Friday, November 5, 2010

FUMBLE – WHAT’S THE SOURCE?

This week's perspective from Joe Chidley:

The foodie twitter-sphere was aghast this week at allegations of plagiarism leveled at Cooks Source magazine, which according to a writer named Monica Gaudio reprinted a story she posted online in 2005 called “A tale of two tarts”—but without her knowledge, permission, nor any payment at all. What makes this a communications misfire is the response from the magazine’s managing editor, Judith Griggs, who in response to Gaudio’s complaint retorted that content found on the Web is public domain, and that the editorial process vastly improved the story—so basically, Gaudio should be thanking her, not complaining. Later, on Facebook, Griggs boasted that the controversy had boosted the magazine’s Facebook fan base from 110 to 1870—prompting one reaction that called the post “smug, arrogant and tone-deaf.” It’s hard to disagree. And it seems that Cooks Source in its response broke a couple cardinal rules of crisis communications. First, don’t attempt to minimize the impact of alleged wrongdoing—that just makes you look more concerned for your own skin than for the damage that’s been done. And second—and it’s a big one—get your facts straight. In this case, it’s just not true that what’s posted on the Web is public domain—it’s protected by the same copyright laws as any other form of content. Now, the magazine has become the target for a slew of allegations of ripping off stories (including from The Food Network)—and Gaudio’s complaint might just be the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Friday, October 29, 2010

TOUCHDOWN- DOUBLE DON WINS MASSIVE MEDIA JACKPOT

Nothing succeeds like excess, it seems. KFC’s infamous “Double Down” sandwich – cheesy bacony gooeyness slathered between a pair of deep fried chicken breasts – made its Canadian debut this week, and everyone was talking about it. Innumerable media outlets documented their staffers’ reactions to giving the salt and fat-laden a whirl right out of the gate, but then the best possible thing happened: Ontario Health Promotion Minister Margaret Best mused about it as something the government might “take a look at and review.” Not since former Toronto Mayor June Rowlands banned Barenaked Ladies from performing at Nathan Phillips Square had something this innocuous become so immediately infamous. The government quickly back-pedaled, but by then an otherwise puffy fast food story had taken a rocket ride to downtown hardnewsville. Somewhere, the Colonel is smiling …

FUMBLE - MURRAY'S "I'M SORRY, BUT...." APOLOGY

This week's perspective from Bob Reid:

Yet another cautionary tale of the importance to mind one’s p’s and q’s in the social media realm, this time courtesy of Ontario Research and Innovation Minister Glen Murray. Tweeting his opposition to Rob Ford’s mayoral bid last weekend, Murray suggested that first Ford, and then fellow Conservatives Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak represented “bigotry.” Hudak said that crossed the line and demanded an apology from Murray, who initially responded by saying he regretted the comments but then in the same breath called on Hudak to “root out any of those working in his ranks who would try to exploit hatred.” In effect, Murray’s apology merely U-turned him right back into trouble again, as it suggested Hudak might be OK but his team was still suspect. Mixed messages are always problematic, and especially so when one is trying to apologize for a mis-step. There should be no equivocation, no “I’m sorry, BUT …” Express the regret, and move on. Murray wound up with two days of bad press over something which could have – and should have – been quickly and easily resolved.

TOUCHDOWN - FORD RIDES GRAVY TRAIN TO MAYOR'S OFFICE

This week's perspective from Bob Reid:

Rarely are communications campaigns – let alone political campaigns – so sharply focused as was that of the now victorious Rob Ford in his bid for Toronto’s mayoralty. It wasn’t the sole factor in his landslide win, but Ford’s consistency of message throughout was definitely a key part of the winning formula. “Stopping the Gravy Train at City Hall” was Ford’s mantra throughout, and that one sound bite encapsulated perfectly his core positioning of eliminating wasteful spending, respecting taxpayers’ dollars and running a tighter ship all the way around. His refusal to deviate from that message track drove reporters and pundits crazy, but it obviously continued to resonate with voters throughout the campaign period. One golden sound bite does not a guaranteed election win make, but Ford clearly demonstrated the value of consistency when trying to develop a clear brand for a mass audience.

FUMBLE-BERLUSCONI'S TIRED TUNE

Allegations of sexual and official impropriety are nothing new for Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi , but their cumulative effect might finally be having an impact on his political fortunes. His own wife has accused him of “consorting with minors,” he took heat last year over attending the birthday party of an 18-year-old model, and now a 17-year-old Moroccan girl has claimed to legal authorities that she attended parties at the Prime Minister’s private residence. What happened at those parties is unclear, but Berlusconi doesn’t deny anything. “I am very proud of my ability to be a host, a rather rare, perhaps unique host,” he said to reporters. “I am a playful person, full of life. I love life, I love women.” He went on to say that he deserves some playtime because “I have a terrible life—I have a life that requires super-human efforts.” The comments break two cardinal rules of crisis communications. One is, don’t downplay the seriousness or impact on others of your actions. And second, never make the crisis about yourself, as BP’s Tony Hayward did when in the midst of the Gulf of Mexico spill he expressed a desire to get back to his normal life. Do it, and you come across not just as somebody who might have made a mistake, but also a jerk. Granted, Berlusconi has got away with indiscretions before by pleading he’s a bon vivant, but this time he might not be so lucky—as his plummeting approval ratings suggest. Fumble, Silvio Berlusconi.

FUMBLE-RANDY QUAID IN LA-LA LAND

This week's perspective from Joe Chidley:

I have always held Randy Quaid in the highest esteem, if only because he was so hilarious as the Quaker bowling prodigy Ishmael in the Farrelly Bros. 1996 classic King Pin. But his performances of late have been less “funny ha-ha” than “funny strange.” Like, really strange. Quaid and his wife Evi were released from custody in Vancouver this week, after being arrested on a California warrant over allegations they were illegally squatting on a property they once owned. (Why released? Turns out Evi’s dad might have been born in Canada, leaving the couple’s legal status in on-the-lam limbo.) Ill-advisedly (but not surprisingly), Randy made a statement to reporters, and it was surely one of the more oddly disturbing tracts ever read in public. Charity forbids making too much fun of it, and sanity forbids taking it too seriously—the guy claims that he is the target of “star-whackers” out to slander him, wreck his career and eventually murder him, just as they have already done to the likes of Chris Penn, Heath Ledger and David Carradine . But let’s take a closer look at just one element of his statement—the part where he vehemently claims that he and Evi are not criminals, and “nor are we crazy.” This is a classic case of parroting the negative—something we consistently warn against in our media training here at Veritas. It’s understandable enough: when someone says you are something nasty, your first instinct is to categorically say you are not that something. But the instinct is usually wrong, at least in media situations. For one thing, it’s a missed opportunity—typically you want to talk about what you are, not what you aren’t. More importantly, when everyone thinks you’re something bad, just saying you’re not doesn’t really cut it—it just feeds skepticism. (Think of Richard Nixon ’s unintentional epitaph, “I’m not a crook.”) And once you say it, you own it. His actual statement read, in part, “We are not criminals, nor are we fugitives from justice, nor are we crazy. We are just artists and film-makers…” Doesn’t matter: the headlines read “We’re not crazy – Quaid” and “Quaid: ‘I am not crazy or a criminal.’” Sure you’re not, Ishmael… Sure you’re not.

Friday, October 22, 2010

FUMBLE-OFFICER BUBBLES DOTH PROTEST HIMSELF BACK ONTO THE FRONT PAGE

You know, I had forgotten all about “Officer Bubbles” and most of the rest of the G-20 noise … until this week. Toronto Police Constable Adam Josephs – his real name – was so upset with the YouTube videos which sprung up in the wake of his confrontation with a bubble-blowing demonstrator that he filed a $20 million lawsuit against the internet portal, the creator of the videos, and the 24 people who posted derogatory comments about him. However, for a guy stung by the online attacks directed against him, the move bought him a ton more ink and airtime, reminding one and all about the initial incident and the cyber-slurs which followed – not to mention a brand new raft of online flame attacks. As frustrating as the wild west of “new media” can be, before mounting any high-profile response (like, say, a multi-million dollar lawsuit), you’ve always got to ask yourself: how might this play out in the end, both online and in traditional media? If the answer is “way bigger than simply forgetting all about it,” you should probably consider the latter. If you hate the media stories, don’t do something that will only generate more – each and every one containing a recap of the original slight that started it all in the first place.

TOUCHDOWN-BUZZ ABOUT THE HIVE

An uncontestable Touchdown to Toronto agency The Hive for taking home a major honour from the Globes Awards in Washington this week. The Hive’s “Bicycle Factory” promotion, for Cadbury, won “The Best of the Best in the World”—the top prize from the Marketing Agencies Association Worldwide. In our opinion, it was much deserved kudos for a great campaign, which invited Cadbury customers to help needy Africans by entering UPC codes from chocolate bars and other Cadbury products online—each code represented a bicycle part, and when you got 100 the actual bicycle was shipped to a community in need. Since its launch in 2009, more than 8,000 bikes have been built and shipped. A terrific CSR project—well-executed, consistent with Cadbury’s brand and its work to be seen as a responsible corporate citizen in the developing world, from which many of its products come. Plus it does no small amount of good. Congrats.

TOUCHDOWN- WHY WE LOVE FOOTBALL

Here at Touchdowns & Fumbles, we love football—and not just because our name is, well, Touchdowns & Fumbles. We also love the drama, the high stakes, the action—and the penchant the gridiron gang has for PR foul-ups. Latest on the hit list: the NFL’s missteps in announcing what almost everyone agrees is a good policy of get tough with players who make illegal head shots. The league made the announcement while handing out a slew of fines from last weekend’s contests—tens of thousands of dollars to Brandon Meriweather of the Patriots, Dunta Robinson of the Atlanta Falcons, and Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison, who got dinged $75,000 for an illegal hit to Cleveland Brown receiver Mohamed Massaquoi. Good policy? Sure—it’s all about saving lives, after all. But the league overlooked one small item: it was selling photos of the hits and the offenders on its website even as it said it was cracking down on them. After news reports picked up on the gaffe, Harrison, in a radio interview, accused the NFL of “wanting to get their money on the front end and the back end.” Lesson here: Before any public declaration, think about any potential vulnerabilities in terms of your organization’s reputation, and fix them before (not after) the big announcement. True, the NFL promptly removed the images. Still a fumble. But wait, there’s more: we’re going to give a fumble to Harrison, too, for his crybaby reaction to the fine. He complained that if he could not play the sport the way he wanted, which included trying to hurt people, then he would retire. A couple days later, he released a statement to the effect that in fact he would not retire, though not without taking a swipe at the league: “I cannot and will not let the league office stop me from playing the game I love.” And then he clarified that it was wrong of him to say that he intended to hurt people, when what he really meant was that he intended not to injure them. Oh, ok, now we get it. God, we love football…

Friday, October 15, 2010

TOUCHDOWN- A GAP GAFFE? NOPE!

This week's perspective by Bob Reid:


Consumers by and large don’t like surprises, even if it involves a brand they’re not consuming like they used to. So it was not unexpected that The Gap stores would take a mall-full of heat for unexpectedly changing the long-established “blue box” logo that has become a contemporary retail icon, swapping it on The Gap’s corporate website for a new, rounder font (Helvetica, actually) with a small blue box grafted on the end of the ‘p.’ Gap fans went nuts on the company’s Facebook page, denouncing the move and crying out for the blue box to be brought back. Initially, Gap North America President Marka Hansen defended the move, hanging tough in an op-ed published on the Huffington Post website which read remarkably like a sales pitch. She wrote of the “evolution” of the Gap brand, in “products such as the 1969 premium denim and and the new black pants, and more modern stores in many locations.” She acknowledged the “passionate outpouring” from customers, and pledged to engage them in the dialogue – with details to follow. However, shortly after, Hansen said in a statement that “we did not go about this the right way. We recognize that we missed the opportunity to engage with the online community. This wasn’t the right project at the right time for crowd sourcing.” A PR blunder? An embarrassing reversal? I think not. Sure they riled some geeks, but suddenly a company that has seen sales slipping since 2005 was big news, with passions aflame about its logo for crying out loud – and without making a single change to a store or garment. Shades of New Coke, which prompted a global outcry to save “Classic Coke” and unleashed a torrent of media play and pop culture (pardon the pun) passion for another moribund brand.

BACKFIELD IN MOTION – BRETT FARVE'S SEXT SCANDAL

This week's perspective by Joe Chidley:

You think it’s just kids that text too much? Well, think again. The NFL’s resident geezer, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre, got a Fumble from us back in August for using text messages to stoke rumours he wasn’t going to return to the field this fall. (Those rumours helped him bag an extra few million from Vikings management.) At the time, we also noted the brewing scandal over allegations he texted pictures of his private parts to a sports reporter and ex-model named Jenn Sterger a couple years ago. Now, those allegations may come back to sack the aging gridiron hero, as the NFL has officially launched an investigation into whether Favre broke the league’s personal conduct rules. Do fans care? The jury is still out. For now, they seem to be worried a lot more that the legendary QB is losing games—the jokes are already circulating that he’s been “emailing it in” on the field. So far, Favre has rightly declined to talk to the media, except to say that his primary concern is the Vikings’ poor showing. Fair enough. But let’s step back a bit. If Favre did send those pictures, it’s a classic case of misplaced confidence in confidentiality. No one can assume that what they send over email or text message is private—no matter how private the subject matter—and that holds especially true for those in the public spotlight or in positions of power. So if you’ve got something really sensitive to share, do the smart thing and pick up the phone. True, phone calls can be recorded (legally, in this country, as long as one of the participants know the call is being recorded), but they’re still a safer route than email or text, no matter how convenient those are. Shouldn’t we all know this already? If Favre didn’t two years ago, he sure does now.

Friday, October 8, 2010

TOUCHDOWN – OAKLEY DONATES SHADES TO CHILEAN MINERS

This week's perspective according to Bob Reid:

Has there been a happier-ending story than this week’s rescue of the 33 Chilean miners, trapped since August more than a CN Tower’s depth underground? I mean, aside from the one guy, who’s wife and mistress both arrived when news of the cave-in first broke … It was a gripping story of determination, courage and grace under pressure that literally had the whole world watching. So untold billions of eyes saw that distinctive round logo of Oakley sunglasses riding on the smiling faces of the rescued men, protecting their too-long-in-the-dark eyes from their first taste of sunlight (and/or TV kliegs). Oakley donated 35 pairs of glasses worth $180 per pair to the effort. One estimate placed the value of the product placement in the ubiquitous global news coverage at $41 million in equivalent TV ad time alone. A great score, but even better was Oakley’s approach to be quiet about the entire gesture, doing no proactive advertising about it nor even returning initial media calls for comment. Instead, in a statement, Oakley simply said “Our hearts are with the rescue team and miners as we hope for a joyous end to the crisis.” Classy and Touchdown-worthy for sure.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

FUMBLE RECOVERY – KKK COSTUMER GUY FINALLY GETS IT

This week's perspective from Bob Reid:
“What were they thinking?” was the question on everyone’s mind following news that two goons showed up at the Campbellford Legion Hall Hallowe’en party, one dressed as a Ku Klux Klan member, dragging the other (a white guy with his face painted black) around by a noose. It was utterly distasteful and utterly embarrassing for all involved, including the mayor of Campbellford and senior officials with the Royal Canadian Legion. So it was entirely appropriate that Klan-sheeted Blair Crowley would say “I apologize if I offended anybody.” Trouble is, he didn’t quit there, but rather continued on to tell a reporter that “that stuff (slavery) has been gone for years and years and years. I don’t see why the reaction is the way it is. That’s so past tense. It’s a piece of history from long ago … People need to worry about something other than that.” Fumble! Much like last week’s incident with Ontario cabinet minister Glen Murray, this is another “I’m sorry, but …” kind of apology. When you’ve done something publicly stupid, and especially when others have taken offence, you end up undoing any gains from the apology if you then try and suggest that people really oughta lighten up. It took another 24 hours for Crowley to get it right, telling Toronto Sun columnist Joe Warmington “I didn’t see it as a big thing and thought it was just a Halloween costume but after the fact I realize it’s just stupid and was extremely poor judgment. I am sorry for what I have done and take 100% responsibility.” That’s more like it, and the sincerity of both Crowley and his partner warrants calling this one a Fumble Recovery.

