Archive for June, 2005

June 30, 2005: 3:33 pm: Uncategorized

Is this the beginning of the end of reality show mania..? Or does this mark a new turning point in the marketing thereof?

ABC’s new reality series “Welcome to the Neighborhood” is apparently no longer welcome to a time slot. The network has pulled the show just days before the debut, despite several weeks of heavy promotion.

The concept — three white Christian families in Texas pick their new neighbors — was apparently too offensive to too many. The seven families vying for the new home included an Asian family, a African-American family, a Hispanic family, a gay couple with a black child, a Wiccan family, a family of tattooed and pierced Republicans, and a poor white family. In addition to all of the stereotypical comments that ensue, conservative Christian groups are assailing the show for making all of them look like bigots.

All I can say is… what a way to generate buzz for placing it on the fall schedule. Nothing makes people more curious than what they can’t see.

June 29, 2005: 12:00 pm: Uncategorized

How do you fend off a shark attack?

Forget hitting it on the nose… apparently, you spin it to death.

An article in the Tallahassee Democrat features a swarm of tourism officials trying to undo the damage of shark attack headlines.

Here’s a summary of what they have to say:

“We’ll be beefing up (beach) patrols because we’ve got this big festival coming up,” — Paula Pickett, Gulf County Director of Tourism.

That’s reassuring.

“We’ve got a strong volunteer fire department and beach and rescue (members) with jet skis and boats.” — Pickett

At least I won’t bleed for very long.

“Instead of looking for kids misbehaving, we’ll have an extra eye of caution in case of additional shark attacks.” – Pickett

You’re more likely to drown, or get caught in an undertow.

“You’re going to see sharks, but we were looking for swarms of shark,” — Gulf County Sheriff Dalton Upchurch, commenting on an aerial view.

How many does it take to bite me, exactly…?

“It’s so rare for something like this to happen. I don’t think it’s going to hurt (business) at all.” — Lizzette Dearinger, property manager.

No siree… (whistling past the graveyard)

“I think what it will do is help raise awareness that, when swimming in the ocean, you need to be cautious,” – Vanessa Welter, PR director for Visit Florida.

You don’t have anything to worry about, except far all the things responsible people ought to worry about.

“It’s not a public swimming pool. It’s an environment with large animals.” — Welter

Stay home, or go to the “Y”, you pansies.

“They are very rare in the state of Florida,” — Pat Smith, corporate communications director for Visit Florida

In Florida, your chances of becoming shark-bait are very low…

“We basically want to remind people to take safety precautions, but Florida remains a safe and secure destination.” — Smith

…but out in the ocean, you need to be careful.

See how ridiculous things can get after awhile? Pat answers and reassurances don’t soothe any nerves when they are in conflict with each other. All of these spokespeople have similar goals, but their messaging doesn’t reflect that. I’ll say this… your reputation is at a much greater risk of being damaged by mixed signals than by a Great White.

June 28, 2005: 12:32 pm: Birmingham, Scrushy

Dear Mr. Scrushy:

Congratulations on beating the rap in your $2.7-billion accounting fraud trial. That is no mean feat.

However, there are a lot of people who are coming to terms with your acquittal, not ready to attach “innocence” to your name. Just ask Michael Jackson, who beat his charges, but was labelled as a “probable pedophile” by one of the twelve who set him free.

So, here are some things I recommend you do to repair your public image:

1) Be Gracious. Avoid speaking ill of anyone who wished you the worst. Keep the focus on you and your family. And take a vacation.

2) Don’t storm the citadel at HealthSouth. Yes, it’s your baby. Yes, as far as the law is concerned, you’ve been vindicated and have every right to reclaim your office. Don’t. They will make your return ugly. Express your relief that HealthSouth is on better financial footing. You can go home again, but don’t sour your public persona by running back inside today. That would look too greedy.

3) Do not cancel your “Morning Viewpoint” show. Too many people saw this show as a transparent ploy to recast your image. Prove them wrong.

4) Re-invest in the community. Yeah, a lot of organizations were quick to pull your name off those schools and buildings and streets and libraries that carried your name. That’s not what you need to re-approach. Let your next wave of philanthropy be quiet — let word of mouth carry the day. As long as you don’t appear to be “buying” good will, you’ll succeed. You lost a lot of people at once, you need to get them back one at a time.

As I write this, you are already putting some of this advice to use. I heard you say something to the effect of “We give all the glory to God, who gave me and my wife the strength to endure this torture…” It’s not enough to say the right things… you’ve got to live them over time. Just use the same discipline you did in the pre-trial phase.

Just be content to re-cast a new legacy. Leave the old one behind. There was too much baggage there anyway.

Trying to be fair, your pal…


(p.s. — some of my friends reading this may have other advice for you too. They’ll add it to the comments section.)

: 12:04 pm: Birmingham, Scrushy

Let the PR punditry begin.

: 11:59 am: Uncategorized

…not guilty, through the first dozen counts…

…and not guilty through the rest as well.

: 11:25 am: Birmingham, Scrushy

The corporate fraud trial of HealthSouth founder Richard Scrushy is over. Verdict at 11:30 Central.

I’ve said before that he has to win in court, and in the court of public opinion.

We’ll see if he beats the first to have a chance at the second.

June 27, 2005: 3:46 pm: Uncategorized

…had to take my little girl (Laura) to the emergency room. They did a spinal tap, and the results were good. No red or white counts at all, so meningitis and its nasty cousins are seemingly out of the picture.

We’re keeping our fingers crossed for the blood culture. There’s a follow up appointment tomorrow, and we ought to be in the clear.

Thanks, and keep checking this space. I’ll get back to blogging later in the week.

June 24, 2005: 6:43 am: Uncategorized

“A crisis is a violation of your organizational vision.”
Overdrive, Michael Silva and Terry McGann

That’s one of the best definitions of a crisis I’ve ever seen. If you want to see crisis management in action, pay attention how PeTA spins its way out of its current mess.

The organization has staked its mission on animal rights and humane treatment. Now, two employees at the PeTA national headquarters have been charged with 31 felony counts of animal cruelty, and eight counts of illegal disposal of dead animals — in a shopping center garbage bin.

As bad as that sounds, this admission from organization president Ingrid Newkirk might raise a few eyebrows:

“PETA has never made a secret of the fact that most of the animals picked up in North Carolina are euthanized.”

Statistics show that from 1998 through 2003, PeTA actually euthanized a higher percentage of its animals than nearby branches of the SPCA.

Newkirk is already aware of the potential for negative press, considering how this seems to go against everything the group is for:

“It’s hideous… I think this is so shocking it’s bound to hurt our work.”

You would think there would be a response or a rebuttal on the PeTA website. I found nothing — and that’s a big mistake.

June 23, 2005: 3:03 pm: Uncategorized

How about a TV sweeps piece that links you to profiting from the sexual exploitation of children?

That happened to Yahoo!, which until recently allowed just about anyone to create a chat group. Until recently, when the company took the heat for allowing groups like:

  • 9-17-Year-Olds Wantin’ Sex
  • Younger Girls 4 Older Guys
  • Girls 13 And Under For Older Guys
  • Girls 13 And Up For Much Older Man
  • Girls 8 to 13 Watch Boys (In A Particular Sex Act)


Not only are the offending chatrooms down — so are all user-created chat areas, along with the ability to create new ones. Yahoo!‘s spokesperson said they were closed for improvements and to ensure compliance with Yahoo!‘s terms of service. That spokesperson did not mention anything about the $10,000,000 suit filed against the portal, which profited on the sites by selling ads. Users had to click through spots for Pepsi, T-Mobile, State Farm, Georgia-Pacific and others just to get to the chatrooms in question.

The real sting here, aside from the additional bad press the lawsuit will slowly bring, is that Yahoo! had been handed a rather large petition last year asking for the rooms to be shut down. The $10-million suit only represents a fraction of the $205-million Yahoo! made on advertising, but does not count the loss of many key advertisers who bailed to dissociate themselves.

This is why PR people need to be invited to the big table. Not to make the big decisions, but to advise the powers-that-be of the consequences of their actions (and inactions.)

June 22, 2005: 12:55 am: Uncategorized

My wife hates surveys. I don’t mind them so much.

Back when I worked in television, I was disqualified from most of them anyway. So while Brenda watched the AFI Top 100 Movie Quotes, I picked up the ringing phone with “Gallup” on the caller-ID. (Kudos to them for being up-front about it.)

After the obligatory demographic information, I was asked some questions about my employment.

“Do you work for an ad agency or marketing firm?”

“Are you directly related to anyone who works for an ad agency or marketing firm?”

Again, a no… but I figured the next one would hone in on me and knock me out of the survey.

There was no additional disqualifier.

So I ended up answering a bunch of questions about retailers — specifically Target and Wal-Mart.

I guess it never occurred to anyone to ask if I had written anything about retailers in the recent past. Bloggers get free reign!

“Do you recall any news stories about Home Depot within the last four weeks?”

“Do you recall any news stories about Target within the last four weeks?”


“Do you recall any news stories about Wal-Mart within the last four weeks?”

Well, as a matter of fact, I do recall a story I saw on the internet about a bill in the Ohio legislature that would give women the right to breast-feed in public, and the bill is a direct result of a woman who sued Wal-Mart after being tossed out of the Lebanon, Ohio store eight years ago.

“Excuse me, sir… I’m trying to write all this down.”
I also remember seeing a story about a Wal-Mart ad executive who was pushing a vote to expand a Flagstaff store into a SuperCenter, and he published an ad comparing a “no” vote with book burning, but he used a stock photo of a Nazi book-burning, and he resigned.

