A Picture is Worth a Senate Seat

The old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” has never been more true than with the situation with Sen. Al Franken.  Caught in the middle of the avalanche of allegations of sexual improprieties, Franken tried having it both ways.  His initial statements were that he respected the rights of women to express their feelings, while at the same time saying he didn’t remember events as they were portrayed.  He said he wouldn’t resign and keep working for the people of Minnesota.

Then the picture appeared.

While he tried to hang on to his job and senate seat, the infamous photo that he took before he became a politician haunted him.  It was everywhere and he couldn’t escape it.  One has to wonder if he hadn’t taken that disgusting and not very funny photo, whether he could have weathered the storm and hung on.  But photographic evidence, especially a picture as blatant and posed as this one, was more than he could withstand.

Photography and video are powerful instruments, perhaps the most powerful we have next to in-person statements.  The world has changed — for the better and sometimes for the worse — because everything we do seems to be caught on camera.  If there aren’t security cameras mounted on building rooftops capturing our every move, there are a dozen people with cell phones who will.

This new reality has made the world a bit safer. It has helped law enforcement catch and identify criminals.  And today, it brought down a sitting United States Senator.

In the public relations business, we promote and encourage clients to use photos and video.  Let’s face it, people have short attention spans and always prefer looking at a photograph than reading a story.  It is faster, easier and shows what really happened.

When marketing a product or business, the use of pictures and video is a must.  It cuts right to the core of messaging.  Photos that are not too arranged or Photoshopped, display the truth more than words ever can.  Sen. Franken discovered that today when he lost one of the most powerful jobs an American can hold.

Maybe if he goes back to comedy, he will think twice about doing something so foolish and denigrating, and think a second time about having it caught on camera.

Litigation PR — Good Marketing or Good Legal Strategy?

Is the courtroom the place where legal issues are decided?  Or, is it decided in the court of public opinion managed by public relations and marketing pros?  The lines have become muddied.  It seems that before a case gets into the courtroom, it has been decided on TV by pundits who give legal analysis without the minor advantage of having any legal background.

It is often difficult to divide politics from legal issues.  They spill over to one another.  Cases involving illegal immigrants don’t become cases of law, they become cases of opinions on legal or illegal immigration.

That’s why attorneys have learned to get their positions heard and seen on the media before the court. And that’s where public relation practitioners come in.   If they can persuade public opinion to their side, then more often than not, they won’t even have to go to court.  They will win by the compromise brought about by public pressure.


The PR of Sexual Misconduct

There seems to be no end to stories of newsmakers being accused of sexual misconduct.  It makes headlines when it is a celebrity or politician, but one can be certain it reaches into every corner of the workplace.

The latest and most high profile is Minnesota Senator Al Franken who has been accused of groping and inappropriate actions and remarks against a host of women.  Yesterday the former comic and Senator faced the media — briefly — to say what he’s been saying since the allegations, and photograph, came to light.

But while the media hurried in a frenzy to cover, Franken said nothing new.  He said the same thing he said since the allegation was made public.  He also said the same thing every accused says.

There seems to be a playbook of what to say and what not to say in these situations.  Most will admit wrongdoing and promise to never do it again.  They know denial will just give more life to the story.  So it’s best to admit they did wrong and hope the story dies.

It is typical PR strategy.  The first step is to get ahead of the story, if you can, but you don’t want to create a story that might not happen.  When and if it does, then protect yourself legally, admit to wrongdoing, go to therapy, apologize and hope your fans and constituents move on.

It seems likely this is a story that will live on forever.  Men in positions of power levy their power for their own gain and satisfaction.  The stories we have heard are probably a small fraction of the stories that exist.  But unless legal action is take, as it is with Harvey Weinstein in one case, there is not much to do other than hope people will eventually forget about it.


How Quickly the Tables Can Turn


Louis CK
Photo by Erik Pendzich

One day you are a media superstar.  The next people are terrified to utter your name.

Some people have built comedy empires making fun of other people.  The king of insult comedy was Don Rickles.  But everybody knew it was all in fun and deep down he was a marshmallow.

Then there are Louis C.K., and Kathy Griffin and others.  Their style of humor leave one wondering if it is really humor or an acceptable platform to spout hurtful insults.

But no longer.  Kathy Griffin has to work overseas after her Donald Trump mask fiasco, and Louis C.K. saw a mega star career come crashing down in one day after accusations of sexual misconduct. Accusations he admitted to.

There have to be people somewhere, someplace taking quiet satisfaction when things like this happen.  And when they do, there are few friends to come to their defense.  The most obvious is Louis C.K. who for years was a writer for top TV talent such as Stephen Colbert, Conen O’Brien and on and on.  Everybody knew him before he made it big.  And it is like they knew his behavior and kept quiet.

They still are keeping quiet.

Perhaps the lesson for media and PR sustainability is be careful what bridges you burn and what fellow entertainers you insult.

One day you just might need the friendship you threw away so easily.



PR vs. Marketing vs. Publicity vs. Advertising. War of the Words

Words matter. But does it matter in the public relations (PR) and marketing business?

