Archive for the ‘Don Tanner’ Category

Bullies Never Garner Loyalty

Wednesday, July 26th, 2017

0301Every day, our firm generates, reviews and strategizes on developing and implementing effective communications initiatives. And while those communiqués can take many forms and be delivered through a range of platforms, the end goal is typically the same: Compel audiences to act in a way that positively affects business objectives. Call it relationship building. Call it generating brand loyalty. Call it gaining consensus. But never call it bullying.

Donald Trump wants loyalty from his “team” yet doesn’t seem to even vaguely understand the old adage of: “There is no “I” in “Team.” Instead, he continues to use social media as his cyber-bullying medium of choice. Yesterday, the Director of the FBI, today his Attorney General, tomorrow, who knows. Perhaps most maddening and misdirected was his irrational dialogue this week in front of the Boy Scouts; an impressionable youth in need of mentoring, not hate mongering. As many in Washington have been saying in recent days, Jeff Sessions swore an oath of loyalty to the Constitution, not to the whims of Donald Trump.

Adding more insult to injury, Trump today made the decision – to the shock of a Congressional oversight committee who was studying the matter – to ban transgender individuals from entering the military. Most discovered his decision via Twitter. A bully singles out certain individuals and then carries out words and actions designed to dehumanize them and “keep them down.” The similarities in his modus operandi here and elsewhere are striking.

And so it is both sad and inspiring that the individual with the presence and sense of mind to communicate this week what our country needs from its leaders came from a man returning from surgery and suffering from a serious form of brain cancer: Senator John McCain. He spoke emotionally about the need for his fellow elected officials to put differences aside and work to find common ground and areas for compromise. To get things done while acting in the best interests of the American people. This message was one of unity and selflessness.

We follow leaders who inspire. Who build bridges. Who think before they act and speak. Those who say and do what is right for all of us (or at least the majority of us). Those are the leaders who gain our admiration, our backing, our loyalty. That is earned. And that is what, unfortunately, a bully will never learn.

Trump’s “Truth” and Consequences

Sunday, July 16th, 2017

Screen Shot 2017-07-16 at 6.36.47 PMIn recent days I’ve been watching, listening and reading about the latest trials and travails regarding Russia and the Trump administration; simultaneously biting my tongue on commenting and chomping at the bit to weigh in. So without bringing politics into it (if that is at all possible, really), let’s take a look at what has happened from a crisis communications standpoint. I’ll refrain from calling it “adversity management” as no adversity has been at all managed to date.

For context and precedent I would highly suggest picking up a copy of American University political historian Alan Lichtman’s new book, “The Case for Impeachment.” In it, Lichtman reviews past impeachment hearings and proceedings (Andrew Johnson; Richard Nixon; Bill Clinton) while examining scenarios where Donald Trump might face impeachment during his presidency. The work is fascinating in that it shines a spotlight on how Trump has run his business endeavors over the years and why, despite thousands of lawsuits and lies, he has come off relatively unscathed. Today, not so much.

Donald Trump, Lichtman describes, is an egotistical, narcissistic bully who will go to no end to put his own interests above those of anyone else, bend if not make up the truth and throw others under the bus in his wake. And, he has had the money and power to threaten careers and, when forced, to pay off or buyout those he wants silenced. As for the truth, it is forever a moving target.

Many argue it takes a businessman to run the business of the federal government. The problem is, it is not a private business. There are rules and regulations and potential conflicts of interest – scores of which (the world over) Trump has not recused himself from. Rather, in the Oval Office today, it is all smoke and mirrors. Son-in-law Jared Kushner has now modified his security clearance forms three times for failing to disclose meetings with Russian officials. Donald, Jr., has also now been caught in a series of lies including at least one meeting with Russians to discuss possible Hillary Clinton dirt.

