Category Archives: PR

Coca-Cola Marketing Strategist Named New United States PR Laureate: via The Onion

I haven’t done a PR-related post in a while, so when I noticed this recently, I thought it was too good not to share. From The Onion:

WASHINGTON — In a ceremony at the White House this morning in which his work was praised for its unique contributions to the art of corporate communications, Coca-Cola marketing strategist Lawrence Shaffer was officially appointed as the new PR laureate of the United States, sources confirmed.

PR observers have hailed Shaffer’s series of Coca-Cola press statements in response to last year’s World Health Organization recommendation that individuals limit their sugar intake as “monumental” and “visionary.”

During a reception in the East Room, members of the PR laureate selection committee told reporters they spent weeks debating the merits of the nation’s most talented public relations professionals before deciding on Shaffer, whom they described as an “adroit and truly consummate” practitioner of brand messaging, one with a remarkable ability to push product and get people to connect emotionally with business entities.

“Lawrence Shaffer has a rare knack for both strategic brand partnerships and social media integration that makes him a modern-day master of corporate image management,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest, who commended Shaffer for mining the richness and diversity of the American experience in his work, citing in particular his oversight of the 2014 “Share a Coke” campaign. “As a young man, he burst onto the PR scene after leveraging his press relationships to help oil executives shape the narrative emerging in the public consciousness following the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989. The press conferences he orchestrated then were so deft and nuanced.”

“But it is at Coca-Cola that his marketing strategies have left their most indelible mark on the imagination of the American consumer,” Earnest continued. “For evidence of that, we need look no further than the company’s recent collaboration with cosmetics manufacturer OPI to create soft drink–inspired nail polish colors. It’s truly breathtaking.”

Officials confirmed that as PR laureate, Shaffer will be allowed to conduct market research using the federal government’s complete census records. He will also receive a yearly stipend of $600,000, which is intended to give recipients the freedom to pursue passion projects and push the boundaries of public relations as they experiment with innovative new approaches to brand messaging.

According to sources, Shaffer’s foremost duty as laureate will be to champion PR and inspire the American public to become enthusiastic about the practice of mediating the flow of information between corporate actors and the public. He also reportedly plans to visit the nation’s classrooms, where he will teach schoolchildren the importance of developing strong media contacts and learning to conduct damage control in the face of a potentially reputation-damaging crisis.

Those in attendance at the White House reception were reportedly treated to a live reading of Shaffer’s most effective and convincing press releases from the past 30 years.

“Perhaps no one in American marketing is as bold and elegant when it comes to dissecting demographics and pinpointing their vulnerabilities and deepest desires,” said Earnest, who praised Shaffer’s ability to meld disparate publicity techniques into a cohesive vision of brand identity. “With a few simple words, he pulls you into the world of wonder and contentment his clients can provide. His work lodges itself deeply within the psyche of the consumer, and it stays there—often for a lifetime.”

He added, “I know that I personally have had the ‘Always Coca-Cola’ song stuck in my head on and off for more than two decades, and I have no reason to believe that won’t continue to be the case until the day I die.”

The office of PR laureate was created in 1928 by President Calvin Coolidge, who appointed advertising executive Albert Lasker to the post for his pioneering work in sponsored entertainment with The Palmolive Hour radio show. More recent holders of the position include Reagan-era laureate Alan Hilburg, the critically acclaimed creator of Wendy’s “Where’s the beef?” campaign, and marketing guru Tim Arnold, whose widely heralded decision to hire Lou Rawls as a celebrity spokesman for Budweiser allowed Anheuser-Busch to successfully target African Americans in the 1970s.

At press time, sources said the White House press secretary was asking the PR laureate if he knew the best way to spin a report that six foreign aid workers had been mistakenly killed by a U.S. airstrike in Syria.

Hey, You Were on TV! — And “The Tent-O’-Surrealism”

A local news crew was kind enough to interview me on camera at the Historic West End ARTSFest about my surrealist art. Check me out in this video:

Thanks, WFMY and Jessica for covering this event and chatting with me!
And for this mention on Twitter, too:

Many folks stopped by my setup and said, “Hey, I saw you on TV!” I usually responded with “And you came anyway? Wow!” WAKA WAKA. One couple mentioned to me it was the news segment that brought them to the show in search of unique art, which of course was very cool.

The weather was a drizzling soup, but not enough to keep visitors away altogether, so I was especially appreciative to have played a part in the PR that day. Those present were definitely the most interested, and I like to think if the sun were shining, there would have been even more of an already positive thing.

