August 31, 2005 by Colin
Some cutting commentary from sitting and former British MPs on their coverage in the press, including:
“The most notable thing is the incapacity of the media, particularly the red tops, to contemplate a woman who is a complex character. She has to be either a mother, or a hard-nosed career girl, or a tart, or a failure, or an emotional mess. You know, she cannot be as complex as men are.” (Vera Baird, MP, in the Guardian)
Of course, wearing multi-coloured striped jumpers does nothing to quell this perception.
Were you wondering, as I was, what a “red top” is?
“In the United Kingdom, newspapers can be classified by distribution as local or national and by page size as tabloids and broadsheets.
There is often an implication that tabloids cater for more vulgar tastes than broadsheets. Within the tabloid category some titles are classed as red-tops because of the design of their front pages. This term is often used deprecatingly by newspapers that consider themselves more serious.
This distinction began to be blurred in October 2003 as two broadsheet newspapers ó The Independent and The Times ó began to trial tabloid editions in some parts of the U.K. The Independent switched entirely to producing what it prefers to call a compact edition from May 2004 and The Times changed to this format at the beginning of November 2004, despite initial opposition to from its more traditional and conservative readership. The Guardian is expected to switch to the unusual (for the U.K.) “Berliner” format, slightly larger than a traditional tabloid, sometime in 2006.” (Laborlawtalk)
August 29, 2005 by Colin
Some wire reporters get to spend their days sitting in a stifling motel in Crawford, Texas, waiting to be spoon fed the message of the day and the chance to ride on a helicoper. The resulting pool reports are funny, but do they move markets?
“In a weird way, there is a handful of people more powerful than Alan Greenspan when it comes to influencing the economy and Wall Street. They would be the poor souls from the Associated Press and Reuters and Bloomberg and Dow Jones who cover Greenspan’s speeches.
via Paul Kedrosky.
August 26, 2005 by Colin
He’s one of the “counter-cultural” leaders featured in a recent (okay, three month old) article in This Magazine.
“[Joey "Shithead"] Keithley knows all about this new generation of punks: he lives with one. ?My daughter is the biggest Blink-182 fan,? he says. ?Talk about prefab, she wanted a sweatshirt that said ?Anarchy? on it for Christmas. I bought it for her. I don?t care. Kids go through these things.?
“One of the reasons subcultural fashion is so easily co-opted by mall culture is that it is possible to buy things that signify punkdom, gothdom or raverdom. But while dressing up announces membership in the distinct group, it cannot automatically admit you into it.
“Call it T-shirt – Action = 0. For every person sporting an anarchy symbol without understanding it there?s an older punk who thinks they?re a poseur. In I, Shithead, Keithley calls them ?pukes??audience members who dress as punks but pick fights or push others around. ?It?s way more punk rock to come to a D.O.A. show in a business suit than a mohawk,? he says.” (This Magazine)
August 24, 2005 by Colin
The Conservative Party of Canada has released a new set of television ads – on their website. They feature sitting Members of Parliament engaged in stunningly wooden debate about issues of importance to Canadians – like immigration, health care and taxes.
The pretense is that they’re in some sort of party war room, spouting pithy truths about the challenges facing Canadians. The films are neither grainy nor bouncy enough to seem like true “gonzo” documentaries. All the male politicians are wearing clean and pressed shirts, all the female politicians are wearing nice conservative two piece suits. They’re backlit, and clearly wearing too much makeup.
Is their early release on the party website supposed to fuel a viral campaign? The pieces only seem to feed into the building perception among Canadians (or the Parliamentary Press Gallery, at least) that the Conservatives (and their leader) just can’t seem to connect with ordinary Canadians.
In fact, the ads immediately made me think of the brilliant send-up of television advertising Truth in Advertising. In particular, a quote from the TV ad director who tells the agency reps that:
“Sure, I’ll agree to that change, as long as you allow me the illusion of control, instead of the hack/failed filmmaker that I am.”
