Archive for June, 2009

The Future of Information In the Palm of Your Hand

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

We are still trying to stay on top of every significant trend in communications and, now, we have run across a growing one that is worth sharing with you.  It is becoming more common to see services that actually connect your cell phone’s camera to information.

A new example was just announced this week. Barnes & Noble has launched an iPhone “app” to allow users to search for and buy books online.  And here’s something cool… let’s say you see a book on someone’s shelf or on a coffee table – just take a picture of its cover with your cell phone camera and use the “app” to view reviews, get customer ratings and find and reserve a copy at the closest store.  

It’s part of technology being marketed by a company called LinkMe Mobile. We have some contacts there and we’ll share details as they are rolled out. In the meantime, next time you pick up your cell phone, make sure you know how to use its camera.  That will be one of your information tools in the months and years to come.

What Will The Media Do Without Michael Jackson?

Friday, June 26th, 2009

Blogging from Milwaukee, at the end of a client business trip, I can’t help but think about the last time I visited this city.  It was 15 years ago this month on the day that the modern era of celebrity-driven mainstream news began.  O.J. Simpson was named a murder suspect and the rest is history.

I remembered that moment when I turned on the radio the rental car yesterday afternoon, trying to get a local weather and traffic update, and heard the just-breaking news of Michael Jackson’s death.  My next thought, “What will The Media do without Michael Jackson?”

In a celebrity obsessed culture, Michael Jackson was an instant audience magnet for all forms of media, virtually across the globe.  Even for American LOCAL TV news, it was tough to beat a promo featuring a Jackson story if you wanted to assure an audience for your newscast.  Trust me, I wrote a bunch of those “teases” in the mid-90s, a decade after his peak of musical popularity, but smack in the middle of his tabloid heyday.

Michael Jackson may have been the biggest individual media spectacle of all time.  Here are a few factors:

-Unparalleled fame:  He was famous on the highest possible level.  Around the world, he had amazing recognition, if not popularity.  I remember, in the “Thriller” days, he was the one current star who “the kids” liked that even my grandparents could identify.  Today, there are bona fide celebrities that I, as someone who studies media, couldn’t pick out of a lineup.

-Timing:  He hit just as electronic media was exploding, particularly music videos.

-Bizarre and compelling events:  His public life was a series of weird (at least) events, visual and memorable moments, starting with his hair catching on fire (in New York City to boot) in early 1984.  That was followed by, to name a few, post-surgical public appearances,  the molestation trial, the marriage to Lisa Marie Presley (he was basically Elvis’ son-in-law!), births of children, dangling of a child, etc. etc.)

-”The anti-every man”:  His life couldn’t have more different from the average America’s.  It was like “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” on steroids.  The public couldn’t learn enough about how he spent his days.

As we’ve long established on this blog, media loves to cover celebrities – it’s relatively cheap, easy and draws an audience.  But what celebrity will ever create stories like Michael Jackson?  Leaving Milwaukee this time, it’s the end of an era.

A Final(?) Word on Twittergate

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

What to make of it all.

By now you have no doubt read or heard, in Crains, the Detroit News,
WWJ’s Great Lakes IT Report, Fox-2 News and national PR industry journals, that our Twitter name/page was hijacked, used for nefarious, vindictive purposes and, ultimately, via Twitter and the legal system, provided to us. At the same time, we learned, via their IP address “virtual fingerprint,” who was responsible.

The “takeaways” are many:

• Social media is continually evolving; a moving target that can be difficult to control and police

• Twitter, with a staff far too small to adequately handle such oversight and timely customer service, did the right thing. No doubt they, like us, want to set precedents and deterrents that protect the integrity of their tweeters, company and the medium

• The legal system worked. Within a month of filing our federal lawsuit against “John Doe” (NOT Twitter), we had what we asked for—namely—our name

• No matter how many safeguards you put into place, if someone wants to “break into your house,” they will do so

So, what’s next? We’ll decide after consulting further with our legal counsel.

Finally, we have been asked many times by the media and our supporters what we have to say to the culprits. We won’t go there. However, we will say that, in general and as we have said before, anyone who would perpetrate such a fraud is apparently without ethics, obviously desperate and, it would appear, possessing of a lot of extra free time. One would wonder if such a perpetrator’s clients realize how they’re spending their time.

Communications Lessons From The Summit

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

After nearly 100 speakers, hundreds of news stories and three days of live coverage (followed by a little time off), I am now able to reflect on some of the lessons of The National Summit.

The first-of-its kind gathering of business and government leaders was a memorable career experience for everyone involved.  More than 250 credentialed journalists covered the event, resulting in a steady flow of news content from Detroit over the three days (and in follow-up stories since).  

