New Myspace Has the Perfect Celebrity Spokesman

How do you bring an old social media brand back from the dead?

That’s the challenge for the new owners of Myspace, the once-popular and pioneering social media platform that hit its stride in the mid-2000s, but flamed out thanks to an upstart social destination called Facebook.

So here’s what the Myspace owners have done this week from a communications standpoint:

So for all of you communicators out there looking for the perfect product launch, take a page from Myspace and get a celebrity spokesperson (and he or she doesn’t have to be the owner, but it helps) like Justin Timberlake.

You’ll be glad you did.

Follow Scott Van Camp: @svancamp01

Paying it Forward by Taking Mentoring to the Sponsorship Level

Many of us were told when we were young to not always take credit for a job well done; to deflect and practice humility.  Don’t put your name in bold letters next to a project. It’s good advice, but has it impaired women’s ability to break through the glass ceiling? Are women now afraid to take credit; are they stumbling on their way up the career ladder? Those were some of the questions volleyed around the room of 350 professionals – mostly female – at a Women in Cable Telecommunications (WICT) luncheon on Sept. 24 in New York.

Moderating a panel of four powerful executives from Comcast, ESPN, Girl Scouts and The White House Project, Soledad O’Brien, CNN anchor, proposed that the notion of work/life balance is a misleading goal.  It’s more like a choice: will you put more weight into your career over your personal life — and if you choose not to work 70 hours a week, are you choosing middle management at best?  One conclusion to this discussion: work hard and play hard – pay your dues but pay attention to your personal life, too. D’Arcy Rudnay of Comcast said it best when she noted that she had to work hard to get where is today. So obvious that you have to work hard: whether you’re a man or a woman.  I appreciated her bluntness, and the notion that meritocracies do exist.

Sean Bratches, evp of sales and marketing at ESPN and the lone male on the panel, implored the women in the audience to take more credit for their work and to identify five people in their life who can help with their careers, and to foster those relationships.  While that’s happening – in an ideal work world – there should be sponsors within organizations paving a path for someone’s promotion and overall success.

O’Brien commented that many young women are “floundering” as they seek mentors and leadership roles. But the discussion was less about mentoring and more about sponsoring.  Mentors guide; sponsors promote.

Those at my luncheon table were baffled at first by the word “sponsorship,” but it appeared to be a commonly used term among those on the panel. To sponsor someone is to be an activist for that person; to promote her to your colleagues when she’s not around; to push for advancement on her behalf; to advocate for her success.

I like this concept of Sponsorship and wish it were a widely practiced activity in its purest form in all industries.  Maybe it is and no one’s talking about it yet.

Look around at the people you work with – those lateral to you, those climbing the ladder. There are probably a few people you can sponsor — and it won’t cost you anything.  And though the talk at the WICT luncheon was on women’s advancement, I wouldn’t limit it to the sponsorship of young female stars; it’s beholden on those in leadership positions to sponsor promising individuals and to pay it forward.

– Diane Schwartz

 

 

Lessons from the Olympics-The Numbers Speak For Themselves

While athletes from around the world were putting their skills to the test in London this summer, the research teams assembled by NBC made an Olympian effort of their own.

Leading up to the Games, NBC’s research teams created a survey that would poll over 50,000 participants on their experiences with NBC’s coverage on television, on the Web, on mobile devices and in social media.

The Games are obviously over and the preliminary numbers (the full results won’t be revealed until next week) are fascinating. According to a report in The New York Times, the numbers show:

In social media, mobile and online:

Armed with this knowledge, and a whole lot more data collected, NBC shifted some policies on the fly and will shift other tactics in the future. Among other things, NBC learned the power of streaming content, which has convinced them to stream more NFL games to subscribers. They also learned a lesson as the Games went on:  After failing to live stream the opening ceremony,  they learned going forward that live streaming wasn’t hurting viewership at night. So they made sure to live stream the closing ceremonies.

