Archive for July, 2009

New York Mets Turn One Crisis into Another

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on July 28, 2009 by innovativemediapr

This season has been a nightmare for the New York Mets.  Injuries and missteps have marred the once promising hopes of the franchise.  Yesterday afternoon’s press conference by General Manager Omar Minaya to announce the firing of VP of Player Development Tony Bernazard may have been the biggest failure of all.

When Adam Rubin of the New York Daily News reported that Bernazard had tore his shirt off and challenged players on the team’s Double A franchise in Binghampton, the wheels began turning for his ultimate dismissal. That tirade along with many others became an embarrassment for the Mets and could no longer be tolerated.

However, what Minaya did at the press conference yesterday afternoon was the team’s biggest embarrassment. It was also a failure of the communications team to properly manage and control such a crisis situation.

By revealing that Rubin had discussed a player personnel job with the Mets, Minaya was directly implying that his reporting on the situation was done to try to get rid of Bernazard and gain a position for himself.  This deflected from the reality that his reporting was right on and led to the dismissal of Bernazard.

In Jay Horwitz, the Mets have one of baseball’s longest-tenured and most respected media relations directors in the sport.    Unfortunately, his reputation is now tarnished by the executives and ownership that have failed the team and its fans.

The Mets organization knew of Bernazard’s transgressions and admitted through their disclosure yesterday that the team’s human resources department had actually conducted the investigation, meaning that it had been taken out of the hands of the general manager.  But then, rather than have ownership in the guise of Jeff Wilpon announce the firing, they put a totally unprepared Minaya in front of the media where he eventually attacked the messenger in Adam Rubin.

What the press conference showed was an inability for the Mets organization to grasp 21st century communications tools.  It is obvious that the Rubin player personnel discussion was something that had to be communicated through ownership and Minaya prior to the press conference. A decision must have been made to reveal this.  Unfortunately, it was a decision that was not thought out.

The big question is did the Mets involve their communications team, namely Jay Horwitz to advise on what needed to be said at the press conference?  If they did not, shame on them. If they did and he went along, then he has some explaining to do to Adam Rubin and other members of the press.

 Too often we are seeing professional sports teams fail in crisis management because they do not grasp the need to properly disclose information, control the message and diffuse a situation rather than ignite a new one, which is what they did yesterday.   

As the character played by actor Strother Martin said in the motion picture Cool Hand Luke, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”   That was never more true than yesterday afternoon.

Tom Cosentino

Corzine Campaign Looking Inept with Lt. Gov Search

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on July 22, 2009 by innovativemediapr

Governor Jon Corzine is in the battle of his life to win a second term as Governor of New Jersey. A sinking economy, elimination of property tax rebates, a proposed program to add new tolls that went nowhere and a high disapproval rating have placed him 6-10 points behind in his race against Republican Chris Christie.  However, the inept way that his campaign has been addressing the selection of a lieutenant governor to run with him is becoming the albatross that may ultimately sink his reelection chances.

For the past week, the name of Randal Pinkett, the winner of season four of Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice” has been floated out as a potential running mate for Corzine, much to the dismay of many Democrats.  Pinkett, an African-American businessman, with no political experience except co-chairing Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s transition team, first had his name tossed out a little more than a week ago.  Many thought he would be chosen prior to President Obama’s appearance with the Governor at a campaign rally in Holmdel last Thursday. 

When his name began circulating, a number of newspaper editorial boards shot it down as nothing more than a stunt.  Then, earlier this week, Chris Christie, the former prosecutor, named Monmouth County Sheriff Kim Guadagno as his running mate. 

Selections for lieutenant governor must be in by next Monday. For the first time, the state will have a lieutenant governor, making this a significant choice by the candidates.

Just today, an Associated Press story hit quoting Randal Pinkett saying he would consider running for the position if an offer was made by Governor Corzine.  Pinkett is holding a press conference in Newark today where he is expected to announce that he will not be a candidate for statewide office.

The fact that this continued to be out there has done nothing but place a huge question mark on the decision-making of the Governor and his team.  There is such a thing as floating out a name to the media to gauge reaction.  However, the negatives associated with such a choice and the reaction to the initial leak, should have been enough evidence to put the issue to bed rather than have it stoked for a second week.

Such speculation also placed an undue burden on Mr. Pinkett, who had to have his name unfairly placed out there.  Whether he was qualified or not to be lieutenant governor,  he should not have been used to test the waters.

What developed over the past two weeks is a selection process that turned circus-like with no ring-leader to give it direction. The impression given has been of a campaign without a message or communications strategy in regards to this issue.

Whether you’re a CEO of a company, spokesperson for a brand or Governor of a state, the way you communicate matters, especially when making major decisions.  What the Corzine communications team  allowed to happen, is for their candidate to appear to be acting in desperation mode, gripping at straws to find a candidate that can create the buzz needed to overcome the polls. 

