Category Archives: social media

Public relations and the holiday weekend

Heading into the holiday weekend, here’s a few random thoughts I had while running this morning. Linda Douglass, a retired news staffer with ABC and CBS, is joining Barack Obama’s campaign as a senior advisor and spokesperson. And I guess those of us looking for an honest, open discussion of issues should be encouraged.

Here’s from a story on TVNewser by Gail Shister about the appointment:

“Like  a broken Maytag washer, retired ABC correspondent Linda Douglass will skip the spin cycle.

“As new senior advisor for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, ‘”My intention is that I won’t spin,'” she says. ‘”I absolutely vow that I will tell the truth.'”

Well, here’s hoping. I guess there is a first time for everything. And wouldn’t it be, hmm, the right thing to do? We’ll see.

And then there is a story about character and principle to share from the campaign trail. Mark McKinnon, the senior advertising strategist for the McCain campaign, followed through on a vow he made previously to leave the campaign rather than working against the election of Barack Obama. That’s not a critique of either McCain or Obama on my part. It’s just that when someone in a senior position anywhere actually does what he says he is going to do it is cause for celebration. Maybe this presidential campaign will be about issues, discussed openly and candidly.

Then there is PR Strategist, the flagship of PRSA’s communication fleet. In March we held at Kent State a professional development conference around social media and Packaging the Presidency — Online. Exciting, innovative conference. The story in PR Strategist: ho-hum.

With all the new approaches to communicating out there, isn’t there a way for a professional organization to do something beyond the typical question-and-answer format?

Mr X: Blah, blah, blah.

Mr Y: Blah, blah, blah.

Oh, well. In a world of change, PRSA remains a constant.

I thought about this when I saw a presentation posted on SlideShare by Sacha Chua.

Sacha describes herself as a social intranet consultant and geek. And as best I can tell, her day job is with IBM. That in itself is encouraging.

Yet something tells me that Sacha and others like her won’t be spending much time with publications like PR Strategist in the years ahead. That, in my view, is a good thing.

And they are sure going to change the workplace and political campaigns. Good.


The Pope goes digital

I really didn’t want to lift those words from the Reuters headline. But, hey, it’s Friday afternoon and I’ve been reading and grading final projects and papers for about 30 hours this week. OMG

Anyway that’s how I came across this story, first mentioned in the Buzzword column in the online edition of The Wall Street Journal. Yeah, even the Wall Street Journal can provide a mindless diversion at this point in the week and semester.

Here are the lead paragraphs from the Reuters story:

Pope Benedict will text message thousands of young Catholics on their mobile phones during World Youth Day in Sydney in July, hoping going digital will help him better connect with a younger audience.

The Pope will text daily messages of inspiration and hope during the six-day Sydney event while digital prayer walls will be erected at event sites and the church will set up a Catholic social networking Web site akin to a Catholic Facebook.

The idea makes sense given the audience. Give the Catholic Church and Pope Benedict credit for trying this. And he certainly worked hard to boost the image of the Catholic Church in the United States during his recent visit here.

So if the Pope is embracing social media, can the CEOs of Fortune 500 corporations be far behind? LOL

And I wonder what a digital prayer wall is? Sounds like something Bear Stearns should have checked out a few months ago.

And I know I’ll get into trouble for writing this — but here goes.

The article says, “Australia’s Catholic nuns are already praying for good weather for the Pope’s visit.”

Shouldn’t they be twittering?

Flash mobs and public relations

I’ll admit it. I don’t know anything about flash mobs. But I guess I’ll find out Wednesday at Kent State. Here’s the story.

t9905794409_9342.jpgOne of the great things about teaching is to see students take an idea in the classroom and then make it come alive. And that’s what’s happening with an independent study class of public relations majors who are participating in the Do It Now College Challenge, a campaign sponsored by Donate Life Ohio. The goal of the campaign is to recruit 400,000 new organ donors in Ohio.

The college challenge is a statewide competition involving 14 colleges and universities. And the Kent State Do It Now team is organizing a flash mob Wednesday afternoon at 2:15 on the Kent campus in the Risman Plaza between the Student Center and Library. The idea is to present information about organ donations — and give students and others the opportunity to register to become organ donors. And while I’m certain Kent’s public relations students will win this competition — it won’t hurt to give them a little support and help. Right?

If you’re on campus. Stop by. Here’s an example of what you’ll see.

And at Kent State we work hard to give students the opportunity to gain professional experience while still in the classroom. Here’s a story about the Do It Now College Challenge written by Jillana Gall, an English major working this semester with Flash Communications, our student-run public relations agency. So if you’re not on campus, this gives you more background and ways to support Kent’s public relations team.

The “Do It Now” College Challenge
Save a Life. Be a Donor.

Jillana Gall

Kent State public relations students are hard at work promoting an important issue and competing with students at other Ohio universities as part of the “Do It Now” College Challenge.

In Ohio today there are nearly 2,500 people waiting for an organ transplant, and one Ohioan will die every other day because not enough organs are available. And Donate Life Ohio, a statewide division of Donate Life America, is helping to meet a national goal of increasing registered organ donors from 60 million to 100 million by teaming up with college campuses across Ohio for the “Do It Now” College Challenge.

