Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Learn from Those Who Chase the Spotlight

It’s our job to help people and companies monitor media attention or manage potentially harmful coverage, so when somebody seems to crave the public eye for all the wrong reasons, it piques our interest.

The latest dubious episode of shamelessly courting the spotlight is the couple now known as the White House party crashers. Tareq and Michaele Salahi claim they were invited guests to the exclusive state dinner. The White House says otherwise.

In recent months, it seems self-imposed public embarrassment has reached new extremes. First there was Jon and Kate, willing to expose their questionable parenting and marital skills to a national audience. Then there was the infamous “balloon boy” saga, which brought bad parenting for the sake of fame to new heights. And now, there are the White House “Don’t Call Us Party Crashers” party crashers.

As the e-mails between a White House representative and the Salahis come to light, it is still uncertain how an uninvited couple could arrive and be admitted to a high-security, invite-only event. The lines of truth are blurry. Could they have been confused about being welcomed at the event? Is this just a reality television stunt for Bravo’s show “Real Housewives of D.C.”?

What these people, so eager for attention, seem to overlook is how uncomfortable and potentially incriminating it is to find oneself caught in a lie. It’s not very becoming – or legal, for that matter – to come uninvited to a White House dinner or to make your child lie to officials after pretending all day that he was stuck in a balloon when you knew perfectly well he was safe at home.

We think of these episodes as good teaching moments for our clients and blog readers. Not that we expect anybody we know to pretend that his kid is in a balloon 7,000 feet in the air or sneak into President Obama’s parties. But on a smaller level, these fiascos are still relevant. Remember that video, images and audio recordings can all be transmitted much more easily these days than they used to be. If you think you’re leaving a private voicemail to a colleague or friend’s phone, think again. It can always be made public with the click of a button. The line between public and private grows blurrier by the day. Something you might want your friends only to know about (say, a slightly embarrassing photograph of you on Facebook), could easily slip out of your control and end up in the public sphere. Just ask Tiger Woods.

Posted by Hillary Rhodes

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Even the Anti-Social Need to Pay Attention to Social Media

Blogging, twittering, facebooking, it can be a bit overwhelming.

But every day we’re reminded how these new communication tools are taking a leadership role in driving dialogue, nationally and locally. Not just dialogue about movie stars, fashion or special sales - but also about important issues like healthcare, the war in Afghanistan and our economy.
For corporations and individuals who carefully guard their reputations, ignoring the “social” media can be devastating.

Take the Friday after Thanksgiving Day blog post about the reputed “black screen of death.” It accused Microsoft of releasing a faulty security program with its new Windows 7 that caused computers to go black and crash.

Posted on Friday November 27 by an obscure computer security company, and allowed to flourish unanswered, the “black screen of death” claim spread with alarming speed.

By Monday morning the blog post had morphed into a news story picked up by wires, PC World, ComputerWorld, CNN and MSNBC. With each repetition the story gained credibility. And with each hour the story was repeated by dozens of additional publications each quoting the other. Mind you, there was still no substantiated connection between Microsoft and the “black screen of death”.

Finally, ZDNet’s Ed Bott tracked down the destructive roots of the story, the sloppy journalism and sluggish public relations that allowed it to flourish.

By Monday afternoon- as a few good journalists got around to asking Microsoft for comment- the headlines turned... but only slightly. As Bott notes the new headlines didn’t help much:

“Microsoft is investigating… Microsoft is probing… Microsoft is looking into the problem… And then, finally, on Tuesday afternoon: Microsoft denies blame for ‘black screens of death’. Oh, really? By the time your name appears in “So-and-so denies…” headlines, you are toast. Ask Tiger Woods.”

Used to be you’d have more time before turning into toast- at least a couple of news cycles. Now it happens in a matter of hours, or even minutes, at the speed of one quick key stroke.

For those who have yet to dive into the “social” media- the “anti-social” among us- there are quick and easy ways to get started. Our basic advice as you put your toe in the water: get an interactive website, set up a blog, sign up for Twitter and establish an e-newsletter. This is your basic communication network, which will allow you to quickly reach your key audiences with accurate, up to the minute information. It doesn’t have to be time consuming, but it can be reputation saving.

