Tag Archives: Miriam Fry

The Media Missed the Point… Again

By: Miriam Fry

There are many opinions in the world about what PR really is, and what PR professionals do on a daily basis. While PR professionals are not evasive about their job duties and generally do not leave room for interpretation, mainstream media outlets are known to cast stones and write PR off as a pointless field. Many newspapers, broadcast news stations and other sectors of the media do not seem to value PR’s real contributions to society.

Keith Trivitt, author of the blog PRBreakfastClub, illustrates this point beautifully with his post “The Media is Missing the Real Story of PR.” Trivitt references a New York Times article that ran Sunday titled “When Publicists Say ‘Shh!’” Before even delving into it, the title alone is enough to make PR practitioners cringe.

First, the Times article concerns celebrity PR which, in actuality, is only a small portion of the industry. Second, the article describes celebrities, namely Charlie Sheen and R&B singer Chris Brown, who do not seem to trust or value their publicists’ advice. Both celebrities have had episodes of rage and violence that put them in a negative light. The article reports that many celebrities’ press agents have tried to silence their clients in an attempt to rehabilitate their images . . . but why should the PR industry as a whole be bashed because a few publicists have celebrity clients who can’t control their images?

For what it’s worth, PR is about putting your best foot forward. But if your client is always putting his foot in his mouth, what is a publicist to do?

The New York Times reporter missed the point on what PR is. Trivitt’s blog notes some positive PR facts that deserve more media coverage, the most important one being the positive role that PR plays in cities’ economic recoveries.

“New York City alone is home to more than 1,000 PR firms that contribute well north of $1 billion annually to the city’s economy,” Trivitt wrote. That is refreshing to hear in a time when economists say that the U.S. is in the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. Trivitt also notes, in spite of a faltering economy, annual spending in the PR industry is on the rise.

Trivitt’s blog does a great job of pointing out what the mainstream media is missing when it reports on PR. Although inevitable articles about outraged celebrities won’t do the PR industry justice, one can only hope that the mainstream media will start to get the point. After all, we can help them put their best foot forward.

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BP’s Perfect Storm, One Year Later

By: Miriam Fry

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which has been recorded as the largest oil spill in U.S. history. The scope of damage from this spill surpassed even the Exxon-Valdez spill of 1989. The minute Transocean’s oil rig exploded, BP had a PR challenge on hand. Has BP conquered it?

If having an estimated 172 million gallons of oil gushing into the Gulf with your company’s name on it isn’t enough of a PR blunder to overcome, BP had an increasingly difficult time capping the well, and 11 employees, who were working on the rig, died when it exploded. Each of these events serves as a substantial PR challenge, but when all three are combined, the situation becomes a perfect storm of PR challenges.

From July to August 2010, BP tripled its advertising budget to $93 million in an attempt to recover its ruined reputation. Investing in PR was a major financial decision for BP, but did it work?

Well, it will take more than a year to tell, but overall, BP appears to be committed to letting Gulf Coast residents know that the company takes full responsibility for what happened, along with government mandates … what more can BP be expected to do?

The PR campaign consists of traditional news releases, a new website tab titled “Gulf of Mexico Restoration” and financial statements. Perhaps the most direct tactic was the hiring of unemployed residents from Baldwin and Mobile counties in south Alabama to help with the cleanup process.

In addition, the company utilized traditional social media with Twitter, Facebook and a YouTube Channel, all of which increased transparency. The YouTube videos address the situation from the residents’ points of view and are titled “Voices from the Gulf.” The most recent video features Bryan and Brook Zar, owners of Restaurant des Families in Crown Point, La.

Bryan Zar notes that “[BP] stuck by the region, and kept our communities working.” The video points out that the Zars were not compensated for their appearance, ensuring that there is no speculation that BP paid actors to imitate Gulf Coast residents. BP was able to catch candid accounts of what residents thought, which is invaluable to its PR efforts.

As today’s anniversary approached, BP released a video titled “A Year of Change” to illustrate what the company has been doing for the residents of the Gulf Coast. The video begins with an apology from Bob Dudley, the new CEO of BP, in which he says BP “is committed to earning your trust back.” The video details what happened on April 20, 2010, when the rig exploded, as well as every effort to cap it for the three months that followed. The cleanup process is also featured with a tug-on-heart strings as we see pelicans being bathed to rid them of oil.

The video is seemingly transparent, detailed and honest — three words that all PR practitioners value in their work.

The $93 million dollar investment in BP’s PR was just the beginning of its reputation makeover. It has made its message known, and it has opened itself up to not only residents of the Gulf Coast, but the entire country.

