Archive for June, 2013

Everything I Needed To Know About Media Relations I Learned…

Monday, June 24th, 2013

UnknownIn the communications business, the TV news internship is one way to get a basic education in the way things work, in a fast-paced, competitive environment. 22 summers ago, I was a TV news intern at WJBK-TV in Detroit, then “TV 2,” a CBS affiliate.

In that internship, I learned enough about broadcast news that I got a paying job at WWJ Radio, then located in the same building, for the following summer. I met contacts who would continue to help me decades later. Now, after finding some old coverage in my basement recently, I realized that I learned a lot about PR that summer too.

If you can spare fewer than 3 minutes, take a look at this story. I did the behind-the-scenes legwork on it. In fact, that’s me in the hallway scenes, on the left (with all of the hair).

The story, reported by my incomparable original mentor in communications, Murray Feldman, revealed information about the nonprofit organization that once organized the Detroit Grand Prix, Detroit Renaissance. The organization had been criticized for its revenue and spending and, under Murray’s direction, after days of denying requests for interviews, I asked for simple permission to review the organization’s tax statements (that was well before Form 990s for nonprofits were as accessible as they are now).

As is now clear for all to see, the organization completely mishandled working with us and made some critical errors that, upon reflection, turned into lessons that have stayed with me for more than 20 years:

-If you don’t speak for yourself, others gladly will speak for you. Detroit Renaissance management wouldn’t be interviewed, so we found an expert of our choosing to talk about them on TV. Did he say what management would have said? I doubt it.

-Telling a TV station that they can’t bring their cameras in an office will always be used against you, as it was here.

-Acting like you have something to hide will make an uncomfortable situation worse. It turned out their forms didn’t reveal anything sinister. So why the secrecy? The subject’s decisions took what could have been a more straightforward story and made it more negative.

When working on that story, I never pictured myself on “the other side.” Now that I’m on it, I realize this is as good example as any of what not to do when working with journalists (interns or otherwise). This is yet another example of how the right internship can pay dividends across a career.

“Ten Commandments for Pets” Should Be Written In Stone

Sunday, June 23rd, 2013

top-10-manly-dogs_2Nearly 16 years ago, my young family and I said goodbye to what was, in essence, our first baby – a white lab named Kala who had tragically developed cancer at the much too young age of four.  This week, our similarly colored labrador, Penny, lost her battle with time and the indignities of old age.  If you are a pet lover, you know how difficult it is to let go, balancing the reticence of “playing God” with quality of life.

A few months ago, I came across the “Ten Commandments for Pets” written by Stan Rawlinson, Dog Behaviourist and Obedience Trainer. You can visit his website and articles at His following thoughts and words are touching, brilliant and apropos for life and loss, describing so well the special bond and unconditional love that our pets provide. Thank you, Stan. This week, I am at a loss for words.

  1. My life is likely to last 10-15 years; any separation from you will be painful for me. Remember that before you buy me.
  2. Give me time to understand what you want from me; don’t be impatient, short-tempered, or irritable.
  3. Place your trust in me and I will always trust you back. Respect is earned not given as an inalienable right.
  4. Don’t be angry with me for long and don’t lock me up as punishment; I am not capable of understanding why. I only know I have been rejected. You have your work, entertainment, and friends, but I only have you.
  5. Talk to me sometimes. Even if I don’t understand your words, I do understand your voice and your tone. You only have to look at my tail.
  6. Be aware that however you treat me, I’ll never forget it, and if it’s cruel, it may affect me forever.
  7. Please don’t hit me. I can’t hit back, but I can bite and scratch, and I really don’t ever want to do that.
  8. Before you scold me for being uncooperative, obstinate, or lazy, ask yourself if something might be bothering me. Perhaps I’m not getting the right foods or I’ve been out in the sun too long, or my heart is getting old and weak.  It may be I am just dog-tired.
  9. Take care of me when I get old. You too will grow old and may also need love, care, comfort, and attention.
  10. Go with me on difficult journeys. Never say, “I can’t bear to watch” or “Let it happen in my absence”. Everything is easier for me if you are there.  Remember, regardless of what you do, I will always love you. 



Researchers, Authors Maintain Hoffa Not Searchable

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

ap670118054-25f8a996a727848b3b1aa31e290fac0470cd8d6b-s6-c30It is one of “true crimes’” all-time greatest mysteries: What happened to Jimmy Hoffa? It is a case nearly 40-years old that, in all likelihood, will never be solved. Hoffa was no doubt murdered, most likely by a mob not happy with the prospect of his attempt at a return to union boss. Yet, where does his body reside? That is the question that continues to intrigue media and the public while eternally stymieing law enforcement officials.

