Last week I boarded an 8:21 train to Penn Station on an 85 degree morning. The train car had no working air conditioning. Aggravated, I expressed my disappointment on Twitter: “Thanks @LIRR for sticking us in a 30 year old car with no A/C on one of the year’s hottest days.” Moments later, the Long Island Rail Road tweeted back: “Our apologies Professor Morosoff. pls let us know the train and car # you’re in so we can report AC for repair.” Although I was surprised, most large organizations have become PR savvy and respond to tweets which could affect their reputation. This was a smart use of social media.
This week Nicki Minaj tweeted her disappointment that her hit “Anaconda” wasn’t nominated for the MTV Video Music Awards’ video of the year. “If I was a different ‘kind’ of artist, Anaconda would be nominated for best choreo and vid of the year as well,” she tweeted, adding, “When the ‘other’ girls drop a video that breaks records and impacts culture they get that nomination.” Taylor Swift then tweeted, “I’ve done nothing but love & support you. It’s unlike you to pit women against each other. Maybe one of the men took your slot.” Minaj explained that she was only addressing a lack of recognition for minority artists, but Swift, who was nominated, took it personally. On Thursday, Swift tweeted, “I missed the point, I misunderstood, then misspoke. I’m sorry, Nicki.”
Using social media to “warn others” was raised in the ethics column in last week’s New York Times Magazine. The writer asked if it was OK to post a photo of a car’s license plate after it was spotted driving erratically. The ethicists agreed that posting the picture could lead to “major controversy” and even a lawsuit.
That person’s posting was only satisfying him or herself and accomplishing nothing. Taylor Swift’s overreaction ultimately caused her embarrassment. I was venting my anger, too, but my posting was designed to accomplish a result that might benefit others. They’re three examples of why you should examine your true motivation before you express online disappointment. Your thoughts?
This was a busy, unpredictable week for public relations practitioners. From the upstate jailbreak to the church massacre, Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriages and Obamacare, plus Taylor Swift and Apple and more, there were incredible news events, each creating a need for professional communicators to move messages quickly and correctly.
Now, one might suggest it’s the media’s job to dispense information with speed and accuracy. But for those who still don’t understand PR, it can be noted little gets to the media without assistance from an “information broker,” a liaison between authorities and reporters. During last week’s major events, PR people coordinated news conferences, issued statements, prepped politicians and experts, gathered information, posted and tweeted, and served as reliable sources.
For example, after Dylann Roof admitted murdering nine people in South Carolina, law enforcement, religious institutions, gun control advocates, the NRA, spokespersons, civil rights leaders, and many others were no doubt coached and assisted by PR people. More unpredictable events followed.
Roof’s online racist manifesto and photographs led to unexpected controversies. Seemingly inconsequential was what he wore: a Gold’s Gym t-shirt. But Twitter lit up with comments including, “Just cancelled my membership at Gold’s Gym after the recent tragedy in Charleston,” and “Gold’s Gym must be proud…worst advertising ever?” Gold’s responded by tweeting repeatedly, including, “We have no affiliation with Dylann Roof and are saddened by the tragedies in Charleston.” Gold’s Gym handled its unforeseen PR crisis well.
Meanwhile, major retailers joined state governments in denouncing and purging the Confederate flag, which surrounded Roof in the photos. Others continue to defend the symbol. One, the South Carolina Sons of the Confederacy, posted a carefully worded statement, no doubt also created by professionals. “(We extend) our heartfelt sympathy to the families who have lost loved ones in this tragedy,” but added, “There is absolutely no link between The Charleston Massacre and The Confederate Memorial Banner. Don’t try to create one.”
When news happens, PR people become the primary information brokers, sometimes dealing with most joyous or tragic of circumstances. It’s all part of this complicated and exciting profession. Your thoughts?
There we were: 10 public relations practitioners with about 400 years of experience among us, celebrating the life of Howard Blankman, the consummate PR professional. Glenn Goldberg of Parallel Communications Group, freelancer Don Miller, Astoria Bank’s Wendy O’Neill, Louise Cassano of LuCas Communications, Rich Torrenzano of The Torrenzano Group, consultant Bert Cunningham, Gary Lewi of Rubenstein PR, plus Rivkin Radler’s Laurie Bloom and Ken Young of Molloy College (both adjunct Hofstra PR professors) and I paid tribute to the man on his 90th birthday. We shared stories, some very humorous and some poignant, about how much this one individual helped us become PR professionals, too.
