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.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Charlotte Snow Storm Illuminates Twitter Benefits

"Winter Storm '09," as the latest winter weather system was so simplistically named, dumped half a foot or more of rain, sleet and snow on much of the Charlotte area Sunday night. Typical of the below-freezing fallout in this part of the country, people freaked. Rightfully so in some instances: Duke Energy reported as many as 185,000 power outages in NC Monday.

Information and communication are critical in times of emergency, be it weather related or otherwise. We need to know the facts; the when, where, how much, what the $%&* is going on, and everything else. Social media like Twitter are ideal platforms for real-time communication with customers, friends, media, businesses, government, etc. Some organizations are participating, some haven't caught on yet.

That said, here are 10 Charlotte area "Emergency Tweeps" to follow, because you just never know...
  • And one more to really keep in mind in a few months: The National Hurricane Center - @NHC_NOAA
If you're like me, you're wondering why these folks below AREN'T on Twitter. Listen up list, you have followers in waiting, get a move on!
I may have missed a few, or maybe these organizations are on Twitter and I overlooked them. Hey, I'm human :) What other organizations would be ideal on Twitter during an emergency? Leave a comment with suggestions or corrections and I'll add to/republish a list of emergency-related groups in the Charlotte area that are/need to be on Twitter.

The more inclusive a list we can develop, the better off we'll all be! Stay in touch, stay warm, and most of all, stay informed!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

PRSA Charlotte Hosts Peter Shankman

Kudos to the Charlotte social media scene for showing up in numbers at PRSA Charlotte's luncheon with Peter Shankman today.

Shankman, founder of The Geek Factory and the famous (at least in PR circles) and free Help a Reporter Out (HARO) service, gave a fun and informative presentation on the past, present and future of social media and communications.

In case you missed it, here are some key summary points from my copious notes:
  • "Viral" marketing is when something is good enough for others to trust and share.
  • Talk to your audiences! Don't waste opportunities to become a resource.
  • Newspapers are NOT dying; condensing and evolving perhaps, but not dying...
  • ...thus we all must work to make information available to our audiences when and how they wish to receive it and provide what they're interested in. Be relevant.
  • Privacy as we know it is dead - get used to the fact that everything I, you, we do is on the record.
  • Refer to Mashable's Top 20 Social Networks and register now (even if you don't use them, claim your spot/name). Check out 12seconds as well - next "big one."
Four keys to being a successful business communicator today:
  • Transparency - as it sounds, tell your clients, investors, employees, etc. what's going on!
  • Relevance - Research, research, research! Tell people things they're interested in/report on.
  • Brevity - max 5 lines w/ no attachment in media emails.
  • Top of Mind Presence - it's good to say "Hello" sometimes without an ulterior motive.
My experience today also confirmed that a) Large amounts of the PR/communication field in Charlotte are using Twitter, and b) Those that aren't using Twitter likely should. Twitter certainly isn't for all businesses or individuals, but from a personal networking and trust/brand building perspective, Twitter = Priceless.

Finally, some resourceful contacts on Twitter from today:
P.S. I shamelessly "borrowed" PRSA Charlotte's logo above. It fit the bill and I included it in my footnotes :)

"Our best thoughts come from others." ~ Emerson

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Help People Find Your Web Site for Pup's Sake!

The last time I checked, the purpose of your business web site was to make money. Either through direct online sales (eCommerce) or new business acquisition, your web site is your ultimate sales tool.

Web sites do not sustain themselves, however. If you don't give some TLC on a regular basis, it won't sustain your business either.

Allow me to clarify this hardened fact with a soft and cuddly example:

Imagine your dog just had puppies - if you don't have a dog, indulge me. A litter of beautiful golden retriever pups that are just the cutest things you've ever seen. The little girl puppy with the white mark on her paw is one of a kind!

Reality check: You've got a full house and an empty wallet, so you understandably need to sell some of them to good homes. How do you do that?

