‘Doghouse’ video returns: Do you still think it’s funny?
Last year, JC Penney, with help from ad firm Saatchi & Saatchi, created a five minute Web video about guys who had given their significant others lousy gifts. It was called the “Doghouse.” I wrote a blog post about it at the time and several of you had strong opinions about it. Although one commenter called it "sexist tripe," most thought it was funny.
Well, JC Penney and Saatchi & Saatchi have released a new, shortened version of the video. What do you think?
A strange case of alleged plagiarism at a Connecticut newspaper
This is not your typical media story.
Connecticut’s largest newspaper, The Hartford Courant, is accused of plagiarizing articles in The Journal Inquirer of Manchester, Conn., and other newspapers in the state. A lawsuit filed by The Journal Inquirer last week says that 11 Courant articles were lifted from the paper in mainly August and September, according to The New York Times.
It’s the reason why this happened that kills me.
On its Web site, The Courant was aggregating articles from other newspapers, including The Journal Inquirer. And I’ll let The Times’ Richard Perez-Pena take it from here:
Online, The Courant credited many if not all of the articles to the original newspapers, Richard P. Weinstein, The Journal Inquirer’s lawyer, said. But in print, the attribution was often dropped, and the byline of a Courant writer was added. The articles were rearranged and rewritten to some extent, but some phrases from the originals remained intact.
The suit addresses only examples when no credit was given to The Journal Inquirer, but Mr. Weinstein said that even with attribution, the extent of copying violated the law. He held out the possibility that the suit could be amended to add more examples.
The Hartford Courant, which is owned by the Tribune Co., has undergone deep newsroom cuts, Perez-Pena added.
Study says customer reviews on your Web site boost sales
I was browsing through a small record shop in Minneapolis last weekend, recalling how much I use to love shopping for music in a brick and mortar store. These days, for the sake of convenience, I’m either buying music online or, ahem, downloading it gratis.
At the record store, I noticed an album that a friend had told me to pick up. I looked at the cover art and felt the packaging. I think I even shook it. But something seemed strange. It didn’t feel right. I’m just supposed to buy this without hearing a 30-second sample or reading a user review, I thought?
As a cub newspaper reporter fresh out of college, I would collect my paltry paycheck and go to the record store in my neighborhood and—get this—ask the practical stranger behind the counter what he recommended. Nine times out of 10 I would buy what he or she recommended. I found scores of treasures that way.
So, I asked the employee of the Minneapolis record shop what he thought of the album. “Don’t know, really,” he said. “Heard it was pretty good.” I appreciated the honest answer, but if anything he had talked me out of the sale.
This is what I did next (and I’m a little embarrassed by it): stepped outside and logged on the Internet on my phone. I Googled the band, read a few user reviews and even tried unsuccessfully to listen to one of their songs on YouTube. Satisfied by the reviews, I bought the CD. It was a good purchase.
Where am I going with this? User reviews are good for sales. A recent survey by RatePoint, a provider of customer feedback and online reputation management services, found that of the 30 percent of small business retailers who had integrated product reviews into their Web site, 43 percent said reviews had resulted in more sales. And 28 percent said reviews had resulted in more traffic.
A RatePoint study in July also found that reviews were six times more likely to impact a business positively than negatively. And, according to research from Deloitte & Touche, more than 82 percent of those who read reviews said their purchasing decisions have been directly influenced by those reviews.
(So you know, RatePoint is a firm that provides companies with the ability to have user reviews on their Web sites.)
In my case, the user reviews influenced my decision to buy the CD. Sure, had the reviews been lousy I would have (probably) put the album back in the bin. But, given the tepid response from the clerk, had I not been given the opportunity to explore online reviews I would have put the CD back, too.
Of course, in this instance the reviews reflected a product the store stocked and not the employees or ambience. Not to mention, I was in this record shop by chance. But if I plan on going to a business for the first time—say a butcher or even dry cleaner—I usually check user reviews in advance. And they usually influence my decision. If there aren’t any reviews I will probably go someplace that has them on their site.
Anyone else feel this way?
