Showing posts with label publicity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label publicity. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 23

Remembering Jericho: Back Lot Projects

Rarely have I have worked on a communication case study for the Copywrite, Ink. blog that so clearly galvanizes an audience as the CBS cancellation of Jericho. Sure, we’ve covered a few under-reported stories that have caught the attention of hundreds of readers; some who stay on long after the specific story fades into obscurity. But the CBS Jericho story does not attract hundreds. It attracts thousands. It does not seem to be fade away, but rather grows stronger every day.

As Jericho fans have taken to publicizing our case study in social media and crisis communication, we’ve covered it on more consecutive days than any other topic. Why? Analytics alone demonstrate the value of this very smart audience. They read long, deep, and come from all over the nation (and world). Some have even taken to searching past communication posts, looking for ideas.

I’m not the only place they are looking. While I have not verified these facts, Jericho-On-CBS has published some startling numbers: Jericho was the most watched show for CBS online (450,000 hits a week); Jericho delivered the highest rating in a Wednesday time slot in seven years; and Jericho frequently beat the competition in its time slot despite going up against some tough contenders. (This does not even consider how many fans watched reality shows like American Idol live and then saved Jericho on their DVRs for later.)

If all this is true, then CBS Entertainment made a mistake claiming that the show had lost steam based on ratings. It seems more likely that Jericho simply didn’t fit into CBS’s new fall line-up, purported to be hipper and edgier than past efforts. From a branding standpoint (before the backlash), it makes sense. But from a customer-centric standpoint (after the backlash), it does not.

In some ways, I appreciate where CBS might have been coming from. Some of our colleagues and online associates have cautioned me (using my own words in fact) that quantitative measures (number of visitors) should not overshadow qualitative measures (number of prospects or regular reders). In other words, they’re wondering when I might get back to a broader mix of topics. I have something else planned for tomorrow, but I just don’t know. If something breaks on Jericho, then Jericho is it. Yes, again.

You see, as I learn more about the Jericho fans, they continue to amaze me in how well they’ve come together. One said I made them sound like geniuses, recognizing that public relations professionals and political consultants might be envious of their efforts. Sure, I know in many cases these fans stumbled unto some of it, but that’s just part of the American way. We stumble upon lots of things. More to the point, however, I like to believe that imagination is more important than knowledge and this case study might prove it.

CBS is using its knowledge to justify canceling the show. The fans are using their imagination to save it. The huge volume of orders for nuts, 9,000 pounds at last count, is only a sliver of the number of nuts sent as social media has embraced this story along with a growing number of mainstream media outlets, especially dailies, entertainment weeklies, and local CBS affiliates.

Given this news, I’m putting more even faith in the fans of Jericho, even if CBS has yet to realize it might do the same. Last night, after deadlines were met, my team put together the “Remember Jericho” image as a thank you to all the fans who have popularized our case study. And, we’ve added it to a few T-shirts in our almost-ready-for-primetime online merchandise store.

As a thank you to the fans, especially Jericho Lives and Jericho Rally Point, and to ensure I remain an communication observer (my family and many team members are big fans of the show; they are the ones who encouraged me to write about it to begin with), any proceeds beyond the base price set by will be donated to the NUTS campaign. If the campaign should end, then we’ll donate it to an appropriate charity. I don’t want to detract from the funding efforts of our campaign elements nor do I want to want to make money on their efforts. (If I release a book by year’s end as planned, you can always consider that instead, as the Jericho story will be included).

The link to the Jericho T-shirts is at Back Lot Projects. Just a few tidbits about the shirt: it’s an adaptation of a vintage World War II war bonds poster, which we thought was fitting with Memorial Day almost weekend upon us and the all the patriotism that seems to surround the show. The ‘Remember Jericho 07’ line plays off another historic rally cry in American history (Remember the Alamo). But besides all that, it was fun to make.

In closing, if not every future post is Jericho focused, keep in mind that we track case studies for a long time, so there will always be another post unless we close it out. We’ll also keep adding updates in the comments. In the interim, if you are a fan and like the image, feel free to use it for non-commercial purposes.

Until then, good luck! And, what else? NUTS!


Tuesday, May 22

Shipping Nuts: NutsOnline For Jericho

After most New Jersey businesses had long locked their doors and headed home yesterday, NutsOnline was busy filling orders and fielding e-mail questions from social and mainstream media at midnight. Its total volume shipped was up 15 percent in three days.

Sudden surges in orders, especially around holidays, is nothing new for a third generation nut company founded by “Poppy” Sol, a hard-working 22-year-old with a can-do attitude on the brink of the Great Depression. But today, and for the past several days, nothing is business as usual for Jeffery Braverman and his family-owned business.

“On Friday we noticed a few orders coming in that looked kind of weird,” said Braverman, about the sudden run on nuts for CBS. “But then we Googled around and caught wind of some “NUTS” campaign and a few blogs had linked us as a place to buy them.”

If you are unfamiliar with the “NUTS” campaign, it is one of several grassroots efforts by the fans of the recently cancelled CBS series “Jericho.” Although Braverman was not a fan of show, he was curious about what seemed to be a growing movement across America. So he posted a small entry on his company’s blog and thousands of fans quickly demonstrated their appreciation.

“Then, the fans said they were looking for some kind of discount,” said Braverman. “So we decided to come up with a mechanism for Jericho fans to pool orders and get the most bang for their buck.”

Since responding to Jericho fans as part of the company’s long-term commitment to enthusiastic customer service (the polar opposite of how fans say they view CBS), large pooled orders being shipped to CBS have doubled and doubled again. Some customers place specific one-pound orders, but many are opting for an inventive $5 contribution.

Braverman also added a dedicated Jericho page and provides fans regular updates and a total accounting of all orders shipped to CBS.

What started as 1,000 pounds of nuts per day has steadily increased to 2,000 pounds. Today, Braverman anticipates that total might double. Given NutsOnline isn’t the only shop shipping nuts to CBS, it’s anybody’s guess how many nuts just might be stacking up in the CBS mailroom.

“We weren’t fans (of Jericho), but we are now!!!” adds Braverman enthusiastically, saying that he intends to start watching it as soon as he has a chance. “My cousin just watched a show online and he says it is great!”

Like Braverman, our team has been amazed how handfuls of fans quickly put together the largest show protest in television history. These fans are loyal, smart, self-funded, and increasingly organized. In addition to drawing from the 8 million strong Jericho fan base, they are securing fans from other shows, appealing to how those fans might feel if Heroes, Lost, or similar shows were let go like Jericho.

Within days, they’ve demonstrated better media savvy than most working public relations professionals, capturing write-ups in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, MediaWeek, and a growing number of mainstream media outlets dazzled by their commitment to save the show (not to mention the novelty of the NUTS campaign and other ideas). They’ve even raised eyebrows among some political consultants with their ability to pull together a highly motivated campaign team and employ social media better than many presidential candidates.

