Tag Archives: publicity

Time for Journalism’s ‘Name-and-Shame’ Game to End

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I’ve never understood the point of the “name-and-shame” tactic employed by some journalists who feel aggrieved by what they perceive to be an undue amount of pitches from PR pros or just plain spam from PR agencies.Is it that they are trying to teach us a lesson? A Daddy (the media) knows best, and if we (the misbehaving children) know what is good for us, we’ll shape up quick before Dad comes home type of ethos?

Or is it fueled by a genuine desire to help the public relations industry better inform reporters of key trends and provide the sources they need to report on the world’s news?

My cynical side tells me it’s neither. Instead, it’s a good bit of self-righteous hand wringing aimed at embarrassing us into submission. Continue reading

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The Celebrity Plug Goes the Way of the Dodo

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Could the celebrity plug — that beloved loathed centerpiece of many celebrity PR campaigns — be going the way of the Dodo? If the UK’s Guardian newspaper is any indication, it may be. And this could have profound effects on public relations.

To get the background on this movement, you have to go back to a somewhat obscure point in The Guardian’s updated editorial code. According to PRWeek, the revised code includes a new clause addressing the inclusion of promotional material in editorial. By its updated code, The Guardian — one of the world’s most influential newspapers — no longer allows its reporters to “promote products” in order to secure interviews with a PR pro’s client. Continue reading

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No Children Allowed: A Recipe for Publicity

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A few weeks ago, the owner of a little restaurant attached to a golf driving range in Pennsylvania, decided to introduce a new policy that it will no longer serve any person under the age of six.

As principal of a PR firm with restaurant clients, I followed this story right from the beginning. From what I observed, the story was initially reported by a local TV news outlet in Pittsburgh on July 8th. The Associated Press picked it up and reported it the following day. From there, the media frenzy took off.

If this were a legal blog, I’d pontificate about the obvious discrimination against children under six years old. From my understanding, children are not a protected class unlike senior citizens.  Unfortunately or fortunately (depending on your point of view), I do not hold a law degree so I can’t say whether there are legal implications to this restaurant’s policy.

Since this is the PR Breakfast Club, which serves everyone in PR (including the ones who at times act like children—you know who you are!), just let me say that from a PR standpoint, this new restaurant policy was a win. Here are my three reasons why: Continue reading

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A Search for a Quack: Why I Think Aflac Got It Right

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“AFLAC!” “AFLAC!” “A FLACK!”

We’ve all heard that quack from the TV ads which annoying comedian Gilbert Gottfried made famous.  As a PR pro, I cringe whenever I hear it because it sounds like the duck is calling me “A FLACK!”

Personally, I didn’t really care whose voice it was behind “AFLAC!,” but when Gilbert Gottfried inappropriately tweeted offensive jokes about the tragedy in Japan, it got me fired up. Coming from New Jersey and working in New York City for many years including on 9/11, the thought of joking about a tragedy of this magnitude was disturbing. And I think I have a pretty good sense of humor.

What the Aflac PR team did to turn a crisis into a brand win is quite extraordinary. Here are five reasons why:  Continue reading

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The Media is Missing the Real Story on PR

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I have to admit, I can be a bit of a crank when it comes to how the mainstream media covers PR. It either verges on a near fascination with celebrity publicists — one minor faction of the broader and fast-growing public relations industry — or the belief that PR can easily be wrapped up into a report on the general advertising industry.

Quick and easy, right?

So I’m always a bit bemused when I read articles with headlines like “When Publicists Say ‘Shh!’,” which ran in the April 18 edition of the Sunday New York Times. What followed was a series of clichéd examples from celebrity publicists of how they either act as mouthpieces for their clients or do everything they can to tell them to “shut up” when thinking about oversharing online. Continue reading

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SM 102: Social Media for (UNC) Jocks

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(CC) flickr // benuski

Last week, the University of North Carolina rolled out a new social media. Instead of increasing access to student athletes, the policy has coaches and/or administrators serving as the social media director for their team (read more here & here). Seems a bit extreme pulling folks more astute with X’s and O’s and game planning to monitoring 140 character messages.

