Archive for the ‘Messaging’ Category
At a time in America’s history when the threat of war was pervasive and the future unclear, President John F. Kennedy stood in front of the nation and delivered his now infamous inaugural speech where he requested of citizens: “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” That request came after the newly elected president painted a picture of the grave situation facing the country, and the need to band together with allies, and against enemies.
Fast forward 52 years to a more recent example of a request to band together – albeit not nearly as grave, but a request nonetheless. Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo! has recently asked that all “Yahoos” return to the office, banning the flexible work-from-home environment in place at the company today. The request came in a 246-word memo emailed to employees from the HR department.
“The new MySpace is the social and music discovery destination powered by the passion of fans. Music, videos, photos, and TV, made social.”
Such is the self-described mission of the “new” MySpace, as featured on its revamped website. Some may scratch their heads, unaware that the former social media giant still exists, while others recoil in fear that a profile of their younger self lies stagnant in the shadows of the Internet stratosphere, threatening to resurrect and ruin their young professional careers.
You may have an inkling as to which reaction I had.
Once I accepted the prospect of encountering my self-portrait-snapping, fAnCiiE-tYpiiNg former online life, I took a second look at this description and was struck by a few things.
I was inspired to write this post because every evening on my way home there is a middle-aged man who stands on the corner of a fairly busy intersection with a simple cardboard sign that states: Stop the Wars! A powerful message for sure, but probably not the most effective method of communications. Yet, contrast this with some of the ads we may have seen during the recent political season or during the Super Bowl, where the medium is as strong (and expensive) as possible, but the message was so weak that you probably couldn’t recall what it was after just a few minutes. This is why a successful communications program needs to be a strong combination of message and media.
One day from the 2012 presidential election, nothing seems normal – much of the East Coast is recovering from Sandy, the New York Marathon was canceled, and somehow, Mayor Bloomberg has endorsed Obama. Unfortunately, the only thing that does seem normal is the maddeningly familiar onslaught of unfair, slanted and negative political ads.
I always wonder how on earth the ads work. Much like telemarketing, I assume that they must work since it keeps happening. Yet, a reasonably intelligent person can parse through the selectively curated “facts” in any of these ads fairly easily with a quick Google search.
For this reason, the communications world, influenced heavily by social media and citizen journalism, has taken an important and welcome shift from broadcasting messages to having real conversations with connected communities that matter.
When Oprah decided to leave daytime television and start her OWN network, she was taking a big risk. Oprah fans – and there were a lot of them – had become used to watching her at a certain time each day, on a certain station, and to see certain guests and topics (who doesn’t remember her infamous interview with Tom Cruise?). Oprah became a habit. And habits – like cultural norms – can be hard to change.
Let’s look at a few examples. The television was first invented in 1926; 22 years later in 1948, there were only about 35,000 television sets in the U.S., compared to 40 million radios. Today, there are roughly 285 million. The smartphone era began in 2002, but four and a half years later in 2006, only 715,000 smart phones were sold. Earlier this year, it was reported that smartphone ownership had reached 110 million users in the U.S. While these technologies eventually became mainstream, it didn’t happen overnight.
Election season is in full swing and a thread of political dialogue will no doubt weave its way into most news broadcasts from now through November. You may have caught full blown election fever yourself after tuning in for notable speeches from the candidates, their spouses and Hollywood elite, including Clint Eastwood and his infamous empty chair.
This year’s conventions provided plenty of fodder for pundits who analyze every move made and each word spoken at the DNC and RNC. But the pundits aren’t the only ones analyzing the conventions. As a PR practitioner, the elections appeal to me just as much for the politics as for the real-time, high-stakes case studies they provide on how to (or how not to) stay on message, build an image, connect with your audience and deliver powerful sound bites.
Show and tell. That’s the thing you did in second grade when you found a rock, assumed it had fallen from the moon and you wanted to share it with your classmates.
Then there’s show, don’t tell. Not to be confused with Truth or Dare.
Show-don’t-tell is what good journalism schools and what creative writing professors and literary editors preach all day, reminding authors that if you want to grab the reader by the collar, stating the facts isn’t enough. Yes, characters, plot and premise are essential. And yes, your writing needs to be crisp. But then what?
Here are four tips to get you going:
My Facebook feed this week has been buzzing with Chick-fil-A updates. There was the viral letter that Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino wrote to the restaurant chain’s President Dan Cathy saying Chick-fil-A was not welcome to open a store in the city because of its stance against same-sex marriage. And then there were these photos below, posted by different friends; each shows a brand—Sarah Palin and KFC —taking advantage of the media firestorm to get some attention for themselves.
This got me thinking: when is it ok to be opportunistic, piggybacking on an issue in the media? When is it not? And what are the do’s and don’ts?
Do be opportunistic if: