Monday, March 30, 2009

How Are the Mighty Fallen!

There have been massive changes in the practice of public relations since I first joined the PR firm of Makovsky + Company more than ten years ago. Back then, most major cities had two or three local newspapers. Today, many are down to just one, as Ken Makovsky has described in his recent “My Three Cents” blog… and it’s at risk of folding.

On March 16, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer published its last print edition, leaving the biggest city in the state of Washington, with just one daily newspaper, The Seattle Times. The 146-year-old Seattle P-I will live on in a digital version as a “news and information portal.”

The struggling U.S. newspaper industry must be waiting with bated breath. Who’s next?

Just a week, content provider 24/7 Wall St. released a list of the 10 most endangered major daily newspapers. Based on an analysis of the financial strength of their parent companies, the amount of direct competition they face in their markets and their financial losses, these are the newspapers likeliest to fold or begin publishing an online edition only … many within the next 18 months!

1. Philadelphia Daily News
2. Star Tribune
3. The Miami Herald
4. The Detroit News
5. The Boston Globe
6. San Francisco Chronicle
7. Chicago Sun-Times
8. New York Daily News
9. Fort Worth Star-Telegram
10. The Plain Dealer

I’m a big believer in consumer-generated media and the importance of citizen journalists as investigators and whistleblowers — but as a public relations consultant and a citizen, I certainly would hate to lose the professionals of the Fourth Estate.

Technorati Tags: media crisis, newspapers, journalism, 24/7 Wall St., Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Seattle Times, Philadelphia Daily News, Star Tribune, Miami Herald, Detroit News, Boston Globe,San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Sun-Times, New York Daily News, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Makovsky + Company, PR firm, Ken Makovsky, My Three Cents

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Question to Bankers: What’s Up with Your PR?

I recently read an interesting article in Advertising Age about the marketing challenges facing financial services industry in the post-TARP world and how banks are responding.

Some customers are asking whether Citibank is a safe place for their savings,” writes reporter Beth Snyder Bulik. “So what is Citibank doing? Running ads in the Wall Street Journal about its microfinance capabilities in Texas and India.”

It’s just one example of the tone-deaf marketing messages coming from some banks that don’t answer worried customers’ real concerns … Is my money safe? Can I trust you? Will you be here tomorrow?

According to Ad Age, the top 10 banks and credit-card companies cut their ad budgets by a more than 25% in the fourth quarter of 2008 and nearly 40% December compared with those same periods in 2007. This represents a tremendous opportunity for banks and other financial services institutions to step into the void and claim it for their brand.

As our CEO, Ken Makovsky, wrote recently, public relations “is significantly less expensive than advertising and much more credible. We’re talking about a modest investment in time and money that delivers a major return on investment.”

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Monday, March 16, 2009

Multiplying the Power of Pharma Research

There’s been an interesting new development in the space where pharmaceutical research and technology intersect. It’s called Sage, and it’s designed to “revolutionize how researchers approach the complexity of human biological information and the treatment of disease” by giving them access to a rich research database and the high-tech tools to collaborate on “evolving, integrated networks of biological data.”

John Wilbanks, a founding director of Sage, writes in his Common Knowledge blog that Merck, the global research-driven pharmaceutical company, has pledge to donate a vast amount of data about the biology of disease to the nonprofit.

Wilbanks writes, “Sage means that we are now on the path to a world in which scientists working on HIV in Brazilian non-profit research institutes (like my mother-in-law) will be able to use the same powerful computational disease biology tools as those inside Merck. I'm very much looking forward to living in that world,” he adds.

So am I. While it will take an estimated three to five years to see the first fruits of this project, it’s exciting to think of the intellectual power that will unleashed by using technology to tap the great global brain.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Don’t Mess with My Brand!

Want more proof that the company doesn’t own your brand … its customers do?

This month, Pepsico will be scrapping some expensive changes to the packaging of one of its flagship products, Tropicana Pure Premium orange juice. The longtime Tropicana brand symbol, an orange impaled by a straw, had been replaced by the image of a glass of fresh orange juice.

Tropicana’s customers were furious about the brand makeover, describing it in letters, e-mail messages and telephone calls as “ugly” and “stupid,” and saying that it resembled “a generic bargain brand,” according to The New York Times.

Bowing to popular pressure, the original version of the packaging will be brought back next month. According to Tropicana president Neil Campbell, it wasn’t the sheer volume of the outcries that led to the corporate change of heart, it was the fact that the criticism came from some of the Tropicana’s most loyal consumers.

As my colleague Tim Kane has written, “People don’t buy brands. They join them.” You interfere with that relationship at your own risk!

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

DST: A Sinister Plot to Toy with Our Biorhythms?

It’s almost here. The time of the year I hate most. The day on which I am robbed of a precious, precious hour of sleep … Daylight Saving Time. This year in the U.S., DST begins on Sunday, March 8, at 2:00 am, when clocks are adjusted forward one hour. Time doesn’t revert to normal again until November, when clocks are set back (and I get my hour of lost sleep back again.)

I’m a public relations consultant. I work for a leading business-to-business (B2B) PR firm based in New York City. Our unique positioning is the “power of specialized thinking” — so I have to be able to think. How can I think when, every spring, my bio-clock is being messed with by some Time Lord with a nonsensical agenda?

Here are the three top reasons I think we should do away with DST. (I’ve got more if you want them.)

1. It makes for less efficient workers. Studies estimate that that sleep deprivation costs U.S. businesses an estimated $150 billion a year in absenteeism and reduced productivity.
2. It’s not green. A 2008 study that examined billing data in Indiana before and after it adopted DST three years ago found that DST increased residential electricity consumption by 1% to 4%.

3. It takes time to change clocks. And as more high-tech devices contain clocks, more time is spent changing them. (I avoid this problem by leaving my watch on standard time all year-round. For the six months of DST, I simply add an hour in my head.)

In his My Three Cents blog, Ken Makovsky has written that “outstanding productivity in business depends on executives who are awake.” He suggests power napping as a solution. I say, put an end to Daylight Saving Time.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,