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Posts Tagged ‘The Washington Post’

Kim Jong-Un, Master of Viral Content?

PR pros wouldn’t normally tell clients who want to go viral to “keep it creepy”, but the approach seems to be working for one Kim Jong-Un.

Kim’s PR strategy is actually very similar to that of major blogs: post lots of content on a regular basis and make it as weird and “WTF?” as possible. Most of the very, very few people in North Korea who have Internet access work for Kim’s propaganda department. And while much of the West chuckles at their strange videos and stories about unicorns, this viral content seems to grant a certain legitimacy to an oppressive and genocidal regime. South Korea’s national security director tells The Washington Post that the “headline campaign” is at least partially responsible for a sevenfold increase in news coverage and searches related to North Korea.

Now check out this YouTube page if you enjoy watching insane people do insane things.

The lesson here is really all about creating a story and then newsjacking your own work in order to gain even more attention. Of course, most of the public will be less interested in a product rollout than a mysterious dictatorship’s ongoing attempts to scare everyone’s pants off. Still…

China’s New President Works to Rebrand the Communist Party

Xi Jinping (courtesy of the Telegraph)Last year we wrote about the Chinese government’s “censor and deny” approach to damage control after a New York Times story about the considerable wealth of prime minister and supposed “man of the people” Wen Jibao threatened to damage his political fortunes. Here’s an even more interesting story on the role of PR in Chinese politics–and this is legitimate public relations, not the underground blackmail and bribery industry.

As expected, former VP Xi Jinping officially assumed the presidency after receiving a ridiculous 99.8% of the vote in The People’s Congress. Xi posed as a reformer, and his primary goal is to convince the growing number of Chinese citizens who aren’t happy with their government that his administration is more concerned with improving quality of life than lining its own pockets.

In order to do this, he’s taking some steps right out of the political PR playbook that will look familiar to anyone who has suffered through an American presidential campaign.

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Joe Biden’s Office Apologizes for Forcing Student Reporter to Delete Photos

Courtesy of Tiffany Arnold, Germantown PatchA quick lesson in media relations from the office of Vice President Joe Biden: try to be nice to reporters whenever possible–and if you do decide to be difficult, make sure you’re justified or you might embarrass yourself.

Today the VP’s office issued an official apology for “bullying” (not our word of choice) a student reporter at a press event. In summary: Biden, attorney general Eric Holder and Maryland Senator Ben Cardin called a press conference to announce a new domestic violence prevention initiative. A reporter for Capital Press, who also happens to be a student at the University of Maryland, accidentally sat in a section of the room that was not reserved for media and took photos of Biden as he spoke.

After the event, a member of Biden’s press staff spoke to the reporter and demanded to watch as he deleted the (supposedly) forbidden photos. Scandal!

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Fortune Will Create Custom ‘Trusted’ Content for Brands

Fortune MagazineEarlier this week we made a big deal over The Washington Post‘s decision to enter the ongoing brand journalism sweepstakes by featuring sponsored advertorials on the front page of its website. That was an important step in the evolution of paid content, but today Fortune took the industry-wide shift in a slightly different direction: the magazine plans to write honest-to-goodness editorial pieces on behalf of its partners/advertisers.

What does this mean, exactly?

Fortune calls the project “Trusted Original Content”, and it will involve the magazine’s editorial teams creating Fortune-branded articles and video/other media content for marketers and PR pros to distribute on their own channels. So these pieces will bear the Fortune name and be written by real journalists, but they won’t qualify as native advertising. And brand reps won’t see them until they’re done–according to Adweek, Fortune’s editors will “have the final say”. Capital One will be the first party to participate by soliciting complimentary stories about small business.

Will promoting posts backed by the power of Fortune give a brand greater credibility? Time Inc. thinks so.

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The Washington Post Jumps on the ‘Brand Journalism’ Train

Paid content–it’s not just for blogs anymore! The Washington Post, currently known as the sad husk of one of our nation’s most influential and respected newspapers, just launched “Brand Connect“, which its editorial team describes as “a platform that connects marketers with the Washington Post audience in a trusted environment”. In other words, paid content. Sponsored posts. Native advertising. Brand journalism. And it’s not in a special advertorial section–it’s on the paper’s home page.

We could all see this coming, of course: print ad revenue at the Post has reached record lows. Sure, we still encounter the occasional impressive Game of Thrones promo printed with ink on honest-to-God paper–but print advertising should probably consider intensive therapy at this point.

You may ask why this is news, because lots of other publications do the very same thing.

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More Companies Go Public with Hacking Stories

Dick Costolo Twitter CEO It’s a perfect 21st century PR conundrum: You’re a big company. Your servers got hacked. Now you have to make a decision: Go public? Hold back? Deny everything? More and more big-name brands are taking the “strength in numbers” approach by admitting that they were “compromised”–as long as their competitors do it first.

Google was the first big brand to call itself the victim of cyber hackery back in 2010, and since then others have joined the growing chorus: Earlier this month it was Twitter, followed by Facebook, Apple, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and The New York Times. (Burger King and Jeep had their Twitter feeds hacked this week, but that’s a different thing entirely.)

Some brands, like Bloomberg, continue to issue less-than-believable denials. We understand the desire to avoid saying “Yes, we were hacked by China”–but this kind of stubbornness can make brands look worse, especially when third-party sources confirm the reports.

