Helpful Hints

August 14, 2006: 5:49 am: Helpful Hints, Personal

Before I leave my post as a regular contributor to the blogosphere, I wanted to leave a parting gift. Few of you are aware that I am the author of the greatest pick-up line in history — nor its lesson in communication theory.

“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

Boy, we all sweat over that one, don’t we? To know that a potential lifetime relationship, be it personal or business, swings in the balance of a single encounter. It’s enough to make you sick. Some people do get sick, as a matter of fact. It’s not necessary, though… if you understand the science of first impressions, and the most important part: Some might call it “The Icebreaker,” but essentially we’re talking about a pick-up line.

Whatever your application — phone scripts — sales pitches — some are designed to win another over, some to get your foot in the door. Some are milked to death, and some are cheesy. You’ve probably seen a list or two of the worst ones in your e-mail. We all know what makes them bad, but don’t always recognize what makes them good.

With that in mind, let me tell you about the best pick-up line ever

July 3, 2006: 3:37 pm: Helpful Hints

Somewhere, somehow, somebody is taking advantage of somebody else. It’s human nature.

We like to see those scammers busted, which is why “consumer action” pieces do so well in journalism circles, particularly on television (and especially during sweeps.)

It used to be that if some local hustler was sticking it to the people, the Action News Team would take them down, and that would be the end of that. Welcome to the internet age, where the boundaries are invisible — and what some weasel does in your name can haunt you across all borders.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the poor response from local Jiffy Lube managers in Southern California. Employees in their shops had been busted for the third year in a row by local LA news.

Thanks to the internet, the effects of the muddied “Jiffy Lube” name are threatening every franchisee — including one who took the time to comment:

I am a Jiffy Lube franchisee and would like to say that this type of negative feedback is very disturbing to say the least. There are hundreds of separate franchises within the Jiffy Lube organization and many of them take a tremendous amount of pride in the service that their company provides to the customer. Speaking for myself, I am outraged that these individuals have done something to destroy the credibility and trust myself and my employees have worked so very hard to build. It is unfair, however, that the honest franchisees are taking a beating for a mistake of one. I have always said that it doesn’t matter what the name of the business is, what matters is the people who are inside of it. Customers should always pay attention to what is being done to their car because it is a big investment and you want to feel good about your purchase. It doesn’t hurt to ask to see old parts or ask what is going to be done. You will develop trust with a good facility after a couple of visits.

Well done, Chad. Here’s what he did right:

  1. The first inclination for most people is to shoot the messenger. However, Chad doesn’t blame KNBC for reporting it — nor the person who uplinked it to YouTube — nor this humble blogger for commenting about it. Chad’s anger is rightly aimed at the weasels whose shameless greed tarred an entire brand name from coast to coast.
  2. Chad isolated the offender, declaring the autonomy of the independent franchisee.
  3. Chad spoke for himself, and only for himself. True honesty.
  4. Chad provided sound advice for future customers to prevent their getting bilked, wherever they might be.

That’s a lot of good reputation management in a small package. And most importantly, it is now there for all to see. In a few months, as people start to Google “Jiffy Lube scam” or some such permutation, they will find the other side of the story, helping repair the good name of hundreds of mechanics who otherwise might feel the sting of stigma for years to come.

June 15, 2006: 6:16 am: Helpful Hints, Personal

When the masks come off, the rules change. When a mask comes off after 44 years, the game changes, and we can learn something in the process.

Spider-Man’s mask was so different in its time, because it covered the whole face. No open eyes, no exposed jutting jowl. It was the perfect cover. Stan Lee needed that mask to be an all-enveloping cocoon for his angst-ridden teen hero, still developing and finding his way.

If you haven’t picked up a comic an issue of episodic graphic literature in quite a while, keep an ear out for this development: the mask comes off.

This might not rise (or fall) to the level of coverage over the re-launch of Batwoman as a lesbian, nor any of the other “shocking” comic revelations of the last few years. But it might be more instructive.

The seven-issue “Civil War” series, launched in May, sees Marvel’s writers taking on the topical issue of civil liberties.

