Paint a Target on My Back

June 19, 2014

by Roger Pynn

I’m probably going to get a lot of hateful commentary on this post, despite the fact it has nothing to do with what will likely inspire anger from those who have long wanted the Washington NFL franchise to change its name.  I won’t discuss how I feel about that issue, but I will warn you that some of the discussion may offend some readers.

I find what the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office did yesterday to be a frightening signal from what appears to be an activist judicial body, the agency’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.  I say that not because of the issue, but because of the precedent-setting nature of the case they agreed to hear and rule on.

And so, to all the overweight wine lovers out there who were born illegitimately, let me suggest that you consider class action before the same board, questioning why the agency has allowed Winebow Inc., a trademark for its FAT bastardTM wines.

Hopefully you get the point, but for more on this I offer here the results (about 6 million items) of a Google search for “offensive trademarks.”  This is a slippery slope that has implications far beyond the obvious issue driving this specific case.

Intellectual Property consultants KASS International offered an interesting view on this in a blog post that tells me this could be the next frontier for hungry law firms seeking new markets.  I’m one of those guys who is easily offended (despite my own proclivity for cursing) by people who wear T-shirts or sport bumper stickers that are clearly intended to shock.

Like many other debates in our society, I see those as first amendment arguments and I always come down on the side of protecting free speech and expression, and believe the real solution is better parenting.  The issue taken before the patent agency judicial body similarly seems to me a socio-economic one.

I don’t buy FAT bastardTM cabernet (I’m sure they miss my money because I buy a lot of wine), and I’ll bet the owners of that team in Washington would miss the money that would come from those who speak with their wallets when offended.

Digital Gatekeepers

May 22, 2014

by Roger Pynn

My business partner Kimberly Taylor wrote a great post yesterday about gatekeepers, the important role they play in any sophisticated business environment and why, when selling, you should take them into account as you develop a strategy.

When I received this annoying email:

How have you been?  Just checking in with you to see how business is going.  If you’re still looking to grow your company or looking for ways to acquire more customers, email or call me and I can get you taken care of with some new customer acquisition info for your industry.


Mark (name deleted to protect the guilty)

I thought how badly we need more than a spam filter to serve the same role in a digital world.  I don’t know Mark from Adam, never asked to be on his mailing list and resent him invading my space … much less starting out with “How have you been?”

Making me use your “unsubscribe” button takes time and it makes me want to never do business with you.  What ever happened to creative selling?

O, Woe is Me.

May 16, 2014

by Roger Pynn

When William Shakespeare penned those words for Ophelia in Hamlet, do you think he thought there’d come a day when we would debate the value of knowing how to express ourselves with a pen?

The debate in South Carolina’s Legislature over spending a piddling $28 million to see to it that the Palmetto state’s children know how to write in cursive letters would probably have the bard in tears.

I get it.  We all use keyboards.  We don’t phone each other.  We text each other.  It doesn’t matter if they write in pretty cursive.  Let them use block letters.  And even though our tablets allow us to “write” with a little rubber tip on the touch-sensitive screen, you can convert it to any font you like … including half a dozen styles of script.

I should hardly care, I suppose, given that my handwriting – which my mother once called beautiful – went to hell in a hand basket during my years as a reporter where rapidly scribbling notes on a reporter’s notepad was considered one of the most important skills of the trade.

The history of handwriting goes back well before Shakespeare, and you have to doubt that we’d have developed all the fonts you can choose today on your computer if society hadn’t found beauty in the flowing ink of a quill and the development of italicized styles during the Renaissance.

But, ladies, tell me … when he brings you roses, do you want the love note he scribbles on the card to look like this:




May 14, 2014

by Roger Pynn

Not sure whether I loved this or hated it, but I have to admit this JetBlue ad layout (snipped from the Orlando Sentinel’s online edition) stopped me in my tracks this morning.  I can’t remember ever seeing a newspaper rate card that offered to let me carve a hole in the middle of editorial space.

Double Truck

There’s no doubt it is eye-catching.  But when I went to clip it for this post, I couldn’t remember who the advertiser was … just that it made reading my newspaper this morning difficult.

Retiring Minds Want to Know

May 12, 2014

by Roger Pynn

Today, with absolutely no interest in retiring, I joined the quarter million Americans who turn 65 each month.  But last week I was drawn to this story on “What Baby Boomers’ Retirement Means for the U.S. Economy” because I’m intrigued by why people want to call it quits.

Unfortunately, I didn’t learn much about why people decide to hang it up when they hit that magical age we were told is time to retire.  It did, however, tell me that people who retire contribute less to the economy … so I guess I’ll be doing my part if I keep working.

But if I had to venture a guess, I’d say that those who retire the minute they can collect Social Security and Medicare benefits do so more because of the lack of a challenge at work than the promise of more fun at home with guaranteed income and health care.

If you love what you do, the thought of giving up the satisfaction of accomplishment is scary … not to mention that at home my real boss has a “honey do” jar that would motivate anyone to stay working.

What’s the Difference?

May 8, 2014

by Roger Pynn

We’re often asked why we position our firm as providing “public relations, marketing communications and public affairs” services.  People want to know what the difference is and whether the reference to “public affairs” means we are lobbyists.

So when I saw ‘Public Affairs vs. Public Relations: What is the Difference?’ promoted on Ragan’s PR Daily, I hoped to find helpful insight for that discussion.  Unfortunately, I was left wondering exactly what the author’s point is, but perhaps I can offer food for thought.

First and foremost, we are not lobbyists.  But we work closely with them when an issue needs to become part of a broad public conversation.

Lobbying is an honorable and important function.  Everyone (and every organization) has the right, and perhaps the responsibility to attempt to influence outcomes in the government and political process.  Lobbying requires an enormous investment of time in building trust, relationships and an understanding of government processes.  It is full-time work.

To us, public affairs is the business of giving visibility to those issues that lobbyists and government officials must take up … creating top-of-mind awareness for the need to enact legislation, create or change policy.

It demands the use of almost everything in the communications toolbox if we are to successfully create momentum behind a cause.  Public officials want to know that public opinion supports the decision they are being asked to make, so everything from letter-writing campaigns to petition drives to publicity, editorial board support and appearances before public bodies come into play.

Understanding how that happens requires much the same attention to the process as does lobbying if you are to successfully position an issue with the public and with those who influence decision-making.  But perhaps the most important thing to remember is that after the fact, once you’ve succeeded, there’s one more very important step.

Two public affairs efforts we’ve been involved in this year reminded me that every effective public affairs program ends with giving credit to those in government who make the tough decisions we ask of them.  Just as your parents taught to write “thank you” notes for birthday, Christmas and wedding gifts, don’t forget to express your gratitude when you get your way.

The Best

April 29, 2014

by Roger Pynn

Who wouldn’t like to be part of this list? “America’s 100 Best Corporate Citizens in 2014” compiled by Corporate Responsibility Magazine is a pretty heady company.

For public relations people it adds emphasis to what we tell clients all the time:  “Want your name in the media, do good things.”

And that doesn’t necessarily mean giving away great amounts of money … although that’s always nice.

What it means is that the media will cover you, and the public will recognize you, for what you do … not because a PR person pitches a story about how nice you are.  So be nice, be generous, be effective … be good at what you set out to do.

People will notice.


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