Saturday, November 10

Paying Peanuts: The Networks


When the Los Angeles Times asked Michael Colton and John Aboud, the writing team behind the Best Week Ever, how to shut down a television shoot, rallying Jericho fans took the number one spot, just ahead of telling a “Teamster that Jeff Zucker made fun of his mom.” Why Jericho fans?

“They brought a show back, they can take one out.”

While the top seven ways to stop a shoot was comedic (allowing Hugh Jackman to sing made the list), it might make some sense. The writers strike could be the perfect opportunity for Jericho fans to stop taking each other out on the CBS Jericho message boards, and begin to building a fan effort in support of the writers.

Such a move would only increase the exposure of the show before it returns in January by engaging all television fans about something they are passionate about. Fan crossover is somewhat proven to work. For the most part, there has been continuing cross over between the fans of Veronica Mars, Supernatural, and Jericho.

Each engagement between Jericho fans and other fans of any other show that is suddenly in the same boat might give Jericho a real shot at capturing January ratings. Yes, I said January. So far, CBS has no plans to bring Jericho back any earlier, which is good news for the fans. When I ran into BlogTalkRadio host Shaun Daily at BlogWorldExpo yesterday, he even said Jericho producer Carol Barbee was of the same thinking.

An early return of Jericho, especially in light of the writers strike, would mean immediate reinstatement on an arbitrary night and virtually no promotion. If fans focus on a January return, and perhaps help striking writers, they have two months to ramp up their show and build awareness with, well, anyone who also has a fan stake in the strike, regardless of what CBS does or doesn’t do.

Why would fans want to support the writers? The way I see it, fans can listen to the case as it was made by United Hollywood on YouTube or simply consider the reality of this strike. If the strike runs too long, many shows will not be coming back or, at best, may come back on a bubble.

According to the Dallas Morning News, the biggest loser of the 22-week strike in 1988 was broadcast television. It lost an estimated 10 percent of its network viewers.

Not only were those viewers lost forever, some shows did not survive. Nowadays, 10 percent can make the difference between a hit and a miss. In fact, an 18 percent drop after a much shorter break was enough for CBS to cancel Jericho in the first place.

Besides, Jericho fans may even have the best message if they were so inclined. What’s that?

Stop paying writers peanuts.

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Friday, November 9

Closing Hollywood: Writers Strike


The NBC hit The Office is one of several shows that are closing down production because some cast members and show runners are either sympathetic to or members of the WGA. In this case, Steve Carell will not cross a WGA picket line, which has effectively shut down the show despite having more scripts ready for production.

“They cleaned out my trailer and just delivered me 3 boxes of my stuff. It is pretty surreal,” writes Jenna Fischer, who plays Pam Beesly on NBC hit The Office.

“We cannot produce new episodes of The Office until the Writer's Guild strike is over.”


Fischer is one of several actors and actresses who are using their mySpace pages and blogs to focus in on one of the primary issues related to the writers strike: the Internet.

Writers are not compensated for rebroadcasts online despite the fact that the networks earn income from advertisements that accompany the content. They also do not receive compensation for downloads on iTunes or Amazon.

It’s a significant part of failed negotiations because the Writers Guild of America (WGA) already knows that the shift to all digital entertainment is the future of television. It’s also important because networks could theoretically hold off on the syndication or rebroadcast (reruns) of television shows, making them available on platforms that can generate more revenue without compensating the creators.

This issue isn’t just important to striking WGA writers. It’s important to everyone who writes on the Internet. It's important to you and me.

All too often, content distributors are screwing content creators by claiming they own all rights as part of their terms of service. I adamantly disagree with this practice.

In fact, this is one of the primary reasons I’m careful about what content I place on platforms such as Facebook, which does claim all content rights — your content, which makes them attractive to advertisers. They don't need all rights to the work of their members. They only need first electronic rights.

Even on this blog, when I hosted the Jericho Fan Fiction contest, I made it explicitly clear that any writers who submitted work only needed to grant us first electronic rights (the right to publish their stories online first). Put simply, Ray Hayton, Myles McNutt, and Nick Lynse retain all other rights. I cannot, for instance, publish a book using their work in entirety without their consent. Many social networks, online content providers, and even blogs claim that they could.

