June 3, 2004 by Colin
Paul Wells is a columnist for Macleans magazine, and has been notoriously hard on the current Prime Minister. Naturally, he was a little surprised when a protester at a recent Martin campaign event called him a “kiss ass.”
Protester: “He wouldn’t answer my question.”
Wells: “First of all, I’m a reporter and secondly I’ve been asking him questions for four years and I haven’t had a lot of luck for four years so bugger off.”
To which the protester replied: You’re a kiss ass.”
“I’m not sure the prime minister would agree,” Wells responded. (sub. req.)
June 2, 2004 by Colin
The antiglobal army of a few years ago increasingly looks more like a procession of weary Grateful Dead fans near the end of another tour.
That’s just one observation in the WSJ’s A1 story on the preparations for the upcoming G-8 summit on Sea Island, Georgia. While it’s largely a straightforward report on the challenges facing government and protesters alike, there more than a few hints of condescension scattered throughout. But what else would you expect from the leading propagandist of the capitalist pig army?*
It’s not all sarcasm, though. Since the summit is being held in Georgia, we can also find the requisite references to noblesse oblige and good ole-fashioned Southern hospitality:
… when Carol Bass showed up in her floral skirt and silver peace-symbol pendant at a town-hall meeting in April, local police moved in quickly and refused to let her and fellow activists hand out their leaflets.
As it turned out, Ms. Bass’s flier was an invitation to a “Meet the Protesters” potluck supper in a nearby church fellowship hall, and the word got out anyway. At the gathering the next night, after spaghetti, sweet tea and banana pudding, organizers coaxed County Commissioner Cap Fendig to play homemade trivia games. (Sample question: How many windows were broken during the 2002 G-8 meeting in Canada? Answer: zero.)
And that’s the lede!
Is this an attempt to inform WSJ readers about the alternative protest activities being organized by dedicated activists? Surely, WSJ editors must have realized that many of these activities would seem unusual or just plain wierd to their average subscriber.
keep reading »
June 1, 2004 by Colin
Well, Tom Peters has redesigned his web presence and it is now a rough MT blog. Is this the tipping point for corporate blogs? It certainly shows what brand-aware company can do with some motivation, a good designer and the right software.
Now, I’m just waiting for the comment fields, permalinks and the RSS feed.
June 1, 2004 by Colin
Messaging and presentation are essential for spokespersons – that’s what we repeat ad nauseum in our training sessions and during pre-interview prep. Especially at events. So much effort, money and time goes into preparing for the perfect event that PR folk, spokesperson and management can fixate on getting the right message out – over and over and over again.
In a political campaign, like the national election happening up here right here, right now (mp3), the message and attendant event become essential components of the campaign and, hopefully, of the media cycle. Candidates and party leaders are increasingly blunt in exposing the mechanics of messaging and repetition as they battle for a toehold in the evening news.
Last week, the leader of the Conservative Party let it all hang out. He even got a bit of grief about it from the media. Here’s what CBC radio reported.
SUSAN MURRAY (REPORTER) : The local candidates are there, but as usual, he avoids the general public. It’s become the Harper style. Holding just two or at most three events a day, surrounded by supporters. Harper was asked about his controlled campaign.
STEPHEN HARPER (LEADER OF THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY OF CANADA) : I don’t know if I should talk about communication strategy at all this, but you know the gold rule: you don’t walk on your own message.
MURRAY: His message? It’s time to defeat what he calls a tired and corrupt Liberal government. And yesterday, when a question was asked off-message – what would he do about farmers, the big issue in Saskatchewan – Harper seemed (…).
HARPER: Well, that’s… Farming is obviously not the subject of this particular announcement, but… Yeah, well… We’re doing a message event here…
May 31, 2004 by Colin
Excerpt from “A Week on the Set with the Wal-Mart Smiley,” from McSweeney’s:
Saturday, May 8, 2004, 5:22 a.m.
Know what my sister does for a living? Spelling tests. When Timmy gets nineteen out of twenty, she goes on top of the paper. She is the mark of accomplishment. And what do I represent? A store that found a John Cougar Mellencamp album cover too provocative. (You’re next, Hornsby.) What else? Lemonade-stand wages. A corporation that prices independent retailers out of existence and rewards complicit communities with a couple of jungle gyms. I know I should try to laugh all this off, but I can’t. All I can do is smile.
Then I come home and write in this stupid journal. Did I mention I have to hold the pen in an eye socket?
The 264-page hard cover book is bound with a giant, folded, comic-festooned dustjacket (ďan enormous dust jacket that does much more than guard against dust,Ē as it says on the website). It took me right back to the way the Sunday paper used to arrive on my childhood doorstep, and it conjured up that same sense of excitement.