Like most PR veterans, Howard took a serpentine route to a public relations career. A Jewish kid who grew up in Amish country, he was a young bandleader, a playwright, and later became a “Tonight Show” writer. He worked on Broadway, wrote and produced plays, and eventually opened a PR firm. Howard shared wonderful stories with fond detail about his fascinating career.
And how appropriate for this event to happen just before Father’s Day, Bert Cunningham noted. “In many respects, Howard has been the career father to a number of PR pros on Long Island,” Bert said. “He also fathered, in 1968, the concept of an independent, full-service PR firm that also used advertising and marketing techniques to support PR. At that time the vast majority of PR was done in-house. The independent outside PR consultant was a fairly new service on Long Island.”
Two decades ago, Howard Blankman was presented with Public Relations Professionals of Long Island‘s Lifetime Achievement Award. Notably, it was Howard who stepped up and fathered PRPLI after the Public Relations Society of America’s Long Island chapter had folded. Gary, Don, Bert, and I would later receive that same award because of Howard’s vision of an organization where Long Island PR pros could network and learn.
Always active, still writing, ever mentoring, still dispensing fatherly advice, Howard Blankman continues to be a vital and admired PR guy. Joining with my mentors and colleagues to celebrate his life was truly a privilege. Your thoughts?
Big Data. It’s the term Americans are using a lot to describe the age in which we now live.
David Dhanpat of Hofstra’s Lawrence Herbert School of Communication visited with my students this week and demonstrated Google Analytics, the free program which attaches to a web site or blog. The amount of information Google Analytics yield is astounding. Link it to your site and discover how many people have visited over a specified period of time. From that number you’ll learn how many are repeat visitors and how many are “unique,” or first-time visitors. Then you can learn whether they came to your site directly, through a search engine, or a referring site (a link from elsewhere). Want to know how many web pages the average visitors sees per visit? Would you like to find out how minutes and seconds the average user stays on each page? How many are on your site right now? How does this moment compare with the exact moment a year ago? From which country are they viewing the site? Which server or cable provider do they use? If they’re on their smart phone, what is the operating system? The depth and detail of the data is almost frightening.
When the World Wide Web was young, many pondered, “How is anyone gonna make any money off this thing?” There were few mechanisms for purchasing and there was no way to effectively advertise. Its PR use wasn’t considered much. Amazon, eBay and others came along and answered the purchasing question. Increasingly, advertising found its way into every blog, platform and web site. But nothing has served marketing departments more than the ability to collect vast amounts of data through various analytics programs, and no one is doing it better than Google.
Why this thirst for data? Many believe it’s not all about the government watching you. It’s more about how, where and to whom companies and organizations can sell products, services and ideas. Big Data is not all about spying; it’s about marketing, advertising and PR. Either way, it’s a brave new world. Your thoughts?
In a week filled with sex scandals (Dennis Hastert, Josh Duggar) and sex change (Caitlyn Jenner), a bit of public storytelling by a former “Seinfeld” star was just a blip on the radar, but it resonated strongly with “Seinfeld” fans. Jason Alexander, a.k.a. George Costanza on the ’90s’ number one sitcom, may have gotten too comfortable during a live radio interview with Howard Stern.
If you’ve watched “Seinfeld,” you know that the George character was reluctantly engaged to Susan, played by Heidi Swedberg. As the wedding approached, George bought the cheapest wedding invitations he could find, so cheap that Susan became ill and died after licking the toxic glue on the envelopes.
Alexander told Stern that cast member Julia Louis Dreyfus and others had difficulty acting with Swedberg. “And Julia actually said, ‘I know it’s, just, don’t you just want to kill her?’ ” Alexander said. “And (Seinfeld co-creator) Larry (David) went, ‘Kabang! Now we’ve got to kill her.'”
