.  Now with two days off each week, his newfound life should bring new life to his ‘can-do’ M.O. Clear Channel Radio on the other hand, is the originator of voice-tracking and pre-recorded radio segments. To be sure, more of Tower’s radio show will have to go this route out of necessity while also relying more on his sidekicks for time checks and real-time news, traffic and weather.

What is perhaps most interesting is the cooperation between Fox-TV and Clear Channel Radio to make this polygamedia relationship possible. Both undoubtedly understand the ratings pull that a popular personality such as a Jay Towers brings to the table, in particular considering his years of successful service to both entities. In the end it will be quite interesting to see and hear how this juggling act comes to fruition and whether listeners or viewers can tell the difference. I would suggest they at least appreciate the effort and broadcast history in the making.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Craig Fahle Exits WDET: Big Shoes, Shows to Fill

August 10th, 2014 by Don Tanner

bildeDick Purtan. JJ and Lynne. Drew and Mike. Ken Calvert. Joe Donovan. Arthur Penhallow.  All longtime Detroit radio legends who have either exited the airwaves in a recent month or year or moved from drivetime.  And, while the name Craig Fahle is perhaps not as well known or endured as long, his exit on Friday from WDET-FM after nearly a decade as the station’s top day-to-day air personality is significant. Bill Shea’s story in this week’s Crain’s Detroit Business tells the tale well with a bit of my perspective thrown in.  Read the piece here.

If you never took the opportunity to listen to Craig Fahle, you missed out; although you can still hear him via archived podcasts at WDET.org.  I and members of the Tanner Friedman team had the good fortune to work with Craig on many occasions through the years, booking our clients on his show. No matter the topic, no matter the guest, Craig Fahle was always prepared.  He has, in fact, always been known for his voracious reading and thorough show prep.  As a guest myself on his show after publishing the updated version of my book on radio: “No Static at All,” I was amazed at how much of my book he had devoured and maintained a recall of as he asked his questions and made his points.

From a ratings standpoint, one might look at Fahle’s or WDET’s numbers in general and be less than impressed.  Yet, statistics alone can be very deceiving. Public Radio stations, with their schedules of varied niche programs typically never see the numbers of popular commercial stations.  Fahle’s 9a-11a show, however, typically enjoyed a respectable 7,000 listeners a day; another 4,500 at night during the 7p-9p repeat of his broadcast.  And, even more importantly, Fahle held his listeners for an amazing 45 minutes at a time, 30 minutes at night. Bottom line: his listeners were dedicated – vital for fundraising for a non-commercial entity.

So, what’s next? For Fahle, a new role as Director of Public Affairs for the Detroit Land Bank Authority.  And while the move was at first shocking it was not surprising, considering Fahle’s love of the city and desire to make a difference. For WDET, there are big shoes and two time slots to fill.  I hope the station takes its time and considers its candidates carefully to find genuine, informed, dedicated, non-promotional, non-agended and a person who truly cares about Detroit. It’s what Craig Fahle brought to the airwaves everyday and what we all deserve more of.

5 Questions With The Man Who Got The Real Media Inside Story

August 10th, 2014 by Matt Friedman

home_ken_aulettaIt’s a privilege to have the opportunity to write about PR and media trends on this blog and generate conversation that helps our connections understand the changing environment. It’s an honor to be regularly asked by media outlets themselves to analyze their own businesses.

But there’s always room for learning. And no matter what you know, there’s usually someone who knows more than you do. I learned that this summer.

I remember in 1991, a book called “Three Blind Mice: How The TV Networks Lost Their Way” earned attention in media circles. I also remember ignoring it, because, as a budding broadcast journalist, I knew I wasn’t interested in the negatives of the industry. With the benefit of hindsight, I realize that back then as I was filled with optimism and determination, my head was, to a great extent, more comfortable in the sand.

23 years later, the fact that I hadn’t read that book began to gnaw at me. It was easy to find, because we have a one-of-a-kind, gigantic used book store in Detroit, John Kings Books, where I picked up the 1991 hardcover for $6, then devoured it on vacation. Author Ken Auletta was given unprecedented access to the executives, strategies, finances and emotions of ABC, CBS and NBC, when all three networks were sold in the ’80s. His 577 pages told, with remarkable detail, the inside story I had only seen from the outside. It was, to say the least, fascinating. I folded down pages, prepared to write in here about what had changed, how it had changed and how, somehow, these networks still exist, albeit in a much different form.