Aside from tapping our resident sports guys, we also tapped into the psyche of a pair of UNC alumni to see what they thought of this new plan. For those of you counting at home, there are four contributors to this post, a first for PRBC.

True Engagement
Rebecca Denison – Class of ’09

I spent four years walking around campus just hoping I’d get to catch a glimpse of guys like Tyler Hansbrough and Danny Green. At Carolina, tests and presentations were often rescheduled because the team had made it to the next round of the tourney. I will forever bleed blue and cheer for Roy’s boys.

When guys like Marcus Ginyard started to join Twitter, I was thrilled because it was probably the best way for me to get to know UNC players and show the team support. Censoring and monitoring these guys only takes away the authentic interaction they have with fellow classmates who may not get the chance otherwise. Yeah, that sounds a bit lame, but wouldn’t you want to interact with a basketball legend one-on-one if you could?

Beyond this loss of authenticity, the spirit behind the new rules is also an issue. UNC’s undergraduate journalism program is considered one of the best in the country, and to have the school’s athletic department enact a policy like this is just plain embarrassing.

Unofficial Ambassadors
Aven James – UNC Class of ’06

UNC recently unveiled an updated social media policy that has been called “harsh” – and while the UNC alum in me might agree, the B2B PR pro has to admit the policy just makes good business sense.  And let’s be honest – isn’t college athletics really a business these days?

Though I admittedly haven’t seen the whole policy, it addresses a number of issues we’d advise a client to touch on:

●        Responsibility & Good Judgment: Student athletes, whether they like it or not, are representatives of their University.  As such, they need to exercise good judgment when posting on public forums and refrain from comments that could negatively impact the “organization.”  And the “organization” needs to pay attention to what’s being said.

●        Audience: Students and fans are an important audience for UNC athletics.  They’re the “consumer;” the buyer of UNC’s “product.”  Therefore, UNC has a responsibility to consider what posts/comments might alienate its fan base.  

●        Consequences: A sound social media policy should address the consequences for “bad behavior.”  UNC has experienced first-hand the risks associated with social media and they’ve created a policy that, they hope, will mitigate them.

All that being said, the devil is always in the details.  With the ability to monitor and even remove posts, UNC could take the policy too far – and if they do so, miss out on an opportunity to engage its fan base via social media.

Pro v. Student
Mike Schaffer

Congratulations, NCAA! The University of North Carolina has helped you further blur the line between enrolled student and paid employee. In Chapel Hill a coach or administrator will be monitoring players’ social media accounts for violations. Yes, that’s a public university chipping away at the students’ individual rights – sounds a little fishy to me.

How much control over a person does their university have over them? Should they have access to student-athletes’ social media accounts, as the policy demands?  And why just student athletes? What about student government, student media or student workers? Seems like the college is flexing their muscles to protect their revenue generating assets.

Do you actually think the star point guard will be judged on the same scale as the back-up women’s coxswain?

I’m all for educating players on how to be on their best behavior online, on the field and in daily life. However, the UNC plan, as it’s been presented, is all about “Big Brother Watching.”

Learning is Learning
Jeff Esposito

It may sound crazy, but this policy is a good thing. While my co-contributors raise some valid objections, they are missing the silver lining in this grey cloud. College is a place for kids to get an education and foundation for a future career. Sure some of the players affected by this new policy will play with balls for a living, but the vast majority of the student athletes will not.

Either way, they need to learn the professional implications of being a dumbass on social media. We’ve all heard horror stories of people getting fired and some of us even monitor what is being said about a company online and may see dumb things posted co-workers.

Sure getting to know these athletes may be cool, but they are representatives of a brand. How many brand reps do you know that really give 100% behind the scenes access? Twitter is big business and if that means some big brother so be it.

The athletes who do turn pro will have stricter regulations from their respective leagues. Just as Chad Ochocinco how much a tweet can cost.

Well there you have our in-house experts’ perspectives. What do you think of the issue?

Aven James

Rebecca, Mike, and Jeff are PRBC regulars.  You can get their contact info and details, as always, right here.  Aven James, a first time PRBC contributor, is a Senior Account Executive at Bliss PR (yes, Elizabeth Sosnow’s firm – another PRBC regular) where she focuses on media relations in the B2B and professional services sector.

