Friday, November 28, 2008

Hallyday Weekend

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cause and Effect in Public Relations

[N.B.: I wanted title this differently. But then I’d just get a lot of nastygrams from people who want to explain the google machine to me.]

Post hoc ergo propter hoc

It’s a Latin phrase loosely … okay literally translated as “After this therefore because of this.”

It’s one of the classic logical fallacies.

It’s also a part of the Dominant Narrative Hall of Fame.

Narratives are linear. Some stuff happens, leading to some more stuff, and finally the end. Really good narratives have more drama than that, a few complications &c., but it all plays out the same way. The stuff at the beginning leads to the stuff in the middle, which results in the big reveal, the result, whatever.

It’s how stories work. It’s how our brains work. But it’s not always how the world works.

This rant is brought to you buy the roundheads on my teevee machine who keep telling me that “current economic crisis was caused by allowing Lehman Bros. to fail.”

That and my house was once valued at three times what any reasonable person would pay for it and some people lost a lot of money and their money is gone forever.

Real life has a less predictable narrator than most well conceived novels. But if you want to use the Dominant Narrative Theory to your advantage, you’d be wise to consider that any event that immediately precedes any bad thing reliably can be blamed for the bad thing.

Conversely, if you opened a new shoe store mere months before that out-of-town developer decided to build a new condo project down the block, for the love of all that is PR, TAKE CREDIT.

Rule #2: Use Everything.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

GM, Ford & Chrysler: A Faux PR Faux Pas

[There’s a headline that gets the google love, eh?]

The twittering class is all abuzz about the heads of the Big Three – you remember them, right? the 2nd, 4th and 12th largest automotive manufacturers in the world? – taking private jets to Washington to beg Congress for guaranteed loans.

This is a really smart play by opponents of the automakers: it plays into the Dominant Narrative of profligate executives squandering shareholder money on unnecessary luxury.

As the kids say, FTW!

But let’s unpack this shall we? Are the "Big Three" sending the wrong message?

Many celebrities and other rich guys (high net-worth individuals if you like) take advantage of private aviation for fun, sport, privacy &c. Let’s face it: if you’re, say, Derek Jeter do you really want to hear about two-strike-hitting strategy from some bank auditor who’s racked up enough Skymiles to sit next to you in First Class?

I didn't think so.

So we stipulate that a private jet is a luxury.

Now, imagine you’re a stockholder of one of the big 2nd, 4th or 12th. Theoretically at least, the CEO elected by your board of directors is there because he or she is best suited to look out for your financial interests. As the leader of a great big industrial company, these folks – directly or indirectly – control the fates of hundreds of thousands of people … employees, shareholders again, suppliers, suppliers-to-suppliers …

As a shareholder in one of the big #2, 4 & 12, do you really want the most valuable individual in the organization hanging out with the likes of, say, ME or even YOU in Terminal B?

Do you want him or her cooling heels in the Crown Room sucking on free coffee and wifi when he (or she) could be working analysts and I-bankers?

Do you want your financial future in the hands of somebody vulnerable to whichever disgruntled employee, former employee, former vendor and so on happens to wander into the Cinnabon at the same time?

If your best argument is that gas-guzzling luxury jets “send the wrong message,” I suggest that you have run out of arguments.

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Motrin Update

David Armano has a Deep Thought on the topic.

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Motrin Has a Pain in the ...

Companies and their agencies have been making mistakes – really BIG and, in hindsight, avoidable mistakes – since the beginning of agencies and companies. That’s not new. (NEW1!)

What is new is speed and documentation.

If Motrin made this ad ...

... in 1998, a time when baby-wearers and slings and whatnot were already in play, the reaction would have been the same. Ten years ago if you were offended by a commercial message, you probably would still tell people at the grocery, the office, the saloon, the lunch counter, whatever. Information moved more slowly, but the basic pattern was the same.

The big difference in this instance is that all of those conversations about Motrin – the ones taking place on the magic Intertoobs – are happening in public. We know who’s talking about the ads and what they’re saying.

If you’re scoring at home (and even if you’re all alone) there’s your newness. Miss this point and you're in for a long 21st Century.

There’s still some credit to the Motrin team. As I write this – and it may be a google swamping but perhaps a strategic decision – the offending site is no longer available. If somebody made that decision and especially if that somebody didn’t have permission to make that decision, good on ye’.

If this ad had run in 1998 instead of 2008, all the same conversations would have taken place. They would have been less public and less well documented. And we wouldn’t know about them yet.

And neither would Motrin.

They wouldn’t have had the option to stop p!$$!ng people off.

Somebody really should ask about the makeup of Motrin’s corporate and agency teams. Do they have mothers on the team? Did they Burke the ad? What research messages inspired it and what kind of feedback have they gotten that hasn’t been tweeted yet?

But we should listen to the answers.

Image Cred: Armano

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Preaching to the Choir

It’s one of those expressions I picked up in an earlier epoch and have never shaken. It’s shorthand for wasting your time and resources trying to persuade those who already agree with you. On a long car ride or at cocktail party (where exactly are all these cocktails parties everybody talks about?) it is annoying.

But if you want to start a movement (or a Tribe) or establish a brand or popularize an idea, don’t neglect the converted.

[Now that it’s safe(er) to talk about politics I can use some more accessible examples.]

Pols have known this for years: mobilize the base. GOTV. Whatnot. Marketers have known it, too. Your real estate agent may sincerely hope you’re happy in the new digs, but do you really believe he or she cares enough to send you all those holiday cards and football schedules?

Thought not.

They do all this – al this preaching to the choir – because they understand that each singer makes a choice every week. There’s lots of choir lofts. What are you doing to make sure they keep showing up in yours on Sunday morning?

(Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images Europe)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008