How to join David Pogue’s ‘Take Back the Beep’ campaign
Have you heard about David Pogue's "Take Back the Beep" campaign yet?
If not, here's a brief description (from today's PR Daily):
You know the canned 15-second message that plays on cell phone voicemails just before you leave a message? It goes something like this, “After the tone, please record your message …” Well, guess what: that 15 seconds adds up and you end up paying for it. New York Times technology columnist David Pogue has launched a campaign to eliminate those messages. It’s called, “Take Back the Beep.” “Let’s push back, and hard,” he wrote on his Times blog. “We want those time-wasting, money-leaking messages eliminated, or at least made optional.” Pogue has been keeping his readers updated via Twitter. And the cell phone companies have responded.
Report: Clear Channel passes on Sarah Palin radio show
Could you blab for three to four hours?
That seems to be the reason Clear Channel has reportedly passed on offering Sarah Palin her own syndicated radio program, according to Broadcast & Cable’s Paige Albiniak.
“The main objection to Palin as radio talk-show host is that she would have to hold forth for three hours a day,” Albiniak wrote. “While some of her recent remarks may indicate a talent for improvisation, anyone who’s listened to Rush Limbaugh or Thom Hartmann or Don Imus or Howard Stern or even Ryan Seacrest knows it’s the rare personality who can blab extemporaneously for 15 hours a week.”
As several online outlets have noted, Palin's attempt to join the media is ironic considering she’s carved out a reputation blasting it. Of course, the ultimate irony would be if she started a blog, since she reallydespises that lot.
Why PR pros shouldn't ignore non-traditional media
I just talked to a representative for a supermarket chain. They apparently have a policy of not talking to trade publications, but the rep called me anyway just to tell me that and to give me a bit of off-the-record information. Or, maybe they just wanted to make sure I’m not a threat.
I happen to shop at this supermarket chain, and I told the rep that, so I probably passed the “no-threat” test. But, they and all communications professionals should recognize by now that there are threats around every corner when it comes to the Internet and social media–traditional media outlets and journalists are the least of their troubles. Trade publications, too, are published online now–anyone can access them. Same with blogs. And tweets by regular old consumers. This type of old-fashioned thinking gets companies into trouble everyday, and still more continue the trend and they, too, get in trouble. I’m not sure if this particular supermarket chain has a no-blogger policy as well–I asked, but I’m not sure I’m worth the call back. I wouldn’t be surprised, though; bloggers (and trade pubs) are often overlooked at companies with small communications staffs.
Let’s think back to Target’s debacle last year that resulted from a similar policy. They didn’t talk to trade pubs and they also didn’t talk to bloggers, they said, so they could focus on publications that reach their core audience. It’s a valid point–we’re always telling communicators to find their audience and focus on those media and social media outlets. But, the bloggers made a fuss about the policy as bloggers are wont to do, and the story about Target shunning bloggers made it all the way to the New York Times, which does reach its core audience. I’m still waiting on a call back to see if Target has since reversed that policy.
Procter & Gamble, on the other hand, thinks bloggers are so important that they’re sponsoring a “pampering party” before this year’s BlogHer Conference in Chicago.
Moral of the story: It’s 2009. Anyone can get online these days, anyone can get millions of views and lots of attention. Anything popular online can end up in the New York Times or on CNN, thereby tarnishing your brand in the minds of the consumers you’re looking to reach in a positive way. Non-traditional media reach consumers, too. Ignore at your own peril.
UPDATE #1: The supermarket chain rep says bloggers go through customer service. The website says customer service questions are best answered in store and doesn't provide a corporate phone number. Does that mean I can go tonight, pick up a few groceries and get my communications-strategy questions answered while i'm checking out?
UPDATE #2: Target's communications department doesn't discriminate anymore, says Target spokesman Joshua Thomas. Now, whether the pub is trade, a blog, or CNN, communicators evaluate each request as it comes in and respond accordingly.
What is it with athletic organizations being so uptight about public exposure lately?
First it’s Nike trying its darnedest to prevent a video of an amateur slam dunking a ball over NBA star LeBron James from going public. Now it’s Major League Baseball’s turn …
A portion of the video of The Daily Show host Jon Stewart mocking the coverage of Barack Obama’s first pitch during the All-Star game—the league failed to show the president’s pitch actually reach the plate—was yanked from the show’s Web site and Hulu.com at the behest of the MLB, reports, All Things Digital blog, which is part of The Wall Street Journal Web site.
All Things Digital’s Peter Kafka had this report:
What happened? The story, via Viacom [which owns Comedy Central, the network that airs The Daily Show] officials, is that pro baseball officials contacted them this week and told them to take down the Obama footage, which it owns.
The argument, I’m told, is that the MLB was fine with Stewart (and every other TV show in the country) using the clip under “fair use” terms–the footage itself was a news story, and Stewart was adding value via his commentary, etc. But it balked at the notion of the footage remaining in Viacom’s archives, and circulating on the Web, forever.
None of that makes any sense, of course: There’s no reason that Stewart’s use of the clip should be okay, but only for a limited time. And if Viacom wanted to spend time fighting MLB on this, it certainly could have.
