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 documentary, 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.

Tonight the Streets Are Ours: Recent Musical Obsession

Creativity’s Spirit Romanticized via Street Art

This track has been haunting me the past several months. Like most people, I first heard it behind the closing credits of Exit Through the Gift Shop, the Academy Award-nominated documentary of sorts by British artist Banksy.

Not only do I love the wall of sound timber of production; I’m just as struck by the yearning, rich tone of Richard Hawley‘s voice conveying the lyrics, which, in the context of this film (as I prefer to interpret them), celebrate individuality, creativity, vision, and belief in oneself – particularly from an outsiders’ perspective. Though the third verse suggests a romantic theme, hearing the track at the end of a film about renegade expression adds a powerful new dimension for interpretation.

Do you know why you’ve got feelings in your heart
Don’t let fear of feeling fool you
What you see sets you apart
And there’s nothing here to bind you,
It’s no way for life to start

But do you know that
Tonight – the streets are ours
Tonight – the streets are ours
And these lights in our hearts they tell no lies

Those people, they got nothing in their souls
And they make our TVs blind us
From our vision and our goals
Oh the trigger of time it tricks you
So you have no way to grow

But do you know that
Tonight – the streets are ours
Tonight – the streets are ours
These lights in our hearts, they tell no lies

And no one else can haunt me
The way that you can haunt me
I need to know you want me
I couldn’t be without you
And the light that shines around you
No, nothing ever mattered more than not doubting
But tonight the streets are ours

Do you know how to kill loneliness at last
Oh there’s so much there to heal dear
And make tears things of the past
But do you know that
Tonight – the streets are ours

Full version here:

Bonus: Impressive Film Accolades:

From Exit Through The Gift Shop’s official website:

Best Picture of Leaves On a Poster
What do you think? What’s a recent music obsession you’ve had on repeat lately? Did you see this film? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Photo Synthesis – Jerry Uelsmann Review

Jerry Uelsmann: Photo SynthesisPhoto Synthesis by Jerry Uelsmann

This is a great introduction to the world of Uelsmann’s photo magic. I saw this book 20 years ago in a creative writing class, of all places, and made the effort some years later (after Amazon.com was invented) to seek it out and am glad I did. Looking back on my career and life since then, I can say unequivocally that it changed my thinking and helped set me on a creative path I’m still having fun exploring.

I copied & pasted this review via Goodreads.com, a site I’m only now getting into, since – although I love good writing – I’m always hard-pressed to find works that I can really sink my teeth into. How fitting that my first review there is for a book of photography… but whatever. It really is a fantastic collection, and if you’re at all interested in perusing some mind-blowing images, I highly recommend it.

What do you think? Are you on Goodreads? How do you find the next book you’d like to read? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Immaterial Angel

My Latest Surrealist Photomontage:

Immaterial Angel by rsmithing

“Immaterial Angel”
See full size and source files at Flickr.

Views of fire-scarred trees from Yellowstone, an aerial shot of the Potomac river, and a stylized angle of local sculpture (copy of Gloria Victis by Antonin Mercié) blend together in this surrealist photomontage. I chose the title to combine the multiple interpretations of “immaterial” meaning “spiritual, rather than physical,” or “unimportant or irrelevant under certain circumstances.” I like the notion that an angelic form can encapsulate these concepts and at the same time the viewer can take in the sky-bound point of view that an angel might have, with all of this framed among remnants of trees and new growth spawning from a forest fire — even such devastation can be immaterial in that it is required for new growth. Check out more of my photomontage art at rsmithings.com.

What do you think? Ever created a piece of art blending unrelated elements to achieve a unified message? Does this kind of art resonate with you? What is your interpretation at first glance? Let us hear from you in the comments.

In The Pleasure Groove: Love, Death and Duran Duran – Audiobook Review

I just completed the audio version of In The Pleasure Groove: Love Death and Duran Duran, narrated by John Taylor, bassist and co-founder of Duran Duran.

In The Pleasure GrooveThe band have long been one of my favorites. In fact, the very first record I ever bought with my own money was Seven And The Ragged Tiger. On cassette, of course.

Duran Duran Rocks

I’ve been into Duran Duran’s music since I was 10 years old, because I like the sound: exotic, upbeat, futuristic, yet with an undeniable groove. It was an older female cousin who turned me onto them and I noticed that girls really liked the band – “those guys must be doing something right,” I thought, and I’ve been following their career and enjoying their music ever since the early ’80s.

John Taylor of Duran Duran

John Taylor of Duran Duran in the ’80s, living the dream. Photo: New York Times

Of course I’m biased as a fan and music lover, but I’ll still say this book was great overall. The initial description of Taylor’s upbringing and childhood seemed long at first, but it’s a relevant setting of context for the ensuing fame story, as we watch this lad from Birmingham navigate punk and disco into new wave and rock, all as a bassist and band member with artistic vision, along with those of his band mates who soon become heartthrobs, almost to their detriment.

Duran Duran Still Rocking

The guys are still at it, recording and touring to this day. Here they are at Coachella in 2011 performing their very first single, “Planet Earth,” and obviously enjoying the thrill. Taylor ends the book with a description of this very moment:

It’s an outdoor festival, so tour manager Craig will not get to give his usual cue to take the house lights down. Tonight, that’s one of God’s jobs. And what a job of it he’s doing. A glittering bauble of sunlight fights to stay above the horizon. A full moon appears – a late-coming VIP that takes a seat above the lighting gantry at 11 o’clock high. Nature presents for us a better light show than any human could ever have created.

My heart is pounding. There’s no better time than this, when I’m about to take stage and the future belongs to me. This is what the moment feels like as I walk out onto the stage one more time. Roger’s drums kick in. An eight-bar count and I’m in with him, the galloping groove that started it all for me. Thirty thousand California kids, eyes and teeth smiling, cameras and cell phones popping, a million tiny seductions all at once. And the music never sounded better.

I would recommend the book to anyone with a passing interest in what it’s like to be a working-class kid who falls in love with music, reaches the height of fame because of it, and handles the aftermath (good and bad) with grace.

What do you think? Ever read a book by a rock star? What were your impressions? Is there any music favorites from your youth the carryover to today? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Instagram Alternatives: A Guest Post by Me

If you’re into Instagram or are curious about alternatives, see this guest post I wrote for Inkifi, a print maker of Instagram images. I cover five decent alternatives in detail (for bonus points, add me as rsmithing if you’re already on ‘em: 1,2,3,4,5). And please take a moment to comment at the Inkifi post if you can — thanks!

Instagram Alternatives

Bass Solo at Gibson Tent, CES

Here I am doing a quick jam on a fine Gibson bass guitar.

I happened to be at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and along the way I came upon the Gibson tent with several guitars and basses ready for visitors to enjoy. Amid all the technological fanfare, this is definitely my favorite experience of the entire event: a chance to rock out, even if just for a moment during lunch.

Thanks, Gibson for doing this. Very cool.

Here are some Hipstamatic images of the beautiful Epiphone Jack Casady Signature Bass I played:

jcbass1

jcbass02

jcbass03

I also got in some licks on this Les Paul: