musings on marketing, media, public relations....and life, by David Reich
Reich Communications, Inc.
Reich Communications, Inc. is a boutique public relations agency in New York City offering full service in a variety of areas, with specializations in business-to-business; advertising, marketing and media firms; transportation safety; non-profits, and select consumer products and services.
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Tuning through the channels a few days ago, I happened to land on C-SPAN. I caught the very end of a campaign speech by Carly Fiorina. She’s a good speaker, but what she said wasn’t what caught my interest. It was what happened after her speech that was telling.
After her talk, she did what most candidates do. She came off the stage and walked into the audience to work the crowd. And this is what struck me as most interesting.
Not too long ago, she would have been shaking hands, exchanging a few words one-on-one with people, and signing autographs. But as I watched her in the crowd, which was mostly younger, only two people asked for an autograph. She shook a few hands… but only a few. It looked like she had a brief conversation with one person. But with all the others – perhaps 40 or 50 people – the only words that were exchanged seemed to come from audience members, saying something like “Would you..” and “Thank you.”
They were asking the candidate to pose with them for a selfie. And she happily complied, as each person put his or her arms around Fiorina or put their face pressing right up against hers. Kind of close-up and personal, it seemed. It was a selfie assembly line, and the candidate adeptly moved from person to person, cell phone to cell phone without missing a beat.
At first, I scoffed. But as I thought about it, I realized that the selfie actually IS much more personal than an autograph, even one written to the autograph-seeker by name. And unlike an autograph, which most of us don’t frame and put on a shelf in our living room, a selfie with a celebrity can be blown up, framed and displayed prominently.
And it’s a chance for the person to throw it out there immediately on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, et al, showing the world their brush with fame –or actually, touch with fame, smiling check-to-cheek, arm wrapped around the celebrity. It can be shared instantly with dozens or hundreds of friends and online acquaintances, which is a lot more than the than couple of dozen friends or relatives who might happen to spot it in your living room.
For the candidate, it’s a windfall, expanding the reach of her appearance to perhaps thousands more than the attendance of her live audience.
Some marketers have found ways to capitalize on “the new autograph” – putting a brand mascot or logo in places where people will take selfies and share them, for example. It’s opening up entire new ways for brands to engage with consumers and share the branded experience with all their friends.
We’ll be seeing more of it, I’m sure, as we surf our Facebook and Instagam feeds.
I wonder how many readers know what a stick shift is. Better yet, how many have actually driven one?
The percentage of cars sold with a manual transmission -- a stick shift -- now stands at about 7%, according to a story in The Wall Street Journal. That's down from 35% in 1980.
I learned to drive on a car with an automatic transmission, but my high school buddy had a beat up 1950 Ford someone had given him, and I learned to drive "stick" on that car.
When I was dating my wife, she had just bought a used car -- an old Saab -- with a manual transmission. I taught her how to drive it, but even after she learned she still did whatever she could to avoid hills with a light or a stop sign at the top.
For me, getting started in first gear on a hill was an exciting challenge. On a trip to San Francisco many years ago, I asked for a rental car with a stick. It was a great way to add an element of excitement (or danger) to the normal thrill of driving up and down that city's crazy hills.
The last stick I had was a little Fiat 850 Spider convertible. It was a terribly designed and engineered car, but it was great fun to drive. The stick gave me a feeling of real control over the engine -- a feeling of oneness with the car. You could feel the engine revving, ready -- asking -- to be put into the next gear. And you feel the reverse thrust, as you slowed the car down for a curve or a stop by down-shifting.
A benefit of a stick shift in today's cars is safety. If you have one hand on the wheel and the other on the shift, it's hard to text or dial a cellphone. Too bad only 7% of cars today have sticks.
But those who've driven them look back fondly, I'm sure.
I was a bit surprised when I saw an item Monday on CBS This Morning about the supposed controversy brewing over Starbucks' plans to have a simple red cup this Christmas season, replacing cups decorated with snowflakes and reindeer from years past. Some Starbucks fans evidently voiced their displeasure on social media and the media picked up on it. Even the New York Times had a story about it in Monday's editions.
The Times even quoted one wacko from his Facebook page... “Starbucks REMOVED CHRISTMAS from their cups because they hate Jesus,” Joshua Feuerstein, who described himself as an evangelist, Internet and social media personality, wrote."
Sure, Starbucks hates Jesus. Oh Jesus, c'mon!
The Times went on to wonder.. "Perhaps it was part of the company’s intent to generate a little buzz, however negative and extreme some of the instant reviews sounded." Ya' think?
