What's your excuse for missing work this holiday season?
The Ragan offices are officially closed until January 5. Here’s why—sort of.
And what’s any video production without the outtakes.
I’m dedicating these videos to Steven Mack. He served as Ragan’s first video producer. Steve worked at Ragan in 2007. He died suddenly in April 2008. Steve helped conceive of the first Ragan holiday video and really helped the company wrap its head around the still evolving world of video production.
He was a very kind, lively, smart and unique young man. We at Ragan are better for having known him.
With disgraced Illinois governor, Rod Blagojevich, in the news it’s easy to forget the enormous embarrassment of former New York governor Eliot Spitzer.
Remember him? He frequented prostitutes and, after the news went public, swiftly resigned his post.
“The Illinois governor leaves his house in handcuffs,” Ragan’s newest editor, a one-time New Yorker, observed. “New York’s former governor wakes up in handcuffs.”
As many of you know, Spitzer is now writing a column for Slate.com. The column is about the economy and finance. Yawn. What a waste. It’s as if Henry Miller decided to write Tropic of Cancer about French cheese, not French women.
Of course, this Slate column is most likely the ex-governor’s first step in rebuilding his reputation. And last week, in response to a question about this column, Spitzer showed off his wit and levity.
At a Slate party, Financial Times writer John Gapper asked Spitzer how he was enjoying life as a columnist.
“It sucks,” he said with a grin. “I used to be governor of New York.”
Blagojevich's PR people should be thinking of "[Activity] sucks. I used to be governor of Illinois" responses right now. Of course, that "activity" will probably be prison.
“CJ Arabia, recently laid off from maniaTV, an entertainment Web site, says she’s so tired of people at parties asking about her job search in funereal tones that she has come up with a default response: ‘At least I'm not pregnant,” WSJ said.
Humor, if you can manage it, is important. So, with Ms. Arabia as inspiration, here are five categories of responses—with examples—to the question, “How’s your job search?”
Topical: “It was very promising, until Governor Blagojevich was indicted.”
2008 Presidential Election: “I have suspended my job search until we find a way to fix this financial crisis.”
Alcoholism: “It’s great—after about six cocktails.”
Derail the conversation: “I’m having a sex change operation.”
Need to fire up your staff in two minutes without writing a word? Here you go.
Thanks to Dave Glenn on Twitter for pointing it out.
UPDATE: In the comments below, a reader suggested this video is very male-centric. The reader is correct. So here's a stirring one from Elizabeth: The Golden Age, a somewhat accurate historical drama about Queen Elizabeth's middle years.
Church's communication efforts missing obvious tools
The New York Times reported yesterday that churches are ramping up their external communications this holiday season to get butts in the pews.
The Times said the Collegiate Churches of New York has the most visible campaign. Its one million dollar campaign is tapping television, print, posters, the Web and reverse graffiti, which is power washing messages onto dirty sidewalks.
While the reverse graffiti is a novel approach—and the PR pro for these churches landed New York Times coverage—the million dollar campaign lacks two Web 2.0 elements.
The Web site is clean and easy to navigate, and lets visitors sign up for e-mail updates from the churches. There is also a link to the group’s Facebook page and embedded YouTube video of its TV commercial.
So what's missing from the site? A blog from the pastors and podcast of the Sunday sermon. For the church-goers in the PR Junkie audience, imagine reading a blog about how your pastor crafts his sermons and then listen to it—again or for the first time—right there on the site. Plus, congregants could discuss theology, or even banalities, with the pastor on the blog.
Related: Take a look at this Ragan article to see how one company that publishes religious texts and holds faith-based conferences is communicating to its employees. This internal campaign has several Web 2.0 examples.
Reporter throws shoe at President Bush—lame duck quick as a cat
Where was the secret service—or better yet, White House spokesperson Dana Perino—on this one?
His governing powers all but gone, President Bush showed the world this weekend that he still has great control of his reflexes—and his sense of humor—after narrowly avoiding two shoes chucked at his head.