August 22, 2005 by Colin
I’m not saying I would fly NorthWestern while their mechanics’ union is on strike, but it seems that they laid out their strike/crisis contingency plan well in advance:
“Over the last 18 months, the airline analyzed every job represented by the mechanics’ union at every airport and calculated the skills required to fix each of its planes. It then decided how many of those workers it actually needed and what kind of replacements it would require in the event of a strike.
Northwest officials at each airport were given plans at the beginning of the year spelling out how the airline wanted jobs to be performed. Then, three months ago, the airline began hiring replacement workers, who received extensive classroom and hands-on training in Tucson.”(NYT)
The leftie in me wants to shout “union-busting!” but the comms guy in me can’t help but remark that “Damn! That’s good crisis planning!”
August 19, 2005 by Colin
Watch out Dan Band – really cheap techno geeks have figured out that the average poor wedding singer or “cousin who knows how to spin the wheels of steel” can be replaced by an iPod and a half-decent playlist.
JOHN: Pete Bosniak and his wife Eden tied the knot two years ago in Philadelphia. Using iPod playlists, they had total control over their reception. Their first dance was to Stevie Wonder’s “Knocks Me Off My Feet.” Bosniak wasn’t sure that a wedding deejay would have it.
Mr. BOSNIAK: They probably just had the newer stuff from the ’80s, like “I Just Called To Say I Love You” and stuff like that, which–you know, nothing against Stevie, but most artists in the ’80s just kind of decided to suck. Your stereotypical wedding deejay is just going to play the wedding hits that aren’t necessarily the music that we like.
Metafilter’s got a bit of a discussion of how to do it.
And here’s a questionable commentary from an actual wedding dj:
“After they danced, I played the usual wedding fare that the bride HAD to hear … “Celebration”, “We Are Family”, “Strokin”, “Come On Ride The Train” … usual stuff that rednecks have to hear.”
August 17, 2005 by Colin
A company that not only provides Chinese outsourcing for blogging, but endeavours to develop the specific “voice” of your target group?
“Our initial results have been a little bit below what we expected. To increase our authenticity we are trying to isolate and remedy problem groups. Our design process centers around 3 general groups. They are:
1. Teenage girls
2. Normal Bloggers (yuppies, moms, average college students)
3. Super Bloggers (bipolars, cynics, liberals, outcasts, super-hip)
To create convincing Group 3 product we need to have extensive faux-archives (to give the illusion of a faithfully updated blog) and we need to drop a lot of obscure pop-culture references. The key to good Group 3 is to spend 80% being negative about certain areas of culture and 15% excessively positive. The last 5% should be used for self-loathing because the blogger likes certain Ďun-hipí culture.”
Looks like another value-added service most small PR shops can add to their rate card! :-p
August 16, 2005 by Colin
Cause Communications, in concert with a number of benefactors, has prepared Communications Toolkitóa guide to navigating communications for the nonprofit world. At 134 pages, it’s a hefty pdf file, or you can order one complimentary copy (although it’s so popular they have it on backorder).
It’s a trove of communications theory and essential information for beginners in the non-profit and activist community, including hints on pitching, a checklist for event-planning, photo release forms, media planning guides, and instructions on drafting a news release and drawing up a creative brief. Importantly, it also touches upon electronic communications and website usability and optimization -in an easy to understand manner.
August 16, 2005 by Colin
Say you’re the IR director for Overstock.com. Your execs and Board are concerned that speculators are shorting the stock and working to undermine the stock price through chat boards, planted stories with friendly reporters and assorted underhanded tactics.
A lawsuit may seem a logical strategy to follow – unless you launch the lawsuit with one of the most laughable investor conference calls in recent memory. Let’s put aside the reference to “Lord Sith” by Dr. Patrick Byrne, the company Chairman and CEO, because it’s just too easy a target.
Dr. Byrne, though, made plenty of other remarks and gaffes during the August 12 webcast, including this beautiful summary of the media cabal apparently lining up against the company:
“Elizabeth McDonald at Forbes for all I know, sheís fine. And I should emphasize that I donít know, I understand that there can be a very healthy relationship between shorts and reporters. Reporters are not – the SEC is undermanned and reporters are in general not up to the task of the detailed forensic work that needs to be done to deconstruct a bad company. So I agree, there can be a healthy relationship and for all I know thatís what Elizabeth McDonald is part of.
