Friday, November 17, 2006

Hanging in there

Read all about it! The Press Gazette hangs on by its fingernails.

News just out - and I'm heading out as well. Will expand on this later....

Filed under:
Press Gazette

Saturday, November 11, 2006

'Hot buttered toast...'

Do not click here unless you have a lot of time on your hands. This is the Leo Burnett advertising agency. OK they promote smoking and junk food but the site is fun to navigate.

Filed under:
Leo Burnett   advertising   online promotion   

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The cat-and-mouse game of media relations

Q&As can often prove boring and self-indulgent. They may fill a lot of space in Sunday supplements as a result of fairly minimum effort in transcribing a sycophantic interview by a feature-writer who believes that people really want to know what a celebrity has for breakfast. Even worse is the 'Q&A' based on a ready-made set of 'A's from a PRO determined to get as much exposure as possible for the celebrity client.

It was therefore refreshing to read a Q&A that exposes the sham. Perhaps this was not so surprising as the publication was the Press Gazette and the journalist, Rob McGibbon was clearly feeling anything but sycophantic when he finally managed to pin down Lord Sebastian Coe for an interview on topics ranging from the London Olympics to tabloid revelations of a long-running extra-marital affair.

As a teaching aid for students, the article offers an excellent case study in how not to do PR. Before the Q&A transcription starts, Rob offers a 600-word preamble outlining:
- problems in fixing a date to do the interview
- problems experienced by Coe (apparently) in turning up at a time that had been rearranged by his PA
- the unexplained (and uninvited) presence of Coe's director of communication and public affairs (let's call her flack for short) whose apparent function was to sit, take notes and fidget uncomfortably when the questioning moved onto his private life.

The same edition of the publication includes a letter comparing the relationship between journalists and PRs as one between cats and mice (the writer also offers this view in the Gazette's discussion group), although it isn't clear which is which. In this case, McGibbon clearly felt that the discourtesy that he experienced was justification for exposing the attempts to manage the interview and he embellished his Q&A transcript with 'stage directions' and comments on the flack's actions and interventions.

I'm quite a fan of 'game theory' as a means of explaining the PR-journalist relationship. It highlights the differing set of objectives held by players in the game and the strategies they employ to achieve them. Contemporary definitions of PR, focusing on 'goodwill and understanding', set out an ideal of a win-win game where everyone achieves objectives through open, successful communication.

But this article offers a clear illustration of a zero-sum game in which the success of one player is at the expense of the opponent. McGibbon claimed to 'surrender lamely' to the flack's presence but, in my view, he came out of the game with an engaging and readable Q&A while Coe and his consort tripped over their own hurdles and landed flat on their faces.

My thanks to Paul Bradshaw for alerting me to the article.

Filed under:
Q&A   Press Gazette   Rob McGibbon   Sebastian Coe   media relations   flack   
game theory

Irony is alive and well in the USA

Still focusing on things American - and in particular the mid-term elections - here us an example of online political PR, which arrived from my wife's Aunt in Napa, California.
Things You Have to Believe to be a US Republican Today

1.) Jesus loves you, and shares your hatred of homosexuals and Hillary.

2.) Saddam was a good guy when Reagan armed him, a bad guy when Bush's daddy made war on him, a good guy when Cheney did business with him, and a bad guy when Bush needed a "we can't find Bin Laden" diversion.

3.) Trade with Cuba is wrong because the country is Communist, but trade with China and Vietnam is vital to a spirit of international harmony.

4.) The United States should get out of the United Nations, and our highest national priority is enforcing U.N. resolutions against Iraq

5.) A woman can't be trusted with decisions about her own body but multi-national corporations can make decisions affecting all mankind without regulation.

6.) The best way to improve military morale is to praise the troops in speeches, while slashing veterans' benefits and combat pay.

7.) If condoms are kept out of schools, adolescents won't have sex.

8.) A good way to fight terrorism is to belittle our long-time allies, then demand their cooperation and money.

9.) Providing health care to all Iraqis is sound policy, but providing health care to all Americans is socialism. HMOs and insurance companies have the best interests of the public at heart.

10.) Global warming and tobacco's link to cancer are junk science, but creationism should be taught in schools.

11.) A president lying about an extra-marital affair is an impeachable offence, but a president lying to enlist support for a war in which thousands die is solid defense policy.

12.) Government should limit itself to the powers named in the Constitution, which include banning gay marriages and censoring the Internet.

13.) The public has a right to know about Hillary's cattle trades, but George Bush's driving record is none of our business.

14.) Being a drug addict is a moral failing and a crime, unless you're a conservative radio host. Then it's an illness and you need our prayers for your recovery.

Filed under:
political PR   Republican Party

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Trouble in the Heart of Dixie

Debate rages through the ‘land of the free’ as a new documentary film examines the aftermath of one anti-Bush comment by country singer Natalie Maines.

She is one of the members of The Dixie Chicks, the trio that sparked controversy in 2003 when Natalie remarked during a London gig that she was ashamed that President Bush was from her home state of Texas.

The pro-Bush backlash looked set to damage their career, especially in the Republican south where radio stations banned them from playlists and invited the public to dump their Dixie Chicks CDs in garbage cans.

Now the movie, Shut Up And Sing, looks set to add further fuel to the fire with NBC and the CW refusing to broadcast the trailer ad. At this moment, ABC and Fox haven’t decided either way while CBS has agreed to run the ad.

This information comes courtesy of the film’s distributors, Weinstein prompting an NBC spokesperson to accuse them of turning it into a news story to drum up publicity. PR stunt or not, NBC’s policy is quoted by USA Today as ‘not to accept ads on issues of public controversy — like abortion or the war’.

The premiere of the movie in New York and Los Angeles coincides with the run-up to the mid-term elections in which falling support for US involvement in Iraq is proving a headache for the Republicans.

Reaction by radio stations and TV networks to the Dixie Chick’s ‘unpatriotic’ stance illustrates how some Western media organisations fall back on the ‘market’ as the mechanism that controls information in the public domain. The excuse for banning their music is that it would be commercial suicide to broadcast it in the light of public opinion. Perhaps, with Bush’s popularity now apparently slipping, this would be a good time to air their songs and plug their movie…?

Discussion about the movie, plus clips and the trailer, can be seen on this MySpace site.

Filed under:
Dixie Chicks   President Bush   Republican Party   music promotion   NBC