musings on marketing, media, public relations....and life, by David Reich
Reich Communications, Inc.
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.
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There's a group of people who work hard to keep young people .. and all of us .. safe on the road. We often take them for granted.
I am in Portland, Oregon for the annual conference of driver ed teachers held by ADTSEA, the American Driver Training & Safety Education Association. I am here on double duty, representing my client The National Road Safety Foundation and also as a member of ADTSEA's Executive Board.
Driver ed teachers are too often underappreciated. Even other educators frequently dismiss the validity of what driver ed teachers do. After all, it's not an academic subject like math, science or English.
But driver ed teachers are a dedicated group, passionate about teaching young people not only how to handle a car, but how to make sensible decisions. They teach how to make a left turn across traffic, but also how to make the decision not to text or talk on the phone while driving.
What they teach gives us more than mobility and freedom. They help us travel safely. They help us avoid needless tragedy and heartache.
So that's off to driver ed teachers. Thanks for what you do for our kids and for all of us.
2016 Teacher Excellence Award winners
(Photo by race car driver and safety educator Andy Pilgrim)
Whenever I travel, I make an effort to read the local papers and watch the local TV news. It's just my professional curiosity, as a PR guy with an interest in journalism.
Local TV news in Los Angeles can sometimes be a bit strange. The stations seem to have a fascination with car chases, and they use their news helicopters to follow chases from above. The coverage can go on for a long time.
The last time I was out this way, the 11 p.m. newscast on two stations spent almost the entire time on "breaking news" of police chasing a suspect in a car as he went on and off the freeway and through neighborhood streets. The coverage of the chase knocked off most other stories, shortened the weather report and totally precluded sports news. One of the stations even delayed the start of the network late-night show to continue showing the car chase, which finally ended when the car crashed around midnight.
Here in L. A. this week, I saw similar coverage, although not as long. And the other night, coverage of a peaceful protest that blocked a busy intersection in the Compton area included extensive and repetitive helicopter coverage of the crowd, even though nothing new was happening. But the coverage from above went on, knocking other news stories off the air.
The stations in L.A. like to use their helicopters. Maybe the low height of buildings out here makes it easier to get good shots from above. But I suspect that the stations are responding to what their viewers want. I've talked to some of the locals here and they've admitted, "We do like our car chases."
"Lowest common denominator news, as it happens and as long as it's happening, live from over the streets in southern California."
I’ll be heading down to Anaheim later today, to represent my client The National Road Safety Foundation at a conference. I’ve been to this group’s conference several times over the years, but this year it is likely to be overshadowed by an air of sadness.
The group is NASRO – the National Association of School Resource Officers. School resource officers – SROs – are police officers assigned to work in our schools. They’re not there for security or enforcement, but more as teachers and mentors and in many cases big brothers or father figures for the kids.
My client is involved because many of the SROs use the driver safety programs that we develop and distribute free of charge. And every year we honor an outstanding officer, as we’ll do again on Wednesday.
I’ve gotten to know many of the men and women who serve as SROs. I’ve sat in some of the seminars and training sessions, and I’ve heard many first-hand stories of what police officers are up against every time they put on their uniforms. One of the riskiest things they do, I’ve heard them say, is the seemingly routine traffic stop. Every time they approach a car they’ve stopped, they don’t know what will be awaiting them as the window rolls down.
The vast majority of police interactions with the public go smoothly, especially considering circumstances can often be tense or hostile. But sometimes things can go horribly wrong, as we’ve been hearing about in the news too frequently. We need to remember, though, that the vast majority of cops are good people trying to do their job serving and protecting us.
The terrible tragedy in Dallas is fraught with irony. Here were people protesting – peacefully – what they feel is an atmosphere prejudicial to people of color. Dallas police were on hand to protect those people and their freedom to express themselves. And one bad person turned the peace into a scene of targeted carnage, aimed specifically at those pledged to keep us safe.
I was impressed with comments made by the head of the NAACP, when he never uttered the phrase “police brutality.” Instead he said “police misconduct.” And he made it clear that the vast majority of law enforcement are good people doing their jobs well. The bad apples are just a few, just as the problems in neighborhoods of color are caused by a small number. We can’t taint an entire group of people based on the actions of a few.
Watching the news here in L.A. yesterday, I saw the L.A.P.D. chief trying to keep it together as he addressed a class of new officers at their graduation from the police academy. I also saw rapper Snoop Dogg come to City Hall to speak with the mayor and police chief, not in anger but in sympathy and support in hopes of opening a dialogue so both sides could better understand each other. To me, that’s a much more productive approach than marching in and angrily making demands and calling for heads to roll.
So as I head to the SRO conference later today, I go with a sense of sadness. But it’s also with a sense of hope. I know these men and women. I’ve seen how much they endure and yet still do whatever they can to be there when we need them.
But now, we all are right to feel sad and angry. The sadness won’t disappear, but the anger will eventually dissipate and hopefully a productive dialogue will replace it.
