Here’s a topic Ragan editors kicked around recently: controversial advertising for PR purposes.
For instance, NBC, which airs the Super Bowl Sunday, deemed a 30-second PETA commercial too hot for TV. The media and Internet attention this commercial has stirred has created more public awareness for PETA than dozens of its members throwing red paint on Paris Hilton.
(PETA, by the way, stands for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.)
So what seems like advertising is actually public relations?
Here’s the ad. Maybe make sure your children—and your boss—don’t see you watching it.
Is mommy an exotic dancer? The importance of clear communications
File this under miscommunication.
On his blog, Baltimore weatherman Justin Berk posted this provocative class drawing from a child depicting her mother’s profession.
Berk also posted the mother’s letter of explanation to her daughter’s teacher.
The letter states:
I wish to clarify that I am not now, nor have I ever been, an exotic dancer. I work at Home Depot and I told my daughter how hectic it was last week before the blizzard hit. I told her we sold out every single shovel we had, and then I found one more in the back room, and that several people were fighting over who would get it. Her picture doesn't show me dancing around a pole. It's supposed to depict me selling the last snow shovel we had at Home Depot. From now on I will remember to check her homework more thoroughly before she turns it in.
Sincerely, Mrs. ...(Mother)
Just goes to show the importance of clear communication.
One reader agreed. He wrote a lengthy letter about the spot, which Wheaton published in his column, blasting Verizon and everyone else who stereotypes Italian Americans.
“My beef is … with advertisers, screenwriters, directors, corporate executives, etc, who profit from turning a wonderful culture into a sinister, almost cartoon-like caricature,” Peter Fosco said in his letter to Ad Age.
Fosco implicates actors James Gandolfini, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Steven Spielberg as stereotype profiteers.
Customer service nightmare caught on camera—and the PR reaction
Ready for this? It may soon happen to your company.
An angry Hertz rental car customer shot this two-minute video at a Hertz pavilion in the Ft. Lauderdale airport. It shows an employee of the company walk away from the counter leaving—and literally saluting—about 15 frustrated customers.
The angry customer stuck his camera in her face and demanded an explanation. She replied, “I’m off-the-clock sir.” Not good.
The video is currently on CNN’s iReport Web site. It was posted one week ago. More than 1,200 people have viewed it; 38 viewers left comments.
Most of those comments disparage Hertz and its customer service. The company’s manager of public affairs also left a comment. Read it after the video.
This is Paula Rivera, Hertz’s PR person. We appreciate the video posted online about Mr. Nemcoff’s experience at Fort Lauderdale Airport. It’s always helpful to get feedback on one’s experience with Hertz. While there are numerous explanations surrounding Mr. Nemcoff’s time with Hertz, none negate the overall experience and wait time he and the other customers had with us.
Hertz is in the process of reengineering its operations and one area we are intensely focused on is the customer experience and alleviating the time one spends in line while renting a car and we certainly will take this video and Mr. Nemcoff’s experience into consideration as we move forward.
Hertz offers a variety of ways to help get customers to their cars quickly—online checking and Hertz #1 Club Gold service, for example—both of which help expedite the rental process or, as in the case of Gold, bypass lines all together. Feedback is extremely valuable to Hertz and we encourage all customers to take our customer survey so that we can get real time feedback and correct any issues as they arise.
Would you rep Blagojevich? What about a suspected murder?
In the ongoing battle over who—in the public’s mind—is more audacious, PR pros or attorneys, public relations scored a victory.
Over the weekend, disgraced Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich lost one of his three attorneys, but picked up representation by PR firm, The Publicity Agency. The Publicity Agency also reps Drew Peterson. In case you forgot, he’s the ex-police sergeant suspected in both the murder of his second wife and disappearance of his third, much younger wife.
Late last week, the governor launched a media blitz to defend himself. He did a round of radio interviews Friday. On Monday, he is scheduled to appear on national TV shows like Good Morning America and The View—instead of attending his own impeachment.
Blagojevich's attorney, Ed Genson, reportedly quit the case because of this media blitz.
According to its Web site, The Publicity Agency is the only PR firm created and staffed by former journalists.
The agency isn’t shying from attention over its high-profile clients. The firm’s Twitter feed, launched a few weeks ago, touts itself as the place for news updates on Blago and Peterson.
I know everyone is innocent until proven guilty, but would you rep a disgraced politician, or worse, a potential murder?
A reader sent this one in. File it under bad media relations.
