May 14

Ask not who wrote the original draft

Ted Sorenson’s new book, ‘Counselor’ finally confirms what many suspected. He wrote most ‘…first draftsTed_sorensen_kennedy
of chapters’ in ‘Profiles in Courage’ and, along with Adlai Stevenson and John F. Kennedy, authored JFK’s memorable inaugural address.

Sorenson says the significant sum proffered by JFK for contributions to ‘Profile,’ ‘…diminished any interest I might otherwise have had in recognition of my role.’ Hmmm. That must have been some payday.

I’m a huge Camelot fan and continue to read anything and everything I can about JFK, RFK and all things Kennedy. But, this admission is a real image and reputation bummer. It not only confirms that Kennedy wasn’t the intellectual heavyweight many thought he was, but also shines the spotlight on a less-than-honest author.

Beyond his well documented recklessness, womanizing, drug ingesting and other curious lifestyle choices, it seems JFK was also quite content to take credit for someone else’s work.

Despite this latest bombshell, JFK will undoubtedly remain one of our all-time favorite presidents. After all, he’s forever frozen in time as a dashing, daring and direct chief executive who left us much too soon. But, if he hadn’t been assassinated, one wonders what sort of image and reputation he’d enjoy today. I have to believe that, instead of being at or near the top of most ‘favorability polls,’ Jack would find himself listed alongside Franklin Pierce, Warren G. Harding and the current incumbent at the bottom of the barrel.

May 12

We love dirty laundry

Americans love gossip. The juicier, the better.  We love to see, hear and read about dirty laundry, be itTdr1
Lindsey Lohan’s, Tom Cruise’s or Steve Wick’s. Yes, the Steve Wick.

For the uniformed, Steve Wick was marketing chief at Memphis-based golf products seller True Temper and, according to industry gossip sheet par excellence, The Delaney Report, he’s "…out after only six months." Poor Steve.

The Delaney Report (TDR) is the People Magazine/Hollywood Tonight of the advertising, marketing and media worlds. It’s a great source of news, information, trends and, well, gossip (salacious or otherwise).

TDR’s back page carries a section called "Agency Rumblings." It’s not only a must read for industry patrician and plebian alike, but a career maker or breaker as well. I distinctly remember the damage a long-ago Delaney Report "rumbling" caused my now-defunct employer Earle Palmer Brown. The TDR piece about EPB’s alleged hostile work environment caused clients to call, prospects to pause and resumes to flood the street. It was a horror show.

TDR doesn’t play favorites either. They’ll bash the Interpublic Group and Time Inc alike via unnamed, inside sources. ("What IPG needs to show is two-to-three years of competitive growth, not two-to-three months," said one IPG executive. And, "Everybody expects the bloodletting to continue. There is a lot of grumbling about it," a TI source said.).

Yes, Virginia, Americans love gossip. Except, maybe, poor Steve Wick. Hey, maybe TDR needs a competitor? What about The Wick Report? Wick Illustrated? Wick World?

May 05

What did they know and when did they know it?

PR Weeks’ annual agency business report provides a nice dive into the country’s top 47 firms. It’sMarkpenn_2
polished, professional and to the point. But, curiously, it leads with a questionable selection and an even more questionable word choice.

Each of the top agencies in the section, you see, is defined by a word selected by the PR Week staff. Weber Shandwick is called ‘the heavyweight.’ No argument there. Ketchum is given ‘the linchpin’ moniker. Ah, ok, if you say so. And, Fleishman is proudly proclaimed ‘the titan,’ which sounds like something straight out of Jason and the Argonauts.

But, and here’s where I wonder what the PR Week folks were thinking, they lead off their entire list with Mark Penn and Burson-Marsteller, proclaiming both as ‘the counselor.’ Ouch. Talk about bad timing.

Why lead with Penn, when he’s just been pilloried because of improper connections with Hillary (hey, that rhymes!)? A John Budd letter to the editor earlier in the very same edition takes Penn to task for his obvious conflict of interest mistake. And, yet, a few pages later, there he is in all his glory.

All of which leads me to wonder if PR Week’s left and right hands were not communicating. Or, did someone decide, ‘Hey, what the heck? It’s a nice photo of Mark and he is a counselor, a counselor whose credibility and ethics have been seriously called into question, but so what? Let’s go ahead and lead our special section with him anyway.’ Or, worse, did someone not connect the dots?

It’s all very puzzling, and leads me to ask the age-old journalism question of our lead trade journal: What did they know and when did they know it?

