Sarah Palin: Fabulous comedian or walking PR gaffe?
Have you seen this video yet?
As part of Thanksgiving traditional, Sarah Palin pardons a turkey thus sparing him from the dinner table. Shortly after this year's pardon, which took place last week, she gave a TV interview and in the immediate background a man is killing turkeys.
Saturday Night Live wishes it was this funny.
Most likely, this morbidly comic scene was an oversight—a PR gaffe. But what if it wasn't? What if Palin is orchestrating one enormous prank on the world?
Imagine it. Americans love hidden camera shows where someone is made the fool, for example, Candid Camera, My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancé, MTV’s Punk’d (where victims were "punk'd), and so on.
Well, the turkey incident, press interviews, wink to the camera, and six figure clothing bill weren't oversights. Instead, Palin is punking the world.
If you want to learn what an Alaskan communicator thinks of this media attention, read this blog from a MyRagan member and proud Alaska resident.
Say what you will about his presidency, but Bill Clinton is like the bad boyfriend Hillary Rodham can’t shake. First, he cheats on her. Then he helps derail her presidential bid. And now, in a final bitter twist of fate, President Clinton seems to be holding up her appointment to the White House.
“Mrs. Clinton is on a short list of names for secretary of state,” The Wall Street Journal reported this week. “The goal [of talks between Obama and Clinton aides] is to try to overcome concerns that the former president's global business and philanthropic activities could appear to pose conflicts of interest between the Obama administration's foreign policy and the private financial interests of the family of the country's top diplomat.”
What if this was your spouse? In addition to past indiscretions, your current or future employer had to first take a hard look at your husband (or wife’s) business deals, friendships and friendships—if you know what I mean—before promoting you or giving you a job.
If it was me, I would hope that person sure loved me—certainly remained faithful—knew when to bite her tongue about my future employer—particularly in public—and cooled it on the half-million speaking gigs to wealthy Middle Eastern oilmen (for at least a month).
Mix an attorney and a pundit and what do you get? A PR pro, apparently
Would you hire the strong-jawed former MSNBC anchor Dan Abrams as your PR pro?
He sure hopes someone will—Abrams has joined the public relations industry. Consider him your colleague.
On Wednesday, media reports said Abrams, former TV anchor and MSNBC general manager, has started a media strategy firm called Abrams Research. Here’s the pitch: your company needs advice, who better to give it than Abrams and a team of journalists?
(Some of those are working, not former, journalists, which raises an ethical flag, but hey, who cares about ethics these days—especially those from the cable TV ranks?)
Abrams Research retains a deep bench of heavy hitters in the media industry, including Former NBC Universal Chairman Bob Wright, Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly, HBO's Bryant Gumbel, Former American Media Editorial Director Bonnie Fuller (ahem, the mind behind gossip rag US Weekly’s resurgence), and more.
Abrams stood out slightly among the pack of cable pundits, because he had a sense of humor. His ongoing segment called Beat the Press recalled Jon Stewart’s Daily Show. In that segment, Abrams highlighted some of the more ridiculous media moments.
For instance, in this 1 minute 50 second clip Abrams takes on The View, Miley Cyrus (and her PR team), and The New York Times. He even drops a suggestive remark about CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
But will his jaw line and sense of humor help him in the corporate communications world? He brings a unique skill set to the table: attorney, TV reporter, anchor, pundit, general manager. But will those skills translate?
I suspect he’ll find the communications landscape harder than it appears.
Would Abraham Lincoln ever pass Obama's vetting process?
Do you think president elect Obama would invite Abraham Lincoln, perhaps America’s greatest leader, to join his administration?
Despite Obama’s enthusiastic embrace of Lincoln, it is unlikely Honest Abe would pass muster given the 63-question application all potential Obama hires must complete. His answers to many of those questions may finger him as a modern day PR time bomb.
If the incoming administration even considered Lincoln for a high profile job, pundits and 24-hour news networks would howl in protest. They’d label him a homosexual, who pals around with drunkards and lunatics—and that’s just the half of it.
“Who vetted this guy?” They would scream.
But don’t take my word for it—take President Lincoln’s. Here are seven items from the Obama application, and how Lincoln might be forced to answer them.
#10: Please list and, if readily available, provide a copy of each book, article, column or publication … you have authored, individually or with others. …
Phew. That’s a tall order, let’s see … I once wrote a series of anonymous editorials for the Sangamon Journal mocking the Illinois state auditor, which ultimately resulted in his challenging me to a duel. (We never did.)
I also wrote a number of satirical and bawdy pieces for that newspaper under the pseudonym, Johnny Blubberhead.
When I was a congressman from Illinois, I gave a blistering speech against the Mexican-American war where I referred to US soldiers as the “strong band of murderers and demons from hell …” That helped sink my early political ambitions.