And by the way, the band was the Avett Brothers. If you like the warm, quiet sound of 70s-era folk rock—think Neil Young with a deeper voice—you’ll like these guys. Here’s a sample and a link to a user reviews.
Colonel Tribune tweeter heads to The Huffington Post
Colonel Tribune is heading to The Huffington Post.
Actually, one of the people behind Colonel Tribune is making the move.
Craig Kanalley, a former digital intern at the Chicago Tribune, has accepted a position as the traffic/trends editor at The Huffington Post. He was performing social media work for the Tribune, including overseeing its popular Twitter account, Colonel Tribune, and helping with ChicagoNow, the Trib’s local blog network.
He took over Colonel Tribune after its creator, Daniel Honigman, left the Tribune for Weber Shandwick.
Kanalley also created the Web site Breaking Tweets, which aggregates Twitter updates from global hotspots, and lectured at DePaul University’s journalism school.
In August, Kanalley was part of a panel on “pitching reporters via Twitter” at Ragan’s Twitter Bootcamp in Chicago. He was the youngest on the panel, which also featured Allan Schoenberg, the director of corporate communications for CME Group (who’s behind its Twitter feed), Amber Porter Cox, a Chicago-based communications consultant, and Craig Newman, the assistant managing editor/special projects at the Chicago Sun-Times and the man behind its Twitter account.
During that session, an audience member posed the question: Who in an organization should handle social media? Schoenberg, Cox and Newman said companies should not hand over their social media efforts to an intern. Kanalley, a Tribune intern at the time, agreed. He called himself an exception to the rule.
Kanalley will move to New York for the Huffington Post job. If you’re looking for a studio apartment in Chicago, Kanalley’s is for rent (and he’s offering one month of free rent).
While everyone is trying to get off the Titanic, Geoff Dougherty is boarding it.
Dougherty, the founder of an online news site in Chicago, ChiTown Daily News, which lost its funding this year, is launching a monthly tabloid called Chicago Current. The tabloid and its Web site will cover local politics.
Despite what seems like a counterintuitive move, Dougherty has a very good reason for this decision. Last month, he told Crain’s Chicago Business reporter Ann Saphir that “the money is in print, so that’s where we have to be.” What he means is that print publications demand much higher ad rates than Web sites. So, in a sense, that’s where the money.
And why does Dougherty, a former Chicago Tribune reporter, believe this publication work? Because it’s aimed at a niche: aldermen, City Hall department heads and other public officials. It will also be distributed free to public transit riders in Chicago.
“We’ll have niche content, a niche audience and niche advertisers,” Dougherty told Saphir. “It’s like a Politico or Roll Call for Chicago.”
Dougherty said he nearly has $500,000 in financing for the venture.
He’s a brave man—we’ll see if he’ just polishing the brass while the Titanic sinks.
Unemployed (or underemployed) and looking for a break in your membership dues from the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC)?
The association offers “a complimentary hardship extension to members who are experiencing financial distress,” Lee Anne Snedeker, senior vice president of global development for IABC, said in a comment to a previous PR Junkie post.
“All they need to do is email me a short summary of what’s going on (we’ll keep it confidential), and depending on longevity and other considerations, we often grant extensions of one to six months,” Snedeker wrote. In a separate correspondence with PR Junkie, she said "the decision about whether to extend membership is based on [the person's] years as a member and contributions to the association. The length of the membership extension depends on the situation."
Other professional organizations, including the Public Relations Society of America and the Society for Human Resources Management, have offered a price break or a free year of membership for unemployed members.
This week, IABC e-mailed its members with a promotion that offers free membership extensions of three months, up to one year, for each new member a current member recruits. Although Freeman and Snedeker both said the promotion has elicited a positive response, several PR Junkie readers criticized the program.
“You would think that IABC would just discount membership rates for the unemployed, rather than require them to sign up new members,” a commenter wrote. “The unemployed have enough to worry about in this job market and should not have to worry about signing up members.”
Freeman reminded readers that the program is not a requirement, but an option.
The e-mail to IABC members also included the frank admission that the association had lost 1,000 members since the end of 2008. Freeman said IABC expects a drop in membership of about 7 percent by the end of 2009, which will wipe out the growth it saw in 2008.
