Nov 25

What if?

I have been glued to NatGeo, The History Channel and other networks that have been replaying the horrific events of November 22-25, 1963 (some, like NatGeo using never-before aired footage).

November 25 - JFK headline The whole sad and sordid JFK assassination anniversary got me wondering: what would the media coverage have been like if JFK had been assassinated on November 22, 2009, and not in 1963? Here are some random thoughts:

– MSNBC would have been there to cover the event live. They follow Obama to the most obscure town hall meetings, so why not ship off a team to Dealey Plaza?

– There would have been hundreds of Abraham Zapruder types, all of whom would have used their cell phones to capture the grisly second-by-second shooting from every possible angle (and, each would have been instantly posted on sites such as

– All three morning network teams would have immediately dispatched their anchors to Dallas for special 'Saturday morning aftermath' shows. 'Somber and sad news indeed, Ann. Thanks. Now, on a much lighter note, Al, I understand there's quite a snowstorm blowing in from the Northwest?'

– Eyewitnesses, School Book Depository employees, Dallas policemen and everyone else and their brother would be all a Twitter. Perhaps even Oswald himself would have had time to send a quick Tweet or two: 'No sir. I have not been accused of shooting anyone and I demand immediate legal representation.'

– The Hollywood entertainment sleaze casts would begin round-the-clock coverage of Jackie and the wardrobes she'd chosen to wear at various State affairs.

– Less scrupulous brand marketers would begin exploring signage opportunities on, or near, the grassy knoll. 'What do you mean we can't put our purple logo on the triple overpass? Says who?'

– I'm assuming the TSA would pull a power play and assume jurisdiction for the entire investigation, pushing out Dallas cops, Secret Service agents, the FBI and others.

– The first thought in everyone's mind wouldn't be a Communist plot but, rather, an Al Qaeda terrorist attack.

– The Playboy Channel would originate live coverage from Jack Ruby's strip club. 'Jack, you say that Oswald and the Secret Service agents were all here last night? Unreal.'

– Sarah Palin would issue a statement, passing along her heartfelt condolences and recall that she was able to see Russia the last time she visited Dallas.

– Conspiracy theorists would be blogging like mad and posting various, three-dimensional versions of the killing zone on various sites.

– Oswald's murder at the hands of Ruby would feature many more first-hand interviews of the latter, and include such questions as, 'Jack, how did you feel when you pulled the trigger?' Or 'Jack, what's next? A book and movie?'

In short, what struck me about the original coverage was its combination of shock, naïveté, caring and compassion. While there would be some trace of all four in modern-day coverage, I'm afraid we've become so immune to death and sleaze that there'd be a media circus of epic proportions.

Sep 14

Here, there and everywhere

He's here. He's there. He's everywhere.

He, of course, is President Barack Obama. And I, for one, am suffering from Chronic Obama Fatigue Syndrome (C.O.F.S.). Hey, the acronym could be used in his Health Care pitch!

I am sick of seeing this man I admire EVERYWHERE I turn.

September 14 My personal breaking point came Saturday morning with the arrival of the October issue of Men's Health, which is typically adorned with some 20-something hunk's abs of steel. Not this time, though. This time, despite non-stop, wall-to-wall, post-Health Care Speech coverage, who do I see staring back at me from the cover? Barry!!!!!!!

Help! I can't get away. In fact, I feel positively stuck inside a Twilight Zone episode. No matter where I go or where I look, THE ONE is there! Be gone, Barry! Be gone!

Don't get me wrong. I'm into photo ops as much as the next PR guy. So, I naturally cut Barry some slack when he was 'caught' draining three's on the roundball court. And I looked the other way when he drained a pint or two in the Rose Garden with the prof and the policeman. But, ever since his inauguration, it seems that Obama has personified the word 'ubiquitous.'

The man is badly overexposed. Whoever is responsible for managing the Obama brand has done a god-awful job. And, if I'm starting to burn out on Barry so, too, are other erstwhile supporters. While that may not immediately bode ill for '44,' it could wreak havoc on his party in the upcoming midterms.

From an image and reputation standpoint, Obama did everything right in his run for the White House and everything wrong since. In fact, I do believe he's become the Narcissus of politics.

Barry obviously digs being on all 500 cable channels simultaneously, appearing at town hall meetings in hamlets so small ever the locals can't pronounce the name and appearing on the cover of inappropriate national magazines.

W. hibernated his way through eight years in the Oval Office. Perhaps, in response, Obama has decided to rock star his way though his first nine months. I sure hope his ego has been sated though, because if he doesn't stand down soon, he'll be standing down permanently come 2012.

I've contracted a nasty case of C.O.F.S. I know I can recover if given a chance, but I'm less than sanguine that Barry & His Beltway Boys will give me the opportunity.

Jun 10

It’s about the past and the future, not the present

June 10 Knowing that PR Week is about to publish its annual list of the industry's '25 most powerful people' and Ad Age just published its '25 women to watch', I thought I'd weigh in with a few thoughts:

1) These lists reflect the here and now. Who really cares about the newly-minted head of global comms at Weber, The World Wildlife Fund or Weed Wacker? I'd much rather see what these gurus have accomplished in their uber posts over a period of time as opposed to what power they might wield.

2) I can't tell you how many power brokers from previous lists no longer hold their once lofty titles and influential posts. Many have bounced around from one job to the next or left the business entirely. One of Fortune's 50 most powerful women in business is now raising horses in the desert. In short, today's power broker is often tomorrow's job seeker.

3) These lists are popularity contests and reflect whose publicity team has done the best job of influencing the reporters who pull the rankings together.