Social media exploded with this fascinating slice of “Seinfeld” backstage trivia. While her acting career never took off much past “Seinfeld,” Heidi Swedberg had a dozen or so roles since and is a working musician and ukulele teacher today. Alexander’s comment could have bordered on slander.
Jason Alexander quickly regretted what he said and apologized. “She was generous and gracious, and I am so mad at myself for retelling this story in any way that would diminish her,” he wrote on Twitter. He also tweeted that the decision to kill off Susan was only because Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld wanted an inventive way to keep George Costanza from getting married.
My mother used to tell me, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” I would add, “…or else you’ll create a public relations problem.” This is especially true when you’re in a position where millions can hear or read what you’ve said. Any public forum is a place where your words can potentially hurt others–and yourself. So be nice when telling stories, or maybe don’t tell them at all. Your thoughts?
It was fun being back on the air!
At the invitation of Ron Gold, president of Marketing Works and host of LI News Radio’s weekly program, “The Nonprofit Voice,” I sat in the interviewer’s chair this past Saturday. I’ve studied nonprofits for the past several years, having conducted three surveys which confirmed that nonprofit organizations have few resources to handle public relations activities.
The show’s first guest, Glenn Vickers II, executive director of the East Hampton YMCA, noted that while his facility’s communication efforts are supported by the larger YMCA infrastructure, he’s enlisted volunteers, members and supporters to “talk” about his Y on social media. Given his organization’s location, its mix of seasonal and year-round clientele, and its diverse membership, traditional media and advertising don’t provide the targeted outreach the East Hampton YMCA can achieve through the Internet. Vickers believes it’s word-of-mouth and individual testimonials which bring the most credibility and connection to the programs the Y offers.
This point was shared by my second guest, founder and director of the Museum of Public Relations, Shelley Zuckerman Spector. Until her collection of PR memorabilia, media artifacts, video, literature, and research found a home at the Baruch College library in Manhattan, the museum was virtual. Spector uses the museum’s website as a repository for historical information, and takes to social media for publicity and PR. And with the public relations industry experiencing unprecedented growth worldwide, outreach has become international, with more than half of the museum’s Facebook followers coming from outside the United States. On Twitter, tweets are sent in English, French, Spanish, and German, written by interns who speak the languages. With no real resources for a larger communications effort, social media is a godsend to the museum because of its low cost and relative ease of use.
Through the Internet, nonprofits become their own media and can creatively use its platforms for self-promotion. Now, only the Museum of Public Relations and PR veterans like me can answer the question, “How did nonprofits ‘do’ PR before the Internet?” Your thoughts?
I’ve been asked to reflect on PR as a profession these last few weeks. First, a half-dozen students–four from Hofstra and two from other schools–interviewed me about my career in public relations as part of their class projects. Each one of them asked the usual “what do you like best about PR?” question, but some wanted more introspection about why I shifted from broadcasting to a field I knew little about.
I moved from radio to public relations early on because I relished the idea of a job where I could write, and use extensive communication tools. What I enjoy best about public relations, I told the student interviewers, is how PR know-how can be applied to any field. As if to prove this point, just these past few days I’ve witnessed our newest graduates land PR jobs in very diverse organizations; they’re already working in PR agencies, record companies, entertainment conglomerates, fashion houses, and nonprofits, to name a few.
Also, I was recently honored by my colleagues in the Public Relations Professionals of Long Island (PRPLI), a regional trade organization. The group gave me a Lifetime Achievement Award as “an industry leader who has helped shape the public relations landscape on Long Island.” It meant the world to me to receive the award, and it also compelled me to reflect again on public relations as a career choice.
I told the audience at the PRPLI awards dinner that the breadth of the necessary skills makes PR challenging and exciting. “We need to be bloggers, tweeters, and podcasters; photographers, videographers, script writers and producers,” I said. “We have to be event planners, fundraisers, promoters and publicists; and highest on the skill set list: we have to be ethical and effective writers and storytellers, using well-constructed language and appropriate images. There are few professions as diverse, and interesting, and challenging as ours.”
Our unique profession can provide wonderful opportunities, unique life experiences, and great colleagues and friends. While PR isn’t a possible career for everyone, I highly recommend it. Your thoughts?