The lesson for anyone trying to deliver brand messaging is clear. Long before you start to embark on any campaign, know what you want to measure, put the tools in place to measure and then use the data you’ve collected to make real-time adjustments to the current campaign, while using the lessons learned for all future campaigns.

Numbers don’t lie, but they don’t say anything unless you listen to them carefully.

PR News will be addressing issues and tactics relating to social media measurement on October 2 in New York City at our Social Media Measurement Conference.

Follow Jon Gelberg: @Jon_Gelberg

Do it First: The First 5 Minutes of Your Work Day

At my middle school son’s open house last week where we met the teachers and heard about their teaching philosophies, I noticed a trend that just might be applicable to us adults. When the students walk into the classroom every day, they immediately begin the “do it first” exercises: write down the homework for that night (so there’s no excuses!) and then start a writing exercise for the next four to five minutes. As one teacher said, “I ask them to just start writing what’s on their minds, free flow”.  It’s an idea worth trying: come into the office, make a list of what you’re going to get done by tomorrow (note: not today’s to-do list, but thinking a day ahead and giving yourself a little bit of a break on the current day) and then write — write something. Such as:

* Write a note to a journalist commending him on a recent article
* Send an email to a colleague complementing her on her ideas at a recent meeting
* Write a new description of your brand and its promise to consumers (keep it handy)
* Rewrite your profile on LinkedIn and Twitter
* Write a headline and first paragraph of an article about your company that you’d like to see appear (optimize it for search)

The point is: write something, even if it doesn’t see the light of day. Get the juices flowing. Hone your story-telling skills. Read your work out loud. Don’t use emoticons or text message short-cuts (you’ll be doing that later, presumably).

It’s a good exercise that will make us better writers and more disciplined communicators. It’ll only take five minutes and, unlike in middle school, you can drink coffee while you’re writing.

Diane Schwartz

Twitter: @dianeschwartz

AT&T’s CSR Efforts Lack One Strong Texting Message

When it comes to corporate social responsibility (CSR), words are great, but actions are what people remember. The best CSR campaigns are the ones that put companies in the most favorable light, actually make a difference and improve employee morale.

Take the case of AT&T.

AT&T has taken some big steps lately to get the word out about the dangers of texting while driving. They are speaking out and are even working on technologies that will make it impossible to text while driving. While they should be commended for this and have made major strides, still need to take one more major step.

The New York Times recently reported on the actions of Randall L. Stephenson, AT&T’s chairman and CEO, who has been a strong advocate for ending the practice of texting while driving.  He used the forum of a recent investor meeting to speak out against this dangerous practice.

Stephenson has personal knowledge of the issue—someone close to him was involved in an accident resulting from a driver being distracted while texting.

Besides speaking out on the issue, Stephenson’s team at AT&T is about to launch an app that will disable texting on Android and Blackberry phones when they are traveling at over 25 miles-per-hour. Unfortunately this app will not work with iPhones.

It is fantastic that someone as prominent as Stephenson is using his bully pulpit to get the word out about texting and driving. It reflects well both on him and for AT&T as a socially responsible company.

But he needs to take one more step: support laws that would strongly punish those who text and drive. Stephenson prefers “market-driven” solutions to legislative ones, but experts argue that the fear of fines or convictions is a much more effective way of changing behaviors than PR campaigns alone.

Verizon Wireless has fully supported federal and state laws banning texting while driving. AT&T needs to take that big step to corporate social responsibility and join in. It is that kind of action that speaks volumes.

Follow Jon Gelberg: @Jon_Gelberg

PR Folks—What’s Wrong With This New York Times Article About You?

The essence of journalism is stained every time a reporter either willingly or unwillingly provides a source with his or her quote for an article before publication.  This deal is sometimes made conditionally before the interview takes place, or as an informal request post-interview that carries a lot of weight and inference of future access to that source.  And if you agree with New York Times media columnist David Carr, quotation-approval leads straight to the PR person and it is because of PR’s involvement in interviews that this whole mess over quotation approvals has reached a fever pitch.

