Ruffled Feathers

Who wudda thunk it?  That Big Bird would become a political hot potato in the home stretch of presidential election season?  Only in America could that big, feathery, loveable symbol of childhood get caught in the crossfire.

There’s no debating it, ever since Big Bird was named as a target for cost-cutting by Romney last week, the yellow guy has never seen this much ink.

It all started when Mitt took the mitts off and ran over poor Jim Lehrer while he was asleep at the moderator chair.  Hard-hearted Mitt told the global audience that he would actually cut PBS, Big Bird and poor Jim if he’s elected the next prez.  (I got very nervous about my Masterpiece Mystery! addiction).  But, hey, folks, that’s at least one cut he’s telling us he’ll make.  When it comes right down to it, Mitt is showing us he can make the tough choices.

So, what did Big Bird do?  He goes on a media tour and appears on SNL with Seth Meyers.  Quite a coup for the bird on the street.

But, now the candidates are flippin’ the bird all over the place.  Obama is now using Big Bird in an Anti-Romney ad and in stump speeches, and Romney countered with none other than the Count to show that 2 can play the same game!!  It’s obvious these guys are playing hardball.

This might sound funny, but Sesame Street is NOT laughing.  They do not want to be seen as endorsing either party and want all Sesame-Street-related ads pulled. The Obama Campaign is thinkin’ about it.

Guess that means Big Bird is down for the Count.

Ride Sally Ride

Sally had the ride of her life.  The first woman in space went where no woman had gone before.

Sally Ride died this week of pancreatic cancer.  Too young.

What a trailblazer – a woman growing up in the 50s and 60s to become a scientist, space traveler and, as the world has just learned, a lesbian.

So now pundits are coming out of the woodwork taking potshots over whether Sally should have come out sooner to show the world “it’s OK to be gay.”  Kinda like Anderson Cooper did.

For me, it was Sally’s choice.  No one else was in Sally Ride’s skin as she grew up and made a career and life choices.  If she wanted to keep her relationship on the down low for professional or personal reasons, who has the right to dispute her decision?  No one.

And when Anderson came out because he felt it was the right thing to do, slam dunk for Anderson.  He, too, did what he needed to do at the time that was right for him.

Every one of us has issues and each of us has to deal with them in the way that works best for us.

To me, Sally Ride was a brave astronaut who must have plowed through some heavy duty politics to become a national hero.  And she died as bravely as she lived, with the understanding that her private life would finally be in the spotlight.  It was Sally’s last call.

My Path to Public Relations

This post is part of a series written by zcomm interns. Be sure to check back each week for their take on the latest in the public relations industry. This week, Hailey discusses what led her to a career in PR.

When I was in high school I came up with a brilliant plan for my future. I was going to become a meteorologist and go by the name of Hailstorm Mayhem. When deciding which colleges to apply to, I specifically researched meteorology programs to make sure I’d pick the school with the best one. Penn State was looking like a good option, so in mid October I drove up to State College to take a tour. It was snowing… in October.

I spent all of five minutes thinking about this potential career path, and then realized that I hate weather. I don’t like the snow unless it gets me out of class or work. I’m terrified of thunderstorms (still am). Rain is the most annoying thing in the world. Humidity is gross. So that was settled. Meteorology was not for me, and neither was a college that gets snow in October. Long story short, that’s how I chose the University of Maryland. And yes, I know it snowed in Maryland Halloween weekend in 2011.

I didn’t want to stray too far from my meteorologist aspirations, so I planned to go to school for broadcast journalism. However, I messed up that plan early on, forgetting to mark it off as my major on my UMD application. It’s a limited enrollment major, so I had to take prerequisites and wait until my junior year to officially declare it as my major.

I was just as inpatient then as I am now, so I just wanted to pick a major. The thought of technically having a major of “undecided” for two years was unsettling, so I chose Communication. The Public Relations track sounded nice, so I went with that. I wasn’t sure if I would stick with the major or not, but I figured I would give it a go.

My first class specific to public relations was News Writing and Reporting for Public Relations Majors. For those of you who went to UMD, it was COMM231 with Professor Toth. For those of you who did not, this class was sometimes referred to as “boot camp.” I looked at it as a type of initiation. If you survived this class with this specific professor, you were in. An overwhelming amount of people dropped the entire major after only the first day of COMM231.

I didn’t enjoy the class, largely because of the teacher, but I was really interested in the content. Apparently I also understood it pretty well. I was asked to be a teacher’s assistant for the class that next semester. After I accepted the position, I knew I would stick with the public relations major.