“The sky isn’t falling,” she said. “We’re not happy about it, but it is consistent with what’s happening at other associations.”
While Freeman said the dip in membership has not affected its programs and publications, IABC has experienced cost-cutting this year. For instance, in June it laid off four employees, reducing its staff from 32 to 28.
Freeman said IABC does not anticipate further layoffs in 2010.
Next year, IABC will perform a lapsed member survey to learn why communicators did not renew their memberships, Freeman said.
A comment from RLM owner Richard Laermer was added to the story.
PR Junkie has learned that Help a Reporter Out (HARO), the service started by Peter Shankman to link reporters with PR pros, is no longer working with its agency of record, RLM PR.
Thom Brodeur, HARO's chief operating officer, confirmed the news on Wednesday.
“They [RLM] got us great press,” he said in an e-mail to PR Junkie. “Team did great work. We're handling our own PR now.” Brodeur would not elaborate.
Richard Laermer, owner of RLM, said HARO didn't "dump" his company. "Our original contract ended," he told PR Junkie. "RLM decided not to re-up with them. No big deal."
HARO named RLM its agency of record in August. At the time, Brodeur said HARO would work with RLM to move beyond its image as a competitor to Profnet or similar reporter/source matching service or source databases.
“The objectives are really to position with business media the success story of a social media company, because frankly I’m tired of hearing that social media companies can’t be successful—that they aren’t successful models—because there are [successful models], and we’re proof of that,” Brodeur told me in September.
RLM helped HARO score coverage in Forbes, Wired and more.
HARO has worked with two PR firms in the last several months. In June, the company said it was working with Propheta Communications. A little more than one month later HARO severed ties with Propheta and instead named RLM its agency of record.
How is the Great Recession affecting the corporate communications industry?
If membership in the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) is any indication, then communicators have been hit hard. An e-mail sent to IABC members on Monday said the association has lost about 1,000 members since the end of 2008, a rather frank admission from a professional association.
IABC has more than 15,500 members, according to its Web site.
Meanwhile, a small IABC survey released last month found that 26 percent of the association’s members have lost their jobs in the last 12 months.
While it might seem likely that struggling communicators would cut costs by not renewing their professional memberships, it’s also common for the unemployed to turn to their IABC network in search of jobs.
I sent an e-mail to IABC President Julie Freeman to get her thoughts on the matter.
UDPATE: I had a wide-ranging conversation with Freeman yesterday. A post is coming today about the chat. Until then, you can read her response to several of the comments criticizing IABC's latest promotion.
IABC isn’t taking these challenges lying down. To thwart the losses, it’s offering communicators free membership extensions to IABC if they enlist new members.
“If you recruit new professional members, you will get three free months of membership for each new member you bring in … up to a full year at no charge,” Lee Anne Snedeker, senior vice president of IABC global membership development, said in the e-mail to members. The promotion runs 2009.
There are conditions to this offer, which Snedeker explained in her e-mail. Here they are:
1. The new member must identify the referring member in one of the following ways:
-For mailed, faxed, and online enrollments: Write the referring member's first and last name and chapter (or region if he or she is a member-at-large) on the application form or enter it when enrolling online.
-For phoned enrollments: Mention the referring member's first and last name and chapter (or region if he or she is a member-at-large).
In other words, the referring member's name must be provided at the same time the check or credit card number is received to be eligible. We cannot apply credit if your name isn't mentioned, so please be sure it is. We want you to benefit from your efforts!
2. The new member must not have been an IABC member since October 1, 2008.
3. The limit for this promotion is four members, which would provide you with a full year of membership at no charge.
4. The new member must be a professional member (not a student member), although recruiting members can be any type.
Snedeker said that all chapter and region membership volunteers are eligible for the promotion.
Apparently, a couple months ago Oprah told her viewers they can tip their waiters just 10 percent, due to the lousy economy. Right now the Facebook group has 52,000 members. Here’s what one server in the group had to say about the incident:
I am a mother of two young girls whose husband has been out of work since January! Since Oprah opened her big fat mouth the money at my work has been horrible! How dare her tell people such a thing! I hope she is happy that my girls won't have the Christmas they deserve thanks to her stupid comments and all the stupid PEONS that listen to her!!!!
Ask a man on the street what President Obama’s first job was and you’ll probably get this answer: community organizer.
When Obama graduated from Columbia University in New York, he took a job with Business International Corporation (BIC), a publishing and consulting company that helped American companies working abroad. A recent GQarticle about Obama said the president held that job for two years before moving to Chicago to become a community organizer.
“At 22, Obama graduates college and enters the real world,” Robert Draper wrote for GQ. “The first job he lands, in 1983, is not the one of legend, the formative yes-we-can mission of community organizing. Rather, it’s a gig editing and writing business publications. His supervisor figures him for a frustrated novelist.”
During his tenure with BIC, Obama edited Financing Foreign Operations, a global reference service, and wrote for Business International Money Report, a weekly financial newsletter, according to Wikipedia.
So, take comfort newsletter editors, the president understands your toils and hardships—even though he rarely (if ever) mentions this job.
Bush, Clinton appearance nixed due to overeager promoter
On Wednesday, Ragan Executive Editor Rob Reinalda tweeted: “Offering without comment: Bill Clinton to debate George. W. Bush.” That’s right, U.S. Presidents 42 and 43 were reportedly going to square off in a “debate.”
Problem is it wasn’t a debate; it was a moderated discussion.
Due to this flap, the former presidents have canceled the event, blaming an “overeager promoter” according to Chicago Sun-Timescolumnist Michael Sneed. "It was supposed to be a moderated, serious discussion between the two former presidents," Clinton spokesman Matt McKenna told Sneed.
The New York Postsaid the promoter “overhyped it as a death-match faceoff between the men."
There’s a lesson here. Don’t over promote. The event would have been a sellout, whether they called it a debate or a discussion. And never refer to a meet up between two former presidents as “a death-match faceoff”—unless of course it actually is.
Didn't Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren have one of those?
Michael Arrington, the founder of the popular tech blog TechCrunch, has written his fair share of scathing posts about PR people. Among his many beefs with public relations is the embargo. He won’t accept them—unless they're from Microsoft or Google, although it seems Microsoft is now on the outs.
On Tuesday, Arrington published a series of tweets about Microsoft’s PR firm, Waggener Edstrom. Arrington started with this tweet:
“Embargo break alert. Waggener Edstrom faceplants with new MSN launch. One more and they're banned forever.”
“Screw it. we just banned waggener edstrom forever. hall of shame. going to be hard to cover microsoft now.”
What happened? The Gawker-owned Valleywag blog has the scoop.
According to Valleywag's Ryan Tate, Arrington sat on an embargoed news story about a redesign of MSN.com. Deal was he would wait until midnight to publish. “But a dastardly marketing blogger spoiled his exclusive by running the story an hour early, due to some kind of WordPress error,” Tate wrote.
Here’s what Arrington told Gawker about the situation: “They came in and briefed me, took an hour. Then I rearranged my evening to write the post, took more time. The embargo broke by at least 45 minutes and they [Waggener] didn't bother to let me know.”
The embargo can be a dangerous thing for PR pros and journalists, alike. Each party has to trust each other, and in this case, it appears technology—and perhaps human error—is to blame. Brian Solis actually just wrote a blog post about the dangers of the embargo.
As for Waggener Edstrom, oh well. Being on Arrington’s PR shit list is kind of like placement on President Nixon’s enemies list: Once you’re on it, you know you’ve arrived.
Basically, if I'm Waggener Edstrom, I wouldn't worry too much about it.
Political reporters miss the biggest story from Tuesday night
This post is mostly about politics, and the media's failure to adequately cover Tuesday's elections. For those who reach the end of the post and want to write this comment, "Where's the PR angle, jerk," please recall this disclaimer.
UPDATE: Well, The Washington Post and The New York Times must read PR Junkie, because both newspapers carried stories about the Republican Party's ideological divide threatening to undermine its "renaissance."
Last month, Timothy Noah wrote a piece for Slate.com that referred to political reporters as “momentum junkies.”
