January 30, 2005 by Colin
Have you ever been sitting in on an interview with a senior executive, and you can just feel the tone and direction of the conversation change? Your years of media relations, your gut feeling, just tell you that this isn’t going turn out well, despite the tasty mochachinos charged to your tab just fifteen minutes ago? You even covered the bagel and lox!
Your spokesperson is being pushed into a difficult area – one he struggled through during your pre-interview:
“… you get the impression that you are addressing an elaborately wired security system. If the conversation edges toward areas in which he feels ill at ease or unwilling to commit himself, burglar alarms are triggered off, defensive reflexes rise around him like an invisible stockade, and you hear the distant baying of guard dogs…”
That’s from Kenneth Tynan’s 1978 New Yorker profile of Johnny Carson.
January 28, 2005 by Colin
Apparently, the Dem’s loss on November 2 can be correlated with taking long hikes in the woods without the proper protection against deer ticks: long socks, long pants, long sleeved shirts and bug repellent. Just the sort of behaviour you’d expect from citified NorthEastern liberals (:-)
Two scientists have managed to turn rather mundane research into lyme disease occurrences into a nice little news bite:
“A map showing results from the last presidential election is “remarkably similar” to a map of the distribution of cases of Lyme disease, a brief article in the current Lancet (r.r.) medical journal points out.
The 19 “blue states” – those won by Senator John Kerry – account for 95 percent of the cases of Lyme disease reported in 2002, they wrote. The disease, caused by bacteria that are carried by deer ticks, is concentrated in the Northeast and Midwest.”
… [As one of the authors speculated]: “We do not believe, however, that tick-borne diseases are likely to be a major factor in the 2008 presidential election.”(NYTimes)
The lesson for public relations pros: be creative when looking for a news hook. Don’t get bogged down in the details of your story – there may be a more appealing angle just waiting to be communicated.
And hope to god your technical experts are open to the suggestion.
January 27, 2005 by Colin
And another brand-building tactic takes a punch to the kidneys. Brand managers, formerly pleased as punch to have committed consumers/customer evangelists tout their product and their brand in forum postings and home-cooked ads, are discovering that brand management requires better monitoring and more precise messaging in our new world of social networks and virals.
Just ask VW. The company’s marketing and executive teams have just spent a week weathering speculation about the corporate motives behind the “car bomber” ad currently coursing across the ‘net. Ongoing doubt about their role in the creation of the shocking short have prompted the “c-suite” to flip to tab “m” of the crisis communications plan – call in the lawyers (Guardian, r.r.).
Normally, lawyers only pop out of the backroom when serious regulatory action is about to be announced. Or when the entire executive team has been fired. In this case, VW obviously felt a stronger gesture was needed as part of their corporate communications mix.
What were Lee and Dan, the ostensible authors, thinking when they released this ad? Despite their attempts at positioning their ad as demonstrating the VW Polo is a “safe car” I have to think they must have been oblivious to the real and daily threat posed by car bombings in other more distant countries, like Iraq, Afghanistan, the Phillippines, Sri Lanka, Spain, Northern Ireland … Oh. They must just be run-of-the-mill gits.
I think ad-rag hit the nail on the head with their imagined interview last week:
adland: What’s next?
This ad was produced in an attempt to turn heads at DDB London, VW’s AOR. Lee and Dan likely thought it would prompt quite a bit of talk at the agency water cooler/drinks cart.
But realistically – where was selling proposition? How did this ad actually intend to drive customers to VW dealerships? I’m not arguing that every ad or every tactic has to be practical and throroughly planned and managed – but how detached from reality do creatives have to be?
January 27, 2005 by Colin
Promo Magazine reports on comments made by Dean M. Barrett, the senior-VP global marketing for McDonald’s, at the Association of National Advertisers meeting yesterday.
“As for fashion, watch for Ronald McDonald to appear in a whole new wardrobe that includes everything from the looks of a snowboard dude to a business executive (still wearing those big red shoes, of course).
Along with his new duds, Ronald got a new title: CHO or “chief happiness officer.” There are new uniforms in Germany, Denmark and the U.K., as well as other apparel like hats and T-shirt designed around the “I’m lovin’ it” theme. A new line of branded-active wear will debut next year.”
There are some other observations about McDonald’s shift in strategy, from marketing products and menus to entertaining the consumer through partnerships in music, sports, fashion and entertainment.
January 26, 2005 by Colin
Here’s some food for thought out of the giant gab-fest at Davos:
“Not everyone is convinced that China will make the transition to the knowledge-economy, particularly given India’s head start, but if China is successful in building global brands Western companies may be forced to design their products with that market in mind.
