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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Super Storm Sandy, the Web and Travel Web Sites

Hurricane Sandy has wreaked havoc on all aspects of life in the North East.  Everyone at CommCore is safe, although we all know someone with significant property damage.

One interesting measure of the storm and social media is how business-like and fact-based transportation companies – airlines, trains and buses -- have been in their communications.

Virtually all carriers from United Airlines and US Airways, to Amtrak, and Greyhound Bolt Bus, have been more focused on communicating information on schedules, rebooking fees and practical details than on any broader issues.  Most of the web sites have simple buttons on the home page, with a statement such as Service Alert, or Update: Sandy or Alert: Northeast Service Advisory.

In a typical service outage, CommCore often advises clients to communicate some aspect of care and concern for those impacted.  However, presumably since this was a natural disaster and not a man-made accident where there was a fault to be pinned on the carrier, these kinds of statements were not deemed necessary.  And since the disaster was so massive, the care and concern were almost an umbrella concern.

In contrast to the buttons on the carrier web sites, the utilities such as Con Edison and PSEG have their home page dominated by information about the storm and recovery.

We hope the recovery is swift and within reasonable costs.

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Friday, October 26, 2012

Survey Says: PR needs PR

One of the old saws about the PR industry is: PR does a poor job of PR for itself as a profession.

A new global consumer survey doesn’t exactly get rid of that image. Commissioned by Adobe and conducted by research firm Edelman Berland, the survey found that Advertising, Public Relations and Marketing were among the professions held in lowest esteem by the general public worldwide. The three communications disciplines came in even lower than banking and politics, two of the most popular whipping boys in recent years. And PR came in the lowest among the Ad, PR and Marketing triumvirate.

Adobe CEO Anne Lewnes posited in Ad Age  that most people still think of Advertising, Marketing and PR as “Old School” one-way communications rather than as the explosion in two-way conversations that technology now make possible. “People want messages and marketing that's more customized to their needs,” she said. “As an industry, we need to accelerate the move to digital. Only then will we be able to get the respect and credibility we deserve." 

We can’t disagree with the “survey says.”  We do know that PR firms and clients do a lot more targeting of messages than they appear to get credit for.  Hence the disconnect.

For us at CommCore, we have been counseling our clients for years that the most effective messages are those targeted directly to audiences’ specific interest and need -- “What’s in it for me?” As to today’s two-way online conversations, successful blog and social media communication demands a subtle brand message that engages rather than talks at end users. For a business or a brand, getting to engagement with the proper mix of brand mention and end user-focused conversation requires a flexible organizational culture, and careful communications planning and training.

And evidently PR needs to do a better job on behalf of itself in that regard.

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Friday, October 12, 2012

The CEO As Communicator In Chief

Monday, October 8, 2012

"Debate Prep a drag?”

It's been several days since the first presidential debate.  The polls reflect the "bump", the candidates continue to duke it out, and the campaigns move on.  

We're not taking sides by saying a majority of Americans believe that Governor Romney was the debate winner.  We also can't say for sure why this was the outcome.  We do know that Governor Romney practiced hard and had the benefit of more than a dozen primary debates to hone his skills.

President Obama hasn't debated in public like this in four years, and wasn't too keen on practicing.  Hence the headline on October 1 in The Hill  "Debate Prep is a Drag".

At CommCore we always stress to our clients that proper rehearsal is the best way to prepare.   It's the punch line to the old joke "What’s the best way to Carnegie Hall?  Practice, Practice, Practice."

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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

James Burke, Johnson & Johnson

I’m not sure if it’s ironic or coincidental that James Burke, former Chairman of Johnson & Johnson, passed away on the 30th anniversary of the Tylenol poisonings. The obituaries correctly state his role in leading the company through the crisis.

This posting is more of my personal recollections since I was the outside media consultant who helped prepare him for the critical “60 Minutes” interview with Mike Wallace in the fall of 1982.

I have worked with scores of CEOs over 30 years; Jim Burke ranks at the top in terms of being such a decent human being. 

This was serious business, an unprecedented crime with few clues and leads. There was pressure from law enforcement, employees, shareholders, customers. Throughout it all, Jim Burke was usually the calmest guy in the room.

He had a way of gathering all of the information and advice, then gently pushing back so his team could refine answers and come up with the better response.  He empowered his other executives to go out and communicate.  While Burke handled “60 Minutes”, “Mike Douglas” and other top shows, other senior executives went on morning talk shows, and the next tier went on TV and radio in local markets.

Jim Burke was able to walk the line between care and compassion for the victims of the poisonings and the need to help the product and the company recover.   While he was the CEO and had ultimate responsibility for the comeback, he never made it about himself or his decisions.  He was working to represent Johnson & Johnson.

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