They are “forever plotting out momentary trends to infinity,” he said. “If they were meteorologists, they’d interpret 90-degree temperatures in July to predict 160-degree temperatures in December.”
So, as you've probably noticed, many political reporters are riding the momentum of Tuesday's election results, marking it a momentum shift for the GOP since Republicans won gubernatorial seats in Virginia and New Jersey. Some are calling it a referendum on—even a rebuke of—Obama and Congressional Dems.
Among objective news outlets, Politico carried the most stinging report for President Obama on Tuesday’s outcomes.
“The off-year elections were, in two big races, an unmistakable rebuke of Democrats, reshuffling Obama’s political circumstances in ways likely to have severe near-term consequences for his policy agenda and larger governing strategy,” Politico’s John F. Harris and Jonathan Martin wrote.
“Independents took flight from Democrats. They suffered humiliating gubernatorial losses in traditionally Democratic New Jersey, where Obama lent his prestige in a pair of eleventh-hour campaign rallies Sunday, and in Virginia, which had been trending leftward and just last year was held up as an example of how Obama was redrawing the political map in his favor.”
Sounds to me like we’re going to see 160-degree temperatures this December.
Unfortunately, Harris and Martin are missing a far larger story from this election: The splintering of the GOP and emergence of a viable third party.
The Dem’s New Jersey and Virginia losses are not that surprising. Since 1977, the party in the White House has always lost the Virginia governors race. That means the Democrats needed to fight history, and as Obama and his supporters have said: When history calls, you need to answer. Well, Virginia voters answered.
In New Jersey, where Obama stumped for Democratic incumbent John Corzine, the loss to Republican challenger Chris Christie stings a bit more. Of course, Corzine is deeply unpopular in the Garden State, which is suffering severe economic turmoil, so the loss wasn't too surprising.
On that point, the Politico story actually backed off a bit from its strong claims about Tuesday’s contest. “Neither race should be viewed as strictly a referendum on Obama,” Harris and Martin wrote. “But if there is a danger in overinterpreting off-year elections, it is also a mistake to underinterpret.”
What happened to good old-fashioned interpreting, without all the overs and unders?
The big story Politico and many other news outlets are failing to give bigger headlines to is the congressional election in upstate New York, where a Democrat won the seat for the first time since 1877.
Democrat Bill Owens beat Doug Hoffman, the nominee from New York’s Conservative Party. Republican challenger Dede Scozzafava had dropped out of the race and endorsed the Democrat. Members of the GOP had attacked Scozzafava for being too moderate. Potential 2010 candidates, Sarah Palin and Tim Pawlenty, inserted themselves into this race, endorsing Hoffman. Newt Gingrich also commented on the race, criticizing the Republicans for driving the moderate Scozzafava out of the race.
Several other Republicans in the 2010 congressional elections could face a similar challenge. The Illinois Senate race is one example. The socially moderate Republican Mark Kirk, currently a member of the House of Representatives, is vying for Obama’s old Senate seat. There is rumor that a more conservative candidate, Eric Wallace, may challenge Kirk—if Kirk were to win the Republican primary—as a third party candidate.
What the outcome of this race suggests is the rise of a third party — or else a re-imagined Democratic or Republican party. Newsweek’s Jon Meacham has written about this possibility.
“We have been here before,” he said in an article titled, “The Great American Ideological Crackup.” “The analogous moments that most easily come to mind — moments of economic turmoil and political realignment — are 1933 and 1981.” Presidents Roosevelt and Reagan each managed to redefine their parties, he explained.
“But we are now living in a post-Roosevelt, post-Reagan universe,” Meacham continued. “What comes next will not be post-partisan, because faction is an intrinsic human impulse. Nor, for the same reason, will it be post-ideological. The question, rather, is what new ideologies — or what new permutations of perennial ideological impulses — will form to order our politics.”
The last nine months has seen the rise of a charged conservative niche, consisting of Glenn Beck-led birthers and tea party activists. These were the people storming town hall meetings over the summer to loudly voice their discontent for the direction of the government.
Where will these charged-up voters go? Will the Republican establishment fold them into their ranks and risk alienating moderate voters?