Not a trick question. You tell people! More specifically, you tell people you think will be interested in buying puppies or who may know people that will be interested in buying puppies. You create fliers with contact info and puppy pics. You update your Facebook status to say "Puppies for sale!" In short, you help people in the puppy-buying market find your puppies.

Marketing concepts are no different online. You still have to help the right audiences find your business to make sales, period.

Now to tie it all together: Having a web site does your business no good if nobody knows about it or - here's the kicker - people can't search for and find your web site.

Search engine optimization, or SEO, helps your target audiences find you online. Why is that important? Think of how you look for a specific service or product (like a puppy) - you Google it. Heck, most people do.

Pew Internet & American Life Project report 81 percent of people research a product online that they are considering purchasing. Bottom line: If they can't Google you (70+ percent of online searches), they won't buy your puppies.

By helping the people that want your product find it, whether it's a puppy or not, you're bringing pre-qualified traffic to your doorstep.

Some basic SEO steps:
  • Identify the situation - your goals, messages, target audience(s)
  • Develop keywords/key phrases - if you think you have these already, match them against your messages and audiences. Do they make the most sense? Can you compete for them??
  • Perform a web site audit - review your site to measure the current level of optimization based on your messages, audiences and keywords/key phrases
  • Take action - develop optimized content, create attractive and relevant source codes, and make your site more dynamic by starting a blog, newsletter, etc.
  • Engage public relations - take your optimized web site and business to new audiences in a credible and compelling manner - marry SEO & PR
Check out SEO Chat for quick web site optimization Q&A's, or SEO Pro Book for a helpful, easy to read, and decently priced how-to/intro SEO book.

Good luck selling your puppies!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Power of Perception

I had a conversation this week with Brent Friar, an everyman web programmer and owner of BNR Branding (that's a compliment by the way), regarding online networking and the use of social media in Charlotte. We both are fairly frequent Twitterers (@tjustinmoore and @bnrbranding) which led to the question: "What makes someone an expert online?"

The question holds extra weight in today's technology and social media driven society. The face-to-face, although the most authentic and effective means of communication, is losing ground as people rely more on hand held devices to do "hands on" work. How can I trust someone I've never met or barely know with my business interests?

It reminds me of the scene from Dumb & Dumber when Lloyd (Jim Carrey) tells the little old lady in the motorized chair to watch his stuff while he breaks a dollar - he returns to no old lady and no possessions. Funny, but real.

What identifies someone as an expert? More specifically, how do you accurately judge someone's level of expertise based on their social media status/profiles alone? Maybe I'm a trust Scrooge, but that doesn't tell me much.

Is it their thousands of followers on Twitter? Is it their name appearing high on Google's SERPs?

Thousands of followers implies credibility and expertise - sense enough - but who accredited that person and why? How responsible is it to take a stranger's word when it comes to the expertise of someone who communicates in 140 characters or less?

It boils down to one word, one concept, one phenomenon: Perception.

Human beings live, breath, purchase, eat and communicate based on how they perceive a given situation, item, product, person, etc. So what determines our perception?

"Motivation affects perception," according to psychologists. For example, if a person is driving down Main Street with an empty stomach, they'll notice all of the restaurants. If their "check engine" light is on, they'll spot all of the gas stations. If it's Valentine's Day and they haven't bought their significant other a present (be honest), the jewelers will likely jump out.

The moral of the story: Be mindful of your motivations. Yes, it sounds like something Yoda would say. No, I didn't steal the line from him.

Whether you're job hunting online, expanding your social network, looking for a garage door repair service (Charlotte seems to have enough of those), or just absorbing local news, take into consideration your current state of mind and why you're pursuing that information.

A few additional tips for prepping your perception:
  • Google it - yes, this is somewhat contrary to one of my skeptical statements above, but you need to acquire as much info about this person, product, place, etc. as you can before making a final decision.
  • Create a measuring stick and use it! If the person doesn't meet your expectations at first look but they seem to have a lot of "street cred," go with your initial reaction.
  • Follow their followers - if the endorsement comes from someone who has nothing to do with the industry, is it really an endorsement?
Good luck and may the force (of perception) be with you!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Online Social Networking in Charlotte

If I had a dollar for every hour I've spent engaged in online social networking endeavors, well, I'd no longer need to worry about social networking. Alas, the big picture, or in this case a smaller picture, has appeared before me...