When you are talking organized crime, such secrets tend to go to the graves of those involved, despite a number of deathbed, ‘conscience-clearing’ confessions that have occurred over the years. One of particular interest is that of Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, a longtime friend and associate of Hoffa’s who had close ties to the Bufalino crime family.  Prior to his death in 2003, Sheeran relayed to author Charles Brandt the details of that fateful late July day in 1975, when Hoffa was picked up in the parking lot of the then Machus Red Fox in Bloomfield and then driven to a house in Detroit where he assassinated Hoffa.  Brandt’s book “I Hear You Paint Houses” was published in 2004.

So where was Hoffa taken from there and where is he today? There are nearly as many rumors and myths as years that have passed; everything from ending up in the end zone of Giants Stadium (then being constructed) in New Jersey to a horse farm in Detroit’s far northwest suburbs.  The latest search, of course, is centered around a piece of open property in Northern Oakland Country. In his book, “Digging for the Truth”, author Jeffry Scott Hanson follows fellow author Brandt’s theory of local incineration, taking it a step further to an area funeral home with mob ties. In other words, Hanson says, Hoffa was cremated. Frank Sheeran had said all along that those ordering the hit had maintained in advance that Hoffa’s disappearance would be quick and permanent (“ashes to ashes” was literally a phrase used by the soon to be perpetrators). In other words, the author maintains, he was killed and disposed of within mere miles of his ‘abduction’.

If that is truly the case, Jimmy Hoffa’s body will truly never be found.  And yet, the secret  will live on as does any great ‘whodunit’ or unsolvable event. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it continues to fuel front page headlines, water cooler discourse and an ever-growing FBI file folder.

The Myths and Truths Of How PR Can Support Fundraising

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

myth-stampNonprofit organizations are, generally speaking, good PR clients. They typically appreciate the value we add to their communications programs and understand that if they don’t communicate their message to their audiences, they could face serious trouble.

So when the Planned Giving Roundtable of Southeast Michigan asked us to present at their recent Development Day, a gathering of fundraising professionals and managers from top nonprofits, we immediately said “yes” and started working on program we thought would benefit attendees. We came up with “The Myths and Truths About How PR Can Support Fundraising” and I had the privilege of presenting it.

Here are the myths, all real misconceptions we have heard over the years from real clients:

• We have a “great cause.” We’ll attract press and we’ll raise money.

• We need A LOT of press releases to tell our story.

• If we call a press conference, the media will come.

• Most of what we do is newsworthy because we have an important mission.

• We have a PR firm so we don’t need to do anything.

• We have social media accounts, so we can “crowdsource” and raise money.

• News coverage sells tickets for events.

• We have an anniversary, black tie gala, golf outing or walk. So that’s news.

• Donors will support us because they’re afraid of what could happen if we cease to exist.

To find out the truths, watch a video of the session here. We appreciate the positive feedback we have received about this session from the members of the Planned Giving Roundtable and hope it will help you too.

New Film to More Closely Examine the Man Behind the Steel

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

976994_546228235423136_955611673_oIn 1980, one of the first and arguably the best superhero films of the modern era debuted to rave reviews.  Director Richard Donner famously promoted his red, white and blue clad hero with the line: “You will believe a man can fly”.  This Friday, Superman flies again and when he does, it is sure to be an experience unlike most have grown accustomed to over his storied 75-year history.

Amazingly, Man of Steel is only Superman’s sixth appearance in the past 30 years with Christopher Reeve’s iconic portrayal spread over four of those movies; cementing the image of Superman for modern movie goers, including through his predecessor for one film, Brandon Routh, in 2006′s largely disappointing Superman Returns. We have all become familiar with bumbling newspaperman Clark Kent who tranforms himself via costume change into the Son of Krypton – an all-powerful hero (save Kryptonite) beloved by and dedicated to his adopted planet.

Known for his faithfulness to comic book story lines, Director Zack Snyder (Watchmen, 300) is sure to unveil a very different Superman and a world that reacts very differently to him. How, for example, might our government and military act when faced with an all-powerful alien from another planet? It also appears we will be provided with a more in-depth look at how Clark Kent deals with discovering he is not who he thought he was (a sort of self preservation vs. self discovery dynamic).

It is sure to make for more complex and conflicted characters and story lines and great entertainment (have you seen the trailers and the special effects glimpses?). Superman, in his flag-like attire, has always been about truth, justice and the American way. Here, he will be a world-saver in the never-ending battle of good vs. evil. A far cry from “…it’s a bird, it’s a plane…”, Man of Steel will instead present a more intuitive – even human – portrayal of the extra-terrestrial “man” who fell to earth.

