The Future of PR

Do we have a future? We will discuss that tomorrow at Virginia Commonwealth University PRSSA PROmoting Success event.

 future

See slideshow on the Future of PR

The Domino’s Effect

Kristy Hammonds is having a very bad day. Not only is she featured in the nauseating Domino’s pizza YouTube video that threatens to torpedo the company, her name is prominently displayed as the person who ordered the video removed from YouTube. The video showed two dumb and dumber Domino’s workers, Hammonds being one of them, performing bodily functions on food before serving it to unsuspecting customers.

Mid-day yesterday, when I viewed the video, it had approximately 400,000 views. By the time it was yanked by Hammonds it was reportedly up to nearly a million views. TV news has excerpted grosser segments of the video on broadcasts and YouTubers, angered by Hammonds censorship, have replicated the video in various permutations to get around YouTube copyright barricades. 

 A spirited discussion on Ragan.com about the initially lame and remarkably dismissive response from Domino’s PR ( We “don’t want to put the candle out with a fire hose,” said the PR rep, explaining why they were not issuing a press release, a video or Twittering a response) escalated in the course of the day. Domino’s did not aggressively counter the video or reassure the public about their hygiene and food prep standards. They called the employees “idiots,” fired them and banned video cameras from their stores.

“Right now, it’s on Web sites and blogs. It’s not ABC, CNN or USA Today,” said Tim McIntyre, Domino’s VP of Communications. Big mistake. Virtually every major news outlet, including the ones McIntyre mentions, have reported this story. How could they not? It confirms everybody’s worst nightmare about what goes on in the kitchens of these fast food joints.

When Hammonds was arrested later in the day, things got worse. As reported by local news, Hammonds is a registered sex offender with a lengthy rap sheet (see first video below).

So, not only do we have serious questions about Domino’s food preparation standards, we question their hiring practices. Finally, Domino’s President Patrick Doyle issued his own YouTube video deploring the actions of Hammonds and her cohort (see last video below).  Doyle is appropriately indignant but he is not looking at the camera (connecting to his audience). Longer term issues, such as the quality of the product that Domino’s offers (see second video down), need to be addressed.

This is a cataclysmic event for the company. They can scurry about as if they are under attack or they can use the opportunity to reinvent themselves internally and in the eyes of the public. This all happened in 24 hours. Welcome to the world of online communication.

 

Communication, Transparency, Participation

Those are the three by-words of Barack Obama’s PPR (Presidential PR) strategy.

Macon Phillips, New Media Director for the Obama White HousePrecisely the minute Barack Obama was sworn is as the 44th President of the United States (noon, Jan 20, 2009), Macon Phillips (left), Director of New Media for the White House, published his first blog post, titled Change has come to WhiteHouse.gov.

“President Obama has committed to making his administration the most open and transparent in history,” wrote Phillips.

Communication is the easy part. In the blog/twitter/text era anybody can ‘communicate’ with virtually anybody (but are they listening?). Transparency can be faked or at least the law can be complied with and a public display of ‘transparency’ can lead to the appearance of open government (an improvement over the previous administration).

The most difficult element of this new communication equation is ‘participation.’  To foster citizen involvement in the federal government Phillips announced in his first blog post that “we will publish all non-emergency legislation to the website for five days, and allow the public to review and comment before the President signs it.”

It didn’t quite work out that way. The Washington Post  reported that the Obama administration did not heed its own mandate on recent legislation.  Of course, running a new media program to reach and engage 380 million Americans is a huge and seemingly impossible task (trying doing it with an organization of a few hundred with a few thousand constituents). They have run into technical issues, as reported in the Washington Post, and you have to wonder – is anybody really reading 5,000 character comments on pending non-emergency legislation, or is this simply a futile exercise in mass venting for the appearance of ‘participation’?

The White House YouTube channel currently has over 30,000 subscribers. The quality of the videos is excellent and they are nicely segmented into easy to search categories. The main White House social media communication channel is WhiteHouse.gov, a blog, or rather a blog portal that leads to many other blogs, according to agenda items, government agencies, etc.  The Obama Twitter channel has been mostly dormant since Jan. 20th, except for an alert on March 25th to join an innovative Open for Questions session through the Internet.  93,000 people submitted 104,000 questions and cast 1.8 million votes on which questions Barack Obama would answer over the net. Obama promoted the event through web video.

The White House has inevitably faced many problems in its rush into social media. By using YouTube are they favoring a third-party provider, rather than serving the videos themselves?  Why not use any of the other video servers? “It’s an ongoing experiment,” said Phillips. Our experiment in democracy has survived wars, economic depressions, man-made and natural catastrophes over the past 250 years … but hey, this federal government social media experiment is close to 100 days old. Where’s the results? Welcome to the 140 character or less, immediate gratification Twitter age. No wonder Phillips is burying his head in his hands.

