Monday, November 2, 2009

The Second Easiest Way to Get Press

... or: Of Latvian Craters and Aqua Teen Brite Lites

When people reported a bright light falling from the sky and the sound of an explosion led authorities to a large (and apparently geometrically perfect) crater near Mazsalaca, Latvia last week, skeptics were quick to point out the unlikelihood of it being a meteor strike. Still, the lure of the unknown and the desire to report the news first – whether in traditional journalism or new! media took precedence and we were off on yet nother brand new multi-news-cycle whodunit for a couple of days.

Like the Aqua Teen Hunger Force fiasco in Boston, Tele2’s Latvian meteor adventure turned for the worse on its organizers’ overzealousness. There are lots of ways to get your name or your brand in print or to start people chattering about on the intertoobs. That’s the easy part. A cute rodent or an ugly dog gets two days of fame almost every week.

The Easiest Way to Get Your Name in the Paper

Or at least simplest? Shoot somebody. That’s probably too blunt, but generally if all you want is your name spelled right, you’ve got a whole menu of options to cause outrage. You will get noticed and people likely will remember who you are. Unfortunately for these tacticians, notoriety does not always translate efficiently into success. (see: Kaelin, Brian)

Translating that attention into something constructive … that is something that’s in alignment with your brand or message is the hard part.

Both events point out what happens when publicists get greedy. When your promotion, however clever, starts generating concern or even fear; when public or third-party resources start being expended … that’s not the time to think maybe you should have had a fail-safe plan.

In both cases, people were angered, embarrassed or financially harmed, rightly or wrongly. Rarely is that constructive.

Which brings us to …

The Second Easiest Way to Get Your Name in the Paper

Demand an apology.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

#pepsifail, Conditional Apologies & Chick3nsh!t

We’ve talked about conditional apologies before. Y’know, that stuff you say when you’ve made somebody really angry even though you said (or did) what you meant in the first place.

Politicians do it all the time. “I’m deeply sorry if my comments, out of context, offended the good and hard-working Tralfalmadorians among us, but …”

So, are you sorry that you said it or that you got called out on it?


My favorite, still, is the ubiquitous, “I’m sorry if this sounds racist, but …” or the equally as common, “Excuse me if this seems sexist, but …”

See?! I said it wasn’t supposed to be offensive so I am immunized from all anger. It’s as if the preamble said something like, “I am hereby immunized to attacks on my own sexism, but …”

And so we come to the whole AMP/#pepsifail hysteria on the Twitter machine.

Personally, don’t care. But this is not about me.

As a social media approach, our friend Kevin Dugan covered that here. Oh, and here.

But as a PR question?

Here’s AMP’s response, also repeated on Twitter feeds representing some of its sister brands:

"Our app tried 2 show the humorous lengths guys go 2 pick up women. We apologize if it’s in bad taste & appreciate your feedback. #pepsifail"

Well … that’s clear. Or at least succinct.

Is it or isn’t it? (in bad taste, I mean).

‘Cause what we do know is … it’s chick3nsh!t.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Friday Freakin' - I'm Working on It

Words Matter ... If you actually want to, y'know ... WIN

We covered this with the Clean Coal debate: What you call things the first time you ask your audience to think about something realyreally matters.

In the early 90s, and -- in case you missed it -- again now, the entire Beltway community seems obsessed with something called "Health Care Reform." Statistics, and indeed insults, fly. Some more trustworthy or sane than others, as the case may be.

Threats and rumors of violence abound.

Over ... What were we talking about?

Oh, yeah. Socialism.


Okay, sick children then.


Oh, yeah: How do we pay for it when we have to go to the doctor more than we thought we would or can afford?

Here's the deal: That's not health care. [or healthcare depending on your stylebook of choice]

That's Health Insurance, or at least Health Care Financing.

People generally like their Health Care. It's the paying for it that gets complicated. If you have a pre-existing condition, you still can get an appointment with a specialist, as long as you can ... wait for it ... PAY for the doctor's/clinic's/practitioner's time.

Even Doc Graham has to eat.