Apr 24

Before Oprah, Ellen and all the others, there was Edward R. Murrow

I’m in the midst of watching a fascinating DVD compilation of Edward R. Murrow’s landmark televisionEdwardmurrow
series ‘Person to person.’

Broadcast on CBS between 1953 and ’59, the series featured one-on-one interviews between the uber journalist become talk show host and celebrities from all walks of life. There’s John F. Kennedy, speaking from his Boston apartment just one month after marrying Jacqueline Bouvier in 1953. Another segment shows Norman Rockwell discussing his painting techniques from his Stockbridge, Massachusetts, art studio. A third follows Eleanor Roosevelt around her Manhattan apartment in 1954.

There’s also Liberace, Marilyn Monroe, Sammy Davis, Jr., and so many other legends.

Murrow’s ‘technique’ was to sit in his New York studio and, via newly-developed technology, speak to the celebrities directly from their homes.

Person to person is a fascinating snapshot into a long gone America. It was a simpler time and Murrow served up simpler questions. There’s no antagonism, no hints of scandal or intrigue, and no discussion of anything other than blue skies and happy times. That said, the interviews are anything but bland.

Murrow and his guests are direct, to the point and, dare I say it, humble. The watchwords of Person to person are civility, urbanity and compassion; three words that are nearly absent from any contemporary talk show.

It may have been superficial in content, but Person to person reflects Murrow’s impeccable image of truth and honesty. Compared to the Jerry Springer’s, Howard Stern’s and others on our airwaves today, Edward R. Murrow is a breath of fresh air (despite his omnipresent cigarette).

Mar 07

Would journalists do the same for us?

Lloyd Trufelman, president of Trylon SMR (a PR firm) told O’Dwyer’s Newsletter that PR people need toCpj
step up to the plate and provide financial support to The Committee to Protect Journalists.

The committee, which tracks harassment of journalists worldwide, reports that at least 65 journalists were killed around the world in 2007 because of their work.

Trufelman says "…there would be no such thing as PR without journalism." He also thinks "…PR needs to show greater interest in journalists as dedicated professionals and not just vehicles for pitches."

With all due apologies to the family and friends of slain journalists, give me a break. Does Trufelman not read the various and sundry bashings of the PR industry by the media? Does he not see the journalism-PR relationship as a mutually beneficial one? Would journalists ever contribute money to a ‘Committee to Protect PR People’ who might also work in high-risk zones? (I’m joking, btw). Last, but not least, is Trufelman’s plea not akin to slapping a PBA sticker on one’s car windshield to avoid paying speeding tickets?

Me thinks he’s sucking up big time to the working press.

Feb 29

No apology necessary for not apologizing

Stanley Bing’s blog about the inadvisability of apologizing makes some smart, savvy and, as always, funny
points about a recent tempest in a teapot at Maxim Magazine.
Maxim_logo

In a nutshell, Bing argues that Maxim management called unnecessary
attention to a blunder by publicly apologizing for it. Lots of Bing readers disagreed, though, and believed it disingenuous to not apologize for the transgression.

Well, yes and no.

Bing is right that Maxim did escalate an otherwise forgettable event with its printed apology. And, Bing’s readers are right to say that apologizing is the only ethical and transparent thing to do in this crazy, post-Enron world in which we live.

Bing’s point, though, is that formulaic crisis management isn’t ALWAYS the smart solution. In fact, Hollywood’s version of crisis management is so pathetically predictable that the apology is seen as the sham it really is.

Bing is a top corporate strategist in ‘real life’ and would, I think, argue for a full apology and complete transparency if a Fortune 500 company were to find itself between a rock and a hard place. That said, I do think there are many shades of grey in any crisis and, sometimes, just sometimes, not apologizing is the way to go.

Feb 04

Hollywood’s new blood sport: dead pools

The freak show that is entertainment news seems dead set on debating who will die first: Britney orBritney2
Farah.

Feigning concern, reporters, commentators and talking heads (and it’s getting increasingly difficult to tell one from the other) vie with each other for the latest ‘unauthorized’ videos or inside peaks at the two tortured starlets.

‘Brit’s a threat to herself and those around,’ waxed one pundit. ‘Farah’s courage in the face of certain death from cancer is laudable,’ sighed another. Faux feelings, to be sure. And, yet we stare intently as the news media chop block one another to get the latest, greatest videos of each failing (and fallen) star. The ratings, one would assume, must soar in direct correlation to each celeb’s descent into hell.