Friday, October 1, 2010

YOU MAKE THE CALL - MACLEAN'S AND "CORRUPT" QUEBEC

This weeks perspective from Bob Reid:

It was the magazine cover heard across the nation, when Maclean’s splashed its cover with Bonhomme, the Quebec Carnival mascot toting a briefcase bursting with cash and the headline “The most corrupt province in Canada.” Howls of outrage echoed around the Quebec National Assembly and on Parliament Hill, where MPs would later pass a resolution denouncing the story. The obviously provocative cover generated tremendous media coverage, all focused on Maclean’s magazine, which defended the piece. However, parent company Rogers Media (which owns major media properties in la belle province) issued a statement from publishing division President Brian Segal, noting that Rogers does not interfere with editorial decisions of its publications, but at the same time saying “we sincerely regret any offence which the cover may have caused.” Some think it was a deft way of covering the corporate assets without meddling in the journalistic aspects of the business. Others say that, in the absence of such a statement, most average consumers may not have even been aware of Rogers’ ownership of Maclean’s – but if they’re mad about the article, they might now think twice about going with Rogers when choosing a cable or cell phone service provider. What do you think?

TOUCHDOWN – THE OILSANDS AVERTS A TITANIC DISASTER

This week's perspective from Joe Chidley:

You might expect a visit from the man who made Avatar—a 3D movie extravaganza that did not exactly depict the mining industry in a favourable light—to have some pretty damning things to say upon visiting Alberta’s oilsands, one of the world’s largest strip-mining projects. But somehow, the “tar” sands averted disaster when blockbuster director James Cameron visited northern Alberta at the invitation of First Nations activists in Fort Chipewyan. His first stop, however, was a meeting with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, Cenovus and Syncrude (two huge oil-sands producers) and Alberta’s environment minister, along with a tour of a reclaimed Syncrude mine site. Cameron came away telling the petro companies “you have a good story to tell,” and displaying an interest in the complexities of mining and environmental management that suggested he took the industry and its efforts seriously—and wasn’t just there to, ahem, tar and feather Big Oil. Tagging along (and tweeting), the National Post’s ever-astute Kevin Libin noted that the director spent a lot of time talking about “the best ways to make the oil sands more palatable to the public, something he seemed keen to do.” Cameron, of course, still voiced concerns about the industry and its environmental impact. But for the oilsands even that measured response is a clear win. By opening up their operations—carefully, of course—the industry managed to defuse a potentially explosive situation rather than escalate it. And in the end, Cameron’s visit made the oilsands’ environmental record seem more a subject for grown-up debate and techno wonks than for moral condemnation. The lesson here: Even if you’re facing your toughest critics, when you really believe you have nothing to hide—don’t hide it.

Friday, September 24, 2010

FUMBLE – PAT BURNS IS NOT DEAD YET

This week's perspective from Joe Chidley:

In a recent Globe and Mail column, Bruce Dowbiggin provided a good analysis an obit story gone very wrong. Former NHL coach Pat Burns has been battling cancer for a while now, and in mid-September a wire service ran a story saying his condition had worsened severely. Then Cliff Fletcher, an exec with the Maple Leafs, told some reporters that he had heard Burns passed away. The Toronto Star’s Damien Cox then tweets the “news” on his Twitter account. And then the story goes viral. Some, not all, radio and wires services run with it. But as Dowbiggin tells it, a couple hours later “Burns himself phoned TSN’s Bob McKenzie … to say he was out shopping, not checking out.” Whoops. In cases like this—whether you’ve fouled up in reporting or in talking about your company or in producing a faulty product or whatever—the rule of thumb is to ‘fess up to your mistake, and then communicate clearly what you plan to do to prevent cock-ups in future. Dowbiggin points to the case of Vancouver radio host Ray Ferraro , who admitted he made an embarrassing error and should have checked his sources, and apologized. Done deal—everyone makes mistakes. But the columnist also points to the Star’s Cox, who called the gaffe “an honest mistake” on the part of Fletcher (not himself)—not good enough, to Dowbiggin, who rightly says the real culprit is the immediacy-driven pressure cooker of social media and today’s newsrooms. That reality, of course, just makes checking facts—and being prompt in acknowledging and correcting mistakes—all the more important. So is applying the same rules to yourself as you would to anyone else, hard as that maybe. Otherwise, your credibility—and your organization’s—could well become fodder for tomorrow’s obituary page.

TOUCHDOWN – TEA PARTY MAVEN CANCELS INTERVIEWS

This week's perspective from Bob Reid:

I haven’t written anything about Christine O’Donnell, the U.S. Senate nominee from Delaware, and I wouldn’t usually advocate the short-notice cancelation of a round of high-profile media interviews, so let’s deal with both, shall we? O’Donnell, a Republican who has become the fledgling Tea Party’s latest dreamboat, has rocketed to media stardom since pulling off an upset win – and for being the focus of a treasure trove of quotes from archival media interviews that even Karl Rove has deemed “a lot of nutty things.” From calling homosexuality “an identity disorder” to denouncing condom use, masturbation and lying even if it would have saved someone from the Holocaust, my personal favourite is from a never-aired (?!) 1999 episode of “Politically Incorrect” in which she confessed to Bill Maher that she had “dabbled in witchcraft … but was careful to stress that she never actually joined a coven. Suddenly, talking about whether you “inhaled” just ain’t edgy anymore. But the play I’m calling a Touchdown is her short-notice decision to cancel a round of major network TV interviews originally scheduled for this weekend. Her camp is claiming conflicts with some must-attend events in her home state, but I don’t think I’m out on a limb by suggesting she took the advice of someone who convinced her that going through with the spots would be a very, very bad idea. The Sunday morning shows are the centre ring of U.S. political debate. She would be grilled hard for a long list of comments and other questions about use of campaign funds and a variety of other stuff – and by all indications, she wouldn’t be able to hack it. Taking some time out of the limelight and going through intensive media coaching would be a very wise course of action, one which I suspect she is following. Sure, O”Donnell is taking flack for the cancelations, but I think that’s short term pain for … well, we’ll see how she does when she finally does make the rounds. But right now, it’s the right call.

Friday, September 17, 2010

FUMBLE – McGUINTY’S CALL ON CELL PHONES IN THE CLASSROOM

This week's perspective from Bob Reid:

I actually feel sympathy for Premier Dalton McGuinty on the whole cell-phones-in-the classroom controversy he found himself in the midst of this week. He was asked about the issue by reporters, after the Toronto District School Board indicated it might re-think its outright ban on the use of mobile phones by kids in class. To his credit, McGuinty didn’t take a position on it one way or the other, saying instead that it might be something worth considering if they can be a useful educational tool and not a distraction. However, the Premier should have known better. Even musing about a controversial issue can land you right smack in the middle of it, and that’s exactly what happened – with the shorthand fast becoming that McGuinty was in favour of ending the ban. Sometimes musing about possibilities can be a useful way for politicians to start a debate or to trial-balloon an idea; but this was just an avoidable mis-step.