During a press conference in Baghdad Sunday, Bush, standing alongside Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, ducked just in a time as not one, but two size 10 shoes flew past his head. The shoes belonged to Iraqi journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi. Video shows al-Zaidi quickly swallowed by a sea of journalists in dark suits after the tosses.
While al Zaidi deserves credit for two accurate screamers, the real kudos belong to President Bush. With a sly grin—as if he were enjoying it—the president bobbed his head quickly to avoid the first shoe and then again, seconds later, repeated the exercise to escape harm from the second shoe.
Good thing Bush is quick as a cat, because it seems the secret service will take a bullet for the president, but not—strangely enough—a shoe. I wonder if Perino would've leapt in front of the shoes.
Afterwards, the president shrugged off the incident.
“It doesn’t bother me,” he said. “So what if he threw a shoe at me. All I can report is it is a size 10."
Sometimes I think I’m going to miss him come January 20. Here’s the video.
Is this viral video marketing campaign overproduced?
What do you think of this viral video marketing campaign from JCPenney that's making the Internet rounds?
On YouTube, this video has registered over 420,000 views. It was the second most viewed video on BestViral.com, a hosting site for so-called viral videos.
My 60-year-old dad, who doesn’t typically watch video online, sent me this link. He got a big kick out of it. The concept and some of the scenarios—for instance, the dinner served to the inmates—were funny. I also suspect it might have good repeat value.
However, as far as viral videos go I thought it was too long and overproduced. The low-budget quality brought to the most successful viral campaigns was missing in this one.
Want to see a quintessential viral video marketing campaign? This one comes from BlendTec, a company that makes blenders.
Here's a Ragan story that takes you inside this viral video campaign.
And here are nine "secret strategies" behind viral videos, compliments of TechCrunch blog.
Sam Zell must think Edelman is one exceptional PR agency.
After filing for bankruptcy protection Monday, Zell’s Chicago-based Tribune Company hired Edelman for public relations help, a court filing said. Meanwhile, pundits and bloggers spent Monday and Tuesday morning beating up Zell.
“Zell recently observed that no paper ever made money because of its Pulitzers,” Roger Ebert, the film critic, wrote in Tuesday’s Chicago Sun-Times. “I would add that no paper ever made money because of its putzes, which Zell has proven.”
However, the nasty headlines disappeared quickly when mid-morning Tuesday the feds arrested Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and charged him with conspiracy and soliciting bribes. The governor has denied any wrongdoing.
How’s that for PR representation? One day you’re in the headlines, the next day your governor is led out of his house in handcuffs and captures all the news coverage. The immediate image crisis for Zell is over, at least in the general public's eye.
I’m not saying Edelman had anything to do with this, but … I’m kidding, of course.
Of Blagojevich’s charges, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said they “would make Lincoln roll over in his grave.” Yes, probably, but they would also make the late journalist Hunter S. Thompson grin in his grave.
Thompson despised Richard Nixon, and this Blagojevich scandal resembles Nixon. Like the former president, Blagojevich was caught on tape. Like Nixon, the tapes revealed a politician so arrogant and brash it caught many cynics off guard.
(There are enormous differences, of course. For instance, Blagojevich is a Democrat; Nixon is a Republican. Not to mention, Blagojevich lacks Nixon’s intellect.)
Last night I leafed through some of Thompson’s essays and book chapters on Nixon and compiled five Thompson insults for the former president—insults that could be directed at the Illinois governor.
Here’s some advice: Don’t call your boss any of these slurs. At least not until you’ve had 12 or 13 drinks with a co-conspirator.
1. Bad cancer on the American political tradition;
2. Congenital thug, a fixer with the personal principles of a used-car salesman;
3. Absolutely humorless;
4. A plastic man in a plastic bag;
5. A foul caricature of himself.
Obama speechwriter gone wild—and caught on Facebook
Have you seen the embarrassing photo of Barack Obama’s 27-year-old speechwriter, Jon Favreau, and a cardboard cutout of secretary of state-designate Hillary Clinton?
