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.
For more info, call us at (212) 573-6000, email to david@reichcommunications or text to 914-325-9997.
We are located at 228 East 45th Street, Suite 11-South, New York City 10017
Newspaper giant Gannett yesterday announced another round of layoffs, this time affecting 350 people, which is about 2% of a workforce of 18,700. Unfortunately, newspaper layoffs aren't surprising news anymore. We just heard from The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times about impending cutbacks yet again.
I don't have specifics in terms of how many of the layoffs are newsroom employees. I did read that at The Journal News, Gannett's paper in New York City's northern suburbs, at least three people being let go are veteran journalists with a big following locally. Judging from comments posted on Gannett's site, many readers are not happy to lose these bylines, which include popular columnist Phil Reisman. Many are saying his column was a key reason they remained subscribers.
I understand the need to cut costs, especially in the newspaper business, which is struggling to hold onto readers and advertisers. But I just don't see the logic in cutting the people who create the product the paper sells.
Meanwhile, Gannett CEO Bob Dickey continued to pull down a salary and bonus in the $5.9 million range. According to Morningstar, a financial firm that tracks executive compensation at public companies, Dickey's pay package went up more than 47 percent last year, even as the company's revenues declined by 9 percent.
Another site says the average salary for a reporter at Gannett is around $43,700, with a range from $33,000 to $69,000. I wonder how much their sales reps or their HR people make? I bet it's more than the people who actually produce what Gannett sells.
I also wonder how many reporters' jobs could have been saved if Dickey and the other top five execs would have trimmed even one-quarter of their combined compensation that totals $13.9 million (up last year, by the way, from nearly $8 million.) Nearly $3-1/2 million could have kept about 70 or 75 reporters in the newsrooms.
Similar statements could be made about the top execs at The Times and The WSJ/News Corp.
A presidential election generally means ad time is harder to come by, both on the national and local level. Local media outlets -- TV, radio and newspapers -- had been banking on an ad windfall this year as the campaign heated up. But it just hasn't materialized, according to a story today in Adweek.
The big media story earlier in the campaign cycle was all the free media that the candidates, especially Donald Trump, were able to garner. Ad forecasters predicted the political media buys would ratchet up once Trump became the Republican nominee and had access to GOP campaign funds. (And don't forget, he's the guy who said he'd fund his campaign out of his own pocket.)
The Democrats are spending for ads, nationally and in key states. But the Trump campaign has been miserly in its ad spending, both nationally and locally. It's causing some distress in local markets that had been counting on political ads, especially for media that held back some time availabilities in their inventory, expecting the last-minute demand for political spots. It hasn't happened.
About $2.8 billion has been spent in local media for political ads -- not just for the presidential candidates, but for local races as well. But that figure is about 15 percent below what the forecasts had been. The Republican presidential campaign this year is actually spending a bit less than the McCain and Romney campaigns spent four and eight years ago.
Adweek cites experts who say spending by presidential candidates generally accounts for about 30 percent of total political ad buys, with the bulk going to support Congressional, gubernatorial and local races.
To keep it in perspective, the $2.8 billion represents less than 10 percent of total local ad spending, which is pegged at about $30 billion. But local media must be giving prayers of thanksgiving for their neighborhood car dealers, reliably buying time and space to push new cars off the lot.
A few days ago, some reports surfaced in the ad and TV trades that Trump was considering starting hos own branded TV cable channel. Little was said about content, but it probably would be a combination of luxury-themed programs and ultra-conservative propaganda.
Adweek posted a survey Monday asking ad execs and media buyers two questions.. Would you watch a Trump Channel, and would you buy or advise your client to buy spots on the channel?
The results so far are encouraging... with 320 people voting, 88 percent said NO to both watching and buying time.
A study put out earlier this week by AAA, GHSA and NHTSA, authored by my friend Pam Fischer, former Governor's Highway Safety Rep for New Jersey, shows that teens are 1.6 times more likely to be involved in a fatal car crash than all other drivers. The total number of fatalities caused by teen drivers has dropped in the past ten years from 8,241 to 4,689 last year, but the 2015 figure represents a ten percent jump from the previous year.
The study -- and common sense -- attributes the numbers to factors that include speeding (1/3 of all teen fatal crashes), distraction from talking on a cellphone or to other passengers, and poor scanning of the road, which is mainly due to lack of experience. Other factors involve bad decisions, like choosing to drive impaired by alcohol or drugs, or choosing to text while driving.
On behalf of my client, The National Road Safety Foundation, I work year-round, not only during this designated teen driver safety week, to call attention to this problem and help engage teens to understand and communicate safe driving messages to their peers, their families and their communities. We do it through program materials they can use in their schools and in teens groups like SADD. We also do it through teen contests we sponsor like Drive2Life, which we just launched for the 7th year with Scholastic, and regional contests we do with the big auto shows in Chicago, Los Angeles and soon for the first time in Atlanta. And we're organizing the first DRV SAFE 4 PA teen/parent event in Philadelphia this week.
This week it's about teens, but really, we ALL need to think and pay attention when we get behind the wheel. As much as many parents believe their teens don't listen to us, the reality is they do... and they also pattern their behavior after what they see us do. So when we blow through a stop sign, speed or tailgate, or text as we drive, we must realize our kids are watching and learning from us that such bad driving behavior is ok.
We need to take responsibility -- all of us -- during National Teen Driver Safety Week and every week. Or it could be one of our friends or family who becomes part of next year's growing traffic crash statistics.
A survey by WalletHub, a financial site, listed the nation's top cities for coffee.
The survey considered several factors such as number of coffee shops per capita, average cost for a croissant (not sure what that has to do with judging coffee) and average price of a cappuccino.
Portland OR came in at the top of the list, followed by Seattle. Next were Minneapolis, Pittsburgh and Orlando.
Since they are all smaller cities, I guess New York wouldn't fare well in the coffee shops per capita measurement. In Manhattan, there seem to be coffee shops, delis and coffee carts on almost every corner. But then, of course, we have 8-1/2 million people here, so the shops per capita number still will be low.
And on price, Starbucks everywhere is way overpriced, but you can get a pretty decent cup of coffee at a deli or coffee cart for a buck. That doesn't seem to be taken into consideration in this survey.
Also, I'm not sure using the price of a butter croissant is a fair measure. First of all, it has nothing to with the coffee itself. And here in New York, the baked good that more commonly accompanies coffee would be a buttered roll or buttered bagel.
No wonder, then, that New York scored #89 among the top 100 cities. L.A. didn't do too much better, coming in at #82.
Even here in New York, Starbucks seem to be ubiquitous, although there are lots of indie coffee shops serving all sorts of exotic (and costly) brews. But for my taste, Starbucks is too strong and bitter. And for me, it's made even more bitter by the crazy prices and the haughty aura of the names for small, medium and large -- vente, grande and whatever.
Despite scoring #89, I know New York is a top coffee town. To me, this survey doesn't amount to a hill of beans. Just gimme a damn medium coffee with milk and no sugar.
Sundown Sunday marks the start of Rosh Hashana, the New Year for Jews. It's not a time to party and celebrate, but to reflect on our actions during the past year and ask for guidance and strength to help us be better people in the coming year.
Traditionally, at this time we pray for a few things -- the wisdom to do better, health, happiness and above all, peace. One of our key prayers ends with the word "Shalom" -- Hebrew for Peace. It is peace of mind, and peace on the larger scale -- peace among people and nations.
Ironic that the Jewish homeland of Israel has for its entire existence been mired in war. That irony makes even more sobering an address Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave at the General Assembly at the United Nations last week.
An excerpt, as reprinted in The Wall Street Journal a few days ago, may partly explain why Shalom - Peace - has been so elusive in the Middle East.
"I want you to imagine a day in the life of a 13-year-old Palestinian boy. I'll call him Ali.
Ali wakes up and before school, he goes to practice with a youth soccer team named after a Palestinian terrorist responsible for the murder of a busload of 37 Israelis. At school he attends an event sponsored by the Palestinian Ministry of Education honoring Baha Alyan, who last year murdered three Israeli civilians. On his walk home, Ali looks up at a towering statue erected a few weeks ago by the Palestinian Authority to honor Abu Sukar, who detonated a bomb in the center of Jerusalem, killing 15 Israelis.
When Ali gets home, he turns on the TV and sees an interview with a senior Palestinian official, Jibril Rajoub, who says if he had a nuclear bomb he'd detonate it over Israel that very day. Ali then puts the radio on and hears President Abbas' advisor, Sultan Abu al-Einein, urging Palestinians to "slit the throats of Israelis whenever you find them." Ali checks Facebook and sees a recent post by President Abbas's Fatah Party calling the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics "a heroic act." On YouTube he sees a clip of Abbass saying "We welcome every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem."
