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Rob Ford Time Bomb Has Taken Months to Explode

22 Nov

It’s obvious what a public relations debacle Rob Ford’s situation is, and plenty has already been written on it. As one with an interest in PR, there’s a particular aspect I find very interesting.

It’s amazing to me that the situation taken this long to detonate. I remember reading in Gawker six months ago about this video of the Toronto mayor smoking crack. At that point it was just a bizarre, yet well-chronicled tale:

Gawker Original Coverage of Rob Ford Crack Video

Rob Ford, Toronto’s conservative mayor, is a wild lunatic given to making bizarre racist pronouncements and randomly slapping refrigerator magnets on cars. One reason for this is that he smokes crack cocaine. I know this because I watched him do it, on a videotape. He was f-ing hiiiiigh. It’s for sale if you’ve got six figures. Gawker, May ’13

The only thing that came of it other than an interesting story and an IndieGoGo campaign at the time was suspicion toward the mayor that only added more doubt to a shady tale. If the mayor and his team were at all serious about salvaging their professional futures, coming clean immediately back then and making reparations in some meaningful way would have been the best course of action and avoided a Saturday Night Live parody. But here we are. It will no doubt be interesting to see how this plays out as a great example of a PR “don’t” for decades to come.

As a side note, I have a Canadian colleague who notes that this whole thing will go away once the world sees the actual video, stating that as long as Ford was polite when smoking crack (“May I see that pipe, please? Thank you, kind sir.”), no big deal. If he was rude — well, then it’s all over.

What do you think? Have you been following the Rob Ford story? How do you see anyone in the Ford camp making it through all this? Let us hear from you in the comments.
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Corporatespeak Is Not Good Public Relations: A Revist to Best Buy

6 Sep
Best Buy at Forbes

A story at Forbes inspired my analysis of Best Buy from a general PR view.

I wrote this article a while back when Best Buy was at the precipice of failure (at least in a PR sense). But now their “Renew Blue” turnaround strategy looks to be gaining traction (again, at least in a PR sense). One thing is for certain: theirs will be an interesting case study.

Best Buy: A Look Back on a Christmas PR Blunder

From January 2012In PR and communications, negative news can sometimes have a positive side just by way of the delivery. And what an opportunity that can be: either to recast in a positive light, to minimize damage… or to make it worse.

We have more respect for clear, direct communication, especially when something goes wrong. Owning up, making things right, and letting people know about it is not only the right thing to do, but can also be a PR win, a point completely lost last month on Best Buy as it addressed customers about orders that they weren’t going to be getting… keep reading >>

National Moth Week 2013: July 20-28

21 Jul

National Moth Week is back, and I’m happy to be taking part once again. I think moths are a great example of the everyday beauty that’s around us all the time but often goes unnoticed. Here’s some of my photos and artwork over the past year featuring the creatures, and there will be more to come this week. For more information – and to take part – check out NationalMothWeek.org.

My photomontage, "We Got This." Click for full size.

My photomontage, “We Got This.” Click for full size.

What do you think? Ever done any macro photography of moths or other insects? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Russell Brand On MSNBC: Unintentional PR Victor

28 Jun

Russell Brand Messiah Complex World Tour 2013My favorite public relations episode of the past few weeks is the awkwardly hilarious yet unexpectedly salient interview with Russell Brand on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program. It’s resulted in some choice PR for Brand, probably wholly unintentionally. One of the hosts, Mika Brzezinski, even apologized later for the lack of professionalism that day — fully admitting not knowing whom she was interviewing.

I realize “Morning Joe” is not known for trenchant journalism, but I believe Brand was justified in calling these folks out in return for their snarkiness (among other derisive behavior). My favorite description of the whole affair is from Alexandra Petri at The Washington Post who sums it up nicely:

russell brand takedown

Reactions

I would liken the hosts to a kitten pouncing on what it assumes is a dazed snake and discovering it has latched onto the tail end of a dragon. It’s cringe-inducing. ‘You’re talking about me as if I’m not here and as if I’m an extraterrestrial,’ he observes. Never mock someone with a British accent.

