Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

The CW Continues to Spread its Wings

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 10.20.54 PMWhile ABC, CBS and NBC are, of course, the best known and longest-standing American broadcast television networks, another, the CW Television Network (or ”The CW”), continues to make its mark with a growing cadre of original programming dramas and comedies – the former most notably in the superhero genre.  And its successful arsenal continues to grow.

Not yet familiar with “The CW?” Wikipedia describes the network as “a limited liability joint venture between CBS Corporation, the former owners of the United Paramount Network (UPN) and the Warner Brothers Entertainment division of Time Warner, former majority owner of the WB Television Network.” As such, the “CW” is derived from CBS and Warner Brothers. Yet, it just as easily could be referred to as the “DC” – as in, DC Comics since the launch, three and a half years ago, of a little program that could called, “Arrow.” Thanks to clever writing and a healthy adherence to comic book and fandom lore and continuity, “Arrow,” named after the Green Arrow superhero archer, has become a runaway hit.  Many, in fact, credit the show with putting the network on the map and keeping it there.  And, the CW’s super geography is expanding.

Justice League partner “The Flash” spun off a year ago, while the stage is currently being set for yet another in “Legends of Tomorrow,” which will begin airing late next month and feature villains and heroes alike (including Firestorm and The Atom) spun off from both Flash and Arrow.  In fact, in a two night, 2-part crossover this season, yet another iconic character that will star in ‘Legends’ was introduced in Hawkgirl.  And, in what the producers of both programs excel at, yet another surprise character appeared out of the ether this week in Hawkman- for the first time ever (non-animated) in TV or movies.

Where Marvel has succeeded on the silver screen, DC continues to dominate on the boob tube (and we haven’t event mentioned CBS’s “Supergirl”).  And, thus far, fans and funny paper novices alike are giving these heroes a collective thumbs up.  Hopefully it is a lesson to those who have failed so miserably in recent years with corny send-ups of Green Hornet and Lone Ranger.  In fact, Arrow and Flash have proven that super heroes can be handled with fun as well as reverence by properly understanding, respecting and marketing to the targeted viewing audience; giving them what they want and then some – up, up and away.



Sorry Powerful People, But PR Can’t Save Your Job

Sunday, August 16th, 2015

GAMRAT_0115_DSC4054-681x1024The recent tearful media confession of scandal-plagued Michigan State Representative Cindy Gamrat brings up a question we are often asked. Can a PR campaign save the job of someone in trouble? The answer is, in virtually every case, “no.”

In Gamrat’s case, after being caught in an affair with a fellow moralizing Tea Party Representative, then perhaps involved in the cover-up, a press gathering a full week after dominating the headlines, seemed to be part of a strategy to maintain her power. Her attorneys and advisors pulled out all of the traditional stops. Her husband stood melancholy by her side. She was flanked by men she identified as “veterans” and “supporters,” who could somehow empathize with her plight because of their military service. But, really, is anyone disgusted by her behavior going to say to themselves, “She’s a hypocrite and is at least guilty of bad judgment. But I want her to represent me because she cried on TV?”

Gamrat, and the other 50 percent of the affair, Rep. Todd Courser, if they were truly interested in preserving their reputations and concerned about the rest of their lives rather than their clinging to power, should have resigned at the beginning of the scandal’s reporting. Instead, they are just prolonging the crisis, digging their holes deeper and deeper.

This reminds me of a case we worked on in a recent year. A CEO-type was internally and publicly criticized because of decisions he made and a quagmire caused by people he hired. Problem-solving was a particular challenge because the CEO-type had alienated himself so much within the organization. I was asked by someone within his organization if I would help advise them on crisis management and PR. I agreed to take the assignment under one condition – there was no expectation whatsoever that I would somehow help “save” the CEO’s job through PR. Rather, my work would focus on using every communications opportunity to do the right things to re-build confidence among audiences in the organization itself. A month later, the CEO-type resigned. There had been too much self-inflicted damage for him to recover. But, now, some time later, the organization’s reputation has greatly improved.

This displays a fundamental difference between business and politics. In business, the organization is generally about much more than just one individual. In politics, the entire PR focus is typically on one individual. In neither case, though, can truly bad behavior or truly negative public sentiment be “fixed” through PR alone. Instead, in these cases, PR’s job is to rise above conventional wisdom and operate at a higher level of advice for the long-term good of everyone affected.

Daily Politics Outrage Doesn’t Translate To Business

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015

imagesAnother day, another set of outrage in the 2016 Presidential Election that somehow still has 15 months to go. Whether it’s Donald Trump’s callous comments about John McCain or Trump’s attorney’s insensitive, at best, comments about rape or Mike Huckabee’s Holocaust allusion or Jeb Bush’s comments about Americans needing to work more (or something like that), there has been something to be outraged about virtually every day recently.