Where crisis communications is concerned, the only way to manage a potentially damaged reputation is credibility and transparency. Not the “transparency” (as the administration called it) of Junior’s putting out emails once uncovered and about to be printed by the New York Times. Instead, Trump continues to operate under the misguided assumption that if you say the same things over and over, they will be believed. The CIA was incorrect about Russian interference in our election process. James Comey wrongly handled the Russian investigation and needed to go. This is all ‘fake news.’ Donald Jr.’s actions were ‘transparent.’ This is a ‘witch hunt.’ And on it goes.

Lying, “forgetting” and political naiveté just don’t cut it anymore. Rather, they have destroyed any and all credibility for Donald Trump. Such an M.O. might work in business (and has for him for decades) but it will not work here. Not when you are elected to represent the people. Not when a planet and billions of people are at stake. Rather, nothing short of the truth will do – and, unfortunately, Donald Trump knows all too well that the truth would hurt. To be sure, to finally do so would surely be his undoing.

What, Me Worry? Radio Remains Relevant, Reach Strong.

Tuesday, July 4th, 2017

imagesWhen examining mediums to tout and those to pan, digital continues to be held up as the golden child, while radio seems forever (for lack of a better term) the step-child – seemingly on the verge of inconsequential and the brink of demise. And while turmoil regularly and publicly embroils radio giants iHeart and Cumulus, what does the research say on the industry overall? What do the numbers show? In recent days, Nielsen’s quarterly “State of the Media: Audio Today” was released and featured prominently in Tom Taylor’s “Now” report. The findings may surprise you. Certainly they are enlightening.

Comparing radio to other mediums, Audio Today shows radio “reaching more Americans each week than any other platform.” That reach for all adults is 93%, with television coming in second at 89%. The smartphone is now at 83% and PC at 50%. “TV-connected devices” reach 44% of all adults weekly, the tablet 37%

A look at the next generation (18-34), of great concern and focus for all mediums (especially radio), shows that radio is still quite strong (and maybe surprising to many) – reaching 92% of all persons in that demographic each and every week. Considering how millennials consume visual content, not as surprising are numbers that show TV reach has fallen to 79% (smartphone reach, by contrast, is 91%).

Nielsen’s deep dive into radio also examined “America’s top formats” for all listeners age 12+ in all markets from Spring 2016. Top 5 rankings showed: #1 Country (13.6%); News-Talk (11.1%) (does not include All-News); Hit Radio (7.9%) and Adult Contemporary (7.8%) tied for third; with Classic Rock (6.0%) and Classic Hits (5.9%) tied after that. A fairly close race overall and no matter how you slice and dice it.

Moreover, as podcasts gain momentum and popularity, Nielsen examined this medium and listener preferences by genre. Here, comedy leads the way with 48% of podcasting users consuming it. Next comes educational at 40% followed by sports (27%); politics (22% and, one would assume, growing); gaming (18%); and tech/sci-fi at 16% each.

Overall, there is no doubt that radio continues to exert tremendous impact and accomplish cross-demographical reach. To be sure, Nielsen’s numbers in the 90+percentiles are far from new but, rather, have remained consistent for years. Someday they will hopefully and finally serve as a wake-up call to its naysayers. Still, savvy radio programmers understand the need to constantly adapt to ever-evolving consumption preferences and technology. That said, the formula for success remains constant: The need for live, local, relevant and interactive. Take a closer look at the radio stations that still subscribe to this approach. They are thriving. They will survive.

Roger Waters Delivers Another Brick In His Legacy

Monday, June 12th, 2017

E72A2147.jpgWith all due respect to the Beatles, if he didn’t invent the concept album he certainly perfected it.  First with Pink Floyd and later as a solo artist, Roger Waters has never been shy about expressing his emotions – if not kicking his audience in the teeth with them.  His latest rock LP released on Friday, “Is This the Life We Really Want?” – his first in nearly a quarter century – is no exception; a non-sugar coated look at the world today and its all too common and disturbing dysfunction.

