Showing posts with label public relations. Show all posts
Showing posts with label public relations. Show all posts

Public speaking advice: Deb Sofield says

It's been a slow week for political news, with the summer heat and primary winners busily scrambling for campaign cash for fall races, so it's a good time to take Blogland readers down some slightly different avenues.

Deb Sofield is a great advocate for women in politics, but she's also a good speaking coach. She's starting a monthly series of speaking tips on her website - - entitled "Deb’s 15 Rules for the Road":

Rule number one is perhaps the simplest yet most hard ... and that is:

1. Lighten up – keep a relaxed face.

The most important minute of your life on the stage or in the boardroom or across the table is the first minute of your acknowledgement by the audience, or your dinner guest or your kid’s soccer coach by what is said in that initial look. Because early in a speech, presentation, talk, folks listen to what they “see” more that what they “hear”. So what they “see” must be professional, poised and polished.

Managing viral PR damage: Domino's Pizza You Tube incident

Last year, two former employees of a Domino's Pizza location in North Carolina, Michael Setzer and Kristi Hammonds, decided to have a little fun with the food, posting a video of them tampering with the food on YouTube. The original incident was discussed here in the Blogland.

The video hit the web quickly, and the s*** hit the fan just about as fast when viewers found it and began forwarding it around the web.

This ABC News story looks at how this PR disaster played out, including how web viewers played a key role in helping alert Dominos to the existence of the video, and how the pizza chain handled the mess:

Domino's was the latest company to be on the wrong end of a "Twitter storm," a spontaneously formed digital mob that rapidly shares information. The company's swift response to the employees and its wider customer base, using the same Web sites and media that spread the video, has been praised by observers who nevertheless wonder if the company can emerge unscathed.

A good example of a bad PR campaign

Bruce Landis with the Providence (R.I.) Journal brings us an excellent example of a poorly-planned public relations campaign from the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, which attempted to hype their recently-completed Interstate 195 relocation project. Their well-intentioned efforts, which aimed to avoid the urban project being associated with the Boston "Big Dig" quagmire, were poorly planned and stumbled in execution, ruining a good opportunity to gain the RIDOT the kind of positive publicity most public agencies would kill for.

To help, we've highlighted the goofs in bold red italics:

DOT spends $500,000 to avoid a ‘Little Dig’
01:00 AM EST on Wednesday, November 14, 2007 by Bruce Landis

Journal Staff Writer

PROVIDENCE — Partly to avoid having its biggest construction project maligned, the state Department of Transportation is spending $500,000 on an energetic public-relations campaign to trumpet the $610-million relocation of part of Route 195 and brand it with the name “Iway.”

The DOT’s campaign had been largely successful, despite massive delays on the stretch’s first evening commute last week — a problem that got progressively better as the week went on.

The DOT called last month “Iway October” in hopes that the project would open then, but it missed by a few days. For the last two years, the agency has issued a multimedia stream of publicity ranging from an “Iway” logo, with arches like those of the new Providence River Bridge, to decks of cards, numerous media events, a slogan (“Yours. Mine. Ours.”), and even promotional podcasts in two languages.

The $500,000, most of it from the federal government, comes to almost $95 per foot of new road.

Why focus a four-year public-relations campaign on attaching a made-up name to a one-mile stretch of highway that’s only a short piece of another, much longer highway?

Fear that people would start calling it something else, in particular the “Little Dig,” a backhanded reference to the Boston highway project. The “Big Dig” capped a history of cost overruns and delays last year, when a woman died because a poorly built tunnel ceiling fell on her car.

“We wanted to name it, and not have somebody else name it something less fortunate,” said Dana Alexander Nolfe, the DOT’s chief public affairs officer. She said she had started hearing “Little Dig” before the DOT launched the Iway campaign almost exactly two years ago.

The contract has cost $186,000 so far, Nolfe said. That includes money spent on numerous efforts other than publicity and “branding” the project, including widely publicized safety information and arrangements for highway closures and detours forced by major construction around and over two interstate highways.

It’s not clear how vigorously or how skillfully the DOT checked the Internet for other Iways. Lately, Nolfe has been swamped with work getting ready for the road’s opening last Sunday, and the ensuing traffic jams.

There are some other “Iways” on the Web.

For instance, there’s the New Delhi, India-based, which claims it has more than 3,300 cyber cafes in more than 150 cities. “Be an iway surfer,” the iway company urges.

