Friday, October 29, 2004

Miscellany

  • If you're a Bostonian, or in the area on November 11th, check out the Boston Panel Discussion on Blogging. Looks like a good group of bloggers, and should be really good info for those that want to learn more. And, congrats to the BoSox.
  • Publicity is always so interesting. The former publicist for Tatum and Ryan O'Neill sent out a press release to say that he has "no comment" on Tatum's Book, A Paper Life. If he hadn't sent that release, well, I guess he wouldn't have been able to coast and get some publicity for his firm.
  • Dan Forbush, of Profnet fame, has pushed MediaInsider as a blog-only onto the scene. Publicity is always so interesting. Maria Perez - a very nice, funny woman who's from Spain - is the day-to-day overseer of the content. Tell her I said hi, and to buy a plant, for Pete's sake!
  • Tons of technology magazines are re-launching, just to give us a case of the willies, or deja vu. One of the two. So, say hello to Red Herring Pt II, Always On (or Red Herring original people, Pt II), The Deal ... oh, there are probably more, I just haven't read about them yet.

    Let's hope none are asinine enough to the play the roof party game that one dot-com publication (that thought it was a standard to something) liked to do all the time.

    Never did understand why they just didn't transition them into roof jumping parties when the times imploded.
  • And, just a reminder, photos on the Internet tend to be there forever. Not something you want to show the grandkids in 50 years, Blogger goats, is it?

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

What does the P in PR stand for?

Dan Gillmor, the blogger / journalist extraordinaire from the SJ Merc, blogged today about a PR pitch that he received about a new tracking tool.

From the posting, here's the PR pitch:
(PR client) is a market intelligence and media analysis services firm. (PR client) is working with F1000 companies who are using our services to Manage and Monitor Digital Influencers (such as blogs, message boards, user groups, complaint sites, etc.) as an intelligence and threat awareness tool. (Person's name), CEO could talk to you about 'What F1000 Companies are doing to take action against bloggers' and 'How companies are taking steps to protect their corporate reputations from bloggers/digital influencers.'
Personally, I wish that he had left the name of the client, so others would know who it was that sent out the pitch.

Once again, though, a pitch like this brings up what Jack O'Dwyer said during my interview with him for the Global PR Blog Week:
Right now, there are very bad forces affecting public relations. We are supposed to be a bridge for the press to get to CEOs, not a barrier, but the industry has fallen into the trap of blocking access for the press. There is this tremendous force that is trying to convert public relations into advertising, especially at the conglomerates, and that will be the downfall of public relations.
Let me reiterate that: we are supposed to be a bridge for the press to get to CEOs, not a barrier.

But, it gets better. PR used to stand for public relations. Not press relations, but public relations. The company that pitched Gillmor doesn't get that. In their pitch, they note that the CEO could talk "about 'What F1000 Companies are doing to take action against bloggers' and 'How companies are taking steps to protect their corporate reputations from bloggers/digital influencers.'"

Small problem here - shouldn't F1000 companies want to learn how to influence influencers, to work with them and find out what their issues are? Shouldn't they want to not take action against bloggers, but work with bloggeres?

Aren't bloggers - despite the media's obsession with pajamas and blogging - part of the greater public? Aren't bloggers just a different type of influencer from years passed, but now with a larger audience?

Instead of trying to control the message, which is what PR has become, how about working with the public to fully disseminate the message? Our industry is PUBLIC relations, and bloggers are another facet of the public that we need to reach out to, and ensure that they are fully apprised of our message.

Here's one example. Back in the day, I would make sure that a client was reaching out to certain enthusiast Websites. Back then, they were just called Websites, but now they would be considered blogs. By being one of the few companies actively courting these sites, the client had a leg up on the competition - they had built relationships, were able to get information and product into these people, and treated them as valuable as print journalists for the market segment.

Let's not be pulling the Heisman move all the time. Let's take back PR, where we help journalists - and now bloggers - get information that they would want or need. Let's take back the industry, and make it public relations once again.

____________________________

Other bloggers that have chimed in, and brought great perspectives, include Matthew Podboy, Tom Murphy Shel Holtz, Elizabeth Albrycht, and from the Auburn bloggers, "Les" is More (I don't know her real name!) and Jessica Stephens.