But my words can’t do this justice. I had to find Ken Auletta. Using what I assume are some leftover reporting skills, I was able to track him down. While I could have spent a weekend talking shop with him, just scratching the surface, I asked for five questions, to be respectful of his time. He agreed. And here they are. I hope you can learn from him, as I have:

1) When you finished “Three Blind Mice” how did you envision the three networks would look a generation into the future?

There’s always a problem writing an ending to a story that continues. What I wrote in the last chapter was that the financial problem the three networks faced was that they were reliant on a single source of income, advertising. But if they could tap other sources, including, I wrote, changing fin/syn rules to allow the networks to own more programming and benefit from syndication and overseas sales, they would be better placed. My book was published in 1991. In 1992, Congress passed the Cable Act, which compelled cable system owners to pay broadcast and other networks to air their programs. Today, this generates about $4 billion for various networks and stations. Then the fin/syn rules were altered, opening another revenue spigot for networks. And new digital platforms — Netflix, iTunes, Amazon, YouTube — appeared, paying for network programming. Last year, CBS and Fox each received $250 million from Netflix alone.

2) How remarkable is it that while there has been so much change and competition around them, so much of what they were doing then appears to be the same now?

My book was, in part, about how a new technology — cable — was disrupting broadcasting. Today, digital technology and the Internet are disrupting — and sometimes funding — cable as well as broadcasting. The disruptive aspect exceeds the new revenues. For the Internet allows Netflix and others to stream programs directly to viewers. It allows ad-free viewing, or viewers to skip ads. It tells advertisers how many of their expensive ad buys are wasted. It allows viewers to watch what they want, when they want, for as long as they want, and on multiple devices.

3) One fact I learned in your book is that as recently as 25 years ago, network news was a big money loser. I was surprised because in local TV, since almost its infancy, news has been a virtual ATM for station owners. How did the “public service” contingent in newsrooms finally concede they had lost the war?

The idea that news should not be a money loser gained traction when the new owners acquired the three networks in 1985-86. The previous pressure from the Congress for them to provide public service had lessened. And the new owners were corporate businessmen who measured success more by the bottom line, not intangibles like public service.

(Friedman note: In other words, they had no choice.)

4) I have a concept that I would love to see. Maybe you can give me a reality check? Can you foresee a day in which one or more of the old-line networks blows up at least a portion of the schedule that they have adhered to since the 1950s? For example, could you ever see any of them “stripping” news in Prime Time, to fill a void for a straight newscast free from political agenda and screaming heads, on what’s still the world’s most powerful medium, taking advantage of HDTV in a time slot in which modern Americans are not stuck in traffic? That newscast, in part and in whole, could be available on demand, for online viewing. Or will they still insist on a white man reading a prompter to a gray audience at 6:30 p.m.?

No, I cannot imagine the networks placing a newscast in primetime, as some nations — like Israel — do. Why? Ratings and demographics. And the Internet. The average age of the three newscast viewers is 65, thus the ad rates are low. And because the Internet has made possible for citizens to be exposed to news 24/7, fewer people wait to learn what happened today. More likely we’ll see broadcast networks air live and special events — sports, awards shows, the Sound of Music and Peter Pan movies, etc.

5) As far as programming, do you agree that we’re now, despite a lot of the “reality” trash on the air, we may now be in something of a Golden Age, because competition has led to, overall, a better quality of choices across the channel universe?

We have more choices, and better choices. Yes, there’s a lot of crap. But the Good Wife on CBS, or Friday Night Lights (then on NBC), are as outstanding as many of the best shows of yore. And then you have HBO, Showtime, AMC, Netflix, etc. Bruce Springsteen’s lament, 500 channels and nothing on, is wrong.

Where Everybody Knows Your Name…And Your Reputation

August 5th, 2014 by Matt Friedman

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 9.41.03 AMThis Tanner Friedman Blog entry is authored by our Account Manager Maggie Sisco. We’ll continue to share perspectives from our colleagues, whenever we have an opportunity.

Every company is known for something and not always for what they want it to be. What a company “stands” for and what a company is known for are often times two very different things.

When thinking about how a company is known, remember that the office walls are thinner than ever. People talk, they text, they email, tweet, update statuses, share, like. We live in a time when the global population is more communicative than ever. That means news travels fast. Good news AND bad news.

Why does it matter? Because if you’re looking to start a career, build your own personal brand, or even start client relationships, you should first know what’s already been said about the company you are about to associate yourself with.