PR/Media Week in Review 04-12-2009

Mark Rose, Editor, PRBlogNews, Week in ReviewSo grateful for the Dead- Brilliant social media play by The New York Times this week, soliciting Grateful Dead photos from readers to celebrate an upcoming tour by the band (sans Jerry Garcia, of course).  The Times is also polling readers on the greatest Dead show ever. Of the 2,350 estimated Dead shows, so far the May 8, 1977, show at Barton Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York is in the lead. That concert coincides with the date many Deadheads agree was the bands’ “peak.”

I was grateful to be there for the ‘peak’ years - I experienced 14 Grateful Dead concerts between 1967 and 1978/1979 - my first in a converted movie theater in Brooklyn ($2 admission, free if you didn’t have it), to the Anderson Ballroom on the lower east side (tickets were $10 – a benefit for the Hells Angels), the Capitol Theater in Passaic, New Jersey (see Scarlet Begonias’ 4-27-77 on YouTube w/Keith & Donna), to the arena in SeattleThe Grateful Dead.

One of my favorites was the final show at  Winterland in San Francisco, New Years eve, December 31, 1978. My friend was the San Francisco stringer for Rolling Stone and I got to hang with the Blues Brothers (Belushi & Aykroyd), the New Riders of the Purple Sage, and the late great Bill Graham, who fed us all breakfast at dawn. The Dead rang in the new year at midnight and they didn’t quit until dawn. They often gave more than you could take – until Garcia died in 1995 at 53 years old.

Like many, I am ambivalent about this Dead ‘reunion.’ The Dead simply are not the Dead without Garcia. But I love what the Times is doing.   We’re still a Tribe, no matter how old we are, and all those pictures confirm how important the Dead experience was, and always will be. There is nothing like a Grateful Dead concert was the prevalent bumper sticker on VW micro buses in the ‘peak’ years. See a taste at the end of this post.

Bob Pearson, former VP of Communities and Conversations at Dell, is named President of the Blog Council.  blogcouncil, along with gaspedal, sponsors BlogWell, at the Chelsea Piers, NYC, April 29, 2009.  BlogWell is about how big companies use social media. Eight case studies, one afternoon, $250. Nokia, GE, Johnson & Johnson, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Tyson Foods, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, and Turner Broadcasting System share case studies on social media.

Jane Fonda is blogging her thoughts, with celeb photos, on starring in ’33 Variations’ on Broadway. Whether she is writing posts herself, or this is a clever PR gig, her blog has received a lot of attention and is definitely helping the show. Who is sending her flowers? What movie did she see on Easter break? Is that the President of Brazil in the audience? Jane Fonda has taken control of her news and distribution – somebody in her circle is thinking smart social media.

Whatever happened to Jakob Nielsen, the web usability pioneer? Thanks to Serena Ehrlich‘s Twitter about Nielsen’s new eyetracking study on how users read web pages. There is a definite ‘way’ to present information on the web that is radically different than the printed page.  Nielsen, through the Nielsen Norman Group, breaks it down: the ‘About us’ section, including PR & IR areas. 

Can the AP Out-Google Google? To compete with what it deems Google’s “misappropriation” of its news, the Associated Press wants to fight back by building its own news aggregator. See BusinessWeek story. (Did I misappropriate this news?)

 

‘Birdsong’ – the Dead tribute to Janis Joplin

Where are the PR jobs?

Virginia Commonwealth University Public Relations Society of America Conference on "PRomoting Success in Public Relations" - Mark Rose keynote speaker

PRBlogNews is in transition (see new blog template – more on that later as we tweak through it) and on the move.  I am heading to Richmond, Virginia next week. 

Where are the jobs and what skills do you need to land them? – that’s what I will discuss as the Keynote Speaker next Saturday, April 18, 10:30 AM, at Virginia Commonwealth University Public Relations Student Society of America in Richmond.  

Special thanks to Carol Kyber, PRSSA planning committee member, for scouting me out on the web and making it easy for me to come down to Virginia. Also thanks to Leah Rullman, VCU PRSSA President, for pulling this together and making speakers and panelists feel welcome. No matter how much we move to ‘wireless’ mass communication, PR is is still about person-to-person relations. I look forward to meeting Carol, Leah, and everybody else at VCU. 

VCU is embracing twitter and social media . Virginia Commonwealth University is the largest university in Virginia and ranks among the top universities in the country in sponsored research. Located on two downtown campuses in Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 32,000 students in 208 certificate and degree programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Sixty-five of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 15 schools and one college. MCV Hospitals and the health sciences schools of Virginia Commonwealth University compose the VCU Medical Center, one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers.

Media and Mass Communication in a Post-Digital Age - The equation for marketing, advertising and public relations has shifted so dramatically that the old rules of communication no longer apply. Today’s communicators need an entirely new skill set and a broader focus. As more personalized mass media (video, blogs, social media, etc) demands our time and involvement, communicators must adapt with ‘post-digital’ strategies and tactics in order to be effective. Public relations should play the lead role in the communications mix. PR is best positioned to be flexible, creative, efficient, and penetrating – if we ‘get’ digital. The PR professional of the future (say, six months from now), like the journalist of today, will need to be adept at news creation and distribution.