Archive for October, 2008

Carrie Underwood: A Model of Success

Friday, October 31st, 2008

We’ve blogged quite a bit about reputation management, right and wrong. One young lady that continues to to do everything right is former “American Idol” alumn Carrie Underwood.

In advance of her appearance in the Phoenix area, the Arizona Republic takes at look at her success in a piece published today, with a few perspectives from yours truly. You can also read the story, now also posted on a Carrie fan site.

Whether or not you like her music or follow celebrities, it is hard not to admire how she conducts herself and her career—from marketing to product and performance. Much credit must obviously go to her management. They seem to work together seemlessly; making sure she stays true to her roots and “out there” while avoiding overexposure and drama.

Combine all of that with her great talent and genuine “girl next door” looks and appeal and you see the end result: record-breaking record sales, sold out concerts and overall, broad success. Her career has never looked brighter.

Don’t Let the Economy Change The Way You Communicate

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

We were talking about this in office the other day. Then, I initiated some dialogue about it today on Facebook and Twitter and now I want to share it on the blog.  

It’s being more and more obvious that the economy is changing the way people in business communicate with each other, and not for the better.  And it’s time to say something about it.

It’s not just one person doing this. And it’s not just us who are noticing it.  It’s becoming rampant.  As we said in the office, “everyone is acting like they are either afraid of getting fired or afraid of going out of business.”  As one of my “followers” wrote on Twitter this morning when asked, “I see people with shorter wicks…takes less to set them off.”  This stressed-out behavior leads to feelings of mistrust and defensiveness and can potentially damage relationships.

So, as professional communicators, our advice is please, don’t let the current situation change how you communicate with others.  Times are tough. But we are all experiencing it.  Please stick to yourself, your personality and your brand.  While your 401(k) may be taking a hit, your relationships don’t have to. 

Once Again, Kilpatrick Blows it, Without Uttering a Word

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

You didn’t have to watch much of Kwame Kilpatrick’s sentencing to see that, despite the fact that he remained verbally silent in court (a wise move), he has obviously not learned a thing—at the very least how to demonstrate and communicate remorse, contrition and humility.

His non-verbal cues, which included frowns, smirks and head shakes, spoke volumes instead about how he really feels about his current situation. He knew the masses would be watching his every move, closely, and yet his demeanor was akin to a teenager that had been scolded by a too strict adult. This from a 38-year old man who cost his city millions and is now going to jail in disgrace?

His father also chimed in with a few “soundbites” which once again brought in race and that his son had been “railroaded.” This is the same man who previously compared the media’s investigation into his son’s actions to Hitler’s persecution of the Jews. It would all be high comedy if it were not so sad.

When it comes to rehabilitating an image, one must take every opportunity to accept responsibility for one’s actions and show, in every way possible, that you are sorry. If you or I had disgraced ourselves, our family, our city, state and region as severely and completely as did Kwame Kilpatrick, can you imagine how you would appear in public? I can pretty much guarantee it would not be smiling and smirking.

Hopefully the next four months will provide some time for Kilpatrick to do some very serious introspection and truly understand the gravity of what he has done through sheer arrogance and abuse of power. When he reemerges in late February, one would hope that he will have changed (or at least adjusted) his attitude, mindset and modus operandi for his future years.

Twitter Report – Week One

Sunday, October 26th, 2008

It’s been a week since I got online with another “social networking” tool that is supposed to represent the future of media.  I’m on Twitter.  Check me out at mattfrieds if you’re on too.  Tanner Friedman colleagues Kristin Priest and Kaylee Hawkins are also on there.

After a week, I think Twitter has a lot of potential as another way to tell stories and deliver messages, in “real time” while engaging in two-way dialogue.  It’s simply another way to connect, stay in front of your audiences and have some fun.  For me, comments thus far have ranged from professional to sports commentary to a little personal.  But I’m still getting the hang of it.  If that sounds “random” that’s what Twitter is really all about.  We always say that “people do business with people” – so being online in a forum like this gives your business contacts a sense of you, as a person.

The best of Twitter so far?  News organizations like the Detroit Free Press, Detroit News, MLive and even the basketball beat writers at the Syracuse Post-Standard that frequently “tweet” with news headlines and links. That’s going to be a great way to get my news fix in a hurry.

