Dealing in Stolen Property

December 17, 2014

by Roger Pynn

Aaron Sorkin’s New York Times op-ed and subsequent appearance on NBC’s “Today” show ought to strike a chord with (if not fear into the hearts of) news media organizations everywhere.  They are dealing in stolen goods when they distribute information stolen from private companies by hackers who then make public what they’ve pilfered.

The screenwriter’s conversation with Today’s Savannah Guthrie was priceless, especially when he reminded her that she was the lawyer in the conversation after she asked him if he was suggesting what the media is doing is illegal or should be stopped from distributing the hacked information.

Of course it is illegal.

If you break into a Sony store and then hand me a box of stolen cameras and computers and then I start selling them all over town, I’m dealing in stolen property.

If someone breaks into Sony Pictures’ computers and steals private email conversations and financial information, and hands them over to media organizations and they make that information public over channels where they are making money from advertisers, they are profiting from illegal activity.

Sorkin’s genius has already been recognized with an Oscar, a Golden Globe, Emmy awards and the like, but his thoughtful analysis of the way contemporary news organizations deal with what should be a simple ethical decision was brilliant.

Did You Enjoy the Ride?

December 5, 2014

by Roger Pynn

So I’m a certified space junkie.  As children, my brother and I would climb atop our roof on Orlando’s east side – much to our mother’s chagrin – armed with what today would be called “toy” binoculars so we could watch Alan Shephard become the first American in space in 1961.  And we did the same when John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth.

Had the skies been clear this morning, I could have used a pair of binoculars that also included a high resolution digital camera to take pictures of Orion as it lifted off, but because it was cloudy we just sat back and watched that magnificent behemoth of a rocket not just until it disappeared across the Atlantic, but we rode it all the way through a four and a half hour adventure.  As NASA Flight Director Mike Sarafin said from Mission Control in Houston, “While this mission was unmanned, we were all aboard Orion.”

And that’s what makes Orion a subject for our blog about targeted communication.  The U.S. space program has driven the creation of technologies and tools we use every day and take for granted as if they were toasters in our kitchens … and, yet, they enabled a communications revolution whose horizon appears endless.  NASA has mastered the use of those technologies not just to monitor performance and safety, but to be sure that taxpayers and politicians have a seat in the cockpit and get drunk on the excitement of each and every mission.  Kudos to them!

And to the rest of us … what fruits of their labor will you take advantage of next and why in the world would we not want to push the boundaries of space if it can produce such incredible technologies?  I only hope I live long enough to climb up on my roof to watch a team take off from Cape Canaveral and land on an asteroid … or even Mars.

Of course, I’ll probably see it from the comfort of an easy chair on some tool no one has yet invented but which came from an “aha moment” aboard some future Orion mission.  Maybe I’ll be able to chat with the crew.

If It Ain’t Broke

December 5, 2014

by Dan Ward

Thank you to the Boston Globe for reminding us that two rules for life and business are as true today as ever.

The paper’s editor last month decided that a new “bold approach” to the Business section required a new name for that section.  The focus of business coverage wasn’t changing; they’re still covering business news, only more prominently.

After several brainstorming sessions, a name was chosen – Business – thereby proving the continued relevance of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and “keep it simple, stupid.”

If the strongest human urge is to edit someone else’s copy, then the next-strongest may be the desire to re-name (or even “re-brand”) a product or service.  Too many of us in the PR and marketing fields fall into this trap, suggesting re-brands because they’re fun to do and, well, because everyone else is doing it.

But if a name simply and succinctly communicates your product’s purpose, then it ain’t broke.

Please, Just Don’t Do This with Your Email Marketing Campaigns

December 3, 2014

by Kerry Martin

I don’t know about you, but I received quite a lot of marketing emails this year for Cyber Monday.  With my stuffed inbox, it reminded me just how difficult it is sometimes to manage effective email campaigns.