What do you think of BP’s PR tactics?

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The Dilution of the Film Industry

By: Miriam Fry

When a movie idea is pitched to a studio executive, one thought is running through her mind: “Will this movie make money?” And while yes, making money is important, is it the most important part of the industry? To what lengths do we go to make money? What do we sacrifice?

In a recent GQ article written by Mark Harris titled “The Day the Movies Died,” Harris detailed the negative implications of focusing too much on marketing/PR and making money. He said instead of making a great movie, directors are focused on the bottom line. Today’s studio executives have decided that making a drama is too risky and that filmmakers and others involved should instead go with their best bet to make money. That, of course, is to make a movie based on something that is already a brand.

“Everyone has cut back on not just ‘Oscar-worthy’ movies, but on dramas, period,” said Jan Dinks, the producer of Milk and American Beauty. “Caution has made them pull away. It’s infected the entire business.”

Harris pointed out that movies in the works for 2011 include a long list of sequels (conveniently, they already have a brand) and four adaptations of comic books, which also already have a brand! June 10 is the set release date of Fast Five, the fifth movie in the series of The Fast and the Furious.

You’ll see a trend here, and it does not stop. There is nothing in the line-up that is intriguing and different like Inception was in 2010, Harris argues.

What does this say about the film industry? Producers and studio executives are not willing to take a risk with a movie idea, for fear that it will need an original marketing plan or that the movie/plan might fail. Most movies today are being made from a marketing and PR standpoint instead of a film standpoint.

Harris also said that one demographic dominates the Hollywood marketing strategy, the “ADD-addled, short-term-memory-lacking, easily excitable testosterone junkie.” Categories left out of the mix are women and those born before 1985. According to Harris, women are not worth taking the time to figure out, and if you were born before 1985 you are old because you have developed taste. A taste that is obviously not for sequels or remakes.

What does this say about PR? Luckily for us, that it’s important. Perhaps the most important factor aside from the profit made. The PR person has an influential voice at the table and a distinguishing role in the whole process of movie production. Too often people think that PR practitioners are only good for party planning and tweeting. As we see in the movie industry, we’re good for much more than that. And a movie pitch does not get the green light until producers know that it can be marketed positively.

Although it’s comforting that PR is important, today what we’re seeing is an over-reliance on PR and marketing that dictates what kind of movies are made: bad ones. Movie makers are sacrificing content just to make money. They are producing the “safest bet” in terms of money and results at the box office, while leaving us with mediocre entertainment that we’ll most likely waste our money and time on… ultimately diluting the film industry.

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Is Your Workplace Game Good Enough?

By Miriam Fry

As more and more people become unemployed and are forced to re-enter the workforce, competition for available jobs increases, and we have to learn to step up our workplace game. It’s important to create your own personal brand on the job so that everyone there knows that you’re serious. Two recent Cosmopolitan articles with conflicting advice on what’s appropriate at work made me wonder: Do the women who read these articles take every word seriously?

With a lack of jobs already prevalent and another class of college graduates entering the workforce after May graduation, I wanted to establish my opinion on what Cosmo printed and on what workplace rules some women live by. Chelsea Handler’s “Chelsea Lets Loose” article has a section titled ‘When Your Boss is a Bitch,’ which includes her suggestion that you should explain your sex life to your boss in order to get her to loosen up. Neither your sex life nor any other aspect of your personal life should be discussed on the job, and you should especially make it a point to not talk to your boss about it! One, it’s just unprofessional and two, chances are she doesn’t care and would rather you put your energy into your work — after all, that’s what she hired you for.

While I hope readers do not take Handler too seriously on this topic, Kelly Cutrone, head of the PR firm People’s Revolution, had some worthy advice. Cutrone’s Cosmo article addresses the personal life issue, stating that if a co-worker is always stopping by your desk to chat about her personal life, you should suggest the two of you talk after work and then apologize to your boss for the unprofessional behavior. In addition, Cutrone said that we all should strive to be the one employee who volunteers to stay late. “If somebody is competitive, sincere, and willing to go the extra mile, I really appreciate it,” she wrote. Cutrone thus emphasized the importance of making yourself stand out in a positive way amidst your co-workers.

Standing out amongst your co-workers is the most important part of your personal brand. You want your boss to know your work when she sees it. What are some other ways to show your boss you’re serious? Show up before her and leave after her. Never sit around doing nothing; people don’t like it when you waste their time. Ask for extra projects or clean out the smelly refrigerator that everyone complains about. Finally, make sure your boss knows that you are there to promote her, instead of yourself.

What have you found really impresses your boss?

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