Friday, September 30, 2011

Oldie but goodie

Posted by Greg Matusky
Every once in a while, someone stops me to comment on a past blog post that ran on Gregarious. Last week, a friend who once edited my work at Success magazine called and complimented a post written more than a year ago on writing well.

I didn't even remember the post from last June, but then took time to look it up. Not bad, considering it conveys my deep-felt belief on what makes for effective writing. So I thought, what the heck? It still rings true. So let's run it again, edited in parts, as a way to once again share the power and beauty of the written word.

How much would you pay for a ray gun that took over other people's minds? Good writing, in PR and business, does just that.

Last June, I wrote a story about President Obama's speech on the Gulf oil spill and reported how quoted a language specialist who claimed the speech failed because it was written at a 9.8 grade level, the highest grade level of any of his speeches, which average a 7.4 grade level.

The analysis was based on the presumption that most written work, especially that done by the media, is written at a sixth-grade level. It's an urban legend that I have also been guilty of repeating, at times suggesting that a news release or executive speech needs to be simplified to a "sixth-grade level."

Friday, September 23, 2011

Facebook Timeline: Curating your digital life

Posted by Mike Lizun
At yesterday's f8 Developer Conference, Facebook unveiled the biggest update to its social networking platform since it launched in 2004. I'm not going to get into all the technical aspects of Timeline. And I'm not going to get into the Facebook versus Google debate or pontificate about which will win in the end (in this post at least). I can't predict that. I do know that Facebook has a huge lead in the space. It's becoming another Web, a second Web if you will.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The rarest and purist form of public relations

Posted by Greg Matusky
An honest apology 

How many times in a lifetime do you hear the CEO of a major corporation use phrases like "I messed up" and "I owe everyone an explanation?" But there on his blog, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings came clean.

The company's disastrous decision to increase monthly rates by 60 percent to $16 from $10 resulted in Netflix cutting its subscriber projections by nearly 1 million members, or 4 percent of its total, and losing 56 percent of its stock price from its high. In the blog post, Hastings explains the miscues. "I slid into arrogance based upon past success."

Hastings' honesty is startling, considering that leaders today rarely take the blame and instead choose to pin problems on others. Particularly telling of this entire situation is where Hastings made his confession. Online. On the company's own blog. Direct to customers. Not mediated, deliberated, or reinterpreted by others.

In doing so, Hastings presents a compelling case by sharing his angst and explaining the difficulty any organization faces in embracing change. It's tough, he acknowledges, to accept a changing world, and difficult to know how fast is too fast to move a company forward.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

We have a winner!

Posted by Greg Matusky
Two weeks ago, we put out the call. Tell us your worst ideas for a new reality TV show and the winner (or loser, as you might see it) wins a $250 Amazon gift card.

Our reasoning was simple. We think there's a lot of PR potential in reality TV that isn't readily apparent. Understanding reality TV, especially a new generation of working man shows that cover the blood and guts of American small and family business, offers one of the few opportunities left to place products and clients on episodic TV.

Many of these shows offer hybrid product placement opportunities whereby brands can gain credible exposure to middle America viewers. You can see it everywhere. Most obvious, for instance, are the commercial tie-ins and custom motorcycle builds on "Orange County Choppers." More subtle yet are the restaurants that the Real Housewives dine in or the trucks and cars driven on HGTV's home improvement shows.

Some, surprisingly, aren't paid opportunities. For instance, a recent episode of "Flipping Out" featured a client's female personal care product. And don't underestimate the celebrity status gained by reality show stars. A recent event hosted by a Real Housewife of New Jersey attracted so many other housewives to a client's store opening that the line ran a block long.

Our tongue-and-cheek call for submissions resulted in scores of new ideas -- many of which were so off-color that we simply couldn't publish them on Gregarious. And a number of them were simply hilarious. Feel free to read some of the submissions.

But of all the ideas, one stood out above the rest, according to our own reality TV maven Michelle Larkin, a Gregory FCA senior account representative who closely follows the genre.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

CNN rediscovers its voice

Posted by Greg Matusky
Last October, I did the unthinkable for a PR person. I ripped the media. More precisely, I ripped my beloved CNN. In that post, I explained my own admiration and exasperation for a declining network that had jump-started my career and served as a worthy platform for client appearances and sparring sessions for some 25 years.

I bemoaned CNN's loss of relevancy as exemplified by the ill-fated "Parker Spitzer," a dead zone of poor chemistry and pontification by disgraced New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer. At the time, I held out hope that the network could regain its voice and Piers Morgan would look the part in wearing Larry King's crown.

My hope has been rewarded. Over the past year, CNN cut ties with Parker and Spitzer and expanded the roles of thought provocateurs Cooper, Velshi, and Gupta. Most surprisingly, they scored big with Piers Morgan, who is now showing himself to be a worthy successor to the King.

To me, Morgan is the biggest story and perhaps the most exciting new voice on any news network. If you didn't see it last week, you missed an incredible interview with Rick Santorum that made the far-right candidate for president squirm and sweat, reducing him to a seeming impersonation of the "The Office's" Michael Scott.

Morgan's not afraid to ask tough questions and then let them lay out on the table as if he's on a bad blind date in order to survey the response. He's a confident interviewer who doesn't need to color the questions with his own opinions or commit the ultimate sin of showing off his own intelligence through the construction of his questions. (Spitzer was famous for that, resulting in his interviewing himself but strangely never asking about Ashley Dupré.)

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