Yeah, I actually recited all of that from memory. I’ll bet someone flags my survey response. But that wasn’t my favorite answer of the night.

I was asked to rate the stores in various categories from a scale of 1 to 5, 1 being “strongly disagree” and 5 being “strongly agree.”

“Use any number between 1 and 5 — how would you rate the statement ‘Wal-Mart makes contributions to the local community’?”
Any number?

“Any number.”

(I am such a nerd…)

Based on the question selection, my gut tells me it’s Wal-Mart doing the market research. Which they had better be doing, now that they are talking to the press and everything.

June 21, 2005: 3:29 pm: Uncategorized

The link to the Kraft foods site for the raped chicken recipe has finally been pulled.

Took ‘em long enough.

: 1:01 pm: Uncategorized

Bad press happens. You deal with it and move on with the job of protecting your institutional reputation.

What you don’t want to do is let things devolve to the point where you become a media whipping boy, constantly re-living your mistake.

A Wal-Mart in Lebanon, Ohio is still being trotted out as the “art” for pieces about public breast feeding, eight years after the fact. Ohio’s legislature is batting around a bill outlining the rights of lacto-Americans, and the mom who claims she was kicked out of the store eight years ago is the inspiration for this bill. (By the way — she lost her suit against Wal-Mart.)

Still, Wal-Mart — the last time I checked — does business beyond the Lebanon city limits. Savvy PR types would remind the reporters involved of any and every policy improvement since 2000. Anything to get Wal-Mart’s name out of this controversy. Anything less makes them look like a bunch of boobs rubes.

June 20, 2005: 4:27 pm: Uncategorized

Where I live, Natalee Holloway is a local story. We’ve been saturated with the coverage of her disappearance, as well as all of the rescue and search efforts. When the media scale went multi-national, Aruba had a small window of opportunity to gird against the backlash.

Now Aruban businesses and residents who rely on tourist dollars are getting concerned about the publicity and its effect on the economy.

Aruba’s Chamber of Commerce (or equivalent) needed to be out in front of this situation, making sure there were plenty of experts who could explain the differences between the U.S. and Aruban justice systems. They still need to be out in front, using the internet to be a resource to all of those outsiders who have a stake in this case, or might one day consider vacationing there.

If it’s happening, I don’t see it. And as much as I am online, if I don’t see it, it’s not enough.

: 12:40 am: Uncategorized

NASCAR might be 500 miles of left turns, but at least it’s NASCAR.

The IRL and F-1 circuits aren’t even on the lead lap.

Open-wheel racing has slipped greatly to NASCAR, because it has not generated the personalities.

Enter Danica Patrick.

The 23-year-old phenom put the Indianapolis 500 back on the map this year just by qualifying. She finished fourth, and became the first woman ever to lead the race. No fluke. (Her FHM photo-shoots didn’t hurt, either.)

This is just the kind of good publicity that could spark new interest in Indy Racing. When asked if she’d ever jump to Formula-1, she said it would just take a sponsor.

Enter F-1 president Bernie Ecclestone.

“She did a good job, didn’t she? Super. Didn’t think she’d be able to make it like that,” Ecclestone answered to a gathering of reporters.

Before leaving, Ecclestone then offered his thoughts of women joining men on the racetrack.

“You know, I’ve got one of these wonderful ideas that women should be all dressed in white like all the other domestic appliances,” Ecclestone added.

What was he thinking? The split between IRL and F-1 nearly destroyed open-wheel racing, and neither is strong enough to risk stupidity. Is this Ecclestone’s way of drafting behind the new leader? Was this just a ploy to remind the sports world that there is in fact another racing organization?

It’s not like he had a lot to lose. F-1 carries a more global audience, and that attitude isn’t as likely to hurt him.

But still…

June 17, 2005: 2:32 am: Uncategorized

Keep it simple, stupid.

If you’re key messages won’t fit on the back of a business card, then you aren’t focused enough on the point you’d like to make.

Maybe that is why the proposed European Union constitution went down in flames in France. It turns out the thing runs 448 pages.

French politicos who were trying to win passage sent a copy to every French voter. (We mail stuff that big all the time in the U.S. — but they are filled with pictures and smell like perfume.)

Some of the EU Proponents thought it was a bad idea to send out that many copies. They were right. But they were also wrong to insult the electorate.

One crucial mistake was to send out the entire three-part, 448-article document to every French voter, said Mr Giscard.

Over the phone he had warned Mr Chirac already in March: “I said, ‘Don’t do it, don’t do it’”.

It is not possible for anyone to understand the full text“.

Even if you were going to read the thing, do you think you’d be sympathetic to the cause of someone who smacks of that much elitism?

The first mistake was tactical. The second mistake was insensitive, and will ultimately be harder to overcome.