The worst of Twitter so far?  A businessperson I ran across whose updates just consisted of professional bragging and boasting, without links.  Just seemed like an ego stroke.

One last note – I would probably have more going on if the “Find People” feature wasn’t “temporarily disabled.”  This has been the case for days.  Come on Twitter! If you are supposed to be the hottest form of communications out there, you should let your users easily grow their networks.

WRCJ Radio Proves I Can “Go Home” Again

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

Tomorrow (Thursday) afternoon, I will do something I have not done in over 13 years—broadcast live on the radio as an announcer. I last reported traffic part-time over WXYT in 1995 and, prior to that, my on-air career (DJ, programmer, reporter) spanned another 12 years including, in Detroit, over WWJ-AM, WLLZ-FM and others.

Not only will I be a guest and co-host on Detroit Public Radio’s WRCJ (90.9 FM), I will be doing so at the invitation of Ann Delisi, someone I consider among radio’s greatest on-air, programming and music talents ever. She has returned to their air this week to help with the station’s fall fundraising campaign.

If you read my book “No Static at All—a behind the scenes journey through radio and pop music,” you read Ann’s insightful comments and perspectives on the industry. She and WRCJ personify all that is good and important about traditional terrestrial radio. Live, local, community based. I am truly honored and thrilled.

I hope you’ll consider turning in between 4p-6p to listen and show your support.

TV News Past Meets Present

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

Tonight, WXYZ-TV, the ABC affiliate in Detroit, recognized its 60th Anniversary with, among other things, getting its “old band back together.”

The anchor desk from the 1970s was brought back to the 7:00 news – Bill Bonds, John Kelly and Marilyn Turner.  Check it out here.

A self-serving stunt for Channel 7?  Absolutely.  Great TV?  You better believe it.

Tonight was a reminder of what local TV news once was.  Never mind the movie parody of “Anchorman” – this was real life in the heyday.  Channel 7 was the #1 station in a Top 10 Market when that really meant something.  They had it all – top-tier reporting, all of the technology available at the time, crisp marketing, a real swagger and, most importantly, personality.  TV news was a “must see” back then.  Not just because there were fewer choices on the air.  It was informative, provocative and respected your intelligence and sense of community.

For many of us, it was about Bill Bonds.  He is one of the two best local TV communicators I have ever seen – the other being Monica Kaufman (now Monica Pearson), who I was fortunate enough to be able to write for in the mid-90s at WSB-TV in Atlanta.

Bonds was a talented broadcaster AND a committed “newsman.”  He wrote and talked in a powerful, intelligent, yet conversational style.  His eyes, face and voice told you the stories, almost as if there was no camera and no TV between him and you.  He took on politicians in his “Up Front” segment (live “talkbacks” are now considered “boring TV” in local newsrooms) and took a stand (but knew his stuff).  He was a bona fide local celebrity.  Some loved him.  Some hated him.  Everyone watched him.

Tonight’s lead story wasn’t about crime – it was about the most important story in the market – just like it’s supposed to be – an auto industry in trouble.  Bonds’ lead-in was classic – putting facts into perspective to draw you into the story.  Sure, his voice isn’t what it once was, nor his comfort on-camera.  But, seeing Bill Bonds doing the news again is a reminder of what TV news was like once upon a time.

Money Can’t Buy You Love—Or Workplace Happiness

Monday, October 20th, 2008

What do we value most in the workplace? Money? Benefits? Turns out it is neither.

According to The Detroit Free Press Top Workplaces survey of nearly 2,500 employees in Southeast Michigan, workers are more concerned with the direction their employers are headed and the way their organizations operate. How about that—strong values and ethics reign supreme over dollars and cents.

Further, employees want to feel they have a stake in the direction of their company; that what they have to say matters. On the other hand, being micromanaged and employer intimidation tactics are among top gripes.

The survey noted PricewaterhouseCoopers and Google among the region’s best places to have a job.

“P.R. Does Not Stand For Press Release”

Sunday, October 19th, 2008

One of the best lines I have read in a while, I found online in a forum for Public Relations professionals recently. It said, “P.R. does not stand for ‘Press Release.’”  I love it.