There’s also the book, I-Way Robbery: Crime on the Internet.

The DOT is proud of its use of podcasts, which are digital media files intended for download to computers and portable media players. The DOT’s include video, music and narration extolling the virtues of the new highway.

On YouTube, the sprawling video Web site, the DOT’s podcasts are jostling for attention with several using the same name.

For example, the year-old video “Iway Farm” opens with the message, “Die Iway Die.” That Iway is an ax-swinging warrior who battles in the multiplayer role-playing game Guild Wars. He can deflect arrows and has the peculiar habit of carrying pets into battle. The video that starts with “Die, Iway, Die” ends with the message, “This Has Been An Anti Iway Production.”

That’s OK, Nolfe said. “We didn’t expect to be the only ones on the planet with an Iway. It’s new to Rhode Island.”

Responding to the PR campaign, journalists regularly drove up an embankment off Allens Avenue to what must be the most attractive venue for a news conference in Rhode Island — the new Providence River Bridge, with a great view down Providence Harbor. There and in news releases, the DOT has announced things, re-announced them, and sometimes announced its own announcements.

Take the podcasts, for which the DOT says it has been billed $52,202 so far.

In mid-September, the DOT announced a “premiere showing” Oct. 1 of a dozen podcasts, which would be released in English and Spanish, promoting the new section of highway.

On Oct. 1, it announced that the podcasts would be released, four at a time, during the following three weeks. DOT Director Jerome F. Williams was quoted saying, “This is an exciting time for RIDOT.”

In an otherwise-undated October memo on its Web site, the DOT announced that “RIDOT Enters the Age of New Media,” and explained that podcasts are not “just for 20-somethings.”

In fact, it said, “Many of our parents and even grandparents own computers and media players.”

On Oct. 9, the DOT announced that it had “launched a series of 12 bilingual Iway podcasts last week,” and that podcasts numbers three and four were released that day. Williams was quoted saying the podcasts “break new ground for Rhode Island.”

On Oct. 15, the DOT announced that it had now issued all 12 podcasts, with the last four going out that day.

The campaign is part of a contract with Duffy & Shanley, the Providence advertising, marketing and public-relations firm whose founding partner, David A. Duffy, has been a political ally of Governor Carcieri. The governor made Duffy head of his transition team in 2002 and later appointed him to the state Convention Center Authority.

The contract runs through October 2008, with an option to renew for a fifth year. Included in the contract is what the DOT describes as “branding.” In a memo, the agency cast branding in advertising terms, saying it “creates a measure of consumer awareness for a product” and will “positively position the project with the public,” in the process creating a “valuable asset for the Rhode Island Department of Transportation.”

As for “Iway,” the memo said, “The name is simple, clear, and most importantly … memorable.”

The DOT’s original goal, avoiding the nickname “Little Dig,” has been a smashing success. There are tens of thousands of references to “little dig” on the Web, but most of them are about being snarky, and only a tiny number about construction in Providence.

The DOT has done even better in the pages of The Providence Journal, with just two references to “Little Dig,” one in February in a real estate section “neighborhood of the week” article about Fox Point, and another one-sentence reference in a column the same month.

“That’s great,” Nolfe said. “I’ve done my job.”

On the other hand, using the name “Iway” set the DOT up for something that could be worse. After a few of the miles-long backups triggered by the new highway’s opening, one commuter coined a play on words that fit easily in a newspaper headline: “Iwait.”

McMaster stars in video on online predators - what's the big deal?

According to The State, Attorney Generalissimo Henry “Ferris Bueller” McMaster has garnered some free publicity for himself and provided a small peek inside his office’s efforts to snag online predators via an online video on Hitachi’s website.

The video focuses on his office’s online task force, discussing their work, and how they use Hitachi computing products in their work. The aim of the company’s program is to show some unconventional uses of their products, no doubt to convince potential buyers to give them a try.

In return, Henry and his staff get some free publicity. In the worlds of PR and political communication, “earned media” is never a bad thing. I call it a fair trade.

The story also raised questions that there may be an unfair advantage in that Henry received free advertising, which to me seemed to be fishing for a deeper story. They even put up an online poll asking readers if they felt that it was appropriate for Henry to appear in the video (I said yes).

Having just been re-elected unopposed, and with no discussion of any next political move, I don’t see the point of throwing that issue on the table. If he was gearing up for a Senate bid in two years, there might be something to discuss here.