It was snapped at a recent party, according to The Washington Post. The photo appeared on Facebook before Favreau, chief of speechwriters for the incoming administration, removed all photos of himself on social networks (except for one profile shot).
Favreau has reportedly apologized for the picture and the Clinton camp seems good humored about the incident.
“Senator Clinton is pleased to learn of Jon's obvious interest in the State Department, and is currently reviewing his application,” Clinton senior adviser Philippe Reines told The Post in an e-mail.
From where I sit, this picture reveals five important truths.
1. Speechwriters should remain in the shadows. Bush speechwriters Michael Gerson and Matt Scully started a downward spiral when they published memoirs and tell-alls, and hit the talk show circuit. That spiral ends here, with a picture of the incoming president’s star speechwriter fondling a cardboard cut out of Hillary Clinton.
2. No one fondles Hillary Clinton, cardboard or otherwise, and gets away with it—just wait.
3. If this picture emerged before the election, Favreau would be making sandwiches at Subway right now.
4. If you’re not careful, Facebook (or MySpace or any number of social networks) will get you in trouble—get used to it. In a flash of immaturity you pose for a suggestive picture. On Monday, your boss and everyone else are e-mailing it around the office. This will happen more frequently as we continue putting our lives on the Web.
5. You can take the speechwriter out of a 27-year-old, but you can’t take the 27-year-old out of the speechwriter.
That headline is lame. I know. One year ago—maybe—that headline was fresh, but now it’s obvious—and lame. It suggests I’m blogging about the irrelevance of blogging, which in turn shows how much I get it.
That was not my intention. Instead, I’m quoting Daily Show host Jon Stewart, the Moses for Generation Y, who suggested blogging about trivial topics is a waste of people’s time.
Why is this relevant to you? If you’re trying to pitch social media to your boss or client then consider Jon Stewart your boss. And you—I’m sorry to say—are Arianna Huffington.
In a recent interview, Stewart asked Huffington, publisher of the wildly popular Huffington Post and self-described blogging evangelist, if blogging is a waste of time. He played devil’s advocate to her enthusiastic embrace of the blogosphere.
Stewart said: “You asked me backstage, ‘When are you going to blog for me?’ And I said to you, ‘I have a television show.’ So when I have thoughts I put them on the little screen in the living room.”
You can’t fit everything you want to say into the 30 minute program, she answered. You could blog about what doesn’t make it on the show.
“But why should I give people the dreg?” He replied. “Shouldn’t I try and focus it to make it as good as I can? Because my other thoughts—there’s a reason I haven’t put them on the show.”
You don’t understand blogging, she said. It’s not about perfectionism. It’s about immediacy, intimacy and transparency.
Stewart wasn't convinced.
Does that sound anything like a conversation you’ve had with a manager or executive? (Minus the witty banter and pithy remarks.) If you want your CEO to blog, he or she can probably say, "But don't I communicate enough with my CEO letter?"
Like Huffington, you can toss out buzzwords. Or, you can offer a more concrete argument. Your CEO column, like Stewart's TV show, gives the audience scant opportunity to interact. And that’s the importance of blogging. Forget the opportunity to spew more opinions and information. It's all about the conversation that takes place, in this case, between your senior leaders and employees.
Imagine if Stewart did this with his audience. They would definitely follow him to the Promised Land.
Here’s the entire 6 minute and 45 second interview. And, by the way, The Huffington Post registers more than 100 million page views a month.
CEOs from America’s Big Three automakers botched another PR opportunity this week.
Chief executives from GM, Chrysler and Ford returned to Washington, D.C., to request bailout money. The first time they asked for federal dollars lawmakers rebuked them and wondered why these CEOs—desperate for money—each traveled in private jets.
This time, all three drove cars their companies produce to D.C.
“The prospect of the executives motoring along more than 500 miles of highway to Washington—a trip of about nine hours, not counting a possible stop in Pittsburgh for a sandwich at Primanti Brothers—introduces an element of ritualistic public relations gamesmanship,” The New York Times' John Schwartz wrote.