TOUCHDOWN – TENEYCKE TAKES ONE FOR THE TEAM


This week's perspective from Bob Reid:

Ever since it was announced that Quebecor Media Inc. wanted to launch a new national news & current affairs channel, it has been a flashpoint issue for some on the left. They immediately labeled SUN TV “Fox News North,” and have used every opportunity to denounce the notion of another source of opinion on Canadian television. So it really wasn’t surprising that Kory Teneycke, who took on the job of building, staffing and launching the new channel, became such a lightning rod for said critics’ ire. Teneycke became a well-known right of centre political voice during his tenure as Prime Minister Stephen Harper ’s director of communications, and the attacks against him and SUN TV became progressively more visceral as time went by. So it was not very surprising yet really very commendable that Tenycke would step down this week, saying that his continued involvement in the project would only "further inflame" the controversy. He’s right. And he did the right thing. We’ve noted before that if your tactics become the story, then you’ve lost your ability to tell the story you want to get out there. Ditto if, as in this case, the messenger overwhelms the message. It remains to be seen whether, by taking himself out of the equation, Teneycke will be giving SUN TV a less rocky ride. But what is for sure is the fact that he really had little choice but to try.

Friday, September 10, 2010

FUMBLE – WILL THEY BUILD IT? WILL THEY COME?


One of the fundamentals we cover in our Veritas Media Coaching sessions is the importance of consistency of message among an organization’s spokespeople. So it was more than a bit odd to see a photo of several Quebec Conservative MPs mugging for the cameras sporting old Quebec Nordiques NHL sweaters, juxtaposed against their boss, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, saying that his government does not and will not fund NHL franchises. Talk about a mixed message. At issue is the potential for federal funding for a new, NHL-calibre arena in Quebec City, the former home of the Nordiques and crucial ground for the Conservatives in the pending federal election. The city and province have announced financial support for the new venue, and there is pressure on the feds to follow suit as an infrastructure project – something the Harper government has done on countless occasions. So why the massive disconnect between the very clear signal that the MPs sent with their photo-op and the back-stopping which followed from the PM and his officials? Especially when numerous other cities have unsuccessfully sought federal bucks for their own sports palace plans? Fumble

Friday, August 27, 2010

VERITAS: TOUCHDOWN - ELIN SPEAKS


This week's perspective from Orli Namian:
With the ink barely dry on an estimated $100 million divorce settlement, Elin Nordegren, the former Mrs. Tiger Woods, has given an exclusive interview to People Magazine, speaking publicly for the first time since the tawdry details of her husband’s double life were exposed last November. So, just how should a publicly humiliated wife and mother react to her husband’s multiple transgressions being dragged out in detail in the press? Over the years, we have witnessed all sorts of reactions, from “stand by your man” all the way to the vengeful Bobbit chop. In this instance, from a pure communications perspective, Elin Nordegren handled her outing brilliantly. The timing of the interview was impeccable, with People announcing the exclusive in the same week the divorce was finalized, making available only the angelic fresh-faced cover shot and key excerpts prior to the issue hitting the stands this morning. Nordegren’s tone is the real achievement here. She sets the record straight, tells her side of the story and comes off as the woman who erroneously thought she had a great marriage going. Her statements are made in a simple, heartfelt manner: “I never suspected,” she told People,“I felt stupid as more things were revealed – how could I not have known anything?” There is no spite or vengefulness in the interview. By remaining dignified in her statements, she has drawn sympathy, rather than pity, from millions around the globe. Nordegren insists the People interview will be the last of its kind. In sharp contrast to her ex-husband’s public outings since the scandal broke, Elin Nordegren gets a hole in one.

VERITAS: FUMBLE – FORD MISHANDLES BAD NEWS STORY, MAKES IT FAR WORST


This week's perspective from Bob Reid:
When Toronto mayoral candidate Rob Ford’s phone rang Wednesday afternoon it was Toronto Sun reporter Jonathon Jenkins, asking if he had ever been charged with possession of marijuana. Ford categorically denied any such thing ever happening. Jenkins informed Ford that he had a Florida arrest record to the contrary. Ford said he would have to call the reporter back. At that point, the candidate had a critical choice to make. He chose wrong. Ford did call back, and told Jenkins that he had completely forgotten about an incident in Florida 11 years ago, in which he was in fact charged with pot possession after police found “one joint in (his) back pocket” at a traffic stop. The charge was later dismissed, and Ford said he had given the matter so little thought since that he just plain didn’t recall it – “You probably think I’m BS’ing you, but I’m not. It completely, totally slipped my mind.” Thursday morning, with the Sun story on page one and reverberating around morning drive radio, Ford held a news conference to address the matter – and dropped a bombshell. The pot charge was one of two he received that night, Ford revealed, the second being for failing to provide a breath sample to police who suspected he had been drinking and driving. That charge was plea-bargained out for a fine and community service. When asked how he could possibly have forgotten about the pot charge, Ford said it was because the other, “more serious” one (his words) was “the first thing that pops into my head,” when Jenkins asked his questions. So let’s look at the communications play: by deciding not to reveal the full story to Jenkins at the time the reporter disclosed he had evidence about the pot charge, Ford ensured that what could well have been a one-day story about two long-resolved issues (hey, a number of politicians have admitted pot smoking in their youth or have had alcohol-related driving charges, and their careers have survived) now had legs like Beyonce. Because, predictably, his opponents pounced on the non-disclosure of the full truth at the first opportunity (the Sun interview) as an issue of honesty, integrity and character. Up to this point, one dimension Ford had owned in the campaign was that of being a (sometimes brutally) honest straight shooter. Had he disclosed the full story to Jenkins at the outset, he could have told all other comers that he revealed everything about the Florida incident the moment he was asked about it, and that there are more important issues than mis-steps made on vacation 11 years ago. Instead, the front-runner has handed his challengers a weapon that has the potential to at least partially undermine Ford on the ground he had so solidly held, until now.

Friday, August 20, 2010

VERITAS: TOUCHDOWN – DID FEDERER REALLY MAKE THAT SHOT?


This week's perspective from Bob Reid:
OK, let’s lighten things up with the wonderful viral video that had everybody talking this week: did tennis great Roger Federer really bulls-eye a tin can off some dude’s head with a pinpoint racket shot and a tennis ball? That’s exactly what he appears to do – twice – in a clip purported to be a behind-the-scenes out-take from a commercial photo shoot for Gillette. The company was besieged with calls, seeking confirmation that there were no camera tricks or special effects used. Wisely, they weren’t talking – but everyone else was, what with the clip clocking well over 2 million views on YouTube. Even Federer himself remains coy, telling the New York Times that “You know how it is with magicians. They don’t tell how their tricks work.” Touchdown.

Friday, August 13, 2010

VERITAS: FUMBLE - ANOTHER PITCH BATTLE

This week's perspective from Joe Chidley:

What is it with soccer coaches? Just a few weeks after the self-destructive debacle of the French World Cup team—whose terrible on-field performance was surpassed in negativity by the acrimony in the dressing room—the infection of bad management and sloppy communications seems to have crossed the Channel. This week, Fabio Capello, the manager of the English squad, announced that superstar David Beckham , who is perhaps the most recognizable athlete in the world, was at age 35 too old to play on the national team again. Fair enough, I guess. Maybe some people who know football better than I will say that’s the right call. But it’s the way Capello did it that stinks. First, it was in a televised interview aired after a friendly game against Hungary. Second, and worse, that was the first time Beckham heard that his days of competitive play for his country were officially over. Apparently, the team’s GM had informed Beckham of the interview beforehand but told him that Capello would be talking about the need for younger players—not putting a superstar in the remainder bin. Later, Capello did allow that he tried to speak with Beckham before the interview, and that he would like the star to play in the next friendly game at Wembley stadium (once an Achilles tendon injury healed) so he could “say goodbye and thank you very much to the crowd.” Classy? Not so much. Beckham, to his credit, has snubbed Capello’s lame and insulting offer. The damage to the reputation and credibility of England team management is done.

