August 30, 2008

Reality TV: The ultimate PR platform?

Posted in Media at 9:22 pm by R

It’s a slow Saturday night for me and the hubbs, so what am I doing…watching reality TV of all shapes and sizes.

So yes, my butt has been glued to the couch for a whole day with the exception of a romantic little dinner at Grazie Wine Bar (THE best place in Phoenix for a real Italian-style pizza and a great glass of vino.) But all of this TV got me thinking…Reality TV is great PR…or is it?

By having a TV show that basically showcases your business there’s amazing ROI and name/brand-recognition. But, and this is a major but, you’ve got to take the good with the bad. And reality TV is driven by drama, so there can be plenty of bad.

Take a show like Sunset Tan. The re-run I saw tonight showcased two of the employees getting in an all out (drunken) bitch fest at a nationwide conference for tanning vendors. Not a great impression — great TV though. I don’t tan, but — at the end of the day — I hear Sunset Tan has a great product.

Or take Million Dollar Listing. Three 20-something Realtors in LA share their day-to-day with Bravo. These guys are rather self-entitled and totally image obsessed – which at least they openly confess, which is in this odd way admirable. That can be a major turn off for viewers, including ones that could be potential clients. But it could also be the reason they get the next big listing. And kudos to them, because I’m sure not that brave.

So what’s the bottom line with reality TV as a PR tactic? The pay off is big if you’re willing to put up with the judgement that comes along with airing your dirty laundry as well.

I don’t have a client I’d recommend this kind of strategy to, but I sure do enjoy a well-made “reality” show.



August 28, 2008

Are you making the grade?

Posted in A walk on the "dark side", Industry Standards tagged at 8:56 am by R

HubSpot has released a new program for press releases. It’s called Press Release Grader. This free analysis reviews your press release for content, links, key words and contact info. Ultimately a marketing tool, Press Release Grader is helpful, especially when it comes to gauging how successful your release will be when it comes to SEO.

I ran a press release our firm wrote about Revolution 3D making its way into the San Francisco marketplace.

…it got a 40%…

Shocked and appalled, I looked at the rationale behind this completely unfair grade. What Press Release Grader helped us realize was that we were losing a lot of points for being a web-worthy document. The writing might have been good, the use of metaphor and linguistic jokes superb (we fancy ourselves witty around here), but we weren’t prepared with proper links making the release not just readable, but functional and purposeful for the recipients.

So noted Press Release Grader.

While I’m not inclined to rely on Press Release Grader as the be-all-and-end-all measure of a decent release (40 percent be damned!), I’ll probably use it to make sure that I’ve got good links, contact info and major messages covered for future projects.


August 27, 2008

The Rise of the DNC Gossip Columnist

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:45 pm by SD

From the New York Post’s Page Six to Politico’s Shenanigans to Bill Husted’s column in the Denver Post, everyone’s got a gossip column. I would argue that gossip columns are among the most widely read coverage of the current Democratic National Convention. People are clamoring to know who was at what party, who was wearing what, who was schmoozing with what political figure and most importantly, who wasn’t invited!

I’m proud to call myself a gossip columnist connoisseur but I also spend much more time reading the real news. I find it a little ridiculous that more people seem to be reading these columns rather than the real coverage of the DNC. Come on people, we’ve got history in the making here and your biggest concern is what A-lister was seen at last night’s party! What’s scary about this phenomenon is that even high profile businesses and executives are placing these columns above other news coverage. Gossip columnists are finding themselves at the top of the DNC event invite list often bypassing hardcore political reporters who are truly passionate about the issues.

Unfortunately, my time is limited so I can’t dive into this issue further but I throw this question out to you – Has our celebrity-gossip obsessed society changed what we perceive as the most important news sources?


A Camera Phone PR Campaign

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:13 am by R

Lots and lots of interesting things going on in Denver this week, including some interesting marketing!

Here’s a photo that was passed on to my by a friend of a friend. Watch this one spread like wildfire on the internet.