Twitter, LinkedIn, Guru, Facebook and similar social media sites have been my primary focus of online networking. This is not a bad thing. You, me, we all want and need visibility on these sites for various reasons, but I had overlooked vast and valuable local social networking opportunities in Charlotte and the surrounding areas.

As a result, I've transitioned my efforts towards local online networking groups the past couple of weeks. Yes, the light bulb came on a little late (should be using CFL's!), but it's burning bright now.

A sampling of good social networking sites in the Charlotte area:
Some great Charlotte area public relations professionals and social media gurus on Twitter:
My Creative Team has a great list of Twittering journalists from around the globe.

Cheers and congrats to the fine folks in the Charlotte area who help the public relations, marketing, communications and general social media family grow on a daily basis!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Wanted: Public Relations Pro in Dallas

Dallas has become a bright spot in a dim economy with the announcement of a new corporate division with the city's cherished Cowboys: Public relations. High time I say.

One position of particular interest in my field is the "PR Coordinator." I've copied the job posting below; it turns out I was overqualified.

Job Description:
NFL franchise Dallas Cowboys seeking public relations and marketing professional to redeem America's Team. Successful candidate will work with star-caliber athletes who forget they're football players. Team management are naive and head coach knows only one aspect of the game. Image management, brand positioning and public perception are at critical levels.

Examples follow:
High school diploma, GED or equivalent. No experience required. Introductory level knowledge of football. Common sense a plus. Experience working with convicts and mentally challenged adults preferred.

Submit resume, a cover letter and three references ASAP at No drug testing. EOE.

Jerry Jones aka Al Davis Jr.

Monday, February 2, 2009

What is Social Media?

Definitions often differ depending on the source. Ask any two people what "green" means and you'll get two different answers. "Social media" is no different.

Much like "sustainability," "green,"
"conservation" and "eco-friendly" are interchangeable to the average person, so are "Web 2.0," "new media," "blogging" and "social media." Social media can refer to anything from MySpace to my phone. Seriously, you could fit King Kong under that umbrella.

Wikipedia defines social media as "primarily Internet and mobile-based tools for sharing and discussing information among human beings." Although as broad and undefining a definition as that may be (I love the use of "primarily"), it is overall a safe synopsis.

That said, do you ever get the feeling this is a fad term? One of those phrases that's all-encompassing because nobody "owns the market" yet, hence it hasn't been branded and defined? I do.

Part of the problem with defining social media is that it's the sum of many individual parts, or media "micro-markets":

Even these micro-markets are not set in stone. Over time they'll shape shift and shrink as players fight to the death for social media supremacy. While they all may have unique features within unique categories, as with any market, the invisible hand will smack them around until only a few select sites claim the majority of visitors. We've already seen this happen with search engines...

As this digital Darwinian evolution continues over the next few years, definitions will change and "social media" and its many parts will become more clear. In the meantime, the number of social media sites will continue to increase daily, with definitions emerging and expiring all the while. Give it time and we'll get our real definition.

Other resources and defintions:

Just What is Scoial Media, Exactly?
Social Media Marketing Campaigns: How to Set goals and Define Your Target Market
Social Media in Plain English (YouTube video)

Friday, January 30, 2009

10 Things I Hate About Unemployment

Unemployment is the single most difficult situation I've encountered in my life. Weddings, funerals, births, moves - not even close. The weight on your shoulders increases exponentially over time when you're jobless. As a result, you find yourself noticing cracks in the pavement you never knew existed. The trees and clouds become unfamiliar. Hey, that one looks like an application!

But who am I to talk? More than 11 million people in the United States share my frustrations. I won't speak for them, but there are a few things I hate about unemployment...

