Monday, August 25, 2014

Obama, PR, and Message Control

Early in his Presidency, Barack Obama was often accused of playing it too tight, sometimes not giving reporters a shot to ask a question at all, or only taking pre-approved queries vetted by aides. But recently, the President has been much more open and available. Is this a shift in policy, or has the President relaxed his message control protocols in his second term?

Of course, message control is part of what being POTUS is all about. You can’t be the leader of the free world and not understand media. The difference between what you know and what you can say will turn your hair gray.

But changes in how Presidents control their messages can offer compelling PR lessons. When they come into the “marketplace,” new Presidents are often closed to outside ideas and leading questions that might push them off their message or detour a conversation. They want all the attention on them and what they have to say. The communication is not yet a conversation, it is much more a dissertation.

Then, as they establish their brand and learn the reality of their “market situation,” sometimes the communication is more open and less one-sided. Only sometimes. Some Presidential “brands” chose not only to never really engage in conversation with the press, but they only submitted terse and carefully vetted missives. Others have been easy and gregarious, without offering much of substance in their communication. Style and personality play into this approach, but never forget, at the core is very finely crafted message control.

You will never reach the levels of success you wish to achieve without carefully crafted and controlled messaging. You need consumers to respond to your communication in predictable ways, just as politicians do. This requires a long-term strategy with adequate foresight and a keen understanding of both where you want to go and who you need to talk to in order to make that happen.

How’s your long-term PR plan?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Reality Program Dating Naked Fails to Arouse Interest

It was hardly the most anticipated new show of the season, but VH1 was certainly hoping for a warm reception for its new “reality” show, Dating Naked.

This is hardly the first game show to ignore lines of decency in order to get an audience, but it’s nowhere near as original or daring as the producers are hoping you will think it is.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Rise of Airbus

What happens when your key PR promotion threatens to nearly destroy your company? Ronn Torossian says Japan’s Skymark Airlines may be about to find out
According to Businessweek, about four years ago Skymark decided it wanted to own a fleet of the world’s largest airplanes. Ambitious for a small budget airline? Certainly. Good for PR? Absolutely. With the purchase, Skymark declared its intention to become a major player in the international, premium air travel industry.
But once the buzz dies down, sometimes the reality sets in. When they made the order, industry insiders were highly critical, and now it looks like they may have been right. This past month, Airbus canceled Skymark’s order citing negotiations that have become, in a word, contentious. While two jets have already been built, Airbus is now concerned Skymark may not be able to pay for them. And they must be VERY serious about it. After all, these jets have already been outfitted to Skymark’s specs, which might make them difficult to sell to anyone else.
Even worse, Airbus will probably keep the cash – about $260 million – that Skymark has already paid, and then assess additional fees and penalties. As you might expect, investors responded very negatively to this news, and Skymark’s stock plunged. Further troubling, the airline announced it was already losing money and would be canceling some routes to compensate.
So, what’s the PR lesson here? For starters, when you try to “level up” in business, expect to get called on it. The competition at a higher level has no obligation to make it easy for you to grow your business, and, in most cases, they will do what they can to keep you out of their market level and away from their market share.

Now, consider what would have happened if Airbus has called Skymark out and the company has responded by showing ample ability to pay full freight. Not only would their standing have been reaffirmed – and their planes delivered – their Public Relations and likely their stock price would have skyrocketed. Instead, because they got called out for being in over their heads and could not answer that call, Skymark may finish 2014 as just another warning for other would be ladder climbers. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Can Firefox Really Burn the Android?

Communication is changing, no surprise there. If there is one constant in the “talking” industry, it is change. History tells us that, along with that change, we will see a shift in market players. Big Names will emerge and turn former Big Names into historical footnotes. Remember the “Crackberry?”

But, in the world of technology, there is always the wildcard. It may never grab a majority of market share, but it finds a market and gains a foothold, bleeding points from industry leaders in a war of attrition. Could this be the case with the newest entry into the mobile market?

Mozilla’s army of volunteer coders has created the first viable alternative to the Big Name mobile device manufacturers, a phone that runs on the popular Firefox platform.

Firefox remains a popular “not Google” alternative to IE and Safari, and Mozilla is hoping that the same will soon be said for its phone. And, that may happen, if the marketplace big boys allow it.

Until this point, Mozilla has not really been considered a threat to the for-profit market leaders. The company operated as an open-source entity, creating code that others could commercialize or build on and make better. Google, Apple, and Microsoft essentially treated Mozilla like Doc Brown, toiling away in his garage, but no real threat to their core market share. In fact, about 90% of Mozilla’s recent revenue has come from – wait for it – a search traffic deal with Google. But now Mozilla has moved beyond the kooky guy in his garage, and may have actually turned that Delorean into a time machine.

Google’s Android currently owns the market, maintaining a 78% market share, more than four times Apple’s 18% second-place position. No one seriously expects Firefox to put a dent in the iPhone, so that makes Android the more likely target. If Firefox can compete on either “cool” or “price,” or "both," as they have shown in some markets already, then Google may have to take a serious look at their once-and-future internet ally.

Another potential – and likely, safer – target is the aforementioned Blackberry. The fallen king of the mobile market is looking at some of the same developing international markets where the Firefox phones could make a splash. Could this turn into the ultimate undercard fight that overshadows the heavyweight bout? The answer to that question will play out based on how each brand introduces its brand, and manages the consumer PR in these markets.