Archive for April, 2015

“8 Track” Tale of Past Technology, Modern Application

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 4.59.56 PMIf you know anything about me, you know that I absolutely love music, radio and pop culture. You may also know that I wrote a book on all of those things called, ”No Static at All – a behind the scenes journey through radio and pop music.” As such, I have tremendous respect for authors and also count among my great passions writing and reading.

That’s why R.J. King’s new book, “8 Track – The First Mobile App” holds such great appeal for me.  Released in recent days by the longtime, award-winning journalist and dbusiness magazine founder and editor, “8 Track” takes readers through a multi-year journey of invention, innovation and consumer applications, much of which I had never heard of before.

In the mid-to-late 70s, I recall the 8-track player as being as much a temporary media fad as anything else.  Growing up with vinyl – first 45s and then 33 1/3s – the 8-track was an oddity that clicked between cuts and, at one point on each 8 Track cassette, faded out in the middle of a song only to fade back in for its completion, post-click.  My purchases of this medium were few with the Steve Miller Band’s “Book of Dreams” and Kiss’ “Kiss Alive II” being the only ones I can recall.  The smaller, more portable cassette tape (on which we taped music off the radio or record album) would soon catch on to a greater degree with my generation, in particular for mix tapes and car radios.

Ahh, cars.  King’s book recounts with detail how, in the 1960s, the 8-track player was originally perfected and utilized by and for the auto industry in conjunction with competing inventors Earl Muntz and Bill Lear; the latter of Lear jet fame. Lear, in fact, had originally dabbled in the technology for potential use in his corporate jets where radio signals were unusable. Muntz pushed a 4 Track option (again, I had never heard of), Lear the 8.  The technology would soon “wow” everyone from radio stations and record companies to manufacturers, distributors and, of course, the public.  First in automobiles where it outperformed air conditioning as an option then on to the consumer market where it caught on like hot cakes.

The book is obviously a labor of love for King whose dad, John P. King, was hired by Ford Motor Company in 1965 as the project engineer who would see the 8 Track project to fruition, including through collaborations with Motorola’s radio production facility and RCA’s record factory.  The story of the 8 Track is tumultuous and ingenuous, cut throat and cutting edge.  It was a technology whose time had come and would eventually pass but not before leaving an indelible mark on the history of music and engineering. King captures it well, like sound on magnetic tape, to be consumed and enjoyed.

Don’t Let New Business Pitch Throw You Curves

Monday, April 20th, 2015

79300005It is doubtful that anyone in any industry truly enjoys writing a new business proposal.  Then again, it beats the alternative and it is absolutely essential in the process of securing work in many, many fields – including PR.  That was the focus, in fact, of my guest lecture today at the invitation of Central Michigan University and professor Richard Ren.  It is a topic of vital foundational importance for future professionals and one with many, many considerations.

First, I am often asked, how do you even attract potential clients? The answer is simple: do an outstanding job for the clients you already have. In a referral business, as with any professional service industry, new business opportunities most often come your way through those with whom you have strong business relationships – those based on trust, transparency and mutual respect.  That can mean current and past customers as well as former colleagues, vendors, even competitors.  It’s just one more reason why treating people the right way is the right thing to do.  We can all point to companies out there who have not operated that way over the years and now are struggling to survive both a bad reputation and dwindling referral sources.

Once a new business opportunity presents itself, we discussed in senior-level JRN 556, it is vital not to “charge ahead” but, rather, to first and foremost: listen. What are this potential client’s goals and business objectives? Are they realistic? Can you do the job? And, as importantly, are they a good cultural fit with your organization, especially in terms of ethics, modus operandi and mutual respect? I relayed the story of a law firm prospect that wanted us to cut our hourly rate significantly in order to meet their budget.  When we suggested we instead cut scope and number of hours as our fees were not negotiable, they balked.  That told us they were not a good fit for our agency and we walked away.

And then there’s the Request for Proposal – the dreaded RFP.  My advice there was to make sure before spending the time and effort, to conduct appropriate due diligence into whether a particular RFP is on the “up and up” or just for show to, for example, appease a Board.  Over the years, we have found, too many RFPs are a formality with the eventual winner already chosen.  If someone familiar with the process or particular entity can tell you otherwise, only then is it worth taking the time and making the effort.

Put simply, while the PR proposal will always be with us, the amount of time, detail and creative product put forth by you within its pages should always be predicated on potential future rewards and transparency between all parties. Stephen Stills once famously sang, “Love the One You’re With.”  Here, I would argue, it’s best when you “Know the One You’re Pitching” – at least as much as possible.

Here’s Why You Cared About Britt McHenry’s Video

Sunday, April 19th, 2015

images-1In the midst of all that is going on in the news – and an active time of the year for sports – a “B List” ESPN sportscaster berating the employee of a towing company on a security camera doesn’t seem like it would become one of the most talked about news stories of the week. But get below the surface just a bit and you’ll understand why Britt McHenry is now the focus of so much talk, on the air and online.

There are multiple factors at work. First, as a culture, we are fascinated by seeing people via video who are acting like they aren’t being captured on video. That has been true since the days when Allen Funt first became became a household name.

But most notably, there is a media reality that we experience on a regular basis. Media consumers really want to know what the people they see, hear and read “are like in real life.” Because we work with visible journalists and media personalities on a regular basis, we are frequently asked “Is he a good guy?” or “Is she as sweet as she seems like she is?” A few years ago, I spent the bulk of a basketball game with friends of a friend answering questions from a police officer/avid news viewer along those lines. He went through essentially a checklist of every reporter and anchor in the market.

That factor played huge into the ongoing discussion of McHenry. Can someone who presents themselves professionally while on TV turn into such a prima donna away from work? The answer is yes, sometimes. But, based on 25 years in and around media, the vast majority of people you see on TV, hear on the radio and read in print or online are “in real life” exactly how you would expect them to be if you pay attention to their work. Yes, there are exceptions to that and, when I talk about them, it seems like consumers of media are fascinated by it.

Another note on this: There are some in the audience who resent news and sports media in a way right out of the 1985 Dire Straits song “Money For Nothing.” While the viewers feels like they work hard all day, some “yo yos” get paid “big bucks” to talk about sports or read news off of a script. And in the electronic age, a skill like column writing seems to some readers like it’s as easy as posting on Facebook (it’s not, at all). When something like this happens to someone like an ESPN reporter, it just feeds that unhealthy negativity. In this perilous environment, that’s about the last thing the media profession needs.