May 7, 2004 by Colin
Know how you give your spokesperson basic styling tips for appearing on television or when speaking at a conference? Things like “never wear checked shirts” and “don’t play with your hair”? Picked up an interesting tidbit at Cheskin about the theory behind the advice.
Impression management is a sociological/anthropological theory based on the idea that selfhood and identity are performative acts that we continually engage in frequently without realizing it. The tools at hand include the human body, especially the face and hands, as well as clothing and other objects.
In 1959, the sociologist Erving Goffman published “The Presentation of the Self in Everyday Life” exploring how we use these things in the course of daily interactions. In addition to the ordinary situations of everyday life, Goffman also examined unusual situations such as prisons and asylums, what he called “total institutions,” using these to show how individuals used various means (many unauthorized) to maintain their sense of selfhood – to simultaneously communicate and construct their identity.
If you really feel up to the intellectual challenge, Adam Barnhart has really dug into Goffman here.
May 7, 2004 by Colin
Picking up on yesterday’s post on the challenges facing the Toronto police force, PRWeek in the UK has run a piece on crisis communications looking at recent developments with Shell and Dasani, among others.
James Lukaszewski works through the entire crisis management process in much greater detail here.
May 6, 2004 by Colin
Hmmm. Maureen Orth, a Vanity Fair writer who’s out promoting her new book, spoke to Berkely J-school students last month. She had some sage words of advice for them – considering she has interviewed Michael Jackson four times over the last decade.
“While you can lament the idea that we’re living in this era of celebrity and personality, it also behooves the journalists here to get beyond the superficial and the spin and do the legwork and the research and the hard, hard work that takes to get the real story.”
The book is an informal tour of what I call the Celebrity-Industrial Complex: the media monster that creates the reality we think we see, and the people who thrive or perish there. My challenge, as a reporter in this environment, is to bring the story back alive, accurately, to find the key that unlocks the personalities, the story, or the crime. I don’t mind digging in grubby places. My early experience as a Peace Corps volunteer in Medellin, Colombia, prepared me to fit in at any level. I am also more than willing to pore through thousands of pages of court documents, or whatever is necessary. Often there are scores of highly paid obfuscators in the path of the story. They increase the thrill of the hunt. Willing subjects with high-paid lawyers often get court records sealed; law-enforcement authorities cover their mistakes; any number of spinmeisters or fawning acolytes steer reporters clear of the truth. That is their job. Mine is to find the reality behind the façade.
Oooh. I can almost see the spinoff now: Law & Order: Hollywood. Maureen Orth played by Tyne Daly.
May 6, 2004 by Colin
May 6, 2004 by Colin
Make the Rules or Your Rivals Will is a new book from Wharton prof G. Richard Shell. An excerpt discusses how Texas Instruments used a range of corporate tactics, including media relations and lobbying, to reinforce a multi-pronged legal campaign against Japanese and Korean competitors.
Shell’s thesis centers on what he calls “competitive legal strategy” – the use of contracts, courts, regulation, and lobbying to secure competitive advantage in business. He shows how Sumner Redstone, Rupert Murdoch, Andy Grove, and Bill Gates, among others, have forced rivals to the bargaining table with litigation, defined the boundaries of their markets with regulations and used politics to fight competitive battles.
May 6, 2004 by Colin
As PR counsellors, we often advise that clients facing a crisis situation identify and secure support from reliable and reputable third party sources – like consumer safety associations, reknowned academics, or community leaders.
Although others may disagree, from my perspective there is not widespread corruption in the Toronto Police Service – Donny Petersen, Ontario spokesman for the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, Downtown Toronto.
May 5, 2004 by Colin
Ben Dutton, an account manager in New Zealand, has made a strong argument for the value of PR in an open and democratic society.
An open democracy operates in a free marketplace of ideas and information. A good analogy is the foreign exchange market …
Through partaking in public relations, companies, governments, organisations and individuals are all adding to the richness and diversity of the information available …
Public relations practitioners are the currency speculators of the information market, helping create an equilibrium of ideas in our society. This is an outcome that ultimately benefits everyone.
Of course, it doesn’t seem like an open and democratic society is the priority of the Disney corporation. (NYT, reg. req.) They’ve effectively blocked Miramax from exercising their North American distribution rights to a new Michael Moore film critical of President Bush.