Oh and about the black screen of death? Debatable on whether it even exists. But a couple of things do exist- a new “safety patch” sold by the obscure company that posted the first blog and of course out there in cyberspace- just waiting for a Google search- the hundreds of headlines, news stories and posts on the topic that sprouted up and left unchecked, ran rampant.

Posted by Dyana Koelsch

Thursday, November 19, 2009

PR Ideas Are All Around

A good PR firm looks for inspiration everywhere. The best communication or marketing concepts can come from any place, and often from people who are not primarily focused on promoting a client. I like to look at the greater creative world for ideas that might be repurposed for the people who hire us. When I stumbled on this (http://niemann.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/11/17/bio-diversity/?hp), I immediately asked myself why I liked it so much, and what it can teach us about PR.

Here’s what I like about it:

  • It incorporates out-of-the-box thinking. We all know the directive to “think out of the box,” but that’s easier said than done. It takes real thought and mind-bending to come up with something truly creative. Christoph Niemann, the Berlin-based artist of this piece, clearly had a million original thoughts when he conceptualized this project. Not only did he imagine simple leaves into new shapes, but he played with the words (“Birch and Ernie,” “Poplar and Un-Poplar”), and used inventive pairings of subjects.

  • It’s playful, poignant and full of personality. Oftentimes, our clients need advice about very serious issues. In those cases, of course, it’s not effective or appropriate to be playful. But part of good PR is recognizing when to bite your tongue and when to put it in your cheek. Many companies have turned to humorous viral videos to promote a new product or get the word out about their services. Humor is a universal language, and if you know when and how to use it effectively, it can do wonders for getting yourself noticed. If not humor, why not tell a poignant story, or otherwise lend original personality to your message?

  • It’s simple and aesthetically pleasing. Cleverness aside, Niemann clearly has an understanding for what draws the eye. This can be easily overlooked by a company eager to produce a message full of information. But sometimes simplicity says it best, and sometimes keeping the images and concepts clean will create a more compelling final product.

  • It’s not what you think. Personally, I don’t like to be tricked. But I do like to be pleasantly surprised. Here, you expect to see pretty leaves, and upon closer inspection you see they have been altered. That is a fun revelation, and whets our appetite for more. Just as Niemann viewed an everyday object through the lens of an artist exploring all its possibilities, a company wanting original PR can think about how to reinvent everyday concepts for its own purposes. What will make your constituents, clients or customers chuckle? What will make them think in new, inspiring ways? What will make them remember you and want more of what you have to offer?

Posted by Hillary Rhodes

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

It's never too early for PR

It’s never too early to start incorporating public relations into your business plan…as illustrated recently by the high stakes race between paint retailers Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore to attract new customers.

Both companies released slick i-Phone applications this summer that allow users to snap a picture- whether it be of a flower, an upholstered chair or seashell - and instantly match it to one of the thousands of hues in the paint companies’ system, while at the same time harmonizing and coordinating palettes. The apps even provided directions to the nearest store.

Actually Sherwin Williams was first out of the box with the new application. But that turned out to be largely irrelevant, because Benjamin Moore was first with its public relations campaign. In fact, Benjamin Moore’s PR campaign was in full swing months before its “ben Color Capture” application was even available to the general public. That meant Benjamin Moore scooped the free publicity and was featured in blogs and lifestyle stories in numerous media outlets including the New York Times.

The Benjamin Moore media blitz left Sherwin Williams in the unenviable position of having to pitch reporters and bloggers with an “us-too” story line. But once the story is done - it’s done. By the time Sherwin Williams launched its PR campaign, the cool “new” i-Phone paint app was simply old news.

Benjamin Moore’s product development director Carl Minchew, speaking at the Ad Age/ Appilicious Apps Brand Conference, said the application has received over 50,000 downloads and generated a surge in businesses that is still accelerating. “We got a lot of media coverage. We were seen as being first, much to the chagrin of our larger competitor. We beat them to the punch on getting the word out about our application and that seems to be more important thing than being first,” said Minchew

Getting their public relations underway early in the research and development phases gave Benjamin Moore a focused, multi-tiered campaign implemented for maximum effectiveness. Did it matter that Benjamin Moore wasn’t first with the new product launch? Clearly not. What mattered was the ability to get out early (first) with a coordinated PR campaign that defined the company as the industry leader.

