A True Celebrity Spokesman

December 13, 2016

by Roger Pynn

We’re not big on using celebrity spokespersons.  Many in our business have experienced problems when a paid celebrity becomes embroiled in a media controversy, has a run-in with the law or – as some high-profile personalities are wont to do – cancels at the last minute when media and fans are already expecting to see a star.

We’ve worked with many celebrities over the years and most have been a lot of fun, although some have been a royal pain.  We won’t mention any names, although one is currently embroiled in one of the most distasteful court cases in recent history.

But we did have several opportunities to work with a true celebrity and I will never forget that this man, who was also one of my boyhood heroes, was not only a fantastic “draw,” he was an extremely effective spokesperson and one of the most humble, pleasant and gentlemanly people I’ve ever met.

John Glenn was a partner in a Holiday Inn ownership group we represented for many years … a group built by Henri Landwirth, also founder of Give Kids The World.  Landwirth had been a hotelier in Brevard County during the earliest days of the Space Race, and the Mercury astronauts often stayed in his hotel and became his lifelong friends.

So when we launched a new family-oriented brand of Holiday Inn with Henri and his group, Senator Glenn was more than happy to attend a major New York City media event for travel writers.  If memory serves me, we had almost 100 percent acceptance of our invitation to attend the news conference, meet our American hero and receive an autographed copy of his book John Glenn: A Memoir.

About a year later we hosted another group of travel writers for a visit to the innovative new resort and once again, John Glenn was a willing storyteller.  I will never forget that he also made one lady very important to me very happy.  My mother-in-law had just lost her husband and we were most concerned that she not be left alone … but my wife and I had to be at the hotel for the events the senator was hosting.  Henri and John’s managing partner Terry Whaples insisted we bring my wife’s mother along and that she be included in a dinner with our astronaut friend.

Imagine the impact when John Glenn wandered over to our table and asked “could I please meet Louise Kiefer?”  He sat down next to her and they had a wonderful time chatting.  It lifted her spirits and you could see in his eyes that he was totally focused on her … including when he handed her a personalized autographed copy of his book.

It rests on a shelf near our fireplace today, a memory of Louise and a true celebrity now gone.  I hope they meet up soon.


Who Will Run the Last Story?

November 3, 2016

by Roger Pynn

As I read this article from The New York Times about the malaise of the newspaper industry, I had to wonder which paper will run the final article … the one that says, “This is the end of the road for an institution once so powerful that what they thought drove what the most powerful did?”

I’ve written many times about my affection for daily newspapers, having started my career there and relied on pulp far more than airwaves or bandwidth to deliver news all my life.  My paper is a good friend.  My paper and my morning cup of coffee have a lot of shared memories.

But this quote in particular stood out:

“More and more publishers are coming to the recognition that there’s a new normal,” said Alan D. Mutter, who teaches media economics at the University of California, Berkeley, and writes about the media on the blog Reflections of a Newsosaur. “And the new normal is not nearly as nice as the old normal was.”

I’ll adjust and I’ll surely get used to consuming news on one of my devices, but I won’t like it.  And I don’t think I (or anyone else) will ever see those who deliver information to my digital door as institutions of power, objectivity or authority.  The model they’ve crafted makes them click chasers who erased the invisible line between newsrooms and the revenue-driven front office.

To people in our business, perhaps it is a good thing.  The door is wide open for us and our clients to become much more important sources of news and information to our stakeholders.


Alt-What?

September 1, 2016

by Roger Pynn

Until a week ago, if someone mentioned “alt-right” most people would have thought it was some new keyboard shortcut.  We could only have hoped it would automatically eradicate political rants of all kinds from our social media inboxes.

Although this article from Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) suggests that this is a “political movement” that has been around and been talked about in some media for more than a year, my guess is that I’m not alone in having been clueless when Hillary Clinton first used the term as a means of tying her opponent to what sounded like some dark and dangerous political cult.

The CJR article offers brilliant insight into how little we know of what goes on online.  Just as the Islamic State appears to have cornered the market on unstable young minds desperate for raison d’etre, it seems there are as many people and groups trying to infiltrate the psyche of the disaffected as there are those trying to sell products (legitimate and otherwise).

And from a communicator’s perspective, it is an important reminder that vetting sources of information is more important today than ever.  Who and what you quote is important.  Truly knowing who you are quoting is critical.


Can’t Take a Joke?

