Archive for June, 2016

WMGC: Wherefore Art Thou Going Next?

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

imagesIs this where we cue the DJ to play Queen’s “Another One Bites The Dust?” Sadly, the death of another radio station format in Detroit is no laughing matter – not when jobs and livelihoods are lost.  Yet, after just three years, that is exactly what has happened again in this town as Greater Media announced last night that its Sports/Talk station, 105.1 WMGC, is switching formats. Most staffers, it has been reported, will not be retained.

How and why did this occur? A look back (and of course, hindsight is always 20/20) illuminates what some might deem missteps. When WMGC flipped from Adult Contemporary “Magic” (with Jim Harper) it brought Drew Lane, the legendary morning man from sister station WRIF-101.1 FM, over to apparently anchor the new competitor to CBS juggernaut WXYT (97.1 FM The Ticket).  However, Lane was inserted not into his customary AM drive slot but rather into PM drive.  A lot of that could have been due to the fact that Lane had publicly shared his disdain for the life-style-challenging early morning shift.  His audience, however, did not follow him in the droves that had been anticipated or at least hoped for.

Other air personalities were similarly mismatched and moved around. As a result, top talent such as Matt Dery and Tom Mazawey were not allowed to flourish nor build particular daypart followings. The station did set itself apart from its crosstown rival with a plethora of regular live, on-air interviews.  In many ways, though, this was countermanded by too much national (ESPN) content, including for a time, much of its primetime weekday morning programming.

In the end though, WMGC could simply not compete with other Detroit radio heavyweights long known for their sports team pedigrees and acumen – including CBS and Cumulus’ WJR. The Pistons were on board, sure, yet decades removed from the “Bad Boys” days of fanatical citywide excitement; having not possessed the panache of the Tigers or Red Wings (or event Lions) for far too long.  They certainly were not enough to carry a station on its back.

So, what’s next for WMGC? From a formatics standpoint, the one glaring hole in this town would appear to be the Adult Contemporary format.  And while WOMC and Greater Media sister WCSX often dip a toe into the waters of Elton John and other traditional A/C staples, only iHeart’s WNIC is considered a true A/C.  Listen for a time to 100.3 though and ‘NIC often sounds like the more-current leaning WDVD 96.3 FM, if not a Hot Hit station.  Perhaps it is time for a more sedate, adult-focused format that more intuitively merges new songs with old.  WMXD 92.3 FM has done this very successfully, albeit with a more urban/R&B flavoring. For now, ‘MGC is simulcasting content from the WCSX HD-2 classic oldies format channel.

Ironically, WMGC was A/C before Sports/Talk yet with a more upbeat, current/recurrent bent.  It might be time for a return, although with the twist I am suggesting. To get anyone to go up the dial to 105.1 FM, though, especially in these days of Pandora, Satellite and MP3s, it is going to take an investment in truly local and name-recognizable talent.  How about luring Jim Harper out of retirement and re-teaming him with Chris Edmonds? Putting Lynne Woodison back on the Detroit airwaves? Hiring Ann Delisi to program and do what she wants on both sides of the mic? Kevin O’Neil and Tom Force should be back on the regular airwaves again too. The key to success will be investment – in forethought, strategy, true name-brand talent and an appreciation for what really makes radio great. I’ll keep my fingers crossed – but am not holding my breath.

 

 

 

 

Facebook Live: Don’t Get Too Annoyed, Or Attached

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

UnknownWhat did the self-proclaimed “social media guru” tell you last week, along with patting himself on the back for being a “thought leader?” Whatever it was, it could be outdated today.

Just yesterday, Facebook announced that you’ll be getting more in your news feed from your friends and family and less from “publishers,” such as traditional news organizations. That’s just what we all want in an election year, don’t we?

So before you fall completely in love with the results from Facebook Live, keep in mind that it’s going to change sooner or later. It’s tempting though. Facebook Live is creating some big audience results. While some are annoyed by the alerts, there’s no doubt it has created curiosity on the platform that some had viewed as stale.

