Posts Tagged ‘spin’

Ultimate Sequester PR Strategy: the White House as content creator, channel master

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Posted by Tom Gable

Case histories will be written and studied for years on how the Obama White House has found new tools and tactics for connecting at the local level, while marginalizing major national media.

As covered in Politico in a piece called “Obama the puppet master,” the Obama White House has developed its own content creation machine to feed all channels of communication with tightly crafted messages that build the Obama brand. It chooses the channels with surgical precision. Why interview with The New York Times beat reporter who knows the issues and risk facing tough questions, Politico notes, when one can dominate local media through strategically scheduled interviews with friendly anchormen and women who may not be up on the issues?  The cumulative effect can be bigger than scoring a national media hit, as covered in depth by Politico.

The orchestration of coverage of potential economic Armageddon from the automatic budget cuts scheduled for March 1 (called Sequester) is the latest and most complex example of a local-national strategy. From the Secretary of Transportation setting the stage with future delays at major airports because of fewer air traffic controllers, to interviews in local markets with data on the anticipated loss of jobs (e.g. underway Feb. 26 in military towns in Virginia), the PR efforts are carrying consistent messages carefully chosen to appeal to each audience. How does it work?

Politico and a follow up piece by the Poynter Organization (“The dangerous delusions of the White House press corps and the president”) provided details. To summarize the key elements of the Obama White House approach and one that can work for brands, organizations, political candidates, new product introductions, crisis PR and other PR campaigns:

  • Develop a comprehensive, cohesive message strategy with consistent themes and supporting evidence;
  • Be precise in targeting and masterful in scheduling and orchestrating the individual parts of the program;
  • Go for local issues, with local examples;
  • The White House (or any brand) becomes the ultimate publisher (print, broadcast, photography, video, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, YouTube and more);
  • Every appearance or event needs to support the brand, to include great photo opportunities with locals for driving local coverage;
  • Control the content and flow through all channels by picking the media carefully;
  • Stage events to focus on the big messages and memorable lines and don’t allow time at the end for random media questions that might delve into negative territory and take the candidate, CEO or other luminary off-message;
  • Go for easy wins at the local level, then build regionally;
  • Ignore the major media unless they are friendly;
  • Produce your own photography and video rather than allow media coverage (local outlets are always looking for free content);
  • Shun those who have produced or written anything that would be considered negative;
  • Pound away at key messages through major pieces with the friendly media and TV personalities and support with social barrages to hit every target relentlessly;
  • Use the classic “weekend document dump” to avoid negative coverage and “minimize attention to embarrassing or messy facts”;
  • And orchestrate all the elements to ramp up for strategically and with surgical precision for maximum impact at a pre-designated date, such as an election or the day before the so-called fiscal cliff.

The latter – strategic planning of all elements for total control – represents the biggest challenge. Many organizations, brands and individuals can master parts of integrated campaigns.  Few would have the budget, the talent, the discipline and the power even close to that of the Obama White House to succeed on all fronts.

The bottom line, according to Politico:

“With more technology, and fewer resources at many media companies, the balance of power between the White House and press has tipped unmistakably toward the government. This is an arguably dangerous development, and one that the Obama White House — fluent in digital media and no fan of the mainstream press — has exploited cleverly and ruthlessly.”

Banished Word List for 2010 – Just a Start!

Monday, January 4th, 2010
Jabberwocky landing

Jabberwocky landing

Posted by Tom Gable

Lake Superior State University recently released its annual Banished Words List. First started in 1975, the list is culled from tens of thousands of nominations and includes the best of the worst from marketing, media, education, technology, politics and more.

Interested in contributing? Check their alphabetical complete list first. For the 2010 list, including comments from various sources, read on:

SHOVEL-READY — A cadaver? Potted plant? Suggestion: a project ready to implement.

TRANSPARENT/TRANSPARENCY — Cynics say it means politically invisible. (more…)

PR Releases Packed with Leaders Providing Solutions

Thursday, November 5th, 2009
It's about style

It's about style

 

Posted by Tom Gable

In looking for new content for a speech on jargon later this month, we set up news trackers to see how all the leaders of the world were doing in providing seamless, end-to-end, leading edge, next generation, turnkey solutions to whatever niche they serve. Amazingly, the results mirror those from the first similar survey a decade ago and five subsequent tracking surveys. Every other release on Business Wire and PR Newswire comes from a leader and most of them are selling solutions, rather than specific products or well-defined services.