They’ve exhibited tremendous show loyalty, investing money that may have gone to former advertisers had the show not been cancelled. And, they are quickly learning how to organize everything from in-person protests to pricing full-page advertisements in Variety Magazine and USA Today. They’ve even encouraged some of the show’s stars to add comments on the CBS Jericho message boards — first Michael Gaston (who plays Mayor Gray) and then Brad Beyer (who plays Stanely Richmond).

In sum, there are dozens of lessons to be learned from this living case study: from the power of customer service as exhibited by NutsOnline (give customers what they want with nothing more than the hope NutsOnline will be remembered) to how social media might make an impact in an all-digital media age.

The bottom line: Jericho fans might be sending nuts to CBS, but they are hardly nuts themselves. For dozens of links to various spontaneously generated fan sites, check out our other Jericho posts here and check the tally the online petition created to save the show.


Monday, May 21

Landing Loudly: David Neeleman

Ever since David Neeleman stepped down as CEO of JetBlue "to focus on more long-term strategic initiatives for JetBlue as Chairman of the Board," his famous blog, called a flight log, has stood silent.

The last post penned by Neeleman gives an outstanding welcome to Dave Barger as CEO, but leaves the people who enjoyed Neeleman's online presence one question unanswered: Will Neeleman's flight blog remain the last word of an airline founder who saw the value of social media or will Barger now brave the relatively untested waters of CEO blogging?

The question isn't so much for JetBlue as it is for any corporation that has taken the plunge. As more executives take to blogging or achieve near celebrity status as very visible spokespeople for their companies, it becomes crystal clear that very few have thought about a social media contingency plan.

What happens when visible voices become embroiled in controversy or step aside as Neeleman did? One would think the Robert Scoble story would have better prepared companies for such eventualities. Microsoft fared pretty well with a transition in 2006, but it seems like not all companies will.

While ADWEEK's May 21 article doesn't provide the answers, it does recognize a change in the perception of company branding with a renewed marriage between marketing and customer service.

"Blogs, online video, e-mail and mobile phones—not to mention company and brand ratings on sites like Amazon and Yahoo—give the average consumer an immediate, interactive soapbox on which to share how Company X let them down," writes Joan Voight. "In today's consumer culture, a humorous video on YouTube featuring a cable repairman sleeping on the job gets far more attention than the well-established American Customer Satisfaction Index from the University of Michigan—an index that due to its business press-oriented nature can't compete with the Web."

The article also mentions JetBlue Valentine's Day crisis and its efforts to employ a largely unproven social media tactic as part of its crisis communication strategy. In our case study, we noted that while the effort was to be commended, JetBlue only did everything almost right. Unfortunately for Neeleman, if you subscribe to ADWEEK's assessment that it was the "episode, dissected on blogs and elsewhere, even brought down the airline's high-flying founder and CEO David Neeleman," almost was not enough to win over JetBlue stakeholders, who seemed to think the easiest way to end the over-apologizing was to shuffle their spokesman off the stage (for awhile anyway).

Left behind is a flight log (blog) that will require some pretty big shoes to fill unless Neeleman re-emerges as the very verbal and likeable founder of the airline.

Indeed. The communication game has changed and executives are taking more heat over the attention they receive as their personal brands and actions sometimes eclipse the company they work for. As a result, some now have bigger targets on their backs as sacrificial lambs when things go wrong.

Some are shuffled around or let go for a single company slip like Neeleman or Jim Samples. Others are dismissed for what the Toronto Star, a few graphs down, calls terminal uniqueness (n. Psychological condition afflicting top executives suffused with a sense of omnipotence, until their bad behavior bites them in the behind) like Chris Albrecht, Julie Roehm, and Todd Thomson.

Sure, something is being done. You cannot pick up a communication-related publication today without reading about social media. However, far too many communicators are not sure what to do with all this information because they thought the opening rounds were nothing but a fad.

Unfortunately for their employers, this means mistakes—including leaving well-read blogs quiet because no one ever short listed possible replacements (or signed several executive bloggers/spokespeople to begin with)—will continue to be made until communicators realize that the fast-paced trend to become more customer-centric instead of product-centric means more social media attention on company executives, whether you ask for it or not. (Something CBS is discovering right now.)

So, unless social media is carefully employed as part of your company's overall strategy, sooner or later, you will be left with the wrong message, or perhaps, no message at all, where customers expect to find it. Whether "it" means a flight log or something else entirely. JetBlue. Case study closed.


Sunday, May 13

Freeing Paris: Palms Las Vegas

Free Paris At The Palms
The grassroots movement to free Paris Hilton seems to have taken to new heights in Las Vegas, adorning the billboard at the Palms Las Vegas. Or has it?

At a glance, the sign seems to pay homage to the heiress who was sentenced to 45 days in jail. But as Norm Clarke of Norm! Vegas Confidential points out in his Las Vegas Review-Journal column, Palms owner George Maloof is having fun with a publicity stunt.

The easily missed fine print on the sign says "trip," referring to a buffet promotion that includes a drawing to win a free trip to Paris, France. According to Norm, there has been a lot of buzz about the offer, including one man who asked if the free trip was to see Paris Hilton in jail. Ha! Now that is a trip that some might consider priceless.

In addition to its marquee, the Palms is running a full-page advertisement in Sunday's Las Vegas Review-Journal that screams FREE PARIS and whispers "trip" along with the phone number and nothing else. It will be interesting to see what kind of response the property receives in the days ahead.

Maloof, who has always been supportive of the community, is also donating a week's buffet revenue to Mother's Against Drunk Driving (MADD), about $60-$70,000.

Anyone who reads my blog knows that I'm not a fan of piranha publicity, but this stunt has real merit. The buzz over Paris Hilton's plea for a get out of jail free card has captured the fancy of almost everyone. So, this publicity stunt is timely, topical, raises money for charity, and, best of all, no one gets hurt. Besides all that, it's very, very Vegas.


Tuesday, May 8

Laying Blame: Paris Hilton

When in doubt, fire the publicist (and then rehire them later). At least, that is what Paris Hilton might have us believe.

It was also the original thrust of her message when spoke publicly for the first time after being sentenced to 45 days in jail. At the hearing, Hilton said publicist Elliot Mintz told her she was permitted to drive for work-related reasons after the first 30 days of her license suspension. She also said she was unaware her driving privileges had been completely suspended.

"I told the truth," the heiress told photographers waiting outside her Los Angeles home on Saturday night. "I feel that I was treated unfairly and that the sentence is both cruel and unwarranted. I don't deserve this."

Hilton’s lawyer, Howard Weitzman, has planned an appeal in order "to modify the sentence." Weitzman said his client has been singled out and the punishment doesn't fit the crime. He's also the guy that Hilton should have turned to for legal advice regarding her driving privileges.

Although Mintz corroborated Hilton's story, offering "my sincerest apology for any misunderstanding she received from me regarding the terms of her probation," one wonders what degree of responsibility Hilton will accept. Perhaps it also draws the distinction between handlers and trusted advisors in the field of public relations.

