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Local Marketing in a Global World and Political Correctness Gone Wild

I’ve written a lot on this blog about edgy vs. inappropriate advertising and where to draw the line. There’s a new controversy afoot over a KFC ad from Australia. When viewed through American eyes, it is nearly impossible to see this ad as anything but racist. However, apparently when viewed from an Australian context, it is anything but racist. You can read all about the controversy in Mashable. The sad part is that the outcry was enough to make KFC chicken out and pull the ad. Worse yet, pulling the ad caused a bit of an outcry with Australians — and rightly so. If the ad wasn’t intended for an American audience and wasn’t ever going to run in America, why should the campaign be changed just because some ignorant whiners in the US didn’t understand it? Yes, companies do need to realize that even local campaigns may be seen globally thanks to social media. And, yes, this is something global companies might want to consider. On the other hand, perhaps the people who are always on the lookout for things to become offended by just so they can feel “progressive” should be ignored from to time. Getting all worked up about an ad meant for another culture (even if that other culture happens to speak the same language) is lame. Part of being politically correct is accepting that you don’t know everything and minding your own business.

Understanding Social Media — Stuff on YouTube That Makes People Feel Happy

Can this woman make YOU happy? Yep.

Can this woman make you feel happy? I'll bet she can.

I like social media. It lets us do some amazing things. One of my favorites is that it provides a simple conduit for people to be able to quickly and easily share little snippets of happiness with others.

Lots of these snippets can be found on YouTube. Two of my favorites come from a show called Britain’s Got Talent. The first one is of a former cellphone salesman named Paul. Paul is just a regular guy who isn’t someone likely to be described as classically handsome. He certainly doesn’t look like a kick-ass opera singer, but he turned out to be just that.  And, if Paul is a one-in-a-million kind of find, then this show must have auditioned at least two million people, because they also found Susan Boyle, an unemployed 48-year-old who has never been kissed. Like Paul, she absolutely killed.

This one seems too simple — its just some hippie passing out free hugs. It is still pretty awesome.

This one is about a young man with Autism who performed some amazing feats on the basketball court. The achievement on its own is enough to make you smile, but it is even cooler to see a group of high school students actually being supportive of a kid with a disability.

And speaking of disabled, my dad, a former airline pilot himself, really liked the interview with “Captain Sully” about the successful landing of his disabled airplane in the Hudson River. Apparently, landing on the water without tragic results is no easy feat. My dad flat out thinks it isn’t something he could have done even after 30 years of flying. It is rare to hear an airline pilot admit that there is anything they can’t do, so this makes me even more impressed by what Captain Sullenberger was able to accomplish.

BTW, from a communications standpoint, this interview shows that there is simply no substitute for competence. “Sully” is not a trained spokesperson, but he comes off better than a lot of corporate CEOs in this interview. He has earned the ability to be confident based on a lifetime of hard work and it shows. Confidence combined with competence is easy to recognize when you see it. I particularly like the part 6 minutes and 44 seconds in, where Katie Couric asks him if he was praying during the ordeal. He responded by saying that he was so intensely focused on the landing that he thought of nothing else. I admire people who look first to themselves for solutions to their problems. Those people make me happy.

I’m adding this video because just thinking about doing this makes me happy. It also makes me pucker.
wingsuit base jumping from Ali on Vimeo.

What stuff on YouTube makes you happy?

Why PR Agencies Should Stop Issuing Press Releases

Respect for old-school journalists is just one reason to retire the "Press Release"

Respect for old-school journalists is just one reason to retire the “Press Release”