Carol Remond from Dow Jones, sheís a French journalist, French immigrant here, works for Dow Jones. Iíll get back to her in a minute.
Then thereís Barronís. And Barronís, anybody on the Street understands Barronís more or less as just being a group of quislings for the hedge funds. Thereís one reporter that I respect, a guy name Jack Willaby(?). But from what I can tell the rest are just mouthpieces for the hedge funds. So for example, there has been until recently an editor there named Cheryl Strauss, married name Cheryl Strauss-Einhorn, wife of David Einhorn. And if you trace the articles around, which Iím going to talk about in a minute, youíll see that both entered these very odd relationships.” (transcript on shareholder.com)
It looks like Dr. Byrne likes to read his clippings. And maybe paste them in a neat little book. And maybe annotate them. And draw up charts outlining the sinsiter relationships among his antagonists. And probably frantically highlight the untruths in vivid colours. But what I really hate is when people try to appropriate youth culture: especially when that’s already past its “best by” date:
“So, in the words of Wayne and Garth, ďSqueeze me?Ē
Umm… That’s “ex-squeeze me” . And it’s SO 1992! Somebody get this man a Family Guy DVD!
I can’t stop with this transcript. Get a load of this:
“Iíve been seeing things that suggested in a very
mild way somebody was intercepting communications. Now Iím going to tell a
story that Iím not sure that this part was Kroll, but soÖ the way I tested that was I came up with one channel, Channel A Iíll call it, and I put information down there that I was gay. And Channel B I put information down that I was a coke head. Now my apologies to my gay friends, both within and without, outside the company, I donít mean to equate the two. I donít care. Iím a libertarian and I donít care at all. In fact I donít give a hoot if anyone thinks Iím gay, but I thought that by keeping, by putting that information down on one channel and putting the coke head information down the other channel, I would then know if it leaked into the world that those channels were compromised and I know thereís no way that information. I know that if that ever appeared it could only have come from channel A or channel B and I didnít even mix the channels. Sure enough, within a short time I started seeing on the message boards, oh, Byrneís gay, whatever.
Where does a PR or IR director even start after a call like this?
Here’s the Motley Fool on Byrne’s allegations:
“But calling to question the motive of any negative sentiment about a company that may run in a major news service, even if written by a journalist whose stock in trade is negative articles, should not be done lightly. Journalists rely on sources. And in investing, more times than not, those sources are self-interested and conflicted. Does that mean the journalist is complicit every time he or she uses a source? Man, I hope that’s not the standard that’s being suggested.”
Thanks to Paul Kedrosky for the original pointer.
August 15, 2005 by Colin
I think it’s great that there’s a new blog dedicated to government PR staff and their problems (Deep Background), but I have two problems:
- it’s anonymous, and:
- it’s hosted on Ragan’s website.
I can understand the anonymity, but with the range of blogging options available to anyone, why host your site on a PR firm’s server?
As a government communicator, that strikes me as an ethically dubious move. As a blogger, it just doesn’t pass the smell test.
Oh – and the comments are filtered. Nice touch.
August 15, 2005 by Colin
Thirty years ago, it was the boiling point – that moment in time when your sales projections and customer satisfaction ratings inverted. Instead of calling the CEO, major investors started calling the Chairman. The union leaders at your local plant stopped going to BBQs with the plant manager, and started running for councilman. At its worst, Ralph Nader gave you a shout-out in a speech.
Today, the public environment for a company (or product) is much more varied. Sketpicism of corporate motives is common among all stakeholder groups, and has coloured company’s relationships with consumers as well. Even the most successful companies discover that, at some point, their market share, product range, profit growth or corporate policies are prompting vocal and aggressive criticism.
In some ways, this is a backlash against the breadth of marketing and public relations tactics available to companies today. A segment of your consumers, stakeholders and other audiences eventually burn out on all the good news, and turn against you.