After the Unemployment Security Office in Seattle stonewalled a TV news station, a reporter dropped in to the agency with a camera and tried to speak with a spokesperson. The spokesperson, well, he provided a quick lesson on how not to handle the media.
Click the image below to go to the station’s Web site and see the 2:48 video. (For some reason KING-TV doesn’t provide embed codes for its Web videos.)
At the very moment President Obama began his inaugural speech announcing a new era of American responsibility, a new era of online communication began at the White House. The official White House blog went live at 12 p.m. EST.
“One of the first changes is the White House’s new Web site, which will serve as a place for the President and his administration to connect with the rest of the nation and the world,” writes Macon Phillips, the White House’s director of new media and one of the blog’s contributors.
The first post, authored by Phillips, outlines the blog’s top three priorities: communication, transparency, and participation.
“Citizen participation will be a priority for the administration, and the Internet will play an important role in that,” Phillips writes.
One problem: the blog doesn’t allow comments—although there is a very Web 1.0 feedback form— which raises the question: Is it truly a blog?
Because while it’s called a blog and looks like a blog and reads like a blog, it’s really just one-way communication—a jauntily written online-only press release—as long as readers aren’t allowed to easily interact.
The appearance was canceled Sunday at the request of the U.S. Airline Pilots Association. The official reason is something about an “ongoing investigation.” The Today show said Capt. Sullenberg would appear on the show in a couple days. Then again, these plane crash investigations take a while—much longer than the glare of the media spotlight.
And now this from the Associated Press: “The crew of the US Airways plane that landed in New York's Hudson River is asking the media to back off.” Turns out they want their privacy.
The flight crew, and U.S. Airways, might be missing a rare public relationships opportunity, but maybe—unlike many Americans—they don’t want a shot at a reality TV show.
Two companies—Tchibo, a coffee maker, and Esso, a gas company—ran a joint ad campaign in Germany with the slogan: “Jedem den Seinen.”
Translation: “To each his own,” a term coined by Roman statesman and philosopher Cato, according to Spiegel Online.
However, a nearly identical phrase, “Jedem Das Seine,” appeared at the entrance to the Nazi concentration camp Buchenwald. The Nazis meant it to read, “To each what he deserves,” Spiegel said.
Again, this ad campaign ran in Germany. The slogan appeared on signs advertising Tchibo coffee at Esso gas stations. Last week, the signs were removed.
Reuters reported that Salomon Korn, the vice president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper that the campaign reflected either “unsurpassed tastelessness” or “total historical ignorance.”
Both Tchibo and Esso said they failed to make the connection before the ad ran. Tchibo apologized; Esso blamed their ad firm.
You could chalk this up to an unfortunate—not careless—goof if this recent incident weren’t the fifth time a company has made the mistake of using the slogan, “To each his own,” in Germany.
• In 1998, the American Jewish Committee slammed Nokia for advertizing with the phrase; Nokia quickly switched the slogan with Shakespeare’s “As You Like it”;
• That same year, German food retailer Rewe released a brochure that read “Barbecuing: To Each His Own.” Rewe apologized;
• In 1999, Burger King advertised with “To each his own” in the German city of Erfurt until people protested;
• In 2001, Munich-based Merkur-Bank used the term in an ad campaign for bank accounts.
Learning from other companies' mistakes is so overrated.
There is a metaphor in all of this, since this miraculous and sudden event overshadowed President Bush’s farewell remarks to the nation. Of course, the bent of that metaphor depends on who you voted for in the past eight years.
But how was the public relations reaction from U.S. Airways CEO Doug Parker after he learned that his company’s flight crew helped divert the worst disaster possible?
“Never once did he express any relief that all the passengers lived through the ordeal. That should have been his very first order of business,” Frohlichstein wrote. “Instead, it appears as if his PR people simply followed guidelines to the letter, not adapting to the situation.”
Here is video of Parker’s statement to the press. Too wooden? You be the judge.
After markets closed Wednesday, Apple released a statement indicating its CEO, Jobs, will relinquish his top post due to health concerns—and so he can stop distracting his employees.
"In order to take myself out of the limelight and focus on my health, and to allow everyone at Apple to focus on delivering extraordinary products, I have decided to take a medical leave of absence until the end of June," he wrote to employees.
The company’s stock price plunged Wednesday in after-hours trading.
This comes just one week after he issued a statement insisting he was a little under the weather due to a “hormone imbalance,” but otherwise just fine.
But is his health—the health of the man who invented the iMac, iPod and iPhone—a public matter?