Handlers are people who call the shots, sometimes trumping the judgment of their clients. Trusted advisors are more interested in helping clients work through decisions as they relate to public perception. The difference is subtle, but important.

Had Mintz acted as the trusted advisor, he might have suggested Hilton ask Weitzman about the terms of her probation, while suggesting that any infractions while driving could damage her credibility. Driving without lights certainly qualifies. But then again, that assumes the original story wasn't a spin.

Yesterday, Mintz told Us Weekly that, despite confirming the split himself in a statement over the weekend, “the rumors of our professional separation were over-exaggerated." Um, yeah, by Mintz.

What did Seth Godin say recently about going too far? In sum, if the second story doesn't hold up, the first story might be scrutinized even more. Very right.


Wednesday, April 25

Solving Mysteries: Rosie O'Donnell

When I participated on the The Recruiting Animal Show, I ended by saying that "If you live only by publicity, you will likely die by publicity." Recruiting Animal called this statement a mystery. Today, Rosie O'Donnell solves it.

She is leaving ABC's "The View" when her contract expires at the end of this season. She made the announcement at the top of today's program. Sure, she said she will be back as a guest and Babara Walters claims O'Donnel is leaving on good terms.

However, in the last few months O'Donnel has made dozens of "publicity stunt" comments designed to do nothing more than raise eyebrows and hopefully ratings. Some of the more notable comments included accusations that "American Idol" is "racist" and "weightist" (ignoring evidence that suggests otherwise) and her ongoing conflict with Donald Trump (making erroneous personal remarks about him) after the Tara Conner scandal.

Now it seems the publicity stunts didn't pay off enough. ABC Daytime was unable to come to a contractual agreement with her. So while time will only tell whether or not "The View" viewers will care, publicity alone was not enough.


Friday, April 13

Surviving Animal: Mr Moustache

Some professionals might think twice about appearing on radio show with a host sometimes called the "shock jock of the recruiting industry" and refers to you as "Mr. Moustache," but not me. I say go ahead and feed the Recruiting Animal. Sure, some people will claim he bites, but I think you'll respect him all the same.

At least that was my experience on his show "The Recruiting Animal Show", where for a little more than an hour we discussed whether or not there is such a thing as bad publicity. While there seemed to be some consensus that not all publicity is good publicity, not all who called in agreed.

While we agree on a great many things, Laurence Haughton disagreed on this point. Haughton, a writer, a speaker, and a management consultant, said that all publicity is good publicity because visibility is everything. I disagree, largely because publicity (especially bad publicity) is mostly a random roll of the dice and has the potential to mangle any message or established identity out in the field.

It seems to me that not all publicity has paid off in recent months. While JetBlue has captured headlines, it is fighting to reverse the negative impressions of a February storm. Steorn, which used publicity to market the claim of having free, clean and constant energy, has been slow to regain its credibility after a publicity stunt last year. The blogger Spocko, who was responsible for his own publicity as well as the negative publicity surrounding KSFO radio, has slowly dropped from his once glamorized position as a top search tag.

While these cases can be seen as extreme forays into crisis communication, I believe they have some commonalities. It seems to me that people, places, products, and companies that benefit the most from publicity are those who have exposure in their areas of expertise or in ways that closely align with their brand and identity. The further away the exposure is to their brand or identity, the greater the potential for damage or maligning their own message.

Don Imus is experiencing this now, after making statements that have been labeled racist. While some might argue these statements have given him exposure and may have briefly increased his ratings had he not been fired, several advertisers would NOT bank that all publicity is good publicity. They pulled their advertisements off the air. Staples Inc. and Procter & Gamble Co. were the first to leave, refusing to associate with the radio show host despite apologies. Would others have risen to replace them? Maybe. It's a dice roll that didn't happen because CBS wasn't interested in taking chances.

We touched on Imus briefly during the show, but with such an abundance of topics we sort of took a "salad bowl approach," as Amitai Givertz, called it before raising several brilliant points, including the benefit of transparency for companies who are mindful of their messages. He also helped me frame my feeling about the show: If there is one good thing about salad bowls, it's that someone will always find something they like in them: lettuce, carrots, radishes, dressing, and even a few Garbonzo beans ... we talked about them all.

Likewise, Dave Manaster made several excellent contributions, reinforcing the idea that there is indeed another step: you have to know what your message is before you can shape it. He's also right that crisis communication is often reactive whereas strategic communication is proactive.

"If you don't manage your message, your message will manage you." — Richard Becker

Manaster reminded us that crisis communication is not the norm and helped move us in a direction that takes communication to an individual level. Communication management is also where Animal seemed most skeptical, likening it to a Big Brother approach or creating company shills. It's a topic I'll save for next week, much like I'll work up a more definitive definition of the difference between publicity and public relations.

A thanks also to Jason Davis, who asked about the monetization of blogs that I alluded to but hardly fully answered. Of course, this makes sense given our salad bowl discussion (I think that's funny). While some questions were answered, many more questions were raised that could not be easily answered in the confines of a single show.

Good thing Animal and I were shamed into a second show together, er, some day, to address his millions of visitors. With no bite marks to speak of and not a single silver bullet spent this time around, I survived to live another day. As for Animal, as I have said before, he has a real winner of a show. The program, which is available online, is one several great segments that not only cover but also transcend the recruiting industry. Kudos all around.


Monday, April 9

Chatting With Animal: Copywrite, Ink.

On the last day of my "Writing for Public Relations" class at UNLV (a few weeks ago), I mentioned to my public relations students that I would be a future guest on an online talk radio show. Talking about the show made sense because it fit within the framework of our discussion: industry trends and the impact of social media. This show certainly qualifies.

They seemed very excited by the prospect that I would be actively engaged in what I talk and teach about (teaching is only a sliver of my time) and several of them asked for a time and date. "But wait," I said, hoping for a drum roll before revealing the details. "I haven't even told you whose online radio show... it's ... are you ready ... it's The Recruiting Animal Shooowww!"

Their enthusiastic expressions quickly turned to looks of sheer terror and inexplicable horror. Surely, their instructor had not lost all his marbles and taken to open discussions with someone who bills himself as "neither man nor wolf." Obviously, it must be a mistake. After all, experimenting with Recruiting was one thing, but to openly engage the same person who, in their minds, vilified me with the moniker "Mr Moustache" ... well, that was something else all together. "Don't do it!" They warned.

Of course I will! Why not?

The topic, time, and date are set:

The Recruiting Animal Show.
Topic: Does bad publicity exist?
NOON EST (9 a.m. PST) on Wed., April 11
Call to talk: (646) 652-2754
Listen On: Windows Media
MSN Messenger:

On the show, I will attempt to answer the question "Does bad publicity exist?," strike a blow at the very heart of this erroneous myth that "all publicity is good publicity," mention the difference between publicity and public relations, and talk about a few publicity examples discussed on this blog, including (but not limited to) the public relations nightmares experienced by Jason Goldberg, CEO of Jobster (it is a recruiting industry show, after all).

