Archive for December, 2010

Technological Convenience Or Industry Evolution?

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

Anyone who knows me knows that though I am a huge music and radio lover, I do not subscribe to satellite radio.  No offense to the many talented and dedicated radio professionals that work at Sirius/XM, I just prefer live, local, terrestrial.  That said, my dedication is often put to the test by the vanilla and formulaic. (Recently, for example, I heard the same Joe Cocker song on the same station at the same time, two days in a row).

Similarly and for some time, I eschewed the downloading of music in favor of fantastic record stores like Harmony House.  Unfortunately, as such stores have fallen by the way side, what were we left with — big boxers with continually shrinking CD bins offering nothing but ‘Greatest Hits’ packages and some new product. The Best Buys of the world really had no choice in this “Catch 22″ scenario, as more and more consumers ventured online for their music, such retailers were forced to chop inventory and deep catalogue product and, in turn, push their core fans to their electronic competition.

An avid reader, this holiday season I was treated to another electronic marvel: the Kindle. With bookstores in trouble ala the music stores mentioned previously, selection at many bricks and mortar locations has been trimmed dramatically. Economics is also an issue, driving scores to their local libraries. The Kindle eliminates most of these issues, allowing access to virtually any book or newspaper, in mere seconds, at a fraction of the cost. After a few page turning ‘clicks,’ I’m a believer.

Call me old school but, along with the digital Detroit News and Free Press editions, I have, along with many, come around to new technology not for the sake of the ‘bells and whistles’ and ‘wow factor’ but because that is what constantly evolving mediums and industries demand.  As such, it’s not about keeping up with the Jones…it’s about keeping up.

Author Is Latest To “Get” On-Demand, Multi-Platform

Sunday, December 26th, 2010

As we near the end of 2010, there is a “must get” that we are trying to help everyone we work with understand. “Mass media” has transformed into personal media. Consumers of information and entertainment want what they’re interested in, when they want it, over the platforms (plural) they want it. It’s all about content on-demand and consumable on the device you happen to want to use at any given moment.

This phenomenon is real – it’s not about the future, it’s about now. In order to be a successful communicator, you have to “get it.” But too many still don’t and they are the ones being left in the dust as the way we communicate changes. So, it’s imperative for us to show examples of success stories that illustrate what’s happening.

I have encountered one this Holiday Season, as I have had a chance to read for pleasure, something I don’t often get a chance to do when running full-speed for Tanner Friedman and our clients. I just finished a terrific book called “Play Their Hearts Out,” by George Dohrmann, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Sports Illustrated writer. He masterfully chronicles eight years in the lives of a youth basketball team, exposing the ills and thrills of “grassroots” basketball.

But it wasn’t just a great book. Dohrmann went “the rest of the way” to give his readers what they want in the age of personal media. Because the readers spend more than 400 pages getting to know the “characters,” who are now college age, he allows readers to keep up with their real lives. On a blog and on a Twitter feed, Dohrmann posts regular updates and answers readers’ questions. Instead of just writing a traditional media book, and leaving it at that, Dohrmann uses technology and new media consumption habits to his advantage, building a relationship with his audience and providing what is essentially customer service, by keeping the compelling story going, almost in real time.

If you’ve read the book (and, if you have even a passing interest in basketball, you should), you can now get updates on the players chronicled in the book, beyond the pages of the book, as much or as little as you want, whenever you want, without having to look hard for it. That’s communicating 2011 style and, on top of whatever awards this book will receive, Dohrmann should be recognized for successfully “getting” it.

How Much Should You Listen To The Twitter Masses?

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Recently, we had a chance to watch an isolated Twitter feed very closely at the moment that some high-profile news was announced. Then, we followed it for the rest of the day.

We saw hundreds of users tweet without any reflection. It’s almost like the news entered their ears and, without passing through any gray matter, an opinion was instantly formed and placed on the Internet for the world to see.

A phenomenon that I witnessed, and have seen played out in numerous ways, at all hours, ever since, is what seems to be the two primary objectives of many Twitter users – getting retweeted and gaining followers. These posters seem to jog their brains to quickly come up with a pithy, snarky and debatably humorous post with the hope that they will be retweeted, gaining literally momentarily fame and additional followers. For this segment of the Twitterverse, it’s not about communicating, it’s about trying to gain attention and contribute to someone else’s (hopefully a stranger) infotainment experience.