Here’s a little background.
In 2004, doctors treated Jobs for a less lethal form of pancreatic cancer. Although even after treatment of this form of cancer, patients live an average of five years, according to a feature story in the October issue of Esquire magazine.
That story, which is about Jobs, talked of his recent, and notable, weight loss—weight loss that sparked rumor about his ill health back in June.
So who thinks Jobs health is everyone’s business? Lots of people, particularly Apple shareholders. They’re not heartless; it’s just that his health affects Apple’s stock price.
“There is a big Jobs premium in the stock price,” John A. Byrne, editor-in-chief of BusinessWeek.com, wrote on Twitter on Jan. 5. “At least 25% or more. His health is news.”
Problem is Jobs, and his PR machine, think his health should be kept private. To meet this goal, they have been—to put it kindly—less than straight-forward. For example, back in June, Apple’s PR pros blamed their boss’s notable weight loss on a “common bug,” The New York Times said.
That claim was false, according to Times reporter Joe Nocera. “By claiming Mr. Jobs had a bug, Apple wasn’t just going dark on its shareholders,” he said. “It was deceiving them.”
And now this: news that Jobs will take a medical leave of absence one week after he said he was basically OK and stressed to anyone who cared to listen, “I’ve said more than I wanted to say, and all that I am going to say, about this.”
Apple shareholders deserve to know more—and Jobs should let his PR people tell them.
Unfortunately, speechwriter Ian Griffin, who I also contacted for the piece, e-mailed me his advice on farewell addresses after my deadline. It’s a good tip, and I want to share it—deadline or not. Here it is.
“Farewell speeches need to be handled with care and a relentless focus on the needs and interests of the audience. Audience members are already looking to the future and the next office holder –the speaker is looking to the past. The presenter should avoid investing too much emotional baggage in content that will sound self-serving or even maudlin. Review the past; share stories which include and acknowledge others; conclude with a nod to the future and then sit down.”
This list, which is constantly in flux, was captured Monday around 2 p.m. Central Standard Time.
Grades are based on a Twitter user’s number of followers, the power of this network of followers, pace of Twitter updates, completeness of his or her profile, and “a few other” factors, according to the grader.
To learn your grade, visit Twitter Grader and drop your Twitter ID into the search box. My grade is hovering around 43,000—out of 952,508.
• Insisted bloggers aren’t credible news sources;
• Implied mainstream reporters are lazy*;
• Questioned why McCain staffers sent her back for more interviews with Couric after bombing the first one;
• Suggested CBS misrepresented her in those interviews;
• Responded, after watching a clip of Tina Fey impersonating her on Saturday Night Live, “The grizzly rises up in me hearing things like that”;
• Said people would have “loved” her if she were Barack Obama’s vice presidential candidate.
And then she set her sights on Katie Couric.
Remember Palin’s answer to Couric’s interview question about which newspapers and magazines she reads? The governor said, “I’ve read most of them, again, with an appreciation for the press, for the media.”
Couric pressed, “Specifically, which ones …”
“Um, all of them,” Palin said. “Any of them that have been in front of me over all these years. I have a vast variety of sources where we get our news too. Alaska isn’t a foreign country where it’s kind of suggested it seems like, wow, how could you keep in touch with the rest of Washington, D.C., maybe thinking and doing? Believe me, Alaska is a microcosm of America.”
Palin told Ziegler why she didn’t answer that question—and she channeled a high school drama queen to do it.
“Because Katie you’re not the center of everyone’s universe,” Palin said.
She continued, “Of course, I read newspapers. I read publications. I spend a lot of time, of course, reading our local papers, the highly-circulated publications here in Alaska because that’s my job is to know the business of Alaska and our communities but also USA Today, yes, and New York Times.”
Here’s the whole thing.
*I originally wrote, Sarah Palin "called mainstream reporters lazy." Upon further review, that statement is misleading. "Implied" they are lazy is more accurate. Thanks Paula Cassin for bringing this to my attention.
What skills will the PR pro of the future possess?
Have you seen this video yet? In it, top brass from big PR firms weigh in on the industry’s future and what skills the PR pro of the future will possess.
Ogilvy PR Worldwide produced the video for PR Week. Thanks to Shel Holtz for pointing it out.
Ignore the meaningless jargon—like “think outside the box”—and forget the advice from Mark Penn, who showed through the Clinton campaign that he has no idea about the future of PR. Pay close attention to Harold Burson, the video’s highlight, who talks about the importance of good writing.
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.