Dec 12

The digital age giveth and the digital age taketh away

I never cease to be amazed how ignorant certain people can be (and I’m not even referring to the currentDrunk
occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue).

Ever since Web 2.0 debuted and powerhouse sites like Facebook and MySpace became all the rage, we’ve seen, heard and read about images and reputations being ruined because of indiscreet postings.

And, yet, college kids continue to do irreparable damage to themselves. The latest example is a group of party-hardy co-eds who not only post photographs and videos of themselves vomiting and urinating in public, but also publish their names and colleges affiliations. And, when confronted, these young women actually defend their activities.

Facebook’s ‘Thirty reasons girls should call it a night’ has every drunken and debauched antic captured for one and all to see. And, the featured co-eds think it’s cool (‘It’s just something fun to do,’ said one. ‘You need to be able to laugh at yourself.’).

What don’t these young women get about the web? Do they not realize future employers will check the sites? Do they not realize they’re doing themselves irreparable harm?

Continue reading

Jul 06

Mentos: Everybody’s Intern or Nobody’s Fool?

Mentos recently launched a microsite that caught my attention. MentosIntern.com is a live video feed of Trevor, a 19-year-old intern working out of the Mentos HQ for the summer. In typical intern fashion, Trevor is bombarded with a multitude of tasks throughout the day. The catch is that all of his tasks are submitted by visitors to the site.

At the moment, Trevor is getting hit with random assignments from strangers via phone, IM, and email. The site says "he’ll order you lunch, customize your music playlists, sing on command, and even prank call your colleagues."

Clever stunt for sure and it’s a good example of how brands are continuing to push the envelope in terms of participatory marketing. Mentos certainly knows the benefits of consumer engagement with last year’s surge of diet coke geyser experiments. Will it help sell more Mentos though? Who knows. Interesting and well-executed concept at least. It will be fun to watch as the summer progresses. I’m expecting a Trevor meltdown any day now.

Apr 27

Why should Alec Baldwin have to apologize?

Alec Baldwin’s decision to publicly apologize for a cell phone rant allegedly leaked by his estranged former wife, Kim Basinger, is another example of formulaic PRApologies_2
having run amuck.

Hollywood has a proven crisis model in place that includes an apology, an outreach to the ‘offended’ person or persons and some sort of rehabilitation program to ensure that the offending remarks or actions will never happen again. Mel Gibson and his anti-Semitic crisis outreach is now the classic response (as compared to that of Don Imus and his much-too-little, much-too-late post ‘nappy haired hos’ push). But, why is the ‘model’ trotted out each and every time a crisis, now matter how mundane, erupts?

Why should Baldwin have to apologize to anyone? What a parent says to his or her child is private (even if it is leaked publicly). I think it’s time for a Baldwin, a Richard Gere or some other Hollywood buffoon to step up and say, ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.’ I’m not going to listen to my handlers and I’m not going to cave to ‘conventional wisdom.’

The PC police and their ‘pound of flesh’ mentality have dictated that image and reputation management must include a carefully orchestrated program of apology, contrition, reflection and reincarnation. That’s BS. If the ‘crisis’ in question, like Baldwin’s, is private, it should stay private.

Apr 02

As if we needed any more proof

As if we needed any more proof that the traditional advertising model is in freefall, Ad Age devoted a recent cover story to the matter at hand. And, while reading a round-up provides a broad brush perspective on the issue, I was also able to hear about the pain first-hand at a recent industry panel discussion.

Held by PR News and VMS, the ‘integrated communications’ session included representatives from the PR agency and client-side worlds as well as experts from direct response and integrated marketing shops.

Everyone agreed that, because of the horrific cost/benefit ratio of traditional advertising (i.e. Word-of-mouth, digital and other one-to-one communications are so much more effective at reaching consumers in a disintermediated media world), we’re seeing more and more ad shops providing traditional PR services.

We’re seeing this happen on some of our larger accounts. So, as our peers in advertising see their budgets reduced year-after-year, they come to our clients with ideas and recommendations sounding surprisingly like ours.

While there’s still a dividing line between our disciplines it’s becoming murkier and murkier. So, while we in PR debate whether Web 2.0 is a separate phenomenon or merely another communications channel, the ad agencies are scrambling to retrofit their models so they can sound more like ‘earned media’ as they like to describe media relations.

The panel was extremely enlightening and, for me, served as a real wake-up call that PR is not THE place to be, but a place that increasingly desperate ad agencies also want to be.

Jan 22

Some citizen journalists are making mistakes not seen since the dotcom days”

Intent on breaking through the virtual clutter of the blogosphere, more and more bloggers seem intent on formalizing and distributing their ideas through press releases sent out by such services as ExpertClick’s News release wire. One blogger (who shall not be called out) has actually made a new year’s resolution of posting at least one press release a week. The releases would provide the blogger’s views on news of the day in the hope that virtual, industry and other types of media either pick up the quotes or call her for additional comments.

Yikes. Talk about information overload. Does the world really need a press release a week from bloggers? And, have we learned nothing from the dotcom days? It seems like only yesterday that hoards of 26-year-old Stanford MBA-toting, pre-IPO dotcom CEOs (and their stock options rich CMOs) were flooding the newswires with press release after meaningless press release. Hellbent on either attaining or protecting that coveted ‘first-mover’ status, the dotcom firms worked 24X7 to launch their new web-enabled product or service. Key to their business "strategy" was communicating to the legions of day traders who, when the dotcom went public, would be instrumental in their subsequent success.

And the PR firms (ours included) went right along with this non-strategy. Two, three, four or more press releases were issued each week. And, 99 percent contained no news of value whatsoever. In fact, it wasn’t even about the news with the dotcoms. It was about cueing up the public offering.

I sure don’t miss those days or those demanding dotcom execs. But, looking back, one would think bloggers would be more sensitive to press release mania. As a firm, I know we push back hard now when we question the newsworthiness of a client announcement. The blogosphere needs some sort of ‘pushback’ mechanism as well. Otherwise, strategies such as the press release a week will overwhelm a medium that is already long on content and short on quality.

Thanks to Linda VandeVrede for her thoughts.