(Photo courtesy of Kim Erikson’s brother in Denver)


August 21, 2008

It’s DNC Madness. . .

Posted in Current Events, Political Punditry tagged at 8:44 pm by SD

All political affiliations aside, the Democratic National Convention is coming to Denver and it’s coming fast!

In less than five days, the Democratic National Convention will officially kick-off in Denver. Close to 70,000 delegates, elected officials, celebrities, protesters and members of the media are expected to descend on Denver. Not to mention, one of the most talked about presidential candidates ever.

You can almost feel the tension in the air as Denver residents wait to see just how Denver will withstand this Convention. 

Are we truly ready for this? Will our transportation system handle the massive influx of people? Can our police force control the protesters? Will Denver citizens still come downtown to experience the festivities? Will our economy truly see a bump as a result of hosting it?

While I can’t answer these questions yet, I can tell you a few things I’ve learned as a PR person about the DNC. Most of these things can be applied to any situation where there is a large event happening!

1. If its not DNC related, don’t pitch it. If you don’t have a breaking news item or a DNC-related story, don’t even try to call a reporter. They’re already operating with a smaller staff and they’re trying to cover a major event so resources are short and time is limited. Save your soft news pitch for September. In fact, save it for mid-September, because that is how long its going to take to recover from the madness.

2. Make yourself a resource to the media. Offer a new angle on the DNC or a new source. Reporters are under pressure to put together a DNC story so be creative while staying relevant and offer a unique news hook.

3. No matter what, your client will get involved in the DNC. Whether it’s having a party or preparing for a potential DNC-related crisis, your client will get involved. Use this opportunity to be a part of a historical event and find a way to help out with a project. You’ll be amazed at what you learn. I’ve had the opportunity to work on some pretty amazing stuff in the past couple weeks!

I’m sure I’ll learn much more as everything kicks off in the next few days. As the DNC happens in Denver, I’ll try to blog about my experiences with it. From the events I’m attending to Denver’s experience with it so stay tuned for more updates!


Death Knell for the Press Release

Posted in A walk on the "dark side" at 11:08 am by R

Ric Cantrell, chief deputy of the Utah state Senate has single handedly put the nail in the coffin for the press release.

Yesterday, Charlotte Rische of Valley PR Blog posted an interesting link to a photo of Mr. Cantrell’s process for getting the word out. Take a gander.

Basically there’s a long list of high-tech ways he planned to reach out to important publics:


That’s a real loud question mark behind that press release. Not to mention look at where press release ranks in priority to texting, blogging, podcasts and media pitching.

It’s fair to assume that the press release is going the way of the Beta…and the VHS for that matter. Now is the time to Twitter, blog, text and podcast our clients’ news. In some ways it’s great because it causes us to be more succinct and precise with our communication when we use current technologies to reach out.

But the press release is something we can put our hands on. You can feel it, read it, see it, print it out and stick it in a press kit…But then, it’s a useless sensory activity to be tactile in our fast-paced, information-greedy world. Reporters only (and rightfully) care to have information delivered to them in the most convenient and simple way. People want to be green, so really, why print that bad boy out? And seriously a press kit? Unless you’re peddling a product like a drink (our Revolution 3D kits were truly awesome) what’s the point of doing anything less that digital?

Oops! I’ve just successfully proved why the press release is obsolete. And our intangible service industry becomes even more intangible-er.


August 19, 2008

An Open Letter to Tom Ridge

Posted in Current Events, In the news, Political Punditry tagged at 9:16 am by R

Hi Tom. You probably don’t remember me, but we go WAAAAY back.

Remember back at the start of the Gulf War (1991-ish) you did a town hall meeting in McKean, PA’s firehouse? This was when you were still the Congressman for Erie County.

All the local media were there and lots of people asked questions because they were worried about what a war in the Middle East would mean here at home.

And then you took the time to answer my question. I was only about seven, so I was just a munchkin who had to stand on a chair to be heard and seen. My mom, Natalie Stewart-Smith (who worked with Michelle on the Erie County Historical Society and with you on a number of Veteran’s issues) tells me that I really wanted to ask you:

“What can President Bush do to stop the war?”

