April 17, 2018
by Roger Pynn
One thing you can look forward to when you die is that you won’t have to read the news. After all, it is pretty depressing.
However, one thing you won’t read about is something many find depressing while they are still alive … death.
After monkeying with their publication of the news of death back in 2013 when it did away with the tradition of printing “Deaths in Central Florida,” the Orlando Sentinel brought back a limited version … but instead of treating it like news, they charged for even the simple three-line notices that include the deceased’s name, age, city and the name of their funeral home so friends could at least call to inquire about funeral services.
Last week they simply buried the whole thought that the dearly departed might matter to the paper’s readers, trading the space for large display ads. The classified ad department told me that the average obituary takes up 36 lines at a cost of $505. They do have a handy tool that allows you to write your loved one’s story, paste the text into a template and find out what it will cost … if you don’t die from the sticker shock yourself.
I’m an old news hound. I made my living as a journalist for a long time. I wrote a lot of obits in my day. And I’ve read them every day of my life ever since … not out of morbid curiosity, but because if a friend has passed, I want to know it. My bet is that I’m not unlike a lot of people … especially when they reach their 60s and 70s and going to funerals becomes a more routine part of life.
A quick check at OrlandoSentinel.com/opinion/letters doesn’t seem to show it, but the print edition has had at least a couple of passionate letters to the editor on this subject, including this:
I understand it costs a lot to run a newspaper. It also costs to lose subscribers … whether it is due to their death or the disgust of families who dump their subscriptions … offended by decisions like this that choke every last dime out of the readers that real advertisers are trying to reach.
April 13, 2017
by Roger Pynn
I knew I’d see the headline sooner or later:
6 other PR Nightmares: United fiasco among worst corporate gaffes
The Bloomberg story in the Orlando Sentinel said:
“When it comes to bad public relations, it’s pretty tough to top the sight of a United Airlines passenger being dragged, bloodied and screaming, from a flight.”
It went on to say:
“But the fiasco is hardly the first self-inflicted corporate blunder. Munoz can take comfort that it’s happened to others, and in many cases the bosses didn’t lose their jobs, as our PR Tales From Hell illustrate.”
Here’s the problem. This isn’t a PR problem. It is a management problem that caused public relations problems. And it is a classic example of management failing to empower smart decision-making on the front lines. When the people who engage with the public have to make decisions because of what the operations manual says instead of being empowered to make common sense decisions in the face of trouble, disaster is around the corner.
There were so many options … if only the gate staff had been trained to think for themselves. I’m sure the folks in United’s public relations organizations would tell you the same thing.
May 3, 2016
by Dan Ward
(Disclosure: my sister is a Camping World general manager, but I’ve never set foot in one of their stores. Sorry, sis.)
There has been a lot of snark in this town regarding the announcement that Camping World purchased the naming rights for the stadium formerly known as the Citrus Bowl. The Orlando Sentinel’s David Whitley summed it up with “We are not happy campers.”
Isn’t it a good thing that our recently renovated stadium has shown enough potential for national exposure that a major corporation wants to be associated with it for at least the next eight years?
I understand that some people feel nostalgic for the “Citrus Bowl” name, but times change. The only place to find an orange in Orlando is the local grocery store. Orlando is now to citrus what Oklahoma is to citrus.
What I don’t understand are the online comments about the “bad fit” of the name. Have these people even BEEN to an event at the stadium? In the parking lots and neighborhoods, all you can see are tables, tents, chairs, grills, generators, coolers, and yes, RVs … all of which can be purchased at Camping World.
Seems to me that the marketers at Camping World have found a great fit, and an opportunity to share their name with large groups of people who quite clearly have an interest in their products.
Those of us in the marketing/PR field dream of such opportunities.
March 28, 2016
by Dan Ward
I don’t work with or for Visit Florida, so I have no inside knowledge of the “secrecy” issues raised by the Orlando Sentinel’s Gray Rohrer.
I can, however, comment at length about Rohrer’s mistaken definition of a “familiarization tour” as a “vacation.”
Having managed at least 20 FAM tours over my career, I can state with certainty that they are NOT vacations. They are working trips, usually packed with nonstop site tours and presentations. Most tour itineraries leave no more than a few hours of “free time” over several days.
Nearly every travel destination, hotel, park and attraction uses FAM tours to educate travel journalists in the hopes of generating coverage that promotes visitation. It’s similar to when an automotive journalist drives a car for several days in order to review it. Would Rohrer refer to this as a “vacation” for that journalist? Travel destinations also conduct FAM’s for travel agents and meeting planners so that they can better understand the products they are selling. Are these vacations, too?
Rohrer appears to suggest that the FAM tours paid for by Visit Florida were somehow inappropriate. What would be inappropriate is to have a state tourism marketing agency that does NOT include such tours in its marketing toolbox.
Correction – an earlier version of this post identified Gray Rohrer as a reporter for the Associated Press. Rohrer reports for the Orlando Sentinel. I have corrected the post and regret the error.
July 16, 2015
by Roger Pynn
The timely reporting of events has always been at the heart of the news business, and yet more and more often I’m seeing the word “recently” – a word that was verboten in my days as a journalism student – creep into news stories. In fact, I counted three in the last week where it was clear the story had been missed … one by as much as a week.
Not so long ago I’d have written a blog post about lazy reporting, but the more you look at this the more it becomes clear it is a matter of total change of focus for newspapers. The transition to “digital first” is happening more and more every day … and resources are being deployed for an era of a different type of reporting.
Our Orlando Sentinel provided great examples this week in its Business Monday section where we were treated in print to several stories you’d already have seen if you were subscribing to their new Growth Spotter – a subscription email product focusing strictly on business stories.
You can subscribe only to the Sentinel’s Web-based product for one fee and they throw Growth Spotter and a lot of newsletters in for “free,” or if you get the good old newspaper in your driveway, you get all the digital products as part of the deal. But you really have to wonder how long the broadsheet will be around. Perhaps one day they’ll give you the paper if you subscribe to the digital product.
But not if Tampa Bay Times Chairman and CEO Paul Tash has his way. This essay published first in his paper and then shared via the related Poynter Institute website is an eloquent sermon on why media companies should do everything they can to sustain the newspaper … as an institution and as a product. Tash acknowledges exactly what I said about resource deployment.
In the end, people don’t buy newspapers – or click open their news websites – for the advertising. They are a collateral advantage of pursuing information and knowledge. People crave to know what is going on … right away, not recently.
April 7, 2015
by Dan Ward
Interesting announcement from the Orlando Sentinel today regarding its new subscriber-only digital publication for Central Florida’s business community.
GrowthSpotter (a name sure to spawn some dermatologist jokes), is being billed as a daily newsletter that can be read in 10 minutes, giving business users “an edge to help them make smart decisions.” If the trademark filing is any indication, the Sentinel may have plans to expand beyond business coverage into news regarding “social and cultural development” as well.
No word yet on pricing, but the Sentinel promises content developed by a new team of business journalists and provided to subscribers “before it’s reported somewhere else.”
That’s a worrisome phrase, suggesting that content may not be exclusive to subscribers, but merely provided to them before being published on other Sentinel platforms.
If it works, it could create a badly needed revenue boost for the Orlando Sentinel Media Group, though it remains to be seen whether the local business community will invest in the service. It also will be interesting to follow whether the focus on GrowthSpotter will have any impact on the Sentinel’s existing business coverage, which has been expanding in recent months.
At the very least, it’s a new resource for Central Florida’s PR community to follow, and could provide new opportunities for us to share information about our clients and companies with those who have an interest in Orlando’s continued growth.
February 27, 2015
by Heather Keroes
In non-news news, while perusing Facebook last night I watched a number of friends argue over a black and white … no, a white and gold … no, a black and blue issue. The Internet is debating the color of this dress. And by Internet, I mean the majority of my friends on Facebook, their friends, most blogs, Taylor Swift and actual news websites – including our local paper, the Orlando Sentinel.
I have seen the dress. I have researched the history of the dress. I have no idea why I have spent time doing any of this, but does this dedication of valuable time mean that this dress is news?
CNN Money posted a story about the debate. CNN Money. Perhaps I’m a hypocrite by writing this blog post, further feeding the frenzy. It’s hard to say what should be categorized as news these days and what truly matters. Instead of writing a worthier post about net neutrality, I’m still stuck on this dress. And now, I’m taking the time to reflect.
As a public relations professional, I have had the opportunity to work with media on a wide range of stories, from theme parks to technology. But I have always felt strongly about the value of the news I was sharing. Unfortunately, as the dress story proves, news isn’t always about sharing valuable information, but about what draws the most attention. In this case, the dress is click bait, and you can count me among the hooked.