Category Archives: wall street journal


Hot, Hot Photos on Cold Cold Day

I’ve been saying for a while that one way to promote yourself is through photos, and I was reminded of their importance when I saw a fire. Actually, I didn’t see a real fire where I live or work, but I’ve been following the story about a big fire in Bridgeport. Even though we hear about fires throughout Chicago, we might not pay much attention to them, unless they’re part of a case that an attorney is working on or if there is a lot of drama surrounding them. 

Since that fire in Bridgeport was in an abandoned building, it didn’t seem like a big deal, but then I saw photos of it popping up on Facebook and other social media. What got people’s attention was the aftermath of the fire. The firemen spent hours in frigid temperatures fighting the blaze, and the water they used ended up freezing so that the building looked beautiful.

At first, stunning photos were posted on the Chicago Tribune website. Then the social news site BuzzFeedposted “amazing photos of [the] beautifully icy aftermath” that were taken by photographers from various media services. After that, news websites around the world posted photos, including the Wall Street Journal. Who would’ve thought that a fire in an area of the city that isn’t visited by many people would become worldwide news?

I often talk about the speed of modern media, and how attorneys have to be ready to respond because the news cycle happens in hours and even minutes. When you have a serious case that is getting a lot of publicity, you might feel pressure to act responsibly so that you don’t get negative press. However, in other parts of your life, such speed could work in your favor. Even if you simply see a really beautiful bird on your vacation, take a picture and post in on your website and in other social media. You don’t need the fancy cameras that professional photographers have; you can just use your phone. After all, you never know where your photo might end up and what attention it can get to help your reputation.

Don’t Slip into the “Spin Zone “

There has been a lot of media coverage about what’s going on at Penn State, which has resulted in thefiring of head coach Joe Paterno. Actually, Penn State didn’t use the word “fire”, but I am, because that’s what happened. He was planning on retiring from that position, but they showed him the door. I’d say that’s a firing, wouldn’t you? 
A Wall Street Journal column I read called “A Four-Letter Word Schools Won’t Use” says that Penn State isn’t the only school that avoids that word; NCAA programs don’t use it either when they get rid of a coach. Maybe they want to avoid lawsuits or don’t want to sound harsh, but I think they should get out of the spin zone and be real about what’s going on. If they choose to not really talk about what has happened, then the media and public will take over the message and create what they want out of it.

If the concern is a lawsuit, then a company or organization should focus on what’s good and say as much as they can to control their image. It’s a lot better than having the media, bloggers, and all sorts of people online and elsewhere fill in the blanks with their own theories and opinions. When that happens, even a simple Google search can make all kinds of negativity come up instead of what the organization wants people to see.

Even though I think that being open and honest is the best way to go, I doubt the schools will go that route because they seem to think that playing it safe is better than communicating honestly with the public. However, if they continue to do that, someone is going to take the image ball and run with it, and it might end up not being the best policy after all.


The Yo-Yo and Public Relations

Recently the Wall Street Journal had a story about the return of the yo-yo. When I was a kid, I loved yo-yos. The Duncan brand had such an assortment. Status among peers was determined by how many Duncans you owned. However, for me, my yo-yo fame was determined by off-brand yo-yos in the shape of a football or basketball. Anyway….

The Wall Street Journal pointed out the dark side of new yo-yos that can go faster and do more daring tricks resulting in: chipped teeth, calloused hands and bandaged brows. My worst accident was the string getting too tight around my finger and making it turn purple.
What gave me a PR giggle was the point that faster is not better and can cause damage, even when you are having fun. That’s the way I see much of social media today. Yes, it’s a tool to connect faster with targeted audiences. Yet, it can be damaging when it gets out of control. If you curious about social media disasters check out this posting.
I am proud to say that the team at our agency, TC Public Relations, has had some wonderful successes with making social media a friend for our clients. However, one time we sent out a very misdirected email that started to quickly work it’s way through a few on-line pipelines. Fortunately, we were able to trace the origional negative messages and get the situation turned around quickly. Like a yo-yo, when it seemed like the situation hit bottom, with a little on-line pull in the right direction, it came back up again.

