Archive for April, 2005

April 25, 2005: 3:39 pm: Uncategorized

Forget about being the “Big O”… Opera is making waves in the Atlantic. Literally.

If you aren’t familiar with Opera, it’s an alternative web browser that’s been around longer than Firefox. It’s quite fast, although the only free version does feature advertising. (Still not obtrusive, though.)

Opera recently released Version 8.0 for download, and with the sudden burst of recent activity for Mozilla’s Firefox browser, Opera CEO Jon von Tetzchner made a bold (cold) promise: If Opera-8 gets 1-million downloads in the first four days of release, he’d swim from Norway to the United States.

Oops. Now, he’s all wet. As in already in the water on the way to America.

“Although I blatantly admit that my promise was based more on joy and enthusiasm than my swimming abilities and physical health, I will do my very best to keep it,” he said in a statement.

He’s not totally insane, though. First of all, he’s taking his PR guy with him. Spokesman Eskil Sivertsen is rowing a boat alongside (presumably as punishment for releasing the braggadocious statement to begin with.) Sivertsen is bringing along a satellite phone, maps, food, water and a book with inspirational quotes from the Viking sagas.

“It’s the least he can do, having put me in this situation in the first place,” says Jon S. von Tetzchner with a wicked grin on his face. “Besides, I can’t swim to the USA without maps, and this wet suit doesn’t seem to have any pockets, so it’s good to have him there – also as someone to talk to along the way.”

The photo ops alone make this a winner. Opera gets tons of free publicity, the image of a corporate leader who stands by his word, and the “ocean voyage to America” theme harkens back to conquest — which is a good place to position your third-place browser with less than 1-percent market share.

(PS: If you want to try Opera, don’t worry about the “AdWare” designation. It loads the ads as you surf, and the ads stay in the same banner near the browser buttons. It doesn’t load additional sneaky software onto your machine.)

Update: “Brave CEO saves PR Manager in Dramatic Rescue at Sea.” Just brilliant.

April 20, 2005: 4:25 pm: Retail Detail

We’ve documented the ins and outs of Wal-Mart’s shift in public relations strategy.
(That is, a shift from nothing to something.)

Since PR and marketing tend to be bigger losers when the economy and budgets tighten, we now have a classic laboratory case for just how much ‘media savvy’ is truly worth.

MSN Money asks the question, Can Wal-Mart’s PR campaign save its stock?

Also — with Wal-Mart now answering the challenge of its critics, will some of the heat transfer to other retailers?

CNN/Money looks at what could be the end of the free ride for Target.

April 6, 2005: 10:14 pm: Uncategorized

It wasn’t hard to see this train coming. The flap between the University of Alabama and sports artist Daniel Moore isn’t exactly going UA’s way. Even if they win the case, they lose from a public relations standpoint.

The feedback is overwhelmingly in Moore’s favor, with a few people chiming in on UA’s behalf. Sportswriters are treating the “Crimson A” like a new Scarlet Letter.

All of this apparently hit the newsstands about the time the new Alabama Alumni magazine hit mailboxes. And who did the Jesters of Irony place on the cover?

Now comes the latest salvo: Moore’s refusal to pay royalties is costing students their scholarships. (Will that message really play with a hardcore fanatic audience that allegedly doesn’t care about graduation rates and academics?)

April 5, 2005: 5:32 pm: Retail Detail

When you’re as big as Wal-Mart, and you’ve been this silent for so long, the fact that you are talking is enough to make news.

The mega-mega-retailer is hosting a two-day media blitz in Bentonville, no doubt to start bending editorial ears to their spin on various issues.

For the longest time, Wal-Mart was able to enjoy the 8,000-pound gorilla position, and didn’t have to address critics. The corporate growth curve was still sharp and steep, and if it ain’t broke…

…we’ll know in the next few days about how well Wal-Mart’s spin legions are able to handle the pre-emptive counterstrikes. Labor organizations are feeding the media frenzy in the final hours, hoping to shape the debate.

This can be an effective tactic, when you know a competitor or adversary is on the brink of unveiling a new effort or campaign. At the very least, it projects your position as that of equal footing, and gives you at least a chance to frame the issues from your perspective.

Given the number of contentious issues that has hounded Wal-Mart in recent years (lawsuits over gender equity and the use of illegal aliens, predatory pricing practices, contracting out of the US…) this is probably a wise move. Any extra time Wal-Mart spends dealing with “labor-prepped” media will likely translate into extra ink. Even if the issue winds up being a wash, you’re still getting free publicity for your cause, and even re-energizing your own base.

What you do give up, though, is the chance to get the last word. Wal-Mart will likely counter with a series of talking points, and given the fact they’ve had years to work on them, they’ll probably be pretty good ones. That’s a trade-off you have to consider when you time your releases and points to meet the other guy’s calendar.