Thursday, December 23, 2010

2010 Another Year Shot to Heck!

Christmas 2010
2010, The Year That Was… 

Its time to bid 2010
Adios, so-long, bye-bye
Some say it was just rotten
A year that’s gone awry

Health care laws get re-hashed
Foreclosure leaves us bleak
Lady Gaga’s unsurpassed
And Twitter’s at its peak

Trillion dollar deficits
Hit obscenely new sky highs
Our living standard is the pits
We have to roll our eyes

In Afghanistan the battles rage
At peace can we excel?
It’s really hard to disengage
Don’t ask, and please don’t tell

The jobless rate is much too high
It’s stuck near 10 percent
Optimism’s in short supply
Sarah Palin for president?

Global warming, I feel a chill
Melting glaciers in retreat
Our pensions sliding down the hill
North Korea’s bringing heat

Despite the woes we surely face
There’s still one thing to Love
We’ll all survive if we embrace
The higher power Above

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Guerrilla Marketing Meets the Christmas Spirit

Bah Humbug!  Here's a Holiday feel good story for you.  As you might recall, I've been doing some volunteer PR work for a large animal shelter. (Centre County PAWS)  Recently I was asked to help decorate a Christmas tree for the annual "Festival of the Trees".  It's a big community event sponsored by the YMCA- local businesses decorate trees to show their holiday spirit. (And get some attention too!)

     Usually, the animal shelter sets up a pretty typical animal shelter tree- using dog bones, leashes & stuffed dog and cat toys for ornaments.  It's very nice- and a good theme.  But this time we decided to try something different.  So we contacted a local elementary school and asked if any students would be willing to make ornaments- illustrating their desire to help homeless animals.  A German teacher and an Art teacher said they'd do it.

     I'm thinking it's a win-win.  We get a tree loaded with handmade decorations. We demonstrate the animal shelter is involved in the community.  And we get some good PR for the animal shelter.  And who knows, maybe we can even get PAWS a mention in the newspaper.  We can use it- money is tight and we desperately need volunteers.  

     Frankly, I wasn't expecting much in the way of student-crafted ornaments.  Maybe some paper mache glops with whiskers on them?  What I got was definitely not The Usual.  When I picked up the ornaments last night I was floored.  These are really  good!
     The kids made dozens of regular round glass ornaments- decorating them to look like dog faces complete with snouts.  They made dozens of cat ornaments out of wooden spoons with pipe-cleaner tails.  They tied ribbons and bells to dog bones.  And all of the ornaments are really cute.

     But the most amazing part- kids took photos of our homeless animals, etched them onto foil, and painted them.  You can actually recognize the dogs and cats- except that now they're works of art!  They even made a tree-topper out of a dog dish- filled with biscuits- emblazoned with the PAWS logo.  Unbelievable!
     The tree is amazing.  So, we're contacting the newspaper and TV stations to tell them how these wonderful, talented kids are helping animals in need.  We're contacting the school district's PR department so they can do a story on these terrific students.  I'm even blogging about it!

     Here's the take-away.  This could have been a run-of-the-mill event for us.  But by trying something different we got something unusual.  I'm not saying we're geniuses- we just tried something different.  Suddenly this is a fun, somewhat exciting, semi-high-visibility production.

What mundane PR events are on your calendar?  How can you replace the Ho-Hum with a burst of HoHoHo?  My Grandmother always said, "Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid."  So get out there and be bold- get creative.  And your client just might think you really are a PR genius!  How's that for a Holiday feel good story?  I leave you with a video clip of our magnificent Christmas tree!

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Friday, December 3, 2010

Yahoo's Top 10 Reasons You Should Care

     I'll admit it.  The excitement here at Steve Bauer Media is palpable.  We're all atwitter because Yahoo just released it's list of "Top 10 Searches" for 2010.  And The List says a lot about the world we live in. The giant search machine claims 631 million people used its service- making billions of searches.  Drum roll please.  

     Not surprisingly, you and/or your firm's name are not on this list.  Unless you work for BP.  Yahoo says this year's most searched term was "BP Oil Spill".  There's a classic lesson in bad PR.  On the other hand, BP is #1!  You could argue that any publicity is good publicity- as long as they spell your name right.  B-P, Got it. 

