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Snap. Crackle. Pop.

Silicon Valley and other mass communicators are enamored when it comes to threes.

CNBC’s investment guru Jim Cramer talks about the three moving forces in technology: Social, Mobile and Cloud.

socialmobilecloud

Threes are easy to remember, fours or fives, not so much.

At LSI Logic, we were fond of talking about our three C’s: Communications, Computer and Consumer.

These were our three strategic markets. The three C’s were easy for customers, employees and owners (e.g., investors) or the acronym, C.E.O., (another three) to remember.

In this spirit, let’s talk about the Almost DailyBrett Communication Big Three.

These are an absolutely essential trio of communications skills, most in demand in the marketplace, and which need to be taught by our colleges and universities.

Drum roll: Persuasive Writing; Financial Communications; and Social Media.

Think of it this way: The first two are analog in nature and the latter is digital.

Compelling Writing Skills

Writing goes back to the first publicity campaign on behalf of the all-powerful Pharaoh, the Rosetta Stone. He was awesome, and if you need proof just check out the hieroglyphics on the smoothed surface.rosetta

Johannes Gutenberg speeded up the process with his Mainz, Germany printing press in the 14th Century, and now the acceleration is at warp speed with wireless communication devices.

Despite the unprecedented ability to communicate in nanoseconds to virtually any spot on the globe at any time, the old-fashioned skills of developing compelling, credible and accurate copy under deadline pressure has never been greater. For some, writing is a natural gift that comes easy. For others, it is a laborious process that can be perfected with practice.

Starting this fall, your Almost DailyBrett author is teaching Introduction to Public Relations Writing at Central Washington University. My 20 students are going to be asked to produce the following:

  • Curriculum Vitae or resume, emphasizing the student’s professional and academic accomplishments with quantifiable measurements
  • Twitter-style cover letter applying for an entry-level public relations position and emphasizing the student’s personal ROI or Return on Investment
  • Complete LinkedIn profile including the same elements of the resume, plus a professional mug shot, three references and at least 30 connections
  • News advisory targeting legacy and/or digital native media informing and/or inviting them to attend and cover an upcoming event
  • News release providing information about a breaking news story, employing the inverted pyramid and using the five W’s – What, When, Where, Who, Why – and the one H – How
  • Pitch to a selected reporter, editor, correspondent, blogger or news aggregator about a newsworthy story and offering assistance
  • Copy for a 30-second radio or television PSA or Public Service Announcement on behalf of a non-profit agency
  • Chief executive officer strategy letter to investors, analysts and employees outlining your selected company’s business strategy and future prospects
  • CSR or Corporate Social Responsibility letter to company employees about efforts your chosen corporation is making to safeguard employees, protect the environment and serve the communities in which the company does business
  • Crisis communications news release – written under deadline pressure – announcing steps a company has taken to address the crisis and pointing to the future
  • Four personal blog posts, emphasizing public relations skills and commenting on breaking news events
  • Two-page executive memo with bullets and subheads introducing a subject, examining the factors, and recommending a course of action

The philosophy behind these assignments is the only way to really become effective at persuasive writing is to Just Do It!

Financial Communications

Many right-brain types, the very people who opt for Journalism school, avoid figures at all costs. And yet, the numbers will find them.

We now live in a world of “big data,” particularly those companies that are publicly traded. Chairman Mao is probably rolling over in his grave as PRC-based Alibaba takes its predominate Mainland China digital retail play public this Friday with shares expected to be initially priced between $66 and $68.

alibaba

Right-brain students need to figure out how to make peace with numbers. UNC Professor Chris Roush (Show Me The Money) states ex-cathedra: “Behind every number is a story.”

Hmmm … that means there are stories to be told about these numbers. In addition, the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) requires these stories to be told to all investors, if they are “material.” Translated: If a company has “material” information that would prompt an investor to buy, sell or hold company stock, then the company is mandated to disclose under Regulation FD (Fair Disclosure).

What this means is that each and every of the more than 5,000 publicly traded companies (NYSE or NASDAQ) in this country must issue news releases. The writers are not expected to produce the figures (there are oodles of accountants, auditors, controllers …), but they instead must tell the story behind these numbers.

That means that college and university communications graduates should know the difference between the income statement top line (revenues), the bottom line (net income or net loss) and everything in between (e.g., COGS, Gross Margin, SG&A, R&D, Operating Income, Taxes, Amortized Expenses …).

Sure wish someone had been kind enough to teach me these skills, including how to read a balance sheet, back in college.

Social Media

The world has already shifted from Web 1.0 (accessing websites) to Web 2.0 (wired and wireless devices talking to each other) and soon Web 3.0 (semantic web).

The Economist reported this week that nearly one-quarter ($120 billion) of the world’s $500 billion advertising business is coming from digital ads, increasingly being delivered to mobile devices. Yes there is no doubt that digital media is being monetized through search engine optimization (SEO) and other techniques, and that Genie is not going back in the bottle.

Facebook (friends), Twitter (140-character tweets), LinkedIn (connections), YouTube (videos), Flickr (photos), Pinterest (online scrapbooks), WordPress (Almost DailyBrett) all enjoy first-mover advantages in their respective social media spaces. There are challengers now and more competitors to come. The bottom line is that digital publishing through binary code is here to stay.

Companies and international public relations agencies are expecting that digital natives instinctively understand social media. This all circles back to the ability to write clear, concise, credible and compelling copy for an audience that is increasingly overwhelmed by information.

digitalnatives

And much of this data comes in the way of numbers, the ones with a story behind them. And increasingly, these stories no longer involve a gate-keeper but are transmitted though “owned” media (e.g., websites, blogs, social media sites).

Stating that compelling writing, financial communications and social media are the Big Three of Communications may entice the crisis communications, marketing, branding, reputation management, employee communications, public affairs and other dedicated professionals to take umbrage.

