Archive for December, 2011

A Continuation of Crain’s on Radio

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

Though I often lament what commercial radio was and should be, I also try to levy credit where credit is due.  I’d like to use this forum to do exactly that.

In Bill Shea’s recent Crain’s Detroit Business piece on Jim Harper and the current state of the industry, while I did reference the fact that, in recent years, radio had in many cases moved away from top shelf personalities, citing economics, I did offer exceptions during our interview. Shea noted some of those, including the top notch staff at classic rock WCSX (Calvert, Savelly and Kostan among them). Also on my list are Blaine & Allyson on WDVD who are also seen nationally on the TV show,  “The Dish.” They, along with the likes of Jim Johnson at WOMC have their stations surging in the ratings.

During our chat on radio, I also discussed with Shea the importance of not only personality but also programming in setting a station apart from the competition. With the Portable People Meter and ownership conglomerates, music mixes often remain for the most part stale and uncreative with corporate consultants leaning toward safe and familiar.

Some exceptions to that rule once again include WOMC and WCSX, the former often channeling the high energy sound of 70s Top 40. Add in jock “talk ups” and the CBS oldies station has never sounded better. Recent tune-ins to 94.7 FM, meanwhile, had me smiling upon hearing Foreigner’s lesser-known “Headknocker” along with the extended album cut of “Black Betty” by Ram Jam – and in morning drive (9a hour) no less!

And, recent dial exploration brought me unknowingly to Henry Ford Community College station WHFR (89.3 FM) and their weekly airing of the syndicated “Mountain Stage.” There, I discovered for the first time the band Dawes and their 70s West Coast sound that brings to mind Neil Young and Jackson Browne.

Though many like to say terrestrial radio is dying, these naysayers are dead wrong.  Yet, to continue to compete, programmers and music directors and station managers must understand and recognize the importance of personality and fun, creative programming that keep listeners tuning in and coming back for more.

From The Blog Request Line: How Bad WAS Kris Humphries?

Monday, December 19th, 2011

Like the Old School radio DJs we write about on this blog, we also open up the request lines from time to time.

We were flattered to receive a Tanner Friedman blog request from one of the top in-house PR and marketing professionals we know, Kim Eberhardt. Kim caught the “first interview” with Kris Humphries, the NBA benchwarmer who is now famous for being part of a reality show marriage and divorce. Only in America. Kim asked me to watch the interview on Good Morning America because I may think it’s an example of media training gone awry. She said he stiffly recited the same trite lines over and over again.

To honor the request, I did watch that interview. Beforehand, though, I had to brush up on the whole Humphries/Kardashian saga. As a pretty huge basketball fan, I had never heard of Humphries. As for the Kardashians, I try to ignore them (but I do remember their dad from covering OJ Simpson’s trial years ago).

In the interview, flanked by his mother, Humphries was flustered, frustrated and low on ammunition. I actually think it appears that he was under media trained and underprepared for the interview. Of course, he was going to be asked about his “marriage.” His cue card answers weren’t going to satisfy a celebrity-crazed audience. There was obviously a disconnect between the way ABC promoted the interview “His Life With Kim (Kardashian)” and the fact that he didn’t want to talk about exactly what ABC promised the audience. Now, Humphries apparently thinks he was ambushed, according to this piece.

Regardless of the intention of either party, here’s what we know: both parties got something out of this. ABC had the chance to get the ratings points it wanted. Humphries got the chance to lobby for an NBA job, which he no longer has probably for multiple reasons – marginal pro basketball skill and his sideshow life off the court. ABC picked up some audience and some buzz. Humphries got to show that he’s a real guy with a mom and a charitable foundation. All in all, that’s a win-win.

Happy Holidays to all of our friends and remember, request lines are always wide open.

Why Facebook Is Really Not The Be-All, End-All Marketing Tool

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

Since starting Tanner Friedman, we have advised our clients and the readers of this blog on the importance of a multiplatform strategy. We believe it becomes more imperative each year to reach target audiences in different ways, as audiences splinter and media habits change.

In recent months, we have seen a new example that should make you take notice. The “new” Facebook has caused new challenges for users that relied, maybe too heavily, on that one platform to drive their business communications.

A case in point is a business that is, quite literally, close to me. My wife’s business, which is completely online, MCP Actions, astoundingly, has more than 90,000 “likes” on Facebook, and growing. But, because of the “new” Facebook, she has actually seen a decrease in website referrals from Facebook.

How can that be? Facebook doesn’t let you see everything you have “liked” or all of your “friends” in your news feed regularly. It prioritizes them for you, based on your interactions on their site. If you have passively read content from a person or business you elected to hear from, rather than interacted with it somehow (a comment, a status “like,” etc.), it’s less likely you’ll see them show up in your news feed now. So, for heavy Facebook users, chances are you aren’t seeing content from dozens (or more) of pages you opted-in to view.

So what’s a marketer to do? Continue on Facebook, and everywhere else that’s successful, but also invest time and resources into platforms that you can more fully control. MCP has spent more time in recent months on its e-newsletter and blog, where my wife can more directly reach customers without Facebook’s algorithms or filters. That has helped keep business results stronger than an overreliance on Facebook would have been.

Social Media is not the perfect business development tool that the self-proclaimed “experts” and “gurus” will have you believe. Facebook, in particular, can be a way – one way – of communicating messages and telling stories. But, like every other platform, it is changing fast and those changes may not always work to your advantage. This is another reminder that when investing in communications, like with financial investment, having a “diverse portfolio” can protect against risk.

Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

If there but for the grace of God go I. We are all human and fall down but there has perhaps never been greater media scrutiny when it comes to the actions of public figures. To be sure, it seems, every day a politician, coach or administrator is admonished or worse for what they do or say (or what they don’t do) – often rightly so. So, where for art thou apologies?

In recent days, the Mayor of Troy, Janice Daniels, has made headlines for a homosexual slur on her Facebook page. As of this past weekend, she remained adamant that she would neither remove the post nor apologize, citing the remarks as “personal comments” made last summer before she considered running for mayor that she did not feel were offensive. As the story spread nationally with protests and calls locally for her resignation, Daniels on Monday did an about face on WXYT-AM’s Charlie Langton show, finally conceding that her comments were “inappropriate,” ultimately saying: “I do apologize.” One, obviously, made under duress.

In less recent days and in the world of sports, we have witnessed much turmoil but, it might seem, not much remorse. Several lost their jobs at Penn State yet public remarks were certainly short on apologies. When competing “Jims” Schwartz and Harbaugh locked horns on the field this year, while both latter conceded that they might have acted more appropriately, Harbaugh added, with regard to the “A word”: “I don’t think that there’s any reason for an apology. Apologies always seem to me like excuses.” And, of course, Ndamukong Suh, post-Thanksgiving, uttered these immortal words in light of bad behavior: “I am only apologizing to my teammates, coaches and my true fans…” An apology, it seems, with conditions.

Perhaps some consider apologizing as sign of weakness while others are not in favor of its connotation as an admittance of guilt. Yet, in the world of adversity/reputation management, the old phrase: To err is human, to forgive devine should be at the forefront of all of our thinking. Yet, to enable the masses to forgive and forget can only be accomplished when genuine remorse is felt and communicated. What do I do when lightening strikes me? Say you’re sorry…and mean it.

New Trend For Journalists: Report First, Give Opinion Later

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

Because of the way media is changing so quickly before our eyes, big stories now help illuminate new trends in media and communications. The situation at my alma mater, Syracuse University, has brought one of those trends to light.

SI.com’s media reporter, Richard Deitsch, ran an extensive interview with ESPN reporter Mark Schwarz, who first broke the story of allegations against now-former associate basketball coach Bernie Fine in this story posted yesterday. Schwarz’s reporting on television and online has mostly consisted of a presentation of his interviews of alleged victims and a recording of one alleged victim talking to Fine’s wife. He used the conversation with Deitsch to not only defend his reporting of the story, but also to offer his opinion, as he has apparently not been able to do over ESPN’s platforms through his reporting.

Here’s the line from Schwarz about alleged victim Bobby Davis and Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim that jarred me the most when reading the article on my phone on a Downtown Detroit sidewalk last night:

“The part that is the most difficult for me is Bobby Davis put his entire soul and reputation out there and then Jim Boeheim, a person much more respected in the community, put a knife through him.”

There’s no mistaking that as subjective personal opinion. Deitsch and I traded Twitter messages late last night about this. Here’s what he told me in a publicly-accessible message:

“I’ll be honest: I was very surprised he used that language. Checked the tape again after to make sure I heard it right.” Deitsch also told me that he agrees this is part of a bigger trend, “the definition of a reporter is changing in a point of view world, for better or for worse.”

This trend is evident when reporters for national news organizations appear on cable news to talk about their stories and, typically, offer their opinion on the subjects they are covering.

We hear this frequently on the local level in Detroit, particularly around the recent political scandals and even with big automotive news. It follows a pattern – journalist breaks story and then goes on the radio the next day to talk about it. Radio shows like WJR’s Paul W. Smith and Frank Beckmann Shows, public station WDET’s Craig Fahle Show and rocker WRIF’s Drew and Mike frequently give air time to newspaper and TV reporters to talk about their reporting. Some of those reporters often use their radio appearances as a catharsis – spewing opinion that would previously have only been heard in the newsroom.

What does this mean for PR professionals? Bigger challenges, under the most difficult circumstances for clients. But, there also could be opportunities as previously hidden agendas become public, they could be addressed head-on.

Suh Redux

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

And so the saga of Ndamukong Suh continues with a hearing this afternoon with Art Shell to review the 2-game suspension handed down by the league for his Thanksgiving Day melt down. It’s a story that continues to dominate the sports world and, I feel, worthy of a bit more comment.

I actually was compelled this week, along with scores of others, to call in to 97-1 The Ticket during the “Valenti & Foster” afternoon radio show. Though apparently, according to ESPN, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suggested to Suh that he appeal the bench time, I relayed my disappointment in Suh’s seeming continued refusal to take full responsibility for his actions and accept consequences. What did Sammy Davis Jr. sing in the 70s TV show “Baretta” theme song: Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time…?

Moreover, I have continued to be disappointed by Coach Jim Schwartz and the Detroit Lion’s reaction to the matter. Early on, Schwartz indicated that any discipline would come from the league. I would suggest that is not enough. Why not also send a message to fans and players young and old with an additional fine from the team? After all, wasn’t Gosder Cherilus benched for a less egregious yet similarly unsportsmanlike action earlier in the year? The tone for any organization is set at the top.

It seems the conversation and debate continues to be centered around aggressiveness and competitiveness versus intent and misunderstanding. I would continue to argue that it should be about sportsmanship and responsibility. Given those two dyamics, there is nothing to appeal. Instead, Suh should take that time for reflection. If he can truly learn an admittedly painful lesson, we will all benefit in the end.