If it matters anywhere, it matters in marketing. We have had many meetings when clients say something like, “we need some publicity for this new initiative.” To us, “publicity” means media relations — working with reporters to get articles and TV segments for the client. To the client, it could mean taking out an ad. In one case, the client was referring to billboards.

So it is important to define terms and everybody be on the same page. That’s why organizations hire PR / marketing firms to create strategies. But when talking with one another, defining what terms mean, and what makes the most effective marketing sense, can make all the difference in the world.

Marketing a Fundraiser

If you are a nonprofit, you probably hold an annual fundraising event.  It could be a gala, sporting event or one of a myriad of other events.  These serve two purposes.  First, to raise funds, of course, but also to being awareness and PR to your agency.

Putting together a successful fundraising event is not easy.  It takes lots of hard work, time, planning and initially an outlaying of funds.  And who knows how successful it will be? You won’t until the event is over and you subtract expenses from income.

One suggestion is to have a strong committee.  This committee’s role will be to create a dynamic program, bring talent to the table and most important to sell tickets.  And ticket sales, to a large degree, depends on having strong honorees.

Many people don’t like being an honoree because then the floodgates open for other organizations to ask them.  But getting honorees who have influence and funds, can be crucial to a strong fundraising event.

Last, it may take a few years to start making money.  Look at a fundraising event as a long-term investment that takes time.  It will eventually pay off.


The Weinstein PR Debacle

Harvey Weinstein debacle

Harvey Weinsetin

Few examples of a sudden fall from grace come close to the case of Harvey Weinstein.  One day he is king of Hollywood, the next he can’t get a seat at a McDonald’s in Hollywood.  Some call it a PR disaster.  It is much more.

The term “casting couch” wasn’t invented yesterday or by Weinstein.  It has been part of Hollywood for decades.  But with social media, and the 24 hour news cycle, what was once a news story can be turned into a major global debacle.

Weinstein will try all he can to re-build his image by going to “sex therapy.”  He will fight for his company and try to get his life back.

I don’t have a crystal ball, but it seems futile.

As they say, its a short step from the limousine to the curb.

The day the laughter died

nonprofit-pr-los-angeles-Jerry-Lewis--image.jpgThe day after Jerry Lewis died, the world went dark.

Yes, it was a coincidence, that the solar eclipse happened the day after, but a telling one.

Jerry Lewis had to have been one of the most famous people in the last 100 years.  Who doesn’t know Jerry Lewis?  Whether you remember his movies, his act, his interviews or his telethon, we all knew Jerry Lewis.

Jerry Lewis devoted his entire life, until the day he died, to making people laugh.  He also devoted it to raising money for MDA to help children afflicted with Muscular Dystrophy.

Yes, he had a snarky side. He had a larger than life, somewhat annoying ego, but he earned it.  Nobody comes from a poor Jewish neighborhood in New York and catapults himself into the most famous funnyman in history without being somewhat eccentric.

When we lose someone we all love and admire, like Dick Gregory a few days prior and now Jerry Lewis, we tend to say the same things — there never will be another one like him.  H/she was one of a kind, and all those platitudes.

In the case of Jerry Lewis, it is true.



When PR gets in the way of the message

All of us want to be loved.  Well, at least liked.

This is apparently no more the case than with our president.

President Trump is obsessed with what people say about him; what people think of him and his popularity.  This is not a political statement.  He has admitted it and displayed this obsession by watching what seems to be countless of hours of cable television to see what the media say about him.

Obviously, much if not most of it, is not good.  So how does he change that?  How does President Trump manage his own PR so he markets himself in a way that will improve his likability and make him happy?

There is only one way, and it is not through polished statements read off a teleprompter.  (Not his strength.)

The President needs to stop worrying so much about his image and start getting things done.

Certainly much of what he wants to get done people disagree with.  I won’t rehash the list, but we know what they are.

But one thing is for sure.  Everybody wants a stronger economy.  Everybody wants a job.  Everybody wants healthcare  If he can achieve this, and it won’t be easy, then his misstatements and political pitfalls will be easier to forgive.  At least for some people.  For many others there is nothing he can do that will redeem him.

He also needs to remember that presidential criticism is part of the job.  There has never been a president when everything he did received 100% approval.  Maybe Trump is facing more of an uphill battle than prior presidents, much because of his own doing, but he needs to swallow it and roll up his shirtsleeves.

So if he can, and that is a big IF, he should turn off the TV and get to work.  Americans want a better life, not someone who can deliver a pretty speech.  Doing both is better, but people will take what they can get.

And right now, people aren’t asking for much.  They just want to pay their bills, raise their families in peace and have the dignity of a job.

If he can do that, his PR and image will rise.

IF he can do that.



Something we (finally) all can agree on

In today’s divided country and world, it is a breath of fresh air when there is something we all can agree on.

And it happened today.  The solar eclipse was cool.

For a few hours, people stopped fighting with one another, writing hateful messages and levying threats.  Even the media made room for the one event that everybody in the world could witness on the same day, with or without those special glasses.  And it had nothing to do with politics.

Maybe that’s what we need more of.  Natural occurrences that are undeniable and that we all can witness at the same time and agree upon.

Hopefully something like this will come along again before another 100 years or so.