Oh yes, one other thing, when I was 20 I wrote a poem about a boy marrying boy.
#14: If you keep or have ever kept a diary that contains anything that could … be a possible source of embarrassment to you, your family, or the President-Elect if it were made public, please describe.
I never kept a diary. However, a man recently claimed he found my dear friend, and one-time business partner, Joshua Speed’s diary.
That man, Larry Kramer, an outspoken gay-activist, says the diary is hidden away in Davenport, Iowa. No one has proved the diary’s existence, but Mr. Kramer claims it includes scandalous descriptions of a sexual affair between Mr. Speed and myself.
You should probably know about that.
#17: Have you or your spouse at any time belonged to any membership organizations … that … denied or restricted membership or affiliation based on race …?
#57: If applicable, please list the names … of cohabitants within the last ten years. A cohabitant is a person with whom you share bonds of affection, obligation, or other commitment, as opposed to a person with whom you live for reasons of convenience (roommate).
You know my friend Mr. Speed? Well, he and I shared a bed for four years. Later, I also shared a bed with my bodyguard, Captain David Dickerson. Rest assured I only invited him in my bed when my wife was away.
#61: Have you had any association with any person … that could be used—even unfairly—to impugn or attack your character and qualifications for government service.
I would consider it unfair, but you should probably know I hold Gen. Ulysses S. Grant in great regard. Of course, Gen. Grant is a known binge drinker and alcoholic. He lost his first military job after turning up drunk to a formal function.
Some people claim my wife is crazy—our son Robert among them. He had her involuntarily committed to an insane asylum in 1875. Despite our disagreements, I found her lively and smart—a born socialite.
Please keep in mind words I once said, and remain committed to:
If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business. I do the very best I know how—the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what's said against me won't amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference.
(By the way, Wednesday, Nov. 19, is the 145th anniversary of President Lincoln's Gettysburg address—certainly among the best speeches ever delivered.)
A 50-second online ad for pain reliever Motrin, which targeted moms with sore backs, blew up in the company’s face this week.
The ad seems to imply babies are an annoyance and that mothers are crazy—at least that’s what I learned from reading Twitter. After seeing the ad on the Motrin Web site, offended moms voiced their anger on Twitter and that was the gist, well, that and lots of moms have apparently sworn off Motrin.
Take this fuming Twitter message, which made it into an Associated Press story about the incident: “I can't even count the ways I am offended right now. Taken aback! This is a serious screw up for such a major company.” (Read all the comments.)
Here's the ad:
Here’s how it happened. The video was posted to Motrin’s Web site Saturday. By Sunday, so many people had chattered about it on Twitter—and then watched it—that the Motrin Web site crashed Sunday night.
On Monday, the drug’s maker, McNeil Consumer Healthcare, issued an apology. Kathy Widmer, McNeil’s VP of marketing, issued a statement that said:
We certainly did not mean to offend moms through our advertising. Instead, we had intended to demonstrate genuine sympathy and appreciation for all that parents do for their babies. We believe deeply that moms know best and we sincerely apologize for disappointing you. Please know that we take your feedback seriously and will take swift action with regard to this ad. We are in process of removing it from our website. It will take longer, unfortunately, for it to be removed from magazine print as it is currently on newstands and in distribution.
Days later Twitter is still burning with comments, although on Tuesday they were mostly about the power of social media and people asking, “What’s the big deal, anyway?” Meanwhile, The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune and Forbes have run pieces on the incident.
Of course, this might be a good thing for Motrin—getting the word out there. No press is bad press, right? The again, take this message from a Twitter user: “had no idea what the heck ‘Motrin’ was until today, now, thanks to the collective, I know enough to avoid them.”
A public relations goof spanked the city of Chicago when it—ready for this—considered spending $50 million on outside contracts with public relations firms despite potentially devastating revenue shortfalls.
Last month, the city inked deals with three communication firms at $5 million a pop, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. That’s on top of at least one public information officer in each city department, plus the mayor’s press office with its 15 staffers and $1.2 million annual budget.
Mayor Richard Daley also keeps a personal PR pro that he pays from his campaign fund.
Meanwhile, the city is reducing services, hiking fees and laying off 929 city workers due to the revenue shortfall hurting almost every American city.
Turns out the city’s permanent staff of PR pros and three outside firms weren’t enough, though. The Sun-Times also reported that city officials considered signing $5 million deals with seven other communication companies. An aldermanic outcry prompted city officials to shelf those deals.
The city’s official press secretary, Jacquelyn Heard, told Chicago media that payment to outside public relations firms would be suspended “indefinitely.”
"When we're having the kinds of budget issues we are, it seemed like absolutely the right thing to do," Heard told local media. She added:
When you're trying to alert millions of people to hundreds of city programs, it's understandable that you need to go beyond the current level of staffing. But many of the other programs dialed back were also helpful and this is no different. You have to live within your means. Sometimes you have to make tough choices.