I, too, hope President Obama is the last president to tackle health care reform. If he's not, I truly hope he's the last one to call it that.

Further reading:

See the late XX/early XXI Century poet L. Lovett:

Was that a beer joint
Or was that the country club
Were we fooling around
Or was it truly love
Was that a foreign film
Or just a show
Why i don't know
I just had to go

Image Cred

Monday, September 28, 2009

We Obviously Live in Very Dangerous Times

I mean, you can’t even leave your house anymore without fear of being assaulted, robbed, or worse.

If you don’t believe me, just turn on the teevee news. I dare you. Chances are there’s a pretty girl missing … somewhere. There’s likely also an unexplained (at least to us) home invasion of some sort that just happened (BREAKING NOW!) in a town we heard of once. Maybe we drove past the exit on that trip to the national park.

And the murders. No matter what city broadcasts your news, I am betting murders are way up. If they’re not, it’s only because somebody forgot to count the killings in the outlying counties, which only goes to prove that we live in very dangerous times.

I have told this story before, but several years ago, when I was new parent, a very kind and well meaning woman urgently offered me a newspaper clipping that listed the 10 Things In Your House That Are Most Likely To Choke Your Child.

It’s important to note that this was in a room filled with other relatively new parents and that I, as the recent arrival, had missed a good deal of the preliminary discussion. Several already had sworn to themselves and their peers that all grapes would be halved, all hot dogs would be sliced on the vertical axis, and – it goes without saying – all jellybeans shall be kept out of the reach of small children.

Happy Easter.

The article was written by a GA reporter for one of the top 100s and had been picked up by a wire service. It included all the relevant quotes: a mom, a pediatrician, an emergency medicine nurse. [Clearly some PR person hit the mother lode of the FEAR!1! narrative.]

So when I casually thanked by volunteer benefactor, I was met with a certain amount of disdain.

“Look,” I said as nicely as I am able when confronted while not seeking confrontation. “If we all agree to eliminate all 10 from our homes, there still will be a Top Ten. Eventually we’ll be sitting in empty rooms with rounded corners and padded floors.”

Generally your state of last residence picks up the tab for that kind of accommodation.

Fear is a dominant narrative.

So I was encouraged last year when Lenore Skenazy, a syndicated columnist writing in New York, described how she had challenged her 9-year-old son to find his way through the wilds of Manhattan using public transportation. Still, I saw it coming.

She was pilloried in LTEs and by commenters on the newspaper sites where her column appeared. It was clear to one and all that she was a very bad, bad mother who had put her child at risk to advance her own agenda, lifestyle, whatever. The recurring theme in many of these responses was that no matter the author’s experience as a child a generation ago, things are much different now.

We do, of course, live in very dangerous times.

Thankfully, Ms. Skenazy, whom I do not know, has refused to yield. In her new book Free Range Kids she breaks down not only the philosophy of raising children who become adults capable of taking care of themselves, but she uses real numbers to do it.

Do we really have to worry about the bogey man 24/7? Or, can we accept that when more of us go to that park because we’re not afraid, there is by definition less to be afraid of?

Friday, July 31, 2009

What Does "Clean" Really Mean Anyway?

I keep revisiting this because there are so many lessons to be learned from some very smart people on both sides.

When I started talking about it back in March of 08, I criticized this group for using the language of their opponents and thereby letting them frame the argument. In recent efforts, however, they're employing the time-honored art of verbal jujitsu -- and some cool images -- to take it back.

Oh, hell, just watch:

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Gates Arguments and Good Cop/Bad Cop

Tonight the long-awaited Beer Summit on American Race Relations is being held at the White House. Where you stand on the arrest of Henry Louis Gates kinda depends on where you sit.

Because after all the discussions, arguments, jokes, whatever ... most already have made up their minds about what happened last week when the Cambridge Police were called to the home of the famous Harvard professor.

There are a couple of dominant narratives at work here:

The Police are Racist!

This is the easy one. Yes, law enforcement professionals tend to struggle with race. Anybody who wants to call me anti-police on that point should duck when they do. Google it if you must. Either way, the experience of African Americans -- and a good many others -- with law enforcement is not the same as mine. I accept that.