  1. Self-loathing - After three months of rejections, dead ends, occasional freelance, ignored emails and no job, I feel like I suck - not to put too fine a point on it.

  2. Selfishness - Looking at the U.S. unemployment rate, I feel like I'm complaining about my weight to the world's fattest person. Seriously.

  3. Socializing (or lack thereof) - My new best friend is a computer. I named my laptop Yoshi.

  4. Money - Need I elaborate?

  5. Job Hunting - It's a vicious cycle. Optimism when you get a few responses, then deflation when it goes nowhere.

  6. Office Space - The "living room" is where I work, eat, watch TV, spend family time, entertain, and sometimes sleep. I don't like it much anymore.

  7. Daytime TV - SportsCenter is only interesting the first three times it airs.

  8. Sweatpants - I try to hide, but they find me every time!

  9. Landscapers - Every Tuesday and Thursday morning at 9:00 a.m. the leaf blowers rev up like clockwork. Honestly, it takes them 15 minutes on my porch alone. Thanks guys.

  10. Guilt - I wonder if somewhere along the line this is my fault. Is there a decision here or there that could've made the difference? Yeah, and those $10 nosebleed tickets to Bobcats games? I feel bad buying them too.

Alas, you must find happiness in the everyday, for this too shall pass!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

No, We Can't. President Obama Retakes Oath, Excluding TV and Media

Not ten minutes into the Obama administration and there's controversy. Chief Justice John Roberts "screwed up" a line in the oath of office of the President of the United States when swearing in President Barack Obama this past Tuesday. President Obama retook the oath as an "abundance of precaution," as White House counsel Greg Craig described, Wednesday night in the privacy of the White House. No reporters or media were allowed.

That last line's the kicker. CNN had a hullabaloo last night over the fact that media were not permitted inside to broadcast or record the event. It was unfathomable to some of CNN's evening crew that they were not invited to document the not-quite-so-historic second oath (it's happened twice before with Presidents Coolidge and Arthur). Only a White House photographer was permitted.

It's just the opinion of this writer, but this should not be a big deal. Is it not enough to report the news? Must we have television footage and rolling tape to qualify a report as "news"? There was a time when people read the newspaper - and nothing else - to get information. Clearly those times are changing - "Death of the Newspaper" - yet I think most Americans will feel content in knowing that President Obama retook the oath.

In fact, the Constitution dictates clearly that President-elect Obama became President Obama at noon on Tuesday, with or without the oath. Thus, a do-over wasn't even necessary. Better safe than sorry to be sure, but it was not a moment of magnitude like that of the previous day. The enormity and significance of the "Presidential Do-Over," as one Yahoo! News headline reads, pails in comparison to the news value of inauguration day.

So I say to CNN and all of the scorned TV news execs: "Quit yer whinin'!" The reporting from Tuesday's inauguration was fantastic; filled with images, sounds and moments that are now part of history. Don't belabor this insignificant issue and take away from what you (the media), we (the American people) and President Obama have accomplished this week.


You want some actual quirky post-inauguration news? Hillary Clinton Seen Mouthing Along to Presidential Oath - it's tough to let go, ask President Bush.

For the record...

Official oath of office of the President of the United States:
"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States faithfully, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Presidential Inauguration Coverage 2009

The inauguration of President Barack Obama today symbolized a shift in our society. A shift in governmental policy, political ideology, national power, and, as much as anything, a shift in the creation, distribution and relevance of user generated news and information.

Couldn't be there for the historic presidential inauguration today? No worries. Information documenting the inauguration was everywhere in a flash. Photos were uploaded to Flickr, videos were added to YouTube, and podcasts were updated on sites across the web, before, during and after the inauguration. Twitter was a roar rather than a "tweet," with people from around the world updating millions of others with personal accounts of the historic day in 140 characters or less.

Internet users can view the path the Obamas took to the inauguration, follow the inaugural parade route, and see D.C. landmarks in 360-degree panoramics with the "street view" function on Google Maps. In addition to education and communication, the internet and technology have closed the geography gap to some degree.

