Archive for February, 2010

Success of Purtan's Radiothon Speaks Volumes

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

Dick_Purtan

And so Dick Purtan does it again. At a time when many consider radio the proverbial “step child” to  other major media, he goes out and raises more than $2 million during his annual radiothon for the Salvation Army—his last before officially retiring March 26th.  

Though the dollars raised are staggering—record breaking and virtually unheard of for a local radio broadcast of this type—and ensure help to the needy of Metro Detroit, the radiothon was also symbolic and important in many other ways. If you listened to the broadcast (or watched a portion of it live as Matt Friedman had the good fortune to do), you witnessed firsthand the love and admiration this community has for Dick Purtan as well as how much he cares about Metro Detroit and those that live here. He has been a part of the very fabric of our lives for decades; an entertainer, a role model, a philanthropic leader, a neighbor and friend.

The success of the radiothon and its talented and gentlemanly leader also underscores the live, local, community-focused power of radio—in particular when helmed by a larger than life personality. When we wake up in the morning and start our day, Dick Purtan and his “people” have been there for us.  In our homes, our cars, at work he has consistently made us laugh, cry, think via the most intimate of mediums.

We won’t forget his work and hope terrestrial radio’s decision makers won’t either. The future of the medium is in their hands for better or worse and the roadmap for future success should borrow greatly from past history and the vital role genuine, talented, involved, long-standing on-air personalities play in that success.

 

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Reporter's Departure Begs Question – Why Stay Up For The Late News?

Friday, February 26th, 2010

A few years ago, I ran into Steve Wilson, the investigative reporter from WXYZ-TV here in Detroit, at a fast casual restaurant at lunchtime. He was holding court with his producers and videographer – a team that was gaining national attention for its superlative work exposing serious questions about how the then-Mayor of Detroit was handling finances. I said “hello” and he said “All you PR guys hate me, right?” I said, “Absolutely not. You’ve been great for business. My kids should send you thank you notes for their holiday presents.”

Wilson’s reporting scared the market into a boom in Media Training services. I conducted more Media Training sessions in the first few years of Wilson’s tenure at WXYZ than in the rest of my career combined. His “gotcha” style prompted many companies to step up their level of preparation. If you were going to talk to Wilson, you had to bring your “A Game.” If you weren’t going to talk to him, you had to be prepared to pay the price.

Today, we learn that Scripps, the owner of WXYZ, won’t renew Wilson’s contract in a cost cutting move. I have long said that Wilson’s contract, perhaps above all others in local TV, paid for itself. Simply put, he brought customers to the product. When his stories led newscasts, it made a measurable positive difference in the station’s ratings.

This is another example of how media companies are trying to cut their way to the future. Take a look at the ratings most nights and you’ll realize it’s not working. Why stay up to watch an 11pm newscast now? You can get the weather forecast and sports scores on your phone, anytime. You can get news headlines online. Without original, enterprise local reporting, how can TV news make any compelling case to attract an audience?

Wilson’s future plans now include an effort to start a nonprofit cooperative to develop investigative reporting. Perhaps that is the future of journalism – mission-driven rather than profit-driven. That’s a fascinating subject we’ll explore more on the Tanner Friedman blog in the future. In the meantime, corrupt politicians and unethical companies are breathing a sigh of relief. Hopefully, it will be temporary.

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The New Worst Nightmare for CEOs

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Not too long ago, the worst national spotlight for a CEO to be put under would have been a grilling by Mike Wallace on “60 Minutes.” That would have been followed closely by some sort of ambush TV encounter in a parking lot. But now, those experiences are about as easy as infomercials compared to what we’ve seen on Capitol Hill.

Now, a CEO and company’s biggest nightmare is played out in front of Congress. In December 2008, the CEOs of US-based automakers appeared in front of the Senate and many PR experts, including us at Tanner Friedman, criticized their performance (for good reason). But, now, after watching Toyota’s CEO, Akido Toyoda, in front of a House Committee this week, it’s clear that appearing on that hot seat constitutes a no win situation.

