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.
For more info, visit www.reichcommunications.com or call us at (212) 573-6000.
We are located at Suite 11 South, 228 East 45th Street, New York City 10017
Heading out to Grand Rapids this morning for the annual Governors Highway Safety Association conference, where some 500 traffic safety people from the states and the Federal government will be sharing info and ideas. I'll be there representing a client, The National Road Safety Foundation.
I've been involved with traffic safety for more than 20 years, beginning with The World Traffic Safety Symposium, which I organized and publicized for my client The New York Auto Show. The Symposium is still held at the Auto Show. My involvement in the field continued with a contract from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
My charge for NHTSA was to develop and manage media outreach in the New York metro area, where the old way of simply sending out template news releases wasn't working. The old releases, which came from NHTSA's DC media office, pretty much issued warnings about the dangers of not buckling up or drinking and driving. But they had no local angle, and they were pretty dull. The media here had no interest.
I remember trying to juice the releases up by getting localized statistics, to make the releases relevant to media here. And we began making calls to editors and producers, and setting up backgrounder meetings for the local NHTSA people.
We made local people available for newspaper and radio interviews, and for TV coverage we looked for visual things to use, like the Seat Belt Convincer and Breathalizer demos to do live on camera. It worked, and what we did in New York became a model for many other areas where NHTSA had not been spending for a local PR agency.
Years ago, meetings like the GHSA conference gave little attention to PR. The main focus was on engineering, legislation and enforcement. Education, which included media outreach via PR, usually got nominal mention, at best.
Over the past few years, something changed. Traffic safety became newsworthy -- not like years ago when the only coverage was following a horrendous crash. But with the advent of cell phones and other handheld devices that keep us connected 24/7, the issue of distracted driving took hold and the media noticed. Former Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood made distraction his personal issue, and he spoke about it a lot, including on his own blog. He convened the first Distracted Driving Summit in DC, and around the same time, two journalists with national reach began writing about distracted driving frequently. Matt Richtel of The New York Times and Larry Copeland of USA Today have done a lot to bring and keep the issue in the public eye.
Now media relations gets more attention in the traffic safety arena. It should, and it's about time.
On Aug. 28, 1922 -- 92 years ago -- radio station WEAF in New York City aired a ten-minute pitch promoting affordable co-op apartments in Jackson Heights, Queens. The developer paid AT&T, which owned the station, $50 for the airtime.
It was the first ad on radio in the U.S., bringing dramatic change to a new form of mass communication.
The ad helped the developer sell several apartments, which brought the interest of retailers including Macy's and Gimbels, who soon became sold on the power of radio advertising.
It's interesting that David Sarnoff, who headed RCA, which soon after bought WEAF, had been vehemently against using broadcast stations for commercial purposes. RCA established stations and aired free programming simply as a way to create consumer demand for the Radiola radio sets that RCA built and sold. He eventually gave in and NBC, which Sarnoff built, had stations throughout the country whose programming was used to sell ad time, eclipsing revenues that came from selling the radio sets themselves. For decades, primetime programming on the major radio networks was produced by ad agencies and paid for by their clients.
That $50 spot 92 years ago has evolved into a $140 billion industry, with ads supporting 11,350 radio stations throughout the U.S. -- 4,726 AM stations and 6,624 FM outlets.
The New York Times last week reported on the new logo that has just been unveiled for the new World Trade Center downtown.
Here's a shot of the new logo, courtesy of The Times.
Is it me, or is it underwhelming and totally nondescript? It took the Times writer several sentences to explain the meaning of the new logo. The five bars, for example, represent the five buildings on the site. The two bars on the lower part of the logo represent the two pools at the 9/11 memorial. The slope of the top of the bars is pitched at 17.76 degrees, representing the 1776-foot heigfht of the new tower. Clever, I suppose, but if the nuances of the logo need to be explained, maybe they're too subtle or too esoteric. Maybe they'd work if the logo itself looked distinctive or striking, rather than some boring and rectangles that sort of look like a candelabra.
The criminal thing here is that the Port Authority, which owns the space, paid corporate identity firm Landor Associates $3.57 million to create the logo. Maybe all those nuances are what they did to justify their hefty fee.
It makes me think of when another high-priced corporate identity firm -- Lippincott & Margulies -- created a new logo for NBC, back in 1976. They were paid "only" about $750,000, which would be about $3.1 million in today's dollars. So NBC got a bargain, compared to what Landor charged the Port Authority.
But not really. After spending all that money, it turned out that the new NBC logo looked extremely similar to the logo that Nebraska Educational TV had been using for two years. Nebraska ETV sued NBC, which settled out of court by giving Nebraska ETV $800,000 worth of broadcast equipment and $55,000 to pay a lower-priced firm to develop a new logo for them. NBC kept the million-dollar design. I don't know if Lippincott & Margulies refunded any of the fee for not doing proper research. (Maybe research would have cost NBC another $500,000.)
I wonder if Landor will give back some of its fee (paid for by taxpayers, by the way) for a boring logo that needs to be explained to make sense? Landor is the same firm that designed the FedEx logo, which works. But I'd say they really blew it on this project.
I wrote a while back about the New Orleans Times-Picayune, one of the nation's most respected daily papers, cutting back to three print editions a week, putting its daily coverage online. The folks in NoLo were not at all happy about it, but the owner and publisher of the Times-Picayune is newspaper mega-publisher Advance Publications, and they've been making similar moves with many of their other papers throughout the country.
So here's some encouraging news that says the paper will publish five days a week beginning in September, to satisfy advertisers who want to connect with readers during football season. It's about getting more ad dollars, really, but it will help local readers too and maybe, with some luck, the publisher will continue the expanded print schedule after football has ended.
Here's how it was reported this morning in MediaLife...
The New Orleans Times-Picayune is slowly walking back on the decision made two years ago to publish a print edition only three days a week.
The newspaper has decided to add home delivery of a Saturday and Monday edition this fall, Advance Publications announced recently.
The decision coincides with the football season, beginning Sept. 6 and lasting until the hometown New Orleans Saints’ last game, which could go all the way through to February.
The extra papers will come at no cost to print subscribers, who usually receive Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday editions.
“Our readers’ interest peaks in the fall and so does our advertisers’ desire to reach them,” the paper said in an article announcing the change. “We are expanding our print coverage to meet the heightened reader intensity and to serve our advertisers, who depend on us to reach their customers.”
We keep hearing how print is dying, but it looks like that doesn't apply to magazines.
Data from a media research firm that tracks some 200 magazines, reported recently in Media Daily News, shows print magazines had a combined increase in audience of 1.1 percent -- up some 20 million readers from a year ago. The combined print audience is now 1.19 billion.
Total audience of digital-only magazine readership went up 37 percent to 23.2 million. Digital-only is still a small piece of the total audience pie for magazines, but it's growing.
Some of the biggest gainers are familiar names: The Atlantic, up 42 percent; Esquire, up 29.5 percent; Harpers Bazaar, 25.2 percent; Fitness, 21.6 percent; Forbes, 20.5 percent; Travel & Leisure, 19.3 percent; and yes, The New Yorker, up 18 percent.
Magazines in print are still alive. That's good news.
CINCINNATI — Procter & Gamble's Charmin brand is launching a new chamomile-scented toilet paper. Each roll of Charmin plus with the scent of Chamomile has the scent added to the tube to create an experience that soothes the senses, the company said.
“At Charmin we regularly speak with consumers to better meet their needs. In the United States, there are a growing number of people looking for scented toilet tissue because they either grew up with it or would prefer a scented product,” said Scott Mautz, regional brand director. “By adding the scent of chamomile to the roll, Charmin helps create a soothing, cozy bathroom experience.”
Newspapers are in the business of gathering news and information in order to attract readers, and then they use those readers to attract advertisers wanting to reach the readers.
In order to have news and information, newspapers employ reporters.
As readers turn to other sources for national and international news (TV, cable, radio, internet), newspapers beef up their local reporting and investigative staffing, to attract more readers looking for information on what's happening closer to home.
