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Friday, January 30, 2009

Monthly Video Message from CommCore CEO - Andrew Gilman


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Is the Honeymoon over for President Obama in the Washington, DC Metro Area?

It was a toss up yesterday in local Washington media with 3 big stories: The stimulus package passing the House of Representatives, the weather and President Obama's comments on the weather and DC school closings.

Talk about a sound bite. The President complained during a public photo op about his daughters' school being closed. He basically called the decisions to close schools a bit wimpy and quoted the resident experts, "As my children pointed out, in Chicago, school is never canceled. In fact, my 7 year old pointed out, you'd go outside for recess in weather like this."

I can vouch that with less than 2 inches of snow it was the worst driving conditions I've experienced in 15 years. It wasn't the snow, it was the ice and the fact that DC isn't Vermont. We don't have equipment, crews or ice to treat the first or last snow flake.

So back to the media. The story was perfect. It had virtually every element that makes for news. Conflict, local color, children, pictures of people falling, car accidents, new guy telling the older residents what he would do, and not much else going on in the news except for a recession. Every TV and radio station had it, talk show phone lines burned up and even the Washington Post chimed in with an icy editorial.

Last week, everyone thought Obama walked on water. This week, he can only slip on the DC ice. PS, the roads last night weren't much better, but the Obama-kins' school is open.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Obama Press Secretary Briefing Skills

The reviews of the first press conference by President Obama's Press Secretary Robert Gibbs were generally favorable. After all who wants to blast the person who will feed you every day for possibly the next four years.

One columnist, Dana Milbank of the Washington Post, chided Gibbs for being too cautious, instead of being more open and transparent.

I rarely get a chance to quote comedians. But let me invoke Steve Martin. "Excuuuuuse me!."

What was Milbank hoping for, a ranting scree of day one of news conferences? Falling for the sarcastic questions? Changing an answer just to give a better quote?
Milbank objected to the number of times that Gibbs stuck to his message and used the phrase "Abundance of caution." Gibbs first used the phrase to describe the second administering of the Oath of Office. "Out of an abundance of caution, Chief Justice Roberts came last night to readminister the oath."

In the same answer, Gibbs added, "There are at least two examples in history where words have been misplaced in the oath, and again, out of an abundance of caution, a similar abundance of caution, the oath was readminstered."

You know that wacky White House press corps smelled a possible gotcha. So, NBC's Chuck Todd asked if the executive orders were going to be resigned out of "an abundance of caution."

Ok, maybe Gibbs needs a couple of synonyms for "AOC" phrase. But I'm all for consistency and not changing an answer just because a reporter asks the same question in a slight different way. Way to go Gibbs.

Gibbs was also cautious in not going beyond the facts or making policy from the White House press room (which historians will remember was originally built over a swimming pool). When asked a couple of financial mess questions, Gibbs was on firm ground saying: "Let me not get ahead of our economic team."

Way to go Bob. It's not inconsistent to be open and transparent about those subjects that you are authorized to speak about. Last I checked, a press secretary is not a subject matter expert in very many things. He/she is "a spokesperson."

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Friday, January 23, 2009

All a-Twitter about a Tweet

An online message only 140 characters long can create a world of trouble. That's what Ketchum PR's VP and Director of its Interactive Services Division James Andrews found out while in Memphis last week after he typed the following message onto social media website Twitter:
'True confession but I'm in one of those towns where I scratch my head and say, 'I would die if I had to live here.' "

That he was on his way to meet with Ketchum client FedEx which is headquartered in Memphis seems to have been the catalyst for what followed.

Typically, I first found out about it via a tweet from Tweeter @davidhenderson. Andrews found out much more quickly than that. First, some Tweeters posted objections on Twitter, forcing Andrews to respond in typical (and in this case unclear) Twitter short-hand: "My commentary on my arrival was based on encountering ppl who didn't want me at hotel vs the city. Sorry."

Then came the big one: a fellow Tweeter and FedEx employee who earlier had attended a presentation by Andrews to FedEx, wrote an e-mail to Andrews that he also copied to the entire senior management of both FedEx and Ketchum.

He wrote in part: "We do not know the total millions of dollars FedEx Corporation pays Ketchum annually for the valuable and important work your company does for us around the globe. We're confident however, it is enough to expect a greater level of respect and awareness form someone in your position as vice president at a major global player in your industry. A hazard of social networking is that people read what you write."

