Archive for May, 2012

Networking Strategically

Monday, May 28th, 2012

In honor of the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Conference (what some call the Super Bowl of networking), I wanted to run excerpts of a bylined piece I was asked to write on strategic networking for the latest Chaldean American Chamber’s quarterly news magazine:

Strategic networking [promoting one's self, business and services] can be one of the most important marketing avenues you ever undertake and can take many shapes and forms: a networking reception; a charitable golf outing; an industry business conference. What is key is not just a matter of participation, it is how you approach and make the most of such opportunities, both during and after each respective event.

Keep in mind that “success” (typically developing new business and contacts) does not happen overnight. If you are expecting to attend a couple of events, pass out and collect a few business cards and then watch the phone ring you are likely to be disappointed. Today more than ever, people do business with people they know and trust. Like any relationship, building a productive business relationship takes time and effort.

Meeting new people can often prove challenging and daunting. When joining a new organization, leverage existing relationships with longtime members as well as organizational leadership to help make initial introductions. Hone your “elevator speech” to the point that you can succinctly and compellingly communicate what you do and how you do it better in 60 seconds or less. And don’t forget those business cards (which hopefully contain all pertinent online information including web address and social media URLs).

Key to maximizing memberships or event participation is to become tangibly involved. Work toward joining a Board or Committee germane to your area of expertise. Assist in the planning and implementation of an important event or organizational undertaking. The camaraderie developed in such scenarios can prove invaluable.

But perhaps the most important element in all of your strategic networking outreach and interacting with people through such initiatives is listening. All too often individuals make the mistake of talking and “selling” and not being receptive to hearing the needs of those they are speaking with. Think: How can I help you?

Finally: stay in touch. Don’t discount particular individuals because they work in lines of work that, at face value, you are not interested in. Add everyone you meet to a master list for later outreach (for example, e-blast updates on your company and its accomplishments). Treat everyone you meet with respect. Remember that first impressions are as important as anything. Face to face interaction and discourse, through networking, is where it all begins.

Steve Wilson Headed Back On TV

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

There’s probably no other journalist we have written about on this blog who has elicited more comments than Steve Wilson.

One of the great characters of the TV news business, Steve draws audience, makes enemies of bad guys (particularly elected officials) and ends up being the subject of other journalists’ stories, wherever he works. In Detroit, he built a big following on TV and online in his pursuit of the truth about Detroit’s ex-Mayor and other high-profile reporting targets.

Last I wrote about him, in 2010, Steve had left ABC affiliate WXYZ-TV in a contract dispute and set off to start a nonprofit, on-line investigative reporting outlet. I included it in a lengthy piece I wrote for Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. Soon after getting it up and running, though, Steve was nearly killed by a heart attack. He moved back to Florida full-time to focus on his health.

Yesterday, he announced that he’s headed back to TV, hired by a Gannett-owned ABC/NBC affiliate combo in Jacksonville. There, no doubt, he’ll make politicians squirm and lead viewers to watch the news more than they would otherwise.

When he left WXYZ-TV, I expressed doubt on whether they would be able to attract an audience, particularly at 11pm, without Wilson’s reporting, which had raised the bar for investigative work in Detroit and gave viewers a reason to stay up late to tune in (or go online the next morning to watch what they missed). To the station’s credit, the team of Scott Lewis, Heather Catallo, Bill Proctor and Wilson protege Ross Jones has filled the void, breaking stories and using the TV and web media well to provide viewers with investigative content.

We’ll keep an eye on Wilson’s reporting from Jacksonville. Chances are, it will be worth sharing with a national audience.

PRSA 2012 Michigan Conference: Collaborations Yield Rewards

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

And so another PRSA Michigan Conference came this week to a successful conclusion at the Sheraton in Novi. CommLab: Where the Art and Science of Communication Meet was the culmination of 18 months of planning held 2 years after the award-winning 2010 State Conference – both of which I had the honor and privilege of co-chairing with Jocelyn Allen of General Motors and Jennifer Wilt of Denso (pictured with the author at the event’s conclusion).

Together with an outstanding conference committee, volunteers and sponsors to make the event happen, this year’s conference, I feel, was the best yet. Working hard to ensure we offered speakers and sessions that provoked thought and challenged conventions, the event appealed to wide array of PR professionals – from the most experienced practitioners to the industry’s newest faces – exactly the diversity of background we sought.