Maybe these Glenn Beck Republicans will start their own party, a Conservative Party, in which case they’ll capture House seats, but likely fail to win broad national support. In that case, what happens to the GOP? What if its more moderate members—the Olympia Snowe’s of the party—joined the Democrats? That could result in a massive party of moderates, and create two splinter parties: Conservative and Progressive.
Lots of options here, options that the momentum junkies in the media are not covering.
Tribune Co. newspapers to go AP-free next week: Get your pitches ready
This is a good week to brush off those Tribune contacts.
Starting Nov. 8, the Tribune Co. will go AP-free for one week. That means the company’s numerous print media properties will fill its pages with news reports from either its own staff or reports from other newspapers.
The company’s TV stations and Web sites will not take part in this trial.
Phil Rosenthal, the Chicago Tribune’s media columnist, has the scoop:
The goal, as the papers review costs and needs, is to see whether severing ties with the news cooperative next fall is a viable option, the Chicago-based media company confirmed Monday.
Besides the content provided by the staff of its own titles, Tribune Co. newspapers will draw from such news sources as Reuters, The Washington Post, New York Times, Agence France Presse, Cable News Network, Global Post, Bloomberg and McClatchy newspapers during its AP-less trial. Not all of those sources are normally available to Tribune Co. papers.
Some content will still require the AP, Rosenthal said. For instance, sports statistics and news coverage that only the AP provides (probably breaking news and hot scoops).
Tribune-owned newspapers are the Chicago Tribune, RedEye (the Chicago Tribune’s free commuter daily), The Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sentinel, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, The Hartford Courant, The Morning Call (in Allentown, PA), Daily Press (in Newport News, VA), Hoy and El Sentinel (in Orlando).
This is incredible: 26.5 percent of IABC members have lost their job in the last 12 months, according to an ongoing survey by IABC (that’s the International Association of Business Communicators).
“In March 2009, when the survey began, 10.92 percent of respondents reported they had lost their job over the last 12 months,” IABC member Liz Wilson wrote on her blog. “In June, the number rose to 14.29 percent and the most recent result from September shows a worrying leap to 26.54 percent.”
That’s a staggering number — one in four.
“Whilst the results are likely cumulative and based on differing samples,” Wilson said, “they still provide an indication of just how tough it is at the moment for professional communicators.”
At each of the three Sunday services [at Lighthouse Church of All Nations], the Rev. Dan Willis pulls a number of one seat from a bag and the worshiper in that seat wins a cash prize. Two of the churchgoers win $250 and the third gets $500. The church gives away $1,000 each Sunday, Willis said.
Willis concedes the cash prize is a gimmick to fill the pews. But he's unapologetic about the plan, because it's working. On a typical Sunday, his church draws about 1,600 people to its three Sunday services. But since the money giveaway started, about five weeks ago, the congregation has grown to about 2,500 each week, he said. The money for the giveaway comes from the church offering. Lighthouse is a non-denominational church.
"If I can get someone in here and teach them and give them money, that's what I'm going to do," he said.
Walmart’s latest commercial is good public relations
In September, Walmart debuted a new tag line: “Save Money. Live Better.” It replaced the 19-year old slogan, “Always low prices.” Walmart’s new ad agency, The Martin Agency, which it hired last January, is behind the campaign.
You probably saw the commercials. One shows a grandfather coming to visit his kids and grandkids, and the commercial insists that because the family saved money on the little things by shopping at Walmart, it could afford the big things, like flying grandpa to town.
It’s a nice commercial, but it continues to focus on Walmart’s prices—too much to stir much sentiment among viewers.
However, last week, the big box retailer posted a new 60-second commercial to its YouTube channel. This is a sentimental masterpiece, and it is an example of advertising as PR. The spot will help the big box retailer scrub that nasty image of Walmart as big, bad villain that gobbles up ma-and-pa shops and then puts ma-and-pa to work for slave wages.
Not sure if that image deserves to be scrubbed, but the ad certainly gives that impression.
It reminded me of the powerful scene from the movie Magnolia, when all the main characters sing the song "Wise Up" by Aimee Man—that is, if you pulled all the teeth from that scene, made the message upbeat and reduced it to 60 seconds. But still.
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.