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Hurricane Irene was plenty terrible. But reasonable people started sensing that things were overstated when
headlines heralding the storm's rising "death toll" included a North Carolina man who died of a heart attack while nailing up plywood.
The literal overkill was inevitable. Hurricane Irene was the perfect storm of hype, an approaching disaster fueled by the hot air rising from the national media and political epicenters that lay directly in its path.
For the cable networks this was a once-in-a-career relevancy, a chance to glue their logos forever to the bottom right corner of Armageddon. For politicians at the door of a campaign season, it was as opportunity to show big-time leadership, to hurry millions of people off the beach in advance of seeing themselves standing in shirtsleeves on the wet ruins, bullhorns and bully in hand.
Except thankfully it didn't happen. And now those same media and politicians are dealing with the real PR disaster of having to manage perceptions among a public that will be even more cynical about the next dire thing that comes along.
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** Must-clicks **
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UPDATE: August 29, 2011 - American Red Cross response to continue for weeks... Seeking both financial and blood donations. Click here to help right now.
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In the spin following the GOP’s game-changing Senate win in Massachusetts, the White House defended its beleaguered health care legislation with an old standard: What we have here is a failure to communicate.
"We lost some of that sense,” President Obama told ABC News, “…of speaking directly to the American people about what their core values are and why we have to make sure those institutions are matching up with those values.”
That talking point has been played down since then. Good thing, too. Because it’s terrible PR.
Think of health care reform as a high-profile but controversial consumer product being introduced into a marketplace of extreme fans and critics (like New Coke or Windows Vista). Blaming a flat-out rejection on poor communications might seem a safe strategy. You hold yourself accountable but without faulting your intentions.
It’s not that your product’s bad. It’s the stupid packaging.
Except a lot of people will instead think you’re saying, “It’s the packaging, stupid.”
Your competitors will do everything they can to promote that interpretation. As MSNBC points out, administration opponents are literally institutionalizing the word “arrogance” in reference to what Massachusetts voters were complaining about and how the White House has responded to it.
At the core of almost every public’s fear and loathing are legitimate issues. You may think your smarts in creating a value-added product trumps all that. They don’t.
You can’t win people who think you’re dismissing them. Even if you suspect they don’t have a clue what you’re really selling.
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Previously in Scatterbox: Obama anti-business rhetoric puts strain on forced bond between government and corporate community.
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“The Obama administration has started with 14 professionals working in the office of the press secretary—and an astounding 47 more devoted to other aspects of media and message—which is significantly more than the communications staffs of many Fortune 500 corporations. But the media operation goes deeper than that. It’s more central than in any previous administration, and run more knowledgeably.”
-- Vanity Fair columnist Michael Wolff in The Power and the Story, on the administration’s seemingly total control of the press.
in Branding, Communications, Current Affairs, Democrats, Economy, Government & Public Affairs, History, Image, Influence, Issues Management, Journalism, New media, News Media, Newspapers, Obama, Old media, Politics, PR, Public Policy, Public Relations, Publicity, Republicans, Reputation Management, Social Media, Strategy, Television, USA, Weblogs / Blogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Four years ago, a BusinessWeek cover story said blogs will change your business and influence the course of civilization just like the invention of the printing press did more than five hundred years ago.
Now a Time Magazine cover story announces that Twitter will change the way we live .
That is, unless you don't think a free online short-message service rastes with our generation’s revolutionary information technologies: voice mail, cell phones, the Web.
You’re the people who think Twitter is the Internet-era version of the CB radio fad.
And you don’t believe that hot hype will take precedent over the cold realities of the marketplace.
In "Ten ways Twitter will change American business," Time’s writer predicts that the ability to send and selectively receive 140-character Tweets will give business, politicians, media, investors and other interests the ability to “engage” people like never before. For example:
“Twitter … will increasingly become a place where companies build brands, do research, send information to customers, conduct e-commerce, and create communities for their users. Some industries, like local retail, could be transformed by Twitter… having the opportunity to tell customers about attractive sales and new products can be done at remarkably low cost while providing for greater geographic accuracy.”
… One, that they'll stay fixed on reading and writing Tweets all day long, day after day.