Suppose when you're as busy as MLB is ignoring your players' steroid abuse this is the kind of thing you do to pass the time.
Was cemetery owner's crisis communication too little, too late
Is it too late for a cemetery owner to perform crisis communications after employees at the cemetery dug up graves and resold plots for cash?
Perhaps you’ve heard about the Burr Oak cemetery near Alsip, IL, an outlying suburb of Chicago, where employees had allegedly dug up graves, reburied the bodies elsewhere and sold the newly-empty plots for cash. It has dominated the headlines in Chicago, as law enforcement officials conduct criminal investigations into the matter.
The cemetery is owned by Perpetua Holdings of Illinois, which is not implicated in the matter. In fact, police reportedly first learned of the grave-reselling scheme when Perpetua contacted the police six weeks ago about possible financial wrongdoing among employees.
When the story first broke last week, Perpetua only commented on the matter through an attorney.
“Perpetua Holdings of Illinois, Inc. has owned the cemetery since 2001,” WGN Radio reported. “Trudi McCollum Foushee, a Missouri-based attorney for company president Melvin Bryant of Richardson, Texas, would only confirm the company went to police, triggering the investigation.”
According to reports, Perpetua has done little to help the investigation—or its reputation. On Tuesday, Tom Dart, the sheriff of Cook County, which includes Alsip (and Chicago), had some harsh words for the company.
“There is nobody running the cemetery right now, other than me," Dart said at an afternoon news conference. Dart, who has more than 200 sheriff's deputies either investigating or assisting families seeking answers at the cemetery, said the cemetery owner has failed to send assistance.
Cemetery workers have been asking Dart when to take a lunch break, and when to go home for the day, he said.
Dart said his requests for help from the owners have fallen on deaf ears.
"We don't get a response," Dart said. "They know the address, we haven't seen them."
However, a spokesman for the owners denied the sheriff’s claim and said they are simply trying to stay out of detectives' way, the ABC affiliate in Chicago reported.
Also on Tuesday, Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes froze the funds of Perpetua.
Perhaps it was the sheriff’s harsh words, or the frozen funds, but on Tuesday Perpetua Holdings President Melvin Bryant issued a statement (pasted below) through the Dallas-based public relations firm Focus Communications.
Focus, which offers a number of communications services including PR, prides itself on the work it has done with and for multi-racial groups and communities. According to the Focus Web site:
From municipal representation to gaining additional respect and credibility within multi-cultural communities, to executing that special event that distinguishes a client company or product different from others, fresh thinking is at the centerpiece of our work. Over the years, we have developed and facilitated very close and meaningful partnerships for our clients with many minority advocacy organizations including the National Urban League, NAACP, LULAC, the National Conference of Black Mayors, National Minority Supplier Development Council and the National Council of La Raza among others.
That expertise is needed, it seems, because Burr Oak Cemetery is the final resting place of many famous African-Americans, including lynching victim Emmett Till, blues singers Willie Dixon, Dinah Washington and Otis Spann, as well as Harlem Globetrotter Inman Jackson. Most of the unearthed bodies were those of African-Americans.
Focus also prides itself on its “fresh thinking,” which it will need in this case—because it stinks. Pun intended.
BURR OAK CEMETERY
By Melvin Bryant
I certainly agree with what Sheriff Dart in Chicago has said. As he has concluded, the criminal conduct by former employees of Burr Oak Cemetery was absolutely despicable. I extend my heart-filled sympathies to all of those who have loved ones buried at Burr Oak Cemetery. I also have family members buried in the Cemetery and share the same outrage toward the conduct of the individuals.
As a management consultant to and president of Perpetua, I conducted an investigation which uncovered financial wrongdoings by the Director of Operations which led to her termination in March. The information was turned over to the proper authorities.
Neither I nor Perpetua, or its investors have benefitted from the criminal conduct. We understand the historical importance and legacy of Burr Oak Cemetery and want to build upon it--not see it destroyed by criminal wrongdoing.
Out of respect for the ongoing criminal investigation and pending lawsuits which include me in Chicago, there are no other comments but we will continue to cooperate fully with the authorities.
If you haven’t heard, Best Buy is looking for a Sr. Manager of Emerging Media Marketing. Basically, a head of social media marketing–not so unusual. The caveat? They want someone with at least one year of active blogging experience and, preferably, a graduate degree and over 250 followers on Twitter.
Bloggers and Twitterers found these last points so outrageous that Best Buy’s CMO Barry Judge decided to ask for help in creating the job description via an online contest that ends next week.
It’ll be interesting to see what people come up with, considering the experience and education of so-called social media experts vary so wildly.
The fact that Best Buy is looking for such a highly educated and experienced senior-level social media manager plays to a point that I’ve come across lately for a couple of stories I’ve written on the future of PR (accessible to Ragan Select members). That is, the social media presence shouldn’t be handled by the least-senior on the communications ladder, the interns, but the most senior–someone more like a senior manager.
As Brian Solis, a social media thinker says “Why would we entrust our most important outreach and engagement to those who most likely have no bearing on the real life needs, pains, challenges, and choices of those we’re hoping to compel?”