David Meerman Scott in his Gobbledygook surveys and others, including yours truly, have written about this extensively. For this exercise, we’ve pulled a few choice clauses from PR news releases and company boilerplates and inserted below without attribution. Since they are all leaders, instant name identification should be easy. We do identify one company, because it deserves recognition for hitting the Trifecta, incorporating three great terms disliked by most media into its boilerplate: leading provider, seamless solutions and performance-driven.

The Trifecta!

AccountNet is a leading solutions and professional services provider focused on the financial and government sectors. AccountNet creates performance-driven, seamless solutions that add considerable value, and utilizes proven system-integration methodologies and expertise to help clients capitalize on their existing infrastructures successfully and cost effectively

Whew. What are they selling?

Now, on to more leaders in many niches, with a few comments for the good of the order. And if you can identify any of these, post a comment. The person identifying the most leaders will get an Amazon gift certificate for buying reference books on style, grammar and the new world of PR.

  • the world’s leading provider of high-quality lenticular large format and custom-printed plastics
  • creates performance-driven, seamless solutions that add considerable value (the daily double)
  • (the company) goal is to be an end-to-end service provider to its customers by furnishing customized and integrated “turn-key” solutions
  • a leading provider of affordable easy-to-use enterprise-class systems management software as a service
  • an industry-leading provider of end-to-end web hosting services (they could be seamless, too!)
  • an impressive suite of proprietary products and services to create seamless solutions that meet each client’s highly specific needs (meeting unspecific needs wouldn’t work that well)
  • leading provider of email traffic shaping software (my email is in bad shape; I could use a seamless solution from these guys to get it into shape)
  • a leading provider of electronic engines for the optically connected digital world (would love to know more about this niche!)
  • the nation’s leading provider of cleaner electricity and carbon offset solutions (wonder if the leader in dirty electricity can use some PR help)
  • the leading provider of turnkey virtual communications and virtual office solutions (we could use some real solutions)
  • world’s leading provider of WiMAX™ and wireless broadband solutions
  • a leading provider of advanced font products
  • a leading provider of hip-hop ring tones and mobile content (probably a crowded market where leadership is critical to success)

GM Volt Hits Reputation Management PR Hype Trifecta; Math Strangely Missing

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009
What's behind the curtain

What's behind the curtain

Posted by Tom Gable

General Motors held a major media event to promote the 230 mile-per-gallon capability of its Volt electric car, preceded by a “What is 230″ viral campaign.  PR and marketing experts jumped in quickly to question the goal of the hype program for a car that wasn’t due out for one year.  Was it a preemptive strike against other electric cars in the queue? Or one small step for GM in repositioning itself?

The campaign did create buzz, plus questions, criticism and skepticism – the PR reputation management Trifecta.

Even worse, the media missed the big story and one that potentially pops the 230 MPG bubble: the Volt will be more costly to own and operate than less expensive cars getting far worse gas mileage.

The media debate centered on the validity of the MPG claims. The Los Angeles Times pointed out that the 230 MPG was based on city driving where the car might never use the gasoline engine. GM had calculated highway mileage for longer trips but didn’t release the data. Cynics wondered if the number fell in the Hummer range.

CNET raised similar questions about the mileage calculations and said it “begs an obvious question: how can the mileage of electric vehicles be compared to gasoline cars?”

AdAge took umbrage with the “What is 230?” buzz campaign.

“The push was flawed because it was ill-timed, targeted a group that is not likely to be the core Volt buyer and — most of all — didn’t offer enough clues to engage people,” Abbey Klaassen wrote.

Ian Schafer, CEO of Deep Focus, said he saw more talk about the government moving onto a 230-volt standard than this being for an electric car. Jokesters wondered if the question came from Conan O’Brien asking what was the new weight of Christie Alley.

