Archive for September, 2012

Radio, TV Still Opportune For Business News

Sunday, September 30th, 2012

Last week, I had the privilege of speaking to small business owners and marketers as part of Walsh College’s “Hot Topics” series. I was asked to speak about the opportunities still left for business stories on radio and on TV, even with the changes in the media.

I started my presentation by asking questions of the audiences and the results confirmed what we believe inside our firm – even with all of the options for information, traditional broadcast media are often as close as we get to what used to be called “mass media,” even for businesspeople.

Nearly every audience member had listened to news on the radio on the way to the morning event. Most had watched some local TV news that morning. Interestingly, just a few had already accessed the website branded with a daily newspaper (but several more said they planned to at work) and only a couple had watched 10pm or 11pm TV news the night before. Virtually all said they were not often in front of a TV for the still-marquee 5pm or 6pm TV newscasts.

Understand that I did not recommend that they ignore other forms of communication to focus on traditional broadcast media. I appreciate that the others who spoke discussed advertising, trade shows/face-to-face marketing and web communication. But, I did explain that to get your story on the air now, it takes something different than it used to.

Since then, I reviewed some “tapes” (now dubbed to DVD) from when I first started working in TV newsrooms more than 20 years ago. On them, I found what we used to call “evergreen” stories. These were interesting local features that could be done today, tomorrow, next week or next month and would be the same whenever they got done. But, they got done because there were generally resources to report them. Not anymore.

In order to successful tell a business story via TV or radio or position a business’ expertise, you have to “have a today angle.” In other words, the story has to fit into today’s headlines or connected stories they are covering anyway. Additionally, you now may have to take your story to the studio, as there are scant few crews “on the street” who can come to you.

In conjunction with other platforms, TV and radio can still get your message to a relatively large audience. We call it, “the old and the new.” As always, we appreciate the opportunity to speak about it in credible forums to attentive audiences.

PR Makes The Difference In Getting NFL Officials Back

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Even though Commissioner Roger Goodell won’t admit it, the return of the permanent officials to National Football League games is a victory for PR.

The tipping point in negotiations that had dragged on for months was an embarrassment on Monday Night Football. The botched call by the officiating crew in that game transformed this controversy from a sports story causing annoyance for fans to the most talked news about story in America. Even the President of the United States, on the campaign trail, mentioned it. In addition to Presidential frustration, this story soared social media to new heights. It resulted in the most re-tweeted tweet of all time, from a Packers’ player. Plus, it resulted in the most-watched SportsCenter ever on ESPN – a program that has been on the air since 1979. The onslaught of negative coverage, reflective of negative emotions, singled potentially bad business to come.

Because the only upside in this mess was the number of clicks the video of the controversial game ended was getting on the NFL’s online channels, the League had to act and the officials’ union had to get real about some of its demands.

Whenever fans have to think of sports as a business, it tends to be bad for sports and potentially bad for business. In this case, fans, looking for an escape from their everyday, were forced to think of the realities of the NFL’s everyday. For the NFL, it’s best to let customers concentrate on America’s most popular game, not the business, of football. The PR imperative enabled that to come together.

At its best, PR should lead to business results. Often, PR can lead to business solutions. Anybody who thinks otherwise just isn’t paying attention to the story behind the stories.

“Detropia” Stirring, Disturbing, Incomplete

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

You’ve heard of Detroit’s trials and tribulations and now, you can see them vividly on the silver screen in a new documentary from filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, called “Detropia”. If you have an opportunity to see the movie, which won a Sundance award for film editing (and was nominated for another) do so. It is visually beautiful and compelling and, yet, is incomplete.

Shot largely in 2010 during the collapse of the auto industry, “Detropia” attempts to tell the tale of our city, looking very briefly back at 1967, and and how it has suffered greatly in more recent years due to the fall of manufacturing and rise of outsourcing in this country in general.  We see images of decay and depression tempered slightly by nostalgia and hope, provided largely through the eyes and words of a video blogger, UAW chapter president and bar owner respectively.

In the end, though, the movie does not tell the whole story of Detroit – not even close. Too many images of dilapidated, crumbling buildings and overgrown fields give the impression that the city is too far gone and still too reliant on automotive (i.e. The Volt). Campus Martius? Never mentioned. Dan Gilbert and the burgeoning IT corridor on Woodward that is bringing thousands upon thousands of jobs downtown? Ditto. And what about high-tech manufacturing where engineering jobs go unfilled by the hundreds of thousands, here and nationwide?

Similarly unreported is our emerging Creative Corridor, tech and entrepreneurial growth in midtown and fact that residential living has become nearly 100% occupied within the past year, necessitating new real estate projects. This is where the movie is most sorely lacking – in balance.  ”Detropia” does not tell the rest of the story – what Detroit could be and is indeed becoming.

Do You Play Well With Others?

Monday, September 17th, 2012

What are some important attributes we can appreciate by observing top sports figures? Character? Perseverance? Fearlessness? All of the above when athletes embrace their unique position to set examples and serve as role models. All too often, however, this does not come to pass.

Never mind off-the-field behavior. It was recently reported that as a league, NFL players had gone 33 days without an arrest – a record number since journalists officially began keeping track 5 years ago. These problems are already well-documented and disturbing. But what of demeanor exacted on the gridiron? This past week, we witnessed actions that I would argue crossed the line “between the lines”. Enter: Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.

Known for his fragile psyche, Cutler’s performance against the Green Bay Packers on Thursday night was remarkable not as much for his multitude of interceptions as for the meltdown publicly directed at his offensive line and, more specifically, teammate JaMarcus Webb. Tired of one too many sacks and rushed throws, Cutler was spotted on the national NFL Network broadcast screaming at his teammates in frustration, followed by actually bumping Webb as he walked by. At the post game press conference Cutler defended his actions, saying in essence that he was there to win and when people did not perform he was going to let them know about it. It all came off rather infantile, really.