It was a decision I don’t regret. I’m sure some of my classes would have been easier if I were a general Communication major, but choosing the PR path helped me find my niche. My classes helped me develop a specific set of skills that I actually use in the real world. It’s pretty cool when I have to work on something that mirrors an assignment I completed in school.

Although it seems like just yesterday, it’s been more than a year since I graduated. My education and my experience at numerous internships supports the decision I made years ago to major in communication in the public relations track. It’s solidified my desire to be a public relations professional, even though I can’t go by the name Hailstorm Mayhem.

 

The Underdog Days of Summer

With the NFL and NBA both embroiled in lock-outs while owners and players negotiate new collective bargaining agreements, the hottest tickets in sports these days belong to some unlikely matches.

It seems some of the lesser talked about sports have discovered their recipe for PR success and the key to popularity – violence and scandal. It has long drawn in the crowds for the raw force of football, the precision of basketball and, of course, baseball. While not violent in itself, baseball is certainly full of money, drug and gambling scandals. It’s amazing any of them are still eligible for the Hall of Fame. We love you Pete, even if you did bet on your own teams!

Taking a PR lesson from Spider-Man the Broadway musical, the Tour De France has found itself amidst a flood of disaster, and with it, media activity. And, with that much attention, the masses are tuning in! While Lance Armstrong has lent a good amount of appeal to cycling over the past years, it is nothing compared to the broken bones, near death experiences and doping scandals surrounding the race this year. Hell, the media are so into this thing they ran down one of the competitors. OK, it didn’t go exactly like that, but regardless the press has had plenty to fuel the Tour de France fire!

After a much needed day off to rest and put the drama behind them, the race took off again Tuesday. With many competitors out of the race, and the dreaded climbs in the  Alps still to come, the fight is on to the finish line, which cannot come fast enough most likely.

And, let’s hear it for the ladies of soccer, who are causing a bit of a stir themselves. After their victory over Brazil on Sunday, the celebrity tweets keep rolling in. Stars such as Tom Hanks, LeBron James, Seth Meyers, Aaron Rodgers and Lil Wayne were sending their love and admiration through Twitter for the U.S. women.  They even won an Espy award last night for that last-minute goal — as the network sponsors of both FIFA World Cup and the ESPYs, looks like ESPN is grabbing the spotlight while they can.

The women’s soccer team has made a different play to gather some attention. Beautiful women that kick ass, you can’t ask for a better PR campaign.

Even with as much attention as the Tour De France and women’s soccer have gotten, don’t count our favorite traditional sports out just yet. The NCAA continues to trend on Twitter as people still continue their chatter. But, it’s nice to see the underdogs get some time in the spotlight. And, if they keep up the crashes and the drugs, they might just stay there.

And the Rockets Red Flare…Glare… oh, whatever

Typically speaking, we tend to lose the meaning of the holidays we celebrate. While each July 4th, Americans have the day off to remember what is truly important, it usually equates to a day off from work.

Consider how many people know all the lyrics to the Star-Spangled banner, understand the lyrics, know who Francis Scott Key was, or understand that the beautiful display of fireworks could be seen as an homage to gunfire– albeit a colorful one?

So as we return from our July 4th holidays, you might be thinking, why is this year special? Well, have you checked the news lately? Unlike past years, there was no shutdown of all things civic. Congress remained open, major trials took place, the country showed allegiance to our Independence Day.  If ever there was a time to celebrate and revere our Founding Fathers’ fight for freedom, the Declaration of Independence and our Bill of Rights, it is now.

Let’s start with Congress. Whatever the reason and whatever your affiliation, Republican, Democrat, Whig (some people just can’t let go), it is nice to see Congress not take their week off to celebrate our founding but rather use the week to keep America’s ideals intact. You know, freedom from the government’s really low credit rating. As PR professionals, we have all had to cancel vacation time to take care of things like an unplanned launch or crisis, so really, staying to solve the debt issue just seems like the right thing to do. We have a budget issue. You have a deadline. Sorry, but the trips to Disney will just have to wait. And, they did. There is a certain amount of civic pride glowing inside us all right now.

Unfortunately, our Founding Fathers didn’t distinguish between the rights of the just and the rights of the just awful.  And, sometimes our rights protect the wrong. If anyone is to breathe a sigh of relief for Freedom this July 4th, it is Casey Anthony. While her rights may set her free on the streets, not sure if that would be in her best interest given the hordes of people angry with the verdict, including, but not limited to, Nancy Grace. Anthony may want to consider asking to be put in jail anyway since it’s very doubtful she will be able to do anything of value with her life as the new face of un-convicted murder or as some may say ’not guilty, doesn’t mean innocent.’ But she, for one, should have a renewed interest in the July 4th celebration of freedom. Not sure OJ does anymore.