Public relations and advertising are in the midst of unprecedented upheaval. Rather than trotting out the names of new heavyweights occupying the same old seats, PR Week, Ad Age and others should be digging deep to find out where the next Harold Burson, Chuck Porter or David Ogilvy will come from.

Traditional business models are being disintermediated as we speak. So, to answer PR Week's provocative question about its upcoming list: I couldn't care less if last year's most powerful person retains the number one rank this year. Ditto for Ad Age and its list: it's nice, but really rather irrelevant.

Do your readers a real service with your lists: tell us who's continually reinventing his or her business model every year and/or give me your best guess as to who's creating the future of marketing communications. Tell us who you think the disrupters will be and why. Do that and I'll actually care who finishes first.

These lists should be about the past and the future, not the present.

May 07

Hey, it could be worse. You could be Mikheil Saakashvili.

Sometimes it takes a compelling photograph, a tear-jerker of a story or the sight of a street person badly beaten down by life to remind me that I've got it really good. Sure, I worry about the economy, my kids' future and whether the Mets $36 million investment in Oliver Perez was, in fact, the huge mistake it now appears to be.

May 7 - wsj But, then, I see something like Wednesday's Wall Street Journal front page photograph of Mikheil Saakashvili, surrounded by AK-47-toting security guards and I breathe a sigh of relief. Who, you may ask, is Mr. Saakashvili? He's the president of Georgia (the country, not the SEC bastion of legendary college football running backs).

A picture is indeed worth a thousand words. And this one is a real beaut. It depicts the country's chief executive entering a Georgian military base where an attempted mutiny had just been squashed. The president's security guard 'heavies' look like set actors from The Sopranos and Saakasvili's expression is priceless. He's glancing to his immediate left and his eyes speak volumes: 'God, is that guy going to shoot me? Is that group about to kidnap me? Is that a grenade in that thug's pocket or is he just happy to see me?'

There's stress and then there's real stress. The next time I'm feeling a little down, I'm going to re-read this blog, check out the photo and thank my lucky stars I'm not president of Georgia (the country, not the home of America's finest peaches).

May 06

What do ‘Saw 3,’ ‘CSI:Miami’ and working parents have in common?

I attended a presentation last night that was equal parts fascinating and disturbing. It was held at the Manhattan townhouse of a fellow Northeastern alum and featured Jack Levin, Ph.D., and co-director of NU's Brudnick Center on Violence and Conflict.

May 6 - violence Dr. Levin is arguably the world's leading expert on what he calls 'murder, mayhem and the media.' He studies serial killers, mass murderers and the rise of violence in society. Not your everyday line of work, to be sure. 

Levin says our hyper-violent society is spiraling ever further out of control. He cites a number of reasons why:

– the motion picture industry's rating system which, he says, goes virtually unenforced. As a result, kids as young as 10 are routinely allowed into theatres to watch such horrific slasher flicks as 'Saw,' 'Vacancy' and 'Basketball Diaries.'

– the lack of parental supervision at home. Moms and dads are both working nowadays (except the unemployed ones, of course). As a result, latchkey kids have unlimited access to the most violent programming on TV (Levin says most violent crimes committed by kids occur during the unsupervised, after school hours of 3-7 pm)

– an increase in not only the quantity, but the 'quality' of carnage on both the small and large screens. Levin says he's visited many crime scenes and attended countless autopsies, but the real thing is now being equaled, if not surpassed, in graphic reality by TV shows like 'Bones,' 'Law and Order' and the 'CSI' series. Levin says they routinely broadcast the most heinous, hideous and graphic images.

Now, add a dash of easy access to paramilitary weapons and a glorification of villains by the media and you have the final ingredients for widespread death and destruction. On the subject of media coverage, Levin showed us how the cover of People Magazine has dramatically changed since the magazine's introduction and now routinely features murderers and serial killers alongside the likes of Brangelina and Tomcat. Last, but definitely not least, we have the insatiable appetites of ordinary Americans weighed down by the drudgery of their lives who simply can't get enough blood and guts.

It's a toxic cocktail and one that Levin says has become more lethal with each passing decade. The only solution: boycotting TV programs and movies that carry such obscenities. It works, he says, citing Don Imus as a textbook example. Imus, says Levin, is 100 percent non-racist in his content since being fired by WFAN for his Rutgers' women basketball team comments a few years back.

The other solution? Disengaged parents need to engage the 'V-chip' on their cable boxes. If they won't supervise their kids' home viewing habits, says Levin, at least they can limit access to the most violent programming.

Levin shared a sad, sobering, scenario last night. For me, the bleakest parts concerned the future: things are very bad, only getting worse and no one really seems to be angry about it. What does it say about the image (if not the morals and ethics) of an entire population that allows this sorry state of affairs to continue unfettered?

Jul 09

Media fanning the flames of a recession

Steve and Ted discuss whether or not there is a direct correlation between media and the downturn of theRepchatter_logo_2

The discussion centers on the abundance of doom an gloom stories many media outlets have been writing on the present state of the economy.

Are they fanning the flames of a recession or are they just stating the facts? Is this negative press putting citizens in a frenzy?

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

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.

Feb 01

Rumblings of a recession cause discomfort

Steve and Ted discuss the present state of the economy and the possibilities of a recession. Repchatter_logoWhat impact
could this have on the PR industry?

This discussion centers around the recent doom and gloom stories presented by the media at top tier publications.

Should we be worried about our jobs? Is the media contributing to the problem by hyping the recession to a point where it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy?

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.