.... my 2 cents ....
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
A year and a half ago, an
online conversation between two marketing professionals in the U.S. and Australia evolved into a
collaborative writing effort by more than 100 bloggers from nine countries that
created a book called The Age of Conversation. The project raised nearly $15,000 for
Variety, the international children's charity.
Following the success of the
first book, which was published in the summer of 2007, Age of
Conversation 2, debuts this week, with written thoughts on the role ofconversation in marketing today from 237
marketing professionals who blog in 29 states in the U.S. and 14 other countries, from Australia to the Ukraine..
The project has an unusual
story behind it, involving online connections between people around the world
who had never met each other face to face. Early last year, Drew McLellan, in Des Moines, blogged about Wharton University's effort to create a
collaborative book online, and Gavin Heaton, in Sydney, Australia, suggested online that they get a few fellow bloggers
to try it.
Through their blogs,
Drew and Gavin invited other marketing bloggers to commit to writing
essays about conversation in marketing.They set what
they thought would be an impossible goal – 100 bloggers.Within seven days they had commitments from
103. I am proud to say I was one of those bloggers to contribute to the first edition of The Age of Conversation.
No sooner had the book
been published when Drew and Gavin, gluttons for punishment that they are, began planning for Age of Conversation 2. More than twice as many bloggers answered the call for written contributions for the book. The new volume will be available on October 28 in three formats – an e-book, softcover and hardcover.All proceeds will again be donated to
Variety, the international children's charity.
Pricing for The Age of
Conversation 2 is:
$12.50 ($10.00 going to charity)
paperback book: $19.95 ($8.02 to charity)
hardback book: $29.95 ($6.04 to charity)
Newspapers are bleeding red ink, and many magazines are following in their footsteps. Magazine ad pages are down by 9.5 percent so far this year, according to the Publishers Information Bureau, and 3Q ad pages were down almost 13 percent.
Like newspapers, should magazines be looking more closely at online as a source of readership and, eventually, revenue? If expenses can be trimmed sharply by cutting down on costly printing and distribution costs, perhaps publishers can get some financial breathing room.
I'm not advocating dropping print for the web. I'm old school -- I like to thumb through a paper or a magazine. But my preferences aside, the printed pages of magazines continue to make sense for some product categories. Selling the smooth lines of a new car or the beauty and sexiness of fashion items? It's hard to beat the rich color of a glossy magazine page. And the web experts haven't yet figured out how to sample fragrance online the way scratch & sniff pages in a magazine can.
So there's still a place for printed magazines.
Yet online content can draw -- and engage -- readers that many magazine advertisers crave. Magazines, though, need to do a better online job than most are now doing, where their landing pages are little more than ads for the print editions. Even if the online edition contains all or most of what's in print, publishers have to give readers a reason to visit frequently, rather than only when the new print edition ships. The web isn't a once-a-month proposition.
Newspapers have the advantage of a new edition every day, which can point readers to what's online in a topical and timely way. The challenge for magazines is to reach out to readers more than once a month, using methods other than links in the monthly print edition. E-mails are a quick and relatively inexpensive way to reach out. Tie-ins with other media -- newspapers, TV and radio, and their websites -- can also bring readers to a magazine site more often. Even advertising unique web content in other media can work.
Building a real online presence will take time and it will require a financial commitment. But magazine publishers must think long-term so they'll have more to sell once we get through these tough times.
Since it was formed 162 years ago, the Associated Press has been the leading news service in the U.S. and worldwide, providing breaking news, analysis, features, photos, audio and video feeds to almost all the nation's nearly 1,200 daily papers and most radio and TV stations.
Smaller dailies rely heavily on the AP for content so their own reporting staff can focus on local and regional news. Larger dailies rely on the AP to supplement their own reporting staff on national and international stories. More than half of the world's population gets news from the AP.
The AP is respected for journalistic integrity, accuracy and fairness, which in these times of media-bashing says a lot.
So anything that threatens the strength of the AP is, to me at least, a scary thing. The AP has been having a family feud of sorts, as I reported back in February. Some member newspapers are threatening to quit the newsgathering cooperative over higher fees that the AP intents to put into place next year.