I once did a job shadow with a company early in my college career at the encouragement of a very well-meaning mentor. The experience turned out to be a total disaster. Sitting in an office for 8 hours listening to the latest office gossip and learning about the newest version of whatever online game was popular at the time felt like a waste of time, and money (since I had taken the day off from my paying job).

Following that experience I asked around and heard similar stories about that company from three different colleagues. With the benefit of hindsight I realize that I should have done my homework. I should have asked questions. In an era where Google has made obtaining information exponentially easier, I should have spent some time online and saved myself a little time and trouble.

This can be a common mistake early on in any professional relationship, whether it be finding that right fit at a company or with a client.

There are always calculated risks when making any professional decision. Just be sure you’re taking the right ones, before you jump into the “mud.”

Look Before You Leap. Think Before you Post.

July 31st, 2014 by Don Tanner

LookB4YouLeapIn the lexicon of classic idioms, look before you leap is perhaps the best known and most time-tested of them all.  In today’s world of social media where many are still feeling their way, I would suggest, think before you post be also considered regularly.  That is the key message I sought to get across this week in Fox-2 reporter M.L. Elrick’s story on a city councilwoman who posted a photo to Facebook showing her posing with a convicted felon who served time in recent years for bribing former councilwoman Monica Conyers. Click here to see the complete story.

Now, make no mistake – anyone who has served time in prison deserves to live their life afterward and a second chance to walk the straight and narrow. Similarly,  everyone should be able to socialize with whom they wish.  All that said, and as I relayed in my comments in the story, at a time when the City of Detroit is still reeling and dealing with the aftermath of corruption by public officials, each and every official now in office should be focused on restoring the public trust, not raising more questions.

As for what ended up on the proverbial cutting room floor from my chat with Fox-2, that I would suggest all of us should take into account:

  • Consider the very words that make up the term “social media.” They tell us that the medium is public and not private
  • Anyone using social media should use this litmus test prior to posting: Would I be comfortable with having my post published in the newspaper or aired on TV/radio?
  • If I am a public official, I am held to an even higher standard – in terms of conduct and whom I associate with – in my public and private life

Was this particular instance a lack of judgment? A misunderstanding of the power of the medium and how it works? A sign of immaturity? Unfortunately, we don’t know as the official in question isn’t talking publicly (ironically enough).  And that is where another idiom comes to mind: Learn from your mistakes. I would suggest another: Take responsibility for your actions. Because with social media, the world is watching and judging.

U-M’s Brandon Continues As Compelling PR Study

July 28th, 2014 by Matt Friedman

7575800The tenure of University of Michigan Athletic Director continues to be a fascinating PR study. As blogged about earlier this year, Brandon has courted and attracted public attention like no other athletic director in the recent boom of college sports in all types of media.

The latest chapter in this story of a college football backup turned corporate CEO turned college sports honcho centers on his most recent PR move. For months, observers have buzzed about one controversial Brandon decision after another, culminating recently when the University’s Board of Regents rejected his plan for fireworks displays at football games (receiving much public and media support). Seeking to get his message out, he did what many CEOs before him have done successfully – selected a journalist to take his message to the masses with credibility, a built-in audience and a limited filter. This verbatim Q and A with The Detroit News’ popular columnist Bob Wojnowski allowed Brandon to answer the swirling questions.

In theory, the strategy was smart. Brandon seemed well-prepared, obviously anticipating all of the questions in advance. But, along the way, he made some mistakes that show what appears to be a lack of understanding of at least some of his audiences. That, so frequently, is the root of PR problems.

First, he oversold the 2015 home football schedule, which includes non-conference (and non-power) opponents BYU, Oregon State and UNLV, saying it’s a “wow” for fans. CEOs, must always remember that customers are not stupid. To restore trust from fans, he would have been much better off saying the schedule is “improved” from 2014.

When asked if he is concerned about not continuing the University’s record streak of 100,000 at every game this season, he responded “No.” Then, he is quoted as saying “That’s why we’re marketing tickets.” That is double-speak and the audience can see right through it.

He told Wojnowski he think’s “flat-screen TVs” are the biggest competition for ticket sales in college sports. Again, customers are smarter than that. They know it’s about overall value. For memorable moments (winning programs playing rivals and quality opponents), fans still value the in-person experience. Customers know that flat-screens also exist in states where there’s still a waiting list for season tickets. Brandon went onto say that ticket sales are down “just about everywhere.” Customers know, from reading recent news reports, that isn’t the case at Michigan’s peer schools, namely Ohio State, Michigan State, Penn State and Wisconsin.

