Wednesday, August 31, 2016

What's Spanish for "shoot yourself in the foot"?

After having written about Chipotle restaurants' PR crises several times in the past year, I pledged I wouldn'tgo back to that trough again. 

Yet, there's more negative news today about the beleaguered eatery.

So, I'll just let the New York Daily News do the talking.

This calls for more than a simple re-branding. How do you say "Leadership Change" in Spanish?

Monday, August 29, 2016

Shifting gears: sponsored content's growing pains

I'm completely aware that this article is paid for.

It touts a Rochester, NY automobile dealership, and one employee's love of an heirloom Pontiac. Which we never actually see, because the dealer sponsoring the copy sells Chevrolets.
1966 Catalina, by Tino Rossini (Flickr: Catalina)
[CC BY 2.0 ] via Wikimedia Commons

Nonetheless, I have a quibble or two with it.

Veteran PR practitioners will recognize this ode to Chevrolets as "advertorial." The new term is "sponsored content." If you want to know the price range of a new Corvette, that's about the only newsworthy aspect of the story.

Whatever we call it, I made a good living writing it for a spectrum of clients. Sponsored content, well presented, demonstrates subject matter expertise that creates a halo effect for a client and/or his/her brand.

To be fair, the Gannett Rochester operation labeled this honestly: "This story is produced and presented by our sponsor." Sponsored editorial is how many newspapers are making ends meet.

What's troubling about this? The omission of GM's recent troubles, the most notable concerning the massive ignition-switch failure and recall crisis that focused on the Chevrolet Cobalt and six other Chevy models. You wouldn't expect a PR piece to call attention to this troubling issue, but wouldn't a newspaper better serve its readers by including this in an editor's note?

2015 Corvette Z06 by Tuner tom (Own work)
[CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Also - if you're going to run advertorial, shouldn't the images actually reflect the cars mentioned in the article? In this case, there's a beauty shot of a 1960s era Corvette, but not the 1966 Catalina or the current Z06?

The photos I've sourced and used here took exactly five minutes to locate and post, as well as credit the photographers. They're freely available via Wikimedia Commons, without a license. And their inclusion makes for a more interesting story.

Sponsored content is inescapable. But solid editorial responsibility shouldn't be cast to the side of the road.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Bromance with bullets -- and negative responses

Lethal Weapon -- a bromance?

FOX Broadcasting recently barraged Twitter users with paid Tweets to promote its TV re-boot of the 1980s “Lethal Weapon” films. You’ll need to be a superb Twitter surfer to avoid them.

PR practitioners run a risk in carpet-bombing social media audiences with overhyped promotions. They can alienate as many potential viewers as they attract.

Actor Danny Glover, not in the new Lethal Weapon TV series,
Photo credit: Georges Biard [CC BY-SA 3.0],
via Wikimedia Commons
In fact, FOX got dusted by Twitter users, many of whom weren’t old enough to see the 1987-1998 Danny Glover-Mel Gibson buddy pictures. The TV studio – largely bankrupt of original ideas since “Glee” – positioned the new series as a bromance. That word didn’t exist in run of the original films, which leaned heavily on gunplay, banter, and exploding toilets.

Is bromance anything more than a piece of forced marketing-speak? (Not counting the short-lived MTV reality series of 2008-09.)

No matter. Twitter users pushed back on FOX’s onslaught of Lethal Weapon photos and promoted (paid) tweets. A sampling:

  • They're making a #LethalWeapon tv show? WHY? Leave my childhood alone,it was very happy being left in the know,where it belongs!
  • Thank God for @jk_rowling or Hollywood would never have an original idea. Did we really need a #LethalWeapon tv show?
  • @LethalWeaponFOX @FOXTV this is a really bad idea. I give it 5 episodes before the plug gets pulled and that's being generous. #shittyreboot

Networks invite criticism when adapting a theatrical film for TV. CBS nearly canceled M*A*S*H early on until producers altered a few characters (making Radar more na├»ve and Hawkeye more compassionate). Producer Garry Marshall brought “The Odd Couple” to TV from the movies and Broadway over objections of playwright Neil Simon, who ended up loving the TV series.

FoxTV may have waited too long to resurrect “Lethal Weapon.” Eighteen years later, a younger Riggs and Murtagh may struggle to find an audience that’s seen countless gunfights and car crashes.

Do TV viewers need another bromance-and-bullets series? With over 7 million views, the cast of the defunct TV series "Scrubs" had a better appreciated approach to non-sexual male friendships. Without firearms.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Your daily firestorm -- or not

By U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class
Aaron Peterson. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
As communicators, words are our currency. And lately, it feels as if we've been using counterfeit currency to grab readers and viewers.

It's time for news writers and video pundits to change the way they use metaphors borrowed from authentic disasters and conflict. PR copywriters, too, although if we're at all sensitive, we won't describe a new product "exploding" across the marketplace.

I hope.

Last week, one of the presidential candidates flailed in the week's news coverage. Countless newsreaders said he had ignited a "firestorm" by lashing out at a Gold Star family that criticized him. A few days later, another story talked about a controversy "exploding" across the nation's newspapers.

Firestorm? Get serious. A real fire storm is a wild fire of great intensity. It's something to be fought, and firefighters' lives are at risk. Men and women die fighting these blazes. Here's one example:

A firestorm is not a racist political hack arguing with news pundits. It's not Congressional representatives engaging in prolonged finger pointing. Someone merely said something stupid, and got criticized for it. End of story.

Similarly, when a debate becomes heated, newswriters love to say it "exploded."

Real explosions are deadly. Lives -- not egos -- are lost. This 2015 chemical warehouse disaster in China is one example:

My point? When we write or report, words are our currency. Using them incorrectly to add sizzle to copy is more than misleading. It desensitizes us to the threats of genuine disasters.

Firestorms and explosions often kill. Debates and criticisms bruise egos, but the adversaries usually survive.

Skilled news reporters ought to have enough of a vocabulary to choose more accurate descriptions when a candidate or office holder becomes embroiled in a controversy.