Can I do it all or did I set myself up like the fine folks at JetBlue, with too many exceptions and not enough time to deliver?

I don't really know. I guess we'll find out this Wednesday. Whatever does happen, I'm almost sure it will be entertaining if not educational. In fact, the only thing I can be 100 percent sure of is that as much as I have grown very fond of the infamous character that is The Recruiting Animal, I'll be packing some silver. (You can never be too careful these days. Ha!)


Pushing Apologies: JetBlue Airways

On March 23, JetBlue Airways accepted delivery of its 100th Airbus A320 aircraft, complete with a one-of-a-kind 100-themed blue livery, giving the airline the world's largest fleet of A320 aircraft.

But what could have been a press conference about the growth and success of a low-cost, low-fare, value-oriented business model turns into more of the same: why talk about leg room when you can talk about being sorry?

It wasn't just at the JetBlue JFK hangar, decked out with balloons for about 200 JetBlue crew members. And it wasn't only in the March 20 follow-up YouTube video. It's anywhere and everywhere David Neeleman, founder and CEO of JetBlue Airways, happens to be or has anything to say.

It's in the Sun-Sentinel. It's in the Chicago Tribune. It's in the Baltimore Sun. JetBlue is sorry. Neeleman is sorry. All the employees are sorry.

And, when you get right down to it, this has gone on so long — apologizing for winter storms on Valentine's Day that left passengers stranded on airplanes — I'm even sorry, despite having never tried a flight on JetBlue. I'm sorry they didn't read my posts on Feb. 23 and Feb. 22 that both pointed to the same problem JetBlue would face if it did not stop saying "sorry."

It is estimated JetBlue has spent as much as $30 million in overtime, added crew costs, and free flights. Meanwhile, shares of JetBlue are down 18 percent this year. Its customer-first image, despite launching a "Passenger Bill of Rights" immediately following the debacle, remains in the toilet as exemplified by its name being crossed out on the cover of BusinessWeek in a story on companies with the best customer service. And why is this?

Well, when your most powerful and memorable message is entrenched in what some might call your worst mistake for too long, nearly two months and counting, it will become your only message. And in this case, it worked. Nevermind all the good stuff about JetBlue. The only thing that people think about now is that it had problems. And ironically, probably half of the people who know there were problems don't even remember what the cause of those problems were.

All they know, thanks to improper, overbearing, and too much negative messaging, is that JetBlue did something very, very bad and JetBlue is very, very sorry. So sorry in fact, that its endless apologies overwhelm all other messages.

For everything it did right as outlined by Richard Levick, president of Levick Strategic Communications, JetBlue is doing a lot of things wrong. Sure, it could lobby for new industry standards and get out in front of other airlines with sensitivity training designed to make employees think and feel like passengers as Levick suggests (smart stuff), but first and foremost, it needs to shift from negative messaging — over-apologizing — and get back to what makes it, as an airline, different from anyone else.

JetBlue needs to turn off the sob stories related to what Levick calls the "Valentine's Day massacre of passenger rights" and move off the tarmac and up into the clouds.

Unfortunately, it has been apologizing for so long, the transition will take that much longer. You see, from a more simplistic view of the world, it works something like this: negative messages are 8 times more powerful than positive messages. So if it takes 80 impressions to make a positive message stick, we might conclude it takes 640 impressions to erase a negative message. Neeleman and JetBlue have so masterfully elevated the awareness of one problem that the number of positive messages they need to get beyond Valentine's Day might not fit on a calculator. But, even before they can do that, they have to stop apologizing before it's too late.

You see, in addition to their own "problem-centered" messaging are scores of customers since Feb. 14 who blog about every little bad thing as evidence that no sweeping changes are being made. Usually, it doesn't matter whether one piece of luggage is lost for awhile or that a single flight has a delay (those things happen), but now these things mean everything to JetBlue.

The perception is that it had customer service problems, made promises to fix those problems, and cannot deliver on those promises, probably because those promises (in perception, not reality) were too big for anyone to deliver on in the first place. And the only reason this perception exists is because JetBlue made it so.

Look, I'm all for crisis communication as I've outlined and Levick has outlined, but there is also some common sense and practicality that is missing in this case study. It's something I learned as an intern (later, a communication consultant) at Sierra Pacific Resources.

As an intern, my first task was to write a letter of introduction to the communications department. I was so excited that I fired it off and placed it neatly on everyone's desk (no IMs in those days, hey). The next day, I was called into my mentor's office so he could point out two typos. Needless to say, I was mortified and immediately suggested I apologize with a second letter.

"Here's the thing," he said. "Ninety five percent of the department didn't see any errors because they read right past them, but they will all see them if you apologize. So the best thing you can do for the 5 percent, who think I may have made a mistake in picking you as an intern, is to causally address your mistake to them if they bring it up. More importantly, you need to make your first assignment for the company really shine."

Sound advice. No one ever mentioned those typos. And typos were not something they ever saw again, which is partly why I easily transitioned from intern to communication consultant.

Now, I am not suggesting that JetBlue did anything wrong by apologizing in the first place. That was smart. It was crisis communication on social media steroids and it worked.

What I am suggesting is that there is no possible way that JetBlue will ever overcome this crisis if they keep talking about it. As I have said before ... most people take long looks at car accidents (I'm not one of them), but a car accident can only hold their interest for so long.

However, if you force them to look at your car accident, in painstaking detail, long after they are interested in something else, then they'll become disenfranchised and tune out all your other messages. Or worse, they'll become disgusted or even angry at you and your company.


Wednesday, April 4

Pushing Publicity: Thorntons

Most people who visit now and again know how I feel about publicity, particularly the erroneous idea that all publicity is good publicity. However, that is not to say that I think all publicity is bad.

If you are wondering what constitutes good publicity, look no further than Thortons in London. Yesterday, this British chocolate company unveiled an 860-pound (390 kg) pure chocolate billboard. In fact, it was the world's first edible chocolate billboard, measuring 14.5 feet by 9.5 feet. For more photos courtesy of the BBC, please visit the source site at yumsugar.

This single, simple, and fun publicity stunt is very strategic in approach and execution. The message is smart, "The Art of the Chocolatier," reinforced by the image, activity, and execution of something no one else has done.

All the shots even feature one of its biggest target audiences and the timing, a few days before Easter, is pretty hard to beat. It's smart, fresh, new, and no one was harmed in the making (or unmaking) of what has become a global advertisement. Not bad for a 3-month investment plus 300 hours to assemble.

It's also an amazingly tasty contrast to some of the other publicity stunts we've covered here — ranging from selling stocks with fear to bomb scares in Boston to endless antics from CEOs trying to wade the sometimes murky waters of social media. For all of the their dark side efforts, none of them come close. You don't have to take my word for it. Just ask one of the 50 girls from the Brownies who were commissioned to eat it up.

Special thanks to Hank Hope at R&R Partners for the e-mail tip. It will certainly come in handy next week when I discuss the difference between good publicity and not-so-good publicity. (Yes, that would be a good hint for some). You made my day and I'm hopeful this post will pay it forward.