Posted by Dyana Koelsch

Monday, September 21, 2009

Don't Try This at Home II

A while back we posted some thoughts about the dangers of going "off the record". Recently, President Obama ran into trouble wading through this uncharted territory, which is defined by the question: what, exactly, does "off-the-record" mean. This episode highlights a new question: does technology change those meanings?

The issue came up when the President called hip hop artist Kanye West a "jack-ass," in what Obama thought was an off-the-record conversation. (West, you may recall, stormed the stage and gave a foolish, self-centered speech in his native gibberish at this year’s VMAs, upstaging another artist who had actually won an award.) But the reporter in the interview from ABC Twittered it, and so it got "out there", much to the chagrin of the White House.

(This raises another question: Maybe I’m old school, but who, exactly, sits in the Oval Office fiddling with their Blackberry while conducting an interview with the President of the United States?)

The good news for the president? Well, his language wasn’t "too" salty, and he said something that most folks who cared actually agreed with.

Some of the discussion about "off-the-record" seemed to center around whether or not Twitter is a media outlet that would be covered by an off-the-record agreement. This strikes me as being besides the point, and ABC apparently agreed, apologizing for breaking their agreement with the President. But the real issue is the degree to which technology moved so fast that ABC’s editorial process couldn’t keep up. One more thing for reporters, Presidents and the rest of us in the business to be mindful of.

Also of note: if you listen to the recording, you can hear the President say, "Cut the President some slack," after his comments about West. This sheds light on my view that your ability to enforce an off-the-record agreement often depends, in part, on how much leverage you have. Sometimes you don’t have any leverage. If you’re the president, you would think that you and your press office have a great deal of leverage with covering media. Nevertheless, the president was out there; technology had let the cat was out of the bag and no amount of presidential leverage could get the cat back in. I just wouldn’t want to be that reporter going forward as I tried to cover the White House. ("Excuse me, Mr. Emmanuel would like a word with you.")

This episode highlights how dangerous the "off-the-record" waters can be, and offers an interesting window into how the speed of the new media can nullify old ways of managing the relationship between covering and covered.

Nevertheless, my advice to clients remains the same: be very, very careful out there.

Posted by David Preston

Friday, August 28, 2009

Capturing the News Grazers

Did you read the newspaper today? Or perhaps instead you caught the headlines online, or on your mobile phone. You might have plugged into the daily radio talk show or shared your impressions on Twitter or Facebook and ended the day with a televised newscast. If that sounds familiar you’re what the Pew Research Center for People and the Press calls a news grazer - an integrator who is constantly shopping for news tidbits throughout the day and from a variety of sources. Representing a growing segment of the news audience, Pew notes integrators are more affluent, highly educated and younger than those who consume their news in the traditional manner- i.e. newspapers and nightly television newscasts.

The big loser in this ongoing trend is the newspaper industry that continues to see a decline in readers and struggles to redefine itself into an economically sustainable model.

While the decline of the American newspaper industry has been happening for several years, (as noted in the table above) it is becoming more evident as new generations mature. At the opening fall semester at the Naval War College, (where I’ve taught media relations for the past nine years) I noted for the first time- not one student in the class was a daily newspaper reader. As an aside, this week the Phoenix’s David Scharfenberg has an insightful look at the Providence Journal’s attempts to adapt.

It may come as no surprise that the audience migration to the internet for news has accelerated in recent years. The real questions now is - Where on the internet are news consumers going? Having a web based communication strategy means more than just plunking up a website and hoping your audience finds you.

In fact, standard news organizations are still valuable credible ways to connect information with audiences. The biggest growth in 2008 was at sites offering legacy news. The Project for Excellence in Journalism in its 2009 report notes, “The old norms of traditional journalism continue to have value. Virtually all of the most popular news websites are those associated with traditional news organizations, whose legacy platforms are paying for the news gathering, or are aggregators, which collect content from traditional newsrooms and wire services rather than produce their own.”

The challenge now is for media outlets to figure out how they’ll raise enough revenue to continue paying for quality reporters who generate content both for traditional news sources and new media sources. With diminished reporting staffs, there is added value to well rounded public relations efforts that provide factual, efficiently packaged information that can be disseminated to news grazers on multiple levels. An effective multi-pronged new media strategy includes e-newsletters, traditional news sources, legacy news websites, blogging, and finally creating and maintaining your own interactive and interesting channels of communication.

