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Madonna, Lady Gaga and Tom Ciesielka

I never thought I would combine my name with these two performers; Madonna is someone I followed during my wild years (side note: My birthday is coming up and she will always be older than me). What made Madonna appealing was how she effectively combined genuine talent with publicity stunts with a constant mix of reinventing her image, while working hard to remain a top shelf entertainer.
So what’s my connection to Lady Gaga? None. All I know is that, like Madonna, she’s doing well with selling her music and seems to always reinvent herself with every dress she wears to an awards show. Lady Gaga has managed to break into my world even though I don’t read music magazines or closely follow trends and pop stars in contemporary music.

Our agency, like every public relations agency, has been reinventing itself constantly with public relations campaigns through social media. Whether it is blog relations, Facebook Fan relations or Tweets with followers who have proactively sought after a relationship with us, each day we’re breaking new ground in communications.

The PR laugh is that Madonna and Lady Gaga are role models for me, Mr. Conservative. While Madonna could update her image every few years, Lady Gaga does it with a new dress every week! It reminds me that our agency has needed to adapt to a news cycle that is measured in minutes, not days. So ultimately we’ve moved from Madonna’s business model to Lady Gaga’s! While staying strategic, we are learning to change as fast as needed.

The 100 Year Old Virus

One of my colleagues, Bill Moller sent me a link to a posting: 2o Winning Elements of a Viral Campaign. At the top of the list were topics on humor, edginess and brevity. It’s funny because when I mentor public relations professionals, I always share the three things that usually gets publicity are connected to concepts like “first,” “biggest,” and “controversial.” Those are the elements that since the history of public relations began in the United States continue to work regardless if the medium is a newspaper or a new social medium.

When doing a search for “viral marketing” at YouTube, the video with highest number of hits is titled: Champion cardstacker builds capitol with 22,000 cards. While it’s an entertaining video, it did not help me directly see what viral marketing is all about. Actually the video titled How to Sell Soap:

This video was the first one that helped me see the value of viral marketing compared to traditional marketing. It took an everyday product like soap and brought into the latest trend with promoting products.

The PR laugh I find is that clear communications still wins in the end. The “sell soap” video is almost three years old and comes up number 15 based on views of video connected to a search for “viral marketing.” Since that time so much has been said on how to become an “instant” success with making your promotion for a product or service go viral online. Here’s a case where video creator was “first,” used “humor” and is one of the “biggest” hits when it comes to views, which is why I paid attention to it for this post. Three years in viral marketing is almost like 100 years in normal history.


Bar Tenders and Loud Mouth Lawyers

An article in the New York Times made the rounds about lawyers that have made online social media part of their legal strategy. However, many have failed to recognize the risks they face when they forget limits set by the codes of conduct in their respective states.

Amazingly, the article points out that even some judges get busted with their online communications:
Judges, too, can get into trouble online. Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in California, was investigated for off-color humor that was accessible on his family’s Web server, though not intended to be public. He was cleared of wrongdoing, but a three-judge panel admonished him for not safeguarding the site, which they said was “judicially imprudent.”
(Personally, when attorneys ask me about guidelines of their on-line communications, I find there’s no one answer because it depends on what you are commenting on and how close you are to the case. However, attorneys know about how electronic discovery works, and one email can make or break a case. Attorneys have little room for excuses when they get busted with bad blogging.)

Recently, I started working with a legal blogger that is part of Chicago Tribune’s online media community Chicago Now: Chicago Bar-Tender. I’d recommended that Chicago area lawyers check it out. Also, lawyers anywhere in the country should look at the blog the New York Times article references, Legal Professional Blog. These type of outlets not only give you news you may not get in your legal trade publications, they also show and tell you how on-line communication is different than many favorite American Bar Association publications.

For those of you who’ve read my blog before, I’ve already given away the PR laugh for this post. I find it quite amusing that professionally trained lawyers who work so hard on their communication with clients and in court, would be so sloppy with their very public communication with blog postings and tweets.

Me and Lou Albano and a Bottle of Whiskey

I have some sad news to report: Lou Albano is dead. You might ask, who is he? Lou was a professional wrestler and managed other wrestlers. He even played Cindi Lauper’s father in her music videos.

As a child, my father took me to the professional wrestling matches in Philadelphia (go Phillies, you can catch up in the World series!) and I hated Lou. He was one of the dark characters played out in the ring. However, while we bought tickets to the cheap seats ($5) we often exchanged them for close views of the wrestlers. That’s because my dad knew an usher and he moved us from the cheap seats to the primo locations that had not sold out.

To show his gratitude to this usher, my father would give him a pint of whiskey (I don’t advocate drinking liquor anymore) to show our appreciation.

The PR laugh for me is that marketers and public relations professionals are so keen on social media and new ways to spread our clients’ messages. And while that is very important, there’s nothing like remembering the positive impressions that come from showing appreciation.