When PR Stunts Go Awry

Or, really bad omens.

The Financial Times - the wonderful pink paper that is a must read if you care about international business - is lauching an Australian edition, and charterd the Spirit of Australia, one of the contenders from the 1992 America's Cup.

The sailboat hit rocks and sank.

Now, when you are putting together an event or stunt for a PR campaign, you try to think of everything that might happen, and plan for contingencies.

I am pretty sure that the FT PR people didn't have in their plan: if sailboat sinks, do X.

I have no doubts that FT Oz will do well, but what a way to begin.

On the bright side, it made international news, and I'm sure local news in Australia, so now everyone knows about the new FT edition.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Chickenfight.com!

I love Crispin Porter & Bogusky. I think the commercials and online viral campaigns that they have done for Burger King rock, and almost make me want to go there - the whole purpose of a commercial (that, for some reason, advertisers sometimes forget).

Such great examples include:
For Chicken Fight, Burger King/CPB has also put together a free pay-per-view on Direct TV, and supported the campaign with commercials.

If you have seen a commercial, though, your first thought might be aligned with mine: um, isn't this promoting cockfights (which, I believe, are illegal in all 50 states). And, it gets a little worse, with one of the costumed chickens chasing a real, live chicken around an alley.

Oh, for good measure, the commercial throws in a Spanish speaking trainer, to give it more of the barrio feel.

Well, the complaints have rolled in. According to the NYT (halfway down):
The Humane Society of the United States in Washington has asked Burger King to stop running a new campaign for chicken sandwiches that the organization says makes light of cockfighting.
Burger King had a pretty good response: We're confident that the satire and spoof of the campaign is clearly understood by viewers.

That might be true. I've seen the commercials, and wish I had Direct TV to watch two guys in chicken suits beat each other up. But, at the same time, the commercials are in somewhat bad taste - the barrio setting, the Latino, the cockfights.

All-in-all, though, this is a great case study on crisis communications from step-one. Here is Burger King, a current loser in the Burger Wars, trying to gain customers. It's advertising agency creates a few cutting-edge ads and viral campaigns, that can backfire.

So, it's time for the PR firm to step in and try to alleviate any issues that may arise from cockfight accusations. Right now, it's just the Humane Society. If PETA decides to get into it, expect to see billboards and protests.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Thank you

I wanted to thank all the people that sent me Happy Birthday messages. For those that sent e-cards / cards, I am in the midst of writing you responses, etc.

To the Auburn gang, thank you very much. It really made me smile on my Bday, which I always found somewhat of a blah day - it all goes back to not getting that Atari when I was younger ....

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Product Placement Comes to Cartoons!

According to today's NYT, Comedy Central has worked out a deal for product placement within a cartoon series on the network, Shorties Watchin' Shorties.

The NYT notes that
Although it is difficult to identify firsts in marketing, this is thought to be the first time that paid placements will be a regular part of a cartoon series. Characters from animated series have appeared in commercials through the decades, from the Flintstones for Winston cigarettes, to the Simpsons for Butterfinger candy bars, but the products have not been embedded in the shows. Recently some products like Sprite, the soft drink, have appeared in the NBC animated series "Father of the Pride," but they were not paid placements.
I disagree. This isn't the first time that a cartoon has been used for products, but might be the first time it's blatant for products that are not necessarily thought of as part of the cartoon.

Think of any childhood cartoon. Those aren't cartoons, but are 30 minute commercials for new toys. My cousin was a huge He-Man fan, and had to have ALL the toys. Why? Because he watched the show and was bombarded not only with commercial messaging from the show itself, but from the product commercials throughout.

Shorties Watchin' Shorties is an adult show, so that makes it different from cartoons of the past. But, the Simpsons - hands down the best written show ever - has tweaked product placements as a sly testimony to its advertising clout. While Bart was a pitchman for Butterfingers, the show's writers mocked that Bart was a spokesman for Butterfingers, while he was eating a ... Butterfingers.

The critics are up in arms about this. It pollutes television, it twists the message, it's a bad precedent.

Hello?! What are soap opera's origins if not a full show in support of one product? Product placement has been a part of television for years, and will continue to be so, ramping up as companies try to find ways to get eyeballs as DVRs get more and more use in society.