Rick Wagoner, CEO of General Motors, took a Chevy Malibu hybrid.
Ford’s Alan Mulally drove a Ford Escape hybrid.
Chrysler CEO Robert Nardelli also drove a hybrid, although the company did not tell The Times which model.
Of course, many people are arguing that this PR “gamesmanship” is too little, too late. The Big Three should have done this—or at least flown commercial—on their first trip to the capital.
I think they should have gone one step further.
Why not have a contest: “Win a road trip with Wagoner or Mulally or Nardelli”? They could have solicited entries and then during Thanksgiving holiday pulled the winners in a lottery style drawing broadcast across all TV networks.
The CEOs can come off as regular guys, plus it’s the ultimate test drive for the lucky few who win. Of course, the Big Three pick up the tab—and, if the carmakers get their way, the U.S. taxpayers reimburse them.
But why not go two steps further and cut the CEOs out of the deal altogether?
Fly them to D.C. on private jets. (After all, was it really that big a deal in the first place? Or did Americans need another scapegoat for their anger and frustration about the economy?)
Hold the contest and Thanksgiving drawing, and the winners get a road trip with Steve Martin. Forget those stuffy old CEOs. Then, all three winners and Martin pile into a GM, Ford and Chrysler, which they rotate in and out of periodically, and drive to D.C. And, of course, it’s all filmed.
The networks will call it GMs, Fords and Chryslers—a play off Planes, Trains and Automobiles—and regardless of what Congress does for Detroit Americans will be delighted by the mad cap hijinks of this zany road trip.
For Mumbai terror attacks, social media spreads knowledge and nonsense
One day after the tragic terrorist attacks started in Mumbai, India, media outlets were tapping social media sites for their reports.
On the Wired magazine blog, Danger Room, Noah Schachtman collected the several Twitter feeds, Flickr photo collections, blogs, Wikipedia page (“shockingly current,” he described) and Google maps all about the attacks.
“Hospital update. Shots still being fired. Also Metro cinema next door,” said a Twitter user amid the attack. “Blood needed at JJ hospital,” added another Twitter user. (These are courtesy of Schachtman’s blog.)
None of it was lost on larger media, like The New York Times, which celebrated these “citizen journalists” for helping report the news:
At the peak of the violence, more than one message per second with the word “Mumbai” in it was being posted onto Twitter, a short-message service that has evolved from an oddity to a full-fledged news platform in just two years.
Those descriptions and others on Web sites and photo-sharing sites served as a chaotic but critically important link among people across the world—whether they be Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn tracking the fate of a rabbi held hostage at the Nariman House or students in Britain with loved ones back in India or people hanging on every twist and turn in the standoff while visiting relatives for Thanksgiving dinner.
Twitter, a Web site that lets people post updates 140 characters at a time, has served news outlets and companies during crisis. The Red Cross, for instance, used Twitter when communicating about Hurricane Ike, according to a recent Ragan.com article. The article said:
A company could set up a Twitter account and a message protocol for different situations that include emergencies. If all employees “follow” this Twitter account, they will receive a text message on their devices alerting them to the emergency.
For example … [new media strategist Tracy Viselli at QuinStreet Media explained] … “if there is a building fire during the morning commute, thousands of employees could be messaged at once not to come to the office until further notice.
But before we run off high-fiving about the wonders of Twitter for crisis communications, let’s also consider the worthless, angry and insulting Twitter messages that erupted during the attacks.
In the same Twitter feed, The Times and Schachtman use to illustrate the power of Web 2.0, people are spouting anger and hate.
“If you/we want to fight with Terrorism, We need to get rid of these Muslims,” one Twitter user wrote. Added another, “dont use such kind of words, Muslim have been died. Are you BJP p***sy licker? You seem to be any political son.”
If social media is what we want, it appears we have to take the good with the hateful and angry.
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.