It doesn’t matter how clearly a company’s message is delivered because it will be drowned out by grandstanding politicians seizing a campaign opportunity. Case in point – this quote from Rep. Marcy Kaptur to Toyoda, “I am not satisfied with your testimony.” How could she be with her desire to seize attention in an election year? How could Toyoda’s messages possibly resonate with Representatives holding up gas pedals as props, trying to outdo each other in a race for airtime?

Of course, Congressional hearings as media spectacles date back to the McCarthy era. But, now, they hold more power than ever with live cable channels, Webcasts and journalist tweets giving unprecedented access and opportunity for political showboating.

Unlike the news media, Congress has subpoena power – you can’t say “no.” So, expect to see more hearing with more CEOs being picked apart, without ever standing a chance. You may critique Toyoda’s performance as you did those of Wagoner, Nardelli and Mulally in 2008. But think about this – what type of preparation could possibly help an executive exit a committee room unscathed?herbal viagra forums Viagra Purchase snorting viagra health
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Crain's Asks: Is Purtan's Exit End of Era?

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

This week’s Crain’s Detroit Business and reporter Bill Shea examines the retirement of Hall of Fame broadcaster Dick Purtan in the context of a changing radio landscape.  It is exactly this state of the industry that I examine in my just-released, updated book “No Static at All—a behind the scenes journey through radio and pop music,” and I was grateful to Shea for interviewing me for his story.

“No Static” is both a celebration and an examination of Marconi’s little marvel, which, as Shea notes, remains at a crossroads.  How does one replace a legend, Shea asks (and asked me).  The short answer?  It ain’t easy.  Of course, rather than throw up their hands and pace the floor, CBS Radio is sure to insert someone into Purtan’s larger than life chair who is well-known with a proven track-record of success in the morning but who is, perhaps, either sitting on the sidelines or currently working somewhere else. Some possibilities are shared in Bill’s piece.

Is this an end of an era, asks Crain’s?  One could argue that it is based on Purtan’s longevity and roots back to the very beginnings of Top 40. As Neil Young was to grunge music, Purtan is a founding father of personality morning radio. Still, a “next generation” of local AM talent continues to grace the Detroit airwaves, from Paul W. Smith to Ken Calvert to Joe and Roberta and more.

At the same time, I argue in “No Static,” radio has proven itself forever resilient, going back to the days of a young upstart competitor: television.  FM was next followed by MTV (which doesn’t even run music today and no longer calls itself “Music Television”) and satellite radio (which continues to strive towards greater profitability). 

Dick Purtan will be sorely missed but, just as traditional radio continues to take its lumps from competitors and poor business decisions, it also continues to adapt, evolve and prove it is one tough (and important) customer.

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Will Tiger's Apology Be Accepted?

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

And so Tiger Woods will officially “come out” tomorrow morning, live from PGA Headquarters, to appear on camera and, in all probability, publicly apologize for actions that have literally “crumbled an empire,” keeping him in seclusion since Thanksgiving. What about the venue? What will he say? What’s next? We were asked all this and more this morning on WDIV-TV 4’s morning show.

First of all, Woods’ stepping out of the shadows is a step in the right direction. And though he will be reading from a prepared statement, he will not be entirely hiding behind it, as has been the case up to this point. The venue and format also make sense—when you’ve been under fire, you naturally gravitate to friendly turf; limiting media and questions ensures control and decorum.

Some have questioned the timing, insinuating that Woods is out to usurp coverage of Accenture’s (former sponsor) tournament this week. What I think is more telling is the chosen day of the week. In the world of PR, you never hold a press conference on a Friday unless one is  hoping to mitigate coverage over a weekend.

What will be perhaps most interesting tomorrow morning will be how Woods delivers his apology. From a content standpoint he will no doubt admit his failings and, in all likelihood, that he has a problem that he has sought professional treatment for.  Less predictable is how he will look and sound. Will he come across emotional, contrite, believable? These intangibles, as much as the words he utters, will be key to whether his apology resonates or falls flat.

