Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Snowpocalypse 2009

Those of us in the Washington area got an early Christmas present this past weekend that measured in around 20". The Blizzard of 2009, or "Snowpocalypse" as it was dubbed online, crippled transportation, the federal government and many businesses. It also created a picture-perfect winter wonderland in the nation's capital.

Happy Holidays to everyone! We'll see you next year.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Promoting Safe Happy Holidays

The holiday season. It’s a time for family, generosity and, apparently, hordes of multicolored decorative lights. I’m probably too young to be a bit of scrooge about holiday lights, but the fascination with elaborate house decorations is beyond my comprehension. Each night when I get home from the office and sit down on my bedside chair, I stare out at a holiday lights display that can surely be seen from space. Well, bah humbug. You laugh but I’m donning sunglasses.

While it’s easy to be lighthearted about holiday decorations, here at PCG we’ve have had holiday electrical safety on the mind. We’ve been helping the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) and electrical experts from local Home Depots provide safety tips to TV audiences across the country. We have arranged appearances on more than 20 local TV stations and an interview with ESFI’s President, Brett Brenner on CBS’s Early Show.

Let’s be honest – everyone has a story to tell about holiday decorating gone wrong. It must be the excitement of the season, but people seem to disregard basic safety for the perfect decorative display. ESFI and Home Depot have provided some easy tips to keep us all safe. For example, use LED lights instead of incandescent lights. They are safer, resistant to shock, more energy efficient, allow more strings to be connected together and can last 50 times longer.

So, on behalf of PCG, please be safe this holiday season and remember electrical safety. For more great tips from ESFI, visit its holiday site, Below, is Brett Brenner’s appearance on the Early Show.
- Potomac Communications Group

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Monday, December 14, 2009

Investigative Journalism Version 2.0

Peter Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget, did his part for the future of journalism last week. Is this an unlikely advocate for the free press? You bet. But many reporters are too busy being their own writers, copyeditors and photographers to do much investigative journalism anymore. Last week, Orszag made this kind of reporting possible again.

Orszag’s “Open Government Directive” will create a host of new tools that make government the public’s business and give time-strapped reporters fewer excuses for not having the facts at their fingertips. The recondite ways of “computer assisted reporting” are going away. Reporting on government activities, even those some agencies would rather avoid seeing covered, will become easier than ever.

Orszag issued a directive to federal agencies that is designed to add teeth to the Presidential “transparency memo” issued on President Obama’s first day in office. The OMB’s directive provides guidance to all federal agencies on how to become more open, participatory and collaborative. It itemizes tasks and deadlines. More significantly, it requires that information be distributed in downloadable files that can be retrieved, indexed and searched by web search applications like the one you’re using to read this post.

Public records have long been tools of the journalism trade. Soon, news organizations will have much easier access – as will their readers – and we’ll come to expect new, more detailed reporting and coverage. Consider how corruption was routed out of mayor’s office in Detroit by the Detroit Free Press. The newspaper’s investigations of public records disgraced former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick for his deception and led to jail terms for two officials. The paper’s dogged reporting won a Pulitzer Prize. It also required a vast amount of paperwork, lawyers, court appeals and a whole lot of waiting that could be eliminated with the OMB’s new directive.

The Open Government Directive may reinvigorate news organizations’ commitment to their 4th estate responsibilities. Maybe that will help keep journalism, as we have known it, alive.

– Potomac Communications Group

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Best Magazine Covers of the Year

Many magazines don’t seem to be suffering from the competitive shockwaves that have left the newspaper industry in critical condition. Other than “newsmagazines” – which increasingly seems a contradiction of terms – many are thriving.

How? One reason: If they can’t compete on speed, they’re competing on creativity. And doing it well.

Here’s some evidence. Time has named the top 10 magazine covers of the year. And the creativity is amazing. One of them – The New Yorker cover, below – was even developed on an iPhone app, called Brushes.

Personally, I was pleased that half the winners came from my three favorite magazines – The New Yorker, New York and Texas Monthly. (Does that indicate a certain amount of schizophrenia?)

Check out all 10, here.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A "Surprising Solution" to Critical Challenges

Creating high-quality products and services, and offering them at competitive prices may not be enough to ensure business success in the 21st century marketplace. Tomorrow’s most successful enterprises will be those that also embrace social responsibility, according to Dr. Bruce Piasecki, an expert on corporate strategy.

In his new book, The Surprising Solution: Creating Possibility in a Swift and Severe World, Bruce, a long-time PCG client and friend who has studied the subject for more than 25 years, says the world’s largest multinational corporations are more powerful than most nations. In fact, he reports, more than half of the world’s 100 largest economies are corporations, not nations.

Hence, corporate giants will play a greater role in solving critical social problems like climate change, energy security, health care and poverty through innovation and response to social market forces. Those that do it best, he says, are the ones that will enjoy the greatest success.

Some multinationals are already stepping forward to address some of our most pressing problems, and are scoring big in the marketplace, he notes. General Electric, for example, is spending billions to develop wind power and other green technologies as part of its “Ecomagination” campaign. Toyota pioneered the efficient hybrid power train and is now the world’s largest auto maker. And Walmart, the behemoth that serves more than 175 million customers each week, is implementing a sustainability program focusing on such things as reduced packaging and more efficient transportation, not only for its 7,400 stores worldwide but for its entire supply chain as well.

