What’s in a Name?

January 5, 2010

For the past 30 years, HMA has had the opportunity and great pleasure to help name, brand and create strategic communications messages for companies and people worldwide. As such, we are highly sensitive to brand campaigns – good, bad and ugly – making a marketing push at any given time.

And, sometimes, even the most interesting, well-planned campaign can be derailed by something small…like a name.

It’s been around for awhile, but during College Bowl Week the past few days, there have been an extraordinary amount of commercials for a service called…wait for it…KGB. The commercials themselves have succinctly described that the service offers folks answers to any question they may ever have from “Who threw the game-winning touchdown in the 1990 Super Bowl?” to “What color is melon?”

Just one problem – the name of the company is KGB!!! I know people have short attention spans and memories, but anyone who has seen a James Bond movie or taken middle school history has to remember the KGB and it’s sometimes less than above-board dealings, right?

And, in a world where SEO and social media matter, no matter how much this company pays, it will always come up on Google or Yahoo searches near the Wikipedia entry of what the KGB really is. Go ahead, try it.

What other companies or brands out there do you think are potentially shooting themselves in the foot with something as simple as the wrong name? Or, do you like this name and think it works?


Unless you’ve been in a Thanksgiving food coma the past several days, you probably heard about Tiger Woods crashing his car into a tree over the weekend where he sustained facial lacerations and a much worse injury – non-stop gossip attacks from traditional, social and tabloid media worldwide.

Several sports and entertainment personalities have chimed in, especially given Woods official, guarded statement on the situation and his apparent refusal to speak to the police.

So, are Woods and his army of crisis communicators doing the right thing? Charles Barkley doesn’t think so – but what do you think? Comment below.

The “Anti” Campaign

October 27, 2009

This is itMichael Jackson’s fans are nothing if not loyal – and fighting mad. So loyal (and mad), in fact, they are banding together in a media relations and viral campaign aimed at getting movie-goers NOT to see the film made from Jackson’s final rehearsal footage.

Their anti(promotional) video has gone viral, and it seems folks are starting to catch on. Top celebrity blogger PerezHilton and several others are already talking about it, leading “traditional media outlets” to begin reporting on it as well.

So, will this cleverly-named anti-PR campaign succeed? Is the messaging strong, factual? Do you feel a call to action? Will you see the film?

Would You Watch This Show?

October 14, 2009

scottHere’s another example of “we’ll watch anything” on TV.

BET is going to air a reality show next year in which image-rehabbing, former dog-fighting and first-round draft-pick, bankrupt quarterback Michael Vick will star.

An AP report states: Vick said he began filming the show with his own crew when he was sent to prison, long before BET got involved. He said he wanted the cameras to see “the ugly results of my decisions” so that other people won’t make the same mistakes.

He is quoted as saying, “I’m very remorseful about what happened and what I did. I just don’t want other people to go down that path. I’m trying to make it right and repair past damages. That’s all I want to show.”

That’s a solid effort toward gaining some credibility and rebuilding a reputation – which will still take some time.

BethThey used to be happily married with eight cute kids, and had a hit TV show.  However, things have drastically changed for Jon and Kate Gosselin in the last six months.  Sure, the kids are still cute, but the soon-to-be exes – of TLC’s Jon & Kate Plus 8 fame (or notoriety) – have fallen from grace as the network’s poster family.

Since they announced their forthcoming divorce in May, Jon and Kate have been embroiled in a bitter publicity battle.  Jon has gone from doting father to a fratboy wannabe, publicly “canoodling” with his fair jon and kateshare of women – one of whom was allegedly the kids’ babysitter – and being very unapologetic about his party guy behavior.  Earlier made to look like the cold, resentful stay-at-home mom, Kate’s image has undergone its own transformation.  In contrast to Jon, she has been cast in a more positive light – the brave single mother of eight.  It was even announced this week that after November 2, the show would simply be called Kate Plus 8.

They’re basically waging his-and-hers campaigns against each other.  It’s becoming clear that Team Kate is on top, but I wonder if the two have taken time out to lower their gloves and think about the clear losers – their kids.

I know these two have gotten a lot of media play and I’m reluctant to post this and perpetuate it, but I have to know – how do other PR pros feel about this situation?

