JaMarcus Russell's four-yard touchdown pass to Early Doucet with nine seconds left in LSU's 28-24 win over Tennessee has been nominated for the Pontiac Game Changing Performance this week. No no, not that. We are talking about the tactic of the week in the public relations game. And here it is: Somebody – and we are not totally certain who – tried an intriguing new PR approach last weekend in the Southern New Jersey community of Barclay Farm. Someone - and we are not totally certain who – left a severed pig’s head at the front door of local gadfly Alene Ammond.
Okay, by way of a little background: When the PR industry gets involved in a David vs. Goliath battle, pitting community activists against corporations or the government, guess whose side we usually take? Unless David happens to be David Geffen or David Rockefeller, he can’t afford us. So we all rush to Goliath’s side with our bags of tricks -- some preliminary research, a SWOT analysis, soft-soundings of local press, a list of charities favored by politicos, two dogs, five ponies.
See, Goliath is totally misunderstood and underrepresented. And if democracy means anything, if fair play and free speech still exists in this country, Goliath has a right to hire us. For $50,000 a month (and reasonable expenses, of course), Goliath will get every billable-hour-churning tactic we can throw at his problem, e.g. press packets, VNRs, testimonials, the works. In fact, if he's got just a little "extra," we'll get "creative."
Well, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, this Ammond person has battled government officials in Camden County and Cherry Hill, alleging fraudulent deals with developers, cozy arrangements with adult-video merchants, and insensitivity to community needs. To Goliath, she's a damn nuisance.
So imagine, if you will, the PR challenge. Objectives: 1. Neutralize Ammond. 2. Create a memorable symbol that wards off future errant activists. 3. Make sure the character is kid friendly. 4. Ensure that all program deliverables are biodegradable.
Hmmmm. "How 'bout a pig's head?!!!!"
Now for the record, this campaign has/had "legs." Sources have it that the unnamed firm is considering a blog, describing his travels throughout the country in a Winnebago. The pig would sprinkle throughout his blog posts clever clues to his identity. This will engage members of the community in a kind of treasure hunt. Nowadays, you just have to involve the public.
Finally, just when the campaign has reached fever pitch, the mysterious company’s CEO should appear at a Board of Freeholders meeting, wearing the pig-head over his own, with a promise to reveal his identity during his testimony. TV news outlets would simply have to cover it live. Just as the head is about to be removed, an assembly of Hooters waitresses would appear, with platters of pork ribs for the freeholders and their staffs to consume while debating the pig’s project. The community activists would have nothing to counter this, and would slink away, humiliated, and thus cede the pig his wishes by default.
Brilliant! This is surely a Silver Anvil winner in the making.
Posted by Amanda Chapel Thursday, November 16, 2006
PR Industry All Smiles for Smiley
Remember two years ago when Bill Cosby delivered an almost totally inappropriate rant at the NAACP gala marking the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education desegregation ruling? Honest he was, but what an explosive nightmare. Well, PBS talk show host Tavis Smiley did just that to the PR industry at the 2006 International Conference of the Public Relations Society of America. Yiiish! Smiley prefaced his keynote with this caveat, "I don’t know how you judge public speakers, but if I go hear someone in a public space... if I personally am not unsettled by the presentation... then the speaker failed." Smiley delivered.
First, a little perspective: what constitutes "nightmare"? Well, certainly, there are degrees of unsettling. Person and context are key.
With regard to person: On the low end of the scale, there's mom kinda poignant: "Honey, that scarf doesn't go with that coat." Or, "are you going to put a comb through that hair before you go out dear?" Pokes for sure but readily manageable, i.e. with a decent therapist. Mothers. I am told it's because she love me.
But then there are criticisms from non-relative friends. They're hard.
And then there are criticisms from stranger guests. EXCUSE ME! YOU GOT A PROBLEM WITH THIS SCARF PAL! YOU WANNA PIECE OF ME!!
