Add Yahoo chief Carol Bartz to the list of CEOs who blog well.
On Thursday, Bartz wrote a post for the Yahoo blog, Yodel Anecdotal, nearly two months after ascending to the company’s top spot.
“People here have impressed the hell out of me,” Bartz blogged. “They’re smart, dedicated, passionate, driven, and really nice. There’s so much great energy and frankly lots of optimism. But there’s also plenty that has bogged this company down. For starters, you’d be amazed at how complicated some things are here.”
She writes in a conversational tone—and even swears a couple times—while appealing to both employees and customers in the blog. By early afternoon Thursday, the post had attracted only nine comments. That number will almost assuredly grow.
One section of this post did leave me scratching my head. After mentioning how complicated “some things are” at Yahoo, she writes:
So today I’m rolling out a new management structure that I believe will make Yahoo! a lot faster on its feet. For us working at Yahoo!, it means everything gets simpler. We’ll be able to make speedier decisions, the notorious silos are gone, and we have a renewed focus on the customer. For you using Yahoo! every day, it will better enable us to deliver products that make you say, “Wow.”
These snivelling brats will soon work with you, good luck
This kid will work with one of you some day. You are in our thoughts.
The kid, a college student, was recently caught on camera screaming police brutality. (And, of course, a Facebook group has sprung up to support him.)
What really happened? The kid repeatedly tried to run onto stage during an Ann Coulter lecture. Cops tried to arrest him and when he resisted they applied force.
Ewing Police arrest student at Ann Coulter lecture
Hamilton Nolan, a blogger at Gawker, wrote a post about this incident and hit all the right notes. Here’s a highlight, though I urge you to read the entire post. (Beware of the author’s strong language.)
This bull**** … forces us to say: kids, shut the f*** up about police brutality. Have you ever read, in the course of your Marxist theory class, a classic little story by the name of The Boy Who Cried Wolf? You are the boy crying, and the Wolf is “police brutality.” …
I am unreasonably prejudiced against cops myself. But you all make me struggle—struggle!—not to become a temporary Republican, urging the cops to throw in a few nightstick pokes just so that they have something to justify the bull**** that you and your protesting friends will put them through. If you do something illegal you will be arrested, which—even here in America—involves being touched by police. Deal with it …
Gandhi says shut the f*** up and take it like a man! … You people are making it hard even for us, Northeastern socialist nihilists, to support you, so just shut up and never say "police brutality" again unless you check with an adult first. …
These snivelling brats that Nolan descibes are entering the workforce. And guess what? Today they are screaming—and recording—police brutality; tomorrow they are crying—and recording—workplace harassment.
Sheriff Lott, the over zealous lawman in South Carolina, who threatened to arrest Michael Phelps for smoking pot, recently gave a speech to his local Rotary Club about the Phelps incident.
I'm not sure this guy isn't smoking something. The speech is funny, until he gets serious—or tries to get serious—to deliver a message about the dangers of drug use while wearing a ridiculous curly-blond wig. Then, because he ignores this weird contradiction, the speech gets extra funny.
Here it is, compliments of South Carolina newspaper The State (via Gawker).
Pundits (even the GOP kind) hammer Bobby Jindal's speech
President Obama delivered an unofficial State of the Union address Tuesday night, and so far it's received fanfare. On Ragan.com, Ian Griffin, a speechwriter in Silicon Valley, called it a “fine, workmanlike” speech.
And then there was the Republican response by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a celebrated politician eyeing the national stage. Gov. Jindal blamed government for the nation’s current woes, and insisted government is not the answer to our problems.
David Brooks, a conservative-leaning columnist, told PBS’s Jim Lehrer that Jindal’s speech went “not so well.” Brooks also said this:
You know, I think Bobby Jindal is a very promising politician, and I opposed the stimulus package … but to come up at this moment in history with a stale, “government is the problem...we can’t trust the government” ... it’s just a disaster for the Republican Party. The country is in a panic now. They may not like the way the Congress passed the stimulus bill. The idea that government is going to have no role in this ... in a moment where only the Federal government is big enough to do stuff ... to just ignore all that and say government’s the problem ... corruption, earmarks, wasteful spending—it's just a form of nihilism.