And the media fell for it.
Sure, such a silly story is a nice break from all the heavy news we're dealing with these days. But still... is this really news? I guess because it's on social media, the real media think it's real news.
Or, maybe it's just been a slow news day. Somehow, though, I don't think that's the case.
Here's a lesson for us PR folks... We don't and can't control the press. It's their job to dig and ask questions. It's our job to be prepared or to prepare our clients for those questions, but not to avoid them or chastise those reporters.
This is what veteran NY reporter Gabe Pressman wrote, after a local reporter from Channel 2 here had a dust-up with NY's mayor over a question she asked him at a news conference. It might be no coincidence that the mayor has a very low favorability rating from the public -- around 33%. Also no coincidence that the New York media have been writing about his low polling numbers. You get what you give.
A friend, Eric Berlin, producer at Channel 2 News here, posted Pressman's item on Facebook, and I'm reprinting it below.
(The trial Pressman talks about, with John Peter Zenger, took place in my hometown of Mount Vernon, which is why our city father's call it "The Birthplace of the Bill of Rights.")
THE MAYOR WHO WANTS TO TELL REPORTERS WHAT QUESTIONS HE’LL PERMIT THEM TO ASK .. by Gabe Pressman
New York's Mayor DeBlasio has tangled with a reporter, WCBS-TV's Marcia Kramer, over whether she had a right to ask him a question.
The Mayor who promised to run a “transparent” administration has done the opposite. He insists on setting the agenda for his press conferences. He gives us the topic and then assesses each question. If it’s something he doesn’t want to discuss, he admonishes the reporter to stay “on topic.”
I’ve been covering press conferences at City Hall for 60 years---and never has a Mayor had the temerity to enforce an agenda on journalists.
This Mayor who proclaims he is a “progressive” is anything but. The word “retrogressive” might be a better fit.
He needs a lesson in the history of freedom of the press in New York. John Peter Zenger went to jail for criticizing the English governor of New York. That happened 300 years ago and, if it were not for Zenger, the principle of freedom of the press might never have been embedded in our constitution.
Zenger, a half-literate German-born printer, was a true progressive. He would not let himself be bullied by the top government official in New York. And, thanks to a brilliant lawyer and a courageous jury, he was acquitted of wrongdoing.
Any question is fair game for every mayor. Indeed that principle has suited presidents and governors as well. For a reporter to be guided by any other code would be unprofessional and a betrayal of his obligation to the people.
Halloween … THE season for costume companies, and one of the biggest for the candy makers.
What do the retailing experts predict will be the best-sellers in both fields?
The National Retailing Federation's annual survey lists the top 10 costume for adults, children and, yes, pets. Among children the top-sellers are expected to be various princess outfits, followed by Batman, other action/super-heroes, various types of animals, characters from Disney's "Frozen," Star Wars characters, zombies, witches, pumpkins, and characters from the "Minion" film.
I wonder how many kids will be wearing home-made costumes. When I was young, none of us wore store-bought costumes. They weren't as plentiful back then, but honestly, part of the fun of the holiday was coming up with your own outfit. Ghosts were easy – just cut eye-holes in an old sheet. I remember my mom helping me make a robot from a large cardboard box. Buttons and tin foil made it look real high-tech (for the 1950's) but we didn't plan right. Once I got into the carton and put my arms through holes we cut out, it was too wide to fit through doorways.
More adults dress in costumes for Halloween than when I was a kid. Top sellers for adults this year will be witches, various animals, Batman characters, zombies, Star War characters, pirates, vampires, super-heroes, doctors or nurses, and slasher movie characters.
Tied for 10th place with slashers will be political characters. I'm guessing we'll see plenty of Trumps, although for me, one is more than enough. Also in political costumes, we'll see Hillary, Obama and perhaps Bernie Sanders, although it would be hard to top Larry David's SNL caricature of him.
For many kids, Halloween may be even more about candy than costumes. A survey for Yahoo Parenting shows the most popular candy for the holiday varies by state. Here in New York, Sweetarts takes the top place. In California, it’s Life Savers; in Maine and Massachusetts, it’s Starburst; New Jersey, Sour Patch Kids.
The survey lists candy that scored high in the most states, and those included candy corn, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Kit Kats and Butterfingers.
I don’t see state favorites any that seem to have any significance, except for one that seems so appropriate – Washington DC’s favorite is Air Heads.
Have a happy and safe Halloween.
P.S. The photo above doesn't really relate to this post, but I just wanted an excuse to show this cute picture of Jen's baby pup Rosie.