Many of those people heard the news of Gates' arrest and immediately understood it ... they knew it ... to be a simple case of racial profiling.

911 Call.
Black man.

Tinker to Evers to Chance.

But there's a counter narrative at work, too.

Just Say "Yes, Sir; No, Sir"

Those are the rules, right? This is what we still tell our kids and our irresponsible friends.

Generally it works for me, too.

No kidding.

No matter what your standing in society, it's easy to imagine yourself being popped for speeding or walking a line after three beers at happy hour. Yeah, bloody cops just trying to make quota, right?

But how many of us has ever been accused or even questioned about a brurglary? Or a robbery? Or a missing bike?

Yeah, I imagine it changes things.

The public relations point here is just this: You are not changing anybody's mind on l'affaire Gates.

Just not gonna hap'n.

But you might help them make up their mind.

Let's say 40 percent of Americans already think, nay, KNOW that this was a case of racial profiling or an overzealous cop.

Let's say that another 40 or so percent are positive this was case of a guy copping an attitude and thinking he's above the rules.

Still leaves 20 percent who just. don't. know.

That's where dominant narratives ... and elections ... are won and lost.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Just Kill a Guy

Early (well, earlier) in my public relations career I was confronted with the client or boss we all know.

In this case he was the CEO of his organization. He leaned across the conference table and, with his eyeglasses in one hand and the other hand clenched in ball pounding the table said, “Your job, young man [I was] is to get my name in the paper.”

I was just young enough that I couldn’t control the impulse to say: “Just kill a guy.”

After an eternal pause I explained that if all you want is your name in the paper, killing a guy … preferably in public … is the best way to ensure success.

Too many organizations mistake awareness for success in public relations. Too many professionals do too. They’re the agencies or consultants who promise to “tell your story” or to “make you famous.”

The power of your story should not be discounted, but it’s only part of the deal. What is your objective? What do you want to accomplish by having your story told, your name in the paper, by being ‘famous’?

Getting that client’s name in the paper was a means to an end. Unfortunately, it was an end he couldn’t articulate.

There was a time when just getting your name – or your preferred narrative – in print or on the air was enough. That’s where the audience was and news coverage was the most efficient way to reach decision makers, whether they were homemakers or CEOs.

The higher objective of public relations always should be just that: RELATIONS, or rather relationships. Name awareness counts, but does that work in other relationships in your life?

Or do you need a little engagement, too?

Awareness is a means …

Monday, June 29, 2009

Triumph of the Punditocracy

Lots of comparisons are being made in the news between Michael Jackson’s untimely demise and the loss experienced by previous generations when first Elvis Presley, and then John Lennon died unexpectedly.

There is no comparison.

First, the obvious: Artists of previous generations dominated their medium is ways that nobody ever will dominate again.

But here’s the biggest difference: When Lennon and Elvis died, fans immediately went to their radios. There was the usual silliness (I remember my local DJ interviewing via phone George Harrison’s cousin about Lennon and she hadn’t seen the man in years.

DJ: How was John the last time you saw him?

C: Well, he was seventeen years old …)

Yeah, it was like that.

And it’s like that again.

But where is the music?

Stations with a formats even tangentially related to pop music went into overdrive, playing anything and everything by the late-great.

Michael Jackson died (as I write this) three and a half days ago.

I have yet to hear a single Michael Jackson or Jackson Five song on the radio. I have yet to see a single Michael Jackson video on the teevee machine.

Bits and pieces, sure. Usually interrupted for commentary by Donna Summer or Smokey Robinson or Corey Feldman (!) or somebody else whose opinion is … well, you decide. But the news media has a single narrative:

what is said about the man … or the event … is more important than the event itself.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Everybody Knows Trial Lawyers are Out of Control, Right?

We are a litigious society.

We all know that. It barely gets noticed when someone says it anymore because, y’know … sky blue, water wet. Some lady got $3 million for spilling coffee for crisakes.

Yeah, we get it. So much of our national productivity is sucked away by lawyers trying to score a big judgment and a hefty one-third lawyer’s share that if we only could rein this in we’d all have briefcase helicopters.

