Archive for August, 2012

What Every College Student Should Know About Getting A Communications Job

Sunday, August 26th, 2012

With college students heading back to campus, I’m reminded of a conversation I had recently with a young professional working part-time in broadcasting promotions while yearning to work “in her major” – PR, specifically, media relations. She did just one internship in college, right before she graduated. It was in broadcasting promotions. The station hired her, part-time, right after graduation and now she feels stuck.

As someone who believes strongly in the need to feel enthused about your career from time time you wake up each morning, I have sympathy for her situation. But there’s nothing I could do but be honest with her. She’s going to have a next-to-impossible time finding a full-time job, with benefits, in media relations or any form of PR. That’s because of one simple fact that every college student interested in communications must understand – coming out of school, given what has happened economically in this country in recent years, nobody is going to pay you – especially with a full-time salary and benefits – to do something you have never done before. That’s the bad news.

Here’s the good news – you don’t need a license or to pass a standardized exam to get an opportunity in this business while you’re still in school. But you do need to put down the beer and work some contacts (or the school’s contacts) and find an internship. Do the internship as early in school as you can. Then, do another internship in a different side of the industry. Get credit for your internships in lieu of taking classes.

The best internships are not entry-level jobs for graduates who only went to class for four years. They are for current students and give them a chance to sample new experiences, build relationships and, perhaps most important, find out what they really like doing for work. Class assignments can only simulate work. To find out what you like, you have to do it. A good internship provides a safe environment to experiment and grow.

In communications, it has always been the case. But now, more than ever, it has become imperative. In PR, no firm wants to spend its clients’ money training someone with just a high GPA. But every firm should want pros who are proven successes, at some level, in this business.

If you won’t take my word for it, ask another Friedman, Thomas, of the New York Times. As he said at the Mackinac Policy Conference earlier this year, “The credo of the C.E.O. today is: “You only hire someone — anywhere — if you absolutely have to…” The way you make a company have to hire you is by using your relationships to market your skill set, something you can’t develop solely in classrooms.

Radio Helps The Video Star

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

A friend alerted me to a recent story in the New York Times by reporter Ben Sisario which examines the ever-evolving music industry and how hits are now quite often broken and sustained, through both new and traditional media, albeit with a twist.

A year ago, singer Carly Rae Jepsen was a third runner-up on Canadian Idol and a relative unknown. Today, her song “Call Me Maybe” is the biggest song of the year having enjoyed an amazing run of nine straight weeks at Number One. What makes a song such a big, sustainable hit? Often, it is timing whereby either there is nothing quite like it on the radio at the time or its sound fits perfectly with other dynamics related to season (i.e. a top-down sign-along in summer or ballad in winter).

In the case of “Call Me” guerilla social media has catapulted the song into the stratosphere, thanks initially and appropriately enough, to the man YouTube made: Justin Bieber, who posted a video on YouTube of himself and friends lip-synching to the tune. That was February. Since that time, Katy Perry, the U.S. Olympic women’s swim team and other influencers posted similar video tributes which have, in turn, driven viewers to Jepsen’s original video - 212 million times.

With Nielsen recently announcing that nearly two-thirds of all teenagers listen to music on YouTube (more than any other medium) you can be sure that the viral video approach is here to stay. At the same time, many industry experts counter that while the Internet can be a great place to launch a record, no million-dollar sellers are ever made without radio airplay, with Jepsen did receive slowly but surely, sustaining interest and sales via a wider audience and the hometown community and credibility that only a hometown radio station can provide.

Just another example of how taking a multi-platform approach to media for any communications initiative is always the smartest and safest bet for success.

Parable of PR’s Passing Preposterous

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

This month in the Harvard Business Review, Bill Lee, a customer loyalty consultant and author, published quite an interesting article titled: “The Death of Traditional Marketing and the Rise of Inbound” in which he writes: “Traditional marketing – including advertising, public relations, branding and corporate communications – is dead. My reply to that? Bill Lee is dead wrong.

In his piece, Lee argues that traditional marketing communications is outdated and no longer effective in “today’s social media-infused environment where individuals seek out information “in their own way” (i.e. internet, blogs, social media) rather than through what he and others deem irrelevant avenues (i.e. newspapers, TV).

In reality, when done right, social and traditional avenues should work hand-in-hand to create effective multi-platform public relations/communications strategies that build brands and relationships. Social media often works best when it further leverages the third-party credibility of print, broadcast or online news stories. And where does most blog, Facebook and Twitter fodder come from? You guessed it – traditional media sources.

It is too bad that such a prestigious source of information was duped by a “sexy” headline. Public relations, branding, corporate communications, etc. are all essential to assisting companies to adeptly create their messages and tell their stories for consideration by the audiences they want to reach. If that doesn’t happen, what are clients and customers to react to? To become and stay relevant, it is not about one or the other; it is about all of the above.