Posted by Dyana Koelsch

Friday, August 14, 2009

Crisis Communications, Big Papi Style

Come clean. Do it quickly. Don’t fuel the fire.

The Red Sox’ David Ortiz used all those crisis communications techniques recently in a mostly successful effort to address his alleged failure to pass a 2003 doping test administered by Major League Baseball.

Big Papi’s PR at bat was made even more difficult by this curve ball: He hasn’t been able to see the actual test results, which are under a court seal. This made the “come clean” part of the equation very difficult, since Papi wasn’t completely certain what may have triggered the positive test result. Further, taking the time to find out would have violated Rule #2: Do it quickly. So he balanced the two by finding out what he could in a reasonable amount of time (meaning quickly enough so that it didn’t look like he was ducking allegations and not giving harmful speculation time to gain credence), then offering up the best possible response given the lack of information available to him. He believes he was “careless” with over-the-counter supplements.

There are a number of useful PR lessons that can be gleaned from Papi’s performance:
  • Stay in control. Always maintain your composure. Even though the release of information that was supposed to be confidential made the “victim card” available, Papi – to his credit -- didn’t play it.
  • Be candid and accurate. Get as much information as you can about what you’re up against, and make your points with as much candor and clarity as you can. Then, don’t push your luck. Don’t speculate, don’t protest (see: “victim card,” above) and of course, never lie. Just stay focused and say what you know to be true.
  • When it’s over, stop talking. After you’ve presented your side of things clearly and succinctly, there is no reason to keep fueling the conversation. Leave the spotlight as soon as you can. Too often, those accused of scandals or corruption get carried away defending themselves (we’re talking about you, Roger Clemens), and it often only serves to raise suspicion or create vulnerabilities that didn’t exist. Once you’ve said your piece, fade from public view with as much dignity and grace as you can muster.
Bottom Line: Big Papi’s reputation for candor and being one of the Good Guys sustained little damage, and the matter has faded from the public consciousness – for now.

Posted by David Preston

Click here to Listen to David discuss this topic on WPRO

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The PR Lessons of Jon & Kate

The celebrity machine runs on public displays of humiliation.

The world has been mourning the death of Michael Jackson – an undoubtedly huge talent, but one whose signature move was a crotch-grab, and whose relationship with children leaves lingering suspicion in some minds. And shades of Eliot Spitzer, the governorship of South Carolina’s Mark Sanford teeters in the wake of outright lying regarding his whereabouts and the publication of lovelorn e-mails to his Argentinean mistress in the national press.

So why are fans everywhere riveted as the growing rift between TLC super parents Jon and Kate blasts across tabloids and TVs around the country?

Because all those other people – the Britneys, MJs, and Spitzers of the world – are not “normal” people. They are performers and politicians who have sought the spotlight. And while Jon & Kate did agree to let TLC camera crews document their lives for “Jon & Kate Plus 8,” they perhaps didn’t know exactly what kind of attention they were inviting, or just how much drama was in store. After all, the show’s producers have an incentive (ratings) to make this couple’s life look as salacious and dramatic as possible.

Some say there is no such thing as bad press, which may be true when you’re selling a product or growing a brand. But when the quality and privacy of eight kids’ lives is at stake, and a marriage is strained to the breaking point, that aphorism is not entirely true.

Somebody should have warned these two that when you’re a celebrity, there’s no such thing as a private moment, or a “pass” when it comes to even a momentary lapse in judgment. Even the small failings are grist for the national mill – or threaten a marriage.

The Jon and Kate debacle also highlights one of the first key pieces of advice we give at New Harbor Group to clients who find themselves in hot water: Stop talking - until you figure out what, if anything, needs to be said. (See here how Disney skillfully used silence to end a “crisis.”)

Don’t go running off to People (Jon) and US Weekly (Kate) to tell your respective versions of the home-wrecking scandal that is bringing you down. Don’t book a dozen interviews that will only dig you deeper into the hole you’re trying to climb out of. You might be tempted to tell the world your side of things, but don’t. It doesn’t work, and it just never ends. Gov. Sanford felt the need to announce publically that his mistress was his “soul mate.” Maybe it felt cathartic for him to hold a public therapy session, but the public only shook its head and wondered whether he was really equipped to be governor.