Or something.

The poster case mentioned above, as dubbed by ABC News several years ago, is the McDonald’s coffee case. A woman who ordered hot coffee from a McDonald’s drive-through and instead got REALLY HOT coffee that, when spilled, resulted in third degree burns.

As Bugs would say: What a maroon.

It’s coffee after all. It’s HOT. A jury awarded the victim plaintiff almost $3 millon.

Let me say that again: THREE MILLION DOLLARS!

How long would you sit in hot coffee for that kind of money?

But think before you answer. Few remember that the judgment subsequently was reduced to less than a quarter of that amount based on proportional liability, comparable cases … lawyer stuff. They also tend to omit phrases like “skin graft” and “labial separation.” Few reports mention that anymore.

But $$THREEMILLIONDOLLARS!!! is a great headline and that’s where the narrative went.

That narrative is what remains. It’s what we call a … wait for it …

Dominant Narrative

The litigious society remains a problem for the American economy. That’s why you’ve probably already agreed to give up your right to sue your credit card companies, insurers, parking lot attendants, maybe even your employer. You did sign a lot of stuff on that first day, didn’t you?

Before you sleep too well,you should listen to this.

Friday, May 22, 2009

There's only ONE Original

Not the best version available but the best without embedding disabled.

So far.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Media Relations Making Lemonade ...

And that's how a shiny new narrative is born.

As Americans grow accustomed during the recession to spending more time at home and living in the same places longer, home-improvement companies are regaining momentum.

See the rest here.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

When Catholics Attack!

There’s a big stink up in South Bend over whether the University of Notre Dame should or shouldn’t have invited the President of the United States (!) to address its graduating class of 2009.

Really, what institution of higher learning wouldn’t love to have a commencement speaker who, aside from being a constitutional scholar, the holder of a juris doctor from Yale, also happens to be a guy with a two-thirds public approval rating in the U.S. (it’s actually higher in many places) provide the keynote to the highlight of its academic year?

Apparently, a bunch of people.

Let’s leave aside for the moment the image of Randall Terry appointing himself spokesman for Notre Dame alumni.

Or Catholicism.

Or any religion based on compassion.

Let’s also leave aside the whole presbyterian (small p) authority over institutions in their dioceses.

Finally, whether or not you think President Obama or Bishop D'Arcy is right on their respective interpretations of the United States Constitution, we’re left with a single question:

What went wrong?

It doesn’t seem that anybody – the president, the bishop, the university – wanted this controversy. The president was reaching out to new audiences and the university was seeking the prestige of just about the best “get” of the commencement season.

So who screwed up and where?

The smart money is on Father John Jenkins. He’s the president of the University of Notre Dame and a heck of a lot smarter than me. Maybe even than you. But here’s where he made the mistake:

Fr. Jenkins is a leader.

One of the cardinal rules of leadership is that those whom you seek to lead must at least understand your decisions. If you get too far out in front of the parade, you’re just a guy with a baton.

Another guy smarter than me, who happens to be an alumnus of Notre Dame, told me that the university sees itself as America’s “elite Catholic university.” He said that the real question is whether they put the emphasis on “elite” or “Catholic.”

Not sure that’s the last word. A university must accept, even invite divergent points of view. That’s what universities do.

It’s an oxymoron to call an institution elite if it turns away the elite.

It’s incongruent to call an institution Catholic – or Christian – if it’s not compassionate.

It’s nonsensical to call an institution a university if it can’t tolerate dissent.

There are more constructive ways to bring prestige to an institution without alienating significant audiences. The good father could have created a forum for discussion of the borders between morality and legality. He could have invited the president to address the faculty or to speak to a collection of legal scholars.

Where Fr. Jenkins missed a step is in awarding a specific honor to an individual that some part – probably a minority but a very vocal one – of his constituency simply cannot abide.

Monday, May 11, 2009

And I Shall Smite Them with My Social Media Hammer of Justice

The second great narrative about PR is the shiny tool. In the last two decades there has been an endless supply of new tactics and applications that have changed the profession forEVAH.


