Archive for September, 2007

Coach’s Tantrum? A PR Never

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

By now, you have probably seen Oklahoma State Head Football Coach Mike Gundy’s post-game press conference after his team won last Saturday. Instead of answering questions, he unloaded on a columnist in a public tantrum that stretched on for more than three minutes.

Whether you agree with the columnist’s take on the story or not, one thing is for sure, Coach Gundy made a huge mistake. There aren’t many “nevers” in PR, but he broke a few of them:

-Never lose your cool
-Never air your issues with a journalist in public, before discussing it in private
-Never let your actions in dealing with the media become the story.

Respected ABC/ESPN analyst Kirk Herbsteit opined that Coach Gundy’s tirade won respect from his players because the team knows he “has their back.” But for the University, its customers (fans) and the journalists who cover the team – the Coach is a true loser. He lost respect by bringing embarrassment to his school and damaging relationships that are important to his future.

Personal People Meter Aims For Accuracy

Sunday, September 23rd, 2007

In radio, as in T.V., careers live and die by the ratings. Traditionally, Arbitron ratings, which measure who listens to what radio stations when, have been tallied using “diaries”, with individuals filling out, by hand, listening habits from memory.

It has always been an inexact science at best. In my book, “No Static at All—a behind the scenes journey through radio and pop music”, I discuss some of the inherent problems with Arbitron’s long-time approach, including the fact that cash-strapped, younger demos are more likely to find the incentive of a few dollars per diary attractive than would older, busier, more affluent individuals. Moreover, the “human factor” makes overall accuracy challenging.

Enter the Personal People Meter—Arbitron’s recently introduced portable, electronic device that actually recognizes and records, automatically, what radio station you are listening to. That includes stations you are exposed to in a restaurant, retail establishment or doctor’s office. Could it be that true accuracy in measuring radio listenership has finally arrived?

Unveiled in just a couple of major markets thus far, including New York and Houston, the PPM is already finding some interesting things, in particular where station loyalty is concerned: Individuals actually button-push among similar stations more often than they say they do. In Houston, five different stations tied for 1st place in the coveted 25-54 demographic, with four more stations trailing at #2, separated from the top spot by only 0.2 of a rating point.

The PPM could, interestingly enough, prove a boon for “adult” stations, just as diary books were for the “teeny bopper” stations, with older professionals more likely to responsibly operate and utilize the electronic device. We’ll know more when the People Meter wires all Top 10 markets next year.

O.J. Changed Media

Wednesday, September 19th, 2007

So, while apparently taking a depature from his quest for “the real killers,” O.J. Simpson is back as a defendant and back in the media spotlight.

Before you start thinking this is another post decrying the media for its celebrity obsession, not so fast. I was a part of the problem during the OJTV days of 1994 and 1995. While at two different TV stations during that time, a large part of my every day was spent tracking the case and boiling it down to a local news audience that ranged from the riveted to the disgusted.

In thinking back to that time over the past couple of days, I discovered a few simple ways in which the Simpson case changed media.

1) O.J. Killed CNN

CNN “broke format” during the Simpson trial – abandoning its newscasts for live trial coverage. The network’s ratings, prestige and ability to cover daily news never recovered after the verdict, paving the way for Fox News and others to make big dents in CNN’s audience and brand.

2) O.J. Created CSI

DNA evidence? The jury, inconceivably looking back today, didn’t understand it. But the nation was intrigued. And CBS got itself a cash cow prime time franchise.

3) O.J.’s Talking Heads Still Gab

The “legal analyst” became a TV staple before and during the trial. Once the domain of law professors giving soundbites, now virtually every broadcast outlet has one. And the legal “stars” born during the trial – Greta Van Sustern, Cynthia McFadden, Jeffrey Toobin and Jack Ford – just to name a few – went from attorney to analyst to anchor or correspondent. Not bad for people who never went to “J School.” Instead, “O.J. School” was their ticket.

Bad To The Bone

Sunday, September 16th, 2007

The purpose of our Tanner Friedman blog is to showcase, discuss and debate all manner of “strategic communications”, be it in the marketplace or the workplace. Regarding the latter, I’ve written previously about “the golden rule” and the importance, in particular for managers, of setting an example, largely in general terms and themes.

I recently came upon more specific thoughts on this area by author and communications coach, Cyndi Maxey, who has compiled an outstanding list covering: “10 Things That Make a Bad Manager”. In her introduction, she writes that, “Managers are busy people. But no matter how busy they are, they best make time for their people.” According to management research, she goes on to report, 80% of employees who quit their jobs, do so because of terrible bosses.