1973′s “Dark Side of the Moon,” a tale of passing time, greed and mental illness told with jazzy instrumental flourishes and background vocals, is still considered by many as one of the greatest albums of all-time and, certainly, it is among the top selling.  Want barnyard animals to unsubtly communicate your disdain for the political elite? Look no further than 1977′s “Pigs.” Yet, for perhaps the biggest emotional ‘bang for the buck’ there’s 1979′s “The Wall,” a tale of disenchantment and isolation. Buying and playing this album for the first time in high school, I could not believe what I was hearing.  Like an individual coming across a bad accident, I was disturbed but could not look away.

This ability to force us to consider and then consume a sometimes-bitter pill is what Roger Waters is a master at. It is what we have come to expect – even embrace – from his work.  I just downloaded his latest and, through listening previously to samples and reading about some of the lyrics and themes, I am incredible excited to take a full listen and, it appears, from early reviews, with good reason. Stark, beautiful, poetic and humorous, “Is This The Life” is also bleak, angry and unapologetic with topics ranging from drone warfare to terrorism to refugees.  And, consider this line: “Picture a s-house with no f-ing drains. Picture a leader with no f-ing brains.”

When he arrives at the Palace of Auburn Hills later this year, Roger Waters is sure to give quite a show. Always theatric, I’ve read of on-stage visuals at recent shows that have Vladimir Putin holding a baby Donald Trump in his arms. Indeed, where Roger Waters is concerned, the phrase: We don’t need no education simply does not work.  Because, as Waters once again proves, we do need his commentary – be it no holds-barred or delivered with subtlety.  We just need it more often.

 

 

Original Caped Crusader Most Endearing

Sunday, June 11th, 2017

Screen Shot 2017-06-11 at 5.58.45 PM‘Holy Heartbreak, Batman!’ exclaimed the USA Today on Friday as we learned of the death of actor Adam West, 88, of leukemia.  The article’s headline, homage to the trademark remarks of Burt Ward’s Robin on the hit “Batman” TV program of the 1960s in which he costarred with West, was picked up in newspapers and online media outlets from coast-to-coast.  It was a reminder that, while West was revered in later years, the show’s campy approach and by default, its star’s deadpan style would cause a fan backlash that would last decades.

I’ve written before about typecasting and, not since George Reeve’s TV take on Superman in the 1950s had anyone become more locked into a public mindset than Adam West would become with the Caped Crusader.  Airing for the first time in 1966 on ABC the series was a runaway success, marking the first time Batman had ever taken to the airwaves in any broadcast medium (the 1940s had seen Saturday morning movie theater serials produced).  With a catchy theme song, kaleidoscope costumes ideal for the newly minted color TV and twice weekly broadcasts (the second settling a cliff-hangar from the previous show) the program jumped off the screen with camp, humor and POW! BIFF! WHACK! action. I know I was hooked.

Yet, the actual Batman comic books were becoming dark and serious at that time, thanks in no small part to a young new writer, Denny O’Neill and wildly talented artist, Neal Adams, who brought a new reality to the medium that has endured for over 40 years.  The shift brought an end to the comics code and, as the “Batman” TV series ended (after 3 years) and its audience (like me) grew up, the irreverent silliness of the show became passé, even embarrassing to us; and Adam West became relegated to B-lister and “has been” in the eyes of many through the 1970s and 80s.

Now, hindsight can be often be ’20/20′ and, as Joni Mitchell so famously sang in ‘Big Yellow Taxi’: Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.  The main premise, further, of pop culture author Chuck Klosterman most recent book, “But What If We’re Wrong,” is that, more often than not, we as a society don’t recognize an individuals’ talents or significant contributions while they are still living. The same might be said about Adam West, although redemption actually would come much sooner.

