As one who pays attention to the public relations world, I often notice especially good or especially bad examples. One especially good example I noticed recently was McDonald’s CEO, Don Thompson, in a brief CNBC documentary, Inside McDonald’s.
CNBC fires several tough-ish questions at Thompson, all of which he answers in plain English, followed by one very important thing: he steers the discussion back to his points. Even the classic, “(controversial topic) followed by, “how do you feel about this?’” comes back around to “we’re about opportunity” in a conversational manner.
Talking Points & Must-Airs
It’s pretty clear that in preparing for this interview – and you know there was some serious preparation – keywords definitely included, “opportunity,” “innovation,” “real food,” and a few others that stand out to anyone who’s ever done any sort of media analysis. Still, Thompson comes off as sincere, keeping his cool (very important), and gives a textbook example of handling questions on one’s feet.
Reporter: You said last year the menu to you seemed to lack a bit of energy. You didn’t want to repeat what you did last year. What went wrong?
Thompson: Well, I’ll say it’s less than what went wrong, it’s what didn’t we do? It’s always about the opportunity. Some of the opportunities we had were… (and: back to talking points).
Inside McDonald’s is much less of a hard-hitting exposé than a top-level look at how things operate. Regardless of what you think of McDonald’s (they are not paying me for this, and I do eat there occasionally) or the merits of this production vs. others – see Netflix for some less-than-friendly reviews – the interaction between reporter and executive here is what makes this worth watching.
Here’s Inside McDonald’s in its entirety via Bloomberg.com:
What do you think? Have you seen any examples of good or bad PR lately? Have you ever developed talking points or been in a similar media situation yourself? Let us hear from you in the comments.
So I just saw Anchorman 2. Meh.
Sure, there’s no way any sequel to the classic original could live up to almost a decade
of expectations, but this film really felt like pandering to the lowest common denominator. And I feel like a chump, having spent the ticket money.
Still, Anchorman 2 is not terrible. It’s just… a reminder of the times. I guess all these stars have to get paid, but… come on. The original was inspired, and that’s what made it a classic. This thing is just a weird mess, and I have no desire to see it again. Unlike the original, which I will likely never tire of. Oh, well.
Since this post is about PR, I do have to hand it to the PR and/or marketing folks for getting some hype happening around the film. Seeing Will Ferrell/Ron Burgundy on the cover of Dog Fancy when I went to get food for my dogs is well-played, indeed. Not to mention the teaser trailer and obvious hype machine in full force prior to release.
If you haven’t seen Anchorman 2 yet and are a fan of the original, do not let this post dissuade you. Go see it. Or, if you’re patient, wait for the DVD/Netflix release. For science.
In the meantime, here’s some genuinely enjoyable Will Ferrell from the SNL days:
What do you think? Did you love Anchorman 1 and feel disappointed by Anchorman 2? Did you never see Anchorman at all and wonder what all the hype is about? Let us hear from you in the comments.
It’s obvious what a public relations debacle Rob Ford’s situation is, and plenty has already been written on it. As one with an interest in PR, there’s a particular aspect I find very interesting.
It’s amazing to me that the situation taken this long to detonate. I remember reading in Gawker six months ago about this video of the Toronto mayor smoking crack. At that point it was just a bizarre, yet well-chronicled tale:
Rob Ford, Toronto’s conservative mayor, is a wild lunatic given to making bizarre racist pronouncements and randomly slapping refrigerator magnets on cars. One reason for this is that he smokes crack cocaine. I know this because I watched him do it, on a videotape. He was f-ing hiiiiigh. It’s for sale if you’ve got six figures. -Gawker, May ’13
The only thing that came of it other than an interesting story and an IndieGoGo campaign at the time was suspicion toward the mayor that only added more doubt to a shady tale. If the mayor and his team were at all serious about salvaging their professional futures, coming clean immediately back then and making reparations in some meaningful way would have been the best course of action and avoided a Saturday Night Live parody. But here we are. It will no doubt be interesting to see how this plays out as a great example of a PR “don’t” for decades to come.
As a side note, I have a Canadian colleague who notes that this whole thing will go away once the world sees the actual video, stating that as long as Ford was polite when smoking crack (“May I see that pipe, please? Thank you, kind sir.”), no big deal. If he was rude — well, then it’s all over.
What do you think? Have you been following the Rob Ford story? How do you see anyone in the Ford camp making it through all this? Let us hear from you in the comments.
I wrote this article a while back when Best Buy was at the precipice of failure (at least in a PR sense). But now their “Renew Blue” turnaround strategy looks to be gaining traction (again, at least in a PR sense). One thing is for certain: theirs will be an interesting case study.
From January 2012: In PR and communications, negative news can sometimes have a positive side just by way of the delivery. And what an opportunity that can be: either to recast in a positive light, to minimize damage… or to make it worse.
We have more respect for clear, direct communication, especially when something goes wrong. Owning up, making things right, and letting people know about it is not only the right thing to do, but can also be a PR win, a point completely lost last month on Best Buy as it addressed customers about orders that they weren’t going to be getting… keep reading >>
National Moth Week is back, and I’m happy to be taking part once again. I think moths are a great example of the everyday beauty that’s around us all the time but often goes unnoticed. Here’s some of my photos and artwork over the past year featuring the creatures, and there will be more to come this week. For more information – and to take part – check out NationalMothWeek.org.
My photomontage, “We Got This.” Click for full size.