… Two, that they’ll want to receive product announcements, promotions, surveys, celebrity restaurant orders, contests and other sponsored messages, at every turn of their day.
… Three, that they’ll overlook the intrusive advertising and spam that will increasingly pollute their legitimate news and conversation stream.
Consumers don’t behave this way. They won’t for Twitter.
Twitter’s problem is that the Internet has no walls. There are no beachheads to dissipate the relentless waves of marketing and campaigning. We hear anecdotes like how a suitcase company responded to a customer who Tweeted about his broken handle. But take that scenario a few years from now – if that long – and that same customer will be inundated by followers, followees and interlopers Tweeting everything from luggage deals and discount travel to political fundraisers and pleas to help some secret princess transfer money.
Nobody says Twitter doesn’t have huge potential for mass communication. It does. The Iranian election aftermath shows how microblogging can facilitate real-time citizen-journalism. But the same holds true for misinformation and propaganda. The bad guys know how to use Twitter too.
That's one reason corporate America isn’t exactly clamoring to get on board. And Twitter's goofy dot-commish name itself alienates the service from thousands of CEOs already averse to social media.
Consider YouTube. Time Magazine reports that despite drawing 99.7 million viewers watching 5.9 billion videos, YouTube's content is overall so bad that marketers have become reluctant to embed their messages within it.
After paying $1.65 billion to own it, Google told investors that YouTube is "not material,” making the Web’s third-most popular destination also one of the ten biggest technology failures of the last decade.
It's a stretch to think Twitter will do better. It doesn’t even own the micro-blogging concept, and several competitors already offer more features and open-sourcing. RSS inventor Dave Winer, who PC World calls the father of modern-day content distribution, went so far as to predict that Twitter is the next Netscape.
As for the 29 million users, new research also suggests that Twittermania may have already peaked:
Then there’s the Oprah factor.
Well over a million people signed up for Twitter in the first 72 hours after Oprah featured the service on her show. But as Silicon Valley Insider reported, Oprah is already bored with it. Despite having 1.56 million followers, Oprah herself follows only 14 people and Tweeted just four times in June.
So what are we to make of all this? I agree with InternetNews columnist Mike Elgan, who thinks Twitter is simply leveling out to what it really is minus the hype.
“It’s no longer a new frontier, an elite club or a culture-transforming medium,” he writes. “It's just a service for sending messages.”
And you can get mine at Twitter.com/StevenSilvers. Or at least until I move on to the next big thing.
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in Advertising, Branding, Business , Commercials, Communications, Consumers, Corporate Communications, Current Affairs, Google, Image, Influence, Internet, Internet business, Investor Relations, Iraq War, Journalism, Marketing, Money, New media, Politics, PR, Promotions, Propaganda, Publicity, Reputation Management, Research, Sales, Search engines, Social Media, Strategy, Twitter, USA, Web business, Web Sites, Weblogs / Blogs | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
The nation's media reports that the corporate world is peeved about what it considers President Obama's devisive anti-corporate rhetoric. As U.S. News and World Report observes, "Another week, another assault on business-as-usual by President Obama. Or is it, as some critics are starting to wonder, an assault on business, as usual?"
Reports Associated Press:
"Relations between President Barack Obama and U.S. corporate leaders have grown tense in recent weeks, with business groups bristling over his sharp rebukes of lenders and multinational companies in particular.
Executives and trade groups that praised Obama's outreach during his post-election transition period say they have felt less welcome since he took office in January. More troubling, they say, are his populist-tinged, sometimes acid critiques of certain sectors, including large companies that keep some profits overseas to reduce their U.S. tax burden."
A U.S. Chamber spokesman called the President's talking points "an oversimplification of the real world." Another trade lobbyist called it the same old cynical, political class warfare.
The White House is throwing out its own doublespeak, explaining that the business community is just freaked out by how shockingly supportive the President really is. Said Commerce Secretary Gary Locke in the U.S. News report:
"President Obama has a very good relationship with the business community. He's working extra hard on creating more jobs and stabilizing the financial crisis.... In many ways, he's perhaps surprised the business community with just how moderate he has been and how much he is willing to work with them."
