Tuesday, March 3, 2009

GOP Chairman Michael Steele Apologizes to His Master

After boldly stating on CNN's D. L. Hughley show recently that conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh was nothing more than "an entertainer" and that the talk show-hosts comments were "incendiary and ugly," GOP Chairman Michael Steele went on to counter-claim with a hint of cockiness and his chest slightly puffed that he, not Limbaugh, was the leader of the Republican party.

Limbaugh then fired back with a slap on the wrist as a reminder of who really wears the pants in the GOP family:

A day later, Steele did a 180 degree about-face, and with tail tucked between legs, apologized to Rush Limbaugh, stating via an interview with

Limbaugh is “a very valuable conservative voice for our party.”

Steele went on to say to Politico: “He brings a very important message to the American people to wake up and pay attention to what the administration is doing; number two, there are those out there who want to look at what he’s saying as incendiary and divisive and ugly. That’s what I was trying to say. It didn’t come out that way. … He does what he does best, which is provoke: He provokes thought, he provokes the left. And they’re clearly the ones who are most excited about him.”

Here's what I think really happened: Steele got caught-up in the moment. D.L. Hughley is a moderately known former King of Comedy and star of the ABC/UPN sitcom The Hughleys, who is currently the host of CNN's recently launched new program, D.L. Hughley Breaks the News. On this particular day, Hughley had on as a guest author/producer, American Muslim, and oh by the way, prolific leader of political and socially conscious rap rap group, Public Enemy. With two intelligent, urban, left-wing liberal African-Americans putting his feet to the fire and testing his metal as not only an African-American conservative Republican, but Chairman of the GOP, Steele wanted to "flex" and prove that he was nobody's puppet.

I can't say that I blame Steele for trying to impress, given the platform (CNN) and the audience (Hughley, Chuck D, CNN liberal audience), but as was bound to happen reality stepped-in and Steele was quickly reminded of his place in the GOP food chain. Limbaugh did little more than give Steele a slap on the wrist, but it was enough to serve as a reminder that "those that giveth can taketh away" and given the apparent vacuum that currently exists at the helm of the GOP by qualified leaders (ie: Eric Cantor, Jewish Republican Whip for the 111th Congress), due to the all too public blunders of the likes of Romney, MCain, Palin, and Jindal - Rush Limbaugh - for better or worse and at least for the time being, serves as the de facto voice of the GOP.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

2009 Q1Social Media/PR Hits & Misses

What a year 2009 has been for the Communications/Social Media industry, and we're only just ended Q1. Here's a quick recap of my list of the best of the hits, misses, stumbles, and blunders thus far:

President Obama

A whopping stimulus package; more bailout money for banks and the auto industry; homeowner bailout money, the AIG bonus debacle, and several botched attempts to fill vacant positions. It hasn't exactly been a smooth start to President Obama's first term, and his approval numbers seem to reflect the overall mood and discontent of the country. According to recent Rasmussen poll , Pres. Obama is at 56%-43% approval, with a third strongly disapproving of the president's performance. This is a substantial degree of polarization so early in the administration. Pres. Obama has lost virtually all of his Republican support and a good part of his Independent support. Be that as it may, the President continues to wield the power of both traditional PR and digital communications/social media to spread his message, shore-up consumer confidence, and continue his policy of transparency in Washington, DC. From several news conferences to small town gatherings to hitting the talk show circuits, Obama understands that unlike his predecessor, his greatest asset is actually himself.

Aggregate Communications Grade: Politics and policy aside, we give the President an A+

Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps went from America's "gold" standard for hard work, dedication, focus and everything great about the US, to irresponsible slacker, derelict and marketing leper in the swoop of one bong hit. Phelps bypassed the traditional media route and instead in true Gen Y fashion, posted his message of contrition on Facebook:

Sunday, February 1, 2009 at 2:20pm
I engaged in behavior which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment. I’m 23-years-old, and despite the successes I have had in the pool, I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way, not in a manner that people have come to expect from me. For this, I am sorry. I promise my fans and the public – it will not happen again.
Updated about 2 months ago

The two notes he posted on his profile generated over 6,500 fan generated comments, most of them positive messages of support. He has since maintained a low profile focused on training and his more recent posts have generated mere human levels of fan comments (175).