The “Fiction” About Book Publishing

This week I’ll have the privilege of speaking at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. I always consider it an honor when I am asked to share what I’ve learned with students. The course is called, “The Art and Craft of Writing Nonfiction Books.” My topic is “Blogging Your Way to the Bestseller List.”
My hope is that the students will teach me more than I can teach them. Why? Because the publishing model has changed dramatically in just the last five years. Social media and online communications such as blogs, Internet-only publications, Facebook and Twitter have burned away so much of the “paper-only” system of publishing. The students I’ll meet will have known about the effectiveness of on-line communications the entire time they have been working on their laptops. My hope is to share the essential skills of book marketing and public relations that transcends a medium’s technology.

Publishing used to be controlled, by…publishers. A group of companies that sometimes were refereed to as “printers with distribution.” They had the inside track with places like Borders and Barnes & Noble. Then they had the fastest connection to places like However, it was that ultimately made way for new preferred way to published books through self-publishing, and now elentronically with’s kindle 2.

All information, including traditional novels are available in a virtual space without the limitation of how many books will fit on a store’s shelf. Just as respected blogs have become citizen journalists that sometimes have more value that places like the New York Times, self-published books are finding audiences that value them.

Time Magazine recently featured an article titled, Books Gone Wild: The Digital Age Reshapes Literature. It talks about how self-publishing is a “respectable” business. I remember when I first starting handling public relations for books, if someone asked me to promote their self-published title, I would often say “no” even before they asked. That’s because of two reasons:

1. Those book were often was not properly edited

2. The writers were often full of themselves and used their own money in order to say to friends and family, “I am important and an author of a book.” (Little did the friends and family know that the authors’ garages were full of books nobody would buy.)

However, two things changed to overcome my and the world’s dislike for self-published books:

1. Blogs and social networks help authors develop their books and get enough feedback to make them worth publishing.

2. For less that $1,000, authors can get their books published with a print-on-demand publisher and not invest several thousand dollars to print hundreds of books that were not first tested in the marketplace.

I think the Time Magazine article mentioned earlier captures these ideas when it says:

Self-publishing has gone from being the last resort of the desperate and talentless to something more like out-of-town tryouts for theater or the farm system in baseball. It’s he last ripple of the Web 2.0 vibe finally washing up on publishing’s remote shores. After YouTube and Wikipedia, the idea of user-generated content just isn’t that freaky anymore.”

What’s the PR laugh? The laugh is on first-time authors who still want to go the old route of getting published. These writers are going to spend so much time, money and effort trying to use a system that seldom promotes new authors, but rather puts their money on proven writers.

The new authors who will laugh last are the ones who embrace the power of marketing and public relations that comes from social networking, blogging, and building readerships with readers that you can build on with for many books to come.

The Mouse With Wine-Flavored Cheese

I want to thank a story from the Wall Street Journal that made this posting much easier. It talks about how Chuck E. Cheese (and many times booze filled environments) is getting bad publicity because in 12 cases since January 2007, police have been called to their restaurants (not sure if serving flat and dry pizza qualifies as a “restaurant.” However, I’ll leave that evaluation to the food critics).

The Wall Street Journal reported (excerpt):

To appeal to adults, about 70% of the chain’s locations serve wine and beer. Some city officials have pinpointed that as the main cause of the fighting. Milwaukee Alderman Tony Zielinski called for the removal of Chuck E. Cheese’s beer-and-wine license in 2006 after he received police notification and complaints from constituents about fighting there. The company stationed armed security guards inside the restaurant in an effort to make it safer.

This is one time when I feel that a child in the third grade could offer up public relations advice to a corporate client like Chuck E. Cheese. Let’s break this down:

“…about 70% of the chain’s locations serve wine and beer.”

The company promotes itself where “a kid can be a kid.” And apparently where adults can get plastered. (I wonder if they serve the Miller Lite with one of the swirly straws, I used to love those.)

“The company stationed armed security guards inside the restaurant in an effort to make it safer.”

Now the picture gets clearer. If someone gets out of hand after you’ve served them alcoholic beverages, shoot them. That will fix everything. Parents can explain that it’s simply an extension of the robotic singing characters on stage to add realism to the dining experience.

What’s the PR laugh here? Just read the Wall Street Journal. They’re soon going to compete with Comedy Central.