Up till now, it's been just talk. But many in the newspaper world were shocked when The Tribune Company announced it will drop the AP service for its nine daily papers when their contract with the AP ends in two years. Tribune publishes some of the nation's largest dailies including The Los Angeles Times (4th largest daily circulation) and The Chicago Tribune (8th). They also publish The (Ft. Lauderdale) Sun-Sentinel (# 35), The Orlando Sentinel (# 37), the Baltimore Sun (# 38) and the respected Hartford Courant (#54), among others.
As we all know, newspapers are struggling to stay alive, cutting costs wherever they can -- trimming reporting and administrative staff, trimming page size and number of pages. But the AP is -- or should be -- a way of maintaining the highest news standards in the face of economic pressures. Using AP service can enable a paper to reduce or eliminate out-of-town bureaus. It can also help papers keep their websites -- which are growing and will certainly be a key revenue source in the future -- up-to-date and full of content.
So let's hope both the AP and Tribune, as well as other papers who will be watching Tribune 's example closely, can come up with a solution between now and the end of Tribune's contract with the AP in two years. It will take understanding and flexibility on both sides. I think the AP may have to revise it's thinking on fees and scale back the dues hike somewhat, while they find other sources of revenue for their content -- from other media and, especially, from the growing number of online news sites.
The Associated Press is too important to be allowed to crumble. The news we read, hear and see via all media would look very different and would be greatly diminished if there ever were no AP.
Cause-related marketing has been around for decades. When I first began in public relations in the 1970s, I worked on cause-related programs for two clients. This was long before the phrase "cause-related marketing" had been coined. We simply called it a sponsorship or a p.r. tie-in.
We saw those early "cause-related" efforts work well for Phillips Petroleum (Phillips 66), with its support of the U.S. Senior Swimming program, which was a feeder for the U.S. Olympics team. We also saw it work well for L'eggs Pantyhose in their early years when women were just getting used to the idea of buying inexpensive quality hosiery in the supermarket or c-store. L'eggs was a big supporter of women's athletics, and we organized a nationwide series of women-only road races that empowered women and showed that it was acceptable for women to sweat and still be feminine.
We knew these programs worked -- from customer feedback and from sales.
A recently-released study from Duke University's B-School and the p.r. agency Cone Communications confirms the power of cause-related marketing. It documents a 74 percent increase in purchase of a shampoo brand when associated with a cause. For a toothpaste brand that was tracked, 64 percent of those who saw a cause-related message chose the brand, compared with 50 percent who saw a generic brand ad with no cause relationship.
Cause-related marketing can work.
But I'll throw in a crucial caveat.
For cause-related marketing to be most effective, there should be a natural and clear synergy between the company or product and the cause that's being supported. With so many marketers hopping on the cause-related bandwagon, you run the risk of looking like a "me-too" effort or, worse yet, of being insincere in what you're doing.
There are many examples of logical tie-ins -- Avon, with it's long-standing support of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Fund is one that immediately comes to mind.
But the tie-in must also be sincere. The much-hyped Project Red tie-in by The Gap and others a year or so ago came under criticism because many people saw it as blatantly exploitative.
Cause-related marketing projects will be even more meaningful over the next year or two, as non-profits feel the impact of reduced support from both the public and business as we weather the recession.
So, yes, cause-related marketing works. But it's best when done thoughtfully and honestly.
While newspapers, and some consumer magazines as well, are losing readers to online media, blogging has proven to be away to harness the power of online. Blogging -- or beat blogging as it's called among newspaper reporters -- allows newspapers to connect with readers and cover stories and subjects that print simply doesn't have room to cover.
I've pointed a while ago to Beat Blogging, a blog by and for reporters who are blogging as part of their job. Yesterday's posttells about a company-wide effort to beat blog at The Lawrence (Kansas) Journal World.
Online editor Jonathan Kealing, talking about the benefits of beat blogging, says, “Clearly
a community of 100,000 will know more than a newsroom of 50 ever will. We're covering information that we would have never covered before, and
it’s also tapping into sources that we would have never tapped into,”
he added. ”The more time you spend with people the better, and this
allows us to spend time with people we wouldn’t otherwise.”
Blogs cover a variety of subjects, from local politics to education to happenings at Kansas University in town.
Input from readers is a crucial component. “You can bet your house that there are tons of people out there who
know more about our beats than we do,” said. one of the beat bloggers, Alex Parker, who covers education. “There is a whole
wealth of information out there. We’re comfortable knowing that
sometimes our audience does more than us.”