Grade: B+

The NY Yankees

How does the most storied, accomplished franchise in all sports history manage to soil its image and possibly wreck its' brand? Hmmm...it started with Jason Giambi, then Roger Clemens, Andy Petite, and has all culminated with the highest paid player and the man who had been tapped as "the savior" of baseball, Alex Rodriguez. What do these (former and current) Yankee players have in common? Their collective admitted and/or suspected use of steroids. And if it wasn't bad enough that A-Rod admitted to using steroids (albeit, after lying to Katie Couric on 60 Minutes months earlier), he then called a press conference where he went on to lie about NY Times reporter Selena Roberts "stalking" him and breaking into his place, lied about his age when using the steroids, and lied about just about everything else that he talked about. Is this who the NY Yankees want as the face of their organization? They have a new stadium that will open this season, and if they make it to the playoffs as most expect them to it may help, but to have the caliber of Yankee players associated with "the steroid era" is a stain that may prove too deep to effectively expunge.

Grade: F


2008 was a banner year for Yelp, the popular local consumer review site. After securing a new $15 million dollar round of financing - its' fourth round of funding since their founding in 2004 - and boasting some impressive stats to the tune of 22 million uniques and over 5 million reviews, it seemed as though Yelp was poised for even greater things this year; but alas, 2009 has seen the company embroiled in a massive PR controversy that undermines the very nature of what they do: fake reviews, strong-arm tactics, threats, and possible extortion.

Jeremy Stoppelman, Yelp’s co-founder and chief executive,responded to these allegations via a few posts on the Yelp blog then basically went dark, only casually mentioning the crisis on his Twitter account. His lack of transparency, proactive communication and shady business practices has not set well with consumers, and while it has yet to be determined whether or not this will affect "business as usual" - in the court of public opinion that is social media, he may already be guilty.

Grade: D


It's been an interesting, if not bumpy start to the year for Facebook. Aside from surpassing the 200 Million user mark and founder Mark Zuckerberg joining Twitter, the highlight thus far was when Facebook subtly changed the terms of service (TOS). After an article in the Consumerist highlighting the new terms,which essentially stated that anything you upload to Facebook can be used by Facebook in any way they deem fit, forever- a PR nightmare ensued with the works: consumer backlash, Facebook protest groups, media coverage, etc. End result: Facebook reverts back to the original TOS, and a democratic "for the people, by the people" attitude way of running the business. We'll see how much longer that lasts.

Grade: B+

Microsoft Layoffs Refund Debacle

Back in February, Microsoft made headlines when they laid off 1,500 employees. Adding insult to injury, news hit the web that Microsoft had "inadvertently" overpaid severance to some of these laid off employees, and was asking for some of the money back. TechCrunch broke the story, and posted the following incriminating letters from Microsoft to the employees:

Microsoft Severance Repayment Letter

How did this end? With the following formal statement from Microsoft:
Last week, 25 former Microsoft employees were informed that they were overpaid as a part of their severance payments from the company. This was a mistake on our part. We should have handled this situation in a more thoughtful manner. We are reaching out to those impacted to relay that we will not seek any payment from those individuals.

Grade: D-

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Happy New Year!

It's good to be back after surviving the roller-coaster year that was 2008 and unplugging for the better part of six weeks, but alas a New Year has begun, so time to get this party started with a few thoughts.

First, just to clarify, I write this blog for me, and me only. Not for the purpose of flexing my social media IQ, but as a platform to express and share ideas and thoughts that are of interest to me, no matter the topic.

I've happened upon this day to start writing again not by design, but because I actually have thoughts that I want to share and express, and this has become my personal soapbox.

Digital Communications/Social Media/CRM
Will this be the year that PR evolves to finally take its rightful place at the grown-ups table? I say yes, with the caveat that PR pros and the industry as a whole embraces the inevitable change that has been happening for the last 5 years - a change from a one way "traditional" monologue with consumers to a two-way dialogue vis-a-vis social media. Those who get it will prosper; those who don't - won't. Social Media and all its touch points will allow Digital/Social Media Communications pros who command the strategic skills and adhere to the unwritten rules of consumer engagement to finally say "show me the money!"