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Street Dish: The Reality of Public Relations

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Scene 1: Camera One pans to girls at door.  A faint voice states “thirty seconds till we air.” Final checks in place, Louboutins(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_Louboutin) (check), black dress (check), clipboard (check), stern look (check.)  Let’s roll, 5 . . . 4 . . . 3 . . . 2 . . . air.
Camera Two pans to X celebrity arriving in the black sedan and walks up to red carpet; she stops to pose for a few photos to hear cat-calling from paparazzi in the galley.  Cut to second scene.
Scene 2: Louboutin-wearing girls hovering around a VIP table having a cocktail (yes, at their own event) and hanging out with their friends they snuck in.  Drama begins to unfold.  Cut, end scene.
Okay, how many of us have watched reality and primetime television shows where this act is played over and over again? (Pause for all PR people to verbally grunt at the computer.) Exactly.
Recent turmoil has been unleashed in response to Kim Kardashian’s announcement (http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20300835,00.html) of a PR reality show appropriately reported on People.com.  My immediate reaction was frustration and defense of the PR industry as a whole.  Then I wrote this blog post.  While my first draft is lying nicely in my trash can, I came to a realization that I can see the glass half full on this matter.  Please hear me out.
As Lauren Fernandez eloquently pointed out in her blog post (http://laurenafernandez.com/2009/08/31/the-difference-between-pr-and-publicity/ ) Monday, Publicity is different from PR. I concur on this matter with a footnote that publicity is still a form of public relations and has proven successful for corporate clients as well as the entertainment industry.
As I was emotionally ranting of the frustrations that PR is not just red carpets, designer duds, and celebrities, I found myself being a hypocrite.  Currently I finished a publicity/PR event that involved step and repeats while wearing a designer dress and shoes, clipboard in tow, and there was a celebrity involved.  How is this any different?  No, I am not having cocktails with J-Lo and having Versace designers knocking on my door with free gifts, but in some form I am producing the same type of a publicity event and exceeding the client’s expectations in the process. While my background primarily lies in events and launches, my day-to-day public relations duties consist of social media, writing, networking, and all the normal corporate communications.
Publicity events for corporate clients with celebrities, red carpets, and features in magazines are only the icing on the cake for this form of public relations.  Sure, the drama surrounding the on-site events holds the sex appeal to draw millions of viewers, but as PR professionals we all know where the REAL drama lies: behind the scenes.   I believe this is the sore spot with everyone in this industry.  Where are the cameras when the nuts and bolts to the campaign or event are being born?  Brainstorming sessions conducted a la Mad Men style (in no reference to Sunday’s episode), ideas being pitched to clients, hundreds of creative design ideas for invitations, step and repeats, Web sites, logos, press releases being written (and the twenty revisions), media lists compiled, talent negotiations, do I really need to keep going?  I think we understand all the hard work that happens behind the scenes that makes PR and publicity campaigns work.
So, one may ask, “Why are these scenes edited?” My guess: viewers, money, advertisement dollars, and TV executives.  Outside of the PR industry, we would lose the general public on the first draft of a press release.  The producers, and general public, want the glitz and glamor.  Is this necessarily the “right” thing to do? No, but PR isn’t the only industry in the same boat.  What about “Making the Band”( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Making_the_Band) and “Project Runway?” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Runway) Is it really this easy to get a record label or a four-page feature in a major fashion magazine for up-and-coming artists? Are all the steps and dirty laundry revealed? No! Why? Million dollar word: viewers!
Bottom Line:
While some view publicity as Louboutin-wearing blondes with a clipboard obsession, publicity is a form of media relations that has proven successful for many clients.  Our problem lies more in the lack of education to the public on the different sectors that lie within the PR industry.  Trust me that a successful publicity event uses as much communication as a traditional press release launch, plus a few side orders of event logistics.  Now, I can’t say the individuals participating in Kim’s reality show hold these same standards, but they shouldn’t be held as the poster children to the Publicity ring either.
Therefore, PR flacks, I challenge you to sit back, relax, and enjoy the drama that someone else will be experiencing and revel in the fact you are sitting on the couch when their talent says the wrong name of the product!