Scout Labs, which measures social-media chatter, noted in AdAge that the “What is 230″ buzz also helped deliver a spike for rival Toyota’s Prius, an unintended consequence.

AdAge asked GM why do a teaser campaign. CEO Fritz Henderson said that in order to win a new generation of buyers, “we need to relate to people between 16 and 30. They communicate differently and we need to make sure we plug into that.”

“That may be true, but so is this: At $40,000, the Volt will be too expensive for much of that demographic,” AdAge notes, which gets to the BIG issue.

Surprisingly, if you do the math on costs of the Volt versus traditional cars costing less and getting significantly lower miles per gallon, the Volt loses.

The following table shows the cost of owning and buying gasoline for cars costing $20,000, $30,000 and $40,000 (estimated cost of the Volt). The 48-month and 60-month payments were calculated at 10 percent interest using Bankrate.

For mileage, the calculations were based on driving 10,000 miles a year and getting 20 or 40 miles per gallon at a price of $4.00 a gallon. We rounded off the Volt to 200 MPG from 230, assuming there might be a little highway driving.

In the worst-case scenario of traditional cars getting 20 miles per gallon over five years and a total fuel cost of $10,000 versus $1,000 for the Volt, the $20,000 and $30,000 cars are $16,496 and $3,748 cheaper to own and operate than the electric Volt. At 40 MPG, the savings are $21,496 and $8,748 over five years ($5,000 total fuel cost versus $1,000 for the Volt).

Bottom line: before using all your big guns, tools and tactics to launch a new initiative, position or product, analyze the backfire. Will it be minor, from the omnipresent critics and skeptics, or could it create long-term damage to your reputation and future business and marketing goals?

Four and Five Year Costs – Volt Versus 20MPG and 40MPG Cars Costing $20k and $30k

Car Cost

48

Annual

Subtotal

20 MPG

TOTAL

Diff

$20,000

$507

$6,087

$24,349

$8,000

$32,349

$17,147

$30,000

$761

$9,131

$36,522

$8,000

$44,522

$4,974

$40,000

$1,015

$12,174

$48,696

$800

$49,496

48

Annual

Subtotal

40 MPG

TOTAL

Diff

$20,000

$507

$6,087

$24,349

$4,000

$28,349

$21,147

$30,000

$761

$9,131

$36,522

$4,000

$40,522

$8,974

$40,000

$1,015

$12,174

$48,696

$800

$49,496

60

Annual

Total

20 MPG

TOTAL

Diff

$20,000

$425

$5,099

$25,496

$10,000

$35,496

$16,496

$30,000

$637

$7,649

$38,245

$10,000

$48,245

$3,748

$40,000

$850

$10,199

$50,993

$1,000

$51,993

60

Annual

Total

40 MPG

TOTAL

Diff

$20,000

$425

$5,099

$25,496

$5,000

$30,496

$21,496

$30,000

$637

$7,649

$38,245

$5,000

$43,245

$8,748

$40,000

$850

$10,199

$50,993

$1,000

$51,993

Authentic PR or Pseudo-News Flurries and Diversions, ala the Nixon White House

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

Posted by Erin Koch

In today’s “information overload” environment, it is obvious that PR agencies must be selective about what qualifies as news. At Gable PR, we often have to provide the journalists’ perspective and tell our clients no when they suggest that “let’s do a press release on that!” Of course we do it tactfully, applying the “so what, who cares” test. Why? Because just like in the story of the boy who cried wolf or the start-up from the Silicon Valley that cranked out one release a day for months before collapsing, the media will ignore the missives if they are too frequent (or too frequently irrelevant). Much better to be highly selective, or authentic. And to target the media who are most likely to care.

This week, Slate.com had a particularly relevant example, from well before the age of information overload. It turns out that in his final days, Nixon’s press office bombarded the national media with press releases from every Cabinet department in the hopes of somehow pushing the impeachment news off the front pages.

It didn’t work, because the news wasn’t authentic. The media instantly recognized this and continued following the scent of the real story.
So if your company has a “major” product development or if you’re “incredibly excited” about a “transformative” new employee who has joined your firm, that’s great! But before sharing this “news” with the world, give some serious thought as whether or not anyone else will really care. It just might make more sense to go after the spotlight when you have something more “shine-worthy” and truly exciting to the news media and outside audiences.

