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MEMO from Yahoo’s David Pogue: ‘Buzzwords Blow!’

david-pogueFor those who know me and appreciate this craft, it’s hardly a secret that I have a man crush on affable consumer tech reporter David Pogue, formerly with the New York Times now enjoying a respite with Yahoo! as he “allows his juices to flow. In fact, for another gig I enjoy with TalentZoo’s Flack Me, I have scribed this and this with Pogue as my muse.

He’s friendly to the flack. He’s a journalist that understands this ofttimes hostile and symbiotic relationship we are privileged to share with reporters and editors. And now that Pogue is no longer with the Old Gray Lady and moved on to purpler pastures, it seems he is getting a little randy with his responses.

And yes, I dig it.

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Study: Social Media Makes the PR World Go Round

Social_Media_GuruIf you have been in public relations for any amount of time — be it agency or corporate — you have come to the fanciful realization that we have not selected a 9-to-5 gig. In fact, it can be more of a 6-to-midnight gig given any number of ancillary deadlines.

Well, fret no more fellow flacks, it seems that we have a life preserver in the raging waves of PR — social media. Simon Fraser University (in O’ Canada) released a study to prove it. While the study group is not that impressive spanning 100 communications, marketing and PR professionals, the results are telling.

And among those surveyed, 84 percent say their job satisfaction has either increased or remained the same with more social media responsibilities. “What we found surprised us,” says Peter Walton, who directs the PR program and oversaw the research project and report. “We figured people would be frustrated by the increased demand they’re facing because of technology. We were wrong.”

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AOL CEO Tim Armstrong Failed PR 101

Today in CEOs Behaving Badly: We understand why AOL chief Tim Armstrong was a little upset at the unfortunate struggles of Patch, his well-meaning $300 million experiment in hyper-local news content. He promised AOL that the venture would turn a profit by year’s end, and in order to bring this about he seemingly had no choice but to fire hundreds of the writers, editors, and managers at more than 400 individual Patch sites around the country.

But this hardly excuses the commission of a cardinal PR sin: letting his temper get away with him during a 1,000-strong conference call and firing an employee for taking a photo during his speech. It was mild as outbursts go, but it was recorded for the ages and distributed to every media outlet around.

This wasn’t just any employee, by the way; it was Patch’s creative director Abel Lenz. The fact that such a Trump-worthy incident was terrible PR should be obvious to all, but we’ll go into a bit more detail:

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Adventures in Marketing: CVS Can’t Say ‘Vibrator’ Without Giggling

Some quick background info: When it comes to pharmacies (at least in the northeast), people seem to be either Walgreens people or CVS people. My mother and I are loyal members of the latter group, and share a CVS card (the membership card that allows customers to receive discounts and build rewards as they shop). Because my tech-challenged mom doesn’t have an e-mail address, I get all of the promotional emails and coupons (addressed to her) in my own inbox.

Yesterday, I woke up to an email offering me (well, my mom) 20% off everything at CVS’s online store. The subject line of the email read: “20% Off Everything. Even the hush-hush stuff.” At first, I assumed that meant things like tampons or adult diapers–things no one waves in the air with pride and might be more comfortable receiving via snail mail. But then I opened the email and saw the accompanying picture of a young woman who looked much more like she was getting away with something a little naughty than dealing with a leaky bladder.

The caption read, “If it makes you blush, we’ll ship it to you hush-hush.”

And then, through my still-groggy morning fog, it hit me – are they trying to entice me into their online sale by promising the discreet delivery of a…um… personal pleasure device? And then, finally, the traumatic realization that this email was not addressed to me washed over me. “OMG, they’re trying to sell a vibrator to my mom.

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Is PR a Job or a Lifestyle?

Full disclosure: As we grow more deeply connected to the PR world, we find ourselves checking our Twitter feeds right before we go to bed every night and right after we wake up every morning to see what’s exciting or irritating our colleagues in the industry. It’s tough to keep up with related developments when we’re not plugged in.

And of course we’re not the only ones who feel that way. Two related stories drew our attention this week: one naming “PR Executive” as the #5 most stressful job in the United States and one declaring that public relations cannot be a traditional 9 to 5 gig.

Seems like those two might be related, doesn’t it?

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Cyber Monday: A Masterpiece of Marketing Hokum?

After watching a few of the hair-pulling, face-punching retail mayhem clips now making their way around the web, we’re amazed to say that we made it through the first wave of the holiday sales season intact.

Hey, don’t relax yet– it’s only just begun.