What do you think? Ever done any macro photography of moths or other insects? Let us hear from you in the comments.
My favorite public relations episode of the past few weeks is the awkwardly hilarious yet unexpectedly salient interview with Russell Brand on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program. It’s resulted in some choice PR for Brand, probably wholly unintentionally. One of the hosts, Mika Brzezinski, even apologized later for the lack of professionalism that day — fully admitting not knowing whom she was interviewing.
I realize “Morning Joe” is not known for trenchant journalism, but I believe Brand was justified in calling these folks out in return for their snarkiness (among other derisive behavior). My favorite description of the whole affair is from Alexandra Petri at The Washington Post who sums it up nicely:
I would liken the hosts to a kitten pouncing on what it assumes is a dazed snake and discovering it has latched onto the tail end of a dragon. It’s cringe-inducing. ‘You’re talking about me as if I’m not here and as if I’m an extraterrestrial,’ he observes. Never mock someone with a British accent.
Although there are some dissenting opinions, the reaction I’ve seen since has overwhelmingly sided with Brand, giving some unforseen PR juice to his Messiah Complex tour — and making for some pretty entertaining television.
Update: Read about the encounter from Brand, himself, in this article he wrote for The Guardian: Russell Brand: what I made of Morning Joe and Question Time
What do you think? Was Brand out of line, or does that even matter? What would you have done in his shoes, or in those of the hosts? Let us hear from you in the comments.
Does a corporate apology for marketing really mean anything?
There’s been a lot of apologizing going on lately. The most recent example I’ve noticed is JC Penny, doing a whopping 180-degree about-face on the actions of their former CEO Ron Johnson, having to do with their new approach to marketing (no sales, just fair prices). That CEO’s former company? Apple.
Apple also did an apology for its Maps product a while back. This would have been unthinkable with Steve Jobs at the helm, but those days are over. For what it’s worth, I’ve used Apple maps in NYC, Los Angeles, and many U.S. cities in between without fail. But I can’t remember the last time I purchased anything from a JC Penny. And it’s one of the anchor stores at the local mall.
The Verdict? Yawn.
My thinking on apologies from large companies is, “ho-hum.” My heart goes out to the PR teams and corporate communicators who are charged with carrying these out, but I’m far more interested in hearing what’s going to be done about the situation, and getting on with that. At least in the case of Makers’s Mark, it resulted in something (though I still wonder if this was a stunt). Sure, it’s nice to hear an apology, and in these days of greater corporate accessibility via social media, it isn’t altogether inappropriate. But I think what really matters is getting back to business.
What do you think? Do the actions of JC Penny or Apple or any company’s apology for their missteps get your attention? Are there any examples of this being extremely effective? Let us hear from you in the comments.
A little blue humor with your blue light special?
Original photo by DoppioM via Flickr
I remember being in a Kmart a hazy handful of times in the ’70s seeing a blue siren flash after an announcement over Kmart’s intercom. It was exciting, and an obvious gimmick to get some quick attention while having a little fun.
Something similar is happening now with Kmart’s latest ad campaign, dubbed “Ship My Pants.” Highlighting the retailer’s offering of in-store shipping, excited customers riff about shipping their pants, drawers, a bed, and… you get the idea.
I love some wacky wordplay, so I’m naturally a fan of the ad. I don’t know that I’ll be shopping at Kmart any more because of it, but I’ll definitely be smirking the next time it happens, or maybe even the next time I drive by a store.
It reminds me of the “Make 7up Yours” campaign from the ’90s…
I noted the similarity to Kmart through Twitter, and they acknowledge the connection.
My take away is that, although this might be a bawdy approach, it gets us discussing the brand when there was absolutely no chatter before. It’s getting a boatload of press – positive, even – which was precisely what it was intended to do, so kudos to Kmart’s PR team for deft handling. In the case of Old Spice, this did get me interested in the product, and it will be interesting to follow Kmart’s business as consumers start to, um… ship their pants.
What do you think? Can you recall a similar campaign? Would this make you more or less likely to shop at a Kmart or similar advertiser? Let us hear from you in the comments.
You know the saying, “there’s no such thing as bad press?” Only to a certain extent do I believe this. The phrase would be more accurate if tempered with two qualifiers:
Lady Gaga, Oscar Wilde.
Both adept at capturing press attention.
This is because in the event of bad press, it can be manageable to varying degrees – but it always takes deliberate, meaningful effort, and it definitely takes time.
I absolutely don’t believe, “hey, there’s no such thing as bad press, so let’s just go for it all…” is wise PR strategy, unless the goal is simple notoriety along the lines of Paris Hilton or Lady Gaga. In these cases, I’m reminded of what could be the inspiration for this concept: Oscar Wilde’s quote, “There is only one thing in the world that is worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”
The problem with the idea of no bad press is that with today’s A.D.D. news cycle and the everlasting searchability of the Internet, missteps can take an extraordinary effort to overcome, although it can be done. National Strategies Public Relations CEO Jennifer Vickery sums up the concept: ”While there is such a thing as bad press, the main take away should be that good press can come out of it, provided the situation is handled properly.”
Proper handling would mean execution with transparency, honesty and consistency over an interval long enough to shift focus to the present and future more so than the past. In this way, and if done right, bad press can become a real opportunity and cataylst, not just in terms of spin, but also toward doing the right thing.
What do you think? Is there truly no such thing as bad press? What are some examples of bad press being handled properly? Let us hear from you in the comments.