Archive for April, 2009

VP Biden Learns Need for Measured Response

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on April 30, 2009 by innovativemediapr

Years ago when teaching as an adjunct at St. John’s University, I taught my class the value of giving measured responses to media inquiries, especially in a time of crisis.  This morning during his appearance on the Today Show, Vice President Joe Biden showed how important it is for public figures to be measured in their responses. The Vice President, when asked by host Matt Lauer about the swine flu crisis, gave this response:

“I wouldn’t go anywhere in confined places now,” Biden said when Matt Lauer asked whether he would advise family members to use public transportation.

“I would tell members of my family, and I have, I wouldn’t go anywhere in confined places now. It’s not that it’s going to Mexico, it’s you’re in a confined aircraft when one person sneezes it goes all the way through the aircraft. That’s me. I would not be, at this point, if they had another way of transportation suggesting they ride the subway. ” 

The vice president also implied that schools should be closed as the threat of swine flu increases.

“If you’re out in the middle of a field and someone sneezes that’s one thing. If you’re in a closed aircraft or a closed container or closed car or closed classroom it’s a different thing.” 

A couple of hours later, following a public rebuke by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the Vice President’s office issued a clarifying statement.

The advice he is giving family members is the same advice the administration is giving all Americans: That they should avoid unnecessary air travel to and from Mexico. If they are sick, they should avoid airplanes and other confined public spaces, such as subways. This is the advice the vice president has given family members who are traveling by commercial airline this week,” Biden’s spokeswoman, Elizabeth Alexander, said in a statement.

One of the things that has cemented President Obama’s status as a communicator is his ability to stay on message and be measured at all times.  Perhaps he should take his vice president into a conference  room and media train him or at least, loan him his teleprompter with a controlled message programmed in.

Tom Cosentino

Air Force Photo Op in NYC A Gross Error in Judgement

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on April 27, 2009 by innovativemediapr

Eight years after the worst attack on the U.S. marked by the vivid memories of airliners flying low over lower Manhattan and crashing into the World Trade Center, the United States Air Force decided to stage a photo opportunity this morning that caused buildings in lower Manhattan, not far from the Trade Center site to be evacuated.  Just imagine being a worker in lower Manhattan and seeing an airliner flanked by an F-16 come roaring by low in the sky.  How would you feel?

Well, it seems this was all part of  an Air Force Photo-op that involved using a VC-25 aircraft, the actual back-up for Air Force One and an F-16. According to published reports, the New York City Police Department, New Jersey State Police and the city’s 911 and 311 emergency call centers were notified last week that this would happen but that the public could not be told about it.  Apparently, Mayor Bloomberg was left in the dark as well, according to a story posted on Newsday.com.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the flyover, so near the World Trade Center site, showed “poor judgment” and was insensitive. He said he was furious that the NYPD and another city agency were notified last week, but did not tell him. If he had known, Bloomberg said, he would have tried to stop it.

Did anyone in the Air Force in charge of this bother to ask their public relations representatives for counsel on how such a stunt would be received?  If they did and the communications department signed off, then that makes this exercise in lousy judgement even more ridiculous.

There are just too many negatives associated with staging such a photo-op.  Someone is going to answer for this one. 

Tom Cosentino

Time is Worth Waiting For One Day at a Time

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 24, 2009 by innovativemediapr

Today as I worked on a press release for a client, dealt with invitations for an upcoming event and worked on a new business proposal, something caught my eye while online that caused me to take a step back and reflect. 

 

Each day in the newspaper there is always a list of celebrity birthdays. I often marvel at how many major names share birthdays whenever I happen to sneak a peek. Of course when you factor in the thousands of people born each day, the odds of a handful turning into celebrities is really small.  Yet, what caught my eye today online was the grouping of celebrity names associated with April 23.  It read like a who’s who of my childhood and gave me an appreciation for a much simpler time when there weren’t as many distractions.

 

Among those sharing a birthday today were the Bionic Man, actor Lee Majors (Six Million Dollar Man), 1940; actress Joyce DeWitt (Three’s Company), 1949; and actress Valerie Bertinelli (One Day at a Time), 1960.

 

The Six Million Dollar Man (We can rebuild him, we have the technology) used sound effects and slow motion as the special effects. It was rudimentary at best and kids watching it today would be bored, but in the 1970’s Steve Austin was the closest thing to Jack Bauer we had.  Three’s Company broke ground with a character named Jack Tripper, played by the late John Ritter, impersonating a gay man so he could share an apartment with two beautiful women, Chrissy Snow (Suzanne Somers) and Janet Wood, played by Joyce DeWitt, who remained a regular on the show throughout its run.  And, like millions of other school boys, I had a crush on Valerie Bertinelli during her days as a character on One Day at a Time. She looked good on the cover of People last month as well.

 

Many other famous names share this day, including director Michael Moore (1954), comedian George Lopez (1961), actress Estelle Harris (1936) -George Costanza’s mom on Seinfeld, the famous child star Shirley Temple (1928), Slumdog Millionaire actor Dev Patel (1990), and now deceased Herve Villechaize of Fantasy Island, (Boss, da plane, da plane) and singer Roy Orbison both in 1943.

