The Pitch

the pitch posterI’ve started watching past episodes of AMC’s The Pitch on Netflix. As a person who loves commercials and works in the Public Relations and MarComm industry, this reality show is right in my wheelhouse.

Watching has given me a new understanding of the world of ad agencies. It has also given me a new perspective on the group creative process. My eyes are opened to how we come to believe in an idea or concept and then work to get others to buy into it.

It has shown me that brands need to ask “What do we believe in?” and “How do we align what we believe in and our vision with a higher power?”

The answers will lead the way to increased customers. Or so the thought goes. To help brands get to the promised land, they enlist the help of ad agencies. Hence, pitting two ad agencies against one another to win the client’s business – the premise of The Pitch.

It works only if the ad agency can understand what the brand is looking for. The agency must come up with a focused idea that can be pitched. Essentially, the ad agency must believe what the brand believes. Without this, there can be no working relationship.

It is of the utmost importance to knowing the audience to be a successful communicator/advertiser/marketer/business. Anyone who makes a living pitching knows how true this is. They also know what they believe. They know how to make you believe it, too.

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Let the communicators communicate

Often one of the most frustrating aspects of a communications professional’s job is gaining authorization from management/leadership to distribute information. In this day and age, it is important to get the message right, but it is also important to get the message out. There are ways to do this in a timely fashion. When I read things like the following in news articles, I cringe. I know exactly how the communications staff feels.

The lack of a communications chief was perhaps the most “maddening” deficit, one former worker said. When Hurricane Sandy hit, the media relations team, short of staff, was overwhelmed. One spokesman, Mark Gross, became ill from exhaustion in the middle of the crisis and was ordered to take a day off.

Behind the scenes, Cuomo aides insisted that they sign off on all news releases. Ms. DeRosa said that this was because inaccurate information had gone out, and that the requirement significantly improved the authority’s communications.

But according to former authority executives and to emails, it became a cumbersome process that delayed getting information to customers.

As a result of this “maddening” (good word choice, by the way) supervisory “deficit,” a lean staff was overwhelmed and control and dispersal of information was ceded to the media and others who did not have access to information updates of critical importance.

When the communication is about when power will be turned back on for people after a catastrophic storm, and it is delayed for a reported 12 hours, things can get dicey. As the story points out, an outside entity was asked to take over management of PR and did so, with the caveat that the administration was only allowed 15 minutes to review media releases before they were distributed. Sanity was restored.

The point is that it should have never gotten to this point. Organization’s hire communication professionals to handle the job of creating and distributing messaging and information. Let us do our job. In the end, we’ll all be better off for it.

Plan is not a four letter word

I have to thank one of my favorite PR people (Heather Whaling) for writing a blog post that inspired me to write this post. Yesterday was a day of planned family time for our little clan. It turned out to be a great day. We got work done outside. The kids were having a good time. We celebrated a great accomplishment and are looking forward to a fantastic adventure this summer.  It was a good day.

But what Heather’s post made me realize is how important it is to take this time out. My wife and I have often said that we are so busy that we just don’t have time to do a lot of things because those rudimentary tasks, like laundry, just take so much time. However, if I were to take a step back, it really isn’t that there isn’t enough time. It is that there isn’t enough planning – prioritization and organization. Life is chaotic, especially with two young kids, and sports, and dance, and work. Oh, and did I mention sports? 🙂 Yet, it can be managed. Life doesn’t have to be a suck. It should be enjoyed.

This is why I love springtime. It makes me remember and appreciate that no matter how cold or crappy winter was, there is so much to enjoy about life – if you stop and breathe it all in. So, I’m doing just that. I’m focusing on my health more. I’m focusing on my family more. I’m prioritizing at home and at work. Will I get caught up in the everyday hustle and bustle? Probably. That is how it goes. But, like riding a bike, if you fall off, you dust yourself off and get back on to ride again.

Together, if we support each other, we can do this. We can make it through this wonderful thing called Life. It just takes a little planning.

 

Is McDonald’s Olympic ad a glorious nugget?

Screen shot of McDonalds Olympic ad 2014McDonald’s. The iconic brand name conjures up many images and memories. Some good. Some not so good. One thing it doesn’t bring to mind is glory. I’ve never once sat down to eat a Quarter Pounder with cheese, Big Mac, or Chicken McNuggets and felt glorious. Not even once while eating the fries? Nope. Never.