Another thing I noticed about Twitter reaction to news is that everything seems to fall into three categories of hyperbolic extremes in the initial Twitter avalanche. A) “Awesome” B) “Fail” or C) “Meh.” Translation A) “Good” B) Bad or C) Indifference or overall disappointment (particularly among those of us from the “Here we are now, entertain us” generation).

Jerry Seinfeld actually has a great take on this in his newer standup routine about how “great” or “sucks” seem to be the only two adjectives in today’s society (check out this clip – 2:58 in).

It also seems that journalists are on Twitter more than any other profession. And for many, their Tweets are hardly journalism. As a former journalist, I remember the things that were said in the newsroom that would have never been said on the air. Journalists are now tweeting comments that would have made their newsroom colleagues blush, all day and all night long, to the public, on Twitter.

When evaluating your PR effort and how it’s received on Twitter, remember that the Twitter audience is just one audience, of hopefully multiple audiences you have targeted. It’s important to pay attention to that audience and interact with it, but also keep it in perspective.

Watching Twitter can also be a lot of fun, some of the attempts at humor actually succeed. Fun, that is, unless it’s your company or client being called a #fail.

Mayor Bing Is Just What Detroit Ordered

Sunday, December 12th, 2010

As we put together our holiday wish lists roughly a year ago, many of us were hopeful that a newly elected leader in Detroit would take the city in a new direction. It would be the third such individual to step into the Mayor’s office in less than a year’s time. Hopes were high for this NBA Hall of Famer and successful businessman with no previous political experience.

After a year in office, Dave Bing has demonstrated that he has what it takes to bring this city back.  At a time when we needed a major image makeover and tangible change, Mayor Bing stepped in and showed us integrity, professionalism and a resolve to do the right thing  and act in the true interest of his constituents.

Far from a shrinking violet, Bing has not hesitated to take on the status quo, including an established and inefficient municipal bureaucracy, and other longstanding issues such as Detroit schools and abandoned dwellings. On WDIV’s “Flashpoint” today, in fact, Bing referenced an upcoming deadline that billionaire Matty Moroun will soon face regarding finding a buyer for the old Michigan Central Depot.

As he continues a series of Town Hall meetings to discuss his administration’s ambitious Detroit Works Project, Dave Bing continues to break down silos and build relationships – both inside and outside of the city limits. In that way, his consensus building is the best thing to happen to Metro Detroit since the days of Dennis Archer, albeit with an approach and demeanor the suggests greater approachability.

Last week, a PR Advisory Committee meeting for the Detroit Regional News Hub was held in Bing’s office, hosted by his Chief Communications Officer Karen Dumas. As we discussed how best to tell the city’s stories, the Mayor walked in to thank us. Without prodding and to his surprise, our room full of public relations professionals erupted in applause.  We, like the city and region are impressed by and rooting for Mayor Bing. He gets it at a time when we absolutely needed him to. In that way, he is a gift – for 2010 and beyond.

Lions Players Who Understand The Value of Off-The-Field PR

Monday, December 6th, 2010

When we have written here about celebrity trials and tribulations, we have conceded that while everyone deserves their privacy, when you are in the public spotlight, there is really no longer any such thing as a true private life. Such a dynamic can present both a challenge and an opportunity for such celebrities. A recent experience I had underscores this.

Last week, I attended a concert where, it soon became apparent, a large contingent of Detroit Lions players were gathering in the suite next to ours. Understandably, everyone was buzzing and jockeying for position for a possible look, photo opportunity or chance to talk briefly to the pro athletes that we follow every week.

One longtime member of the offense who has publicly called out heckling fans in the past mostly kept his back to our group and was largely aloof. He did pose for one photo before putting his hand up when other cameras started clicking. Another newer member of the offensive corps, when approached and asked if he could answer a question, replied, “No,” and walked away.

What a stark contrast to defensive backs Louis Delmas and Alphonso Smith who were incredibly engaging, seeking out, in fact, a couple of the pre-teen members of our group who were obviously star struck. They took the time to chat with the young fans and posed for pictures. Smith, of course, was the player repeatedly burned on Thanksgiving Day against the Patriots. I have admired the way he has handled himself since that game; taking responsibility (calling his play ‘selfish’ in fact) and, when in public, taking the time for fans.

Everyone deserves their space and a night on the town without being bothered. Yet, why not, on an occasion such as this, take the time to shake a couple of hands and talk briefly with your core fans who are clearly excited to see you, support you every week and, in turn, pay your salary? Delmas and Smith get it. Do a little unscripted, non-photo-opp. PR and then enjoy the rest of your night. They understand their responsibilities – on and off the field – and that a few minutes of kindness can leave a lasting impression.