For her complete list of “don’ts”, which includes: “Embarrassing Employees in Public” and “Being All-Knowing All of the Time”, go to: http://www.cyndimaxey.com/articles/tenbad.htm. She also lists “10 Motivating Musts” for supervisors ready to “get religion”.

Her conclusion on this topc is classic and mirrors what I have communicated to colleagues and written here in the past: “If you manage your employees with consistent use of these ten actions, you’ll eventually find yourself in a very peaceful, quiet workplace. Why? You’ll be alone!”

Remembering, Contemplating What News Could Be, Should Be

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

As I drove to work this morning, I listened to the radio and individuals recounting where they were six years ago on this date when they first heard the news from New York. The stories were very similar, based as they were on early and subsequent media reports. I, with my colleagues, was riveted to the television and radio that day and for many more to come. In dark times such as those, the news media can be at their best; keeping us informed, up to the minute, on new developments and details.

Since that time, though, I have become, in many respects, weary of news coverage that is not essential but, rather, often appears to serve no purpose other than to fill airtime. Many have argued, in fact, that this “news” is actually detrimental. Do we need, for example, detailed reports, complete with pictures, on suicide bombings? Isn’t that what these terrorist organizations want—promotion of their work towards instilling fear via worldwide media platforms?

Today, in particular, I have tried to avert my eyes and ears to Bin Laden’s latest message of hate and lunacy, covered and debated endlessly. Much preferred has been the airing of 9-11 hero and victim tributes and profiles. They are what warrant our attention.

When contemplating such matters, I often think back to my weekends watching football on TV in the 70s. Back then, when an overzealous fan ran onto the field, the networks broadcast every evasive move of this individual until corralled by security. Some years later, the networks instituted a policy of not broadcasting such impromptu “performances” so as not to encourage future imitators.

Perhaps current news decision makers should take note of the long-time, standard practice of their sports brethren. I, for one, don’t need, day-to-day, more images featuring random violence, illegal activity or the ravings of a lunatic. They don’t deserve the airtime—and we deserve better.

Apple: Right Message, Wrong Time

Sunday, September 9th, 2007

By now, you know that Apple cut the price on the I-Phone, less than two months after customers camped out as if Elvis had really been found alive and a one-night-only comeback show’s tickets were on sale.

Companies have to make business decisions, based on sales – we, as PR people, get that. But, in this case, as with so many companies, decision-making was insular and Apple apparently never saw the outcry coming. This issued this statement, and a good one, to customers irked because they paid more, just weeks ago.

But, Apple should have been proactive and put out the statement initially as part of their price cut messaging, not after the Internet buzzed with complaints. We work to encourage our clients to get in front of communicating with their customers. We seek to provide outside perspective to help our clients anticipate public reaction. The companies that can stay in “tune” with their customers, or even a step ahead of them, save themselves from having to write a “mea culpa” like that attributed to Mr. Jobs.

Greatest Hits? Depends on Who’s Listening (or Downloading)

Wednesday, September 5th, 2007

As the summer concert season winds down and after witnessing yet another encore featuring Band X playing its biggest hit while scores of show-goers captured the moment with their cell phones, I was once again struck by the dichotomy of old communication platforms being transformed by new technology.

With music downloading—to iPods and cell phones and laptops—continuing to explode, might the “Greatest Hits” record some day become obsolete? With the flexibility and sortability afforded by MP3 technology, aren’t we already creating our own “Best Of” soundtracks wherever and whenever we feel like it? To be sure, who needs the record company (or even the recording artist) to tell us which of their works we should enjoy most?

Some might say this is nothing new; after all, who didn’t make cassette “mix tapes” back in the 80s in particular? Yet, could you alter the offerings of a certain mix tape on a whim? Certainly, not with the ease and audio resolution that you can today. Further, the internet has made searching out rare and previously unreleased songs and adding them to your musical arsenal akin to producing your own “boxed set” of rarities and B-sides.

Jake Coyle of the Associated Press reports that, according to Nielsen SoundScan, at least half of the top 50 albums at any one time are typically compilations, and, The Eagles “Greatest Hits (1971-1975)” remains this country’s best-selling album ever. Yet, there is no denying that, in today’s buyer’s market, the onus is on the seller to entice us with the likes of lost studio recordings, alternate song takes and other rare gems, not merely repackage what’s already been released—a good thing for us music lovers.

A Year of Katie

Monday, September 3rd, 2007

I blogged enough on Katie Couric in July, so just an entry to call your attention to a story in the Labor Day edition of the Detroit News that offers a synopsis of my perspectives, plus others, as we mark one year of the “new” CBS Evening News.