A piece in the monthly O'Dwyer's PR magazine reports on an annual survey that ranks various careers. It says public relations is one of the most overrated careers, citing a high stress factor and tough competition for jobs.
I haven't been in the job market for years, so I can't address that end of things. But I can talk about stress in the field.
Yes, there can be stress on the job in PR. We're under pressure from clients or employers to produce results, and frequently successful results can be out of our hands and at the whim of editors and producers.
But success in media relations, which can reduce the stress, can be managed so we have the best chances. It's not just about throwing story ideas or news releases out there to see what might stick. A good PR person knows how to think like an journalist in order to craft story ideas that will have the best chance to succeed and see ink or air.
A good PR person can also reduce stress by managing the client or employer. Let the client know what's a decent story and what's not. Manage expectations and you'll help yourself as well.
PR can be a great field. In my years in PR, I've learned so much about so many different areas. The work can be as diverse as the clients you serve. Mine have let me learn about vintage posters and artists like Toulouse-Lautrec, Mucha and Colin. Or business jets. Or the differences between HDPE and LDPE plastic resins and the production benefits of each. I've learned about non-woven textiles, used to make things like tea bags. And I've seen the ins and outs of Jaguar cars, which has taken me to the Jaguar factory in Coventry, England and the paddocks at the Dayton 24-Hour race.
I've met lots of nice people, including many names you'd know. They range from tennis stars like Martina Navratilova and Virginia Wade to baseball heroes like Stan Musial and downtrodden Yankees manager Billy Martin. I've met Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch (and Jim Henson), and Disney's Snow White. I was personal friends with Ronald McDonald -- all four of them in the New York market. I chatted with popcorn maven Orville Redenbacher, while waiting with a client in the green room at the Regis and Kathy Lee studio. I had a wonderful and inspiring conversation with Mr. Rogers, and I've heard that beautiful voice of James Earl Jones in a face-to-face chat.
More recently, I've been getting great satisfaction working in the traffic safety field, currently for The National Road Safety Foundation, a non-profit. Knowing the work I do helps save lives and prevent heartbreak caused by careless driving is a good feeling.
So, yes, there's stress in PR. It may not be for everyone. But it can be a rewarding career, in so many ways that go beyond the paycheck.
Television is still, by far, the dominant mass medium in the U.S. But it's light years away from what it was 30 – 40 years ago, before cable took hold and before everyone was hooked up online.
It’s a different world, for sure. With literally hundreds of channels to choose from, plus on-demand and streaming programming, there's a dizzying array of program content. Some programming on cable and, lately, streaming services like Netflix and Amazon rivals feature films in terms on content quality and production value. In response, the broadcast networks have finally stepped up their game with some quality shows. Yes, broadcast still has plenty of lowest-common-denominator drivel led by mindless comedies and "reality" shows, but many are now calling this the new Golden Age for TV, based on content quality.
Nielsen says the hard-to-reach Millennials (18-34), highly coveted by advertisers, are spending 17 percent less time watching TV than a year ago, but it still averages nearly 22 hours a week. Across all age groups, adults spend an average of 36 hours a week in front of the tube. Boomers (ages 50+) watch much more TV -- 47 and a half hours weekly.
Probably the biggest change – and the biggest challenge for advertisers -- is how we watch TV. Even Boomers are now frequent DVR users, watching programs at their own convenience. But Millennials in particular are getting their TV across a spectrum of platforms, and traditional TV is quickly losing out as the primary way they watch TV. Increasingly, they watch TV on laptops, tablets and smartphones, usually with an absolute minimum of ads.
Radio, which doesn't get much attention in media circles, comes in a strong second. Across all age groups, we spend just under 13 hours a week listening to radio. Millennials listen less at 11 hours.
Smartphones account for 7-1/4 hours a week across all age groups. Millennials use their smartphones a lot more -- nearly 10 hours/week. Tablets account for 3-1/2 hours across all age groups and 3-3/4 hours for Millennials.
Yet another challenge for advertisers, of course, is how much their ads, regardless of the medium, are actually viewed.
The police and city officials hardly had a chance to breathe a sigh of relief after the Pope departed for Philadelphia last Friday. They still have to protect and transport some 170 heads of state here for the annual General Assembly Week at the U.N.
Yesterday and today President Obama is in town and speaks to the General Assembly. Russia's Putin and dozens of others -- friends and not so friendly -- will have their say at the General Assembly podium down the street from my office.
