PR Geniuses? Or a bunch of hot air?

They (the proverbial “they”) say that all publicity is good publicity. The informed public relations professional will wholeheartedly disagree with that slice of conventional wisdom. The backlash and disgust aimed at this Balloon Boy hoax that was allegedly perpetrated in an attempt to initiate interest in a reality show should prove dangerous, transparent stunts that maliciously fool the public doesn’t gather the steam of goodwill that rewards publicity seekers.

But… I just don’t know. This story isn’t going to die quickly. There are so many questions and charges and reactions yet to come that I can’t rule out the appetite for a reality show about the family that would do anything to get a reality show.

Public relations and publicity “work” by addressing goals and objectives and using its tools to advance them. The Heene family (allegedly) had a brash goal of focusing visual-hungry 24 hour cable news and making themselves famous. The reality TV game feeds off the same brash ideals. So, its hard not to credit this family with being strategic.

We’ll have to wait and see how this one turns out but I can’t help but award at least a quarter of a Stractical point to the Heene family for at least pulling Stractical out of hiatus to comment.

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NBA Slam Dunks With Social Media

At summer camp we used to call the thrice-a-season dances, “socials.” As kids, we’d frantically search for a clean shirt as we poured mountains of gel in our hair while we mentally practiced the line dance for “Cotton Eyed Joe.”

The topic of social media, previously discussed in this space, is a lot like my socials of yesteryear. There’s a lot of hype, a lot of talk, a lot of posturing about how we can best capitalize on its potential, but when it comes to execution, we’re all still standing against the wall afraid to make eye contact with the objects of our desire.

Jamario Moon

But, then again, sometimes we get it right. Take the NBA. Since the dawn of Youtube (what was that, three years ago now?) the highlight reel mixtape has been a staple of viral videos. A two minute slice reel of dunks and blocks for just about anyone who’s ever suited up exists because of tireless fan dedication and a little Final Cut Pro know how. Recognizing this, the NBA has now fully embraced Youtube, hosting their own channel with game highlights and semi-produced virals.

For this past weekend’s All Star game in New Orleans, the NBA produced virals for some of the Slam Dunk competitors to promote text message voting, including the Toronto Raptors’ Jamario Moon. That video, alluding to a behind the free throw line slamma jamma has all the essential ingredients for a great Youtube clip: it’s short, it looks homemade and it has that “I gotta see that again!” punch that turns a video into viral.

Augmenting the official NBA clips is an influx of player-produced videos like this one made by Chris Bosh. Bosh, in an effort to persuade fans to vote him onto the Eastern Conference All Star team, used Youtube to display his lighter side. And to his success, over 500,000 looked at his “Bubba” clip and Bosh ended up starting the All Star game in place of injured Kevin Garnett.

So, I’m awarding 10 Stractical points to the NBA for both developing a meaningful social media strategy and for creating an environment where players want to independently contribute to the online conversation. Stractical loves this game.

Marketing music in 2008: Go integrated or go home (and download the songs for free)

I’ll admit that I am unfamiliar with the music of Mars Volta. But I couldn’t help taking notice of the integrated campaign the prog rock band and their label, Universal, are marketing their new album, The Bedlam in Goliath.

The CD, which drops January 29th, is making every effort to gather some publicity momentum while offering enough extras to make fans think twice about downloading the album illegally.

One offering is an online companion Flash-based game called Goliath The Soothsayer, which incorporates themes from the album into a room escape adventure. I’ve learned (through the coverage for this CD/game) that room escaping games are extremely popular, especially as free online games that are shared virally.

As well, The Bedlam in Goliath is set to be released on USB flash drive to coincide with a vinyl release. The Barenaked Ladies, ardent supporters of fan rights, did a similar release last year. The USB release will also feature bonus material such as concert footage and B-sides. The band is also featuring four “webisodes” on their website depicting the band in humorous situations that have been linked to and shared all over the Internet. In addition, Mars Volta commissioned a scrambled puzzle of artwork on their website that gave fans access to a downloadable track when solved and the band is planning a pre-release mini tour to debut material.

It seems as Mars Volta and their marketers are waking up to the reality that pop music promotion cannot ignore the Internet. It’s where the fans are, even more than MTV or radio. They also realize that they are in competition with illegal downloads and must up the value proposition in order to sell CDs. For The Bedlam in Goliath, they are taking the best ideas from recent integrated campaigns (like the Canadian Tourism Commission’s USB drop from Tribal DDB) and are gathering mainstream media coverage for their innovative packaging of what many consider an obsolete idea – the album.

It’s not always about “thinking outside the box” (shudder). Sometimes, the best ideas come from taking smaller boxes and rearranging them until they look like something new.