That’s why whether it’s a writer at the New York Times or a blogger in Chicago, I insist that our staff show appreciation, with at least a sincere note (handwritten is preferred). That’s the ultimate way to spread your message virally.

SueEasy is NotSo Great’s “Legal Blog Watch” has a terrific posting about It’s a matching Web site service for clients and lawyers that allows potential litigants to post grievances and wait for responses from attorneys with offers to represent them. It also allows users to find class actions to join in with others.

On the surface, it seems like a great marketing service for lawyers. For the consumer, it potentially represents a “one-stop” shopping location for legal services. However, from what I gather from online comments, the site got a reputation and an “on-line ambulance chasing” operation. I particularly like this comment that was posted about at

The name of this website alone will cause problems in some states. According to the code of ethics in many states, lawyers have to follow strict standards when joining referral services. Names like “Sue Easy” will probably prove to be offensive to many authorities governing attorneys. I would not be surprised if there is some court activity surrounding lawyers using this as a referral service.

The PR laugh for me is that while lawyers today market their services more than even, some opportunities cross the line. Legal services should be marketed effectively. However, it is a respected profession and this type of website service hurts the legal marketing industry.

As a board member of the Legal Marketing Association’s Chicago Chapter, I would be hard pressed to consider this a service to mention to my associates.


There’s Always Time to Get High in Kentucky

When you do a Google search for “Kentucky,” ironically, the top listing is not for the tourism office or even the official site for the state. Rather the bulk of the links are related to the Kentucky derby. So I was a surprised when I saw an Associated Press story in Yahoo! News today about the amount of marijuana confiscated in Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia, where narcotics officers have seen a marijuana boom and confiscated more than 1 million plants in the three states. (If I wanted to add an audio clip to this post, I’d likely make it John Denver’s Rocky Mountain High.)

The PR laugh for me is that this one story totally changes my perception of the these states. When I grew up in Philadelphia, we often drove up and down the east side of the country. The biggest high our family ever got was eating too many pecan rolls at Stucky’s. In the future, when I drive in that area, I’ll have to keep my windows rolled up so I can be sure I stay focused on the road.

It’s amazing how one story can change a reputation. Maybe Cheech and Chong live at a retirement home in Appalachian region.


“Big Babies” Reality TV Show

I just caught up with reading PR Week and came across a story that brought tears to my eyes: last month, The Writers Guild of America West (WGAW) launched its American Idol Truth Tour in protest of reality-show working conditions. Give me a break.

So when does coming up with the crazy ideas to help ordinary people make a spectacle of themselves become a tough job? We’ll I imagine the writers who encourage people to eat slime, fight with mean nannies, and tear down roach invested homes, are in danger of breaking into a sweat. This might be worse than child labor in third world countries.

According to one report:

- David Weiss, WGA vice president, said during an LA rally: “Time cards have been filled out often illegally, people are being asked to work through their lunch breaks . . . and work 15- to 20-hour days, frequently seven days a week.”

If that’s true, then maybe the writers need better representation. Come on, you mean to tell me the writers need a PR campaign to travel around on a bus and cry about the horrible behind the scenes abuses that the public needs to know about? All for a product that has managed to survive longer than it should have that continues to turn television into the vast wasteland?

I say, get off the bus and stop being big babies. Maybe if your life had more reality, you’d find more important issues to protest.


What’s 100 Times Dirtier Than a Toilet Seat?

Yes, the title is provocative. However, I did not write it. I found at at ABC News.

Personally, I enjoy when someone finds a fun way to take everyday activities and turn them into news. However, this story is more than just a “flush in the pan.” (For those who don’t know the reference the original line was “flash in the pan”, and I’m not sure if everyone will get that reference.) Anyway…

Take a look at this excerpt from the story regarding the subject:

She advised: Wash your hands, of course, and avoid touching things a lot of other people have touched, like elevator buttons. Use your elbows to push the revolving door.
She also says, when in doubt, disinfect.
As you might imagine, Janse has a bit of a reputation among her fellow workers of being over-the-top when it comes to germs. But consider this:
since she launched her anti-germ campaign three years ago, not one person in her family has gotten sick.

Take a look at the first sentence in red. It makes me wonder how my life would be if I used my elbow to do everything I normally do with my hands. Combing hair is just one thought that comes to mind. Now take a look at the second sentence. Clearly there is a payoff this expert is able to show. Self-serving, yes. Yet, a payoff.

I often tell my clients that saying or doing something provocative to get media attention is something that I love to do. However, I believe a “publicity stunt” or “headline grabbing quote” alway needs a real payoff.

So get out there and start re-purposing your elbows because it may save your life.


Why I Started This Blog

I’ve been doing public relations in some form or another for 20 years. What has always amazed me is how so many stories are just plain silly because of the media’s choices or the people who do the crazy things to get their names in the public eye.

The purpose of this blog will be to share my sense of humor with some of the day’s headlines.

Tom C