While there is no denying the pressure and extreme physical nature of sports, aren’t each of us also under tremendous pressures day-to-day? How we react to adversity in offices and boardrooms (and playing fields) can define who we are and set the tone for our entire organizations. Dressing down a colleague in public (in Cutler’s case in front of millions of viewers) and then turning physical (however mildly) would be, in our world, grounds for censure if not outright dismissal. Hopefully, Cutler’s outburst and inappropriate reactions made the masses uncomfortable – and enough so that we all take a good look at how we are communicating with and treating those with whom we interact. We all should care about our work, but we should care about those we work with even more.

The Appalling Truth About Quote Approval

Monday, September 17th, 2012

As a former journalist who has spent the past 14+ years on every side of the media interview – spokesperson, PR conduit and media trainer – I have always said that “there’s no such thing as a perfect news story.”

Working with journalism is a trade-off. You lose control but you gain a credible forum for your message (and often a relatively large audience) in return. Because of the human element in the editorial process, mistakes can be made. But, the vast majority of the time, reporters and editors want to “get it right” and the audience gets accurate and fair, although sometimes imperfect, reporting.

But for some high-profile news subjects, that, apparently, is not enough. There’s a new type of trade-off. The New York Times first reported in July that both Presidential Campaigns are demanding quote approval or denying access to reporters. Today, a new Times report, from media columnist David Carr, says that even in the business world, access to executives is being traded for the ability of PR staff to approve quotes.

Here in the trenches, we find this appalling. Over the years, some journalists have asked us to approve quotes as part of a fact checking process. In these rare instances, we are asked to review quotes for accuracy, and only for accuracy.
However, we will not make quote approval a condition of access to one of our clients. If a client demanded such an arrangement, we would not risk damage to our media relationships and we would decline.

If a client wants to get a message to its audiences, unfiltered with complete control, there are many ways of doing that. Buy an ad, craft social media, give a speech, send an e-blast, make your website content centric – those are just a few examples. But an interview with a journalist should be a different form of communication. In that case, journalists and PR professionals should work together to, in tandem, maintain credibility.

“Quote approval or else” flies in the face of any credible journalistic effort. News consumers beware.

Obama Stirs Facebook Masses

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

While the Democratic and Republican National Conventions both wrapped over the past two weeks, the events continue to be scrutinized by pundits, including who and what resonated most, in particular on social media.  CNN Digital Producer Eric Weisbrod took a closer look, in recent days, at Facebook’s “Talk Meter” analysis which assigns a number (1-10) to a person or event’s magnitude.

Taking into account all major news and events of the past two weeks, Barack Obama, registered the highest mark among Facebook’s 160 million U.S. users with a 7.28 rating. He was followed by the Democratic National Convention overall (7.09) and Bill Clinton (7.08). The Republican National Convention overall came next in fourth place with a 6.82, followed by the MTV Video Music Awards (6.67).  Mitt Romney checked in behind the NFL Season Opener, Clint Eastwood, Hurricane Isaac and others in tenth place with a 5.04 rating.

What does all of this mean exactly? Does the fact that more people were posting on Facebook about Barack Obama portend a winning popular vote? Not necessarily. One thing the “Talk Meter” analysis does not measure is “tone”; in other words, is that chatter positive or negative and to what degree. It would suggest, however, that the president and what he represents are found to be more compelling in one way or another, spurring a larger number of the masses to commentary.

What the camps of both candidates are sure to find useful are the geographic breakouts where President Obama’s jump in chatter was found to be highest in Washington, D.C., North Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana and Georgia. Exact content of posts aside, cross-checking this information with polling data could serve as yet another point of reference for determining popularity in particular states. Indeed, it is a noteworthy snapshot of what ‘moves’ the U.S. people with Election Day now less than 60 days away.

The New Tug-Of-War: PR vs. SEO

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

How far would you get into this blog post if I wrote like one of the self-proclaimed SEO experts we’re meeting lately? Here’s a snapshot:

As a Michigan PR Firm, we are often seeing trends in creating Detroit websites that PR experts in Metro Detroit can spot with experience in public relations, brand building, strategic communications and writing in Michigan.

Confusing? Yes. Self-serving? Absolutely. Credible? Not at all.

The SEO obsession, at the expense of storytelling and credibility, when creating the latest generation of websites is now out of control. By jamming as many possible search terms as possible into copy and flooding home pages with eye-draining text, the SEO guessers are trying to stage an uprising against the once and future King, content.

While we collaborate with true online marketing professionals who understand the importance of credible storytelling and will listen to the realities of a business’ search potential, too many website developers are engaging in a tug-of-war with the PR principles that are proven to shape reputations and influence business decisions. Unfortunately, clients are caught holding the rope and trying to decide between the allure of potential new business just a Google search away and the fundamentals of business communication that can help set a business apart from the cluttered marketplace. We have seen sites, even in the professional services sector (where credibility and relationships are the deciding factors) that are so driven by SEO snake oil, that they don’t communicate anything other than a laundry list of capabilities and geography.

So who should win the tug-of-war? Ideally, there shouldn’t be one. When creating a website, content, design and customized search functionality should all be important factors in developing a strategy executed through the site. It needs to speak to your audience, look the way your brand should be communicated and serve as a destination for those seeking your content. The Web has changed everything about communications but, in many ways, it hasn’t changed anything. It’s imperative to communicate who you are, what you do and how you’re different. If your website is just a place for search terms to reside, searchers may end up there, but they won’t stay long and they won’t necessarily do what you want them to.