Tell them What they Need to Hear …

July 31, 2008

by Kimberly Taylor

You may remember Legal Analyst Andrew Cohen’s comments on CBS “Sunday Morning” in response to Scott McClellan’s book. It’s old news by now, but it still resonates with me.

Particularly offensive is Cohen’s statement, “Show me a PR person who is “accurate” and “truthful,” and I’ll show you a PR person who is unemployed.”

I’m not a “PR person” per se, but I’ve worked on the operations side of this profession for nearly eight years.

While reading a recent proposal our firm submitted to a prospective client, I was struck by a sentence … one I’ve read in every proposal we’ve submitted for as long as I can remember:

“Tell clients what they need to hear, rather than what they want to hear.”

While sometimes honesty is not the popular or lucrative choice, we’re passionate about ethics, and as such, will continue to employ accuracy and truth in all we do.


When are Message Board Comments Out of Bounds?

July 30, 2008

by Dean Hybl

Over the weekend, Orlando Sentinelsports columnist Mike Bianchi spent nearly half of his weekly “Running Off at the Typewriter”column outlining how someone who disagreed with one of his recent columns hoped that Bianchi would die of AIDS. Seeing the post as a chance to create some chatter, Bianchi created his own tongue-in-cheek poll on his blog site asking if people really wanted him dead.

Hopefully most people will agree that regardless of whether you agree with a columnist or media member, calling for their death is very much out-of-bounds and probably was meant to emphasize disapproval, rather than as an actual reason for Bianchi to fear for his life.

However, posts like that do bring into question just what is going too far when posting comments to a message board or blog. While it appears that people now take message boards and public forums where people can post anonymously with a grain of salt, as was articulated by Dan Ward in an earlier post on this blog, it appears that people are giving some credibility and power to comments made by people who are not accountable for their replies.

Providing individuals with an opportunity to easily express opinions, ideas and concerns is one of the best things about the internet, but it should come with some responsibility on our end. Disagreeing with someone because of their party affiliation, favorite sports team or preferred beverage of choice is one thing, but making inappropriate comments that question a person’s gender, mindset or right to breathe is out of bounds and reduces the credibility of the entire process.


Experiential Marketing

July 29, 2008

by Dionne Aiken

Max Lenderman, executive creative director at GMR Marketing LLC, Chicago, recently published a book called “Experience the Message: How Experiential Marketing is Changing the Brand World.”

I had the privilege of hearing him speak about this interesting phenomenon where in he explained the shift that is taking place in the minds of consumers as receivers of marketing messages and the unique, creative approaches of Experiential Marketing in reaching these consumers.  Experiential Marketing is a type of marketing that uses and/or creates engaging experiences to communicate key messages. In effect, it creates an intimate dialogue, a lasting memory and personal experience.

An interesting example of Experiential Marketing at work is Tide Laundry Detergent’s “CleanStart” campaign where they wash the clothes of natural disaster victims; they’re not just washing clothes, they’re restoring dignity, hope and a sense of pride; a clean start to the day.  This attaches intrinsic value to the brand name.  It’s hard to imagine that these disaster victims would use any other brand of detergent after such an experience. Watch this video …

Yet another example of Experiential Marketing at work is when Charmin opened up a public restroom in the middle of Manhattan.  They created an entire experience out of using the restroom (as crazy as this sounds).  Take a look at the following video …

In light of all this, I’m wondering what possibilities this approach could open up for Public Relations initiatives.  Could the same approach be used to restore consumer confidence or communicate certain issues to audiences and stakeholders? Could this aid in reaching certain government officials and policy makers on pressing issues at-hand?  What are some thoughts on the impact this could have on the brand world as well as the PR world?


Yesterday’s News or Today’s “Oops?”

July 24, 2008

by Dan Ward

Publicists are facing a new problem as newspapers pare back staff: we’re now competing with yesterday’s news.

This Thursday morning, both the Orlando Sentinel and Baltimore Sun (and others, I assume) printed a column by Washington Post Writer’s Group columnist Kathleen Parker, in which she debates the merits of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal as a potential Republican vice presidential candidate.

Two problems with the column and its timing … first, her column was written earlier in the week, and notes that Jindal “is meeting” McCain on Wednesday (the day before the column appeared and it was announced the meeting was, in fact, cancelled).

Second, and most glaringly, the column was printed a full day after CNN reported Jindal had removed himself from consideration.

Suggested motto for the “new” newsroom: “We put the oops in scoops.”


Face-to-Face Time Provides Insight and Understanding at Media Roundtable

July 24, 2008

by Ashley Pinder

Many times people perceive the media and public relations professionals as working at odds – one side feeling inundated by pesky “follow-up calls” and the other side feeling like the messages it shares are too easily disregarded. However, I attended an event last week that showed this disconnect is not always the case …

At the 2008 Central Florida Media Roundtable, put on by the two local chapters of public relations associations FPRA and PRSA, about 200 PR professionals from all different industries sat face-to-face with 17 media-types from different outlets and shared what they need and want from the other side to do their jobs. And what was quickly uncovered was that both sides just so happen to have the same goal – keeping the public informed.

Of course it is our responsibility as PR professionals to make sure we are only sharing our company information to specific media that it applies to and we are doing our diligence in learning about who exactly that is – timely and relevant information is key. Reporters receive a lot of e-mails, so we need to be sure we are only sharing important stuff, and doing it how they want it. Providing a local angle on a breaking national story is always compelling to daily papers and offering a glimpse into the life of local company executive doing extraordinary things in the community can be an excellent story for a local lifestyle magazine.

When it comes down to it, reporters and editors need information and public relations professionals need to share information … seems like these needs are actually quite complementary. And all it took was a little face-time to realize it.


What’s your Philosophy?

