Archive for June, 2008

Evolution of a Dream Cruise

Saturday, June 28th, 2008

With less than two months to go before tens of thousands of cars and hundreds of thousands of people take to Woodward Avenue, Tanner Friedman and top strategic partners are continuing to plan, hone, and debut brand new components aimed at building both buzz and brand.

Crain’s Detroit Business this week zeroed in on what is to come with a comprehensive piece that references the “Dream Show”—a soon to be detailed juried car show and competition that is being developed by an all-star automotive advisory group; a first-ever online auction with top cars available on eBay Motors; and inaugural official program and Grand Marshal components that will unveiled in short order.

It was also a week where more was announced on the first-ever official celebration of the Woodward Dream Cruise in Detroit—something I, my colleagues and the WDC, Inc. Board have sought to find the right fit for over the past several years. Here’s the Channel 7 story.

As with any company, product or event, to stand still is to stagnate, to evolve divine.

A Succession of Issues for Traditional Media

Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

To blog or not to blog on vacation? That was my question… until now.

I can’t help it. I’m a news junkie. So, “unplugging” for me means only checking the headlines twice per day, especially when the wireless signal is good in an area where it used to be spotty. One story I saw this evening struck me as symbolic of the state of affairs in the news media today.

Tom Brokaw will be handling NBC’s “Meet the Press” for the time being. This is a microcosm of a situation that stands to plague all traditional media. There is no bench – there are no successors to the established players in the industry, particularly in political coverage.

I’m not suggesting that NBC should have foreseen Tim Russert’s untimely death. However, let’s take a look at the future of political reporting on television, for example. At the local level, corporate owners and consultants have convinced themselves that political news on TV is “boring.” So, other than election horseraces, results and the slip-up soundbite or scandal, they just don’t cover it. At the national level, they don’t cover political news as much as they talk about it – or scream about it – for hours on end. So, who is the heir apparent to the longest-running show in history and the best-known brand in the business? It’s no surprise that there isn’t one. The business hasn’t been grooming one.

Newspaper columns, radio interview shows and even the local anchor chairs in major markets are in the same boats today. In the future, it will ripple through all traditional media – as content changes, staffing cutbacks and lifestyle concerns drive talented people out of the business.

I’m a Tom Brokaw fan – I always have been. I look forward to seeing more of him on TV. But, I wish I could know that the next Tom Brokaw or Tim Russert was “out there” somewhere. The bad news is there is likely no such person.

Footing the Bill v.s. Getting the Boot

Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

Whether from a potential client or someone just starting out in the industry, a common question asked is: ‘How do you bill for your services?’ The simple answer is: We bill for our time, based on an hourly rate. The caveat to that is, this might be hourly, by project, or via retainer, depending on the task at hand.

With regard to the caveat, what it really gets down to, in particular in today’s economy where ROI is king is: what works best for all parties. Tanner Friedman has clients that have continual, day to day marketing and communications needs and, as such, want to retain us, on-going, month to month. At the same time, some clients and their specific projects lend themselves to project and/or hourly arrangements and simply don’t need a monthly retainer.

I am aware of a conversation an individual employed in our industry once had with a client that they sought to keep on retainer when an hourly or project fee would have been more appropriate. ‘If you’re not on retainer,’ they told this client, ‘we may not be so easily available when you do need us and we can’t guarantee the account people you work with won’t be busy with other projects.’ Ludicrous.

One more time, we can’t stress enough the importance of honesty, transparency and taking the long view in this service industry. After all, better to remain flexible and continue to bill rather than get the boot entirely—and permanently.

New Facts Should Mean New Editorial Choices

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

Of all the stories in the news today in the Detroit area, perhaps the most significant seemed to get lost.

Health care employs more people in Michigan than the auto industry.

Because we work so frequently in health care public relations and communications at Tanner Friedman, we saw this trend coming a long time ago. We envision a day when health care is the top employer in the United States. But, the Michigan media is way behind the trend. Health care is under covered at most outlets in the state.

For example, one Detroit daily has just one reporter focusing full-time on health care business reporting. The other has a reporter who spends most, but not all, day cover health care business. The suburban dailies only cover health care when there is a new building built, or something controversial happening at a hospital. The information radio stations don’t cover much health care anymore. And the TV stations? They focus on “breakthroughs,” “cures” and diseases, but not much coverage of the industry that now employs more of their audience than any other.

New media is absent in this area too. There are no known blogs or e-newsletters exclusively covering the subject. This presents a real opportunity for an entrepreneurial journalist as ad dollars in health care are plentiful.

It’s time for news outlets to start thinking differently about their audience. Chances are better than ever, stories about the business of health care are more relevant than ever. That, not the workforce of years gone by, should be dictating news decisions.

Marketers of “The Strangers” No Strangers To Building Buzz

Monday, June 16th, 2008

I have never been a fan of “slasher” movies and approached the Liv Tyler vehicle, “The Strangers” with much trepidation. However, this film, which opened in May and just dropped out of the Top 5 for the first time this week, has been so adeptly marketed that it snagged me, hook, line and sinker.

From the awesome trailer to the brilliant “inspired by true events” approach, the “little film that could” has already made $45 million on its initial $10 million budget. The movie’s marketers have played the “Blair Witch Project” card to the hilt—did what happened in the movie really happen?—from pre-movie publicity through the opening historical narration and copy scroll, complete with dates and names (and all to great effect).

