Sunday, August 31, 2008

Deep Thought

As they evacuate coastal areas along the gulf, is there a special southbound lane for local weather forecasters from around the country who want to report "live and firsthand"?

Friday, August 29, 2008

End of Summer Freak

Filed under "Lines You Could Never Get On-Air Today:

Have a drink, have a drive
Go out and see what what you can find.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Deep Thought

Assuming that all bloggers are somehow "the same" is like lumping Larry Flynt together with the Gideons. After all they both work in, you know, printing.

Inspired by this. Ups to Geoff Livingston

h/t prblog

I Don't Get It

Do you get it?

Sure you do. But do you truly get it?

Do you get it in a fundamental way?

Do you totally get it?

I don’t.

When it comes to PR 2.0 or interactive PR or the whole nexus of marketing and social media, it seems the world is being divided neatly into two camps: those who get it, and them that don’t.

I hereby declare my allegiance to the camp that don’t.

I don’t get it.

As Phil Gomes pointed out in January of last year, it’s become shorthand for dismissing alternative points of view. If the whole “Gets It” thing wasn’t obnoxious enough, it’s become an excuse for people to pretend they know something no one else does. Or can.

Gnosticism is the first heresy in any belief system. If you believe the premise, you must believe in the secrets. The secrets are things that you can’t know but must believe and only a select few can know because they have the Gift. They Get It. Otherwise, you’re out of the club. You just have to trust them on these things because they – and they alone – could explain them to you. Of course it would make your head explode if they did.

Or something.

Thankfully, this time around there are no actual wars being fought over Social Media/Web 2.0 orthodoxy. But there is a bunch of money being made.

Don't GET me wrong: I love teh social media. I Link In. I tweet. I facebook. I just don’t GET it. I don't want to sit at the Kewel Kidz Table. Social media change technology, not people.

I imagine there was similar buzz for the fax machine and the telegraph. [You’ll be able to send a simple text message INSTANTANEOUSLY to anybody who’s wired! Here’s an etching of me with Samuel Morse at DotDashCom VII! You've got to do telegraph marketing or you just don't ...]

My beef is not so much with people who DO, you know ... whatever. It's with the "Web 2.0 changes everything" crowd who seem to be putting tactics above strategy in pursuit of something they call the “NEW! marketing." That and somebody said of one of my colleagues that he "totally gets it in a fundamental way," which of course led me to wonder if there could be different manners of or degrees to (yes!) getting it. But I’m over that now. Really.

All of these NEW! media absolutely give professional communicators new ways to open a dialogue with their audiences – the public, remember them? But none of it is a substitute for what we have been doing forever. They add new tools, but you throw away the "old" toolbox at your peril.

For example, any J-school student can tell you that a storyhas specific elements:


Sound familiar?

All the technology in the world changes at most two of those elements. Most important is that Who, What and Why are constant. Technology changes but the constants are what clients and employers have needed since marcom or PR or advertising was invented.

Public Relations-ers do need to understand new technologies and where the natural crowds are forming. If it used to be the state fair or the homecoming parade, it now might be Twitter or FaceBook or your proprietary online community. Now you can build or find a community online. But you still have to involve and motivate people when you get there.


In the heady spring of 2000, I was having lunch with a strategist from Whitman-Hart/MarchFirst/WhitmanHart. Between forkfulls of pasta, she shared her vision of the 'Net.

"Why should I have to leave my house for anything when I can it from the 'Net?"

[She kept saying 'Net.]

"It all bricks-to-clicks. If you're building stores it's over for you. We'll be able to get everything we want online."

"What about all this?" I asked, gesturing around at the we're-not-really-a-chain-but-yes-we-are ambiance of the restaurant. "Can you get this this online?"

She didn't hesitate, "Sure. This is just overhead. In a few years if I want a nice meal I'll be able to go to my computer, log on and it will know if I like it spicy and everything will be delivered to my apartment."

"Cool," I said. "Do you think that would work with pizza and Chinese food, too?"

"You don't get it."

No, I don't.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sending the Wrong Message

Deep Thought:

When your opponent accuses you of sending the wrong message, chances are he's running out of arguments.

Just sayin' ...

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

When Nothing Becomes the Dominant Narrative

Extensive coverage of non-stories was a topic of discussion yesterday at my regular hangout, and one of the smartest guys I know reminded me of the pre-cyberchaser coverage of the Falklands Island War in the early 1980s.

For weeks, as the British fleet made its way toward its brief but telegenic encounter with Argentina, newspapers around the world frontpaged the presumed location of the armada in the Atlantic. There was no new story and no confirmation of anything. Most coverage centered on a Map of the Atlantic Ocean with a series of dots that crept closer to South America each day.

Every Bloody Day

Now that it’s over (for now) there will be plenty of post mortems on the Obama veep announcement. Over at Desirable Roasted Coffee, Allan Jenkins breaks down ABC’s breathless coverage of the build-up, asking a very important question about the qualifications for modern copyediting.

One of the concerns for us PR-types is whether allowing the actual announcement to play out into the weekend news cycle will prove to be a wise decision. But the announcement itself is the least important part of the narrative.