“As the Chinese consumer pool grows, China will increasingly set international standards,” said Matthew Anderson, chief executive of Ogilvy PR for the Asia-Pacific region, the biggest public relations company in China.” (IHT)
As BusinessWeek noted last week, the retail wars have begun. American and European companies are adapting their products and marketing to meet the demands of the Chinese market.
But how will the global marketing and public relations environment adapt once China’s economic growth allows it to look outward and begin to flex its economic muscle in international markets other than natural resources, clothing and electronics?
The “China Price” represents a generational shift in international economic influence. How are you planning for your business to prosper 2, 10, 15 years from today?
January 26, 2005 by Colin
London is jockeying for position in the race for the 2012 Olympics, and some bid leaders suspect their cause may be harmed by an apparent lack of enthusiasm among Britons for the exercise. Apparently, the current slogans “Make Britain Proud” and “Back the Bid” aren’t hitting all the necessary emotional buttons.
A group of London ad execs have knocked their heads together to come up with a slogan to convince the Olympic bid committee, visiting next month, that London is committed to hosting the Games. It’s a real winner: “We want it more.”
The participating ad agencies will be negotiating with their clients to feature the slogan on strategic billboards in areas to be visited by the bid committee.
Oh, to think of the old days, when prospective host cities could show they wanted it more with simple gestures: envelopes full of travellers cheques, comped holidays, and free grad school for bid committee relatives.
January 21, 2005 by Colin
Have you ever watched testimony on CPAC or CSPAN and wondered “what is that witness thinking right now?”
Today I finally get to tell our side of the story – I hope. I fully expect the capable barrister Neil Finkelstein will be working overtime to stop me from saying anything remotely positive about what Messrs. Chretien, Dingwall and Kinsella did in the 1994 and 1995 period. But, again, that will prove my central criticism of this judicial circus, won’t it? And, as y’all know, it won’t stop your buddy Warren from saying what he has to say – in the corridor to the media afterwards, or on this little web site.
During the course of the day, I will be posting – or attempting to – pithy Gomery Pyle Commission updates that will be time-stamped. And, to emphasize the above-noted “circus” theme, my guys have put together a little aural and visual tableau. We will also, hopefully, be running digitized feeds of me giving sworn testimony.
Of course, being a politics junky and eager for any tips on communicating under stressful situations, I’m watching Warren on CPAC. Oh! What a rejoinder! Beautiful stonewalling! He’s turning the lead counsel’s question back at him! Magnificent!
January 21, 2005 by Colin
I got a pitch yesterday for a new book (which I’ll mention another time if I find it’s useful), and the pitch prompted me to look at some white papers pulled together by a San Francisco agency called Plan B – one of which cites the poem (?) excerpted below. Mark Lewman, apparently their Creative Director, wrote this back in 2001.
I prepare trend reports for fortune 1000 companies.
I am paid to play
the disenfranchised against the disrespected
make the F1000 feel connected
to the cognosumers who reject them,
stuck in the cultural crosshairs.
… And some guy in a conference room in Ohio says into his speakerphone:
“Tell me more about the Krautrock movement and the abstract bands.”
I spit out details to counteract,
and wipe my face with my cuff,
generating more fluff,
without concentrating on the end result,
just the next step which is an orchestrated effort to tap into tech step. …
Read the rest. Really.
January 20, 2005 by Colin
MSLO‘s stock is going up, likely driven by squeezed short-sellers and the irrational exuberance of die-hard Martha Stewart fans. She’s due out on March 6 – and her friends, advisors and employees have begun planning the next scene in an already event-rich herstory (housewife/stockbroker/home maven/ex-felon).
Remember way back in the fall of 2004? When we were all younger and more naiive? Millions of dollars were poured into a public relations campaign trying to shape perception among possible jurors in NYC and surrounding counties. Web postings helped Martha speak directly to her fans, in the process adding a layer of humanity to her (brand) identity.
Her friends have visited and are recounting how well she’s handling her prison term. Apparently, the prison yard yields edible greens, and she’s taken up crocheting to pass the time. She’s become interested in the re-integration of female convicts into society.
The cynic in me has to ask: has this brief stay in the big house had a life-changing effect on everyone’s favourite housemistress? Will her interests change? Will she wield some of her influence to benefit her ex-roomies (or even better, convicts at other, more harsh, institutions?)
We’ll have to see. Today, Mark Burnett’s working on a daytime talk show for Martha. Media planners are upbeat about the prospects for MSLO’s new Martha-light magazine. Executives at MSLO are trying to plan for Martha’s new role in the company.
You can only hope Martha will pull a Milken.
