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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Good Radio Interview Requires More Than A Strong Voice

I learned a long time ago while working in radio news that there was a lot more to being a good interview or interviewer on-air than having a deep voice. You had to SOUND good to the AUDIENCE, and sounding good on radio involves much more than being a baritone. (I remember a very well-known CBS News radio anchor who would stretch his body and mouth, sing loudly to warm his vocal chords, and blow his nose, all just seconds before going on air. It relaxed him so he could tame his natural energy, and sound calm yet confident and assertive.)

My thoughts went back to those days after reading WTOP Washington all-news radio reporter Ari Ashe’s
Five Essentials for a Good Radio Interview. Besides being good advice for potential radio guests and their PR advisors, Ashe's tips touch on some of the basics of all good communication that we at CommCore always remind our clients of regardless of the medium or occasion:

• Being concise is particularly important on live radio because of limited time and the limited attention spans of listeners who are usually multi-tasking. Know what you intend to say, and have good sound bites ready to use. Ask about the time limits of the interview beforehand, and plan your points accordingly.

• Know your audience, and imagine you are speaking with passion and interest to a specific person or small audience, and not to a microphone. Be energetic but focused.

• If you are interviewing by phone, stand up and use a headset so you can be more animated and not distracted by your desktop computer and papers.

• Radio is a medium of the imagination. Listeners visualize what they hear in their mind's eye. Don't bore your audience with endless mounds of data. Pick a couple of salient data points and illustrate them with compelling and relevant stories that you describe visually. Then direct the audience to a website or a phone number if they want more detailed information, which you can provide separately in the form of graphs or charts. (Remember that almost all radio interviews are either streamed or posted on the radio station's website.)

• Practice your interview ahead of time with a colleague.

The last thing a radio station…or an interview subject...wants is for a listener to tune out by punching up another station, turning the radio off, or clicking over to another website.

What radio interviews have you had or arranged for a client? Why did it work? Or, why did it not?

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

CEO Achilles Heels: Iconoclast

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Gaining customers and reputation: #Overthe405?

Kudos to JetBlue for seizing a marketing victory from the jaws of a potential crisis. Just before Los Angeles transportation authorities shut down Interstate 405 (The 405), for 53 hours of repairs, Jet Blue soared onto the scene offering $4 flights from Burbank to Long Beach to bypass the traffic snarl up. 

JetBlue’s social media campaign and use of the “Overthe405” hashtag definitely aided their good will, reputation and marketing. Tickets sold out within 2 hours although it’s unclear whether passengers were really in need of the flight or they were in for the ride.  In the end, the traffic freeze actually ran smoother than the name “Carmageddon” implied. A quick check of media indicated dozens of local hits in LA for Jet Blue.  Google news had more than 4,000 hits on a search of JetBlue and Carmageddon.

JetBlue – which took substantial PR body blows during a snow storm in 2007 -- saw a PR and reputation enhancement opportunity when others saw a doom and gloom. “Our ultimate goal is to earn new customers and introduce new customers to our product,” says Alison Croyle, manager of corporate communications for JetBlue. One comment on a CNN Blog:  “I think this is a great service JetBlue is giving us SoCal residents who wish to avoid this weekend's absolute gridlock.” The tickets were peanuts; the media coverage and customer satisfaction -- priceless.

How has your company or agency turned lemons into lemonade? Have you turned a potential bad situation into a positive outcome?

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Murdoch's Achilles Heel

Rupert Murdoch juggernaut hits speed bumps

The decision by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation  to abandon its bid for full control of British Sky Broadcasting comes in the wake of the scandal that caused the shuttering of The News of the World.  As commentators and politicians try to figure out how this all happened, one of the explanations for the chain of events comes from trying to understand Murdoch as a CEO.

We recently collaborated with Cheryl Strauss Einhorn for an article in CEO Magazine called, "Finding and Fixing Your Achilles Heel."

In the article, we define several types of CEO personalities.  Murdoch falls into more than one category, he's part Globalist and Executioner.  Murdoch, still working hard at the age of 80, inspired a culture of results at all costs, business success before people and a far flung empire that he couldn't fully control.

Do we think that Murdoch actually authorized the privacy invasions and the unethical and illegal activities? No.  But given the nature of the business culture that is created and tolerated by a CEO, excesses were bound to happen.  In the article, we look at CEO types and possible ways that CEOs and other leaders can fix their flaws.

What do you think caused the Murdoch debacle?

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Monday, July 11, 2011

A New World Pattern: Hacking Followed by Regulating

The scandal and shutdown of one of News Corp’s biggest media tabloid properties – News of the World – provides a bumper crop of crisis response lessons and warnings. So called “phone hacking” is at the center of this scandal in which reporters and editors illegally listened in on and sometimes deleted private voicemails from politicians, celebrities and others. British Prime Minister Cameron is under fire for his close ties to the tabloid and his hiring of former editors as communication advisors.

Here are some of our lessons learned and potential warnings:

Lesson: If you are involved in any way in a public scandal, get out in front of it, apologize, clarify truthfully, and propose a solution, or at least an assessment or investigation. Prime Minister Cameron has – at least so far – learned this lesson and is speaking out properly as the story is breaking. “The truth is we have all been in this together," Mr. Cameron said. "Yes, including me." How many politicians hedge, delay or even deceive before they finally clear the air? They haven’t learned the lesson. Coming clean quickly gives a politician the best chance -- any chance -- to survive the fallout.