Fret not. Almost DailyBrett loves you too, and says to each of you that you need (or soon will need) graduates who can tell the story, and tell it well, through effective writing, numerical literacy and of course, proficiency with digital tools.

http://smallbusiness.chron.com/importance-writing-skills-business-845.html

http://www.unc.edu/~croush/CV.htm

http://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/owned-media-an-answer-to-digital-change/

http://www.economist.com/news/special-report/21615869-technology-radically-changing-advertising-business-profound-consequences

 

 

 

 

 

 

“To be blessed to have all of this stuff around us, we want to give back. We want to give back to Phil Knight, to give back to Nike, give back to all the donors that donated to the school, and changed Oregon.” – Oregon defensive back Ifo Ekpre-Olomu

It’s been success, and really, Nike. Let’s face it. Without them, we wouldn’t be here.” – Craig Pintens, University of Oregon senior associate athletic director for marketing and public relations

Does that mean that Oregon would be somewhere else? Corvallis? Pullman?

Are Oregon returning seniors giving back in order of importance: Uncle Phil, Nike and oh yes … the donors too?

Is the Oregon Athletic Department once again confusing the “O” for the “Swoosh”?Oregon1

“University of Nike”

“We are the University of Nike. We embrace it. We tell that to our recruits,” – Jeff Hawkins, University of Nike senior associate athletic director of Football Administration and Operations.

Nike-Logo

Bad habits die hard at the University of Oregon Athletic Department.

A little over a year ago, Almost DailyBrett reported about how Jeff Hawkins made the “University of Nike” pronouncement to the New York Times.

Fast forward to today and Ifo and Pintens sang a similar song to Chris Dufresne of the Los Angeles Times.

Yes, Uncle Phil has been incredibly generous to the tune of more than $300 million and counting to the Oregon Athletic Department (e.g., impregnable Brazilian ipi wood in the 25,000-square foot weight room) and academics (e.g., Law School and Library).

The university is extremely fortunate that its most distinguished alum founded and ran Nike. He is now worth billions, and is bestowing a portion of his wealth to his alma mater. That’s great.

What is a matter of public relations concern is the intentional practice of making the Nike and Oregon brands synonymous.

Quick: Name another major university that is the brand equivalent of a Fortune 500 publicly traded company? The closest that Almost DailyBrett can even ponder is Oklahoma State and T. Boone Pickens, but of course, the former Wall Street raider is not a corporate brand.

Overcoming Geography

Even though the campus is tucked away in America’s sparsely populated cul-de-sac, these are heady days for the University of Oregon. The Ducks are No. 2 in the AP poll of football writers after dashing the notion that Oregon is “soft” with a second-half smack down of Rose Bowl champion, Michigan State. The final was Oregon 46; Michigan State 27, and in the end, it really wasn’t that close.

There is a swagger that has been building in Eugene during the last decade-plus: High tempo spread offense, cool Nike uniforms every week. Ferrari leather, Brazilian wood, and high-tech gizmos at the $68 million (it’s more than that) 145,000 Hatfield-Dowlin football complex adjacent to the friendly confines of Autzen Stadium. There are also the 10 straight over Washington with number 11 slated for October 18. Yep, it’s cool to be a Duck fan.

There is zero doubt that Nike played a significant role in the program’s success, but the story does not start or end there. The Ducks made it to the Rose Bowl in 1994 with no swooshes on their traditional uniforms and mediocre facilities. They did it with great coaching, skillful recruiting and a confident team that caught fire down the stretch. “Kenny Wheaton is going to score. Kenny Wheaton is going to score.”

wheaton2

Proclaiming the equivalency of Nike and Oregon sends the unfortunate and inaccurate signal that Oregon would be Oregon State or worse, Washington State, without Uncle Phil’s largesse.

The more important issue is the resulting confusion when it comes to multiple brands.

USC wears Nike jerseys, but no one mistakes the cardinal and gold, the Trojan head, the Song Girls, and Traveler the Horse with the “swoosh.”

Sergey Brin and Larry Page went to Stanford, but there is no PR effort on the Farm to tie Stanford to Google. Stanford will never be confused as a search engine with an Android operating system.

Reser Foods sponsors Oregon State’s football stadium, but no one is attempting to equate Benny Rodent with bratwurst … even though the idea has some appeal.

Think of it this way. Starbucks is Starbucks. Apple is Apple. Amazon is Amazon. Southwest is Southwest. So why does Oregon have to be Nike?

Are the brand management rocket scientists at the Athletic Department trying to be both the “O” and the “Swoosh” at the same time? And if so, what is the unifying message? Just Do It!? Or Go Ducks?

Here are even more germane questions: What does the latest in a line of interim presidents at the University of Oregon think about dueling brands on the same campus? Do they even recognize that they have a problem on their hands?

Or is it simply, the team is winning, so who cares if there is a little brand confusion?

http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-sp-oregon-football-20140826-column.html#page=1

http://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2013/08/03/university-of-nike/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqlcRAZfRHc

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T._Boone_Pickens

 

 

 

 

“We don’t have a strategy yet.” – President Barack Obama asked about a potential U.S. response to the radical ISIS of Iraq and Syria

“We are THE low-fare airline.” – Herb Kelleher, co-founder and chairman emeritus of Southwest Airlines

kelleher

We hear the word all the time.

It is as ubiquitous as “sustainable,” “solutions” and “selfies.”

Here comes another common S-word: “strategy.”

What is this creature?

According to the Business Dictionary, strategy is “1.) A method or plan chosen to bring about a desired future, such as achievement of a goal or solution to a problem or …

2.) The art and science of planning and marshaling resources for their most efficient and effective use. The term is derived from the Greek word strategia for generalship or leading an army.”

As the creator of an upper-division university course, Strategic Business/Financial Communications (my M.A. project), sometimes one can still ask if you appreciate the meaning of the word, strategy. We use it all the time, but do we really appreciate its context?

Does Management Know What It Is Doing?