Sighhhh. Back in 2007 during the SxSW conference, Twitter was tapped as "the next BIG thing" in social media. Well, strap-on your seat belts kids, 'cause barring any financial calamities (can they get a decent business model together that allows the platform to actually make money?), Twitter is about to get a whole lot bigger. You thought Twitter jumped the shark in 2008 once Rick Sanchez and the crew at CNN started using it with reckless abandon? The Twitter community has increasingly flexed its new found muscles for love of Mad Men, in disdain against Motrin, and more importantly as the most efficient platform to disseminate up-to-the-second eyewitness reports that have consistently scooped traditional media outlets in breaking news (Mumbai attacks, Miracle on the Hudson plane landing). You can be sure to expect more of the same in '09. With the increased number of new Twitter applications that continue to launch on a daily basis, it's inevitable. The one caveat is that Twitter will need to figure out a way to monetize and generate ad revenue.

Has not only jumped the shark, but will continue to dominate mindshare and marketshare in the world of social networking, and in the US will continue to be the most active social networking platform used by consumers (currently boasting 150 million active users), while maintaining steady growth.

Yes, the Inauguration of President-elect Obama is but a mere two weeks away, and the fact that the inauguration of an African-American as the 44th president of the United States comes on the heels of celebrating the observance of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday is a feeling too powerful and overwhelming to describe. It's "one of those defining" moments, and the crush of people attending, the massive media coverage from even the likes of Nickelodeon, BET and QVC, and the various online tools, platforms and applications available to share the experience, the inauguration promises to make this the most watched, consumer engaged, and covered event of the year. The Super Bowl, Oscars, heck, even the Olympics will pale in comparison.

All-in-all, this year will be a challenging one, and time will tell just how bad it actually ends up being. Be that as it may, though he's no savior, at least we can take solice in the fact that we have sensible, strong, intelligent leadership at the helm of this country to help us navigate through these rough waters.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Holy Grim Reaper Batman!

Rumor has it that in the next issue of Batman, scheduled to come out today, Bruce Wayne, the alter ego of Batman, may either retire from his duties or be killed by a mystery villain...holy RIP! The caped crusader's alter ego Bruce Wayne has reached the end of the line, according to an interview in Comic Book Resources (CBR)with writer Grant Morrison.

In the controversial latest issue of the Batman story, written by Morrison, Wayne is rumoured to either die, or give up being Batman because he is so shaken up by a secret from his past, necessitating a hunt for a replacement.

Key contenders to take up the cape include Dick Grayson, the original Robin who now protects Gotham City as Nightwing, Batman's son Damian and the current Boy Wonder, Tim Drake.

Obama Swag Moves Beyond the Streets to the Small Screen TV

From Ojamas to Commemorative Plates - Brand Obama Is The Gift That Keeps on giving...and giving...and giving...

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Power of President-elect Obama

U.S. Stocks Rally as Obama Picks Tim Geithner to Head Treasury

President-elect Barack Obama picked Timothy Geithner, head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, to be his Treasury secretary, with Lawrence Summers getting a senior White House role. Obama is also likely to nominate New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson as Commerce Secretary, and Arizona's Democratic Governor Janet Napolitano to serve as the next head of the Department of Homeland Security. Reports have it that Obama plans to announce his picks on Nov. 24. Despite conflicting reports from the NY Times, Sen Hillary Clinton is not yet poised to accept the Secretary of State position. That said, stocks have rebounded sharply on the news of the Treasury pick. The benefit of choosing Geithner is that he has been intimately involved with the current financial crisis from the begining, so he brings continuity with little need for any major transitions.

Campbell's Soup is “Fond de Cuisine” For Americans During Tough Times...

You may not "see" the lines of starving Americans outside waiting for bowls of free soup the way we did during the Great Depression, but make no mistake, the proof is in the "stock" - as in Campbell's Soup stock, which has led the Standard & Poor Packaged Foods Index over the past three months, and as recently as Sept. was the lone stock beat the S&P 500 (the remaining 499) by almost 48 percentage points. Shares of the venerable company fell today in response to an analyst downgrading it to "Neutral" from "Buy," but regardless, recent data shows Campbell's soup sales were up 14 percent in the latest four-week period in October, a pretty clear indicator of how priorities have shifted for American consumers. Let them eat soup...!

Did you know that Campbell's has survived 28 recessions, two world wars and the Great Depression over its 139-year existence?