Following a showdown between a group of superheroes and supervillains in which hundreds of innocent civilians are killed, the government passes the Super-Hero Registration Act, requiring all superheroes to reveal their identities and register as “living weapons of mass destruction.”

Marvel’s roster of invincible crime fighters is split into two bitterly opposed factions, with one camp — championed by the likes of Spiderman — in favour of the new law and the other, including Captain America and his ilk, refusing to relinquish anonymity.

“It’s about which side you are on and why you think you are right,” said Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Joe Quesada.

The biggest gain in transparency comes in the department of trust.

The biggest pain in transparency comes as you get judged not just for what you do, but for what you don’t.

Once others know where you have been, and what opportunities for “good” you have passed up, you are accountable for sins of omission, not just commission. Without the mask, a tired and hurt Peter Parker could whistle past danger and not be faulted for righting the wrong. Not anymore.

It will be interesting to see how the comics’ world deals with the new reality: With great transparency, comes great responsibility.

June 2, 2006: 10:09 am: Birmingham, Helpful Hints

There’s an old saying in the legal profession. “When the facts are on your side, pound the facts. When the law is on your side, pound the law. And when neither is on your side, pound the table.”

As crass as that sounds, there is a large element of truth — and that is the consistent triumph of emotional massages over rational ones. It’s also why one good story can squash a statistical proof.

This came to mind in the last couple of days, as I was thinking about the impact of a very public and high-profile carjacking in downtown Birmingham. Sandra Gregory was kidnapped just outside of her loft apartment, and forced to drive to several ATMs before her rescue Wednesday afternoon.

One element that got attention was the fact that she lived in a newly rejuvenated loft community, one that is actively recruiting professionals to return to urban lifestyles. Her morning commute to the office was generally a two-block walk.

I covered the crime beat in Birmingham for several years, and know first-hand that the crime rate downtown was perhaps the lowest in the entire metro. But all it takes is one high-profile and emotional incident to enflame stereotypes and set back the image and reputation. I didn’t have time to write this yesterday, but I was curious to see who would go back and proactively offer the counter-story — placing this attack in proper context.

This time, it was a cooperative sponsored by downtown businesses that stepped up:

“We have struggled with a perception of downtown safety,” said Teresa Thorne of the City Action Partnership, or CAP security program, a city-operated service that provides escorts and vehicle assistance to residents, workers and visitors downtown. “In the past 10 years, the downtown crime statistics have dropped 59 percent.”

Teresa Thorne is a retired Birmingham Police Captain, who once ran a precinct. Her CAP unit provides escorts and additional presence in the downtown business community. While her job isn’t “PR” per se, it is her job to make people feel more at ease about the safety of that neighborhood.

Other city-promotion agencies like Operation New Birmingham are being proactive in providing the statistical proof of safety. Unfortunately, facts and stats need to be backed up with individual stories, or they will not overpower quotes like this one:

Former downtown resident Edd Dover, who until February lived in the Watts apartment building where Gregory was abducted, said CAP officers help a lot, but problems begin after 5 p.m. and continue overnight, when CAP officers are off duty.

“In that part of downtown, there’s barely any police presence,” said Dover, who said he moved out partly because of vandalism and vagrants in that apartment’s parking lot. “I’m 6 feet 5, but I was always on guard. There were people in the Dumpster when I’d go take my garbage out, and people asking me for money when I’d walk my dog at 5:30 in the morning. Everybody wants this downtown to succeed, but until they clean it up, it won’t work.”

I borrow again from Annette Simmons in The Story Factor:

“People have more facts than they will ever use. They need a new story to give those facts context.”

The book comes with my highest recommendation.

May 31, 2006: 9:05 am: Helpful Hints

Following up on yesterday’s theme, body language is the essential component in communications. If they can see you or hear you, how you look and how you sound matters more than what you say.

Want proof? Look at the reviews for Tony Snow’s start in the White House briefing scrum:

McClellan’s style—a few posts ago I called it “strategic non-communication”—was the big loser in press accounts of Snow’s debut.

* Financial Times: “Snow, a former Fox News presenter, brought a new, idiosyncratic style to the daily briefing that had regressed to an arid showcase of administration talking points.”

* Dana Milbank in the Washington Post: “Rather than repeating rote refusals to answer questions, Snow had a quick comeback for every occasion.”

* William Triplett, Daily Variety: “Unlike his predecessor, Scott McClellan, who developed a rep as a brusque stonewaller, Snow, his hands casually holding the podium sides, generally engaged questioners with eye contact and a seeming desire to answer.”

* Vaughn Ververs at CBS Public Eye: “Where McClellan often appeared robotic and repetitive, Snow was much more expansive, getting into areas of broad strategy and seeming engaged as much in the debate of the immigration issue as in an explanation of the president’s position.”

* Michael Scherer in Salon: “[Tony Snow] is, in other words, a human being, and that makes him a dramatic departure from his predecessor, Scott McClellan, the doughy master of equivocation and non sequitur who behaved most days like a misfiring automaton, barely betraying any light behind his eyes.”

If your talking points sound like talking points, the message you are really sending is “I’m clueless, I’m hiding something, and I’m out of touch with reality.”

A little sincerity goes a long way, even when delivering news (or not delivering it) that one might not like.

April 26, 2006: 12:14 pm: Helpful Hints

The best way to maintain a good reputation is to live up the your promises. No amount of spin or communications arts will serve you better than performing magic at clutch time.

Case in point? David Copperfield, whose pretty-boy looks and flashy big-ticket made-for-TV act has lost steam to the gritty, youthful, and urban edge of David Blaine.

Copperfield and two female assistants were returning from a late dinner after wrapping up a six night stand in West Palm Beach, Florida. Four teens, two of them with guns, held the Copperfield posse at gunpoint.

One ordered [assistant Cathy] Daly to “give me what you have.” Daly handed over $400 from her pockets. Riley, meanwhile, allegedly stuck a gun in [assistant Mia] Volmut’s face and asked for her purse, and she, too, gave it up. In it were 200 euros, $100, her passport, plane tickets and a Razr cellphone.

When Copperfield’s turn came, [accused suspect Dwayne] Riley was bamboozled.

Copperfield told Page Two he pulled out all of his pockets for Riley to see he had nothing, even though he had a cellphone, passport and wallet stuffed in them.

“Call it reverse pickpocketing,” Copperfield said.

Had he not been ready for his real-life test of sleight-of-hand, his reputation would have taken its biggest hit since Claudia Schieffer left him.

The easiest way to ensure that your words match your deeds to to choose your words wisely, and practice what you preach.

April 14, 2006: 10:13 am: External PR, Helpful Hints

Some cows are so sacred, you have to go out of your way not to touch them. And if you accidentally do, you have to be careful about washing your hands.

I’ve got a beef with what I call “bumper sticker” politics. Typically, they make for great key messages, but miss a lot of substance beneath. And the right “rallying cry” can be almost impossible to stop. Case in point: say “for the children” after just about any proposal, and you put an unfair burden on the other said.

Same goes for the phrase “For the Troops.”

The Hilton Hotel group has found itself grinding the spin into overdrive, after a viral e-mail campaign accused them of goring a sacred cow. Fran O’Brien’s, a DC steakhouse, has been giving free steak dinners to veterans recovering up the road at the VA hospital. Many of the vets are amputees, and the Friday dinners have been a sight to behold.

Only now, Hilton is evicting the restaurant, and wants to do something else with that property.

The rumor mill states that Hilton is worried about rising insurance premiums, and doesn’t want the liability of having all those disabled people around. Yeah, it even sounds fishy, but the “for the troops” bandwagon makes for a compelling story — and as such, the meme gets passed along.

Hilton is responding quickly to the rumor, pointing out that this is strictly an issue of a lease coming due, and how it has nothing to do with veterans, the disabled, or insurance matters. Hilton is also trying to find a new home for the dinners at one of the other restaurants on the property.