Likewise with Jon & Kate. Their now sad, desperate search for a media outlet that will tell the truth as they see it, will continue to be in vain. The only truth tabloids and entertainment television care about is that scandals sell ads.

The public is not on your side. The public is on the side of entertainment. And when you’re talking about the lives and futures of eight innocent kids who did NOT sign up for the spotlight, that is just not enough. Even Michael Jackson – who hid his kids from the media – knew that.

Posted by David Preston

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

There’s No Substitute for Preparation

We do a lot of crisis communications work, helping clients prepare for crises that may never happen – or are already well underway.

A prominent local attorney found himself in hot water recently, and the initial newspaper story reflected a common, understandable – but completely avoidable – mistake in handling the media during a crisis. In the story, the lawyer’s secretary was quoted describing what services he was still providing for his clients. No real harm was done, but I cringed when I read it, because it had the makings of a real disaster. It was clear that the poor woman just happened to pick up the phone when the reporter called, didn’t know what to do, and was too polite to end the call quickly enough.

Based on our experience, here’s what we would have recommended:
  • Get the reporter’s name, where they work, why they are calling and their deadline.
  • Tell the reporter that someone from the company will respond to them as quickly as possible.
  • Notify the designated person inside the firm (or outside, like us) about the call immediately. This is crucial, because the inquiry is not going to just “go away.” If it’s TV, their next option may be to show up in your reception area with cameras rolling, a la ’60 Minutes’.
  • Avoid answering questions, regardless of how innocuous they seem, or engaging in any further conversation.

The reporter may try to press you by saying they are “on deadline.” However, in this initial call, that does not require you to offer a response. You do, however, need to respond in a timely manner. (Ultimately, the response may be no response – but at least make that a conscious decision.)

From there, take a few minutes to think it over. What’s our key message? How do we want to communicate it to the reporter? Phone call? E-mail? What about the other reporters who will follow? Who else do we need to talk to? Board of directors? Boss? Employees? Customers? Regulators? How will we deliver the message to them?

Bottom line: Don’t feel pressured, take a deep breath, and think through what you want to do. You may not have all day, but believe me, there’s at least enough time to avoid making a damaging, irreversible mistake.

There’s a lot more to this, so if you want to know more about what else you could do here, or what you could be doing right now to prepare for or mend a crisis, shoot me an e-mail or give me a call.

Posted by David Preston

Friday, April 17, 2009

Make a Good First Impression

A likable, well-regarded professional I know left her old firm and started a new one, with her name on the door. They got off to a good PR start by sending out a press release and getting some ink. But when I tried to send a congratulatory note, things got tough. A quick search didn’t turn her up on LinkedIn, or any other social networking site, and a Google search directed me (and any new business that might be out there) to the old firm. Directory listings sent me to the same place.

OK, here we go – the website address! Oops, I need a username and password to get in? That’s probably where the phone number is, too.

Hmm. Give me a call if you’re trying something new – I’ll make sure this doesn’t happen to you.

Posted by David Preston

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Khe Sanh

A little-noted passage in President Obama’s Inaugural Address perhaps served to close an important chapter in our nation’s history.

Citing American battlefield victories to highlight the bravery and define the sacrifices made on our behalf by previous generations, the President said, “For us, they fought and died in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sanh.”

The first three battles are well known to Americans, but the inclusion of Khe Sanh may well have been the first time that a Vietnam-era battle was included with the others – certainly in such a high-profile setting.

Forty-one years ago today the Marines at Khe Sanh stood their ground and won a savage 10-week battle there. Like Iwo Jima, Okinawa and the Chosin Reservoir, every Marine knows the story of Khe Sanh. It is another example of why the Marines are the Marines.

Khe Sanh was a base, with a dirt airstrip, in the northernmost reaches of South Vietnam. In January 1968, a few days before the Tet Offensive, the Marines at Khe Sanh were surrounded and attacked by tens of thousands of communist troops. The base was subject to an artillery barrage that hit the ammo dump and made the airfield – which the Marines relied on for resupply – completely unusable.