The risk, of course, was that some of the rumors and speculation would raise expectations among key constituencies. In the absence of verifiable information, the public never fails to create its own. That includes the 500 members of the public who make up the DC punditocracy. But for the past two weeks, speculation on the identity of the mystery running mate has been in the top of every national newscast, above the fold in every paper and right next to the cell-phone ad on every news Web site. Forget the text-messaging (clever, btw). The campaign already owned the week.

Sometimes nothin’ …

Friday, August 22, 2008

Friday Freakin" -- We Need Some Rockin' Edition

This is the bestest music video ever.

Wait ... EVAH!!!

It's how music videos ought to be.

Also how music ought to be.

But that's just me.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A DNT Parable With a Punch Line -- Part Due

First, the lesson:

You … your brand, your company, your own self … have a preferred narrative. Marketers call this positioning. It’s what you wish and hope your audiences will think and believe about you. Usually we think of audiences as customers. But they also can be neighbors, legislators, bosses, spouses ... enough.

All the messaging, branding, advertising and – yes! – PR in the world will not override the experience people have with you every day. And if it’s not an everyday experience, then every encounter or Interface counts even more.

That experience forms a competing narrative. If you're not careful, it becomes the dominant narrative.

The parable:

A young woman joined a convent. The mother superior was very specific.

“If you join us,” she explained, “you will spend your life in prayer, song and manual labor. Other than prayer and song, you will be permitted to speak only two words each year. Do you understand?”

“I do,” said the young woman.

The novice went directly to the fields, where she toiled from dawn to dusk for a full a year. On the anniversary of her admittance, the mother superior invited her to the chapel.

“You have served our community well,” the older woman said. “As I explained, you may now speak. But you are limited to two words.”

The younger woman swallowed hard. “Cold room,” she said.

“You are absolutely correct,” mother superior replied. “We long have had trouble with the fuel supply. I am taking you from the fields and sending you to assist your sisters in chopping wood. Do you accept this assignment?”

The younger woman nodded her assent and went to the woods to chop wood.

After two years, again mother superior summoned the young sister to the chapel.

“You have served our community well,” the older woman said. “As I explained, you may now speak. But you are limited to two words.”

The younger woman swallowed hard. “Bad food,” she said.

“You have worked without fail and performed better than sisters with twice your experience. I am promoting you to the kitchen. Do you accept this assignment?”

The young woman nodded her assent and went off to the kitchen.

After three years of toiling in the fields, chopping wood and cooking for the other sisters, the mother superior again summoned the young sister to the chapel.

“You have served our community well,” the older woman said. “The food in our convent has never been so delicious. As I explained, you may now speak. But you are limited to two words.”

The young woman swallowed hard and spoke.

“I quit.”

“Doesn’t surprise me,” mother superior said. “You’ve done nothing but bitch since you got here.”

Image Cred

Saturday, August 9, 2008

A DNT Parable – With a punch line

I spend a lot of time yammering on about what a Dominant Narrative is and how it comes to be. This is about what it is not:

It is not about you repeating your accomplishments, achievements, brand positioning, tagline &c. It is about what people already believe. What incidents, events, perceptions, experience and whatnot shape your audiences’ opinions about you and/or your brand. You can change those perceptions, but not with a new logo or slogan.

Old Joke A Parable:

An old man sits forlornly at the end of the bar. Finally, the bartender asks, “Why the sad face, old man?”

The old man fixes his teary gaze on the barkeep and tells his tale:

“Look out that window. Do you see that dam? I worked on that dam as a youth. I built it with my bare hands. Do they call me ‘Ivan the dam-builder’?


“See beyond the dam. Do you see that bridge? It spans the gorge. I designed that bridge. Do they call me ‘Ivan the engineer’?


“Look down the river. Do you see that skyscraper? I designed that skyscraper. Do they call me ‘Ivan the architect’?


He continues:

“But you [take advantage of] one goat … ”

Image Cred: londuck at ManualFocus

Friday, August 8, 2008

Garbage Day!

If you have any bad news to get out, today – more than almost any other Friday in the year – is your day to do it.

We have on the menu:

The Olympics with a the biggest opening event evah

A Brand New War is the Caucasus and frankly their opening event could have been stronger

A Rich, Powerful, Good-looking Guy had Sex or something (who knew?)

Now, what’s that about your product performance again?

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Think About Your Troubles, or ...

Friday Freakin' Let's-Just-Can-the-Self-Pity Edition:

Can’t tell you how people over the years told me this video never existed. If you find yourself in the market for music that young kids and parents alike can sing along to in the car, you can do a heckuva lot worse than Nilsson’s The Point.

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Thursday, August 7, 2008

Site Effects

Toward the end of this week’s PRWeek Blog Competition I issued not ONE but TWO concession statements and then went to bed. The DNT blog was down two points and I didn’t know anybody else to ask for votes.

Some very preliminary thoughts:

While I appreciate PRWeek and its editors recognizing the whole Intertubes thing, it might have been more fun with categories. I’m grateful for the win. But the pairings seemed random and “public relations” is kind of a broad topic.