VERITAS: TOUCHDOWN – FLYING THE ANGRY SKIES

This week's perspective from Joe Chidley:

It was the ultimate Take-this-job-and-you-know-what move, and while there was a degree of God-I-wish-I-could-do-that resonance with people everywhere, I didn’t find anything heroic in JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater’s on-board meltdown and emergency chute slide into the world’s headlines. But let’s do what we do here at TD&F and look purely at the communications aspects. Slater gets a Touchdown for largely shutting up in the aftermath. He said a few words to a TV reporter who was waiting for him after making bail, and while he didn’t say much, he wisely resisted taking the bait when the reporter asked, “Tell me about rude passengers – talk about that for a minute.” Rather than using the prompt to try and defend his actions and put the blame on misbehaving passengers, Slater simply said “there are a lot of wonderful people out there.” He also said his action seemed to be “resonating” with people, and left it at that. The only other comments from Slater’s camp have been through his lawyer, who said Slater would like his job back and thinks the world of JetBlue. Well played. As for the airline, it also gets a Touchdown. The company kept quiet at first, but recognized that it had to walk the fine line between saying nothing and making any comment that could impact their employee’s right to privacy (at the end of the day, this was a personnel matter) or on the legal investigations that are underway. Solution? JetBlue used its corporate blog, where it often comments on issues at play in the airline travel world. Taking a light approach in keeping with their corporate brand, JetBlue noted that “the entire Internet” had lots to say about what went down, but that the company would simply just like “to recognize our 2,100 fantastic, awesome, and professional in-flight crew members for delivering the JetBlue Experience you've come to expect of us.” Communications kudos to both sides in this wacky slice of life drama.

VERITAS: TOUCHDOWN – WORST ROADS CAMPAIGN

This week's perspective from Bob Reid:

Every year, for eight years now, the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) has undertaken its Worst Roads campaign, in which it solicits nominations from the public for the worst stretches of pavement in Ontario. And every year it gets tons of media play, and with this week’s launch of the 2010 campaign, it’s clear this year will be no different. This is a fantastic PR effort, because it works so well on so many levels. It engages the public quickly and easily: everybody’s got a road they love to hate, and you can get involved with the click of a mouse. The media love it, because it not only engages people, but the CAA also parses its results locally by city and town and region all over Ontario – so it’s a “local” story in every community, something that’s key for earning media pickup. And finally, it gives the CAA fresh ammo for its advocacy mandate on behalf of drivers, because they then take the resulting lists to government, calling for those particular roads to be given priority when it comes to infrastructure decisions. An absolute winner all around.

VERITAS: TOUCHDOWN – FORD AND MILLER AND THE C-WORD

This week's perspective from Bob Reid:

It’s a communications truism that provocative language and statements will ALWAYS get media attention. Case in point: this week’s back-and-forth between Toronto Mayor David Miller and one of the guys who wants the job, veteran city councillor Rob Ford. Ford made instant headlines when he used the word “corruption” to express his views on the 20-year lease granted by the city to the private operator of the only restaurant on the Beach boardwalk. Ford ranted about the deal and the closed-door council session at which it was debated. “These in-camera meetings, there’s more corruption and skullduggery going on in there than I’ve ever seen in my life,” he fumed. Miller said he would stay out of the campaign, but given the seriousness of the allegation, he couldn’t help but respond. “If there’s a single piece of evidence or even a hint of something that Councillor Ford thinks is improper, he should take it to (the city’s auditor and integrity commissioner),” Miller told reporters Thursday. “And if there is a problem, I want to know about it,” he added. “I want to run a clean city hall. That’s why we have all the integrity officials there.” I call Touchdowns for both Ford and Miller on this one, as they have used this political football to both their advantages. Ford generated huge press and once again positioned himself as the people’s watchdog at city hall. Miller, who would rather see anyone but Ford be his successor, seized the opportunity to call Ford out – and to protect his legacy in the process. Sure it’s mud-slinging, but sometimes it works all around.

Friday, August 6, 2010

VERITAS: TOUCHDOWN – COUNCIL CANDIDATE ANTI-PET SHOP BOY

This week's perspective from Bob Reid:

I know absolutely nothing about Dean Maher and whether he’d make a good choice for the Ward 20 Trinity-Spadina city council seat in November’s election, but I do know this: he gets a Touchdown for his communications play this week. Maher quickly earned headlines and talk radio time by doing one of the best things anyone seeking media attention can do – and that’s leveraging a hot-button issue. In this case, it’s Maher’s call for a ban on pet shops in Toronto. He says there are far too many animals needing homes already in city and Humane Society shelters, and furthermore, many pet shop employees are ill-equipped to properly counsel prospective pet owners on the needs and obligations which go with the role. Not only is it an irresistible water-cooler issue, Maher has done another smart thing, namely, he has gotten credible third-party support for his position from at least one veterinarian. Controversy is always newsworthy, and if it’s centred around an issue upon which virtually anyone could have an opinion, it’s a sure-fire attention-getter.

VERITAS: TOUCHDOWN – RIM STANDS FIRM AGAINST UAE

This week's perspective from Bob Reid:

The United Arab Emirates has threatened to pull the plug on BlackBerry service, saying that messages sent and received on the ubiquitous devices go against U.A.E. “regulations,” because the encrypted messages are routed through a proprietary Research In Motion server located somewhere in the west. Most observers agree the real issue is the fact that RIM’s technology doesn’t permit the Emirates to monitor what their people are saying. But the geography involved is a pretty major market – both Dubai and Abu Dhabi are part of the U.A.E., and those are choice business destinations which hang in the balance. However, RIM is standing firm against U.A.E. demands to change their setup to allow for government snoopiness – consistent with the company’s stance against previous similar demands from Russia and China. "The BlackBerry enterprise solution was designed to preclude RIM, or any third party, from reading encrypted information under any circumstances ... This means that customers of the BlackBerry enterprise solution can maintain confidence in the integrity of the security architecture without fear of compromise,” RIM said in a statement. I thought this was brilliant. Not only does it gently say “pound sand” to the U.A.E., it also lets RIM tout the unique security of its messaging capabilities, compared to that of other competitors. Oddly enough, the Emirates government remains in discussion with RIM on the issue. Touchdown!

VERITAS: FUMBLE RECOVERY - AIR CANADA BREAKS WHEELCHAIRS

This week's perspective from Bob Reid:

It seems like it’s turning out OK in the end, but good grief, did Air Canada not think this was a case worthy of top priority? On Wednesday, 10 year-old Tanner Bawn flew to New York with his mom, joined by his aunt Catherine Connors who lives here in Toronto. Tanner has muscular dystrophy (and was going to New York to take part in a fundraiser set up in his name), and seeing the sites of the Big Apple is part of a “bucket list” the poor kid has drawn up of things he wants to do before he dies. After boarding the Air Canada flight, baggage handlers decided to dismantle the electric wheelchair upon which Tanner is wholly dependent, to make it easier to fit in the cargo hold. Trouble is, they couldn’t put it back together at the other end, so suddenly Tanner found himself bed-ridden in Manhattan. The airline said they’d get it fixed, but it would probably take until Monday. They offered a manual wheelchair (Tanner can’t use one), then sent over one of those electric scooter deals (ditto), apparently without even bothering to let the family know it was sitting in the hotel lobby. Meanwhile, it turns out Aunt Catherine is quite the active blogger (and was in town for a blogger conference) and was getting busy declaring Twitter-based jihad against Air Canada. A blizzard of critical posts from incensed Tweeps ensued, among them yummymummy.ca’s Erica Ehm, who commands an army of followers all on her own. Mainstream media picked up the story and descended on Tanner’s hotel. By late afternoon, Air Canada had not only gotten Tanner’s chair fixed and back to him, the airline announced that it would fly Tanner and his cousins to Disney World – the number one wish on his list. “I kind of burst into tears a little bit,” said a now-happy Aunt Catherine, saying that Air Canada wants “very badly to make this as right as they can.” I guess so. True, the airline moved quickly to fix the problem, and then upped the ante with the Disney trip, but by fumbling the communications with the family through the first half of the saga, they took a reputational hit that could have been easily avoided with a little attention, empathy and effort.