Live videos were being streamed by national media like CNN, MSNBC, FOX News, ABC, CBS - nothing new here - but also by bloggers and individuals who have no media background; only a camera and internet connection. Technorati search results for "inauguration" totaled 34,000+ blog posts, with more than 17,000 new posts in the past 48 hours.

Media are now acknowledging, or in many cases encouraging, the marriage of mass media and user generated content. Using Microsoft's "Photosynth" technology, some media are creating 360-degree panoramic images of Obama's inauguration and the events in D.C. from user generated images and photographs.

Capturing "The Moment" that Obama took the oath of President, CNN's 3-D images are online here.
MSNBC's "360-degree views of D.C." are here.

Can Joe the Plumber Blogger and others honestly have a voice in an event of this magnitude and historical significance? If I might borrow a line from our 44th President, "Yes, we can."


Addition to original post: Read The Huffington Post's article - The Audacity of the Presidential Inauguration Committee: or This Land is Whose Land?

Lest we think all mass media have seceded a fight for exclusivity and superiority, HBO secured sole TV broadcasting rights to the "We Are One" concert at the Lincoln Memorial this past Sunday, January 18, 2009. Way to share the live historical moment with the masses, guys.

See the archived "We Are One" video.

Friday, January 16, 2009

YouTube On Your TV

YouTubers and couch potatoes alike can rejoice in the arranged marriage of YouTube and TV.

The website (currently in beta) offers YouTube users a "10-foot television viewing experience through a streamlined interface that enables [users] to discover, watch and share YouTube videos on any TV screen with just a few quick clicks" of the remote. One more reason to quit that New Year's
resolution to exercise and be active!

Full post: YouTube blog

My Take

YouTube's ultimate goal is to create universal access to web videos through television. Sure, why not? I can't wait to see the "YouTube channel NEW on Time Warner Cable" commercials in a couple of years. You folks with DirecTV, well you'll just have to watch funny fart videos and All-Star campaigns on TV the old fashioned way: Going through a PS3 or Wii game console.

Million dollar thought: Nintendo should develop a "game" for Wii that allows players to create animated YouTube videos. Act it out, load it up, bring 'em in. Imagine Wii users creating dance routines and sports games highlight reels for YouTube. Anybody could be a digital Billy Blanks or Stewart Scott. It's a whole new ballgame, literally.

Exciting or exhausting? You decide.

NBA Stars Go Viral for Votes

If presidential candidates can campaign successfully on the internet, why can't athletes?

NBA players went all out for the annual All-Star Game with online campaigns to garner votes for roster spots. Positions are decided partially by fan votes as well as coaches' votes.

Last year the Toronto Raptors' Chris Bosh received headlines (and votes) from his YouTube video that parodied a used-car salesman (at right). Encouraging fans to vote him into the NBA All-Star game, Bosh's video has been viewed more than 685,000 times and the star forward was selected to the 2008 West team.

New year, new online campaigns...
  • Amar'e Stoudemire - RESULT: Starter
  • Devin Harris - YouTube RESULT: Selected as a reserve
  • Joe Alexander - RESULT: Just missed dunk contest selection to...
  • Rudy Fernandez - Dunks on YouTube (below) RESULT: Selected for dunk contest

The internet is a vast space with plenty of room for fans to support players (whether they deserve it or not). Take Knicks guard Stephon Marbury. "Starbury" hasn't played a game all season, but had no less than five fan sites lobbying on his behalf for All-Star votes. Count for yourself: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Five! Ah, ah, ah! (Best Count Chocula laugh)

More impressive than a player who hasn't suited up for a game this season making the All-Star ballot, is the online support for him. Yet another demonstration of the changing face of media and the influence of user-generated content on business and society today.

Look for this social media campaigning to continue over the years, not only with sports stars and politicians, but with musicians, artists, religious advocates, organizations, groups, schools, businesses, governments and individuals - everybody. That's not a half court heave. It's a slam dunk guarantee.


