Communicate Good

Posts Tagged ‘public relations

In my all-time favorite episode of the Simpsons, the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant (where Homer works) is holding the ceremony for the “Worker of the Week” award and Homer, the only employee who has never won the award, is confident he will win. But alas, his boss Mr. Burns gives the award to an ‘inanimate carbon rod’.

Later, Homer (who becomes an astronaut) is returning from a space mission with fellow-passenger Buzz Aldrin when disaster strikes in the way of an open hatch door that threatens to suck everyone out of the craft. Homer uses an inanimate rod to inadvertently seal the door shut, thereby averting tragedy.

With the problem solved, the shuttle successfully returns to Earth, making a convenient crash-landing through the roof of a press reporters’ convention. Although Buzz Aldrin declares Homer a hero, the press only have eyes for the inanimate carbon rod he used. The rod is featured on magazine covers with the headline “In Rod We Trust” and is given its own ticker-tape parade.

This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture told the media that it will unveil a new icon to better symbolize and convey healthy eating habits for Americans, doing away with the age-old and ever-changing food pyramid. Read the rest of this entry »

In two weeks, I fly to Baltimore for my 20th High School reunion. Appropriate timing  since I just wrote a piece paralleling the new media landscape and the turbulent social realities of high school. Coincidentally, my first PR gig was also in 1990 — part of my high school “senior project.” My dad’s cousin owned a small agency outside Baltimore, MD called Phil Willen & Associates (don’t look for them on Twitter… they’re long gone). I interned there for about two months.

My upcoming trip has me thinking a lot about how much has changed since 1990, specifically in the PR field. I hate using the cliche “now more than ever before,” but the fact is, PR as a field has undergone more change in the last 20 years than in any 20 year period prior (perhaps with the exception of that 20 year period when a meteor struck Earth and wiped out the Dinosaurs. Those two decades really sucked if you were in the PR game!). So I thought I would dedicate this post to some of the big and not so big changes in PR since 1990 — in no particular order. Here goes… Read the rest of this entry »

Who’s Danny?  If you’re one of the 1.7 million people currently residing in the Austin, TX metropolitan area, chances are you may have seen him.  But he’s not a celebrity or a public figure.  You probably wouldn’t even recognize him if he walked up to you.  In fact, you may even pretend he doesn’t exist or give him money to leave you alone.  Danny and his disabled wife, Maggie, are one of the estimated 3.5 million homeless persons living in the United States.  Unable to find a job as an ironworker, they had no other choice but to set up a tent in North Austin and panhandle just to survive.

Their story is not an uncommon one, yet it’s one that few people are willing to recognize.  That’s where nonprofit Mobile Loaves & Fishes (MLF) comes in.  Looking to raise the visibility for homelessness and empower people to help, MLF launched its I Am Here campaign on April 27th by physically putting Danny on an I-35 billboard for a couple hours at a time over a 2-day period under the declaration “I Am Here,” and encouraging people to text in to donate $10.  Just 1,200 texts will get Danny and Maggie into their own mobile home and hopefully on their way to a better life.

What I particularly love about this campaign is the unique way it successfully integrates traditional marketing with nontraditional marketing.  While a billboard is a great way to get the attention of commuters, it’s not very common to have the actual subject of your cause as part of one.  It’s hard to ignore someone when they have a 100’-wide sign behind them!  By sharing one person’s story, it reaches an audience on a more personal level and inspires them to give; and incorporating the mobile marketing aspect reduces to practically nothing the time it takes for the initial impression to influence action.  As soon as people see Danny, they see how they can help with a quick 10-second text (I’ll save the debate over the safety of texting while driving for the lawmakers).

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You know what bothers me the most about my chosen profession? It’s the negative image of the communications/PR professional. But not in the way you think I mean.

To be sure, there is a prevailing derogatory stereotype of PR pros. Just about every euphemism for PR practitioner has negative connotations. Spin Doctor. Flak. Bulls&$t artist. I challenge you to tell me one positive (and widely used) euphemism for someone in this line of work. And is it really a wonder? With stories of PR agencies pulling shenanigans like this (reported earlier this month at the Bad Pitch Blog), it’s no surprise that people have less than lofty opinions of our kind.

The fact that these stereotypes exist is something I came to terms with years ago. I can’t change macro-attitudes about the PR profession, but I can influence the people within my own circles; letting them see that idealism, good business practice, and something I like to call “mensch-iness” does have a place in our world (in fact it actually leads to more successful outcomes). Read the rest of this entry »

Last week, one of my colleagues told me about a troubling conversation she’d had with a reporter. I’ll avoid going into full details to protect the innocent, but basically my colleague pitched a “feel good story” about a small, local nonprofit. It certainly was not breaking news, but also far from a stretch to think it stood a chance of being covered (especially considering some of the reporter’s previous articles). The reporter told my colleague that he could not write about the organization….or any other nonprofit organization for that matter. There were just too many groups doing good in the world to justify writing about one.

Ummm….excuse me? Did I hear that correctly? Read the rest of this entry »

Last week, I posted about society’s (and particularly PR professionals) abuse of the term “we are thrilled.” The internal response to my post was very positive. So due in part to my obsessive compulsive behavior, my distaste for hyperbole, and the need to generate recurring content for this blog, I’ve begun tracking the “we are thrilled” phenomena in earnest.
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