As promised, there are a few items worth sharing that are reminders for all of us in communications:

-Perspective continues to play a role in news coverage, even with shrinking numbers of journalists and new ways of communicating.  In this case, local (Detroit) newspaper reporters and columnists were very concerned with whether the Summit was a good idea, whether it would result in any change and how Detroit would look.  The national media, conversely, was much more straightforward and was there, primarily, to cover the content of the sessions and the comments of the CEO speakers afterward.

-The event was a reminder that journalists are asked to do more than ever while on-site.  For example, in addition to anchoring a three hour morning show, conducting interviews throughout the day, moderating panels and posting via Twitter during sessions and between interviews, Fox Business Channel’s Alexis Glick blogged from the site, including this piece on her top “takeaways” from The National Summit.  

-When Don and I started Tanner Friedman, we admitted “we don’t know everything.”  PR looks so “easy” to those on the outside, we often have to convince clients that they can’t do it themselves.  With an event this big, with so many “moving parts,” I really appreciated the opportunity to work closely with seasoned professionals who brought varied experiences to the job.  Our core media relations team consisted of a veteran media center orchestrator, an expert in national broadcast media, a corporate communications insider with extensive event communications management experience and a longtime executive speech and copy writer, in addition to my role as the event spokesperson and regional media contact.  All in all, it takes a team to make any significant project a success.  That’s a lesson we need to remember every day in our business.

Tom Brady’s Comments Very Un-Father’s Day Friendly

Saturday, June 20th, 2009

Just in time for Father’s Day: An Associated Press report that New England QB Tom Brady and his supermodel wife, Gisele Bundchen, are expecting their first child. Typically, this would be cause for celebration and congratulations; however, all are thus far “mum” on the topic, including Bundchen’s manager. Worse, just last month, when asked by a reporter if his wife was pregnant, Brady, who has a young son via former girlfriend (and actress/model) Bridget Moynahan, said: “One is enough. I have dogs and that’s all I need.” A heartwarming quote his current son and future spawn will be proud to read one day.

This comes on the heels, last week, of more self-centered comments by another of the NFL’s most revered quarterbacks, Bret Favre. With sports reporters speculating on his possible return to the NFL via the Minnesota Vikings, Favre initially countered with this little nugget: “If my arm doesn’t hurt.” Coming only a year after his unceremonious exit from Green Bay and rumors of giving Packer playbook insights to conference competitors (Rod Marinelli and the Lions—it didn’t help), why not a more team-oriented: “If I am healthy enough to help the Vikings, I will compete for the starting position in camp this year”?

Similarly, why wouldn’t Tom Brady, who is undoubtedly adored by throngs of young, star-struck fans, when asked about the possibility of fathering another child, say something like: “I adore my son and am incredibly blessed. Right now, he is my focus where children are involved.”? You get the point.

Is it arrogance? Do they not care? More likely when you receive incomparable adulation throughout your lifetime, you come to a point where you (a) Feel you can do no wrong and (b) Become lackadaisical in your comments. As a communications professional, I would merely recommend to these two NFL greats (and others like them) that they continually remind themselves how much they are looked up to by impressionable young fans and that their every word (and action) will be scrutinized now and in the future (as if they didn’t know this already). It merely comes with the territory of living in the spotlight of celebrity. They say: there is no ‘I’ in “team.” There isn’t one in “role model” either.

MotorCity Casino Hotel Continues to ‘Rev’ Woodward Dream Cruise

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

I was quite pleased to read today that MotorCity Casino Hotel has become the official presenting sponsor of the Woodward Dream Cruise. It is actually something I, in my role as Executive Director, and my team, approached the casino to discuss over two years ago.

If people only knew the behind-the-scenes work, dedication and dollars MCCH puts into the Cruise (including Rhonda Cohen and Paul Lochirco), they would be astonished. They have remained dedicated to both underwriting and keeping it fun year after year after year. They deserve this and the thanks of everyone that enjoys the Cruise each year.

The “stepping up” of MotorCity Casino could not have come at a better time. Sponsorship dollars remain incredibly tight and, as you may have read in recent days, Cruise cities are not always in agreement as to how to operate the event in a mutually equitable and agreeable manner.

More power to Executive Director Tony Michaels, his team and those on the Board who remain selflessly dedicated to the greater good. We’re rootin’ for you. And, MCCH: You’ve really always been the presenting sponsor. Glad to see it’s official.

Communications Eyes on Detroit This Week

Saturday, June 13th, 2009

This isn’t designed as a client plug (Don and I maintain our promise to keep that to a minimum on this forum).  Really, it’s just a “heads up” and an explanation on why my blogging level is down in the last week or so.