All right, now for context: Can you imagine my reaction when my former husband invited his buddy over for dinner who proceeded to tell me that the "chicken was a little rubbery"? Arrrgh. Alright how bout this: can you imagine the minister's invocation at the 29th Annual Lifestyles Convention at the Hilton in Reno. All hell and damnation, fifteen-hundred plus bare-naked butts squirming in their seats. But then there's the almost unimaginable: How 'bout a Don Rickles-like caustic comedian doing gay jokes at the Annual Meeting for the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. Not cool.
Frankly, the last example is beyond inappropriate. It's totally taboo. Not only is it politically incorrect, it's not something the audience can do anything about. Joke or no joke, you cannot call people out for something that's culturally or physically engrained. Unsettling for sure, but that's all. The potential to motivate change is unrealistic. Some would call it cruel.
"I am talking about these people who cry when their son is standing there in an orange suit. Where were you when he was 2? Where were you when he was 12? Where were you when he was 18 and how come you didn't know that he had a pistol? And where is the father?
"People putting their clothes on backwards: Isn't that a sign of something gone wrong? People with their hats on backwards, pants down around the crack, isn't that a sign of something, or are you waiting for Jesus to pull his pants up? Isn't it a sign of something when she has her dress all the way up to the crack and got all type of needles [piercings] going through her body? What part of Africa did this come from? Those people are not Africans; they don't know a damn thing about Africa."
"With names like Shaniqua, Taliqua and Mohammed and all of that crap, and all of them are in jail. Brown versus the Board of Education is no longer the white person's problem. We have got to take the neighborhood back. Forget about telling your child to go into the Peace Corps, it is right around the corner. They are standing on the corner and they can't speak English."
"Basketball players -- multimillionaires -- can't write a paragraph. Football players -- multimillionaires -- can't read. Well, Brown versus Board of Education: Where are we today? They paved the way, but what did we do with it? Fifty percent drop out, the rest of them are in prison."
"Five, six children -- same woman -- eight, 10 different husbands or whatever. Pretty soon you are going to have DNA cards to tell who you are making love to. You don't know who this is. It might be your grandmother. I am telling you, they're young enough! Hey, you have a baby when you are 12; your baby turns 13 and has a baby. How old are you? Huh? Grandmother! By the time you are 12 you can have sex with your grandmother, you keep those numbers coming."
"PR has a problem. Something is amiss here, something has run amok.”
“PR has gotten a bad name as a profession. It’s been sullied, demonized, and devalued and it’s time to stop the spin."
"As soon as someone hears the term, 'PR,' they know they’re about to be spun...we’ve gotten off the message and here comes the PR."
"Reputation management? I hold my nose every time I say it. How about having a reputation that doesn’t need to be managed?"
"Stop the spinning. The American people are sick and tired of being spun. People want to know if what they are seeing is real.”
"Be truth tellers and avoid mendacity. The public is sick of mendacity and hypocrisy and being treated like they’re stupid.”
"It’s not about a strategic opportunity. It’s about responding to this craving that American people have for something that is authentic, something that is real."
Now keep in mind the degree of outrage and discussion Cosby remarks caused. PR, not so much.
PR industry monitor Jack O'Dwyer had this to say: "There was about zero reporting on what Tavis said. Tavis reamed them out and they don’t even know it. These people congenitally cannot take bad news."
But on the official Conference Blog, Laurel O'Brien, APR, spun it this way: "What a way to open the conference! Tavis Smiley brought everyone to their feet with his message of love and service. The evening ended with a bang – the opening night gala featured amazing acrobatics by gymnasts, skiers, and snow boarders. And I connected with old friends, new friends, and colleagues. Can’t wait to see what Monday brings!"
Hmmmmmm. "Stop the spinning." Is that even possible? Can't wait to see what tomorow brings. :(
On Thursday, March 8, 2007 at 7:41 AM, Ronn Torossian, President and CEO of 5WPR, emphatically promised that he was going to sue us. No real reason, he was just irritated by our teasing him about getting in bed with pornographer Joe Francis. Anyway, Ronn gave his obscenity-laced word that we'd see the complaint in 72 hours. It's now late by
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