Sometimes, it’s a neighbor bird watching on the deck. But other times, it has provided an opportunity to experience a live event or one-of-a-kind access. One TV journalist told me that a recent Facebook Live “broadcast” attracted more viewers than one of that station’s newscasts on TV that day. We have seen it too at Tanner Friedman, where our Facebook Live posts of press conferences have attracted views and shares like nothing else we have posted lately.

But remember not too long ago when “business” posts with photos were like that? Any post with a photo got seen more widely and seemingly instantly drew likes, shares and comments. Then what happened? Facebook started throttling that content and even some of your most fervent fans couldn’t see your posts unless you paid Facebook a few bucks to “boost” them. It’s safe to assume that’s going to happen with Facebook Live.

Right now, Facebook wants to get you hooked on Facebook Live. It’s only a matter of time before Facebook throttles Live content and hides it from major portions of your audience unless you pay otherwise. That’s no conspiracy theory. It’s just business.

So our advice on Facebook Live now is to sample with it. Get to know it. Give it a chance to see how you can use it to communicate. But don’t get hooked on it because, like everything else, it’s going to have to be a moneymaker for the global public corporation that owns the platform but can give you a false sense that it is yours.

Bringing Mental Health Out of the Dark and into the Light

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

head-brain-imageAre college students who seek mental health help looked upon as potential “bad PR” risks by their schools? That is the focus of a piece written by Sarah Beller and published this week in The Influence.  Her story examines the findings of a newly released 6-month investigation by NBC’s Today that indicates many students are being kicked out of school across the country for seeking such treatment lest something bad happen; thus, begging the question: are these kids being shunned rather than assisted?

According to data collected for Psychology Today by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one-third of college students report having experienced prolonged instances of depression with one-fourth indicating they have had suicidal thoughts or feelings. Moreover, half of those spoken to reported their mental health as being “below average or poor.” Alarming indicators all.

So what is a college or university to do?  In light of mental health issues often being related to instances of gun violence, it appears from the investigation’s findings that many are taking no chances. That is understandable. Yet, the investigation also seems to indicate that many schools take things to the extreme – placing students into treatment and/or quarantine when perhaps not warranted and, worse, dis-enrolling kids entirely without warning or recourse.

Thus it would appear that a case-by-case, diligent, cautious and thoughtful approach be taken by school administers and healthcare professionals in instances of student depression or distress. And, while the safety and well-being of the student population at large should always be of the highest priority, it doesn’t mean that students that make up that majority should be treated with disrespect or disregard when going through what could merely be a “bad spell”.

Rather than shuttling such individuals to an ‘out of sight’ backroom or removing them entirely from the equation, these schools should be promoting the resources available to its students and letting those they help serve as advocates and ambassadors to their peers to also enlist help if needed.  This cannot be about shaming or hiding.  This has to be about providing support, guidance and perspective to young minds still trying to figure out who they are and what they want to be.  After all, isn’t that what our educational system is supposed to be about?

 

 

 

 

The Greatest of All Time

Sunday, June 12th, 2016

muhammad-ali-zoom-cfb97fff-3b5d-4161-b998-6457c965a343Long before there was, “The Great One”, there was, “The Greatest”.  An iconic figure who was arguably one of the most revered and recognizable athletes the sports world (and the world) has ever known.  Why, exactly, was that? What was it that has made Muhammad Ali such an enduring and beloved figure? And why did we believe him when he proclaimed he was, “The Greatest of All Time”? There is much to consider.

First and foremost, he had true talent in the ring.  Outside of it, he was just as memorable. Even as Ali first burst upon the scene in 1960 as an 18-year old Gold Gloves Champ and Olympic prospect, he already possessed charisma and outspokenness along with the skills to back it all up. He would soon elevate heavyweight boxing to new heights – not just with his fists but his wit and uncanny skills at self-promotion. He didn’t just box, he would, “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” while also employing the “rope-a-dope”.  And,  his fights were not mere fights, they were the “Thrilla in Manilla” and the “Rumble in the Jungle.”  They all lived up to the hype too, spotlighted further by his constant tongue-in-cheek(?) foil, Howard Cosell of ABC Sports.