To wit, Carr quotes Reuters business columnist Felix Salmon as saying: “Requests for quote approval rise in direct proportion to the involvement of P.R. people.”  In the Sept. 17 Media Equation column titled “The Puppetry of Quotation Approval,” Carr points to Michael Lewis conceding that in his Vanity Fair piece on President Obama he was forced to get approval on all quotes used in the article; and Elizabeth Warren agreeing to a piece in Bloomberg Businessweek provided she could approve her quotes before publication.

Carr notes that “a great quotation, the kind that P.R. folks love to rub out, in my experience, can make an article sing or the truth resonate.”

I agree with Carr that a great quotation – even better, an article filled with meaningful quotes – provide the anchor to the story. Quotes add the color, lighting and shadows a journalist needs to paint an accurate picture.

However, I do take issue with Carr’s underlying commentary in his column that PR is hindering the interviewing process. What’s wrong with this – for the PR profession as a whole – is that Carr perceives PR to be this way, whether it’s true or not. Surely, there are PR representatives who interfere in the process. And just the same, there are PR reps who help pave the way to a great interview and then get out of the way.  Sometimes PR is in the room or on the call, but most times PR is not shadowing the interviewee.  The fact that a very influential media columnist is putting it out there  – that “PR folks love to rub out” quotes – is a problem for the profession.  Surely there is a better way for both journalists and PR professionals.

Sound-bite journalism has contributed to a source’s skepticism that the reporter will keep the story in context.  At the same time, as Carr points out, more journalists are pushing back and refusing to hand over quotes pre-publication.  Further, a poorly reported article with inaccurate statements can cost a business dearly on the bottom line.  So there’s still work to be done on the newsroom side.

But PR should work harder every day to strengthen its role as a Counselor within his or her organization, while improving its role with journalists so that trust is unquestionable.  There should always be a mutual understanding among a journalist and source that, in an interview, two people with very different jobs (and end goals) are just talking to one another and what’s spoken by the source is true and what is published by the media is accurate.  If a source feels that his or her quote needs to be “reworked” or scrapped from the article before publication, then the problem started long before the interview. Better that PR serves as a trusted and educated counselor to her execs and spokespeople to avoid Interview Insecurity and bad press for Public Relations.

What do you think?

Diane Schwartz

Talk to me on Twitter too: @dianeschwartz

I Heard the News Today, Oh Boy

Did you hear? Apple is launching a new iPhone.

Of course you heard! Just about everybody around the world heard and they heard it within nanoseconds of the curtain going up on the much-anticipated iPhone 5.

The reviews were all over the place. Just look at the early headlines:

These were just a tiny sampling of the thousands of media outlets covering the unveiling. Social media jumped all over the news, with over 500,000 tweets recorded within the first few hours of the unveiling.

Most companies would kill for this kind of coverage, but for Apple this is nothing new. They are masters of the publicity universe and proved it yet again with the seemingly endless publicity that led up to the launch, the huge coverage of the launch and the massive coverage certain to come when the phones finally are on sale.

Coverage of the unveiling followed months of speculation. Apple has been vague for a very long time about when the phone would finally be available. For many brands, that would be a disaster. But Apple has a history of making a PR bonanza out of making people wait.

CNET did a brilliant job of collecting the stories speculating on the new phone, and the number of articles on the subject was simply staggering. The speculation and excitement went on for months. Was it a coincidence that the Apple stock went from 584 at the end of June up to 680 last week?

With people allowed to pre-order the iPhone 5 starting on September 14 and to start shipping the phones on September 21, is doesn’t take a genius to predict that the upcoming coverage will be even more intense than what’s already been achieved.

You don’t have to be a PR maven to know the arrivals of the first phones in stores and online will be huge.

Speaking of online, I can just imagine the coverage of the long lines at Apple stores as people wait to be the first proud owners of the new phones.  As Yogi Berra might say, it will be déjà vu all over again… Apple style.

Follow Jon Gelberg: @Jon_Gelberg

Come on Cubs, Step Up to the Plate

Every Major League baseball player remembers his first at-bat like it was yesterday. He can tell you about the feeling of walking up to the plate, of hearing the crowd, of watching the pitcher wind up, and of course the feeling of that first pitch coming in.