Nihilism—in other words, anarchy.
Those delightful scamps at the blog Gawker had a different take on Jindal. “Bobby Jindal’s rebuttal to the president’s Congressional address tonight sounded creepily like a monologue from Kenneth the Page, 30 Rock’s bewildered hillbilly,” Ryan Tate wrote for Gawker.
Was it really as bad as Brooks and Gawker insist? Or does this have the taint of liberal media bias?
What do you think about this bank’s reaction to bad PR?
Northern Trust, a Chicago-based bank, is on the hot seat this week.
The bank sponsored a lavish, four-day event in Los Angeles. It flew numerous people to California, booked them in a fancy hotel, paid for several parties, including a private concert with the band Chicago and singer Cheryl Crow, and handed out party gifts with Tiffany jewelry.
The event was part of the Northern Trust Open golf tournament.
Northern Trust accepted $1.5 billion in federal funds—and recently laid off 450 employees, or four percent of its workforce.
The national press, Congress and various members of the public are going bat s*** crazy over Northern Trust. House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank wants Northern Trust to reimburse the government. Gossip Web site TMZ, known for its intense coverage of Britney Spears’ meltdowns, broke this story.
By late Tuesday, the bank responded with a written statement to media outlets. Here is the statement, which a CBS-owned radio station in Los Angeles posted to its Web site.
Here are a few points for the consideration of CBS news. My hope is that the journalistic standards of TMZ are different than that of CBS.
* Why do this: The Northern Trust Open is an integral part of Northern Trust's global marketing activities, focusing on retaining and growing business with existing clients, and attracting new clients.
* Consider chronology. This is the second year Northern Trust is sponsoring the Open as part of a five-year contract. The contract was signed in the fall of 2007 - a year before the US government's Capital Purchase Program existed.
As a healthy bank, Northern Trust participated in the U.S. Treasury's Capital Purchase Program, issuing approximately $1.6 billion of preferred stock and warrants in November, 2008. Northern Trust did not seek the government's investment, but agreed to the government's goal of gaining the participation of all major banks in the United States.
* Where the CPP funds go:
Northern Trust is using CPP funds to support the strong capital levels that our personal and institutional clients expect, including non-profit foundations, college and university endowments, and retirement plans for corporations, unions, and local, state and national governmental agencies.
The CPP capital is also supporting high quality loan growth, benefiting clients and institutions. As of December 31, 2008, our loans and leases totaled $30.8 billion, a 21% increase from 12/31/07 and a 3% increase from 9/30/08.
CPP funds are not allocated to operating expenses, including marketing, advertising, corporate sponsorship or charitable activities. These are funded through our normal cash flow. Last year, Northern Trust earned operating net income of $641 million.
* Is "bailout" the right word for CPP funds?
Unlike common shareholders, U.S. taxpayers are contractually assured a return on their investment. Currently, Northern Trust pays the government $78.8 million on an annual basis as a return on taxpayers' investment - $19.7 million per quarter.
* NT Open background:
Over its 83-year history, the Northern Trust Open has created enormous benefits for the Los Angeles community.
Over the two years, we will have raised $3 million dollars for the Los Angles Junior Chamber of Commerce Charity Foundation and the many non-profit organizations it supports. Over its entire history, this tournament has raised more than $50 million for the community.
In addition to raising millions for charity, this year, as you may know, Northern Trust created the first-ever exemption for minority golfers at the professional level. The honor is named for Charlie Sifford, the African-American athlete who broke the color barrier in professional golf.
* Is Northern Trust really healthy? Aren't all banks in bad shape?
I'd suggest a review of the following story in the current issue of Barron's:
Blame HR? Microsoft overpaid severances and wanted the money back
Imagine writing this letter—you’d probably be grumbling about that inept human resources department.
Among the 1,400 employees that Microsoft laid off last month, some of them received too much in severance pay, blog TechCrunch reported. Microsoft wanted that money back, so it sent a letter to these employees. Here's the opening paragraph, accompanied by a typical employee's reaction.
Dear [unlucky S.O.B.],
"This letter is to inform you that …
You’re giving me my job back—with a raise!