Yet, that’s the feeling that McDonald’s was attempting to create in its Olympic advertising this year. They associated eating Chicken McNuggets with winning a medal, especially a gold medal, at the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

I’m not really sure why this effort was green lighted. Possibly McDonald’s was trying to raise the profile of processed chicken that has been fried and paired with any selection of sauces. In my mind it had the opposite effect. It actually made me think less of the food and the brand.

I admit, I eat McDonald’s food. I also admit that I am not – nor will I ever be – an Olympic athlete. I will never know the glorious feeling of victory at a world class level. But, if I believe the ad and go out and eat up some Chicken McNuggets, I’ll be just like the Olympians biting into the gold medal they just worked so hard to win.

I wonder what sauce they picked to dip that medal in?

What do you think? Can Chicken McNuggets and Olympic glory go hand-in-hand? Leave a comment with your thoughts.

Image via

Slow News Day

I was reminded today that even when you think it’s a “slow news day,” it really isn’t.

On those days when the news media isn’t out covering shootings, robberies, accidents, or other splashy news, they get to cover the good stories. I mean those stories that are positive. I mean those stories that highlight a part of the community that often goes unnoticed. Whether it be the people or an organization, these are the types of stories that make you smile, or make you interested and want to get involved to make a positive difference.

I was also reminded today that news doesn’t always happen where the camera lens can pick it up. What goes unseen by the media machine are positive stories and also those that turn lives upside down with endings we’ll never know.

It all comes down to a judgement call by the editors, reporters, and others involved in the news business about what their audiences want to know about. And it means for people like me, who are in the PR industry, that there are no slow news days.

Smoke out

CVS/pharmacy storeCVS, the nation’s No.2 Pharmacy, announced Feb. 5 that by October it will stop selling tobacco products in its 7,600 stores. Good for them.

I wrote a letter to the editor of my local paper when I was a kid advocating for the governor to raise the price of cigarettes in New York to $5 a pack. I thought that a higher price tag would cause people to think twice about forking over the cash to pay for the “cancer sticks.” I was wrong.

Although the number of smokers has decreased since I wrote that letter (and the price per pack has gone up over $5), people still smoke. Personally, I think it is disgusting. I’m happy to see that CVS made this positive PR move to strengthen their brand and create a differentiation between them and their competitors in the cutthroat corner pharmacy market. I think it will bode well for them in the long run.

On the flip side, I still think that if people want to use their hard-earned cash to fuel their tobacco habit, that they should have a right to do it. We do still live in the United States, after all.

Just keep the smoke away from me.

Photo via

NFL Draft Hops Out of April

2013-nfl-draftTwo to three more weeks.

That is what NFL owners agreed to give teams to prepare for the next NFL Draft. Or, at least that is what the juggernaut that is the NFL wants us to believe. Well, that isn’t exactly it. The reason they are giving for moving the Draft out of April and into May is because the venue – Radio City Music Hall in NYC – will be in use at the time of the next draft. The reason there’s a conflict is that the Easter Bunny will be in town.

If the NFL moves the Draft three weeks, it will conflict with something much bigger than the Easter Bunny – Mother’s Day. There’s a saying the NFL should be wary of: “If mamma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” It makes me think the NFL is drowning in its own hubris. The owners and the commissioner may be thinking that they are too big to fail, but even the most powerful empires crumble. And often, it is self-induced destruction. There is a very strong possibility that this is what the NFL is doing.

From a communications standpoint, the fact that the story of this move is being turned into a cartoon pitting the NFL vs. the Easter Bunny signals to me that the NFL’s communications staff really doesn’t buy into this decision.

So, why do it? The simple answer is ratings. The NFL, which relentlessly works to protect its position as the #1 sport in America, has a TV network in desperate need of content during the crucial May sweeps. Strategically moving the Draft, which MMQB columnist Peter King calls “the most ridiculously overhyped event on the NFL calendar,” will give the NFL Network the content it needs. The assumption by the NFL is that people will watch because they are addicted to the NFL. The NFL doesn’t care what I, the GMs, or any one thinks the decision, because the league will still be on top. At least, that is what the NFL assumes. And we all know what happens when you assume.

The move is a shrewd one, for sure. However, I can’t help but think that the NFL is on its water skis getting ready to jump over the water the shark is swimming in.