Addition to original post: announces the 2009 All-Star starters.

Peter Shankman Speaks at NC PRSA Banquet - Video

The first few minutes they're trying to get his microphone and the projector to work, but bare with it, Peter Shankman has great social media experience and insights.

Wayne Sutton TV streamed the presentation live. The video is archived here:

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Social Media Stumble

Social media advice: Don't post, write, Tweet, IM or otherwise distribute any message via social media that you don't want read.

Simple as that sounds, Peter Shankman of Help A Reporter Out (HARO) posted a great example of how a professional public relations practitioner can make an amature (and costly) mistake.

Just hours prior to delivering a presentation on digital media to FedEx's global communications group in their headquarters city of Memphis, an exec at PR giant Ketchum (NY office) Tweeted this message:

"True confession but I'm in one of those towns where I scratch my head and say, 'I would die if I had to live here!'" (referring to Memphis)

A FedEx employee saw it and called him on it - with a slew of Ketchum execs copied on the message. Ouch. Needless to say, everyone should think twice before publishing any information these days.

Original story: Be Careful What You Post

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Public Relations and 'Peanuts'

The New York Times ran a fascinating article on Peanuts in today's print edition. Charles M. Schulz's famous comic strip is an ageless favorite, partly because of what this story discusses: Authenticity.

An excerpt from the story:

"Accuracy and authenticity are hallmarks of the strips, whether they deal with music, sports or medical conditions, Ms. O’Cain, the museum’s curator, said. 'With figure skating, he [Schulz] would carefully study books to make sure the jumps or spins that he had characters portraying, that they were correct,' she said. He would add subtle twists or inside jokes for readers familiar with skating or surfing or shorthand."

Authenticity and credibility are the backbone of public relations. Public relations practitioners in Charlotte, NC and around the globe for that matter should consider for a moment the research and effort that one man put into a comic. Comics tell stories, albeit hand drawn and humorous ones. PR is storytelling as well.

With any good story, it must engage the audience (relevance), contain factual information (authenticity), and be told through a believable person (the PR pro).

Pubic relations should not be an email blast and random direct mailings, or poorly researched media lists and off-target pitches. PR requires attention to detail, an understanding of the messages, knowledge of the audience(s), and an authentic story and storyteller through which the messages are disseminated.

Otherwise, the story will consist of inaccuate characters, a seedy plot and - you guessed it - a sad ending. What kind of story are you telling?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Public Relations Blunders - 2008 Edition

As we ring in 2009, rest assure that the best, er, worst, public relations projects of 2008 continue to resonate loud and clear. Here are some of my favorites from the annual Fineman PR list:

1. After the $85 billion federal bailout package was approved, AIG partied like college students when they receive their financial aid checks. The AP reports that AIG executives spent more than half a million dollars on golf trips, spa packages, banquets and a New England hunting trip. Nice.

Now where do you suppose we get some of those stereotypes involving corporate execs?

4. John McCain cancels on David Letterman. Oops. As a public relations professional this one really tickles me. To think that John Weaver, the Maverick's chief strategist, didn't see a red flag in cancelling on Letterman at the last minute only to have McCain interview with Katie Couric, also of CBS, just down the street is comical. Supposedly McCain was catching a plane to deal with the financial crisis...

That's the political equivalent of cancelling a date with a woman then showing up with her sister at the Applebee's where you two had planned to meet. Nice cover.

5. "Nike Just Blew It." Good headline Fineman, really.

Nike sponsored a women's marathon in San Francisco only to disregard the winner's time, a personal record by school teacher Arien O'Connell. Nike only monitored times of those in the "elite" leader pack, or in layman's terms, those athletes who Nike thought stood a chance. Really, the headline is good.

11. "The boobs have it, the biggest PR blunder since New Coke." OK, it's only a top 10 list, but this one involving UPS, Hooters, and a thoroughbred horse came darn close. Check it out.

Complete 2008 list with explanations is on Bulldog Reporter here.

