Basques. Books, Borglum, Bow Ties, Guest Post, Marketing, Public Relations

P.R. vs. Marketing

SydneyA Guest Blog – P.R. and Marketing

My Gallatin Public Affairs colleague Sydney Sallabanks has a guest post today. She offers thoughts on public relations and marketing – flips sides of the same coin really – and stresses that effective advocacy in a cluttered marketplace still requires the basics: clarity and honesty.

 

“‘Public Relations vs. Marketing’? Isn’t that a bit like ‘patriotism vs. love of country’?” questioned a friend of mine about the presentation that David Cook and I gave last week at the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce.

Yes — that’s the point that Cook, creative director of Boise agency Stoltz Marketing Group, and I hope we made to the audience of about 30 small business owners, non-profit executives and entrepreneurs assembled for the workshop, aptly titled “Public Relations vs. Marketing.”

After working on a few projects with Cook, not only did I learn that his “awkward phase” spans from 1969 to the present, I also discovered that we share similar notions of our respective fields. Public relations and marketing are flip sides of the same coin — Advocacy. When well planned and implemented, they serve to reinforce one another. With some savvy, small businesses have the power to market their goods and services, control their exposure and customize it to mirror their corporate climate.

This may be accomplished with a happy, if not blissful marriage of marketing and public relations. The point is to send the right message to the right audience using the right mode of delivery. We help our clients tell their story and start the conversation.

A principal nuance, however, is that public relations can be harder to control than marketing, “You can never guarantee full control of what is being said about you or your company with PR, unlike marketing, including paid advertising,” said Cook.

While social media is often a valuable piece of the marketing and PR mix, starting with the customer experience is critical, according to Cook. “Isn’t Facebook scheduled to replace television next week?” he joked, advising the audience against abandoning traditional marketing and PR altogether in favor of social media tactics. “These new tools are not a replacement for traditional media; they are an addition to it.” Cook advises to strike a nerve and keep the message simple to cut through the clutter, whatever the delivery.

I advise a similar practice on the PR front. There is no substitute for clear and honest communication. Our firm specializes in developing campaigns for complex issues, often involving multi-member partnerships between the public and private sectors — which means clarity and candor is key.

And like all worthwhile things in life, relationships do matter. In my experience, they are the most rewarding part of the job.

As the Public Relations Society of America notes:

Public relations is much more than endorsements and what many of the media, bloggers and the public have defined as ‘spin.’ The practice of public relations has and will always be the art and science of building relationships, connecting people and measuring how these relationships with various publics lead to long-term value for on entity or organization (whether it’s in regard to government, investor, analyst, media, community or employee relations).”

Any worthwhile relationship requires time and attention, including the working relationship between public relations professional and the media. As newsrooms continue to shrink, journalists are being pushed harder. But there are ways to make life easier on both sides: Do your homework, be accessible and respect the deadline driven nature of a reporter’s world.

Think truth and action, avoid jargon and spin. The Onion recently profiled a fictional, laid-off PR exec and quoted him: “I wasn’t fired so much as my job was one of the positions phased out through the outsourcing of certain activities and the restructured insourcing of others.”

A good rule of thumb: If your campaign or marketing initiative can’t pass a simple “straight face test,” including a basic question -“is what I’m doing serving a broad public interest?” – then you might consider going back to the drawing board, or risk getting ink in The Onion.

Afghanistan, American Presidents, Baseball, Journalism, Obama, Politics

Whoops…the Main Stream Media Falls for it Again

ObamaObama’s School Speech – A Made for Cable TV Story

I’ve often thought that if the occasional Michael Jackson funeral or Mark Sanford hike on the Appalachian Trail didn’t materialize to help fill the “news hole”, the “main stream media” – particularly cable news – would literally need to invent such stories in order to sustain the 24 hour news cycle.