Many of them have to a degree: at least in the sense that where practitioners spend most of their time – at least as a team – has changed dramatically. For example, PR pros very rarely walk into a newsroom and sit next to a journo’s desk to pitch a story anymore. When was the last time you ran 400 copies of a news release? Or licked a stamp?

Yeah, it’s like that.

Today the shiny new (NEW!1!) tool is something called … wait for it … social media. Social media will bring on the golden age of public relations. Or, social media will destroy and/or replace public relations as a business discipline.

Or something.

Todd Defren touched on a little bit of this several weeks ago. What Todd misses is that many organizations will accept the “PR is soo over” narrative and shoot themselves in the foot. While he and I have to let good people go write crappy blogs like this one.

See? Nobody wins.

We can’t worry too much about what propeller-heads think about what we do. Historically the people who create technology either vastly overestimate or underestimate its impact.

Short version: They have no idea.

The point here, is that if the value you deliver to your clients or your employer can be changed radically by a new a technology …

wait …

If YOU have changed radically the way you support or advise your clients or your employer because of changes in technology, be afraid.

Be very afraid.

Fear change because you are using a distribution model. Channels of distribution for information always have evolved. Right now, we’re picking up the pace. If you or your agency sees public relations as a tactical exercise, you’re … well … screwed.

You’re focused on HOW.

Public relations is about WHAT.

The other Ws (who, when, where, why) remain. This is where you live because it’s the basis of your relationship with all the audiences that influence your mission.

Because I get angry emails I’m compelled to point out that I’m one of the organizers of something called Cincy Social Media. I don’t hate the technology, I embrace it. But while technology changes, the basics do not.

These are simple truths:

People trust people more than they trust organizations.

People are social animals: they like to be with a crowd of folks that seem to be like them whether for support or affirmation.

Sharing is fun: Everybody likes to feel smart, whether they’re teaching the neighbor kid how to grip a slider or telling a co-worker about the hot new club.

Face-to-face interaction trumps any electronic interaction. That’s why in the face of iPhones and MySpace we still have MeetUps and TweetUps.

There are plenty more, but they come down to this: Real life matters.

But what matters most in real life is your message. And your message had better be based on What. You. Do.

Public Relations is absolutely not (just) about Telling Your Story. Neither is it remotely related to how many people follow your Tweets. Or fan your FaceBook page.

Image Cred: ripped from Ross Training who actually offers cool ideas on how to work out on the cheap. No kidding.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Hey, boy, where you been?

This is the question one of my older colleagues asked me a couple of weeks ago. After showing him how the RSS machine worked, I think I implied a more consistent level of activity here.

Hoping to fix that shortly.

In the meantime, Cincinnati Social Media really has taken off, both as a movement (love that word … so vague …) and as an organization. I make a point to avoid blogging about teh social media, at least to the extent possible. On one level, it’s a bit like blogging about the fax machine or, as Pete Blackshaw would tell us, the phone.

Even so, it being the shiny new tool and all, I find myself talking about it all day – internally and externally – and that leaves less time for thoughts about the whole dominant narrative thing.

Still, I have enough material in the analog notebook to fill another year or so. The only challenge is finding those moments to organize and upload them.

You have been warned.

Anyway, for the dozens or so of you remaining, my apologies and stay tuned. Especially tomorrow morning, when I finish that thang I started a month or so ago.

Image Cred

Monday, March 23, 2009

Behold the Venn Diagram of Truth

Successful public relations counsel is based on experience and observation. It’s not easy per se … in the sense that anybody can do it without really knowing much about it. But neither is it terribly complicated.

Unlike the law, accounting, philosophy or countless other professions, most of the top finishing schools that each spring release thousands of freshly degreed PR practitioners on an unsuspecting population spend most of the four or six years they have a student’s attention focusing on tactics and case studies.

Sure, attorneys learn the case law, but how many PR degrees qualify a graduate to think like a practitioner.

[I renew my plea for a simple noun to refer to the profession. Seriously: if you practice Santeria you’re a practitioner. /rant]

There are two consistently competing narratives about PR and its future.