But perhaps the biggest PR error Brandon made in this interview was saying “I don’t pay attention to the social media stuff.” This comes from a CEO with more than 39,000 followers on Twitter. Does this mean, for him, it’s a one-way platform? If so, that will not meet the expectations for an employee of a public institution. While there are likely fans who post inappropriate comments to him, part of his job, in this day and age, is to differentiate between the trolls and the customers who provide thoughtful and informed opinion. That’s part of the new PR reality.

In a place like Michigan, college sports matter. That means in a job like Brandon’s, PR matters. Respect for and understanding of all audiences remains essential for wins on the field of public opinion.

Listen To Your PR Counsel When They Tell You That You Don’t Have News

July 22nd, 2014 by Matt Friedman

UnknownThe client didn’t just think she might have a news story, she insisted that she had one. She was wrong.

In the first meeting, I offered simple counsel that while her event was a terrific private fundraiser for her charity, it just wasn’t news. When she brought it up in a second meeting, I let her know that when I was a news producer, I would have never assigned a TV crew to cover this event and, in all of my years in PR, I have never asked for or received coverage of an event like this. When I was out of town, she asked one of my colleagues to invite TV stations to her event. When my colleague counseled otherwise, the client told her to “shut up.” That was the beginning of the end of the relationship.

There is no reason for us to counsel a client advising that what they think is news just isn’t news other than the best interest of the client. We get paid for our time, so it certainly could not logically be argued that we somehow profit from not pitching a story idea to media, which takes less time than pitching would. It could not be argued that we’re passive if we recommend an idea not be pitched, when we are working in the midst of an proactive communications plan that we developed.

If we’re hired to help an organization build its reputation with audiences, we would harm its reputation with journalists if we agree to pitch something that we know would immediately result in a “no.” That puts at risk future potential coverage when the organization has some real news or perspective on news to share.

We understand that some firms simply tell clients what they want to hear. We also know that some firms pitch to media everything clients want, throwing it up on the wall to see what sticks. If you want a firm that does those things, hire one, even though it won’t mean long-term success. Otherwise, listen to your counsel when they say “that’s not a news story.” The only incentive for providing that advice is helping you.

Linkin Park’s “Hunting Party” Hits the Brand Bullseye

July 16th, 2014 by Don Tanner

Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 10.42.38 PMBack to basics.  It’s a term with many meanings but in the context of initial successes vs. subsequent lackluster results it is a concept worthy of examination. Case in point: The band Linkin Park. In 1996, the group released their debut album, Hybrid Theory to rave reviews, Diamond sales and international fame. Their formula? A unique hybrid of hard melodic rock, metal and rap.  And, while their follow-ups, including Meteora (2003) and Minutes to Midnight (2007) were well-received, the music had lost its initial edge – a seeming compromise for greater accessibility and airplay.  After the concept LP, A Thousand Suns (2010 – which I loved but most panned), 2012′s Living Things was a disaster and barely listenable. Fans were left shaking their collective heads – again.

Thankfully, with the just-released The Hunting Party, it is, you guessed it: back to basic roots for the prolific band and an obvious attempt to win back a legion of fans once gained but since lost.  The “edge” has returned on what should have been Hybrid’s follow-up.  If you have followed the group through the years, it is evident that the new record is a re-embracing of an original brand and identity that had moved right of center.

Equally interesting to look at is the rock band Red.  End of Silence (2006), Innocence & Instinct (2009) and Until We Have Faces (2011) all masterfully crafted a sound similar to Linkin Park albeit with greater consistency.  With 2013′s Release the Panic, however, Red largely removed its trademark strings and orchestrations, much to the vocal dismay of their followers. And Red listened. Several months later, the group did the virtually unprecedented: they unveiled, Release the Panic: Re-Calibrated, with several cuts from its sister record remixed to include the heretofore non-existent orchestral elements.  Give the people what they want. Seems like a no brainer, doesn’t it?

So, why does a band or a company or any entity lose its way and move away from the tried and true? In music, it is often either a lack of creativity (can you say one-hit wonder?), or a desire to be more creative (eschewing the formulaic).  For anyone, not being true to your brand is the result of losing sight of or ignoring who your audience is and what they love about you.  Evolving to remain relevant is one thing.  Being ‘too hip for the room’ is something else altogether. Remember, ultimately, it’s not about you.