First, the outrage starts with social media reaction to campaign trail reporting. Then, as a cheap and easy news, traditional media takes the baton and runs with it. Then, it’s a story until the next controversial comment comes along. Or maybe a big story will temporarily break the cycle, like a new poll or something really big, like an East Coast heat wave.

Sarcasm aside, it’s remarkable how much things have changed since Michigan Governor George Romney sunk his would-be Presidential campaign in August of 1967. In an interview on local Detroit TV, Romney said he was part of a “brainwashing” by military generals before forming his own opinion on Vietnam. Here it is, in context. Apparently, nearly 50 years ago, there was no margin for error, in contrast today, where is seems that “error” is expected and even celebrated by ideologues.

It’s important to remember that the rules of political PR don’t apply to business, and vice versa. When a CEO of a public company makes a comment to cause outrage, the apology had better be perfect or a golden parachute will be put in use very soon. Even if a lowly customer service representative is recorded saying anything offensive, any business will act quickly toward termination. But in the strange world of politics, there is a much different standard. Outrage sells. It drives clicks, ratings and, perhaps, in 2016, votes.

City Leadership Needs to Act with Greater Judgment

Saturday, January 11th, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-01-11 at 4.53.15 PMLest any of us rush to judgment, I will begin by stating that it is hoped that the ongoing investigation by the city of Detroit and Detroit police department will yield a final and definitive report on what happened exactly during a Thursday night traffic stop of new Detroit City Council president pro tem George Cushingberry. That said, why is it that some of our highest profile city leaders continue to demonstrate a lack of judgment?

It was almost prophetic that, earlier in the day, the Detroit News published a piece by Nolan Finley, which expressed trepidation over new city council leadership, “Did Detroit Get Another Crazy Council?” In fact, the editorial called out Cushingberry as, “…a slick political operator who has had his snout in the public trough for nearly 40 years.” And, while the council’s second in charge responded with a public ‘Go to Hell’, Finley appeared literally Nostradamus-like, considering events that would occur mere hours later.

Between Cushingberry, police officials and media reports, some of the exact facts of the incident on 8-mile are murky, yet it appears no one is disputing that officers found an empty rum bottle and marijuana in the council member’s car.  Cushingberry stated the weed was for a medical marijuana patient friend and the bottle had been in the backseat for some time.  Perhaps most controversial is his alleging racial profiling by police led to the stop.

At no time in Detroit’s history has image and behavior – and judgment – been more important, in particular by city leaders. This week’s commentary by the Detroit News, expressing concern that the age old adage of the more things change, the more they stay the same may once again come to pass appears well founded. After all, anyone driving around with an empty liquor bottle and unsecured marijuana is asking for trouble.  Again, I’m not judging, I’m just saying that where our leaders are concerned we deserve men and women with integrity, character – and judgment.  If not, here’s another saying these individuals should consider: Lead or go home.





Kilpatrick To Learn The Hard Way

Sunday, October 6th, 2013

jail-cartoonThis week, the long sorry tale of Kwame Kilpatrick should finally have an ending; and it will be anything but storybook for the disgraced former mayor.  Too easy to take potshots? Everything already been written and said? As an adversity management case study, it is certainly worth another look.

It is almost hard to believe it has been nearly 6 years since Kilpatrick and his wife Carlita took to the airwaves for a televised message of supposed contrition for the texting and perjury scandal. Of course, this was long before Kilpatrick would stand once again before the court for serious federal charges of corruption that could see him behind bars for the next quarter century – or more.  Back then, he largely blamed the media for his woes.

Since that time and through it all, Kilpatrick has remained defiant; doing absolutely nothing to help himself either in the court of public opinion or, more importantly for him, in a court of law. Acting only in a manner consistent with his years in office, his failure to pay restitution coupled with his attempt at hiding a monetary gift served only to extend his time in an orange jump suit.  Legal mis-maneuvering , further, including an attempt to secure time off for a knee injury, have only served to cement his pathetic position in the pantheon of political pariahs.

Early in the federal trial process, Kilpatrick was offered a 15-year plea deal for an admission of guilt.  Since found guilty after refusing that deal, and facing twice that time when he is sentenced on Tuesday, Kilpatrick is now, ironically, asking the court for that same 15-year term. He doesn’t stand a chance. There’s no longer anyone to wheel and deal with. When one so egregiously takes advantage of the public trust, thumbs a nose at the legal system and selfishly refuses to take responsibility for one’s actions, you soon find you are alone and doomed. The past 6 years have taught Kwame Kilpatrick nothing.  Hard time may be just what he needs to truly reflect and, perhaps someday, repent.