My takeaways: I had a great time, met many other cool artists, and sold several pieces to happy customers. And for me, that’s what it’s all about.

Behold, my Tent-O’-Surrealism:

Richard Smith - RSMITHINGS surreal art Richard Smith - RSMITHINGS surreal art

What do you think? Ever participated in an art or craft fair? Ever seen or discovered something happening locally that day then made the effort to visit in person? How do you enjoy local art? Let us hear from you in the comments.

That’s Not What I’m Here To Discuss

Also known as “No Comment”

nocommentHere’s some PR analysis from Matt Wilson at Ragan.com on a recent interview with former Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren. As reported at Mediaite, after MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell posed a question about spying, Oren’s earpiece (conveniently?) had “technical issues.” Coincidence?

Another approach could have been to state, “Sorry, but I’m not going to offer you any insight there…” then steer the discussion back to his message: “what I can tell you is…” and then: key talking points.

Other phrases useful in this situation:

  • “I’m not going to speak to that, but…”
  • “I understand your question, but we’re here today to talk about…”
  • “This has been addressed elsewhere (only if so), but right now…”

The lesson here is to acknowledge the inquiry directly and politely, but not offer any additional information — then promptly get the conversation back on message. It can be tricky in the heat of the moment, especially on a controversial issue, but this can also be a more honest approach in the direction of getting PR right. It’s more likely to help ensure an interviewee’s points are heard, and is far friendlier than a blunt “no comment.”

Check out these additional options offered by Ragan’s PR Daily: Alternatives to “No Comment,” and see this video of awkwardness compiled by Huffington Post of politicians dodging reporters.

What do you think? Have you ever been asked something where your only answer was “no comment?” Do any examples of question-dodging come to mind? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Stuart

20140729-231916-83956845.jpg
This is Stuart, the neighborhood cat. He technically lives (i.e. gets food) a couple of houses down, but really, he lives where he, himself, lives; does his thing where he gets it done; and sleeps where he sleeps – in this case, my porch, which happens to be in his territorial patrol. He always has a friendly word and is amenable to a quick head scratching. And then he’s on his way again – sometimes back on patrol, sometimes to cat dreamland.

I think he sets a good PR example: do your own thing, in harmony with your environment and community, in a non-overbearing way that’s confident and content yet friendly. That’s something we all can aspire toward.

What do you think? Ever learned or observed a broader concept from an animal or pet of your own? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Twitter PR Win For Sainsbury’s

This is a particularly good Twitter PR moment from a while back for UK grocer Sainsbury’s I happened upon lately. It works because of the follow-up, and also for the brief interjection of personality and humor:

And then…

But what really counts is that Sainsbury’s followed up the comedy moment with direction for the customer to call them directly.

SainsburysThis has all the makings of Twitter being done right for customer service and PR:

  1. The brand shared an actual human-like response
  2. It was funny
  3. But they take it seriously; hence the phone redirect
  4. We’re talking about it

I noticed this via a LinkedIn discussion from Twitter for PR Communicators about PR Daily, who noticed it through AdWeek.

Also, rest in peace, Ultimate Warrior.

What do you think? Is this use of humor appropriate? Have you ever experienced a humorous interaction from a brand via Twitter or some other channel? Let us hear from you in the comments.

In The News? LinkedIn Knows!

Perhaps you have a role as a spokesperson for your business or your public relations clients that sees your name, or their names in print, broadcast or on the web. If this is the case, then you’ll want to be paying attention to LinkedIn more closely.

LinkedIn is rolling out a new feature where you or your contacts are mentioned in your email if they (or you) are “in the news.”

LinkedIn Mentioned In The News

I reached out to LinkedIn for details on this, including how to disallow it, should a site member wish to be excluded from the program. I also asked how they differentiate between users with similar names (how do they know to highlight the right Richard Smith, for example?) Here is their response:

We do have back end algorithms that differentiate members with similar names. We also offer functionality to disable this from your settings. You can turn your activity broadcasts on or off and select who can see your activity on their homepage from the Privacy & Settings page.

-Ciara
LinkedIn Trust & Safety

So if you’re already famous, get ready for more exposure. And if you aren’t famous already, LinkedIn can now help you get there – unless you’d rather it not, in which case you might want to review your settings.

What do you think? Are you active on LinkedIn? What are your observations of the site? Do you find this new feature beneficial or intrusive? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Inside McDonald’s: PR 101

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 piece, Inside McDonald’s.

insidemcdonaldsCNBC 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:

mcvideo

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.