"… An inadvertent administrative error occurred that resulted in …
Me being fired. Got it. I understand. When do I return to work?
"… an overpayment in severance pay by Microsoft. We ask that you repay …
What the f***?
"… the overpayment and sincerely apologize for any inconvenience to you.”
Oh you sincerely apologize … [string of obscenities]. That’s it: I’m finally switching to Apple.
Microsoft gave these employees, who received the letter last Wednesday, 14 days to pay them back. However, on Monday afternoon it reversed the decision. The former employees can keep the extra cash.
"This was a mistake on our part," a Microsoft spokesman said Monday. "We should have handled this situation in a more thoughtful manner."
TechCrunch blamed human resources for the error.
“Given that it was Microsoft HR that screwed this up in the first place, you’d think they’d at least include the calculations they made and point out where the error took place,” Jason Kincaid wrote on TechCrunch.
I'm surprised the communicator didn't take the fall for this one.
PR rep for Blago and Drew Peterson calls his job “noble”
Representing alleged criminals—alleged murders—in the court of public opinion is a lofty thing, according to PR pro Glenn Selig.
Selig is the PR guy for shamed ex-governor Rod Blagojevich and alleged murderer Drew Peterson. He formerly represented the attorney of Casey Anthony. Anthony is on trial for murdering her 2-year-old daughter Caylee.
In an interview with the St. Petersburg Times—by way of Chicago Tribune columnist Phil Rosenthal—Selig said, “It’s a noble cause to defend someone’s image in the court of public opinion.”
I'm not sure Selig understands the definition of the word "noble."
I'm also not sure certain TV personalities understand the meaning of the word "sleazy."
The St. Petersburg Times story also noted that Geraldo Rivera and Nancy Grace have both publicly criticized Selig. Geraldo called him a “sleazy PR guy” and Grace ripped Selig for allowing cameras to film Peterson’s children.
Geraldo and Nancy Grace are two of the sleaziest “journalists”—all three deserve each other.
Judging by this recent video clip, Geraldo sure didn't mind taking advantage of the publicity tour Selig scheduled for his client Blagojevich.
"[The cartoon] was meant to mock an ineptly written federal stimulus bill. ...
"But it has been taken as something else—as a depiction of President Obama, as a thinly veiled expression of racism. This most certainly was not its intent; to those who were offended by the image, we apologize.
"However, there are some in the media and in public life who have had differences with The Post in the past—and they see the incident as an opportunity for payback.
"To them, no apology is due.
"Sometimes a cartoon is just a cartoon—even as the opportunists seek to make it something else."
The New York Times said Al Sharpton expressed concern over the cartoon. So did New York Governor David Paterson—even though he hadn't seen it. A New York city councilman called for a boycott of the Post. A professor of communications at the University of Illinois Chicago called the cartoon racist.
What do you think? Is it racist?
Given the reference to the incident involving Connecticut police shooting a chimp, I don't think it is—explicitly. At least no more than Barack Obama's "lipstick on a pig" statement was sexist.
Ultimately, whether the cartoon is racist or not, when does this become a free speech issue? When should defenders of the First Amendment defend this cartoon?
When a society begins criticizing cartoons it's a slippery slope to the reactions of religious fundamentalists, like radical Muslims who respond with outrage over cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammed?
Although both companies serve different purposes, they are each extremely popular—lots of people would probably agree they couldn’t live without either company—and yet both Facebook and Wal-Mart are often hit with negative PR.
I blame the communicators.
Take the recent dust up with Facebook. On Feb. 4, the social network changed it terms of service. It said information that members uploaded to the site belonged to the social network, and would even after that content was deleted. Facebook could also “sublicense” that material to third parties.
After two days of angry blog posts and negative press attention, Facebook returned to its previous terms of service while it “resolves issues that people have raised,” according to a message posted on member’s Facebook pages.
The Consumerist blog wrote about the change Feb. 15, which sparked the Internet fervor. The tide of angry blog posts in response quickly gave way to mainstream media attention by late February 16.
To quell the negative press, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote a blog post apologizing for poorly communicating the change and asking members to trust the company. Despite the response, outrage continued.
So instead of proactively communicating the terms of service, it tried to slip the news under the radar. While Facebook posted the announcement about the return to its previous terms of service on every member’s page, the initial change was announced in an obscure Facebook blog post by the company’s corporate counsel for corporate transactions, Suzie White.
In the post, White never specifies what the changes really mean. “Most of these things are pretty obvious,” she wrote. Nice subterfuge.
And what was happening around Feb. 4?
The Super Bowl buzz was fading, while the Michael Phelps bong incident was heating up. And there was evolving news coverage of eight babies born to one mother in California.
Maybe these are coincidences.
Either way, don’t underestimate your audience. Be upfront with them. If you try to fool them, like Facebook and Wal-Mart before it, someone will probably notice and make sure you’re burnt. Unlike Facebook, which feeds our narcissism, and Wal-Mart, which feeds our consumption, your company might not be as indispensible as these behemoths.
Facebook changes Terms of Service; social network now owns you
UPDATE:Here's a PR storm that happened very fast. On Sunday, the Consumerist blog wrote about Facebook's terms of service change. Monday it spread across the blogosphere. By late Monday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg issued a statement. He attempted to explain the change in service and admited the company needs to improve its communications. This PR Junkie post was written as the story unfolded Monday.
Funny thing, privacy. When the Bush administration wanted to randomly tap phones Americans cried foul. “You’re invading our privacy!” We proudly declared.
Yet every day hundreds of millions of people worldwide voluntarily share their private information with Facebook. And now Facebook has changed its terms of service.
Have you heard about these changes that took place February 4?
The new terms of service say Facebook now owns everything you post to the site, which it can use commercially— and “sublicense” to third-party vendors—even after you delete your account.
Here’s what it says:
You hereby grant Facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to (a) use, copy, publish, stream, store, retain, publicly perform or display, transmit, scan, reformat, modify, edit, frame, translate, excerpt, adapt, create derivative works and distribute (through multiple tiers), any User Content you (i) Post on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof subject only to your privacy settings or (ii) enable a user to Post, including by offering a Share Link on your website and (b) to use your name, likeness and image for any purpose, including commercial or advertising, each of (a) and (b) on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof. You represent and warrant that you have all rights and permissions to grant the foregoing licenses.
And this …
If you choose to remove your User Content, the license granted above will automatically expire, however you acknowledge that the Company may retain archived copies of your User Content.
Despite an outcry from the blogosphere and coverage in the mainstream media, Facebook's PR team was apparently caught off-guard. On Monday, they told a Tribune reporter they were preparing a response.
Again, Facebook made this change to its terms of service February 4 and two weeks later the PR team is still preparing a response. Someone should be fired.
ZDNet blogger Jennifer Leggio wrote on Twitter Monday: "Facebook PR team seems bitter about the [terms of service] hubbub. An email I got: 'For those of you who aren't working (like we were supposed to be)' heh."
Bloggers have suggested this is a coup on Facebook’s part to finally start making serious bucks on the social network that counts 300 million members. Sadly, the tone among bloggers is, “Oh well, Facebook outsmarted us. But we’ll continue posting our personal information and pictures to the site.”
Thousands of members have launched a protest—on Facebook, a People Against the new Terms of Service group. Instead, maybe it’s time to pull the plug on your account. Remember, only you can prevent Facebook from peddling your information to the highest bidder.
Metro, a free daily newspaper in Toronto, ran an unfortunate typo last week in a film review of Friday the 13th.
"Not only does it overlap the thirteen killings (very clever!) that occur over the film's 97 minutes, but they're ultimately underwhelming. breasts. In fact, with very little suspense to speak of, Friday the 13th isn't scary at all...unless of course, you're a film critic."
Or a copyeditor.
Blog site The Torontoist discovered the typo, which you can see in newsprint on the site. The Torontoist implies Metro’s decision to cut staff writers and replace them with freelancers and unpaid interns is to blame for the errant “breast.”
Next time one slips past you, or your copyeditor, remember the Metro.
MSNBC host makes on-air gaffe, tries to remove foot from mouth
Imagine teaching a foreign speaker the nuances of the English language.