If you missed the event, you missed a lot including an opportunity to renew old acquaintances and connect with new faces; to learn, participate and grow. It really is what PRSA Detroit is all about.

Years ago, someone told me that PRSA was not worth the time as: ‘It’s just a bunch of PR people talking to PR people.” The characterization was, of course, short-sighted and wrong. As other Board members or dedicated members will tell you, those who are tangibly involved in their Chapter not only give back to the industry but also enjoy the vitally important opportunity to get to know their peers, develop friendships and alliances, throw business conflicts back and forth and grow as professionals.

From hard work has come even greater rewards,  including a renewed appreciation of our field, strong business relationships and, further, friendships for life. It is what getting involved – truly involved to collaborate and work together toward a shared goal – is all about.

A Facebook IPO (In Professional Opinion)

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

On the eve of Facebook’s awaiting initial stock offering, it’s no surprise that two national media outlets got together to cook up a story perfectly suited to draw some web clicks. The survey showed about half of Americans asked believe that Facebook is a “passing fad.”

Like the TV stations that head to a gas station to talk to drivers about high gas prices rather than working to find someone who understands the oil market to explain it, the survey allowed the general public to speak rather than those who analyze these trends professionally. So, here’s one communicator’s opinion on this question…

This reminds me of a legendary story in my family of my grandfather who, in the early ’70s, refused to buy a color TV, calling it a “gimmick.” The younger generations embraced it and, eventually, Zenith didn’t last but color TV sure did, evolving into today’s HD normalcy.

Something similar happened in the ’90s. AOL got us hooked on being online, getting instant information, sending and receiving email and sharing opinions in chat rooms. The vast majority of us don’t get online and hear “you’ve got mail” anymore, but we’re online more than ever, wondering how we lived without our information fix, reliant beyond belief on email and sharing opinions online in many ways. AOL’s days as the dominant Internet provider were temporary but what we liked about its service endured.

So what do we like about Facebook? Instant connectivity with friends and acquaintances past and present, sharing photos and videos, messaging without email, sharing and exploring opinions in real time, another source of news and information from people we know and trust. The list could go on. We put up with annoyances because, overall, it offers something that we think enriches our lives.

Facebook, the brand and the company, could be with us for many years to deliver that experience. Or another company or companies could do it all better and more profitably. Those are unknowns and investors will be the ones to place their bets. But the fundamentals of social media are no fad. They are a part of our lives and our culture and here to stay.

A Mind (A Life) Is A Terrible Thing To Waste

Monday, May 14th, 2012

In the wake of the death of Junior Seau and scores of concussion-related lawsuits by former players and their families against the NFL, a range of confusing and contradictory messages continue to be communicated from all sides. Unsurprisingly, it is taking a veritable league of attorneys and medical experts to sort things out as many of the suits are shifted up to federal court.

At issue is whether the National Football League knowingly misrepresented and misled players regarding the dangers and risks associated with concussions, in light of recent studies on the correlation between repeated blows to the head and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive degenerative disease discovered in the brains of former NFL players. 1,500 (and growing) NFL pensioners are crying ‘foul’. The league and its owners are communicating concern while indicating they too were in the dark until medical science indicated issues only recently.

Perhaps most concerning, though, is what is coming out of the mouths of current players. This week in a Detroit News story by Bob Wojnowski, Detroit Lions rookie Travis Lewis characterized one particularly wicked hit that fellow rookie Ronnell Lewis had put on another player in college as follows: “If you’ve ever seen a roach or something with its leg cut off and trying to wobble around — the guy tried to get up and fell. He tried to work his way to the huddle and he fell again. Concussions are never funny, but being on the opposite team and witnessing that, it was pretty hilarious, I’m not gonna lie.”

In an earlier but recent week, eleven-year Lions starter Dominick Raiola indicated to reporters that he’s ready for whatever physical ailments are in store when his playing career is done: “It’s totally worth it…when you sign up for this job, you know what you’re getting in to. Whatever happens is going to happen, whether it be short-term memory loss. Those are all the rigors of this job.”

And while it is not surprising for young, healthy, famous millionaires to move through their careers with feelings of indestructability, perhaps a new mindset needs to be communicated by these larger than life ‘role models’ to the next generation: That inflicting injury should not be a part of the game. That winning via bounties and vicious hits is wrong.  That they can be a part of the solution, not just an tragic benefactor of its ills.

