Archive for December, 2007

If 2007 is any indication, 2008 should be a very Happy New Year

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

I know I join Matt in saying we could not have asked for a more incredible 2007. When, on January 2nd, we opened the doors of Tanner Friedman, we were both optimistic and enthusiastic. I’d also be lying if I said there was not some trepidation. Today, just a few days short of our one-year anniversary, our optimism and hopes have been realized many times over.

As this year comes to a close, there is much to be thankful for:

• We have been able to create a firm and an environment that provides real value to our clients while fostering creativity, teamwork and a true career path for our colleagues

• We have had the good fortune to reconnect with old colleagues and friends and see many, many of them transition to new and more rewarding career paths

• We have been able to involve ourselves with a wide range of meaningful non-profit, professional and business organizations that allow us to “give back” and make a tangible difference in the community while building new and important relationships

• Our website and blogs continue to gain popularity and thousands of visitors each month

From the very beginning through to today, work is fun again.

At the core of it all, as always, is people. We have been so fortunate, this past year, to once again interact and partner with colleagues, friends, clients and business associates—at all times with honesty, integrity and mutual respect, unencumbered. It had been far too long.

Happy Holidays from Tanner Friedman!

Communications Needs A “Seat at the Table”

Sunday, December 16th, 2007

If any organization – large, small, public, private, for-profit, non-profit – wants to communicate well, that priority must receive consistent attention from and access to the top layer of the organization. That’s what we tell our Tanner Friedman clients every day.

In a powerful Sunday column, Detroit Free Press auto writer Mark Phelan echoes that sentiment and scolds Chrysler on its recent decision to remove its Corporate Communications department from the company’s top ranks, relegating it to a branch of the HR Department.

We couldn’t agree more with that column. Anyone who removes a PR seat from the Boardroom doesn’t understand the value of communications. That is a decision that comes back to haunt organizations with regularity. One thing is assured here – the same executives who want PR reporting to HR will be the same ones complaining about its communications and media coverage in the coming months.

Someday, a new management team will come in and put PR back at “the table.” In the meantime, professional lives and corporate reputations will be damaged along the way, just to satisfy the whim of one executive group.

For small business owners and corporate CEOs alike, remember this – history proves that you can’t accomplish your business objectives without communicating well. Make your communications team a part of your top leadership.

Pettitte Admission A Start in Mitchell Report Aftermath

Sunday, December 16th, 2007

It appears New York Yankees star pitcher Andy Pettitte has borrowed a page from the Jason Giambi playbook and taken some responsibility for his actions, admitting he took human growth hormone (HGH) while recovering from an elbow injury in 2002. In a statement released by his agent, Pettitte apologized for his “error in judgment,” indicating he was “looking to heal” not “looking for an edge” while on the disabled list.

According to the Mitchell Report, Pettitte received 2-4 injections over a 2-day period by Yankee trainer Brian McNamee.

Is this the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? We’ll never know. Pettitte’s DL recovery argument, however, would seem to have legitimacy. His apology and explaination are wise moves as he begins the most difficult rehabilitation of his career.

Admission, Redemption Unlikely in Wake of Mitchell Report

Saturday, December 15th, 2007

Roger Clemens. Andy Pettitte. Miguel Tejada. The players named in Senator George Mitchell’s 400-page report on steroid use in Major League Baseball range from Cy Young Award winners and MVPs to marginals and also-rans. Their common bond? They may be cheaters who now have a cloud of doubt and dishonesty hanging over them.

So what’s next for these individuals? If any are, indeed, guilty of such indiscretions, someone could start by admitting fault and taking responsibility for their actions. I appeared live on WWJ-AM Newsradio 950 this week with Greg Bowman, prior to the report’s release Thursday, to discuss “rehabbing” a reputation.

At Tanner Friedman, we always counsel our clients in crisis communications situations not to lie. Think how many instances of high-profile indiscretions, in time, largely go away when someone (a) admits fault (b) apologizes and shows contrition and (c) takes some sort of corrective action. We are a forgiving society. Even Michael Vick will someday be “reborn.”