July 23, 2008

by Kimberly Taylor

Five years ago, we learned about and adopted into our corporate culture, the FISH! Philosophy. If you’re not familiar with the Philosophy created at the world-famous Pike Place Fish Market, the four main principles are: Play, Make Their Day, Be There and Choose Your Attitude.

You may be saying to yourself, that a company’s culture should come from within rather than be adopted by some outside entity. I agree. But, what do you do when your company’s culture goes stale or just needs some livening up? Do what we did: watch a video of some guys throwing fish and let it inspire you.

One of the best things about FISH! is not the manufactured program put together by Charthouse Learning – it’s the message behind the Philosophy – heck, the principles need little explanation.

Some man-on-the-street YouTube videos even remind us that those fishmongers at Pike’s aren’t the FISH! Philosophy – they have their own story to tell, but they don’t discount the principles. Basically, it’s up to you to transform yourself from “ordinary” to “great.”


Journalism Isn’t What it Used to Be – Part III

July 22, 2008

by Dean Hybl

When I worked for a student newspaper and then years later served as the faculty advisor for another, one of the favorite editions of the year was the April Fool’s Day issue because the student journalists could make up “news” without concern of repercussions. Well, in today’s journalistic world, some newspaper staffs seem to think every day is a good day to invent the news.

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The dilemma in the July 17 edition of the Orlando Sentinel continues to blur the lines between news and opinions. Under the headline “From the mouths of coaches: Let the interviews begin”there is a nearly full-page section that features separate boxes and photos with the five prominent Division I football coaches in the state. Each includes questions and answers that are shown in quotations. It was not until reading an amazingly inappropriate quote attributed to Jim Leavitt of South Florida that I

went back to the top of the page and read the last line of the introductory paragraph that says: “Here are some questions they’re likely to be asked by the scribes and our offerings for how the coaches might answer (with our tongues firmly planted in cheek on some of them).”

I believe that there is a time and place for satire, but it is not on the front cover of a prominent national publication (a topic for another day) or on a page in the local sports section that is not clearly marked as being a satire, commentary or opinion.

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There was a time when making up quotes and attributing them to a person was something that would potentially be considered libelous and at the very least would lead to dismissal of the reporter and possibly even a lawsuit. However, times seem to have changed to the point where if reporters can’t get their subjects to say something interesting, then they will just make it up themselves. I’m as willing to change things for the better as anyone, but that is one change that desperately needs to be reversed before it brings down

what little credibility the journalism profession still possesses.

That’s all I have for now, but I would love to hear any other examples you might have seen of how journalism today just isn’t what it used to be.


Journalism Isn’t What it Used to Be – Part II

July 21, 2008

by Dean Hybl

Remember when you had little reason to question that all the information you read in the newspaper was, at the very least, factual? Well, unfortunately, those days seem to be gone. With newspapers reducing staff as a response to financial pressures it appears that a major sacrifice has been in ensuring accuracy.

One of many good examples of this occurred in the July 16 Orlando Sentinel, which included a column titled the “Health Report” for the UCF athletic department. The article contained several factual errors, including missing by six years the date when UCF moved from Division II to Division I athletics and identifying an all-conference softball player as playing the wrong position. Minor errors like those might not seem to be a big deal, but if a writer is trying to sell him or herself as someone with a credible opinion, then they cannot include errors that lead a reader to question their core knowledge of the subject.

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when a copy editor would have been expected to catch those kinds of factual errors, but unfortunately, staff reductions appear to have compromised such time-honored journalistic practices as “proofreading.” Good thing we all have automatic spell checking on our computer or our newspapers might be filled not only with factual errors, but with speling errors. Oh heck, who turned off my spell checker?

Check back soon for another example of how journalism isn’t what it used to be.

To see what others are saying about the state of journalism, check out these blogs:
Wizbang and /Message.


Journalism Isn’t What it Used to Be – Part I

July 18, 2008

by Dean Hybl

I certainly understand that the profession has dramatically changed in the nearly 20 years since I received my degree in journalism, but I am very troubled at how many of the basic “rules” that governed the profession for generations now seem to be going the way of the DeSoto.

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When I went to journalism school, the first thing I learned was to fact-check all information (no matter how seemingly insignificant) and that opinions were for columnists, not reporters. In today’s journalism world, factual errors are almost a dime a dozen and the line between reporting what happened and reporting your opinion of what happened has been repeatedly crossed.

The sports pages of my hometown newspaper, the Orlando Sentinel, from July 16 and July 17 provide perfect examples of the problems you see so often today. Now I know some people don’t consider sports as legitimate journalism, but as someone who spent 15 years as a college sports media relations director, I believe that the coverage of sports in the media should meet the same level of professionalism and accuracy that is expected in covering anything else.

Check back soon for Parts II and III, including two glaring examples of how journalism isn’t what it used to be.


In Anonymous We Trust

July 14, 2008

by Dan Ward

I must admit I’ve arrived late to the world of social media. MySpace and Facebook are like a foreign language that I know I must learn, but can’t quite decipher.

The growth of social media has opened a number of opportunities for marketers, but it has also given rise to a troubling phenomenon … consumers are now putting their trust, and basing their buying decisions, on anonymous postings from people they’ve never met.

Booking a vacation to an exotic resort? Don’t worry about travel guides or travel agents. Read what Joe Blow from Akron has to say about his recent trip in an Internet posting. His advice is certainly more valuable than those purported “experts” whose careers are based on providing accurate, helpful information.

As someone born and educated in pre-Internet, it’s hard to fathom why so many would put their faith in anonymous Web postings rather than advice of friends, family and experts.

The lesson for people like me, and indeed for any businessperson, is that engaging in the online conversation is no longer an option. If consumers are placing their faith in the Web, we need to be there … and we need to learn to speak the language.


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