Archive for July, 2010

Are You Listening?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on July 27, 2010 by innovativemediapr

As a strategic media relations agency, iMedia Public Relations actively works to garner the attention of media in order to deliver client messages to the public. While we are strategic in our approach, targeting those outlets that speak to the audiences we want to reach with such messages, the real work begins at the inception of the program.  That’s when we listen to the goals and objectives of the client.  It’s the most important part of the process and one that agencies and clients often ignore because they have their own agendas.  By listening we can learn the intricacies of the client business, as well as develop questions that lead to further knowledge and create more opportunities to communicate their message.

About 14 years ago, I attended a men’s retreat sponsored by the Holy Name Society of St. Clement Church in Matawan, New Jersey.  While it was a spiritual day, the great learning I took from the day-long event and have incorporated into my practice as a communications professional ever since was the importance of listening.  I was in a small group with Don Miller, a deacon at our church.  He spoke to us about the class in listening that he took when he was studying for the deaconate.  As he expressed to us, listening was part of the curriculum for deacons, because it was an essential element in their future ministry. It was something they would need during their meetings with couples preparing for marriage, talking to those seeking annulment and visiting the sick.

The listening process is one that has benefitted the finest journalists over the years. The best interviewers are those that not only are well-prepared but listen to the person they are interviewing.  Its fine to have a prepared list of questions but the best question asked can come directly from an individual’s last response.  If an interviewer is not listening intently and instead is only concerned with the next question on his agenda, they will miss the opportunity.

I have been in meetings and pitches over the years with colleagues who fail to listen.  It always leads to a total disconnect with the individuals communicating their vision.  How can they be expected to hire you as their communications agency if you refuse to listen to them?  It’s perfectly fine to question their thinking and plans and make suggestions, but if you go in with a pitch all about you and don’t take the time to listen to what they are saying, how will you be able to develop a plan and strategy to meet their goals?

For years brands looked to captivate consumer audiences through their commercials and advertisements that used catchy slogans, jingles and art.  With the advent of social media, brands can connect directly with the end consumer and receive direct feedback.  Those that listen to the consumer will undoubtedly be the ones that succeed.

I believe the Old Spice  advertising campaign is a firm example of how future marketing and advertising platforms will be cross pollinated through social media engagement. If you haven’t seen it by now, Old Spice launched an ad campaign this February with former football player Isaiah Mustafa, “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like.” Since the ads first hit, Mustafa has become a sensation on You Tube.  Just recently, a campaign on Twitter led to an avalanche of attention as tweets were turned into over 180 custom video ads on You Tube in a 24-hour period.

Simon Mainwaring in his latest business of social transformation blog posting writes extensively on how the campaign was a marketing success but not a technological breakthrough.  In the end, it was a success because Old Spice listened.

The Old Spice campaign was a wonderful demonstration of listening – just check out their Facebook page where Isiah answers questions personal questions via video. As I have said before, the future brand success will be determined by ‘the quality of listening’. In this case the personalized tweets by Old Spice not only showed the brand was listening but compelled the winterers to share the brand content again.

Whether you are Old Spice or a local business looking to connect with your customers, it is important that you listen to their needs and wants. If you’re a communications professional or agency and you want to keep your clients and win new business, it is essential that you listen as well.

Is anybody listening yet?

Tom Cosentino

An Intern’s Memory of Boss Steinbrenner

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on July 13, 2010 by innovativemediapr

Not too many kids growing up as fans of the New York Yankees can say they had the chance to work or play for the Bronx Bombers.  That honor was one I experienced in 1983 when I served as a media relations intern with the Yankees.  The passing today of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner made me think back to that season.

 It was the spring semester of my senior year at St. John’s University and I was registered for a 15-credit full-time internship with the Yankees.  I wound up working for Ken Nigro, a former sportswriter for the Baltimore Sun, who was in his first and only season as Media Relations Director for the team.  When asked at a post-season dinner if he would ever work again for Steinbrenner after quitting at the end of the season, Nigro was quoted as saying, “I’d rather have AIDS!”  That was strong rhetoric from a grown professional, but understandable, as this was the peak of George Steinbrenner’s feared reign as owner of the Yankees, when he had no qualms of firing his pr men, managers, front office executives and secretaries alike.

As a 21-year-old intern, I learned many things during that season. What stands out in my memory is how a front office loaded with middle age executives could be thrown into a tumultuous panic by the arrival of the Boss.  When Steinbrenner was away there was a different mood in the big ball orchard in the Bronx, as the late Art Rust Jr., used to call it.  But when he was expected in from Cleveland, everyone was on alert.

Keep in mind that 1983 marked the return of Billy Martin for his third tour of duty as Yankees manager.  By mid-summer, the UPI ticker in our office was ringing off the hook with alerts that Steinbrenner was about to fire Martin and replace him with Yogi Berra. This was because Martin had allegedly cursed at a NY Times researcher who had been granted permission to conduct a survey of the players in the clubhouse. Martin didn’t appreciate the way she was dressed and felt she didn’t belong.  Whether he cursed or not, the story made back page headlines and caused the Martin firing watch to begin.