Over dinner, Ali asks his mother what would happen if he killed a Jew and went to Israeli prison. She tells him he'd be paid thousands of dollars every month by the Palestinian Authority. In fact, she says, the more Jews he would kill, the more money he'd get. And when he gets out of prison, Ali would be guaranteed a job with the Palestinian Authority.
Ladies and Gentlemen, all this is real. It happens every day. Sadly, Ali represents hundreds of thousands of Palestinian children who are indoctrinated with hate every moment, every hour.
This is child abuse.
Imagine your child undergoing this brainwashing. Imagine what it takes for a young boy or girl to break free of this culture of hate. Some do, but far too many don't. How can any of us expect young Palestinians to support peace when their leaders poison their minds against peace?"
Yet, again this year as we do every year, we fervently pray for Shalom, Peace. Not only for us, but for all the world.
A longtime friend from my college days, Barry Zusman, graduated Clarkson College (now University) a year ahead of me. We stayed in touch as he was continuing for his MBA in Public Relations at Pace University. While finishing my senior year at Clarkson, Barry and I talked and he told me what he was learning about PR. It sounded interesting so I followed his footsteps, went to Pace and earned my MBA in Public Relations.
Like me, Barry spent many years working at PR agencies in New York. Unlike me, though, Barry began teaching a PR course several years ago at LIM College here, where he's now beginning another semester.
He's been recognized by O'Dwyer's PR News columnist Fraser Seitel as one of several distinguished PR professors around the country.
Barry sent me a recent column by Seitel and it has some good pointers worth sharing with any young people considering or now studying public relations. I think these same pointers could be useful for many people already in the PR field, especially these days as we are hearing and seeing so-called "spin doctors" working for presidential candidates sometimes stretching the truth or outright lying to the media and the public.
The article cites one of Barry's fellow PR professors, Jeff Morosoff at Hofstra. Each year, Prof. Morosoff assigns students to seek out PR professionals to answer relevant questions on ethics. Here’s how one practitioner answered this year’s batch of PR ethics questions.
Why is it important to always tell the truth in PR?
All one has in public relations is his or her reputation -- credibility. Once you lie and you’re found out — and you will be found out — you lose that. And no one with whom you do business — reporter, client, potential employer, etc. — will look at you the same way after you’re caught in a lie. Truth, therefore, is paramount in public relations.
Why do some communications practitioners spin the truth instead of coming clean with the actual information?
They’re probably reluctant to reveal unpleasant or bad news about a client or the client doesn’t want them saying anything troubling. But it’s eminently preferable to say nothing than to lie. Again, once caught, no one will ever trust you or the client.
What values are the most important to do the public relations job?
A bias toward disclosing rather than withholding information.
An advocacy or belief in your employer.
A compelling desire to advise/counsel senior managers in proper action and communications.
An absolute commitment that the counsel you deliver is always ethical.
A willingness to take risks, to stick your neck out.
An always logical, but also positive, predilection.
How much of a role does PR ethics play in daily work?
Ethics, or stated another way, “doing the right thing,” must be the anchor of every decision you make in public relations.
Why are PR practitioners referred to as “spin doctors?”
They are referred to as “spin doctors” because they appear to have a mentality — or do have a mentality — of doing whatever the client tells them to do; whether right or wrong, fair or unfair, honest or dishonest. That’s a recipe not only for professional disaster but also for an unhappy practitioner.
Why does the good work of PR people often go unnoticed?
Public relations work is not as noticed because the work of PR professionals should be anonymous. If you write the CEO’s speech, and it’s a winner, it’s the CEO, correctly, who should get the credit, not you. Public relations people generally toil in anonymity. But as long as the client appreciates — and pays for — your contribution, that’s what counts.
These ethics for PR people, based around truthfulness, should really be key ethics for anyone in business, not just the PR folks. But we in PR should be the ones who try to keep the rest of the business world honest. It's a tough and often thankless task, but a good PR person will keep trying.
A column in London's The Guardian a few days ago asked if Facebook is the leading threat to newspapers and, more broadly, journalism itself. The writer, Roy Greenslade, said that by luring away readers and advertisers, the social media site is jeopardizing newspapers and, at the same time, narrowing the news agenda, which he says poses a threat to journalism.
The issue of losing readers and advertisers is something newspapers have been facing for decades, beginning when TV became the dominant media form. But over the past 15 years or so, newspapers find themselves in the same basket as other "traditional" media including TV, as digital has taken over. Most papers have embraced, perhaps reluctantly at first, digital with branded sites of their own. They're still struggling to find a way to monetize their news sites, and digital ads so far have not fully replaced print ads in terms of how much advertisers are willing to pay for them.