August 15, 2016

by Roger Pynn

I got a big kick out of the dustup last week about John Oliver’s view of the state of the newspaper industry.  Remember, Oliver is a comedian, but people like Newspaper Association of America really let his humor get under their skin.  Said NAA President and CEO David Chavern, “newspapers need solutions, not petty insults and stating the obvious.”

I’m a recovering journalist.  I say that because far too many people claim to be practicing journalism when in fact they are practicing commentary.  I’ve had a hard time finding degrees offered in commentary, but I can tell you that when I studied journalism we were schooled to never, ever offer our own opinion.  That was for those folks who produce editorial pages where the newspaper was to express its “corporate opinion.”

“I would just ask Mr. Oliver to spend more time talking about what the future of news could be, and less time poking fun at publishers who are trying to get there,”  begged Chavern.

I would just ask Mr. Chavern to spend more time standing up for the practice of real journalism … and, less time letting a joke get the better of you.  Learn to laugh.


Never Stop Learning

August 15, 2016

by Roger Pynn

I’m just back from the 78th Annual Conference of the Florida Public Relations Association, which I’ve had the honor to lead as its president for the last year, and I’m reminded of the critical importance of continuing education for professionals.

From the tremendous insight into leadership communication by senior Ketchum executives Jamey Peters and Chris Thorton to  an incredibly candid opening keynote presentation by SeaWorld Chief Corporate Affairs Officer Jill Kermes to an inspiring closing session of pick-up basketball with Gainesville Police Department Public Information Officer Ben Tobias on the power of viral video, PR practitioners had dozens of opportunities to gain valuable takeaways to improve their professional value from these general sessions to breakout talks and workshops.

And we didn’t just listen to fellow public relations people.  Florida Trend Publisher Andy Corty recruited Duke Energy Florida President Alex Glenn for a discussion called “Listen to the C-Suite,” with this powerful Florida business team exploring what our employers and clients expect of us.  Glenn’s belief in the power of public relations was refreshing.

To me, it is about public relations.  To others it may be about accounting, law or engineering … but my takeaway from these past few days was that we must never stop learning.  If you consider yourself a professional, align with an organization that can fulfill the need we all have for knowledge.

I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have the Florida Public Relations Association in my life since 1974.  It has shaped my career in more ways than I can count.  If you consider yourself a professional, align with an organization that can fulfill the need we all have for knowledge.  You’ll get a lot more than you pay for and if you take the time to become involved, you’ll get a lot more than you give.


Aghast!

July 22, 2016

by Roger Pynn

Journalists, journalists-turned-public relations people and lifelong PR folks seemed aghast on social media yesterday when news broke that Florida Today announced plans to cease publication of the Central Florida Future, the newspaper targeting University of Central Florida students.

Serving the nation’s second-largest university with a population in excess of 61,000, many couldn’t get their arms around how this could happen.  After all, the Future started out as the on-campus, university-sponsored newspaper at my alma mater just two years short of half a century ago. The Central Florida news and PR community is heavily stacked with alumni from UCF’s Nicholson School of Communication … many of whom cut their journalistic teeth reporting and editing at the paper.

The Future became part of Florida Today in 2007 when its parent company Gannett purchased it after more than a decade of private ownership following a move off campus in 1992.

Oh my how times have changed … but it hardly seems surprising.  If this isn’t an omen for the future of printed newspapers, I don’t know what is.  As one of our UCF grad employees said, “The students don’t read that paper.  They only want the gossip they can get online.”

If that’s the case, the social and civic implications are just as concerning as the future it portends for newspapers in general.  Civic literacy scores have been plummeting for years with less than half of the tested population often failing tests that gauge their knowledge of how to participate in their communities.

Gannett didn’t get out of the business because it didn’t like young readers.  It got out because there weren’t any.  How we expect to rely on a generation that won’t read news (or can’t distinguish between news and gossip, commentary or online rants) is a scary proposition for those who have no choice but to place our faith in their ability to lead.


Kicking the Bucket

June 27, 2016

by Roger Pynn

No.  This isn’t about that.

Sometimes you just run into a great piece of marketing savvy and it makes you smile.

I can usually be found most weekends visiting either a Home Depot or a Lowe’s store (or both) as I work on the old “Honey Do” list.  And, no … I’m not handy, but like everyone else, there’s always something to fix.

And, yes, like many of you I’ve bought one of those now ubiquitous orange buckets at Home Depot.  Until this weekend, I never even knew that there was a blue Lowe’s bucket.  As little research shows buckets are big business with the two home improvement giants aggressively pricing them a penny apart.

Bucket

Now, with this clever promotion, I’m betting many of us will question what color bucket suits us best.


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