The President’s post-Labor Day speech to American school children was such a story. The “controversy” generated by the mere thought of the Obama speech – the allegation was that he would use the speech to spread liberal (or worse) political propaganda to impressionable students – absolutely dominated the Labor Day weekend news. News organizations spanning the spectrum from Fox to NPR reported the speech controversy as if it were on par with Iranian nuclear weapons development or the worsening situation in Afghanistan. The story kept feeding the cable beast over the long weekend.

And the speech itself? Well, when all was said and done, Idaho’s conservative Republican State School Superintendent Tom Luna pronounced it, according to the always reliable Betsy Russell of the Spokesman Review, as “appropriate and timely” and Laura Bush and Newt Gingrich weighed in with an actual endorsement of the president’s talk.

Turns out the speech wasn’t about socialism after all, but more like the talk my dad used to deliver on the first day of school – “work hard, don’t get discouraged, be responsible, school is important.”

If you missed the talk here is the full text.

On the other hand, if you miss the next (or the last) 24 hours of cable news will you have missed anything at all? Debatable.

Here is a general rule: if an instant political controversy seems just a little to contrived, a little too “made for television,” it probably is. The “editorial function” – independent judgment applied by journalists to verifiable facts – used to operate to reduce the impact and intensity of contrived controversy. No more. These days we frequently need to be our own editors.

Baseball, Politics

Second Acts

KitzhaberOregon’s Kitzhaber Starts the Comeback

“There are no second acts in American lives,” may be one of the most quoted – and most incorrect – things F. Scott Fitzgerald ever said.

There most certainly are second acts in American lives and even in American political lives. Ted Kennedy had one. Newt Gingrich is trying to have one. Richard Nixon had one and lost it. John Kitzhaber, Oregon’s governor from 1995-2003, said recently he will try for his own second act.

Most everyone concedes the M.D. turned governor starts as the favorite, but as the Oregonian’s Jeff Mapes points out, a political heavyweight like Kitzhaber ignites as well as inflames and it is a long way until November 2010.

Kitzhaber’s announcement got me thinking about other second acts. The one I’m most familiar with, of course, is Idaho’s Cecil Andrus. After two gubernatorial election victories in the 1970’s, Andrus went to Washington to run the Interior Department under Jimmy Carter, returned to Idaho in 1981 and ran again for governor when the seat opened up in 1986. (I served as press secretary during that hard fought campaign.)

Andrus had been away from the Idaho ballot for 12 years when he made his comeback and, as I remember the research, even as a two-term former governor and Interior Secretary, fully a third of the potential voters had never heard of him.

Bill Clinton had a second act in Arkansas and a third act in the White House. Clinton lost re-election in 1980 and came back, seeking forgiveness for raising automobile registration fees, to win again in 1982.

Michael Dukakis’ second act followed his loss in the Democratic primary in Massachusetts in 1978.

In the Northwest, back in the 1930’s, Idaho very popular New Deal-era Governor C. Ben Ross won three straight races for governor, lost a U.S. Senate race and lost again trying to regain the governor’s office. Robert Smylie also won the Idaho governor’s office three times in the 1950’s and ’60’s then lost in a primary and tried and failed to earn a second act in the U.S. Senate. Oregon’s maverick governor, Tom McCall, failed in his 1978 comeback attempt after two terms. Maverick Oregon Senator Wayne Morse had many political lives, but no real second act after losing his seat in 1968.

There have been some very successful second acts in American politics, but they are never a sure thing. When Cece Andrus was trying out for his second act in Idaho in 1986, he often appropriated a great line from the late Arizona Congressman Morris Udall.

Udall, a great wit, used to joke that while campaigning for president in 1976 in advance of the Iowa caucus he strolled into a barber shop and announced to the assembled, “I’m Mo Udall and I’m running for president.”

“Yea, we know,” the barber deadpanned, “we were just laughing about that this morning.”

Borah, Labor Day

Happy Labor Day

guinessNot Particularly Important News…

This pint of stout will soon make sense. Trust me.

But before we turn to the Irish drink, a random, regional round-up of some not very important news (including nothing whatsoever on health care reform) on the last weekend of the summer.

From Oregon:
Let us acknowledge that Oregon was the first state in the nation to officially declare the first Monday in September as Labor Day. It happened, according to the Department of Labor, in 1887. Good idea, Oregon.

From Idaho:
A San Diego Examiner travel writer, Gary Robinson, writes this weekend about the tiny southeastern Idaho community of Franklin, Idaho (population 673) where he grew up. Robinson notes that since the beginning of the Idaho Lottery in 1989, Franklin has been a steaming hot bed of ticket sales. The Utah state line is just beyond the southern city limits, making Franklin the “home of the Utah lottery” and the Beehive State a chief supporter of school and public building construction in Idaho. We need the help.

From Washington:
The good news here is that the day after Labor Day will see the re-opening of the fabulous Seattle Public Library. Like most cities, Seattle has been struggling to close a budget gap and one tactic was to shut down the city’s libraries for a week. Budget sense, perhaps, but for bookish Seattle not an altogether popular move. As the Associated Press reported: “‘I think it’s a very sad day — week — for the city of Seattle that they can’t access their local library, which is one of the most heavily used libraries in the country,” said Nancy Pearl, the city’s ex-librarian superstar and the author of ‘Book Lust,’ a best-selling tribute to the joy of reading.'” If you get to Seattle, visit the downtown library. It’s almost always open.

And…From Montana:
Another closing – the M&M Bar in Butte – made headlines all across the Big Sky state. The ancient Butte watering hole once claimed it never closed, but a dispute over a power bill had thirsty patrons looking for another venue, temporarily we can hope, at which to raise a glass. I have a feeling those in need of a pint this weekend in Butte found an acceptable alternative. There are always options in Butte. Which brings me to that pint of Guinness.

The venerable Irish Times (a great website, by the way) had as the top story on Sunday Kilkinny’s fourth consecutive All-Ireland Hurling Championship. (Click here if you feel you need the details of the game or just want to be able to drop “hurling” details into your next cocktail chat.)

Delving a bit further into the Times reveals the “news” that the country’s health service is claiming that Irish adults consume “550 pints per year.” (No statistics readily available to compare those numbers to heavily Irish Butte.)

The Irish “strategic task force on alcohol” is quoted as saying that the 550 number “is a conservative figure given that abstainers are not excluded and represent about 20% of the adult population.”

What can you possibly say after that? The only thing I can think of: Guinness – it’s good for you! True in Dublin, in Butte, Seattle, Portland, Boise…even Salt Lake City.

If you’re looking for something to celebrate on Labor Day, you might celebrate all those you know who work hard, those out of staters who spend a buck on a lottery ticket once in a while, those readers who are concerned when the local library is closed and those who sip (in moderation, of course) an occasional pint. It is a great country, even without hurling.

Happy Labor Day.

Books, Football

Welcome to the Big Time

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Boise State University’s football program has earned its way into the elite ranks of the nation’s college programs. For the most part, it seems, the program has done it all the old fashioned way – hard work, determination and integrity.

Still, you wonder if there isn’t always some price to pay for running with the big dogs. It is a thought that hovers over the fiercely fought, if not terribly well played Boise State – Oregon game this week.

The Broncos, behind a powerhouse defense, won the game – a very big win, indeed, for the hometown heroes. Still, the lasting image of that victory will surely be the few seconds of video, played over and over, of an Oregon player landing a heavy punch on the jaw of a BSU player. The Duck running back has been suspended for the season, while the BSU player will be disciplined “internally,” whatever that means.

No judgements here on the punishments, but rather questions about what the incident says about our culture of sport and, in particular, college football.

Google BSU-Oregon football this morning and you’ll find 2,381 news articles. The YouTube video of the punch has been seen more than 314,000 times (about equal to the number of times it has aired on ESPN) and, of course, the video is rated 5 stars.