Finally, moving forward, Woods will need to walk the talk and conduct himself with the utmost professionalism both on and off the links. His next big test will be his first tournament back where hecklers, cameras and microphones will be out in full force. Can he deal with it, move on and play the game like he used to?  Only time and his scores will tell.snorting viagra health Viagra Potenzmittel viagra patent levitra
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The Ratings Tell The Story of TV Network Self-Promotion

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

Just a few weeks ago on this blog, I explained how CNN chose to lead live coverage from Haiti with lengthy “coverage” of their reporter/doctor performing procedures, rather than update its audience on the latest news.

This week, I saw a new example of self-promotion leading a broadcast rather than news. Tuesday morning, ABC’s “Good Morning America” led is broadcast with the story of the capture of the Taliban’s top military commander. That was a story that broke relatively late the night before, was new to the U.S. Eastern Time Zone, and was unquestionably the most significant news story in the world at that moment.

Meanwhile, on NBC, the “Today” show began with 10 minutes of Olympic self-promotion, including anchoring Meredith Viera at a bar with athletes and Matt Lauer literally hugging a gold medalist. Only after those 10 minutes did NBC finally report the Taliban capture story.

So why do the networks put promotion ahead of news reporting? I assumed, based on my experience in TV, that the only explanation has to be ratings. So, I checked some numbers to find out. Tanner Friedman sources in two markets – one major cold weather and one medium warm weather – shared preliminary overnight ratings for this blog. In the major market, “Today” outrated “GMA” by a ratings point and a half in the first quarter hour of Tuesday’s broadcasts. In the medium market, “Today” beat “GMA” by three full ratings points in the same time period. Overall, in the only measurement that counts, viewers in those markets chose NBC’s self-gratification over ABC’s straight news reporting.

Of course, this is unscientific, anecdotal analysis. But it does prove one thing. If a TV show draws an audience, measured by the Nielsen ratings, decision-makers have no reason to change anything. In fact, it’s going to mean more of the same.generic viagra levitra and cialis pills Viagra Alternative can i take viagra
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Hey, Want To Buy A Brand?

Monday, February 15th, 2010

We talk often with Tanner Friedman clients about the importance of a brand to any organization. We discuss how it’s more than a logo, more than a font and more than a color palate – it’s the personality that defines an organization in the marketplace against its competitors.

Whether we realize it or not, we all make purchase decisions based on brand. Just a few months ago, when I needed a water heater, I asked the installer to buy one at a store in my neighborhood (Lowe’s) and, all things being equal, choose the one I thought was made by a company based in the state where I live, Michigan (Whirlpool). It seemed like an easy decision and, with a 12 year warranty I assumed that I wouldn’t have to worry about anything for a while. I was wrong.

I have since experienced a series of issues with the water heater and here’s what I have learned – Even though the heater carries the Whirlpool brand, it wasn’t made by Whirlpool. Whirlpool doesn’t actually make water heaters. It licenses its brand to a company called American Water Heaters of Johnson City, Tennessee. That company hires a call center in India to handle its customer service calls, answering the phone “Whirlpool.” That company, if a customer can actually communicate with the agents on the phone, dispatches “Sears” to handle its warranty service. Only the Sears we used to know doesn’t fix appliances anymore. They license their brand to a company called A&E Services. Google them and you’ll see scathing customer reviews like this.

In this case, as a customer, my experience with both the water heater and the warranty service have been negative. Without some digging, I would have pointed a finger at Whirlpool and Sears. But, really, they had nothing to do with my particular experience. They just made some money in the deal.

The advice here – make sure to take better care of your invaluable asset – your brand – better than either Whirlpool or Sears.

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Dick Purtan Shocks Radio, Retires

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

It appears no one saw this one coming. Despite that fact that he’s enjoyed a legendary 45-year career doing what he loves, nobody expected Dick Purtan to retire from the airwaves. I was at one of WOMC’s sister stations today and sentiments ranging from surprise to shock were evenly expressed. This from a man always creative but never “blue” or “shock jock-ish.”

Most of us, I think, expected Dick Purtan to carry on ala Ernie Harwell, ad infinitum. I doubt there would have been any objections.  Now, March 26th will see the final chapter written on his Hall of Fame career.

As we have written about here all too often in recent years, Purtan is unfortunately joining a seemingly ever-growing list of top Detroit radio talent exiting the broadcast booth unexpectedly.  The primary difference here is that he appears to be doing so on his terms.

