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.