VERITAS: FUMBLE - FAVRE'S BACKFIELD IN MOTION

This week's perspective from Joe Chidley:

If reports are true, legendary NFL quarterback Brett Favre really, really likes text messages. Maybe too much for his own good. The sports media were all a-twitter this week over rumours that Favre, who at 40 is legendary for his stamina as QB for the Minnesota Vikings, might be retiring. The source of those rumours? Texts that teammates say Favre sent hinting that he wasn’t going to return to the field come this fall. (Favre denies sending the texts, which means someone isn’t telling the whole truth. And oddly, this is not the only texting-related Favre story this week, as allegations surfaced that he emailed pictures of his private parts to a sports reporter and ex-model named Jenn Sterger. ) What ensued was an ongoing melodrama—familiar to followers of Favre’s career—of will-he-or-won’t-he, and it still wasn’t over even after an alarmed Vikings management reportedly upped his contract for the 2010 season from $13 million to $20 million. But it’s not about the money, Favre insisted. From the seat of his pickup truck, he gave reporters a brief interview saying that his decision really rested on the fragile state of his injured left ankle. That explanation strained credulity, however, because in the back of his truck was a mountain bike, and Favre admitted he was off to take a ride. Maybe you could give the aged footballer marks for digital creativity and, umm, outright ballsiness. But the press was having none of it. Reporters blasted him for “Textgate,” accusing him of manipulating his teammates and the media. Looks like they have a point.

VERITAS: RECOVERY - ADAM GIAMBRONE KEEPS ON RIDING

This week's perspective from Joe Chidley:

Toronto city councillor Adam Giambrone’s bid for mayor was effectively cancelled in February when the Toronto Star published revelations that he had sexual liaisons with different partners. Like many other Torontonians, I didn’t really think that was any of my business, and certainly did not reflect on his performance or potential at city hall. Now, months on, and despite bowing out of the campaign, Giambrone has since then proceeded to do his job—and do it visibly—exactly as if he felt the same way. That “let’s move on” attitude is reflected in his continued media omnipresence as chair of the Toronto Transit Commission , the service Torontonians love to hate. Most notably, Giambrone has stuck with his “On the Rocket” show, a unique broadcast on CP24 that has him interviewing folks and fielding questions about public transit while riding an in-service streetcar through town. It’s great positioning for him and for the TTC brand, because it shows both to be active, involved and in-touch with their customers. For Giambrone, it’s also smart reputation rehabilitation. When your private life becomes public knowledge, there are only two ways to go: into hiding, or into the spotlight. Giambrone has chosen the more daring route, and I’d argue he’s done it well.

Friday, July 23, 2010

VERITAS: TOUCHDOWN - TIGER WOODS, AMERICA'S SWEETHEART

This week's perspective from Joe Chidley:

What’s the difference between John Daly and Tiger Woods? Both are great golfers, in their own ways, of course. Both have had more than their share of scandals and embarrassments. So why is one the subject of a Golf Channel reality show, and the other the most-liked athlete in the United States? It comes down to this: Tiger is a winner. Daly? Not so much. (His last PGA Tour victory was six years ago.) In fact, all of Tiger’s PR struggles last year seem not to have dimmed his light in the eyes of the American public, which according to a recent poll find Tiger even more likeable than Kobe Bryant (himself no stranger to allegations of sexual impropriety). I’ve said it before, but the real path to Tiger’s rehabilitation from sex-addictive infamy has to take place on the golf course, not in front of the microphone. His time-off from the sport, his return at the Masters, and his very human struggles with his golf game—which seems to be steadily improving through a difficult season personally and physically—have all been good moves because they focused attention on the game, not the boudoir. When he appeared at the Masters in April, I said the best thing Tiger can do to repair his damaged reputation is win a tournament. He hasn’t done that—yet—this year. But the bigger victory is that the drama now for Tiger, and the one that the public seems to care about most, is no longer about SUVs and fire hydrants and marital infidelity: it’s about him on the golf course. Touchdown, Tiger Woods.

VERITAS: TOUCHDOWN - FALLS AVENUE RESORT SHOWS TORONTO THE LOVE

This week's perspective from Aliya Jiwan:

We’re always on the lookout for good or bad communications plays, and when paid media generates earned media, it always makes the team here at TD+F stop and look. Sometimes, the attention is unwanted, as was the case this week with the Niagara Parks Commission (NPC), when they launched an ad campaign that painted Toronto as a crime and graffiti-ridden city and left many GTA residents fuming. The commercials contrast one scene of stressful life in the city with another of peaceful Niagara. The resulting headlines focused on Toronto’s dismay at the campaign, mayoral candidate “Furious” George Smitherman’s anger over the commercials and then the NPC’s decision to scale them back. The whole thing had Hogtowners screaming foul. But sometimes even the worst media coverage yields a great opportunity. In this case, while NPC officials were trying to kiss and makeup with their big-city neighbour, one Niagara Falls resort was cozying up to GTA tourists with a “We Love Toronto” offer. The Falls Avenue Resort, which includes the downtown Sheraton, Crowne Plaza, Skyline and Hampton Inn hotels, will offer rooms for most of September to GTA visitors for $79 a night, with the proceeds going to the Hospital for Sick Children. Now that’s love. During a crisis, thought leadership or CSR initiatives can often lessen the impact. This quick-thinking reaction to negative media attention has insulated the Falls Avenue Resort from what could have been a damaging PR campaign. For a deft recovery, it’s a touchdown.

VERITAS: FUMBLE - THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION ON THE SHERROD AFFAIR

This week's perspective from Orli Giroux-Namian:

Pity Shirley Sherrod, a mid-level official at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who has become the centre of a storm of controversy about race, race sensitivity and political bungling in Washington. Her saga began after blogger Andrew Breitbart posted a sliced-and-diced portion of a speech Sherrod gave at a National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) event last year, at which she mentioned an instance of not offering her full help to a white farmer. Within hours, the “story” was picked up by other websites and pushed out as news by cable network FOX News. Sherrod was promptly denounced by the NAACP and, more importantly, fired by US government officials. Oops. Anyone viewing the full speech would have quickly learned three things: first, the incident happened long before Sherrod’s days with the Agriculture Department, and second, the point Sherrod was making in her speech was that people should move beyond race. In fact, the farmer Sherrod referred to came forward to tell reporters that she had helped him save his farm. Of course, once the full version of the speech was released, the media pack charged in the opposite direction. Sherrod received a flurry of apologies, including calls from President Barack Obama, the Agriculture Secretary and the NAACP, not to mention some rarely heard mea culpas from Fox TV personalities. One bright light at FOX News, Shepard Smith, denounced his network for running with the story in the first place: "We here at Studio B did not run the video and did not reference the story in any way for many reasons, among them: we didn't know who shot it, we didn't know when it was shot, we didn't know the context of the statement, and because of the history of the videos on the site where it was posted, in short we do not and did not trust the source." From a PR perspective, that’s good general direction for anyone facing a damaging news story of questionable accuracy. And it’s something the White House might have considered. Instead, it got swept up in a media frenzy and didn’t take the time to verify before acting—almost always a recipe for disaster. Now, an employee’s professional and personal reputation has been damaged, but not so much as the Obama

Friday, July 16, 2010

VERITAS: TOUCHDOWN - SPICING IT UP

This week's perspective from Com.motion:

Isaiah Mustafa likely didn’t know where his role as the “Old Spice Man” was headed when he shot his first commercial for Old Spice deodorant. As you’ve no doubt seen, the Old Spice Man has had an explosive week. Leveraging real time content, online influencers and some interesting commentary from online conversations, Old Spice has managed to achieve over five million impressions this week online. Building on the success of the “I’m On A Horse” commercial, Old Spice took a leap. Old Spice engaged a group of agency copywriters and social media folks to produce one-minute videos directly addressing people online, focusing on those with Twitter accounts. Producing on average one video every seven minutes for two days, Old Spice took the advertising world by storm in real time. Often spoken about, but infrequently done by brands, real time personalization was the key for this campaign. Old Spice targeted everyone from celebrities like Alyssa Milano to folks with as few as 100 followers online, going so far as to facilitate an engagement! This is a great example of aligning with a client, producing real time content and engaging consumers in a way that we haven't seen done quite like this before. Against all odds, Isaiah Mustafa is now an iconic brand image that has created huge waves online and won’t soon be forgotten.