My only concern is that product placements should be handled by the PR firms, not the ad agencies. In the past, product placement was an extension of PR - clients asked the PR firm to get their products on TV. Now, that seems to be part of advertising. I'm not sure if this is good or bad, but it is another instance of what was formerly a PR activity being taken away. Blech.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Friends of Gus Weill

Richard Edelman has a very touching post today about Gus Weill, Jr., a PR practitioner that took his life a few weeks ago.

I didn't know Weill, but I can attest to the fact that this industry can take a toll at times. If you're in the industry long enough, you'll have your war stories about Tums and caffeine.

If you are feeling charitable, Richard Edelman and Chris K of Burson-Marsteller, have set up a fund for Gus's son. The information is on Richard's blog.

Monday, October 18, 2004

New blog!!

Okay, it's the same blog as this. But, psuedo-mirrored.

I didn't want someone else to claim poppr.blogspot.com, so I did it yesterday.

So, each time I post something on this blog, I'll also post it to the other blog. Well, most of the time (like this won't go up, nor the bday post).

It somewhat mirrors the actions I had to take for pop-pr.com and poppr.com. Just covering the bases....

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Birthday Week!

Well, it's my birthday this week, on October 21. This means I'm a Libra, and as I was told when I was 14, that means I will eventually crack from the injustice in the world. For those that know me, this isn't a shock.

What it also means is that I take a long time to make a decision, then stick with it, and it's usually the right one.

These same friends have called me up and said - um, we know you, but no clue what to get you.

My Amazon Wish list is under the contacts on the right-hand side. It's a great eclectic mix - go try to figure out who I am by my requests :-)

For instance, the Ralph Lauren Pink Pony is because I worked on the breast cancer stamp. Go buy those stamps!!

I expect e-cards from my readers :-)

Friday, October 15, 2004

War Eagle!

Okay, I really don't know what War Eagle means, but it must be an Auburn football thing. Tigers, eagles ... okay, I see the connection. They take their football very seriously down in Alabama.

Auburn public relations and multimedia professor, Robert French, blogs. His blog, infOpinions has some pretty witty and fun commentary on the world, as well as things he points out to his students.

Plus, he's said some nice things about me in the past.

But, what I really think is cool of Robert - although his students might disagree - is that he requires his students to blog. Some have been more diligent about the project, others have been lagging, and others, it seems, don't realize that this is part of their grade.

I have been reading his students' blogs off and on, and kept meaning to blog about them. I've had a few email conversations with Robert - kids, listen to him, take his advice, he seems like he'd be a great mentor! - about my perceptions about his students, and misperceptions.

While reading, I have gone and commented on stories that they have posted. I enjoy reading their blogs, because it takes me back to school daze, which were a lot of fun. I enjoy reading their blogs, because its so Southern genteel at times - I just can't really relate to Seniors talking about engagements, or marriage plans.

One caveat I have for the students is that it's the Internet - nothing ever disappears on the Internet because of Google caching of sites. So check spelling, don't get overly personal or quirky, but remember that anyone can be viewing these blogs.

I found his students' projects through Jessica's Blog, who wrote that she didn't like me, then felt bad that I read that post. Which, truthfully, still gets me to smile.

For firms: if you are looking for junior staff for your firm, I would suggest you check out the talent. Here they are blogging - getting a taste of the next stage in public relations - and they all seem to be hard workers, with internships. An agency could do worse, and trust me, I've seen worse.

For others: go visit the student blogs. Post comments, answer their questions, help them get more involved, and see that there is some hope for PR in the future.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Brand Extension fun: Border's Express

According to my old hometown newspaper, the Detroit Free Press - from which I learned to read - Border's is testing the rebranding of Waldenbooks to Border's Express.

Truth be told, Waldenbooks always freaked me out. I don't know why, but I must have had a bad experience in one.

Border's, on the other hand, is a great place to go. I do have this odd desire to grab magazine's out of people's hands, and yell at them that Border's is not a library, but I usually just say that to the Border's employees, who give me that "I wish we could do that" look.