The PR folks at Hilton have an uphill battle here. Patriotism and outrage are intense emotions, and a lot of the anger and bitterness is channeling through blogs and websites. Kudos to the PR department for engaging bloggers, who have a better chance of correcting the record — but alas, there is still a lot of heat over this.

April 7, 2006: 5:11 am: Helpful Hints, Personal

Here at Positive Position Media Consulting, let me unequivocally state that NOBODY! does better public relations. NOBODY!

I truly mean that — and let me explain.

In the last couple of years since making the jump from television news to public relations and media training, I’m glad to say that I’ve learned a lot from some people who blog about their business. Many are in the blogrolls to the right, some of them comment here, and a few of them have been mentors whether they knew it or not.

The common theme, especially lately, has been transparency. PR takes its shots from journalists and the public at large as being some type of sleazy enterprise. The reputation is one of spin, hidden agendas, manpulation, and massaging the messaging. The clarion call for “transparency” is the removal of any practice that is under the table or sneaky. Here are several posts that follow that theme.

For a moment though let’s look at the other aspect of “transparency,” from the perspective of the client. There are a lot of really clever ads that run in the Super Bowl every year, where you laugh your butt off but can’t remember the sponsor. The medium overpowers the message, to the point that you congratulate the cleverness of the creator and ignore the product.

Good PR is “transparent” to the point where you don’t realize there was any PR involved. You are literally hiding in plain sight. No one complains about your slick manipulations, because they are all too busy feeling good about your client. And if someone asks, there’s the entire record on the record about your involvement.

So you see — NOBODY! does better PR than I do.

This notion started swimming around my head when I got caught up in the brou-ha-ha started by David Murray in the Journal of Employee Communication Management:

There’s this guy named Allan Jenkins. Chances are, you’ve never heard of him.

Well, he’s a communication consultant with a blog. (Which is like saying he’s a dog with a tail.)

One day I was reading his stupidly-named blog, “Desirable Roasted Coffee.” I read his blog a lot, despite the fact that Jenkins is pretty much a nobody in the communication business.

Well, if Allan is a NOBODY! in this profession, then how can I not aspire to the same level?

Fortunately, I got in on the ground floor of a movement. A bunch of public relations NOBODIES are organizing and proud. We have our own platform for change. We have a merchandising/charity arm. We have plans for a podcast. We have a bunch of silly hats, and a logo that speaks volumes. “IAN” – the International Association of Nobodies. (It also would stand for “I Am Nobody” on the individual level, if any of us stood out enough to count.)

If being a NOBODY! means:

  • My clients come first
  • My results are more important than my popularity
  • I remain approachable and grounded
  • I still write with the same passion for dozens that I did for digits
  • I can continue to afford my bandwidth

…then sign me up.

Oh wait, they did!

Now, if you’ll excuse me. I’m going out into the world to be a NOBODY! today!

April 5, 2006: 12:23 pm: Helpful Hints

There are a number of coming-of-age moments that have meaning for people, and if you ask what those milestones are, you’ll likely get a lot of different answers. I’d have to say a fairly universal one is the realization that most of the “offenses” committed by eight-and-nine-year-old kids are not of cosmic import.

I was one of those control-freak kids, and wasn’t really a threat to get into a lot of trouble anyway. But I may have been the last kid in my class to be actually intimidated with a standard educational threat:

“Young man, do you want something like that on your permanent record?”

Okay, so maybe I did worry a little too much about what would be on my mythical “permanent record.”

Having been out of public schools for a couple of decades, I’m not sure how prevalent or effective such a tactic might be. Based on the explosive growth of MySpace and other sites that promote sharing of personal information, I’m not sure kids are receptive to those ideas anyway. Steven Silvers had an excellent take on what he calls the Transparent Generation.

I turns out that many adults who grew out of the fear of the “permanent record” ought to revisit the notion. Most people have never taken the time to Google themselves to see what is out there. The search engines will find just about anything you’ve ever attached your name to publicly. More importantly, they’ll find things you never knew were written about you:

“In meat space this would be like me putting up a negative billboard right next to your location and you not noticing it for months.”