Who’s to blame for this macabre dance? It certainly wasn’t always this way. The 24/7 news cycle is one obvious culprit since it needs constant news to feed hungry viewers and listeners. Then there’s the perpetual dumbing of America, with each new reality show slightly more idiotic than its predecessor. And, let’s not forget America’s increasingly manic obsession with Hollywood itself. It’s a toxic combination that seems to just spiral more and more out of control each day.

Once upon a time, I thought this to be a uniquely American phenomenon. But, now, when I travel overseas, I routinely see Hollywood gossip leading the local newscasts. In fact, the lead stories on Arusha, Tanzania, TV sets on January 1, 2008, were (in order):

– Britney’s latest breakdown
– Benazir Bhutto’s assassination
– Civil unrest in nearby Kenya

The dead pool descriptor seems to work equally well for the Hollywood circus and the slow, but steady, death of responsible journalism. And, it seems to me we’re all to blame.

Jan 30

Here’s why some surveys lack credibility

The media may say otherwise, but they have an insatiable appetite for surveys. Which is why we publicSurvey
relations types churn them out in endless quantities. Some are well done and contribute to thought leadership. Others tell you what you already know. A precious few actually break through and identify new and noteworthy trends.

Then there are those like this one from Cision that simply defy logic and strain credulity.  It reports that General Motors finished SECOND in Cision’s annual corporate reputation index just behind Microsoft.

Talk about stupifying! General Motors is the second most admired corporation in America? Is this the same company that has handed away its market share year-after-year to Toyota? Is this the same company where management is totally insulated from reality and continues to churn out inferior products year-after-year? Is this the same company that helped turn Detroit and the state of Michigan into a 2008 version of ‘The grapes of wrath’?

I’d love to know what hallucenogenic drug the Cision survey respondents were ingesting when they selected GM for such an accolade. It has to be some kick-ass stuff.

Jan 22

Which came first, negative press or poor financial performance?

I never cease to be amazed at the ways in which the media can whip up a frenzy: whether it’s forecastersJournalism
predicting a storm of the century, entertainment-focused, paparazzi types reporting on some dysfunctional celebrity’s latest miscue or, in the case of the economy, pure doom and gloom stories that make the much anticipated Recession a self-fulfilling prophecy.

My most recent ‘fan-the-flames’ favorite appeared on the front page of the New York Times business section. It focused on 40- and 50-something blue collar types who, having lost their $18-an-hour jobs, have been forced to move back in with their octogenarian parents. Ouch. Talk about grim. Not content with reporting just the facts, though, the reporter felt compelled to dig deep and elicit such quotes as, “I’m ruined,” and “I’ll never be able to dig myself out of this hell.”

The media helped build the dotcom mania of 1999 and 2000 by waxing ecstatic about get-rich-quick schemes that, as we now know, were anything but.

Now, they’re taking the opposite tack and filing one negative story after another. Which begs the question: which came first? The poor economic news or the negative press? My money’s on the latter.

Dec 19

Whatever a man sows, that he will also reap

Guest blog written by Rob Longert.
Chrisanderson
Apparently WIRED Magazine editor, Chris Anderson, is unaware of this common proverb, or maybe he
doesn’t believe in karma…he should. 

Back on October 29, 2007, Chris posted the names of about 300 publicists who he called “lazy flacks”

He did this because, he said, they didn’t do their research. As a young professional in the communications industry I can understand the pressure of media relations, and his reasoning is probably right. But the industry is working on that and Chris even agreed to participate in a November “PR Pitching Faux Pas to Avoid: Top Editors Share How to Keep the Love Alive with Mainstream Media” event, part of Bulldog Reporter’s PR University series.

Was his blog post a call for change in the industry? Probably not.

On October 29 did Chris get one too many unsolicited emails and in a fit of frustration ousted innocent professionals doing their job? Most likely.

While on a trip to China, Chris incurred more than $2,000 in roaming fees on his iPhone, simply because he did not shut off the roaming feature on his phone.

Have there been multiple articles online about this very topic? Yes.

As editor-in-chief of an influential tech magazine like WIRED, shouldn’t Chris know about technological features of the most talked about electronic device of the year? Most definitely.

Did Chris get what was coming to him? Absolutely.

Chris, my friend, it is a tough world out there, and you made a mockery of a job we take pride in, took advantage of the positives we bring to your industry, and berated us to our peers.

Who is the lazy flack now?