Nike Just Does It in London

Saturday, August 11th, 2012

Last time, we talked about the brilliance of Dr. Dre in the product placement of his Beats headphones at this year’s Olympics. Yet, the company that many are pointing to as the gold standard in guerilla or “ambush” marketing at the 2012 summer games is one known for its uncanny ability to stand out in the wide world of sports: Nike.

Throughout its history, the Oregon-based sports product giant has been anything but shy about pushing the envelope. From groundbreaking commercials to high-profile sports sponsorships that place its famous “swoosh” logo on pro sport uniforms the world over, Nike is also known for pushing the boundaries – and London has been no exception

While Adidas and other official sponsors plunked down a cool $155 million each for four years of bragging rights, Nike put its dollars into what some are calling misleading yet bold TV commercials, which portray nameless athletes “competing” amidst a clearly London-esque backdrop.

Most notable, though has been how Nike has been able to actually integrate its brand and products into the games themselves – most notably  with its distinctive, neon-yellow Volt shoes. To be sure, the eye-catching dog envelopers have been hard to miss. According to Nike, an astounding 400 athletes have been wearing Volts – the majority of those in track and field but also in boxing and fencing. Even more amazing: As of Friday, 41 athletes had medaled wearing Volt shoes, including 43 percent of track and field medalists.

And what better athletes to give your shoes to. When all are of world-class status, chances are pretty good that they will ‘perform’ well. Remember the classic “must be the shoes” declaration of Spike Lee in the classic Nike Air Jordan spots of yesteryear? We knew better – or did we?

Political PR Reeks Of Leaks

Saturday, August 11th, 2012

Last night, before going to bed, I had an experience only a true media geek could love.

I saw several outlets on Twitter reporting that Mitt Romney was going to announce his running mate this morning. So, journalists were given about a 10 hours “heads up.” I wondered, how long would it take for the news to leak? I stayed up to find out. The answer – about 30 minutes until several news organizations, citing multiple sources, reported Rep. Paul Ryan as the choice.

Remember how the Romney campaign promised to “break the news” to supporters via a smartphone app? That didn’t come until hours later. The formal announcement came hours after that. Most of this was early morning on a Saturday, but in today’s 24-hour news culture, there is only relative down time.

Political PR seems often predicated on leaks. In fact, the “game” often thrives on leaks. This is a far cry from the business world, especially with public companies, where leaks are often considered worst case scenarios. In one instance, when working for a Fortune 50 public corporation, I traveled seven hours out of state without knowledge of the news I was going to be asked to help coordinate. To minimize the risk of leaks, I was left “out of the tent” before arriving on-site. In another instance, our firm was hired by a major sports league to develop a strategy to prevent leaks of an announcement for which executives wanted to have as much communications control as possible.

So what was the downside of the public knowing the news before it was scheduled to be news? In this case, it’s hard to say as the bulk of the media coverage that was prepared overnight seems pretty straightforward. But generally speaking, it creates more potential that messages will get lost or even hijacked by those with different agendas. It can mean that facts are often left out or even reported incorrectly in early coverage, often creating lasting impressions.

There is no downside, only upside potential, to maintaining control of your message, especially at the beginning of a story. But that’s something that just doesn’t happen in politics.

Dr. Dre Goes For Olympic Gold

Sunday, August 5th, 2012

Despite stepped up rules by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to protect official sponsorships for the 2012 games in London from “ambush marketing”, one product is being seen (if not heard) often by spectators and athletes alike. Beat headphones have been appearing on Olympians from a number of countries, provided free by entrepreneur Dr. Dre. This week, the committee ruled that the product placement did not breach sponsorship guidelines as athletes sporting the high-end audio devises were not endorsing them.

Still, sponsor rules are significantly stricter than ever for 2012 as the IOC looks to protect the investments of the 11 international companies that pay approximately $100 million each for four years of rights to sponsor the Olympics globally. Anything, from words such as “Olympian” and “Games” to visuals, including the Olympic rings and other official logos and symbols, are strictly prohibited with flagrant violations enforced. This includes broadcast advertising, billboards and signage within Olympic event zones and social media – from posts to conversations.

Limits have certainly been pushed in the past, including in 1984 in Los Angeles where Fujifilm’s official sponsorship was usurped by rival Kodak’s sponsoring the TV broadcasts of the U.S. track team. Today, Fuji would be afforded first right of refusal for on-air coverage. Similarly, in 1992 in Barcelona, with Adidas the official Olympic clothing sponsor, Nike underwrote Michael Jordan and the U.S. basketball team. During the medal ceremony, Jordan covered up the Adidas logo with the American flag. This would not fly today.

Thus, it would seem, Dr. Dre is just the latest in a long line of brilliant marketers with moxie who are unafraid to test the waters and toe the line. And, while the IOC is sure to continue to tighten the rules and eliminate loop holes, for now it appears that guerilla advertising approaches are more likely to meet with the thrill of victory than the agony of defeat.