Nobody Understands Me: Life of an Intern, Part I by Nady Bilani & Alex Urban

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

the-internship-posters“What is public relations?” This is a standard conversation we find ourselves in when we try to explain our selected course of study to family, friends and even fellow students.

“Is it marketing?” No.

“Is it advertising?” No.

“Oh, you’re a journalist?!” No.

It is a constant struggle of conveying what a PR professional does, and we sometimes even ask ourselves that very question.

Picture us, two interns walking into an office, confident from being a pair of top dogs in their respective classes, arrogance quickly washed away as we jumped into the fast paced current of a real PR firm. After just a few days, we both found that PR is more than communication between a client and the media. In just the first week, we experienced researching, writing and media monitoring, and the importance of conveying that news to a client.  All of this just being one part of what a public relations professional does.

Even with this said, peers in pursuit of other professions will still not understand PR without immersing themselves in the multi-faceted industry, or until they see firsthand how their respective organizations benefit from PR efforts. We feel it is our responsibility to build credibility and respect for the profession when explaining it to others.  When we think of a PR pro, we think of someone with all the answers and resources, while effectively communicating it to a number of audiences.

As all of this felt overwhelming, we have realized that practicing public relations is what comes natural to us. And even though we consider ourselves two confident young men who have a way with words, we cannot give justice to what the profession is all about…yet. The biggest thing we learned after a few days is that we have only begun to understand what it takes to be a public relations professional.  And as we grow as professionals, so will our definition of the field.

Love, Detroit! A Love Letter From the City to the World…

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-06-03 at 9.01.05 PM…signed, sealed, delivered. That’s exactly what the Tanner Friedman team, with client GalaxE.Solutions and creative collaborator Skidmore Studio, accomplished with the unveiling of the Love, Detroit! campaign at this year’s Detroit Mackinac conference.  And where GalaxE’s “Outsource to Detroit” focused on Campus Martius as an international IT hub, “Love, Detroit!” showcases Motown as a world-class city for living and leisure.

Conceived by GalaxE CEO Tim Bryan, Love, Detroit!”, referring to the letter’s ending salutation, promotes the limitless lifestyle, artistic, cultural and entertainment resources that are uniquely Detroit – from Belle Isle, Campus Martius, Greektown and Mexican Town to Techno Fest, downtown sports teams, even the Nain Rouge Parade. The core message, as told through the words of a personal letter from the city to a “friend”, implores the recipient to: “Come visit. It’s time“.

Complementary to Quicken’s “Opportunity Detroit” push and designed to attract individuals around the country to visit and stay, Love! also offers an important charitable component: Love, Detroit! t-shirts are available free for a donation of $10 to Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit at Goodwill retail stores and online at

Tanner Friedman was proud to manage the project from concept to completion, including original script writing, visual, voice, music and art direction. The incomparable Skidmore Design ensured vision was fully realized, including logo creation and application to t-shirts and buttons. WDET-FM show host and radio legend Ann Delisi, meanwhile, put the cherry on top, serving as the narrative voice of the city.

Take a look and then be sure to ‘Share the Love” and the video. It can be viewed at:



PR Leaks: HQ Move Latest Example Of Losing Control

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

leak_detectionLast Thursday night, while attending an event at the Mackinac Policy Conference hosted by a media organization, one of that organization’s reporters pulled me aside. He let me know that the Wall Street Journal was reporting that PulteGroup, a longtime Michigan-based company and the parent company of Pulte Homes, was moving its headquarters and hundreds of jobs to Atlanta. He wondered if I had any PR contacts at Pulte.

When I went online that night and first thing the next morning, I saw stories like this – all based off the initial report, with speculation from others, and nothing, not even a message point, from the company. In fact, it took about 14 hours after the first report for the company to put out its release and its explanation. In this case, Pulte was the latest company to fall victim to the enemy of effective PR management – leaks.

Thanks to text messaging and social media, it is tougher than ever to contain leaks. But in a situation like this, it remains imperative to consider leak prevention the most important core to the communications strategy. Most importantly, the company should be “first to market” with its messages and its story. Also, employees should hear the news from the company, not via the media. Additionally, government officials should learn of the news from the company and not told by journalists looking for information (in this case, key staff people for Michigan’s Governor found out from reporters at the Conference).

We have worked with announcements like this in the modern era of communications. Our strategies have been based around a small circle of those “in the tent” with knowledge of the situation and a detailed and compressed timeline of when others know the news and how they find out, with affected employees and communities finding out before news can be widely reported, with the company’s messaging leading the way. That often means moving quickly, with precision. But if top management buys into a plan, it can happen effectively and respectfully.

Last week’s Pulte announcement should serve as a case study and a lesson. If you don’t have a system to contain leaks in place, no PR pro can help contain the waterfall of coverage that happens without your consent or control.