Now, this may have something to do with Zenia Mucha, a former high-level aide to Governor Pataki of NY, being the head of comm for Disney. But it also has a lot to do with Disney being a stodgy and conservative company.
May 5, 2004 by Colin
Ben Silverman’s latest PR Fuel newsletter will serve as a startling wakeup call for some cold-calling PR newbies, and will give old hands a chuckle: it’s everything you wanted to know about the media, but were afraid to ask.
When I say, “My sources tell me,” it’s my way of getting you to confirm information that I don’t know to be true.
When I say, “Well, that’s not what I’ve been told,” it means I’m now doubting my sources.
When I say, “You can email a statement,” it means that I’ve figured out I’m not getting anything out of you of relevance and I need to go the bathroom. …
You’ve caught me in a good mood and I’ve decided to listen to your pitch. I may even ask a few questions. But then an email from my brother arrives in which he relates his latest softball exploits and I’ve now totally lost interest in anything you have to say. …
I’m leaving you a message, but I really hope you don’t call back so I don’t have to change the line in my story which reads, “The company did not return calls seeking comment.”
PS: Check out the comment made this morning on the PR Fuel site: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About The PR Biz (But Were Afraid To Ask) ….
keep reading »
May 4, 2004 by Colin
The White House Correspondents corps is a large and vicious organism, demanding information, anecdotes and a minute-by-minute accounting of the working of the US government. In many cases, not all the reporters accredited to the White House can fit into a banquet room, helicopter, diner, train, or Texas ranch to follow the President’s every move.
Because of limited space in the presidential motorcade, on Air Force One and in the Oval Office, the White House organizes a rotation of “pool” reporters, who send write-ups to colleagues who were not allowed inside but must cover the event. Often, however, the pool reporter is not allowed to observe the president, either, leading to creative — if uninformative — reports.
The Bush White House has expanded the audience for the pool reports by e-mailing them also to more than a thousand government officials and Republican operatives. This gives the dispatches — part travelogue, part gripe and occasionally part news — a disproportionately large following.
nobody delighted this following more than [the Chicago Tribune's Bob] Kemper ….
Then there are all the routine motorcades that must be faithfully recounted. In Fresno, Kemper wrote: “The motorcade from the burrito plant to the fundraiser, though it lasted 18 months and covered about 6,000 miles, was uneventful.” And in Chicago: “Uneventful does not even begin to cover just how sensory-deprived that trip was.”
On the plus side, the pool report provides a venue for lines that might not have a home elsewhere. Kemper called Bush adviser Karl Rove “that little leprechaun from the West Wing” and noted Bush’s difficulty with certain words, writing: “Highlight was POTUS working Nuke-leer-or and Pen-in-su-lar into the same sentence.”
Still, despair often overwhelms the pooler, and Kemper was no exception. In California, he wrote: “You heard the speech. If not today, then 10,000 times before.” Over the Pacific, he lamented: “Thirteen hours into pool duty, and still no news in sight.” And after a visit to Westminster Abbey, he began: “No news. Little color. Frankly, you have better things to do.”
Of course, others have taken advantage of the medium – like the WP’s own Dana Milbank:
Time Marine One pulled up at Andrews: 8:47. Wheels up for Air Force One: 8:57. Numbers of engines on Air Force One: four. Time aloft: 1:16. Having your pool report distributed to the White House staff and a thousand strangers, priceless.
And Wonkette digs into the WH pool reports on a regular basis.
May 4, 2004 by Colin
That’s what Howie Kurtz seems to imply:
Everybody’s got advice for John Kerry these days. Running for president must be easy, since every channel-surfing hack is now an expert.
Now, he does tar a number of media with the same brush, but bloggers Josh Marshall and Mickey Kaus are prominent on his list of guilty parties.
But what’s wrong with channel surfing? Many people are content to narrow their inputs and only process information that reinforces or reaffirms their worldview – but I’m certainly not one of them.
Journalists and bloggers can come to rely on a reputation for ferreting out picayune details as indicators of growing themes. Make their main beat politics, add a lull until the next main event – like the party conferences – and every detail can become a point of contention.
Howard, Jay Rosen and many others have blogged before about the weaknesses of this type of horse race journalism. In a deft January essay, Jay wove together themes from politics and baseball to examine our fascination with first past the post reporting:
In a horse race world; polls are a baseline reality. They can tell you who’s ahead but not why. And they are mute on a favorite horse race question: how things are going to “play out from here,” as reporters and pundits say. For that we need savvy analysis, and this especially means the view of insiders, the savviest of all.