Rank-and-file workers around the world spend portions of their days chatting around the proverbial cooler or more likely firing text messages or emails across cyberspace asking each other whether the boss or bosses really know what she/he/they know what they are doing?

watercooler

The real question is: Do we have a strategy? And if so, what is our strategy?

Think of the interrogative this way: Any organization has only so much money, so much time, so much manpower/womanpower and so much talent and knowhow. These resources are finite. How will they be most effectively utilized?

The decision is just as much what an organization is going to do with its resources, as it is what it will not do with its limited attributes.

“We’re not serving any damn chicken salad”

The New York Times bestseller Made to Stick, co-authored by Chip and Dan Heath, recounts the story of Tracy, the marketing whiz at Southwest Airlines, suggesting to CEO Herb Kelleher that chicken Caesar salad would be popular with the airline’s customers. The idea went absolutely nowhere because it did not coincide with Southwest’s THE low-fare airline strategy.

madetostick

“Core messages help people avoid bad choices by reminding them what is important,” Chip and Dan Heath wrote in Made to Stick. “In Herb Kelleher’s parable, for instance, someone had to choose between chicken salad and no chicken salad – and the message ‘THE low-fare airline’ led her to abandon the chicken salad.”

Think of what Southwest (NYSE: LUV) does:

The airline offers soft drinks, pretzels and peanuts (and adult beverages paid by credit cards).

Southwest flies point-to-point primarily in the continental U.S., eschewing the annoying jammed “spoke” airports (e.g., Denver, Dallas, Chicago, Charlotte, Atlanta) that plague the legacy carriers and their passengers. Southwest only flies Boeing 737-400s.

There are no assigned seats, festival seating for all.

And the flight attendants seem to be having a great time, and really want the passengers to “enjoy” rather than endure their flight.

What does Southwest NOT do:

There is no crummy airline food to purchase.

There are no spoke systems.

Southwest does not purchase multiple models of aircraft from both Boeing and Airbus. There is one model of aircraft to service.

There are no assigned seats, but a devilishly effective way of boarding it’s A,B and C boarding groups. Southwest makes money when its planes are in the air, not on the ground. The strategy is to get satisfied passengers off the plane, quickly loading another happy group of patrons and sending the plane back into the air heading off to the next destination.

As a public relations, marketing, advertising professional, you want to work for an organization that knows what it wants to be when it grows up. When dealing with external (e.g., conventional and social media, industry and financial analysts, governmental regulators, investors, partners, suppliers, distributors general public) and internal stakeholders (e.g., all-important employees), you want to be sure of your “story.”

If your organization knows what it wants to do, and what it does not want to do (and has the discipline to stay within the confines of its resources), your job is just that much easier.

FedEx will get your package to its intended destination positively, absolutely overnight.

Tesla pours millions into R&D and cap-ex for ion batteries for electric cars at acceptable price points with sufficient range.

Salesforce.com is a pioneer in SaaS or software as a service, allowing customers to pick-and-choose, and then plug-and-play business software from the cloud.

Google is the number search engine in the world, and makes the Android operating system for mobile devices.

Amazon is the number one digital retailer on the planet, and makes the Kindle reader.

The examples are too numerous to count, but these are companies know how to answer the question: “How do you make money?” The answer is a clear strategy.

The vast majority of investors will weigh buying shares in these companies because they know these companies raison d’etre. There is no FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) when it comes to Southwest, FedEx, Tesla, Salesforce, Google, Amazon and many others.

obamastrategy

Alas, a few folks in Washington D.C. are not the only ones without a strategy… yet. And every organization without a strategy – what to do and not what to do — has a big league public relations/branding/marketing dilemma.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2014/08/28/obama-on-increased-action-against-islamic-state-we-dont-have-a-strategy-yet/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herb_Kelleher

http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/strategy.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategy

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Made_to_Stick

http://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2013/10/06/how-does-a-company-make-money-2/

 

 

 

 

Brave declarations of glorious victory notwithstanding …

Do you think Hillary Clinton and her public relations team would like to press the 2009 “reset” button with Russia all over again?

How about a reset of the “reset”?

hillaryreset

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do they give out PR Mulligans?

The Era of Viral Images

How many ALS campaign “Ice Bucket Challenge” social media videos have you seen so far?

The campaign based upon donors enduring an unceremonious cold-water bath has raised a pledged $62.5 million and counting to fight this fatal disease.

The PR/marketing campaign is beautiful in its simplicity. Accept a friend or colleague’s challenge to video tape yourself being dunked with ice water. Post your video on social media. Invite someone else to do the same. It’s a Ponzi scheme for a great cause.

Former President George W. Bush appeared natural and genuinely had fun as First Lady Laura poured cold water on him at the family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine. He then challenged former President Bill Clinton to do the same.

bushice

Conversely Mitt Romney looked stiff, decked out in his Brooks Brothers’-style suit, as shirt-sleeved Paul Ryan poured water on his former running mate.

No one questions that Mitt and many others should accept the ALS challenge. Having said that, the suit serves as a metaphor for Romney’s stiffness, a characteristic that makes it difficult for Americans to warm up to the notion of the former Governor of Massachusetts in the White House.

It appears that Mitt has not lost his stoicism heading into 2016.

Lasting Metaphors?

Sometimes PR pros need to be careful to not let “props” take on a life of their own, and serve as a not-intended lasting metaphor.

If a picture is worth a 1,000 words, how many words can an ill-chosen gimmick, or for that matter a clearly successful backdrop, mean for a personal brand and/or reputation going forward.

Silent Generation-types and more mature Baby Boomers remember Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev pounding his shoe on the table at the United Nations in 1960. Obviously, PR was not a consideration when he engaged in this boorish behavior. Nonetheless this angry incident with his shoe was one for the history books.

nikita

 

The backdrop of the Brandenburg Gate and the hated Berlin Wall served as the framing for John F. Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner” and Ronald Reagan’s “Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall” speeches. Both Clinton and Barack Obama (as a senator) visited the same venue, but did not leave the same lasting memories.