This, to me, is a great brand extension and renaming of existing business. Waldenbooks could only improve with being more affiliated with Borders, and it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Then again, it will all depend on a great PR campaign, to get people to think of Border's while they are in malls. Hey Borders! Gimme a ring - I'm a good Michigander who has been to the original store in Ann Arbor ...

Not fair :-(

Blogger is testing out new features, but it looks like you have to live in the Bay Area to partipate.

Come on guys, it's the Internet. Wasn't this supposed to free us from the shackles of being tied down to one locale, and be able to telecommute and all that jazz?

It's About Content

Today's NY Post has a gossip piece with Ted Turner lamenting that "The Cartoon Network is drawing three times the ratings of CNN — what does that mean?"

Just a guess ... how about that Cartoon Network has better programming than CNN? That Cartoon Network has evolved and continues to change, while CNN lost its footing and is stagnant and boring? That Cartoon Network has pushed the envelope with Adult Swim and other programming, and that CNN tries too hard to stay impartial and trots out Larry King as cutting edge?

I love CNN. I have a lot of formative child memories that involve CNN and CNN Headline News, such as the explosion of the Challenger. I remember rushing home that day from school, and watching CNN Headline News for updates.

I love Cartoon Network's Adult Swim - Aqua Teen Hunger Force rules! - and that the channel develops quirky programming that reaches key demograhics.

But the fact is that CNN lost its footing and is trying to regain what it once had as first to market.

It's actually a great analogy for dot-com firms. It used to be that first-to-market was the most important thing on the Internet. Now, it's a combination of content and timing. CNN had the timing, but lost the content along the way.

Spiers heads to Media Bistro

According to Mediabistro's media newsletter - I guess a good as source as any for news about Mediabistro - they went off and hired Elizabeth Spiers as the new editor-in-chief.

I liked Spiers when she wrote for Gawker, liked Choire's writing more when he replaced her, and like Coen's writting now - but that's just because she's an MOT.

Congratulations to my good buddy Laurel Touby for landing Spiers. Should be interesting to see what she does with it.

Oh, an afterthought:

Spier's qoute in the release was:
"Given recent screaming headlines about forged memos, presidential debate coverage, and subpoenaed journalists, I think this is a great time to re-evaluate the way the media industry covers itself," says Spiers. "As we expand the breadth and depth of coverage and analysis on mediabistro.com, we’re well-positioned to be on the cutting edge of that. I’m very excited about the opportunity to build the site into something that’s truly useful, entertaining and, ultimately, indispensable."
Does the mainstream consumer really care about the media, or does the media cover the media because it interests the media? Just a thought ....

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

REALLY pushing the envelope

I love this idea, and at the same time, I don't think I would be able to do it as POP! Public Relations.

Vaughn Whelan, a veteran ad man, wants the Molson ad business, so much that he developed, produced and placed a 60-second television commercial in Canada and Vermont. The story is from the NY Post.

This is just pushing the envelope. It's a great way for Whelan to get press for his firm, for him to get his ideas in front of Molson (and possibly get on the short list), and get other companies looking for an ad firm that can take risks, take chances, and do something fun and quirky.

Can a public relations firm do this? I don't think so. Public relations is about messaging, messaging developed with the client.

In pitches that POP! PR has been in against other local firms, some of the firms will deliver "hits" during the decision process, hoping to tip the scales.

In one instance, this badly backfired against an agency, to the point that the internal person was complaining about the lack of understanding of the market, the company and business protocol.

It comes down to even if I do find an opportunity that would fit a current pitch, I might forward the opportunity to the potential client, but no go out and pitch the client. First, it might not be appropriate for the company, and second, it might open up my firm to legal repurcussions ... and we do live in a litigious society.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

KFC looking for a new home

From O'Dwyer's today:

KFC, which operates more than 11,000 chicken restaurants in 80 countries, has put its PR account up for review, Jonathan Blum, senior VP-public affairs at parent company Yum Brands, told O'Dwyer's.

Edelman, the 28-year incumbent, declined to pitch the business. Nancy Ruscheinski, president of Edelman's central region, has not yet been reached about the decision not to re-pitch.

KFC has been the target of an aggressive campaign by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals for alleged cruelty to chickens. The company says its suppliers adhere to the highest standards of animal welfare.

