Archive for May, 2015

“Legends of Tomorrow” More Watchable Than Ever Today

Sunday, May 31st, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 6.32.19 PMIn case you hadn’t noticed, television is currently being invaded by a league of superheroes who are conquering their respective program competitors and paving the way for more costumed champions.  Unsurprisingly, this movement began and continues to be largely fueled by cable channels apart from the network “Big Three” where more chances are typically taken and programming is allowed greater latitude in “taking hold.”

The CW continues to lead the charge with “Arrow”, which just completed its second season and spinoff “The Flash” which just aired its first season finale.  And, coming next season, fans will see a brand new series begotten of both the scarlet speedster and the emerald archer, “Legends of Tomorrow,” with the Atom, Firestorm and (like the Atom last year), the upcoming debut of a DC Comics character never before seen in live action: Hawkgirl.  If you’re an admitted comic book geek like me, that’s a big deal.

So why now? Why such a proliferation of funny paper foes and heroic foils on the boob tube than perhaps ever before?  First, if anyone was going to do it, you knew it was going to be DC and the CW, whose “Smallville” ran from 2001-2011 to great fanfare for both its writing and character development.  Today’s CW is just as well written and even better acted; the former with continuing nods to comicdom history and lore.  Perhaps as importantly, add in superior technology and production values, which have trickled down from the movies with greater affordability and accessibility, allowing Flash to time travel and Arrow to scour the streets of Starling City with a look and feel heretofore only experienced on the big screen.  Netflix’s “Daredevil” is also generating rave reviews for its film noir grit and cinematic scope.

I would also add acceptability to the reasons why superheroes are so popular on television today.  Put simply: comics are cool to a larger segment of society including coveted millennials.  Graphic novels have helped lay that groundwork (including masterpieces from the likes of Frank Miller, who penned “300″, “Sin City” and “The Dark Knight Returns,” from which the upcoming “Superman v Batman” borrows extensively).  The wildly popular “Walking Dead” on TNT also paved the way. And have you been to a comic con lately? They are equal parts nostalgia fests and pop culture celebrations for “kids” of all ages.  Finally, even the top show on television today, CBS’ “Big Bang Theory” (which will welcome “Supergirl to the network in the Fall), pays consistent homage to the art form – a medium whose time has come, across multiple universes and timeslots.





How To Overcome The Mackinac Chit Chat Challenge

Monday, May 25th, 2015

130530porchThere may be no place where small talk is more important than the World’s Longest Porch this week.

This year’s Detroit Regional Chamber Mackinac Policy Conference at Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island will be my 15th. I’m once again honored to lead the Conference’s opening session, called “Mackinac 101″ for first-time attendees. Spending three days amid the state’s CEOs, Executive Directors, top entrepreneurs and politicians can be intimidating for some. Success networking on the Hotel’s famous Porch, in between Conference sessions, poses a chit chat challenge even for the most outgoing attendees. It is the Super Bowl of Schmoozing.

For many it can be easy to fall into conversation traps and default into what have become Conference Cliches. It’s really too easy to look at a name tag and ask “How long have you been with (Company Name?” You then usually get a factual answer, but not an insightful one that leads to conversation. It’s tempting, when you don’t have anything else to say, to ask “Where are you staying?” But then you get a description of someone’s hotel room rather than a starting point to get to know them. And a conversation about the weather? That’s something you can do in line at the grocery store, rather than a marquee event that costs thousands of dollars to attend.

Instead, think about how to get to know someone you just met. If they’re not wearing a “first time attendee” ribbon, then ask how this Conference compares to others they have attended. The Conference features national keynote speakers, so ask what your fellow attendees thought of their remarks. Better yet, to get someone you would like to talk to to really start talking, ask a specific business question. Here’s a suggestion: If you’ve been paying attention, you know that all businesses have changed significantly in recent years, due to changes forced by the Great Recession and by advancing technology. So, to get from small talk to big talk, why not ask about the changes they are seeing in their business and how they’re addressing them? There’s really nothing businesspeople like more to talk about than their own business. That’s the start of a real conversation and it should naturally set the table to talk about your business too.

Other than meetings with people we know, we don’t get as much opportunity as we used to for talking face-to-face with people who are new to us. Conferences can be those rare chances. Before heading to The Porch or to any conference, think about what you can say and ask to start conversation that both parties will want to keep going even after the closing session.

For Vintage Media, Internet Archive Takes You Back to the Past

Sunday, May 17th, 2015

mighty_mouseWhile watching the latest developments in media entertainment, one cannot help but also sometimes pine nostalgic; for past programming enjoyed during our youth but also that talked about fondly by our parents and grandparents. That is the beauty of Internet Archive – a digital journey into all things classic television, radio, movies and more. Digital media observer Kim Komando shines a spotlight on the resource gem in her online column today.

Originally founded in 1996 in San Francisco as a non-profit digital library with a mission of providing “universal access to all knowledge” while advocating for a free and open Internet, Internet contains 10 billion petabytes of information (that is, 1,000 terabytes or 1,000,000 gigabytes). That includes one million books in the public domain available free for downloading (in fact, in 2007, the site was officially designated as a library by the State of California).  In other words, there’s a heck of a lot of stuff here. But is it good?

It is, in a word, golden. As, where else can you so many mass media defining moments, performances and innovators?  From silent films from Charlie Chaplin, a Vaudevillian originator of precise physical comedy to an amazing archive of vintage radio programming where visuals sprang from the theater of the mind of its listeners.  There’s live, variety programming such as “(Dean) Martin and (Jerry) Lewis” where comedy melded with crooning and serial programming such as the original “Dragnet” and “Gunsmoke” series (the latter airing a Herculean 480 episodes in its 9 year radio run (before moving to television for another 20).