For instance, you drive on the parkway and park on the driveway. Or you can’t say “colored people” without sounding bigoted—or at least a little foolish—but you can say “people of color.”
MSNBC host Peter Alexander made this gaffe Thursday while speaking to the president of the NAACP. Alexander concluded the interview by saying, “As the president honors this country’s colored people.”
Alexander didn’t flinch. NAACP president Benjamin Todd Jealous chuckled.
Later in the broadcast, Alexander tried to gently, ever-so-kindly remove his foot from his mouth. He said, “If any of my words in that conversation were of any offense I want to take this time to apologize. We do want to congratulate all people of color today.”
In purporting to ‘take a look back’ at how the economic recovery plan ‘grew, and grew, and grew, Fox News’ Jon Scott referenced seven dates, as on-screen graphics cited various news sources from those time periods—all of which came directly from a Senate Republican Communications Center press release. A Fox News on-screen graphic even reproduced a typo contained in the Republican press release.
Here’s the graphic. Can you find the typo?
My knee-jerk reaction is moral indignation. How dare they bamboozle us?
But PR pros strive to write great press releases. Ragan counsels them on it. Instead of flogging Fox News, maybe the PR industry should celebrate the GOP for writing a terrific news release.
Or maybe Fox's fair and balanced is a bunch of bull****.
Phelps' pot smoking an expensive and inspired PR move
Michael Phelps' bong hit heard round the world has now affected his wallet, but it's also done wonders for his fame.
USA Swimming withdrew its financial support of Phelps and barred him from competition for three months. Also, on Thursday, Advertising Age reported Kellogg will let its endorsement contract with the gold medal swimmer expire.
"Michael's most recent behavior is not consistent with the image of Kellogg,” the company said in a statement. “His contract expires at the end of February and we have made a decision not to extend his contract."
Ad Age said Subway, which signed a lucrative deal with Phelps’, has yet to comment on the matter.
Phelps was arrested when he was 19 and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol—strike one. The bong smoking incident marks strike two. If strike three comes, he'll be bigger than ever. Until the picture hit the press, Phelps was a swimming sensation with a past DUI blunder. Now he is the bad boy of swimming.
FastCompany reported this week that PR pros are "swarming" around Phelps offering help. Ragan.com may publish a similar story about his need for PR help.
Don't listen. I think he's doing just fine. In the 21st century, America's squeaky clean heroes usually fade into obscurity; the bad boys have second, third, fourth acts and beyond.
If Phelps craves fame, then the bong picture was an inspired PR move.
GoDaddy and its tasteless Super Bowl ad draw ire of Twitter users
How many times has a stupid, tasteless or offensive TV commercial annoyed you?
Thanks to Twitter, you can virtually—and instantaneously—slap the companies behind those lousy commercials. It happened during this year’s Super Bowl.
Parodying the steroid controversy in baseball, one GoDaddy commercial aired during the big game depicts a congressional hearing where lawmakers ask a panel of young and attractive women if they have “enhanced.”
Two ditzy, large-breasted women insist they did not. One woman claims she did enhance and begins exposing herself before the ad cuts to black.
Amid the shenanigans, a proportioned and fully-clothed woman says she “enhanced” her Web site with GoDaddy, a service for hosting Web sites.
Many viewers, offended by this ad, voiced their opinions on Twitter Sunday night.
“Opportunity for someone to provide a classy, female friendly web host alternative to GoDaddy right now? I'd switch.” KD Paine wrote on Twitter. Later, on her blog, she called the commercial a “stupid sexist banal advert.”
The New York Times said Americans can add this year’s ads to growing list of things that disappoint and appall them, like Wall Street, banks, Detroit, the geese at La Guardia etc.
I agree with three exceptions:
A vaguely uplifting spot from Pepsi featuring Bob Dylan;
A Bud Light commercial about an office brainstorm session that begins with a funny premise, but quickly falls apart;
And the coup de gras, a Doritos ad that made me laugh out loud because it was so unexpected—except the end, which nearly ruined the whole experience. Can we all agree that watching a man getting hit in the crotch is no longer funny?
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.