Brian Solis writes about PR 2.0 – the nexus of relationship building on the participatory Internet. I write about the Dominant Narrative Theory, which is the study of paradigms, biases and opinions that influence the decisions people make.

Both are public relations topics. Still: apples and oranges. Or at least oranges and Clementines.

The great part of this is that public relations bloggers/thinkers/doers are getting a broader audience. If that’s all that comes from this, then it’s all to the good.

Meanwhile (because I still expect to be humiliated eliminated on a technicality by whomever I face in the next round), it’s important to thank some folks who helped spread the word.

In stream-of-consciousness order:

The Triiibe people (they actually do rock)

The LinkedIn crowd

The Cincinnati Enquirer (gotta love that Eckberg Bounce)

Kevin Dugan and Richard Laermer (for endorsing this site)

All of Richard Laermer’s books (which I have found very useful except for, you know … this one)

All of Kevin Dugan’s books

The Alumni and Friends of St. Xavier High School (2nd best is still good!)

The Alumni and Friends of Elder High School (now you know)

And mostly my friends, colleagues, employers, clients &c at Powers Agency. I usually work very hard to keep this site separate from my Clark Kent life, but Mrs. Graf and the team always have been very supportive and patient with my extracurricular activities. I am pretty sure I garnered at least 52 percent of their vote.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

By Popular Demand ...

... we accede to the will of the people (at least the readers of PR Week's Web site) and introduce PR 2.0 to the roll of better sites than this one.

With a little less than four hours to go, and having already exhausted the Eckberg Bounce, it appears the die is cast. It was close for several hours today. Alas, in the end, Brian loosed his army of Silicon Valley flying monkeys had more support in online PR community.

I have to admit that I was surprised -- shocked would be a better word -- to be included in the competition and I wish PR 2.0 and the others well.

Most important, please look around. If you like it, consider a bookmark. Got a problem with something? We like a good lively discussion, too.

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Vote For Me*

If you clicked something thinking you were voting for ... anything ... you actually need to go here and click on Pit Bulls and Labradors. The text will become bold and then you'll know that your vote has been counted.

Or something.

*Best campaign speech evah. Was that The Brady Bunch?

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Sunday, August 3, 2008

PR 2.0 Hates America!

Not really. It’s actually a really cool blog. But that seems to be what I’m supposed to say in the middle of PRWeek’s new tournament-style find-the-best-PR-blog competition.

First, I am grateful (and very surprised) to be included in the competition at all. It’s not the what, but the how that makes me queasy.

Not to mention Brian is going to crush me in the first round, but I digress …

Brian’s blog is all about HOW, and there’s a big need for that in the google-driven future we’re living in. But the DNT blog is – I hope – about the why and the what. We’re talking less about technology and more about the things that don’t change: how people think and make decisions, what information moves the needle in which direction.


Thanks to PRWeek for the love. Thanks to PR 2.0 (among others) for making a forum like this possible.

Congratulations to all the first-round winners.

The Political DNT Parable: The Final Part or …

we finally get to The Moral of the Story.

What happened to George H. W. Bush and Al Gore in the previous posts is an example of Cokie’s Law, named for the D.C. pundicrat Cokie Roberts. It states that it really doesn’t matter if a story is true, as long as people believe it, it will be incorporated into the narrative as if it were. Journalists and everybody else will incorporate it in their consideration of everything that comes after.

In these two cases, even though the anecdotes were distorted – either intentionally or by misunderstanding – they fit into dominant narratives about politics. More important, they fit into dominant narratives about politicians.

The truth – perhaps not fact but who cares? – is that politicians will lie, will exaggerate, are out of touch and have no idea what the rest of us go through on a regular basis. Both of these campaigns failed to realize that they had stepped into a torrent. It may have been only an inch deep, but it was a mile wide and moving fast.

It took them, and their candidate’s careers, with it.

The lesson is that most people will believe what already aligns with their previously held opinions. If it fits with what they think they know, it gets added to the library of “truth.” If it conflicts with what they already "know," most people tend to reject it without much consideration.

Both of these campaigns failed to pre-empt. Brands, particularly those owned (whatever that means anymore) by big corporations, need to understand the relevant dominant narratives and decide which ones they want to fit into.

And which ones they don’t.

In these cases, the brand managers failed to respond. They never even attempted to neutralize the rumors until they had become the fodder of Letterman monologues.

That’s too late.

You don’t have to fight fire with fire. There’s no need to hold a presser every time your brand – or your candidate – is maligned. But you absolutely MUST correct the record. Reach out to the journo. Post a note on your blog. Find surrogates to go after the veracity of the accusation. Get your truth on the record.

Unless you’re veryvery lucky, it will not go away.

Short version: No matter what business you’re in, there’s a version of that Letterman monologue. It may be Mr. Letterman, himself. It may be floor talk at the trade show. It may be the bar around the corner from your biggest client’s office. Or gossip in the break room.

What are you doing to drive your preferred narrative in that conversation?

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Saturday, August 2, 2008

SiteMeter ...

... was harshing IE's buzz so we asked him to chill for a while. He'll be back when he's pulled himself together.

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