What's a newer issue, though, is the impact Facebook is having on what we perceive as news and the accuracy of what gets reported. The Pew Research Center published a study a few months ago showing that 66 percent of Facebook users get their news via Facebook. True, that's not 66 percent of the U.S. population, but with an estimated 60 million American Facebook users, it's still a very big number -- roughly 40 million people. And as we know, it's not just Millennials on Facebook -- in fact, almost all of my Boomer friends are on Facebook to some degree.
So with 40 million people reading Facebook, here's where the problem lies, as articulated in the Guardian story. What's considered news on Facebook is not determined by traditional journalistic standards After coming under criticism earlier this year, Facebook adjusted the algorithms it uses to determine what's "trending." But "trending" is still largely based on what people are posting about, so if the Brangelina split trends high because it's juicy gossip about a big celebrity couple, it may push off the radar legitimate but less sexy news like the plight of refugees leaving Syria or starvation and slavery in some parts of Africa or the continuing erosion of the Arctic ice shelf.
To make it worse, other news sources including many of the "traditional" media like the networks and major newspapers now look at what's trending on Facebook to help determine what they report.
And there's another risk to relying what's reported as news on Facebook. News can easily be manipulated, with information that's bogus attributed to normally reliable sources. It then gets shared and reposted, taking on a life of its own as real news. I saw an example of this just a few weeks ago when a friend shared an article about saying something outrageous Trump supposedly said. I'm not a Trump supporter at all, but this seemed just too crazy ...even for Trump. The article referred to a story in The Washington Post, but when I searched the WaPo site, no such story existed. But there it was on Facebook, something obviously incorrect being passed along as real news with the Washington Post referenced as the source.
So yes, Facebook poses a real threat to the health of other news media. But the larger threat is the potential damage its misuse can do to the journalistic process -- a process that the Constitution recognizes as an important way to keep us informed and our politicians and business leaders honest.
Sunday mornings won't be quite the same, now that Charles Osgood has hosted his last weekly show on TV. He's been a fixture -- a sense of calm and sensibility and dignity in a world that has been filled with too much crazy news.
For 22 years, he's been a friendly face who somehow has helped assure us that despite the too often bad news, we'll somehow get through it together as life goes on.
I had the good fortune of meeting Charles Osgood a few times, when he presented or received honors at the annual Christopher Awards, which I've represented for nearly 20 years. Having the chance to chat with him briefly in the green room before the ceremonies began or afterwards during the reception, he was always charming, friendly and totally down-to-earth.
Although retiring from TV, we'll still be able to hear his voice and get his insights and commentary on CBS Radio. So until then, Charles, thanks for all the great work and see you on the radio.
TV has long been king of media, for decades taking the lion's share of marketers' ad dollars. But it looks like TV will be surpassed by the young upstart -- digital.
Recent news reports tell us it's finally happened -- something prognosticators have been talking about for years. eMarketer says the ad spend on digital media will hit just a bit over $72 billion by the end of this year, squeezing past the $71.3 billion that advertisers are spending on TV in 2016.
But the so-called "old media" TV, along with newspapers and magazines, aren't quietly going away. Instead, they are ramping up digital platforms of their established brands, the oldies like NBC/Comcast, Disney/ABC, FOX, Hearst, Univision and Scripps, and buying into some of the digital newcomers that have been stealing their ad dollars.
"If you can't beat 'em, buy 'em" seems to be the mantra of the big guys.
In a recent report aptly titled "What's Old is New," Bloomberg gives a number of examples. Comcast, which owns NBC, is investing in two new media outklets --n Cheddar, a business news platform aimed at Millennials, and a yet-unnamed offshoot of Politico. Comcast also has partial ownership of Buzzfeed, Vox and afood oyutlet called Tastemaker.
Hearst, known for magazines like Cosmo, Marie Claire, Seventeen and House Beautiful as well as newspapers including the San Francisco Chronicle, is buying Complex, a group of websites covering fashion, technology, hip hop, technology and entertainment.
Univision, the Spanish-language TV giant, is in talks to purchase Gawker, the site that went into bankruptcy after it lost a big invasion of privacy case against ex-wrestler Hulk Hogan.
Even a media "dinosaur" like Verizon, whose roots go back to Ma Bell, is very much in the new media business. The phone/cable/internet company owns online sites like Huffington Post and TechCrunch and is in the process of buying Yahoo. Plenty of ad revenues there.
So let's not feel sorry for the TV companies since most of them aren't just TV anymore. They're following the money.