You can’t control what other people write. But you can control the things you write — and one day might regret.

My caution goes out to those occasional writers (and bloggers) who have a stake in maintaining credibility. It’s so easy to let your biases be exposed, especially in a politically partisan climate. If you’ve got a message that deserves heeding, off-handed comments can cut your audience in half instantly. Surfers have the option of tuning you out in an instant, and reduce your effectiveness and reach forever.

I’ve got a fellow blogger that I correspond with from time to time, and I occasionally have to remind this individual that bias creeps in. It’s not a political blog, yet politically-charged opinions can leak through. This person is making a concerted effort to weed out the statements that threaten to overshadow the intended message. In most cases, these are sentences or adjectives that weren’t even necessary to the primary point.

Maybe I take for granted my training as a journalist, and my ability to self-screen and maintain an editorial objectivity. But in an age of Google cache and the Wayback Machine, you now have a permanent record, kiddo. Act like it.

March 30, 2006: 10:26 am: External PR, Helpful Hints

Duke University has tried and succeeded in becoming the East Coast equivalent of Stanford — an academic institution that excels in athletics. (Stanford has won the all-sports trophy 11 years in a row. No one else with that kind of academic record comes closer than the Blue Devils.) Their emerging success has been enviable, to the point that Duke is one of those schools a lot of people love to hate.

In the last few weeks, a lot of people have found a new reason to hate Duke: several members of the lacrosse team are accused of raping an exotic dancer at an out-of-control party.

I’ll let you ferret out as many details as you’d like, because it’s quite easy. The school is taking a very proactive step in becoming a hub for information. Some would balk at the idea of linking to so many negative articles and editorials, but by establishing their website in the center of attention, they are positioning themselves to ensure their messages and apologies will take center stage.

That’s a textbook example of “filling the void.” If you don’t get out front with transparency, you let your detractors define you.

March 29, 2006: 11:18 am: Helpful Hints, Personal

Small companies and organizations don’t have the budgets or the know-how to play the total PR game. These days, you don’t have to. You can play on the cheap. And sometimes, you need to.

Here’s a textbook example that hits close to home for me. I attend a Church of Christ, and actually have come back to the church after an overly-long hiatus. There are a couple of things you need to know about churches of Christ, should you encounter them:

  1. There is no national or regional structure.
  2. They are independent and self-governing and the congregational level.
  3. They are like Forrest Gump’s box o’ chocolates: you can’t be sure what you’re going to get until you open one up.

That’s an important bit of background you need to be able to understand the problems with the following broadcast on CNN’s Nancy Grace.

The topic was the Tennessee minister murder. Very tragic, still quite mysterious, and a lot of attention because of the religion angle. Nancy Grace, being the hard-hitting investigator that she is, decided to bring in an “expert” to help explain the mindset of this minister’s family. Who does she get? A Southern Baptist minister (the underlining is mine for emphasis):

GRACE: I want to go to pastor Tom Rukala, joining us tonight, a special guest, a Baptist minister. I’ve been researching the Church of Christ. I don`t know that much about it. What can you tell me?

PASTOR TOM RUKALA, BAPTIST PASTOR: Well, the Church of Christ is a relatively new church. It was started about 150 years ago by Alexander Campbell (ph). And it’s, unfortunately, a very legalistic sect, and they tend to use methods of intimidation and pressure tactics. They claim that they are the only ones going to heaven, and all other people are condemned to hell. So in case…

GRACE: Uh-oh, I’m in trouble. But I already knew that.


GRACE: Now, wait a minute. What more can you tell me?

RUKALA: Well, they claim that if you`re not baptized by one of their ministers, that you`re doomed to hell, even if you`re a believer in Jesus Christ, which, of course, breaks completely from the traditional Christian view that all those who call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved because we`re saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, who died for our sins and rose again. For the Church of Christ folks, that`s not enough. You have to be a member of their narrow sect. It`s a very exclusive group. And if you`re not a member of their sect, you`re condemned.

GRACE: You know, Pastor, you keep saying “sect.” “Sect.” You make it sound like a cult.