Despite what some may say, America IS great...always has been. Only a great nation would have continuously welcomed foreigners to its shores, including my grandparents and, most probably, yours as well. In many places, we would not be able to speak or believe or pray as we wish. We might not be free to work hard to educate our children and encourage them to follow their dreams.
So let's be thankful we live in this great nation. It may not be perfect, but it's pretty damn close.
Here's the latest newsletter, which we wrote, from client The National Road Safety Foundation. It gives an idea of just some of the programs we've developed for them -- contests to engage teens in spreading the word about teen traffic safety, tie-ins with some of the nation's biggest auto shows, partnerships with youth groups like SADD and government agencies like NHTSA.
Good work that helps save lives. It's a good feeling.
No, this isn’t a post about the current state of politics and the presidential campaign, although that IS a sad commentary on our society. This is about a survey, reported in MediaPost’s Social Media Daily that shows we prefer to stay in touch via social media rather than with face-to-face communication.
We’ve all seen scenes like this – a group of young people sitting silently around a restaurant table – all looking down at their cellphones. In recent years, that scenario has changed so that it’s not only young people, but people of all ages – including us boomers – guilty of texting rather than talking.
The survey of some 12,000 people worldwide found that 68 percent prefer to communicate with others online rather than face-to-face. So, as MediaPost writer Erik Sass posits in his story, social media is making us anti-social.
I can understand – and I’m guilty of – the preference to stay in touch with some people online rather than in person. And that can extend to online versus contact via a phone call. Often, when I have a quick question, it’s faster to send an email. Call on the phone and you have to go through the “hi, how are you” stuff. With email, here’s what I need to know or what I want to tell you, perhaps ended with a “regards” or “hope all is well.” And that's it.
If it’s more than a quick question or if it’s something in business where there needs to be some real-time back & forth to spur creativity or consensus, face-to-face or at least ear-to-ear is best.
Social media, especially Facebook, can be great for keeping up with distant friends and relatives. But for the real inside scoop, with real emotion and real empathy, it’s hard to replace face-to-face or ear-to-ear.
Online, even ALL CAPS or cute emoticons just can’t convey real feelings or more subtle undertones. And there are risks to online communication. Think about how many times have you’ve seen a poorly-worded email or post give a wrong impression to the reader, maybe creating a problem where one hadn’t existed?
Social media has its place in our lives, for sure. But it can’t – or shouldn’t – replace direct face-to-face or ear-to-ear communications. What a boring and sterile world that would be.
I've said this before, but it bears repeating... a free and unfettered press is an essential component of the balance of power that makes our democracy work. It's part of what makes America great now.
So when a major party candidate bans media he doesn't like from covering his events, it smells like demagoguery.
He pulled press credentials from The Washington Post after it ran Op Ed pieces he didn't like. He's already banned Huffington Post and a few other online news sites whose coverage he didn't like. And he's said in his campaign speeches that he wants to change laws that protect freedom of the press, making it easier to sue media if he doesn't like what they report.
Doesn't this sound like he'd prefer state-controlled media like in Communist and dictatorial nations such as Russia and North Korea?
What I think the major media should do is, as a group, boycott his events, including his news conferences. I know this would be an unorthodox response, but we are dealing with an unorthodox person who goes by his own rules which are constantly changing.
If they stop giving him the free coverage he craves and needs to advance his campaign and his personal brand, then maybe he’ll start to play by the rules. And if he doesn’t, then he will be the one to suffer instead of our entire election process, as imperfect as it may be.
But making moves to unilaterally undo our First Amendment is not what a presidential candidate should be doing.
Print continues to struggle, and the latest numbers from MagNet, which tracks single-copy sales of magazines, shows the struggle isn't abating.
Single-copy magazine sales fell a bit more than ten percent in the first quarter of this year, as compared to first quarter sales in 2015. In actual numbers, 88.1 million single copies were sold, down from 98 million a year ago.
The categories that had the biggest declines were business and finance magazines, followed by health and fitness, and home and garden, and celebrity and gossip mags. MagNet said the declines are smaller, percentage-wise, than previous quarters... but they are still trending downward.
Readership for many of these magazines is holding steady, thanks to online viewing. For advertisers, online viewing doesn't offset losses in print sales since online readers often click past the ads.
It's a continuing challenge, for both publishers and advertisers.
I suppose it should not be a surprise, but Trump's attacks on the media have gone over the top.
His attacks on the media and on individual reporters at a news conference earlier this week emphasize how unfit he is to be President.
Calling a reporter a ‘sleazebag’ because he pressed the candidate on his donations to veterans groups takes him to a new low.. if that's possible. The media are doing their job when they ask tough questions and continue to hammer when all they get are non-answers or tangential responses aimed at distracting from the initial line of questioning. They do it to all the candidates and others who are in office.
