Three sure-fire PR tips from ‘the man who divided a country'”

faux_news_sqI’ve just finished reading ‘The Loudest Voice in the Room,’ Gabriel Sherman’s kiss-and-tell expose of Roger Ailes, the uber powerful head of Fox News.

And, I must tell you that, regardless of your political leanings, this book is a MUST read for any PR professional. In fact, “the man who divided America” as Sherman calls him, is a PR genius (he’s a lot of other things as well. But, I’ll leave that discussion for a future blog).

So, here are the three gems I gleaned from “…the brilliant, bombastic” Roger Ailes:

1.) Listen to the audience before you launch your product, service or organization. Before he created Fox News, Ailes first conducted a nationwide survey asking the average American if she felt the existing networks (CBS, NBC, ABC and CNN) represented their views. A whopping 60 percent of people living in what Ailes called “the flyover states” said no.

Ailes saw the white space opportunity and immediately filled it.

2.) Taglines matter. From the very beginning, Ailes wanted to outrage his competitors while telling “the common folk” that he understood their issues with “the liberal journalists who spun the nightly news.”

Fair and balanced, Fox’s now legendary tagline accomplished both goals overnight.

3.) Positioning lines are the perfect complement to tag lines. While “Fair and balanced” struck a chord. Ailes knew it wasn’t enough. So, he hired a legendary ad firm of the day, Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer, to launch the fledgling the Fox News Network.

After considerable brainstorming, Bob Schmetterer struck gold with ‘We report. You decide.’  The positioning line immediately addressed critics’ questions about Fox’s objectivity while empowering viewers “…to decide if (Fox) were fakers or telling the truth.”

Messner later said the Fox positioning line “…was probably the longest lived…” of any created by his firm.

Pick up ‘Loudest Voice’. You’ll find it equal parts repulsive and engrossing. And, if you’re looking for best practices to differentiate yourself, your client or your organization, I guarantee you’ll also find ideas that will inform any future campaign you might be considering.

6 thoughts on “Three sure-fire PR tips from ‘the man who divided a country'”

  1. Thanks for the kind words, Jim. Do tell me in which industry you work. I’m always interested in meeting someone who personifies the aphorism, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Also, you’re confusing smart branding with “pulling the wool over someone’s eyes,” as you put it. While I may not agree with his political views, I do admire Ailes’ marketing genius.

  2. You inadvertently affirm that PR can help disguise true intent. Your industry is amoral and that is why it is a problem for citizens who don’t like having the wool pulled over their eyes.

    • True,,,& False. While the vast majority of communications professionals understand that “Spin” is what puts you into a death spiral the spin merchants still invest our craft in its smarmy sub-regions. The PRSA, a trade group does great work with one glaring flaw, it doesn’t enforce it’s ethics code. The only way you can get booted is to be convicted of a felony. So they bestow credentials on scum of every sort from “K” Streeters to Spin Doctors to Press Release Mills.

      The vast, vast majority of those in our craft understand the rules. If you are to earn the trust of the media, you have to be squeaky clean and always truthful. When something bad happens -as it does to the best of organizations- the only way out is to disclose everything, the unvarnished truth in detail and take the hit. If you take that route the issue will evaporate more rapidly than through evasive tactics.

      Ethics are the lifeblood of our craft, PERIOD!

      So far as the entire Murdoch enterprise is concerned, the authorities in the UK have declared it unfit to own any media. Rupert Murdoch is a United States citizen, we have laws against overseas bribery. He should be charged but our DOJ is too spineless to take him on. Direct your disgust toward those who are really empowering this disgusting organization.