For me, this is one of the best reasons for the general public to consider supporting the WGA strike. The terms that come out of the strike could be used to prompt online content distributors to revisit their terms of service.

According to the WGA, they are still working out how the public might show support of the strike. Right now, they are inviting the public to send e-mails to show support. Some of them will be published online. You can also download the strike graphic that accompanies this post and add it to your blog or Web site.

They have also told me to "stay tuned." There is more to come.

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Thursday, November 8

Joining Voices: Bloggers Unite

BlogCatalog is at it again. The fastest-growing social network for bloggers is working on its fourth social awareness campaign on Dec. 17. This time, the "Bloggers Unite" campaign challenges its more than 80,000 members and other bloggers to do something good offline — an act of kindness — and then post about it, using words, pictures, and/or videos to tell the story.

So we're lending a quick video to promote the Bloggers Unite campaign, featuring three people who used their voices to change their country and the world. Sometimes that is all it takes. One voice, joined by many ...



"Many of our members are telling us that they want to do more than post about it," says Antony Berkman, president of BlogCatalog. "They want to experience the gift of giving and make it a personal part of their experience."

Berkman added that he hopes that the "acts of kindness" theme puts a human face on the bloggers responsible for doing so much good in the world. This campaign aims at exposing their kindness and generosity as well as serving as an example to non-bloggers that volunteering for a charity, donating to a cause, or even simply doing something kind for another person has a ripple effect around the world.

As with the last social awareness challenge, Bloggers Unite is not specifying a singular non-profit organization. Instead, BlogCatalog is soliciting and coordinating companies that would like to pledge a donation to the blogger and/or to the charity of the blogger's choice. Prizes will be awarded to bloggers based on their posts, pictures, or videos.

We hosted BlogCatalog team members for work and dinner last night. Tony tells me that a Bloggers Unite registration page will be forthcoming at BlogCatalog.com. More importantly, it gave me a chance to discover what a great group of people they are in person. Enough so that we will be working with them to coordinate the next competition and find more ways to give additional exposure to bloggers who choose to do good.

On Sunday, we will be featuring one of them who participated in the last campaign. But if you would like to jump in and help on the newest campaign, check out BlogCatalog's news release on PRWeb with additional details. The video above is also available at YouTube.


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Wednesday, November 7

Risking Credibility: Biegel vs. Dentsu


Brands are fragile things, like snowmen in spring. That’s what Julie Roehm learned with Wal-Mart, a case study we concluded back in August. And now it seems Steve Biegel, former creative director for Dentsu America, is about to learn the same thing.

Effie, Clio, and David Ogilvy Award-winning ad veteran Biegel filed a lawsuit against his former employer that has the advertising industry shaking its head, not its fist.

He alleges that Toyo Shigeta, CEO of Dentsu Holdings USA, took and shared upskirt shots of women (including Maria Sharapova; see Adrants), forced him to visit a Prague brothel, and required workers to have sex with prostitutes. Advertising Age has published the entire lawsuit online. It makes the Roehm scandal look rated G for gratuitous.

“If Steve Biegel had exhibited as much creativity and effort when he worked here as he has on manufacturing this frivolous complaint, the company would not have fired him,” Dentsu America CEO Tim Andree told Adweek.

Dentsu has also vowed to file a countersuit, primarily alleging libel because a lawsuit draft was sent to its clients. (If Biegel did send Dentsu clients drafts, he may be forced to prove every point true to avoid libel.)

As with most legal wrangling, some of the non-court communication hints at the truth. Did the events take place? Probably. Was Biegel horrified and sexually harassed? Only Biegel really knows, but his credibility is in question because based on the lawsuit and subsequent communication.

It seems all too likely that he was more horrified about losing his job than some of the events that seemed to have occurred as much as three years prior. It also doesn’t help that Biegel did not find the alibi or ally he thought he might with his friend Scott Weitz, a staffer with Driver Media who was present during the Prague brothel incident. According Adweek, Weitz said that Biegel never complained about Shigeta encouraging or forcing him to engage in such behavior and that Biegel went into a private room with a prostitute. (Eesh! To think that if Hostel came out one year earlier, all this may have been avoided.)