In my weekly Blog Dogger column today, I mentioned a Chicago Sun-Times story about Stas Gunkel, a 7-year-old blogger in Chicago, who types, proofs and posts his own blog entries.
The NBC-affiliate in Chicago also did a piece on him—and it's embarrassing. The kid is cute and brilliant; his parents are obviously proud. But the report itself is one degree shy of The Onion. In fact, it lays the groundwork for a sequel to one of the greatest movies ever.
Take a look at this 1 minute 38 second video.
My three favorite parts of this video:
1. "Blogger's mom" appears in the title card for little Stas's mom. What a dubious title.
2. When Stas explains his political leanings, I can imagine—in my wildest fantasies—people huddled around a TV nodding seriously and vigorously that "this kid gets it" or thinking "huh, I never thought of that."
3. When the reporter says, This 7-year-old "who helped others form their political opinions online." Really? Little Stas has influence online. Can you cite your source on that one?
Anyone ever seen Being There starring Peter Sellers? It was among the last films he made before he died. It's a terrific movie and if there was ever cause for a sequel, Stas is it.
In Being There, Seller plays a rich man's gardener named Chance (Chance the gardener) who hasn't left the house in years. Everything he knows about life comes from gardening and TV. When the old man dies, he's left to wander the streets but is quickly picked up and taken into the care, and trust of, Washington D.C. elite, including the president, who considers him a modern philosopher.
Will Obama follow this same path. Will Stas Gunkel the seven-year-old blogger become the nation's next great philosopher?
Someone keeps stealing the newspaper off my front step—and I’m blaming Obama.
On Monday’s Ragan.com, regular contributor Eddie Torr (pseudonym for a corporate editor) wrote a column about the surge in newspaper sales after Obama’s election and the reaction at his office.
“By 9 a.m. the morning after our national presidential election, e-mails were circulating at work to remind staff that the daily newspapers were bought, paid for and the property of certain individuals and departments. Hands off!” Eddie Wrote.
Maybe I should write a variation of that e-mail and post it on my door at home.
So does Obama’s popularity and promise of change mean a return to print readership in America? Maybe inside corporations (as Torr suggested), but not among the general population. In fact, it seems an Obama administration may bury print newspapers.
The same day Torr’s article ran on Ragan.com, The Washington Post published a story about the Obama administration’s plans for reaching around the media to communicate with citizens.
“Obama aides and allies are preparing a major expansion of the White House communications operation, enabling them to reach out directly to the supporters they have collected over 21 months without having to go through the mainstream media,” The Post reported.
And social media, not mainstream media, is the centerpiece of this plan, explained The Post.
As part of the presidential transition, Obama officials are looking to add a significant “new media” component to the White House communications operation. The campaign employed 95 people in its Internet operation, building a user-friendly Web site that served as a platform for grass-roots activities and distributed statements, policy positions and footage of Obama events. The White House Web operation will follow a similar but probably more ambitious path, transition officials said.
Kennedy invigorated and solidified TV as a medium; Obama will do the same for Web 2.0. If you haven’t already, check out his transition Web site, Change.gov. Among the many features is a blog, constantly updated newsroom, information on the growing list of appointees and, perhaps most importantly, an online suggestion box.
“Share your story and your ideas, and be part of bringing positive lasting change to this country,” says a description below the “It’s Your America: Share Your Ideas” link on the site.
If the president-elect has wholesale adopted social media isn’t it time corporations do the same? And as for newspapers, well, their short-lived popularity November 5 shows that they truly have—for better or worse—become relics of the 21st century. Pretty soon The Home Shopping Network will sell today’s print newspaper between the Model T Ford commemorative coins and the Elvis Presley plate set.
At least my newspaper will be there in the morning.
My dad, a staunch conservative and McCain man, left me a shocking voicemail Wednesday morning—it celebrated Barack Obama. He said in part:
I am pleased [with the results]. I hope that your generation is excited about this; it looks like you are. And I think that this is a real good thing for the country to get some ownership of it, by supporting a candidate who is going to come forward with some changes that you want. I think it’s good; I think it’s time us old farts step aside and let this new generation show us how things should be done.
I’m still in disbelief.
His message got me thinking. If my old man can feel this positive toward Obama then what about the conservative TV pundits he watches every night. The men who make a living trashing Democrats and extolling Republican virtues (at least on air).
Are they smitten—or at least open-minded—by an Obama administration? Let’s take a quick look.
Fox News’s Sean Hannity said Nov. 5 that although he still frets about Obama’s decades-long association with radicals, he wishes the president well.
“I want him to succeed," he said. "There’s too much at stake here,” Hannity later added, “I think this is great for the country [to have an African-American president].”