 

 

 

 

 

Do Your Facebook Posts Generate Interest or Resentment?

June 29th, 2014 by Don Tanner

UnknownSocial media is often defined as, “People having 2-way conversations online.” Yet, more and more it would appear, platforms such as Facebook are being utilized for autonomous communiqués – to the disappointment, even resentment, of other users, friends and followers.  A longtime friend of mine recently posted of being tired of incessantly positive posts portraying perpetually ‘sunny skies’ and eternally wonderful lives.  A recent academic report shows she is not alone.

Earlier this year, Reuters reported on a study by two German universities that found that, “Witnessing friend’s vacations, love lives and work successes on Facebook can cause envy and trigger feelings of misery and loneliness.” The findings noted rampant envy on Facebook, which at over one billion users is the world’s largest social medium and produces an unprecedented platform for social comparison.

The researchers, from Humboldt University and Darmstadt’s Technical University, found one in three individuals felt worse and more dissatisfied with their lives after visiting the Facebook with vacation photos the biggest trigger of resentment.  Social interaction was the second most common cause of envy including how many birthday greetings they received or how many ‘likes’ were garnered for posts of all types – a dynamic no doubt exacerbated by the fact that, post IPO, Facebook no longer sends out all posts to all friends.

So why do we post what we post? Well, social media obviously means different things for different people. For some, it is an online life scrapbook.  For others, it is a means by which to communicate business and personal trials and triumphs to friends and family on a widespread basis. What should we be posting?  That is perhaps the toughest question of all as it depends on the desired end result.  If you are posting for yourself, post whatever you want.  However, if you want your thoughts and news to be noticed and appreciated by others, what you post should provide some type of value.  “TGIF” and “Oh no, it’s another Monday” are the antithesis of this. Best rule of thumb: Be positive but, more importantly, be genuine and yourself.

 

 

What Changed At ABC News? Nothing.

June 25th, 2014 by Matt Friedman

imagesIt used to be a change of anchors for a network news broadcast would have adults buzzing nationwide. This anchor change, though, probably wasn’t even the biggest TV story of the day. The U.S. Supreme Court’s Aereo decision trumped the announcement that David Muir would succeed Diane Sawyer as the anchor of ABC’s World News Tonight.

This move is being viewed as a “change” but that is the case only on the surface. Unless ABC executives are saving part of their announcement, it’s just more of the “same old, same old” for network news.

The way consumers get information has changed dramatically in the past 20 years. But take a look at the network evening newscast. It’s pretty much the same. Starting in the Fall, three white men will sit behind anchor desks in New York and present a newscast that looks very much like 1994 television. They are all managing editors of the newscasts, following a tradition when anchors were selected by journalistic chops as much or more than presentation ability, meaning they are given editorial control. And perhaps most significantly, the newscasts will air, in most markets, at 6:30 p.m., the same time selected for Cronkite, Reasoner and Huntley/Brinkley, generations ago.

Seven years ago, I wrote this about the opportunity CBS had in front of it when it made changes to its Evening News. CBS squandered that opportunity. ABC apparently will too. Here are some thoughts on what ABC could be doing to truly change its evening news:

-Keep it apolitical – The network evening news could be a bastion of impartiality and credibility sorely lacking on national TV. With George Stephanopolous, a former political strategist, spokesperson and analyst, getting an increased role, ABC has put their potentially best point of difference at risk.

-Use the medium – With HDTV, television has great storytelling capacity. As a counter to the talking heads of cable, network news is a place to “show and tell” the biggest stories with video, sound and reality. Too often, though, viewers see the anchor and the set. Instead, show the stories that TV does best, taking the audience where it couldn’t go otherwise plus stories that haven’t yet appeared on other platforms.

-Use new media – All elements of the network broadcast should be easily found online immediately after the broadcast. Fans of “straight news” could get the show rundown texted to them to insure they don’t miss stories of interest. Where is evidence of any of that thinking?

-Change the time – At least one network needs to be bold and get closer to or in Prime Time with news. Take a look at the roads near where you live at 6:30 p.m. Packed? Those are missed opportunities for network news.

The networks have invested in change for their morning broadcasts. Unfortunately for fans of news, those changes have meant more celebrities, more crime stories and more anchors learning to cook. But the evening is ripe for change and a new 40 year-old anchorman isn’t enough to make a dent.