And then there was the “Mission Accomplished” banner behind George W. Bush saluting a job well-done in Iraq. Everything is tranquil and peaceful in Iraq. Right?

missionaccomplished

Five years ago, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave her post-Soviet Union, Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, a “reset” button to signal that all was getting better with the two former Cold War adversaries, the United States and Russian Federation.

A few eyebrows were raised, when the reset button reportedly “borrowed” from a Swiss spa, was emblazoned with the word, peregruzka. The only problem is the word in Russian means, “overcharge” not “reset.” One would think the Department of State may have at least one Harvard-head that knew a thing or two about the Russian language.

That day now seems so long ago. This past spring, Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula in the Ukraine, and later its Ukrainian backed rebels shot down a defenseless Malaysian 747. Will Vladimir Putin’s Russia actually invade the Ukraine, directly defying the Western world, including those who once wanted to reset US/Russia relations?

And if so, what will the “reset” button symbolize? Will it bring into question Hillary’s geopolitical judgment?

The aforementioned Romney pointed to the image of smiling Hillary and beaming Lavrov taking turns pushing the magical “reset” button. Hillary has no choice but to not only defend her actions, but to follow the time-tested political axiom: “When in doubt declare victory.”

Will being tough be enough? Or does she deep down inside wish that she never, ever heard of a “reset” button?

http://www.businessinsider.com/mitt-romney-hillary-clinton-embarrassing-obama-reset-button

http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1843506_1843505_1843496,00.html

http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2014/07/24/hillary-clinton-stands-by-russian-reset-in-face-of-recent-events/

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/03/03/remember-hillarys-russian-reset-button-guess-where-she-got-it/

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/nikita-khrushchev-throws-a-tantrum-at-the-united-nations

http://www.alsa.org/fight-als/ice-bucket-challenge.html

http://www.alsa.org/news/archive/ice-bucket-challenge.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77AuXhORs-E

The omnipotent NCAA is being dragged through the legal muck, kicking and screaming …

The mental image of former University of Washington president/now NCAA chief Mark Emmert wiping mud off his lapel brings a wide smile to the author of Almost DailyBrett.

emmert1

 

The time has finally come for the NCAA and/or the Big Five Conferences to wake up and smell the espresso.

Student-athletes are soon going to be paid, totally and completely ending the romantic, but unrealistic notion they are dedicated amateurs only playing football, basketball, baseball, track, Parcheesi etc. for the love of the game and the greater good and glory of their respective university.

Those days are over.

Questions remain: How are athletes going to be paid, and what about Title IX?

The NCAA is Appealing (e.g., buying time)

Earlier this month, federal Judge Claudia Wilken found the NCAA was colluding to restrain trade. Predictably, the NCAA billable-hour attorneys are appealing. Good luck.

The NCAA also recently granted special autonomy to 62 schools, who comprise the Big Five conferences (ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC), setting in motion conceivably a more powerful successor to the NCAA. It will be a sad day when judge, jury and executioner NCAA is finally laid to rest (okay, not really).

The real issue is the NFL and NBA exploits the colleges as their no-cost to them, minor leagues (e.g. no Durham Bulls, no Toledo Mud Hens). The NFL draws more than $8 billion in total revenue, and pays its players nearly $4 billion. The NBA attracts more than $4 billion and distributes half of that amount to its players. The universities of the NCAA generate $10 billion in revenue (donations, tickets, merchandise etc.) and provide tuition, room and board to its players.

That’s all folks.

The argument is the players (e.g., football in particular) are risking injury and schools are selling their likenesses in video games and jerseys, so why shouldn’t they have a cut of the action?emmert3

The purists, who are trying to stem the inevitable tide, claim that these athletes are receiving a free-college education and that means something when you factor in the cost of college, particularly private schools (e.g., Stanford, USC). Almost DailyBrett must ask the question: Why is it appropriate to provide scholarships and stipends for noted academic types and not athletic contributors?

Fully Paid Out-of-State Tuition/Stipend

Four years ago this week, a moving van arrived on my street in Eugene, Oregon.

Yours truly was being offered a fellowship by the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. Translated: UO was waiving out-of-state tuition, providing family health care and paying a monthly stipend for little ole me to pursue my master’s degree in Communication and Society. In return, I served as a teaching assistant for five quarters.

Now let’s ask the question: Why can’t student-athletes, who provide services to the university above-and-beyond regular students, be offered stipends?

The Economist suggested increasing financial aid to cover the full cost of attendance for student-athletes; guaranteeing scholarships for as long as players need to graduate (e.g., six years is reasonable); paying for all sports-related medical expenses; and letting athletes sign their own marketing deals.

emmert2

Serving as a student manager for the University of Oregon and University of Southern California, I know first-hand that football teams are paramilitary organizations. Allowing the best players to sign their own marketing deals (e.g., stud quarterbacks, running backs, wideouts) would end up creating cliques and would divide teams between the haves (skill positions) and have-nots (linemen).

The more equitable solution would be to follow the suggestions outlined by the stately Economist  (e.g., cover full costs, guaranteed scholarships, paying for medical expenses) and the equivalent of academic stipends for all student-athletes, hailing from the major genders (e.g., satisfying Title IX).

The University of Oregon announced last week that it was picking up the costs of insurance premiums for the families of four football players, who chose to stay in school and postponed NFL paydays. The risk of injury is the same in both the college and pro games.

The payment of insurance premiums is just a start to compensation of athletes.