     On the other hand, the #2 spot goes to "World Cup" a stunning PR success for South Africa, Soccer, and the makers of those awful vuvuzela horns

     But here's where it gets interesting;
3) Teen Singer 'Miley Cyrus'
4) Reality Show Royalty 'Kim Kardashian'
5) Pop Princess 'Lady Gaga'
7) Actress 'Megan Fox'
8) Boy Toy 'Justin Bieber'
9) American Idol
10) Britney Spears

     Lost in the sea of entertainment luminaries is #6- the iPhone.  We'll dial up the iPhone in a sec.  So what does this top 10 search list tell us about America?  We're apparently very interested in young pop stars/entertainers.  This suggests that most Yahoo users are also young pop star/entertainment-crazed internet users.  You might recall that a few years back Britney Spears was a perennial #1 on Yahoo's list.  Now that she's getting older Britney has plummeted to #10.  So if I'm selling Geritol (you kids will have to ask your parents) I'd stay with Lawrence Welk reruns.  If I'm selling Red Bull (the 2010 version of Geritol) Yahoo might be a great place to use your PR/marketing dollars.

     Which brings us back to #6, the iPhone.  That's not a big surprise.  I mean, what do you think these young people are using to search Yahoo?  Still, I am surprised the iPad, iMac and iNausea aren't also on the list.  Steve Jobs seems to be a one-man marketing machine.  So if you want to target the youth/tech market, developing an iPhone "app" for your product or service might be a really good (cost efficient) way to reach your audience. 

     So what is the take away from all this?  Despite all the polls and surveys reporting that record numbers of older people are using the internet, I'm a little skeptical.  Sure, Grandma is finally learning to send e-mail.  And in some cases she's even on Facebook.  But Twitter?  Not so much.  I'll bet the vast majority of internet users skew towards the 30-and-under set.  Just saying.

     Another thing I'm just saying.  How come Yahoo users care more about teen singers than they do about the real world?  I said real world, not reality world.  My guess?  Younger people want to feel good- not depressed.  Otherwise, Yahoo's list would look like this.

1) Wall Street Bailouts
2) Unemployment
3) Budget Deficit
4) 2010 Elections
5)Global Warming
6) Afghanistan War
7) Sarah Palin
8) North Korea
9) Gays in Military
10) Immigration

     Pass the Geritol.  Lady Gaga is looking better by the minute.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Keep Your Eye on the Prize

     Talk about Must See TV!  A blind woman gets her vision back thanks to a miraculous new surgery involving a tooth.  No kidding!  It's a rare chance for the health care industry to shine.  Instead, this feel good story turns into a needless PR hit for a company that should have seen this one coming.

     Kay Thornton lost her vision 10 years ago, the result of a rare disease.  Doctors in Miami removed one of Thornton's teeth and implanted it in her eye, as an anchor for a tiny lens.  Get this- the 61-year-old woman now sees well enough to drive a car again.  Amazing!  But the response from Thornton's insurer was anything but...

     Instead of being the hero, Thornton's shortsighted insurance company (Humana) played the villain.  That's because Humana initially refused to pay for the procedure.  According to NBC's Kerry Saunders, Humana told him that "medical records did not show that the eye surgery... was medically necessary and reasonable."  So there's Saunders on network TV wondering why Humana didn't think restoring a person's vision was necessary or reasonable.  At first, Humana said it would investigate.  And then in a reversal, Humana said it would "pay the outstanding physician claim."  Humana was smart enough to change course, but this should never have happened.

     I'd think health insurance companies would be especially sensitive to PR but that's not always the case.  Earlier this year, an insurance company refused to cover a baby because he was considered too fat.  Now, it doesn't take a genius to know this kind of rigid posture is going to generate negative PR.  And what about Kay Thornton's case?  Instead of playing a supporting role in a medical miracle- Humana comes off looking like the mean machine of medicine.