Behold my Venn Diagram of Truth

One seeks to paint the profession as hopelessly complex. This theory makes for very interesting coffeehouse conversation, not to mention quite a bit of google love.

Proponents take the basic planning step of audience identification and turn into a quasi religion. Instead of deciding how your organization should address each audience, they fill binders and ppt decks with lots and lots of different messages that each audience needs to hear. Or read. Or share. Or … something.

Audience identification is essential, make no mistake. And various audiences can have disparate and specific interests. But beginning with the massive Theory of Everything elevates a tactical consideration to something far beyond strategic planning.

If it’s an art, put it in a museum.

This is Gnosticism of the first order: If there’s something somebody knows that ONLY they know then guess what: They wouldn’t be hustling you for you PR budget to tell you.

Next: We’ll Tell Your Story

Friday, March 13, 2009

Does CNBC Get its Reputation Back?

By now, anybody really interested has seen the great Stewart/Cramer beat-down. And make no mistake: a beat-down it surely was.

If you’re just curious, look here, but not in the office and after the kids are safely asleep.

There are three DNT lessons here.


The first, obvious to even the casual observer, is that anybody who goes into an interview unprepared is a fool.

Cramer is a ridiculously wealthy man and a savvy communicator. Like too many business executives, he seemed to believe he could rely on his own considerable charm and personal brand to weather the initial onslaught and fight his way to an agree-to-disagree stalemate.

He-said, she-said.


He came out in his trade-mark sleeves-rolled performance costume (Did he have a flat tire on the way to the studio? Did he have, say, 24 hours LESS notice than I did that he was going to be interviewed Thursday night?)

Right off the bat, he shows disrespect for the forum, for the host and therefore for the audience. If you have neither the time nor the resources to prepare for a 15-minute interview with a COMEDIAN, you should, y’know, have a scheduling conflict. Send somebody who’s ready to play.

Know Your Own Record

Cramer is on the TeeVee machine for an hour every night during the week. He throws things. He refers to bank presidents (even central bank chairmen) by their first names. He says things about securities he owns, used to own, and will own in the future.

Clearly, he notes when he discusses an issue in which he has a stake. But Stewart was loaded for bear. He had tape of the jacketless one explaining how hedge fund managers manipulate markets while staying within regulatory rules.

These were not candids. The most damning footage had Cramer explaining how to manipulate stock while he quite obviously knew the conversation was being videotaped. It’s apparent he meant what he said. He just didn’t expect Stewart – or you – ever to see it.

Again, with the research capabilities of CNBC, this guy couldn’t make inquiries? He couldn’t prepare a response … an explanation … a rationalization? He couldn’t even throw himself on a sword for the sake of the organization that gives him his platform?

Or even vice-versa?


Nothing ...

Going into an interview where your counterpart knows more about your business than you is a symptom. As a PR practitioner, I understand that the spokesperson is not always told all of the facts. Or even all of the truth. But still, this is CNBC’s star: their money man.

If the tragic flaw of the traders and brokers and bankers who caused this mess was hubris, well, the jury remains out on whether they ever actually will be punished. But Cramer is guilty of that and worse: arrogance.

He seems to believe that kinda-sorta saying that he could have done better and maybe his network should have tried harder will be just the mea culpa he needs.

The American Public won’t buy it.

But guess what? Maybe the Cramer public will.

Know Your Audience

Jim Cramer is a cheerleader. His show is presented as advice for average investors and it’s that positioning that makes it so attractive to its target audience.

That target audience is not average investors.

CNBC is a cash cow in NBC Universal’s holdings. But it is by no means the most popular.

Almost nobody watches it.


It’s profitable because its business model is based on advertising and advertisers are dying to reach CNBC’c admittedly small audience: affluent traders and brokers.

Cramer’s Mad Money is sales spiel that these insiders can repeat the next day to soothe worried clients. It’s one continuous sales seminar. And if it didn’t work, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

Will Cramer Survive?

He just might.

If that core audience keeps tuning in, CNBC gets to keep ringing the cash register. But his credibility doesn’t rely solely on ratings. It relies on the fact that several “client” segments … the people to whom those traders and brokers and bankers repeat that Cramer wisdom … trust his advice.

