Oct 1 2010

My Newspaper

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My newspaper is rarely read in paper format anymore. The iPad is my preferred device of choice for reading the news. I like the Sunday New York Times. I get the Washington Post delivered seven days a week.  I read for the news, not the coupons or sale advertisements, but for information.  However, every time I walk the pile of news print to the recycling bin, I threaten to cancel my subscription.

I’m not alone. Newspaper circulation has been declining, sometimes at double digit percentages, for several years. It’s a trend and reality that the Newspaper Association of America (NAA) continues to deny if their latest pitch to advertisers is any gauge.

The NAA is running an advertising campaign to validate that newspapers remain a valuable advertising medium.  While I haven’t seen the print ad, I did check out the 6 minute 20 second video. This video is an example of how NOT to produce a video pitch. Here’s my critique.

* SIX MINUTES AND TWENTY SECONDS? I was bored after about a minute.  I had to force myself to watch it twice.  In today’s fast paced world, two and a half minutes (2:30) is the best practice in video length.

* Use a boom mic. While it may seem like a minor detail, reader testimonials will appear more authentic if the microphone is hidden. The lapel mic on some readers in the NAA video looked hastily connected and thus sloppy.

* If you’re talking about the value of newspapers, please show someone reading the newspaper. A newspaper doesn’t appear until about  3:25 into the video. Reading by laptop is mentioned 2:25 into the video.  In both instances, most viewers likely would have stopped watching the video.

* Should it take more than a dozen people to tell why the newspaper is an important part of their daily lives? While the producers did capture a range of ages (save teenagers), they failed on ethnic diversity.  It seems only whites and blacks care about the paper.

* If this video is targeted to advertisers, why does the “Advertising Engagement” section begin 4:30 into the video?  My estimate is that about 85% of the overall video is about why people like the editorial content and printed format of the newspaper.  An appeal to advertisers about how readers use newspaper advertising would have been more effective with statistics to support the interest in coupons for cereal.

Less the NAA feel that I’m picking on them, I was also very disappointed in the PRSA National Capital Chapter’s video to promote the annual Thoth Awards.  The annual video historically explores the value of public relations counsel — often in a humorous or satirical manner.  This year, however, the “I’m a god” rap video did nothing more than spoof the name of the award “Thoth” (pronounced tot) named after the Egyptian god of communication. The video may have been creative, but it wasn’t strategic.

After all, employing a video as part of communications strategy should be connected to business goals. Sell more advertising. Sell more tickets to an awards program.

Finally, national newspaper week is Oct 3 – 9, 2010. The theme: Newspapers – the print and online connector for today’s communities. I bet they show the video at some point during the week.

Jul 16 2010

#Antenna_Gate: First Tweet

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#Apple #Antenna_Gate response was defensive PR. Heed the lessons of #Icarus #FanBoy is insulting http://bit.ly/9ZHb2f

May 18 2010


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Last week Foursquare celebrated its 40 millionth check-in. As I was explaining geotagging, the next iteration of social media, to my client, he was befuddled.

If your client or boss is still on the sidelines of social media, share this video.

May 13 2010

Pill Empowerment

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Anniversary stories often are not that exciting. In fact, I’ve had reporters emphatically tell me, “I don’t write about anniversaries.”

However, some anniversaries are significant because of the impact they have had on our culture and lifestyle . In 2010, bubble wrap turned 50. Earth Day marked 40. The Blue Ridge Parkway celebrates 75.  Spanx cheers its 10th. (While I don’t believe thee modern girdle is advancement for women, Spanx are a technical achievement in under garment fabrics.) And the birth control pill commemorates its gold jubilee.

Barrels of ink have been spilled on the FDA’s approval of the birth control pill 50 years ago on Mother’s Day. In fact, some argue the invention of the pill is the most significant scientific advancement and social empowerment of the 20th century.

Journalists did not shy away from any of these anniversary stories. So why such animosity to other celebrations of history — say an institution turning 100? The 5th annual celebration of a community partnership. Or the 25th anniversary of a product introduction.

Most frequently, the pitch lacks context. What is happening around the event that you wish to publicize?  What impact has your institution, partnership or product had outside of the company you are representing? Have habits or attitudes changed? Why is the anniversary significant? What is unique about it? Or are there similar happenings that could be packaged to show a cultural impact?

The celebration of the birth control pill’s 50th, illustrates the elements of a good anniversary pitch.

1) Context: How does the company or product anniversary fit into the larger history? Was it ground breaking? First? Did it change habits or alter attitudes? What preceded your company or product and how did its introduction alter the landscape?

2) Milestones: What hurdles were overcome since the inception of the company or product? How can you quantify?

3) Impact: What other “firsts” were made possible or at least influenced by the company or product?

4) Future: What’s next? How will the product or company continue to affect the industry or consumer behavior?

5) Community engagement: How will you involve stakeholders in the celebration? What social media channels will you employ? Be sure to include hash tags (#50success) in your promotions and encourage tweeting from events.

Finally, if your company or product isn’t celebrating an anniversary, use cultural anniversaries like Earth Day or the pill to your advantage. A good example is “50 years of the pill. Bayer’s celebration celebration of women’s empowerment.”

The key to success is to think beyond the company or product’s history and to celebrate the impact on attitudes and behavior. Add a forward-looking angle, and you’ll increase the likelihood of media coverage.

Mar 22 2010

Creative Public Service

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Creativity is energy. It’s vibrant. It’s original. It should also be strategic and analytical. Above all it should be easy to understand in its execution.

I was baffled by the Census 2010 Superbowl advertisement, which was widely panned as a flop. The “public service” announcements featured cast members from Christoper Guest mockumentaries such as “Best in Show” in a pre-production meeting for the production of Snapshot of America.

The ad may have been creative, but only if you understood the Hollywood reference. From a strategy stand point, the ad failed miserably. The information component was missing.  What is the census? What is the value of participating? What was the incentive to visit the Web site?

During the NCAA tournament this past weekend, I saw another Census advertisement that was more promising in its mission to educate recipients and influence survey returns.  The punchy musical message shared the importance of mailing back the census survey in a creative and strategic manner.

This ad, along with videos on YouTube and the Census Web site more clearly articulate the reasons for completing the census. These are part of $340 million promotions and advertising campaign targeted to the 120 million household required by law to complete the census, including targeted audiences such as Native Americans and Hispanics.

What makes the music ad better the Hollywood teaser?  It’s simple, memorable and entertaining. More importantly it contains information that has the potential to influence and change behavior. You can’t measure creativity, but you can measure campaign objectives.

After all, the primary goal of a public service campaign is to educate and inform the public about a desired behavioral outcome. “Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires.” “Stop. Drop. And Roll.” “Keep America Beautiful.” More contemporary public safety campaigns include “Click It. Or Ticket” and “Over the Limit? Under Arrest.”

Given the effectiveness of these public service campaigns — did you know Smokey the Bear was 65? — perhaps the census promotions would be more effective over a longer period of time. Not just once every 10 years.