Tanner Friedman is part of the communications team for The National Summit, a first-of-its-kind event that is bringing business, government and academic leaders together for a cross-country, cross-industry conversation about America’s future.  There are lots of “household names” involved, most of whom have never before taken part in a dialogue together.  The event is being held June 15th-17th in Detroit and is convened by the Detroit Economic Club, for which we have handled media relations for several years.  Our involvement in this event goes back to its inception in 2007.  

Here’s a link to some recent coverage, via Google News.

As a learning experience for all involved and who can observe, it will be a true “convergence” (to use a buzzword) of communications platforms. The leaders will be communicating face-to-face (in public and in private).  Traditional media coverage (our role) should be significant, with hundreds of journalists credentialed, planning multi-platform reporting.  Social media will be a factor with attendees, corporate participants and event The National Summit itself (follow @thenatlsummit on Twitter) going online.  Sponsorship helps to fund the event.  And perhaps most importantly, nearly 100 speakers will try to communicate a memorable message that resonates beyond the walls of the event and into their key audiences.

I wish I could promise that I’ll have time to blog from the site.  If I can, I will.  Otherwise, I’ll check back the week of the 22nd with some “takeaways” I hope will be helpful for all communicators and those interested in what we do.  In the meantime, check out the news coverage locally and nationally and let us know what you think about the reporting.

LaRussa Twitter Case Still Up In The Air; Ours Moves Forward

Monday, June 8th, 2009

Depending on who you speak with or what you read, Twitter has reached a settlement with St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa—or not. Scores of individuals sympathetic to our continued push for Twitter justice, send us links to the latest.

The thing is, we’re not suing Twitter. After conducting proper due diligence and research into case law and precedents, our talented legal team recognized from the beginning that that was not the way to go. Rather, as has been reported—including in recent days in Crain’s, Detroit News and WWJ’s Great Lakes IT Report—we’re going after the person (“John Doe”) who perpetuated a fraudulent agency Twitter page with intent to impugn, seeking their name and the right to our page.

Subsequent to this news coverage a federal judge allowed our claim to move forward and, following that, Twitter has been served with a subpoena. We will have a response in the next several days. Are we worried about alerting this perpetrator to what is next? (after all, they obviously read our stuff closely). Not at all.

We are quite hopeful that, in the end, this exercise will set a precedent and serve as a deterrent against such individuals (those with no respect for media nor truthful, honest communications) doing this to others in the future. This person thought they could hide behind the anonymity that a computer screen often provides. They were mistaken.

The Biggest Communications Failure of the Year (So Far)

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

With Metro Detroit as our home base, we are rooting hard for the comeback of both General Motors and Chrysler. But we have to point out mistakes when we see them, especially mistakes that can serve as a lesson for all communicators.

Through the years, we have helped clients determine ways to communicate complicated concepts to mass audiences.  That’s a big part of what PR professionals should be doing – translating the complex into the relatively simple. For many years, the auto industry has struggled with that task.  And, in this most recent case, they have failed to communicate effectively.

Chrysler and GM have not come up with an easy-to-say, easy-to-understand rationale for closing dealers.  They have not explained why forcing privately-owned dealerships to close saves their companies money.  The public doesn’t understand it and, worse yet, neither does the media.  One example, Automotive News Publisher Keith Crain, a globally recognized authority on the automotive industry, wrote in this recent column that he doesn’t understand the dealer closings.  For the car companies, that was like when the Defense Department “lost” Walter Cronkite in the Vietnam Era.

The disconnect is so wide that Chrysler and GM executives were brought before Congress yesterday to explain these decisions. Even after that testimony, consumers, the media and politicians all still don’t get it.

Sure, it’s complicated.  Business often is.  But it’s imperative in these situations to make the complicated simple to explain it to your audiences. In this case, Chrysler and GM have failed to do that and are now paying the PR price.

Twitter Lawsuit Creates Buzz Online

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

I read somewhere recently that Twitter has more than 700,000 users per employee.  Maybe that’s why they can’t or won’t communicate with us about the hijacking of our company’s name on a Twitter account that was used in someone’s juvenile attempt to discredit us.  Or maybe Twitter has grown so much, so fast, that it just can’t keep up.  It’s probably a combination of things, but one thing is for sure – we haven’t gotten their attention over the past two months.  Simply put, we want where it belongs, controlled by our firm.  So we filed a lawsuit.

Detroit’s CBS-owned WWJ Radio, on the air and through its popular Great Lakes IT Report, ran stories this morning, prompting reaction, on-line, from around the country. You can read it here

As Don mentions in the story, this is, of course, about us getting our ID. But we are not asking for money.  Rather, we want to make sure that social media is held to standards, just as traditional media has been for hundreds of years.  

Right now, online communications are like “The Wild West.” It can be fun and exciting to blaze new trails.  But, sooner or later, civility must enter the picture or chaos will ensue.  We hope it’s sooner and we hope we are helping to lead the way.