Storytelling in a Crisis: Dog Bites Lion or Lion Bites Dog?

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

mountainlionPosted by Erin Koch

In a crisis, the story that is told (and repeated and believed) is often NOT the most accurate story, but rather the most compelling story. This has huge implications for the health of a business.

Take the story of Hoagie (a beloved family dog) and a mountain lion. Earlier this month, reports flooded the internet and blogosphere with a heartwarming tale: A family dog named Hoagie (once saved by his owners from being put to sleep) threw himself in front of a charging mountain lion, saving his masters from near-certain bodily harm.

Yet the warm fuzzy tale, according to this piece in the LA Times, is highly unlikely. Mountain lions don’t typically attack humans, particularly when there are two or more people in a group and especially not when there is a dog around. More likely: the family pet saw and chased down the mountain lion (more likely a bobcat) and was injured in the ensuing fight.

Why then did the story of the heroic pet catch on so fast? The answer, obviously, is that it was a story worth telling and retelling.

How can businesses protect themselves from a similarly inaccurate story spreading like wildfire and damaging their reputation, perhaps irreversibly? Having a crisis plan in place is the key. If Gable PR were advising the “Association of Concerned Mountain Lions of Southern California”, our advice would include:

• Identify and highlight key facts early (for example, Hoagie was illegally not on a leash).
• Use statistics to highlight the infrequency of attacks.
• Identify credible experts to testify about your nonconfrontational nature.

What would a similar crisis plan look like for your business? Which key facts would you highlight? Which statistics would you use? Which experts would be ready to testify on your behalf? Are you ready for the dog to attack?

Photo by DigitalArt2

Remedial Media Training on Tap for Joe Biden, Robert Gibbs After Flu Flub

Friday, May 1st, 2009

obamabidenflu

Posted by Tom Gable

As covered in The Christian Science Monitor and elsewhere, Vice President Joe Biden “strayed way off message” on how to deal with the swine flu crisis during an appearance on The Today Show. He advised people not to go anywhere in confined spaces – airplanes and subways specifically.

The White House press office issued a news release in trying to clarify the remarks: “On the Today Show this morning the Vice President was asked what he would tell a family member who was considering air travel to Mexico this week. The advice he is giving family members is the same advice the Administration is giving to all Americans: that they should avoid unnecessary air travel to and from Mexico.”

However, Mexico was never mentioned in the TV appearance. This led to a great exchange in a Q&A session with Robert Gibbs, White House press secretary, who tried to keep the Mexico spin going. A savvy reporter read directly from what Biden had said.

“I understand what he said, and I’m telling you what he meant to say,” Gibbs said.

This will help him land in the next edition of “The stupidest Things Every Said by Politicians.”

One of my favorites from that book: “It’s not easy getting up there and saying nothing. It takes a lot of preparation.” – White House spokesman Barry Toiv during the Clinton Administration.

To that, let’s add a few from Dan Quayle so we have something from both sides of the aisle:

• “What a waste it is to lose one’s mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is.”
• “I love California. I practically grew up in Phoenix.”
• “I was recently on a tour of Latin America, and the only regret I have is
that I didn’t study my Latin harder in school so I could converse with those
people.”
• “I believe we are on an irreversible trend toward more freedom and democracy. But that could change.”

Media and presentation training are a must for anyone in advance of a media interview or presentation where there could be Q&A. Think about the future headline or sound bite and prepare the three or four key points you want to make to get to that headline. Have supportive evidence lined up for each of the key points as well.

This approach creates a structure for organizing thoughts and keeping on message. With good copy and research in hand, average intelligence, tough rehearsal with skilled inquisitors, setting aside ego, listening to the trainers and committing to getting better, just about anyone can nail an interview. Thankfully for ongoing entertainment value, a steady parade of politicians, CEOs with egos as big as Mount Whitney, spokesmen for special interest groups and assorted gadflies seem to avoid training, don’t take it seriously or flunk it. Biden and Gibbs made great things happen in the first 100 days. Here’s hoping the trend continues.