When the Governor finally makes his decision on a lieutenant governor candidate, that person may be diminished in the eyes of the media and the voters.   Instead of a well-thought out decision, it may appear to be a last second choice, for if that individual was the best choice, then it should have been made way before the Pinkett scenario was allowed to take form.

There’s no question the Corzine communications team lost control of the message. How they recover will determine whether their candidate returns to Trenton or not.

 

Tom Cosentino

When Ted Williams Traded Roger Clemens

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on July 13, 2009 by innovativemediapr

In 23 years of working in the public relations industry, I’ve had my share of great experiences working with athletes and celebrities. However, none made as much of an impact on me as baseball’s all-time greatest hitter, Ted Williams.   With HBO airing a documentary on Williams this week and the All-Star Game upon us, a game where Williams always shined, I couldn’t help but recollect over my   experience with Ted at the 1993 All-Star Game, a time I will always cherish.

In 1993 I had the privilege of launching his trading card company, which was dedicated to bringing back the great players of the past; including recognition for the Negro league players. 

To launch the company we invited editors of the leading hobby publications to send a reporter down to Ted’s home in Hernando, Florida for a weekend introduction to the executives of the company and a special get together with the Splendid Splinter.  By the end of Mother’s Day weekend, reporters had spent three hours at Ted’s home talking baseball and another half hour the next day with a one-on-one session with Ted.

The goal was to have the hobby stories hit in conjunction with FanFest at the All-Star Game in Baltimore that July when the cards would make their debut.  Richard Sandomir of the New York Times interviewed Ted by phone for a business story which ran the week after the Florida session. That New York Times story generated numerous requests from national media to get an interview with Ted but he had committed to only doing a few interviews to promote the company, including attending FanFest.

We secured an interview with CBS Early Show the morning of the All-Star Game from Camden Yards, which provided Ted with a tremendous platform to promote the card set.  It was the time spent afterwards with Williams that stands out in my memory.

In the car back to the hotel following his interview with Paula Zahn, Williams began reminiscing about an at bat he had back in the 1940’s against a certain pitcher. Of course, 16 years later I cannot remember the details but Ted surely did back then.  When we returned to the hotel we went to breakfast which was set up for us in a private room. There came a discussion that forever stands out in my mind.

During the course of breakfast, Ted got on a tangent of how he would take an everyday hitter over a starting pitcher any day.  His son John Henry began a debate with his father.  It revolved around Juan Gonzalez of the Texas Rangers and Roger Clemens of the Red Sox.  Ted, who loved the way Gonzalez ripped the ball, argued that he would trade Gonzalez for Clemens. John Henry stood firm, arguing that Clemens was too valuable and the Red Sox would never trade him.  There I sat, along with executives of the company, taking this all in.

Ted and his son John Henry are now gone, but I’ll always remember that trade discussion because it centered totally on baseball.  Ted promoted many collectible items over his final years in order to help out his son’s business ventures. However, my memories of him will always be of his talking baseball. His passion was unbelievable.  

I’m sure if they were both around today, Ted would argue for trading Josh Beckett for someone like Justin Morneau.  The hitter always ruled in the mind of Ted Williams. And, for this publicist, who grew up a New York Yankees fan, Ted Williams will always remain the one individual, that will always be “bigger than life” for me.

Thanks for the memories Ted. 

Tom Cosentino

PR Should Always Be the Viable Choice

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on July 10, 2009 by innovativemediapr

Gladys Edmunds writes the Entrepreneurial Tightrope column for USA Today. Yesterday, responding to a query from a business owner looking to slash operating costs by trimming their public relations and marketing budget, she posted the following response on the need for companies to think twice before slashing their budgets for public relations, marketing and advertising.  In the piece, she cited McDonald’s as an example. 

There is seemingly a McDonald’s drive through on nearly every corner around the globe. Each month you can peruse magazine racks at book stores and find at least a dozen ads for McDonald’s. You can also find a McDonald’s television commercial every day. And I would imagine the same is true of radio. And their community involvement with the Ronald McDonald charities also gives them high visibility.

 I doubt that there’s a human on earth that hasn’t either eaten at McDonald’s or at least seen one while driving or walking. So, if everybody knows that these restaurants exist — and, for sure, McDonald’s success is real — why does the company bother to keep such a highly visible marketing, advertising and public relations campaign?

 The answer is simple — executives know that without that consistent visibility the company would eventually become just another restaurant chain.

 If reducing your budget is necessary for the life of your business, that’s understandable. However, you must continue to be as visible to the public as possible.

 Sometimes when we are short on money we have to make good use of creativity.

 You didn’t say what kind of business you have, but let’s take a look at a few cost-effective things that you might consider.

 Find a charity to support. Sponsor a food drive for your local food bank. Send a press release to the local media to get exposure for your event.