Tuesday, April 3

Knowing When To Hint: Jason Goldberg

Joel Cheesman, president of HRSEO and Oaseo, is considered one of the most widely-read bloggers on emerging recruitment issues. On his blog, Cheezhead, he has an online poll that asks if Jason Goldberg, CEO of Jobster, is killing the company.

Sure, it's not the best poll (sorry Cheesman, but it's not) and voters are allowed to vote more than once, but it does serve as an interesting conversation starter, especially if one asks if Goldberg is committing suicide by social media.

Voters seem to think so, with 51 percent of votes claiming "the dude's gotta go," outpacing the erroneous idea "all publicity is good publicity," which garnered 38 percent. The comments tell a different and perhaps more accurate story. Goldberg is surrounded by wingnuts: either fiercely loyal or venomously vindictive. Some excerpts:

"Jobster’s board and employees are 100% behind Jason. He is a thought leader in the industry and while sometimes controversial, that controversy is expected around disruptive companies." — Christian Anderson

"Clearly the young man has gone off the deep-end. He had a great vision and built an AMAZING team, which he then proceeded to destroy and dismantle." — claimed Former Insider

"I don’t know exactly whats gone on at Jobster but I do know a lot of people that have worked there. They all have mixed emotions on what happened." — Ryan Money

Exactly. And former employees are not alone. For Goldberg, social media saves him as often as it slays him. Or perhaps, it's the other way around. Goldberg gets himself in trouble by creating the very rumors that continue to assault his company.

The most infamous of these began when he used his blog to hint at, then deny, then confirm layoff rumors during the holidays. The story has been covered by anybody and everybody (Jobster), including the New York Times and, more recently, Wired magazine as Cheesman reported:

"Goldberg probably hopes that little incident will quietly fade away. But it won’t, for one simple reason: When you type ‘Jason Goldberg’ into Google, a link to an International Herald Tribune Story detailing the entire debacle appears near the top of the first page of results. Anyone who searches for Goldberg will immediately trip over the biggest faux pas of his career. It has entered, as it were, his permanent record."

However, this social media assessment is hardly the entire story because every time Goldberg misapplies social media, dozens, perhaps hundreds, of fanatical allies — most of which were made using social media — rally to his defense with statements that basically argue that Goldberg should never be held accountable for his own actions because they love him.

As I said yesterday, it's the ultimate social media paradox: social media saves him as often as it slays him. And he is extremely fortunate on that point because Goldberg is his own worst enemy, nobody else. The culprit is always the same: message management. At Jobster, at least for Goldberg, there is no message management.

Almost like clockwork, usually toward the end of the month, Goldberg hints at something ugly and creates a social media/industry rumor that detracts from all his other messages. In January, it was layoffs. In February, it was his feigned challenge over my assessment of his mishandling of crisis communication. In March, it was yet another hint on his blog at Jobster: "While has basically been running itself for the past year (with Jason Davis prodding it along), I've recently been putting some thought as to where we should take the site next."

Days later, after returning from a vacation, Davis was forced into a position to post his own explanation: "My decision to move on is entirely personal."

Rumors. Rumors. Everywhere rumors. Where is the reality amidst all this perception? The reality is far less dramatic. They mutually agreed to allow the contract to end well before Goldberg hinted, then denied, and then took action to implement new changes for

Message management might have left everybody feeling excited for Davis and happily wondering about Goldberg's purported future changes at Then again, if Jason is not his brainless, uncontrollable namesake from Halloween with one too many sequels, then perhaps he's auditioning as a drama queen who creates his own publicity at the expense of others. I mean, come on, if we want to talk rumors... what if every apparent debacle was a calculated ruse to get the blogosphere buzzing so they would come to Jobster's blog and find posts that piggyback his dismissal of Davis...

Goldberg announcing a dozen or so features that include: the new Jobster Employer Training and Education Site, the new Jobster Blog Buddy (beta), the new Jobster Career Networking (beta) and Network Feeds, and on, and on, and on. Could it be the high-flying CEO at Jobster is simply eccentric or undeniably evil? Of course, if that were true, then he might as well play Russian roulette. As Barry Hurd pointed out on the Cheezehead blog...

"A lot of CEOs and execs are playing in a very complex public relations audience, and I think the primary difference that separates success vs failure in blogging was that Kelman (CEO of Redfin) had a more consistent message and he didn’t change course as often. He was also more brutally honest on his own actions, with statements about bad expos and poor decisions."

Bingo. Goldberg is no Kelman. Message management trumps publicity stunt. And sometimes, the difference is knowing when to hint. Apple is very good at it. Microsoft, not so good. Hinting at business, unlike politics where Goldberg got his start impersonating the President as an intern, is best reserved for good news. Yet, Goldberg likes to hint at bad news.

In contrast, if I said chapter one of an upcoming book this year might be entitled a "The Jobster Paradox" that would be a pretty good hint. If I said I might invite Goldberg to contribute his defense of my position, that would be a pretty bad hint.

It all comes down to one of several simple truths when you peddle publicity, hints, and rumors: the further you force a perception away from reality, the greater the risk. In every case study, the picture is crystal clear. It's not "what you do" as much as it is "what you do as compared to what you say you do."

And for Goldberg, based on Jobster's history and the recent message mismanagement (no matter what "New Coke" du jour he has plans to introduce there), perception is often as far from the truth as one can get.


Sunday, April 1

Gmailing Funny: Google

With a single mock marketing Web page, Google demonstrates that it understands social media and "smart" publicity better than most. I will not be surprised to see its April 1 Web page content cross over to mainstream news today and tomorrow.

As an April Fool's prank, they introduced Gmail Paper, which allows you to "print one, one thousand, or one hundred thousand of your emails. It’s whatever seems reasonable to you." And even better, "the cost of postage is offset with the help of relevant, targeted, unobtrusive advertisements, which will appear on the back of your Gmail Paper prints in red, bold, 36 pt Helvetica. No pop-ups, no flashy animations—these are physically impossible in the paper medium."

On the mock marketing page, you can even read a few testimonials, including Kevin S., CEO AdventaStar Inc., who says:
“I've always felt uneasy about the whole internet thing. With the help of Gmail Paper, now I'm taking matters back into my own hands, literally.” Or Bill K., Armchair Futurist, who explains: "It's paper, plain and easy. I sometimes find myself wondering: what will Google think of next? Cardboard?"

The third image says it all. A woman receiving an extremely large Gmail box, apparently filled with printed e-mails. Kudos to Google for a good gag that everyone is talking about. It fits well with their brand, a prank that not everyone could pull off.

There are only two dark clouds on the entire concept. First, it really demonstrates how easy it can be to write typical ad drivel that some companies try to pass off as a real marketing message. And secondly, some people will no doubt complain tomorrow that Gmail Paper isn't real or that the prank isn't funny. I say "polliwogs" to the critics. Three cheers for Google.


