Category Archives: tom ciesielka


Does a Prostitute Belong at Your Honeymoon?

Here’s a real winner: a man was arrested on his honeymoon for soliciting a prostitute. I can understand why that Chicago Sun-Timesstory, “Suburban man arrested for soliciting prostitute on his honeymoon,” by Jon Seidel and Stefano Esposito, has become so popular. On what was supposed to be a very special day, his wife noticed he’d gone missing, and lo and behold, she found out that he’d responded to an ad on a website that was posted by an undercover detective. I think it’s safe to say that this marriage isn’t going to be so great, and it’s not the only example of a failed partnership.

There are partnerships in business that don’t always go well, and a good relationship is especially important when doing publicity. Whether a company has merged with another, has acquired new clients, or simply wants to publicize new hires, everyone has to be on the same page. Not only does the message have to be clear and consistent, but anyone communicating with the press and public should have the same tone, facts, goals, and style. After all, the company might end up getting the kind of publicity the newly married couple got, and no one would want that. 



Attorneys Make Terrible Horror Movie Directors

Attorneys know that they have to be careful about what they put online, and they usually use social media sparingly, if at all. I’ve noticed that attorneys limit their social media activity to LinkedIn because they think it’s the safest. However, everyone has to be careful, no matter how professional a website might seem.

One attorney paid a heavy price for his online activity, which was deserved, but it also affected a couple of women’s reputation. According to Martha Neil’s article,“Sending female intern’s horror-film clip to local law firms get sex-partner suspended for 3 years” in the ABA Journal, a partner of a law firm wanted to punish an intern that didn’t respond to his advances, so he had a paralegal send out a clip from a horror film that showed the intern nude. Actually, it wasn’t really her, but he said it was. 

Even though her name isn’t in the article, it was a total embarrassment for her because many attorneys saw the clip. Plus, the paralegal looked bad because she was the one who sent out the email to other law firms. Luckily, the partner ended up getting suspended, but he created a mess that will probably take a while to clean up. 

It’s a great lesson for attorneys to be careful about what they post or send out online, even if they think it’s a practical joke. It’s safe to say that if you have any doubts about posting a photo, quote, or link, don’t post it at all. Like our mothers often told us, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Attorneys have to be careful in court, but in the court of public opinion, they have to be especially careful, because they are held to high standards in communications. 

Posting online is like speaking: people are usually advised to think before they speak in case they say something they regret. When you’re online, it’s even more important to think before you post because whatever you put out there will last a very long time.

When is Being Red and Fat a Sign of Good Health?

Christmas is around the corner, and as usual, we’ve been inundated with Santa Claus. Actually, I’ve seen Santa Claus around since I was a kid, so he’s been with me pretty much my whole life. When I think of Santa, a fat, round, red guy comes to mind, and not a spokesperson for healthy living. 

Yet AARP created an interesting twist with Santa by making a list of why he’s actually healthy in “Claus and Effect”. Have you ever thought of Santa as being the picture of health? I sure haven’t, but AARP has come up with some ways we can be inspired by him so that we can be healthy too. The tips include generosity (“hand out toys”), sitting less (“climbing chimneys”), and having a pet (“get a reindeer”). 

It just goes to show that everything old can become new again if we learn to repackage something. So as you run around stressed out and enjoying treats, think of Santa. If he can be considered healthy, then we can too. And it’s also a good time to think about how you can reinvent your media message to be fresh and ready for the new year.
Merry Christmas!

Can a Press Release Become the News?

Cashing in on press releases that generate
negative publicity is simply goofy.

I saw an article in the Chicago Sun-Times, “State Sen. Sandoval’s $68,400 side gig: translating news releases,” by Dan Mihalopoulos, Steve Warmbir, and Dave McKinney about how a politician is making a great living by being a consultant for the Town of Cicero, where he was also elected to serve. What caught my attention was not just what State Senator Martin Sandoval is doing to profit from his skills, but that there’s so much news surrounding press releases. That’s because with the speed of communication nowadays, press releases aren’t as important as they used to be.

It used to be that a press release was the only way to connect to the media, but now there are other avenues, such as Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook, which make us not have to rely on just press releases. I still think they’re useful and allow us to summarize client news. Plus they’re a good way to send out information that might be picked up by news websites. But spending thousands of dollars on them? That’s not smart at all.

