Archive for the ‘media’ Category

Don’t Let Emotion Guide Your Crisis Media Analysis

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

emotionsWorking as an outside voice on a client project that’s filled with emotion can be one of the biggest challenges in PR. You are brought in to operate above the fray and provide counsel that takes the emotion of the situation into account, but not be driven by it.

Recently, one of these crises was covered by a community news outlet. The president of the client organization asked me to review the comprehensive story that chronicled the latest on the emotionally-charged controversy. I read the lengthy piece and advised that while the story contained a little sloppy writing, it was overall very fair, included points of view from both sides and carried a headline closely aligned with the message the client wants to communicate. There were several points of view from the “other side” that the client wouldn’t like to see in print, but the news organization was just doing its job.

The president responded that “It is not fair.The article…simply gives (the other side) a forum.” I explained that giving both sides in a controversy is, journalistically, the definition of a fair piece. After a little back and forth, the discussion ended, but I realized just how common these conversations are in our business.

Clients need to remember that there’s no reason for us to want anything other than fair coverage, at the very least, for them. During coverage of a controversy, the story is factually correct, if opposing viewpoints are all attributed to the opposition, if your point of view is included and your messages are getting out and if a reporter is respectful of your position, then you have all the ingredients fair story. It’s our job to help you see it that way.

Too often, emotion clouds decision-making during difficult situations. Emotion can also cloud analysis. That’s why it’s important to have an experienced professional provide the perspective to understand how the public really sees your news coverage.

Now You See Him, Now You Hear Him Too

Sunday, August 24th, 2014

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

Sunday, August 10th, 2014

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

Sunday, August 10th, 2014

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.

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

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

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.

Do Your Facebook Posts Generate Interest or Resentment?

Sunday, June 29th, 2014

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.

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

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.

The Most Overused Word In PR

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

excited-fifties-womanSometimes, I feel sorry for journalists who have to wade through the PR garbage that infests their inboxes. In PR, we could really make it easy for them by cutting the cliches. Here’s a place to start.

Based on what I see, the most overused word in PR is, in its various forms, “exciting.” Companies are excited to announce something. The announcement is exciting. How exciting? The lead quote from the CEO talks about how excited the company is to be making the announcement.

Please, fellow PR types, let’s contain our excitement for exciting. Do we really expect journalists to fall for this? How about just letting them know what the news is? If you’re announcing something new, explain what it is, how it’s new and why the company thinks it’s important. Use the press release or the pitch as an opportunity to explain what’s in it for the journalist and the audience, not as a way to make your client feel good about its purported story.

I can tell you first hand, that I have edited “excited” and “exciting” out of many press releases and never has that hurt the chances of an announcement becoming news. In fact, it helps if you take out those words and replace them with language that actually explains newsworthiness, surrounded by facts. We really can all do better.

As for executive quotes, if you make them quotable (like quotes you actually see in news stories), they might actually get used in stories by journalists who are busier than ever. But if you just write “We’re excited to announce…” or “This is an exciting day for us because…” the quote will never make it into a bona fide news outlet.

The next time you think about using those words, think about true excitement. As a sports fan, a play like the end of the 2013 Auburn-Alabama football game comes to mind. That was exciting and, emotionally, it couldn’t be further away from the announcement of a new 500 square feet of office space.

You Don’t Schmooze, You Lose

Sunday, June 1st, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-06-01 at 4.17.04 PMIt’s described by some as a “schmooze fest” but, in reality, the Detroit Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference is so much more – an annual rite of May that brings the state’s best and brightest together for discussion, contemplation and tangible action.

Between Matt and myself, we have collectively attended something in the neighborhood of thirty “Mackinacs”; this year as in the past three years, representing the Chamber in event planning and execution, in particular with regard to working with scores of media that cover the conference from across the state and the country. We worked closely with Chamber communications and marketing pros Jim Martinez and Megan Spanitz in the months and weeks leading up to the event through this past Friday’s conclusion.