VERITAS: TOUCHDOWN - PAMELA ANDERSON'S PETA POSTER

This week's perspective from Joe Chidley:

My colleague Bob Reid and I were talking about the pride of Ladysmith, BC the other day (I had the hardship posting once of having to interview her during her Baywatch days), and both of us agreed that despite the, um, contortions her career has taken over the years, Pamela Anderson has displayed remarkable savvy in managing her personal brand. After all, how many sex symbols can rival her for sheer longevity and continued notoriety? Then, as if someone was listening to us, Anderson unveiled (or tried to unveil) a provocative new campaign for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), her favoured charity. The ad depicts a bikini-clad Anderson tattooed in the style of a butcher’s chart – with parts labelled in butcheresque terms like “breast,” “round,” “rump” and so on – under the headline, “All animals have the same parts.” Anderson’s plan was to launch the campaign in front of City Hall in Montreal, where she’s appearing at the Just for Laughs comedy festival. Mais non, said city officials, who judged the poster too sexist and racy for a public unveiling (which, of course, played right into Anderson’s hand.) She remarked (not without some merit) on the irony of being “banned” in Montreal – a city renowned for its palaces of pole dancing, among other pulchritudinous pastimes. But more to the point the banning got national and international media play for the ad, garnering her and her cause far more visibility than they ever would have enjoyed otherwise. Just luck? Or really smart PR? It’s a question that applies equally well to Anderson’s entire career as it does to the PETA ad dustup. Touchdown, Pam Anderson.

VERITAS: FUMBLE - APPLE'S iPHONE SIGNALS

This week's perspective from Joe Chidley:

Apple’s iPhone4 certainly looks good, but the controversy over the new model’s allegedly faulty antenna design has turned downright ugly. And maybe therein lies a lesson for the darling of the technocrat set. As soon as the new phones went on sale after their June launch, a litany of customer complaints came in that the darned things just didn’t work right – the reception dropped whenever you covered a certain portion of the phone with your hand. First, the company told customers that, basically, they were holding the phone in the wrong way. (Patient to doctor: “It hurts when I walk.” Doctor to patient: “Then stop walking.”) Then, Apple laid the blame on a software error that made the on-screen reception level indicators make the signal look stronger than it actually was – and that this was a problem on all iPhones from the beginning. That’s an explanation you might think is so unflattering to the product quality protocols at Apple, it must be true. But not according to Consumer Reports, which has challenged Apple’s explanation and has alleged the fault lies in bad hardware. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal cited “people familiar with the matter” in a story that claims Apple knew about the signal glitch before the iPhone 4’s release. The subtext of the WSJ story is that the decision to go forward anyway was based on Apple’s (and CEO Steve Jobs’) love of its design, whatever the performance problems. If that’s the case, it might explain the company’s apparent reluctance to admit a mistake – after all, great design is where Apple lives, right? But if so, that’s misguided. For consumers, Apple’s design excellence is a proxy for quality. Without that perception of quality, all the great design in the world won’t protect the brand. For any company facing allegations of shoddy products, the key is first to be seen to take the complaints seriously, then to be seen to be doing something to find out what’s wrong, and then coming up with one – and hopefully only one – fix for it, even if that means a product recall. By those measures, mighty Apple has fallen down to earth.

VERITAS: TOUCHDOWN - IGGY LAUGHS IT OFF

This week's perspective from Bob Reid:

As a former political press secretary, I can tell you: this is the stuff that makes your blood run cold. Once, in the middle of an actual election campaign, I had to explain to the traveling press corps the utter absence of the boss’s bus for the first leg of one particular road day, after an overnight mechanical incident while in the hands of well-intentioned minders the night before. Good times. So I felt for federal Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff and his “Liberal Express” road crew this week, when on day one – DAY ONE – of his man-of-the-people tour, his bus went ka-blooey and broke down en route to an event. Stuff happens, especially on the road, and we at TD&F are always careful to put that stuff aside and instead look not to the incident itself, but to the communications thereof: and it’s a Touchdown for Iggy. He did all one really can in such a less-than-perfect alignment of the stars, namely, he laughed it off. He said he knew the media would find every possible way to link the transmission problem to his broader image, but added “Sometimes a bump in the road is just a bump in the road. It’s not a metaphor for anything.” Then, he quickly bridged into noting that by getting into a bus and getting out there among the masses, he was doing exactly the kind of thing that his nemesis, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, generally doesn’t. A nice bit of what I like to call “communications judo” – using one’s opponent’s weight back against him.

VERITAS: FUMBLE - THE MEL GIBSON TAPES

This week's perspective from Bob Reid:

Some things just can’t be spun. You got somewhat of a bye the last time you were caught spewing sexist, racist, anti-Semitic bile … not this time, Mel. Announce that you’re going into intensive counseling? Fund a series of women’s shelters? Make a massive donation to racial co-operation efforts? He should do all of that – Lord knows he needs it – but it won’t help save his image. Stick a fork in that shrimp on the barbie … he’s done.

VERITAS: TOUCHDOWN - "THUMB OVER A GARDEN HOSE"

This week's perspective from Bob Reid:

It’s the biggest environmental disaster in American history. For 87 days, crude oil had been spewing into the Gulf of Mexico from that blown-out undersea BP well-head. It’s beyond grim. And you’re on the cusp of maybe – just maybe – fixing it, through yet more complex engineering manouvres. But first they had to pressure-test the channel. How best to communicate that to a general public audience? Enter retired U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, the Obama administration’s point-man on the spill, who found himself the most widely-quoted person on the file when he used a simple yet crystal-clear analogy to explain the procedure. “It’s like putting your thumb over a garden hose,” he said. Bingo. We all get that. Slip your thumb over the end of the hose, pressure builds up like crazy – and, as a result, any little holes further back in the hose are suddenly apparent. In our Media Coaching and message development work, we always extol the virtues of a tidy analogy to make the complex suddenly simple. Touchdown, Admiral Allen.

Friday, July 9, 2010

VERITAS: TOUCHDOWN - OBAMA ADMINISTRATION CLOSES THE TECHNOLOGY GAP

This week's perspective from Com.motion:

This week the Obama Administration launched 17 new mobile applications for the iPhone in an attempt to close the technology gap between the public and private sectors. Since taking office, the administration has consistently attempted to communicate in new ways, specifically targeting social media and now mobile. Found at http://apps.usa.gov/?v=all, the applications smartly target the needs of Americans on the go and the correlating requirements of American citizens. Examples include: an Alternative Fuel Locator, FEMA Mobile (emergency services), Find Your Embassy, Product Recalls, UV Index, and two applications focusing on healthier food consumption and body mass index. Given the popularity of the Apple App Store, the Administration has focused its efforts there for now. The Obama Administration is leveraging technology and taking the opportunity to find new ways to bring government services and information to Americans, rather than the status quo approach of having them find it. Offering YouTube videos has better spread the President’s message while encouraging a new audience beyond television and radio to view Presidential Addresses. Mobile applications will not only help Americans to better understand government services, but as a result of providing these simple tools, word of mouth will spread and complaints will most like be reduced. Time will tell.

VERITAS: FUMBLE - LEBRON FEELS THE HEAT

This week's perspective from Joe Chidley:

The best thing that can be said about the LeBron James saga is that the speculation over where he will be playing next season is over: he’s leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat (along with Toronto Raptor Chris Bosh, sad to say). But in the process of announcing that decision, the basketball phenom did his image and his legacy no favours. Instead of holding the standard presser where he thanks his fans and his old team and announces he’s leaving, James capped weeks of media hype by taking up an hour of airspace for a special ESPN show in which the only two important nuggets of information was that he was moving to South Beach. (New York Daily News columnist David Hinckley called the show “a tweet on steroids.”) Yes, the show earned bucks for Boys & Girls Clubs charities, so good on James for that. But that’ doesn’t make up for the fact that the ESPN maneuver was the first time fans in Cleveland and the Cavs’ executive heard about James’s decision (he had told the Heat before the broadcast). That’s a helluva way to find out – team owner Dan Gilbert called it an act of “cowardly betrayal,” and some Cavs fans burned James’ jersey in protest. Maybe those were overreactions, but they’re understandable ones. Sure, James got a PR hit and is the talk of the media now, but he’s achieved that coup at the expense of his personal brand. Instead of a gifted, hardworking and honest athlete, he now seems a guy who cares more about pumping his own celebrity than anything else. It didn’t have to be that way.