     We all understand that insurance companies don't like to pay for procedures in general- much less operations that could be considered experimental.  But someone at Humana knew or should have known this was a poor decision.  I've said it before- negative PR is frequently self-inflicted.  And once your reputation is injured there's not much the spin doctors can do for you.  So remember, by doing the right thing you can get the right result- positive publicity.  By taking a position that looks wrong (even when you may be in the right) you can get a black eye.

Here's a link to NBC's report.
Woman loses tooth- regains her vision!

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Holiday Deals -OR- Black Friday Thrills & Chills

     Hang on to your wallet!  With Black Friday almost here corporate America is ready to cash in.  You could take one on the chin if you're not careful! 

     To be fair, many companies "do well by doing good".  But it appears that some companies are willing to risk reputations to make some extra cash.  Are the short-term profits worth the PR headaches?  You be the judge.

     Responding to new federal regulations designed to protect us consumers, banks and credit card companies are out with a host of new fees.  I saw a news story today in which a bank was charging $8.95 a month for a service it called "totally free checking".  Come again?
     I see that Target has teamed up with American Express to sell gift cards which include a "purchase fee".  When you purchase a $25 gift card- you get charged a $4 fee bringing the total to $29.  That means Target & AmEx are hitting you with a 16% fee to cover the cost of that little plastic card.  It's a great gift- at least it is for the folks at Target & AmEx.
     Consumer Reports is just out with a naughty and nice list.  CR says it didn't target any companies in particular.  It's just a list of some of the best practices and some of the not-so-best practices.

     According to CR, Dollar Rent-A-Car is requiring customers to produce a receipt to prove they bought gas within 10 miles of the car drop-off location.  No receipt means you're charged a "top-off" fee and the cost of labor to fill the tank.  Compare that to L.L. Bean.  L.L. Bean offers a 100% product satisfaction guarantee. Return anything at any time for any reason.

     Spirit Airlines charges $35 for a carry-on.  It's $45 if you pay at the gate.  Over at Southwest Airlines you can check two bags for free- and there's no charge for carry-ons.

     Macy's sets shipping fees for on-line customers based on dollars spent- not the size or weight of the package.  Meantime, has free shipping and free returns and they even send along a prepaid return label.

     J&R, an electronics superstore, has a simple price-match policy.  They'll "do everything possible to meet or beat" a competitors price.  United Airlines has a low-price guarantee.  If you buy a non-refundable ticket, and find a lower price, UAL will pay the difference.  But the airline will also charge you a $150 "administrative" fee.

     I think it was HL Mencken who famously said, "No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public".  That could be true.  But as we roll into the holiday season this negative press isn't going to help anyone's bottom line.

     As a consumer which of these companies would you want to do business with?  If you're handling PR which companies are going to make your job difficult?  And if you're a CEO is this negative PR worth the money you're making?  It's your decision.  I'm voting with my wallet.

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Here's a link to Consumer Reports naughty/nice list:
Consumer Reports Naughty & Nice

Friday, November 5, 2010

Random Acts of Culture -OR- Great PR Is Impossible To Ignore

The editors of SteveBauerMedia want to end the week on an uplifting "note". In fact, quite a few notes. The Knight Foundation is sponsoring a program called 1,000 Random Acts of Culture. You might have caught their act recently. Performers are staging impromptu (yet carefully planned) performances at stores, malls and other public areas. It's sort of like guerrilla warfare meets modern marketing meets terrific entertainment. Earlier this month 650 singers broke into song inside a Philadelphia Macy's store, accompanied by the world's largest pipe organ (28,000 pipes for those of you who are counting).
Similar events will be coming over the next three years in Philly, Akron, Charlotte, Detroit, Macon, San Jose, St Paul & Miami. So don't be surprised if you find yourself caught up in something remarkable! The link appears below. Enjoy!

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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Campaign 2010 -OR- NoNoNo HoHoHo

     November 2nd.  Election day.  By now you've probably heard the Tea Party is steamed! The Democrats are doomed!  And the Republicans are going to "change" Washington!  No matter which side you're on, I think all right-minded Americans can agree, this is the day we proudly go to the polls and decide who's going to louse up our lives for the next couple of years.       
     At least this political season has been highly entertaining- especially the ads running on TV.  It's like 'Jersey Shore' meets 'Desperate Housewives'.  Lots of sex, violence, and bad manners.  I've never seen so many attack ads before.  If we believed the ridiculous claims in these ads we wouldn't vote for any of 'em!