We believe that Bruce – who also wrote In Search of Environmental Excellence and Corporate Environmental Strategy (for which our founding partners wrote the introduction – has made another important contribution to our understanding of the role of corporations in an environmentally sensitive world. Check it out.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Leveraging the mainstream & social media convergence

The success of the direct selling industry, most famous for companies with household names like Avon, Herbalife and Mary Kay, is based on the person-to-person experience that consumers have with consultants. In other words, it’s a social business. And the world of social media has presented new opportunities and ways for direct selling companies to connect with their consultants and consumers. I was able to see some of these applications first-hand at the Direct Selling Association’s Internet & Marketing Communications Seminar in Las Vegas last week. For example, with more than 50,000 Facebook fans and counting, jewelry company Lia Sophia is using its page to introduce people to new products.

I had the pleasure of attending and co-presenting at the meeting. The attendance has historically been very strong and this year, the turnout was double that of 2008.

Melissa Meinzer, managing editor at Military Spouse Magazine, and I discussed effective ways in which DSA's member companies can leverage social media to help with their media outreach. For example, I shared stories on how I’ve used LinkedIn to pitch reporters whom I may not have talked with or seen in years. Or how I use to see which reporters are on Twitter. The site lists their beat, Twitter ID, job title and so on.

Other tips we shared: Take advantage of the media convergence. It allows greater visibility and reach, increases search engine optimization and has interactive components to help engage your audience. Look at social media as a supplement and not as a replacement… for now at least. And lastly, start today… literally. Share links to coverage via Facebook or LinkedIn. Embed videos of recent coverage (from news sites that allow you to do so) onto your own corporate Web site or blog.

A few years ago, who would have thought that a marketing conference would devote two full days to social media and Internet marketing? Times are indeed changing, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to learn about DSA member companies’ use of new media – and to share some of what we’re doing at PCG to leverage social media on behalf of our clients.

Friday, December 4, 2009

And Now: Reporters Reporting to Salesmen?

Here’s the most worrisome news of the day, for anyone who cares about traditional media. The Dallas Morning News – the only newspaper, in the nation’s eighth biggest city, with a daily circulation of more than 250,000 – seems to be placing its news staff under ad sales managers.

The weekly Dallas Observer just published an internal memo to the Morning News staff from the editor, jointly signed by the senior vice president of sales, announcing the restructuring. It divides the newsroom into 11 “business and content segments,” with each segment reporting to a newly created “general manager” whose responsibilities will include sales and business development. The rationale: “to better align with our clients’ needs.”

An Observer blog features an interview with the News’ editor, Bob Mong, who insists that the paper is still a “journalism-first company” and that the lines between advertising and news content will not be crossed.

Let’s all keep an eye on the News. Will this experiment be a model for other newspapers to follow? Or will the relationship between news and the business needs of the paper become so evidently cozy that others will be scared off. Stay tuned.

(Full Disclosure Dept.: I’m from Dallas, and in college I worked as a reporter for the Dallas Times Herald, which was then the afternoon competitor to the Morning News. So don’t expect total objectivity . . . )

Thursday, December 3, 2009

After the Pardon, This Turkey Flies High

It’s one of the most successful PR events of all time: Every Thanksgiving, the National Turkey Federation – a PCG client for many years – presents the President of the United States with the National Thanksgiving Turkey (and an alternate, should the first turkey not be able to perform its duties) to be pardoned.

NTF has presented turkeys to commanders in chief since Harry Truman started the tradition, and for more than 50 years the event has generated hundreds of press clips. CNN provided live coverage of President Obama’s first pardon.

“It’s always a lot of fun, and a big media event,” said Sherrie Rosenblatt, NTF’s vice president of marketing and communications. “This year, ‘Courage’ was a very good tom, but that’s not always been the case. In 2002, the pardoned bird pecked at President Bush in a very, uh, inappropriate way.”

“Fortunately, the president was a good sport – and we did make the front page in dozens of papers that year,” she added.

For the last five years, Disneyland has provided the pardoned turkeys with a home. Sherrie has had the privilege of escorting the turkeys to California aboard United Airlines Flight “Turkey-1” several times. The photos posted here are exclusive from Courage’s trip.

“It’s always amazing to see the strange looks and questions we get from other passengers on the plane, but they all want to get their pictures taken with the birds” she said. “The turkeys are great conversation starters.”

Courage served as the honorary grand marshal of Disneyland’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and now he and his alternate, “Carolina,” will live out their days at Big Thunder Ranch in Frontierland.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Former Senator Pete Domenici Talks Nuclear at National Press Club

Former Sen. Pete Domenici (R- New Mexico) today gave reporters and other industry insiders his latest thoughts about the nuclear renaissance at a National Press Club event sponsored by the United States Energy Association and the Bipartisan Policy Center. We attended the event and the themes in his speech were reminiscent of his 36 years in office where he became a staunch supporter of nuclear power.

“We can continue to pursue a long-outdated policy and try to avoid real participation in the new global nuclear reality. Or we can seize the opportunity to act now,” said Domenici. (Click here for a full transcript of his speech)

Especially interesting was his position that the Obama administration is pro-nuclear. He noted the administration has hired several high-profile pro-nuclear executives at the U.S. Department of Energy.

Domenici also discussed the recent resurgence of natural gas as the fuel of choice for energy generation. He said that natural gas is a good bridge to the future, but most utilities understand that nuclear energy is a better long-term investment.