But he’s not, so that dog ain't hunting.

If anything, since his election four years ago, we’ve probably seen the least overtly political behavior from Henry since before he first got into politics in the mid-1980.

Congrats to Henry on getting free publicity for its efforts to get on the cutting edge in the war on crime, and shame on Ben Werner at The State for trying to make a mountain out of a molehill.

If you'd like to know more about Henry's video, click here, and you can click here to see The State's copy of the video.
As some of ya'll alredy know, my father has been doing this same kind of work in the Lowcountry for years ...

Front page of the Beaufort Gazette (Me)

I made the front page of the Beaufort Gazette today, being interviewed for my day job about our newest highway project, down on St. Helena Island. I could not have written a stronger opening than this ... so good, you'd swear it was a marketing piece, not a newspaper story:
A road construction firm given accolades for a widening project on Lady's Island in 2003 has started work on the widening of U.S. 21 on St. Helena Island.

U.S. Group started work Sept. 7 on the 3 miles of the highway from the Chowan Creek Bridge to Tomm Fripp Road, surveying and moving trees and power, phone and sewer lines, company spokesman Earl Capps said Wednesday.

We're widening and improving intersections along a three-mile section of U.S. Route 21 - Sea Island Parkway. We've had a long relationship with the community, including our award-winning S.C. 802 widening project, and the replacement of the Johnson Creek bridge farther down U.S. Route 21, which connects Harbor Island to Hunting Island.

The 802 project was where we developed and implemented what was then the first PR / community relations program in the road construction industry in the Carolinas. We left a very strong impression in the area ... and a positive one at that.

LIBPA - the Ladys Island Business and Professional Association - was a community partner on the 802 project, and gave us their annual Spirit Award for community service. Their website recently gave their opinion of my company:
This is a very competent and professional construction company with a superb record for bringing their projects in “on time” and within budget. Welcome back to the Lady’s Island and St. Helena area.

If any of you are in that area, check out the communit project information website -

See, I'm not just some boring political hack after all!

PR motives in 7-11 split with Citgo?

Was the split between 7-11 and Citgo at least motivated in part by the continual verbal bombshells being cast by Venezuelan strongman Chavez?

The folks at Bulldog Reporter, a PR trade e-journal, seems to think that could have contributed to the split:

Representatives from Citgo however claim that it was a mutual understanding and was in no way a direct result of Chavez’s statements. But media critics across the board are deciphering 7-Eleven’s move as a PR-influenced jump to gain public support for the company in the wake of Bush’s name being dragged through the mud.

Bootlickers ... ummm ... Citgo talking heads claim the move had been planned all along:

Earlier this year and after many months of deliberation, CITGO Petroleum Corporation decided to allow its gasoline-supply contract with 7-Eleven to expire at the end of Sept. 2006. This decision was announced last July.

The 7-Eleven contract did not fit within CITGO’s strategy to balance sales with refinery production after the sale of its interest in a Houston area refinery.

“7-Eleven has been a valued customer for many years and we wish them the best,” stated Alan Flagg, general manager light oils marketing.

As Chavez pumps up the "crying wolf" rhetorical campaign, as well as strong-arming his nation, expect more controversy.

7-11 to Chavez: Goodbye

It appears that a twenty-year relationship between the 7-11 convenience store chain and Citgo, a subsidiary of the Venezuelan government's oil company, is coming to an end.

Long ago, I stopped buying Citgo brand gas, because I was appalled at Chavez' subversion of his country, and didn't want to subsidize a man who oppresses his own people. I don't boycott the stores, just the gas pumps, because inside merchandise sales don't benefit Citgo petroleum.

According to 7-Eleven spokesman Margaret Chabris: "Regardless of politics, we sympathize with many Americans' concern over derogatory comments about our country and its leadership recently made by Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez."

There are concerns that the increase in oil prices that is undoubtedly creating soaring revenue for Citgo's parent company is being lost through corruption, presumably by the Chavez regime:

Even Citgo, the U.S. refiner and gas retailer wholly owned by Pdvsa, earlier this year paid off all its debt and stopped the routine practice of reporting data to Moody's financial service -- thus ending all outside scrutiny of the company's books.

