Public relations, TV, politics and PRSA

It’s warm in Northeast Ohio this morning, around 6o degrees. Still, I ran my five miles at 5 a.m. on the treadmill. One reason: I wanted to watch the local news. I’ll admit it. I fell asleep at halftime of the Ohio State game. Apparently I didn’t miss much.

But when I run on the treadmill I tend to have more random thoughts than I do when running outside and can focus generally on one subject. This morning I was thinking about Roger Clemens, Ohio State football, politics and PRSA. All, I hope, have a connection to public relations.

First, local television news. My first job connected to journalism and public relations (beyond delivering The Pittsburgh Press door-to-door during high school) was at a television station in Pittsburgh, then called WIIC-TV (now WPXI-TV).  I worked there part time from 1965 to 1967, mostly hanging around the newsroom, running errands, helping the TV directors time programs and commercial breaks and doing some advertising and promotion work.

At that time, most stations were still broadcasting in black and white – no color, no cable, no satellite feeds, etc. But the format and content of local TV news programs is pretty much the same today as it was 40 years ago: an opening section of news and chatter by news anchors, weather, sports and promotions for other programming, with commercials interwoven throughout. The technology has changed but not the format or content. I wonder if we will look back in a few years and say the same thing about Web 2.0? Just a thought.

Then there is Roger Clemens. He presented his case to the nation about his alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs on 60 Minutes Sunday night and again yesterday in interviews with reporters. I thought Clemens did a credible job; others disagree, like George Vecsey writing yesterday in The New York Times, “Unconvincing Portrait of an Angry Victim.” And today in the Times Katie Thomas wrote an interesting story “Nonverbal Actions Add to Clemens’s Story.” I talked about this in one of my postings last week.  But from a public relations perspective, Clemens took the offensive, made his case and did what he could to protect his reputation. I’m sure there is more to come on this story, including a Congressional hearing. But if Clemens is telling the truth – he did the right thing. But if there is a skeleton hiding in his locker, well, good luck. Interesting that in public relations it comes down to truth – then tactics and execution.

Then there is the Ohio State game. Final score: LSU 38 – OSU 24. Ugh.  But for any of you Buckeye fans reading this who are also part of the Kent State Nation, don’t be too discouraged. The Golden Flashes haven’t won any football titles since 1972 and before Don James moved on to the University of Washington. I know. I was at Dix Stadium that day. So at least the Buckeyes gave it a shot. But actually, for an OSU fan, the game last night was enough to make even Hillary Clinton cry. Oops. Meant to get to that in the next paragraph.

Actually, if you watched any of the news programs yesterday or this morning you almost couldn’t miss the story about how Hillary became teary eyed when talking to supporters in New Hampshire about why see wanted to be president. Good for her. Many are already criticizing her for displaying some emotion. I know the view now will be that she is not tough enough to be commander-in-chief, etc. Ironically, one of the charges against Hillary Clinton is that she is too distant, doesn’t relate well to voters, isn’t personal enough. Well, maybe she does really care – as I believe the other candidates do as well. But does this one moment on TV now define her as it did Senator Ed Muskie in 1972, also in New Hampshire? We’ll see.

David Broder wrote about Muskie in the Washington Monthly in an article printed in 1987. The message is relevant today.  Muskie in effect broke down and cried during a news conference where he was reacting to stories printed about him and his wife in the Manchester Union Leader. Muskie, at that time the leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, was essentially through. This later turned out to be one of Tricky Dick’s dirty campaign tricks. And coming in the same year as KSU’s last football title. Hmm.

And I mention all this about Hillary Clinton and the other candidates, Republican and Democrat, without personally supporting anyone at this point. As I mentioned in a previous posting, I think it is silly to get attached to a candidate when the reality is that voters in Ohio will likely have no voice in the nomination process. If you believe the pundits on TV, the Democratic nomination may be over tonight, if Barack Obama finishes way ahead of Clinton and John Edwards. Ohio holds its primary March 4. By that time most of the Republican candidates will be gone as well. Wake me in October, as the Cleveland Indians prepare for the World Series.

But I am interested in the campaign from a public relations and social media point of view. I wonder how much influence Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and other sites have had on the campaign, particularly the strong showing by Obama with young people. I hope younger voters stay involved, and if the social networking sites make that happen, good. It is time for a change.

And one final random thought for today. I wrote previously about PRSA and a news release it distributed Jan. 4 about Jeffrey Julin. Bill Sledzik started the discussion on his ToughSledding blog and has received a number of comments. Yesterday I sent an e-mail to Joseph DeRupo, PRSA’s associate director of public relations and the media contact for the Julin announcement. I asked him to give me some information about the announcement: how and where it was distributed, number of stories that resulted from the announcement, that kind of stuff. Not an unreasonable request coming from a 20-year member of PRSA and someone who would like to use this as a teaching lesson on this blog and in class. So far no response from Mr. DeRupo. And in fairness to him, he might be out of the office, he may be getting the information I requested, he might have been preoccupied yesterday looking at ESPN in advance of the Ohio State game. So we’ll see.

But could this be day two in the PRSA “no-response” crisis?


4 responses to “Public relations, TV, politics and PRSA

  1. Rob…
    56 days until spring training, friend…we can make it! 🙂 I am loving watching the candidates this year make use of social media…I’m hoping for a lot more informed younger voters this time around. If candidates don’t have someone advising them on how to us online tools to reach us, they’re missing the boat!

  2. Kait,

    And with the weather like this, you have to think about baseball. Well, maybe you’re working 🙂

    I also agree with you about the use of social media. It will be interesting to see if the percentage of younger voters increases during this election. If so, social media might be one of the big reasons why. And I hope everyone participates in this presidential election. Every election is important. But this one even more so.


  3. Well, I missed the Clemens interview and the Ohio State game. The Hillary bit–she seemed genuinely moved to me. The media is so fickle (who is dear today is dead tomorrow), that I’m trying not to take it very seriously until we get down to two names on the ballot. I get the same patriotic and proud feeling when I vote as when I have done jury duty (twice). It’s a feeling of hope, despite the ease of falling into cynicism. And the belief in every vote counting. I believe that and look forward to casting my stone, uh, vote in November.

  4. randomburghthoughts

    Hi Rob,
    A couple of thoughts of this…
    One, I’m still more than a little skeptical about Roger Clemens. If he had nothing to hide, but everything to lose, you would think that he would have volunteered for a lie detector test weeks ago instead of evading Mike Wallace’s question in the bottom of the ninth last week.
    And Second..
    As for Hillary…having had the misfortune of following the Clinton’s for sixteen years now, we all know that they do nothing in their political lives that isn’t calculated, poll tested and focus-grouped. If her tears were genuine, it was only at the thought of losing her power.
    aside to Brian…sorry about those Buckeye’s-S.E.C. speed kills!!!

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