      Have you noticed how most of those TV ads are paid for by mysterious sounding outfits like "United Americans for a Better Way" or " Better Americans United"?  According to the New York Times, "There has been a nationwide surge in TV ad spending for the midterms, which one group projects could top out at $3 billion this year, up from $2.7 billion in 2008."  Ad rates have surged because of the demand to place all of those attack ads.  And local businesses (the typical advertisers) now can't afford to run TV ads because they're too expensive.  What a mess.
     But here's what really has me riled up!  The Holidays.  Apparently, all of the corporations bankrolling those bombastic political ads have some money left over.  That's why we're already seeing Holiday ads on TV.  I was minding my own business last night when Best Buy aired an animated Holiday-themed spot.  And it wasn't even the first Holiday commercial I've seen.  Remember when advertisers waited until after Thanksgiving to begin running those TV commercials?  So it's November 2nd, a day to remember in America's political history.  That's because there are only 53 shopping days till Christmas!

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Get Your Kicks With Chix Fix In Stix - Fast Food Freebie Pulls Crowd

    We all know there's no such thing as a free lunch.  So how come dinner "on the house" is giving Chick-Fil-A a PR boost that money can't buy?  Today, a new Chick-Fil-A restaurant opened here in State College, PA.  And people actually camped out to be among the first diners.  Is the food really THAT good? 

     Here's what's pulling them in.  When Chick-Fil-A opens a new shop it gives the first 100 customers certificates for 52 free meals.  That's one chicken dinner a week for a year.  I'd be willing to camp out for 52 free meals, wouldn't you?

     This PR strategy isn't cost free- but it is dirt cheap.  If we assume each free meal costs Chick-Fil-A $2 the tab for 100 people will run a bit over $10,000.  So what did that money buy?

    The grand opening story, with photos, got a nice write-up in our local newspaper.  It will probably make all the local TV news shows tonight.  According to the Centre Daily Times, "passionate fans" traveled from as far away as Virginia and Florida for this grand opening give-away.  John Yasenka claims this is the 40th time he's camped out at a Chick-Fil-A to get his mitts on those 52 certificates.  Asked why he made the trip, Yansenka says, "I like the chicken".  And there are 99 other people like John who will tell all their friends.  That translates into a lot of low-cost PR.

     When I Googled Chick-Fil-A I found a web site for the new local eatery.  And there was also a post on Twitter encouraging people to line up for the free meal deal.  The next entry I discovered was a Chick-Fil-A Facebook page.  The local restaurant has 549 friends- already.  Did I mention that this restaurant opened just today?
    Somebody at Chick-Fil-A seems to understand the concept of good PR.  As Chick-Fil-A's famous spokes-cows might say: Eat mor Chikin!  Get Mor Busnez! 

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

A GAP In My Education -Or- New Media Trumps Old School

      The  Gap replaces it's familiar old logo and triggers a nasty reaction.  Apparently, a lot of Gap shoppers hate the new look.  Bowing to the public outcry- Gap brings back the original logo. 
Original Logo
Newly Deleted Logo
     It reminds me of the furor over "New" Coke. For those who don't remember: many years ago Coke replaced its original beverage with "New" Coke.  Coke drinkers went apoplectic.  There was a groundswell of negative publicity.  The fiasco ended with Coca Cola having to bring back "Old" Coke.  

    The Gap Flap features a decidedly new twist.  According to the Wall Street Journal, Facebook played a role in Gap's decision to kill its new logo.  I just now checked Gap's Facebook page and it says 742,317 people are followers.  On the one hand I think that's 742,317 people with too much time on their hands.  On the other, I'm surprised the number isn't much bigger. Here's the post from Gap's top brass:

"Ok. We’ve heard loud and clear that you don’t like the new logo. We’ve learned a lot from the feedback. We only want what’s best for the brand and our customers. So instead of crowd sourcing, we’re bringing back the Blue Box..."