They've already learned some valuable lessons, which those of us who blog may already have learned on our own.
Not every beat is as well suited to blogging as others
— This doesn’t mean not trying blogging with certain
beats, but it does mean having reasonable expectations for each beat.
Timing is everything — Basically, when big events happen, jump all over them. Cover them well.
Nobody is looking for dated coverage, and beat blogging allows news
organizations to be extremely current with information. Beat blogging
also allows reporters to report more in-depth and link to important
documents and other Web sites.
Headlines are very important — SEO is a big part of
this, but it goes deeper than that according to Kealing. ”That headline
has to do a lot to draw people in,” he said. “You have to be pretty explicit, otherwise people are going to
ignore it.” On the Web, being ignored is a death sentence. There are
countless Web sites to grab users attention. Don’t give users a reason
to go searching for something more interesting. The quality of a
headline can be the difference between success or failure for a blog
I'll add a few lessons I've learned.
Comments and traffic don't always equate. I've had some posts that have drawn many hits and hardly any comments, and visa versa. Comments are fun and spur us to write more, but there are times when what you post pretty much says it all.
As Kealing says above... headlines are important, but don't let a great headline lead to disappointment. Back up a good headline with solid content. Otherwise, readers won't come back for more.
Monitor and respond to comments. There's a blog at the Journal News here in Westchester (LoHud.com) that covers local politics. I've seen it draw nasty comments that have included racial slurs, wild accusations and really bad name-calling. I don't understand why that beat blogger isn't checking comments and deleting or cleaning up those that clearly cross the line of decency. I stopped reading it because it got so out of hand.
Maybe there's still some hope for newspapers, as they embrace Web 2.0 rather than fight it.
The We Can Solve It Campaign, a project of The Alliance for Climate Protection
-- a nonprofit, nonpartisan effort founded by Nobel laureate and former
Vice President Al Gore -- got muzzled by ABC TV Tuesday night.
The goal of the Alliance is to build a movement
that creates the political will to solve the climate crisis -- in part
through repowering America with 100 percent of its electricity from
clean energy sources within 10 years. Our economy, national security,
and climate can’t afford to wait, the group says, and I believe them after seeing Gore's film on global warming two years ago.
The We Can Solve It campaign wanted to run an ad, which they were prepared to payt for, to air immediately after the Presidential debate. "Repowering" America is the message in the ad... and then some. The ad also attacks big oil, saying they spend millions on lobbyists (true), ads (true) and even scandals (perhaps. I don't know) to block legislation.
It's ironic that the network lets the candidates take potshots at big oil in the debates, but they won't allow a non-profit group to run an ad.
Cathy Zoi, CEO of We Can Solve It, sent out an email explaining what happened. She wrote:
"ABC had Chevron. CBS had Exxon. CNN had the coal lobby.
But you know what happened last night? ABC refused to run our Repower
America ad -- the ad that takes on this same oil and coal lobby.
sent a letter asking ABC to reconsider their decision and put our ad on
the air, but still we haven't heard back more than a week later."
Here's the ad's script:
The solution to our climate crisis seems simple. Repower America with wind and solar. End our dependence on foreign oil. A stronger economy. So why are we still stuck with dirty and expensive energy? Because big oil spends hundreds of millions of dollars to block clean energy. Lobbyists, ads, even scandals. All to increase their profits, while America suffers. Breaking big oil's lock on our government ... Now that's change. We're the American people and we approve this message.
You can view the ad by clicking here... I can understand the execs at ABC not wanting to upset some very big advertisers, especially in the current advertising and economic climate. But since they use the airwaves -- the public airwaves -- are they right to limit discussion of a critical issue?
The networks run ads that slam competing products. They run ads by politicians slamming their opponents. Why should they be allowed to prohibit a legitimate non-profit group from putting its viewpoint out there? Pressure behind the scenes from big
advertisers? Or just fear in the ABC boardroom that such pressure might be exerted or ads might be pulled. Either way, it sounds exactly like what the ad says is happening.
We Can Solve It probably could have gotten the ad on the air if they were willing to hold back on some of the punches and soften the language and accusations critical of the oil companies. But would the message have had the intended impact?
We Can Solve It just might end up getting more views and discussion because ABC refused to run the ad. It's bound to be talked about online in blogs like this, via email and eventually it may well get picked up in the mainstream news media.. except, of course, ABC.