To be clear, sexual harassment in the workplace is wrong. However, advertising is probably not the right career path for those who shy away from an industry that claims “sex sells.” At least, it’s not really suited for someone who claims to be as horrified as Biegel now says he is (not that our industry requires bath houses or brothels, of course).

Still, what employees need to know, I suppose, is that just because your employer tells you to do something, it doesn’t mean you have to do it. Um, you can make your feelings known immediately, file a complaint while you’re still employed, or walk out the front door before you’re fired. Heck, I’ve even terminated an account or two after becoming uncomfortable with advances that persisted after warnings.

Just say NO!

But, then again, I’m not writing from a legal perspective (because I’m not an attorney). I’m writing from a communication perspective that suggests: it’s probably best not to be the freewheeling creative ad guy for years and then attempt to play bashful family man shortly after you are terminated.

The less than $1 million lawsuit and potential damage from a libel countersuit (not to mention potential personal brand and credibility erosion), is not worth it. Or, in other words, if Biegel really wanted to win this case as opposed to shooting for a settlement, he would have employed the most basic premise of crisis communication and “talked about it as soon as possible.” That would have been three years ago.

Still, this lawsuit comes at a bad time for Denstu. It just recently made a push toward taking a more visible foothold in the international marketplace. Although it is one of the largest advertising companies in the world, only eight percent of its revenue is generated outside Japan. (Japan is the second largest advertising market in the world.) Its clients have included Canon, Toyota, HarperCollins Publications, and Toshiba America, among others.

As a side note, Dentsu America’s mission statement is to “influence by telling the truth in new ways.” And how. Case study? I'm not sure yet.

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Tuesday, November 6

Gaining Ground: Consumer Relationships


It’s about time. According to Jonah Bloom’s article in AdvertisingAge, marketers are moving away from numbers and toward measuring changes in consumer attitudes and behaviors.

I’m not sure the solutions that the article alludes to are the right ones, but the premise — as the media landscape changes so is advertising — is spot on. Marketers and advertisers are beginning to consider media reach as less important than the platform's relationship to the audience.

Effective communication is about changing behavior.

Now that more are adopting the concept, one question remains: do they know how to do it? Procter & Gamble (P&G) seems to.

"Historically at P&G we looked at product performance. We didn't pay as much attention to product experience," Claudia Kotchka, vice president of design innovation and strategy at P&G, told ADWEEK, discussing how Gain Joyful Expressions’ curvy shapes and bright colors played a factor in it becoming a billion-dollar brand. "Obviously the product cleans fabulously, but this is all about joy. When consumers open the bottle, they like the smell. The bottle itself is much more whimsical. It's about taking the elements people wouldn't think are important and having them add up to the overall brand experience."

Product design is not the only place P&G is working hard to win over consumers. P&G recently rolled out an online campaign within Facebook to tout odor-eliminating Febreze to college students. You can access the group at Whatstinks.com. (Talk about changing behavior. I wish it were around when, as a resident advisor, I had to counsel a young freshman why his unsanitary habits were driving roommates away.)

Of course, few things are wrinkle free; online consumer relationships included. Specifically, online consumers have noted that new custom advertising is kind of creepy. In fact, it took Facebook and MySpace proposed ad platforms to open their eyes to just how much online tracking there really is. Enough so that Facebook’s idea to target consumers based on what is in their online profiles has caught the attention of online privacy advocates and the Federal Trade Commission.

In other words, any backlash from overzealous consumer profiling could land squarely on Facebook. We mentioned that potential hazard when Harris Interactive released preliminary information about mobile advertising back in April. During the Webinar, Harris had cautioned advertisers not move too fast without opt-in and opt-out features or consumers and privacy advocates might push back.

It looks like some are pushing. In fact, some are pushing so hard that BusinessWeek noted how a "do not track" list could backfire because it could mean even more advertising, not less.

