Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Back in the Saddle

Long time no see, folks, and I gotta say - it's nice to be back in the writer's chair. Well, the one with my name on it :) After a five month sabbatical (been getting my groove back in the world of full-time work - woot!), I've returned to dissect, critique, ramble, observe and - most importantly - share insights involving public relations, marketing and new(s) media topics here on Queen City PRo.

A lot has gone down over the past few months, but a marketing-related news story has caught my eye this week. What about health care reform, you ask? Or Senator Ted Kennedy passing? Or Jackson's homicide?? Nah. Not for the coming back party - it's a celebration! Speaking of parties, how about Anhesuer-Busch InBev tapping into the "'ole reliable" college town market just as reports of possible sales declines are released.

Bud Light, the best selling beer in America, had the golden idea (or purple and gold, I should say) to offer "fan cans" to kick off the college football season. As of today, Bud Light offers 26 different color combinations. There were originally 27 fan cans, but with the AP reporting that some colleges are complaining about the Bud Light promotion, that number may continue to decline.

Bud Light's Fan Can web site

My take: Genius. The promotion is bolstering sales, reinforcing branding and generating buzz (had to go there). A few frowns and complaints aside, this is a winner for A-B.

A shot of understanding: College towns contain college kids. College kids drink (according to MADD, four out of five college students pop the top) - so I hear the argument against giving them another reason. But how does a "fan can" differ from fast food restaurants selling "kids meals"? A key difference in Bud's marketing plan: It's not age-targeted. College towns are also made up of alumni, local fans, away-team visitors, tourists, school staff and families, plenty of which are 21 and up - especially on game days.

Marketing beer in college towns with local school colors does nothing more to make a 19 year old drink beer than bottles of Coca-Cola commemorating college championships make folks drink soda. Who knows, maybe they'll collect them rather than drink them??

If they just sold the East Carolina purple and gold in this part of the state...LSU who??
Update: August 27, 2009
Beer companies raising prices (

Saturday, March 14, 2009

I Met Bobby Hurley!

'Tis true, I favor the darker shade of blue. And perhaps no player in Duke University's storied basketball history can claim as much success as Bobby Hurley.

March Madness in full effect, I thought it would be OK to digress slightly from my usual communications and public relations topics and boast about my personal meeting with the star point guard of the early '90s.

To shake the hand that dished out an NCAA record 1,076 assists, hoisted two national championship trophies, and cut down three nets in four years, including ACC and NCAA championships. One of the Top 50 ACC Basketball Players of all-time. In a word: Awesome.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

An Evolved Approach to Crisis Communication

You're a successful propane tank exchange executive gearing up for the summer peak season. Demand is forecast to be high. People are eating out less and are spending more time at home. Production costs have leveled off with the decreasing price of oil. Heck, your company may even post a small gain this quarter. Life is good...

It's 12:37 a.m. on a Sunday night; your phone rings and the voice on the other end frantically explains to you that there was an "accident" involving Plant 4. The main propane storage tank blew. The fire has been contained, but initial reports indicate severe structural damage and several employee injuries. The cause of the blast has not been isolated.

The media have not caught wind - yet. You, my friend, have a crisis.

You quickly dig out your crisis communication manual (circa 1995) and begin the motions. You know a response is required. You know your initial response needs to be timely, succinct and transparent - or now you do - because you've only got one shot to respond before the court of public opinion makes its ruling.

What channel(s) of communication allows you to respond and distribute your messages to those who most need that information in a timely, succinct and transparent manner AND in one fell swoop?

Not a phone call. Not a press conference. Certainly not keeping "mum."

The answer is the Internet. Plan an online crisis communication plan with your public relations team. Create an account on Twitter. Develop a page on Facebook. Post updates and key information in your online newsroom or blog. Don't have either? Get them.

Your online crisis communication initial response should include:
  • Recap of the event/crisis (include numbers if possible)
  • Action being taken to correct the situation
  • Restate your key messages and existing safety measures
  • Resource for further updates (preferably online)
  • Easily redistributed materials (not a 13MB PowerPoint)
How do you fit all of this on Twitter? Observe: "Attn: Media. Situation at COMPANYNAME re: propane facility. Visit for continuing updates, media advisories & contact info." (<140 characters) FYI - is an efficient tool to shorten URLs.

Sure, you'll still spend the next week on the phone talking to reporters about propane safety issues, but the Internet gives you control over your message and provides real-time access to information for media, retailers, consumers, investors, employees, family members, etc. This is critical in bringing a crisis situation under control from the beginning.

The point is not to rush a response to satisfy the media when you don't have your facts straight; you should have most of this in place already, just fill in the blanks!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Unemployment Be Gone!

Oh, happy day! Angels rejoice, children sing, bank account replenish!

I am a full-time employee! Alas, my adventures in networking lunches, freelance public relations, and online social networking in Charlotte have resulted in the big J-O-B.

Many thanks to North Carolina State University (whose views I do not represent on this blog :) for extending a generous offer and creating this partnership - my love for the ACC has grown exponentially going into this March!

"Thank you speeches" aside, the past four months have taught me a lot. Life's basic lessons are often known but not fully understood until you've experienced them. For example:
  • Life is not always "fair" - far more experienced individuals than myself have unwillingly contributed to our nations' 8.1 percent unemployment rate.
  • Everything DOES happen for a reason (though we most often have no clue why).
  • The most important things in life are your health and your family. Period.
  • Things can almost always be're reading this post are you not?
  • We are our own best hope. Translation: Networking and self branding are critical components of the journey to a job.
"Don't give up, don't ever give up." - Jim Valvano

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

"Off the Record" Does Not Exist

The latest and greatest example of why celebrities, businesses, individuals - heck, anybody for that matter - should never, ever assume that a communication is "off the record": Alex Rodriguez asks Katie Couric for advice.

Katie Couric stated on the Late Show with David Letterman Monday night that A-Rod called her and at one point asked, "What team do you think I should play for?" Alex originally called Katie to apologize for lying to her about his steroids use during a 60 Minutes interview in December 2007.

OK, this is one of those times when a person (A-Rod) offered inside information to a trusted media contact (Katie Couric) in what he likely assumed was an "off the record" conversation.

Lesson Learned
Write this down: "Off the record" does NOT exist. Period.

It doesn't matter if you and the reporter have an "agreement" worked out. It doesn't matter if it's an email or a Twitter message. It doesn't even matter if it's a call to an old media friend asking for advice or catching up. You never, EVER assume anything is off the record. Why? That's right, because off the record doesn't exist. It is a figment of your imagination. Wishful thinking. Sound byte bait. Don't let you, or your clients, bite into it.

Oh, just so you know, a lack of response IS a response, which is never what? Off the record!

This is a critical lesson in public relations and media training 101. Read it, learn it, live it.

On the record: Alex Rodriguez needs some major image management and public relations help.

- Justin Moore, Charlotte, NC
FOX Sports' take on Alex Rodriguez asking Katie Couric for career advice.