Adam Greenberg had that moment on the night of July 9, 2005. Called up from the minor leagues that very day, Greenberg put on the uniform of the Chicago Cubs, took his seat on the bench and waited until the ninth inning when the manager told him he was pinch hitting.

The very first Major League pitch he ever faced was a 92 MPH fastball that struck him squarely on the helmet.  The sound of the impact was sickening, and Greenberg collapsed in agony.

He was immediately sent down to the minors for rehab, but symptoms of vertigo and post-concussion syndrome set him back to the point where he never again reached the level where he was deemed ready for the majors.

Seven years have passed and Greenberg still dreams of playing in the majors. He is playing at the lowest level of the minor leagues, but will be on the Israeli team in the upcoming World Baseball Classic.

One person intimately familiar with the Greenberg story is sports filmmaker (and crazed Cubs fan) Matt Liston. Liston watched that game on TV and the image of Greenberg writhing on the ground is one he has never forgotten.

Liston believes baseball’s official rules have been unkind to Greenberg. He is designated as having been a Major League Baseball player, but, because he was hit by a pitch, he does not have an official MLB at-bat to his credit.

Though not a PR professional by trade, Liston ought to be. He started a petition on Change.org asking any MLB team to give Greenberg a chance to have one at bat. He also launched a Web site, oneatbat.com, to tell Greenberg’s story and to solicit signatures for the petition.

This is the time of year when clubs can increase their rosters by 15 players, so Liston argues it wouldn’t be a huge deal to give one deserving guy one at-bat in a meaningless situation.

Liston’s petition and the Adam Greenberg story have captured the attention of both fans and press alike. The petition has over 17,000 signatures. Liston has used his camera to record interviews with numerous MLB players, all of whom say they would gladly give up an at-bat to give Greenberg his overdue shot.

The Greenberg “one at- bat” story has garnered a significant amount of earned media, having been picked up by NBC, CBS, ESPN, the Huffington Post, the Chicago Tribune and dozens of other media outlets.

Liston’s efforts are a perfect example of what happens when you mix passion, a great cause, the use of video, and word-of-mouth to tell your story. Even if you are a PR amateur, if you have a great story to tell, you tell it in a human and powerful way and you get that story in front of a targeted audience, you can spread your message like wildfire.

That’s the brilliant PR part of the story.

Here comes the other side.

As of September 10, the Chicago Cubs were 54-86, 29.5 games out of first place and long ago eliminated from any shot at the playoffs. This is the same Cubs franchise that hasn’t won a World Series since 1908.

It is pretty fair to say the Cubs fan base could use a feel good moment. It’s also pretty fair to say the Chicago Cubs organization is in desperate need of some positive PR. Such a PR opportunity has been dropped in their lap.

The team is well aware of the Greenberg story and they are exceedingly aware of the petition and the publicity that petition has been getting. Putting Greenberg into the lineup, giving him his long-awaited “one at-bat,” would produce a wealth of good will in a season that has sorely been lacking in feel-good moments.

Remarkably, rather than embrace the Greenberg story, the Cubs issued this cold statement:

“Adam made the big leagues based on merit in 2005,” Chicago GM Jed Hoyer said in a statement. “While it is unfortunate he got hit in his first at bat, he is in the Baseball Encyclopedia as a major leaguer and he should be incredibly proud of that. We wish him the best, but there are no plans to add him to the roster now or in the future.”

What should have been a no-brainer— from a PR point of view— could turn into a major headache for the Cubs organization.  A little flexibility, a little spontaneity could go a long way.

While fans are loyal, their loyalty can’t be taken for granted. In case the Cubs haven’t noticed, there’s another team in Chicago, the White Sox, who just happen to reside in first place in their division.

There’s still time. The Cubs should step up to the plate and let Adam Greenberg do the same.

 

- Jon Gelberg

Follow Jon  @Jon_Gelberg

NFL Season Kicks Off with PR Issues to Tackle

The long nightmare that has been haunting sports fans for the past six months is finally over.