TV News Online: Stations Get It

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Over the past two weeks, I have spent significant time inside multiple TV newsrooms talking to decision-makers about online news video for a client project. After in-depth discussions about the present and future of how news is consumed, I’m convinced that the perception that local TV stations don’t get how badly their audience wants to consume their project online is nothing but a myth. They get it.

All of the stations we talked to – local operations owned by national, publicly-owned groups – hear loud and clear from their audiences that news on TV in the morning, at Noon and at the traditional times of “5,6 and 11″ (plus 10pm) isn’t enough for the changing marketplace. They understand that you want information and video on your time and on your terms. They are working hard to develop new ways to allow you to do that – on your computer, your tablet or your phone, then share what you watch via social media.

Some barriers stand in their way. The technology is changing fast. Their news gathering resources have been cut in recent years. Some copyright and union restrictions may get in the way. Then there’s the balancing act between building brand and generating revenue, which is a persistent challenge for all.

In addition to their own websites, some stations are making videos of their news coverage available via YouTube (and benefitting financially from that). Others are exploring new platforms (that we plan to share with you once something is up and running). But all understand that they must meet consumer demand by a public that enjoys significantly wider access to broadband Internet.

Critics of the business charge that traditional news operations are too slow to react to changes in consumer media consumption habits. In this case, though, they’re on it.

Beastie Boys Will Live On

Sunday, May 6th, 2012

In the wake this week of the tragic death from cancer of Beastie Boys co-founder Adam Yauch, I heard a radio talk show host opine on the future of the group’s two remaining members saying, in not so many words: ‘I don’t see how they can go on recording or performing without him.’ The broadcaster went on to compare the situation to the band Journey, who continues to perform live without Steve Perry, much, the broadcaster said, to his chagrin.

Is that fair? I would argue it is not. On the other hand, there are precedents. The Doors were no longer relevant without Jim Morrison. The same could be said of Mamas and the Papas without Mama Cass or INXS with the loss of Michael Hutchence.

What is really important here is the group’s “essence” or core. It will be compromised but not irrevocably. Journey carries on without Steve Perry because of the group’s founder and creative mastermind, Neal Schon, who started it all with original lead singer Greg Rolie. The Who continued successfully on after the death of drummer Keith Moon (and later John Entwistle) because Pete Townsend and Roger Daltry remained at the group’s epicenter. Even Queen, without the mercurial Freddy Mercury, has succeeded with what are essentially tribute concerts, led by Brian May and the strength of the group’s music.

The Beasties were a true amalgamation of three creative geniuses who merged rock and rap and made it more accessible to the masses. With ample time to heal, I have no doubt that Michael Diamond and Adam Horovitz will continue their Rock & Roll Hall of Fame legacy – both as a tribute to their fallen comrade and as a reminder that rock ‘n roll (in this case married with rap), and those that create it, truly never die.

Again, Corporate Execs Need To Catch The Spirit Of PR

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

As veterans of airline industry PR who worked on, among other things, a pilots’ strike, slowdowns and disruptions caused by disgruntled flight attendants and mechanics and full airplanes stuck in snowdrifts for hours, we can sympathize and empathize with whomever is facing the media on behalf of Spirit Airlines today.

We can imagine the punch to the gut when hearing that they have to announce the airline is going to start charging customers $100 to “stow a bag in the overhead compartment.” As usual, it’s a decision made by executives in a conference room that PR people have to deal with out in the “real world.” Inevitably, it will be branded a “PR problem,” even though PR is just the face of the problem. That’s especially true in the airline business, which tends to be unpopular and unprofitable, creating constant communications challenges.

What we’re seeing here is consistent with what we’re seeing across industries and across the country in analyzing corporate PR. It’s just not a priority for top executives. They get retained and bonused based on “hitting numbers.” It’s really all about the finances, typically in the short-term. In this case, Spirit’s top management threw PR out the window (and under the bus, to use two apropos cliches) and focused squarely on the only thing that matters to keeping their jobs – making the money for the company that they’re supposed to make.

Until top corporate execs are evaluated on corporate reputation, this type of obvious disregard for PR will continue. Unless public backlash is so strong that it affects revenue and threatens the jobs of key executives, expect the $100 rule to stand.