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As much as things change, some basics remain the same. I'm reposting this from a year ago, where I looked at what I thought would be new in PR in this year just ending. As I reread it, not so much has changed. The basics of good public relations and media relations remain the same: Study the media you want to use to reach your target audience, determine how what you or your client has to say fits into what the media are doing, and pitch it properly.
This, from my 2 cents a year ago...
What will the new year bring for the world of PR, or at least the part of it that deals with publicity and media relations?
There continues to be talk about all the new forms of media, especially social media and so-called second screens. Some people still talk about their goal of having something "go viral." The new hot topic is content and "native advertising." And I still have clients say "Get me on Oprah."
But even with all the changes taking place in the media landscape, the challenge for publicity is still pretty much the same. Study the media you want to use to reach your target audience, determine how what you or your client has to say fits into what the media are doing, and pitch it properly.
Those three simplified steps are basically what successful PR people have doing for decades, going back to the days when there were just three TV networks and a handful or local stations, no cable or satellite TV, no internet or iPhones. And those three basic steps still work.
Content marketing and social media outreach are creating new opportunities for those of us in PR, but the basics of publicity still remain the same. It's as simple as that.
That's an old saying that refers to the law of gravity. It certainly does not seem to apply to the major airlines when it comes to pricing.
When the airlines were hit with rising fuel costs, we certainly understood when they hiked up their prices. After all, fuel accounts for about a third of airline operating expenses. And we stood by as they used other means to offset the cost of fuel -- baggage fees, payment for food inflight ... even, in some cases, a charge for a pillow or blanket.
Now, as the price of oil is plummeting, the airlines are seeing a windfall that will result in record profits. But there's no talk of trimming fares. Instead, some carriers are talking about reconfiguring planes so they have more room for "premium" seats that give a few inches more legroom -- for a higher price, of course. That will also mean fewer coach seats, which will kick in another law -- the law of supply and demand -- resulting in higher fares for coach.
Delta, says a story in The New York Times, is predicting a profit of $5 billion next year, pushed up by an estimated fuel savings of $1.5 billion. The industry overall forecasts profits of $25 billion next year, up $5 billion from this year.
I don't hear Delta or anyone in the airline business talking about dropping the baggage fees. And they still have the nerve to charge from $100 to $200 to make a change in travel plans once you've purchased a ticket, even though you're not using the time of an airline employee as you make the changes yourself online. What a racket.
A price break in airfares or dropping the baggage fees would go a long way in building customer trust in the industry, which has fallen almost as fast as the price of oil. I'm not going to hold my breath on this one, though.
A new report from Nielsen, the TV ratings people, shows not only what we're watching, but how we're watching it.
It used to be very simple. A program was on at a certain time and either you watched it when it aired or you didn't see it at all. No DVRs or video on demand. Not even home recording on VHS or Beta.
But today, viewers have so many choices -- not only what to watch from among hundreds of channels and tens of thousands of shows and movies on demand and Netflix and Hulu. The choice now is also about how to watch -- live or delayed on your giant flat screen or on a variety of other smaller screens from computers to laptops to tablets and phones.
The report says Americans watched "traditional" TV 141 hours a month in the 3rd quarter of 2014. But live viewing dropped a little more than 4 percent, or 12 minutes a day, to 4 hours and 32 minutes on average. Instead, we spent an hour more per month watching time-shifted programs via the internet, which includes streaming services like Netflix.
For advertisers, the obvious challenge is getting their ads seen despite fast-forwarding. Many on-demand outlets now disable the fast-forward function so we can't zip through the ads. So instead, it may end up working the way it did in the "old days," when commercials breaks meant a run to the bathroom, refrigerator or a fast click around the dial to see what else is on. Or with today's technology, we might be checking texts and emails.
In a few weeks, longtime ad columnist Stuart Elliott will pen his last column for The Times. He announced on his Facebook page this morning that he will be taking "the very generous buyout" the paper's been offering to longtime reporters and editors, as it tries to reduce its newsroom headcount by 100.
Others who will be leaving by year-end include bylines we've been reading for some time, like Bill Carter on the TV industry.
But Stuart's departure will leave a real gap in The Times business section. He's written beautifully over the years about new campaigns, agency mergers and buyouts, marketing and advertising trends and, often after long holiday weekends, the 10 or 20 humorous questions he raises, always capped with the self-deprecating final statement "for a guy from Brooklyn, you ask a lot of questions."
I've always looked forward to reading Stuart's columns, in the paper and also online. And I'm pleased to say, while we're not close friends, I've had a cordial professional relationship with him. I've always tried to respect him by only pitching him story ideas that I honestly felt were on target, often telling a client "sorry, that's just not for Stuart." And he's treated me with respect, always repsonding to my calls or emails, even if, sometimes, to patiently explain why an idea just isn't for him.
He's been the longest-running ad columnist at The Times, going back to 1991. In terms of longevity, he beat out legendary ad columnist Phil Dougherty, who preceded him, by a year.
Actually, I go back with Stuart to 1990, when he was the ad writer at USA Today. I had just started my own PR business, and an early client was agency Geer DuBois -- a name, like so many others, now just a memory for us oldtimers. He did a nice piece on a new campaign by Geer client YooHoo chocolate drink.
