Friday, August 27, 2010


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.


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


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


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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!


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’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.


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.


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.