Wednesday, March 28

Spinning Silly: Julie Roehm

The Wall Street Journal has published a statement (for subscribers) from Julie Roehm. Here's the opening of the 520-word story:

"When I look back over the whirlwind of the last 15 months of my life, here's what I see: I left a successful career in Detroit, uprooted my family to move to Arkansas, and took on a demanding job at Wal-Mart as part of its shift in marketing strategy. I threw myself into the job, traveling constantly and working tirelessly to master several components at the same time. ..."

Apparently, Roehm has decided to put on her best spin until the very end. Here's what I see: someone who regrets a whole bunch of choices she made because it didn't work out as expected, despite saying she has no regrets. From this opening line, it is difficult to buy into a message that ties in the very family she recklessly gave up for what she thought was an marketing upgrade.


Wrapping Up Mooninites: TBS

A few days ago, Marianne Paskowski, writing for, covered the Women in Cable & Telecommunications conference in New York, and shared how Shirley Powell, senior vice president of corporate communications at Turner Broadcasting System, was quite open about Cartoon Network's marketing ploy for Adult Swim that went awry, costing the company $2 million.

Although Powell said there is no crisis management playbook that prepares public relations executives on how to deal with this kind of outcome, there really is. Just not the play book people want. They want multiple choice if A = B then C answers when most communication problems are problem-solving exercises.

Nobel prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman wrote about the same problem in science, noting that students were very adept at remembering facts but not so good at thinking new problems through. "I discovered a strange phenomenon," he wrote. "I could ask a question, which the students would answer immediately. But the next time I would ask a question—the same subject, and the same question, as far as I could tell—they couldn't answer at all!"

Simply put, Feynman was writing about memorized bullets vs. applied thinking. Communication is like that today, with lots of people trying to write rules and then forcing those rules to every equation. It's crazy of course, but that has pretty much been the approach to most crisis communication problems in recent months with rare exception.

TBS is one exception because it did a fabulous job for its part, while its vendor, Interference Inc., struggled with the viral outdoor marketing campaign crisis. What's the difference? TBS applied thinking. That's what Powell told the conference attendees when she said "You just jump in" and put out the fire.

I wasn't there, but I'm pretty sure most attendees considered that information useless though Powell was mostly right. There is a play book, but there is not a play book. And the probelm with the play book is that most people use it wrong anyway.

Back in February, for example, Sam Ewen, founder of Interference Inc., finally talked to BRANDWEEK about the subject of the unfortunate Boston bomb scare. Here's an excerpt of Ewen wrapped up a bit too tightly in his message:

BW: Were these devices supposed to look like bombs? Was that your intention all along?

SE: It was certainly never our intention to create something that would scare people. I couldn’t comment on whether they looked like bombs or not. It’s not my training or specialty. I know that they were designed to highlight the show’s character.

BW: Was there any concern in the planning stages that it could be taken out of context? Somebody could see this as a scary threat? If so, did you have any kind of backup plan or any idea . . . just in terms of maybe a brainstorming meeting? Do you have to get permits to do that sort of thing or was it all kind of done on the sly?

SE: The signs were never designed to scare people, to get people into a panic state. They were designed for what they were, which was a showcase, the characters, the flight. That’s as much as I can tell you, anyway.

BW might as well as asked if the signs had something to do with the "cow jumping over the moon." Ewen would have answered the same, he is not an expert on farming or planetary bodies, but the signs were not designed to scare people. We're sorry. And that's that.

Let me briefly interject that this is not a dig on Ewen. He had enough drama about this incident as far as I can tell, and Interference Inc. has often produced some pretty good viral marketing ideas before the the Cartoon Network one-upmanship stunt got away from them.

But as a study in post crisis communication choices, it seems someone gave him a formula to always bridge back to a specific message. What they forgot to tell him is that message management is often a framework for communication and not just a few lines you say over and over again. You may as well not do the interview if you are going to do that.

So what's the answer? Same as it always was: recognize the real issues, identify the crisis team, determine potential impacts, prioritize your publics, synchronize the message, designate and prepare spokespeople, determine message distribution, collect feedback, and adjust.

In such a simple, no-nonsense format, just recognize that this isn't a checkbox exercise. You have to have someone who can think it through rather than someone going through the motions. If I have learned anything over the years about crisis communication, it all comes down to understanding that every crisis is different and requires thought before formula.

It's very rare to have two companies handling the same crisis, especially when one did everything right and the other did everything not so right. The bottom line: Turner applied thinking. The guerilla firm did not. And as a bonus, they proved once again that not all publicity is good publicity. Case closed.


Wednesday, March 21

Selling Change: Roehm & Womack

Emotional Intelligence enthusiasts might see a "change agent" as the perfect person to help a struggling company or industry out of a rut, but CEOs need to be careful with them because change agents can put big holes in the wall as easily as they can pound nails in the right spot.

In other words, a change agent might fearlessly introduce new ideas to enhance a company. Or, a change agent might might become addicted to seeing themselves influence the world around them. In a marriage, one might respark the existing relationship while the other will have an affair.

Juile Roehm and Sean Womack seem to be the latter. Unable to secure a dream offer after the Wal-Mart scandal, they are back in action, pitching a concept that "change for the sake of change" really works, because, well, everything is changing so everyone must change all the time. They call it "marketing 2.x" because they say people are more receptive to "upgrades" than "changes."

There is an irony here because the real drawing power of the dangerous duo seems to have little to do with anything new. Roehm has made sure of that. Back in December, she said "I have enjoyed my time at Wal-Mart and I wish my many friends and colleagues much future success." Of course, that was before she filed the wrongful termination suit, which seemed to beg that Wal-Mart release all its evidence of the illicit affair and other ethical breaches that broke company policy (to say nothing of the vows they once had with other people). As the old saying goes, be careful what you wish for.

As a self-proclaimed marketing expert, she should know that when you wrap up a brand too tightly to a single negative event, eventually the incident will become the brand. It is the very reason that not all publicity is good publicity. Sure, you might capture headlines, but with what consequences? Did Firestone benefit from denying the need for a recall? Did Stoern succeed in establishing scientific credibility? Does anyone really want to hear Barba sing?

Embrace the wrong message and sooner or later everything published about you on the Internet will stick, proving that what is published on the Web can impact your personal brand and future employment. This is the very reason Roehm was ill-advised to file a wrongful termination suit, further damaging her already questionable credibility as a public figure.

In Wal-Mart's countersuit, there are even claims that the pair "misused the agency review process and engaged in travel paid for by Wal-Mart and for the ostensible purpose of furthering Wal-Mart's business interest, but for the actual purpose of spending personal time with Womack." As reported by BRANDWEEK, the court papers reveal Womack was very candid in his e-mail during the review process: "Speaking of equity ... we're both interested in having a stake in our next gig ... More importantly to you, in the two of us you have a team that can help lead your organization in a powerful way. But the opportunity will need to be broad enough."

In another signed "Sean & Julie," the message was: "P.S. These Gmail accounts are WM [Wal-Mart] safe. So, we can have candid conversations."