If Best Buy is looking for social media guru, I’m not sure a graduate degree would be the best indication. A graduate degree in what–Twitter? Actually, a UK university unveiled an MA in social media earlier this year. But, really, what could you learn in a journalism or communications, business–or social media–master’s degree program that you couldn’t learn by simply being active in social media? Hence, I suppose, the blogging and Twitter followers requirements.
On that subject, though, 250 followers seems like a rather arbitrary number. I reached that milestone recently, but didn’t have any revelations on the purpose of Twitter or how to become a more successful tweeter. In fact, a report on Twitter usage by Sysomos found 150 to be the “magic” number because that’s when the reciprocation of follows generally falls off.
Whatever the qualifications for the job turn out to be, it’s certainly an argument for resurrecting that blog you stopped posting to or building up your Twitter followers–just in case.
Angry at United, musician uses Web video to ‘strike chord’ with airline
Update, including United's reaction, appended
Uh-oh. United is facing a potential PR firestorm, thanks to poor customer service, YouTube and a fed-up musician.
Last year, Dave Carroll and his band Sons of Maxwell were traveling from their homes in Canada to a concert in Nebraska. During a layover in Chicago, Carroll says United baggage handlers severely damaged his $3,500 guitar.
One year later, after numerous failed attempts to get reimbursement from United, Carroll recorded a song about the ordeal and on July 6 posted the video to YouTube. Here are a few lyrics:
United, United, some big help you are
You broke it you should fix it
You're liable just admit it
I should've flown with someone else or gone by car
Cause United breaks guitars.
Two days later the video has clocked 150,000 views—and that has made United more amenable to talking with Carroll.
"This has struck a chord with us," Robin Urbanski, a spokeswoman for Chicago-based United, told The Herald Chronicle newspaper on Wednesday. “We’re going to contact him directly."
“Struck a chord”? Nice one.
We'll see if United can squelch this in time. I wonder if an airline with a more adventurous communications department—like Southwest or JetBlue—will co-opt this video for their own commercial or Web video.
UPDATE #1: Overnight the video went from 150,000 views to over 466,000 and has so far amassed 3,335 comments.
UPDATE #2: United's Robin Urbanski told the Chicago Tribune the video was "excellent." The Tribune also reported that Rob Bradford, managing director of customer solutions at United, "called Carroll Wednesday to apologize for the foul-up and to ask if the carrier could use the video internally to help change its culture."
"It could be used to improve the way passengers are treated around the world," Carroll told the Tribune.
The Marijuana Policy Project, an organization dedicated to the reform of pot laws, thinks it has the answer to California's deep budget crisis: legalize marijuana and tax it. To spread this message, the organization created a 30 second TV spot that will begin airing Wednesday, July 8.
The commercial features a real-life "marijuana consumer." She's no burned-out hippie or strung-out loser, but instead a normal-looking middle-aged woman.
“Instead of being treated like criminals for using a substance safer than alcohol, we want to pay our fair share [of taxes],” she says.
Taxes from pot will pay for 20,000 teachers in California, the woman adds.
Showing this "marijuana consumer" is an effective tactic for the Marijuana Policy Project—and one that parents and D.A.R.E. programs everywhere should co-opt.
Want teenagers to stay away from drugs? Show them this video. Say to a teen boy or girl: “Take one puff and this is what you will become: a middle-aged woman with a family, who goes on TV to ask the government to let her pay more taxes."
PRWeekreported yesterday that Edelman has laid off four senior executives in its Chicago office since May.
“Matthew Harrington, president/CEO of Edelman US, confirmed that four senior level executives were laid off, including Bill Keegan EVP & director of US crisis and issues management,” Aarti Shah reported for PRWeek. “The other departures included senior level executives with Edelman's consumer, technology, and healthcare practices in Chicago. At least one mid-level employee was also let go.”
Harrington told Shah that the layoffs were not financially driven.
Over the weekend, I hit pay dirt and it wasn’t during a sporting event—sports announcers notoriously misuse “literally”—but on CNN.
After Sarah Palin announced her resignation, the governor’s spokeswoman Meg Stapleton appeared on CNN for an interview with Anderson Cooper. The entire interview is worth watching to see a spokesperson who clearly wasn’t fully briefed—or briefed at all—by her boss before the big decision.
But the real gem—for me, at least—came 3:30 seconds into the interview when Stapleton said of Palin:
“She can do whatever she wants. The world is literally her oyster.”
I only wish she had continued with a pearl metaphor.
Still, just an exquisite misuse; thank you, Ms. Stapleton.
Smokey Bear’s 65th birthday celebrated with new PSAs
Smokey Bear is turning 65.
To celebrate his birthday, the U.S. Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters, in conjunction with the Ad Council, tapped ad firm DraftFCB to create a series of public service announcements—pro bono—to remind people about fire safety, according to Advertising Age.
The one ad I’ve seen is simple, quick and classy, although not as effective as the more straight-forward and flashy, “Only you can prevent forest fires” campaign.
Take a look at the new:
And the old:
And one terribly frightening Smokey Bear ad from 1969:
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.