Every semi-sentient being in our solar system knows that today is “Cyber Monday”, when swarms of online shoppers hungry for deals can make or break retailers looking to boost their year-end revenue totals. Last week we gave you a very brief history of “Black Friday”, a phenomenon several decades in the making that ultimately required the collaborative efforts of America’s political and retail classes. Cyber Monday, on the other hand, is nothing but a marketing scheme—and many would call it a brilliant one.

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Does PR Have a Creativity Problem?

Our friends at the excellent Spin Sucks blog asked a pointed question earlier this week:

“Will a lack of creativity be the demise of the PR industry?”

Given the fact that our business continues to grow while so many others struggle, we see the “demise” aspect of this headline as a rhetorical glimpse into the distant future. But it’s very interesting. Stated another way: Are PR and marketing professionals so scared of offending someone, anyone that they avoid all things colorful, interesting and remotely creative? And will dull, run-of-the-mill PR efforts grow so common as to negate the value of the service itself? Most companies can write their own press releases, right?

The post primarily concerned Pizza Hut’s recent PR controversy. To recap: The company offered a lifetime’s supply of pizza to anyone who would use last week’s “town hall” debate to ask the presidential candidates whether they prefer sausage or pepperoni. Quite a few feathers got ruffled, and Pizza Hut’s marketing reps quickly backed down, announcing that the campaign would move online as part of a “natural progression.”

Yet Forbes contributor Aaron Perlut called the campaign “brilliant” and claimed that its demise in the face of public outrage was a perfect example of the PR industry’s biggest flaw:

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Does the Growth of PR ‘Threaten Democracy?’

Excuse us for the inflammatory headline courtesy of Guardian UK’s media commentator Roy Greenslade–but it certainly got our attention.

We agree with Michael Ramah of Porter Novelli when he reassures us that any report of an “impending meltdown” within the public relations industry is nothing but a bunch of noise—didn’t we tell you in August that the business is doing “just fine, thanks?”

Now here’s the key question: Is the PR field growing too large and influential for its own good?

The Guardian piece is far too short and lacking in specifics to truly facilitate an in-depth conversation on the topic, but we’d like to think it leads back to our piece about “brand journalism” and the role of a PR discipline blessed with growing influence in an increasingly fractured media world. Greenslade is primarily concerned with a series of studies showing that the numerical advantage PR pros hold over journalists continues to grow. In the United States, studies find the current ratio to be 4:1—and some authors advocate government subsidies to help keep the journalism profession viable.

Greenslade’s argument is that, as PR pros continue to outnumber journalists, the public will be deprived of a crucial filter (the press) that serves to hold the feet of politicians, businessmen, and publicists to the fire.

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Is the ‘PR Bunny’ Myth a Real Thing?

Dear Professional PR Women,

Take a minute to check out this great Flack Me blog post lamenting what author Kimberly Shrack calls “The ‘PR Bunny’ Myth” and let us know: Do gender stereotypes pervade the PR industry? If so, how often do you experience them in your professional lives? Do people draw unflattering conclusions as soon as they hear that you work in public relations? How do you deal with offensive generalizations drawn from stock characters in movies and TV shows? We’d love some feedback.

(In frankly unrelated news: Arrested Development never gets old, does it?)

Wait, Gabby Douglas Has A PR Problem?

Defying gravityFirst the obvious: Brilliant young gymnast Gabby Douglas, Olympic gold medalist and winner of a “potential endorsement goldmine,” slipped a bit in last night’s balance beam competition, falling to seventh in the rankings as the 2012 gymnastics events drew to a close.

But does the new individual world champ need a strategic PR adjustment? Sally Jenkins of The Washington Post seems to think so.  Her basic message to Douglas: ignore the noise. In the wake of overwhelming media scrutiny of her every move, her family history, and even her hairstyle, the newly crowned queen of the mat supposedly complained of anxiety and had trouble sleeping; after her less-celebrated performance yesterday, she admitted that she was “kinda tired” and all but confirmed that the endless coverage had affected her in a negative way.

While Jenkins certainly has a point about the very aggressive questioning Douglas received from every corner of the press, we have to wonder: Did Gabby really need a handler to “shut her down and [take] away her electronics”? Would a strict media-free regimen work for a star whose genuine naivety is the key to her charm? Should she be closely advised to avoid discussing sensitive subjects?

Most importantly: Why can’t everyone just let her be herself, celebrate her achievements and stop blatantly attempting to amplify the drama?

Oh wait: We just answered our own question, didn’t we?