They trust it because Jimmy said it.

That may be hard to maintain in the long term.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Conditional Apology …

… is not really an apology at all.

I think that’s what conditions are.

We’ve all heard them. Almost all of us have used them.

“I’m sorry if my calling you a d!@& hurt your feelings, but what I really meant by that was …”

Anybody who’s ever been married … or in any kind of relationship lasting beyond appetizers … has heard this dodge. If you work in public relations, you should strike it from your vocabulary.

Here’s why:

1. You actually meant what you said but were surprised that you got in trouble for saying it.

2. You worded awkwardly something you meant to say and it could be understood in more than one manner.

3. ... there really is no 3

Here’s my public relations advice. This one you get free. Next time the meter’s running.

If you meant to say it, you meant it (presumably) for a reason. Unless you’ve changed your mind, don’t apologize. Ever. [see Murtha, John] If you live in such a fragile world that your honest opinion can get you into trouble, perhaps you should just, y’know … shut up. Nobody will believe your mea culpa anyway. You empower your opponents and demoralize your allies.

Seriously, STFU.

If you really misspoke, that should be clear from the context.

Or the situation (more context). It should not require a lot of explanation. Just say you’re sorry. [this is very rare]

If, however, you said something really fu({1n9 stupid, and you really need to apologize, at least have the decency to do the 15 seconds of research to sound the least bit, y’know, sincere.

Like spelling the names right.

Which brings us to our featured guest, the junior senator from the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Completely misunderstanding the reach of modern technology, the former Phillies hurler demonstrated for once and all that the muscles between his shoulder and wrist far outmatch those between his ears.

From NBC's Ken Strickland and Mark Murray
In a written statement today, Kentucky GOP Sen. Jim Bunning apologized for remarks he made about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in which he predicted that she would pass away in nine months.

"I apologize if my comments offended Justice Ginsberg," Bunning said. "That certainly was not my intent. It is great to see her back at the Supreme Court today and I hope she recovers quickly. My thoughts and prayers are with her and her family."

Note: Bunning's office misspelled Ginsburg's last name.

No. Really. Not like that.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

How Do Your Customers See Themselves?

If you’re from Cincinnati, particularly if you’re a Westie, you understand exactly what this image is about. You may be laughing, rolling your eyes or picking up the phone to schedule an appointment, but you understand what it’s about and who it’s for.

For one, it sits in perfect alignment with the dominant narrative about sons of the city’s fabled purple empire on the hill. One’s own relationship to Elder High School defines your perspective on the narrative – either these guys never really grow up or they really feel a sense of belonging to a place they spent four years early in their lives.

Human beings have an instinctive need to belong. Left to their own devices, they quickly sort themselves into tribes, clans, city states, nations, whatever.

Sometime these distinctions are merely a matter of preference such as Trojans fans versus Bruins fans. At other times it’s a desire to be around those who think, act and even look like you, whether that’s Promise Keepers or your college fraternity.

It’s the reason some make positive decisions like serving their country or working in community service. Neutral choices like a bowling league or the local chowder society. Or really bad choices like initiation into a street gang or voting in Republican primaries.

Sociologists call it tribalism, and it can be a powerful motivator. It just may be the mother lode of marketing. Imagine involving your audience in your brand to such an extent that they want to tell everybody.


Now imagine aligning yourself with a passion so strong that you literally can sell … well … purple caskets.

Speak to who your audience sees themselves as being. Fire up the passion in your audience and they will follow you anywhere.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should note I am an alumnus of Elder. I also should note that Terry Deters, who conceived the Purple Package, graduated from rival St. Xavier.

There’s a symmetry in that somehow.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Xe, formerly Blackwater …

I am changing my name and moving to a new town.

That’s what it seems Blackwater Worldwide is doing. At least the name-changing part.

Since nobody in the MSM seems interested in what’s going on in Mesopotamia anymore, perhaps you’ve forgotten about Blackwater, the private security firm that set some kind of record by being kicked out of a f*©(|{1n9 WAR for unnecessary roughness.