What lessons can be re-learned from all of this? Several. Not all publicity is good publicity. Never attach yourself too tightly to one bad incident. Protect your personal brand by being ethical, if nothing else. While adaptability is an asset, don't let anyone fool you into believing that change for the sake of change is a good idea. And, as I have said before, e-mail is NEVER private.


Tuesday, March 20

Punting With Legal: Roehm

As if Wal-Mart didn't have enough antics from Julie Roehm last year, the retailer has filed a countersuit against Roehm's legal punt. The suit purports to include the texts of steamy e-mails between Roehm and another former Wal-Mart executive, Sean Womack. I'll be looking at this issue a bit more tomorrow (since I keep suggesting that e-mails are NEVER private).

In the interim, you can catch a good summary of the story by BRANDWEEK. There, you can even see things like a message from Womack to Roehm as saying: "My Gmail is secure ... write to me. Tell me something, anything ... I feel the need to be inside of your head if I cannot be near you."

Monday, February 12

Pickling A Candidate: John Edwards

When John Edwards hired bloggers Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan, his plan seemed simple enough. Pick two bloggers with an existing audience and have them make a grand slam on the Internet, Babe Ruth style. Unfortunately, he didn't hire two babes.

So far, the Marcotte and McEwan blog batting average is the worst in the league, giving the campaign a black eye and placing Edwards in a bit of a pickle, somewhere between first and second base. It's not a good place to be when you're trailing in third place, according to the latest Fox poll.

As a quick recap, visit YouTube for the CNN scandle coverage or read my earlier Being Semi-Public post. Keep in mind, both CNN and I passed on referencing the more hateful posts penned by Marcotte and McEwan.

What interested me the most, from a communication standpoint, is what would Edwards do facing a no-win communication situation (as I alluded to last week: if he fires the bloggers, he looks like he's pandering to the right; if he keeps the bloggers, he looks like he's turning his back on those offended). Edwards, forgetting that standing between first and second base is hardly safe, tried to play both ends toward the middle.

"The tone and the sentiment of some of Amanda Marcotte's and Melissa McEwen's posts personally offended me. It's not how I talk to people, and it's not how I expect the people who work for me to talk to people. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but that kind of intolerant language will not be permitted from anyone on my campaign, whether it's intended as satire, humor or anything else," his statement read, just before standing firm against the right, saying he intended to keep them.

Huh? I guess he wasn't that offended.

"But I also believe in giving everyone a fair shake. I've talked to Amanda and Melissa; they have both assured me that it was never their intention to malign anyone's faith, and I take them at their word. We're beginning a great debate about the future of our country, and we can't let it be hijacked. It will take discipline, focus, and courage to build the America we believe in," he said.

And therein lies the pickle. No one is happy with his decision, probably not even Marcotte and McEwan, who also participated in Team Edwards' first example of "discipline, focus, and courage."

"My writings on my personal blog, Pandagon on the issue of religion are generally satirical in nature and always intended strictly as a criticism of public policies and politics. My intention is never to offend anyone for his or her personal beliefs, and I am sorry if anyone was personally offended by writings meant only as criticisms of public politics." — Amanda Marcotte

In other words: I did not have the discipline and focus to write satire that can be distinguished from hate speech, nor do I have the courage to stand behind those words today. Please, please, please, let me keep my job.

"Shakespeare's Sister is my personal blog, and I certainly don't expect Senator Edwards to agree with everything I've posted. We do, however, share many views - including an unwavering support of religious freedom and a deep respect for diverse beliefs. It has never been my intention to disparage people's individual faith, and I'm sorry if my words were taken in that way." — Melissa McEwen

In other words: I am not really apologizing for what I wrote, but I will apologize for those who took it the wrong way, er, exactly the way I meant it. I don't believe in everything Edwards stands for, but a paycheck is a pretty powerful convincer.

As I wrote last week, there was only one clear solution to solve this mini crisis communication problem: Marcotte and McEwen could have resigned. Then, Edwards could have been offended, but not fired them. Marcotte and McEwen could have stood by their ill-advised opinions, ensuring their rhetoric readers didn't see them as sellouts.

Instead, Edwards sent out one of the worst statements ever released in a bid for President of the United States. And, if Edwards' attempt to play the middle and his staff's attempt to offer faux apologies is any indication of how he will run his upcoming campaign, then I just don't see how he can get to home plate.


Friday, February 9

Resigning For Others: Cartoon Network

Wow! Kudos for Harry R. Weber over at the Associated Press for breaking the news that, yes, indeed, the notion that all publicity is good publicity is dead. At least, that is the way I read it as Jim Samples, head of the Cartoon Network, resigned following a marketing stunt that caused a terrorism scare in Boston and led police to shut down bridges and send in the bomb squad.

According to the Associated Press, the announcement of Samples' resignation came in an internal memo to Cartoon Network staff members. He said that regretted what had happened and felt compelled to step down in recognition of the gravity of the situation that occurred under his watch.

"It's my hope that my decision allows us to put this chapter behind us and get back to our mission of delivering unrivaled original animated entertainment for consumers of all ages," said Samples.

The resignation of Samples also follows the news that "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" demographic remains unchanged in the wake of the bomb scare. The cartoon averaged 386,000 viewers last week; 380,000 viewers a week prior. I suspect Samples may be the first, but not the last person or, perhaps, company to slip from sight over guerilla marketing gone wrong.

“Interference did the slimy Sony Ericsson campaign on the Empire State Building, and now this. But most importantly, the people they hired have zero remorse,” Buzz Marketing CEO and author Mark Hughes told Adotos, seeing it much the same way we did days ago.

Sure, Interference, Inc. apologized, but there comes a time when one wonders whether an apology is enough. You can usually tell by measuring the sincerity of the apology along with any course correction or offer of restitution. Isn't that right, Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan? Oh right, we're saving that for Monday.

You two could learn a lot from Samples, who did the right thing, and in his case, it might not even have been necessary. With sincerity, good luck, Mr. Samples.


Thursday, February 8

Being Semi-Public: Marcotte and McEwan

Amanda Marcotte learned a hard lesson when she lost her position on the John Edwards campaign: being a public figure, er, semi-public figure (as I call these growing middle ranks, myself included) is not always what it is cracked up to be. Some people have a knack for it. Others do not.

Despite some quarters trying to claim that Marcotte and Melissa McEwan are being unfairly persecuted as bloggers (they are not), the simple truth is that their decision to be semi-public came with consequences that they didn't expect. The rhetoric that landed them a gig on a presidential bid is the same rhetoric that may cost them their jobs.

The blog cited above, Pandragon, is making this case: "Whatever opinions Melissa and Amanda hold on a variety of political issues, they are completely their own. The fact is that they have used profanity in their posts, and wrote rants that many disagree with, but their forums are about personal expression and opinion, not journalism or op-eds for a major paper."

Wrong. It has always been common practice for political campaigns to pass on campaign people who are known to have made extreme, disparaging public statements despite their perceived talent.