In the blogosphere, this sort of savvy analysis can also come from informed observers (like Kaus, Marshall and others) or from motivated independents digging up new pieces of information or casting new light into overlooked crevices of controversy.
But are these people hacks? In the traditional media world, a hack is generally considered to mean a paid journalist. Some use the term to characterize a poor or inconsistent journalist. In the IT world, hack is a much more flexible term:
Hacking might be characterized as `an appropriate application of
ingenuity’. Whether the result is a quick-and-dirty patchwork job or a
carefully crafted work of art, you have to admire the cleverness that went
Now, let’s all admire our own cleverness.
May 3, 2004 by Colin
“When they know you more than love you.”
Russ Klein acknowledged that BK’s marketing efforts have been scattershot over the past ten years, and this has harmed their image among fast food afficionados/addicts.
… Trying to discern where they fit in the fast food ecosystem, Burger King hired a cultural anthropologist to map the way… McDonalds is perceived as childhood’s oasis, ripe with playful innocence. Wendy’s is the realm of the adult, signifying quality, peace, and being cared for. So, the only place left for Burger King was surly adolescence.
The viral subservient chicken web site is one part of a larger campaign to re-establish BK as the choice of adolescents and the young-at-heart. As it rolls out, the campaign will centre on the re-introduction of the 1974 tag line “Have it your way.”
… Come August, all packaging, design, and policies will reflect the “Have It Your Way” ethos, including the “No Make Fun Policy,” whereby customers will not be derided or laughed at by BK staff, no matter how weird or finicky their order.
You may also see, as a print insert or tray placemat, the “Have It Your Way Contract,” which customers will be encouraged to sign to ensure that they become empowered consumers. Drink cups and sandwich wrappers will showcase a sniglet-like glossary of terms such as “Potentater,” which is the largest french fry in the container, and “Lap Seed,” a bun seed that falls in your lap.
Despite the involvement of hot new ad agency CP+B, I don’t know if these tactics will really draw BK’s targeted demographic. First off, how many 18-24 year-olds really need a “have it your way contract” with their burger joint? Well, maybe anyone with a bad tofuburger experience in their past. And anyone who’s used drive-thru.
… subservientchicken.com is also a colossal failure, because even though there is a great overlap between Web habitues and Burger King’s core audience, nobody seems to have been motivated into actually purchasing a chicken product from the advertiser.
… like so much conventional advertising, it is so busy being edgy and weird and funny and subversive, it doesn’t bother to put the brand on display. [CP+B] intentionally obscured the Burger King connection in order not to seem too commercial and uncool.
Like how I brought this back to my previous post about creative work?
May 3, 2004 by Colin
The CBC is running a promo campaign touting the popular selection of the Greatest Canadian Ever. We can all name off Canadians that might be worthy of this distinction: Wayne, Alanis, Sarah, even Celine … but Mark Baese wants your vote, and he’s got a typically Canadian closing line:
I have my thumb on the pulse of Canada’s tech industry, and I work in the media, so I’m abreast in current events. I’ve also been involved with political wrong-doing, but I’m honest now – I swear.
I’m your all-around average Canadian, and together we’ve helped shape this country… Take some time and place your vote for the people of Canada – Vote for Mark today! I’m Average!
April 30, 2004 by Colin
While McSweeney’s may have the Create Your Own Thomas Friedman Op-Ed Column, it seems this proposed Friedman formula would equally apply to a lot of “on the scene” or investigative reporting and analysis, which seems to have become formulaic and predictable.
As readers, we expect “good” investigative journalism to establish a rhythm: open the story with a gripping scene, introduce the reader to a passionate and concerned character and his/her community, work through the practical benefits and complications of an issue, identify the hindrances (human or mechanical, cultural or geographic) and close with a hint of morality and hope. But does this only address our needs as readers, rather than as engaged citizens?
This question was posed as “the new journalism” built speed. Here’s a voice from the past, writing in a 1972 Atlantic article:
[Speaking about the NYT] If this is the voice of conventional journalism speaking to us about our world, it is likely to find an increasingly restless, disconnected audience. The voice speaks too thin a language. The world it tells us about so assiduously seems but a small part of the world that is actually outside the window—seems a dead world, peopled largely by official figures, and by procedural facts, and written about in a fashion which is doubtless intended to be clear, and clean, and easy to understand, but which instead is usually flat, and inhuman, and nearly impossible to connect to.