(Pretty good for a second-grader, right!)

At 6’4, you’re a tall guy, so you bent down in front of me while I was still standing on the chair, making us almost the same height and then you did the most amazing thing — answered my question like I was an adult. I believe that the answer was something to the effect of:

If someone went to your neighbor’s house down the street and tried to hurt them, you folks would go to help your friends, wouldn’t they?

My keen political and public relations spin detector went into high-gear as I sat back down in my mom’s lap and whispered:

He didn’t really answer my question did he mom?

Regardless of the answer, this was an important moment in my life, whether you (or I!) realized it or not. It was my first experience in PR — because let’s face it, that was an awesome photo op (big politician comes down to little girl’s level for honest foreign policy talk) — which is how I ended up where I am now. I’m sure you didn’t know it, but you pointed me on the path to my vocation.

But back to you. Your entire political career (yes, I’ve followed it closely) has been about honesty and unwavering beliefs that you consistently stand by. It’s obvious that you’re a man who is not afraid of a challenge or the hard work that comes with it. While it was an impossible task, your tenure as Secretary of Homeland Security immediately following 9/11 showcased your drive to do, not talk. It also displayed the faith your party and your peers have in you.

You’re a conundrum Tom Ridge, because I always think about what your PR strategy is when you’re with the press. But you don’t have one beyond being honest. That’s why you’re frustrating. And that’s why you’re awesome.

There’s talk of you being a candidate for Vice President alongside John McCain. You’d be a great choice. He needs someone to be his guidepost, someone firm in their beliefs and sense of self. Even if that doesn’t pan out (again — imagine how different [read:better] the world might be if it had been you instead of Cheney) I hope you keep talking, keep being honest, keep answering eight or nine year-olds’ questions in a way that makes them feel important and inspires them to be engaged in the political process. It’s the best PR strategy I’ve seen yet.


August 17, 2008


Posted in Current Events, Media, Personally... at 1:06 pm by R

There’s so much news these days and so little of it is good. Even with the uplifting news about the Olympics, disturbing news of unrest in places like Russia, Georgia and Pakistan steal the top headlines. The onslaught of such headlines is giving me PTMSD (Present Traumatic Media Stress Disorder).

I’m a confessed news and political junkie and I  just can’t help myself. I have to read the stories. I want to understand. But it’s stressing me out. So much access to information has given us insight into all the goings-on of the world…all of them.

There’s first hand reports about the terror of the Georgian refugees as they fled Russian troops. There’s tenuous reports about the fragile peace between Russia and Georgia and details of strained political relations between major international players. There’s just not a lot to smile about. But there’s plenty to be freaked out about…which is my point.

I seriously, seriously am developing a break out over the nervous energy which ensues as I digest all of the breaking news headlines.

Is it the state of the world or all the information we have about what’s going on that’s making me so anxiety ridden?

Do we have too much access to information? Is it corroding our society by making us stressed out and increasingly negative?

I’d love to insert a dissertation on peace, acceptance and global unification here, but I’m still hammering out some of the finer details (more to come), but as for the media, I have a solution: fluff stories.

I think it’s time we bring back the fluff piece in a big way. Feel-good feature stories that remind us of what is good in the world and in our communities. Frankly, we NEED this kind of media. We need happy. Because if I see one more ominous headline about Vladimr Putin…Well, I’m not sure I have enough salicylic acid to deal with the break out that will occur.

And let’s face it, there’s not a chance I’m not going to be exposed to news (although I managed to avoid a lot of it when I only watched the Disney Channel on vacation) — it’ll be on my Web home page, I’ll have to thumb the paper for client articles, I’m gonna pause on CNN on my way to Bravo — there’s no avoiding it.

And if there’s no avoiding it, can we please work together to make it joyful! USA Today, NYT and Washington Post, I beseech you, please include one genuinely happy story on your front page (preferably above the fold). Your readers need it. Our leaders need it.