      For anyone who's wondering, crowdsourcing is the act of using a large group to collaborate on a project- in this case the Gap Logo makeover.  I'd say Gap (like a lot of companies) has learned the value of social media.  And this logo turnabout demonstrates some PR savvy.  More companies should listen to their customers.  So, Gap-goers are happy again.   The old logo is back.

     But wait- was this just part of a clever marketing campaign?  Gap sure got a lot of ink.  And as they say, any publicity is good publicity as long as they spell your name right.  And it's pretty hard to misspell G-A-P no matter what the logo looks like.  Personally, I doubt this logo uproar was the result of a premeditated PR campaign.  Very few marketing campaigns are intentionally designed to make customers unhappy.

     But some are.  Do you remember Sidd Finch?  In 1985 George Plimpton wrote an article for Sports Illustrated describing Finch- the Mets' amazing zen-master pitching-prospect.  Finch was a fireballer who's stuff was clocked at an unheard of 168 mph.  Baseball fans were stunned.  Baseball would never be the same.  But it was all a hoax.  An April Fools joke.  There was no Sidd Finch.  People were outraged.  Sports Illustrated received 2,000 letters from angry readers.  I just checked SI's web site.  There is no apology.  SI calls Sidd Finch, and I quote,  "the greatest stunt in SI history". Now that's PR. 

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Made in America

     Here's today's Consumer Marketing Hotline Question: Where did it come from?  The shoes you're wearing.  The food you eat.  The car you drive.  The insulation inside your house.  I could go on and on.  We're loading up on products that are made overseas while shipping American jobs to underdeveloped countries. 

     I workout with dumbbells that came from China.  How can China manufacture and then ship 20-pound weights that tremendous distance- for less money than we can make them in the US?

     Remember when Wal*Mart first made it big?  They had American flags on everything.  Everything was Made In America.  Now almost everything Wal*Mart sells is Made In China.  

     The home video camera sitting on my desk-Japan.  

     The computer keyboard I'm typing on- China.

     Nike sneakers.  Nike has plants all over the place, China, VietNam, Cambodia.  According to WikiAnswers only 5% if Nike apparel is manufactured here.

     I just pulled off my Bass shoe and looked at the tag.  Yes, my shoes were Made In China.

          Yesterday, my computer melted down and I had to call customer service- yes the infamous tech support. After an infuriating trip through an automated menu I ended up speaking to a person somewhere in Indonesia.  He was nicer than I was and very professional- but I just get so tired of saying WHAT? What did you say?  What are you asking me to do?  English is obviously not a first language in this situation.  And it's frustrating when you have to battle your way through "tech jargon" while having "a failure to communicate" at the same time.

     Trina and I have a new puppy and we wanted to buy a puppy bed.  We've been to Petco, PetSmart, local pet stores and Wal*Mart.  Everything is Made In China.

     Same goes for doggie toys.  Yep, they're Made In China.

     We tried to buy some rawhide bones.  You've probably heard about toxic pet food that was Made In China- so we wanted to avoid that.  But nearly all the rawhide bones at Wal*Mart are Made In China.  We did find a few Made In America- so we gladly paid extra for those.

     Here's a fun exercise.  Go into any major department store and try to buy clothing that's Made In America.  Good luck with that.

     Here's a tribute to American capitalism.  I have a Donald Trump bobble head from a marketing promotion for one of his casinos.  You guessed it.  On the bottom it says: Made In China.

    A couple of years ago Trina and I visited China and it was an incredible experience.  Sure, the history is amazing.  The country is amazing.  The crowds of Chinese are amazing.  But what really took our breath away was the growth.  In Shanghai they were building skyscrapers by the bushel.  Dozens and dozens of huge buildings were all going up at the same time.  Money is flooding into China- and a lot of that cash is our money.  Everybody has heard about it.  There are stories about it in the media every day.  But there never seems to be much interest in buying American.  Is it just me?  I think it seems strange- especially in this economy.