 

In addition to this short list of famous names born over the last 100 years, I culled Brainy History for some other significant events that occurred on this date.

 

1995 – President Clinton declared a national day of mourning for the Oklahoma City bombing

 

1989 –  Kareem Abdul-Jabbar played his last game as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers

 

1985 – Coca-Cola announced it was changing its secret formula

 

1972 – Apollo 16 astronauts explored the moon’s surface

 

1956 – U.S. Supreme Court ends racial segregation on buses

 

1954 – Hank Aaron hit the first of his 755 home runs

 

1949 – Chinese Red Amy conquered Nanjing

 

1943 – British and U.S. offensive directed at Tunis/Bizerta commenced

 

1939 –  Ted Williams hit his first home run

 

1903 – The New York Highlanders (Yankees) win their first game beating the Washington Senators 7-2

 

I decided to write this because as we become more infatuated with instant communication, keeping the world abreast of our every waking moment, we need to realize that no matter what, we will remain just one minor peg in the ultimate wheel of time.

 

So take a step back tomorrow before posting a tweet, updating Facebook or answering email and reflect on the moment at hand.  Time is worth waiting for. You just have to take it one day at a time.

 

Tom Cosentino

Social Media Has Changed PR Forever

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 21, 2009 by innovativemediapr

This Wednesday night, I will be participating as a panelist for “Making A Connection: The Business of Social Networking” event which the NY-metro chapter of Woman In Sports & Events is hosting at the New York Times. The event will explore what exactly is social networking? How does it all work and who is using it an why?

My fellow panelists are Terry Dry, President of Fanscape, Inc.; Sandra Fathi, President and Founder of Affect Strategies and Kerry Stranman, Group Strategy Director of Strawberry FrogShaun Koiner, Integrated Marketing Manager, Social Media for SI Digital will moderate.

Two years ago, I would have collapsed from laughter if you told me that I would be considered as a panelist for such an event.  At that stage, I was just beginning to understand how the social media landscape worked as I watched younger staff engage in the process.  Now, as I myself have put my big toe into the social media pool, I have realized that in order to continue to succeed in this profession, I would need to swim in its waters. 

We are in a new age that is constantly changing.  When I was an assistant publicity director at Yonkers Raceway in 1985 I remembered what a big deal it was when we got our first fax machine. Imagine, being able to fax a press release directly to the news and sports desks.  I used to type out press kits for our big races on an electric typewriter, inputting bios for 25 horses and drivers at a time.

A couple of years later, it was a big deal when John Totaro, my boss at Lapin East/West and I put together a conference call with George Foreman to promote his fight with Gerry Cooney.  We had over 40 boxing reporters on the call and the lines were all open.  That was a major deal then, but something that is totally ho-hum now.

Fax machines, the first hand-grenade style mobile phones, conference calls, etc. were all tools that we as public relations professionals adapted to and used to enhance the way we communicated to media.

As technology gave birth to social media, the tools of our trade changed forever.  What I will discuss at the W.I.S.E. event is how these tools are being applied on an everyday basis and how, as the head of a public relations agency, I have now adopted them into my practice.  In fact, in most cases, social media platforms are the major component of the public relations strategy we develop for clients.

The ability to reach and engage with the end consumer directly through social media has altered the media relations business.  It is still important to sell a story or a segment through to an editor or producer at a key media outlet.  However, creating content for clients that can be repurposed on various platforms on the web are just as important.

We are now all swimmers in the ocean of social media.  Those that refuse to get their toes wet will get lost in the waves. Those that do will stay afloat. 

Tom Cosentino

Dominos Learns an Important Lesson from Viral Crisis

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on April 17, 2009 by innovativemediapr

How companies deal with a crisis can make or break their business.  The emergence of social media has made this even more vital.  The pizza chain Dominos has certainly had a week from hell after an idiotic attempt at humor by a pair of employees in Conover, North Carolina, who filmed themselves performing disgusting things to the pizzas they were about to deliver, spread like wildfire over the internet.

According to a story in the New York Times, company spokesman Tim McIntyre admitted that company executives initially did not want to aggressively address the issue, hoping it would die down:

As the company learned about the video on Tuesday, Mr. McIntyre said, executives decided not to respond aggressively, hoping the controversy would quiet down. “What we missed was the perpetual mushroom effect of viral sensations,” he said.

How a company in today’s viral world can think that something like this could go away is like jumping into a tank of sharks and with an open cut.  There is no avoiding the issue. Once it starts spreading virally, such a video takes on a life of its own.

To complicate matters, Dominos began only dealing with selected bloggers that contacted the company instead of orchestrating a full blown response to the emerging crisis. 

Leading blogger  Joseph Jaffe  took a position on this that I totally agree with during an interview with ABCNews.com:

One of my quotes states that Domino’s should have blasted a press release instead of targeted blogs.