Comment below.

While you were busy on Twitter this past month, you may have missed this…Orwell1984

Turns out, it’s1984 again (cue vision of creepy George Orwell book we all had to read in high school), and the positive Michael Jackson public relations is flowing like beer at an after-prom party.

So, let’s take a look at the Michael Jackson public relations plan over the past few weeks, and its amazing time-warping, memory-erasing powers! thriller

  • First – the tributes (and tears), meant to systematically erase 2009 Michael Jackson from our minds and replace him with cute Jackson 5 Michael and top-of-the-world Thriller Michael. Impressive. Hey, when we PR folks pitch a story to TV, we only use our best visuals. So did they!
  • coffin_1439013iSecond – the memorial, where everyone and their mother used the key messaging of “greatest entertainer of all time” until my ears bled. By the time Jesse Jackson said it, our own 12 News’ Mark Curtis was working on a story about it! Hey, when PR folks put together key messaging for a campaign or brand, they can only dream of that kind of success!
  • Third – the video of poor victim Michael being burned by a misfortunate pyrotechnic accident. As we all know from journalism class, once there is no longer hard news to deliver on a news topic, we move on to secondary/background/fluff pieces. These PR folks are smart; using a video of Michael victimized to forget he was accused of victimizing others! _44483518_splash_neverland416
  • Fourth – complete and utter world domination! If the PR folks’ campaign goal was to re-ignite Michael’s popularity by 100%, they exceeded it by about 10 million percent! His albums are at the top of the charts, his kids are superstars, and there are already talks to turn Neverland Ranch (formerly known as a creepy amusement park with a secret room designed as a shrine to Macaulay Culkin) into a West Coast Graceland.

But, at what cost?jacksonscab_1444304c

So, what have been your favorite public relations strategies and tactics during this sad circus?

Judging by the new photos and reports of Jackson’s hideously damaged legs, the best (actually – the worst) seems like it is yet to come.

howard-stern-siriusThis morning on the Howard Stern Show on Sirius XM Satellite Radio, Stern’s news correspondent Lisa G came into the studio with a big announcement – Rosie O’Donnell was joining Sirius XM with a new program set to air on the Sirius Stars channel.

Now, this is interesting for several reasons:

  • Stern and O’Donnell ended a decade-long and very public feud about two years ago, and even became personal friends after Stern voiced his on-going support of gay marriage and O’Donnell’s popular family cruise documentary that aired on HBO.
  • In recent years, Stern interviewed O’Donnell on his channels to help champion gay rights and to give her the chance to tell her side of the story in her many on-going Hollywood fights, including issues with both Barbara Walters and Donald Trump (both good personal friends of Stern – so much so that both attended his 2008 wedding).
  • Stern pitched Sirius XM executives on having O’Donnell develop a program or series of programs for his channels – Howard 100 and Howard 101 – for the past year, even going so far as to personally tour O’Donnell around and introduce her to all of the movers and shakers within the company.
  • The new O’Donnell program – as Stern found out live on the air this morning – would have nothing to do with either of Stern’s channels, and the Sirius XM executives basically went behind his back to develop a deal with O’Donnell without him.

Now, Stern – who has one of the biggest inferiority complexes one has ever seen even after a decade of seeing a psychiatrist three-plus times a week – reacted to this news by going on a rant off and on all morning – not mad at O’Donnell, but at the executives at Sirius XM for taking his idea and developing it for a non-Stern channel. He was also angry he was not part of at least a brainstorming session to announce the big news. You see, since he was the face of the company, the executives often included him in this sort of thing and always requested he interview new Sirius talent on his program to introduce his audience (anywhere from 60-80% of the 20 million subscribers depending on the day) to the new programming opportunity on their radio.

rosie_odonnella300aBut I digress. This blog is actually (or eventually) all about public relations.

You see, in the midst of his fit, Stern took the promotion department to task for their utter and complete lack of a comprehensive and strategic public relations plan to announce O’Donnell’s new program. After all, in the 1990s O’Donnell hosted the top-rated afternoon talk show in the country and currently had legions of fans in the gay and lesbian community. Wouldn’t it make sense to think through the best way to announce O’Donnell’s new program and then create a campaign to reveal it to the world?

