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)
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.
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.
We've had lots of distractions lately, especially on the political scene. Those distractions have too often been hijacking the news cycle, putting the focus on nastiness, name-calling and misogyny by some would-be national leaders.
There's another type of distraction that's also pretty bad, and many of us are guilty of it.
It kills more than 3,000 people every year, and the number is going up as more of us have and use cellphones constantly and as automakers put more gadgets and technology onto our dashboards.
Teens are especially at risk, since they're less experienced drivers and they've also grown up with cells and texting, so it's part of their DNA. That's why my client The National Road Safety Foundation had me organize an event for them at The New York Auto Show. We're calling it Teen Driver Safety Day, and we expect a few hundred teens (and parents) when it happens tomorrow, April 1st. It also marks the start of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
I just taped an interview with WCBS Newsradio, the top all-news station here in New York. The station will be airing it throughout the morning tomorrow, having me talk about distraction and our Teen Driver Safety Day.
It's an important topic, and it's one we easily overlook as we get distracted with everything else in life. So... when you're behind the wheel, stay off the phone. Even hands-free can be a serious distraction.
New York State yesterday approved a bill that outlines various forms of lobbying and requires firms that engage in those activities to report their actions.
I don't yet know what the reporting procedures are, but a troubling clause in that bill includes PR agencies' contact with editorial boards of newspapers.
The 10-page bill lists various activities that are excluded, including "normal" dealings with reporters on news and feature stories. But if I were to arrange a background session for a client with an editorial board or the opinion editor at a newspaper, it seems like I'd be obligated to report on that activity somehow. I don't yet know what and how much paperwork would be involved or if fines could be levied for failure to report.
The idea is a bad one, a clear overreaction to recent corruption cases up in Albany. It flies in the face of free speech.
Over the years, I've arranged meetings between clients and editorial boards. One example was for NHTSA, to encourage editorials urging readers to buckle up when driving, or not to drink and drive. Clearly, those are messages in the public interest, but I would now have to report on such sessions.
Traditional lobbying is another story, and I feel there should be much tighter restrictions on what lobbyists can do and how money they can distribute to public officials.
I've seen firsthand how lobbying works. Several years ago a client wanted to get Congress to pass stricter laws on a public safety issue. I helped them find a reputable lobbying firm. They began by identifying legislators who were on committees that impacted that issue. The lobbyist knew most of them. I helped them prepare position papers outlining the what and why of my client's objectives, and then they had meetings with the legislators themselves or key aides.
But here's where it got dicey. The lobbyist strongly advised my client to attend various events sponsored or supported by some of those targeted legislators. Some were fundraisers for nonpolitical organizations favored by the legislators. But in several cases, my client was encouraged to attend small-group luncheons or meetings, where the price tag was often $5,000 and up to sit across the table with a dozen or so people and the likes of Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Boxer and Chuck Schumer.
All perfectly legal, but how fair is it, really? How many of us can afford to spend big bucks for such direct access? And you have to wonder, when really big bucks -- millions -- are spent, does a public official then feel obligated? Look at big spenders like the gun lobby and big pharma and think about the lack of action on some issues those industries face.
That's where attention needs to be focused. When I or another PR firm sits with a client to inform or try to influence an editorial writer, there are some big differences from lobbying public officials. Meeting with editorial boards, we make our best effort to explain our position on an issue. But the ultimate decision of if and what gets published is in the hands and heart of the editor, a journalist who tries to weigh facts before taking a position. And that choice is not impacted by money.
It's a big difference. So New York, especially in light of all the corruption that's finally being prosecuted in Albany, should focus on traditional lobbying and not dilute those efforts by trying to regulate normal media relations efforts.
It's not November yet, but you can cast your vote now.
We're in the second year of a program I set up for client The National Road Safety Foundation with the Chicago Auto Show.
We invited teens in the Chicago area to submit their ideas for a distracted driving PSA. The three finalists have been selected and now the Auto Show is asking the public to pick the winner by voting online. I'll announce the winner in a few weeks at the Chicago Auto Show. Take a look and vote for the one you think works best.
Consumers really shouldn't believe advertising, said Suzanne Vranica, longtime advertising and marketing reporter for The Wall Street Journal.
She made the comment during an interview this morning on CBS This Morning, talking about news that artisnal chocolate maker Mast admitted it had used melted-down chocolate from other brands in its early days as a high-end chocolatier.
It's possible Suzanne may have intended to say something like you can't always believe everything in ads, or consumers should be careful and try to do their own research into claims made in ads. Live TV can do that -- catch you in a sentence that doesn't come out exactly right.
But if many people -- including one of the leading national journalists who covers the ad industry -- are skeptical of what they see and hear in ads, then maybe marketers need to look at other methods of getting the word out about their products and services. Word-of-mouth often comes up as the most trusted source of information, and it is often fueled by Public Relations.
The idea behind it is PR seeks to get exposure through media, which have an obligation to do their own vetting of claims made by marketers. So if a story in a trusted newspaper, magazine or broadcast or online outlet talks about a product in a positive way, consumers give it more credibility than a straightforward ad. Advertising, with its repetitive nature, creates awareness. Stories in the media via PR, which are tougher to gain, generally have more credibility.