In this case, it appears, there will only be denials and smoke and mirrors. Already, the reputations and motivations of the accusers, also named in the Mitchell Report, are being questioned and discredited by players and their agents. Is this lying? Not necessarily. On the other hand, has anyone named in this report stepped forward, looked the fans directly in the eye and said: “I have never, ever taken steroids or performance enhancing drugs, period!”? The players’ silence in this matter, could, in time, mirror their absence from the halls of Cooperstown.

Seeing Is Believing

Sunday, December 9th, 2007

We have written quite a bit in this space about “celebrity journalism.” Here’s something new and it touches on a factor evident in the Michael Vick saga of this past year.

Remember when certain “leaders” immediately came to Vick’s defense, trying to rally support for Vick as a victim? Some of them haven’t totally quieted. That type of blinded support for celebrities in common in our society.

A new report by Cox Television’s Scott MacFarlane now reveals what government agents saw when they raided Vick’s home in rural Virginia, months before the indictment. It is an excellent use of the visual media. It takes the viewer somewhere they wouldn’t be able to go otherwise.

Now that we can see what the agents saw, and Vick sits in a jail cell, can this controversy finally be over?

The Commonality of Employee, Client Retention

Sunday, December 9th, 2007

I am aware of a company that is a veritable revolving door; losing hundreds upon hundreds of employees at a rate of, on average, one per month. Why? In addition to stressful working conditions, this company has never understood or appreciated the importance of staying out in front of its employees in terms of communications, career-pathing and pay. Thus, when an employee inevitably finds a more lucrative and rewarding position, they are gone—even when this company offers to match compensation.

But is this surprising? If an employer is willing to meet a pay increase offered elsewhere, what does this say to its employee? That they don’t want to lose them? More likely, it communicates what the employee already knows: They are underpaid and underappreciated. After all, if they are worth the extra money now, why not before? As I have written previously, employee loyalty is earned, not automatic.

So it goes with customers. The days of signing a new client and then putting it on “auto pilot” have long disappeared. Once again, true value, proactively demonstrated daily and unavailable elsewhere, is essential to retention.

Interestingly enough, that value is best communicated and demonstrated by talented employees through their relationships with clients built on trust and results. Both, as you can see, are inexorably linked. Lose one, and you risk losing the other.

Digital Beatles? Has a Nice Ring to it (but not Ringtone)

Saturday, December 1st, 2007

Sometime in 2008, the band that revolutionized pop music upon their first vinyl release in 1962 will finally offer its music digitally, a move that will open up their classic songs to a whole new generation. Perhaps as exciting for music lovers is the prospective release of a new Beatles song.

In 1994, Yoko Ono presented Paul McCartney with three unfinished John Lennon vocal demo tracks. Two of those were recorded by the remaining band members and released as part of the group’s “Anthology” project, including “Free as a Bird.” A third, “Now and Then,” was never finished. To complete the tune, guitar elements from the late George Harrison will be added to the final work of McCartney and drummer Ringo Starr.

As a lover of music and its history, I am hopeful that both their new song and catalogue will be appreciated by a demographic more attuned to how a snippet of a tune sounds as a cell phone ringtone. After all, Lennon-McCartney’s cynicism-optimism was communicated to their audience via the lyrical dichotomy in many of their songs. Can a ringtone, for example, of Lennon’s verse: “Try to see it my way…” from “We Can Work It Out,” really work without McCartney’s: “Life is very short and there’s no time for fussing and fighting, my friend.”?

I also hope radio and fans embrace “Now and Then.” Though “Free as a Bird” charted, it was not widely played and was criticized by many. Yet, If those critical would listen closely to “Free” and the lyrics McCartney added long after Lennon’s death, they would realize it was/is more than a mere song, it a final celebration of both their philosophical differences and incredible collaborations, communicated subtly but beautifully (see below and at Thankfully, we have “Now” to look forward to.

Free As A Bird,
It’s the next best thing to be
Free as a bird.
Home and dry
Like a homing bird I fly,
As a bird on wing.

Whatever happened to the life that we once knew
Can we really live without each other?
Where did we lose the touch
That seemed to mean so much?
It always made me feel so…free…