Hannity’s remarks contrast sharply with those of Rush Limbaugh, who said of Obama supporters: “There was no substance to the people electing him.” That remark only scratches the surface of Limbaugh’s venom. Take a look at this comment from his radio broadcast after the election.
I've got a picture of these hordes outside the White House carrying a Soviet flag. There's a picture of the Soviet flag, and I was hoping, I was hoping these hordes would storm the White House grounds. I know it's not possible with all the security they got there, but I was hoping these Obama hordes would somehow storm the White House fence. That would have been so cool.
And then this one, which closed his broadcast.
And furthermore, ladies and gentlemen, as I was saying, I hope you people in Ohio lose your coal industry; and I hope all your Joe the Plumbers are unemployed in six months! There.
Good to know Limbaugh would rather see the country fail than Obama succeed.
Bill O’Reilly congratulated Obama on his win and promised his show, The O’Reilly Factor, will ramp up its watchdog role. “Our oversight will be intense,” he said.
Is this the oversight he’s talking about?
I’d bet the farm that the pundits who strongly supported Bush and demonized his dissenters—Hannity, Limbaugh, O’Reilly—will soon become the “watchdogs,” as O’Reilly suggested. The liberal pundits so proud of their unwavering criticism of President Bush and Fox News—namely Keith Olbermann—will become the presidential lap dogs.
It must happen. Otherwise, cable news would actually become an intelligent and civilized dialogue—that’s a change I can’t believe.
Update: Seems The New York Times cherry picked another story from Ragan. On Sunday, The Times ran a story about the way political rivals ease off each other after an election. Much like this PR Junkie post, it emphasized the sudden shift in tone from conservative pundits.
"But given the intensity of some of the charges that have been made in the past few months, and the historic nature of Mr. Obama’s election, the exercise this year has been particularly whiplash-inducing, with its extreme before-and-after contrasts," The Times reported.
Either this topic is part of the Zeitgeist, or The Times peruses PR Junkie for material. You decide.
What was your favorite line from the speeches Tuesday night?
Update added below
After I turned in my story about Obama and McCain’s speeches on election night, I received an e-mail from Al Gore’s former speechwriter Bob Lehrman. It said:
One thing I wanted to mention. When [Obama] uttered that line about how we’re encouraged to ‘put our hands on the arc of history and bend it once more towards the hope of a better day.’ I was thrilled that a President would want language that precise, poetic and full of nuance—not just history but the ‘arc’ of it, not just bend but ‘bend it once more,’ not just ‘a better day’ but the ‘hope’ of a better day. Amazing.
I couldn’t agree more, although I also couldn’t capture it quite the way Lehrman does. As a writer, it was my favorite line from Obama’s speech. Here’s the full text of that portion:
It's the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.
One thing I’d add to Lehrman’s observation is Obama’s use of ambiguity—“all those who have been told for so long to be cynical.” He made sure anyone can fit themselves into that category.
From McCain’s speech I had two favorite lines: “Today, I was a candidate for the highest office in the country I love so much. And tonight, I remain her servant.” And, “I wish Godspeed to the man who was my former opponent and will be my president.”
I’m not sure John McCain’s oration has ever given me chills, but those lines did last night. All in all a great night for speechwriting.
Update: Ragan's roving video producer Justin Allen put this 1 minute 33 second video together of the Obama rally in Grant Park. Good stuff.
In 1974, Studs Terkel published the definitive collection of employee profiles, Working. In a perfect world there would be no war and the profiles in your employee publication would read like chapters in this book. For Working, which was first a series of radio segments, Terkel dedicated years to interviewing scores of everyday people about their jobs.
If you haven’t, please read it; and if you have, please revisit it. Consider it a career investment.
Terkel gave a voice to the voiceless, which is in many ways the job of the employee communicator. You writes stories about the people working at your organization—and who else will tell those stories? It's an more important job.
As you know, Terkel died last Friday. His death, though not unexpected, is a blow. Like the passing of Hunter S. Thompson and George Carlin, it’s another brave voice gone silent at a time when we desperately need brave voices to challenge the status quo and help us—and our leaders—navigate these tough times.
There aren’t enough “raconteurs”—as many an obit described him—left in the world.
To read better remembrances of Terkel from Chicago writers who not only knew him much better than me, but in fact knew Studs, head over to my former Ragan colleague David Murray’s blog Writing Boots. And take a few minutes to check out the blog of Andrew Patner, my former employer, who worked with Terkel at WFMT radio in Chicago.
If you want to hear Terkel at work, listen to this short NPR piece featuring old tapes from the Working interviews. And, below, is a wonderful 45-second video of Terkel describing the beauty of an afternoon baseball game for a Ken Burns documentary.
Tell us how you manage unrealistic expectations, meet reporter needs, churn out news when there is none, deal with a client you can't stand, and what you say to people that slam PR. Or anything else that's on your mind.