I can remember leaving the front office at the Stadium on Saturday night after a game and seeing Yankees third base coach Don Zimmer in full uniform waiting to go into a meeting with Steinbrenner.  Apparently, Zimmer came to Martin’s defense that night and helped save Billy’s job.

The next morning, Steinbrenner announced that Martin was safe and I actually got to ride down in the elevator with the two as they went from the front office to the clubhouse to meet the media. 

One of my daily tasks as an intern was to deliver a statistics package to all the front office executives, as well as Mr. Steinbrenner.  On more than one occasion I walked in on him while he was in a meeting with his scouts and baseball people and he held out his hand and I just dropped the stat packet in them and turned and walked away.

Another one of my duties was answering the phone when Steinbrenner was looking for my boss.  He’d get on and his voice would bellow, “Where’s Nigro?”  “Find him.”  We’d then forward the call to the clubhouse and Nigro would always be one step ahead, ducking the call which naturally would come back to us.  The Boss would then say, “Get me the operator.”  Of course, the switchboard would be tied up and the call would come back to us and he’d roar on the phone, “I asked for the goddamn operator.”

Mike Lupica of the NY Daily News used to be Steinbrenner’s nemesis back then.  I think he even hung the moniker Boss on Steinbrenner.  We used to have to keep a file on everything Lupica wrote about Steinbrenner and Billy Martin.  The Yankee attorney used to run down and ask us for the file every time Steinbrenner would return from Cleveland.

When American League President Lee MacPhail overturned the ruling by home plate umpire Tim McClelland in the infamous Pine Tar game involving George Brett and the Royals, Steinbrenner really got mad.  With the Royals having to return to the Bronx to finish the half-inning of the game and the Yankees victory stripped from them by MacPhail, I was asked to come up with disparaging trades that the AL President had made while General Manager of the Yankees in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  It was easy to come up with some bad ones like Clete Boyer for Bill Robinson and Stan Bahnsen for Rich McKinney. I had to throw in a good one like acquiring Sparky Lyle for Danny Cater just to show editorial balance.

For the replay of the Pine Tar Game Steinbrenner wanted to treat the game as a festival, inviting campers to attend. But then he got incensed at MacPhail and did everything possible to prevent the game from being resumed.  It did get played and the Yanks lost in one of the most widely covered one inning games in history.

Most importantly for me, Steinbrenner actually agreed to have me placed on the payroll once my internship was complete. Ken Nigro had asked if this was possible and the Boss agreed.  So from late June until the end of October, I received a paycheck from the New York Yankees and became a paid media relations assistant. It wasn’t much but it helped pay for my tokens on the subway.

I learned a lot in 1983.  I learned first- hand how one individual’s presence impacted a professional sports franchise. As a fan of the team, I despised and praised him over the years. However, one thing is for sure. George Steinbrenner was a monumental figure not only in New York, but his presence forever changed the game of baseball.

Tom Cosentino

Search Queries Now Determining the News on Yahoo

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on July 7, 2010 by innovativemediapr

Why is it important to have a strong web presence and to develop content that resonates with the audience you’re trying to reach? Just consider the new platform launched Tuesday by Yahoo that relies on search queries to determine what content makes it into its news blog called The Upshot.

As the New York Times outlined in their July 4 story on the launch, this process will be a guideline for editors at Yahoo that will allow them to deliver the news that readers want.

The latest and perhaps broadest effort yet in democratizing the news is under way at Yahoo, which on Tuesday will introduce a news blog that will rely on search queries to help guide its reporting and writing on national affairs, politics and the media.

Yahoo software continuously tracks common words, phrases and topics that are popular among users across its vast online network. To help create content for the blog, called The Upshot, a team of people will analyze those patterns and pass along their findings to Yahoo’s news staff of two editors and six bloggers.

The news staff will then use that search data to create articles that — if the process works as intended — will allow them to focus more precisely on readers.

An eMarketer.com story today describes that internet search usage makes The Upshot a natural.

This isn’t news, per se, but it is good business sense. While it flies in the face of good, hard journalism, the site ostensibly gives “the people” what they want—or are looking for, anyway. There is ample fodder for The Upshot, since searching for news and information is one of the most popular activities for US internet users. Among the many studies that report this information is one from Accenture.

Recent survey results from Accenture show 94% of internet users are online for searching and/or reading news information. eMarketer.com also points out: news aggregators such as Yahoo! are a strong second behind major US TV news sites, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

News is no longer solely in the hands of producers or editors. What you develop for a client or your business is the information that the end-user on the internet may want to read. The more they find your information, the more editorial outlets like Yahoo will provide broader coverage of your story.

Tom Cosentino