Though he never appeared in any of the seven Batman theatrical releases he was considered for the role of Bruce Wayne’s father in the 1989 Tim Burton “Batman” – which exposed most to a Dark Knight many a fan boy had been reading about for more than 20 years. Burton’s masterpiece and follow-up would ignite an insatiable appetite for all things Caped Crusader and West would soon begin lending his voice talents to Batman cartoon features.  Over the next 20 years he would subsequently and gradually make peace with this career and become an admired and appreciated pop icon; this through regular appearances at Comic Cons nationwide and well-received turns on “The Simpsons” and “Fairly Odd Parents,” as well as a recurring animated role on “Family Guy.” A star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame would follow.

Funny thing, nostalgia.  It can come back to grab you by the heart and mind.  Two years ago, DC Comics premiered a “Batman ’66″ comic with characters styled from the 60s TV Show.  And, last year, West participated in the animated adventure “Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders,” a direct to DVD but full-length feature which also showcased the voice work of ‘Robin’ Burt Ward and Julie Newmar (Catwoman). This will now be considered West’s swan song; “Batman” from 1966-1969, a classic. Holy vindication, Batman! It’s just how pop culture – and human nature – works sometimes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dare Mighty Things – With The Right Approach

Monday, June 5th, 2017

Screen Shot 2017-06-05 at 9.38.06 PMAlways interesting and forever eventful, the Detroit Regional Chamber Mackinac Policy Conference always brings something new to the table. This year, my 22nd on the island, I had the good fortune to experience the knowledge and perspectives of our next generation, via the Chamber’s “Emerging Leaders” group – an experience both enlightening and thought provoking. I only wish the ‘EL’ initiative was in place in my more formative years.

Each year, the Chamber selects a number of “young professionals” to attend the conference and be a part of the overall conversation, including attending sessions, networking and being provided with a slew of special programming opportunities. One of those interactions was a sit-down with Tim Smith, Owner and CEO of Skidmore Studio in Detroit including a discussion based around his forthcoming book, “Dare Mighty Things,” that examined such areas as personal and professional brands, personas and potential conflicts between them.

It is always interesting to hear both “sides” of the millennial/baby boomer interaction dynamic and this particular gathering contained no lack of opinions.  One particular individual took the conversation into contiguous areas, including his impassioned thoughts on why millennials should not ask for or earn but, rather, demand both a seat at the decision-making table in business and when seeking access to capital. “They need us,” he implored.

Now, I’ve been at this for a long, long time and I know what it is like to feel as if you don’t have a say or stake in the complicated world of business and commerce. I also know that having a ‘say’ is not demanded but earned- not necessarily over a long period of time but through a demonstrated willingness to collaborate and cooperate. Being a ‘disruptor’ is fine. However, that approach should come with constructive solutions to adjusting or replacing the ‘status quo.’ I hope other young professionals looking to find their way will at least consider this advice: It’s not about tearing down walls but, rather, building bridges.  Take the long view and you’re much more likely to succeed over the long run – and accomplish mighty things.

 

The Pros and Cons of Comic Con

Sunday, May 21st, 2017

Screen Shot 2017-05-21 at 4.36.02 PMIn recent days I was with client “Downtown Dearborn” recounting an initiative we had successfully promoted that saw the Dearborn Symphony and the city’s Green Brain Comics join forces for a pop concert of “comic book” music.  One of the participants in the meeting said she had no idea people still read comics.  With a smile I informed her, ‘you have no idea.”

In reality and after this weekend it appears I had no true idea just how much the comic book industry had grown in recent years. On Saturday I attempted to attend the 2017 Motor City Comic Con at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi only to make a hasty exit upon realizing there was no parking left for miles and there was a line of eager convention goers virtually wrapped around the outside of the building.

It really is no surprise when one considers what the industry is today. Fueled by mega-budget super hero movies, TV shows, merchandise and video games, the industry has never been hotter. The last time I attended a comic convention (I believe some 20 years ago), the lot was half full and I walked right in.  By Sunday I had learned my lesson, purchasing advance tickets online and arriving 30 minutes before doors opened. This time, there was a small line inside the venue, which moved quickly toward securing a wristband and program.