Some interesting ironies and challenges at play here, wouldn't you say?
Patricia Adcroft has a great piece in the new issue of Media Magazine that explores the place of journalism in today's media and also touches on other relevant issues like citizen journalists. I've talked here before on my feelings about citizen journalists. They offer great possibilities for up-to-date and inside news, while increasing the risk of having wrong or biased information seep into the news stream.
Adcroft begins her article remembering her first job in journalism, at a chain of weekly community newspapers in Pennsylvania. She was the only trained journalist among what we now call citizen journalists -- ordinary people with real non-newspapering jobs who wrote about or contributed photos of local happenings and local people. The publisher's philosophy was: if we write about people, they and their friends will buy the paper.
It reminded me of a chain of local weeklies where I live in suburban Westchester, N.Y. The chain had one freelance reporter (he's now full-time) who got paid by the word. He's not a trained journalist, and his coverage of the local school board and politics wasn't well-written and often smacked of his own opinions. But with no other local paper in town (and before the advent of the News12 channel on cable), it was the only place to hear about local happenings other than word of mouth.
Readers knew the paper, with its citizen journalist, wasn't the most credible. There wasn't the feeling that if it's in The Independent, it's gotta be true. It was more like, if it's in The Independent, it mightbe true.
Back to Adcroft's story...
She tells of reporting about a local man who was trying to raise money for a skating rink for the kids in town. She wrote a glowing article about him, even though she noticed when she went to interview him at his home that he seemed to be living well beyond his modest means. Looking back at the story now, she realizes that with the resources of the digital age, she might have been able to learn -- from other articles, blogs, court papers -- that he had mob ties. Maybe he was not, after all, the hero she had made him out to be in her story.
Even in this digital age, most of us still want to know what's happening where we live and to the people we know. Perhaps the expression "all news is local" has never been more true. And it should be accurate and impartial. Some things about journalism don't (and shouldn't) change... even in the digital age.
A story in the new issue of Portfolio magazine tells of big debts amassed by prominent politicians and how companies who worked for them often have to wait years to get paid.Even then, there’s a good chance they might get paid pennies on the dollar.
* Dennis Kucinich still owes his attorneys more than $400,000 for work they did on his 2004 campaign.
* Wesley Clark and Howard Dean both have large outstanding debts from their 2004 Presidential bids.
* Pat Buchanan owes AmEx $138,000 from his 2000 campaign.
* Bill Clinton is still disputing bills from his re-election bid in 1996 -- 12 years ago.
* Gary Hart has campaign debt of some $1.1 million from his 1984 campaign, which the article says he recently settled for about 10 cents on the dollar.
Prominent recentcampaign are in the red. Hillary Clinton owes $10.7 million.Rudy Guiliani’s campaign owes $3.5 million to various businesses that did work for them.
It looks to me like working for political campaigns can be risky business. I've been fortunate in that regard, with my very limited paid political work over the years.
My first paid outing for a candidate was small-time – a few thousand dollars to do p.r. for a City Council candidate in Yonkers, NY back in the early 1970s. My boss at the time asked me to help this guy out, for a modest fee.
I got paid in full, but I got a rude awakening to political games one day when I went with the candidate to take a photo we planned to use with a news release. The railing in a fence near a school had been broken for months, he claimed, endangering children who might venture too close to the edge of a steep drop. Parents had been complaining to the incumbent councilman for some time, with no response. The day we went to take a picture by the broken railing – wouldn’t you know it. The fence had been fixed. My candidate looked around, saw no one but me nearby, and then he kicked the fence railing until it broke so we could take a picture. After I put the news release and phony photo out to the media for him, I made some excuse about not having any more time, and I left his employ. He liked me, so he did pay me all he owed. (When I got the check, it seemed to have an oily feel to it.)
Several years ago, I was asked to handle downstate press relations for Tim Golisano, the Rochester billionaire who was running for Governor of New York as an independent. I liked Tom and he seemed to be an honest man.He asked for advice, but he still did what he wanted.I guess that comes with being a self-made billionaire.
Tom was good about paying all his bills to my firm in a timely manner.
I guess I’ve been lucky.But working for politicians is not something I look to do.I’ve done plenty of volunteer work for local politicians who I believe in.And “volunteer” is how I prefer to keep it.I know I won’t get paid when I go into it, and that’s fine with me.