Oops, maybe I'm wrong on that last point. I guess I was thinking of what might be a sensible response to the financial difficulties many newspapers are facing. But instead, papers are laying off the source of the very thing that makes them of value to readers... and to advertisers. Management at U.S. newspapers laid off 1,300 newsroom employees last year, according to the annual census by the American Society of News Editors.
That's better than the 2,600 newsroom jobs that were shed the year before, but still... how can newspapers report the news if they have no reporters and editors? Newsroom jobs have fallen by 35 percent from their all-time high of nearly 57,000 in 1989, currently standing at 36,700.
I've written about this before, citing as an example Gannett's Journal News, which serves the northern suburbs of New York. The paper used to have a few newsrooms throughout the area, including in Westchester's largest cities of Mount Vernon, New Rochelle, Yonkers and New Rochelle. Then came consolidation, shutting down the local bureaus and cutting reporters. Where they used to have reporters in each bureau covering local government, schools and the police beat, there are now a few reporters who are responsible for covering those beats for all the communities in Westchester, as well as the neighboring counties.
This scenario has been repeated many times over recent years throughout the country. The result -- important local stories just don't get covered, making the paper less relevant to readers and, with lower circulation, less attractive to advertisers.
So the genius bean-counters think they're helping fix the bottom line, when what they're actually doing is hastening their own demise. It's a sad situation and we are all the worse off because of it. An uninformed public risks being at the mercy of government and businesses who do what they want since they operate in the dark with no public oversight.
July was a busy travel month for me. I was out of the office more than I was in, with client trips to Austin, DC, San Antonio and Wichita. It was topped off by a great week in rural Maine for family vacation.
Through it all, I was able to conduct business seamlessly thanks to a few technologies that weren't around when I had travel for business or pleasure 25 years ago.
Thank goodness for cell phones with email and internet capabilities. Before cell phones, I'd always have dimes and quarters on me so I could access pay phones, which were on every corner in the city and readily available pretty much anywhere you went. I eventually got an AT&T calling card so I didn't have to carry change and keep adding coins as minutes would go by.
And then there's email. It's just about the first thing I look at (on my cell phone) when I get up, often before I brush my teeth. Since I get email on my phone, I find myself checking email while I'm walking in the city, while waiting for a light so I can cross the street... even in the elevator. (It's amazing how many emails you can read as you go up or down 11 floors.)
The phone's come in handy in places where I didn't have internet access, like on a recent Amtrak ride from NY to DC. I activated the phone's WiFi hotspot and, bingo, I had full internet access so I could work on my laptop during the ride.
All this is great, especially for smaller businesses that don't have legions of people back at the home office to cover us while we travel. Younger people may wonder what it must have been like in "the old days" before constant connectivity, and I often find myself talking with friends my age who recall the days of pay phones, costly long-distance calls, fax machines (originally called telecopiers). Somehow we managed, because everyone else had to function with the same limitations.
Constant connectivity means the days of 9 to 5 (or 8:30 - 6:30 for us agency folks) no longer exist. The office may shut its doors at 5:30, but business doesn't stop. How often do you see emails sent to you at crazy hours of the night, early morning or weekends? Many of us now work when we want to, or when a thought strikes us. If we get an email from someone at 10 at night and we hear the ping, we often check the message and respond on the spot. So much for 9 to 5.
During the vacation week in Maine, I handled my emails in the morning before we got started for the day. I'd check in to the office voicemail early and late in the day, and sometimes mid-day just to be sure there was nothing urgent. My clients have my cell number, and I had one client call during the week, which I was able to handle easily. And when the client realized I was on vacation, she said it could wait till I was back in New York.
So I'd say connectivity is both good and bad when you're in business. I realize we need to set our own limits on how connected and how accessible we want to be on our personal time. A few times, I made the decision to let a call or email wait, and I felt good about it.
I love work. But I also treasure my personal time, especially moments with my family. Those moments, as the ad says, are priceless and I try to keep that balance in mind.