As the industry has grown, so have the comic conventions, including the annual event here in Detroit.  That has meant an even greater caliber of guest celebrities and artists.  Among those I was able to meet for the first time was Neal Adams.  Most likely you have never heard the name, but in the early 1970s he would turn comic book art on its ear – bringing grim reality and emotion to the ink-filled pages like no one had ever done before.  You’ve heard of Stan Lee? As an artist, he couldn’t hold Adams’ pen.  Adams’ turns on Batman and Green Lantern/Green Arrow in fact ensured the ‘funny paper’s were no longer called that as his books began tackling far-ranging social issues – including racism and drug addiction – comics code be damned.

I will always remember fondly and nostalgically evenings where my dad came home from Skelton’s Pharmacy in Champaign, Illinois bearing gifts.  For me, it was a Batman comic. For my younger brother John, typically Richie Rich or Donald Duck.  The story telling joy those books brought then are even better today (if not sometimes a bit too violent) with Neal Adams (at 76) still at the top of his game.  I can tick another item off the bucket list.  Next time, I just need to do a little better job planning ahead and remembering: I’m no longer the only comic book geek in the room.

Black Hole Sun

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

f7db2b2d592dd542e7470e2307a5848060837565Was there anyone that wasn’t shocked and saddened to turn on the radio or TV this morning and learn of the tragic and untimely death of singer Chris Cornell?  After performing last night in Detroit at the Fox Theater with the reformed Soundgarden, early media reports indicate he may have taken his own life.

An artist beloved to many leaving this world much too soon is certainly nothing new; we have experienced this all too often in recent years, from Prince to David Bowie. Yet the prospect of suicide can take any death to a different level. Certainly, the feeling of helplessness and confusion can become even more daunting to process and overcome.

Over the course of his long and successful career, Chris Cornell has been both beloved and reviled.  Coming out of the grunge era, along with Nirvana and Pearl Jam, his was the voice of a flannel-shirted generation. Lightning would strike twice with Audioslave as his powerful, gravelly, despair-tinged voice continued to move and resonate with millions of fans.  As he matured and took to solo work he also took chances – most notably with Timbaland – delving into pop music, much to the dismay of many of his followers.

Providing a degree of comfort this morning were several Detroit radio stations, most notably 89X and WRIF, who eschewed their typical programming of all-talk, jokes and revelry for thoughtful discourse with fans interspersed with Cornell’s music.  Music is personal and emotional. These radio pros did their industry proud.

And so we listen back and remember, including to perhaps Chris Cornell’s most well-know song, “Black Hole Sun,” searching more some kind of meaning, insight or sign in his words: In my eyes, indisposed, in disguises no one knows

 

 

 

Media Made Mothman Mainstream – in 1966

Sunday, April 30th, 2017

MothmanBig Foot. The Loch Ness Monster. The Abominable Snowman. All are a part of folklore and legend yet some believe are entities existing outside the realm of traditional science or nature. Like UFOs, they are typically considered by mainstream society and certainly the media with tongue-in-cheek – at worst hoaxes and at best misunderstood but explainable, naturally occurring phenomenon. And then there is Mothman.

Least known of the so-called ‘cryptids’ of lore yet most seen and covered by media over an extended time period, Mothman has been the subject of numerous theories and speculation for more than 50 years.  Is it a bird, a plane or something more? screamed the headlines in scores of newspapers in and around Point Pleasant, West Virginia in 1966 and, soon, across the country.  The Point Pleasant Register, Herald-Dispatch, Charleston Daily Mail – all covered extensively what would soon become, over a year’s time, hundreds of sightings of an entity the size of a large man yet possessing the wings of a bird and, most prominently and unforgettably, witnesses described, red, mesmerizing eyes.

