Archive for January, 2008

A New “Multi-Platform” Media Example

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

Tanner Friedman is in the Detroit News today, talking about a move by a veteran local media executive. This story is an example of how communicating across multiple platforms, a bedrock of our strategy with clients, is becoming so crucial.

The subject of the article, Rich Homberg, made his mark at Detroit’s WWJ radio by making it more than just a radio station. WWJ produced daily e-newsletters, streamed its signal on-line, created unique on-line content and had a visible presence in the community. Now, he will try to grow that approach at Detroit’s Public TV station, which also operates a Web site, a classical/jazz radio station and a music label.

“Multi-Platform” is a key phrase for us here. And now we see more evidence that the media themselves are embracing it as well.

Actions Louder Than Words in Creating Workplace Environment

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

Fortune Magazine recently unveiled its annual list of top companies to work for. What type of work environment do you seek to foster for your organization? If you took a poll of employers, most would say: one that promotes communication, creativity and teamwork; a workplace with opportunities for employees to play a tangible role in moving the organization forward. A place where views and opinions are respected, considered and acted upon.

So what dynamics are at play when, in reality, an organization takes almost the opposite approach—micromanaging employees and work product, squashing creativity and limiting both internal and external communication? A place where professionals are not treated as such but, instead, are electronically spied on by management, questioned as to who they go to lunch with and publicly attacked in hallways.

In a word: fear.

Organizations unwilling to listen, learn, adapt, respect or communicate are run (and running) scared—that clients will leave; that employees are trying to “pull one over” on them or somehow take advantage; that they will lose control. Ironically, when management berates employees publicly and operates unethically and unprofessionally in general, they have already lost control. Clients, employees and reputations are lost from there.

Time for Kilpatrick to Come Forward, Apologize

Monday, January 28th, 2008

Crisis Communications 101: In times of adversity, the top person of an organization should be front and center—available and accessible to publicly demonstrate and reassure that the problem is being handled. It is what we counsel and prepare our clients to do at Tanner Friedman and what I discussed today with Bill Gallagher and Fox-2 News.

Certainly no one can fault the mayor for choosing, first and foremost, to spend time with his family as privately as possible. With three young school age boys, perhaps leaving town for their Florida vacation home was a wise move from that standpoint. Now, however, nearly a week since the text and sex scandal broke, it is time for Kilpatrick to reappear and say something to his constituents.

Even when legalities are involved, one can always say something. In this case, Kilpatrick needs to publicly apologize—to the city, his employees and his family—and then reassure that he remains committed to running the City of Detroit. How and where should he do this? Having already issued a written statement, the mayor needs to show face and speak—perhaps in a controlled setting, such as via a video message or live TV satellite feed. A public press conference would only be a circus, and, his lawyers will only allow him to say so much.

Time can heal and people will forgive. In this case, time is running out on future forgiveness.

Kilpatrick Scandal: Too Much, Too Little, Too Late

Friday, January 25th, 2008

This week’s events surrounding Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick recall both the fallout surrounding the recent release of baseball’s “Mitchell Report” and an old episode of the television program: “To Tell The Truth.” In this case, however, the stakes are much higher.

As we counsel our clients at Tanner Friedman: Don’t lie; particularly not in a forum as high-profile and official as a court of law. Kilpatrick was quick to issue a statement showing contrition for his personal indiscretions but it was too little and far too late. Thinking about admitting wrong-doing? Do so before lying about it under oath.

If there are any positives to be found in this embarrassing and expensive mess, it is this: For once, the mayor appears to actually be taking responsibility for his personal indiscretions. Next comes the hard part—ramifications from his public, legal misdeeds.

Students Teach Radio A Lesson

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

Full disclosure: I spent four amazing years learning more about radio, business and teamwork than I could ever imagine at WJPZ-FM, the student-run station at Syracuse University. The station’s reach extends far beyond campus, into the Central New York community, and has been a Contemporary Hit Radio fixture on FM since 1986.

OK, now that I have that out of the way, the students at WJPZ pulled something off that has the whole town talking and should be a lesson to all of radio.

The station is changing its imaging “positioner” to “The Beat of Syracuse” and to call attention to the marketing change, played a Michael Jackson song over and over again for 24 straight hours. According to a story in the campus newspaper, The Daily Orange, that prompted dozens of calls, text messages and even a 911 call to police. In other words, it created great buzz. Next up, the station plans to play the sound of a heartbeat for 24 hours. More reaction to come.

Professional broadcasters should take notice. A little creativity and personality goes a long way toward reminding listeners that radio can still be relevant. Just “playing the hits” can’t do it anymore.

A Kindler Gentler American Idol?