We New Yorkers are used to traffic, congested sidewalks and the seemingly constant shrill of sirens from police, fire and EMS vehicles. It's just part of living in this wonderful city that we love.
But it all ramps up during General Assembly Week. First Avenue and the cross streets in the east 40's have become parking lots. Some blocks, like East 44th Street, are barricaded, with police and bomb-sniffing dogs checking vehicles heading East toward the UN. Pedestrians aren't exempt from the inconveniences, often having to wait several minutes to cross a street as official caravans with foreign delegations drive past, preceded and followed by police cars and big SUVs with dark windows, with lights flashing.
People throughout the world will be seeing stories with the dateline UNITED NATIONS, New York, and photos from General Assembly proceedings will be beamed globally on TV.
With all its faults, I still believe the UN serves an important purpose. It's a place where nations, who often have very different and opposing interests, can sit down across from each other and hash it out, raising voices sometimes, but not raising arms.
The diplomacy doesn't always stop the fighting or the abuses of power or the denials of personal freedoms around the world. But sometimes it does. And the annual meeting here in New York puts the world's focus on not only the differences and disagreements, but also on the honest attempts to find ways toward peace and dignity. And for those fleeting times when it does work, the UN is worth it after all.
Most of us have probably never heard of Mario Kreutzberger, but tens of millions of TV viewers here in the U.S. and throughout Latin America know him well as Don Francisco, host of Sabado Gigante.
The show aired its final episode last night, after 53 continuous years with Mario Kreutzberger/Don Francisco as the host. The show, which ran for 4 hours each Saturday evening, has long been a must-watch. It's hard to describe ... a combination of game show, audience participation, variety show, celebrity performances and interviews, skits and heart-wrenching human interest pieces, all pulled together and kept fast-paced and lively by Kreutzberger, now 72. Product placement was always a big part of the show, long before marketers knew the term.
Spanish TV's biggest star is an unlikely one. The Chilean-born son of Jewish-German immigrants, he began his TV career doing brief comedy segments on a local TV station in Chile in 1962. The show expanded in format and distribution in the 1970s, aired throughout most of Latin America. In 1986, the show moved to Miami when it began airing on Univision, giving it broad distribution in the U.S. while continuing to dominate throughout Latin America.
The final Sábado Gigante drew 3.4 million total viewers, and it ranked first among the 18-49 demos in Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Houston, San Francisco and Phoenix. Don Francisco also drew personal farewells on-air from President Obama and the First Lady, Marc Anthony, Plácido Domingo and Shakira.
I used to watch parts of the show periodically, as a way to practice my high-school Spanish. And ok, I'll admit, I didn't mind seeing the show's many long-legged muchachas dancing and bouncing around in short, tight skirts. But Don Francisco had a certain personality that kept me watching, even if I couldn't understand every word.
Kreutzberger has long been a solid supporter of charities and various causes. In interviews, he said he plans to continue that work and promises we'll see him from time to time on specials for Univision.
Huffington Post is working on a story that asks if email is losing ground as a communications tool in business. I don't know what the reporter will find, but I don't see any tools now readily available that could replace it soon. It seems to be the preferred way for people to communicate in business, for a variety of reasons.
Email enables you to communicate at your convenience...no worry about time zones, business hours, workday vs weekend. Got something to say or to ask at 11 at night? Email away. You might have a response waiting in your inbox when you wake up, if not sooner. An email can be as long or as short as you want. No limits like 140 characters on Twitter. And you don't have to go through the time-consuming niceties of the "hello, how are you?" that come with a phone call. Face-to-face meetings and phone calls can be tricky to arrange and more time-consuming than an email or text.
Texting is more immediate, but I think texting etiquette would caution against sending a work text in the middle of the night. Texting seems to demand immediate attention, which could be seen as an intrusion, while an email can easily sit quietly in an inbox for hours until the intended recipient gets around to checking email and opening yours.
Facebook, LinkedIn, other social media don't seem to have an urgency to them. Most often they're used for personal things and random chatter.
There is certainly a risk in the one-way written communication, though. The recipient of an email can totally miss tone, humor, sarcasm, anger or frustration that the human voice can communicate, and the results can be devastating.
A recent survey, reported by Adweek, shows that most millennials (85 percent of them) prefer to meet or communicate in person with co-workers. Tied for the second preferred form of communication are phone calls and emails. (And we thought the Millennials are only about social media.)
So while other forms of communication may gain in popularity, I still see email and good ol' phone calls leading the way in how we communicate in business. But let's see what Huff Post has to say about it. I'll be watching for their story.