Last week, I visited the small town of Point Pleasant on my travels. I had previously read about Mothman in the past, most notably after the release, in 2003, of the Richard Gere’s “The Mothman Prophesies,” a movie based largely on the book of the same name by reporter John Keel.  What has always fascinated me is how local media covered the sightings – as legitimate, front-page news – perhaps like no other mainstream press before or since.  This was not a joke; it appeared, but a series of eyewitness accounts over many months that put a community on edge.  Leading the charge for area news was Mary Hyre of the Athens Messenger. A society reporter for the paper, Hyre knew virtually everyone in the 5,000-person community.  As such, when one and then scores of individuals kept seeing the same, unexplainable thing, she vetted them, believed them, and quoted them in print. This was no ‘one and done’ story but one with legs (and wings).

The tale would ultimately culminate with the tragic collapse, in December 1967, of the Silver Bridge, which for years had joined West Virginia and Ohio across the Ohio River.  Nearly 50 people were killed.  UFO sightings, ‘Men in Black’ appearances and a host of other strangeness had also perplexed citizens during this Mothman time period.  After the collapse, the creature was not seen again (or has he? see below).

Since that time, countless books, movies, an annual festival and a Mothman Museum (hosting clips of much of the media coverage I described previously) have all kept the legend alive as questions persist.  Was Mothman an angel? Devil? A harbinger of doom? Were his appearances a warning of the disaster that would soon befall the community? In November 2016, photographs from a man purporting to have seen and photographed Mothman were shown by a local TV station.  The anchor smiled and joked and, no doubt, the story ran at the very end of the newscast.  Google the local papers and you will find no coverage listed online.  Which begs the question: Should we remain skeptical of such phenomenon or retain an open mind? More recent history suggests we gravitate toward the former when perhaps we should lean a bit more to the latter. Certainly times have changed, especially in an era of video hoaxes and photoshopping. Still, who really knows? After all, at one time the world was flat and the sun revolved around the earth.

 

 

What’s The Buzz – Tell Me What’s Happening

Friday, April 21st, 2017

whatsgoingonBill O’Reilly. The Facebook murderer. Media and society.  All were hot topics and the center of conversation last night on Fox-2′s “Let it Rip” with Huel Perkins.  As we helped weigh in as part of a distinguished panel something apparent became even more disturbingly clear: something is wrong in Denmark, on many fronts. And, tying in to the blog’s title (which comes from the 70s musical “Jesus Christ Superstar”) what is going on out there?

In the wake of Fox’s firing of Bill O’Reilly, one of the panelists, an attorney, suggested that the TV giant and his former boss may well have been targets because of their money and fame.  As I posited on-air, if I was being accused of something of this nature and I did not do it, I’d be fighting back tooth-and-nail rather than hiding behind millions of dollars in payouts and “hush money.”  I’d use that money instead to sue these women for defamation.  Instead, denials reign and questions remain as Fox tries to repair a corporate culture and image from the top down.

Of greater concern, of course, is Facebook and its “Live” video component that is growing in popularity and usage among the media giant’s 2 billion users. No other media allows anyone, at any time, to post whatever they want, whenever they want.  TV and radio employ time delays. Print media, of course, has editors.  Now, more than ever Mark Zuckerberg and his team must come up with a solution that more widely, comprehensively and effectively monitors and vets what is posted. Call it “Big Brother.” Call it censorship. I call it making sure the majority of our society is protected from those who are disturbed and looking for a forum to be heard.

And what of society in general? Have we become desensitized to brutal images of gang beat downs and bad behavior and their being posted and displayed on-air and online? Is the media to blame? Cue the sociologists but we all bear responsibility – from home and parents to churches and counselors to video game manufacturers and news outlets. Ultimately, it is about respect for humanity and human life and providing our young people with the mental and intellectual tools, support and guidance they so desperately need and is altogether lacking. Because when we fail our kids, we all suffer the consequences.