If you hire someone to translate a press release and distribute it through a service such as PR Web, it should only cost around $300. But according to the article, the Town of Cicero is paying him $4,200 a month to be a consultant, in addition to the $1,500 a month he gets from the village of Melrose Park. That’s a lot of money to spend for press releases, especially when the media has changed, and they don’t pay as much attention to press releases anymore.

Sen. Sandoval has taken advantage of people’s lack of media savvy, and look what it’s gotten him: negative press coverage.


Facebook – A Hairy Liability for Lawyers Working with the Media?

I read some good advice on the Slaw blog about a partner of a law firm who was “friends” with a reporter on Facebook. The reporter wanted a good picture of the attorney, and dug through Facebook to find one. Luckily, the photo wasn’t embarrassing, but can you imagine if it were? Not only would that be a public relations disaster, it could affect the firm and the attorney’s own professional life.  
So let this be a lesson to be careful about what you do on Facebook, and who you friend there, because you never know how much people will do with what you post or where you’re tagged.
If you’re wondering if there’s anything embarrassing about you on Facebook, do a search on Foupas, which is a Facebook search engine. Just do a search for your name, and try using quotes around it to see if you get different results. Some people forget what they’ve posted on Facebook, or didn’t pay attention when a photo was taken, and voila…they end up in a photo they wish had never existed. 

If you feel like you’ve gone too far and done too much on Facebook that is making you feel uncomfortable, you can try deactiving your Facebook account to reassess your activities. Some people end up deleting their account and starting over, so that any tags or posts they’re in are gone, and they can start fresh.

Whenever I think about posting anything on Facebook, I ask myself how it will affect my reputation, and even now, I feel like I’m pretty careful about what I post. But some people let their guards down and end up doing things that they don’t want other people to see…such as posting photos on a network of reporters who might end up using an embarrassing picture of them! So you really have to be careful out there.

Learn from the Pig

When I was growing up, “pig” meant the source of bacon, sausage, a good ham for the holidays, and even a derogatory name for the police during protests. Who knew “pig” would end up meaning big profits?
People find lots of different uses for pigs, and even Business Week has taken notice of the the pork rind battle going on for dominant market share. It sounds silly that those companies are taking pork rinds so seriously because to some people, that part of the pig doesn’t seem as important as the meat, but they’re obviously making good money from that business because a lot of people like to eat the skins of pigs. 

When put that way, it doesn’t sound appetizing, but anything we do can sound different as long as we present it in a way that people will take interest. 

Which brings me to our own publicity efforts. Like the pig industry, we can get a lot of different uses with our own content. For instance, if you write an article for a trade publication, it can also go on your blog, become a pitch for the media, be the basis of a video, and can even become an outline for a speech at a professional association. There are many ways you can use your content; just figure out which part of it people are interested in, and modify it to appeal to them the most. And it’s important to remember that in addition to creating appealing content, you should offer information that can benefit people so that you’re not just tooting your own horn. That way, you’ll profit in various ways.


Saturday Night Live is Still Dead

As you know, “laughs” is a part of my blog’s title, so it’s obvious that I love comedy. I’ve been a clown, have done stand up, and have also taken Second City classes (which have helped my speaking engagements, too). I’m always looking to have a laugh after a long workweek, and I used to watch Saturday Night Live often. But not anymore.

A lot of people watch it, and lots of people have tuned in to that show for years, so SNL must be doing something right…right? Wrong. It’s just not funny anymore, which is too bad because they’re on a big network with a long history. But SNL has lost its heart and the essence of what made it funny.

So what’s funny, you ask? I like Newsbusters. Sure, they’re mostly a news site that has a lot of facts and figures, but they know how to make news funny, not stuffy or stale. Which is what SNL is: stuffy, stale, and dead. That show should learn from their older episodes to find out what funny and fresh look like.

Below is the latest Newsbusters video. It just goes to show that online video is 10 times funnier than what we can find on TV.


When You Mess Up, Fess Up

By now, everyone knows the big news about New York congressman Anthony Weiner: he did, indeed, send out lewd pictures, and finally admitted what he had done after a week of denials.

What took him so long?

It was probably fear of what people thought, including his wife, who is pregnant. Even though it’s an embarrassing situation and could cost him his job, he should have fessed up right away. Think about how he felt all those days and nights. The media kept asking the questions, and he kept lying and making excuses, and even showed his anger towards them.

