• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM: First there was the cap. Then drink bottles, sun glasses, The Terrible Towel and other assorted gimmicks. This season Helio Castroneves introduced headphones as part of his personal sponsorship. You have to wonder -- What's next? I'm afraid to guess.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

BELIEVE IT OR NOT: A TRUE 'PR' TALE

Unknowing. Unresourceful. Uninterested. Unprofessional. Arrogant. Clueless. Lazy. Scared.

The list of possible descriptions is like selecting from a "one from Column A, two from Column B" menu.

I'm talking about the way GoDaddy.com orchestrated the Danica-to-NASCAR announcement last week in Phoenix. Wait -- let me rephrase that -- because using the word "orchestrated" in this instance is an insult to the world's great maestros.

Here's what happened. Or, I should say, didn't happen.

The so-called "PR" people at GD, which is based not far from my home in Scottsdale, Ariz., did not contact me -- before or after this news conference -- by phone, E-mail or carrier pigeon. Ditto Mark Armijo. Let the record show that, just last month, Mark and I combined for more NASCAR-at-Phoenix International Raceway coverage that just about everyone else in this state combined. Business Week quoted from my Arizona Republic story on the automakers continued involvement in NASCAR. At a minimum, I suspect Mark would have written a story about the Big Day for the high-quality RacinToday.com site. I likely would have used a sound bite on my The Race Reporters show.

Far more importantly, this was about respect. Mark led-the-way for racing coverage in this state during almost a quarter-century on the beat at the Republic. And before the GD PR braintrust -- the name attached to the Danica deal was Nick Fuller -- questions my credentials, please review the bio information at the right.

This was at least the fourth negative experience I've had with this company. Despite stories earlier PIR week, including a Sunday Page 2 feature on Mark Martin (to be sponsored by GD next season -- what an image mismatch!), self-described GD "PR Specialist" Katy Kelewae didn't wake-up to my work until being made aware of my mid-week article on Rick Hendrick. That led to an E inviting me -- this was their first and only outreach -- to GD's offices later that day to interview Brad Keselowski. The E was sent at exactly 12:08:49 on Thursday, Nov. 12, and included this: "I have a time open between 2:45-3:10." In other words, less than three hours advance notice -- as if I had nothing else to do that day; could just drop everything -- or had not long previously interviewed for the next day's story!

In a tribute to carnival barkers everywhere, GD's written blurb to those they troubled themselves enough to communicate with, was 100 percent nauseating hype: "It's the question that has people buzzing . . . a story fueled with drama that transcends the sporting world . . . reports have been consumed by speculation . . . until Tuesday in downtown Phoenix, Ariz., when Go Daddy Girl and IndyCar Star Danica Patrick finally reveals her NASCAR decision."

Please, someone wheel an oxygen tank over here!

Just because there's a market for this over-inflated nonsense elsewhere, it does not mean it is right. Here's a word worth pondering at this moment: Credibility. Maybe they can use all their big-time fancy technology to Google this name: James P. Chapman. And bother to learn the professional lessons of common courtesy, the local angle, and building one-on-one relationships, as pioneered by Mr. Chapman.

A few friends have suggested to me we weren't included because GD was afraid of the tough questions we'd ask. Let me be clear: Tough as in "legitimate," not "rude." That could be, given the overwhelming majority of DP's press-to-date has been cotton-candy sweet. Sports Illustrated, for example, covered the key events of Danica's crucial move from European road racing back to the U.S. Atlantic series in one sentence. A Sporting News Q&A the other week asked every puffy question except if she looked forward to trying a Martinsville hot dog. (Stunning to me it even got published.) One wouldn't be surprised if most of the IRL media offered boxed chocolates with their questions. This, I would observe, in contrast to Ashley Force Hood -- She's answered tough questions from me on subjects ranging from the death of her teammate to her father's injuries to her struggles with the Tree.

I'll end by adding one more description to the opening list:

Inexcusible.


FAST LINES: As another example that the "car guys" are leaving GM -- a story highlighted here last week while others were obsessing over Tiger and Danica -- Brent Dewar, well-known in NASCAR circles, is leaving as Chevrolet brand manager. And, last week, another exec was let go after less than two weeks on the job. This is an on-going story that MUST be watched most carefully in 2010 . . . My friend Drew Brown, one of the few NASCAR team/sponsor PR people who "gets it," is now with Michael Waltrip Racing. I told Michael in Las Vegas that this is the best hire he's ever made . . . Stunning -- Editor & Publisher is folding after almost 110 years . . . Lost in all the breathless Danica hype -- The loss of major sponsor Motorola, but that's not a surprise to readers of the business pages.


TIGER: I've been asked to compare this situation to previous ones. The first that came to mind, at least in sports, was Pete Rose being banned from baseball because of gambling. If you want to vastly expand the universe of possibilities, you'd probably have to say Richard Nixon being forced to resign the presidency. But those were vastly different media times and those sagas played out over many months. Bottom line: Tiger's two-week downfall in a 24-hour media cycle is unprecedented. Finally, I hope this ends once-and-for-all the ridiculous notion that "Any publicity is good publicity." I've disputed that for years. Anyone who ever spouts this line again should be permanently discarded as a serious thinker.

It's important you read and know about this:
http://sports.espn.go.com/rpm/nascar/cup/columns/story?columnist=newton_david&id=4730676&campaign=link&source=JAYSKI

Upcoming The Race Reporters guests:
(Show is live Wednesdays at 7 p.m. ET, downloadable, and available on-demand at no cost. Click on TRR page logo in upper right-hand column.)

December 16 -- Season-In-Review, Part 2. Panelists: Jon Asher, John Oreovicz, Bob Margolis.

[ TRR notes Thursday . . . ]