The pundits weigh in:

The New York Times suggested today that the punch seen ’round the world was just the latest of a whole series of tawdry incidents blacking the eyes of college sports. The Los Angeles Times headline: “Let’s be blunt that Oregon-Boise finish was a fiasco.” Writing at Oregon Live.Com, Bob Rickert, applauds the Oregon suspension, but wonders about accountability all around.

One suspects we haven’t heard the last of the punch. There will be NCAA and PAC-10 Conference reviews and lots of Monday morning quarterbacking.

I couldn’t help thinking, as the Oregon – Boise State game dominated the attention of Idaho’s Capitol City over the last couple of weeks and the punch dominated the morning after, of Boise State President Bob Kustra’s State of the University speech a few days ago.

Kustra made headlines with criticism of health insurance cost increases for part-time university employees. The Idaho Statesman praised his courage in raising the issue.

About those higher insurance costs facing part-time university employees, Kustra said, as the Statesman reported:

“I just think it’s so ironic in this world in which we live that these folks who make these decisions dress up in blue and orange and come to seven football games a year and spend two and three months asking me as I travel down the street, ‘How’s things going with the team? Are we going to beat Oregon?’ I wish just once somebody would say, ‘How’s the lab technician going to handle the 40 percent increase? How is the custodian going to handle the 40 percent increase?'”

Almost every college president would argue that a successful intercollegiate sports program is a huge marketing and alumni asset to a college or university that is primarily dedicated to providing academic excellence, but at the same time even the most erstwhile fan – or president – would have to admit that the priorities can get pretty fuzzy from time to time.

Stay tuned, there will be more. When you’re talking college football, the Big Time means many things – good, bad and occasionally ugly.

Baucus, U.S. Senate

I’ll Take That Seat

Erickson GossettGovernors Who Appointed Themselves

Continuing the theme of how certain Senators came to be Senators.

Two Northwest governors exercised what just might be the height of political power – appointing themselves to the United States Senate. In both cases, the voters took, well, a dim view of that particular path to power.

Charles Gossett (on the left above) and John Erickson both had relatively successful careers before being accused of crafting the backroom “deals” that got them to the senate.

Erickson served as a judge and is the only Montana governor elected three times. Charlie Gossett was a member of the Idaho House of Representatives, was elected twice as Lt. Governor, and in 1944 won the governorship. Both Erickson and Gossett were Democrats.

Erickson, a fairly conservative Democrat, was first elected in 1925. In an era when the Anaconda Mining Company dominated Montana, Erickson made peace with powerful economic interests, built a generally progressive record and cultivated an image as “Honest John.” When the great Montana Senator Tom Walsh died in 1933, Erickson was besieged by Democrats who wanted appointment to Walsh’s Senate seat. Erickson finally settled the controversy by resigning as governor with the assurance that Lt. Governor Frank Cooney would then appoint him to the senate.

There was an 11 minute interval between the signing of Erickson’s resignation as governor and his appointment to the federal position. Critics immediately alleged that a “crooked deal” had been engineered.

Erickson tried to hold on to the Senate seat, but lost the Democratic primary in 1934 to Jim Murray who went on to a long and distinguished career. It didn’t help Erickson’s political career that TIME magazine reported that he had nodded off while presiding over a senate session. Governor Cooney died in office in 1935 before having to again face Montana voters.

In Idaho, Gossett was also a relatively conservative Democrat. He championed fiscal responsibility and harmony with the legislature.

As historian Bob Sims has written, “by far the most controversial event of Gossett’s tenure as governor was the ending of it, which came in November 1945, ten and a half months after it began. When Senator John Thomas died, Gossett resigned and the new Governor, former Lt. Governor Arnold Williams, appointed Gossett to fill the Senate seat. Cries of outrage attended those events.”

