• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM:

Sunday, October 21, 2012

LESSONS NOT LEARNED

LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION!: The Red Bull marketers and publicists clearly understood that images of Felex Baumgartner's sensational supersonic jump from 24 miles above the earth were all-important in telling the story -- and capturing the public's attention. Note the cameras atop his capsule. It's a useful lesson for PRers in every corner of the PR world. (Photo courtesy of Jay Nemeth/Red Bull Content Pool.) 

When will they ever learn?

Silly me -- they never will.

I keep hoping the celebrity athletes of our star-power society will wise-up and play it straight given the countless examples of bad behavior and cheating that have been so much a part of our news in recent years. Every time you think there could not be a bigger fall from grace, there is. Last week's was Lance Armstrong, the Tour de France cycling champion-raised to hero status as a cancer survivor.

In the face of recent and what has been called overwhelming evidence of blood doping and other rules violations, Armstrong stepped down as head of his own cancer charity. He was quickly dropped by several sponsors, including Nike. Take your pick -- Nike or ESPN are the most powerful influences in American sports today.

The difference for Nike in this case as best I can tell, as opposed to other superstars like Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant and Michael Vick, is Armstrong's offenses involved actual competition while the others were of a personal conduct nature. It's true Armstrong has never failed a drug test.

But his fall from the pointed end of the sports celebrity pyramid is not only the latest, but greatest. I honestly feel sorry for cancer patients, and their families, who drew inspiration and hope from Armstrong's example.

But what I have also been reminded of -- again -- is that money, power, fame, celebrity and ego continue to compromise what in some cases may be the better judgment of decent people. 

Honestly, is it asking too much for others to learn from the mistakes of others?

Someday, Armstrong will re-emerge. You'll know his attempted PR comeback is underway when you see him on 60 Minutes or Katie.


My suspicion antenna is up: Way Up.

Various media ran wild last week with the story that GoDaddy's new ad agency might not use Danica Patrick in the .com's next Super Bowl commercials. Many were the same ones who have gone wild for several years with breathless reports that GD's Super spots were rejected by TV networks as too "racy" -- duped by a sleezy PR tactic to generate false controversy and, thus, drive-up public interest.

Now, anyone who has been through a management change (as GoDaddy has) knows that usually means change for many others. GD's new ownership has been working to reposition the business from sex-appeal to appealing to small business owners and tech buffs. It hired a well-known ad agency to do just that and that agency didn't use Danica in its first batch of new ads, which aired during the Summer Olympics. 

But, given its history of media manipulation, call me a skeptic. What really makes me think so is the Internet domain firm issued a statement from Patrick which quoted her as saying, "I absolutely hope I am in the new GoDaddy Super Bowl commercials. I don't think it would feel quite like a Super Bowl if we don't do the commercials again this year."

There's absolutely no reason for such a canned comment -- other than to again dupe the press into another phony controversy. If the story was real, the most likely response would have been "we'll see." Or even, "no comment."

And then, there was this from Tony Stewart, whose team fields Danica's GD-sponsored Cup Chevrolet, Friday at Kansas Speedway: "We read everything yesterday and laughed about it.”


If the standards of professionalism in American journalism were as high as most in the mainstream media would like you to believe, CNN's Candy Crowley would have been suspended from all political coverage immediately after her horrendous stint as moderator of presidential debate No. 2. Yes, the Washington Times is a conservative newspaper, but it was correct in terming Crowley's performance "another debacle for America’s media."

I'm not sure what was the bigger disgrace: Crowley, or the slobbering praise lavished on her post-debate by her CNN colleagues. Sometimes it seemed like some of them were going to lick her face in admiration. Couldn't one of them -- how about the network's own media analyst? -- step-up and tell the truth? CNN Managing Editor Mark Whitaker even sent an E-mail instructing his staff: "Let's start with a big round of applause for Candy Crowley for a superb job under the most difficult circumstances imaginable."

PLEASE! Tell our military, police and firefighters about "difficult circumstances." Talk about being self-important and self-absorbed!

Before the debate even began, Crowley let it be known she didn't plan to obey the format rules agreed-upon by the Obama and Romney campaigns. That means she shouldn't have accepted the role in the first place. And, while the questions were submitted by supposedly undecided voters in the audience, it was Crowley who actually decided which questions would be asked, and in what order. Somehow -- how mysterious -- she picked several that fed into the liberal Democrats' "war on women" theme and even this one from Mars: "How are you different from George W. Bush?" What in the hell does that have to do with the serious issues at play in this election? Why not have asked: "How are you different from Ulysses S. Grant?" She gave the president more time, cut off Gov. Romney more often, and was factually wrong in backing-up Obama's answer on the deaths of four Americas in Libya.

Candy Crowley is a disgrace to the honorable, traditional standards of American journalism. Her bias and bad judgment means she should not be a part of it. And certainly not be trusted as the "objective" moderator of a presidential debate.


FAST LINES: Two sentences from a recent Reuters article has had the PR-world-at-large talking: “To lie about an issue is to be a politician. To lie about a corporation is to be a public relation[s] executive” . . . I'll call again for the executive bosses at the sanctioning body PR departments to call together all their team reps for a review of the basics. One breach-of-ethics that keeps coming up again and again -- PR people responding to interview requests by asking what the questions will be. That's a mortal sin in the business. Only those who have never taken a Journalism 101 course would do such a thing. On second thought, PR execs from two sanctions have made the same mistake with me in the last year . . . A news release on the DeltaWing's testing crash at Road Atlanta, when it reportedly was hit by a slower car, headlined with the claim the vehicle was "assaulted." This kind of overly dramatic positioning may well be increasingly commonplace these days but it's just plan HYPE and not appreciated by legitimate journalists . . . ALMS has backed-out of its too-far-too-soon ESPN3 package for its final season in 2013, returning to a traditional broadcast/cable mix on ABC, ESPN2 and Speed for the long-distance runs at Sebring and Road Atlanta.


You've probably seen the video of Felix Baumgartner's astounding supersonic skydrive, so far the highlight of the YouTube age. But if you haven't seen it from his helmet camera, well, take a look:
http://gizmodo.com/5951725/first-head-cam-footage-from-daredevils-space-jump

more next Monday . . . ]