• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM:

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

MORE OF THE SAME

Sorry to say, Racing PR 2008 isn't starting off much better than 2007 ended, as discussed in my Dec. 11 posting in this spec of the cyberuniverse.

At the AARWBA All-America Team ceremony, in the group's January newsletter, and in last week's blog, I thanked -- by name -- PR people who helped us with that event. Unfortunately, and as usual, that worked counter to those who didn't. That list includes someone who touched base with me five hours later than planned -- had to go shopping, you know. I'm still awaiting the common-courtesy of a "thank you" from the person whose boss was honored by AARWBA, someone whose priority seemed to be a parking spot -- and not for the boss.

One of the great disappointments of AARWBA's three Team dinners in Indianapolis has been the lack of outreach from the local PR community. Now, if an event of this sort was coming to my town, I would pick up the phone and call the chairman and say: "It's GREAT you are coming here! What can I do to help?"

I find it noteworthy that Dean Case, who represents MAZDASPEED, got in early and was ready to assist. The locals? MIA.

There are several Indy-based racing companies who employ younger, more inexperienced people on their PR staffs. It would have been nice if at least one of those organizations had thought to assign at least one of those younger staffers to AARWBA. (We could have used the help!) I would say they would have had the opportunity to learn more in a day and an evening than they might in half-a-season of races.

Meanwhile, in the last few weeks, I've received three calls or E-mails from publicists "pitching" me on something for the Arizona Republic. Now, I appreciate that, especially at a time when pro-active PR is rare. In every case, however, they failed to do basic research. The SUPER BOWL is here in the Valley, with the best-attended PGA golf tournament of the year happening this very same week. Newspaper 101 tells you space is tighter than the waistline of John Daly's pants. When I explained that to one agency (typical) rep, the response was, "Ohhh . . . " The same person asked if I was still doing Friday columns for the Republic. I replied, as politely as possible under the circumstances: "Yes, I began again two weeks ago -- with one of your client drivers as the lead item!"

PR done without homework is as bad as no PR.
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It was obvious change was coming to ESPN's NASCAR team. To me, the only question was: How MUCH change?

To my many ESPN friends, I'm sorry to say: Not enough. At least three -- and perhaps as many as five -- other on-air changes needed to be made.

The key word in evaluating the announcer shuffle is: CREDIBILITY.

Dale Jarrett, into the booth while Rusty Wallace goes to the studio, has it. Allen Bestwick brings it -- and it was greatly needed -- to the host role for the race telecasts and NASCAR Countdown. This also plays much better to Bestwick's strength vs. last year's pit reporter job. As I've previously written, Shannon Spake emerged from the wreckage of SPEED's horrendous NASCAR Nation to be a solid contributor, so her promotion to full-time pit reporter (in for Bestwick) is merited.

The entire case-for-increased-credibility, however, went south with the hiring of Nicole Manske as host of NASCAR Now. USA Today described Manske as a "NASCAR TV vet."

What???

No question Erik Kuselias needed to be replaced as Now host -- Congress should pass a law barring him from ever saying the word "NASCAR" again. But Manske, who with her equally fluffy (former) co-host turned The SPEED Report into Entertainment Tonight for racing, brings as much credibility to this assignment as Keith Olbermann did to anchoring MSNBC's coverage of Ronald Reagan's funeral.

There will come a time, as sadly, it always does in motorsports, when Now will have to focus all its attention on the serious -- or tragic. The audience will be served best if Bestwick or Ryan Burr is sitting in the host's chair that evening.
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Last week, I provided a link to my exclusive with Dario Franchitti, in which he revealed he was going to retire from open-wheel racing even if no NASCAR opportunity came along. I believe that is what is known in the trade as NEWS.

Proving once again that ours is a celebrity-driven society, I offer this actual headline from last week:

"Annual NASCAR media tour's hot topic is Ashley Judd"
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In case you missed it, here's a link to my new Business of Racing video commentary on 1320tv.com. It's about NHRA's businessmen-racers: "Before they learned how to speed, they had to learn how to sell."

http://www.1320tv.com/straight_talk/article3.asp?vid=straight_talk/aarwba_dinner_bor&title=The%20Business%20Of%20Racing&des=New%20commentary%20by%20Michael%20Knight

And here are links to my Arizona Republic notebook last Friday and my Sunday story on John Force's return at last weekend's National Time Trials. I spent an amazing -- and sometimes emotional -- 90 minutes one-on-one with Force in his motorhome. Then he personally showed me his new and safer chassis. IMPOSSIBLE to get it all into this story but I'll have more on the 14-time Funny Car champion in future weeks:

http://www.azcentral.com/sports/speed/articles/01240125racingnb.html

http://www.azcentral.com/sports/speed/articles/0126nhra.html
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As one who enjoyed the work -- and social company -- of Lou Palmer (and his late wife, Cal), I was saddened to receive Larry Henry's E-mail last week that Palmer died at age 75 in Indianapolis. An Indianapolis Motor Speedway news release accurately described Palmer's "rich, stirring voice" which was heard on the 500 Radio Network for more than 30 years. He was chief announcer in 1988 and '89. Later, Lou served on the CART Radio Network.

Thank you, Lou.

[ more next Tuesday . . . ]