May 29, 2004 by Colin
The latest PR Strategist examines the challenges facing firms and pros specializing in health care PR. There is specific advice for pulling together a health care PR team:
In lieu of the dream team of generalists pulling in specialists as needed, the best firms today establish teams of specialists with a generalist at the helm. The team leader, who must also be an astute manager, will cull the right people with the right talent and put them to work …
For example, if you were putting together a team for a product that treats rare disorders, like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Huntington’s Disease, you might tap into an issues-management specialist for availability, compassionate use and pricing issues, an advocacy/professional-relations specialist to work closely with the patient and neurology community, a science writer to help demystify the mechanism of action (MOA) of the drug and how it works in the body, and so on.
The leader who cannot orchestrate his or her team (often strong practitioners in their own right) will align the wrong people with the wrong skill sets with complex client business.
If you have access to a media database, the May issue of Pharmaceutical Executive deals with the practical challenges of health care PR, including articles on:
- Surveying the messaging landscape
- The art of advertorials
- Press releases and the FDA
But what are the competencies of a successful health care PR pro? See after the jump.
keep reading »
May 27, 2004 by Colin
We know the general public lies to us: during focus groups, in-store sampling, telephone polling, door-to-door canvassing, and in every other form of public opinion research.
Marginal Revolution has been thumbing through (what we consider) an old university text, and unearthed an excerpt from Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s public opinion theory that might shed some light. Here’s his comment:
This is an interesting public opinion theory. It assumes that aggregate public opinion has two components – a selfish and biased component and a component that produces the “right” public policy. The difference between the optimal policy and the median voter’s policy is due not to ignorance or systemic error, but to selfish desires that undermine the provision of public goods.
Ideally, public opinion research would prompt decisions that favour the “right” public policy. Unfortunately, the clients actually paying for the research frequently get in the way. As do genpop participants who lie about their motivations, goals, influencers, favoured goods and preferred policies.
“The correlation between stated intent and actual behavior is usually low and negative,” writes Harvard Business School professor Gerald Zaltman in his influential book How Customers Think. After all, he notes, 80 percent of new products or services fail within six months when they’ve been vetted through focus groups.
That would explain how Coca-Cola thinks C2 will be a success.
Oh – and if you’ve drunk the POR Kool-Aid and are insufficiently cautious about extrapolating POR results, all those anomalies can be explained through sampling errors, measurement errors, margins of error, coverage error and non-response error. Here’s a short primer.
May 26, 2004 by Colin
Avril Lavigne’s got a new album out, don’t you know? Her publicity tour hasn’t suffered from the mud she’s been slinging at Hillary and Britney.
It has also benefited from the unusual synergy in activities undertaken by her record company, her promotional street team, and her rabid fans. Nettwerk, the record company, concentrates on the usual promotions and Back Bone, her fan club. Team Avril, the street team, seems to focus solely on net-based promotions.
Avrilbandaids, however, is a 20,000-strong fan club that grew out of Yahoo Groups. The Globe and Mail tells us:
Avrilbandaids is seen as so vital a promotional vehicle that Team Avril lists Avrilbandaids as an important link for Team Avril members to use. … Team Avril only gets about a quarter of the number of site visitors that Avrilbandaids gets.
Indeed, the visually sparse Team Avril site almost feels like an admission by Arista/BMG and Nettwerk that it can’t find someone to administer the street-team duties with quite the same vitality as independent fan clubs. Meanwhile, BMG and Nettwerk are also co-operating more with Avrilbandaids, by providing the signed CDs and posters for the club’s contests.
May 25, 2004 by Colin
A history of strong business relationships and good governance tactics can help international companies seeking cross-listing in US markets to overcome investors’ concerns about lax regulatory supervision at home, says Harvard Prof. Jordan Siegel.
His research into the performance of Mexican companies during and after the financial crisis of the mid-1990s suggests that international firms can win the confidence of US analysts, financiers and bankers.
The evidence … would suggest that investors should place greater trust in those cross-listed firms that have built up a reputation for good governance through bad economic times. Firms with reputational assets have a strong positive incentive to continue to live up to those reputations.
Firms with reputational assets are able to secure privileged access to outside finance as a result of their reputation. They may also enjoy other market benefits from their reputation as well (such as with customers and business partners).
However, Siegel’s research also shows that cross-listed firms can be pillaged by less reputable international partners. In some cases, roadshows fail because management doesn’t understand the depth of information regularly expected by international investors. In China, public relations firms have built a thriving practice by providing basic investor relations advice to Chinese firms looking for international investors:
keep reading »
May 25, 2004 by Colin
Eric Idle, of Monty Python fame, has recorded a remarkable and profane song about FCC censorship. I heartily recommend it.
Thanks to Doc Searls for the pointer.