Football is back.

With the Dallas Cowboys opening the season with a win over the New York Giants  on Wednesday, Sept. 5, there will be plenty of story lines to follow as 32 teams begin the long journey with hopes of hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy in New Orleans in February.

Sure, there are plenty of football-related stories to come, but there are also some fascinating PR related stories that will emerge as the year goes on.  As the season kicks off, here are four PR angles to keep an eye on:

  1. Tebow Time: Without a doubt the most visible player in the NFL is Tim Tebow.  So visible, in fact, that it’s sometimes easy to forget that he was brought to New York to be a backup quarterback. But Tebow’s popularity transcends sports. And while the publicity Tebow brings to the Jets can be a good thing, the pressure from fans and supporters to get him on the field can turn into a PR disaster. The New York and national media are poised to jump all over the story if starter Mark Sanchez falters early in the season. How the Jets’ coaching staff and PR team handles his playing time, or lack thereof, could overshadow what actually happens on the field.
  2. Referee labor issues:  The one issue that’s been looming over the start of the NFL season has been the ongoing labor battle between the league and the referees, who are looking to protect their negotiated pension. With replacement referees set to be in place for the start of the season, the NFL faces a PR backlash from the public and from players due to the step down in quality of officiating. For a league that proudly boasts about billions in revenue, is it worth it to not have the best officials on the field over money? From another PR perspective, there are a lot of NFL fans who also happen to be union members.
  3. Head injuries:  This offseason saw the unfortunate suicide of former superstar Junior Seau. The May suicide hasn’t been directly linked to head injuries suffered during his playing days, but many feel that the head injuries may have been an underlying issue. It brought to light an ongoing discussion about the risks playing in the NFL and football at any level presents. The challenge the league faces from a PR perspective is that the league has always encouraged hard hitting, but must balance that kind of entertainment with a sensitivity to the health concerns for current and former players, as well as parents of young football players. Another suicide or an on-field death resulting from a hit to the head could be a PR nightmare for the league.
  4. Nike:  The Nike swoosh is one of the most recognizable logos in all of fashion. So after taking over for Reebok as the official apparel provider of the NFL, what better way to showcase your brand than by having the best and most popular athletes in the world in the most popular sport giving free publicity on a weekly basis. The PR world will take a close look at the hard numbers. How much bang (extra revenues) will Nike get from their branding bucks?

Follow Jamar Hudson: @jamarhudson

Are You Better Off Now than 4 Years Ago? Your Answers May Surprise You

“Are you better off today than you were 4 years ago?” That’s the question Republicans are imploring Americans to answer as they make their way to the voting booths in a few months.  Let’s put politics and party affiliations aside and apply this question to you and your career, to you and your company.

Most of us don’t think in 4-year chunks. We are retrospective and introspective about the early days, last year or even last week. Four years is a rather arbitrary benchmark post-college.  And we aren’t choosing a President of Public Relations, though that would be great fun.

So, as the Democratic Convention kicks off this week and Obama supporters are advised to answer “absolutely!” to the “4-year” question, how would you answer:

* Are you better off in your career now than you were 4 years ago? (you’ve taken chances, had some “wins”, learned from some losses,  been fairly compensated and handed more responsibilities?)

* Is your company doing better than it was in 2008 and how did you, or didn’t you, contribute to that? (At the baseline, do you know how your company is performing? Were you able to have an impact on its successes?)

* Are your customers, clients and fellow employees more satisfied with you today than thousands of days ago? (Have you asked lately? Do you feel you’ve made a positive impact on your stakeholders? Do you care – enough, not enough?)

If you answered Absolutely to the questions above, congratulations. You are probably the 1 percent of Contents. For most of us, it’s a question covered in a lot of gray area.  But just asking it regularly – more than every four years – is a step in the right direction. So, thank you Romney and Obama for introducing this question to our lives. I will definitely vote for one of you.

-    Diane Schwartz

@dianeschwartz (please follow me on Twitter for at least the next 4 years)

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