Scene 1: Camera One pans to girls at door.  A faint voice states “thirty seconds till we air.” Final checks in place, Louboutins (check), black dress (check), clipboard (check), stern look (check.) Let’s roll, 5 . . . 4 . . . 3 . . . 2 . . . air.

Camera Two pans to X celebrity arriving in the black sedan and walks up to red carpet; she stops to pose for a few photos to hear cat-calling from paparazzi in the galley.  Cut to second scene.

Scene 2: Louboutin-wearing girls hovering around a VIP table having a cocktail (yes, at their own event) and hanging out with their friends they snuck in.  Drama begins to unfold.  Cut, end scene.

Okay, how many of us have watched reality and primetime television shows where this act is played over and over again? (Pause for all PR people to verbally grunt at the computer.) Exactly.

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Pageant Scandals or Publicity Stunts

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Disclaimer (ugh, I hate disclaimers): …ok, background information:
I used to compete in pageants. I don’t think this is a terrible surprise since I’ve talked about it before (http://twitter.com/KOttavio/statuses/3512327971). Pageants are good…pageants (Miss America Organization) (http://www.missamerica.org/) give scholarship money…pageants helped me hone my interview and “stay cool under pressure” skills. Most importantly, I have made some lifelong friends in the pageant system.
That said—pageants are a business. Miss America is a scholarship program…so let’s leave them out of this discussion (don’t even bring up Vanessa Williams or I will…). Miss USA (http://www.missuniverse.com/missusa), on the other hand, is owned by Mr. Donald Trump (along with Miss Teen USA (http://www.missuniverse.com/missteenusa) and Miss Universe) (http://www.missuniverse.com/). And like any business, numbers need to be high and those dollars need to be raked in.
So I can’t be the only one who found it a little disheartening (ok, fishy) when the “pageant scandals” (http://television.aol.com/photos/beauty-pageant-scandals) became more and more prominent. Take the most recognized semi-recent mishap: Tara Conner, Miss USA 2006 “Oh no she didn’t.” The young woman was splattered all over the press for “alleged cocaine use, public kissing sessions with Miss Teen USA and random men were seen emerging from her swanky New York apartment.” And how was this young lady reprimanded? Trump held a press conference and let her keep her crown. I’m sure sparkling jewels look fab in rehab.
Not to draw this out, but there’s also Ashley Harder, Miss N.J. USA 2007 (she got pregnant), Katie Rees, Miss Nevada USA 2007 (naughty nightclub romp with photo evidence), Leona Gage, Miss USA 1957 (lied about her age), Oxana Federova, Miss Universe 2002 (I can’t fault this one…she hardly attended any appearances because they interfered with her studies. Still, it’s press!). Oh yeah and there was that Carrie Prejean girl…
Are these incidences just that? Young human beings, stressed out under the spotlight, making mistakes that we “regular people” just don’t get caught for while they do? Or calculated publicity stunts? I’d like to believe the former. (Tara actually did go to rehab.( http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20005269,00.html)) Perhaps it’s just the genius team at Trump’s office exploiting such happenings into publicity stunts for high viewership numbers, ultimately bringing huge dollar amounts to the organization.
Thoughts? I will donate one dollar for every male who comments (and offers legitimate opinions/insight) on this blog within 24 hours of posting to The Children’s Miracle Network, the official national platform (http://missamerica4kids.com/) of the Miss America Organization. Donation will be capped at $100 (we’re in PR people, not venture capital). [Editor’s Note: In honor of the PRBreakfastClub.com launch we will match this donation — $1 per legitimate male-authored comment to 12for12K (12for12k.org)]
(Insert Picture)
Katie Stam, Miss America 2009

Disclaimer (ugh, I hate disclaimers): …ok, background information:

I used to compete in pageants. I don’t think this is a terrible surprise since I’ve talked about it before. Pageants are good…pageants (Miss America Organization) give scholarship money…pageants helped me hone my interview and “stay cool under pressure” skills. Most importantly, I have made some lifelong friends in the pageant system.

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