Moreover, as Rolling Stone noted this week in a piece by Tim Grierson, Muhammad Ali was also the master of multi-media – and not just your typical magazine covers and sports shows.  Very early on (in 1969), Ali appeared in the Broadway musical, “Buck White”.  He would go on to release a children’s album (1976) and appear in: an animated cartoon series (1977), a comic book opposite Superman (1978) and in an episode of “Diff’rent Strokes (1979).  Biopic movies (in 1977 and 2001) helped fuel the legendary fire.

Perhaps most of all, Ali stood up for what he believed in, without fail nor apology.  Born Cassius Clay, he would object to the Vietnam War and being drafted into it, embraced Islam, changed his name and weathered the firestorm that ensued.  He always believed in himself and encouraged others to do likewise.  It was his ‘brand’ and who he was:  The face he called ‘pretty’.  The mouth he used to call-out his opponents.  The moves those opponents could never seem to figure out.  When they all worked in unison, it was pure poetry in motion. Today, those memories are still indelibly and pleasantly etched – in our minds and in history – and there they will remain.

 

 

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Which Car Dealership Is Your Business Like?

Saturday, June 11th, 2016

dollar_bill_with_wings_0521-1101-2914-0547_SMUSometimes an old adage bears repeating, including one that appears framed on the walls of so many businesses.

“If you don’t take care of your customer, somebody else will.”

This played out in my life as a consumer and it’s a story that’s important to keep front of mind, especially because the business that has now lost me as a customer, like so many, boasts on its website that “It is our goal to provide you with an excellent purchase and ownership experience.”

The subject here is car repair, one that can get the blood pressure rising. The other evening, an indicator light went on showing a problem with an airbag in my wife’s car. As part of the horse trading that is figuring out which spouse will handle which household projects, I took this one. I immediately called the dealership where we have now leased two vehicles. The service department “scheduler” had trouble answering my questions about bringing the car around my work schedule, which, thankfully doesn’t allow much time to sit in a dealership waiting room. I was told that while they are open Saturdays, they only do this type of work Monday through Friday. When I asked how long it would take if I brought it in at their next appointment, two days away, she dumped me into someone else’s voicemail. When I called back, all I got was voicemail. So I called again, asked for the owner (who claims in advertising that his family treats customers like family). I left a message, saying that the service has not met my expectations, and have yet to hear back.

The next morning, I called a second dealership. I was told it would take several business days to get an appointment. When I asked if I would have to spend hours waiting, I was told they would drive me to Enterprise so I could rent a car, at my own expense. No thank you.

I called a third dealership and the woman who answered the phone listened to my story. She encouraged me to come in the next morning, talk to the “advisors” working and felt optimistic that they could work me in for what is probably relatively minor.

I took her up on that, found someone willing to listen, who offered to squeeze me in but said he couldn’t guarantee that they would be able to look at it that day. Just in case, he arranged for me to have a complimentary loaner car in case it took more time than expected. I drove the loaner to the office where, a few hours later, I got a call that the car was ready, nothing major was wrong and I had until 6 p.m. to return the loaner and get the car. That is an excellent experience.

In this case, dealership one clearly didn’t care about keeping me as a customer. Dealership two didn’t care about gaining me as a customer. Dealership three figured out a way to say “yes.” Should we choose this make of vehicle when the lease is up in less than a year, that is where we will be headed.

The lesson to all of us in business is simple. Be dealership three at every opportunity.

