Archive for the ‘PR’ Category

The BET is catching a lot of heat with its new, edgy, hip-hop heavy video campaign to promote literacy and black pride.  I think it’s great and smart, to be honest.

And it’s a pretty bold move for a network that has had its fair share of criticism for perpetuating negative stereotypes.  This video campaign takes these stereotypes, makes them larger than life, and then uses them to make its points. 

I especially like the Lil Jon caricature when they start chanting “R-E-A-D-A-B-O-Ohhh-Kaaaay!” 

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I’m curious what the comm studies majors who frequent this site think of this video put out by David Horowitz through his “David Horowitz Freedom Center.”*  Something about the presentation made me laugh. 

Rick Perlstein notes that the California Highway Patrol, apparently, are interested in using it as a training video.  I’m not sure what the training would be for other than profiling muslims. 

*I put that in quotes because the name made me laugh. 

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There’s a pretty hilarious video here at DailyKos with a parody of a JetBlue pre-flight video.

For those who don’t already know, JetBlue is the corporate sponsor for the YearlyKos convention this year, which prompted a Talking Points segment from Bill O’Reilly. O’Reilly engineered a Michael Moore type ambush of the CEO of JetBlue, David Barger, which aired on the Factor. Basically, the producer Jessie Watters cherry-picked the most inflammatory quotes from DailyKos readers who posted comments on the discussion threads from that web-site and confronted Barger with them.

Some of the hard-hitting journalmalism from that “interview” included such questions as:

What about “The pope is a primate?” Do you agree with that kind of thinking?

Do you think that your JetBlue customers want to know that you’re kind of subscribing to the belief that Iran has the right to attack Israel?

As a result of the negative attention Bill O’Reilly has been trying to generate towards them, JetBlue has been wavering and equivocating in their support for the convention. According to the DailyKos post linked to above:

Now they’ll tell those on our side who email them that they have, in fact, not pulled their sponsorship. In part, that’s true. O’Reilly and his minions weren’t able to kill the sponsorship. They were just able to turn the airlines in knots and twist it so fully that it is now talking out of both sides of its mouth. To the wingnuts, it claims it has nothing to do with YearlyKos, and to progressives who email them, they claim they are still sponsors.

The reality: yes, they are sponsors, but they demanded YearlyKos take the JetBlue logo off the convention’s website. They can’t withdraw their ticket contribution at this point, so they hope no one notices they are associated with us DFHs (dirty f’ing hippies).

Someday, this will be a case study in MBA and marketing programs in how NOT to respond to spurious political pressure.

Check out the video. The basic premise of the parody is that now, according to a new JetBlue policy, there will be two classes of seats on JetBlue flights: FoxNews class and everyone FoxNews dislikes. I especially liked the part of the pre-flight video instructing passengers on what they were to do with their carry-on luggage.

Progressives, leftists, and Kossacks, please check yourselves as luggage because we clearly don’t want to be seen with you. Take out your bongs, Dixie Chicks cds, and whatever other hippie crap we assume you carry.

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Shorter Isaiah Washington: No, no, I didn’t just say faggot!!! I also said “bitch” and “pussy!”

In what universe did this seem like a good defense plan? Someone get Frank Luntz for this man, stat, before he comes out with well, ‘when I said faggot, what I really meant by that was Heil Hitler!’

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PR firms “get punked”

In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons . . . who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind. – Edward Bernays, “Father of Public Relations”

Alright, so Bernays was an elitist and a narcissist, but he was also way ahead of his time, having whipped up a war to sell bananas long before Hill & Knowlton whipped up sympathy for Kuwait to sell a war.

This week, just-what-really-goes-on in the public relations industry is getting a good deal of attention, owing to an article in the July issue of Harper’s magazine in which Ken Silverstein reports on his dealings with DC-based PR agencies Cassidy & Associates and APCO Worldwide. Basically, Silverstein posed as a representative for a UK business with interests in Turkmenistan and sought proposals from the two firms on how they would enact a campaign to improve the country’s less-than-stellar world image now that the country had a newly-elected president.

A C&A rep commented in a statement:

“We are surprised that a reporter would go to such extraordinary lengths to gather information in such a deceptive way that really isn’t all that new or interesting.

Ouch. It’s kind of true — the revelation that PR/lobbing firms manipulate is far from earth-shattering. But it does make for a good story and, Silverstein goes about getting the story in a novel way. It’s an interesting read, full of historical anecdotes about American lobbyists/PR professionals representing foreign nations (“American lobbyists have worked for dictators since at least the 1930s, when the Nazi government used a proxy firm called the German Dye Trust to retain the public-relations specialist Ivy Lee.”); detailed accounts of Silverstein’s meetings with agency executives; and the agency’s suggested strategies for teaming up with think tanks, front groups, magazines, etc., to sponsor Turkmenistan-friendly events.

I think it’s fascinating. I have a perverse perspective about the public relations industry, I think. I can understand people’s shock/interest in PR industry manipulation and such. But I’m also intrigued by it. All that strategy and circuitousness! Maybe I’ve just read too much about this stuff this year in school or maybe I’m just cynical enough to not really think that it matters (advertising, political campaigning, public relations … when isn’t everything being manipulated by everyone else?), but I just can’t work up the moral outrage about this that seems requisite. I don’t really see that either firm acted very unexpectedly or horrendously in this case, and I think Silverstein’s style/tone makes a lot of the things seem more nefarious then they are.