Kent State’s campaign to increase organ donors was developed in the fall 2007 Public Relations Campaigns class and is now being implemented by seven junior public relations students who are participating in an independent study created by Assistant Professor of Public Relations Michele Ewing. The students on the campaign team are Julie McKinney, Deborah Pritchard, Lyndsay Elliott, Brittany Thoma, Jackie Lloyd, Katelyn Luysterborg and Brandi Neloms. There are 14 Ohio universities participating in the campaign and it is financed by The Second Chance Trust Fund and Ohio’s organ procurement agencies.

The challenge to the student teams competing at 14 Ohio universities is to register as many new donors as possible by May. Each university has its own predetermined registration goal, based on its surrounding population. The goal for Kent State is set at 14,571, and there have been 7,429 donors registered as of late March.

Kent’s PR students are using a variety of tactics to increase donor registration, but one of the innovative ways they are increasing awareness for this campaign is through the social networking site Facebook. Students have created a Facebook page to inform other students and peers about the campaign.

The page provides general information about the campaign, as well as links to the Donate Life Ohio and Do It Now Web sites. There is also a discussion board where members are invited to talk about what influenced their decisions to become organ donors. This is an open group, so any Facebook member is eligible to join. If you are interested in viewing this page, visit

The Kent State Donate Life Ohio team look forward to a busy month in April, which is National Donate Life Month. They will be holding registration drives on campus, attending Kent State events to increase awareness for the campaign and implementing other online tactics to drive people to the registration site.

The Kent team will present its plan and results May 14 to the DLO Advisory Council. An overall winner will be selected among the 14 universities and awarded a donation of $5,000 to a campus student organization. If the Kent State DLO team wins, the money will go to the Public Relations Student Society of America. Other awards include a $250 donation to the best plan and most creative tactic implementation. Individual students on the winning teams will get the opportunity to have an interview for an internship at select Ohio marketing and public relations firms or with regional organ procurement organizations. Team members also receive reference letters from Donate Life Ohio.

If you are interested in becoming an organ donor, you can register by completing a paper enrollment at one of the Kent State DLO events or visiting You can access additional information about “Do It Now” College Challenge at this site. The DLO Kent team needs volunteers to assist at events. If interested, visit the Kent DLO Facebook page.

A crisis management proposal

Poor Eliot Spitzer. I thought he was spending his time screwing the Wall Street rogues who got their jollies by destroying shareholder value. So it goes.

And if the photo on the front page of The New York Times this morning is an actual reflection of reality, Spitzer’s wife, Silda, doesn’t look like a happy camper. Wonder if she is thinking about whether it is too late to get the deposit back on the summer vacation rental property? (You’ll most likely have to pay the $1.25 and get the deadwood version if you want to see Silda standing by her man.)

But as I was thinking about this during my run this morning, it occurred to me that the standard public relations crisis management tactics are so very, well, Web 1.0. You know. It’s the equivalent of a public confessional:

First: I’m sorry. I apologize. I beg for forgiveness.

Then: Pick one or all three. I failed my (fill in the blank). I know I’ve violated the (fill in the blank). It will never happen (fill in the blank).

Here’s my modest proposal to improve this with the use of social media.

Create a video for YouTube. And require that this be done for every elected official immediately upon assuming office. Then you are ready to go when the inevitable happens. No need for the obligatory news conference. And no need to include the spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend in the video unless he or she has aspirations for elected office at some point.

And I’m not an advocate for prostitution, legal or otherwise. But from what I’ve read, the women involved in this situation were charging between $1,000 and $5,000 an hour for their professional services. That’s about what Spitzer will most likely now have to pay to crisis management experts if he wants to salvage his reputation and career. As someone who had to hire a New York-based crisis management company a few years ago, I can assure the Governor he is about to get the screwing of a lifetime.

My advice. Resign — and hire a book agent.

Update: After I hit the publish button, I saw this article in The Washington Post, Ritual of Repentance.

Bloggers and CEOs

Well, Kent State is closed again this morning. I’ve been stuck inside on the treadmill for the past week or so. And I’m thinking about what bloggers have in common with dysfunctional CEOs.

OK. I probably wouldn’t be thinking about that except for an interesting article in The New York Times on Saturday: “Avoiding a Problem C.E.O.”

Terry Leap is a management professor at Clemson University. He writes in Sloan Management Review that unsuccessful CEOs “had serious character flaws that were either hidden or ignored for years.” Here’s the list:

  • “An obsession with acquiring prestige, power and wealth.”
  • “A reputation for shameless self-promotion and other self-aggrandizing behaviors.”
  • A tendency to create “grandiose strategies” without including a detailed plan for how they will be carried out.
  • The ability to compartmentalize and  rationalize to an amazing degree.

Sounds like a pretty good description for most of the A-list bloggers out there. Next time you read some of their posts, refer to this list.