If teaching assistants on fellowships are making extraordinary contributions to a given university, there are logical reasons to offer the same to student-athletes for their role in expanding the brand and encouraging the best and the brightest to attend great universities.

http://www.goducks.com/ViewArticle.dbml?ATCLID=209610114&DB_OEM_ID=500

http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21612156-americas-exploitative-college-sports-system-can-be-mended-not-ended-justice-jocks

http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21612160-pressure-grows-let-student-athletes-share-fruits-their-own-labours-players-0

http://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2012/12/31/judge-jury-and-executioner/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/colleges/ncaa-board-of-directors-approves-autonomy-for-big-5-conference-schools/2014/08/07/807882b4-1e58-11e4-ab7b-696c295ddfd1_story.html

 

 

 

“Even when you died; Oh the press still hounded you; All the papers had to say; Was that Marilyn was found in the nude.” — Elton John’s tribute to Marilyn Monroe, Candle in the Wind.

Quick: When you think of Robin Williams, what immediately comes to mind?

robinwilliams

Good Will Hunting?

Mrs. Doubtfire?

Good Morning, Vietnam?

Or his inexplicable suicide this week (after he first tried to slice his wrists … Thanks TMZ) by hanging?

Wasn’t there a suicide at the end of Dead Poets Society?

The Ultimate Negative Story to be Exploited

As singer Elton John (and lyricist Bernie Taupin) correctly surmised in his Candle in the Wind about Norma Jeane Mortenson (a.k.a. Marilyn Monroe), the digital and conventional media critics will always seize on the negative, even the ultimate negative: Death.

When one thinks of Kurt Cobain what comes first flashing? Nirvana?  Or how he blew out his brains with a shot-gun.

Brian Jones? Rolling Stones guitarist? Or drowning and/or murder?

Judy Garland? The Wizard of Oz? Or her self-administered overdose of barbiturates?

Marilyn Monroe: Happy Birthday, Mr. President? Or another case of self-administered overdose of barbiturates?

American Masters: Marilyn Monroe

And now, Robin Williams. There will be no more movies. No more humor. No more humanitarian acts. No more, no more … except for the TMZ crowd and countless others, the mental images of his hanging.

Depression and Drugs

Many will delve into the reasoning behind the decision by Robin Williams to take his own life. Cocaine and alcohol were an on-and-off presence during the course of his adult life. And there was the disease of Depression, which afflicts an estimated 16 million Americans.

What cannot be rationalized comes in the form of the media-taken aerial images of his pad in gorgeous Marin County Tiburon overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, Angel Island and ultimately the City by the Bay on a beautiful day. He seemingly had it all … fame, fortune, accolades … and now there will be no more.

The likes of Robin Williams, Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, Kurt Cobain, Brian Jones and many other celebrities who took their lives and/or lived way too close to the edge with drugs/alcohol (usually part of all of these stories) will always be remembered for more than their tragic end.

For the 12.7 out of 100,000 Americans or the 39,518 who took their own lives in 2011 according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), most likely very few people knew them let alone appreciated the demons that were obviously part of their respective lives. Another 713,000 were taken to emergency rooms in the same year as a result of “self-inflicted injury.”

And how will most of those who take their own lives be remembered? By how they died: 19,900 by firearms (e.g., Cobain); 9,913 by suffocation (e.g., Williams) and 6,564 by poisoning (e.g., Garland and Monroe).

Covering the Consummate Self-Destructive Act?

For the famous and non-famous alike there will be a service, a eulogy, readings, a celebration of life, an internment or the scattering of ashes by those left behind. Family and friends are sorry. They are confused. They may feel guilty. They are in many cases, embarrassed. In many respects they are victims of the consummate self-destructive act.

tmz1

 

Did any of them consider their own reputation before they fired the gun, tied the noose, and took the pills? For the rich and famous did they contemplate how the most sensational of the conventional and digital media would cover their self-inflicted demise? Do they even care?

Did any of them … famous or not famous … weigh the impact of their suicides on their families and friends?

Did any of them contemplate that others may want to follow their path to the grave in the same egregious way?

The most important public relations are personal public relations, even in the last seconds of life.

And how will they be ultimately remembered, particularly those who attained celebrity? By the last act.

He shot himself.

She overdosed on drugs.

He hung himself.

Do any of us really want to be remembered this way, particularly with the prospect of glaring digital and/or conventional headlines about our self-inflicted death?

http://www.tmz.com/2014/08/12/robin-williams-death-autopsy-suicide-hanging-news-conference/?adid=hero1

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/11/robin-williams-dead-dies_n_5670050.html

http://www.tmz.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Candle_in_the_Wind

http://www.eltonography.com/songs/candle_in_the_wind.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robin_Williams

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurt_Cobain

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judy_Garland

http://www.crimelibrary.com/notorious_murders/celebrity/brian_jones/index.html

http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/suicide.htm

http://www.webmd.com/depression/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/katie-hurley/theres-nothing-selfish-about-suicide_b_5672519.html?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000063

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Investing without research is like playing stud poker and never looking at the cards.” – Über-investor and former Fidelity Magellan Fund manager Peter Lynch

peterlynch1

Couldn’t help but note Lynch’s gambling metaphor when it comes to investing in global markets.

There are many who absolutely contend, and will not be convinced otherwise, that investing in Wall Street is nothing more and nothing less than gambling. They even talk about playing the market.

Are the Manhattan-based NYSE and the NASDAQ stock markets, Las Vegas East?

Or is Las Vegas, Wall Street West?

Can’t say the author of Almost DailyBrett is an expert about either gambling (never been to Lost Wages) or investing, but I do know enough about Wall Street to be dangerous.

And based upon this finite knowledge, let me proclaim IMHO: Investing in Wall Street is not gambling, provided that you do your homework, and as Peter Lynch has stated, “Invest in what you know.”

Strategic Business/Financial Communications

The academic paper for my M.A. project at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication provided the backdrop for the creation of an upper division college course: Strategic Business/Financial Communications. I was privileged to teach the course that I created.

Many students thought that Strategic Business was a math class. Ahh … I flunked geometry in high school. Screw the Pythagorean Theorem. Yours (left-brain challenged) truly cannot and will not ever teach a math class. Instead, communications’ students learned a new language – speaking, writing, hearing, reading – the lexicon of Wall Street.

There is a reason why financial communications/investor relations are easily the highest compensated segments of the public relations profession. According to Salary.com, IR directors received in the range of $97,753 to $201,565 annually in 2013. Corporate PR directors received $86,469 to $167,836 in the same year.

This is serious money, not including stock purchase plans and options. And why is that? Both jobs demand qualitative excellence (e.g., developing relationships with analysts, investors, reporters, employees) and quantitative skills (e.g., reading income statements, balance sheets and cash-flow statements).

investorrelations

Which brings us back to the point as to why Wall Street is investing and not gambling. The answer lies with responding to a basic question: How does a company make money?

Microsoft sells software and video game consoles. Boeing produces airplanes. Google is the No. 1 search engine. Apple is Macs, iPods, iPhones and iPads. Nike makes athletic shoes. Amazon is the No. 1 digital retailer etc.

And backing up the answer to these questions is a plethora of facts, figures and information. Looking up a stock on Yahoo Finance, CNBC, Wall Street Journal, Reuters, MarketWatch.com, The Street.com and others is the easy part.

There are also the aforementioned income statements (revenues and net income…there is a major top-line and bottom-line difference), balance sheets (assets and liabilities), CEO letters, annual reports, analyst reports and more. The sheer volume of this data can be overwhelming, but it is all there, free of charge.

Leading or Trailing Indicator?

“ … Don’t care where a stock has been, only where it’s going.” – CNBC Mad Money Jim Cramer.

Cramer is fond of stating that he really does not care about a stock’s past, only its future. That answers the leading vs. trailing indicator question. Stock prices are an indicator of the expected/anticipated/projected/forecasted upward or downward direction of a company’s business prospects.

cramerbuy

How do we know whether a company is doing well or not? Certainly there are oodles of information online, maybe even too much data. There is also your personal experience.

Ever observe the perpetual line out the door at Starbucks as people queue to pay $4.00 for that overpriced grande mocha with no whip.

Ever notice that Southwest Airlines only offers peanuts and a soda; you can choose your own seat; the airline only flies Boeing 737s; and the flight attendants are actually Pharrell Williams Happy?

Ever note the high prices, superior quality, commitment to service and high-traffic stores at Nordstrom?

And did you ever wonder about all the hoopla about “The Cloud” or the access of Big Data contained in mega servers and offered in manageable chunks by a company such as Salesforce.com?

When one mentions “Hog,” your mind may conjure a barnyard or you may think about high-performance, big muscle motorcycles. Want to invest in one of the country’s great comeback stories? Just enter NYSE: HOG or Harley Davidson into the search engine.

“The House Always Wins”

When one is mathematically challenged, it is best to stay away from Texas hold-em or the black-jack table. Can’t tell you how many times I have heard the phrase: “The House always wins.”

wallstreetgambling

That’s not to say that there are not legitimate complaints about Wall Street, particularly as it applies to executive compensation for underperforming CEOs. And there are those who contend the market is rigged against the little guy, the retail investor.

There is no doubt that cash is king. And the buy-side (e.g., PERS, Fidelity, Putnam) and the sell-side (e.g., Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan) own the lion’s share of company shares. The respective analysts for these investment houses naturally draw the most attention from publicly traded company execs.

Having said all of the above, there are still opportunities for the retail (e.g. Charles Schwab, eTrade, TD Waterhouse) investors. The time-tested tenets of diversification, doing your homework, know who you are buying and why, still apply.

Sure beats investing in a 0.02 percent passbook account, plunging hundreds of thousands into real estate that could go underwater, stuffing dollars under the mattress or even playing the Roulette wheel in Vegas.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Lynch

http://25iq.com/2013/07/28/a-dozen-things-ive-learned-about-investing-from-peter-lynch/

http://www.cnbc.com/id/15838187

http://www.thedigeratilife.com/blog/jim-cramer-stock-picks-money-tips/

http://www.salary.com/

 

 

 

“I pledge allegiance to the Hemp Flag of the United States of Intoxication, and to the Reefer for which it stands, one Stoned Nation under Bong, Incomprehensible, with ‘Medicine’ and Cannabis for all.”

Forget July 4 as our national holiday. Let’s break out the extra-special brownies on April 20.

hempflag

Sorry Barack. If you don’t believe that you are already a lame duck … Elizabeth Warren is already measuring the White House drapes … just be reminded that The New York Times always sets the agenda for everything and anything that happens in the United States of Intoxication (USI) from the upper west side to the banks of the Hudson and every other place across the fruited plain.

And now that very same New York Times editorial Pharisees have called for nationalization, taxation, regulation and most of all legalization of the fledging big marijuana industry, once again preempting those 50 annoying states, each of which may have their own ideas on the pot question.

“We considered whether it would be best for Washington to hold back while the states continued experimenting with legalizing medicinal uses of marijuana, reducing penalties, or even simply legalizing all use. Nearly three-quarters of the states have done one of these.

“But that would leave their citizens vulnerable to the whims of whoever happens to be in the White House and chooses to enforce or not enforce the federal law.” – New York Times editorial, July 26, 2014

Herb in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Utah?

Ready to get stoned, Sweet Home Alabama?

It’s for “medicinal” purposes, South Dakota?

Hey Oregon, why should your voters even vote on the issue of legalized marijuana this November considering that the New York Times has already spoke ex-cathedra on this issue?

Why not just mail it in?

Replace the Stars with Pot Leaves

Guess Betsy Ross got it all wrong. Or maybe she was inhaling from a bong.

She included the seven red stripes (not the Jamaican beer) and the six white stripes. She knitted the navy blue field. And then she added the first 13 stars. And later came 37 more.

betsyross

Is it time for a redo?

Let’s see, Colorado and Washington have already legalized marijuana and bundles of “Benjamins” are being spent on kosher weed because the banks will not offer their debit/credit card services for fear of running afoul with national money laundering statutes. That means the new flag only has two marijuana leaves for now with certainly more to come.