Meanwhile, the North Vietnamese advanced towards the perimeter of Khe Sanh, crawling through tunnels and trenches covered by jungle, drawing the noose tighter around the base. Finally, after two months, with the Marines still holding on and a relief force making slow progress, the communist troops retreated into the jungle under a blistering air and artillery bombardment. On April 8, the Marines and the relief force linked up near Khe Sanh.

President Obama’s inclusion of Khe Sanh with these other hallowed examples reflects his generational outlook that perhaps now is a good time to bring down the curtain on the proxy fights left over from the 1960s – battles that have overshadowed the last 30 years of American politics, and still echo in today’s debates about Iraq and Afghanistan. Looming over it all, the question: “Where did you stand on Vietnam?”

To his credit, the President moves beyond the political to a higher level of basic truth – that the bravery and sacrifices made in Vietnam are part of an American tradition that began at Concord, was confirmed at Gettysburg and reaffirmed at Normandy.

President Obama‘s careful, thoughtful style reflects a deep understanding of the power of words. He deliberately included Khe Sanh in the Inaugural to deliver the same message he sent by visiting Baghdad yesterday: The politics and noise that come with our democracy should never obscure the noble character of those who serve to protect it. And further, that the Marines at Khe Sanh, and everyone who served in Vietnam, should take their rightful, historic place alongside those who came before – and after.

Posted by David Preston

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Coverage of Coverage

We’ve always said that landing good stories on behalf of our clients is just the beginning of good PR. Once the piece appears, we immediately seek an even wider audience by creating “ripples in the pond.” One way to do that is to push for “coverage of coverage.”

You may remember Juliet Vongphoumy, who calls our client, the Button Hole golf center, her “home club.” Last summer, the (then) high school freshman beat all the boys to win the state high school golf championship. We pitched Juliet’s story to Sports Illustrated, and she was recently highlighted in SI’s kids edition. Good coverage.

Then we let the Providence Journal know that Juliet had been in SI Kids, and there it is – coverage of coverage.

You might even say that with this blog, we’ve created coverage of coverage of coverage. And that’s the whole idea –to initiate not just a story, but a conversation.

If a good news item about you, your company or your organization is published, here are some easy ways to create ripples on your own:

  • Post it on your website.
  • Link to it (either the original source or its mention on your website) from your social networking sites.
  • Create an e-mail vehicle to friends, clients and prospects with the link included.

Then get the conversation going.

Posted by David Preston

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Fate of Newspapers

For hundreds of years, newspapers have traditionally been a favorite medium for getting out important public information, advertising or news about local business. So we never take it lightly here at New Harbor Group when a paper folds or makes major cutbacks. Unfortunately, we’re seeing more and more of that these days.

For example:

- The Providence Journal recently announced its employees can expect 74 layoffs.

- Next door in Connecticut, the Hartford Courant said it will be letting go approximately 100 employees.

- On the other side of the country, The Rocky Mountain News just closed, much to the distress of many regular readers. And that is surely an indicator of what’s to come.

(Combined age of these newspapers? 575 years. Lesson? Adapt, or else.)

From Philadelphia to San Francisco, presses across the country are in danger of grinding to a halt, forcing PR companies like us to reassess how to adapt to the changing news media landscape.

While we’ll always have a soft spot for print, and will continue to give newspapers a chance as long as they stick around, we are telling all our clients that they have no other choice but to join us in exploring other mediums.

Internet. Online video. Blogs. Social networking. Virtual news feeds. Mobile devices. These are not going away, and are probably only in their infancy in terms of potential for reaching audiences and disseminating information to the public quickly and effectively.

If anything, the downfall of newspapers has shown us the not-so-surprising destiny of any industry that’s not willing to take chances and embrace new technology. The Rocky Mountain News was an outstanding news product with many loyal readers in its community and beyond, but something about its culture or business model resisted the changes required to adapt to new readership habits and refused to meet the needs and the wants of the customer.

Sure, some newspapers have been trying to establish a reputable online presence, and many have succeeded quite well. But is it too little, too late? And how does a newspaper make money on-line? Whatever the answer, we‘re watching and learning from the struggles of the news business, and are poised to pass them on to our clients .