The NYTimes has more detail, and some interesting if vacuous comments from brand experts.
January 20, 2005 by Colin
Salon’s got a funny (and dirty) piece on working as a copy editor at a skin mag:
Never before having sold out in large degree or small, I was gratified to discover that smut editing filled up the larder with jars and jars of organic baby food.
At a rate that boiled down to something like $150 per hour, it purchased the extended afternoon session at day care. I was fast becoming the envy of colleagues who had to supplement their incomes by appearing as expert witnesses on “Larry King.”
January 20, 2005 by Colin
Many PR bloggers DID comment on the controversy – even those of us who do not work or live in the United States. Nonetheless, we can be critcized for not feeding this important debate on PR ethics at the speed or volume expected by most inhabitants of the blogosphere.
Not that we’re dealing with an isolated case. As Jeremy pointed out, the industry seems to be backsliding when it comes to transparency and ethical behaviour.
Public relations has long harboured underhanded operatives and unscrupulous tactics: the only way to demonstrate our commitment to open, honest and two-way communication is with the unstinting and outspoken leadership of prominent professionals, firms and associations (maybe even bloggers!) in the industry.
Neville Hobson, among others, hit the nail on the head when he asked where our professional associations have been hiding during this ethical imbroglio.
Several bloggers have suggested the associations’ low-key reaction may be a defensive tactic, designed to preserve their relationship with prominent members and sponsors.
If so, what is the worth of their codes of ethics? Are they just another page in a boring membership package, or a laminated plaque for the firm’s lunch room?
But why was the PR blogging community so subdued in its reaction? Why didn’t a feeding frenzy of debate and recrimination erupt, as in other parts of the blogosphere, building and tearing down arguments by the minute?
This, I think, reflect the differing motivations of the global PR blogger community: as Steve and Jeremy point out, we have individual areas of interest and concentration, and we don’t necessarily jump on the issue of the day when writing for our blogs.
Of course, our collective reaction could simply reflect natural aversion of all PR pros to becoming part of the story.
And that would be a shame.
January 19, 2005 by Colin
Media Week’s got a good read on evolving technologies to measure media use among consumers.
“As Christina Hartley, IPC ad marketing director and chairman of the Media Research Group, suggests, the process is essentially driven by a simple piece of logic.
“We can’t put chips in people; what can we put chips in?” If technophiles and developers have their way, devices armed with sound-matching technology, GPS and radio frequency identification (RFID) tags will soon be in a position to measure consumer exposure not only to radio – as in the current Rajar test – but to TV, online, press and outdoor too.”
January 19, 2005 by Colin
So. Should governments use public opinion research, including flash polls, syndicated surveys, consultations and focus groups, to test possible policy options and communications strategies? Or should they save those millions of dollars and just wait for the issues activists, paid lobbyists and professional associations to prime and guide the policy development process?
Jeffrey Simpson, writing in the Globe and Mail, argues that true leadership is missing at the head of the Government of Canada: the 593 assorted public opinion research studies commissioned in 2003-2004, at a cost of $25.4M, are apparently evident proof that our government cannot go to the washroom without directions.
He notes that… “for some years now, every departmental memorandum to the cabinet outlining legislation or some other major initiative has required a “communications plan.” These plans have often driven the need for research, since a department has to show the cabinet that it has already pretested public opinion.”
As communications professionals, we know that POR is an essential component of the planning process: assessing our strategic options, shaping accurate messages, designing products and identifying or eliminating possible tactics.
We’ve all incorporated findings from POR in our strategic advice: it’s only logical and practical to base your observations and recommendations in reality.
That doesn’t mean our advice has to be tied to the findings of POR, nor does it have to be unimaginative or uncontroversial. (insert civil servant joke here)
But one thing’s for certain: if a reporter wants to phone in a column, start with a list of government of contracts and build a straw pyramid of logic on top.
January 18, 2005 by Colin
Blogs are a wonderful communications tool, but the shine’s starting to wear off the experience for some information consumers. Just ask Seth Godin:
With corporate blogs and fake blogs and cia blogs and calculated traffic-driving blogs, it’s not authentic media any more.
I’m not whining, here. Instead, I’m pointing it out because your expectations as a reader and a writer have to change. The benefit of the doubt is gone.
January 17, 2005 by Colin
Paul Nixon at Nixlog has pulled together a wonderful graphic explaining the logic behind Apple’s price points and market segments for the IPod and Mini Mac. “Apple’s Tipping Point: Macs For The Masses” is well worth a visit.
The pointer’s from Joey – who has also included a great photoshop battle fought between Wintel and Apple supporters. A good laugh – and it rings quite true.