Is it the best movie in the world? Far from it. Is it intriguing, different and out of the ordinary? Yes. Did it drive me to conduct online research into the Keddie Resort massacre and other similar events? Absolutely. It has been awhile since movie marketers did their jobs so well—keeping the public guessing and wanting more; a rare thing indeed in today’s information age.

Relationships – Inside and Out

Sunday, June 15th, 2008

This week, you might say I blazed two new trails.

Client meetings are a part of the job in what we do. Often, we spend many hours in offices and conference rooms, plotting communications strategies and, hopefully, building relationships in the process. This past week, though, we broke the mold.

It was the client’s idea – but I embraced it and am very glad I did. Instead of a doing a semi-annual strategy meeting inside a windowless office, our client and I met, quite literally, on a trail.
It was a bicycling trail and we biked all of it, while having our strategic discussion. All 34 miles of it.

Now, as much as I enjoy biking, I had never gone that far in a week, much less one straight shot. But, I completed the physical challenge and the exercise fueled a very productive professional discussion over the hours. I know we now feel ready to communicate for the second half of the year and have established yet another way in which Tanner Friedman is changing agency-client dynamics for the better.

Also this week, I set up a Facebook account. If you are on there, please make me a “friend” and mention the blog. Being on Facebook is going to mean even more time online for me (and I feel like I’m on constantly as it is). I’m even set up on my Blackberry.

So far, in 48 hours, I have strengthened existing relationships and brought back old ones. In just two days, I have received a possible business referral, connected with a girl I took on a few dates in high school (now a mother of 3), heard from my two-year college roommate for the first time in 11 years and linked to many members of my radio alumni association from Syracuse. Some say social networking is the future of PR. For now, I say it’s fun, but I’ll keep the readers of this blog posted on how this site is changing communications.

With New Hulk Movie Be a “Smash?”

Wednesday, June 11th, 2008

That’s the $100,000 question that everyone is asking—from fanboys to movie moguls alike—just days before the opening of the new summer blockbuster (it is hoped, at least). Will Ed Norton’s take on the Incredible Hulk pump up box office receipts or wimp out ala the fictional alter-ego Dr. Banner? examines, along with perspectives from Tanner Friedman, what went wrong with the 2004 version of the green mean machine as well as what has resonated with audiences in more successful super hero big screen adaptations.

One could add, from both a research and marketing standpoint, that smart movie makers reach out to their fan base (via Comicons, online forums and blogs) today more than ever for input and direction. In turn, movies that work stem from great stories that capture the history and essence of a particular hero as well as initial “buzz” generated by fans “wowed” by compelling trailers and savvy promotion.

Building The Woodward Dream Cruise Brand

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

So just how exactly does one go about building upon one of the world’s biggest events? The starting point is making sure you have an understanding of and appreciation for the event’s history, culture and participants. From that foundation, you look for ways to make the event and brand resonate even further.

As with any successful enterprise, the Woodward Dream Cruise continues to evolve; its reputation grow. With Tanner Friedman serving as the Executive Director Team since January 14th of this year, we decided to start at the event’s very core—its official logo. For the first time, the logo has been designed by long-time automotive designer, Dick Ruzzin, who possesses a great, life-long love of cars and cruisin.’

The end of many months of hard work, is a new, signature piece of automotive artwork, unveiled this week along with a brand-new website, that comes from the heart and soul; something automotive enthusiasts (like those at can truly appreciate.

Red Wings Fans’ Booing Sends Message; Kilpatrick Not Listening

Friday, June 6th, 2008

Never mind an ethics class, can someone please convince the mayor and his communications staff here in Detroit to enroll in at least a remedial course in communications?

In response to the mass booing experienced by Kilpatrick during today’s Red Wings parade and celebration, his press secretary, James Canning released the following statement: “The Mayor’s been elected to office twice by the residents of Detroit, and based on the crowd’s reaction, I guess if he was running for Mayor of Joe Louis Arena he wouldn’t win.”

Though perhaps intended to be humorous and “off the cuff,” the statement instead contains an air of what the majority of the administration’s statements do: arrogance.

So, what would we advise at Tanner Friedman? Where do we begin? In this situation, rather than issuing a statement, how about a simple, brief concession by the mayor, which he could have given to reporters on the spot: “This crowd isn’t here to see me. They are here for the same reason I am: To celebrate their winning the Stanley Cup!” Honesty and humility. They might try it sometime.

From The Ice to the Office

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

Late this afternoon, once the euphoria I had felt since last night’s Stanley Cup clincher by the Detroit Red Wings had subsided momentarily, I started thinking about the Red Wings as more than just my lifelong favorite hockey team.

They are also a business. A business that can teach the rest of us a lesson.

How do you create a team that can rise to the pinnacle of your profession not once, but four times, in just 11 years? Ask Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland. A humble professional, he has yet to reveal his secrets. But from what I’ve observed as not only an avid fan, but also as a professional who gets inside businesses every day, it goes something like this:

Scout for young talent that fits your system and culture. Do what it takes to grow and retain top talent. Blend the right mix of personalities, strengths and backgrounds. Character and integrity come first. Instill leadership and teamwork as core values. Put leaders in a position to actually lead. Enjoy success while building for the future. Communicate your mission and vision so everyone on the team understands what is expected.

As we work to build our culture at Tanner Friedman and advise our clients on how to communicate theirs, a real life team, now carrying the Stanley Cup, can be an example to all.