Although there are some dissenting opinions, the reaction I’ve seen since has overwhelmingly sided with Brand, giving some unforseen PR juice to his Messiah Complex tour — and making for some pretty entertaining television.

Update: Read about the encounter from Brand, himself, in this article he wrote for The GuardianRussell Brand: what I made of Morning Joe and Question Time

What do you think? Was Brand out of line, or does that even matter? What would you have done in his shoes, or in those of the hosts? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Sorry! We Want Your Business!

6 May
Artist: Banksy. Photo by Duncan Hull via Flickr. Used with permission.

Artist: Banksy. Photo by Duncan Hull via Flickr.
Used with permission.

Does a corporate apology for marketing really mean anything?

There’s been a lot of apologizing going on lately. The most recent example I’ve noticed is JC Penny, doing a whopping 180-degree about-face on the actions of their former CEO Ron Johnson, having to do with their new approach to marketing (no sales, just fair prices). That CEO’s former company? Apple.

Apple also did an apology for its Maps product a while back. This would have been unthinkable with Steve Jobs at the helm, but those days are over. For what it’s worth, I’ve used Apple maps in NYC, Los Angeles, and many U.S. cities in between without fail. But I can’t remember the last time I purchased anything from a JC Penny. And it’s one of the anchor stores at the local mall.

The Verdict? Yawn.

My thinking on apologies from large companies is, “ho-hum.” My heart goes out to the PR teams and corporate communicators who are charged with carrying these out, but I’m far more interested in hearing what’s going to be done about the situation, and getting on with that. At least in the case of Makers’s Mark, it resulted in something (though I still wonder if this was a stunt). Sure, it’s nice to hear an apology, and in these days of greater corporate accessibility via social media, it isn’t altogether inappropriate. But I think what really matters is getting back to business.

What do you think? Do the actions of JC Penny or Apple or any company’s apology for their missteps get your attention? Are there any examples of this being extremely effective? Let us hear from you in the comments.

 

Ship My Pants! Is Kmart Being Smart?

29 Apr

A little blue humor with your blue light special?

Blue siren similar to those used by Kmart for the blue light special

Original photo by DoppioM via Flickr

I remember being in a Kmart a hazy handful of times in the ’70s seeing a blue siren flash after an announcement over Kmart’s intercom. It was exciting, and an obvious gimmick to get some quick attention while having a little fun.

Something similar is happening now with Kmart’s latest ad campaign, dubbed “Ship My Pants.” Highlighting the retailer’s offering of in-store shipping, excited customers riff about shipping their pants, drawers, a bed, and… you get the idea.

I love some wacky wordplay, so I’m naturally a fan of the ad. I don’t know that I’ll be shopping at Kmart any more because of it, but I’ll definitely be smirking the next time it happens, or maybe even the next time I drive by a store.

It reminds me of the “Make 7up Yours” campaign from the ’90s…

I noted the similarity to Kmart through Twitter, and they acknowledge the connection.

My take away is that, although this might be a bawdy approach, it gets us discussing the brand when there was absolutely no chatter before. It’s getting a boatload of press – positive, even – which was precisely what it was intended to do, so kudos to Kmart’s PR team for deft handling. In the case of Old Spice, this did get me interested in the product, and it will be interesting to follow Kmart’s business as consumers start to, um… ship their pants.

What do you think? Can you recall a similar campaign? Would this make you more or less likely to shop at a Kmart or similar advertiser? Let us hear from you in the comments.

PR and Social Media News: Ragan and PR Daily

31 Mar

PR DailyA couple of my favorite sources for news and happenings in both public relations and social media are PR Daily, and Ragan Communications (PR Daily is part of Ragan). I’ve been following both sites for years, have attended a couple of Ragan events, and have even been quoted as a source in their reporting. I’ve found their coverage of the news cycle from a PR perspective to be consistently informative and entertaining. Ragan’s daily headlines is one of the few email newsletters I read daily, and in itself, it’s a study in crafting winning headlines with engaging graphics that make readers want to click through to your content.