Nonetheless, I also think Silverstein’s article idea for and execution of the article was really good. He tells a good story. I also can’t work up the consternation about his deceptive practices that seems to plague people like Howard Kurtz at WaPo, who notes that “no matter how good the story, lying to get it raises as many questions about journalists as their subjects.” Come on. Without lying to get some stories, there’d be no investigative journalism(and we may all still be eating dead meat-packing workers). There should be more of this.

In a response yesterday, Silverstein defended his methods:

Undercover journalism should be used sparingly, but it has often yielded rich benefits. One of my favorite cases came in the 1970s, when the Chicago Sun-Times bought its own tavern and exposed gross corruption on the part of city inspectors. Unfortunately, few news outlets are willing to use undercover journalism to get a story, or to practice investigative journalism in general. It’s just too expensive and risky; media organizations would rather spend their money on tables at the White House Correspondents dinner and watch Karl Rove rap.

(I like that PR Week says the two firms “got punk’d.” )

(David Henderson questions why the agencies didn’t catch on … )

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Reformation is here,

After reading about the 2.6 million patent deal for mobile social networking technology, it got me thinking about why and how you could patent technology. Well, I seem to be semi on par with Congress. This past Wednesday, Congress introduced the Patent Reform Act of 2007.

The Patent Reform Act was introduced Wednesday in the Senate and the House. It would award patents to people who first file for the patents, instead of those first to invent, it limits damages patent holders can collect in infringement lawsuits, and it creates a new procedure for those questioning the validity of a patent to challenge it after it’s been granted. The U.S. has the only first-to-invent patent system worldwide.

To make this all easier, here’s the current case of Vonage, which was sued by Verizon. What exactly was going on? The American Chronicle has a good look at the case.

The patent in question is the popular VOIP (Voice of Over Internet Protocol) that goes under other names such as IP Telephony, Internet Telephony, Broadband Telephony, Broadband Phone and Voice Over Broadband (www.wikipedia.com). This is advanced technology that routes the voice conversations over the Internet or through any other IP-based network. It allows you to make calls using a broadband Internet connection instead of a regular (or analog) phone line (www.fcc.gov/voip).

Phone calls on the Internet? Sweet. So what’s the problem? What patent did Vonage abuse?

This technology may be viewed as commercial realizations of the experimental Network Voice Protocol (1973) invented for the ARPANET (Advanced Research Project Agency Network) that is responsible for the development of new technology for use by the military (www.wikipedia.com). It was established in 1958 in response to the Soviet launching of Sputnik in 1957, with a mission of keeping the US’s military technology ahead of its enemies.

Opportunity for consumers to chose their provider that best fits their needs and budget? Awful. How can you patent innovation? Why would you want to? Wouldn’t as a business, make you try harder to keep your customers and force you, as a company, to provide more?

Maybe, not. So what do patents do?

The basic concept of a patent is to allow the CREATOR of inventions that contain new ideas to keep others from making commercial use of the ideas without the creator’s permission (Elias & Stim, 2004, 226).

So right now, this is all in limbo. Internet patents are wonky and aren’t getting a lot of PR. They should. This is important for technology companies, really for any company with a patent on something that is not tangible. How can we continue to impede the future? What could be done if we change the law? In my opinion, much more.

“We think the bills will help maintain our country’s innovation leadership, reduce excessive litigation and damages awards, and improve patent quality,” John Kelly III, IBM’s senior vice president for technology and intellectual property, said in a statement. source

Click here for Patently-O, a great analysis of the Patent Reform Act’s legal jargon side.

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I can’t take credit for any of this. It goes to The DC Universe.

Apparently jealous of cities with catchy slogans like “Metronatural” and “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas,” D.C. is looking to come up with something better than its current crapfest of a slogan, “Washington, D.C.: The American Experience.”

Hm. This is a hard competition. I mean how do you win against West Virgina’s “Open for Business and Wild and Wonderful?”

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This article muses on the possible detrimental effects that posting scandalous pictures on the internet might have on today’s twentysomethings’ careers as young professionals. It used to all hinge on an interview, but more and more companies are looking on the internet for a more, shall we say, comprehensive view of job candidates. In a nutshell:
Potential boss who thinks you’d make a dilligent employee = good
Potential boss who thinks that you will show up to work hungover, if at all = bad
Potential boss who thinks you’re eager to fellate him = probably worse
The pièce de résistance in all of this is the same kids who posted the play by play of their undergraduate debauchery are demanding their right to privacy in light of the now obvious downside of popularity. A company, ReputationDefender, has popped up as a pay service to try to expunge from the internet all of the filth their clients spewed onto it. Yes, expunging something from the internet. Good thing no one can save anything from the internet on some sort of harddrive, huh? Still, twentysomethings -and their parents- are shelling out a lot for an air of respectability, or at least anonymity. My opinion is that if they can’t figure out that it’s a bad idea to have pictures on the internet of them deepthroating bananas or whatever, then they should rightfully be losing the job offer.
Okay, here’s a sunnyside take on it: in the grand scheme of things, I’d like to think that these pervasive sources of regrettable data will lead to a new sense of accountability.
It could happen. And the Alpha Betas could party with the Tri-Lams.