Anyway, what with civilian deaths and an employee life expectancy somewhere south of the common bottle fly, the company decided to turn the page and change its name to something called Xe. According to Associated Press, it’s pronounced like the last letter of the (American) English alphabet.

The whole huh? factor probably was part of the naming strategy. It's a good bet that hitting the newswires the Friday before a holiday weekend definitely was part of the strategy.

Will it work?

It just might.

In the world of big-time “private security,” sales are based a lot more on personal relationships than on branding strategies. It all depends on the attention spans of the folks who write about the industry.

And whether they’re inclined to let it happen quietly.

Xe. We got kicked out of a war for unnecessary roughness.

Maybe I could sell that.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Would You?

A Freak with Scottish Language Lesson. Who says we don't teach as we inform?

It's a fine line between love and, well ... stalking. This one goes out to EW who called it.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Social Media is Like Sex

I took a break the last few weeks because there are these people – who actually bring joy to my life – and they’ve gotten accustomed to me spending a day or a week now and then with … what’s the word? … my FAMILY. I followed along on the igoogle (which I love, btw thanks @billjacobs) when I could but it’s nothing like catching up on the friendfeed, or the twitter machine … It’s clear that I missed a meeting or two.

Naturally there’s all the feverish wrap-up just to be able to get on the plane. Then, when one returns, there are projects that require attention. If you’re lucky some of them are actually revenue-generating.

But I digress.

We’ve had a busy couple of weeks. Kevin Dugan, whom you may know as the prime instigator behind The Bad Pitch Blog
and Strategic Public Relations, found out he’s the 2009 recipient of the Bogart/VonDer/Von Dugan Award.

Or something.

Either way, he really is kind of a big deal. If you get a chance, congratulate him.

One of the actual nice guys (he doesn’t know from me but anybody who marries his college sweetheart and still writes about her like this is a good guy in my book) suffers a loss and shares it very publicly.

I’m sure all of us pass along our condolences and best wishes.

And to task:

We all were captivated over whether social media was source of “personal branding.”

Or not.

One of the high priests of the SocMed or SM (yes!) or whatever the hell we’re calling it this week to stay under 140 characters said NO.

Then said YES.

Or maybe.

I don’t know. I got bored.

You know how when you’re reading a book on the plane and you’re tired and you realize that two or three pages have gone by? And you know you’ve read every word but absorbed none of them?

Yeah, it’s like that.

When did Carlos become king of all Atrusia? Wha’?

Then, one of my favorite public relations bloggers (and thinkers) declared WAR on messaging.

Not MESSAGES, mind you, just MESSAGING.

A definition is provided for your convenience so you don’t miss the distinction.

Semantics for fun and profit.

Or prophet as the case may be.

S’anyway …

How is Social Media Like Sex?

You can talk about it. Or, you can do it.

This is not to say that talking precludes doing, just that you can’t do both at the same time.

And just like in high school, the more you talk …

Image Cred

Monday, January 19, 2009

Garbage Day*

We all had good snicker a few months ago when two-time presidential and one-time veep candidate John Edwards (no, the other one)made his first public appearance after his affair was revealed opposite the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. That was just good planning. Even more fortuitous for him -- if not for the good people of Tbilisi -- was that it also was the day Vladimir Putin decided to roll his considerable military hardware into Georgia (no, the other one).

Tuesday is Inauguration Day in the States. The mother of all garbage days. If you've got bad news about your organization and it's only good for a news cycle or two, 10:00 a.m. EST on the 20th is the most wonderful time of the year.

Even better for you, if not those R/TV grads at your local radio station, is that there may be fewer broadcast journos around to notice. My colleague Yancy Deering points out that the NY Post and WSJ are reporting that Clear Channel is going to dump seven percent of its staff tomorrow.

Coverage has said that it’s mostly behind the scenes and sales people, but Radio and Records says they are looking to replace local air talent with national programming. That could mean more voice-tracking on music stations, or it could mean a local host or two is replaced with a national show.

Ladies and gentlemen, start your dumpsters.

UPDATE* from the Cinti ABJ outlet

Image Cred