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Monday, November 5

Finding Nemo: PR Professionals


There is no higher law in journalism than to tell the truth and shame the devil. — Walter Lippmann

Considering some public relations professionals are still smarting from Chris Anderson, editor in chief of Wired, and wondering if anyone loves them (boo hoo), I thought it might be useful to provide a few basics so some don’t have to keep learning the hard way.

Sure, I know working in public relations is not necessarily easy, but it does not have to be exceedingly hard either. Every spring, I share six tips with public relations students at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) on how to be an effective public relations practitioner:

• Think like a journalist
• Act like a businessperson
• Dig deeper than a lead investigator
• Write with the passion of a novelist
• Speak with the conviction of a communicator
• Exhibit empathy like an advocate for various publics

It’s no easy task, and not everyone is capable. But the best and the brightest in the field all have these qualities (at least the ones I know). Unfortunately, the great majority of public relations professionals (about 80 percent, I might guess) never even make it past the first bullet. So that's all I'm going to write about today.

It's not about how many of their posts or articles you read; thinking like a journalist is all about finding Nemo.

That's right. You need to find "the better fish story." And based on box office gross alone, Nemo was the best fish story of all. Seriously, that movie contained almost everything needed to make the news.

Here’s my quick tip sheet for public relations students, which originated with Jake Highton, a longtime journalism professor at the University of Nevada, Reno as well as some tips from the The Missouri Group. I’ve added and embellished them over the years, working with a foot in each field.

What Makes News Or How To Find A Nemo?

Impact. How much is an audience effected, how direct is the impact, and how immediate is the effect? The greater the impact or magnitude, the more likely it is news.

Proximity. How close is the action to a locality or how direct to a specific industry? The closer the connection is to home or to a particular audience, the more likely it is news.

Timeliness. When is the action is occurring or when did it occur? The fresher the story, the more likely it is news.

Importance/Effects Of Change. How will it change people’s lives, like a new law or a price increase? The more it changes people’s lives, the more likely it is news.

Prominence. Who is involved and do people know who they are or what company they work for? The more prominent the individual or company, the more likely it is news.

Conflict. How volatile are the combatants and how colorful are the characters? The bigger the conflict or rashness of the characters, the more likely it is news.

Novelty. Does it occur often or infrequently? The more uncommon the occurrence, the more likely it is news.

Human Interest. How touching is the act of kindness? The greater or more direct the gift, the more likely it is news.

Sensitivity. How disastrous or emotional is the result? The greater the misfortune, the more likely it is news.

Special Interest. Does the editor of the publication have an interest in the subject matter? The more specialized the story to a specific publication, the most likely it is news.

Almost all stories need at least one of these elements (generally, more than one) to be considered news by most journalists. It’s about that simple. If you have many, you have yourself a Nemo.

Do you get it now? At the very least, it might dispel the mystery of why a small company launching a new widget is probably spam as opposed to a salmon. It also explains why the huge whale tale seems to have been the Apple iPhone (called the invention of the year no less).

So there you have it. Where some (not all) public relations professionals are going wrong is that they are promising clients a certain amount of releases every month, but never look for anything that remotely resembles a minnow let alone a clown fish.

Who knows? Maybe that will make my "stars align" comment more palatable. That point was never meant to suggest more spam.

I was making the case that even if you have a Nemo, someone else might have a Nemo plus one. Too bad. It sucks. But there is only so much time or space a journalist or editor (or even a blogger) has to work with today, tomorrow, next week, or all year.

The general lesson is simple: don’t waste their time, especially since the average journalist’s salary is $30,000 per year and the average public relations professional is paid about twice that, which is why I can almost guarantee that the “it’s my job" sob or “you need me" cry or “I’m too busy to use AP Style" whine won’t really cut it. If anything, it will probably strain the relationship even more so. Instead of crying or inventing formulas, go find the better fish story.

And while you're at it, treat those journalists with respect. And, if they don’t respect you back right away, try to remember that other PR folks have probably lied to them a hundred times (just last week). So I'm sorry, but it's the burden of the PR professional to overcome any barriers caused by others in the field. Reporters owe you (or me) nothing. Not even a return call.

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