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Times tech writer disses PR people (hmm, apparently spell check doesn’t do “disses.” Is it because I’ve spelled the word wrong, or just because it’s trying to save me from using a word no one should ever use outside of 1996?).

This leads to PR bashing in the comments section, followed by much PR support. Outside of communication circles, this might not be known, but journalists and PR people often hate each other. When I was a reporter, there was not much I loathed more than PR people.•••

Reporter: “Can I speak to someone who knows something, anything, about the topic at hand?”
PR Person: “No, you are only allowed to speak to me.”

Reporter: “Can I set up an interview with so-and-so who might actually be able to answer my question?”
PR Person: “Okay, but it has to go through me, and it will take me precisely 37 days to set it up.”
Reporter: “But I have a 5 p.m. deadline.”
PR Person: Laughs in reporter’s face.

Reporter: Hi, I’m so glad I got you on the phone, Mr. or Mrs. someone who can actually answer my questions.
Mr. or Mrs. Someone: Um, yeah, but I can’t talk to you until I clear it with PR Person.

Actually, there were several very awesome PR people I dealt with on a regular basis. It’s just that the majority of them seemed to be all about preventing actual interviewing from ever taking place. Yet, for reasons unknown, I switched to the dark side and am now in what is, essentially, a public relations program.

What’s the point of all this? Well, I think commenter JK summed it up nicely:

What’s the lesson for reporters? Know exactly why you are jaded. It’s not the PR people. It’s your deadline pressure, your poor pay and your poor prospects for making significant money anytime in the near future. It’s your career choice that’s making you crabby.

One more thing: Be nice to PR people. You might want to be one some day.

••• I have since learned that what I’m actually talking about are media relations people, which is only one small facet of what public relations practitioners might or can do overall.

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Thing I love, love, love this week (along with everyone else, I know): the Boston Lite-Brite Terrorists 70s-Hair Press Interview. My favorite part is when some reporter shouts out, “Why don’t you get a hair cut?” It’s a nice throwback touch.

Most annoying part of all of this: In a post -9/11 world….”. It’s the quote-de-rigeur for any administration official talking about the incident. I think that phrase should be banned from existence. Unless it ends with .. we’re not any less retarded than in the pre-9/11 world!”

Radley Balko on the “hoax”:

I don’t blame Boston officials for initially being suspicious of the devices, though one would hope our paid homeland security experts can by now distinguish a bomb from an LED device shaped in the figure of a cartoon character without first shutting down major thoroughfares. The shame comes in what happened after they realized their mistake — in their refusal to admit it was a mistake, and in their scapegoating Turner Broadcasting, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, and the artists for their own rash and ill-considered decision to close down the city. You guys screwed up. Quit calling this a “hoax.” It was a marketing gimmick. No one meant any harm. Stop the prison and punishment talk. Own up to your mistake and move on

The whole thing reminds me of an incident that happened at my college a few years ago, only on a much smaller level. A kid parked his bike in front of one of the campus eating establishments. The bike had a bumper-sticker on the back of it advertising for the band This Bike is a Pipe Bomb. A cop sees the bike, ropes off the area, and then half the campus ends up being shut-down for part of the day, while the Athens bomb squad DESTROYS the bike. All the while, the kid who owned the bike is there, telling them that it’s just a sticker, that it’s advertising for a band, etc., etc. The kid gets charged with inducing panic, although the charges are dropped a few days later and, surprisingly, the kid actually gets awarded damages for the destruction of his bike.

I know it’s better to air on the side of caution where bombs are concerned and whatnot, but you’d think that maybe, i don’t know, while the police are roping off the area and the kid is insisting it’s just a bumper sticker, they could have called back to their office and had someone do a quick google search to, you know, see if such a band exists and if they sell bumper stickers similar to the one this kid had, and that would’ve been that, before Totally Overreacting. Same for the folks up in boston.

{if you haven’t seen the press conference, it’s here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zx2ytr2Oyv4}

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the real nick naylor

“On the dance floor, results of over-indulgence are quickly revealed — causing embarrassment not only to one’s dancing partner but also to other dancers by encroaching on more than a fair share of space on a crowded or, as is often the case, on a dance floor of limited proportions. Dancers today, when tempted to overindulge at the punch bowl or the buffet, reach for a cigarette instead.” — Arthur Murray, June 30, 1930

The man responsible for eliciting the above quote from the famous dance instructor was one Edward Bernays. In the early 1930s, American Tobacco Company, maker of Lucky Strike cigarettes, wanted to double its market share by increasing the number of women smokers. The head of the company believed the quickest way to drive up the number of women smokers was to emphasize the weight-loss-or-maintenence benefits of cigarettes. The company’s slogan: “Reach for a Lucky Instead of a Sweet.” The company’s PR man: Bernays. (more…)

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