We are committed to perfecting new tools and communicate to the public in a way that works best for our clients. More and more, that means stressing to our clients the vital importance of reaching their audience with the most cutting-edge techniques.

Will your ad go further on page D-12 of the local paper, or on the Facebook pages of everyone who lives in the target community? Do you want to print your news release … or Twitter it? Maybe both.

Posted by David Preston

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Advice for Captain Sully

“Sully” is now a household name, but what about the man behind the moniker?

The pilot who so gracefully brought down an engineless plane into the Hudson River on a frigid January afternoon without a single passenger casualty now has to grapple with an avalanche of book offers, interview requests, media pitches and fan mail. The hardest part (safely crashing a plane onto the river) might be over, but surviving all the attention will be its own type of challenge.

We’re not too worried about whether the oh-so-calm Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger can maintain his cool in the spotlight, but we do have some advice. (While we wouldn’t know the first thing about safely evacuating a waterlogged plane, dealing with public attention is what we do.)

America’s favorite pilot should take some time to think about his own personal and career goals, and take advantage of this newfound opportunity to pursue them. Is he thinking about retirement? A book deal could be a good money-making project to keep him busy after a lifetime of flying. Sully is a brand now, a brand that represents integrity and heroism. He can use that to pursue his goals, whether that means writing a book, growing his consulting company or holding himself out as a public speaker. Maybe he wants to raise money for a favorite charity, in which case the now-trusted Sully face could certainly go far.

Whatever he puts his mind to, we would strongly recommend that he maintain that apparently well-developed sense of dignity and humility above all else. That’s what’s appealed to folks so far, after all, and nobody likes to see a nice guy get full of himself once the cameras roll. In a country dealing with an epic financial crisis, eight years of diminished stature on the world stage, Bernie Madoff and a heaping daily dose of lurid celebrity news, people are thirsting for somebody they can trust. Even Obama can’t claim that he’s saved 155 lives.

Unlike many celebs or CEOs who make headlines, Sully actually has a pretty darn good approval rating in the public’s eye, so he can use that to his advantage. A true “Captain of the Ship,” he walked the aisle twice as the plane was taking in water and everybody else was out on the wings, just to make sure nobody got left behind. The Sully brand epitomizes a cool professionalism, modesty, ethics and class. The most important thing now is to guard that brand at all costs. Think carefully about who you give interviews to, Cap’n. Don’t let your story get over-hyped or slide out of your control. And don’t worry about saying enough is enough to the media after giving a few interviews. Leave them wanting more.

That way they’ll go out to buy the book or hear you speak or sign up for your consulting services or come to your fundraiser.

Posted by Hillary Rhodes

Monday, February 2, 2009

A Little Thing

Here’s one of the reasons – besides good food and friendly service - why Jiggers, a diner near me, always has a line out the door, even on cold days like yesterday. While people stand in line, the Jigger’s folks hand out free mugs of coffee. It’s not a stroke of genius, it costs practically nothing, but it tells their customers that they’re not being taken for granted – a good message to send in this economy. My guess is that the places who hand out free coffee to their waiting customers are the ones who will still be standing two years from now.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Who Wants to be a Gazillionaire?

We are working hard to impress upon all our clients the absolute need for a dynamic website, one where they can quickly post all the great media coverage we get them, easily maintain a blog and link back to it all with their brand new e-mail newsletter.

What’s the biggest obstacle to this communications nirvana? More often than not, it’s…”The Web Guy”. I don’t know why, but a surprising number of the “web guys” we’ve come across use the word “can’t” a lot more than most other people do. And pricing can be mysterious, filled with unpleasant surprises. Last week, someone told me that he learned too late that his “Web Guy” couldn’t call him back before noon because A) he was out late playing in his band the night before, and B) the boss at his “real job” wouldn’t let him call back until lunch. OK, maybe that guy could have stood a little checking out, but unfortunately, that story strikes a chord, and probably not just with me.

So here’s my proposal, “Web Guys”: We are telling our clients that they need your services – a lot. If you are a talented web designer who can work with creative direction, finish on time, charge a reasonable price with no surprises and otherwise work without drama we are very interested in talking with you. Send me an e-mail or call me. I know you’re out there. If it works, you may just be on your way to being a gazillionaire.