As any good communicator knows, to stand out through all the clutter you have to speak directly to your specific audience.  That means targeting emails to audiences like previous customers, prospects, internal audiences and many more market segments.

There are a lot of email management systems out there, from Constant Contact to Mail Chimp and others, and they all vary on price and options of how many emails you get per month or how big your entire subscriber list is.  However, I submit that the best way to pick the email service that’s right for you is to determine how these mail services segment your different lists and how they manage subscribers—or more importantly, how they manage subscribers who wish to opt out from receiving your message.

Say, for example, that you have subscribers who are part of multiple segments, like “insiders,” “current customers” and “birthday list.”  If your Cyber Monday emails annoy them to the point that they want to stop receiving emails about product deals, you better make sure that the unsubscribe button doesn’t stop them from receiving all of your emails.  It’s always best to have some kind of option that allows them to only unsubscribe from specific lists.

That’s why I recommend finding an email service that lets you customize what your subscriber sees when they click the unsubscribe button.  It should take them to a page where they have options like “Unsubscribe from promotional and discount emails” or “Stop receiving ALL emails from company.”

Whatever you do, make sure that the email system allows you to tailor this opt-out language.  Otherwise, you could be sending your loyal customer, potential prospect or valued insider to a page that would only make sense to the person who is managing the email campaigns.

Case in point … this landing page that I came to when trying to unsubscribe from getting too many email blasts from Medieval Times.  Seriously.

email preferences

Misplaced Outrage

November 11, 2014

by Dan Ward

I’ve written many times about free speech issues, and have shared concern here about Justice Department intrusions on the freedom of the press.

That said, I’m having a hard time defending the Associated Press in its latest dispute with the FBI.

In 2007, a 15-year-old in Washington state was making bomb threats and directing cyber attacks at a Seattle high school, and the FBI was having a difficult time tracking him down.

Having profiled the suspect as a narcissist, an FBI agent communicated online with him, posing as an AP reporter to ask if he would be willing to draft an article about the threats. The request included a link to a fake AP story that included tracking software, which led agents to the suspect.

The AP calls this an “unacceptable” action that “belittles the value of free press rights” and “corrodes … our independence from government control.” Huh?

As the FBI director points out, deception is a tool of law enforcement, and the only person interacting with the fake AP reporter or reading the fake AP story was a suspect threatening the bombing of a school.

Journalists have plenty of reasons to be unhappy with the Justice Department. But they should save their outrage for genuine violations of the public trust.

Brace Yourself

November 5, 2014

by Roger Pynn

If you got up Wednesday feeling like the weight of the world was off your shoulders because the elections were over, think again.  Not only will you be reading and hearing and seeing post mortems ad nausea (why who won/lost/almost/nearly, etc.?), but this CNN interview with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie proves the 2016 race began a long time ago … at least in the minds of newsheads.

Two minutes and 54 seconds into a post-election analysis with Christie he was being pushed to make an announcement of his intentions.

They can’t help themselves.  It is their crack.  It drives them to frenzy. And then they lash out at candidates and committees and parties for all the money they spend to win.

Perhaps it isn’t the politicians and their attack ads we should despise, but rather the junkies who stir the pot years in advance.

Those Were the Days

November 5, 2014

by Roger Pynn

When word flashed up on that the dean of Orlando broadcast news had died, it was one of those “oh … no” moments.  Ben Aycrigg should be a role model for anyone who seeks entrance to your living room at 6 and 11 p.m.

He was kind to everyone he met.  He was truly interested in listening to people.  And it paid off because people wanted to give him their news … and they trusted him to treat it with respect.

ben aycriggwalter-01

It came as no surprise that when Googling for an image of Ben, the results included one of Walter Cronkite.  They were easily mistaken for each other, not by looks but because they were such quality journalists.

Tape of Ben’s newscasts would make a great prerequisite for a degree in broadcast journalism … or journalism for any medium, for that matter.


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