Stories I’ve enjoyed there recently:

If you’re into PR, social media, – or grammar, online trends, and any of the communication-related other areas they cover – definitely give these sites a visit and consider signing up for the newsletters.

What do you think? Are you a Ragan.com or PR Daily consumer already? Or have you never heard of these sites? Do you have a personal or business interest in PR or social media? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Is There Really No Such Thing As Bad Press?

29 Jan

You know the saying, “there’s no such thing as bad press?” Only to a certain extent do I believe this. The phrase would be more accurate if tempered with two qualifiers:

Potentially, eventually.

Lady Gaga, Oscar Wilde

Lady Gaga, Oscar Wilde.
Both adept at capturing press attention.

This is because in the event of bad press, it can be manageable to varying degrees – but it always takes deliberate, meaningful effort, and it definitely takes time.

I absolutely don’t believe, “hey, there’s no such thing as bad press, so let’s just go for it all…” is wise PR strategy, unless the goal is simple notoriety along the lines of Paris Hilton or Lady Gaga. In these cases, I’m reminded of what could be the inspiration for this concept: Oscar Wilde’s quote, “There is only one thing in the world that is worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”

The problem with the idea of no bad press is that with today’s A.D.D. news cycle and the everlasting searchability of the Internet, missteps can take an extraordinary effort to overcome, although it can be done. National Strategies Public Relations CEO Jennifer Vickery sums up the concept: “While there is such a thing as bad press, the main take away should be that good press can come out of it, provided the situation is handled properly.”

Proper handling would mean execution with transparency, honesty and consistency over an interval long enough to shift focus to the present and future more so than the past. In this way, and if done right, bad press can become a real opportunity and cataylst, not just in terms of spin, but also toward doing the right thing.

What do you think? Is there truly no such thing as bad press? What are some examples of bad press being handled properly? Let us hear from you in the comments.

December 21, 2012: Your Last Chance To Dance

21 Dec

Apocalypse, Mayans, and… Star Trek?

Here’s a rare NSFW post from me (you’ve been warned), but I find this too entertaining in a ridiculous, party-rocking sort of way not to share: a friend’s metal band made this video about today’s hype-fueling date. It’s crude, juvenile and bizarre – they’d probably take this as a complement – but oddly catchy in the style of Alice Cooper or a less self-righteous Marilyn Manson. I thought I’d do some PR for them today (hope I don’t regret this). Again: you’ve been warned…

[youtube:http://youtu.be/Q1-lUds1IMg?t=13s%5D

 

Citigroup Eliminates 11,000 Jobs in History’s Most Corporate-Jargony Paragraph Ever

11 Dec

Hoo boy, this is some incredible corporate-speak – as in, “repositioning” out of the company… (via The Atlantic):

Cittigroup Layoffs Image

Image and link via: Citigroup Eliminates 11,000 Jobs in History’s Most Corporate-Jargony Paragraph Ever – The Atlantic by Derek Thompson.

My heart kind of goes out to the person/team who had to draft this statement – an unenviable task, ripe for ridicule, no doubt subject to hours of agonizing revisions and edits. My heart goes out even more to the newly “repositioned.” But the fact that this missive captures this much attention (mentions on The Atlantic and Twitter, for example) says something – somehow, a nerve has been touched…

Citigroup Jargon on Twitter

It Is What It Is

This is just a lose-lose all around. The company has to do what it has to do, and no amount of careful wording will lessen the blow. Companies can’t stay alive if they have more staff than they need – that’s just a reality of business. And it’s a lousy reality for the newly-jobless that isn’t helped at all by corporate-speak. Maybe there would be less flak coming in if Citigroup at least expressed some kind of gratitude or regret – but would that really have made a difference? Maybe there would be fewer blogs or tales of PR about it, but the repositioning just “is what it is.”

Man, do I hate that phrase.

What do you think? Ever had to be the bearer of grim corporate news? What are your favorite corporate-speak phrases? Let us hear from you in the comments.
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