Sunday, January 20th, 2008

When you’re king of the mountain for six years running, everyone is gunning for you. Last year, amid criticism regarding “mean-ness” by the show’s judges, and, lesser overall talent, ratings lagged for the first time. Prior to the debut, last Tuesday, of “American Idol’s” seventh season, many were referring to the long-running show as “Fallen Idol.”

After viewing the premiere, it is clear that the show continues to retain its magic, as the New York Post noted, albeit with something more—heart. Shortly after Philadelphian Tamara Brown walked onto the stage to audition, it was soon evident that the nervous 16-year old resembled Aretha Franklin in looks but not voice. Yet, rather than smirks and rolled eyes by Paula and Randy or barbs by Simon, words of support were provided as tears rolled down the youngster’s face. A group hug was next, followed by all three judges walking the rejected contestant back to her waiting family.

And, while the show’s 13.8 rating totally blew away the competition with 33 million viewers, what was most significant was the humanizing of its stars. They acted in unison, as a family, to do the right thing. In that way, for perhaps the first time, we were able to actually associate with them. These are attributes of successful, long-running TV shows. For “American Idol,” it was the missing ingredient that, if continued, could re-energize the franchise for years to come.

Media Secret Revealed

Sunday, January 20th, 2008

A newsroom secret is out.

The Associated Press has an obituary ready for Britney Spears. Unusual? For a 26 year-old star, maybe. For a celebrity? Not at all. This is common practice, one that may surprise the average news consumer.

When I started as a news producer at Detroit’s WDIV-TV, I learned on my first day that the station had an obituary prepared for Rosa Parks and former Detroit Mayor Coleman Young. In fact, soon after I started, the station had a half-hour’s worth of programming prepared for the first minutes after word of Young’s death broke.

If there’s one form of celebrity news that creates “buzz” among viewers, listeners, readers and web users, it’s a celebrity death. News outlets don’t want to get “beat” on any story, so they still commit their shrinking resources to this type of preparation.

Change on the Campaign Trail

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

As I write, Mitt Romney is being declared the winner of the Michigan Primary. Just yesterday, I was in the room when the former Massachusetts Governor delivered the most important speech of his campaign so far.

Romney addressed the Detroit Economic Club, our client. We manage media relations for the Club’s meetings. Yesterday, the room was packed with 600 attendees who wanted to hear from the candidate first-hand. They were joined by dozens of media, covering the speech in 2008 style.

It was my job yesterday to work with the “traveling press” – the journalists from national outlets who accompany Romney for each campaign stop and travel via charter bus. Yesterday alone, they were with him in a high school in Grand Blanc, the Economic Club, the North American International Auto Show and a dinner in West Bloomfield.

What struck me most was the role that technology is playing in campaign news coverage. It’s a far cry from the days when I covered the Bill Clinton and Jerry Brown campaigns as they made their ways through Upstate New York in 1992.

The first place the traveling press corps headed when they entered the ballroom was to their laptops. Both print and radio reporters filed stories immediately after the speech, online, directly from the ballroom. If you were at your computer yesterday afternoon, you could have read about the speech (including reaction from audience members) soon after it ended – no “press room” necessary. Most of the journalists didn’t even need phone lines or Internet connections – they did it all with cell phones and wireless broadband via cell networks.

The real winner? The voters. Any voter who says they don’t know enough about the candidates by Election Day needs to get online… often. Political journalists are filing detailed stories online throughout the day, every day, until November.

Steers and Jeers for Chrysler at NAIAS

Sunday, January 13th, 2008

You have to give Chrysler credit. Their latest NAIAS stunt was the talk of the show today, even though a couple of amorous longhorns arguably garnered as much attention as the new Ram pickup they helped unveil.

While many smiled and, I have read, some journalists whistled at the actions of the confused heifers, as an animal lover, it bothered me to see 120 steer stopped and tightly grouped for 45 minutes; 10 would have been much more humane. I watched it all unfold live from client Automotive X Prize’s display at the Show.

Any time you work with animals (and I have for a national vehicle launch during Meadowbrook Concours d’ Elegance where we utilized galloping horses), things can be unpredictable. I am still amazed that Chrysler would even consider an outdoor stunt of this magnitude when Januarys in Detroit are typically filled with icy streets and sub-zero temperatures. Instead, the weather cooperated and the Ram scored a ton of publicity.

You might say Chrysler “Dodged” the proverbial bullet.

Hillary’s Cry: Wouldn’t Advise It

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

A couple of clients asked me today what I thought, from a PR not a political perspective, about Hillary Clinton tearing up during a campaign stop last night.

The short answer – I wouldn’t have advised it and wouldn’t have felt good about it if she had been my client.

At this point in the campaign, candidates are being judged on how “Presidential” they appear. I think Americans want their President moved to tears, say, after a terrorist attack – not when they are falling behind in the polls.