VERITAS: TOUCHDOWN - MILLER AND (TWITTER) TO THE RESCUE

This week's perspective from Joe Chidley:

He might be halfway out the door, but Toronto Mayor David Miller still seems to be on the job. When the Great Blackout of 2010 (all two hours of it!) hit the Big Smoke this week, elevator service in buildings throughout the downtown core went down, forcing office workers to use the stairs. But that wouldn’t work for 26-year-old Joel Dembe, a marketing analyst in the TD Bank Tower on King Street – because he’s in a wheelchair. Stranded on an upper floor, Dembe got on Twitter and tweeted his frustration to no less a personage than the mayor of the city. And then the surprising thing: Miller tweeted right back, asking Dembe for his cell phone number, and then following up with a call within 15 seconds. Miller spoke with Dembe for about five minutes, asking whether he was all right and putting him in touch with the fire department. Granted, Dembe acknowledges he was never in an emergency: a freight elevator eventually showed up and took him downstairs. But Miller’s prompt reply surprised and gratified him—along with the rest of Toronto, especially after the Good Samaritan social media play hit the airwaves and the press. What stands out about this is not just that it was a remarkable act of decency (Dembe called it “pretty insane.”); it was also great customer service. Think about it: in the communications world, we like to talk about social media as a great way to get our message out there and change minds. Fact is, avenues like Twitter and Facebook can have real and concrete applications—like really helping people—that will do as much if not more for your brand than online games or hip tweets. Creative organizations (like online shoe and merchandise retailer Zappos) get this, and it’s nice to see at least one politician does, too.

VERITAS: TOUCHDOWN - TIGER PICKS HIS SPOTS

This week's perspective from Bob Reid:

At first I thought that this was for sure going to be an easy Fumble call, when I read headlines as in the Toronto Star and numerous other places via the Associated Press stating “Terse answers from sad-eyed Tiger Woods in Ireland.” If you only read the headlines, and nothing further – as so many regular folks do – you might rightfully assume that the gentler, humbler Tiger we all breathlessly watched at his coming-back-out media events a few months ago had been replaced by the snappy, cranky guy whose marriage seems to have finally imploded. But when one “goes to the video-tape,” I think we see a guy on top of his communications game this week in Ireland. When asked about golf, Woods was engaging, thoughtful and colourful. When asked anything to do with his personal situation, he gave short answers and looked for a new question. That’s a communicator with a clear sense of what he’s willing to engage on, and where he will – yes, perhaps tersely – signal that he’s not prepared to go. But at the end of the day, that’s a guy firmly in command of his messaging.

VERITAS: TOUCHDOWN - STRIKE WHILE PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING'S HOT

This week's perspective from Bob Reid:

Sometimes the communications stars just line up. Circumstances completely and utterly beyond your control will suddenly make you, or your organization, or your issue the flavour of the moment – and, of course, having some good PR folks to help fan the flames never hurts. And I think all of the above were in play this week for a guy named Stan Cox, author of a new book called “Losing Our Cool: Uncomfortable Truths About Our Air-Conditioned World (And Finding New Ways To Get Through The Summer).” With the bulk of northeastern North America sweating under one of the most stubborn heat-waves in recent memory, the storm could not have been more perfect for a guy with a new book about how air conditioning has altered – and not necessarily for the better – the way the world lives. From energy consumption to social interaction to U.S. presidential voting patterns, the book had a long list of angles which dovetailed perfectly with the steamy weather we have suffered through this week – all of which was dutifully rewarded with massive earned media play: Front page in the National Post. The focus of Margaret Wente’s Thursday column in the Globe and Mail. And countless hits in print and on air elsewhere. Enjoy your time in the spotlight, Stan Cox – ain’t it cool?

VERITAS: TOUCHDOWN - FADDEN REDUX

This week's perspective from Bob Reid:

Now that CSIS Director Richard Fadden has, not at all surprisingly (and least of all to him, I would submit) found himself hauled before a Commons committee about that headline-maker of a CBC-TV interview (with the always skilful Peter Mansbridge) we talked about here two weeks ago, I am going to pronounce the final call on this communications play in his favour. When the controversy first broke, I wrote: “If he was deliberately – and strategically – using the CBC interview to sound an alarm that had been ignored in the halls of power, I would have given Fadden a Touchdown for skillfully using a media interview to have his message heard far and wide.” And based on what we’ve heard this week, I stand by that original bit of musing. Admittedly, I called the whole play a Fumble at the time, because his not-quite-a-retraction-retraction about suggesting some elected officials in this country were potentially under foreign influence left the waters pretty muddy indeed. But based on what we have heard since, I think this is a rather appropriate cloak-and-dagger bit of communications spin in action. Fadden is a veteran bureaucrat, but also one with a history of “shooting from the lip,” as the Globe & Mail’s security expert Colin Freeze says, paraphrasing a six-months-ago speech from Fadden as essentially saying “Look, we spy on people. The court and the media and the public [have] got to understand that. We’re not going to apologize for it.” Shades of former Canadian Forces Chief of Defence Staff Rick Hillier’s job description of the soldier as sometimes needing to "be able to kill people.” Shocking to some – self-evident to others. As for what Fadden said this week, that too speaks volumes about why he dropped the bombshell in the CBC interview in the first place. Recall that in his interview with Peter Mansbridge, Fadden said “I am making this comment because I think it's a real danger that people are … totally oblivious to this kind of issue." Although admitting regret for having gotten as “granular” in the details as he did, he also told the Commons committee that “the reason I gave the two examples was to try and illustrate the nature of the problem that we have. If I had simply said, ‘There is foreign interference in Canada,’ you, ladies and gentlemen, would be all at your holidays right now.” And there you have it. Richard Fadden wanted to light a fire under his issue, and he used the opportunity of a high profile media interview to strike the match. The argument about whether that was appropriate vis-a-vis his mandate to report to the government and everything else is secondary for our purposes here. I think Fadden achieved exactly the result he desired through a high-stakes strategic media communications play, and on those terms, it warrants a Touchdown.

Friday, June 25, 2010

VERITAS: TOUCHDOWN - WHAT WILL THEY THINK OF NEXT?

This week's perspective from Joe Chidley:

Here’s an idea: instead of polluting oceans with more of our junk, why not take the junk that’s already in the oceans and recycle it? That’s the inspiration behind an innovative and ambitious marketing/PR effort by Sweden-based Electrolux Group, which this week announced plans to start scooping plastic waste up from oceans around the world and recycle it to make—appropriately enough—vacuum cleaners. According to Electrolux, who we’re assuming bases the claim on scientific evidence, the world’s oceans are plagued by so-called plastic gyres: great swirls of man-made flotsam that form thanks to ocean currents. The one in the Pacific, according to the company, is estimated to be the size of Texas. So Electolux’s plan is not only to reduce those gyres, but also to help stop the inflow of plastics that created them. Smart. And the campaign is backed up by a Facebook page, and a website that encourages people to get involved, either by sharing their stories of cleaning up or by getting involved in any number of environmental groups who want to remediate the oceanscape. I could quibble with the rather low-key execution of some of the elements (Vac from the Sea was picked up by the usual tech and green publications when it was announced), but given the worldwide focus on another environmental (and PR) disaster affecting a major body of water, the timing of Electrolux’s initiative was perfect. And there is plenty of room for it to grow in visibility as it takes shape. As the saying goes, in crisis lies opportunity—especially when it’s someone else’s crisis.