As intriguing as anything in the TV section of the site’s “Wayback” area are the classic commercials that allow an eye-opening look back at visual persuasion and “shilling” including for cigarettes prior to their being banned from the medium; advertisements that are hard to watch but equally hard to look away from for historical reference.

And, as fun as anything are the early animation reels that harken back to a time when cartoons were only available before movies or on Saturday morning television (both no more). You’ll see Mighty Mouse, Popeye, Betty Boop and more; many most of us did not see when they originated but would later enjoy in other contexts.

Indeed, while everything must evolve and change in order to move forward, comfort can forever be found and lessons learned by also looking back; in particular to special moments that touched or intrigued and left indelible impressions.



Good Ideas Don’t Always Make For Good PR

Sunday, May 17th, 2015

bigstock-Bright-Idea-5453884One of the hardest conversations we have with businesspeople happens when they have an idea that’s just an idea. Good ideas are the fuel of business. But they aren’t news. Often, they aren’t even worth communicating, at least not toward the beginning.

The most extreme example of this occurred a few years ago when an enterprising engineer came to see us to tell us about a new product he invented. Once we started talking about it, we realized it hadn’t really been invented yet. It was just an idea. He wanted news attention for it to attract the interest of investors so it could be developed and taken to market. It was an interesting idea, but he had no track record. He had no news. I had to tell him that we couldn’t help him. We didn’t want to waste his money, our time or float a ludicrous pitch to journalists.

We see this, to a less extreme degree, with our clients. For example, maybe they have an idea for an event. Until there’s a date set, actual participation and the public can be invited, then there’s nothing to communicate. It won’t be newsworthy until it meets other criteria (most notably, timeliness). Other examples include ideas for new product lines. Until they are ready for “prime time,” they are just ideas.

We tell clients and would-be clients that there is a timeline that exists on which a concept becomes a product. That’s when an idea becomes “real,” complete with proof, customers and availability to audiences. It is best for us to get involved just before that tipping point and take action with communications just after. If it’s too far before, we really have nothing to communicate but one of billions of ideas. If it’s too far after, you may miss your window of opportunity for interest and exposure.

Sometimes, we end up hurting feelings when we tell someone we can’t help them or just that the timing isn’t right. But think about this – why would a firm that you that it didn’t want to do work on a project for you because the timing isn’t right be for any reason other than your best interest? Why would we turn away revenue unless it was really in everyone’s best interest? That should be an idea worth understanding.

The Ticket To 20 Years Of Motivation For TV and PR

Sunday, May 3rd, 2015

Legal padIf there’s one key to success in whatever you do, it’s motivation. Sometimes, during challenging stretches, you need to find motivation from new places, just to walk through the office door to face a grinding day. Here’s a story of where I store some extra motivation that I can access when I need it, like tapping a reserve fuel tank, that I hope can be helpful to you.

20 years ago this month, I made what ended up being a significant career and life decision to leave my job at a number one station in a top-ten market for a poorly-rated station in a smaller market. At the time, my employer, WSB-TV in Atlanta, had the most-watched local news operation in the country. For the first time in my career, I had to tell my bosses that I had decided to leave to accept another job offer. That offer was from WCPX-TV in Orlando, which fit the industry cliche at the time – “A number four station in a three station market.”

Because everyone “ahead” of me was under contract, WSB essentially offered me two more years of producing on the weekends and writing during the week. WCPX offered me a chance to hone my producing skills five days per week, Monday through Friday, as a part of a team trying to build a winner, working for an Executive Producer who had been my colleague at WSB. I made the move I thought was best to build my career and accepted the job of 10:00 News Producer (WCPX produced a nightly 10:00 news show for “UHF” station WKCF-TV).

To say the management at WSB didn’t see it my way would be an understatement. The same company owned a station in Orlando. They saw it as me leaving for a lowly-regarded competitor. The Assistant News Director shouted “You’re leaving for a cable show? I mean, I would understand if you were leaving for another number one station.” I was called to the General Manager’s office who declared, “You’re throwing your career away. You’re going to come back here asking for your job back and the answer will be ‘no.’” The Executive Editor, my immediate supervisor, wouldn’t look me in the eye and didn’t speak to me for my final two weeks. Maybe I should have been flattered? Maybe they were just freaked out that the “young guy” willing to work Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights, Saturday morning and Sunday from 7am-7pm, usually getting called in on Monday and/or Tuesday, would be hard to replace on the schedule? I was just confused. Breaking up is, indeed, hard to do.

But the most powerful zing that day came from the News Director. A large, imposing man with a booming voice, on his way out the door that night, came over to my desk, reached across it with a pen, found a piece of paper and wrote “1.3/2″ on it. “Do you know what that is?” he asked. “I think so,” I said. He said, “It’s the rating and share for your new newscast from last night. Good luck with that.” In other words, in his skeptical mind, I was leaving a secure ratings powerhouse for unsalvageable microscopic scraps. That was all of the motivation I needed.

I went into the Orlando experience with a fire inside that I had never felt before and wouldn’t feel again until co-founding Tanner Friedman. I was determined to raise the ratings and had full support of my bosses and anchor. I helped make some tweaks, tried to inject energy that the audience could feel and tried to provide advocacy for the product. Several months later, when the show was enjoying ratings in the 4s and 5s instead of 1s and 2s, I was moved to other newscasts to “try to do the same things.” A year later, I was on my way back to the Top 10, to Detroit TV, as a proven producing commodity with a reputation for helping to fix issues.

I still have that mangled sheet from a legal pad with the News Director’s handwriting on it. It’s there for me when I need it, nestled in a basement file drawer. It helped propel me to a career and personal experience in Orlando that I’ll always cherish. From time to time, it still helps to this day. To get that battery charged when you need it, I recommend figuring out what’s your “piece of paper.”