Gossett went on to lose the Democratic primary in 1946 and never regained elective office. Williams served out the remainder of Gossett’s term and lost a bid to retain the office.

Gossett, by the way, is one of only two Idahoans, current Senator Jim Risch being the other, who served as Lt. Governor, Governor and U.S. Senator.

There is a lesson here. When a political deal looks like a political deal, the voters generally smell a very big rat and they use the first opportunity to punish the deal makers.

Memo to Governors: In event of a vacancy, don’t even think about finding a way to appoint yourself to the U.S. Senate. It is a sure path to political oblivion.

Baucus, U.S. Senate

All In The Family

GravesOf Course, Dear, Whatever You Want

The old joke asks: “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” Answer: “Practice, practice, practice.”

How do you get to the United States Senate? Twice in history it helped to be the First Lady, married to a southern Governor.

Consider the case of Dixie Bibb Graves (pictured here).

Senator Graves represented Alabama in the Senate for less than five months in 1937 and 1938. Dixie could thank her husband for that distinction. David Bibb Graves was Governor of Alabama (also Dixie’s first cousin) and when Franklin Roosevelt tapped Senator Hugo Black for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, the Governor tapped his roommate to fill the Senate vacancy.

Governor Graves said he appointed his politically active wife to avoid giving an advantage to any of the other Alabama Democrats who aspired to run for the seat in a special election. Not everyone was convinced that his motives were so fair minded. As the Encyclopedia of Alabama points out, some “denounced the appointment as a political move by the governor to control events not only in the capitol building and the state legislature, but also the U.S. Senate.”

Thirty-five years later, another southern governor, Edwin Edwards of Louisiana, appointed his wife to fill a Senate seat that fell vacant as the result of Senator Allen Ellender’s death. Elaine Edwards served only three and a half months, a lot less time than her husband has served in jail.

Former Governor Edwards – he famously said the only way he would ever lose an election in Cajun County was “to be caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy” – continues to serve out a ten year sentence for a host of corruption charges.

Governor Edwards and Senator Edwards divorced in 1989.

Tomorrow, a final post in this series will feature two Northwest Governors who appointed themselves to the Senate. You can guess how well that turned out.

Baucus, U.S. Senate

A Long Tradition

Kennedy Filling the Vacancy with the Spouse

It didn’t take long for the suggestion to surface that Ted Kennedy’s widow – Victoria Reggie Kennedy – would be a suitable replacement for her husband in the United States Senate. There is a long and rich tradition of just that kind of political move.

Among the more celebrated examples of “wife replaces husband in the Senate” were Hattie Caraway of Arkansas (widow of Senator Thaddeus) and Rose McConnell Long of Louisiana (widow of the assassinated Kingfish – Huey Long).

Hattie Caraway went on to become the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate in 1932. Huey Long brought his campaign smarts north to Arkansas and barnstormed the state with the diminutive Senator Caraway to help her secure a full term in the Senate. Their rollicking, nine-day tour of Arkansas spawned a good little political book by David Malone called Hattie and Huey: An Arkansas Tour.

Huey Long’s widow replaced him in 1936, and then Rose Long won her own special election and served until 1938 when she did not seek re-election.

Senator Caraway won re-election again in 1938, but lost the Democratic primary in 1944 to the young J. William Fulbright who, of course, went on to fame as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee where he became outspoken opponent of U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

Muriel Humphrey served less than a year in 1978 after the death of Minnesota Senator and Vice President Hubert Humphrey. Maryon Allen of Alabama also served for a few months in 1978 after her husband Senator James B. Allen died. Vera Bushfield (now there’s a household name) replaced her South Dakota Senator husband Harlan following his death in 1948 and Joceyln Burdick served a few months in 1992 after the death of her husband, long-time North Dakota Senator Quentin Burdick.

My favorite Senate wife who became a Senator is Oregon’s impressive Maurine Neuberger. She was elected in a special election in 1960 to replace her husband, Richard Neuberger, who had died. Senator Neuberger also won election to her own term and served until 1967.