What's more, much of Venezuela's oil revenue now stays outside the government's budgetary channels. In recent years, Congress has set each year's government budget by setting Pdvsa's tax payments artificially low. This year, for example, Pdvsa's taxes are pegged to a price of $26 per barrel for Venezuela's blend of heavy crudes -- which currently sells for $58. The $32 per barrel difference remains largely off-budget, with no legislative supervision or disclosure of line-item details.

If Chavez thinks America is so terrible, then we should do him the courtesy of not spending our money on his regime. 7-11 did the right thing.

This follow's Chavez' outrageous scene at the United Nations, which even drew the scorn of congressional Democrats:

"You don't come into my country, you don't come into my congressional district, and you don't condemn my president. If there's any criticism of President Bush, it should be restricted to Americans - whether we voted for him or not."
- Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY)

"Hugo Chavez fancies himself a modern day Simon Bolivar but all he is, is an everyday thug ... he demeaned himself and he demeaned Venezuela."
- Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)

"His differences with United States policies are well-known, and the United Nations is a forum for airing such policy concerns. But his personal attacks and ridicule directed at the President of the United States are unacceptable."
- Rep. Chakka Fattah (D-PA)

We need to choke off dictators and demogogues like this loudmouth, who, like Hitler, began their political rise to power with a failed attempt to overthrow his government and then used heavy-handed efforts to consolidate power once in office, are real threats to peace in our region. The sooner the better.

Behind the Blog: Beers of the Blogland

Today, we bring you the first installment of "Behind the Blog", in which you are taken on exclusive, no-holds-barred looks behind the scenes of the Blogland of Earl Capps.

These days, we hear a lot about the need to consider alternative fuels, including grain alcohol. Always wanting to be on the cutting edge, this blog is doing its part to contribute to this effort.

That’s why BEER is an important part of fueling the creative energies behind this blog.

Modest, but reasonable and responsible, consumption of this vital energy source is an important source of energy for the operation of this blog. Specifically Corona, Bud Ice, Miller Genuine Draft and Killian’s Red.

When married, I drank very little. When I became single again, especially right after graduating with my B.A. degree in 2004, where my evenings became free again, I drank quite a lot.

When I thought I might be getting married to someone with ceiliac (they can’t consume anything with wheat products), I pretty much cleaned out my stock of beer, and even tried to get rid of bread so as to be supportive.

For those and other efforts I made, in the end, I got the treatment many twice-divorced single parents get a lot of in the dating world - kicked to the curb as “damaged goods”.

That’s when I rediscovered beer. Believe me, it sure made the reality of being damaged goods feel a lot better.

So beer is back, and beer is good. Beer helps make this blog possible, and it’s a far better fuel source for human consumption than gasoline (not to mention far less flammable). I recommend it highly, and for that matter, so does Homer Simpson.

Would Homer Simpson lie? Of course not – it’s not like he’s running for office. Only politicians lie, so Homer has to be telling the truth. Even if you can’t believe me, you can believe Homer.

So now you know, and like they say on G.I. Joe, “knowing is half the battle”.

... stay tuned for the next upcoming installment of
"Behind the Blog" ... and have a great weekend!!!

Media losing credibility with the public?

More thoughts on media and its ability to set public agendas … as previously discussed in other postings (12/23/05 & 1/5/06)

I recently came across a Public Relations Quarterly article by John J. Budd, Jr. entitled “The Incredible Credibility Dilemma”. While a lot of the article dealt with the credibility (or lack thereof) of public relations professionals and corporate CEOs, there was a survey which dealt with the credibility of various public figures that I found interesting.

In his journal article, Budd discussed the
National Credibility Index, which was the result of a study sponsored jointly by the PRSA and Rockefeller Foundations. This index was the result of a survey of 2,500 people as to how they viewed the credibility of 44 different types of leaders, officials, and other public figures.

The survey put Supreme Court judges at the top, with a score of 81.3, followed by teachers, national experts and members of the military. Talk show hosts (anyone surprised?), with a score of 46.6, were at the bottom, joined by famous entertainers, PR specialists, and political party leaders. The median score for all figures was 61.5.

No wonder political campaign operatives are so cavalier – the public hates them already.

In any event, media figures generally rated better than average in the survey, but not much. National anchors got 66.8, and local newspaper and TV reporters received 65.8. Reporters for major newspapers and magazines barely came above the median score, with a 62.4 score, just ahead of congressmen and corporate CEOs.

For media whose role as gatekeepers and agenda-setters is declining, this survey is a sign their credibility needs some serious repairs.