Nope. As it turns out, Stern’s producer reported, the head of promotions was off on vacation and no plan was in place before he left. So, Stern challenged the promotion department, “With Lisa G announcing the big news on Sirius XM – how would that attract NEW users to Sirius XM?”

How would it help get the word out in a controlled, strategic way to the media at large, he wondered aloud. It wouldn’t.

Stern then did something this public relations practitioner loved – he unveiled how he would have handled the media outreach to announce O’Donnell’s partnership with Sirius and had some Copper Anvil-worthy strategic and tactical ideas including:

  • Stern himself going on the David Letterman Show and coming out with O’Donnell on his arm for a dual interview with Letterman about the big announcement
  • A dual publicity tour with Stern and O’Donnell hitting all of the major newspapers in the country
  • A dual publicity tour with Stern O’Donnell hitting all of the major gay and lesbian media in the country
  • A series of tweets, press releases and media advisories teasing the big announcement and then a grand press conference at Sirius XM with O’Donnell
  • A cover story in People Magazine or another pop culture magazine announcing the new partnership

Now, love him or hate him, Stern has always been a master at getting attention. Turns out, every outrageous thing he’s ever done for that attention had a public relations plan behind it.

Oh, and my favorite part of his rant? When he sarcastically told the audience how great it was that now Sirius XM would spend a ton of money on advertising O’Donnell’s new program rather than planning ahead and taking advantage of the enormous amount of press a little public relations planning would yield.

alison1It was reported earlier this week that Grey’s Anatomy fired Brooke Smith – aka Dr. Erica Hahn, heart surgeon extraordinaire and lesbian currently dating formerly heterosexual Dr. Callie Torres. Popular bloggers and television columnists have responded by calling out ABC and the top-rated show for chickening out of the controversial storyline.

The responses from ABC and the show’s creators have been controlled, simple and to the point – and obviously all crafted by the ABC crisis communications team.

patrick-dempsey1Well, for whatever reason, Grey’s heartthrob and 80s teen icon Patrick Dempsey went on record calling out the alphabet network’s PR team in a quote making rounds on blog everywhere…

The fan in me is THRILLED Smith is exiting as her character was boring, had zero chemistry with castmates of either gender and was rude to Dr. Bailey, the best character on television. The public relations practitioner in me has to wonder why clients – even celebs – smugly throw their communications team under the bus when they aren’t happy with a decision made by management?

To me, this is part of the reason we are always accused of being spin doctors (although I do concede there are spin doctors out there giving us a bad name too) – because the client portrays us as them!

I am thankful today for my clients – who appreciate the work I do and trust my work on their behalf.

Crisis Communications Watch

September 11, 2008

Over here at HMA Time, we are always on the lookout for crisis situations – and the strategies used to solve them. Well, the New England Patriots have found themselves in quite the pickle – reigning NFL MVP Patriot Quarterback Tom Brady is out for the season.

This is nothing new for the NFL – but given the star power of Brady (not to mention all of the fantasy football fans freaking out on message boards nationwide), coupled with the general overall hatred of his coach, one of the most popular NFL brands may be headed for some murky waters.

So, what would you do if in their shoes? Enhanced community service for the rest of the team? Major trade? Freebies for season ticket holders?

GOP Publicity Stunts

September 5, 2008

Len Gutman posted a funny entry on the Valley PR Blog yesterday about the tabloids’ latest darling – Gov. Sarah Palin.

I’m not here to talk politics.  However, no matter what your political beliefs you have to acknowledge the publicity that this vice presidential hopeful has brought to the GOP – heck, the whole election.

This week Sarah Palin was on the cover of US Weekly, OK!, People and the National Enquirer.  To be fair, Sen. Barack Obama has seen his fair share of magazine covers over the past months, but four in one week?  Even if some of the press is negative, it still draws more attention to the Republican Party than they otherwise might have gotten.

What I want to know is if they anticipated this much coverage, positive or negative.  Surely they timed the baby “scandal” within the week of the convention?  Whatever the plan was, it seems to have worked in getting them major amounts of pop culture press coverage. 

What do you think?