Most speculation has Mrs. Kennedy passing on any chance to replace her famous husband, but if it were to come to pass she would be in some good and interesting historical company.

Tomorrow: Two Governors actually appointed their wives to fill Senate vacancies. Talk about keeping it all in the family.

Andrus, Biomass, Blogging, Boise, Climate Change

Biomass and Climate Change

Cecil AndrusCece Andrus: Developing Region’s Biomass Will Take Time and Transparency

A couple of months ago, the former Idaho Governor and Interior Secretary offered his take on increasing utilization of biomass for energy.

The assessment came in a major speech to a conference of U.S. Forest Service managers in Boise. While not a pessimistic assessment of biomass as a greater source of energy, the speech was a typically Andrus-like accounting of opportunities and challenges.

Andrus was particularly pointed in warning the foresters that meeting policy objectives for the National Forests, including increased energy production and encouraging local economic development, while still protecting the environment, will require a lot of transparency and many trade-offs.

The former four-term governor also challenged the forest managers to be clear about whether and how they are managing the public’s land based on the reality of climate change.

You can find the full speech here. Here is a key section:

“We do not like making trade-offs and we do not like having to choose. For years the Forest Service has been caught in this struggle. We continue to debate what exactly the purposes of the national forests are, and how we approach an agreement around that question.

“One Idahoan would tell you the national forests exist to produce wood fiber. Another would tell you they exist to provide hunting and fishing opportunities. Another would tell you the forests help drive the economy of the state, particularly rural communities. This Idahoan would tell you that there is a measure of truth in each of those answers.

“So what you do, and what policy makers must do, is find the delicate balance that creates an equilibrium and gives the American public the opportunity to have it all; an increase of energy from biomass, a stronger economy and the hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation we so enjoy in Idaho and the West.”

Basques, Media

Media Odds and Ends

TrahantMark Trahant: Health Care Discussion too Narrow

Thoughtful commentary from Fort Hall, Idaho native Mark Trahant on the current health care debate. Trahant writes in Indian Country Today.

Trahant, the former editorial page editor of the Seattle P-I, is serving a stint as a Kaiser Media Fellow assessing the Indian Health Service and what it can tell us about the current controversy.

Tribune Soft on Cubs?

Has the Chicago Tribune, long the owner of the city’s National League baseball club, always taken it easy on the Cubs? Nah…it is merely perception according to a piece on the Tribune sports page. Right.

Still, the Cubbies’ new ownership removes the stigma that baseball coverage of the northsiders always slighted the White Sox on the Second City’s southside.

Favorable coverage or not, the Cubs are still wallowing in a 100-plus year World Series drought and the 2009 post-season is looking more and more, well, doubtful.

As they say: “Anyone can have a bad century.” There is even a website.

Times Picks on J.C. Penney

My blood runs cold this time of year as I remember the dread I would feel as my mother hustled me off to J.C. Penney to acquire a new season of “school clothes.” I hated the whole experience, not least because mom’s ideas about “new” fashion never seemed to be on the same page with mine.

When I was growing up, however, it was pretty much a trip to Penney’s or ordering from the Montgomery Ward catalog.

The New York Times found out that the James Cash Penney’s stores – the first was in Kemmerer, Wyoming – still enjoys some brand loyalty. The Times “reviewed” the new store in Manhattan and got lots of push back for a pretty snarky piece by a fashion reviewer. Executive Editor Bill Keller even saying, as reported by the Times’ Public Editor, that he wished the story hadn’t run. His mother shopped at Penney’s, too.

Do you think all this will serve to re-enforce the notion that the Times is out of touch with middle America?

And, finally…

I was pleased to be asked recently by the Idaho Press Club to pen a piece for the venerable organization’s newsletter. The experience certainly dated me, however. I served as president of the Club in 1978.

We hardly had color TV in those days.