And, I guess, it even provides a template for a Z-list blogger like me. Let’s face it. I could be watching the Today show. Or I could be standing in the queue at Starbucks waiting 30 minutes or so for those in front of me to order their triple honey lattes with low fat milk. Now that’s dysfunctional — but also the subject of a future blog posting. Instead I’m sitting here essentially in solitary confinement typing away with the hope that someone out there is actually going to read this. I guess technology changes. But isn’t this somewhat like sticking a note in a bottle and tossing it into the ocean? But I digress.

My point. During my 35-year career in business and education I’ve had the misfortune to meet and work with some dysfunctional CEOs, senior managers and college administrators. (Fortunately John Ong, the longtime BFGoodrich CEO was not among them.) Wonder if they are blogging now?

Well, this didn’t take as long as I thought it would. Might as well head to Starbucks.

Hillary Clinton and answering machines

I don’t have any luck. Hillary Clinton called me the other night. And the call went to my answering machine.images.jpg


Here’s the story. I was watching Wolf Blitzer and Jack Cafferty, reading The New York Times and enjoying a glass of wine. (OK, maybe two.) And the phone rings.

This is why Bell Labs invented Caller ID: Private.  Or Out of Area. Shame on me if I answer and become embroiled in a long conversation about the benefits of long-term health-care insurance. Or some equally uncompelling sales pitch. So three quick rings later and I’m back in the comfort zone.

Then later I check the answering machine.

“Hello. This is Hillary Clinton.” What? Good grief. I missed the chance to talk to potentially the next president of the United States. Talk about bad luck. She was reaching out to me. And I didn’t answer the phone. But even worse, the answering machine cut off her message. Any chance Hillary and Bill are going to stop over my place this weekend?  If so, I hope it’s early evening. I don’t generally do well with guests after 9 p.m.

But this morning when I was running I thought about the call from Hillary. In this day of social media,images-1.jpg here we have the use of a really traditional communication vehicle. Is a telephone call still the most effective way to reach people? Maybe. It’s direct. And while Hillary seemed to be a little rushed, it’s one-on-one communication. Although it didn’t appear that she was giving me much of a chance to join in the conversation. Probably like an executive-level blog at a large corporation.

But on campus, students have cell phones tethered to their ears. They would probably welcome the calls. At home, at least for me, I avoid calls particularly around dinnertime. I’ve reached the point where I can’t risk having to wear a blood pressure cuff to make it through the evening meal. So maybe it’s generational. If Hillary calls back I’ll ask her how effective these calls have been. To me the calls are similar to the ads you have to sit through at movie theaters these days: intrusive and irritating.  Possibly good marketing. Bad public relations. I won’t tell her that. From the look of it she has other problems.

All I know is that until March 4 I’ll go ahead and take a chance and answer at least some of the calls. Don’t want to miss Mike Huckabee. He might enjoy running the 10-mile course on South Main Street in Akron. I’ll ask him. That is always fun in late February. Blowing wind. Ice and snow on the street. Cars and trucks coming at you from all directions. Right, Walter?

images-2.jpgAnd then I came home from Kent today. Barack Obama called. He left a message on my answering machine.

I have no luck.

Social media, Roger Clemens and Facebook

Granted, not the most compelling headline. But it should keep me on message – as the PR pros say.

Here’s the info about social media. Kent State and Akron PRSA are hosting a conference Friday, March 7 – You, Too! Social Media Bootcamp & Leadership Summit. Bill Sledzik on his ToughSledding blog has all the information as well as specifics about registration. The only addition to Bill’s post is the confirmation that we received last night that Jenny Camper, president of Lesic-Camper Communications, will be among the panelists for the afternoon leadership summit on “packaging the presidency online.”  She is an expert in political communications.

The daylong program will be held at Franklin Hall on the Kent campus. So this also gives us an opportunity to show off the new home for our School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Seating is limited for the program. Register soon. And I’m going to be part of the morning session. Please don’t let that stop you from attending.

Then there is Roger Clemens. I’m not sure what to make of his testimony yesterday at the congressional hearing looking at the illegal use of steroids in baseball. Clearly, either Clemens or his former personal trainer, Brian McNamee, is lying. And doing that under oath before members of Congress doesn’t seem like a winning bet. So I guess the jury is still out as to whether or not Clemens’ aggressive public relations strategy will pay off. It’s not surprising that these matters – like most – come down to truth. Ethics anyone?

But what was surprising was the article I read in The New York Times that said any members of the House committee who asked Clemens for an autograph may have violated federal law. Clemens visited with many members of the committee last week, much as representatives of a corporation would do in a similar situation. Wonder what’s happening in Iraq these days?

And now to Facebook. I wrote earlier this week that Facebook, according to The New York Times, was making it difficult if not impossible for people to delete their personal information from the social networking site. A spokesperson for Facebook was quoted in the original article. Then yesterday, The Times printed another article saying Facebook was taking steps to resolve complaints on this issue. Can’t ferret out what exactly happened here. But it appears Facebook management is at least listening and going to take some action. If so, good.

Still, I know that somehow that comment about Willie Nelson will come back to bite me.