Whatever your celebration and sense of civic pride, we hope you had a nice holiday and watched some colorful gunfire simulations in the sky.

HARD TO MAKE HEADLINES

With today’s headlines centered on global issues such as Japan’s earthquakes, a shutdown in the US government, school shootouts in Brazil and, of course, the upcoming Royal Wedding, PR professionals’ jobs are getting tougher by the day. While finding your way into the news fold has always taken finesse, global turmoil has made it nearly impossible to get the latest survey, product launch or company announcement into the mainstream limelight.

So, what’s a PR professional to do? Here’s what — let the earth-shattering, breaking news dominate the print and broadcast media, and take to the digital streets. Go where the people are – online! Need some numbers to convince you that online is where it’s at?

According to the Pew Institute’s  2011 State of the News Media Report:

  • 34% of respondents said they read news online within the past 24 hours as opposed to 31% who favored newspapers
  • 41% said they get most of their news online, 10% more than those who said they got most of their news from a newspaper.
  • The 18-to-29-year-old group overwhelmingly cast their vote with the web; 65% said the Internet was their main news source.
  • Only 40% of people in the study said they read the news in an online or print newspaper, a 12% drop from five years ago.

And now, think about it logically, not only do blogs and online news sites not suffer from the “space” constraint of a 30-minute newscast, but your story doesn’t go away at the end of 30 minutes either. The Internet is a bank of information that never disappears. Your story becomes part of the archive, the longtail of the web that keeps stories alive. For better or worse, what happens on the Internet stays there for life!

And consumers aren’t the only ones getting their news online, journalists also search the sites for their next big story. Can’t get your story on the New York Times Online?  Try one of the hundreds of niche blogs that attract the right audience as well as reporters who are interested in the topic.

PR professionals are no longer locked into a handful of outlets. We now have access to millions of sites that are a better fit for our news and will generate more attention for our client. Sometimes the sites may reel in smaller audiences but they carry a lot of weight with their fans.

Ssssso, take a tip from the Bronx Zoo Cobra, if you want attention go out and make some noise ! If a venomous snake on the town can make headlines with all the breaking news, so can your story!

Climbing the Best Practices Summit

Nothing says spring in NYC then 40 degrees and windy.  No wonder all those New Yorkers (and I’m a native) walk at like a 5mph pace.  It’s just to stay warm in March.

I was on my way to the 2011 Ragan Media Relations Best Practices Summit. It was a terrific Ragan Communications conference where I spoke with my colleague Robin Lane on integrating traditional and social PR tactics to create a successful campaign. We highlighted our own success with the Silver Diner restaurant group.


    


 

Of course Robin and I were sandwiched between Tim McIntyre, VP Communications, Domino’s about how they masterfully handled a brand-damaging video, and Carlos Dominguez, SVP, Cisco about what’s hot in the digital world and what’s coming down the pike.

Tim was great.  Guess is that you know all about the famous Domino’s employee video that caused a scandal for the company.  And while you heard the media’s take on it, it was quite different to hear Tim’s. Despite the criticism Domino’s received for the campaign, their response was actually incredibly thoughtful. No, they didn’t race online with their response, but rather investigated the video and searched out the culprits before they could do more damage.  The team discovered it was a hoax and put its president on YouTube to remind us how much Domino’s cares about its customers. 

And Carlos was super cool.  From his witty intro showing his Cisco ID photo’s gradual increase in quality as he climbed the corporate ladder…to his “controversial big ideas” on what’s in store for the tech side of things.  First, a mind blowing idea – email will be dead.  Yup, Carlos predicts that this time-suck way of communicating will be replaced by customized finite communities.  For example, we will collaborate on projects in secure professional communities rather than through individual email.  Everything will take place in these communities.  No more email updates.  Can you fathom that?  At least I won’t wear out my delete button as much. 

The second “big idea” was that intent marketing is about to explode.  All the research points to the value of consumer reviews and online feedback in people’s purchasing decision. And according to Carlos, the marketers are not going to just dabble at taking advantage but throw themselves in head first. Say I want to buy a small car around $25k with great gas mileage.  In today’s world, I’m more likely to ask my social network than rely on consumer reports and test driving 8 different models.  By simply stating my intent, I will find myself targeted and sold to by all the car dealers online. Companies and brands will track you online and come to you. 

Just these two new thoughts have kept my mind spinning since the conference.  Not sure about email biting the dust so fast, but intent marketing is already happening.

Hats off to Mark Ragan who put on a great show.