Tim McIntyre, Domino’s spokesperson expressly chose following up with bloggers who had “expressed interest” compared to a press release route which he “feared would only encourage more people to find and view the video” (logic/rationale sounds a bit backward to me). My point of view was to be proactive ahead of the inevitable mainstream media pickup i.e. pretending it doesn’t exist or hoping it goes away was both risky and unrealistic. Domino’s should have taken preemptive action in terms of either telling their side of the story and/or being ready/prepared/available to tell their story to the major daily shows, news outlets etc.

Secondly, Domino’s took a position to respond directly to blogs/bloggers that contacted them…but I believe they should have taken this further and – with a listening strategy in place – reached out to any blogs (including mine) that referenced the fiasco.

Marketers need to understand that when a blogger hits the publish button, they are essentially “contacting” the brand for a response, albeit indirectly.

(Jaffe Juice)

As the week moved on Dominos definitely has taken some good steps in addressing the crisis situation such as firing the individuals involved, pressing civil charges against them and posting a response from its CEO on You Tube, as well as creating a Twitter account @dpzinfo.

However, if they had gone into full crisis mode the minute they learned of the video being posted, including issuing a nationally distributed press release, holding a press conference and conducting a proactive campaign to social media outlets, they would have been better served.  Giving away a free delivery of pizza or incorporating another such promotion could also help to diminish the negative impact.

Scenarios that just affected Dominos will continue to occur.  As social media continues to grow and more outlets and platforms are created for distributing content, brands and companies can no longer be reactive. They need to be in full 24-hour monitoring mode. Their brands and reputations will rise and fall on how closely they are monitoring what’s being said about them.

Tom Cosentino

 

 

 

 

Susan Boyle Proves The Public Still Wants to Root For the Underdog

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on April 16, 2009 by innovativemediapr

By now, Susan Boyle’s incredible performance on Britain’s “She’s Got Talent” show has become an internet phenomenon, with her performance viewed  on You Tube over 20 million times already!  Just like Mark Fidrych, the subject of our last blog, benefited from the era he played in by becoming a huge gate attraction, the Boyle phenomenon is a testament to how the viral world can make an unknown personality into a global one in a matter of hours. I first saw the clip of her performance through a tweet I received on Twitter.  It was passed on to me through Facebook and I saw it posted everywhere on the internet.

This has become a phenomenon because the public has embraced Susan Boyle as a real person, one who can be any underdog we have ever know in our life.  Not only does this story resonate with the general public but it also shows how powerful mainstream media can still be when it focuses on something that touches the emotions of its audience.

Susan Boyle definitely hit the high note with her performance.  Her life has changed overnight, and we are all better for it.

Tom Cosentino

Fidrych’s Antics Fit the Era

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 14, 2009 by innovativemediapr

Baseball lost two legends yesterday in Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas, 73,  and former Detroit Tigers pitcher Mark “The Bird” Fidrych, 54.  Kalas was one of the most popular and original announcers in the business.  He loved singing the song “High Hopes.”  That enthusiam carried him through each broadcast and made him a fixture in the lives of baseball fans, regardless of whether you were a Phillies fan or not. How fitting that he was given the opportunity to be part of the Phillies world championship before moving on to the big ballpark in the sky.

Fidrych on the other hand was a beloved character who, although his career was short and his success fleeting, became an indelible part of the game’s history.  His 1976 AL Rookie of the Year season in which he won 19 games and was the starting pitcher in the All Star Game will forever be remembered for the excitement he generated in ballparks all over the league, as fans came out in droves to see this eccentric righthander talk to the baseball and pat the dirt on the mound with his hands.

Fidrych’s rise to fame came quickly and was spread by the media of the day.  He appeared in Sports Illustrated and the Sporting News, and baseball columnists began chronicling his antics.  Fans that saw him pitch against their hometown team on television, anxiously awaited the Tigers visit to their local cities in order to see him in person.  What Fidrych became was an old fashioned gate attraction.

The enthusiasm generated for this unique character would probably not have been as powerful if it happened today.  In our modern era of 24-hour highlights, satellite television and the internet, baseball fans would have had numerous opportunities to see Fidrych pitch, and our modern attention spans would have most likely caused us to grow tired of the routine in fast order.

However, 1976 was the pre-ESPN Sportscenter era.   Local sports casts across the country were usually limited to highlights of the hometown teams.  Despite this, Fidrych’s routine on the mound became the talk of the sports world.  It also helped that he was dominating American League teams.

On June 28 in Detroit , the entire nation finally go to see him in action when he pitched against and defeated the New York Yankees on ABC Television’s Monday Night Baseball.  The national stage was his.  It led to his start for the American League in the All Star Game and caused even greater crowds to come out across American League ballparks the rest of the season.

Unfortunately, arm injuries curtailed his career and he never duplicated the magic of 1976.  What he did attain is baseball immortality.  It was the right era for “The Bird”  to come into the public’s consciousness. Let’s hope we continue to appreciate such characters when they come on the scene today.

Tom Cosentino