Yum Brands also operates the Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Long John Silver's and A&W All-American Food restaurant chains. It has made "teaming up sister restaurants" a corporate priority.

I am going to put some money on Cohn & Wolfe (who handles Taco Bell) or Ogilvy (who handles Pizza Hut) for having the upperhand.

As Yum! notes, the new corporate strategy is the many-in-one restaurant, to bundle Pizza Hut with Taco Bell with KFC, for example, or A&W with Taco Bell with Long John Silver's. So, it makes sense to have some synergy with the agencies, and to possibly combine PR for as many units with one firm.

Should be a good WPP blood battle, if it does end up to be Ogilvy vs Cohn & Wolfe.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

The death of reality shows?

A while back, I read on some blog - give me some slack, it was a while ago - that hopefully Mark Cuban would do for the reality show hype what he did to the dot-com era: kill it.

Well, looks like the Cuban touch has worked again: reality shows are taking a hit in the ratings.

Now, understand that I like Cuban. I watched his first episode, and got bored, but I don't like reality shows. But, Cuban has done very well for himself, he is the personification of the American dream - work hard, you can do well.

I would love to be on the Apprentice, and if I was going to be fired, stop Trump and say "You, sir, are no Mark Cuban. I quit." - would make for some great tv, wouldn't it?

But, I am soooo glad to see this reality fad ending soon (or at least I'm hoping it ends soon). I like sitcoms, I like dramas, I can't stand reality shows - I find them overly vapid, and if someone is watching them, I want to scream.

And, I'm quite proud to say that I have never seen an episode of Survivor or American Idol.

For the PR take: reality shows were bad for PR, as they pushed paid product placements to the forefront of television, and blurred the line between entertainment and news.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

It's about the message, stupid


It's all about the message Posted by Hello


Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five had a great point - the message is what needs to be heard.

I originally had posted something different - about the VP debate - but it wasn't me. I wanted to stick up the album cover of Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five on my blog.

Why? Well, it's also my notebook desktop screen, and I was at a meeting today with the Arizona Technology Council, and the woman next to me did a double-take while I was starting up.

She didn't get it. I'm in public relations, and there's one thing that we people in PR should remember - it's about the message. PR people need to make sure that their executives are on message, and remember that when we go off message, we tend to die.

We also need to remember that part of the message is working with the media. PR is supposed to be that bridge, not a barrier, as Jack O'Dwyer noted well in the Global PR Blog Week interview.

We also need to remember that we are in a stressful profession, and to have a personal life (as I blog this while watching VH1's rap show).

Grandmaster Flash's The Message had a chorus that fits PR well:
Don’t push me, cause I’m close to the edge
I’m trying not to lose my head
It’s like a jungle sometimes, it makes me wonder
How I keep from going under...

Monday, October 04, 2004

Biotech Blogging

There are a ton of blogs that I read throughout the day, to get a feel for what's happening in certain industries.

In public relations, the blogs I first read are: PR Opinions, Corporate PR, Shel Holtz and PR Fuel. My fun little FeedDemon feed has 62 PR and marketing blogs that I am reading - and some blogs that I have begun to ignore - but I always make sure to hit those 4 first. I find them to be the most impartial reads, blogging about PR and not self-promotional GIGO.

The PR blogs are the second read at the end of the day - the first read is my favorites, which include Silicon Valley Watch, Dan Gillmor, Chris Nolan and Giga Om.

I also read Gina Smith's BIOTECH. Gina's blog is a great aggregator of different articles. There was a bit of a slowdown while she took over the CEO spot at a new company, but it's good to see that she's blogging again.

And, the latest news is that her book, that she had been working on, is finally coming out. The book is The Genomics Age (DNA in plain English), or as I like to think of it - Biotech for Dummies. I have added it to my Amazon Wish list - and this is my birthday month - but I'm also hoping for a signed copy of the book. Hey, Gina's on my crush list, so what can I say?

Friday, October 01, 2004

Richard Edelman Blogs

I just got notice of this via O'Dwyer that Richard Edelman has begun titled:Speak Up.

In my fantasy world - the same one where I am 6'2'', a great hockey player, and not stressed all the time - I like to think that Richard was prompted by my wonderful blog interview of him for the Global PR Blog Week.