That, in a longer explanation, may be what Suzanne Vranica was trying to say in a quick interview soundbite.
A good part of what we do in Public Relations is about impacting behavior. Publicity helps create and reinforce awareness to, hopefully, convince the consumer to purchase a product, buy a company’s stock, support a cause or vote a certain way.
One of the challenges I’ve been facing over the years as I’ve done work for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the non-profit National Road Safety Foundation has been to change behavior so drivers buckle up their seat belts, don’t speed and don’t drive while impaired or distracted.
Reaching teen drivers is especially challenging. They’re not big newspaper readers. Many don’t watch the news on TV and, these days, even their radio-listening doesn’t necessarily include tuning in to local radio stations. Instead, they have their own playlists or they listen online to Pandora or IHeartRadio.
For The National Road Safety Foundation, we’ve taken a different approach to teen outreach. We still use news releases and e-mailings to get our message out via traditional media as well as social media. But our most powerful tool, we have found, is the kids themselves, talking to their peers, their families and to others in the community.
We’ve teamed up with youth advocacy groups, most notably SADD, which used to be known as Students Against Drunk Driving but now goes by Students Against Destructive Decisions. We work with them on various initiatives including one where they are trained how to lobby their legislators on road safety issues.
Another way we’ve engaged young people is through contests where we invite them to help us create messages on various issues including impaired driving and now, the hot topic, distracted driving.
I just returned from Los Angeles, where we tied-in with the Los Angeles Auto Show for a contest inviting teens to submit ideas for a PSA on distracted driving. The winner was announced Sunday at the first Teen Safety Sunday at the Auto Show, an event we organized and ran. Teen leaders from southern California were invited to the auto show for a special program that included presentations by teen groups and also by victims of distracted drivers.
We did a similar contest with the Chicago Auto Show last February, and it’s being repeated in 2016.
Engagement is a key to successful marketing, especially when the message is about safe driving behavior.
Click here for a look at the winning PSA, created by the kids from the Friday Night Live California Partnership.
Tuning through the channels a few days ago, I happened to land on C-SPAN. I caught the very end of a campaign speech by Carly Fiorina. She’s a good speaker, but what she said wasn’t what caught my interest. It was what happened after her speech that was telling.
After her talk, she did what most candidates do. She came off the stage and walked into the audience to work the crowd. And this is what struck me as most interesting.
Not too long ago, she would have been shaking hands, exchanging a few words one-on-one with people, and signing autographs. But as I watched her in the crowd, which was mostly younger, only two people asked for an autograph. She shook a few hands… but only a few. It looked like she had a brief conversation with one person. But with all the others – perhaps 40 or 50 people – the only words that were exchanged seemed to come from audience members, saying something like “Would you..” and “Thank you.”
They were asking the candidate to pose with them for a selfie. And she happily complied, as each person put his or her arms around Fiorina or put their face pressing right up against hers. Kind of close-up and personal, it seemed. It was a selfie assembly line, and the candidate adeptly moved from person to person, cell phone to cell phone without missing a beat.
At first, I scoffed. But as I thought about it, I realized that the selfie actually IS much more personal than an autograph, even one written to the autograph-seeker by name. And unlike an autograph, which most of us don’t frame and put on a shelf in our living room, a selfie with a celebrity can be blown up, framed and displayed prominently.
And it’s a chance for the person to throw it out there immediately on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, et al, showing the world their brush with fame –or actually, touch with fame, smiling check-to-cheek, arm wrapped around the celebrity. It can be shared instantly with dozens or hundreds of friends and online acquaintances, which is a lot more than the than couple of dozen friends or relatives who might happen to spot it in your living room.
For the candidate, it’s a windfall, expanding the reach of her appearance to perhaps thousands more than the attendance of her live audience.
Some marketers have found ways to capitalize on “the new autograph” – putting a brand mascot or logo in places where people will take selfies and share them, for example. It’s opening up entire new ways for brands to engage with consumers and share the branded experience with all their friends.
We’ll be seeing more of it, I’m sure, as we surf our Facebook and Instagam feeds.
I was a bit surprised when I saw an item Monday on CBS This Morning about the supposed controversy brewing over Starbucks' plans to have a simple red cup this Christmas season, replacing cups decorated with snowflakes and reindeer from years past. Some Starbucks fans evidently voiced their displeasure on social media and the media picked up on it. Even the New York Times had a story about it in Monday's editions.
The Times even quoted one wacko from his Facebook page... “Starbucks REMOVED CHRISTMAS from their cups because they hate Jesus,” Joshua Feuerstein, who described himself as an evangelist, Internet and social media personality, wrote."
Sure, Starbucks hates Jesus. Oh Jesus, c'mon!
The Times went on to wonder.. "Perhaps it was part of the company’s intent to generate a little buzz, however negative and extreme some of the instant reviews sounded." Ya' think?
And the media fell for it.
Sure, such a silly story is a nice break from all the heavy news we're dealing with these days. But still... is this really news? I guess because it's on social media, the real media think it's real news.
Or, maybe it's just been a slow news day. Somehow, though, I don't think that's the case.