     All of this is leading up to this one marketing/media relations question.  If I owned a company and my products were Made In America I'd be shouting it from the rooftops.  So why doesn't it seem like anybody is doing that?  Just askin... 

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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Mel Gibson and other NewsMakers -OR- How to get Media Attention

     Nope.  This isn't about Mel Gibson.  I just wanted to grab your attention.  That's because this post IS about getting noticed.  Here are some random news stories that have captured media attention in recent years.   Some are silly.  Some are stupid.  All are somewhat entertaining.  And all of them appeared on TV and/or in newspapers.

Dateline Bloemfontein, South Africa:

     Charlie the Chimp has died.  Charlie was world famous for smoking cigarettes tossed into his cage by zoo visitors.  Charlie, believed to be 52 years old, will be stuffed and placed back on display.  What a drag...

Dateline Raleigh, NC: 

     A man robs a gas station and then tries to carjack a woman at a nearby supermarket.  A witness/shopper attacks the robber/carjacker with a frozen turkey.  The suspect is hospitalized with head injuries and a bruised wishbone....

Dateline Sparta, WI: 

     Two young men install flashing lights on their car and begin making phony traffic stops.  They also videotape the pranks and post the footage on YouTube.  One of them can be heard on tape saying, "This **** never gets old".  The two suspects are charged with impersonating police officers and DWI (Dim Witted Idiocy)

Dateline Bloomington, IL: 

     Just in time for the holidays.  Workers at the Miller Park Zoo make Christmas ornaments from the droppings of the zoo's two Reindeer.  The droppings are dried and either painted or rolled in glitter.  Very Glam!  Note to self: Never let a good marketing idea go to "Waste".


Dateline Hokkaido, Japan:

     Puzzled keepers at Kushiro Municipal Zoo couldn't figure out why a pair of polar bears refused to mate. After several months without any romantic "chemistry" a medical procedure determines that both bears are female.  Polar Bears have their share of troubles these days but Gobal Warming isn't always one of them.

     The common thread (or threat) is that all of these stories garnered media attention.  And you can too.  Outlandish and unusual will get you on TV.  Just make sure you're drawing attention to your product in a good way.  In other words, DON'T become the butt of the joke- insert Mel Gibson comment here.

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Monday, October 4, 2010

College Football Scores PR Points -OR- The Color of Money

      Did you enjoy the big college football games this past weekend?  My poor Nittany Lions sure took one in the chops!  Sure, everybody loves a winner.  Just ask Alabama- now ranked #1.  But even the losing teams scored big... as long as they got on TV.  And more schools are doing it every day.  TV now carries lots of football games featuring once "obscure" universities that you never heard of 10 years ago.

    Those "obscure" schools made a conscious decision to pursue football fame- and fortune.  When Florida International played Texas A&M you can bet FIU got a much-bigger-than-usual paycheck from the gate.  Nice.  But the big score is in VISIBILITY.  FIU is getting attention and it's the kind of free advertising money can't buy.  That's why Florida Atlantic will play Texas this season.   Eastern Michigan just played Ohio State and Cincinnati took on Oklahoma.
     Schools with established football programs have been raking it in for years.  Football is so important that successful coaches are making millions- much more than college presidents.  Again, the money is great- but what really counts is Visibility with a capital V.   When Penn State's team hits the top 10, the admissions office sees a surge in applications.  Researchers at Indiana University found that when the University of Florida won national championships in both football and basketball in 2006, applications from prospective students rose eight percent over the previous year.  Visibility.
     Since 1986, Boise State has been playing home games on AstroTurf that's dyed a blindingly bright blue.  Some people think that blue field helped put the Broncos on the map.  But it wasn't until Boise State started playing name brand opponents (Georgia in 2005, Oregon in 2008, Virginia Tech in 2010) that people really started noticing.  Currently Boise State is ranked #4. 
   In 2002 Boise State earned $70,000 on sales of Bronco-licensed products.  In 2009 they made $750,000.  Must be that blue field.