When asked by a reporter if this is how he would behave if he made it to the White House, he said yes. Earlier in his campaign, he said as President, he’d sue reporters and media who don’t report “fairly,” leaving the definition of “fair” to his own discretion.
Major Garrett, who reports for CBS News, said on CBS This Morning that for reporters who have been covering his campaign, this behavior is not a surprise. It's fairly normal for this candidate, he said.
This candidate is hardly the only politician who lashes out at the media when reporting doesn’t go exactly as they would want it. Sarah Palin, the candidate’s partner in grime and also a name-caller, refers to the media as the “lamestream media.”
This behavior in the White House would be totally unacceptable and against the idea of a fairly transparent government. I'm not saying every President, including our current one, has never blurred the truth or evaded some lines of questioning. But civility in government is crucial to maintaining dialogue that can lead to resolution of conflict and building of trust among leaders and the citizenry. Imagine name-calling and nastiness on the floor of the Senate and the House. We know some of them can’t stand each other, but they remain civil and engage in discussion which, before obstructionism, would lead to compromise and things getting done.
The presumptive Republican nominee demonstrates none of that civility. His thin skin causes him to attack -- often childishly -- anyone he feels has treated him ‘unfairly.’ As President – heaven forbid – would he spend precious time and attention on name-calling reporters who report the truth as they see it, or who ask the probing questions they are supposed to if they are doing their jobs?
As President, it seems like he’d ignore the Constitution’s very first Amendment – the one guaranteeing Freedom of the Press. That seems to be in step with his calls for action that would ignore other amendments like Freedom of Religion as well as Civil Rights laws passed 40 and 50 years ago.
I know the media will continue, as they should, asking tough questions and probing… not only of Trump, but of Clinton, Sanders and others in offices high and low.
Right from the early days of this nation, our founding fathers recognized the importance of a free press as a way to inform the public about what our elected leaders – people we pay with our tax dollars – are doing on our behalf. That’s the role of the media, even if some candidates don’t like it.
Re-usable rocket ships, space travel and, ultimately, colonizing Mars. Sounds like science fiction, but it's exactly what Elon Musk is doing through his SpaceX venture. He hopes to get to Mars -- not just for a visit, but to establish a permanent habitat for people. Part of it relies on recovering and re-using booster rockets, which now end up burning up or falling into the ocean.
Bloomberg News today writes about a side product of the rocket launches that have become a big hit online -- the live webcasts of the SpaceX launches. The webcasts serve to inform people about the various SpaceX missions, while exciting the business community and young engineers who might consider working at the company.
Our son Michael has been directing the webcasts, including the one for Friday evening's mission to launch a communications satellite, while recovering the booster rocket on a floating platform. The webcasts are hosted by young SpaceX engineers who, with infectious enthusiasm, explain what is happening and, in terms we non-engineers can comprehend, the science behind it.
In these days of short attention spans, the webcasts make a countdown informative and entertaining.
Congrats, Michael, for great work that the folks at Bloomberg recognized. I'm so proud of you.
To see the Bloomberg story, click here. And to watch the live webcast of Friday's mission, which is due to launch around 5 p.m. Eastern, go to www.spacex.com.
For the past 20-plus years, I’ve had the privilege of handling public relations for The Christophers and their annual Christopher Awards presentation. The 67th annual event Thursday night was, as always, an inspirational and humbling evening.
The Christopher Awards recognize the creators of work in film, TV/cable and books that demonstrate the Christophers’ motto – It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness. So it’s fitting that the winners aren’t necessarily the same films that are up for Oscars, or TV programs that get the highest Nielsen ratings or books that are on the New York Times best-seller list. They are selected and honored because they tell stories of individuals who, in their own way, do something to make the world a better place. A very simple concept.
Below: Award-winner, TV news vet Ernie Anastos
Every time I work the Christopher Awards, I get to meet some awesome people. Most are people whose names you wouldn’t recognize, like 2015 honoree Patrick Donohue, who started a school for kids with brain damage after his baby daughter suffered damage after being shaken by her nurse. The iHope school in New York is a model for schools in other major cities, where brain- damaged children can get an education.
And some winners are “names,” like Fred Rogers -- Mr. Rogers – with whom I had beautiful chat that touched me. Or Tim Shriver of the Kennedy clan and leader of the Special Olympics. Or Bob McGrath, star of one of my favorite shows, “Sesame Street.” Or Charles Osgood and Bob Schieffer of CBS News. And “The Voice” – James Earl Jones.
This year’s honorees are an impressive group that includes the creators of 21 books, TV shows and feature films. And a special Lifetime Achievement Award was given to someone who’s been a fixture on TV news in New York for decades – Ernie Anastos, a genuinely nice man.
I always leave the event feeling refreshed, peaceful and thankful that there are so many good people who are using their creative energy to inspire and help others. It reminds me that, despite all the craziness in our world today, there IS a lot of good. It’s a very good feeling, and it carries me through the days and weeks ahead.
Click here for a video report on the event from our friends at World Liberty TV.