May 25, 2004 by Colin
Three excellent caricatures of the generic campaign candidate, reporter and flack in today’s National Post – written by Sri Agrell, illustrated by Kagan McLeod.
Candidate: “Stain resistant, sweat-proof, button-down shirts with sleeves that can be rolled casually to give off an easy-going vibe.” In case you’re wondering, this is Flat Mark. Strange campaign tool, isn’t it?
Flack: “Case of beer to bribe young people to attend rallies”
Reporter: “Diary in which to record overtime hours for which you will never be paid.”
May 24, 2004 by Colin
The Prime Minister’s gone and done it. Canada’s going to have an election on June 28. Somehow, he and his fellow politicians will reach out to nearly 30 million Canadians spread across the second largest country in the world – and only spend about $40 million.
Sure, that doesn’t count the costs of the actual election mechanics, or the costs to be tallied up by the media. Did you know a Canadian network has borrowed one of ABC’s now-ubiquitous wired buses? (It actually broke down yesterday. On the first day of the election.) Even CPAC, the public access politics channel, has a bus.
Several outlets are trying out blogs, including the CBC (it reads like a college road trip journal). The Globe and Mail is promising to have reporter’s blogs. (When? The campaign’s into its second day)
In the interests of free and open democracy, I’ve prepared some helpful hints for those thrifty Canadian politicians looking to save a few dollars on the campaign trail:
- Get all the staff on one of those “friends and family” phone plans
- Public access programming – it’s where you find the really committed voter
- Take advantage of cross promotion – lawn signs can also advertise driveway resealing or lawn care companies
- Save on focus groups and polling: hang around the Tim Horton’s on Saturday morning (or the mall food court, for the youth demo)
- Integrated marketing – deliver take-out menus with outreach material
- Campaign plane? I hear WestJet/EasyJet/JetBlue hit ALL the vote-rich suburban areas
- Media plane too expensive? Try hotel minibar pricing on the booze
- Meals too costly? Give the candidate’s son the “important job” of cleaning out the free breakfast bar when the team checks out of the Holiday Inn Express
- Gas prices too high? Get the assistant driving the media van to distract the service station attendant after you fuel up the campaign bus – then make a break for it!
- Update the campaign website and blog on the road by phishing WiFi hot spots. (A latte a day keeps your ISP bill away!)
May 21, 2004 by Colin
Chris Lehane has some advice on how to conduct and deploy effective opposition research during an election campaign. It’s all in the latest edition of Atlantic Monthly, where Joshua Green looks at oppo research in general.
Lehane’s advice is after the jump.
keep reading »
May 21, 2004 by Colin
Jim Horton’s been running a series of dispatches chronicling his work with a client in crisis mode. A little snippet in Fortune only reinforces his observations.
There is a quiet period before a bad story appears. In that time, clients work to prevent the story from happening. (They can’t). They ask an agency to tell them what to do. (The agency tries to prepare them for the worst.) Eventually the story comes and expectancy is rewarded by the force of an awful report. By then, however, the client and the agency will have feared the worst, and the story might not seem as bad as it is. But, it might be worse, and it is hard to tell until feedback comes from customers, employees and others. (Here, and other days)
Fortune ran a 6000+ word piece on executive suite troubles at Coca-Cola this week, and it is obvious that the PR staff knew the article was coming.
How obvious? In discussing Douglas Daft, who “would come to be called Coke’s ‘accidental CEO,’” the reporter notes an exchange with the PR staff:
(A company spokeswoman said Daft wouldn’t be made available for interviews because “you have to understand, we’re trying to do as little damage as possible. We’re trying not to blow the place up.”)
May 20, 2004 by Colin
If the claims being made by the Simon Property Group are true, there are some signficant experiential marketing opportunities being missed across the United States. Simon is involved in 247 shopping malls across 37 states, and is making some pretty hefty claims as the result of its new Arbitron “Simon Malls Shopper Profile“. This from the press release:
Americans are five times more likely to visit a Simon Mall than to attend a ticketed sporting event, including Major League baseball, NFL football, NBA basketball, NHL hockey, NASCAR, Major League soccer, NCAA events, major tennis events and the PGA combined.
There are some other startling claims, that should probably be taken with a grain of salt:
- Simonís one-month reach exceeds national newspaper weekly reach.
- Simonís net reach is comparable to, or exceeds, major weekly national magazines.
Of course, some of the results do seem self-evident:
- Teens and 18-24 year olds are more likely to make their purchasing decisions while at the mall while older shoppers tend to decide before they get to the mall. (see So Your Daughter’s a Mall Rat)
- 72% of Simon M1s distinctly recall seeing mall advertising in the corridors.
- 75% of Simon M1s are aware of audio in the corridors and walkways and awareness of signage is high.
- Four out of five Simon Shoppers would find a kiosk with sales and promotional literature to be useful.