RUKALA: It kind of is a borderline cult, unfortunately. I don`t want to make it out to be some kind of Hare Krishna group, but it has cult-like characteristics and…

GRACE: In what sense?

RUKALA: Well, in the sense of the exclusivism, the attitude that they are the only ones who know the truth. The tactics that they use are sometimes just — not only un-biblical but unethical, and they can be very ungracious, unfortunately.

Wow. A pretty damning pronouncement about a movement that doesn’t even have an organization to defend itself.

I’m a former journalist, and I’m pretty sure I know what happened. Some low-level producer tried the rolodex looking for a high-level Church of Christ contact. Since there is no organizational structure, the producer got desperate and went for the first person with a pulpit robe.

Shoddy journalism aside, this is the sort of thing that can be a real problem for these congragations (and any other group too small or too unorganized to fight back). Yes, the murder brings negative and unwanted attention, but things happen to any group or company. But in this instance, there has traditionally been no one to step up and tell the truth, and steer the dialogue. I say “traditionally” because the internet and free blogging has given many small voices a larger reach. Individual congregations no longer have to stay small and eat their lumps in the media. Many are in the process of writing rebuttals and correcting the mistakes made in this report. It may take a couple of days to propgate, but eventually those who Google this tragedy will get a more balanced picture than Nancy Grace provided.

In the internet age, the management of your reputation is your job, and no one else’s. If you can afford to delegate it, then do so. If not, pick up your tools and get to work.

Update: 20 years ago, this sort of thing would have been met with useless hand-wringing. Now, others are sounding off:

Update #2: Here’s the transcript to the follow-up segment, where Grace utterly fails to clear up anything.

More blogosphere reaction…

E-mail me if you know of any additional links to this issue…

March 28, 2006: 2:44 pm: Dr. Wordsmith, Helpful Hints

Ike is taking the day off from blogging, so I have agreed to fill the void in his absence. I plan to use this platform to exorcise some verbal demons. After all, if reputation management is really about doing what you state you will, then it’s important that we agree on terms.

Let’s start with a dangerous word: ‘promise.’

A declaration assuring that one will or will not do something; a vow.

There are a couple of key components there that make this a strong concept indeed.

  • A declaration — meaning a proactive statement. Something you had to go out of your way to do. Not implied.
  • Assuring — strictly speaking, a guarantee made to ease another’s ill feelings or misgivings.

Your institutional reputation is a function of what you promise.

For some reason, this word “promise” carries a stronger connotation than many related words:


An earnest promise to perform a specified act or behave in a certain manner; A declaration or assertion.


A solemn binding promise; A token or sign

In both instances, the definition of “vow” and “pledge” starts with the concept of a “promise,” but with more restrictive modifiers like “earnest,” “solemn,” or “binding.” Yet each of them “weasels down” with additional meanings like “token” or “assertion.”

Because the other words can be more ambiguous, “promise” tends to resonate as a stronger word. I mention this, because companies can “pledge” to get better with customer service, can “assert” better financial auditing and controls, and “vow” to initiate diversity programs. But “promise” is a tough one to live up to. You either putt it into the clown’s mouth or you don’t. A public promise to rectify a mistake reeks of sincerity. A broken promise just plain reeks.

Every level of your company, from the CEO to the receptionist, needs to understand what’s at stake when a “promise” is made. It can be a very effective word. It can also blow up in your face.

That’s a guarantee.

March 27, 2006: 3:04 pm: Big Blunders, Birmingham, Helpful Hints

Today, we get an object lesson that cuts both ways. Literally an “up” and a “down” in the same breath.

Alabama’s amusement park, VisionLand, is getting a new name. The name was coined by then Fairfield Mayor Larry Langford, whose grand(iose) vision was a local destination for kids, and an economic engine for western Jefferson County. The name “VisionLand” was appropriate for the task of selling several municipalities on the project. (Say what you will — no one else could have pushed it through with sheer force of rhetoric and will.)

After a few seasons of missed projections and bad luck, the park authority found a buyer. The California-based Southland Entertainment Group bought the park three years ago, and becomes of the focus of today’s “lesson.”