If you’ve had the honor and good fortune of working with Dick in some capacity, you know that despite his propensity towards tomfoolery on the air, he is rather low key, even shy off of it.  On both, he was/is always a gentleman. I bring this up partly as a tribute to Dick as a person but also as an insight into why we will probably never know exactly why he is opting to move on.  He’s too private a person for such revelations.

Yet, in an era where content is not always considered king and personality is often eschewed for card reading, voice-tracking and carefully researched music, might Dick Purtan have recognized he no longer fits in? Sadly, his exit marks the end of an era and a time long ago when people listened to the radio as much for the air talent as anything else.  You don’t get that from an iPod. Not even close.

“Undercover Boss” Is Reality Uncovered

Monday, February 8th, 2010

Have you ever been inside a local branch of a typical big company when a senior corporate executive comes to visit? If not, imagine what it would take to host a five-star dinner party inside your home, only with a raised sense of nervousness and fear.

Everything has to go according to the Briefing Book, everyplace has to be clean, everyone has to be on their “best behavior” in their best clothes and if anyone “says the wrong thing,” they could be out of a job. Typically, the executive sees an experience that is very different from the actual day-to-day.

Last night, after the Super Bowl, CBS debuted a new “reality show” called “Undercover Boss.” In it, corporate executives pose as entry level workers in their own companies. As this review in Business Week points out, the show is built on deception and falsehood, as the executives gain the trust of lower level workers (and have to explain the cameras). But, the show’s premise is firmly grounded in truth. After watching the show (which I put in the “pretty good TV” category), there’s a PR lesson to be learned – as corporations become larger, executives are perceived (often rightly so) as being too far removed from the actual groundwork of the company. That can create communications and morale issues as well as bad policy. It shouldn’t take a reality show, but executives need to step off their pedestals and experience their “front lines” as often as possible.

One experience I saw years ago will always stay with me. The CEO of a huge retail company, flown in on the corporate jet for a grand opening event inside one of his company’s local stores, wanted some mints before the event began. So he went to the front of the store, selected his favorite mints, took the package to the cash register, pulled out a dollar and bought the mints, while being treated like any other customer. That “executive as human” moment proved indelible in my mind because it was so unusual. It shouldn’t be.

The Who Dat?

Sunday, February 7th, 2010

In just a couple of hours one of rock’s greatest bands will take the stage in Miami for this year’s Super Bowl halftime show. Who? Exactly. And I just don’t get it. To check for possible past rhyme or reason it is purposeful to take a look at history.

Dating back to 1967, seven of the first ten Super Bowls featured college marching bands. Sometimes the choices made geographic sense, ala the University of Texas performing in 1974 in Rice Stadium, while others (U of M the year prior in Los Angeles) not so much.  Musical salutes, including to Mardi Gras and Louis Armstrong (’70 and ’72, respectively) took place, appropriately enough, in New Orleans. “It’s a Small World” happened in the shadow of Pasadena’s Disneyland for 1977’s Super Bowl XI.

More recent appearances, however, have been perplexing. Why, for example, was Gloria Estefan performing in Minneapolis for XXVI, while, Prince hit Miami for XLI? What were British legends the Stones doing in Detroit for XL while Motown superstars Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin would loved to have been ‘livin’ for the city’? And now we have The Who in Miami. About the only fit I can think of is the fact that their mega-hit from nearly 40-years ago, “Won’t Get Fooled Again,”  is also the theme song for the TV series “CSI:Miami.” A stretch to be sure.

My point in all of this is that the musical choices for football’s biggest event should make sense, geographically, demographically and otherwise. Why not some Latin flavor this year, coupled with a combination of Midwest (maybe some Chicago-style blues for the Colts) and Creole (calling the Neville brothers). At the very least, the Super Bowl Committee should try to involve groups that are relevant now, just as the game is a showcase of today’s gridiron stars. What about one of this year’s hottest Grammy winners, for example, Kings of Leon? And no offense to Tom Petty or the Boss or Paul McCartney—but perhaps these legends of yesteryear should be playing elsewhere, like, the Hall of Fame Game.