2014 on the island also marked the monumental announcement, via a press conference that we helped engineer, of the White House awarding a portion of $1.2 billion in federal funding to Advance Michigan’s Investing in Manufacturing Communities Program (IMCP).  This represented the hard work of leaders from the state, including the Governor and MEDC, and those of 13 collaborating counties. The event, held on the porch of the Grand Hotel, featured Bryce Kelley of Wayne County EDGE, Wayne County Executive Bob Ficano, Congressman John Dingell, Senator Debbie Stabenow and others and will be a game changer in the promotion and support of the auto and manufacturing industries in our state. Tanner Friedman client WIN (Workforce Intelligence Network) spearheaded the initiative led by Lisa Katz, WIN Executive Director.

And, what would the Mackinac Conference be without a meaningful collaboration between GalaxE.Solutions and Goodwill Industries of Detroit? In recent years, our two clients have joined forces to promote and celebrate living and working in the city through the “Outsource Detroit” and “Love, Detroit!” campaigns. This year, camouflage  t-shirts sporting the “Operation Good Jobs” project raised awareness of the need for vital funding for Goodwill programs to help military veterans and their families. Watch the video debuted at the event here.

Mackinac is about clinking wine glasses and slapping backs but that’s a small part of the proceedings.  Dig a little deeper and you’ll see the all-important building of relationships, collaboration and, quite often, consensus around solutions to key issues and challenges affecting our state.  It may take a long time to get there but things do get done.  And when that happens, you’ve really arrived.

(Don’t) Like a Broken Record Player

Sunday, May 4th, 2014

6d82a57b6268a57a4b46d6ece3ea7f3dToday, I am in the market for a new turntable.  And depending on how important music is to you, it may well have been awhile since you heard someone say that. Last weekend, the record player on my Detrola entertainment system, stopped working, much to the dismay of my euchre-playing friends. While typically used for its radio, the wood-laden piece can also play vinyl at 45, 33 1/3 and even 78 rpm. I miss it already.

I grew up with records.  And as I recount in by book “No Static at All,” there was nothing quite like the experience of jumping on the Purple bus line of the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District and heading to Campustown and Record Service to purchase a new album.  The very name, album, was quite apropos as, from cover art to interior band photos and typically extensive liner notes and lyrics, it was, quite literally, a visual and informational experience – a time capsule glimpse into the inspiration and impetus for who and what made this grouping of songs happen.  The record inside this coffee table book-sized casing, moreover, was also aptly named; it was as much a recording of sound as it was an historical record of what had occurred leading up to and inside of the studio.

The album-buying and listening experience is one I’ve started to gravitate back toward and I know I’m not alone.  My controller’s son, in fact, a 19-year old college student, is in the process of purchasing the Beatles catalogue on vinyl.  He gets it. Leafing through the record bins, for example those at UHF Music in Royal Oak or Found Sound in Ferndale, for long lost gems is once again a favorite albeit too-seldom indulged enjoyment.  Yet, I’m determined to replace at least a small fraction of my at one time several thousand record collection, at some point or another given away in favor of CDs and MP3s.

LPs by their very “unportability” also offer a unique aural experience. Where today we listen to music most often on the run, the album listening experience was ideal for comfortable chair and headphones, focused entirely on the music and where it could take us.  This was also why audio quality was so much important then. Modern technology has made the music more accessible, yet, this same technology, with its compression limitations, has made the music less listenable.

It is why Hall of Fame artist Neil Young has unveiled PonoMusic, a player and service, which promises “lossless” audio files and “ultra-high resolution” aimed at bringing higher quality music back to the masses. Pono promises 192 kHz and 24-bit sound, as opposed to 44.1 Khz and up to 4 bit sound typically offered by traditional MP3s.  The higher the bit rate, the closer to the recreation of the quality of the original recording.

Pono (which translates in “righteous” in Young’s beloved Hawaiian), could be the audio answer for the car and iPhone but I will continue my quest for the appropriate big disk player and a different kind of music enjoyment. History can repeat itself.  Sometimes that’s a good thing.