An ounce of goodness goes a long way. We can work together to remind one another of the good in the world and inspire everyone that news touches to increase the happy through the media.

Only we can prevent Present Traumatic Media Stress Disorder (PTMSD).


August 15, 2008

Olympic Bouncers Not Checking for Fake IDs

Posted in In the news tagged at 3:12 pm by R

China’s PR efforts during the Olympics have been extensive. We’ve been wowed as China’s true culture has unfolded in front of us through a remarkable opening ceremony, meticulously executed organization in the games and a couple controversial PR foul-ups that have captured our attention as well.

First, we found out that the lovely little singer from the opening ceremonies was in fact just an excellent lip syncer. The real singer was deemed “not attractive enough” by the Chinese government to be shown to the world.

Then gymnastic commentators and other sports press began speculating that not all of the Chinese Women’s Gymnastic team was of age and eligible to compete in the Beijing Olympics.

Particularly of suspect is He Kexin.

He Kexin

He Kexin

Both before and after China clinched the team all-around gold people were talking about how old this young lady was. There seems to be some serious inconsistencies.

The Chinese government forcibly and adamantly insisted that He is 16 and was born January 1, 1992. However, the Huffington Post and writer David Flumenbaum uncovered several on-line documents that refute that assertion in writing. These documents state Hexin’s birth date is January 1, 1994…making the remarkable tumbler and uneven parallel bars phenom only 14. Those sources happen to be major Chinese newspapers, meaning that the age of He Kexin is common knowledge among readers.

How does China recover from this information being reported? Do they?

I don’t really see a clean and easy way out of this one. Someone is going to have to take the blame…But I suspect that it won’t be China…at least initially. More than likely, the IOC is going to have to answer some questions about verification for Olympic participants (and there are nearly 10,000 to verify).

I feel bad for China because they worked SO hard to have this image and build this presentation for the Olympics and the international community of who they are as a nation and now the cracks are beginning to show.

Despite the limited talk of human rights violations… Despite the near pristine execution of the events…The things that will linger for a lot of Olympic viewers world-wide are questions about whether or not China knowingly submitted ineligible team members and what might have happened if…

If China’s operating under the assumption that any press is good press, then things are going swimmingly. But if they were working to establish an image on the international stage…then there’s some crisis communications to be done.

Until, rather, if any of this is resolved officially, a tarnished and questionable Gold medal ranks below last place.


August 14, 2008

My Athenas

Posted in Personally... at 8:08 pm by R

I didn’t take the opportunity in my previous post to state something rather important — people who are Athenas to me.

First, who the heck is Athena?

Athena is a Greek goddess, the third daughter of Zeus. She represents strategic warfare and heroic endeavor. Often Athena is represented with a helmet, breastplate and an owl – for wisdom of course.

Now, for me, the people who are Athena’s in my life aren’t necessarily war strategists, but they are heroes. Maybe I should count them down.

3. My Contributors – Shannon, Nicole and Allison. These gals make me want to be better at what I do everyday. They do the coolest things and are straight up masters at their craft, in addition to the fact that they are really wonderful friends.

2. Ashley Marie Oleson – No, no. Not the twin. She’s my best friend since the age of three. She’s the Port Authority of Erie event planner and is a really remarkable marketer and always an inspiration. Homegirl ran 13.1 miles by my side last year during the San Francisco Nike Women’s marathon. She’s got so much strength and endurance that goes beyond hitting the pavement. Those qualities are in her character and her heart and I just adore the hell out of her.

1. Mom – Arguably the most dedicated Cut Me Some Flack reader, the college English professor regularly sends me grammar corrections (I write in AP Style momma! 🙂  ) and her thoughts on topics I’ve covered — in my blog, in emails, phone calls, etc. She’s a Vietnam Era Veteran,  a great professor who loves her students and the books & words she forces them to read, an animal rights activist, a good wife, a good mom, a compassionate leader, a total Athena.


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