Warning: Regulating a culture shift is difficult or impossible. Since the scandal broke, there have been many calls – primarily from Cameron himself – to look into changing the admittedly biased and incestuous relationship the media has with influencers like politicians and celebrities through regulation. But, will that work? Britain’s political leadership should be forewarned that simply creating new laws to restrain the media won’t change the culture. Find another solution. Change the readers’ appetite for sensationalism, for one.

Lesson: Illegal reporting practices are only half the problem. The other half is an emerging online media that eschews fact-checking for real-time, unverified, subjective, titillating news. While we’re prosecuting the criminals, we also have to learn ways to develop and support credible, researched and fact-checked journalism.

Warning: The slippery-slope red flag is raised whenever a publication gets shunned and, in this case, shut-down. It is easy to assume the worst about all media and their editors, writers, producers and reporters. It seems to many that the line between credible journalism and “yellow” or tabloid news is blurring. Our warning is to avoid painting all those in media with one broad and negative brush. There is still ethical and diligent reporting going on. You just have to find it.

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Friday, July 8, 2011

Be Careful What You Hashtag

Known primarily  for their delicious pastries and desserts, Entenmann’s is facing backlash for a distasteful tweet this week. While Twitter was erupting over the Casey Anthony “not guilty” murder verdict, @Entenmann’s asked “Who’s not guilty of eating all the treats they want” and included the trending “Not Guilty “ hashtag.


Although Entenmann’s maintains that the tweet was in no way meant to reference the court case, there is some speculation over whether or not it was a PR stunt. Who wasn’t reading posts, tweets and blogs about the case and the verdict?


Whether it was intentional or an honest mistake, in our opinion, it is still a misstep that should have been avoided. Whether it’s through an understanding of what’s appropriate or training staff on the subject, Entenmann’s should have known better. CommCore also maintains that  social media content should be taken just as seriously as any other materials produced from your company, whether it is an internal memo, press release, by-lined article or product collateral. Your brand and your reputation are on the line with everything you create. We recommend to our clients that they have checks and balances in place for their social media outreach. Someone at Entenmann’s, or their agency, should have researched the trending hashtags prior to tweeting. They should also have had someone review the content prior to posting. It sounds easy enough but more and more companies are making mistakes and attracting negative attention due to inappropriate or insensitive tweets.


Does someone review your company’s posts and tweets before they go on the internet for all to see?

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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Contrast and Compare: The Perfect "Sticky" Message

Sticky messages – those memorable sound bites, analogies or stories that resonate and "stick" in the mind of an audience – emerge one of two ways: as the result of hard work in message development sessions, or they can just happen organically. In the following case we're not sure which applies (though we'll guess organic), but the death on July 5 of the eccentric and eclectic American abstract artist Cy Twombly provided an example of how contrast and visual imagery can combine to form the "I have to use this quote" sticky message.
Twombly was a contemporary of modern art icons Jackson Pollock and Robert Rauschenberg. His influential large-scale painted scribblings were the forerunners of the street graffiti artists who emerged in America’s urban scene in the late 20th century. Yet the general public was not as familiar with Twombly as with his two fellow icons. When National Public Radio decided to profile Twomby in an obituary on July 6, the producers of Morning Edition dug up an interview with noted art curator Kirk Varnedoe. During the interview, Varnedoe encapsulated the essential Twomby in one memorable line about the artist's cluttered home in Italy: "This is a home that a connoisseur would swoon over, and a thief would leave untouched."

Pre-scripted or not, how better to describe a complex and influential but often overlooked figure of cultural importance than to use the image a cluttered home and the contrast between an art expert and a thief as a metaphor? Of course the producers at Morning Edition included that line in the obit.

At CommCore we often paraphrase former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's line about obscenity, "I know it when I see it." The same applies to a journalist – or any audience – when they are struck by a particularly visual sticky message that conveys far more than the words. Finding that perfect illustration is one of the greatest challenges for any good communicator.

What memorable sticky messages did you or a client develop? How did you come by it?

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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Nike and Vick: Redemption or Commercialism?

It's often said that America loves a comeback story. But the announcement by Nike on the eve of the 4th of July weekend that it has re-hired NFL quarterback and convicted felon Michael Vick to a multi-year contract has a great deal of risks. It's already the subject of intense debate in the blogosphere and in corporate boardrooms. (Note the range of comments to the story in Ad Age). We'll assume that Nike talked this over a great deal before jumping in.

What Nike's decision eventually communicates about brand marketing and reputation will likely be studied for years. From a communications standpoint, we at CommCore find Nike's challenges to be fascinating. If we were advising Nike, here are the concerns that we would raise:

• The decision has already spawned a "boycott Nike" Facebook page. Others may follow. Nike will have to monitor the evolution of the movement and decide whether to let it be, and hopefully pass, or respond.

• Nike will have to be prepared for the potential ramifications if (a) Vick slips up again and commits another "inhumane and abhorrent" act – the words used by Nike when the company quickly voided his earlier contract in 2007 upon his arrest for involvement in the dog-fighting ring – or (b) if the endorsement doesn't generate sales and turns out to harm the brand.

• Consistent messaging by Nike that balances the "feel good" redemption and "crass" commercialism angles the story will undoubtedly generate will be essential if Nike is to come out of this looking good.

How do you see Nike's communications challenges in the wake of the decision to re-sign Vick? Can you draw on any parallels for lessons learned?

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