First of all, a name change is a good idea. The park is in need of a fresh look from potential visitors, and this is a great platform from which to launch a campaign. The park will now be known as Alabama Adventure.

At a news conference, the company stated that it wanted to change the park first, and then the name. This makes sense — don’t just sell us on an image or a slogan; give us a new and compelling reason to come, then hit us with the campaign. Southland claims to have invested $20-million in improvements since taking over, including a steel rollercoaster, a wave pool, and other attractions.

Lesson one: Don’t just play semantics. Give us a real change, and let the name be an extension. Good move.

However, there’s absolutely nothing (as of my posting) on the VisionLand website indicating a name change. Zero. Zip. Nada. Worse, I tried in my browser, I Googled for it… and nothing. Not exactly the complete rollout one would want.

Lesson two: If you’re building a campaign around changes and fresh buzz, then make it easy for people who want to find out more.

And like a roller coaster, that’s the kind of up and down that will make you sick…

Update: the website now reflects the new name, and the address forwards to the site as well. (I’d like to take credit, so… thank you!!)

March 23, 2006: 2:53 pm: Helpful Hints

Those charged with reputation management know they are one bad headline away from headaches and sleepless nights. However, there are those rare occasions where you catch a lucky break instead of a media bullet.

(Think “The Matrix.” When the bullets come so slowly that you have time to manuever and react accordingly.)

The spokespeople at MacDill Air Force Base are working on that borrowed time as we speak. This news article out of Tampa is getting national attention for the stupidity of the criminal:

TAMPA – One minute a pair of Tampa police officers were trying to catch a couple of loose dogs Tuesday morning, the next they were fielding a unique request from a man.

Would they test his crack pipe to make sure he was getting the real thing? According to an arrest affidavit, Phillip Williams wasn’t convinced he was being sold actual crack cocaine. So about 11:15 a.m., he approached Officers Wayne Easley and Gary Filippone to verify he was getting real drugs.

Reporters and editors love “dumb criminal” stories, because they have that “Hey Martha” factor that rewards readers. In this case, the “Hey Martha” moment trumped the real question which is lurking just two paragraphs down:

The officers tested the pipe, which, sure enough, had cocaine residue. Williams, who is listed on jail records as a security worker at MacDill Air Force Base, was arrested.

Okay, MacDill Public Affairs Office — you’re on the clock. How are you going to handle the questions about background checks for your staff? How are you going to answer questions about drug screening? What sorts of “Homeland Security” issues are potentially compromised here?

Is Williams a former employee? Is he telling the truth? How much of his personnel record do you release? What do you instruct your people to say if pressed, asked, or casually quizzed?

MacDill today. It might be you tomorrow.

And the bullet with your name on it will likely have more juice coming out of the barrel.

March 20, 2006: 3:34 pm: Big Blunders, Helpful Hints

A few tornados, no hurricanes, no earthquakes or ice storms to speak of. Dallas has not been linked to many disasters, but the clock is ticking now that T.O. is in town.

This guy is just a bomb waiting to go off. He’s self-destructive and contagious.

Warning to the Dallas Cowboys’ PR staff: Digg up anything and everything you can on this guy. Here’s a good starting point. Use these events now to draft template news releases:

  • apology to Coach Parcells
  • apology to team
  • apology to fans
  • apology to Metroplex Community
  • apology to sponsors
  • apology to NFL
  • apology to Paul Tagliabue
  • apology to Drew BledsoeWhoever T.O. cons Parcells into signing
  • apology to Hall of Fame
  • apology to Hall of Famer that T.O. disses
  • apology to broadcast teams
  • apology to Jerry Jones
  • apology from Jerry Jones, to all of the above

Warning #2 to the Cowboys’ PR staff: Start prepping your guys to be total Boy Scouts. Anything and everything that goes on in that locker room is fair game once T.O. takes his ball and goes home.

UPDATE: Scott over at Media Orchard says T.O. is spreading his goodness with a ‘cheesy’ rap.

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