The Fundamental PR Mistake That Hurt the Romney Campaign

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

There can’t be just one reason why a presidential candidate loses an election. It’s virtually impossible to come up with a soundbite answer. There’s politics, psychology and factors and even much more complicated. In this case, it seems that ignoring an important PR fundamental, at the least, contributed to the ultimate failure of the Mitt Romney campaign.

This is a crucial fundamental, a bedrock of PR that consistently proves true regardless of changes to communications: If you don’t speak for yourself, others will gladly speak for you. If you don’t tell your own story, others will frame your story for you.

It’s worth noting again that Political PR and Business PR are different. Politics plays by a different manual and rulebook. But, from this vantage point, are a few of the many ways in which the Romney Campaign apparently seemed to allow the Obama Campaign to shape public perception of Mitt Romney:

-Romney as a rich, out of touch elitist:

I was only a couple of hundred feet away from Romney when he cracked about his wife having “a couple of Cadillacs” in the heat of Primary season. He didn’t do himself any favors with that line. But, as I discussed about 100 days before the Election in an interview on Sirius-XM radio, the Campaign’s decision not to release tax returns was one that played right into the hands of the Obama Campaign. The public had just one conclusion – that Romney was hiding a literal embarrassment of riches. That set up an ongoing narrative, often dominating the public discussion, over which the Romney Campaign had no control. The timing for such a controversy could not have been worse, with America still reeling from The Great Recession. Romney should have released the tax returns, explained them, and moved on to explaining why he should be elected President. Other wealthy men have been elected to office before but never was wealth such a barrier. Much of that was self-inflicted.

-Romney said “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt”

Mitt Romney never said “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.” The problem for him is that he never said that he never said it. It was a headline written by a New York Times editor. We work with dozens of op-ed pieces per year with our clients. Our clients never get to write the headlines on any of them. That’s a job for editors. I will never understand why Romney wouldn’t just say that he never said that, never wrote that as it was written for him, and explain his opinion on what should have happened to the auto industry in terms voters could understand. Or, better yet (let’s suspend the reality of politics for a second), give President Obama credit for that “win,” and then talk about all of the ways he believes the President “lost” otherwise.

-Romney as a political chameleon

Ironically, it has been well reported that Romney’s health care laws in Massachusetts served as a model for “Obamacare.” But, as a presidential candidate, Romney promised to “repeal and replace” the federal law. That gave the Obama Campaign a big opening to shape the image of Romney as an unpredictable flip-flopper. This would never happen in the world of politics, but Romney could have explained that his job is to represent his party as its nominee so he’s doing his job by upholding the GOP platform. But since the code of Political PR wouldn’t allow for it, the Campaign’s brand took a hit.

This is a lesson for anyone trying to communicate. Shape your own story. Deliver it over every possible platform. Otherwise, your competition will happily tell your audiences all about you, from their perspective.

Obama Stirs Facebook Masses

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

While the Democratic and Republican National Conventions both wrapped over the past two weeks, the events continue to be scrutinized by pundits, including who and what resonated most, in particular on social media.  CNN Digital Producer Eric Weisbrod took a closer look, in recent days, at Facebook’s “Talk Meter” analysis which assigns a number (1-10) to a person or event’s magnitude.

Taking into account all major news and events of the past two weeks, Barack Obama, registered the highest mark among Facebook’s 160 million U.S. users with a 7.28 rating. He was followed by the Democratic National Convention overall (7.09) and Bill Clinton (7.08). The Republican National Convention overall came next in fourth place with a 6.82, followed by the MTV Video Music Awards (6.67).  Mitt Romney checked in behind the NFL Season Opener, Clint Eastwood, Hurricane Isaac and others in tenth place with a 5.04 rating.

What does all of this mean exactly? Does the fact that more people were posting on Facebook about Barack Obama portend a winning popular vote? Not necessarily. One thing the “Talk Meter” analysis does not measure is “tone”; in other words, is that chatter positive or negative and to what degree. It would suggest, however, that the president and what he represents are found to be more compelling in one way or another, spurring a larger number of the masses to commentary.

What the camps of both candidates are sure to find useful are the geographic breakouts where President Obama’s jump in chatter was found to be highest in Washington, D.C., North Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana and Georgia. Exact content of posts aside, cross-checking this information with polling data could serve as yet another point of reference for determining popularity in particular states. Indeed, it is a noteworthy snapshot of what ‘moves’ the U.S. people with Election Day now less than 60 days away.