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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Don't Kill the Messenger -or- We miss you Walter Cronkite

      Talk about a love/hate relationship!  PR types LOVE the media when the stories they pitch get on the news.  I'll bet many of those same PR people HATE the media when their stories get ignored.  And these days, when it comes to hating the media, it seems that nearly everybody is doing it.  A new poll from Gallup reports that 57% of Americans have little or no trust in the mass media to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly.  And that, my friends, is an all-time record high.
     How did we ever reach this sorry (Fourth) Estate of affairs?  When I worked at CBS my mailbox was next to Walter Cronkite's.  What a thrill! (Okay, since we're talking about credibility here, Walter was long retired and I never even met him)  Anyway, Walter Cronkite was once considered the most-trusted man in America.  So what happened?
     Having spent a few years in the journalistic trenches I think I know what's going on.  Oh sure, social media is growing rapidly with anonymous people blogging anything they want- true or not.  But since most of us still get our news from television I think TV News is probably spawning the most media haters. The cable channel blowhards do a good job of polarizing our country.  Think O'Reilly vs Olbermann.  But as they say on TV: more on this story in a moment.  Here are some of the things people hate about TV News.  Trust me, people working in TV News know about this- but they can't stop themselves.

1) You watch an hour-long news program and they tease a story over and over.  Then the story comes up at the very end of the show and (don't blink) bam- it's over in 20 seconds.  The story is nothing.  No story should be shorter than the teases!  This really makes people mad.

2) Breaking News.  This just in: TV News viewers HATE it when you do Breaking News lead-ins to stories that happened hours ago.  You can always tell when you're watching faux breaking news because the report will include graphics, maps, and multiple live reporters.  It took them hours to get all this ready for air and viewers know it's not really breaking news.  If the accident wreckage is gone it is NOT breaking news.

3) Exclusive Reports.  How many times have you watched an EXCLUSIVE interview with the President on one network.  Twenty minutes later, the President is doing an interview on a different network: Yep, it's EXCLUSIVE! Please.

4) Fox News vs MSNBC: Just like the politicians, these two operations cater to their constituents.  Fox shills for conservatives.  MSNBC leans mightily to the left.  This isn't news.  It's entertainment. (see O'Reilly vs. Olbermann)  But the heat generated by all of the yelling has many Americans believing that you can't believe what anyone's saying.

5) Don't Kill The Messenger: Why some of this is YOUR FAULT.  You know when there's a big storm and the TV stations go wall-to-wall with non-stop weather coverage?

Anchor: Walt, is it still snowing there in Stormstown?

Walt: Yes, Roger, it's really coming down.  Let me get out my ruler and show you.  Three inches so far.  Let's check with my colleague, Ann WetFeet.  Ann, are you seeing snow there in Outyonder?

Ann: I lost my ruler but chief meteorologist Amy Sleetfinder tells me we have three AND a half inches in Outyonder!  Let's go back to Amy in the studio for the latest Stormchucker Radar Schtick!

Amy: Thanks Ann.  Nothing has changed in the past four hours.  But if you don't have to be out on the roads, for goodness sakes, stay home.....

      Yeah, we've all been there.
     What you don't see: In the newsroom the phones are ringing off the hoooook!  Angry viewers are calling in- demanding that we return to regular programming.  "I need Oprah NOW!!" 

      What you really don't see:  The next day we get our ratings report.  And the ratings are HUGE!- three times higher than anything Oprah can pull.  That's why it's YOUR FAULT.  If you stopped watching these endless weather reports the TV News guys would stop doing them.
     Most journalists try very hard to be objective, fair and accurate.  But in any line of work there are always some bad apples.  I was once assigned to work with a reporter who handed me a completed script before we even left the studio.  It included "responses" to interviews that hadn't taken place.  He planned to ask people to repeat what he'd written!  I killed the story and that reporter soon lost his job.  Kids, that's what really happens in journalism when you don't play by the rules.
    Believe it or not, I have never been asked to slant a story to reflect a specific viewpoint and I don't know of anyone who has.  Does it happen?  I'm sure it does.  But I certainly don't believe there's some big conspiracy.
     The media has a lot of faults- many self-inflicted.  So, how do we make people believe in the media again?  Maybe we need to ask ourselves- WWWD?  What would Walter Do?

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