Big mistake.

It made him look a lot worse. Now he not only looks like a pervert and cheat, but the media, the public, and his constituents, who have voted for him several times, think he’s a liar.

Liar, liar, pants on fire…or pants off, in his case. He ruined his reputation, whereas he could have just admitted it right away, said he’d work it out with his wife, get help, take some time off, and do whatever he had to do to make things right for himself and in the public eye.

Now the public has turned against him and think he’s a loser. It’s too bad for him, but a lesson for us: when we mess up, we have to fess up to prevent any more disasters to our reputation. It also lessons the pain.


Give PR Professionals some RESPECT

One of my favorite public relations professionals is Joan Stewart, who has a business called The Publicity Hound that helps other public relations professionals do better work. Her blog has this post: How to work with a PR firm: 15 do’s and 8 don’ts, and I’d like to add look at a few of the “don’ts” more closely:

Don’t demand that the publicist write and send a press release about something she knows is not newsworthy

A few years back, I was working as the local public relations representative for one of the major national mobile phone services headquartered on the East Coast (not to date myself, but this was when combining a cellphone with a PDA was news). One of my jobs was to take corporate’s press releases, edit them to make them relevant for the local market and send them out to the Chicago area media. Many times, the “news” had to do with personnel changes that would mean nothing to someone in the Midwest. Yet, I had to edit the releases, and get them to people who covered the consumer technology news. It was painful and a waste of time. I could have focused my efforts on more productive and relevant outreach.

  Don’t go behind the publicist’s back and send letters, gifts or anything else to media contacts

Wow, does this make me crazy. Many of my clients are very successful professionals. And I know they became successful by making friends and influencing other business professionals. However, some of them think that influence can be used to get a reporter to write something more favorable or give them more space in an article. Part of the value of earned media is that the “media” contacts decide how you “earn” space in what they report. Think of it like bribing a police officer to not give you a ticket, though it might succeed in the short-term, it might get you in deep trouble.

Don’t expect the PR firm to do it all

Amen to that. Public relations professionals help shape and carry the message to the right people. I like to think of it as getting news from the President of the United States verses his press people. The media is more likely to run footage of the President making a major announcement than the press secretary. That holds true for any professional that wants to be seen as the corporate representative. The PR person can set the stage, yet the client needs to step into the spotlight.

Joan has a wealth of information at her blog. Check it out.


Social Networking for Lawyers: Legal Marketing Tool or Faster Way to Chase an Ambulance?

A few weeks back, the Wall Street Journal ran an article titled: Using Social Networking as Legal Tool. It features lessons and case studies from law firms that represent plaintiffs in personal injury and disasters (think Life of a Trial Lawyer: Boots down for BP Oil Spill Lawyer). A New York-based firm set up the website to capture clients from the BP disaster. Interestingly, as of this post, there were only four comments online for the Wall Street Journal article. (I’ll leave my readers to interpret the lack of interaction on a social media article in one of the world’s largest newspapers.)

The article has several lessons that can apply to almost any area of law:

  • Speed matters and it can be relative for marketing purposes: There’s no question when there’s an accident that impacts many people, lawyers are trying to capture those cases. However, even lawyers that work in areas like real estate and intellectual property can be on the lookout for new laws and regulations that can be a disaster for the clients they serve and proactively market their expertise to those markets.
  • Thought leadership wins, selling loses: The smartest legal marketers know that when a law firm wants to attract new clients, posting thought leadership white papers on their website and writing articles for business publications their clients and prospects read, always wins the long-term marketing war against competitors. The law firm that simply puts out more sales and marketing copy at their websites on a particular issue, particularly for business to business legal matters, will lose.
  • Relevant Communication Channels Do Matter: If a law firms managing partner or marketing director thinks selling the firm is all about having a website that looks like a printed brochure and the only interactivity comes from drinking at national trade shows, they’re wrong. A law firm needs to master all the best channels of communication in order to demonstrate to clients and even law school graduates that they are progressive in matters of the law and communications.

With the battle of the billable hour and the fierce competition for getting legal work for a variety of practices, all lawyers should look at Sololove Law LLC. This firm spends $12 million annually on digital outreach. While I’m not saying it takes $12 million to get in the game, what I am saying is that a concentrated effort with a solid investment is required for all law firms to succeed and thrive in this marketplace.