I link to Bulldog Reporter because I've always found them to be a great source of information relating to the public relations field - check out the list and spend some time on their site. No, I'm not working for them. It's honestly good information for PR pros, firms, freelancers, students, professors, and anyone interested in managing your messsages in today's world.

You might also want to see the biggest PR Blunders of 2007.

Friday, January 9, 2009

U.S. unemployment rate reaches 7.2 percent...

The AP reports today that unemployment rates continued their historic rise in December to 7.2 percent. More than half a million Americans were sent home for good in one month - again. The United States unemployment rate was last this high 16 years ago.

Where others see depression (oops, mentioned the "D" word), I see opportunity. The unemployed folks are building a small army. With nearly one in every 10 Americans out of work, we're 11+ million strong. The image above does not depict a crowd in search of food and government checks, but rather an army in search of answers and government action.

No, not the action taken by lawmakers to give U.S. automakers billions in bailouts. We're certainly glad to hear that Rick Wagoner and General Motors (GM) will receive $13.4 billion to assist their needs, but in the words of Luke Skywalker when asked to join the dark side, "What's in it for me?"

If a long term solution is the answer, why didn't the government implement one a long time ago? It is now an accepted fact that the current recession, entering its second year, is the longest in 25 years.

As a communication professional, I understand that traditional news media are bound to objectivity (for the most part). Thus the opportunity and power of social media, user controlled media, can be further realized. As of 11:20 a.m. (eastern), an "unemployment" search on Technorati yielded more than 42,000 results with roughly 900 new related posts each day this week.

The economy may be discouraging, but it is very encouraging to see the conversation continue online; to read how this recession and unemployment affects others, how real people are dealing with real tough times, and most of all, to feel like I'm not alone. I'm not suggesting that thousands of unemployed Americans will gain employment by discussing it online, but at least we stand a better chance of being heard.

Here are some recent unemployment posts/blogs:

Real people, real lives, really unemployed:


Related news - My "Recession 'PR'oof" post discusses the resistence of the public relations and marketing industries to a recession.

Monday, January 5, 2009

New Year, New Hope

Happy New Year!

Or in my case, Hopeful New Year.

The Chinese Year of the Ox. I'm not sure what the Chinese horoscope for "Ox"alleges, but I hope that "resilient, strong and proud" are adjectives involved. Those words describe my wife and I and the type of year we need.

I've been unemployed for two months now. The holidays may have been jolly and bright, but finances are getting scary and tight.

Somewhat to my relief (I'm still unemployed so I ain't counting any chickens), my efforts may be beginning to pay dividends. I have a nice part-time prospect in the works with a Hickory, NC marketing firm. Offering your services on a part-time basis is not a step down, but rather a form of compromise that meets mutual business needs. You need your foot in the door to get a seat at the table...

I'm also exploring freelance writing opportunities on I think the service has good potential for freelance writers (work in creative writing, web copywriting, blogging, editing, articles and brochures are all posted frequently), but it's highly competitive and is limited as a free service. Naturally more money yields more options.

Finally, I'm constantly networking in Charlotte, working my way around the PR and marketing circles, scheduling networking lunches and calls to the best of my ability. It never hurts to introduce yourself and ask for advice from someone with more experience. Networking is a tree: Start with a seed and branch out, eventually it will bloom.

Parting piece of advice from the guy with no job: Persist, persist, persist! Not to be confused with "don't take 'no' for an answer." If a company tells you they're not interested, thank them for their time and get back with them later. However, if an email or voice mail goes unanswered, you'd better send another...and another.

Don't send the contact(s) the same thing each time though. It's like pitching in public relations. Introduce yourself and the reason you're contacting them first, then follow-up with a different piece of information (resume, experience highlights, tie-in with recent event of relevance).

Also, take the lead and suggest times to meet or talk versus asking the contact to do so. It's easier for them to say "OK" then "How about 2:00 Wednesday at T.G.I.F.'s on Charlotte Ave.?"

My wealth of advice and knowledge will hopefully translate into financial wealth in 2009, but until then, the journey continues...