The Gray Lady wants to cut to the federal chase. Screw the cumbersome state-by-state approach and impose Roe v. Wade style preemption. And maybe even include a national sales tax on legalized pot (logical extension).

And as mentioned before in Almost DailyBrett, it will soon be time for publicly traded marijuana companies (e.g., NASDAQ: WEED) and even pot suppliers (e.g., NASDAQ: BONG), regulated by the Securities Exchange Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Justice and others.

“Minor Problems”

“There is honest debate among scientists about the health effects of marijuana, but we believe that the evidence is overwhelming that addiction and dependence are relatively minor problems, especially compared with alcohol and tobacco.” – New York Times editorial, July 26, 2014

The editorial even claimed that moderate use (e.g., intoxication) “does not appear to pose a risk for healthy adults.” The Times also said that marijuana should be legalized nationally for those over 21-years of age.

Darn those pesky neurologists and their MRIs. They keep on letting their doctorates in medical science get in the way, even having the audacity to document long-term emotional and motivational issues for casual uses of marijuana.

“This (Society for Neuroscience) study suggests that even light-to-moderate recreational marijuana use can cause changes in brain anatomy,” said Carl Lupica, PhD, who studies drug addiction at the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “These observations are particularly interesting because previous studies have focused primarily on the brains of heavy marijuana smokers, and have largely ignored the brains of casual users.”

neurologist

Guess this “interesting” study by scientific types is irrelevant because it contradicts the premise of the predictable New York Times editorial. And how clever to throw in comparisons with alcohol (potential intoxicant) and tobacco (fatal attraction).

It looks like we will all soon be living in the United States of Intoxication whether we like it or not.

Now let’s grab our bong (and munchies) as we recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the USI.

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/07/27/opinion/sunday/high-time-marijuana-legalization.html?op-nav

http://www.sfn.org/Press-Room/News-Release-Archives/2014/Brain-Changes-Are-Associated-with-Casual-Marijuana-Use-in-Young-Adults

http://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2012/01/01/the-worlds-most-evil-product/

http://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/nasdaq-weed/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betsy_Ross_flag

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/420_(cannabis_culture)

 

 

 

“It’s the edge of the world
“And all of western civilization
“The sun may rise in the East
“At least it settled in a final location
“It’s understood that Hollywood
“Sells Californication” –
Red Hot Chili Peppers, Californication

They received the same welcome as a swarm of locusts.

Blue Tarp Tenting at Scorpion Ranch on Santa Cruz Island

They polluted campgrounds.

They clogged freeways and roads.

They had the audacity to pay cash, and drove up real estate prices.

They were the dirty, rotten Californicators and they were coming to the pristine Pacific Northwest in droves.

That was the 1990. This is now.

Six Californias, One Oregon, One Washington?

When the author of Almost DailyBrett left California for the first time in 1990, the destination was Portland, Oregon … long before it became known as the city, “where young people go to retire.”

It took awhile, but eventually I learned to answer “Sacramento” when people asked: “Where did you come from?”

Oregonians who immediately equated the word, “California,” with gag-me-with-the-spoon, “San Fernando Valley” didn’t know how to process, “Sacramento.” The “Valley” with its sprawl of cookie-cutter neighborhoods (e.g., Chatsworth, Reseda, Encino) with the Ventura Freeway and Monopoly ranch-style houses epitomized everything that was wrong with California.

Keep in mind, California at the time indeed was a “Great State with a Great Governor.” I proudly worked for that governor, George Deukmejian, for eight years, the most popular California chief executive of the modern era.

Sorry AH-Nold.

One sensed that the resentment for Californicators was born out of envy and jealousy. California has wunderbare Wetter, Silicon Valley, the Napa and Sonoma Wine Country, great beaches, Venice’s weightlifting platform, the San Francisco Giants, USC Trojans, Los Angeles Kings …

Oregon and Washington were recovering from twin economic downturns in forestry and aircraft manufacture (e.g., Boeing in Seattle). The weather changes every five minutes. Hey, check out that sun break before it goes away!

Now the proverbial shoe is on the other foot. California still has Silicon Valley, but the rest of the state is suffering with clogged freeways, skyrocketing housing prices, chronic budget snafus, foreclosures and food stamps. One rich venture capital-type – Harvard-Stanford educated Tim Draper — has even proposed submitting a 2016 ballot proposition to divide California into six states with 12 U.S. senators and scads of House members.

sixcalifornias

Maybe this contemplated action and others in the Golden State are just another tangible sign that the quality of life is simply better in the Pacific Northwest, and everyone knows it.

The End of Californication

“The dream of the 90s is alive in Portland!
“Sleep ‘til 11,
“You’ll be in heaven.” Theme Song for Portlandia

Maybe the Northwest’s now superior quality of life explains the profound change when I moved to no sales tax Oregon for the second time in 2010 to pursue my master’s degree from the University of Oregon in Eugene (e.g., University of California at Eugene).

Naturally, I took immediate steps to get the offending California license plates off my little green chariot. And this time when I  asked where I came from, I simply replied: “Silicon Valley,” even keeping my 408-area code cell phone number to prove it.

Certainly, the Silicon Valley suffers from the same indistinguishable communities (e.g., Milpitas, San Jose, Cupertino, Sunnyvale) and butt-ugly topography that is the case for the San Fernando Valley. The difference is that Silicon Valley is the home of Apple, and UO academic types love their Macs, iPods, iPhones and iPads. They really don’t associate their Apple Kool-Aid consuming cult with California or even (shudder …) corporate America.

portlandia

There does not appear to be even remotely the same California envy and jealousy (save Oregon losing to Stanford in football the last two seasons…the Cardinal visits Autzen on November 1).  Oregon pinot noirs command top dollar. Nike, Columbia Sportswear, Amazon, Costco, Nordstrom, Microsoft, Starbucks are some of the coolest publicly traded companies on the planet.