I recall meetings with him and clients like media guru Gene DeWitt in the cafeteria at the old Times building on West 43rd, or more recently at his breakfast haunt at the Royalton on West 44th St.
I'm sorry to see him go, but I know there are many opportunities waiting for him, if he chooses. Or who knows... maybe there's a book in the offing.
Whatever he chooses to do, I know I'm among many who wish him the best and thank him for his good work over the years.
Bill Bergman, a marketing instructor at the University of Richmond's B-school, notes an interesting trend in a recent commentary in MediaPost's Agency Daily. He says college students he's teaching seem to be afraid to speak out in class for fear of being embarrassed by classmates who might call them out via social media. So they keep their hands down in class and their mouths shut.
These are kids, he says, who have grown up seeing the impact of a mistake or bad judgment on social media. They've seen firsthand that once something is online it can haunt you forever, possibly impacting one's ability to land a job or get into grad school.
So rather than get called out via a tweet, they seem to keep their opinions to themselves, Bergman believes. He thinks, from what he sees in his students, that by the time they reach their senior year in college, they hit a social media saturation point. It's not that social media has lost its importance to them, but rather they're getting caught up with other priorities and pressures that demand their attention -- studies and the upcoming hunt for the next step in their lives, finding a job or continuing thier education.
Bergman notes recent grads seem to be less involved with social media than current students. The explanation, he writes, may be "a boss, a cubicle and a 10 p.m. bedtime help diminish the social media habit." And they realize, as they mature, that it's more important to protect your real personality than to build "a contrived popularity" through silly or controversial tweets and potentially awkward photos posted on Instagram.
After college, he writes, young adults "begin to recognize that college is really created for the young - and so too is the extensive use of social media platforms."
Americans are fed up with news coverage that puts emphasis on gossip, celebrities, sports and sensationalism.
You wouldn't guess that if you watch most TV news or read many newspapers. But that's what a recent Harris Poll discovered, as reported in Media Daily News.
The poll, taken in August, found that 76 percent of American adults feel celebrity gossip and scandal gets too much news coverage. Forty-five percent say entertainment in general gets too much coverage, and 41 percent feel that way about pro sports.
The poll also found that some issues are believed to get too little news attention. Forty-seven percent cited education issues, 45 percent cited science, 44 percent said government corruption, followed by global humanitarian issues at 33 percent and health issues at 30 percent.
If this survey is accurate,there may yet be hope for real news. But it's a big IF. Let's face it -- when people fill out surveys, they generally want to appear more highbrow than they really are. So they may say there's too much gossip and trash on TV, even as they tune into it and then talk about it online via social media.
The proliferation of gossip and soft news may be why the level of trust in media continues to drop. The same Harris poll showed only 25 percent place great confidence in local TV news and even less -- 21 percent -- in their local newspapers. Network TV news is trusted by only 17 percent.
Online news sites not affiliated with a "traditional" news outlet had only 11 percent confidence among those polled. Well, at least they got that right.
Less than half of us now watch TV programs as they air live, Media Daily News reports.
Only 41 percent of us watch the live broadcast, as time-shifting grows in popularity. Watching via DVR is what 43 percent of us now do, as 19 percent use video on demand.
The move to viewing TV on so-called second screens -- mobile devices, PC, laptops and tablets -- isn't happeniong quite as quickly as pundits had been predicting. The vast majority -- 91 percent -- still watch TV on a TV. Laptops account for 12 percent of viewing, tablets 5 percent and somehow 3 percent manage to watch programs on their smartphones. It adds to more than 100 percent due to duplication -- watching on a regular screen and also on a second screen.
Programs like sports and major news events understandably score a higher amount of live viewing.
Imagine my embarrassment when I got stopped by a NY State Trooper for speeding. After all, I do a lot of work in traffic safety, and when I got the ticket, just north of Albany, I was on my way to the first New York State Teen Safe Driving Summit, where I was presenting on distracted driving.
I had a good excuse -- I had been doing the 65 mph speed limit on the Thruway all the way up to Albany. I didn't realize, and I obviously missed the signs, that the limit on the stretch between Albany and Saratoga drops to 55. So I couldn't say much when the trooper told me I was doing 67 in a 55 zone. Even when I told her, in response to her question about where was I headed, that I was going to the Teen Safe Driving Summit, she showed no mercy.
I was so embarrassed that I tried to get away without telling my wife. It almost worked, until a letter came to our house saying my check was made out for the wrong amount. Damn!
But today I read that someone else who also should know better got ticketed for speeding. Barbara Fiala, the NY State Dept. of Motor Vehicles Commissioner, reportedly got ticketed for doing 47 in a 30 mph zone in her neighborhood upstate. Not only is she the DMV Commissioner, but she is also the chair of the Governor's Highway Safety Committee.
To put it into perspective, I remember being at a meeting of a task force on speeding, with about 50 police officers, traffic safety advocates and traffic safety officials from New York and the Federal government. One of the moderators called for a show of hands, asking who has ever exceeded the speed limit. Every person in the room -- some sheepishly -- raised his or her hand.
So I guess, aside from the $225 fine, I shouldn't feel so bad after all.