Edmund’s response is right on the money. This economy has affected us all, from small business owners, corporations to public relations agencies.  It is very easy to take money allocated for public relations and marketing off the table when times get tough.  Sadly, for many companies,  it’s the first thing dropped.

What decision-makers and business owners need to realize is that the communications process is totally integrated.  Running an ad is fine, but integrating it with community outreach, promotion and a personal connection to your customer base is what maintains brand loyalty, especially in tough times.

When you eliminate any approach from a public relations standpoint, you are essentially cutting off your nose to spite your face.  Clients need to realize that agency partners are there to help foster such relationships by creating opportunities to keep a brand or company visible.  Whether it’s creating a giveaway promotion,  making a charitable donation in your local community or issuing a regular series of informational news releases, being proactive and engaged with the media and your customers is vital.

Eliminating a major way of communicating to these customers, by slashing your public relations and marketing budgets, lessens your visibility, gives your competitors an edge, and makes it harder to regain awareness with the public, once the economy rebounds. 

An ongoing, well-structured public relations campaign can maintain awareness for a company through good times and bad.

Doing nothing  should not be a choice.  

Tom Cosentino

Karl Malden Was A Perfect Spokesperson

Posted in Uncategorized on July 2, 2009 by innovativemediapr

The death of actor Karl Malden at age 97 on July 1 brought back many memories for me.  As a movie buff, I cherish the great performances he gave in a host of motion pictures, ranging from the priest fighting against corruption on the docks of New Jersey in On The Waterfront;  playing the card dealer in Cincinnati Kid; to his role as a pioneer in How the West Was Run.  No matter what character Malden played, he was totally believable in the role.

That is what made him such a tremendous corporate spokesperson for American Express in the 1970’s and 1980’s.  He started in commercials for the American Express Card.  His opening line, “Do You Know Me?” acknowledged his familiarity with the viewing audience, which associated him with his numerous film roles and co-starring role in the television series Streets of San Francisco with Michael Douglas.

Malden’s role in promoting American Express than expanded to his appearing in a number of commercials for American Express Travelers Cheques.  In each spot, actors portayed familes or individuals that faced problems during their travels, whether through robbery, accident, etc. There at the close of the spot appeared Malden, wearing his fedora hat and uttering the well-remembered and well-branded slogan, “American Express Travelers Cheques, Don’t Leave Home Without Them.”

The selection of Malden to serve as a corporate spokesperson by American Express was a stroke of genius by its marketing department.

Companies that look to athletes and celebrities to serve in spokesperson roles have to be extremely cautious about such relationships.  Too often, spokespersons run into personal issues that reflect badly on their character and thus can taint the brand they are promoting.

Malden was an ideal choice because during his Hollywood career he was never touched by any scandal, was well-liked and had the personality of someone who could live next door to you.  He was real, welcoming and trustworthy, all of the traits needed to help promote a financial services product.

It can be argued that the commercials by Karl Malden for American Express truly put the company on the map.  For any family planning a vacation, a trip to the bank to purchase American Express Travelers Cheques became the norm.

So as we say goodbye to a great performer, let us keep his personality in mind when helping to select a corporate spokesperson for clients.  The individual selected should be credible, identify with the target audience, and be a brand ambassador you can be proud of.

Karl Malden certainly fit that role, one of hundreds that he made his own.

Tom Cosentino

Plan to Change Copyright Law for Newspapers Has Merit

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on July 1, 2009 by innovativemediapr

An interesting story was published June 29 on EditorandPublisher.com  regarding a move to have copyright laws changed to protect publishers of newspapers from aggregators who link to content and sell advertising. The concept is being promoted by David Marburger, a First Amendment attorney at the firm Baker and Hostetler, and his brother Daniel, an economics professor at Arkansas State University.

The gist of the concept is that for newspapers to remain viable as businesses,  their editorial content must be protected.  This would give newspapers more value with readers and with potential advertisers, as editorial content would not be allowed to be linked to and used by news aggregators until 24 hours after appearing on the newspaper’s web site.

The Marburgers were interviewed  this past Sunday by columnist Connie Schultz of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

“You have all these free riders like Daily Beast and Newser and local television stations aggregating your stories online while diverting readers and advertisers from your site,” David Marburger told Schultz. “And they’re doing it for a fraction of the cost of the newspapers that generated the original copy. And it hit me: All those theories out there on how to prop up newspapers — why isn’t anyone saying this? Why aren’t we talking about how this free-riding by aggregators affects the market rate for everyone? “

With newspapers barely holding on, in fact Gannett announced plans to lay off  hundreds of workers from its community newspapers today, something that can protect them as viable entities deserves to be looked  at closely. 

As communicators, it behooves us to properly position clients for a solid editorial story in a major newspaper outlet.  Having other news sites link to those stories enhances the overall reach and impact.  However, if there is no original newspaper to place that story in, then we’re all in trouble.

Tom Cosentino