Should companies go public after being hacked to get ahead of the story? Or should they hide in the shadows and issue no comment until the time is right?

The U.S. News College Rankings Just Failed PR 101

U.S. News and World Report Best Colleges From Lance Armstrong to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame, 2013 is turning out to be the year of holding cheaters accountable. Today we’re glad to welcome a few newbies to the group: U.S. News & World Report and the five (or more) colleges that “misreported” admissions data for the publication’s inexplicably revered college rankings.

Industry professionals know that dishonesty is the most direct route to bad PR. People don’t like being lied to by other people even if they are oddball strangers on the subway, so the public certainly doesn’t appreciate being lied to by companies, personalities, brands and universities that they support with their hard-earned money–especially those touted as “experts” in their given fields.

With rising tuition costs and a dwindling ability to guarantee graduates employment, colleges and universities are fighting more vehemently than ever to retain the elevated status they have enjoyed in our culture over the centuries. So we were disheartened to read the Washington Post article that included this comment regarding the matter from Terry W. Hartle, senior vice president at the American Council on Education: “In any highly competitive environment, there is always a temptation to cut corners.”

You don’t say…

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Everyone Fooled by Fake Google Press Release

PRWebIn an almost comic case of pretty much everybody getting it wrong, a score of major publishers ran with a big-news press release that turned out to be fake–and the incident now looks more and more like an old-fashioned financial crime.

As if to offer further proof that anyone can use PRWeb, some shady individual with an interest in making a quick, illegal buck wrote and released a post announcing that Google had just acquired ICOA, a “neutral host” broadband wi-fi provider, for $400 million. If true, this announcement would have been something of a big deal signifying Google’s desire to move deeper into the competitive world of Internet service providers. Yet no one bothered to fact-check the release (probably because ICOA isn’t a big name), and now much of the Internet has egg on its face.

What was this funny business all about? In a follow-up email, ICOA’s CEO guessed that “a stock promoter with a dubious interest is disseminating wrong, false and misleading info in the PR circles”. Sounds like someone living in the notoriously lawful land of Aruba wanted to spark a short-lived bump in ICOA’s stock price—and according to a Buzzfeed follow-up report, said individual may have earned six digits’ worth of easy profits by briefly pushing the company’s share price up from one penny to five. We’re not terribly familiar with stock trader lingo, but we’re fairly sure this one falls under “fraud.”

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New Chef Corps Aims to Re-Brand American Food

Anyone who has seen a few episodes of “No Reservations” or “Top Chef” knows that the United States boasts a very active and incredibly diverse culinary culture. Unfortunately, many of our overseas brethren think that American food begins and ends with Colonel Sanders and the golden arches.

The State Department and the James Beard Foundation would like to change all that, and last Friday they officially named more than 80 big chefs from across the US as members of the first “American Chef Corps.”

The team includes such food-world luminaries as Dan Barber of Blue Hill and April Bloomfield of The Spotted Pig (sorry, we’re partial to New York), and their responsibilities will include preparing distinctly American meals for foreign dignitaries, conducting educational programs for audiences overseas, and inviting top chefs from around the world to cook in their stateside kitchens. Most importantly, they want to remind our overseas friends that American food is, in many cases, quite good. While they won’t get paid for the honor, they do get free uniforms.

This sounds like a fairly interesting idea!

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Scandal du Jour: Plagiarism!

The Words” is a new film starring everyone’s favorite faux Frenchman, Bradley Cooper. Its plot, as we understand it, revolves around the concept of author as plagiarist–and while we can’t exactly recommend the movie based on its critical reception, we thought we’d use this opportunity (and the emergence of another small-scale plagiarism story) to examine parallel scandals that engaged the chattering classes this summer: the public trials of Jonah Lehrer and Fareed Zakaria.

Seems like everyone is copying the work of others these days–even noted wordsmith Chuck Norris has been caught red-handed. The two men at the center of this hot topic are very different personalities—and both the charges leveled against them and the public’s reaction to their respective PR crises have been very different as well. Fareed Zakaria is a respected journalist and TV news personality while Jonah Lehrer is (or, more accurately, was) a rising writer, speaker, and acknowledged expert in the realms of neurology and human behavior.

What, exactly, did they do?

Zakaria copied a paragraph of a Time article on gun control from an earlier New Yorker piece by historian Jill Lepore. CNN also found that one of his blog posts for CNN.com “contained similar unattributed quotes.” When accused of other acts of sloppy journalism, he lashed out at critics before backing down.

Lehrer’s first crime was plagiarizing himself—observers discovered that he often repeated passages that had appeared in previous columns or books. While this was bad news for Lehrer, it wasn’t necessarily the end of the world. Unfortunately, further investigations uncovered a disturbing history of similar behavior during his time at Wired and other publications. And that wasn’t the worst of it: The final, damning revelation was the fact that Lehrer had straight-up invented nonexistent Bob Dylan quotes for his bestselling book “Imagine”—and when pressed on his offense, he denied it and made more false claims before breaking down and confessing to his own dishonesty.

The saddest part about these stories is that both writers remain very talented, very busy men who obviously bit off more than they could chew. What conclusions can we, as PR and media professionals, draw from their cases?

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