Pandragon also says Glen Greenwood, author and former New York City litigator, hits the mark when he wrote: "I do not know of many bloggers, or citizens generally, who do not have some views that would be offensive to large groups of people and who periodically express those views in less than demure ways, but if that is going to be the standard, we ought to apply it universally to all bloggers who are affiliated with political campaigns."

Invalid. When campaigns consider someone who is semi-public for the team, it only makes sense for the campaign to weigh how many votes could be lost due to "views that would be offensive to large groups of people" as opposed to votes won for any other reason, which is why Greenwood's "Hynes" political spin doesn't hold water.

Look, I'm not saying anyone is right or wrong as much as I am saying that if you strive to become a semi-public figure with heated, passionate, or bigoted remarks, you can expect that the loss of privacy is the price of admission. Good journalists have known this for a long time whereas some bloggers don't seem to get it.

Good journalists appreciate that the truth — not opinions — will be their shield if they eventually want to move onto another career. Likewise, even good op-ed writers temper their rants with reasoned arguments. Not so with some bloggers, who somehow think they are exempt from any accountability or responsibility when they write. It is delusional to think so.

For example, it would be silly for 15-minutes-of-fame-are-over blogger Spocko to apply for a position at Disney any time in the near future, after he berated the company for months and months over what its subsidiary KFSO did (or did not do, upon reflection of how much was taken out of context).

Likewise, it would be equally perplexing to think that I would be a top pick for a future Gavin Newsom campaign after yesterday's post despite my experience on city, county, and state campaigns. Of course, this post was an exception because I usually limit any observation to the "verb" and not the "subject."

In sum, it is absurd to think that any public opinion posted on a blog could never potentially interfere with your career, regardless of the degree to which you achieve exposure. Employers, political or otherwise, are becoming much more savvy in searching and considering blog entries and Myspace profiles in an effort to hire the best employees. Sometimes it might not matter what you have written. Sometimes it might. As a blogger, whether you want to consider this or roll the dice is up to you, but don't cry foul play if it bites you on the backside.

Specifically for Marcotte and McEwen, what they have written seems to matter for three reasons: 1. For Edwards, faith and family is part of the message. 2. For Edwards, it doesn't seem to make sense to keep people who aspire to capture more spotlight than the campaign, especially because their opinions greatly distract from Edwards' message. 3. They didn't offer to resign and/or exonerate Edwards, which left him in a no-win situation (if he keeps them, he's wrong ... if he fires them, he's wrong).

Hmmm... if they really cared about Edwards, they would resign (unless urged to stay on). It's the right thing to do as opposed to being right.


Wednesday, February 7

Spinning To Disaster: Gavin Newsom

I first learned of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's decision to hit his self-destruction button over at Recruiting Animal's blog and, as a political consultant, I have been itching to write about it ever since. Wow ... the difference a couple days can make.

Without a doubt, Newsom wants to apply the "celebrity spin" card in an attempt to save his political career, which, in my opinion, ended the day he said "I think the public in many cases finds it rather entertaining that suddenly they have someone who's still alive holding public office." Considering he said this in response to admitting an affair with the wife of a former top campaign aide, I guess he failed to appreciate that the people of San Francisco did not elect him to be entertaining.

In politics, there is one cliche that holds true: where there's smoke, there's fire. And sometimes, it's a real barn burner. Yesterday, Newsom attempted to spin the affair story away with the sudden realization he has a drinking problem.

No one was surprised, but many seem perplexed why Newsom would mount one scandal on another. After all, he had already come under fire as supervisor Jake McGoldrick called the mayor a “pathetic role model” who should resign. McGoldrick is not alone in his opinion, but Newsom seems to be gaining some sympathy from some very misguided people. And, in my opinion, supervisor Sophie Maxwell is at the front of this misguided pack.

“This is the mayor’s personal business and affairs,” says Maxwell. “If I look at what the mayor’s been doing on The City’s business I don’t see a reason to resign.”

What? Ms. Maxwell, with all due respect, an utter lack of judgement has everything to do with his ability to lead, and it goes well beyond making San Francisco a three-ring circus. Sure, the affair shows the shallowness of his character, driven by ego. Yes, the noted drinking problem demonstrates a man out of control, largely claiming to be unaccountable for his actions. But the real crime here is his handling of, well, everything.

After all, it is Newsom who made these personal problems the center of public attention during several press conferences. So please, spare me the idea that he is a victim. He is not and, even if he was, he is only a victim by his own hand, er, mouth, er, whatever.

If you want to meet a victim, check in with the campaign aide who will have to endure what experts say is 3-5 years of pain and suffering as he recovers (if he is lucky enough to recover) from this dual betrayal. Add to that additional exposure in a society much more sympathetic to women who are victimized by cheating spouses. Without a doubt, too many people assume the husband must have done something to alienate his wife. Maybe, maybe not.

The fact is that the only thing more appalling than Newsom's attempt to lampoon his unethical behavior is the utter idiocy of political consultant David Latterman's take on the situation.

“I can’t comment about whether he’s truly an alcoholic. There’s obviously been rumors about his drinking for quite a while,” he said. “But this is what celebrities do when they screw up, they go to rehab: Mel Gibson, Kramer, and now Gavin Newsom. It’s a tried and true public relations technique.”

Um, sorry, but Newsom has no celebrity status outside the context of his immoral, unethical behavior. Mayors are not celebrities and the public should not be expected to give elected officials (who are responsible for much more than a personal movie-making career) the same second chances they seem so willing to extend to actors, actresses, authors, and musicians.

While we have come to expect celebrities to enter rehabs and have affairs, I think we must appreciate that celebrities are different. Celebrities are not charged with governance of others. It does not impact the residents of San Francisco if Mel Gibson gets drunk. It does not damage them if Michael Richards needs anger management.

It does directly impact them if their mayor becomes the poster child for breaking personal and public trust on every level while claiming he is not responsible for his actions (the alcohol is). Further, it is deplorable that Newsom is so naive to think that you can create a media frenzy and claim that reporters are out of line in asking questions about his recent confessions. To think that he would be so arrogant to chastise an Examiner reporter who tried to ask a question by saying, “Could you possibly be respectful and could I close the door?”

It seems to me that question better belongs to his former campaign aide: “Could you possibly be respectful and leave my wife alone?”

As another Examiner article reveals: a political insider, who did not want to be named, called Newsom “thin-skinned” and said the reason why the mayor’s having a hard time with the press is because for the first several years of his tenure, “he had a relative love affair with the media.” And so goes the story of wannabe public figures who regret getting their wish.

Maybe someone should have told Newsom that getting at the truth and shaming the devil supersedes all relationships in the career of a reporter. Hmmm... it's kind of like a spouse I imagine. The love affair is great until something or someone changes the relationship. Imagine that. Except in this case, Mayor Newsom, you are solely responsible for your hurt feelings.

Funny. A few days ago, I might have been able to salvage this one. Today, I'd rather watch him spin himself to disaster.


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