Blog Haitus

So, I’m way ahead on my listening but way behind on my writing and it doesn’t look like I’ll be able to catch up for a while. So while the listening project forges ahead, the writing project is going dark, for now. Thanks for reading and following. Keep listening.


Advertisements pitches creative to a tee

With apologies to golf metaphors, adulterous dating site has successfully launched a full-on marketing PR campaign based on merely the notion they might engage in, well, marketing.

The background:

  • attempts to purchase TTC advertising space and the Rocket (allegedly) refuses
  • Mock-ups of the ads are released and chaos ensues

That’s really it.

From a stactical prospective, this controversial service embraced controversy through (allegedly) sincere attempts to market using uncontroversial advertising media. The content of the ads are published for free using earned media with an explanation of what the service does. Gaining earned media from creative work is at its base, a coup for marketing PRtists, as it expands the reach of the ad campaign without adding to the ad buy costs (see: the strategy behind Super Bowl ads)

So, strategy goes, if the ROI on a creative campaign is increased by piggybacking earned media, imagine the increase to ROI when the creative doesn’t even need to be produced, let alone bought media for.

This strategy is risky, yes, but it vibes in stride with the risqué identity of the brand.  Let’s send 60 swinging stractical points to

Ashley Madison proposed TTC ads courtesy of

Ashley Madison proposed TTC ads courtesy of

Tiger Woods redux

Confession: I’ve been actively avoiding all this Tiger Woods talk or trying to at least. As a professional communicator and PR critic, it’s almost irresponsible for me to dodge this one. It’s not stractical. But there’s just something about intently following someone’s marital/extra-marital life, even if its one of the most celebrated superstars on the planet, that gives me the willies. The badvibes. The shivers down my spine. And while we don’t pass judgment on anything but the communications out here in Stractiville, I thought I should provide some context that leads into this:

I didn’t watch the 24 hour CNN coverage of a camera aimed at Tiger’s front door. I didn’t listen to the tawdry voicemail messages. I don’t know the names and back stories of his alleged mistresses. But I know a story broke. And I know I didn’t think much of it. But then this radio silence kept amplifying this minor traffic accident until there was no other possible explanation for the events besides a domestic disturbance. In a way, Tiger baited the media and set his own trap, not for employing a terrible crisis strategy, but by attempting multiple half-assed strategies: Keep silent, but make a statement. Express sullen remorse but lash out at the unscrupulous media attention. Speak of vague “transgressions” as a parade of mistress names roll across the news ticker. And I know there are more but these are just the few bleeding through the margins to someone actively avoiding this one. The PR strangeness is just too strong, it won’t let me escape.

I’ve read constructive PR and social media critiques here and here. The comparisons to the David Letterman strategy are particularly apt though Dave had two things going for him that Tiger lack: a sense of humour for the softening touch of self-deprecation and an hour a night on network television to fill.

I’m struggling to offer Tiger advice so I’ll be portentously reductionist:

Be stractical. That means giving the GOST treatment both short and long term. Ask the questions: What is my essential to my personal brand? Or more generally, what do I need? To continue to play professional golf at a high level? To sign and carry out endorsement deals? To keep my family together? Adoration from millions? — A multi-national corporation would rally around its raison d’etre in a crisis and so should you.

While this epic is far from over, we’ll prematurely award -65 stractical points to Team Tiger Woods and note the irony that the low score in golf wins.

And now, if you’ll excuse me.  I’ll get back to changing the channel.

Tiger in the rough

Tiger Woods?

That’s really all I can say.

Social media’s newsworthiness: trend or paradigm?

Adam Singer from TopRank’s Online Marketing Blog makes a case for social media in PR strategy.An interesting idea he presents:

PR has changed – pull is now more effective
Pull PR is superior to push, there is no escaping this. A (not so) secret part of media is this: media report on media. It’s so simple, yet so overlooked. By becoming media you embrace a pull strategy naturally and will attract attention from all other types of media – both professional and amateur.

And I believe it.  Just as Zara gets burn from its just-in-time business model, organizations are currently seeing earned media results from social media innovations. But, the contrarian in me how to wonder: is this stractical or  simply novelty? That is to say, if social media is a trendy topic in mass or otherwise credible media right now, what happens when it becomes old news? Is this argument for social media right or right now?

Unsubscribed: Will the spam pitch kill PR?

A friend in PR and I were talking the other day about media lists. This friend was lamenting the difficulty in finding good lists for  print and online journalists and bloggers on specific topics: luxury travel, foodie, parenting, etc.

This led to me running down some of the media list aggregating services that I have used before: Vocus and Medianetcentral. The friend currently used Cision. The danger with these services, I warned, is that they make it too easy for PRtists to pile together a big ol’ list of names and e-mails addresses without actually positioning their pitches and press releases. That’s how, even with the best of intentions, you become a spammer.

And so when that same friend re-tweeted (did I say that right?) this from UnMarketing I thought it was only prudent to stractualize. Or stracticulate? Yeah, I like that.

In the tug-o-war between PR professionals and the media they’re trying to pitch to, both parties try to balance objectives with what they need from the other side. Okay, that was incredibly generic. What I mean to say is that the PR side wants to impress and interest the journalist with whatever product or story or angle they’re trying to promote. Journalists also need PR to feed them stories, grant them access to interview subjects, pass along products to review, etc. But don’t be fooled: PR is always a guest at this party and has to be on their best behaviour all time.

Unsolicited e-mail pitches or pitch spam has become the dominant force in 21st century pro-active marketing media relations. To extend the party analogy, the spam pitch is the guy who keeps opening beers without ever finishing them and won’t stop hitting on your girlfriend. The conversation about spam pitches lit up after Wired editor Chris Anderson published a list of e-mail addresses from (what he concluded were) PR spammers. And while this post may be vitriolic and punitive, he’s right for no other reason than these PRtists need him.

So, you’re thinking, the answer is we must all swear to uphold the sanctity of the incredibly narrowly-positioned and researched pitch and chastise those lazy charlatans who hurl mass e-mails to anyone labelled “entertainment” on a piece of software, right? We know who to blame!

Yet, like health-care reform or capital punishment, there’s three or four or 103494 sides of this coin.

As I’ve discussed before within the pages (posts?) of Stractical, I receive these spam pitches daily. Even with a finely-tuned spam blocking system, about five a day still pop through. The number of these e-mails that have actually piqued my interest, ever? One.  And just barely. Quite simply… it’s awful. And shameful. Somewhere, clients are paying for this to happen (though, with e-mail as we all know it only takes a second to send one or 500).

But at the same time, I’ve been on the other side. I’ve been an intern and a junior PR coordinator with billing commitments, managers breathing down my neck to produce a media list in four minutes. What was I to do? Those cool, crisp, focused pitches take research and style and most often a prior relationship with the writer. Juniors have none of this. To make the kind of media lists I should have been producing, it would have taken days, maybe even weeks. Which client was going to pay for that? So we resort to software and keywords, quantity over quality, our seniors look the other way and life moves on.

So in conclusion… we’re nowhere. Yes, there’s been some services popping up attempting to mediate journalists’ requests with PR supply but even when successful, they’ll never fill the void left if the pitching machines at agencies went away. But we know something must be done. And with so many of these spam pitches apparently bouncing back from vacated scribblers‘ e-mails, PR and journalism must solve the spam pitch issue before we lose the ability to tell a fantastic story pitch from a bottle of V1agra or a favour asked by a Nigerian prince.

When sick pigs fly?

GTA boy dies.

Mass panic for vaccine.

Short supply.

And now the Canadian government is on the defensive, reaching for Stractical Points. And after all the media reports of grannies turned away from vaccine clinics after lining up for hours, Ottawa is in tough as the architect of Canada’s pandemic strategy.

The government needs a two-pronged approach in reaction but so far, we’ve only seen one:

1) The “we’re not wrong, we’re right” approach. Effectiveness: Tactical.

A difficult thing to prove in the blusterous court of public opinion, especially when it comes to a public health issue.


A federal official said with 6-million doses of the vaccine already in circulation, Canada is ahead of the rest of the world on a per-capita basis.

“There is no shortage,” the federal official said.

What the official meant, I interpret, is that there will be no shortage — folks who want the vaccine will get it… eventually. But in the media/public vortex, the “shortage” means what’s available now. Normally, full points for using a comparison (Canada vs. the world) but in the context of public health, this declaration reads disjointed compared to the story being created around flu concerns.

But they help their case by backing it up with numbers:  Ottawa is releasing data saying over a million doses have been distributed already nationally. A lesson in the effect and simplicity of a statistic to capture a point which carried this “we’re right” approach from gut-reactive to tactical.

2) The “what we’re doing to make things even better” approach. Effectiveness: Stractical.

While approach 1 hinges on defence, approach 2 is how you put points on the board (so many apologies to Touchdowns & Fumbles for co-opting football metaphors) To do so, the Ottawa needs to communicate what happens next. What’s the timeline? What should people expect? But the government still appears hesitant to commit to comment on when vaccines will be available for everyone who wants one or why most of us aren’t in dire need of the vaccine this week.

And they probably have good reason to avoid this area: they just don’t know and are afraid to say. But until the Canadian government can bridge approach 1 to approach 2, only half a Stractical point is all they collect.

Now, anyone for bacon?

Swine Flu