Of course, you could argue that Jack Kelley, Daniel Glass and Jayson Blair were in some way aspiring to meet the creative standards set by “new journalism” – but were more likely just trying to be interesting enough to keep the attention of their readers and, more importantly, their editors.
I’ve often heard the expression “phoning it in” used to describe a half-hearted attempt at completing a creative task. In Blair’s case, this was actually true. But it’s not a condition that only affects reporters. “Creatives,” whether in advertising, marketing or PR, often find ourselves stuck in a creative and inspirational rut. Faced with an immediate deadline, or an afternoon ballgame, or an upcoming vacation, we might be tempted to just pull something from the files, put some lipstick on that pig, and ship it out.
I asked myself…so what? So what if this week it seemed that a bunch of guys were phoning it in from Planet Mambo? What’s the big deal?
I sat there for a while and thought about Sandy Weill and Jack Grubman, suspected of manipulating the rating of AT&T, the first because he wanted to rule Citigroup alone and the second because he wanted to get his tot into some snotty nursery school. How much of what we do is like that? Stuff that looks like business but is really just a bunch of guys scratching an itch? Once you start to think that way, it’s hard not to phone in the activities that feel inauthentic. And when you begin gauging the authenticity of the work you do, it’s a short step to picking up that psychic receiver and phoning in the whole deal.
I put on my jacket and went outside for a walk. You know what I saw everywhere? Thousands of people quite literally phoning it in, walking down the street yakking into their little handheld receivers, nowhere near a place where people do any actual business.
Fine. That’s how others may want to live their life. But are there products in your portfolio (or more likely your drawer) that shout “Jesus, I could have done better than this”?
There are some creatives out there that want to remind you of your weaknesses. Take a look at iamjack: Most Advertising Sucks. You Could Be The Reason.
Approve ads that kidnap mediocrity and bend it over a fencepost. Let your agency get away with something dramatic. Something simple. A TV spot that doesn’t lead with the offer and scream the phone number five times, or a print ad that doesn’t have a headline. Or a stock photo. Or 5 miles of disclaimer.
Come on. You know this hits home.
And in case you’re searching your memory about the “lipstick on this pig” tag line, check out this Slate article about the Charles Schwab ads of 2002.
Thanks to MarketingSherpa for the iamjack pointer.
April 29, 2004 by Colin
The BBC is drawing deep into the cultural psyche to find inspiration for their new digital services. In fact, someone at the Beeb must have watched 1988′s Scrooged, because they are about to launch Pet TV, a digital channel aimed at providing entertainment for your housebound pets. As the Guardian reports (reg. req.):
The interactive TV service will consist of a looped series of images and sounds, including clips of snooker balls rolling across the green baize, frisbees flying through the air, cat toys and cartoon characters such as Top Cat …
“It’s a unique opportunity to find out if we really do have a nation of pet telly addicts, and if so, what are the pets’ favourite shows,” the BBC said.
Okay. I am getting very strong flashbacks to the scene in Scrooged where the addled network Chairman suggests that more network shows include elements to attract pets – like a character dangling string, or a bouncing ball.
Of course, network President Frank Cross (played by Bill Murray) takes this suggestion one step too far, ordering that the big Christmas production include mice with antlers:
Props man: I can’t get the antlers glued to this little guy. We tried Crazy Glue, but it don’t work.
Frank Cross: Did you try staples?
April 27, 2004 by Colin
Over at CommonCraft, Lee’s resurrected a great scene in the Jerk, where Navin R. Johnson reacts wildly to the arrival of the new phone books:
The new phone book’s here! The new phone book’s here! This is the kind of spontaneous publicity I need. My name in print. That really makes somebody. Things are going to start happening to me now!
Of course, there’s another line in the Jerk relevant to PR – and it emphasizes the value of cross-marketing, especially if you use a well-travelled medium. Navin finds out Patty’s gone and tattooed his name somewhere:
Navin: Do you ever think we’d get to know each other well enough to kiss?
Patty: We don’t have to. You’re my man. It’s like we’re married. Look at my ass.
Navin: Gosh! You have my last name tattooed right there under the j’s! First I get my name in the phone book and now I’m on your ass! You know, I bet more people see that than the phone book.
Hey! Patty had a blogroll!