Once upon a time PR was all about working with the media. Back then, we didn’t need to qualify the word media with a word like “traditional.” There was no such thing as “new” media or “emerging” media or “social” media. These were simpler times. Back then — as it is today — the term “press release” was used interchangeably with the term “news release.” But even back then, there was some debate about which was better. For the most part, the PR community was indifferent as was the majority of the editorial community. But there were some editors — mostly old-school journalists — that did express a preference. They preferred the news release. They would argue that a news release was the vehicle a company should use to issue news; and if it wasn’t news, it shouldn’t be released. To these reporters, calling it a “press release” made it seem disingenuous — as if the company was subtly admitting the intent of the communique was to manipulate them rather than to provide them with the facts. Journalists back then cared about facts. Some still do. In those days, it seemed that we were always fighting with clients NOT to send out meaningless drivel via news release — even if their competition insisted on doing so. It tended to piss editors off to have to wade through a mountain of crap just to get to something meaningful. But things have changed. Today, there are plenty of practitioners who argue that companies should be a lot more liberal with news releases and they are correct to do so. Releases aren’t just for the media any longer — they are used to directly communicate to a whole array of audiences who read them online. News releases can — and should — also be used to help out with search engine optimization and as part of a social media strategy. Strangely, many of those practitioners who most actively evangelize non-media uses of  releases still insist on referring to them as press releases. I say the time has come to purge the term “press release” completely from our vocabulary. The term is no longer technically correct. What say you?

Freedom Isn't Free, But is Mainstream Media Content Worth Paying For?

Until you can wrap a dead fish in a Website, there will always be a need for local papers

Until you can wrap a dead fish in a Website, I won't be able to declare the Oregonian completely useless

The cover story in the current issue of Time Magazine is about what can be done to save the newspaper industry, which currently teeters on the brink of financial ruin as it struggles to find successful ways to monetize its online content. In that same issue, Managing Editor Richard Stengel talks about the importance of the press and its role in maintaining a healthy democracy as he tries to make the case for micropayment for online news coverage.

Indeed, an educated and informed electorate is vital to our system of government. The importance of the media cannot and must not be overlooked. It is clear to me that the mainstream media should be highly compensated for giving “we the people” all the information we need to make sound decisions and choices. What is not so clear to me is if the mainstream media, as it exists today, is still living up to its end of the bargain. More and more often, it seems the answer is no.

The recent Presidential election provides a stunning example. The number of journalists who seemed fine with being openly and unashamedly active in helping build one of the most successful brands in the world – Brand Obama – was astounding. It seemed as if they were more interested in being part of a historical movement than investigative journalism. Ultimately, it appeared as though the final, triumphant headline they so badly wanted to be able to write had a very strong influence upon what they decided to cover (and opted not to cover) along the way. Obviously Team Obama wasn’t the only team to enjoy biased coverage. Not all members of the press shirked their responsibilities to the American people, but the number of those who did was far too high. Of course, media bias isn’t limited to national politics. My local newspaper, The Oregonian, routinely disguises editorials as news. I wrote about one horrific example of this on my Rolling Thunder Communications blog last year. This example was a four part series on the dangers of ATVs. Each article appeared on the front page (above the fold). Each was filled with heart-wrenching stories designed to blame an industry for the irresponsible behavior of a few unfortunate individuals. Alas, it does not look like this problem is unique to The Oregonian. The Move to Online News Today, many newspapers have more online readers than they do print subscribers. This is due to a number of factors, not the least of which is that most newspapers make content available for free on the Internet. Rarely does the mainstream media recognize that another major factor in driving people online is often its own shortcomings. One of the reasons web-based “citizen journalism” has been so successful is that it can and does fill the growing informational void created by the mainstream press. Citizen journalists are not bound by editorial policy or professional standards. This means that you have to take coverage with a pretty major grain of salt. On the other hand, a lot of the people who are publishing stories do so because they are passionate or feel a sense of duty to report about important topics that the mainstream media overlooks (sometimes, they believe, intentionally). The best citizen journalists hold themselves to self-imposed standards that can be every bit as high as traditional press. Regardless, readers who are willing to wade through enough biased online muck can regularly come across nuggets of important information that they can’t get anywhere else. The more of these nuggets they find, the less value they are likely to see in traditional journalism and the less likely they are to begin paying for it. More importantly, as the quality of mainstream journalism continues to decay, the more likely we are to base political decisions on the wrong factors and, in the end, we will all pay for that.