Take A Look At This Netflix Show. I “Dare-devil” You

Monday, June 6th, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 7.55.27 PMThe world of television continues to get more interesting by the minute in terms of who is watching what, when and how.  Many TV executives have conceded that the traditional Neilson ratings have become obsolete, as, by some estimates, more than 50% of viewers are no longer consuming shows in real time thanks to DVRs, Hulu and On Demand.  And did you hear the one about the Netflix Show that may not be renewed – despite a solid following and rave reviews?

Rumors are flying that Season 3 of the Netflix original series, “Daredevil” could be delayed or even scrapped entirely; and not because of a lack of viewers nor disinterest by the show’s stars.  Rather, two of the show’s key production personnel have exited to work on another Netflix superhero offering, “The Defenders.” Which begs this question: With the network already running “Jessica Jones”, and preparing to launch “Luke Cage,” “The Punisher” and ‘Defenders’, has Netflix overextended itself in a potentially disastrous way?

In an industry forever guilty of “borrowing” from what has proven successful, fresh ideas, concepts and characters are often in short supply. Not to mention the creative talent necessary to bring forth those programs successfully. “Daredevil” could well be an unfortunate casualty of too much of a good thing without the resources necessary to keep that good thing going.

If you have not watched the first two seasons of “Daredevil”, prepare yourself for grim and grit.  Once again founded upon the storytelling of a bygone year from master scribe Frank Miller, there has never before been a superhero TV program which exhibits the violence and realism put forth in this version of Hells Kitchen.  In Marvel comics he is billed as: The Man Without Fear. Today, many Netflix fans are quite fearful that a return of the blind red devil to his world of ninjas, mafia bosses and mayhem may not happen. We’ll be watching. Stay tuned.

 

 

PR Tantrum A Symptom Of Bigger Problem

Sunday, June 5th, 2016

tantrumEvery year, working PR at Michigan’s one-of-a-kind Mackinac Policy Conference, I feel like I walk away learning something. This year, it’s about the PR business, more so than any of the topics discussed on stage. It hit me on the last day of the Conference, based on what I saw first-hand and what I read as I was leaving Mackinac Island.

First, I witnessed a PR professional pitching a fit, the likes of which I had never witnessed, but had heard about from journalists. I saw a representative of an elected government official in full tantrum mode. After verifying this with one of the journalists present, I can confirm that it started when TV news video journalists slightly moved the set-up for a press conference because under the setup the PR person wanted, the lighting would have been poor.

Even though a move toward proper lighting would benefit everyone involved, this PR person didn’t like it one bit. When I arrived, this individual was verbally tearing into the journalists because it wasn’t set up as she envisioned. One of the journalists there to witness the entire display of toddler emotion described it as “immature” and “inconsiderate.” Just after the tirade ended, the government official showed up and the news conference happened in the setup that the journalists wanted. Everything worked well and looked good, in my estimation. But her behavior represented the antitheses of how Tanner Friedman interacts with the media.

Just a few minutes later, I read versions of this story sent to me by friends and watched the accompanying video of how deposed Baylor University President Kenneth Starr’s PR advisor, after not revealing her true identity to a news crew, interrupted an interview to provide on-scene scripting, including a changed answer to a question. What transpired was unethical. It was deplorable and, unfortunately, ill-represents what we do for a living. It shows what happens when a bad client pairs with a unscrupulous excuse for a professional.

These two incidents represent a bigger problem in today’s Public Relations business, particularly on the still-vital media relations side of the industry. Too many in it have too little respect for the job of professional journalists. Too many actually hold disdain for the media, failing to embrace the concept that journalists are their customers also.

If you think you can “control the media,” you should take control of your career and find another way to make a living. If you harbor a lack of respect for journalists, you should do yourself and them a favor, and do something else other than pretend to do media relations. If you think “protecting” the powerful person you work for means trampling over journalists, you are simply doing it wrong. This career path will work for you and all of those you serve if you at least respect the newsgathering process, but it will be best for you if you downright enjoy it.

And what of the CEO, elected official, board chair or, worse yet, PR firm owner who condones this behavior? The simple analysis is that it’s a sign of someone in real trouble.