And just in case you forgot, the Seattle Seahawks beat the San Francisco 49ers for the right to win the Super Bowl. If you don’t believe me, just ask Richard Sherman.

And if you want to relive the 1990s, retire young, forget all about your fellow Californicators, the Pacific Northwest is just beckoning for you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YlUKcNNmywk

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Californication

http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/redhotchilipeppers/californication.html

http://geocurrents.info/place/north-america/northern-california/tim-drapers-proposed-six-californias

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timothy_C._Draper

http://cnsnews.com/blog/lars-larson/portlandia-no-joke-city-where-young-people-go-retire

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZt-pOc3moc

http://blog.oregonlive.com/portlandcityhall/2010/12/portlandia_the_place_where_you.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portlandia_%28TV_series%29

 

 

 

 

 

 

“[Putin] does his own PR,” Angus Roxburgh, who worked on the account from 2006-2009, told the Daily Beast. “I can honestly think of nothing that Ketchum has ever done that has actually improved Russia’s image.”

“Our work continues to focus on supporting economic development and investment in the country and facilitating the relationship between representatives of the Russian Federation and the Western media,” a Ketchum spokeswoman told The Hill. “We are not advising the Russian Federation on foreign policy, including the current situation in Ukraine.”

That comment was made by Ketchum Public Relations after the Russian occupation of Crimea, and before last week’s surface-to-air (SAM) missile destruction of a Malaysian 747 (MH17) with nearly 300 innocent men, women and children on board.

ukrainianrebels

Here are some questions for Ketchum, a division of Omnicom, that are based on the cumulative impact of Putin’s invasion, the attack on a Malaysian 747 and subsequent cover-up activities:

When is Russia’s behavior just too much for your firm, prompting Ketchum to jettison your $55 million (and-counting) client?

Obviously an unprovoked invasion and a premeditated downing by Putin’s proxies of a defenseless airliner is not enough to trigger a termination of an agency/client relationship.

What will it take? A thermonuclear exchange?

Here’s another interrogative: What happens when a lucrative client (e.g., Russia) doesn’t give a particle about public relations? Do you still offer your best-and-brightest PR advice when your “client” will do whatever it wants, whenever it wants, PR consequences be damned?

Ketchum Has Some Explainin’ to Do?

“We must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement.” – Vladimir Putin in his Ketchum placed New York Times op-ed, Sept. 11, 2013

putin2

Ketchum is not advising Russia about foreign policy? Really? Any bridges that you would like us to buy?

A plain English reading of the Ketchum placed New York Times Putin op-ed is exclusively foreign policy, particularly the opposition to the United States’ stance toward Syria. The op-ed had nothing to do with “economic development and investment.”

Ketchum, much like its problem-child client, Russia, has some explainin’ to do.

Does the PR firm really think it’s making a difference when it comes to Russia’s brand led by former KGB-chief Putin?

Wonder how Ketchum would explain gulag re-openings, and resumption of forced deportations to Siberia? And who knows for sure that these activities are not already happening in 21st. Century Russia.

russia1

We do know from quantitative research that Russia’s brand is sinking fast.

According to Pew Research, Russia’s unfavorable views have jumped 29 percent in the United States, and by 20 percent in the European Union in the past year. Invading countries and having your paw-prints all over shot-down airliners is not good for your national brand.

It’s particularly noteworthy that Russia’s brand is down 27 points in Poland. Yes, the same Poland that suffered for decades under heels of Russian jackboots.

Cold War II?

“We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.” — Vladimir Putin in his Ketchum placed New York Times op-ed, Sept. 11, 2013

The very same Pew Research survey demonstrates a massive negative shift in U.S. respondent opinions about Russia in the past five years. In 1999, 27 percent saw Russia as unfriendly; that figure rose to 44 percent this past March (before the downing of the Malaysian 747). Five years ago, 5 percent viewed Russia as an enemy; the March 2014 result was 24 percent.

Conversely, 44 percent regarded Russia as friendly, but not an ally, in 1999; that figure plummeted to 21 percent this past March. Conceivably the result is even lower now.

Assuming that Putin is aware of these figures does he even care? Or does he want to be seen as the macho hombre that restored greatness to Russia regardless of the consequences. Does he yearn for the good ole days of the Soviet Union? Notice these questions have zero to do with “economic development and investment.”

putin

For Ketchum, which preaches a commitment to corporate social responsibility or CSR, the firm is tied to a client that is a proverbial loose cannon. Putin’s Russia is becoming America’s adversary once again. Is Cold War II already here or just around the corner? Almost DailyBrett is not big on sequels.

Yes there are international PR firms that take money from tobacco companies, despite the fact that 400,000 Americans die annually from tobacco-related diseases, more than AIDS, alcohol, car accidents, murders, suicides, drugs and fires combined according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

If PR firms can represent tobacco companies with straight faces, allowing them to participate in the marketplace of ideas, why can’t a PR firm represent invading and (indirect) missile-launching Russia?

These entities (e.g., Big Tobacco, Big Russia) pay big bucks to tell their stories, even if they really don’t give a particle about public relations.

After all, God created all clients equally.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2014/07/18/russia-has-a-major-pr-problem/?wpisrc=nl_politics

http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2014/03/17/U-S-Public-Relations-Firm-Bags-55-Million-Representing-Putin

http://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/03/11/ketchums-new-client-in-1938/

http://news.msn.com/world/us-outlines-case-against-russia-on-downed-plane

http://news.msn.com/world/us-vice-president-biden-says-putin-has-no-soul-new-yorker

http://www.ketchum.com/

http://www.theonion.com/articles/who-is-vladimir-putin,36515/?utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=SocialMarketing&utm_campaign=Pic:2:Default

http://news.msn.com/world/us-no-link-to-russian-govt-in-plane-downing

http://www.ibtimes.com/malaysia-airlines-hired-putin-pr-agency-after-mh370-disappearance-1635740

 

 

 

 

 

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