He went on to write: "James, everyone at today's event, including those in the auditorium with you this morning, just received their first paycheck of 2009 containing a 5% pay cut which we wholeheartedly support because it continues the tradition established by [FedEx Founder Fred Smith] of doing whatever it takes to protect jobs. [M]any of us question the expense of paying Ketchum to produce the video open for today's event, work that could have been achieved by internal, award-winning professionals."

In a subsequent blog posting, Andrews apologized: "Two days ago I made a comment on Twitter that was an emotional response to a run-in I had with an intolerant individual. The tweet was aimed at the individual, not the city of Memphis. If I offended the residents of Memphis, TN, I'm sorry. That was not my intention. I understand that people have enormous pride in their hometown."

He then tried to spin the incident into an example of the constructive function of social media: "While some would say this is the evil side of social media, I would say its pure intention is to foster a back and forth dialogue between people rather than a shield to hide behind and replace human contact."

I imagine that in the emotional aftermath of an unpleasant incident he broke a cardinal rule of blogging: he transmitted his Tweet while still upset. While hardly an indictment of social media, it is a stark reminder of the importance of the evolving new social media communications rules and protocols that must be adhered to; ignore or forget them at your peril.

In truth, the rule that we at CommCore insist on for our clients applies to ALL communications: think before you speak. Remember Secretary of State Al Haig's "I'm in control here" gaffe when President Reagan was shot?

From what we can tell FedEx is keeping Ketchum on as its agency, and Andrews still has his job.

What's your take? What does this incident say to you about the risks and benefits of social media in general, and the short-hand micro-blogging of Twitter?

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Talk About Staying On Message

Talk about staying on message...

I had the privilege of joining 2 million other Americans on the National Mall yesterday to watch the swearing in of Barack Obama as our 44th President.

My son I rode our bicycles to the mall and stood in the shadow of the Washington Monument for almost 3 hours in 20 degree temperatures to witness history.

By now, most of you have read, watched, and/or listened to the inaugural address. Fast forward to 12:30 a.m. at Union Station and President Obama and the First Lady show up.

While they both looked a little tired, his message was very consistent with the inaugural speech and the other public statements. Let's roll up our sleeves and get to work. Government has a role, but it's up to individuals to get involved and not wait for government to come up with all of the answers.

Add in a little James Taylor as the opening act for the new President at this event and you could say it was a great day.

What did you think of the messages from the speech and other first day events?

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Monday, January 12, 2009

"Ask not for what your country can do for you?" What will be the most quotable line?

We're 9 days away from the Inauguration of Barack Obama. Whether (weather) or not you brave the chilly January day to show up in DC at the live event, the swearing in ceremony and the speech will have global coverage.

What are the chances of a line as memorable as John F. Kennedy's in 1961? For 48 years this has been a tough speech writing act to follow. Back in November, we posed the question as to what the themes will be. The Kennedy line was memorable because of its simplicity…and also the way it was delivered.

Ironically, a non-inaugural, Republican line was recycled by Democrats during the election campaign. Ronald Reagan's "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" was an oft-used theme and phrase (four became eight and occasionally 2 months.)

So, reusing a theme will not be surprising.

I do believe that there will be a call for citizen participation and involvement. What type of rhetoric or what words will be used will make a difference? Do you have any thoughts for what phrase or word will make it for posterity?

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Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Years Communications Resolutions

Happy New Year. I'm not a big fan of New Year resolutions, but the turning of the page last night on the calendar did make me think about a few ideas. Here are my initial top three Communications resolutions for 2009. Anyone with at least one?


Write the MEDIAtor blog more frequently.

Provide a perspective on the highs and lows of the PR/Communications industry.

Keep up the work life balance in a tough economy

Write the blog more frequently. By this I also mean staying on top of all the rapid changes in social media. From Facebook, to Twitter, to LinkedIn, there are only so many hours in the day. But if we don't stay on top of how all of us receive and send information, we'll be stuck in the days of 3 networks.

Highs and lows on PR/Communications. We'd like to hear more about PRWins (see earlier Blogs). It's not that PR should be a winner at the expense of other disciplines, in the communications efforts of companies, associations and government entities. However, when PR comes up with an idea and executes we should be sharing and crowing.

Work/life balance is harder in a tough economic time. As hard as we all can work, we can't recharge, reflect, think or improve without some time to relax and kick back.

Happy New Year. Anyone with a resolution?

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