I have long said that the press release is the most overrated media relations tool.  I am amazed by how many people, when they hear what I do for a living, respond by saying, “So, you write press releases?”That is actually a very small part of what we do.   But, frequently, our time is spent (often misspent) with non-communicators inside client organizations who obsess over press releases.

As a former journalist and after more than a decade in PR management, I can tell you that a press release can be among valuable tools in getting facts straight. In a page or two, a good release can help journalists use accurate numbers, make sure names are spelled correctly, get basic questions answered and, in the age of constant deadlines with fewer resources, even get a couple of basic quotes.

But a press release is NOT a piece of currency that buys news coverage.  Writing and editing press releases should not be the most time consuming portion of a campaign.  The vast majority of releases sent out every day never receive any coverage.  And news stories that appear every day never involve a press release.

Many of the best results we achieve for our clients do not involve a release.  They do include a powerful combination of actual news, relationships, skill and, most importantly, sound strategy.

How Do You “Trick” or “Treat” Your Employees?

Sunday, October 12th, 2008

About a year ago a talented professional in my industry was promoted to a management position, albeit without a salary increase. That, this individual was told by his superiors, would come the following month at his formal, annual review. One month later, at that review, however, this newly promoted supervisor was informed there would be no raise and that, perhaps, he should start looking for a new place of employment. Confused? Who wouldn’t be?

Do you provide your employees with a roadmap for success? Further, do you provide the resources, support, direction and feedback necessary for them to succeed? Many companies, possessing little vision nor a business plan themselves, fail in turn to properly mentor and direct the professionals vital to moving the business forward. Put yourself in the shoes of the aforementioned individual. One minute he’s a star and the next he’s expendable?

Perhaps above all else, every company should promote and celebrate diversity of thought and opinion. From new ideas and perspectives comes innovation and evolution. The person that was promoted and then shunned was never afraid to speak his mind and offer a difference of opinion (albeit always professionally) where warranted. Incredibly, this may have been his “undoing.”

Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it), this individual was recently let go by his flailing company. Not surprisingly, no concrete reasons were given, only the stock: “This isn’t working out” and “This isn’t a good fit.” What could he have done differently? What should he have worked on? He hasn’t a clue; nor, evidently, do they.

It may be a cliché but it is true: Our employees are our most important resource. It is through them that we succeed or fail. How do you treat yours?

It’s Not (Rocket) Science, Media Can Still Have Positive Impact

Sunday, October 12th, 2008

Ask anyone who follows media and they will tell you the same thing – too many “local” outlets are really only interested in selling commercials and delivering a profit to their big corporation ownership.  Of course, that will be at least the underlying business reality of any operation.  

But, as part of the Tanner Friedman blog’s mission to point out the best in both traditional and emerging media, it’s time to point out one outlet that understands and embraces its potential to positively impact the community it covers, while fulfilling its business objectives. 

I spent the past several days in Minneapolis and St. Paul as one of our clients was involved with a TV station-driven effort to interest girls in science careers.  This event was far more than those you see when a TV station lends its logo and some airtime.  This was an event actually conceived and executed by the Fox-owned station, KMSP-TV, with the help of community partners and sponsors.  

We face tough times as a nation.  To remain competitive, we need more of our best and brightest working in the sciences, including girls who have traditionally not been encouraged to enter those fields.  Fox 9 understands that.  So, 6 years ago, they had the foresight to create their “Girls & Science” event – a fun way to interest 4th through 8th grade girls in science.

The event, held for the first time this year at the impressive Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul, features interactive, hands-on experiences for girls to try science and interact with women working in science fields.  Our client had two scientists there, of different generations, to let girls sample some experiments and talk about possible careers.  For four hours, a steady stream of Minnesota families came through the exhibits, having fun, learning and making a difference in the lives of their daughters.

For the TV station, it was a community service/promotions/news/sales combined effort.  It took a lot more work than “just selling spots.”  For the community, though, it was a TV station (“old media”) taking a new approach to meeting a need.  For our client, it was a chance not only to extend a brand and tell a story.  It was a chance to touch lives – far outside of the corporate environment.  These are the communications initiatives to applaud, but also to support, as they create indelible impressions.