Kathy Sierra has identified this as the “KoolAid Point”:
” You’ll know when you get there, because the buzz goes from pleasant to polarized. Moderate, reasoned reviews and comments are replaced with stronger language and more colorful adjectives on both sides. Those who speak out against you will be referred to as “brave” or “having the balls” (see the comments on Scriven’s review) for daring to criticize. They’re hailed as the smart ones who finally call the emporer on his buck-nakedness.” (Creating Passionate Users)
August 12, 2005 by Colin
VW’s muckety-mucks have dispatched a team to dig into American culture and driving habits, in the process identifying vehicle attributes and business strategies that may help the German automaker expand its market share in the country.
The team, codenamed Moonraker, is made of 22 Germans and one American travelling across the country to speak to customers, dealers, auto industry analysts and other high-performing high value consumer companies (like Nike).
As usual, the gearheads at MIT knew about their work in April – well ahead of the auto crowd.
Wait a minute! If I remember my James Bond movies correctly, Moonraker was about a crazy and megalomaniacal German (or Austrian) billionaire who hijacked a high tech multi-purpose vehicle program to implement his evil scheme to eliminate humankind – well, everyone except his selected group of acolytes.
Hits a little close to home, doesn’t it?
“Moonraker’s main goal, [Len Hunt, head of VW America] says, is to build a cadre of key employees in Germany who understand the U.S. market. That will complement VW brand boss Wolfgang Bernhard’s experience as COO of the Chrysler group. ..
The trick, he adds, is to preserve VW’s European character, which customers like, while addressing U.S.-specific needs.
Mathias Grosser, who works in VW’s individualization department, says he was amazed that “we still don’t really cater to the customer’s wishes in America – just as the Japanese didn’t really cater to our tastes 30 years ago.” (Automotive News)
August 12, 2005 by Colin
Am I the only one who feels slightly icky when reading that pharma marketers are learning to “position a condition”? That’s right – not a product, not a brand, not a benefit – a condition.
“… Pharmacia, for example, developed OAB as a condition,
because women found it hard to identify with urinary incontinence. … Pfizer succeeded in developing an ED condition where previously, there had been only impotence.”
That’s from PharmaExec, but the article isn’t online yet.
August 10, 2005 by Colin
Part of effective crisis communications is preparation: carefully building a level of trust with your audience and stakeholders through honest, transparent and frequent communications.
A trusting and responsive dialogue with your audiences is essential if you hope to avoid dissension and confrontation when a crisis eventually erupts.
Apparently, teen starlet Lindsay Lohan’s public relations counsellors are laying a careful tapestry of fact and fiction in anticipation of the next onslaught of papparazzi and gossip pimps: Lindsay has announced that she is beginning a strenuous workout and diet regime to regain her former figure.
“…This preemptive strike against the inevitable rumors that Lindsay Lohan’s] upcoming hospital stay (an injury suffered while working out is nicely set up) will involve the reinstallation of aftermarket mammaries is nothing short of inspired. It takes brass balls of considerable mass to tell the public that vigorous exercise regimen increases breast size and that puberty reduces it. The only thing separating this ingeniously crafted item from immediate induction into the PR Hall of Fame is its ommission of a seemingly offhanded remark about her trainerís quirky habit of wearing a lab coat and hanging out in the hospital…”(Defamer)
Think “aftermarket mammaries” is a funny and original witticism? Try looking at this 2003 review of “Battle of the Network Stars.”
August 8, 2005 by Colin
Here’s an idea whose time has come: self adhesive visitor’s passes that invalidate themselves. The underpaid receptionist/security guard simply applies a protective film to the badge when handing it over: after 24 hours, the smiley face will appear.
My only complaint? The graphic is counterintuitive. These products have been designed for schools. Someone wandering around with an expired pass shouldn’t be identified with a happy face – it might confuse the kids (or your simple-minded coworkers).
They should be identified with something a little more explicit.
Thanks to bookofjoe for the pointer.
Comment from Peter Shankman after the jump.
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