The posturing between Obama and corporate America has always been convoluted. As a candidate, Obama ran anti-corporate campaign ads criticizing CEO compensation. Yet he still raised enormous sums of money from corporate backers including Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Citigroup, Lehman Brothers, National Amusements and Google.
A few months before the election, a Chief Executive poll found that more than 70 percent of all CEOs thought an Obama presidency would be a "disaster." Yet Business Week reported that corporate leaders gave President Obama "relatively good grades" after his first 100 days. People were still wary on the details, but as the Business Roundtable's president told the magazine: "We're happy with the general outlines of what he's done; things are starting to take hold."
Today's ambivalence between government and business represents tensions that exist within a shotgun marrage unlike anything in history. Taxpayers are now direct stakeholders in the financial and auto industries, and are rapidly becoming the safety net by which the nation's housing, healthcare, energy and even news media industries will be supported while they are transformed. That makes the President of the United States both Commander in Chief and CEO.
We're at the point now, writes Wall Street Journal columnist Gerland Seib, that "it seems almost anachronistic to talk about a divide between government and business."
Perhaps the publicized angst about Obama being anti-business means the honeymoon that never really was is over. What certain is that corporate PR is going to be more complicated than when all the talk about public-private partnership was mostly just talk.
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in Advertising, Business , Corporate Communications, Corporate Governance, Corporations, Current Affairs, Democrats, Economy, Google, Government & Public Affairs, Image, Influence, Issues Management, News Media, Obama, Politics, Propaganda, Public Policy, Public Relations, Republicans, Stakeholder Relations, Stimulus, Strategy, Transparency, USA | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
The New York Times got hold a draft report by a nonprofit "environmental marketing firm" that recommends using better spin to win people over on this whole global warming thing. The Times reports:
Instead of grim warnings about global warming, the firm advises, talk about "our deteriorating atmosphere." Drop discussions of carbon dioxide and bring up "moving away from the dirty fuels of the past." Don't confuse people with cap and trade; use terms like "cap and cash back" or "pollution reduction refund."...
In fact, the group's surveys and focus groups found, it is time to drop the term "the environment" and talk about "the air we breathe, the water our children drink."
I can hear every good PR expert in the world groaning at this.
Put aside the fact that this calculated euphemism insults Americans who know what "environment" means. You're still left with several risks.
One: You're taking a bus to get to the same point. Instead of referring to global warming, you're saying that, no, the real problem is our deteriorating atmosphere, which is the result of greenhouse gas emissions that in turn cause global warming. Flack rhetoric makes things less clear, not more.
Two: You're hurting your cause. Global warming is a literal concept, proven by literal events and research. "Our deteriorating atmosphere" is bad packaging, like something out of Hollywood's current preoccupation with end-of-the-world movies. They're great special effects, but everybody knows they're pretend.
Three: You act like your spin exists in a vacuum. Huge mistake. If your research shows that people are uncomfortable with the word environment, then your opposition will find ways to say environmentalists twenty times a minute. Thirty times a minute if they're Rush Limbaugh.Four: If you give up "environment," you'll need even more doublespeak to label what you do.
What... You're going to start referring to people as Our Deteriorating Atmosphere Solutions Providers?
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in Advertising, Business , Communications, Consumers, Current Affairs, Democrats, Environment, Ethics, Global warming, Image, Issues Management, Marketing, News Media, Politics, PR, Propaganda, Public Policy, Publicity, Reputation Management, Research, Strategy, Transparency, USA | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
The deceased mayor of a Missouri town won his fourth reelection with 90 percent of the vote.
Eat out tonight? Forkin' A, man.
The Colorado Restaurant Association hopes to stimulate dining out with its "Fork the Recession" advertising campaign.
A good time will be had by all.
North Korea's official news service announced that "Pyongyang, the venue of the 26th April Spring Friendship Art Festival, is seething in a festival mood now."
There wasn't much going on today, anyway.
The Los Angles Times placed a pretend news story on its front page to promote a new NBC police drama
Except they don't use the word solutions in every other sentence.
A New York Times editor in Washington says many of his anonymous sources are like "human press releases."
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